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  • Jonatan Strandqvist

Was I fortunate and ungrateful for my upbringing? - Yes.

Beware – you might end up at a bad school where you live


I’ve gone to the drawing board before, giving testimony to different things about how I got offered the chance to visit Nepal, my perspective on global solidarity and Nepal and more.


I feel that there is more to extract from my travel and internship. Now I have, compared to my earlier student life, become more aware of different theories, perspectives, and knowledge in general. Knowledge one might expect that you already have from several years at the university, but there was at times. Honestly, I learned nothing, and I didn’t want to. Not that I didn’t learn, I learned what I had to, but that was it.


I’ve contemplated this early educational pampering many times. The curve has correlated to my general “wokeness” and academic level, which, after some internal debating, had steadily increased after one year at the university. Now I wanted to learn; I wanted to equip myself with the proper tools for whatever challenges I may face. So, I took an interest in domestic and international politics, contested political opinions and happenings with various human rights perspectives and social challenges. In later years the topics of migration, integration, law and order, environment and domestic violence have been central in the Swedish political arena. And I’ve gone from a listener to a questioner, for better and worse, of course. Now, this is not about my political or critical thinking and self-praising. It’s about something else.


Do you pick up what I’m getting at here? No, of course not. Too early to make that point, but I will try to make it all comprehensible. When I visited Nepal, I also saw one of Do Good Now Global’s partners, ABC Nepal. Yes, school is an integrated part of their work, but they do so much more. They take in young girls and women who have or are likely to be exploited in human trafficking. The girls' ages vary, but without facts and statistics, I will just say that they range from 8 through 20.


So, during my last day in Nepal, I was on my lonesome. I was to go home sooner than the rest of the team, and I had a day in Katmandu to spend before going home. So, I visited á la tourist the monkey temple overlooking the city and historic buildings downtown, sponsoring local shopkeepers by buying their goods before going back to the hotel—what a day for a white tourist. What needs to be said here is that I differed from other white tourists on one count. I was riding the back of a motorcycle. Damn, I’m challenging my comfort zones. I really went all out Nepali there, huh…


After my dangerous day of white tourism, it all had to end. But first, ABC Nepal. If I can go out of my comfort zones by switching from a taxi to a motorcycle, I can also go from a standard white tourist to a traditional white knight, right? So, I did. I went to ABC Nepal with all my luggage from the hotel, and I said my goodbyes to the staff before going. Upon arrival, I only expected to meet the staff and maybe one or two out of the rescued girls due to the upcoming holidays. We sat and talked at their office, and I learned many things. How the work was going, how they operated and about different traumas from the various girls who were treated with psychological help.


I have been to orphanages before, for instance, in Nepal. It is hard to describe all the expressions and insights one gets at places like that, but nonetheless, I thought of myself as mentally experienced and prepared for the horrors I learned from the various traumas.



After discussing some more about what role we play as an organization and what we can do more, I had to use the restroom. Obviously, my mentally prepared mind didn’t consider taking pills for the day against…let’s say, food problems. So, I did my time at the restroom before coming back to the office. Giving my excuses for my long absence and they smiled and calmed me, followed by: “do you want to see the girls?”. Well, yes, of course, I would like to see the girls. However, I was somewhat disappointed that I only got to see two of them. That’s at least what I thought.


Up the stairs, after seeing their living room, tv room, study room, bedroom and more, they took me up another level. And there they were, all the girls, singing and welcoming me with smiles, prepared messages and greetings and more. I was overwhelmed. Humbled. Happy.

After that initial greeting, I was stunned and at the same time very excited but also worried. I hadn’t prepared any questions for the girls. Quick thinking was crucial here. I had limited time and so much I wanted to learn, but at the same time, I felt like just having a normal conversation, not an interview. So I began, asking them one by one about their dreams, goals, feelings and more. Replying to them as well, not in a standard “thank you”, but I wanted this conversation to be a deep one, a great, learning and genuine one. I really did want to get to know them.



One thing one must consider in Nepal is that nothing and I mean nothing, is like home. As rare as that might sound, so are white people, and for that reason, I got treated differently all over Nepal. I hated the fact of it, but at the same time, fully aware of it. I wanted, to the best of my ability, to make the girls feel leveled with me. I harassed the translator to translate every word and not just the “standard ones” they expected to hear how I could make fun of Sweden, myself, or anything for that matter. I am not better, period. My chivalrous white armor was to be dismantled. And by the way, the sections involving white tourism and knighthood was ironical and satirical, but I have a feeling you caught on to that.


I felt happy after learning and talking to these girls about their dreams of being a doctor, engineer, teacher, social worker, and more.

Knowing about their traumas, upbringings and their social preconditions for success made me saddened but not disheartened. I can only thank them, the girls, for that. Their cheer ambition, pride and ability to look forward gave light to my day and heart. It gave me hope, and I will be forever motivated to continue to strive for social changes globally, for human rights are universal and are to be granted to all the earth’s citizens and species.


Now, back to my educational awakening.

At that time, I started to debate that academic parents didn’t bring me up. I was the first generation of academics in the family and what those preconditions did for me in Sweden. Now, social issues here are somewhat, read very, different from Nepali social matters. So, did I end up in a bad school, as my title suggests? No. Was I fortunate and ungrateful for my upbringing? Yes. Is it easy to say that some are worse off than the general Swedish citizen? Yes and no.


For me, it is very easy to say yes.

But I also know that it is tough for someone who is unaware and lacks experience in the area to say yes, and therefore the answer is no. For one cannot describe, at least comprehensible, how different life is “over there”. It must be experienced, realized and taken in. This article from a random person can only offer so much; it can offer a glimpse but nothing close to reality. We, I, you, need to raise our awareness. Can we work against human rights violations at home? Yes, and we can also do it globally. There are plenty of ways to learn, but I genuinely think that no travel or visit can offer what ABC Nepal and similar can offer. The genuine and inspiring gift of human emotions.





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