They say it’s hard to appreciate something until you don’t have it, and I have to agree. Here at Asha Nepal, a home for women who have been sexually exploited or abused and children who have been orphaned or abandoned, not much English is spoken.
Asha Nepal, meaning hope, is my current location in Kathmandu, having moved here from the children’s home I was at about a week ago. I have found it to be a lot more of a cultural emersion, as, unlike the last place I was living, almost no one speaks English.
A few of the kids speak English, but during the day, they are at school. The women, who I spend most of my day with, speak only a few words of English, or none at all. It is a humbling experience not being able to communicate with language.
They speak to me in Nepali, and I pretend to understand. I speak to them in English, and they nod their heads and laugh. Yet, somehow we understand each other. I understand a smile. I understand their gestures. I understand their laughter, and I laugh too, though I miss the jokes entirely.
We play this game with rocks called ‘ghoti’, which is similar to jacks. We cook together. We sing together. We laugh together. And it is enough.
Once, I was cooking with one of the women, and started singing this old Nepali hymn I knew from back in 2015. She joined in, our voices ringing in the small kitchen. It was a simple, beautiful moment.
One of the women often calls me up to the roof to play ghoti and drink tea. Another lady is always dancing. And they all try to teach me bits of Nepali here and there.
Many of the women have developed mental disorders from their hard pasts, and some women have skin diseases or even cancer. But beneath it all, each woman wears a beautiful smile and has such kind eyes, evidence of the transforming love of God.
There is an older woman who sits in the garden all day, just staring off into some other world. She just sits there, never talking, never smiling, and I wonder what could have happened to make her this way. Life has been hard on her. But here at Asha, there is hope, and there is space for her to just sit if that is what she needs. She need not worry about her food. She need not worry about her basic needs. She need only sit and rest. And someday, when she is ready, she will speak. She will smile.
Just the other day, some of us walked out to nearby waterfalls. I had no intention of getting in and swimming, but ended up standing under the waterfall in my dress with some of the more adventurous kids. Everyone cheered for me as I gave up trying to keep my dress dry and dunked in the water. It was already dark on the way back, and we sang English and Nepali hymns all the way home through our chattering teeth.
God’s love does not always need words to be communicated. God’s love is so much more transcendent than language. It is enough.
“Errantry” is a series of blog posts related to my gap year. If you want to know more about this year and my reasons for it, check out my first post about Errantry.