Rama asked me to guess how old she was…
Rama works in the little guest house my friend, Kristin, and I stayed for a few nights in Bandipur, Nepal. She cooks and cleans. She doesn’t have all that much English and I have hardly any Nepali. We overly “Namaste-d” to compensate— knowing if we spoke the same language we would have a lot to talk about.
After a long hike in the hills, Kristin and I moved some chairs from the guest house restaurant into the sun and Rama brought us tea.
Rama asked me to guess how old she was. I thought I was really being conservative by saying 27. I was sure she must be in her 30’s. But no, she told she was twenty-five and with two daughters. One is 11 and one is 10. She busted out all her English now.
Me married. 13. Chitwan (a region hours away)
(she shakes her head as if to say, “I know, criminal right?”
Me. No house. No see daughters.
Me work Bandipur. Very difficult.
No house. No see mom. No see daughters. No husband.
Daughters husband house.
Nepali culture no new marry.
(Rama looked at me right in the eyes for a long time. Then let down her gaze. She changed her painful tone to one of conversational optimism.)
America? America is beautiful?
I got the feeling all her English is reserved for her story. These tourists coming through this small town are her only hope.
Later on our hike up to see the sunset I daydreamed about visas and South Seattle Community College with all its English and immigration classes and taking Rama to the airport.
What would it take to rescue her?
I know I could… and I can’t, but what will happen to her if I don’t?
What is my responsibility?