Today I received a letter enclosed in a home-made Christmas card from my little friend Ritika.
Ritika is the girl I correspond with who lives in the Child Haven orphanage in Nepal. She is about eleven or twelve years old and sharp as a tack apparently, but with that air of breezy innocence that makes her seem a little younger than a child of the same age in North America.
Jeff's mom got to know her while she was volunteering two years ago, also befriending her mother who works there as a cook and helper.
She sends the most charming and earnest letters...
"How are you sweety?", she begins, adding a little heart in the margin.
She chats a little about her family and exams at school and then brings the subject around again to when I might be planning to visit Nepal: "I am very eager to meet you dear" as she puts it.
Unfortunately it will be several more years before I meet Ritika in person but I would like that. Nepal and India have made my "Seriously Considered Destinations" list after the much-anticipated 2007 Italy trip I have planned with Tai and Pol. I'm sorry, Ritika, I promise you're the very next after that in my travel plans.
Originally my family (Jeff, his mom, Jen & I)were planning a trip to Nepal, not Africa. But political upheaval, Maoist rebels and airport strikes made Nepal seem an unlikely choice at the time we made our decision.
I certainly don't regret choosing to go to Africa, but I wonder now what I would have written in my travel journal if I'd taken that hypothetical journey to Nepal. We were considering hiking the mountains of the Annapurna Circuit, spending time in Kathmandu, and of course visiting the Child Haven home.
By the time I meet her she will be a teen-ager. I hope we can become true friends in person.
Meanwhile, this is what she writes in her latest letter: "I am very proud to get such a friend like you. You are my best friend..you are the one who touches my heart. My other pals also told that I am so lucky to get friend like you. I want this friendship untill our breath ends. Please keep it up!"
She's pretty sweet, eh?
She always ends her letters with: " OK! Now I would like to stop my pen. :)
I don't have a digital picture to share of Ritika but I found the photos above of her children's home in Nepal on the Childhaven website .