Kent State professor taught during recent revolution in Nepal

Jackie Valley

Prof. Starzyk and his wife, Celeste, standing in front of an 18th century Royal Raplace in Nepal. PHOTOS COURTESTY OF PROF. STARZYK

Credit: Steve Schirra

“It was not a boring year.”

That is how English Professor Lawrence Starzyk describes his time spent in what he calls his second home, Nepal.

Last spring, accompanied by his wife and 15-year-old daughter, Starzyk traveled to Nepal as part of the Fulbright Program, a program sponsored by the

U. S. Dept. of State to fund American professors and students who wish to teach or study in foreign countries.

“One of the main rationales of the program is to try to share American values but not to proselytize,” Starzyk said.

Starzyk, who has taught at Kent State for 38 years, became interested in participating in the program 15 years ago when he and his wife spent a month in Nepal adopting their daughter. His wife now helps place Nepalese children with American couples.

His teachings at Kathmandu University were interrupted when revolution broke out in Nepal in April.

The revolutions came in the wake of political instability in the third world country, which is ravaged with poverty and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, Starzyk said.

About five years ago, Dipendra was the crown prince of Nepal, angry that his mother disapproved of his relationship with a commoner, committed a royal massacre and he killed nine members of the royal family, including his mother and father, who were the king and queen. The government labeled the prince’s death four days later as a suicide, and his uncle, Gyanendra, rose to power.

Two years ago, King Gyanendra told Nepal’s prime minister to clean up the corruption in the government and quell the terrorism in rural Nepal by the Maoist faction. When the prime minister failed to do so, the king threw him in jail, essentially creating a dictatorship.

Unhappy that the king did not fulfill his promise to solve the problems plaguing Nepal, the people began to protest last spring and the revolution began, Starzyk said.

“I keep thinking that if Shakespeare wrote a play about this, no one would believe it,” Starzyk said. “It is just bizarre.”

“During these revolutions, we were forced to sit at home,” Starzyk said. “We did a lot of e-mailing to our friends here, reading and spent time in our garden.”

Despite the conflicts, Starzyk never felt threatened by whom he calls the “lovely people” of the country.

The students in his Romantic Poetry class in Nepal gave him a gold-plated Buddha statue costing about $150 — equal to about one month’s salary for each student.

“I still get e-mails from that class,” Starzyk said. “I still keep in touch with many people there.”

Starzyk’s return to the United States was bittersweet.

“In one way, it was time to go because things start annoying you,” Starzyk said. “When you’re used to a certain kind of living, you want to go home, but we no sooner got home when we wanted to go back.”

Starzyk said he doubts that will be his last trip to Nepal. He and his wife are thinking about buying a home in Nepal after they retire.

In the meantime, he is grateful for his experiences there.

“Every trip I make there makes me think about the kind of values and freedoms we have here,” he said. “We take it for granted here.”

Contact news correspondent Jackie Valley at [email protected].