October 1, 1999 (Phone)
Looking Forward to the Holidays

This morning, Mark called us from a shop--a guy with a phone who charges 170 rupees per minute for an international call--and asked us to call him at Bill's apartment, 15 minutes later.  Bill and Zack are in Kathmandu  for the South Asian games:  India, Pakistan and many smaller countries competing in soccer, volleyball, shooting, and other less familiar sports.

Mark's 25th birthday was September 21, and a few days afterward some friends from training came to Janakpur.  A surprise, but very welcome, guest was Shanta, his teacher from the village.  They went out to eat and visited the (famous) Temple in Janakpur.

Mark received the VCR tape with the Penn State/Arizona game and the Emmy Awards show, but it is not compatible with the VCR in Bill's apartment.  He will watch it on the VCR in Kathmandu.

One week from today, he takes the 8-hour, overnight, bus ride to Kathmandu, where he will spend the 2-week holiday.  This is the holiday he has been looking forward to.  He plans to visit Pokara, west of K'du, for a trek into the mountains, with other PCVs.

He receives his mail at the school where he is teaching and everyone watches as he opens his letters or packages and they "read" the letters as he does.  Mark is very amused that they believe they are understanding his letters, especially those written in Cecilese (by Cecil).  He recently received a letter from Jeannie, who admitted it was one of few letters she has (ever) written.  He was especially touched by her letter.

His teaching is "really hard."  The books are not very good and he is still learning the language.  In 6th grade he is teaching fractions, which "the kids don't know at all."  He has been drawing lots of pictures--such as of roti (bread)--and cutting them into pieces.  In 7th grade he is teaching binomial multiplication, which the students are able to do but probably don't understand.  Variables are not useful, since the kids assume "a" is equal to one and if he uses an apple, it must also equal one.  One of the techniques suggested in his material is using a pitcher of water and 5 glasses, but he is not able to transport that on his 40-minute bike ride over poor roads.

His ride to school would be incredibly interesting if it wasn't for the weather (still in the 90's), the condition of the road (especially after a rain), and dodging the many other bikes, carts, rickshaws, cows, bison, oxen and people on the way.  He estimates that he sees 5,000 people (and 200 cows) on the way to school as he passes the rice fields, bazaars, and airport.

There is a store about half way to school where he stops--the people there are nice--to talk and get a Coke (14 cents).

All of the following are "hard"--the culture, the language, the climate, the job, and teaching.  The food is monotonous, but he has to eat a lot.  The roads are bad, and after rain, almost impossible.  There is "no civil conduct and no privacy."

Mark is being paid more now that he is a PC Volunteer, and no longer a Trainee.  Also, the Peace Corps paid for his bike, pots and pans, and a fan.

He has been sick--again.  A flu-like, viral disease (Giardia?), which lasted a week;  he missed two days of school.

He is looking forward to the holiday he will spend in Kathmandu and a few other holidays that follow soon afterwards.  In the next two months, he will be teaching for about one month.

He mentioned the letters he had received a number of times--Thanks to those of you who have written! (If you haven't but would like to, see the Introduction page for Mark's maililng address.  Alternatively, you can send email to Mark through my email address: kludwick@pobox.com.)

A few of the other PC Volunteers had arrived at Bill's apartment and had begun to cook.

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