Courtesy Reuters

The Rub of Cultures

The thoughts that I record here began to take shape three years ago in a small mountain town in Nepal where my trip was interrupted by a three-day festival to Laksmi. I had been walking for eight days and was to walk nearly twenty more without once meeting a wheeled vehicle or any other evidence of mechanized civilization. Through dense tropical forests of sal a hundred feet above sea level, up steep slopes thick with rhododendron trees, along great cedared ridges cool even in the sun at 12,000 feet, I had been traveling in the only way one can in Nepal, on foot trails that are sometimes deserted, sometimes thronged with heavily burdened men and women moving in unison, their baskets weighted with new potatoes or ghee. Occasionally the trail would thread a village animated with the play of naked brown-skinned children, with cheerful old men in woolen shawls and shy dark-eyed girls carrying jars of water from the well-an irregular patch of mud-colored houses on the gold of ripening rice paddies surrounding it. With all its beauty and poverty and its growing desire for new ways, in the familiar jargon of our time, this was the underdeveloped country.

I had been asked to go to Nepal in order to teach science and to introduce new methods and equipment to the science teachers there. Soon after my arrival, however, and before I had started my project, it became clear that this was not really wanted, at any rate not by the teachers who would be most affected by my work. Equipment would certainly be acceptable, but not new methods and certainly not any direct teaching. I soon became convinced that the objections were not directed at me personally nor at American assistance and yet ran very much deeper than mere misunderstanding of words. It was more a matter of the social structure of a Nepalese college, which does not permit a professor to admit that there is anything more for him to

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