I am sitting at school between classes, hoping that the Wi-Fi holds up long enough for me to post this – and maybe some pictures. This is not my final report on Gorkha. For that I need my journal, and I never bring my journal to school. The last time I did was the first time I discovered the differences in privacy between Nepalis and Americans.
This is instead a report on the two weeks that I have been back at school. They have been fairly eventful, with Halloween and several school programs. Also, I have started to institute a new discipline system into my classes, which has been delightfully effective.
The Health Program
I am still unsure as to what this program was actually about. It had something to do with hygiene, I believe, like washing hands and stuff like that. It took up the first two periods of last Wednesday’s school day, and included, among other activities, the awesomely named game “Musical Toilets” (musical chairs with pictures of latrines taped on top of the stools). There was also a variation on the piñata game, where students—and teachers—were blindfolded and sent to smash a clay pot with a large stick. Why? Who knows. But I was the only person who managed to hit the pot and NOT destroy it, which was a tad disappointing.
Nobody in my village really has any idea of what Halloween is, but how was I going to turn down the chance to give my students candy? My different classes had different activities. Class 3 got to do a guided drawing of Frankenstein in a graveyard (nobody knows what graveyards are, either). Class 2 played a game. And Class 1 made their own paper jack-o-lanterns.
That night, my host family celebrated by eating candy and popcorn, and watching Star Wars—their first ever viewing! It was great. During the final battle, my aamaa kept inching closer and closer to the screen in her suspense. And she said that my host dad must have liked it, because he didn’t fall asleep.
The “One-Hour” Hike
You can probably guess from the quotation marks that this hike was anything but an hour. It was five, if you were wondering. Five hours and twelve kilometers straight up, around, and down a hill that would put Mt. Beacon to shame. It started out fine, with an autumnal stroll through the recently-harvested rice paddies. Then we started up a gradual incline. And then somebody decided, oh, let’s take this goat patch for a short cut!
Fact: Goats are much better at walking at 35 degree angles on slippery moss and clay than I will ever be.
It took two male teachers to keep me from wiping out on that natural slip-n-slide. There were times that my feet went out from under me. It must have looked pretty cartoonish, because the students laughed. This is what I get for buying “dry terrain” trekking boots.
We eventually reached a temple at the top of the hill, because it was some sort of local holiday. All we did up there was eat roasted peanuts—with no salt, mind you, because it was a fasting day. Hindu fasting rules apparently mean no rice, salt, or meat—only fruit and nuts. Or at least that’s how I understood it.
I think we got lost trying to find the way back down, but eventually, we ended up right back at school at 3:20 exactly, which is the time we leave during the winter. The timing was impeccable, in more ways than one. You see, when I was walking home, I saw a puppy in the middle of the road. Puppies are a rare sight, so I was pretty excited. Until I realized that the puppy wasn’t moving out of the way of motorcyclists, like all the other street dogs do. At least the motorbikes could go around its fluffy little form. The school bus couldn’t.
Yes, a school bus came to a full stop before the puppy, and honked at it. Still, it didn’t move, and nobody else did either. So I did what any dog-loving, fear-of-rabies-eschewing American would do. I marched in front of that bus, and picked up that puppy. It was so surprised that I don’t think the thought of biting me crossed its mind. Gosh, it was the cutest darn thing: black and white and chubby, with stumpy little legs and floppy ears.
I miss my dogs.
My discipline system is not a system of punishment, but one of rewards. I was inspired by Ellen, who has star charts in all of her classes. When students attend school, they get a star. Ten stars earns them a prize. I modified it a little, making it so that my students have to show up with completed homework to earn a star. I went from having three or four students in Class 3 doing their homework to the entire class. For Class 2, I have a slightly different system. They love playing games, but we obviously can’t do that every day. So now, Tuesday and Friday are “game” days. Sunday and Monday, and Wednesday and Thursday are the days that determine whether or not the game will happen. I write “GAME” on the side of the board. Every time they are bodamas (naughty), they lose a letter. It’s better than hitting them with a stick, which I refuse to do (although I’ve found that if I teach with the stick under my arm, they are much better behaved).
I will upload photos next time. My laptop is about to die.