Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Kathmandu

It's Christmas in Kathmandu. It's been hard to feel the holiday spirit in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas. Here and there I might see a hotel or a store that put up some lights in the window, and the effort is actually quite touching. But it doesn't feel like Christmas without holiday songs on the radio or decorated houses and storefronts.

Christmas Eve I went to Mass at a church in Patan. No, it wasn't like Mass at home, but there was music, a nativity scene, and the familiar rituals. There were Nepali touches as well - shoes left outside, floor seating, and power outages.

The gifts I sent home 3 weeks ago didn't make it in time for Christmas (stupid pouch trolls!), but the gifts from my parents arrived here a few days ago. Thanks to Skype, I spent Christmas morning (Christmas Eve back home) opening gifts with my family.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Searching for Silence

With each overseas assignment the honeymoon period gets shorter and shorter. The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place "character" and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the "adventure."

Kathmandu is my third assignment, and the honeymoon period was short. What gets to me the most is the noise. Always. Everywhere. Dogs barking (in my neighborhood, the stray dogs are well-behaved, it's my neighbor who has the high-pitched yapping dog that drives me bonkers). Men walking down the street calling out what they're selling. And the honking. As far as I can tell, people honk for 4 reasons:

1) On narrow winding alleys to alert oncoming traffic that he's coming around the bend.
2) To warn the vehicle in front that he is about to pass.
3) To warn the oncoming vehicle that he better not pass.
4) Just for the heck of it.

Even at night I have to turn on the air filter as white noise to mask the nighttime ambient noise. And if there is a rare quiet moment, chances are that the power will go out and my generator will kick in, which emits a constant rumbling grumble.

I miss silence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pouch Trolls

A few weeks ago I contacted the diplomatic pouch center in Dulles to find out what happened to a CVS package that hadn't arrived. Unsatisfied with the skin care products available in Kathmandu, I was eager to get my Aveeno products. Dulles responded that they returned the package because it exceeded the amount of liquids allowed by God (aka the FAM).

I calculated the total number of ounces of face wash, lotions, and eye cream and determined that it was about 10 oz. The FAM allows up to 16 oz. Ten ounces is less than sixteen ounces. Unless they were counting the bottle of Excedrin gel tabs as liquid. I explained this to the pouch trolls at Dulles, but they ignored me.

My mother was kind enough to purchase the desired Aveeno products and ship them to me. Concerned that the pouch trolls might, once again, return the package, she included a letter in the box. It read, in part:

"I hope that once you've inspected the products you will permit this shipment to go to Heather as she has discovered that the skin care products in Nepal are less than satisfactory. I have left the items in their original packaging and sealed the box quite securely. I hope everything is in order. I appreciate your vigilance in keeping our people abroad safe from harm but please, once you have verified the safety of this package, permit it to go to Heather. She gets cranky when her skin-care regimen is interrupted."

I'm pleased to say the package arrived safely.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I’m often asked why I used my Baghdad bidding advantage to go to Nepal. Kathmandu is not exactly London or Paris. Now I have a tangible response. Trekking.

I did my first trek last week. It was a 5 day trek in the Annapurna range. This is why I came to Nepal! It was wonderful to be outdoors in such beautiful country. But it wasn’t without some effort. A lot of effort, in fact.

The first day was meant to be a short, relatively easy day. An hour drive from Pokhara, I, along with a trekking partner, a guide, and a porter started the trek in Nayapul. After a few hours of fairly easy hiking, we stopped for lunch. So far so good. Because we got a pretty early start, we decided to move beyond where the itinerary said we should stay the night. So we forged on to get a head start on the 500 meters of uphill steps.

Strangely, we climbed up steps for 45 minutes before we even reached the “real” steps. The key to going uphill is to go slowly. Still, it’s tiring. I said that I thought Binod, our 18 year old porter, looked tired. (This was a lie. In fact, Binod looked perfectly fine.) Being the compassionate person I am, I insisted that we stop for a few minutes to let Binod rest.

Up, up, and more up. My first lesson of trekking in Nepal is that when you think you’ve reached the top, there’s always more uphill. We finally reached the tea house and enjoyed tea on the patio overlooking the steps we had just conquered. After dinner, a group of Austrians staying in the same tea house taught the Nepali porters how to play Uno. “Now you must say ‘Uno!’” Very entertaining.

