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August 28, 1999 (Email)


I think I'll put off trying to send scanned photos until I get to Janakpur and have some people to help me (and my moving in allowance money). I'll probably be moving in with a PCV named Kraig Lothi. He's a math education volunteer who has been here for about 20 months. He will be very helpful with my language, lesson plans, etc. One of the English teachers in my group (Virginia) is also going to Janakpur - bringing the total number of volunteers in that town to 5. So I won't be totally isolated after all -- one more thing which will make my experience different than I had expected. Still hearing mixed reviews of Janakpur - anxious to see it for myself.

I'm going to find out if the Penn State game is on India ESPN tomorrow. Long shot, but they did have a couple pre-season NFL games on last week so it's not entirely impossible. The two PCVs in my and the next closest village, Kraig and Sean (who came to help us with our practice teaching) came to Dharan last week to watch the Packers/Broncos game. So maybe the third world isn't as bad as it's made out to be. ha ha. I'm starting to realize how wealthy the Dharan area is in relation to most of Nepal. It's more western here even than in Kathmandu.

Oh - here's my idea for a birthday present. I know you've already sent a package, but this might not cost much more... Buy a long-running video tape and tape all of the season premiers, Penn State games, etc. you can and mail it to me so that it will arrive before Dasain (mid-October Hindu festival to Shiva). A PCT named Ben recently graduated from Arizona and it would be great to be able to watch the game together in our Kathmandu hotel (where I at least will be staying during part of Dasain). This would mean keeping the result of the game a secret, of course.

Ok - about practice teaching. Seventh grade seemed to go very well. I gave homework one day and about 25% of the class did it - as I expected. During real teaching, homework won't be very common. If I do give homework it will only be a problem or two and everybody will copy the answers anyway. I may give exams occasionally, but the students won't take them very seriously, will naturally cheat, and will be happy with a 32% - which is passing on the government exam after 10th grade -- which actually is important to some of them. 4th grade was horrible. 90 students, first period of the day, constant interruptions from outside. Toward the end I was merely trying to maintain order and teach the first few rows of students who seemed interested. I don't know how successful I was at even achieving these modest goals. Geoff and Sommer agreed that my class was the most unmanageable.

I've been told that I should have the power to request to teach certain grades at my school. Of course, I'll want 7th again. My school won't have more than one section per grade (they only have ten classrooms for ten grades (for 500 students - not too bad)). For my second class I'll request 8th or 6th. Officially, we're only supposed to teach 4th through 7th, but I think teaching older students would be more fun (for me) and I might be better at it.

Nepalis (Hindis in general) are amazing in how much they identify themselves by their castes and ethnic groups. It is one of the first things they say of themselves or others in conversation. The generalizations people make when they know another's caste is extreme (although often true). You can see the confusion on people's faces when you tell them you don't have a caste. I've been asked a hundred times what my father does (many occupations are limited to certain caste groups). When they find out both of my parents are teachers, they are relieved to be able to insert me into their 'teaching caste' (a good one!).

Next week should be relaxing after all of the stress and frustration of practice teaching. My language stinks - I'm still not studying. I'm very comfortable, healthy, etc. The mere act of living in this culture and trying to communicate and understand what is going on is still exhausting.

Some of my friends are going to interesting and remote locations. I'm sure before long, I'll be anxious to visit them. Traveling from  Janakpur is exceedingly easy (domestically or internationally) - one of its best points.

I'm off to pick up a blown up photo I made for my host family. They love photos, so I'm sure they will be happy with this one. After that, I'll read my Newsweek and maybe see what's on TV in the hotel lobby and order some ChowMein and pepsi. It's really rough here.

Ooops - I forgot to mention that I received the first package! (after 70 days) The Pez and chocolate were great.  The package itself was a little dented but overall in good shape. I've eaten or shared a lot of the little Hershey's bars already. I still can't think of anything better to send.

A Newar (NAY-WAHR) ethnic group celebration just passed by. Basically a man dressed in a giant mask and grass skirt playing drums and followed by a hundred kids asking for money. It's hard to describe but similar, in sound and appearance, to a parade with one of those multi-person Chinese dragon costume things and sparklers and fireworks - kind of similar.

Ok - have to go. Tell everyone I said hi. Sorry I haven't been writing very much. Between practice teaching and email I unfortunately had two good excuses to not write at all for the past 2 weeks.


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