Indra B. Karki
It started before I was born. My parents were expelled from cruel kingdom of Bhutan after the country carried out its census in 1988. After the census, the government restricted access to school for Nepalese and banned the Nepalese language. There were peaceful demonstrations and movements in Bhutan to challenge the government policies. Unfortunately, the consequence was closing schools, terminating jobs, forcing citizens to leave the country, seizing property and so on. Many people were killed and tortured.
As a result, my parents left Bhutan and settled in refugee camps in Nepal. I was born in the camp, we had a hard life. It was not easy to reside on other’s property. It was the smallest camp among seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal. My house was built from mud, bamboo and thatch. Every rainstorm was threatening and could blow down our houses. Sometimes we spent the night on wet beds and other times holding the roof in place. We got food and rations every fifteen days. Sometimes we had to buy food because the ration was not enough. The medical facility was not so great and there was a high chance of suffering from diseases. My mom, who never went to school at all, helped our refugee community as assistant head sector and food distributor. My father worked in our refugee camp school as the accountant in the bookstore.
My childhood completely lacked freedom; I rarely went outside the refugee camps. Although it was a difficult childhood, I felt a lot of love for that place and I miss where I grew up. I believe that sometimes bad things happen to create new, good things. I feel like there are no mistakes or wrongs in my life. If I look back at my childhood, I can see it is depressing but I have learned not to be worried about the past and to focus on my present.
In 2008 the United States started resettling families from Nepal, and we moved full of hope and expectations for a better future. I was excited to leave camp for a new adventure, but was also worried of certain things like my mom and grandma adjusting to the new culture. I never thought I would miss my country and friends until I left. However, life was not as easy as I thought it would be in the U.S. We didn’t know how the systems worked, my mom had to learn English from the bottom, and although my dad spoke and understood English, he struggled with depression in our new place. For me, living in a rough neighborhood in Oakland was frightening and confusing. School was another new challenge for me because it was hard to pay attention to the class and I felt lonely.
Looking back, my past has shaped my world in numerous ways. Whether it was a hard time or an easy time, it was precious. If I was not born in a refugee camp, I would not be able to see the world the way I do now. Remembering what I lacked during those times, is one of the greatest memories I have. Remembering that you lost something is a great way to find something. I believe that staying satisfactory all the time is not valuable, and I know from experience that to want something new is the best way to do something useful with your life. By myself, I learned that the best way to live is to try new things and give back to the community. Whatever things we give out, will complete an orbit and come around. It would be great if Stanford University would give me a small space to learn and explore new things and give back to the community.