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August 4, 1999 (Email)


There has been a bus strike in Dharan for the past few days. This week was also when we were supposed to come into the city on Monday and Wednesday to observe classes at a nearby school. As a result, the Nepali Peace Corps staff (after the tedious and slow conversations which accompany the making of any decision by our staff - or of any Nepali "bureaucracy") decided to have us all stay in Dharan from Monday straight through the upcoming weekend. This is great, in my opinion, because we can take showers, sleep in softer beds, and get some food other than "dahl baht tarkaree" (lentil stew with rice and vegetables).

I should explain that a bus strike means that no traffic can get into or out of the city without risk of blockade or thrown stones from the striking bus drivers. When we left Dharan last weekend, we saw the beginnings of the strike. At the police stop outside of town, where city officials normally collect a bus tax, the buses were lined up - refusing to pay. All of the passengers of all of the buses had gotten out (it was very hot) and it had all the makings of a riot. Eventually, the handful of police got out of the way of the buses and the bus crews tore down the bamboo pole which was used to stop traffic (like the striped pole at train crossings - I forget the word for it).

Last weekend, 5 of us took a bus up to Hee-lay. That's the phonetically spelling - I'm not sure how it would be spelled if you try to find it on an internet map. Anyway, it was a city pretty far into the hills - maybe as much as 10,000 feet up. We hiked to the top of a nearby hill - very pretty and at least 15 degrees cooler. We couldn't see the Himals (mountains) because of the clouds, but it was a lot of fun. On the way back from the hills, Ben (another PCT) and I rode on top of the bus. At first, this seemed like a reckless and scary thing to do -- but it turned out to be just as safe as the inside of the bus (high railings and handholds) and was much more comfortable and gave us some great views on the trip home. The buses and the Nepali driving methods take some getting used to - unsafe at any speed.

The classes we observed over the past day were very encouraging. The school we went to had small classes and seemed nicer and more organized than we can probably expect at our posts, but they gave us an idea of what we will be doing. We watched two PCVs who were math teachers last year substitute teach a 5th and 7th grade class. This was especially encouraging because - although I could in no way yet do what they did - I understood a good portion of what they said and felt like I may someday be able to speak as well as they were speaking (they've been here about 18 months now and are now conducting (very sporadically) teacher training sessions).

Well - there are other people waiting to use the public computer. I should be home on Sunday night if you want to call then. I'll try to write another e-mail before leaving Dharan - especially if I'll be here longer than I now expect.

Everything is going fine. I'm healthy and having fun. Still waiting for the first package with the candy!  Love, Mark

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