Week Two Round Up

Namaste. Out in Pokhora the days are long but the weeks are short. It’s come around quickly but we are more than halfway through the programme and pressing on hard to next week’s competitions. The students have made leaps and bounds in the areas of style, argumentation, confidence, manners, general English and variety of ideas. Although a few strikes have kept some students away and had some arrive late on the school bus, many of the more quiet girls are engaging in classes and the boisterous boys have swapped the popular activity of wacking each other around the head with their books for the more refined attack of a well timed point of information, often inexplicably delivered in the form of a statement followed with the question, “so what about it?!”

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The after school club is in full swing with over 50 students sticking around yesterday to refine their debating skills after a long day of learning despite that fact that some had a two hour walk home ahead of them. Inspired by a bizarre coach journey we have been trialing motions which reflect the issues we had to ponder on during the last 7 hour trip from Nepal’s capital to Pokhora, where Sachin, Bobby, Olivia and I are stationed this week. An incident involving my being woken up at a petrol station stop off by the squawking of an adorable baby owl (which was subsequently picked up by a local and thrown at me for a reason I don’t ever expect to know) gave rise to ‘This house would stop investing in the protection of endangered species’ where the issues of animal welfare state and citizen responsibility cropped up amongst other things. A man precariously having a smoke whilst fumbling arouund the car bonnet at the same station prompted the motion, ‘This house would ban smoking’ and a series of strange going ons – including a European tourist brazenly and unapologetically requesting that a local woman move to the back of the bus so that he may have a seat at the front, followed by our bus being stopped by a bunch of tribal dancers possibly threatening to curse us via the mode of dance if we did not comply with some unspoken demands – gave rise to the motion used in the after school club: ‘This house believes Westernisation has been harmful to Nepal.’

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Yesterday, in my group, the proposition generally waxed lyrical on the western influence causing social problems through cigarettes, drugs, and materialism, giving rise to crime and alcohol whilst the Nepali culture fades into the shadow of Western 2 inch skirts which show “important organs, organs which should be protected, organs nobody wants to see.” The opposition artfully rebutted many of these points and argued that westernisation brings with it gender equality and new technologies, so Nepali people do not have to adopt the negative aspects of the western world and can choose to practice whichever culture they so wish. They mentioned that it is not desirable to retain all aspects of their national identity: for instance the cultural practice of ‘untouchability’ being removed by westernisation was argued to only be a good thing. Although this was a strong argument, the opposition failed to knock down the proposition case that although not under compulsion to be negatively influenced, “human nature overrides choice” and westernisation has caused serious damage to Nepal.

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Today my classes focused on style. Having had it drilled in to them that a good speech shows not only why your team is correct through the good use of PEEL, but why the opposing team is wrong using rebuttal and POI’s, we moved on to some of the more refined aspects of debating. The students loved the more novel games including one suggested by Olivia where we went outside and stood in a huge circle (leaving the bamboo classrooms being excitement in itself) where one person would walk up to another and say ‘Honey, I love you. Won’t you give me a smile?’ The chosen victim having the aim of responding straight faced, ‘I love you too, but I just can’t smile’ a game which seemed beyond impossible at first to the giggling students. After a few rounds some impressive stony faces began to arise, causing the smile seeker to take drastic measures in attempting to shock the objects of their love into smiling. The students learn the skill of getting a desired response through the use of style and being able to adapt their chosen style if it doesn’t seek to work. I am definitely looking forward to seeing these new skills in action next week as the competition begins.