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World class

A semester in Nepal

Judson Peck trekking in the mountains near the Nepali village of Thamo. Judson Peck trekking in the mountains near the Nepali village of Thamo.
April 25, 2010

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The experience of attending an international high school in India got Judson Peck, a junior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, interested in exploring another South Asian country. Peck, an environmental studies major with a concentration in global environment and social change, got his chance to explore the “roof of the world’’ through a program in Nepal with the Brattleboro-based School for International Training (www.sit.edu/study abroad). Living with a host family in Katmandu prepared him for an independent study project in which he trekked to the remote village of Thamo near the Tibet border to conduct research on greenhouses and growing food at high altitudes. And he means high.. “Watching the sun set over Everest was definitely a highlight,’’ Peck says.

LIVE AND LEARN: “I lived with a Nepali family in their apartment, which was very different. Nepali was the main language spoken and [it was] difficult to communicate at first. The family hierarchy is different, treating [the] elderly with great respect. The living situation was very close-knit with little privacy but very hospitable.’’

FINGER FOOD: “All the food [including daal bhat, a rice dish served with curried vegetables] was very tasty. Eating with my hands was part of the custom. But they always serve the food steaming hot which burns your fingertips if you’re not careful.’’

OLD HABITS: “The left hand is considered dirty and disrespectful if used, which is hard for a left-hander. It was easy for major things like eating, but smaller things like handing money was a hard impulse to break.’’

DAY IN THE LIFE: “Class was held inside and all of the students sat on the floor on cushions. The morning language classes were all conducted in Nepali. Lunch was served at the school, and we would eat outside or on the floor inside. After our afternoon lectures we would head back to our individual Nepali families to study. Every evening young kids would fly fragile paper kites from their rooftops trying to cut each other’s lines.’’

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: “On my last day in the village where I was conducting research, a local festival was held. Along with the local inhabitants, Sherpas, I dressed up in a long yak wool coat, silk shirt, and cowboy hat. The festival was held to inaugurate a new shrine for a communal statue of the Buddha. Offerings of food, chang (local liquor), and money were offered as chants were voiced to the beat of a drum by four monks. Khukuris (traditional curved knives) smeared with butter and bamboo shafts with silk scarves attached were waved. as everyone threw rice in the air. Afterward, dancing commenced. In the end, everyone staggered home over the rough terrain, knife in hand.’’

CHRIS MURPHY