November 24, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Katc: Abby McMurry trades American life for work in Nepal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: November 24, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Katc: Abby McMurry trades American life for work in Nepal

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Abby McMurry trades American life for work in Nepal

Abby McMurry trades American life for work in Nepal

Abby McMurry trades American life for work in Nepal

23-year-old trades American life for work in Nepal

SULPHUR, La. -- Abby McMurry doesn't dream of sitting behind an office desk, wearing a tweed business suit or carrying a leather briefcase.

"I used to tell my dad I wanted to be a full-time volunteer," McMurry said. "I've never had a dream of being a teacher or a businesswoman."

Instead, 23-year-old McMurry has earned a degree from Shreveport's Centenary College in sociology. She has a resume chock-full of volunteer experience, including a yearlong stint in Nepal working for the Peace Corps.

A little more than a year ago, McMurry sat over the 20-page Peace Corps application and pondered the course of her future. She knew she didn't want a conventional career, but she was torn between her dreams and her family.

"I was nervous about being away from my family," McMurry said. "I didn't want to miss out on anything."

When McMurry's acceptance to the Peace Corps was confirmed, the news came as both a joy and a burden. McMurry's mother, Ann, recalls her daughter's reservations as she waited to board a plane for Nepal.

"She turned to me and said, 'What did I do?' I told her that she wanted to do it and that she was doing the right thing," Ann McMurry said.

As her mother suspected, Abby McMurry's love of cultures prevailed over her fears. In Nepal, McMurry flourished in the new culture. She was assigned to work with at-risk youth _ a difficult feat in impoverished Nepal.

"Basically every youth in Nepal is at-risk," McMurry said. "There is poverty, and there are drug problems. There, 10- and 11-year-olds have drug problems."

McMurry said she had no problems making friends with the people of Nepal, whom she described as kind and generous.

"If you didn't have money in Nepal, you would not go hungry," she said. "Everyone is so gracious, and they want to take care of you."

For the first few months, McMurry lived with a host family. Afterward, she moved into an apartment and lived on her own. Her days consisted of working and learning about Nepal. She lived as the Nepalis did, ate their daily diet of lentil soup and vegetables and shopped at the marketplace as the native women did.

"It's funny, because everywhere I went, they watched me. They were surprised to see a blond, American woman shopping and speaking Nepali," McMurry said.

Living the life in Nepal had its risks, McMurry said. Daily terror threats plagued the city she lived in. A group called the Maoist made it difficult to live peacefully day to day.

Small bombs went off at McMurry's Peace Corps office, and once she was in a jeep that had been attacked. On another occasion, she was beside a hotel that was bombed. "There was violence all the time," McMurry said.

McMurry's parents read about the attacks most days on the Internet. "We were worried about her, but I never once thought she didn't belong there," Ann McMurry said.

The terror threats became so severe that Peace Corps volunteers were forced to evacuate Nepal. Abby McMurry was forced to leave the country suddenly, without saying goodbye to her host family and to the children she had spent months working with.

McMurry decided not to rejoin the Peace Corps and was not reassigned to another country. She returned to her Sulphur home this fall and has been readjusting to American life.

"Everything is so different. The food here has been killing me," she said.

McMurry said small things like not having to boil water before you drink it and watching television and talking on a cell phone are "weird."

"Coming back to America was harder," McMurry said. "It was more of a culture shock than going to Nepal."

Next year, McMurry plans to attend graduate school and pursue a master's degree in sociology. She said she doesn't know exactly what she wants to do, but helping others is at the top of the list.

She also plans to return to Nepal in the future.

"I can't wait to go back to Nepal," she said. "That was second home for me."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Story Source: Katc

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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