The second day of trekking started out well. I felt strong, which was good because the entire day was spent going up more steps. The Nepalis seemed impressed with my language ability. I passed an old woman on the trail and I said, “Namaste, didi” (hello, big sister). She laughed this wonderful laugh and answered, “Namaste, bahini” (hello, little sister).

We arrived in Ghorepani in the early afternoon and the Annapurna peaks were peeking through the clouds. It was the first time I had seen the snow capped Annapurna range with nothing between me and it, except the foothills (what we would refer to as “mountains” the Nepalis call “hills”).

The third day started early and was painful. We got up before dawn and marched up 500ish steep meters to the top of Poon Hill in order to see the sunrise. My legs were in serious pain, it was dark and cold, and I was not enjoying the hike. Trying to motivate myself up those steps, I told myself how amazing my quads will look when this is over.

We made it to the top in time to see an amazing sunrise. Worth it.

I had an invigorating breakfast, so I felt really good when we left Ghorepani, even though the first hour was uphill. The fog came in just enough to keep things cool as we descended into the forest. The trail became very rocky and my feet started to hurt as we stopped for lunch.

My legs really didn’t want to start again, but I got back into the groove for about an hour. Then my legs and feet really started to hurt. “Binod looks tired.” (He did not.) We rested for a few minutes and trudged on. Just when I thought my legs couldn’t possibly go on… more uphill steps. My moaning and groaning could be heard for miles.

Finally, we stumbled into Tadapani (which means “far water”). I collapsed on the cot but soon realized that my clothes were damp and the coldness was attracted to the dampness, making true rest impossible until I changed into dry (if not clean) clothes.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast outside with a gorgeous view of the Annapurna peaks. My legs were really feeling it after 3 days of steep uphill. But this day’s hike was short and mostly downhill to Ghandruk.

Ghandruk is a lovely village that has managed to balance being attractive to tourists while still being a simple rural Nepali village where people beat rice stalks on well-kept stone patios. I’m pretty sure the cabbage and spinach that were in my lunch were pulled fresh from the cottage’s garden.

Exploring Ghandruk, we saw a sign pointing the way toward a temple. We reached stone steps (of course) that led upwards to an unseen destination. We kept going up and I reached an almost meditative state of mind where the soreness didn’t matter. The temple wasn’t very impressive – just a small concrete structure – but the achievement of getting there was satisfying.

The next morning my legs screamed in protest when I told them to get out of bed. But I got them moving by reminding them of the private attached European style bathroom (a luxurious exception to the shared, smelly hole-in-the-ground bathroom that was typical at the tea houses), which meant I didn’t have to go outside in the cold and I wouldn’t make them squat. We reached a truce.

It was hard to leave knowing that it was the last day of the trek. The first hour of the downhill hike was painful, but then the trail evened out. There were many Nepalis on the trail carrying huge loads of hay, firewood, cages of chickens, or posts & tins. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I liked the (perceived?) character of the rural Nepali. Life is physically hard, but everyone seems content. Nepalis here smile easily. I told myself that I must try to get out to the rural areas as often as possible.

Looking back on the trek, I didn’t know I had that in me. During the tough parts, not even the “museum quality quads” motivation worked (and my quads don’t look any different, dammit!). But I managed to keep moving forward. I’m not sure I’m inclined to do a hard-cord 14 day trek, but I know I could do a tough 7 day trek and enjoy the experience.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I'm about to admit something that may be grounds for dismissal from the Foreign Service. I don't like jazz. I'm sorry, I tried. But it just doesn't do anything for me. High-pitched clarinets with zig-zaggy notes all over the place. I need a little more structure in my music.

But jazz is a staple of the State Department's cultural exchange programs. This week is the 8th annual Jazzmandu festival in Kathmandu. Tonight the Ambassador hosted a performance by a group of jazz musicians - 3 Americans and 2 Nepalese. The Nepalis in the audience seemed to enjoy the performance, especially the jazz rendition of a popular Nepali folk song. That was actually kind of fun.

I wonder if I could bring over a bluegrass band for our next exchange program.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I’ve been thinking about my stuff a lot lately. My HHE hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m still living off my UAB (which, as I look back, I under packed). I’ve been dreaming about where I’ll put my things, where I’ll hang the pictures, that kind of thing. I think I’ve figured out why “stuff” is so important to Foreign Service Officers. It’s the one part of our lives we have complete control over.

