Category Archives: Nepal

John S. Jacoby in Nepal & South Africa

Name: John S. Jacoby

Country of Service: Nepal; South Africa

Place of Service: Bastipur (Nepal)

Service Type: Teacher at Bastipur High School in English (grades 6 & 7), Science (grade 6-8), & Math (grade 6); Peace Corps Country Director for South Africa

Dates in Service: 1970-1972; 2011-2014

Keywords: Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, HIV/AIDS, Information Technology, Libraries, Literacy, Sports, Urban Planning, Youth

Accession Date: April 4, 2021

Access: no restrictions

Collection Size: .5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications

Duane Karlen in Nepal

Name: Duane Karlen

Country of Service: Nepal

Service Type: Secondary School Teacher, Science & Math (Also: Peace Corps Training Contractor, worked full-time in the field and at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. during the 1970s, 80s and 90s)

Dates in Service: 1970-1972

Keywords: Community Development, Education, Information Technology, Libraries, Literacy, Youth

Accession Date: February 17, 2021

Access: no restrictions

Collection Size: .25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Ronald Rude in Nepal

Name: Ronald Rude
Country of Service: Nepal
Place of Service: Jaleshwar, Gorahana Panchayat (District)
Service Project Title: Junior Technological Assistants
Dates in Service: 1968-1971
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development

Accession Date: December 5, 2019
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 94 digital files

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Memoir

Digital Surrogates

A Serendipitous Encounter

Homraj Acharya is an anthropology student in Dr. Adrienne Pine’s Craft of Anthropology I course (ANTH-601). This blog post was written in fulfillment of a course assignment. Images are published with permission from Mike Rechlin.

What would be the expression to describe a situation when the characters of your childhood stories spring to life and you get to actually meet them? I grew up hearing stories of “Mr. Mike” and “Mr. Dog,” who came from America.

Our elders said that if we dug a hole deep enough we would get to America. We tried, but the problem was, if you dug deep into the earth, the first thing that appeared would be water, and we thought we would drown in the well. So we gave up this idea of finding Americans in the underworld.

But some of them had lived in our village and planted trees, wore boots and brimmed hats, spoke English that sounded like popcorn, used their rare and valuable cameras (that no one in the village owned) to take photographs of mundane things like cows and water buffaloes, and loved the same food as those buffaloes. One of them had wiped his bottom with nettle leaves and then said that Nepal is so rich we have electric currents in our plants.

I grew up listening to the stories about Mr. Mike and Mr. Dog—two Americans who had lived in our village in the 1960s, just before I was born. They were both described to us kids as tall and thin with brown hat and boots. A riddle that I grew up hearing poked gentle fun at their appearance: “It is from America, is like a stick, and wears a hat. What is it?” (In Nepali, अमेरिकाने देशको, टोपी लाउँछ छेस्को, के हो”) The answer was a matchstick. We were solving that riddle in the 1970s and 1980s.

On September 18, 2019 I came across one of the real-life characters of the riddle in “Memories and Meaning: A 50th Anniversary Report,” catalogued in the American University Archives.

As part of Anthropology graduate classwork, our professor, Dr. Adrienne Pine, had scheduled a tour of the archives. I asked the archivist if they had anything on Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) working in Nepal.

I was curious to see how Peace Corps volunteers write privately about their experiences. I wasn’t expecting to find my own village in the archives. But in the list of sites I found the name of my village in connection to PCV Mike Rechlin.

Mr. Mike turned out to be Mike Rechlin, who was in our village as part of “Group 17” Peace Corps volunteers in 1969. Mike had spelled out the name of my village alongside the District. Certain it was the same Mike, I asked Leslie Nellis, Associate Archivist for Digital Initiatives and Record Management at the American University Library, to help me get connected with Mike and the other PCV if they were alive and around. I had assumed they would be in their 80s, as is my father, who worked along with them.

