Learning to Write

It’s the little things here that get me.

Rooftop drying, which is a luxury, and the fact that my clothes can now dry in one day and they won’t get moldy and stiff while drying over the course of three days like on my old lines. And less dusty. The less time they’re up there, the less dusty they are when they come off.

And sitting in a café and getting a really good bowl of vegetable soup for lunch. Then staying for a few hours while studying Nepali and watching the sun set over the city.

The sky gets dark, and the lights come on, and it’s beautiful. Because it is almost Tihar, the festival of lights, all of the buildings are strung with twinkly lights and there are lanterns hanging over the street in Thamel. It feels like Christmas time, it looks like Christmas time, but it is still seventy degrees out.

It is starting to cool down a bit here, which means that I can pull out my knit socks I bought at one of the stores here, and wrap up in a Yak shawl with some tea! Of course, cool down means 65-70 degrees still, but the house isn’t that insulated, so it tends to feel colder.

So I am starting to learn to read and write in Nepali script! Well, the actual name for the script is devanagari, and it’s the same writing system that languages like Hindi and Sanskrit use. It’s quite difficult, because there are 36 letters, not including vowels, many of which we don’t have in English.

Practice at writing out the alphabet
Practice at writing out the alphabet

There is a difference between Ta, Tha, Ta, and Tha, which I am still struggling to pronounce, and letters like Ksha and Ng, which we don’t have.

The way words are written is a little similar to Hebrew: first the consonants, and then the vowels are added. Unless another vowel is added after the consonant then the understanding is that it retains the “ah” at the end of the letter. After that the vowels are added, either next to the letter, in the form of a line with a curve on the top (in the case of “ee” and “oh”), or under or above the letter (like in the case of “eh” and “oo”).

Isu wrote out the alphabet for me (and spent a painstakingly long time trying to get me to pronounce Ta, Tha, Ta and Tha correctly), and now I’m practicing writing words and sentences in Nepali and copying them in Nepali script. Then Isu comes in and corrects them.

My homework last night (from Isu) was a simple daily schedule.
My homework last night (from Isu) was a simple daily schedule.

I’m starting to slowly get faster at reading, but reading the caligraphy on signs is hard! They squish the letters in weird ways which makes it hard to recognize, as a beginner.

There are a lot of little things I still don’t think of. A short “n”, (think of the “n” in “change”) literally has the letter cut in half in the word. Other short letters (like a short “r” or “m”) might appear as a dash in the middle of the previous letter, or as a swoop above another letter, above the line (like the one at the top of the “om” symbol).

I am currently helping to put together progress reports and a corresponding presentation on the progress of one of the projects, called the PAST (Prevention Against Sexual exploitation and Trafficking) project. It is interesting doing this, because it gives me insight into not only the projects and activities that the NGO works on, but also how they see them relating.

All of the activities have a point of working towards the main goal (the mission of the NGO is “women and girls free of forced prostitution”), so whether that be a meeting between the owners of the dance bars and massage parlors and the women who work there, or lessons on labor laws, or even putting together a taekwondo team, all of the little parts they see as adding up towards the greater whole.

Other than that is has been pretty quiet, what with the festival season, and everyone coming back from vacation. The NGO will be closed again at the beginning of next week for Tihar, and after that the entire city will be back and bustling again.

Until then I am enjoying the  (relative) quiet of a city that seems to have not quite filled up again, and the lights that are being strung around every house, store, and restaurant. The holidays are beautiful, even thousands of miles away from home.

Avocado with salt and chili powder for a snack!

3 thoughts on “Learning to Write”

  1. Wonderful essay on learning Tibetan! You are so open to everything. Keep cooking; you’ll have a real contribution to make.

  2. The devanagari looks so complicated (from my western and not linguistically talented) perspective and I’m so impressed that you’re plunging into learning to read and write while tackling all your other projects. The PAST work is so incredibly important, and I’m glad they have your skills and passion to move it forward.

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