TOURISM and MISERY NEPAL and SMILE (c) Juan Peláez Gómez Traducción al Inglés Svetlana Tkacova y Diana Diaconu
The face of Bika is wrapped in a plastic bag. The nose of Bika absorbs energy from a bag. The soul of Bika disappears and evaporates at every inhale. Next to him is a backpack filled with bottles and garbage. He sells one kilogram at a price between three and six rupees. With this money he will buy Dextrine. A drug that will transport him to the place where his misery and eight years of age can never take him. This is Nepal that you may almost miss. It is a place that exists in every city of the world, an amplifier of poverty. It amplifies voices without sound of those who live with less than two dollars a day. Tourists disappear in hundreds of shops searching for souvenirs, treking gear, travel agencies, money exchanges, Internet and do not realize that they are surrounded by drug users and prostitution. One simple look down to the ground would detect it. The streets offer many levels: shopping windows at the height of tourists’ eyes, poverty at their feet.Their western shoes walk the roads without pavements, roads full of holes, garbage and rats that serve as food for black and noisy ravens. Tourists do not understand that behind every kid that begs is a drug and poverty of one soul. The rupees given to kids end up in the hands of drug dealers. The food given to them ends up being returned back to the same supermarket who sold it to the tourist in exchange for money. This food misguides the children. Instead of obliging them to look for help at any of the sixty-seven thousand humanitarian agencies that work in Nepal, it allows them to believe that the streets offer abundance. They are certain to conclude that tourists are a bottomless well of rupees, food, pens and sweets. Foreigners wishing to calm their sorrow and conscience collaborate with the Nepali government. As a result of these children will never escape the streets ...alive.
Nepal is a king of smiles. The ones smiling are the tourists. And the vendors...when they manage to multiply ten times the price the Â¨whitesÂ¨ (the way they call occidental people) pay. The street children gimmick a sick happiness when inhaling poisonous gases from inside the plastic bags. Some children have a little more good luck. Organizations, orphanages, consulates, governments facilitate adoptions. To Nepalese families they offer a chance of paradise for their children. Thanks to Shambala, they go to study abroad to return with titles of doctors and engineers. However, they never return... Analphabets represent more than seventy percent of Nepali population. Organizations make the parents sign documents that they can not read. In these documents, it is said that they are selling their children to Americans or Europeans. When adopting a Nepali child Spanish couples are made to believe that the natural parents died in an attack by Maoist partisans, or died from uncurable diseases...All that according to a documentation provided to them. An adopted child does not speak Spanish nor English. And Spanish parents do not understand Nepali. A year after an adoption when a child masters the language, he speaks about his family and siblings. Nepali parents wait for a child that will never come back. There is no remedy any more. Spanish parents fall in love with a child and cannot separate themselves without loosing a big chunk of their souls. Other children will end up being sold as sex slaves to India. Some will lie in the hospital beds of Bangkok. They will share the rooms with their peers from USA, Europe and other rich countries. They will become brothers and sisters by blood. Their illiterate parents permitted with their signature the transplantation of their organs. There are Everest, Annapurna, elephants in Chitwan, beautiful wood carvings in Patan, Bhaktapur and more... A tourist returns back home happy. During the 20 days of his stay in Nepal he leaves behind more than eighty plastic water bottles. Children that collect them at seven am are pleased as non-recyclable waste clears the access to drugs. In one day, he used up more wood for preparing his food than a village family spends in one month. Nepal is a beauty... Its green terraces. Paradise for walks in unforgettable valleys. Its limitless mountains. Rivers like corruption. Corruption that is nothing else than doing harm to the other human being. The foundation for the creation of poverty. Individuals who are searching only for their own profit, profit of their families and believers. Beings who instead of working for the public suck the blood from its veins.
It is a plague without end. The founders of the Gulf War, the three devils of unfinished bloodsheding in Iraq, the African tribes civil wars and forgotten juvenile soldiers, the banks that produce the crisis with their indecent, immoral and untouchable directors. Rounds of insensitive World Bank, neoliberal and dehumanized International Monetary Fund, nonfunctioning UN and NPOs representatives, donors and sponsors are arriving to Nepal and other countries of misery. The money does not contribute to other than feeding the poverty. Representatives of these organizations do not see misery from their planes. They do not smell the unbearable odor of the streets from the luxury hotels. The inner side of their car windows does not touch the sweat, pimples and skin dehydrated by the poisonous water. Bosses at the executive meetings eat as much as a hundred Nepali families consume in years. With these actions, published by newspapers and other media we are cleaning our consciences. But the excess always inclines to its opposite. The pendulum of donated millions gets always balanced by the misery. The pockets of the poor are filled with nothing. Nothing made of millions of euros of international aid. While their governments invest money in a tax paradise. Corrupt people who generate more corruption that grows like poison ivy. The governments know what they give because in their morality they are identical to those who receive. Faces are the only things that ever change. The hospital receives tranche of donated money. Finally, the medical centre will have financial resources. The patient comes to receive medical care but is asked to deposit between ten thousand and a hundred thousand rupees, which he does not have. His monthly salary of less than one hundred euros (one hundred thousand rupees) does not allow him to do that. So he will not be taken care of. Without this care he may die, he may live with physical or psychological problems, deformations and handicaps. But that does not move a doctor a bit.....The Hippocratic Oath vanished to the same place as the morality of our governments.
Nepal´s beauty shines in numerous catalogues of tourist agencies. Their glossy pages reveal the eyes of women, children, monks. And of course, excited pupils of Bika’s. A tourist pleased with Bika´s exotic image gives him a gift. A gift that brings about a change in all distinctive forms, one of which is money for the drug. The other gift may be a bottle thrown away after a tourist consumed his privilege of drinking water clean of pathogens. This photographic smile seems to be permanent to all tourist publications about Nepal. Thanks to this smile the tourists avoid confrontations with suffering. They do not want to go there. Life in the West prepares them to avoid painful encounters. Western publicity is founded on the images of human beings eternally young that live in spotless homes equipped with the most recent technology; images of parents having perfect children, images of women and men with perfect bodies. They’re all human beings that live in environments without pollution or poverty. Western people fear crossing the deserts of suffering, fear getting to know their own pains which at times appear when observing the world around. Nepal with its misery does not allow for such indifference. It obliges to look inside oneself and outside to the world in which life evolves. Any sensitive eye will notice Bikas waiting around for new money, more plastic and ultimately drugs... Finally, tourists happy with their collections of photos and experience return back to comfortable homelands. Every single journey enriches the traveller should he be ready for it. At least, one will discover new realities. For what you see suddenly appears existing. One never returns back from a journey the same way (s)he left.