March 26, 2000 (Email)
(Editor's Note: The first paragraph below refers to a (long) phone conversation in January which had not been included on this web page. We felt it better to hold off on this topic, to let Mark express his thoughts in his own words.)
About my thoughts from January regarding my coming home early... The nurse said it had a lot to do with my state of mind, which had been affected by the medicine I had been taking. Apparently, Tiniba (2 grams a day!) and Furamide can cause depression. Perhaps the depression was drug-induced, but that doesn't explain the underlying sources of the specific feelings I was having. Anyway, here's a brief recap of my thoughts.
Why is it difficult to go on with Peace Corps service in Nepal?
There are many days when you can't do anything at all. Holidays, political protests, weddings, etc. result in large-scale closings of offices and schools. Power outages limit what type of work you can do and when. The lack of language skills limits what you can communicate, how efficiently you can do your work, and how easily you can accomplish day-to-day tasks.
It is difficult to accomplish anything substantial or make any lasting changes, and there are few examples of substantial or lasting changes which have been accomplished in the past. Co-workers and students lack motivation and frequently don't come to work or school. The culture is overwhelmingly fatalistic. The climate and living conditions are harsh. The harassment is not dangerous or overt, but it is constant. Not to mention that the other volunteers, your only real support structure in Nepal, are all having the same frustrating experience.
We have little guidance, no fixed schedule or job description, and little real support from the office staff. Most of us are sustained by things not related to our work (which should be the primary reason for our being here). Instead, we stay to experience the culture and to travel, frivolous reasons which give us a cynical view of our work. We stay despite our inability to accomplish development goals.