‘Tif!!!’ My best friend and sister , Rupa, calls. It’s like our souls have known each other before. It’s hard to put it all into words. From the very beginning, Rupa has been outgoing and courageous. Her family welcomed strangers, their new next door neighbors, to their home for lunch everyday and let 15 people use their one toilet for the first month. Whenever I’d walk past, she’d yell “Tif, come” and she’d wave her hand the Nepali way for me to come. She would paint the nails on my left hand, laugh and do my makeup, put a tika on my forehead, dress me in a Sari. She’d have me look over her English homework. She’d show me photos of her family. Sometimes we would just laugh and I’d say ‘see you tomorrow, Rupa.’
For the last four months, I could always count on Rupa as my friend. I would come back from a long break from work and I’d be far away at base, sitting down, and she would yell, “Tif, come!!” She would then teach me how to take millet off the stalk with some amazing Nepali tool, how to sift the millet to get the grain, to cook. On Saturdays she would call me over from a distance to harvest with her and a couple other bad ass local women. We moved in a meditation. Rupa made sure I knew how to use the knife. After 30 minutes we would stop and the older women would roll a suti – a cigar they would roll with a dried leaf and tobacco – and we’d smoke it together and laugh. We’d eat some puffed rice as well, then continue the rhythmic meditation. On other Saturdays I’d be walking by to go shower in a nearby waterfall. She’d gather up her washing and shampoo in a bin and often my other best friend, Nisha, would join. We’d go for a couple of hours and then lay on a rock, lay out the washing, soak up the sun and brush our hair. She pierced my ears 9 times with cactus needles. We danced at weddings and just hung out together, feeling like we’ve been friends forever. She understood me when I was going through hard times, and knew exactly what was going on when I went through the bad breakup. Any time there was an event she would call me over and we’d sit, sometimes without a word, watching as it all went on.
To everyone in the village, my name was “Boulaki Bahine.” I could hear people calling my name wherever I walked in the village. After four months I knew everyone by face, a lot by name. But only to Rupa, she called me “Tif” from the very beginning.. never once did she call me anything else.
My last day Rupa, her sister, her mother, Didi, and I sat in a little enclosed house for a couple hours. Deedee told me I was her daughter as Rupa is her daughter and that I will forever be in her heart. As they will forever be in mine.