Mr. Mike and Mr. Dog figured in my childhood stories as the Gora Sahibs (White Sahibs). This a colonial-era term used to describe white British colonial masters in India, but it continued to apply to white people after the formal end of colonization.

One of the stories was about my father, one of the Gora Sahibs, and pumpkin daal (Kabaliko Daal). Daal is our daily food, a legume sauce served over rice. It can be made from chickpeas, lentils, split peas, or other legumes. Supposedly my father cooked for them one day and he had no legumes around so he used pumpkin, which he also used when he cooked for our buffaloes, who ate large amounts of vegetables and preferred their pumpkin cooked.

For the Gora Sahib, he apparently put sugar in the daal, which is not how daal is actually made. But he liked to put sugar in everything. Later, when my dad had to cook during when my mother had her menstrual cycle (when women cannot cook or do housework), he made us “the American Daal.” We did not like it. It was not fully cooked, and it had sugar in it. Who would want to have sugary daal? So, we don’t know which one of these two guys were responsible for changing our household recipes, but for four days a month we were forced to endure the sugary daal recipe.

Leslie connected me to Mike within a few days. I talked to him and it turned out he lives in West Virginia, only about three hours from Washington, DC, near a place where I have gone camping. We met and he shared some of the amazing photos, included below, from the late 60s

A few weeks later, I talked to my dad on a cell phone, which in itself is amazing. When I was growing up, I never even saw a telephone until I was 15, and at first, I spoke into the wrong end. But now we can call from America to fields in Nepal. I told my father that I met Mr. Mike and had dinner with him. He was thrilled to hear it. He extended his regards and namaste to Mike. There are very few people in the village who are still alive who would remember Mike and the other PCV in person.

Here are a few pictures of my village I received from Mike:

Two men (father and son) crouch next to freshly made, upside-down water pots in Nepal.

I recognize that this is my neighbor Maila Kumal on the left (still alive but old) and his father (now dead). This was pretty much how we dressed in the summer and how I grew up. They are of the pottery making Kumal caste. They still make this pottery. Here they are clearly posing for the camera with their freshly made water pots. We stored our drinking water in these pots. As it is very hot in the Terai region of Nepal in the summer, we would dig a pit in the ground of our kitchen to keep the pots cool. We lived in a thatched house like everyone else and our kitchen was an outbuilding with a thatched roof and mud walls, so the floor was also of dirt. Sometimes these clay pots are used for storing grains.

Landscape in Nepal of a muddy field. Two oxen plow the field led by a man from the village.

This brings back my own memories of plowing our land and leveling the field. In the picture above the land, according to Mike, is being leveled to prepare for planting trees like teaks and eucalyptus—part of the Australian forestry project that Mike was connected to. Leveling is fun for a kid because you get to ride on the leveler, which is that flat piece of wood behind the oxen. Sometimes a kid can sit between the legs of the plowing man just to have fun. We did that all the time. The boundary of work and play seldom exists. Work for adults can be part of the play for the kids. In fact, it helps the adults to have a little heavier pressure on the leveler and sometimes they would even call for kids to come and ride. This guy, who is now old, lives a couple hundred meters from our house. The place is called Sano Deuri.

A man rides through village carrying grain on an ox cart, led by two oxes, as a child looks on from a walkway between the houses.

I recognize that this is Nandu Tharu, and he seems to be bringing a grain storage container (deheri) that his wife made to one of the neighbor’s houses. This is how we transported things. This lariya (ox cart) was a multi-purpose vehicle for transporting sand from the rivers, harvested rice from the field, taking oilseeds to the oilseed press, bringing hay and logs from the jungle, and bringing brides after the wedding. Lariya are not as ubiquitous now because mostly they are replaced by tractors, but they are still around. These clay deheri in the cart are built in several segments of clay, rice husk, straw and cow dung so that different pieces can be assembled inside the home after they are complete.

Three women collect water in pots from village well. One woman looks down the well and another faces the camera.

