Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Story So Far...

Well, tomorrow I fly to Delhi. I will stay in Delhi for two nights and then be in Kathmandu in the morning. I still haven't planned where I'm staying in Delhi, but I've got pretty much everything else taken care of. But I thought I would take a breath and make my second post on this here blarg, and explain what I'm doing.

In 2008 I participated in a Study Abroad program with Pitzer College in Nepal. I lived with three families in Balkot, Bandipur, and Tangting. I took Nepali language classes every day - in a Kathmandu bazaar, on a rowboat in Pokhara, on a trek along the Annapurna range. I taught briefly in a school and completed a project on the English language as taught in public and private schools in Nepal (and the Mother Language Education Program). I swam in a river that turned out to contain crocodiles, was almost run over by the wooden cart of the Living Goddess and threatened by communists on Gai Jatra, and saw a leopard wander into someone's house. I was sick all the time and I had to go to the hospital after eating yogurt in a Korean monastery at Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. It was pretty great.

I hastily graduated college the next semester and spent the summer working in California, studying the linguistic properties of German postmodern opera. I also tutored German and talked to interesting people about dying languages and language preservation. Then I moved back to Austin and into a house on 47th street with three old friends. The place was called the Moodhouse and many madcap shenanigans ensued. I also worked for the Census Bureau, leading a crew that counted people at universities, hospitals, and clinics. We interviewed the homeless population of Austin in soup kitchens, camps, underpasses, shelters, and in the woods.

I began volunteer-teaching English at the AAIM Refugee School when I learned that Austin has in the past several months become the new home of a large number of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees. Who would have guessed that my most immediately marketable skill after college would be the ability to speak Nepali? Later, I volunteered at the incredibly amazing Multicultural Refugee Center. I participated in computer literacy classes, resume and job help, sewing instruction, sustainable garden workshops, and once briefly with the Refugee Soccer Team. I became friends with several members of the Bhutanese community, and they helped me with my Nepali while I helped them with their English. They were also on occasion kind enough to feed me daalbhaat, the ubiquitous Nepali rice-and-lentil staple that has become an addiction of mine.

During this whole time I was waiting on my application for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Nepal. This was to act as an English instructor in public high schools in Kathmandu Valley. My side project was to be an investigation into language politics and attitudes regarding minority languages and language preservation. I received the grant in April, flew to Washington DC for an orientation in June, and I have been slooowwly packing since then.

And that is why I am flying to Delhi tomorrow.

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