We live in homes that we didn’t choose with furniture that we didn’t pick. [I don’t say this to complain. There is no way the State Department can provide furnished housing in such a way to satisfy everyone. This is just a reality of working in the Foreign Service.] Even with all of our own belongings surrounding us, our houses can feel like home only up to a certain point.

So we buy stuff. Within just a few weeks of arriving in Kathmandu, I had already bought a gorgeous Kashmiri rug, a few knickknacks, and some jewelry. It helped me feel a little bit settled into my new house.

In Nepali, stuff/things is called “cheezwiz.” No kidding. So I’m waiting impatiently for my cheezwiz to arrive and longing for the day when I can put my own books on the shelves, cook with my own pots & pans, and put out my own picture frames.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Acting Public Affairs Officer

I've been the Acting PAO for a couple weeks now. I love it! Doing the administrative stuff for the section as well as my regular IO responsibilities keeps me very busy, but it's been a great experience.

I've done all the paperwork for hiring two new positions and re-defining an existing LES position; I've lost a battle with Dulles to ship a ton of books through the pouch; I've converted a storage room into an office; I've written remarks for the Ambassador and the USAID Mission Director for a regional conference; I've created a Public Affairs policy for the mission; I've handled several press requests from journalists in Nepal, India, and the U.S.; and I've revamped the embassy's Facebook page.

I haven't felt this sense of accomplishment in a loooooong time. The only problem is that my brain won't shut down. I go to bed and my brain is still spinning; I wake up at 4:30 am and my brain kicks in to gear. They didn't cover that at FSI.

Monday, October 4, 2010

म नेपाली जस्तो छु

(I'm just like a Nepali)

I'm starting to get the hang of living in Kathmandu. I can push my way through a throng of motorcycles to cross the street. When night falls as I'm walking home, I'm getting pretty good at not stepping in holes or dog poop. But the constant honking still gets on my nerves.

Sunday I went shopping for fabric in Thamel, the "touristy" part of town. I bought a book by a Nepali woman. I bought a small bronze Durga statue and had tea and interesting conversation with the shopkeepers (in Nepali, thank you very much). I'm having a ring made. I bought two cotton shirts from a small shop and bargained with the kid by persuading him in Nepali that "I'm not a tourist, I'm just like a Nepali, so give me the same price you would give a Nepali person!" And I browsed some Kashmiri carpets.

I did not, however, buy fabric.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I moved into my permanent home this week. Overall, I'm pleased with the house. The colors are more muted and subtle than most other embassy housing (my temporary house had pink-mauve swan tiles in the bathroom - I have absolutely no bathroom accoutrements that would go with that).

Like all big houses in Kathmandu, the bigness is spread out vertically. There are three floors... but wait, there's more! The third floor has a nice deck with an outdoor staircase that leads to the laundry room and a puja (prayer) room. Mere words cannot describe this:

I am right across the street from the prime minister's residence. From the deck I have a nice view into the compound. The downside is that the machine gun-wielding police who guard the compound from watch towers have a nice view into my bedroom window.

I'm sure the prime minister will knock on my door any day now with a batch of brownies to welcome me to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Can You Find Nepalgunj on a Map?

My first trip outside Kathmandu was to accompany the DCM to a combating trafficking in persons program in Nepalgunj, along the Indian border. Transportation in Nepal is sketchy. Bus accidents happen every day and recently a small plane crashed near Kathmandu, killing 13 people, including 4 Americans. So I admit I was a bit nervous about the one hour flight. But we were flying on Buddha Air - what could go wrong?

The flight was fine and the program was about what you'd expect from a day of talking heads. Here's some insight into how things work in a third world country.

* Everyone has to give opening remarks. No less than 11 government and local organization officials delivered remarks before the DCM, an hour later, delivered her spontaneously shortened speech.

* The power will go out several times.

* Even when it's hot and muggy, hot tea will be served and you will be expected to drink it.

* There are more bicycles, rickshaws and cows on the road than there are cars. So you will never go more than 25 mph.

The highlight of the trip was to watch a street drama. This is a popular way to inform people, in an entertaining way, about important topics like trafficking in people. A Nepali theater troupe, indirectly funded by USAID, prepared an hour-long series of skits showing how people get scammed into forced labor, prostitution, etc. and how the law protects them. It sounds like a gloomy subject, but the troupe was very good, using humor and really engaging the crowd.

