Saturday, August 13, 2011

Heading Back Around

from Hotel Hong Kong in Pokhara

Kathmandu has been my home for eleven months and three days, but today I'm leaving Nepal and heading back to the United States. I've had a pretty great time teaching at Shree Udaya Kharka, working with NELTA and Fulbright, teaching with a wonderful counterpart teacher and staying with a headmaster who has accepted me into his family. Since the grant ended, I've been writing articles, interviewing linguists at Tribhuvan University and teachers at multilingual schools, helping with the orientation for the new batch of Fulbrighters, editing grants and organizing the library catalogue of the LDC (my brilliant friend John helped me put a search engine for the library catalogue on their website), and, of course, having crazy adventures across the width and breadth of Nepal. But now I feel that it is about time for me to return to my homeland. By which I mean that if I don't leave soon, my government-paid airplane ticket will expire.

If all goes according to plan, though, it will take me some time to get back. I'm flying to Bangkok, and then taking a bus to Battambang, Cambodia. There I will attend a Vipassana meditation course, why not? Long hours of meditation, seclusion, diet, and no talking for 10 days. Those that know me well (and those that don't can probably guess) know that I am not good at keeping my mouth shut and even worse at sitting still. So this should be an interesting challenge for me. It reminds me of a joke, actually:

"A novice monk is told by the leader of his order that to enter a monastic life he must first complete five years of service to the monastery under a vow of silence. On the anniversary of each year he may say two, and only two, words, but every other day he must maintain complete silence. The novice works hard and faithfully throughout the first year, and on the anniversary of the first year he is approached by the leader and asked if he has anything to say. The novice replies, 'Terrible food.'

After another year of faithful service, he is once again approached by the leader and asked if he has anything to say. This time, the novice replies, 'Hard beds.'

After the third year, the novice himself approaches the leader of his order, hands over his habit, says 'I quit,' and walks out of the monastery. The leader calls after him, 'You might as well! You've done nothing but complain since you got here!'"

(Apparently this joke, or rather a slightly different version of it, is old Irish monastic humor. This website here has translations of the joke in English, Irish, and 105 other languages.)

... but hopefully my experience will be much more positive. After that I will visit a few different sites in Cambodia and Thailand and then return to the United States on September 10th.

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