This is a common community well for drinking water. The well is still there and the house in the background belongs to a family that weaves excellent baskets. I have some of their baskets in my house in Silver Spring. These women are using the same type of water pot from our earlier photo of the potters. In the background can be seen deheri (large storage pots) like the one being brought on the lariya, but they are decommissioned or they wouldn’t be outside. It seems they are being used just for firewood storage.

There is an inscription on the side of the well that has the sign of Om and then says 2022 Sukhadram. So the well was renovated 54 years ago (in 2022 BS / 1965 CE) and the renovation must have been sponsored by Sukhadram. It is interesting that somebody made the om sign left side right. It should be facing the other way. These women are Tharu, from the community indigenous to the area, and are wearing beautiful traditional dresses, which are now uncommon as the women in the village mostly wear Bollywood style saris and blouses today. Their armlets are made of pure silver and also have mostly gone out of usage.

Tharu women fish in a local pond during a community fishing event.

These Tharu women are fishing in the local ponds with their hiluka (small nets with rounded frames) and ghanghi (large nets with more triangular shapes), and deli (or perungo) on the west to catch minnows. This is a community fishing event. People are not allowed to fish in these community ponds as and when they please; there is a particular day as decided by village Badhghar (a village chief, elder) that the members of the community (usually women from village) can go and fish, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to catch fish. Sometimes they will catch fish and then collect and divide.

A line of Tharu women fish with nets in a local lake.

This is a major lake of our village. It is known as Buddhi Lake. Tharu women are fishing with hiluka nets. The official area of the two lakes combined now is 47 acres. When Mike was in Buddhi, these lakes were divided into two lakes, one for the community and one for generating revenue for the village council. In recent years, both lakes have been combined and redesigned and contracted out for 5 to 10 years to the highest bidder. Last cycle the winning bid was for 4.2 million Rupees—equivalent to $40,000 USD.

Three women husk rice inside of a building. Two women pull on rope over their heads as another crouches in the foreground.

These women are husking rice in a dhiki, a large wooden beam that is pumped by foot and drops onto the rice, separating the husk and kernel of the rice. That was one of the tasks I had to do regularly as a child. I would come home from school and have to husk the rice with the dhiki and feed the husks mixed with pumpkin to the buffaloes and cows. We used to be in a hurry to do something else, like go out and play, so the idea was to finish as quickly as possible and pump it really fast. But that actually breaks the rice into smaller pieces and you get yelled at.

Landscape of Nepalese village. Dirt road is flanked by wooden carts and a woodpile leading up to thatched roof houses.

I grew up in a similar house until about 7 years of age. Every year in the winter I had to go to the jungle to cut fresh thatch for the house and also for the kitchen and barn. Then we built a house made of mud bricks that we made by hand, though even today a portion of the cowshed is thatch. Many of these houses have changed, with walling material mostly of bricks and roofs replaced by corrugated tin sheets or RCC (rod, concrete and cement) for those who can afford it.

Agricultural map reads "Operation Cum Stock Map," and outlines trees, water sources, and topographical landmarks.

This is the map of the village showing how much was forested at the time. I had actually never seen a map of my village before seeing this one. The river on the far left is where I learned to swim. It is now often low or even fully dried so that you can cross the river without taking your shoes off. This is the result of a combination of climate change, deforestation and silting from erosion upstream.

On the bottom right is a jamun (black plum) grove where we used to go in July and August to pick them in the forest. Sadly, there has been much deforestation and the area identified with jamun isn’t there anymore as a forest. The sal trees were also essentially all felled during the political transition of the 1990s. Some of the teak and eucalyptus trees (Mike’s project) are still there but most have been cut down. The Kusum trees which are identified in the map have also been cut down, and the mango and Seemal trees are almost all gone now. I am curious why it says “unpromising Sal trees,” as I recall many Sal trees in this area highly valued as hardwood. There is a saying in the village that a Sal tree lasts for 3,000 years – standing for 1,000 years, on the ground for 1,000 years, and another 1,000 to completely decay.

