Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's All Relative

After returning from meaningful trips to places like rural Jamaica, Cameroon, and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I have been accused -- mostly by my sister -- of "getting all weird." By weird, she means I come back with a raw sensitivity to the uneven distribution of wealth, potable water, infrastructure, and a variety of other things I am guilty of too often taking for granted. Sometimes that comes out as cynicism toward random conveniences like washing machines or movie theaters; other times it means a sudden purge of my material possessions.

To be quite honest, it doesn't usually last very long. But when I look around and realize that I have grown desensitized it only reawakens my desire to escape my upper-middle-class-mostly-caucasian-doing-pretty-well bubble. I realize that I don't have to go to Nepal to do that, and I anticipate that there will be places in Nepal that feel just as urban and western as cities in the USA; but I am excited that over the next eight months I will be confronted with the relative nature of wealth, poverty, luxury, convenience, wants, and needs.

For instance, the average person in Nepal uses 99.38% less electricity than the average American; makes 97.41% less money and yet has 62.18% more children.*

It will be exhausting.
It will be emotionally challenging.
It will bring new depth to my worldview.
I can hardly wait.

*The facts presented above were found on If It Were My Home a website comparing countries around the world. Use the link to learn more about the United States and Nepal.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Fulbrighter's Dictionary

All of the ETAs traveling to Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central Asia.

ETA: English Teaching Assistant
That's me. And hundreds of other American young adults being sent throughout the globe to teach English in a variety of settings thanks to the U.S. Fulbright Program.

PDO: Pre-Departure Orientation
That's what I was doing in Washington D.C. last week. The orientation was an opportunity to network with ETAs going throughout the world; it was especially wonderful to meet the other eight grantees headed to Nepal. It was also a rude reminder that I am now quite used to standing/walking at the front of a classroom all day, and rather unaccustomed to sitting still for long periods of time. I suppose it's always helpful for teachers to remember how hard it is to be a good student. 

ECA: The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
This is the department responsible for developing resources related to teaching English and sharing information about American culture in foreign countries. They are the people who sent me home with so many books that my suitcase split open. We'll see whether I have room for all of those things in my one suitcase for Nepal.

There are lots of other abbreviations -- ASPE, RELO, ELF... -- but I won't bore you with them all. For now, I'm working on collecting all of the supplies I will need to live in Nepal for eight months. Once that is done, my next job will be finding a way to eliminate half of it so that I can pack it all in a suitcase.

I'm in the states until mid-July. Drop me a note if you'd like to get together before then.