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Anthropology and Cultural Stay in Nepal

Added: (Sat Sep 11 2004)

Pressbox (Press Release) - While individuals are welcome to participate in a cultural stay program for shorter or longer periods of time, VSN has designed a structured two-month program, designed for small to medium sized groups of volunteers. The main purpose and focus of the program is for students to fully experience a variety of aspects of Nepali culture, learning about Nepal’s long and diverse history, ethnic groups, religions, festivals, geography, environment, and society. Through an experiential approach, volunteers will learn firsthand how Nepali people live, work, and celebrate life.

This program begins with two weeks of intensive language training in Kathmandu, to be taught by an experienced instructor who is fluent in English and Nepali. Simultaneously, the volunteers will have culture and history lessons daily during this phase, where they will begin to learn about the various cultures and festivals that will be seen during their stay.

Following this initial training, volunteers will settle, for two weeks, in the culturally rich Newar village of Bungamati. Volunteers will begin to practice their Nepali with the Newar families with whom they will be living, as well as experience Newar food (perhaps the most diverse of all ethnic groups in Nepal) and culture. Newar people celebrate more festivals and holidays than any other ethnic group, so in whatever season the volunteers come there is likely to be an interesting cultural festival.

Volunteers will stay in a total of three villages during the program, which will be progressively more remote and rural so that they can slowly adapt to the living conditions and pace of life. All three villages will consist of different ethnic groups, allowing the volunteers to experience a breadth of cultures rather than limiting their stay to one particular village or people. However, the second two villages will vary depending on what season the volunteers’ come. In the winter season, the final destination is likely to be in the Terai region of southern Nepal, where the weather is much warmer than the rest of the country. In the summer, the final village is more likely to be in the Pokhara or Everest district. In any case, the volunteers will spend two weeks in the second village and one in the third and final village. Due to the remoteness of the villages selected for the final week, the volunteers will be trekking to their homes and will be required to bring a sleeping back. While the accommodations will be less comfortable, the cultural experience will be invaluable and volunteers will get a real taste of life in rural Nepal.

Throughout the program there will be trips to historical places, temples, and beautiful landscapes; wonderfully varied cultures will be observed and new experiences will await the volunteers in each village. This means that volunteers will have an excellent opportunity to research and complete one cultural paper. Our program is designed so that volunteers can record all of their experiences and observations along the way, in anticipation of a final paper and report to be given in the last week of their stay in Kathmandu. In the first week, during the culture and history classes, the volunteers will begin to think about what topics are of interest to them as well as important issues in Nepal. Volunteers may choose to write about a certain ethnic group, women’s issues, environment problems, sanitation, health, or a particular aspect of Nepali culture. If they write about a particular problematic issue, VSN encourages the volunteers to include proposals on how to solve those problems. Throughout their journey they will collect their data in one journal, as well as conduct at least two interviews will local people. A VSN coordinator will assist volunteers with interviews with non-English speakers.

During the eighth, and final, week of the volunteer’s stay will be held in Kathmandu. One week will be provided to type papers and visit the city. Then, all volunteers will again meet with the cultural instructor to give oral presentations and submit papers. Volunteers will give two interviews along the way and record cultural information in their journals for a paper to be presented in Kathmandu. The oral presentations provide a time for reflection, where volunteers will truly be able to appreciate all that they learned and experienced.

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