Twenty years ago, in a little village far away from any big town, where the high snowy mountains are worshiped as deities, and the deep river valleys have little oases of terraced fields for growing potatoes and barley; a young girl with one leg and rough-cut crutches hobbles after the goats and yaks she is shepherding.
When she was three, out on the mountainside where they were watching the animals, her mom set her down to play. A big rock came loose from the escarpment above, rolled down the mountain, and crushed her leg. Not having many medical options, the most obvious choice was to amputate. So, with little other value to her family, she learned to spin and weave from her mom who tried to teach her any skill that could be of use.
She had never seen a car, or a foreigner, and of the latter she surely did not want to, for the saying in her village at the time was that foreigners would steal people, chop them up, and boil them into lard—and she was the perfect candidate—crippled, single, and a little plump.
One day, as she was watching her yaks, a dusty, wild looking white man with a long straggly beard trekked into her village looking for a drink of water and a place to spend the night. Everyone with two legs quickly ran into their rammed earth houses, locked the doors, and hid from that dusty, malicious, lard-seeker. But that slow, one-legged girl, whom on that fate filled day, which everyone thought would be her last, did not escape.
She gave him a drink and he ended up staying the night on her flat roof. She didn’t sleep a wink that night. He somehow communicated with her, that he wanted to help her walk again, but she would have to go with him to the big city. The next day, she made a choice that would defy human reason. She went with him. As she left the village, many thought she was heading toward her dreadful fate as a bucket of lard and offered her little gifts of money as they “delivered her to death.”
Telling the story now, she still has no reasonable explanation for why she went with that man to the city, but she did. During her years away, she was fitted with a prosthetic, learned to walk, and studied the language of wider communication.
Now living in a town closer to her village, this woman met us. She has taught our family so much; she is a true friend with a joyful smile who has spent many days explaining the local traditions and helpful business practices. She is TAHDA's first employee, a natural manager, and an invaluable part of this endeavor.