There is a plan

A sabbath rest, Day -30

It’s just a month until my sabbatical starts. And I have a plan, a plan that is increasingly fraught with wishful thinking. Any “plan” to work in a developing country (Nepal is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world) has unexpected challenges and complications, more so in a worldwide pandemic.

My original plan was to teach communication theory to graduate students at Tribhuvan University, as well as other courses in media, communication behavior, and/or social media. The invitation also included consulting on the curriculum. But everything is unstable, even in stable times.

As far as journalism is concerned, Nepal has its challenges. Since the end of the monarchy in 2005, and the adoption of the constitution in 2009, Nepal has had 11 different prime ministers. While this instability has opened new channels of expression, centuries of government control has resulted in levels of control that make it difficult to find and write the news.

Journalism education in Nepal has even more challenges, including dated materials focused solely on print, inadequate relationships between the professional media outlets and the journalism programs, and substandard facilities. I’m hoping to work with my host, professor and program head Chaniranjibi Khada, on research related to media in Nepal and networking that promotes media freedom. I’ve read dozens of articles about journalism and journalism education in Nepal. I’m not an expert, but I’m not ignorant about it either. So I will go there and try to help.

Moonlight in Bhaktapur.

At least that was the plan when I wrote it up a year ago. Unfortunately, our my isn’t sure when classes will resume and the country is not providing VISA’s to foreigners. It’s nice to have a plan, though.

I had a few other expectations as well. I wanted to develop conversational language proficiency. Katie and I have been taking private lessons in Nepali for every several months. It is a complex language with a different alphabet and multiple endings for various verb and noun uses. We need to hear and speak it more, as we hope to spend more time there after I retire. And I need to have to use it to get better at it.

Another reason to go is because we have been and will be taking students to Nepal as part of a cross-cultural requirement at my university, so I want to make more contacts and explore new venues. We trekked for six days last time in January 2019, but there are so many other things to see and understand, so we can better help students appreciate the culture and the challenges.

That’s plan A. And nothing is completely off the table. When the country opens up again, we can go and do most of that, all except perhaps the teaching. If we get to go, I can definitely do curriculum consulting and research, as well as meet new people. I hope it works out.

The other thing I planned was writing. And blogging, so at least I’m doing that.

But my writing projects differ widely depending on whether I’m in Nepal or somewhere else. Next post, where else I might go and what I might write.

This is a series about my sabbatical in Spring 2021. The next post in this series will discuss plan B. If you are an academic, I’d love to hear about your sabbatical experiences, if any. And if you’re not, I’d love to try to answer any questions about my sabbatical, or about sabbaticals in general in future posts.

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