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July 16, 1999

Note: This is the first handwritten communication we received from Mark since he left for Nepal. The aerogramme was not dated, but the first sentence implies that it was written on or around June 30.  We received the aerogramme on July 16.

I moved in with my host family three days ago.  Now I am really in Nepal.  The townspeople and my family are so overtly curious and intrusive that I haven't had any privacy.  The culture here does not frown upon anyone wandering into anyone else's house at any time, let alone into the white person's room in their own house!  Communication is still very difficult.  I've learned the Sanskrit alphabet, so I can sound out most words -- but I don't know enough vocabulary to converse -- not to mention that people here talk all the time -- loud and fast.  People are infinitely interested and helpful, but it's hard for me to understand anything they say.

My village mates are Geoff Schroeck and Sommer White from Florida and Missouri -- both my age.  Like most of the other people in the group, we don't know each other too intimately, but we have bonded through the immediacy and intensity of our shared experiences.

My house has electricity most of the time, but without appliances it doesn't really make much difference.  I would trade the lightbulb in my room for a working fan in an instant.  We wake up around 5:00 when the roosters start to crow and the other animals start making noise.  The family goes into their usual routine of cleaning, feeding the animals, plowing the fields, boiling the tea, etc, etc, etc. in the same order and with the exact timing as every other day.  I fill a bucket with water from the pump and try to get clean in the "shower"  -- which is a concrete room about the exact shape and size as an outhouse.  I won't get into the whole charpi (pit latrine) situation. Suffice it to say I'm not comfortable enough to go to the bathroom as often as I did at home.

As you can tell, I am so overwhelmed by the immediate situation I find myself in that larger thoughts about where I am and what I'm here to do have been temporarily pushed aside.  Every moment here is new, stimulating and hard to believe.

My family wants to play cards (again).  The food here is great!

Write back!

- Mark

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