Miro Nom Kim Ho

My writing will have to change. If I am to capture the intensity of every moment on these kinds of trips, I will have to learn to get out of my way. To lose the training I have had in writing. I ache for this, particularly today.

Today, I am capturing the stories of some of these children. I was not prepared for how I would feel here. I knew I would feel compassion. I knew I would feel pain that I could not do more. I knew that I would think they were sweet. But these are the least of my emotions here.

I am filled with hope for the world here, within the walls of this school. I want more for these kids, and I want more for me and my kids back home. I want the thirst for life that these kids have. I want my kids to want to learn and be as these kids so clearly do.

Stephanie is teaching them now and their focus and intensity is not compulsory or polite. You can feel them pulling the information out of her…hanging on her every word. Sometimes, it feels more that she is allowing the information to be pulled from her, rather than “teaching” it to them. Stephanie and the kids are natural together in a way that I would not have thought possible.

In fact, I am surprised at how comfortable I feel here. With this group from the US, with Renu, who I only met three days ago, with these kids whose names I am becoming so familiar with.

As much as we bring knowledge to these children, they have more to bring to us than we can imagine from where we sit at home. I am only beginning to learn. What I am learning today is hope.
In any case, the stories are not done. They are not simple. I need more time with these kids. In the meantime, I am sticking some of the pics onto Facebook.
Tomorrow we go trekking with the school. I am hoping to get to know them better. One at a time.


End of the First Day…Part One

After a day in the school, I am not ready to leave. But leave we did. And went straight to a café to digest the day.

Two giant beers later and I am talking smack to our whole group. I have been told there is drinking required at dinner and this is fine with me. I am celebrating. I am celebrating the manifestation of my heart’s desire.

It now feels selfish to be here. I am in heaven. Experiencing the beauty of children who are wide eyed and ready to take on what is real. I want to a part of their growth, any part.
Tonight, we will dinner with Renu’s husband, Anand. And, as we eat, I will be thinking about these kids. I will be thinking about them returning to their homes. I will be thinking about returning to Koseli tomorrow and soaking in the hope and beauty of their hearts.

I am in love.


P.S. more pictures tomorrow. I am exhausted. And there is more…much more.

I’m not worthy…Nepal

Am I up to this?

Today we meet the children. We are going to the Koseli.
After breakfast, Jen pulls me into her office (our bathroom) to discuss my enthusiasm. Which, despite my assertion that I am controlling, is apparently bubbling over the edges of the teapot of my brain. Our bathroom conversation is wildly helpful in a way that I cannot possibly verbalize. What I can say is, that Jen connects with me in this and now I have someone here who can hold my intensity…if I can hold it through the day, Jen will hold it for me at night and help me contextualize. Now, I am good. I have so much to learn. And that makes me happy. I love to learn. I want to grow into what is next. This is an intensive in that.
We leave for the school and I am sitting in the front seat with the driver. Jen directs me to sit there and I protest, but she sits me up there anyway and I’ll be damned if she is not right. I feel like there is a soundtrack moving through my head as I we make the trip to the school. I don’t want the drive to end. I am happy.
I step into the school’s gates, my insides melt. I could live here. I swear this is true.
Stephanie disappears immediately. How anxious she is to begin her mission. Ah, her mission, I have not told you about this. Let me tell you now.
Stephanie is a photographer. She lives in Georgia, outside of Athens, on a cow farm. She has a brilliant smile and she is here on her own mission. She wants to teach the kids to tell their own story, through pictures. She has just formed an organization called Lens on Life. She has kids in Tanzania and Nepal that she is now dedicated to in driving this mission. This is a real call of the heart. She travelled, met these children, took pictures, and when she left, her work came to her. She needs to help the kids tell their own story. These kids needs the tools to communicate. This is a mission I can get behind.
Stephanie has, through her Twitter network, eight iPhones donated for her trip. She is teaching the kids to take pictures with them. Pictures of their life.  Pictures of the things that are important to them.
So, today, I am in a class of twelve kids as her assistant. Twelve kids who are magnificently ready to take on this challenge.
And they are incredible, these kids. Each comes from the slums of Nepal. Slums I have not seen, but are clearly beyond anything we identify as slums in the US. Each of them has a story that is beyond our ability to comprehend from where we are. I fall in love instantly. This is not the “how precious are these children” kind of love. This is “I love them. I want to them to teach me. I want to help them become whatever it is they want to be.” I want my kids in this school. I want my kids with these kids.
Immediately, two girls focus in on me…and I on them.
This is Srijana and Pinky.
As Stephanie gave them the iPhones. They immediately began taking pictures of me. Every time I looked at them, they were looking at me.
Pinky is an artist. I mean, seriously. I will post pictures of her work tomorrow.
She and her friend, Srijana were magic to me.
I love them. Seriously. I want to bring them home with me.
Stephanie engaged them in a way I would not have thought possible. She taught them how to start the phone. How to take pictures. How to communicate what it is they see.
“What is important is you…not your camera. There are people in the United States who would love to come to Nepal. They can’t. They need you to see what it is like here. What your life is like.”
Stephanie showed them her pictures from Tanzania and the US. Showed them pictures of kids in their natural environment. The kids were silent as she clicked through the pictures, drawing in the lives of kids they would never see in person and don’t have any context for what their lives are like. They got it. You could see it in their faces. They understood the importance. You could literally see the lightbulbs going off in them. I could live in that moment.
Neil and Kristi, the videographers who said yes to this project before they really knew what it was, were moving around the small room in a way that seemed completely natural and beautiful. I have been watching videographers for years and I have never seen a dance like this. They moved around the room like they were connected by an invisible thread. Never in each other’s shot and always shooting the complimentary shot. It was a beautiful symmetry that could only exist between two people in love. And they are. You should see them together. It is a true romance. It is my goal to capture that love with my camera at some point so you can see. They are lovely, fun, sweet and their heart is totally in this.
I am an assistant here, and I love this role.  I am learning so much. Stephanie tells me what to do and I gleefully do it. If she asked me to clean the bathroom with a toothbrush, I would do it with more love than I thought imaginable.
There is more. Of course there is more. And you will know it. I promise you. I will give you everything.

