We Moved Out! A Reflection by the First Kids to Leave Kopila
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
We always knew that we would have to move out of Kopila Valley one day- and that the 6 of us, the oldest, would be the ones to do it first. That didn’t make it any less terrifying when Maggie Mom first told us that we had to start “transitioning out” of Kopila Valley. How would we leave the place that we have lived for the last ten years? How would we leave the family that has always cared for us? The family that that loves us unconditionally? It gave us a hollow feeling in the pits of our stomachs to think that we would never again get live at Kopila as we had for the majority of our lives. We had been away from home before, when we studied for our TOEFL exam for 5 weeks in Kathmandu. But this was permanent. It wasn’t a trip to visit family in India, or a few weeks back in the village for Dashain. Moving out was the first step of our lives as independent adults.
Every Thursday leading up to when we moved out, we had a meeting where we discussed what this next phase would look like. What responsibilities would we have? What freedoms? How would we pay for things? As we talked through these basics and the challenges that we might face, we began to feel more comfortable. We even started to feel excited. We made a budget and set off to shop for our flats at the market. We needed just about everything- from stoves to pillows to cleaning supplies.
On our last day at the home, there was something fishy going on. Everyone, the kids and the volunteers, were acting weird and we knew that they were all up to something. When we got home from visiting Kakrebihar, a historical site in Surkhet, the home was completely dark and silent. The home is never silent, except maybe in the dead of night. Then, Sachyam, our caregiver and Anjali, our director of BlinkNow Futures, popped out from behind a bush and told us to go up to the roof. As we climbed up to the fifth floor, we could hear a sappy song getting louder. When we reached the last set of stairs, all of our siblings and the volunteers started showering us with flowers. Then, the crying started. Every single person was crying. The roof had been transformed into a five-star restaurant with twinkle lights and balloons. All of our favorite foods were ordered and we got to savor one last meal with our loving family. There were tons of group hugs too. Our siblings gave us framed family photos and white t-shirts that they had all written messages on.
After dinner, we were directed to six chairs (thrones) with our names written on them. Each person performed something for us: a dance, a song, a joke, a poem. The tears that had subsided started flowing again. Then, everyone took turns telling us how much they would miss us and how they look to us as role models. Hearing these kind words made us feel known, loved, and incredibly special. It was in this moment that it really hit us that this transition process had been so scary and difficult because we knew how much we are cared for and loved and didn’t want anything to change.
On our last night at home, snuggled up next to our siblings, we laid awake as memories of our last 10 years here floated by. Our first days: initially being afraid of Maggie because she was the first white person that we had ever met. The corridors where we played hide and seek, the playroom where we held satsang and practiced dances. The clubhouse that we ruled as big kids and loved to chase the little ones out of. The badminton matches and volleyball games that we played in the side yard. Family games at school on Saturday afternoons where Maggie always got way too competitive. Countless soccer matches. Our house when it was only one floor, only three floors. Our family when we had 2 siblings, and 8, and 17, and 33, and 51. The days when we didn’t have water and had to walk an hour to wash our clothes at the river. The times before solar where Maggie taught us English by the candlelight. We carry all of these memories of our childhoods deep in our hearts as we go out into the world for the first time.
We moved to our own room in the Kopila compound and turned it into a little apartment. It is one big room with our beds on one side, and a stove and table at the other end. Our bathroom is just down the hall. On our first night up there, we cooked dinner, dal bhat, and set it out on our little table. Just as we sat down, we heard the kids singing one floor below at satsang. The tears wouldn’t stop. It was just so unbelievable for us. We felt alone. For the past ten years, we ate every meal together with our siblings. Now it is just three of us. Every time the bell rang, we felt a little pang in our stomachs. What was happening down there? Family game? Study time? A trip to the new land? A meeting?
Now, four months later, we’ve gotten used to this more solitary lifestyle. Though, it isn’t exactly solitary. We still have plenty of little visitors from downstairs. In June, we got two new babies in our family, and their nursery is next to our room. We love snuggling them and letting them crawl around on our porch. We invite different groups of kids up for dinner on the weekend. But, we make them bring their own food, because, otherwise, we run out by the end of the month. And we are not happy people when we’re hungry!
Two of us are still in school - Karma is in nursing school and Goma is studying management. Shova is on her gap year and is preparing to apply for university and doing internships. We have much more freedom than we used to. Now, we can leave the house without asking; but, we need to make sure that we’re back before it gets dark for safety reasons. We go to the market ourselves and cook our own food. We don’t usually eat breakfast, we go right to lunch when we wake up. One person is assigned to cook each meal and we rotate. In the afternoon, we usually go on a walk and get street food and then watch the sunset from the roof. We eat dinner around 9 and stay up late into the night chatting on our balcony. This is the one time that we’re all in the same place with nothing that needs to be done. It is by far our favorite time of the day, just being together.
Flash forward, it has now been three months in the “Penthouse”. We live on the top floor of a building that is about a twenty-minute walk away from Kopila. Our roof, where we eat all of our meals and play cards, looks out over an expanse of vibrant green rice paddies. The three of us share a bedroom and bathroom and we have a separate kitchen. There are two families that live below us that have a whole brood of children. We buy groceries, maintain our budget, cook our meals, and keep our flat clean. We are all in charge of each other and prefer to share our duties rather than assign them to any one person. Kesav is in his last year of high school, Naveen is on his gap year, and Janak just left to begin earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Drew University in the US. Nowadays, there are only two of us in the flat.
We didn’t have the budget to buy some of the comforts that we had grown accustomed to during our lives at Kopila- musical instruments, a refrigerator, Wi-Fi, or automatic water pumps. Our lifestyle as young adults would look much more like a typical family in our community. Now, without solar, we only have power when there is government electricity- which is much less frequently than we previously realized. Without a water pump, we wash our dishes and bathe in the backyard. We carry our drinking water up to our kitchen- this was the most difficult adjustment. We are accustomed to all of this now and are doing quite well.
We go back to Kopila every Monday for dinner and most Friday’s for Movie Night. Family trips and birthdays too. Our relationship with our siblings really hasn’t changed much. We love them immensely and see them almost every day at our community park where we play football and cricket. Every Monday, a staff member comes over to our flat to check in on us and make sure that everything is clean. We talk about any issues and how to work through them and find out about any special events that we should come to. We have hosted the volunteers for dinner a few times and our brothers come to visit frequently. We can tell that they are both nervous and excited to do the same thing in the future.
We stay up late and wake up late. We skip breakfast and head right to lunch. In the afternoons, we play sports, listen to music, and sometimes take naps. It is our own realm, so we get to arrange our days as we want. We all like the arrangement of transitioning out of the home at this age. It’s great practice for our future when we’ll have a house and families of our own. We also get to learn a bit more about the community that we grew up in, but were sort of separate from. The majority of men in Nepal never leave their childhood homes. When they get married, their wives move into their parent’s home and that home gets passed on to them. With a few exceptions, we are the only kids that we know that live on our own. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if we never moved out of the Children’s Home, moved our spouses in, and raised our families there? We would be our own, crazy, self-sustaining village!