May 10, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Wytheville Enterprise: Jane Erie-Sparrow spent two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: May 10, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Wytheville Enterprise: Jane Erie-Sparrow spent two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker

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Jane Erie-Sparrow spent two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker

Jane Erie-Sparrow spent two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker

Jane Erie-Sparrow spent two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker

Nepal and back

LINDA SPIKER -- Staff
The Wytheville Enterprise
Monday, May 10, 2004

Caption: Jane-Erie Sparrow of Wytheville returned in April from a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Nepal. Here she wears a Nepali-style sari, made from woven fabric, quite expensive in Nepali, but costs about $15 in American currency.
Jean Farley



Jane Erie-Sparrow is home after spending two years and three months in Birgunj, Nepal, as a Peace Corps worker. Her assigned job was to train educators to teach English classes in Nepal, but she ended up teaching the students.

"Nepal is definitely a male-dominated country, and it was hard for the men to take instruction from a woman," she said. She discussed the problem with her supervisor, who told her she could teach English classes in an elementary school.

Sparrow feels she has contributed something special to the young students. She instilled in them a love for school and for learning. She visited in their homes, which was unusual for teachers in Nepal. She got to know their families and ate meals at their tables. Paper and pencils were rare, so she taught on a chalkboard and used markers on newsprint for illustrations. The children got to take these home and in some of the homes she visited, the newsprint was hung on the wall.

However, what she got most out of the trip was a new appreciation for her family, for Southwest Virginia and for America -- especially for the rights that are granted to all Americans.

"I'm glad I did it. Itís the best thing that I've ever done for myself. Each day I learned so many things. The hardest thing was to see the way women are treated. Some are beaten on the streets by their husbands, and no one does anything about it," she said. The animals are not treated very well, except for the cows that roam the streets at will. Children are beaten for minor infractions in the schools. There are practically no laws enforced, and the police or the army have no accountability to anyone. They pretty much do as they please. Many of the prisoners who died in the jails were said to have taken their own lives, but that is often doubtful. It really makes me grateful every day for America."

But there were things about Nepal that Sparrow loved. She was accepted fully by her host family and acquaintances. "In Nepal, people like you for who you are, not what you are or how much money you have. If you're nice, you are accepted.

"Family is important in Nepal, and if they like you, you are family and respected. They took great care of me and watched over me," she said.

Most Nepali speak more than one language and English is learned, although not much English is spoken there. There are mixed feelings about America, depending on who you talk to, she said. The Hindus watch a lot of television and they like America, although they think America is like what they see on TV. The Muslims have negative attitudes and the Nepali terrorists, called Maoists, are very anti-American. When Sparrow was approached on the streets and asked if she was American, she had been advised to say that she was Canadian. To some Nepali, visitors are OK as long as they are not American.

The women are like women the world over. They love to shop and buy things for themselves and their households. Saris are expensive, but women buy them. They purchase the fabric and hire tailors to make their clothes. The tailors charge about 125 rupees and the handwoven fabric cost about 70 rupees in Indian currency.

It was hard learning what was proper and what was an insult to the people, Sparrow said. She underwent training on what was considered "clean" and what was "unclean," and how to use the hands and feet when interacting with others.

"I was actually forgiven when I made a mistake," she said with a laugh. People would say, 'Oh, youíre bideshi' (which means a foreigner). They were so understanding. I milked that for all it was worth."

In Birgunj, Sparrow met and became betrothed to a young Nepali man, Gyanu Shrestha, to whom she will marry in 2005. She will return to Nepal where they will be married next summer by a Brahmin priest in a Newari ceremony. Sparrow will wear a red sari, the wedding colors. They will return to Wythe County to live, where they will be married here in a Christian ceremony at St. John's Episcopal Church.

For anyone thinking about living in a foreign country, Sparrow advises that a person must be able to adapt, and not let everything bother them. They have to learn that they can't change things just because they want to. What you learn from such an experience is all about appreciation, she said. You learn to take nothing for granted.

Linda Spiker can be reached at (276) 228-6611 or lspiker@wythenews.com




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Story Source: Wytheville Enterprise

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal

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