Courtney was forced to come home early in late October 2003, due to a Travel Warning being placed on Nepal by the US State Department because of increased violence by the Maoist insurgents in that country. Her intended period was 2003-2004.
Courtney Dolan's Reports
Report 1Courtney Dolan
It has been truly a whirlwind experience since I first arrived here in Nepal and started teaching. Sometimes I feel like I don't even have time to breathe. It seems as though nearly every week is like finals week in Grinnell. I am enjoying myself here very much, and each day a couple of the students will do something that makes me smile, such as sharing their snack with me.
Right now, we are beginning the one-act plays. I am in charge of producing and directing the play for the Hawks team. I am trying to adapt the story The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupÐ¹ry into a play. It is a challenge. Many of the members of the team are really great. I will be working with grades 7-9. I teach class 8, and many of them have expressed their excitement about this annual contest. I really hope that I can do well and help these students as best I can because it means so much to them.
On many days, I wake up and think that I still can't believe that I am here. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to be here and teach at the school. I would like thank Mr. Doug Cutchins and Mr. Steve Langerud in Grinnell and Mr. Madhab Situala and Mr. K.B. Tuladhar at LMV here in Nepal. This is the hardest thing I have done. Working six days a week is definitely different than working five days. Although I taught last summer during my internship in Bangladesh, I still learn so many things every day. Thus, because of all of the emotional and physical challenges, I often go home dog tired at the end of the day, but on the next, I am always happy and ready to begin the moment I get into the classroom.
Teaching/School life: I teach extra English for classes 6 and 8 and social studies for class 4. Extra English is basically literature class, and social studies covers the history, government, culture, and agriculture in Nepal. I am learning a lot in that class, and I have been trying to study these topics in my spare time to be well versed in the classroom. In many ways, I believe that interacting with my students serve as the most enriching and wonderful part of my stay in here so far. They are excited to try different things, and so I am often tempted to venture outside of the book, especially in my extra English classes. I still want to use the texts as often as possible though because they serve as the basis of how the students are assessed for grades, and so I am always trying to think of how to make the material come to life.
The hard part is that I am always learning from my mistakes, which happen within the classroom with the students. I would recommend for next years fellows to not be afraid to try all of their ideas, but remember to go slowly. You must integrate them within the overall lesson for the day and remember that the class is kind of like a play: it has an introduction, it builds, there is a climax, and it must end somehow with knowledge for the students to take away at the end of the day. In this manner, being able to manage the classroom effectively is very important. Being a disciplinarian is tough for a Grinnellian, but if the room is in chaos, nothing will be completed. I think that it is best to start out with stricter discipline and then ease up. The students want to know the limits, and they won't do anything that is out of bounds. Also, it is important to remember that when a teacher is full of energy and the lesson is exciting, the students will be engaged.
Both students and teachers have a great deal of work here at LMV. I teach about 300 students. Every month, we have tests, projects, and homework to grade for the monthly grades. Also, every three months, the school has term tests. Sometimes, I feel like I am always grading. Still, I want to find more ways to assess my students to see how they are progressing on a daily basis.
And now for the exciting stuffâ¦Life in Nepal: Every day, when I am at school I feel like I am getting to know the other teachers a little better. The day after the term tests at the end of June, Rebecca and I threw a dinner party for the other teachers. Needless to say, we were a little over our heads trying to feed forty people all by ourselves-but we pulled it off.
Things I like: In Nepal, everyone's face lights up when they see a little kid. I think that aspect of Nepali culture is really wonderful because it highlights how important family is here. People here like to sit with a cup of tea and chat for a long time, and although there are times when I would like to hurry up and go, I generally enjoy this chance to pass the time with others and get to know them. People here are generally very welcoming. For example, one evening I showed up unannounced at one of the other teacher's house, Mr. Surendra Tandukar. He is our neighbor, and I was feeling very homesick and wanted to see if I could email my family to tell them to call me. They did not have a computer, but Surendra-sir had me stay for awhile to chat and drink tea with his family.
Some of the old Newari architecture is truly spectacular. We went on a field trip to Bhaktapur, a medieval town within the Kathmandu Valley that has become a UNESCO site, and I loved walking down the cobblestone streets and looking at the old palaces and temples. The city of Bhaktapur has been restored with the help of a German development agency, and the work has been remarkable.
I think since arriving in Nepal I have developed an addiction to momos. They are delicious steamed dumplings that are filled with either chicken, vegetables, buffalo, or even fish. Whenever I go to a restaurant-no matter what is on the menu-I always end up getting the momos because they are always the best. You can find them in both fancy restaurants and fast food outlets.
Things that are fine: At Grinnell, I was definitely a night person. All my life, I have not enjoyed getting up early in the morning. At college, I would arrange for my first class of the day to be at eleven. I knew I could not get up before then. Nepal is definitely an early to bed and early to rise type of place, and I could tell that I was adjusting to my new clock when I told a friend from Grinnell that I was not getting up early-I was sleeping until 7am. Rebecca and my first classes are not until 8:40 am, but the school day actually begins at 6am! I have a great deal of respect for my class 8 because they are able to be in class and learn at that time.
Things I don't like: Whenever I walk down any street in Nepal, someone always says something lewd. After three months, I don't even flinch when I walk by and this happens. I think that this happens because the Nepalese have seen all kinds of bad behavior from western tourists who do not respect their customs.
A person can definitely tell that Nepal is a developing country with a large tourist industry. There are countless restaurants, and I can eat tiramisu or crepes whenever I want. In contrast, I cannot find cold medicine or soup at the grocery store. The grocery store in Lalitpur (the town we live in, it is right across the river from Kathmandu) also seems to be stocked only for things someone staying at a hotel or camping might want. A person can find any variety of alcohol, chips, cookies, soft drink, or candy bar there-but no actual food with which to make a meal.
The Maoists have ended their ceasefire recently. This has indirectly touched our lives somewhat. There have been some assassinations in Lalitpur. These are targeted, and so they do not affect Rebecca and me. This primarily restricts our ability to move around and means that we must be home before dark. In essence though, Rebecca and I are so busy during the week, we usually just come straight home and prepare for the next day and grade. Rebecca has joined a club so that she can swim, and I go to yoga classes twice a week. Other than that, we lead fairly quiet lives. It is nice to sit on the roof at night and look at the clouds come in before it rains and stare at the stars.
Well, this has been an amazing three months so far. Each day seems to be an adventure. I hope everyone back in Grinnell enjoyed reading my report.
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