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Published: October 4th 2015
A golden shawl, blown from the shoulders of a woman on the back of a passing motorcycle, draped across a bush by the hand of an unseen artist.
On my first day teaching creative writing at Kathmandu University, I gave my students the following homework assignment. "Pick a color. Take a walk. Every time you see that color, write a sentence about what you see. The point of the exercise is to heighten your visual awareness, and then to translate what you see into words. Does everybody understand the assignment?" I asked. Nobody said a word, so I rephrased the question. "Is there anything about the assignment that you don't understand?" Still, no answer.
My practice is to do every assignment myself. So that afternoon I took a walk through KU Chowk, the small village that has sprung up along the road that leads to the university. I chose the color yellow, and using my cell phone cam, snapped a picture of everything I saw that was yellow.
I sat down and wrote a sentence for every picture and the next day went back to my class, looking forward to hearing what my students had written. Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered that not one of them had understood the assignment. One or two wrote a paragraph
Smiling trash bag
In a heap of trash, a yellow plastic bag smiles brightly.
of something they'd seen in their chosen color. The rest just blew it off altogether. During the break, I asked them to go take a walk and come back with some sentences. Once again, nobody got it. That's when I knew I'd have my work cut out for me teaching creative writing in Nepal.
Here are my sentences along with the pictures I took on my walk. There's a haiku-like quality to the writing that comes out of this exercise. For me, it's like writing one sentence poems. Hope you enjoy them.
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