AU’s Peace Corps Archive contains historical treasures that have serendipitously re-connected me in entirely new ways to my childhood stories, creating the potential for new, richer interpretations of my own village’s history. These new interpretations will help us better understand the processes that have led us to where we are today, and will also provide insights into the broader, long-term impacts of the Peace Corps in societies like my own.

Gary Ender in Nepal

Name: Gary Ender
Country of Service: Nepal
Place of Service: Keraun
Service Type: Agriculture
Dates in Service: 1969- 1972
Keywords: Agriculture

Accession Date: May 3, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 1 digital file

Document Types

  • Publications
  • Memoir

Digital Surrogates

What We Collected in 2017

The Peace Corp Community Archive accepts many types of records of volunteers from every decade, every country of service, and every type of service job. Though we did not accept donations for part of 2017, we added 6 unique collections to the archives that include a wide range of Peace Corps experiences. We featured some of these collections in previous posts but here you can learn about them in detail.

 

Phillip L. Scholl

Phillip served in India from 1965-1967 in Health Education. India faced many health crises in the 1960s and its government requested help from the Peace Corps. Philip’s group, India 20A, received training in public health and assisted India’s Primary Health Centers, which provided health care services throughout the country. Phillip donated a video about his travels through India.

You can watch the video here: India 20A Video
Visit the groups website here: India 20A Website
And see a previous highlight post about this collection here: India 20A Post

 

Jan and Leslie Czechowski

Jan and Leslie decided to volunteer after they retired at the age of 64 and are two of the oldest volunteers in the collection. They donated a booklet that contains, in chronological order, their blog posts and emails from their service. The couple served in Moldova in 2012 in Community Development. Leslie’s main job was helping with the Global Libraries project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They enjoyed their time in Moldova immensely but had to cut their service short because Leslie became ill. A number of Peace Corps Volunteers end their service early for a variety of reasons.

Jan and Leslie – June 22, 2012

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 – Sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers

 

Delwyn and Claire Ziegler

Delwyn and Claire, with their two daughters, were among the first Peace Corps Volunteer Families. They served in Colombia from 1970-1972 in Community Development and Education. They donated a manual entitled, “Guide to Small Business Consultation,” which was compiled by Delwyn, and a 500+ page diary consisting of correspondence, notes, daily updates, and other writings from their service. The Ziegler’s were one of only two families that stayed the full two years and said “it was the best two years of our lives.” The Peace Corps discontinued the families program after a few years.

You can find their diary here: Diary of the Zieglers in Colombia

 

Lynda Smith-Nehr

Lynda served in the Philippines from 1962-1964 in Education. Her collection consists of the many slides she took during her service. The slides show pictures of the villages she worked in, the people she worked with, and the places she traveled. Lynda experienced a lot during her service.

April 1963 – My Junior Class – Mt. Apo

Davao Mt. Apo School – April 1963

 

Thomas J. Hassett

Thomas served in Nepal from 1965-1966 in Community Development. His fellow volunteers described him as easy to get along with and perfect for the Peace Corps. However, Thomas’s time in the Peace Corps was cut short by an unfortunate fall on his way to visit a friend. At the age of 22 Thomas passed away and was buried in Nepal. Included in his collection are letters to and from his family and friends, condolence letters to his parents, and photos of his work and burial service. Tom’s parents paid for a memorial for him and visited his grave in 1966.

“Thomas J. Hassett, Russian novelist phase – June 1966”

“L to R: ?? Sam Myqatt (partially hidden) by another in front of Bill Hanson. Blond is Cail Hoshicka. Father Moran, Minister.”

Tina Singleton

Tina served in the Central African Republic and Benin from 1992-1996. She worked in Health Education with a focus on Benin’s disabled community. She traveled to the first African Special Olympics in 1992. Tina enjoyed her time so much she stayed twice as long as a normal service tour. Tina’s collection itself consists of numerous letters to her family and many (many) photos that illustrate her time in Africa.

