Some seek enlightment in moutains. Others, wisdom of the hills. There are those too, who wander aimlessly, turning stones into gems, a woolen thread into a quick profit elsewhere.
Having been asked to design an online course and teach it to students in Nepal, my search was necessarily different. I came to Nepal to meet my students and in the process, learn more about this strip of land which was so far removed from my daily motions. I came to capture voices, to trace knowledge I had opened the gates to, hoping that there would be a trickle down effect. There were puzzles I needed to put together, an attempt to make sense of questions which haunted me during my online teaching. Who were these students? What were their underlying motivations to take the course offered and how did these differ from my own intentions?
Perhaps it is the online tutor who, not knowing well a specific culture, becomes the missing link. All challenges of understanding seek missing links; of points of references, of meaning, of making sense. It is this bridging of meaning, of making sense that made me come to Nepal. If culture may be regarded as an onion to be peeled away and understood (Hall, E.T., 1976), I boarded the plane to Katmandu blinded by writings of those in ivory towers, I too sheltered, enclosed in the calm of cleanliness and order of bookmarks and libraries.
In my world, I talk passionately about online/digital education. I discuss the benefits, the reasons, the need for pedagogical models. My world is connected, streamlined, regular access to electricity is taken for granted, blips in internet access, a mild frustration.
The world of hills is different. Wisdom dictates patience, wisdom demands tenacity to survive.
In my world, I look out towards four wall classrooms, which with time, will portray work done by students. There are windows of sunlight, laptops, projectors. There is connection.
The world of hills struggles in obtaining the official school books; often students will only receive their school books at the end of the academic year.
I look out towards those windows of mist and hope. Each broken desk, each crooked chair, a plea of hope, a ray of determination. Education will not be denied. Education will continue despite all.
The wisdom of hills invades my being. These classrooms are alive with desire, with will-power,clinging tenaciously to educational aspirations as the rice paddies huddle and cling to their hilly environments.
Hall, E.T., 1976, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, Double-Day