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I've arrived in Kathmandu after spending 5 wonderful days in my village Yaku and 2 days trekking through small villages and forest to an airstrip up the Arun River.  My reception at Yaku was like the return of the prodigal son. After initial surprise, I was feasted and celebrated.  Five days were too few. I was only able to spend the night with only 5 families.  I  was amazed that I recognized some of my students.  At 40 something the way they laughed and walked and the way their eyes twinkle or shift are not different than when they were children.    I am frustrated that these folks who are usually laughing and smiling and playing become serious and rigid when they pose for a picture.  Nepali gothic.  I spent most of my time with them talking about their families and family histories, and mine.  I was particularly interested in finding out how lives have changed so much.  Their lives are much more similar to your life and mine than to the lives of their parents and grand parents I lived with 37 years ago.  I really did feel like I'd walked back into biblical times when I first came to Yaku.  Virtually everyone was a farmer.  Everyone knew what he'd be when he grew up, - a farmer.  They were completely self sufficient off the land. The culture was feudal.  There were a few items which were available 2000 years ago - a few watches and flashlights.  But that was about it. The way you did things was the way your father/mother did and their father/mother did, and their father/mother did. Not now. Everyone is eager to find new and better ways to live.  Let me describe the changes, starting with the most obvious:

-  There are electricity poles next to the remains of the house I lived in  (a picture in the web site).
    The village expects that the 220 power will arrive in Yaku in a few months.

-   There are solar panels on the roof  of many of the homes.  The small ones recharge the batteries of 
    LED lights, the larger ones recharge 12 volt batters that power florescent lights, telephones and TVs.

-   I'm told there are about 50 phones in Yaku. They are large versions of cell phones.  Service is provided 
    by Nepal Telecom.  It works well.  I called Alex from one of the homes in Yaku.  It felt weird and suddenly
    I didn't feel disconnected from my life on Whidbey, just around the corner.

-  There is a road under construction from the Arun River to Bhojpur.  A spur is expected in Yaku in .
    a couple years.

Now here are the important changes:

-   Every home I visited has a toilet.  They are more sophisticated than outhouses since the they 
flush with a pale of water.    I don't know how they do it.  There are no drain fields
    but I'm believing that the large hole under the toilet (I saw one being constructed.) works the same.  
Better than an outhouse, they don't stink.  I was the only one who had an outhouse when I was here 
before and I had no indication that anyone wanted one.  It was just a concession to the man from the moon.
    The anthropologist Don Messerschmidt in whose home I'm staying in in Kathmandu says that the
cycle of amebic, bacillary and viral dysentery that is perpetuated by the feces in water is being broken.   
     What is amazing to me is not the outhouses, it's the cultural change. 
Their fathers and mothers
     didn't have toiletts.  That is the hallmark of modernity: how we live changes, and we change,
     and the way our grandparents lived is gone.  The lives of the people in Yaku and the other villages 
I visited are changing  faster than yours and mine.
-   90%+ of the children go to school through the 8th grade.  That includes girls and untouchables.
     I was shown the roster of the school   (now about 500, rather than the 70 when I was
     here) and girls make up just shy of half.  Many go on to higher education.  Schools seem the main source
     of skilled work in the villages.  Teachers salaries are paid by the Kathmandu government. There is no tuition.

-   One of my standard questions of young adults is "How many children do you want to have?"  All the 20
    somethingsI asked said "one or two".   Surprising to me is that virtually all the young adults I asked said
    they want an arranged marriage but not until their 20s or 30s. Even the girls.  37 years ago I
     I went to the wedding of one of my 8th grade students who was 13.  His bride was 12.  In those days the
     preferred number of children was 10.
-  Every "Ward", the smallest unit of government, perhaps 2 square miles, has a Forest Management Committee.
   These decide who can cut wood, when and how much they have to pay.  There are more forests around
    Yaku now than when I was here.  Conservation is actively pursued.   There is a huge sense of civic
     responsibility and pride.

-  There is health care.  It's not our standard, but it's remarkably available.  There is a dispensary in
   Yaku and a big hospital in Dharan - the converted British Army base that was used to recruit Gurka soldiers,
   that many Indians come to since the care is better there than in India. Not wonderful by our standards as
    reported by Dutch and Finish medical interns I met but there was virtually nothing 36 years ago.

-  Many of the families have  brothers, sisters, uncles, fathers working or studying in Malasia, Quatar, Iraq,
   the US, Norway, Switzerland .....   They send money home.  They come home for Desai. I talked with
   many of them.  I realize that I was profoundly lonely here before because my experience was inconceivable
    to villagers and, vice versa.  These young people back from foreign lands and I talk about the cultural 
differences and share common experiences.   You know them.  They are studying and working in America.

One of the most discouraged people I ever met was a British doctor in Dhankuta 36 years ago.  He had been trying to convince mothers that when their children had dysentery to give them lots of water.  The mothers believed that the way to stop dysentery was to stop giving them water.  The children died of dehydration.  In 3 years the doctor felt he'd failed to convince anyone.  He and I reflected on how difficult it is to change cultural norms and we expected the villages to overpopulate, the forests to be all cut for fire  wood and the quality of life to spiral down.  We didn't see how it could be otherwise.  Wonderfully, things have not worked out as I expected.  I'm enjoying trying to unravel the mystery of how this has happened.  How is it that the culture changed and is changing?   My current host here in Kathmandu was a Peace Corps volunteer who became an anthropologist and has been doing development work here since the 60s.  We are having wonderful conversations.
As I write, Buddhist LLamas are drumming and chanting outside my window.  It's haunting.  I'm enjoying the celebrations: the enthusiasm, the flute music, dancing ....   I remember a British Quaker who was setting up the public health service for Nepal for the World Health Organization, ILfra Lovedee, who said, as I was leaving Nepal in 1972, "You'll be back.  It's boring back home."   Don's mantra about Nepal is:  "Never boring".

Peace and curiosity,