Tina’s school class, she is second from the left.

1992 – First African Special Olympics

 

As you can see from just this small group of collections, a Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience can vary greatly. Every year new collections are donated to the Peace Corps Community Archive that add to these stories.

“The PC Nepal Photo Project 1962-1975”

Many Returned Peace Corp Volunteers recognize the value in preserving their experiences. Currently, the Peace Corps Community Archive has over 50 donors, but other volunteers, like Doug and Kate Hall, have created their own related collections.

Doug and Kate served in the Peace Corps from 1968 – 1969  and were stationed in Kathmandu, Nepal. They met during their Peace Corps training and were married in 1972, after their Peace Corps service. In the last few years, they have pushed for a collective effort from Nepal’s volunteers to digitize and catalog photographs taken between the years 1962 – 1975. Titled the PC Nepal Photo Project 1962-1975, the collection currently has over 90 contributors and 12,500 photographs.

According to Doug, the project does not emphasize the Peace Corps experience, but rather focuses on life in Nepal from 1962 – 1975. Specially, the images highlight Nepali life outside the Kathmandu Valley.

While libraries and archives in Kathmandu have photos from the 1930s, these are almost exclusively from the Kathmandu Valley. Peace Corps volunteers were mostly posted in towns and villages where no Nepali had a camera. Thus, these early photos are among the first ever taken in many regions of the country.

The photograph’s being collected represent a range of Nepali life. They span regions and lifestyles, from agriculture and rural schools to coronations and urban architecture.

In addition to the online collection which uses Adobe Lightroom, Hall has created a Facebook page that highlights the images by theme. Both are fantastic resources for researchers. Hall reports that once the project is complete he will share copies with 3 national libraries and archives in Nepal.

To donate to the PC Nepal Photo Project 1962-1975 please contact Doug Hall, doughallnh [at] comcast.net.

Date: 1971 Location: Shani-Arjun, Jhapa Description: A rural scene in Parakhopi. The man is an Indian sadhu.

John Hughes submission
Date: 1971
Location: Shani-Arjun, Jhapa
Description: A rural scene in Parakhopi. The man is an Indian sadhu.

Date: 1967 Location: Gulmi Description: A wedding party. The sounds of the band echo across the valleys and can be heard for miles.

Carl Hosticka submission
Date: 1967
Location: Gulmi
Description: A wedding party. The sounds of the band echo across the valleys and can be heard for miles.

Date: 1966-07-14 Location: Majhuwa, Gulmi Description: One of a series of pictures depicting rice cultivation. The field is partially flooded and the plowing is continued.

Carl Hosticka submission
Date: 1966-07-14
Location: Majhuwa, Gulmi
Description: One of a series of pictures depicting rice cultivation.The field is partially flooded and the plowing is continued.

Date: 1964-1965 Location: Baglung, Baglung Description: Women wash themselves and clothing in the sacred waters of the Kali Gandak as part of the Dashain festival.

David Carlson submission
Date: 1964-1965
Location: Baglung, Baglung
Description: Women wash themselves and clothing in the sacred waters of the Kali Gandak as part of the Dashain festival.

Date: 1964 Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu Description: Tibetans hand-weaving rugs.

Diane Wishinski submission
Date: 1964
Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu
Description: Tibetans hand-weaving rugs.

7

Bill Hacker submission
Date, Location, and Description unknown

Date: 1968 Location: Baglung, Baglung Description: Women cross a crude suspension bridge across the Kali Gandaki River, near Baglung, with heavy loads of firewood.

Hank Lacy submission
Date: 1968
Location: Baglung, Baglung
Description: Women cross a crude suspension bridge across the Kali Gandaki River, near Baglung, with heavy loads of firewood.

