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July 2, 1999 (Email)

I'm in Dharan, which has shops which consist of a desk with a computer. They charge 20 rupees to write and send one e-mail (about 20 cents). I also wrote an air-mail letter which should arrive in a couple weeks. On Sunday, all of the volunteers moved into villages scattered around Dharan.

I moved to Shantinagar. This is a very rural village consisting of rice farmers, animal raisers, and families of men who are off in the Indian army sending money home. My family is in the Brahman caste but they are very poor. On the other hand, they have a servant. I can't figure it out.

The family spends the entire day doing chores around the house. The men feed the animals and the women concentrate on cleaning the house and preparing food. I'm not allowed to enter the kitchen. At meals, we eat rice with lentil 'soup' and a handful of vegetables (usually potato and spinach). The amount of food is incredible. After the women have served us and made sure we were finished, they sit on the floor and eat their meal. Needless to say, there are no napkins, utensils, etc. We only use our right hands to eat - for obvious reasons. (It's not hard to remember not to use your left hand to eat). The servant eats and sleeps on the back porch when he's not plowing the fields. Showers consist of a bucket of water drawn from the pump and dumped over my head. It's hard to lather up and rinse off using one bucket, but I'm getting better at it. There are 9 people in the family, 5 sons and 2 daughters. They've all had a little schooling, but not much. I think the family is housing me because the allowance they get for me is a lot (for them). I also think they want me to marry their daughter.

None of the people in my village (me, Geoff, and Sommer) can go anywhere without being swarmed by children and people who think they know how to say anything in English. Everybody is incredibly curious and kind. We can walk in and out of anybody's home in the village at whim - and everyone does the same at my house -- even more so now that there is a curiosity to see.

4 other volunteers are in Tarahara, which is a more urban area 10 minutes away. We walk there or vice versa every day. Those 4 enjoy coming to Shantinagar because of all the interaction with the children. There are about 12 houses in Shantinagar.

I finally got sick last night along with about 4 other volunteers. I have bacterial dysentery and a cold. The nurse gave me medication this morning and I already feel much better. The language is coming slowly but everyone is still pretty confident. I was excited to come to Dharan yesterday - everyone got to tell stories about their respective villages and we got to eat some different food (not rice and lentils). I just ate an ice cream sandwich!.

I hope this letter is legible. I'm writing as much as I can in the 15 minutes I'm supposed to use. Tonight, most of the volunteers are staying in Dharan to celebrate the 4th. So many of us are a little sick that it probably wont be much of a party.

I'll probably call again when I come in to Dharan again next Thursday.

Send letters!

Love,
Mark


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