Amanda Tapping in Nepal
In November 2010 Amanda, Jill Bodie and Jill’s daughter Hannah went to Nepal, to visit Nepal Orphans Home. Here are Amanda’s blog posts about the trip. Originally posted on Sanctuary for Kids’ website.
AMANDA’S FIRST DAY AT NOH
Sunday, 21 November 2010
It’s virtually impossible to put into words the swell of emotions right now, but I will attempt to give you a glimpse of what we have experienced so far.
First of all there is the beautifully chaotic setting of Kathmandu.
It’s loud and mysterious with entire families on motorcycles, buses, taxis, bicycles, dogs and the odd cow in the streets. I believe the second language in Nepal is “horn”. Horns are used to great effect here and each beep sings like a bizarre morse code. It seems this language is well understood by everyone. It also plays in astounding two part harmony to the birds and dogs and bells and drums. The smell of incense hangs thick in the air everywhere you go. There is a sense of history that is quite unimaginable. But you sense it in every brick, stone pathway and temple. We are in awe.
So now to our quest. Today we went to Papa’s house. Every Saturday, which is the children’s one day off, Michael Hess, founder for NOH, makes lunch for the 132 girls and boys and they play in the big yard. The children live in four different houses, all within walking distance of each other. This is their free day for play and togetherness.
We first went to Sanctuary house and met the girls there. Then while singing songs from the sound of music, namely, Doe a Deer, we walked in a line to the 2nd and 3rd houses. These are situated in the same compound. The children were excited to meet us and are so open and polite. Then a bigger line is formed and we are off to Papa’s house! Michael Hess greets us. He is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. He has heart and soul in abundance. And exudes kindness and a gentle spirit. He knows each of the children’s stories and it seems to weigh heavily on his heart, but his spirit and compassion shine through.
We sit in the yard and talk to the children. Share stories, books we have brought, and much laughter. The girls come and hug and hold hands. I have children curled up against me. They touch my skin, my hair. I get kisses and children come flying at me for quick hugs. I look over at Jill and she is equally embraced. It is beyond magical. This is what it means to fill your soul.
There are a few surprises. They love Justin Bieber!! Seriously. And Harry Potter and Twilight. It speaks to the sameness and connection of all children around the world. Joined in imagination and hope and fantasy.
We are treated to Papa’s lunch of rice, nuts, fruit and milk. Delicious! There are lots of pictures taken with each of the children. So I get to hug every one of them!! Then the children get out the cassette player and show us traditional Nepali and Hindu dances. Laughter rules here. There is great joy and spirit and resiliency. Again, we are in awe.
After distributing the crank lanterns, crayons, and art supplies it is time for the children to return to their houses. I am literally vibrating from this day.
Tomorrow I get to spend the night!
Monday, 22 November 2010
What an incredible 36 hours since last I blogged. Jill, Hannah and I were able to explore parts of Kathmandu during the day. We found ourselves in the crowded, unbelievably intense alleyways of Thamel. I kept thinking it looked like a movie set and trying to figure out how best to film it.
In the afternoon we returned to Papa’s Gumba (Sanctuary) house. We were picked up by Kendra, a volunteer from Sudbury, Ontario! The girls returned from school and changed out of their uniforms. We were greeted with hugs and shouts of “hello sister”. Such love and joy. They did homework for about an hour. We were able to sit with them and “help”. Though my Nepali needs a lot of work! :) Anu, an absolutely adorable little sprite handed me a little bracelet she had made with the sweetest note I have ever received. Such generosity from someone who has so little. The girls then made cards for Jill, Hannah and myself and even drew pictures for my daughter Olivia. Over and over my heart fills.
After homework we have some play time. We play an improv game and the girls, at first shy, become real pros. They are so funny. We sit for dinner which is usually rice and lentils, but tonight there is chicken and everyone is very excited.
After dinner Jill and Hannah return to the hotel and I am treated to bedtime NOH style! The girls change and brush their teeth and then sit and read and talk. I sit on Gaby’s bed and the big girls talk about their families and what it means to be girls in their cultures and the little ones snuggle. After many bedtime hugs and kisses and wishes for sweet dreams, it’s lights out. I go downstairs to my room and can’t sleep for thinking about these young girls who will one day be leaders in their communities. What amazing things they will all do!
Morning starts at 5:30am for the girls. 3:30am for me. I must still be on Sanctuary time! More cuddles and talking sitting in groups on the beds as the sun rises over Kathmandu. The bell rings and it’s time for milk tea and biscuits and more homework! I am drawn in and asked to help with revision as their exams are coming up. I now know all the answers by heart. I am always being hugged and cuddled up to. It is amazing!
Breakfast consists of rice and vegetables and is delicious. Once the girls are changed for school it’s time to braid their hair. Everyone pitches in. As with homework, the big girls help the small girls. It’s so heartwarming to see this little community work together. We walk the girls to school and the hug festival continues. I will never get my fill.
Jill and I met today with a Nepali group that are doing incredible work rescuing women and girls from trafficking. You think your heart can’t break any more and then it does. Tomorrow morning we meet with another amazing group rescuing trafficked children.
Nepal and it’s people have utterly captivated us. There is so much good work being done here and so much need.
Love and blessings.
