Roosters crowing children growing, got big plans but dirty pants, with kids to teach life is sweet!

What Am I Doing?

The length of the week here varies dramatically.

Things slow down considerably when you first arrive. Most likely because you aren’t checking your email every 15 minutes and there is no RSS news feed to bait you at the dinner table. You walk everywhere rather than drive, and even though your meeting is at 2:00 p.m., at 2:15 you know you’ve still got a few minutes to spare.

After a few days of sleeping at odd hours and unpacking into your home away, the moments speed up. There’s so much to be done – and much of what needs to be done will only keep you moving forward into more tasks and projects…. For instance admissions – while arguably essential – they only put us farther behind from an educational standpoint.

And then, without preamble, you’re sitting in the school office explaining that you’ll be gone in three weeks, meaning you’ll only be there for the first five days of real school. And you want to cry. Because, like with anyone you truly love, it could never be enough time.

After much Nepali/English calendar confusion, Libby, Tope, and I have come to this conclusion. The fact is my time is almost up, and there is so much I want to do.

It’s not that I’ve been lazing around. I and the other volunteers have been concerned with the small details that will help Kopila continue to develop as a school.

Jake figured out a great system for hanging charts and student work in the classrooms that is both cost effective and weather resistant. I’ve been cataloging the school library using software that will allow me to remotely view the library’s holdings so that I can recommend new acquisitions and, most importantly, help our teachers learn how to use literature in the classroom.

Caitlin is continuing our efforts to recycle and provide the school with much needed organizational supplies like pencil holders and book ends.

We’re continuing our computer training for the teachers. Migrating lesson plans to a digital format and teaching them how to use internet resources will hopefully save them precious time in the long run, and make teaching more interesting.

Tope and I chose canvas for the dust covers we’re putting in the library and the office. Dirt is a constant issue here, especially for electronics like copiers and computers. We’re also hoping they’ll make things easier for our house and school staff which work 16 hrs + everyday to keep the school in running order.

Libby and I are giving administrative and facilities management responsibilities to our oldest students. But that is a system in itself which requires oversight and planning. Wen haven’t quite figured out that piece yet.

All these things seem simple, quick, not a problem – but they take time here. And while small, we hope that they’ll foster the attitude of care and innovation which is so essential to the success of a project like this. We know we can’t stay forever, so we’re doing our best to create an environment which supports our teachers so they can continue to grow as educators. They’ll have to do the majority of the hardest work – the day to day – on their own. We’re here to help them discover the tools that will help them create their best work yet.

We’re trying to transform workers on assembly lines into artisans in studios. With string and job charts.

Photos from our teacher resource fair, 2 weeks ago:


A Sprouting Bean

If you follow Maggie and Blinknow, you know that Namraj is a handful. Not being a talker hasn’t stopped him from letting you know exactly what he wants by pointing, scowling, whining, screaming, and – if necessary – delivering a pint-sized dose of Kung Fu with his mini-me Bruce Lee feet and hands.

I get along well with kids in general, but babies don’t take to me very quickly. It isn’t just Namraj who avoids my company. Monica doesn’t care for me to even looking at her, baby Madan ran from me every time I saw him during my last stay, and there were a few nursery class applicants this year who preferred anyone but me interview them.
So I’m not offended by Namraj’s wiley ways.

The fact remains however that Maggie is on sabbatical, Kusum and Ubji are visiting family in India, and the rest of us are really busy! In Nepal it really does take a village to raise a child, so Libby (who just came down with a stomach bug) has been leading the effort to change the baby’s picky ways and force him to like and accept all of us – weird white people included.

Last week he spent 45 minutes pacing up and down the third floor hallway and Libby’s room screaming bloody murder because she wanted him to play on his own and practice walking (he’s not as sure-footed as he could be, because everyone wants to hold him. He truly suffers from being so cute…I digress…) You would have thought she was barbecuing his toes. He banged on Kusum’s door hoping she would rescue him. He walked to the front balcony and wailed for help. We followed close behind as he climbed the stairs to the roof where he plopped down and screamed to the heavens for mercy. Finally he wore himself out and Libby was able to take him downstairs swaddled on her back.

Caitlin and I are the last adult frontiers. I don’t know if it’s because we’re so white, or Caitlin’s so tall, maybe my nose is too big…whatever it is, he just doesn’t approve. Today Gyanu had been with him all morning and had things of her own to do. I found her in the hallway trying to give the baby to Tope. He looked so tired and worn out from driving twice in three days to the Indian border that I just grabbed the baby for a guerilla-style daycare adventure.

