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September 17, 1999 (Phone)
First Week in Janakpur

Mark called us this morning with a phone number for the apartment where he is now staying, and we called him back there.  He is sharing an apartment with another PCV, Kraig, and he describes it as a nice place, also.

We have not received more email because his friend Bill is meeting his parents in New Delhi, and he took his laptop along.  When he gets back to Janakpur in a week, Mark will be able to send email again.  There are six PCVs in Janakpur and all the parents -- with one notable exception -- have either come or are planning to come to India.  Only Bill's parents are coming to Janakpur.  Mark advised us not to come to Janakpur:  the facilities are bad and the water is bad, so we will get sick.

Mark was at his school for the first time Wednesday.  He got sick (red eye and a fever) -- he says that is expected because of moving to a new location -- Wednesday night and spent Thursday at home.  He observed again today (Friday).  The teachers are "horrible", as usual.  He is supposed to observe for 5 days, but he wants to begin teaching sooner, maybe on Sunday.  This school is better than the previous one:  he has a nice black board and enough seats for the students;  there are about 30 kids in each class.  He will be teaching 6th and 7th grade math classes.  He volunteered to help the 6th grade English teacher, who will use him "now and then," but it is more likely he will volunteer to teach English at the girls' school in the city.

He still likes the new city, even though it is "filthy," and he is struck by the similarities with where he lived in Florida -- his apartment overlooks a pond, the trees are similar and he has (bigger) lizards and ants.

Janakpur is larger than Dharan, there are no buses there, but lots of rickshaws.  It is a safer and well lit city, with more people out in the evening.  He and Virginia ate at a restaurant last night and because of the usual poor service did not leave until 8:30.  They felt safe at that time, because the city was still bright.

His commute to school is at least a half-hour bike ride (2 - 3 miles).  The ride takes him from the nice apartment, through a "bad" part of the city, then out of the city, by some huts and rice fields, past the airport (where he has not yet seen any planes), then to the village school.  This route reminds him of his previous commute, from his office in Baltimore to his apartment in Crofton.

Virginia (from Boston) will move into Bill's apartment (see previous email) in December, when Bill returns to the US, and Mark will move there by March, when Zack leaves. What Mark likes best about Bill's apartment is the refrigerator and ice water.

Mark buys four bottles of Coke every day (15 cents each) from a "cold store" (a store with refrigeration);  Coke is safer to drink than water. He has lost about 10 pounds and expects to be in good shape from the bike riding. He is not completely recovered from being sick, and admitted to making an effort to sound good.

The climate continues to be very hot;  he is told it will be more comfortable in a month.

Janakpur is known for its Temple, and Mark drives by it every day.  The Women's  Development Center is also beautiful, including artwork similar to Australian aborigine art.  There are 2 or 3 Cinemas in Janakpur, which sometimes get bootleg copies of current US movies -- Mark is looking forward to seeing these.  He asks us to tape season premieres of TV shows to mail to him.

Mark says he has been "very lucky" in his Peace Corps experience so far.

After our call, he was going to dinner with 5 other PCVs.  He is happy to receive letters from everyone.

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