The next morning I had breakfast with a few local journalists and learned a lot about the press. I left with a renewed determination to reach out to more rural journalists and provide training opportunities.

The flight home was bumpy. I guess Buddha was in a bad mood because we hit the worst turbulence I've every felt. If anyone had been standing in the aisle when it hit, they would almost certainly have been tossed around a bit. It's all part of the adventure.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The New Girl in Town

It's been just over a week since I arrived in Kathmandu. Moving to a new home in a new country while starting a new job is hectic no matter how prepared you are. But I'm off to a great start. Granted, my permanent house suffered water damage just a couple days before I arrived, so I'm in temporary housing for another week. But that's been the only blip. Knock on wood.

The first few days at the embassy were dedicated to getting checked in and making the rounds. I'm fortunate to have a great local staff, which made those first few days less painful than they could have been. Now that the administrative stuff is mostly done, I've been able to focus on actual public diplomacy work.

Which leads me to the best part - I love this job! I've already released a press statement about the Ambassador's meetings with the Prime Minister and the Maoist Chairman, prepared remarks for the DCM for a Combating Trafficking in Persons program, and have been invited to participate in the Ambassador's off-site retreat to review the Mission Strategic Plan. Not bad for my first week.

When I joined the Foreign Service, this is exactly the kind of work I envisioned myself doing. It's taken 5 years to get to this point. I plan on enjoying every minute of it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Traveling in Style

One of the ways I've changed since joining the foreign service is that I've become a snooty traveller. Traveling as frequently as I do, I like to travel comfortably. The problem is, once you travel overseas in business class, you can't ever go back to coach. I'm ruined for life.

Kathmandu is directly on the other side of the planet from the middle of the US. Washington to Doha is a 14 hour overnight flight. I'm not doing that in coach. Because the Department squashed its biz class policy, the upgrade is coming out of my pocket. But the Department is paying for a nice hotel room for my long layover in Doha. Thank you, US taxpayer! Then a 5 hour flight to Kathmandu.

Traveling in style has made me a snob. I don't like commuting with "the common people." For example, there should be separate security lines for smart and stupid travelers. It's annoying to stand behind someone for 15 minutes and watch him finally get to the metal detector and frantically try to take off his shoes, empty his pockets, and take off his watch all at once, as if he didn't know this was going to happen.

Next stop, Kathmandu!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh What a Beautiful Feeling

Training is over. Check-out paperwork is submitted. Pack-out is scheduled. Consumables are purchased. Flight is confirmed. Vaccinations are done. Visa is in the passport.

There's nothing left to do except pack out and get on the plane. And yet, there's that nagging feeling that something important has been forgotten.

This weekend I will sort the piles for pack-out. This is easily the worst part about the foreign service lifestyle. Sadly, pack-outs never get easier. But the more you do, the smarter you become.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Single White Female Seeks Office Management Specialist

I'm sure there are plenty of blogs that provide insight into the unique challenges of raising a family in the foreign service. So, as a single woman in the foreign service, I feel obliged to share my tales of single woe.

I'm a mere month away from departing for post. I have to arrange my flight, schedule and prepare for pack out, get my vaccinations, apply for a diplomatic visa, buy my consumable items (without a car), cancel my gym membership, you get the idea.

I'm also in training full time, where students are threatened with having their fingernails pulled off if they miss even an hour of class, and there's no admin time. This leaves me with a dilemma - how the hell am I supposed to drop off my diplomatic passport and visa application at Main State? I thought I had won the battle of wits with the Department by borrowing a friend's trailing spouse who was going to Main State, but the Department's bureaucratic absurdity managed to out fox me.

I'm also nervous about pack out. When I packed out from Romania, I was outnumbered by 4 packers. I didn't discover how much stuff was "lost" until over a year later when I unpacked my stuff last fall. The bastards stole my Indiana Jones DVD trilogy.

I suppose being single really isn't the issue. I need an OMS more than I need a husband.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Free at Last!

I passed my language exam. It was oddly anti-climactic. Rather than doing cartwheels, I slipped into a semi-catatonic state. After 10 months of one-on-one language training, I was too exhausted to be excited.

