THIS IS AN EXCERPT from a letter home.
I am living with Ram Krishna Shrestha, his wife and three sons. As usual, I’ve been up since 5 a.m. when Aamaa (the mother) woke me yelling for her boys to get up. I heated a kettle of water on my kerosene hot plate and had coffee with a snack of glucose biscuits and peanut butter, which will keep me going until I have daalbhaat (lentials and rice) with the family at 9 a.m.
Since my Nepali language is pretty bad, I have been asking the students to read the explanations in the textbook before I show them how to do the problems on the blackboard. I’d tell them, “Timiharu, yaha bistaari parda,” which means, “Children, slowly read this.”
There would be tittering and bad smells. They read loudly because they don’t know how to read in their heads. After a few days of this, my brightest student, Ishwar, who speaks fairly good English, said to me, “Sir, every day in class you tell us to slowly fart.”
The Napai alphabet has four different “Da’s” – dental, aspirated, retroflexive and one pronounced “rha.” I should have used the word parrha for “read” instead of the smelly word parda.
My oral dehydration training (ORT) has come in handy. The Health Assistant went to the Terai to work for UNICEF, leaving the Health Post with just a peon who knows only how to give shorts with a dirty needle for any ailment.
A few days ago a young couple with a year-old baby came to see me for medicine. Their baby had diarrhea. Like most Nepalese, they believed that the baby shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink when it has diarrhea. [I gave them] the illustrated booklet, written in Nepali [about how] to make salt, sugar, water solution for dehydration.
Word must have spread that the American knows about medicine. The next day, a young teacher showed me an ugly sore on his wrist. He had been burnt by hot oil and had put toothpaste on the burn! We scrubbed the toothpaste off, and Aamaa, who had some training by the Health Assistant, put some white-powdered medicine and clean gauze on it.
A few days later, an old woman yelled to me, asking for water. She had me pour it into her deformed hand. Then she showed me an open sore on her deformed foot and asked me for medicine. All I could do was to send her to the Health Post. The peon probably gave her an injection, or ignored her.
About 50 wild monkeys invaded the village this morning and started eating the ripening corn. The villagers drove them off with sticks and stones.
A teacher rounded a bend in the trail and came face-to-face with a sleeping tiger. This is not the Nepal I’d heard about, but it’s a beautiful country. I especially love the cheerful and friendly people.