The view from the other side of the village

By on April 10, 2013

By: LAUREL ETTER Special to the Record Express, Staff Writer



Laurel Etter's aama, or mother in Kul Kumari Bhatta. She is using a stick to beat the wheat to separate it from the stalk.

As an outsider coming to live in a village for three months, I had prepared myself to keep an open mind to new lifestyles and ways of thinking. I think I did a pretty good job at this and quickly felt comfortable with my new surroundings.

Archale is a small community with about 300 houses and 2,500 people. I settled in with a family and got used to their daily routines and family orientations. I am at fault for thinking that everyone in Archale must do and see things the same way. Being primarily an agricultural based village it is safe to assume most people spend their days working in the fields and performing the same labor. Of course, there are slight variations of what individuals do on a daily basis but it goes even deeper than that.

After living with one family for two months I decided to try something different. I absolutely enjoyed my stay with them and the love and respect they provided made me feel right at home. Perhaps that was what drove me to move on. I had conquered my fear of my new situation and was comfortable again. I moved in with another family that was only about a five minute walk from my previous home. This household consisted of a mom, dad, and daughter who was around my age, along with their two buffalo and cow.

The house is still on the same hillside facing the same way, but surprisingly it seems much different. The neighbors are different, the sounds I hear are different, the sun rises and sets differently, and the moon illuminates the sky differently. The food we eat is slightly different and I get a different feeling of contentment on this side of the village.

Having different family dynamics gave me a new perspective of Archale. Instead of children coming from neighboring houses to play, here the demographics are of an older population. My first family had no father figure at home and I did not realize how unusual that felt until I moved in with a family that had a father there. I started to observe how the different family dynamics and orientation of the surrounding environment can have a more profound effect than you might initially think. I could start to see how Archale and any other community has a lot in common despite some drastic cultural differences.

I spent a lot of time hiking around the village in the morning hours to interview women who are in the women’s group there. Saprinu, the non-profit I am helping with, wants to help create small business opportunities for Archale and I have been working with the women’s group to facilitate the making of their handicrafts to be exported to the U.S. to sell. All of the money comes back to the women’s group. Look for their products soon at Tellus360 in Lancaster.

With the help of Sudan, a local working for Saprinu, we were able to find and interview almost 40 women. This was a wonderful experience that helped me get to know the village and its people on a more personal level. The women are very excited to have this opportunity and are so proud to show me their handicrafts they delicately string together. I learned about what different family dynamics they have, what each woman enjoys doing, and what some of their concerns and hopes are for Archale and Nepal.

I have to say, I feel ashamed of myself for ever assuming everyone and everything was the same. It was unfair for me to do so. It is easy to group a whole community or culture into one or a few stereotypes or generalities and I think everybody is guilty of doing this whether we realize it or not. Some people here in Archale think all Americans are rich with money and have good jobs. Comparatively as a country we have more opportunities, but certainly, as we know that is not the case for everyone in America.

My point here is to be careful not to fall for such misconceptions and what only appears on the surface. Explore what else is out there, talk to individuals, get out of your comfort zone, question things, and don’t pretend like you know everything. I would imagine my experience here to but somewhat similar to that of a hitch hiker. Sitting back and putting your trust in others with the hope that they take you somewhere further on down the road. Pit stops along the way and changing course are only worrisome if you fail to see other possibilities.

Laurel Etter, a Warwick High School grad, is spending three months in Archale, Nepal under the auspices of Saprinu, an organization dedicated to creating long lasting, sustainable communities. She’ll be sharing her ongoing adventures with Record Express readers. More NEPAL, page A15