Date: 1972 Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu Description: Gaun Panchayat banner at a holiday event

Bob Nichols submission
Date: 1972
Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu
Description: Gaun Panchayat banner at a holiday event

Date: 1968-04 Location: Solukhumbu Description: Girl in field. Picture may be at the Lukla airstrip. Rock fence row in the background.

Bob Nichols submission
Date: 1968-04
Location: Solukhumbu
Description: Girl in field. Picture may be at the Lukla airstrip. Rock fence row in the background.

Date: 1973 Location: Bhaktapur, Bhaktapur Description: Red peppers spread out to dry on mats in a street

Jim Coleman submission
Date: 1973
Location: Bhaktapur, Bhaktapur
Description: Red peppers spread out to dry on mats in a street

Date: 1964-01 Location: Pokhara, Kaski Description: Residents of Pokhara and nearby villages coming to the Seti Gandaki at Ram Ghat for ritual bathing during the Magh Mela. This view is from the east side looking west at the point where the Seti Gandaki emerges from a deep gorge and widens out (Ram Ghat).

Stu Ullmann submission
Date: 1964-01
Location: Pokhara, Kaski
Description: Residents of Pokhara and nearby villages coming to the Seti Gandaki at Ram Ghat for ritual bathing during the Magh Mela. This view is from the east side looking west at the point where the Seti Gandaki emerges from a deep gorge and widens out (Ram Ghat).

Date: 1978-12 Location: Sindhuli Description: Porters carrying empty kerosene cans in the riverbed of the Sun Koshi.

Mike Gill and Barbara Butterworth submission
Date: 1978-12
Location: Sindhuli
Description: Porters carrying empty kerosene cans in the riverbed of the Sun Koshi.

Date: 1969-1971 Location: Siraha Description: Group of women pressing and flattening marijuana (ganja). Ganja was the most important cash crop in the district. The price of finished ganja was 12 rupees per kilo in the local market. By the time it hit Europe, it was $120/kilo and had been cut.

Gerard Oicles submission
Date: 1969-1971
Location: Siraha
Description: Group of women pressing and flattening marijuana (ganja). Ganja was the most important cash crop in the district. The price of finished ganja was 12 rupees per kilo in the local market. By the time it hit Europe, it was $120/kilo and had been cut.

Date: 1975-02 Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu Description: Preparations for the coronation of King Birendra.

Rick Pfau submission
Date: 1975-02
Location: Kathmandu, Kathmandu
Description: Preparations for the coronation of King Birendra.

Date: 1964-05 Location: Bhojpur, Bhojpur Description: Gold and silversmiths sell gold ear and noserings, silver wrist and anklets. Clearly, paper money was much used at this time, though notice the necklace of old Indian rupees that was still a staple of women's clothing, showing off to the community women's value.

Larry Daloz submission
Date: 1964-05
Location: Bhojpur, Bhojpur
Description: Gold and silversmiths sell gold ear and noserings, silver wrist and anklets. Clearly, paper money was much used at this time, though notice the necklace of old Indian rupees that was still a staple of women’s clothing, showing off to the community women’s value.

A Peace Corps Exhibit at Gallaudet University

The webpage for "Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers," which debuted at The Gallaudet University Museum.

The webpage for “Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers,” which debuted at The Gallaudet University Museum.

In October 2011, Gallaudet University Museum opened an exhibition centered on the experiences of deaf Peace Corps volunteers.  “Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers” incorporates photographs and objects to tell the stories of returned deaf volunteers.  Volunteers’ experiences abroad span from 1967 to 2011 and the countries of service include various locations including Ghana, Kenya, Ecuador, Zambia, Nepal, and the Philippines.  Using volunteers’ artifacts and personal experiences, the exhibit discusses issues relevant to society’s perception of the deaf, accessing education, and international relations.

To learn more about the experiences of deaf Peace Corps Volunteers, visit the exhibition located in the Weyerhaeuser Family Gallery and Exhibition Hall of the I. King Jordan Student Academic Center.