Soul Purpose Adventures

The Goat Girls - A Story from Nepal

by Kym Putnam

We called them the “goat girls.”  Three young Tamang girls, we guessed around 10 years old, living in the heart of the hill country of Nepal.  We first saw them from a distance as we bathed and washed our dusty clothes in the river.  Every time we glanced up, the squatting little threesome were closer, watching us intently from the big flat rocks along the river’s edge.  It was the goats that actually brought them closer.  The girls were in charge of a small herd of goats that were grazing on the steep hillside above the river and the tallest girl would fling a rock at the herd when she wanted them to move along.  And I thought girls couldn’t throw! (at least I can’t)  This one could nail a goat dead on from 50 meters every time.  We were impressed to say the least.

The  hill country, where we were travelling this day,  is a rugged region in central Nepal containing deep valleys and steep terraced ridges. The name is misleading. These hills would be ranked as mountains anywhere else in the world. The daily life of  the women  who live in the high villages includes a climb down 1000 vertical meters to fetch water only to haul it back up again.  Our group of 10  women and 6 men had already travelled 3 days by foot from the end of a dirt track where our bus had brought our party of porters, cooks, guides and us to this remote and beautiful region known as the Mahabharat. On this day we had descended that 1000 meters to a quiet campsite along the river.   Michael Rojik, co-ordinator of the  Nepal School Projects was escorting us to a village still 5 days away.  We had the privilege of  hand delivering money needed for a primary school requested by a remote and poor village.  Besides schools, this Canadian non-governmental organization provides assistance in the building of water systems,  health posts, and provides expertise in apprenticeship training.    On this hot and cloudless day the lush green terraced hills towered  above us on all sides and our camp by the river was in shadow by early afternoon.

I was draped over a warm rock, reading a novel and recovering from stomach troubles, Sheila was combing the tangles out of her long freshly washed hair, Callie was watching Monica, and Monica was, of course, quilting.  Monica didn’t take photos but wished to  record everything in beautiful appliqued quilt pieces.  She had secured a large flat rock in the middle of the river and her colourful squares of cloth, rickrack, embroidery thread, needles and scissors were spread about her.  A square, depicting her porter carrying her big black duffel bag by a tumpline across his forehead, was almost finished. It was this particular activity that attracted the goat girls and in short order they were perched beside Monica.  Without a word Monica handed the girls their own pieces of fabric and threaded their needles. They caught on quickly and began to cut out pieces of cloth and stitch orange and yellow flower-like pictures on the black cloth.  Every once in a while one of the girls would leap up, jump great distances from boulder to boulder across the river and hit a goat with a rock so they would move a few meters.  We were delighted with this diversion and marveled at the distances she could leap in her bare feet, her blue skirt parachuting her down.  The smiling girls, on the other hand, were just as delighted with the diversion Monica has created in their day.

Michael  told us later that the Tamang people of this area do not sew at all and you would be hard pressed to find a needle and thread in any village around these parts. The stitching ability of the girls made this fact hard to believe, but we were starting to realize that the Nepalese can pretty well do anything quicker and better than we could.

I was observing from a distance and the whole afternoon was magical. As I gazed up at a neat little village on the ridge, at the crops which were ready to harvest, at the crystal clear river that irrigated the crops and powered the lovely stone mills, at the beauty of this hidden valley, I realized that every goat girl knew her place in society, her responsibilities, and her value to others. There were no self-esteem problems or whining about the amount of work that had to be done.  I wondered what on earth we were doing here.  I think we had expected to help people in some way but I couldn’t find a thing wrong with their life on this day. That night, under brilliant stars and in the unbelievable silence,  I knew I had come here to learn how to live.

About the Nepal Schools Project
The Nepal School Projects was started over 20 years ago by Michael Rojik, a Canadian, who landed in Nepal as a trekking guide for the Alpine Club of Canada.  He fell in love with the people and began aid work in the Mahabharat region of Nepal.  The villagers do the project planning and implementation and actively participate in its implementation.  NSP contributes technical expertise and only such materials that cannot be provided by the village.  For more information visit the Nepal School Project website: www.nepal-school-projects.org
 
How to join this trip
Kym Putnam lives in Smithers, a small town in  northern British Columbia.  She first became involved in the Nepal School Projects when she chaperoned a group of high school students to Nepal in 1996 and trekked to a remote village to deliver the donation money for a primary school.  The “Goat Girls” story took place in 1999, when she and a group of adults became involved in the project. She hopes to help keep the money coming for the project by organizing trips each fall.  If you are interested in joining this trip please contact Kym Putnam at (250) 847-3855 or email info@soulpurpose.bc.ca