Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Along the Peace Corps Trail in Nepal
In 1998 several things started to happen at once: computers and internet access proliferated in Nepal, Nepali students took to studying abroad more, and, back in California, I began to receive a series of messages with the subject line: “Hello Mr. Ron”
The messages that I received over a period of several years fell into two related categories:
“Namaste Mr. Ron:
Are you the Mr. Ron who was my teacher in Bharatpur, Nepal in 1965? This is (so and so) your English student….” Subsequent messages brought me up to date on marriage, children, education and career information.
Or: “Namaste Mr. Ron:
You don’t know me. I am the (youngest/oldest son /daughter) of (so and so and so and so) your students at Shri Birendra College in Bharatpur, Nepal. My mother and father have talked about you all my life. I am now in (name of country) and I would like to meet you on behalf of my parents who are in Nepal.”
I am honored to be among the more than 4,000 Americans who served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the rugged Himalayan country of Nepal. Since 1962 the Peace Corps, at the request of the Nepali government, has provided a wide variety of specialists from America to help Nepal meet its needs in the fields of agriculture, business, education, environment, health and community development. This popular program was suspended in 2004 when Nepal underwent a violent civil war. On November 30, 2012 there was much rejoicing when, once again, a new group of Peace Corps volunteers were sworn in by American and Nepali officials in the capital Kathmandu.
In the early 2000s my wife Nicola and I started to meet many of my Nepali students and teaching colleagues in places like Los Angeles, Colorado, Australia and England. What a thrill to be remembered and tracked down after all these years.
Love for the Nepal and the friends that we made there is something that I share with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. But there is one other love that bonds us: curry. Whenever two or more Returned Peace Corps Volunteers get together the subject eventually turns to food: The food we ate while serving in our country. The food we missed while serving overseas, and our current attempts to recreate the host country’s food.
Sticking with the food metaphor let me break down my Peace Corps service this way:
Appetizers: PC training for 3 months.
Salad and soup: The first few months working in the country.
Main dish: remainder of service. (Usually 27 months total)
And now with these reconnections to former students and Nepali colleagues I am in, what I call, the DESSERT of life’s menu.
Over the last few years I have returned to Nepal three times with my family who got to seen in person the country I have spoken of for so many years. We have trekked in some spectacular and remote areas and enjoyed the warm hospitality for which Nepalis are known.
The pleasure of sharing Nepal with my wife and children and watching them ‘get’ my affection for the people, the landscape and the cultures has been a wealth I had never anticipated when I enrolled in the Peace Corps as a young man. It has been a gift that has kept on giving. Or, to continue the food theme, the icing on the cake. It doesn’t get much better than this.
YAK YAK MEDIA