The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

We’re in the full swing of things now, going to schools and orphanages with bags full of markers and papers and minds full of excitement. On the first couple of days it was unbelievably intimidating, trying to interact with the kids, whose shyness and limited English, meant a lot of unanswered questions and blank stares, but as time went on I began to learn how art is a medium that communicates itself. You don’t need to have much of a common language to do art, you just need a willingness to work together and a determination to push past the awkwardness.

Of course the biggest key to the success of the sessions and of CAM itself is the dedicated and passionate volunteers. The volunteers mostly consist of high school to college age students who are looking to give back to their community in their free time, though some wander in through some sort of serendipity, as with Cam a Canadian backpacker who saw his name on the wall and decided to stop in. For volunteers like Cam, May and I much of the work is done in pairs so that our partner can explain things to the children in Nepali when their limited English falls short.

For me, this is the first time that I have visited a country where I have had absolutely no grasp of the language, and I find myself reflecting on the impact of this both on me and the people that I interact with. When someone speaks Nepali I am forced to read their body language and gestures to form some sort of understanding, and I know that while much can be gleaned from it, much is lost in the act of translation. The fact that many if not most people here in Kathmandu speak at least some level of English reminds me of my privilege as someone who has the dominant language as a mother tongue. It is a fact that I am both grateful for and somewhat uncomfortable with, and my attempts at learning Nepali have been awkward at best, for each word I learn there are a hundred more I realize I need. 

Emiline Jacobs