Friday, June 20, 2008

My New Family


I would like to apologize in advance for any errors in this post because for some odd reason Chris has chosen me to do a celebrity blog.

Instead of the usual daily recap of our to-dos I would like to write about a few of my discoveries into the minds of the Sam’s House children.

I have felt that while in Nepal, laughter (although the universal language), can only get you so far. I was more than happy to take English lessons with Brittany through the help of Dinesh’s wife, Rekha. From our nightly homework routines, I gained a small insight of the true atmosphere of Sam’s House.

Rekha gave Brittany and me nightly assignments of asking and answering questions with the children and didis. The basics included such things as: asking where you are from/how many people in your family/ names of family members, and of course how much does this cost? She would specify whether to ask the children or the didis. One of my pieces of homework directed me to Babit. I had to ask him “How many sisters do you have?” I was not hesitant to ask him this personal of a question because he does have an actual blood relative in the house, Sabita. He then repeated my question in English, to make sure my accent did not throw him off. In Nepali he replied: barrha. From my knowledge of Nepali numbers 1 through 10 I knew his answer was not what I was expecting. It turns out he has 12 sisters, which he proceeded to name.

This event came back to my mind as I was teaching in the children’s school. I was teaching Class 1A the subject of Social. Unlike our social studies, the primary “Social” revolves around topics of family, objects and other things that affect their “social” lives. On the page from a student’s book I had borrowed I read allowed this question “How many children are in your family?” As soon as I had looked up from the page I realized Amrit’s hand was in standing high in the air. In the back of my head I thought of how I could somehow avoid calling on Amrit to answer. Thinking of past teachers tricks of killing time by writing questions on the bored, calling on the kid who was doodling in the back, etc all raced through my head. Amrit had picked up on all of the other times I had heard crickets when I asked the class questions and had helped restating my broken Nepali. His answer: “20.”

The fear of receiving confused looks or silence after asking a question had been long broken with my first class UKG. Rather, it was the topic of this question. I did not want Amrit to feel alone, or different because of his family situation, or the sheer fact that he did not really have one (he was found living alone despite the fact that his father is alive.) But, yet again a Sam’s House child surprised me.

All stereotypes of orphans should be broken with this final story of my three part piece. I came into Sam’s House as a volunteer believing that an orphan is left with very few options and is alone until adopted. I do not know if I had watched too many movies in my past or what, but I had this strange feeling in the back of my mind that these children, although not physically alone, still do not have a family. My na├»ve perceptions were finally (and I must say I am happy they were) shot to pieces with this final event.

Exams at the children’s school are coming up and so Sarita had me ask her questions in her Social subject. The question “How many children are in your family?” and “What is your father’s name?” Her answers: 20 and Dinesh.

I never had the perception that these children were growing up in an Oliver Twist setting, however it took these three kids (along with other small instances) to finally bring me to understand the truth of family. A family is not something that you are born into. Just look at all of the families that have members that do not even speak to one another. Instead, I have learned that it is a living, breathing thing. It grows through the actions of the individual, as they care and love those around them. The individual develops the family, and just as a living thing, families can die, but only if the individual decides to not be a family.

The Sam’s House children have/ still are developing their family. They consider the didis their 4 mommies, Dinesh as their father; they make up 8 brothers and 12 sisters. The children with living relatives and have visited them still recognize that they have a family Sam’s House. A family that I am now an Auntie in.

~ Hannah Smith

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