SOCIAL TEA

I’m in Nepal. In a neon pink hotel room. Around six o’clock in the morning someone knocks on my door. “Tea Madam?” Haha. The owner is standing in front of me, with a cup of tea. So sweet, but so early.

cold showers

While sipping my cup of tea, I slowly awaken mentally. The hotel owner has his own tea plantation so this is directly from its source. Yummy. Today is a busy day, so I have a cold shower (man, these really aren’t something you can get used to, especially when you have to wash your hair, which ends up in major brain freeze every time) and eat an omelet with bread before heading out the door.

ugly teapot

I have some free time for myself (note: an hour maximum), which I treasure, so I decide to go into the small village, to get ahold of some of the culture here. Also, I need souvenirs. Small ones though. My bag is so full, I will literally have to cram them in, which I will put my heart and soul into, because once again: I NEED them. Once in the village, I discover I’ve come at its busiest hour. It’s crammed in front of every store, and everyone is buying lots of things. I buy some mini bananas which are so delicious. When I walk on, I get reminded (like every time I try to cross) that I have to watch out much more here. They drive like crazy. On every corner there’s a dog just chilling along the road. They look happy and peaceful. I get some necklaces, kohl, and an ugly teapot. The latter getting handmade in front of me.

tea-free hour

I exchanged €100 when I entered Nepal. The presents and the taxi ride have cost me €10 so far. That’s not a lot. At. All. *Sigh* I ought to give the rest to someone. I don’t have a clue what to do with it. It’s always nice to buy something local. It feels like you’re giving back. It’s also really nice to see that they all speak English and show a genuine interest in why I decided to come to this small, remote village, where no other tourists visit. I enjoy my tea-free hour by looking for souvenirs and talking to Nepalese people. I needed this, not having had a single break in the last few weeks.

left behind..

I walk back to my hotel whistling and see my guide and driver waiting for me already. We’re gonna do something special today. Something that comes along with trade, and having international connections. The social aspect. I heard of a woman who has been working in the factory for about 4 years, and it touched me, so me being me, I wanted to do something about it immediately. Her husband left her. This might be something (oddly) common in Europe, but in Nepal it doesn’t happen often.

future for her daughter

This particular lady lives in a village near the factory. She has a daughter. A smart, creative daughter who was attending sixth grade in a private school. Married women here work at home mostly, which is something deeply engraved in the culture. But this woman saw a future for her daughter, much different to her own, and wants to send her to university. She spends most of her income on the private tuition of her daughter. Sending her to a public school would be cheaper, but the quality of the schooling is very poorly, and sending her daughter there would not guarantee the future she wishes for.

banished by the village

The factory where we buy our tea is very progressive. Only women work there. Thus also a kind lady I meet. She is the manager of the factory. Similar to the woman I mentioned earlier, her husband left her but this lady could fully support herself and her daughter financially. The lady has been banished by her village because she is a single mum. Many men were angered by the fact that she chose to stay a single mum and so they revolted against the factory. In their opinion, women should stay at home and shouldn’t work. For this reason, the factory has been shut down, currently trying to negotiate with the government, judges and unions to protect women’s rights. If the owner succeeds to pass on the legislation, it could make a huge difference in many women’s lives.

no income or family to rely on 

Because the work at the factory has been put on hold, the lady has no income or family to rely on. Meanwhile, her daughter has had to leave school for this reason. This doesn’t sit well with me and I decide to go to the principal of the private school. In his office, I get greeted with tea. All children wear uniforms here and speak English to each other. The lady had not spoken about her situation to the school out of shame and thus no one knew why her daughter stopped turning up to school out of the blue. The school offers a discount on the yearly fees once we’ve explained everything to them, and I ask how much tuition, book and uniform fees are. To the people here it’s a lot of money, but I could easily miss that amount if it means I’m helping someone build their future. A few tenners monthly allow this girl to go back and regain her normal school life, in turn allowing her to build her future up academically. I decide I would like to pay for this. I arrange with the principal that all the money I transfer will go to the girl, and that they must keep me updated about her developments. I promise them that I will pay until she has graduated from school. The girl can start her new school year tomorrow.

new goal

The meeting shifts something inside of me. I realise the children here are so depending on their surroundings, culture, trade and parents. I wouldn’t know how it is to not be able to do whatever you want. These children do not have that. I do business with these areas so the least I can do is give something back wholeheartedly. Not only by buying tea. The social aspect of tea is just as important as the trade itself. I have a new goal now.

This tea is about No.018 - White Sandakphu and No.015 Himalayan Gold