He wasn’t too bad. In fact, he was kind of good. Just as he was drifting off to sleep, the lunch gong rang, and he woke up. He let me carry him all the way to the school for our meal. We shared a plate of vegetables and dhaal bhat. He listened to me when I said no to him bothering the other aunties and didis while they were eating. Washed his face and nose – no major issues. Checked his diaper – no drama. Carrying him back to the house and up to the third floor – happy as a clam. He fussed a little when he realized there was no one else around, but after telling him to be quiet and sleep – he did just that.

And now he’s sleeping on my bed – like a little lima bean, storing up energy for its next growth spurt. Kudos to Libby – her sink or swim approach is turning this quasi-neurotic baby into a healthy, well-balanced toddler.

If you really study his face for a few moments you'll see the potential for mischief that lurks inside....

All’s well….

Hi guys! I’m sitting with Maya right now. She has a really brightly colored, silky kind of suit on. It’s a kind of floral print korta with electric purple jam pants. Fitting.

I’ve talked non stop about the kids and staff at Kopila to my friends and family at home. I’m sure over the past few weeks Brendan has wished there was something besides Sabita’s angelic smile or Nabin’s nonstop enthusiasm for me to talk about. But with my trip fast approaching it’s been hard not to think about all the perfect little people that live at Kopila, and what it would be like to see them again. Would they remember me? If they did, would it be fondly? It’s hard for me to imagine that they could really care much when there are 40+ other people to love on each one of them.

When I arrived the first person that I locked eyes with was Maya. I pounded on the glass and waved like a crazy person, and started opening the door before the car had stopped. And she had this huge Maya smile – a little bit crazy, a whole lot heart. You know she was the first kid I met when I came to Kopila last summer.

So now here she is telling me she wants to write on the blog. She offers to spell my name for me on the blog: “L – I – S – A yeah?” She’s been practicing but Marshall is still a hang up – it’s too much like the Nepali name Magar.

I ask her about her day…how was school, what did she do…was it fun…

Teacher nice teacher reading.

Oh? What about?

A doggy.

That’s nice. What happened?

The dog in fight.


Yeah, and there was a lot of blood. On his back.

Hmm. That’s strange. I don’t remember curating any dog fight stories for the school library….

So what else happened?

Well, the dog was dirty dirty dirty. From all the blood. But then at the end he was happy dog, and washing. Not dirty. No blood.

I’m really confused. Could there possibly be a story like this that a teacher would choose to read to kindergarten?

…But at the end the dog was happy and they had a happy birthday and they played ball.

Ok, Maya’s just telling me a story now…

She looks at me, and at the computer, and she crawls into my lap and sets her nose a half inch from mine –

“I love Maggie and Libby and Lisa and Karen and Giselle and Jake and Nina and Suzy and Anthony and Lexie. You write!”

All’s well that ends well.

Here’s to a little crazy and a whole lot of heart.


Little (BIG) Surprise

BIG thanks to Michael, Kelly, and Erik from California for their AWESOME donation! They’ve answered our call for used laptops for teachers in Nepal by donating three wonderful machines – one of which is a OLPC machine!!!

OLPC stands for One Laptop Per Child. This organization has created a rugged laptop with *satellite* internet access and features designed for rural and remote areas. Their mission is to connect children no matter where they are to the rest of the world and educational opportunities. It is SUCH an amazing gift to be able to see just how the laptop works and what the future implications at Kopila might be.

At the risk of being dramatic – I want to again extend gratitude to everyone who has donated – THANK YOU! It is hard to explain how difficult it is to get technology into remote areas like Surkhet, and at the same time how essential it is to providing QUALITY education to the community.

For instance – buying, hand carrying, and paying the baggage fees for books is so expensive, almost prohibitively so. Having laptops makes it easy for us to project a book on the screen and teach a meaningful lesson using free Kindle for PC software. We can essentially create a “class set” of books where previously there wasn’t a single one. These go WAY beyond checking email or reading the news. They will save Kopila thousands of dollars and they will fundamentally change us for the better.

So, to all of you, from Kopila, Maggie, me, and the universe – we thank you for your greatness of heart. It does not go unnoticed.

