Read more about Scott Harper’s trip to Nepal here.
Monday, 23rd of September, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
My second week has had its peaks and troughs. Slowly but surely I seem to be gaining some momentum at Eejot. The students and I have settled into a mostly regular rhythm composed of about 45 minutes of lecture on the board, followed by about an hour of practice. Because there are so many students, I have found it much more manageable for students to practice only three days per week, either Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday. In this setup each student can practice typing (or other skills) for solid blocks of 20 minutes, a total of an hour a week. Whether or not this organization is viable or the best way to provide computer time to the students is definitely up for debate, but at the very least it keeps things running smoothly.
However, with a combination of young students and a significant language barrier, I have been having doubts about how much of my conceptual lectures have been sinking in. I have to clarify, because that sounds like I’m teaching General Relativity. All I mean is that I have been trying to explain some intangible ideas, such as what memory is and how a computer’s storage space is divided. There are some pretty decent physical analogies to use as examples, but most of the time I don’t get much of a read from the students’ reactions. They are quite well trained to copy and memorize information, but they generally lack critical thinking skills and the tools to synthesize new information.
In any case, I am discovering some things that work and others that don’t. I would really rather let the students learn with hands-on experience, but with a poor computer-to-student ratio and unreliable electricity, that is difficult. I have been trying to come up with ways to create exercises for the students to do semi-independently by following instructions I have written, but that failed quite miserably today even when only trying to have them create a new folder on the desktop. In addition, I have been attempting to meet with Rakesh for tutorial sessions to get his Office skills more developed, but his lack of punctuality leads him to show up at my door several hours late and act like I’m supposed to drop what I’m doing to help him. I have even let him choose his own times, and he still doesn’t show up. Hopefully, once we get on a regular schedule, it will be better.
In a more general sense, village life has had its own rhythm. I generally wake up at 6 a.m. and walk the two minutes to the other house from the Eejot building for a breakfast of instant oatmeal and chai. If I have time, I also purify the day’s water. I have been drinking about 3 liters per day.
The morning lesson lasts from 7:00 to about 9:00, after which I make some notes about the lesson and return to the family house for another ‘breakfast,’ which generally means ‘snack.’ People eat ‘breakfast’ at any point during the day and the word refers to anything that isn’t a major meal. Depending on the day, I have been getting in the habit of traveling with Rakesh to one of the local schools at around 10:00 in order to spread the word about Eejot.
Lunch follows, and then something of a siesta, during which I usually read for an hour or so. At 2:30 p.m. I have been trying to meet with Rakesh for his own tutorials but, as I mentioned before, that hasn’t been super successful. Often I sweep my room or do other housekeeping if he doesn’t show up. The second session starts at 3:45 and runs to between 5:30 and 6:00.
Baba, Prabhat and Prashant’s grandfather then usually pressure me to take my daily shower while it is still light out, despite my willingness to shower in the dark, closer to bedtime. Between my shower and dinner at 8:30, I generally read, write or work on my Hindi by sitting around with various grandfathers, uncles and brothers of the Jha family. After the invariable dal bhat with some sort of stewed or curried vegetable or fried potatoes, I head back to Eejot for my pre-bed routine of more reading or writing and then get to sleep between 9:30 and 10:30.
On some days when it seems like everything is working against progress, my favorite time is the few seconds of complete coolness as I pour the last gallon of the shower bucket over my head. That brief span of time is the only point on any given day during which I feel completely clean. On other days, my motivation comes from the pleasure of enjoying a cool breeze while writing and sitting in the bough of a large mango tree, but especially from the broad smiles that break out on young faces upon learning something new.