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A Universal Attitude MAG
Perhaps the small corner shops, empty corn fields, womenin saris and alien dialect were what led me to believe teenagers in Nepal weredifferent from those I had grown up knowing. Time, however, proved mewrong.
Last year my father received a grant to teach at Nepal's KathmanduUniversity. Thus, I spent my summer in a small town in Nepal where the morningswere quiet, the clothes were hung out to dry, men and women often went to work inthe corn fields, and kids wore uniforms to school.
One day, I took a walkto the local park where I witnessed a large group of teenagers engaged in avigorous game of soccer. I watched for a moment, marveling at each boy'seagerness to beat the other team. For an instant, the fervent attitudes resembleda rivalry of two American high school soccer teams on a fall evening. I smiledand wondered, for the first time that summer, if there was more these teenagersshared with my world than I'd thought.
During the next two months, I had achance to verify this notion. We sometimes visited teens of a neighboring family.They, too, had to do their homework; they made plans on Friday nights; they evenliked to sing and dance. On occasional trips to the city of Kathmandu, I grinnedas I saw boys saunter through the malls in cargo pants and brand-name shirts. Agroup of girls crowded into a clothing store, comparing jackets. These sightsreminded me of home.
The 16-year-old son of our neighbor had aninteresting job. He tended his father's store in the evening, with all sales andsupplies his responsibility. Although it was different from jobs most Americanteenagers have, his attitude was universal. He said he had better things to do,and gave his friends discounts. His sister often spoke of going to Kathmandubecause there was nothing to do in her small town. I thought of my friends'comparisons between our rural hometown and the city of Boston.
Wedidn't wear the same clothes or speak the same language, and we live on oppositesides of the world. As people, however, we have universal instincts. Like teensback home, Nepali teenagers enjoy a good song and a good joke. We all likeSaturday mornings and holidays. In some fundamental ways, Nepali teenagers arenot unlike those I know in the United States.
My Nepali neighbor was returningfrom school one afternoon after final exams. I stopped to ask if he was workingat the store that evening. He shrugged and said, "Yes, but it's not like Ihave any say in that." He paused and sighed. "I'm just glad my examsare over. I'm free!" he exclaimed, flinging his backpack over one shoulder.I watched as he disappeared down the dirt road. Perhaps our worlds are different,but our state of mind is the same.
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