It’s So Fluffy! (In a square, metal clad kind of way…)

Say what? If you haven’t seen Despicable Me, let me bring you up to speed…

That’s how I felt when this arrived:

Not fluffy - just AWESOME!

YES!!! It’s one of the first donated laptops to arrive. Katherine Walther Hodges, a friend from high school, sent us this perfect Acer. Of course my photog skills leave a lot to be desired, but you get the idea.

Response to the laptop drive has been great. We’re collecting comps from law offices, home offices, friends, neighbors, schools, and – last but not least – Maggie’s tweeps.

All told I think right now we’ve blown my original goal out of the water with …. wait for it…. drum roll….

10 Laptops!


We’re well on our way to having a laptop for each teacher.  Once we’ve got that we’ll be working toward a computer lab for the kids.


I bet we could fill that lab by the end of February .

What do you think?  Can you help us?  T-13 days and counting!

contact me – lisareneemarshall <at> gmail – to donate 🙂

Laptop Drive Update

Our little impromptu laptop drive is gaining momentum. I want to share a little something I just read that sums up how important this technology is to us:


“You see what a difference it makes when kids get the tools that enable them to learn, and you never forget it.”

– Mark Foster

former VP of engineering @ One Laptop Per Child


The same goes for our teachers. They need the tools that enable them to teach – plain and simple.

– Lisa

Laptop Love

Do you have an old laptop in your office closet collecting dust? Maybe you’re a techie and you have various parts of laptops lying around that just need to be assembled? Or maybe you know someone who has what we’re looking for…laptops for teachers in Nepal!

The new year is in full gear here in Dallas. I’m busy planning for my return to Kopila Valley Primary School at the beginning of March. More than anything I have been focusing on education and enrichment for our teachers. A major part of this effort is improving computer literacy. To be effective teachers they need to be self sufficient with things like word processing, browsing the web, and using email.

To do this we need more laptops. I’m hoping to find 3 or 4 used laptops to take with me, so that I can work in small groups with the teachers.

As Maggie would say, “Say YES! to this worthwhile effort.” Ask your boss, ask your grandson, ask your schools! I KNOW there are some discarded and lonely, probably dusty, laptops out there who would love to be loved by a *very* appreciative teacher!

You can email me at lisareneemarshall [at] gmail. Now is the perfect time to donate because we have several volunteers from all over the place headed to Kopila. Chances are we are in you area and more than happy to trade you a “data dinosaur” for a tax deductible donation receipt!

Danyaabad ~


Kopila Valley Faculty and Lisa in the new school office

Dear Kopila,

The past few months have been tough in a lot of ways. School is eating my lunch. I moved into a new (cheaper – yes!) apartment two months ago and it’s only half unpacked. I did laundry for the first time in a month this past weekend. (I’m not wearing dirty underwear – I just have And I’ve been a lousy friend, sister, daughter. I don’t return phone calls or texts or emails or Facebook messages. I purposefully let my phone run out of battery for days at a time. I just feel overwhelmed.

But the toughest thing has been being away from you, from all of you. I miss everyone so much. More than I thought was possible. Seeing pictures of Bishal a head taller than when I left, or Maya reading books I bought in New York, or Hikmat taking a photography lesson – it fills my heart and breaks it at the same time. I just want to be there with you.

When people ask what the summer was like I can’t eke out much more than “it was great,” because I cry like a crazy person if I tell stories. I purposefully avoid the blinknow blog because that makes me cry too! I mean – I am a crier, I think I’ve admitted to that before – but really – it’s so annoying.

I realized the other day that I’ve gotten used to being able to eat whatever I want whenever I want – and I don’t like it. I’ve let the water run while I brush my teeth – AND waited for it to get really hot before getting in the shower. I’ve gotten pissy and cynical about education in America, and forgotten that if every kid could have a tenth of what we have here…well, let me just say Arrrghhh!

Why am I not spending those moments thinking of ways we can make that a reality, instead of muttering to myself about the Texas State Board of Education’s revisionist history agenda?

I’ve been absent because I wanted to try to stay focused on school so I could finish before I die of old age – thank goodness Maggie doesn’t have a degree either – she can appreciate my stunted educational pedigree – absent because I felt overwhelmed by the pressure to continue working for the teachers at Kopila while I was here in Dallas (failed miserably in that in case you were wondering – like I said, I can’t even keep my laundry clean) – and absent because I just didn’t what to see what I was missing at Kopila.

