Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to say 'hoina' (no)

It seems I'm in a financial quandary: to my host family, I appear to be a source of endless money. I suppose I can only blame myself for giving this impression.

When I went shopping with Mariya (I’ve been spelling it wrong) last week, she picked out a shirt she liked and said, “For me.” She was probably asking me if I minded buying it for her, but due to the language barrier, it sounded like a demand. So I willingly bought the shirt. It was cheap, after all, and she was kind enough to let me stay in her home and show me around the neighborhood.

After clothes shopping, we went to the grocery store, and she commented that the kids love mangoes but cannot afford them. So I thought, what the hell, it’s cheap – I’ll buy 26 mangoes for everyone.

Next came food. “We have no rice left,” Mariya said.

“Well, how much does it cost?”

“It’s so cheap,” she said.

So I offered to buy rice.

It wasn’t exactly cheap. I ended up buying three enormous sacks of rice for a few thousand rupees (around $80). I had no idea I would be paying for such a large quantity of rice, but by the time I realized this, I was standing in line at the store and I didn't want to embarrass Mariya.

Then, yesterday, Mariya said, “We have no water. Will you pay for the water to be turned on? It costs rs 1500.”

As much as I want to shower, this time I need to say no.

Up until now, I had volunteered to pay for everything – the clothes, the fruit, the rice, a trip to the pool for the kids. However, now that I am being asked to pay for basic amenities like water, I have to find a way to explain to Mariya why I cannot do so.

I know I am partially to blame because I have set the precedent; I paid for so much already, so it's only natural that Mariya thinks I will continue to provide for the household.

Maybe Mariya truly doesn’t have the money. Or maybe she does but is waiting to see if I will pay first. Either way, it is not for me to judge. These are good people who don't have much, but I cannot let this turn into a charity mission.

Of course I feel guilty that I would rather spend money on a necklace at Thamel and groceries for myself than pay for the children to have water to shower. At the end of the day, though, I can only provide a temporary solution to their problems, because after I leave, everything will go back to the way it was before.

But to be blunt, it still sucks having to say no. When I bring home mangoes or cookies for myself, I have to eat in secrecy because the children will ask for some. Every time the youngest child comes into my bedroom, he points to my belongings and shouts, “This, this, this!” and I have to tell him, “No, you can’t have that.” 

Another one of the children asked if I could buy him a notebook so he could finish his homework, and I had to say no. If I buy him a notebook, I’ll have to buy some for the other 12 children, then pencils and pens, and where does it end?

My bedroom door is locked at all times, because a couple of the kids stole money from Stefano and bought an electronic game. I can’t blame them. Of course they want nice things, and they don’t have parents to teach them that stealing is wrong.

I’m sure this will be the most difficult challenge I will face during my time in the orphanage. I need to find a balance between being able to help out without them becoming dependent, while being able to enjoy myself without feeling guilty.


  1. I suppose it's human nature to continue asking for assistance until told "no.". Thanks for sharing your experiences. Love you!

    1. Definitely, I can understand where they are coming from, and I don't blame them at all for asking. Love you too!