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Running away from Home

Batuli and the English teacher

NEPAL | Tuesday, 23 February 2010 | Views [803]

I made it to the 11:00 English class today, although the class did not start right away. Apparently there is no penalty for students or the teacher being late to a class. The 11:00 class was the grade eight students and again, I read for them and they read for me. A few comprehended what was being read, but most didn’t. This was starting to remind me of the Chinese class that I had taken at the community college. Our teacher was consumed with making us write and read, but we couldn’t functionally “speak” the language. These kids seemed to be suffering from the same treatment.

In between classes I conversed with the English teacher. He is a slender man, neatly dressed, with jet black hair that belied his 42 years. I was apologetic for my casual attire, but he had to understand that I could only bring so much up that hill. He asked about American teachers, how much they were paid and were they shown any respect. “Not enough,” was my answer to both questions. He complained about the lack of resources in Nepali schools and his meager paycheck. The only consolation that I could offer was that as difficult as his circumstances were in Nepal schools at least he didn’t have to worry about getting shot. American teachers have to put up a lot more than just meager wages which is why I probably will never join their ranks. His conversational English was passable, but only if I spoke slowly. So I don’t know if he even got the remark about being shot. Our worlds were so far apart that it didn’t take very long for us to run out of conversational material, other than his grievances as a Nepali teacher. I sneaked a look at my watch to see if it was time to go the 12:30 class.

I went back to the grade nine class for a second round of teaching. The English teacher had assigned homework yesterday, but no one had done it. The teacher quietly accepted this and I proceeded to go through the homework assignment with the students. Again, they could read; they could write, but they struggled to grasp the meaning. I did not berate. I did not belittle. I encouraged them to come to the library after school if they wanted to practice. If anything, it would offer a focus to pull me away from the chaos.

By the time the class ended, it was raining, and so the English teacher invited me to the teachers’ office for a mid-day snack. I was served a bowl of beans topped with some diced raw onion. I saw how small the portions were for the other teachers and I felt bad about taking away from their meal, but I didn’t want to insult them either. We all ate in silence. I felt like somehow I was in display and it made me feel really uncomfortable. The rain stopped. In my best display of humility, I thanked the teachers for sharing their meal with me and I made a hasty exit.

The previous evening I described to Bhai how wild things got at the library in the afternoons. He told us that we should not let the children do whatever they want and that the previous volunteers had planned activities for the afternoon. Kathryn aired her disagreements about structure, and she asked Bhai if he would come to the library today to give us a better idea of what he had in mind. OF COURSE, today was the day that we had fewer children attend. They were all quiet and didn’t mind looking at books or working puzzles. They behaved better for Bhai, and why not? He was a man and he could give instructions in Nepali. Both Kathryn and I were ill-equipped.

A new variable to the equation……When Kathryn, Bhai and myself got back to the house the water had been shut off. Apparently they were building a road higher on the mountain and they had to disconnect the pipe, or the pipe had been broken. We were told that it would be back on in 24 hours, and the family had a large reserve for drinking and cooking. Despite that, I still found myself being very careful about my water usage.

Tags: homestay, nepal, village, volunteering

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