Now that a couple nights have passed, the relief is bubbling up to the surface. I went out last night and didn't take flashcards with me. I'm no longer translating conversations in my head just for practice. I don't have to be at FSI at 7:30 Monday morning. It feels really good. Finally.

In fact, the last time I felt this good was when I dropped off my 20 pound kevlar vest at the airport in Amman for the very last time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Home Stretch

There's a scene in the film The Mummy where sleazy Benny encounters the wretched mummy for the first time. As the mummy moves closer, Benny shakily pulls out a cross pendant from around his neck and starts reciting a prayer from the bible. Seeing that the mummy isn't impressed, he pulls out a huge collection of diverse religious pendants and holds them up one by one, hoping one of them will stop the mummy in its tracks.

That's how I feel now. I'll pray to any god to get me through the last 3 weeks of language training. I'm open to anything to keep the frustration at bay. I've tried yoga and kickboxing. I may start putting a shot of vodka in my orange juice in the morning. Or Xanax.

Language training is all about sucking. It's just a matter of degrees. You will never be a native speaker/reader of the language you're studying, so you will always suck to some degree. So each day in training is an analysis of how much you suck that day. I'm tired of sucking. I wonder how much vodka I'll need to get through 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Field Trip

This afternoon one of my instructors took me on a field trip to a shopping plaza that had several Indian stores to practice speaking Nepali about everyday things. I give my instructor brownie points for trying to do something different. But this was just painful.

I am anti-social. I don't do small talk. So you'll understand why 2 hours of chit chat in Nepali was excruciating.

In the Indian grocery store:

Instructor: Heatherji, look at all the different kinds of food. This store is very different from Giant, isn't it?

Me: Oh yes, what a large variety of food. It is very different from Giant.

Instructor: Look at these vegetables? Do you like green onions?

Me: Of course I like green onions.

At the Indian book store:

Instructor: Look, Heatherji, there are many books about the Hindu religion.

Me: I found a few books about Buddha.

Instructor: Look, here is a Nepali-English dictionary.

Me: How nice. But it is very expensive.

You get the idea. Meaningless small talk in English is annoying. Meaningless small talk in another language is brutal. The best part was trying some Samosa Chaat in a small Indian cafe. Yum!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

So Tired

I realize I run the risk of sounding like the kind of whiny creep I usually despise, but oh well. I'm tired. And I'm bored.

For the past few months, my language training schedule has been -- An hour or more of conversational speaking. A speaking at length exercise and/or interview, with a critique. A reading in depth and an authentic reading exercise, with line-by-line analysis. Every day.

Every day it's the mentally exhausting equivalent of taking the dreaded test (without the emotional stress, fortunately). I'm tired. The strange thing is that I feel like I'm more advanced in Nepali now than I was when I reached a 3/3 in Romanian. But my instructors are making me feel like I still have a long way to go.

A little more than a month to go.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Straight or On the Rocks?

A strange thing happened in class today. I had a strong urge to drink a shot of whiskey. This is strange because A) I don't like whiskey, and B) it was 10:22 in the morning. "What happened at 10:22?" you might ask. I was in the middle of reading an in-depth Nepali article and it was at 10:22 that the futility of this task became more than I wanted to bear.

I just wasn't getting it and my instructor wasn't explaining it in English very well. I began counting down the minutes to the end of class at 10:40 (today was an abbreviated admin day). 18 painful minutes seemed like forever.

I keep telling my instructor that mimicking the in-depth reading exercise that is used in the test is not a good teaching tool. The test is meant to discover what you don't know. The classroom is for developing reading comprehension. But what do I know?

I'll take my whiskey straight, please.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wait for Me!!!

While I'm slogging along in language training, interesting things are happening in Nepal. Our new ambassador arrived within the past week. A teenager from Big Bear is currently scaling Mt. Everest. My housing assignment has been made (is it really necessary to have "Pinky House" emblazoned on a bronze plaque outside my gate?).

And things are heating up politically. Journalists are being attacked. Nobody believes that a new constitution will be ready by next month's deadline. The Maoists have started military-style training of their youth cadres (and then they express disappointment that the US government won't take them off the terrorist list).

I guess the post-Baghdad adrenaline crash has affected my reasoning because all I can think of when I read about what's going on in Nepal is - "I hope they don't fix everything before I get there!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'd like to report a missing sense of humor.

