Departures/Arrivals: Nepal caregivers take a break from work and dating
Yael Davidson did a lot more than get her hair done in Ghana.
Laksmi Lamitziani, 27; Rajandara Lamitziani, 33; Basanta Farsad Bastola, 34; Niro Katari, 32; and Zodamazi Fadul, 27; caregivers, flying to Nepal
Hello, where are you flying to?
Basanta: Home, to Nepal, for a vacation. Except for Laksmi, who is going home for good.
Why, is she fed up?
No, it’s the law: We work here four years and four months, and are allowed to switch employers. But if I am here for more than four years and four months and the employer dies, I have to leave. As long as the person I work for is alive, I can stay even 20 years.
I didn’t know that is the law.
Yes. It is a strange law. We don’t like it. This is a very nice country. We like it, but if you change the law we will like it more. Change it.
What else does the law say?
We need a visa every year, and the first time we leave Nepal to work, we need to pay for a work visa.
How much does a work visa for Israel cost?
Wow, that’s crazy.
Yes, it is a lot of money.
How is it that you are all going at the same time?
After a year of work we are allowed a month’s vacation, at our own expense. We are friends, and we are going now because there is a big holiday in Kathmandu, so everyone is going. That is how we got stuck here, in the airport.
There was overbooking and we found out we would be stuck in Qatar for a long time. That is not good. It is a long flight to begin with. They told us to fly to Oman and a flight would be arranged from there, but we wanted a direct flight. The travel agent is helping us now, and it will be all right. We will go directly to Hong Kong, which takes nine hours, and from there it is four hours to Kathmandu. In short, it will take a whole day until we get home.
What holiday is it?
It is Vijaya Dashami, a big holiday. People eat a lot. There is a custom called tika, in which you get a blessing from others in the family; not to do silly things, to be a good person.
Who do you pray to?
Rama Sita. That is our God. He is the spirit. The holiday is in his honor. It lasts nine days. You pray every day and in the end God will help.
Does it work?
You trust ? God helps. You don’t trust ? he doesn’t help. That’s how it is.
Is your whole family in Nepal?
Yes, my mother, father and sister. There is no law now in Nepal, it’s all chaos. There was also a big fire there. No one knows who did it. We love being in Israel. It is beautiful and it is good here.
Isn’t it hard to establish a family when you don’t know how long you are going for and when you will be back?
I am single. I don’t have a wife. Almost all of us are single.
Who is married?
Laksmi and Rajandara.
But she is going back now, isn’t she?
It sounds complicated.
It really is complicated, even more than you think, because a man and a woman can get married here in Israel, but you are not allowed to come as a couple from Nepal. You can only marry people you meet here.
That is a serious limitation.
It’s not easy, but many people do actually meet and date and even get married.
Do you have regular places where you hang out?
We have one day off a week and really meet many wonderful people.
What about you, did you meet a nice girl?
No, I only have good women friends here.
With God’s help ? I mean, with Rama Sita’s help.
What are you, a Polish mother?
Yael Davidson, 27, behavioral science student from Be'er Sheva, returning from Ghana
Let me guess ? a vacation in Jamaica?
So where are all the braids from?
Africa. I was there for three months as part of a delegation.
What kind of delegation?
From the Africa Center at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. There were four of us in a small village in Africa. They call themselves a city, but there are only 4,000 people there.
What did you do?
Educational volunteer work. We helped in the community and taught in the local school, which is where all the children from the surrounding villages go.
Sounds like fun. How do you get to be part of a delegation like that?
We took an admission test and had to successfully complete a university course on Africa and activism. We heard talks from people who are engaged in volunteer activity in Africa and Israel ? people who are interested in education, health and refugees, and are trying to change the prevailing image of Africa.
What does a typical day in the village look like?
You wake up at 5:30 in the morning when the neighbors’ daughter sweeps the house, and, if that doesn’t do it, there is also a rooster on wake-up duty. Then you go to the school, where the day starts at 6:30 with an hour of free reading; afterward there’s the national anthem and a roll call.
In the afternoon, the library opens; it is a real community center. There are books and games, and everyone shows up. We read books to the children, played with them and helped them with their homework. Most of them don’t have a room with a table and chair at home, so this is the only place they can study.
There is also a story hour. The library closes at sundown, because there is no electricity and it’s hard to read in the dark.
What do they eat for supper?
There are three main foods. There is fufu, which is like a huge gnocchi but is made of a local root vegetable, like a huge potato, which is blended with plantain. You crush it all together for hours until it is totally mashed. I once helped them prepare it and it was really hard; you just stand there for two hours and mash and mash.
There is also something called dokonu, which is a kind of dough made from corn flour, like a sour puree. It’s eaten with a sauce, a little meat, a few vegetables, tomato paste.
And of course they eat a lot of rice.
How do the villages make a living? Are they farmers?
No. In the evening you can see many of the men returning covered in grime from the gold mines. There are big foreign companies that employ the locals. We ran adult-education classes for them; we taught them English and how to write letters.
What is the local language?
The official language in Ghana is English, so communicating with them is not a problem. Ghana was a British colony, so everyone speaks fluent English. But each region also has its local language. In the area where we were, the people speak Tuki, so we picked up a little of that.
Say something in Tuki.
“Saugidiya ababa”: If you will it, it will be realized.
What are your plans for the future?
To be an anthropologist, a psychologist or a social worker. Whatever has to do with people. And I am sure I will go back there again.
Did you feel you changed something in the world?
I made a small change. “World” is a big word. To see a small child open a book for the first time and be thrilled is a lot. I only hope that the things we started will keep going. When we arrived, the library building was ready but not in use. We brought 14 crates of books from Israel, with the help of the Israeli embassy in Ghana. That is a pretty good start, but I’m not sure it’s enough.
Feel free to use this platform, and saugidiya ababa.
We will be delighted if anyone wants to donate books to the project. Contact me at email@example.com.