Our interactions with the ANSWER students provided Debra and me with the greatest appreciation of the value that ANSWER Nepal provides individual students, their families, and the nation of Nepal. One experience, though, stood out for me — an overnight stay at the farm home of one of our two students.
Kapil’s family lives on a small farm about 100 km north of Kathmandu. I had presumed that we would simply get in a taxi and drive to the village, but in fact our taxi driver had to secure a permit for us to take the shortest route to the village — and the permit was denied by the police. A second approach to a different police post for permission to take a longer route to the village was successful, and we set off for the village.
The outbound journey of about 200 km took us over five hours. The farther we went the worse the roads became, and we finally ran out of road completely. Kapil’s village is located in the forks of two rivers, and the only way at present to reach the village is to cross a suspension bridge. In order to get to Kapil’s farm from the village we crossed over the other river on another suspension bridge — and began climbing.
We started our climb in reasonable light, as we climbed several hundred feet to the farm the light faded until we could barely see the ground on which we were walking. About 40 minutes after crossing the second bridge we reached Kapil’s home. We were received very hospitably by Kapil’s parents and were invited to share a late meal with them.
Earle Canfield had impressed on all the ANSWER students who had attended the monthly AAA meeting that they had an obligation to their country to remain in Nepal after completing their education and support one or more ANSWER students in later years. We had taken this plea to heart, and we had talked with Kapil about this need to help future generations by staying in Nepal and providing financial support to ANSWER and
make the system self-sustaining. To our surprise Kapil assured us that he did not want to study in America or anywhere else outside Nepal; he wanted to learn how to make the family rice farm more productive and more sustainable so that, among other things, he could honor his obligations to Earle and ANSWER. In the morning I went for a walk around and through the rice paddy with Kapil to learn more about the farm and Kapil’s understanding of his obligations to his family and to ANSWER. Kapil is clear on both, and is keen to play his part. Three generations live on the farm and rely on it for their sustenance — and the numbers are growing as cousins of Kapil’s bring their immediate families to the farm. The only answer is to obtain access to more land and/or increase the farm’s yield in a sustainable manner. Kapil’s post-secondary education focus is on learning how to increase the farm’s yield without compromising the longer-run sustainability of the farm.
Armed with this information I at least naively expected that we could have a conversation about Kapil’s education objectives in Nepal. We were shocked to find out the Kapil’s mother is firefly determined that Kapil has to go to Texas for his higher education — and remain in the US after graduation. How Kapil’s father feels we don’t know for sure, as he didn’t speak. Kapil will need lots of support, though, in his endeavor to meet his obligations to ANSWER and to his growing family.
We left the farm somewhat chastened, but with good information that we hope will be useful to Earle as he works to help Kapil follow his dream. We are determined to help Kapil meet his self-imposed obligations. However, our thoughts on Kapil’s future had to be set aside temporarily, as we set out on our return trip to Kathmandu. We took the route we had wanted to take the previous day, as it was some 60 km shorter than the earlier route. Had we obtained our permit for that route as our outbound journey I’m not sure at all that we would have reached the village before either the taxi or we two had reached the end of our endurance. The road was truly incredibly challenging in several places, made worse by roadworks aimed at improving the road and rain that seems to affect the upper reaches of the mountain pass during the wet season and beyond.
In summary, we experienced first-hand the challenges Earle confronts on a regular basis as he talks with students, headmasters, and parents. Our experience provided us with this invaluable insight, and has not just confirmed our faith in Earle but has resolved us to help Earle achieve his essential vision one student at a time.