So we have now left India and are heading to the western parts of Nepal near the Karnali river (one of the last places where the Ganges river dolphin can still be found in Nepal). We are moving to this location because this is where one of our characters grew up. Gopal. And it is where his family still lives. On the farm where he was once born.
Western Nepal, rural western Nepal, is an amazing place. It is simply stunning. Fields of green and yellow with enormous mountains in the distance.
|Fields with yellow flowers of mustard seed plants make even wintertime beautiful in rural Nepal (Photo: JLewis, TDRF)|
One of the reasons we felt it was important to go back to Asia, was because we needed to tell the story from a more personal level. That included getting to know the families of our characters if we could. We were very lucky because we got to spend time on this journey with Gopal’s younger brother and his parents.
Having this perspective provided a much deeper understanding about where students in this region of the world come from. Almost everyone, no matter what, has parents that were farmers. Existing off their own land. What did this mean for these students? Well for one, it meant that many of them had to figure out a way on their own to pay for school (scholarships). It also meant that while trying to develop a new skill set from their education, studies had to be put aside also regularly to help the family survive. Gopal still returns to his natal home twice a year to help harvest the crops.
|Gopal greets the new calf on his families farm in western Nepal (Photo: JLewis, TDRF)|
It also means there is pressure to locate a job…any job…immediately upon graduation, so care can be given for the elder members of the family as they become unable to tend to fields. And the first job available, may not be one in conservation. So there lies the next in a long line of struggles for these students. The need to care for their family, weighing against their own desires to locate lower paying hard to find positions in conservation. This could be the biggest struggle of all.