But then I started accepting the fact that it was practically November! There were only 6 weeks of instruction left in the semester and then I could dedicate my time and energy to the Kopila curriculum. I could enjoy hearing my cell phone’s “Mom” ring tone, and stop picking up shifts at the library. I could go running!

What I needed to do was get back into the swing of things and adopt a can do attitude, so that when December 11th rolled around, I’d ready to knock my lesson plan socks off!

So – sulking and kvetching aside…today I changed my MO. I’ve answered Maggie’s repeated requests for a Skype convo. I’ve begun working on scholarship/grant applications for my spring and summer travel expenses. I’m updating the blog! And I talked to my sister Laura, even though I was probably not helpful.

What got me going again was Kopila. The NYT Magazine piece which featured our beloved Maggie, catching up on the blog, and visiting Gail and Erin’s Kickstarter page…. It all made me realize how lame I was being, and how I had turned away from the things that would inspire and sustain me more than anything else. How silly was I? Turns out what I’ve been hiding from all semester was actually what I should have been leaning on from the moment I got back.

Isn’t it so like us to think we know exactly what we’re doing – only to be shown we couldn’t have been farther from the truth?

Your long lost and humbled friend,


Allergic to Dallas

Hello everyone! I am alive – just trying to get back into the swing of things here in the US and as of Monday, Dallas, my city of semi-permanent residence.

School starts next week and I’ve been making some last minute changes to my schedule. Spent a few days in New York visiting good friends and buying books for the school! 😀 😀 😀 never had so much fun swiping a credit card.

I woke up yesterday morning with inexplicable hives. Dr. Frank – where are you when I need you? Been taking anti-histamines and using some cortisone cream – but I just think it’s weird to come all the way back from Nepal to have an allergic reaction to…laundry detergent? dogs? American culture?

I want everyone to know that this isn’t it for Arambha. I have devised some masterful ways of working for Kopila from afar, including writing an official curriculum for the school! and preparing for a return trip in March.

So please don’t delete me from your RSS feeds or your favorites bookmark – you haven’t heard the last of me.



This Is Your Chance – Yeah I Mean You!!!

Ok guys, we’re now entering phase 2. I left Surkhet this morning in a teary blur of flowers, tikha, and sweets gifted to me by the fabulous children of Kopila Valley Primary School.

And now I am in Kathmandu winding up an afternoon of book-buying at Pilgrim’s Book House with a nice cup of green tea.

But here’s the thing: I’ve already run through half of the book budget given. We’ve done well – at an average of $2.71 per book I’ve amassed dictionaries, question/answer books, and level appropriate reading material.

But we need to do more! We need class sets of chapter books and thesauruses! Poetry anthologies! Art books for all our recycling materials! Who knows when this opportunity will arise again. I’m here in KTM for the next three days, with the ability to buy quality literature that will be shipped back to Surkhet for free! Why stop at $100? (about 40 books).

I’d like everyone to consider donating $5, $10, $50, or more to KVCHS’s budding library. We have one book shelf at the school currently, and half of it is filled with 8th grade grammar workbooks (no offense to sentence diagraming of course.) Let’s make it ten, twenty, thirty shelves filled with Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Eric Carle, and Tommy dePaola! I want Orr to have to come back and build a fourth building for the library alone.

Our kids have 30 minutes of library/free reading 3 days a week, plus reading time every day in English. If we don’t grow the library now, the kids will run out of material in 30 school days. We are going to be using innovative software that allows us to have a system for checking out books to children without actually having a librarian, and without internet access. What does that mean? We’ll be the only library around for a 100 miles or more by my guesstimation. If you want a children’s book in Surkhet or its surrounding villages, we’re the only option. And most importantly, we will be delivering, DAILY, the gift of reading to 212 children AND their families. This is how change happens. Now all we need are more books!

Here’s what a few dollars can do for us:

$5 = a pair of how-to craft books for our Friday enrichment classes

$10 = an illustrated dictionary for 4th grade

$50 = a class set of James and the Giant Peach (20 books)

Many of you follow Maggie’s site and have generously donated money to this worthwhile effort. Thank you thank you thank you for getting the ball rolling. Now we need everyone else’s help to keep up the momentum.

If you can spare a few dollars, please consider sending it our way. It will go so far and make a difference for so many kids.

Click here to help us now!

A smattering of what I've bought so far...

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