Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Annual Enrichment Seminar for English Teaching Assistant’s in South and Central Asia

One great perk about working abroad is the endless possibility of trips to and from amazing places. On the first week of December, The Fulbright Commission/U.S. Department of State flew us ETAs to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend the annual Enrichment Seminar hosted for Fulbright English Teaching Assistant’s (ETA's) in the South and Central Asia regions. This seminar lasted from 3rd to the 6th of December. Traveling to Nepal was a remarkable experience. The weather was much cooler than in India. Not surprisingly, we were placed in a top notch hotel called Hotel Manaslu. For the duration of this seminar, our schedule was packed!

Our Schedule:

December 2, 2012
At the opening ceremony,
Susan Parker Burns (left; U.S. Embassy in Nepal) 
and Sue Borja (right; U.S. Department of State)
12:00 - 5:00 pm Arrivals and Registration
6:00 - 9:00 pm Dinner

December 3, 2012
7:00 - 8:30 am Breakfast
8:30 - 9:30 am Opening Ceremony
9:30 - 10:00 am Tea Break
10:00 - 11:30 am Session I: “Meeting Challenges” - Teaching English as a Second Language

11:30 - 12:30 pm Lunch
**Throughout the week, Sue Borja, a representative from U.S. Dept of State, met with the ETAs from each country to discuss their experiences and any concerns.
12:30 - 3:15 pm Session II: Panel Presentation: The ETA Program across the Region

ETAs in Kazakstan
**The ETAs presented on our experiences in our respective cities/countries and schools. Considering the great differences between the cities in India, New Delhi, Madurai, and Kolkata ETAs presented separately. 

      12:30 - 12:45 pm Nepal (Gorkha)
      12:45 - 1:00 pm Nepal (Lalitpur)
      1:00 - 1:15 pm India (Delhi)
      1:15 - 1:30 pm India (Kolkata)
      1:30 - 1:45 pm India (Madurai)
      1:45 - 2:00 pm Bangladesh
ETAs in New Delhi, India
      2:00 - 2:15 pm Sri Lanka
      2:15 - 2:30 pm Kazakhstan
      2:30 - 2:45 pm Tajikistan
      2:45 - 3:00 pm Kyrgyzstan

3:15 - 3:30 pm Tea Break
3:30 - 6:00 pm Session III: ETA Group Activity
6:00 - 9:00 pm Welcome Reception and Dinner

Ian & Ayumi (ETAs in Nepal) present on "Lyrics and Language:
Utilizing Song to Encourage Spoken English

December 4, 2012
7:00 - 8:30 am Breakfast
9:00 - 10:30 am Session IV: ETAs Share Teaching Experiences and Tips
10:30 - 10:45 am Tea Break
10:45 - 12:15 pm Session V: ETAs Share Teaching Experiences &  Tips

12:15 - 1:15 pm Lunch 
1:15 - 4:00 pm Session VI: “Overcoming Obstacles and Having Fun”
6:00 - 9:00 pm Dinner

(left) Fay, ETA in Kolkata, India gives a presentation on "Breaking Barriers to Access: Inclusive and Human Rights Education"

(right) I also represented Kolkata, India and gave a video presentation on a movie I made with my 6th graders: "Our Dream For Our School

December 5, 2012
7:00 - 8:30 am Breakfast
8:30 - 11:00 am Session VII: “Best Practices: Going Beyond the Curriculum”  
Christine Stone from the Kathmandu International Study Center  presents in Session VII--she was wonderful!
 11:30 - 5:30 pm   AFTERNOON FREE
*OPTION 1: Hike from Telkot to Changu Narayan. (Packed lunches will be made available)
 OPTION 2: Visit Lalitpur ETA placements. (Lunch at Godavari Village Resort)
      *--I chose to participate in this activity     
Myself and Maisoon (ETA in Bangladesh) before the hike
And the hiking begins!

I am so Extra!

Such beautiful scenery in Kathmandu, Nepal

We head back to our next destination...
At the entrance of an old temple, I saw this sign
Ancient and beautiful

7:00-9:00 pm Dinner at Tukche Thakali Kitchen
Traditional Nepali dish...hmm so good!!
December 6, 2012
7:00 - 9:00 am Breakfast
9:00 - 10:30 am Session VIII: “Co-teaching: Problems and Practices”
10:30 – 10:45 am Tea break
10:45 - 12:15 pm Session IX: Beyond Being an ETA: Future Career Possibilities
12:15 - 1:15 pm Lunch
1:30- 5:30 pm  AFTERNOON FREE
OPTION 1: Kathmandu Durbar Square - Swayambhunath Tour.
*OPTION 2: Pashupati - Boudanath Stupa Tour.
      *--I chose to participate in this activity

On this trip, we first went to the Pashupati Temple, which is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River. The temple itself is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Near the Pashupatinath Temple, we walked alongside the Bagmati River. Similar to how Varanasi is the holiest city in India, is considered a holy river both by Hindus and Buddhists living in Nepal. The Bagmati is also important because it is the only river Hindus in Nepal deem as holy enough to cremate.  Fortunately for us all the cremations are public and we were able to witness a cremation. 
According to the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati river before cremation. The chief mourner (usually the first son) who lights the funeral pyre must take a holy river-water bath immediately after cremation. Many relatives who join the funeral procession also take a bath in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation. The Bagmati River is considered to purify the people spiritually.

Bagmati River
'Chief mourner' of that family dips the deceased body in the river
Family members now saying their last goodbyes (via giving flowers) before the deceased gets cremated
After being dipped and the farewells, the men of the deceased place the deceased on this structure to be cremated.
This is not the same individual being cremated..this person was cremated right next to the person above.
Beautiful structure alongside the Bagmati rive (opposite to where people are cremated)

Another place we visited was the Boudhanath stupa. The Boudhanath Stupa is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Nepal. Considering the influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet living in Nepal, there has been over 50 Tibetan Monasteries including the Boudhanath in Nepal. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

a shop selling traditional Tibetan wear for women
6:30-9:00 pm Farewell Reception
I decided to wear a sari (traditional Indian dress--same one from Teacher's Day in Sep.) to the reception
Traditional Nepali performance--very cool!!
Their facial expressions and the dance tell a story of the Nepali people back then
Me and my Program Advisor, Sumanta--the best boss ever!!
9:00- Onwards ETAs relocate to a club nearby to party & celebrate my 23rd birthday (I was born on 12/7)

December 7, 2012---IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!!
7:00 -8:30 am Breakfast
9:00 – 1:00 pm   Departures to Airport from Hotel
**Thanks to God, India ETAs got to stay an extra day because there were not flights to India on 12/7 :)

That only meant more shopping and sightseeing!!!
Mexican food in Nepal!--who would have thought?
Lol, 'Wal-Mart' in Nepal?
All over the streets we saw prayer flags--so beautiful

Later that night, I had a nice birthday dinner with the India ETAs at a pizza restaurant called Fire and Ice (there's only 2 worldwide--India & Nepal). The Kolkata ETAs were so sweet and surprised me with a birthday dessert. I <3 them!!

All in all, I much enjoyed the annual Enrichment Seminar. I loved meeting the ETAs from the other regions and learning about their experiences as well as challenges they've had while teaching English and living in their respective countries. I also appreciated the presentations performed because they offered great ideas to help my students. Aside from the great information and networking, I loved the sightseeing trips. Of them all, the Boudhanath stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, was my favorite!!

Now, back to the good ol' India.

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