My niece Angela died unexpectedly from a medical condition in 2010. I was traveling here in Nepal at the time and was unable to make it home in time for her funeral. Angela ran her own child care business in Canada and so while David and I were still in Nepal we decided a fitting way to honour her memory would be to provide the children at Sonrisa Orphanage with a day dedicated entirely to fun and play called Angela’s Afternoon. We have been able to host one per year since then and we celebrated our fourth Angela’s Afternoon this past Monday.
Bishnu rented a van and piled the 15 children, two Aunties (Ganga and Januka), one Uncle (Bill), as well as Bibiana and myself and we drove for 45 minutes up to a hillside village called Godavari. We spilled out and Bishnu distributed bags of bananas, two huge pots of cooked food (yes pots!!), roti’s, utensils, paper plates and plastic containers of water.
Loaded down we started to climb..
It was hot sweaty work and after 2 short breaks and nearly 3 hours we arrived at an idyllic hilltop covered in pine trees whose shade was a welcome relief from the hot sun. Lunch was sumptuous and healthy: a huge pot of cooked “masala” potatoes and another large pot of flavourful fried rice. This came along with hard-boiled eggs directly from Sonrisa’s 47 chickens. Bananas were our dessert! I was astonished how much food a tiny, hungry well exercised Nepali child can consume in one sitting.
From our lunch spot we continued on and spent the next two hours hiking along a gorgeous ridge high above Kathmandu and the surrounding city sprawl. The breeze was glorious and it was really comfortable walking in and out of trees and fern grottos.
So when I say hiking …. I should qualify that hiking with boys and girls’ ranging in ages from 8 to 15 is an entirely different experience then the hiking I am used to. This was more like a cross between hide and seek, volley ball and the 100 meter dash, with a little Bollywood dancing thrown in for good measure. Every mound of dirt was climbed, every tree stump was stood upon, streams were jumped, leeches were discovered and flicked off ankles, flowers were gathered, bugs and worms were examined and all manner of wild fruit was picked and eaten. The smallest children had only two speeds, full on running and stopping. At one point I came around the bend to see the smallest boy Wonchu holding Bibiana’s hand while they both ran down the trail with joyous abandon calling out “kukur” the Nepali name for dog.
(photo credit: Bibiana Cujec)
Eventually however we descended the ridge and made our way, in the dying light of the afternoon, back to where the Van was picking us up.
We all squeezed into the van and within 5 minutes ... .
Life teaches you so much, should be open to learn. My lesson on this Angela’s Afternoon involved chocolate. As an extra treat I asked Bishnu to buy each of the children a chocolate bar to be distributed at the top of the long hard climb up. We gathered together and Bishnu gave the bars of chocolate out. While they were appreciated by the children, and I got a chorus of “thank you sister”, I noticed that it wasn’t with the kind of excitement North American children might exhibit. Bibiana and I talked later about it and concluded that for these children chocolate was nice but not necessary. Time spent together with each other, with Bishnu, the Aunties and occasionally the visiting didis and dais are what is really valued. Repeatedly throughout the day as I was walking on the trail or sitting on the grass a tiny hand would entwine with mine or one of the children would cuddle into my lap. There was no requirement for conversation; it was simply sharing space and contact.
(photo credit Bibana Cujec)
It made me think back to the times I saw my niece Angela cuddled with children. Somehow children know what is important... so did Angela.
(wedding photo credit: Miranda Clark)