In honor of my birthday, some thoughts on life home and abroad.

It’s been a bit over a year since I started my senior year in college, that year that is so full of questions of what we are going to be when we grow up, and what we are going to be even in one year. It’s hard to realize that, as 22 year olds, it really is all right when we don’t know exactly where we are going. Especially with all of the pressure and emphasis on people asking what we want to be when we grow up. Is the acceptable answer never, simply, “happy”? It makes me wonder if everyone around me is trying to scramble for that high paying job immediately following college because they want to, or because they have had too many people ask them what they are doing when they grow up and the best answer is to be able to say that they have a good job in a good city doing things that earn them that money to, as a 22 year old, get that fancy apartment and go out to those fancy dinners.

Not that I’m jealous. I’m enjoying my $2 dinners and my tiny apartment at the end of the dirt road. It is just such a different direction that I have decided to go in for this year than my friends who are in big American cities with bars downstairs and real grocery stores and no worrying about when the blackouts will take place each day.

It is odd spending so much time looking up to those kids who are in college, then out of college doing interesting things: I spent my life watching my siblings, their friends, my own friends in the grades above, and even my babysitters when I was younger. And all of a sudden I am that older kid out of college, doing stuff, living on my own in a new city. And it’s hard to forget that, though I always saw the end result, even just for these 22 year olds who were taking jobs or traveling doing things, I never saw the process. The process is the important part: figuring out not just what I want to do, but how to get there. And that process is so often pushed aside in favor of the clean-cut end product. I’m enjoying going through the process, even though it is scary at times. It is hard to remember, at times, that just because the end product seems far away does not mean that it is not going to happen. It just means that I get the chance and the time to learn more things along the way.

So I spent Saturday night riding around the hills surrounding the valley on the back of a motorbike! A bit terrifying at times, but so much fun, too. I went to dinner with Lauren (an American girl doing her PhD research at Raksha) and her Australian friend Hugh, and his Nepali friend, Kamal. Hugh and Kamal have mopeds, so it is easy to get around. We were going to go to some more dance bars to see what they are like, but scrapped that plan in favor of driving up to the top of one of the hills, where you can see the entire city.

It was so beautiful. On par with my parents’ view in Berkeley. The difference being the layout of the lights. Quite cool, how you can see how the city is laid out from the lights. So in Berkeley you can see the straight streets reaching down towards the harbor, grids all lit up of the city blocks. Here the lights are chaos. There are some more-lit areas winding through the valley showing where the larger roads are, as well as some areas of dense darkness. I live in one of those areas of dense darkness.

The air is also really fresh up there–out of the city we started driving up these winding roads surrounded by trees. It was so nice to be out of the pollution and smog, and in the fresh air and trees!

So there is a girl who they brought in last week. She is around 13 years old (actual age is uncertain, since it’s hard for them to keep track in some of the small villages), and from a small village in India, close to Nepal. Her mother apparently sold her to traffickers for around 10,000 rupees ($100 essentially), and she had been bound at the wrists and ankles, and when she and some other girls were taken into police custody, Raksha brought her in for shelter and refuge. She was just sitting in a corner in the kitchen for a few days, then finally started talking a bit on Friday. I think it is tough for them to communicate with her, since she really only speaks her village language, but they have figured it out a bit more.

It’s pretty scary actually seeing where these things happen. You hear about things like selling your children, but those are usually things that happen so far away. They are across the world, completely outside our sense of reality. The newspaper might mention it, but always seems closer to a fiction than a reality. Here it is real, though. It is a real fact that this girl’s mom sold her for some cash.

The two-year-old here, Mohit? He and his brother were found on the street–their father died and their mother ran away, and left them there in a little nest of twigs and rags. He is two years old, his brother is no older than five. The fact that this is an acceptable thing, or something that people can even think of doing, is appalling. But they are here now, they are clean and fed and they smile. A lot.

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2 thoughts on “In honor of my birthday, some thoughts on life home and abroad.”

  1. Jenna, this is a really belated comment, but I wanted to tell you how much I loved this post. It was so insightful, wise and inspiring! Your are a beautiful writer and it’s wonderful to read your words and reflections, on your birthday and other days!

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