Several things trigger a bad mood for me: PMS, hunger, and a lack of chocolate (heaven help the world if all three happen at once). I can usually tell when the cranky takes over because I have angry thoughts that the world is conspiring to ruin my day, e.g. "The people in front of me are walking so slowly just to piss me off." And if the vending machine gets snagged on the last Snickers bar, I think, "Why is this happening to me???"

Yes, I can be a drama queen.

What inspired this post? I'm in month 7 of a 10 month one-on-one language training. Some days my sense of humor is strained past its limit.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Flash Forward

The other night while on a tour of the West Wing, we stopped in the press room. The lights were on, just as if an actual press conference were taking place. Standing by the press secretary's podium I looked out at where the cameras usually are and glanced down at the seats with nameplates saying "Helen Thomas" and "Reuters."

I indulged my imagination just enough to picture myself in a less glamorous version of this press room answering questions from Nepali journalists about American policy. In Nepali. "Ameriki aankama aatankawad samuhaa nuhuna, maowadile hinsa chodnu gaarcha."

I don't know how realistic my flash forward is, but it did ignite excitement (and, to be honest, a little anxiety) about my future work in Kathmandu. I hope all the pain of language training will prepare me to speak to Nepali audiences somewhat intelligently.

I have no fantasies about standing behind a podium like this in DC sometime in the future. State Department Spokesman is not a title I crave. But that's another blog post.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Verbal Acrobatics

The Nepali language is very un-English. It requires mental gymnastics to construct a sentence. In fact, my instructor used the phrase "verbal acrobatics" to describe the unique ways Nepali verbs can be tweaked to convey additional information. Just adding one syllable to a conjugated verb communicates the idea that the person just discovered this thought ("I just discovered that I like eating raw meat.")

Nepalis will inevitably complicate a sentence, if possible. Why say something using only three syllables (ma baschhu - I sit) when you can use seven (ma basirahekochhu - I continue to be in a state of sitting)?

Yesterday in class I gave a presentation on economics. Ignoring for a moment the fact that I know very little about this subject, I am pleased to say I was able to give the following example of supply & demand in flawless Nepali - "If the number of available cars is larger than the number of people who want cars, then the price of cars will be inexpensive." To give you an idea of how this sentence is constructed in Nepali (and why it took me 10 minutes to write it) here's the literal translation back into English - "If available car's number than car-wanting people's number big became, then car's price inexpensive would be."

My brain needs an ice pack.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Does Body Armor Have to do with Language Training?

I'm at the mid point of language training - 5 months down, 5 months to go. I was telling someone recently how I had to give a 10 minute presentation in Nepali on the American educational system, and I realized that sounds pretty impressive. So how come it doesn't feel impressive? Progress is hard to recognize when you're focused on what you still can't do.

A couple weeks ago, I met with a language training consultant. I took a bunch of personality tests with questions like: I think wearing medieval armor would be fun, true or false? Two years ago I might have answered true, but after a year of wearing 20 pounds of bullet-proof armor in Baghdad, I have a different perspective. The results of the tests were predictable - ISTJ, likes organized learning, etc.

Frankly, the meeting with the language consultant wasn't terribly helpful. The language test process came up and I shared how a lucky guess got me an extra half point in reading comprehension. She defended the practice, and I interpreted her response to mean that the test doesn't measure reading comprehension, but rather intelligence (aptitude). Interesting.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chit Chat

The first hour of Nepali class consists of chit chat. Casual conversation. This is painful for me for two reasons.

First, class begins at 7:40 in the morning. I can barely speak English that early in the morning, nevermind Nepali.

Secondly, I'm not much for chit chat. If I have something to say, I'll say it, but otherwise, the pressure to maintain polite conversation for an hour is painful (especially without the assistance of a cocktail).

Of course, speaking at length is an important part of the language test. I feel like I'm being judged for a character flaw rather than a deficiency in speaking the language.

A friend of mine who is also a language student has the gift of the gab. During her first test, she was given a photograph of Kofi Annan and asked to talk about him for 10 minutes. What she knew about Kofi and was capable of saying after a few months of training only lasted a few minutes. So she made up stuff. She explained that Kofi came to America for college. That's when he met her mother; in fact, she is Kofi's love child. I'm not sure if she used the literal Arabic translation for "love child" or if she paraphrased.