Mark called this morning at about 10:30 (8:15 PM Nepal time) from Kathmandu.
All the results of his medical exam and tests were good. He is gaining weight: back up to 170 pounds from a low of 160 when he was sick. Although 170 is his normal weight, he says he "feels fat" -- maybe as the result of the (large) steak dinner he just had, with five of his friends. He said the steak is "better than at home" and "as good as" that at the steakhouse where he liked to eat in Tampa -- although not prepared as well.
He is flying back to Janakpur on Sunday; when the trip to Kathmandu is for official reasons, such as medical and dental exams, he travels by plane. When it is his choice to go, it is by bus.
In Janakpur, he is continuing to work at the Women's Development Center for 2 - 3 hours everyday. He met with Mary Lou this week in Kathmandu. She hopes to come to Janakpur in July to do some "strategic planning." There is a new manager at the Center, who accepts most of the work Mark is attempting to do.
Mark has extensive data on making the ceramic items, and he had the women complete a questionnaire to get whatever information they could provide. His analysis shows they are currently losing money and should be charging twice the current price in order to make a 15% profit. As an illustration of their poor business decisions--the manager agreed to fill an order for printing 30,000 T-shirts in a one-month period and set up a plan she felt would achieve this impossible goal.
The former manager of the Women's Center has a sister who lives in Arlington, VA -- where Mark used to live -- and she and her mother are visiting and sending Mark pictures of them, at familiar locations (he says that is very strange).
The health training planned at the Center was canceled, but some volunteers will be coming to the Center in July to make biographies of the women and in August to do art with the women.
The school year ended there a few weeks ago. Mark has decided he would like to continue teaching next year rather than go into teacher training. He has spoken to the principal of an all-girls' school in Janakpur who seems agreeable to Mark's teaching there, and he is also talking to his director Steve about this placement. Since it is in the city, it is a more convenient location for him. It is a high school and a "10 plus 2" school (two more years beyond tenth grade) and is the school where Virginia taught last year.
Fortunately, the monsoon season started early (in May) this year and the weather has not been as hot and humid as is typical for May. The temperature is in the 90's now but has not reached the 40 degrees Celsius mark (104 degrees Fahrenheit), which is considered "hot." The weather conditions have not bothered him as much this year as last summer. It will continue to rain through July and August.
Virginia may be given a different placement soon. If so, Mark and two VSO volunteers will be the only westerners remaining in Janakpur, and both of them will have left by November. When new PCVs go to their posts in September, there will be two in villages south of Janakpur, about 40 minutes away, but none posted in the city.
Jeff is also changing posts, from the west (which is now off-limits for the Peace Corps) to the eastern hills. I spoke to Jeff briefly on the phone! And, I also talked briefly to Sommer! She has recently been to Spain and to China. Her Mom is arriving in Nepal soon to visit for about a month. Ben was also on the phone, but the connection broke at that time and I didn't get to speak to him. When it reconnected, he had left to get sandwiches at a recently found 24-hour restaurant. Almost everything else is closed by 9:00 PM.
Because of holidays, Mark will have from September 28 through most of October as a time that he can travel, and he says he will meet us wherever we will agree to go. He can get a direct flight to Frankfurt and he thought Dad would take an interest in a trip to Germany.
His TV in Janakpur is broken and although he left it at a shop before he left for Kathmandu, he does not expect it to be repaired when he gets back.
Mark did not get into any of the training sessions being held this summer.
He does not know when he will get back to Kathmandu again, but he plans to send a few emails from Janakpur by using the computer at the Women's Center.