ANOTHER DAY AT NOH
Our adventures and our love fest with the people of Nepal continues. After an incredible meeting today we went to pick up the children from school. We are greeted by shouts of “Hello Sisters!”. Once in the schoolyard we are enveloped in hugs and kisses.
The children all look so cute in their uniforms and their bright shining faces are a welcome tonic. We walk from school in a neat row and drop some children off at two of the houses. Then we are off to Papa’s House. The children change and some take their showers.
Michael invites us to the roof for tea and a chat. It must be said here that Michael is one of the most humble men I have ever met. He speaks with a quiet and intense spirituality and a compassion that knows no bounds. His commitment to these children and to changing their world is inspirational. And he does it with such love and humility. We talk about the groundswell of support we have received from the fans, the cast and the crew. How it encourages us and enables us. We tell him about the inception of Sanctuary for Kids and how much farther we have come than we ever imagined. How blessed we feel. From this grateful place we ask what more we can do. We speak of how we feel like a mere drop in the bucket. But we realize that from that drop great ripples emanate. Ours will be a long and happy relationship.
We then head off to Sanctuary House. “Our girls” all smile and wave from the study room windows. We are greeted by such intense and loving hugs that it is hard not to cry. The girls are in their study time and we sit with them as they do their homework. Apsara, a mere slip of a girl, who has a personality and a heart bigger then this universe, pats her bench and calls “Amanda Sister, come sit!” She took my hand, and tied a yellow knitted bracelet around my wrist. She hugged me and gave me a kiss. Since sobbing uncontrollably is not an option I smile and hug her tight.
Our cameras come out and the evening descends into joyful chaos rivaling any paparazzi photo shoot! There is so much laughter and the girls are anxious to see the photos that they have taken. Our cameras switch hands and the girls are all taking turns. We are swimming in a sea of smiles. There is no inhibition here. Joy and love are shared with breathless abandon. This is remarkable to say the least.
It is time for their dinner and we leave with wishes of sweet dreams and the promise to return tomorrow. Jill and I can’t stop smiling. This is beyond our wildest imaginations and far exceeds any expectations that we had about this trip. I have to say something to all of you. Never doubt the impact that you have all made. Sanctuary for Kids exists and thrives because of you. Your support and encouragement and boundless enthusiasm are the foundation on which this Foundation sits. Be proud. We are. Grateful doesn’t even come close to describing how we feel.
SEE YOU LATER, NEPAL! WE CAN’T SAY “GOOD BYE”.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Here I sit in Hong Kong airport with tears streaming down my face. (Apparently this is something I’m really, really good at, so I’m going with it as part of my schtick!) It was so hard for us to leave Nepal, but I am certain we will be back!
Our last day started with Jill and I taking a walk around Boudhanath Stupa. We also visited a Buddhist temple across from the Stupa. We were treated to a very special blessing ceremony in which the monks anointed our heads and then tied scarves and a yellow string around our necks. This was for protection, safety, and a long life full of blessings. Again, I found myself with tears streaming down my face and the kindly monk pulled me into a beautiful hug. This beautiful man looked me right in the eye and smiled so very sweetly as he held my face in his hands. For me, it was one of those “life moments”. And every time I struggle with this life I will remember that moment and the healing feeling in my heart. Thank goodness for Jill. Her calming gentle spirit saved me from completely crumbling onto the street. We had a magical morning together. Laughter, tears, ….you get the idea. This trip has been transforming.
In the afternoon we make our way to the school attended by our NOH children. We are excited to see them and practically skip down the dirt path to the school gates. Once opened, the children shout and wave and we are once again enveloped in hugs. We walk to one of the houses run by Anita. All the children gather and we hug and say goodbye. Here’s where that “tears streaming down my face” thing really shines!
We find it very difficult to say goodbye to these amazing little spirits. Equally difficult is saying goodbye to Michael Hess. He has been such a great source of inspiration. We leave Anita’s yard and walk down the street and the dirt laneway to Sanctuary house. With a mixture of extreme and delightful excitement and deeply breaking hearts we enter the house. Gita, the tremendous house mother greets us with hugs. “Our girls” are studying and are, as always, gracious and warm and goofy and shining brightly. We spend a couple of hours doing homework, taking pictures, laughing. I do my best, over the top Bollywood actress impersonation while shouting “I love you!” in Nepali. We are all in fits of giggles. Dinner is served and once again there is meat. Part of our commitment to NOH was providing the children with vitamins. Instead, and I think very wisely, the quality of rice is improved providing more nutrients, the quantity of vegetables is increased and meat will now be served twice a week instead of once a month. The girls seem very happy and keep saying “Thank you Sisters!”. So I am passing this thank you on to all of you.
It is time to leave and the children keep telling us not to be sad. Apsara, hugs me so tightly and giggles and my sweet Anu buries her face in my neck and purrs sadly. We are told “please come back to Nepal” and “please don’t forget us”. Not in a thousand lifetimes. We drink our fill of this intoxicating elixir of guileless love. As we leave all the girls lean over the verandas and shout and wave. It’s a quiet ride back to hotel to collect our bags. Jill and I reflect that we have received so much more than we could possibly ever give. It is such a strange feeling. We will return to Nepal one day. In the meantime there is so much we can do from our corner of the world. We are more inspired and more committed than ever before to making Sanctuary for Kids a success and to make sure our “small drop in the bucket” creates big ripples.
Thank you again for your support and encouragement.