On the Other Side of the World

I am safe. And I mean physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I had no idea how safe I could feel.

We are staying in a ridiculously gorgeous home on the outskirts of Nepal. I was so tired when we arrived. I had not slept. And the city is overstimulating…auditorially, visually, physically.

But I have to stop here and qualify that. The streets of Nepal are precisely as you would expect them to be…busy, crowded and wild. All manner of motor and wheeled vehicles. But I was not overwhelmed. I don’t understand this still. I felt peaceful in the midst of all that.

In any case, we got to Renu’s house and settled in. 

This is Renu, Stephanie, Jen, Neil and Krista plotting about what to do next.

This is dinner. The empty place setting is for Tracey Clark. She was with us in conversation all evening. She deserved a setting at the table.

I laid myself down for a nap and as I was falling asleep I heard:

1.       Children playing the street in front of the house. Two boys, playing and chatting in a language I could not understand. But it sounded exactly like the cadence, rhythm and subject matter of children playing in the street back home. It was the same. It felt so familiar it was bizarre.

2.       A cow mooing very close by. Can identify from where, but if you told me she was directly below our balcony, it would not have surprised me. It sounded that close. And it probably was.

3.       Call to prayer. I did not expect this for some reason. The distinct sing-songy prayer. I loved this so much. If I had had the energy, I would have joined in.

It was so beautiful hearing all these things together. I wished I had had the energy to jump up and find the source of all these things. But all I have the energy to do is cry silently at how beautiful this all is and let sleep take me.

I am having trouble already containing the wild horses of my imagining of what could be…what I could do to help on every project that is swirling around this beautiful group of people. But I am staying quiet. Fireworks are exploding inside me and I hold them in. Those of you who know me will know how completely inconceivable this is. How quiet I am being. I need more context. These projects are not mine. This world is not mine. I am learning to just “be” first and let things happen around me. But it is not easy for someone like me.

Renu says, with all seriousness, “who wants to see the slums?” We all affirm that we are in for this trip, for a variety of reasons, but the question sticks with me. From a communication perspective, this is a really good question that I will carry with me through the remainder of this trip. I want to know the answer to it and I want to know the “why” behind it. I immediately think I know the answer to this question myself…the answer to “why” I want to go. But I am not sure I do actually. In any case, I am in.

I feel very lucky that I am so exhausted. Because going to sleep tonight is not going to be easy. I want to write. I want to go back out and take pictures. I want to stay up all night making lists and planning.

But I will sleep. Tomorrow we meet the kids. Tomorrow, my life changes. Again.