February 28, 2003: Headlines: COS - Nepal: PCVs in the Field - Nepal: The Beacon News: PCV Mary Sanders embraces challenges of life in Nepal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: February 28, 2003: Headlines: COS - Nepal: PCVs in the Field - Nepal: The Beacon News: PCV Mary Sanders embraces challenges of life in Nepal

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PCV Mary Sanders embraces challenges of life in Nepal

PCV Mary Sanders embraces challenges of life in Nepal

Peace Corps volunteer embraces challenges of life in Nepal

Yorkville woman trades convenience for enrichment

By DeMaris Johnson


Missing are the relaxing 20-minute showers. In their place are bucket baths.

Missing is the modern cook stove. In its place is a two-burner propane stove.

Missing is modern indoor heating. In its place are open windows and fresh air.

Missing are hamburgers and french fries. In their place are dal bhatt (lentils and rice) and yak cheese.

Missing is a Saturday drive to the mall on modern highways. In its place are roadways with lane markings that may be ignored due to cattle sleeping in the road. (Killing a cow will earn you jail time.)

But to Mary Sanders, what she is now missing are but minor inconveniences, compared to the rich experiences she is gaining as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal's capital city, Katmandu.

The 24-year-old daughter of James and Cecelia Sanders of Yorkville entered Nepal last fall for three months of training prior to beginning her service in the Peace Corps. That's when she realized that it was not long showers and indoor heating that she was the most grateful for in the United States.

"I'm thankful for witnessing real inequalities between men and women, because it makes me appreciate being a woman in America. Inequalities still exist in America; however most of Nepali women still don't have basic rights when it comes to property ownership, family planning, or opportunities outside the home," she said.

"I'm thankful to my parents for raising my sisters and me to be strong, independent women. I've seen many young Nepali women who possess the potential to be strong, independent women; however, they lack the necessary role models. These women here dream of bigger things, but often lack the resources or ability to make something of those dreams.

"I'm thankful for the opportunities that I've been given in my life and for the chance to join the Peace Corps. For so many young people in this county, they lack opportunity. Even if resources are available for higher education, job opportunities are scarce, if not nonexistent."

Sanders, who will be in the Peace Corps for two years, was working for the Nature Conservancy in Washington, D.C., when she volunteered. She left last September for Nepal for training. She and 23 other trainees, ranging in age from 21 to 61, were housed in various host homes in a small town close to the Indian border.

During that time, she was immersed in the culture and language of Nepal, and learned how to adapt to living in Nepal, her mother said.

Sanders said she has a good basic understanding of the language.

"One difficulty, though, is that while Nepali is the main language, many people use Hindi or some words from their village language," she said. "Oftentimes when I talk to someone, they will use a combination of the different languages, so I am not quite sure what they are speaking."

Since she is located in the capital city, many of the people speak English. However, her landlord, his wife and two children do not. She said her landlord and his family, like the other people of Nepal, have made her feel very welcome.

Sanders' work in Katmandu, one of the most polluted cities in the world, involves working with the environment, particularly solid-waste problems.

"Most people just throw their trash in the street or river, although some people burn their trash," she said. "My project is rooftop vegetable gardening and teaching composting and solid-waste management. I hope that once I get settled into my job, I will be able to make at least a small impact on the solid-waste problems here."

A political science graduate of North Central College in Naperville, Sanders said she became interested in the Peace Corps because someday she would like to work in international development, on project design and management.

"I felt the best way to learn to design good and effective projects was to work on programs at the level that I would be designing them for. This led me to the Peace Corps, where I will be able to work at the grass-roots level to find out what works and what doesn't work when designing development projects" she said.

"The Peace Corps also allows me the opportunity to work with under-advantaged people to give them the skills to make changes in their own lives, according to their needs. I like to work under the philosophy, 'Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.'"

Although her time in Nepal has not always been easy food poisoning three times, numerous mosquito bites, chilly nights, no electricity, etc., Sanders is thankful for one more thing.

"I'm thankful for being able to share in a culture so rich with traditions and customs," she said. "I have been welcomed with open arms to fully experience their festivals, religious events and a part of their lives."

Today is Peace Corps Day, in honor of its 42nd anniversary.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Beacon News

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



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