BERKLEY, June 16: Martha Cain was putting first things first on Tuesday as school wrapped up at Berkley High for the year - compiling grades and consulting with students. But there was an air of excitement about what was to come next for the social studies teacher.
Cain, of Royal Oak, along with 12 other educators from Michigan, was to leave on Friday for Nepal, where they will spend the next month as Fulbright scholars, learning and teaching during the trip.
And she hadn´t even started to pack.
“I´m very excited, but I´ve been so preoccupied with getting things done, end of the year (school) business,” she said.
Cain will be joined by Royal Oak teacher Steven Chisnell and Walled Lake Northern High teacher Daniel Carlson. Cain said that she and Carlson attended Berkley High together as students.
The Fulbright Scholarship Program is an educational exchange initiated by Sen J William Fulbright in 1946.
Cain wasn´t notified about her selection until the end of April, which is a good thing, she says, leaving little time for worry.
“It´s going to be an amazing experience,” she said. “It´s another culture, and we´ll be learning in a way few individuals have an opportunity to see.”
The word adventure creeps repeatedly into Cain´s narrative, perhaps reflecting her life-long quest for travel and learning.
Originally trained as a social worker, Cain returned to school and became certified to teach history.
“It´s been challenging, almost an adventure,” she said.
Student Steve Grogan, 15, is glad Cain switched. “She makes it so much better,” he said of the history class.
That she should become a teacher was natural for Cain, whose parents are both teachers.
“Every family vacation had some educational component,” she said. That was true whether the trip was to Greenfield Village or to Gettysburg, she said.
“It sparked a natural curiosity. Social work and history are a natural fit. They´re both about people,” she added.
So when Cain got an e-mail about the Fulbright exchange trip for educators to Nepal, “it sounded like an amazing opportunity,” she said.
And a perfect fit, since the program - “Nepal in the Contemporary World” - included a history teaching requirement.
Cain describes her role as an ambassador that will take her from Delhi to Kathmandu. “It is an honor and a privilege,” she said.
And an adventure, she admits.
A outdoors enthusiast who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, Cain will have her eyes glued to the airplane window upon landing in Nepal. The country has eight of the 10 tallest peaks in the world.
“Sometimes you can see Everest (upon landing),” she said. “That would be phenomenal.”
Mt Ripley, which she has climbed in New Hampshire, is “night and day” to Everest, she said when asked if she´d like to try climbing it. “It´s a bunny hill versus an Olympic slalom.”
The scholars won´t have a lot of free time, she said, with lectures in the morning, an activity in the afternoon and an evening lecture or group discussion.
Two weeks of the trip will be spent with a host family in the country, which is the only country with Hindu as a state-sponsored religion, she said. Cain was taking school T-shirts, as well as Tigers and Red Wings items, as gifts. Each traveler is allowed one 50-pound piece of luggage.
Cain knows there will be challenges. She said the group has been cautioned that electricity is intermittent, and to stay away from certain foods, like milk and cheese, and water.
“It will be an adventure,” she said.
It also will be another in a string of travel adventures for Cain, who travelled to the Soviet Union in 1988, when it was still under communist rule, and to Brazil as a student to complete the one credit she needed to graduate.
Financially speaking, Cain describes the Nepal trip as a “great deal” and expects to pay only about $1,000 for such expenses as immunizations and gifts for the hosts.
She received one shot for hepatitis A, four pills for typhus, two shots for hepatitis B and one for tetanus.
Fellow staff members have been supportive, she said, and Principal Dennis McDavid wrote a “fabulous letter of support” as part of her application.
When she returns July 13, Cain will move on to a seminar at Greenfield Village and then on to studying the selection of new textbooks in the fall.