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August 9, 1999 (Email)

Note: In this email, Mark refers to "Tevas," which are a brand of sandals which had been vigorously recommended by previous Peace Corps volunteers who had been to Nepal.

I have a bad feeling that you called on Thursday before you received my e-mail and that you're going to call again tonight (Sunday night here) before you receive this e-mail. I'm not sure what the schedule is for sending emails from this public access establishment, but I expect the proprietor only sends bundles of emails, maybe only once a day. Sorry.

The bus strike lasted until yesterday (Saturday). The 11 of us who were in Dharan were quarantined in an "Indian army penchant camp". This is a boarding place for ex-members of the Indian army. I had actually stayed here a few times on previous weekends - using it like a hotel - because it is only 50 Rupees per night and is very clean. The down side is that there are 6 people to a room. The past 5 nights have felt like 6th grade summer camp. We haven't had much to do, we haven't been able to go into town much, and our rooms are basically a bunch of bunk beds. We played a lot of "karem-board" - a Nepali game sort of like a cross between air hockey and billiards. We ate a lot of dahl baht in the canteen. We were bored a lot. I'm very upset that I didn't bring The Third Reich with me - I might have been able to finish it.

Because I didn't expect to be here for a week (I actually only expected to be here a few hours when we initially came up last week) I've been wearing the same pair of pants and 2 shirts for 7 days now. I bought a second pair of underwear which has helped, but every day I amaze myself with how badly my clothes smell. I also only have one dirty towel (white) with me.

Last night I moved back to a hotel and I plan to wash the laundry I do have tonight.

Today we received a questionnaire to define our post preferences. I'm hoping to get an urban post at an all-girls school. Because of the culture here, I feel a lot of sympathy and respect for the females, but I've actually come to dislike the males (of all ages). The girls I've met are nicer than the boys, more well behaved, more eager to help/learn. It is possible that I could be in Dharan which would mean electricity, water (maybe even water inside my house, and cable TV). I could be one of the people who wrote those letters in the back of the Namaste book that we didn't think could possibly pertain to me. A lot of the volunteers joined the Peace Corps to experience difficult living conditions. I can't understand the appeal. I'm more interested in the professional challenges and learning the culture - both of which will be easier if I can watch TV every night and drink refrigerated sodas.

The Tevas are as crucial to life here as everyone said they were. It's too hot for boots and socks would not last very long in the monsoon. When I take my Tevas off, there is a very distinct tan line - darker tan than I've ever been before. I know it's not a dirt line because it's still there after I take a shower (although, admittedly, no longer as distinct).

The reason everyone said to bring bandanas was due to the immense amount we all sweat. We have to walk quite a bit (rickshaws are actually fairly expensive) and we are all exploding with sweat fairly often.

I got some more pictures developed today - mostly pictures of the other volunteers to replace the roll that got corrupted. I'll try to send some home tomorrow before heading back (finally) to Shantinagar.

Today we did our first teaching exercise - giving a lesson to our fellow volunteers (including some not in math). I tried to explain perfect squares. First I went through an exercise asking students why a square is a square. (Why are 2 shapes with 3 sides that look different both triangles, but 2 shapes with 4 sides each - one is a square and one is a rectangle). Once the square concept was established, I had students draw shapes to explain what 3x4 and 4x4 were. 3x4 formed a rectangle which was 3 in length and 4 in width, 4x4 visually formed a shape that was 4 by 4 - a square.

I thought I was able to get the concept across using pictures and using very  very minimal language. It was encouraging. Tuesday we have our first actual Nepali classroom experience. 3 of us together will teach a 45 minute class -yikes!

OK - I'd better go. No mail has arrived for a week due to the strike. Hopefully tomorrow!

Try replying to this e-mail address. Maybe the proprietor will store the e-mail somewhere and let me see it when I ask for it?? Worth a shot.

Love, Mark

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