MAILED: July 2, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- Imagine leaving the United States and moving to a Third World country where everything is different.
That's exactly what Patrick Rebman did when he volunteered for the Peace Corps to help people living in villages in Nepal with forest management.
"Nepal is nothing like here," said Rebman, who has been in Nepal for more than a year. "The culture is so different, our perspectives are so different. The toughest part is isolation and not having anyone who understands."
Rebman joined the Peace Corps just two months after he graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in December 1995 with a bachelor's degree in geography.
During three months of training, he learned the language, the culture and how to teach people his field. He was sworn into the Peace Corps for two years and is home visiting Eau Claire for a month.
He lives in a village of about 700 people, which is the only village in his district that has electricity, Rebman said. There are only two phones in the village, he said.
The people of Nepal have a hard time trying to conceptualize ideas like indoor plumbing or choosing your own spouse, Rebman said. They understand the words but have a hard time understanding what it means, he said.
"I kind of understand them, having lived with them, but they have no idea where I'm coming from," he said.
In Nepal, Rebman visits several small villages in his district and teaches people how to manage their forest and how to use it as a major source for things such as fuel and livestock, he said.
Rebman said he has a lot of extra time and has taught English in a school to grades three through seven. Often he answers cultural questions, he said.
He also set up a pen pal program with the older students with a school in California.
The women in Nepal cook over an open flame inside the house. Rebman said he taught the women how to make smokeless stoves out of mud and animal dung.
Living costs are low for Rebman. He receives an allowance of $7 a month for rent and $14 for food from the Peace Corps, which he says is plenty.
"It's been a personal growth experience," Rebman said. "I've become more patient, and learned what's important and not important."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 7, 1997