Let Them Eat Cake ...and Ice Cream!
Thanksgiving in Dhankuta was great! Wish I could have spent more time in the hills. It took me a long time to get there because of yet another road closing, this time outside of Inurawa (Jill and Elizabeth's post). This closing was due to dissatisfaction by the locals with their police's response to someone's house being broken into. At any time in Nepal, you can easily mobilize hundreds of people to protest and close down their town. A lot of people in this country always seem to have a feeling of dissatisfied rage against the system, a feeling that they can get something out of public displays of anger, protest, and pity-inspiring displays of their situation, and of course nothing better to do than to inconvenience a few thousand commuters.
I met a few of Satyam's NGO-worker friends at one of their houses in Kathmandu when I returned from Germany. They were all 20-somethings from Canada, America, Australia, etc. who had been working in Nepal for various development agencies for around a year. I was shocked at how comfortably and cleanly these people lived, and at how different their view of Nepal, its problems, and needed changes were from the same views held by me and other PCVs. The topics of conversation were so foreign to my experience -- they almost sounded like tourists talking about all the fun things they had seen and done in Kathmandu, and the fascinating excursions they had taken to the outlying Nepali villages. The conversation comparing each volunteer's experiences at the local massage parlors, theatres, gyms, and yoga classes was only interrupted when one of the two chefs in the immaculately furnished three story mansion announced that our dinner of fresh pasta, salad, wine, bread, and vegetables (followed by cake and ice cream) was ready. When asked why the rate at which Peace Corps volunteers choose to leave Nepal early was so high --- and how we could possibly not love the lifestyle we had here, I was utterly at a loss for words. I don't know how to feel that these people will hereafter be seen as experts on the development needs of Nepal. I felt that they had a very distorted view of Nepali reality.
Oh! I'm in Kathmandu now because of a flu I had just before Thanksgiving. Our nurse (Olive) thought I should come in for some screenings to make sure it was just a flu. I put off coming up until I noticed the fever recurring over the Thanksgiving weekend. Luckily, all the test results have come back negative (for malaria, TB, diabetes, and lots of other serious things).
Before Thanksgiving I organized a field trip for my sixth and seventh grade girls students to the women's center. This was one of my most successful activities. The girls (and the headmiss!) learned a lot, the women at the center were very helpful and accommodating, and it wasn't very expensive (I paid for it with a grant from the Women in Development program). It was a little more expensive than necessary because the girls refused to ride on the back of the tractor I had arranged for -- so I had to pay for rickshaws instead. Seeing where these kids live, it's shocking to think they are too proud to ride on a tractor! After the tour and exhibitions at the center, all the girls were allowed to paint and keep their own Maithili postcard.
I was planning to go around to other schools and pitch my field trip plan to them. I figured that if they were frugal they could pay for 30 girls to go for only 350 rupees (about $4.75). That would include all the materials they would use at the center and the salaries for the women who would help to organize the trip and show them around. Unfortunately, I gave up on this after the first school I visited (a girl's school where exposure to a place like the women's center would be fantastic for the students!!). The headsir there was very unpleasant and refused the idea outright when I pointed out that it would cost some money. He wouldn't even discuss the value of the trip to the students with me - and got angry when I wouldn't pay for it. This jerk makes 10,000+ rupees per month. It's just infuriating trying to deal with people whose values and commitment to their jobs are so pathetic.
I also had a good time assisting a dental hygienist who came through Janakpur to look at several hundred kids teeth for a survey.
OK. Time for dinner. I'll be heading back to Janakpur as soon as some horrible festival that's taking place there ends after the weekend. I'll write more tomorrow.