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August 12, 1999 (Letter, with photos)

The photos are here!  Two are on this page -- click here to see the others!


Me with my English language "students" during Nepali language training.

I'm going to enclose as many photos as I can with this letter.  I hope they survive the trip.  It's so beautiful here, it's impossible to take a bad picture.  I'm writing during our weekly 2 days worth of dull and useless sessions - known as cultural and technical training.  I had hoped to learn things like teaching techniques, how to locate and rent a house/apartment, the basics of Hinduism and the caste system, common health problems and treatments.  Instead, I use the sessions to read, write letters, or (now) to do crosswords in my Games magazine.  Practice teaching begins in less than 2 weeks.  Geoff, Sommer, and I have come to grips with the fact that we do not have sufficient language to describe mathematical concepts or to answer students' questions (or understand them when they are asked).

It is going to be incredibly frustrating.  The most likely people in the village to speak English well (some of them speak very well) are the teenage girls - but they only learn English in boarding (private) schools.  I'll be teaching in a government school.

Spontaneous traditional dancing after sitting through  English lessons given by Geoff and me.

As always, I am drenched in sweat.  The walk from the buspark to the seminar site is about 2/3 of a mile - uphill (Dharan is at the foot of the northern foothills).  I'm wearing my brown corduroys because they are the only dark-colored pants I brought (stupidly) - all of my khakis are covered with dirt and mildew stains.  I'm also wearing my boots (which are fantastic) to keep my staff-infected toe covered.  Plus, I had about 25 lbs. of stuff in my backpack - clothes, rain jacket, sleeping mat, notebook, camera, water bottles, medicine, flashlight, walkman, towel (also white - also dirt and mildew stained), Tang, toiletries.

I spent almost an hour last night talking to my brother and sisters.  It was very rewarding to be able to talk for so long in Nepali.  My sister especially has been trying to help me, and has become familiar with what words I know and don't know.  On my part, I'm trying to get past all of the annoying traits of the Nepali manner of conversing - loud and brash, very stubborn in their (often absurd) opinions of America, Nepal, and the world.  Plus the constant lack of respect for privacy.  Usually, our conversations consist of them telling me what to do.  "Mark - come here" "Mark - go eat"  "Mark - go to class."

I've finished reading the trial and am well into Rise and Fall of Third Reich, which I highly recommend.

I've gotten to the point where I get excited about little things - taking showers in Dharan, morning tea, visiting friends during the week.  I'm especially excited right now because I have a Snickers in my backpack I've been saving for days.

I'm still healthy.  The food is still incredible (although monotonous).  The landscapes are still beautiful (although everything is filthy close-up).    Love, Mark

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