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November 3, 1999 (Email)
Like A Laundromat


Just stopped in at Bill and Zack's on a whim after school. I hope they're not sorry they gave me the combination to their apartment! I "break in" 2 or 3 times a week. I think 10:45 is the correct time difference now. Let's see, that means I add 1:15 and subtract 12 hours. School is going ok - the same as always. It's strange to think that things are actually becoming a little bit routine now. There's really not that much new that's happened since I last wrote. One of the most defining characteristics of this society is that not much happens. Talking with the other PCVs a few nights ago, we developed the analogy that Nepali society is like a laundromat. A bunch of people standing around with nothing really to do while they wait for their laundry - except make stilted conversations, read, maybe try to do some work, or just stand there. (Only for me, I'll be standing around for 2 years.) Pretty harsh analogy, but there's some truth in it.

I've taken to visiting one of my student's houses in the village every day after school. All my students ask me repeatedly and enthusiastically (as they ask all of their endless and constant questions) to visit their house and - once I'm there - to come inside, sit on their beds in their tiny rooms, and eat their food. Very enjoyable for me actually. I thought this practice would be sustainable for months until I realized that - when I visit one student - 3 or 4 of my other students usually live in the same house. What you or I would call a single "house" in this village is actually home to many nuclear families within a single extended family. Each brother in the extended family generally gets a room or two in the "house". Example - the "house" I visited today contained 5 brothers' familes for a total of 29 people. While visiting, the mothers and aunts usually hide from me after bringing me tea and a snack - but, then again, they rarely speak more than a word or two of Nepali anyway. The fathers and uncles usually mill around and stare at me but, of course, I ignore them preferring to play with the multitudes of children. The kids are so much easier to get along with when I have them in small groups in their homes instead of in class!

I also visited my teaching counterpart's home in the village. Turns out he is one of the "big men" in the village - meaning he owns a lot of the property (land, houses, animals). This was very surprising to me - I thought he was just another teacher. Most of the people in the village have basically no work at all to do, or are subsistence farmers. I actually didn't feel guilty eating the food he offered me, as I do some of the students' families food.

My 7th grade classroom is actually locked up at this point due to the caterpillar situation. A fair number of the 7th graders have taken to leaving school before my class. This is fine with me -- I can't teach 30 kids out of a notebook anyway! In that class I'm basically doing nothing more than correcting and assigning new homework each day. My strategy in 6th grade has been to teach a little faster than I'm comfortable doing, and in 7th grade to teach a little slower than seems proper. So far the slow strategy is definitely the better.

I think I'm going to go back to Shantinagar for Tihar afterall. At least for a day or two. Sommer said she's decided to go back to visit. And - to me - not having to go alone made a big difference in my decision (although I think she would have gone even by herself). After that, I don't know what else I'll do.

I just finished reading "The Vampire LeStat" by Anne Rice. Not much literary value to it, but it captivates even more so than Stephen King books do. Very easy to read. And unlike a Stephen King book, I didn't feel dirty - like I had just wasted a lot of time - after reading this book.

I'll call tomorrow or Friday -- if you get this before then. I probably won't have a chance to call during the  holiday.


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