Saturday, 20 August 2011

The End.. Or is it?

Flying over my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario I looked down at the streets to a sight I hadn't seen in two months. Little traffic, straight and wide roads, houses aligned with large pools in many backyards, everything was so aligned and organized, just like our culture. This made me start thinking about what I had written in an earlier post.. the traffic reflecting the Indian culture. I wasn't sure if I was ready to step back in to the culture I knew. People following similar paths, in a similar order, repeating routines, and staying Aligned.
My last two weeks in India were spent with my toes in the sand, my hands on mountain rocks, and my heart with the children who never stopped smiling. The sessions with the children continued with some stop and go's, but I will never forget my very last day with the children. Not everyone I wished to see showed up that day, but I didn't need to see their faces to feel their goodbyes. This was the first day that we gave the children an opportunity to be actors in their own skits. I couldn't stop smiling as I watched them perform with so much personality and character. I couldn't decide if I felt like a very proud teacher or a student who was learning. Probably both. A little more then a week before that day I had the same feeling when we spent the session drawing pictures with the kids. I still remember how perfect that moment with them felt because it had been raining earlier that day which usually cancels the sessions, but when the time came for the session we were all sitting in the sun. At the end of session during the feedback I listened more closely then I ever have in my life when they were telling us what they had been learning from us. How it was important to keep the environment and the park clean because this is where they play and do activities, how they know that we come to do sessions with them to teach them how to be when their older, how they can learn English from reading our lips and watching our movements, and how they were thankful that we brought all of the materials for them to draw and colour. All of these moments are what brought about my tears and more tears when I said my last goodbyes. They tried to wipe them away and give us hugs, but what else can this do but bring out more tears!
During my last few weekends, I went from a hot and dry desert to the non-stop rain of the monsoon mountains. If you ever have the chance to experience a camel safari, please, please do this. In Jaisalmer we spent a day and a half riding on the backs of camels, sitting under a tree surrounded by heat and our desire for a cold glass of anything, and climbing up sand dunes to a view of the setting sun. There is so much that I've said I'll never forget about India.. but this is REALLY something that I can't forget. Waking up in the morning after hardly sleeping because of the wind that swept up sand and blew it in our hair and ears to the rising sun. Sitting on top of a sand dune watching the sun, no words.
So my story started with a decision that no one can be sure about. It's true that India ate all of my money and rent may be a little bit of a problem this year, but I feel better then I ever have before. To be honest, as I sit here with all of these things surrounding me that I didn't have in India, I feel like I had more in a place that seems to have less. But really, what someone HAS isn't anything material. Everything I took from India is in my heart. All of the friends I made will be with me no matter where I am and all of the kids will have the smile that I gave them. All I'm able to do now is Smile.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Reason

In the past two weeks I've experienced and witnessed moments of pure joy, compassion, and love. It's hard to describe the feeling of sitting amongst eight hundred underprivileged children jumping, shouting, and dancing in unison to a group of dedicated students. Five events travelling around schools, giving children the opportunity to express creativity and individuality, lead AIESEC of Delhi University to this one final event. I was extremely proud to be involved with this part of India. The people who see that change is necessary and don't waiver in that ideal until they see an impact made. Around eight hundred kids could look at the students who have only just come out of being kids themselves and start to pave a new direction.
As an intern of Project Udaan, which stands for giving Wings to the children, we have been working closely with about twenty to thirty children depending on the day. We were so happy to see "our kids" participating in this final event with such energy and enthusiasm. When the music came on they jumped through the crowd and onto the stage trying to bring us with them. Didi, sister and Buya, brother.. our new names.
The sessions have been a challenge. The fact that we are foreign to their culture leaves us a step behind the knowledge that might give us more direction. In the first few days of being with them, their energy and our inability to control them pushed us down. We slowly recuperated our control but being in a developping country leads to setbacks in all directions. The kids would show up to the session at different times, trickling in as jobs or parents would allow them. We really needed to keep a record of the children but each day the group would grow or shrink. Our lack of Hindi separated us from getting to know them as much as we would like, but they never stopped smiling or trying to get our attention. Translators weren't always present so the setbacks continued. Without a proper venue, we've been working in a fenced in grassyard. I've been calling these setbacks.. but being in India they are not setbacks, these are challenges that we must accept.
We've seen boys hitting and punching eachother, boys hitting girls, children crying, children throwing stones, climbing trees, smoking, and yelling.. yesterday we had to leave the session early because their behaviour was unexpectedly aggressive, but the good in them shines through far more then this behaviour.
In times when everything is in order and all of the children are paying attention it's obvious that they are enjoying themselves. Each day we choose two captains of the day who had shown leadership skills and who are responsible for leading the group out of the yard. Each day we also try to get their feedback about the lessons they had learnt and what they enjoyed. Some days when I hear them speak about how nice it was to work as a team with eachother or how they understood that they shouldn't cheat in a game because it isn't fair or that they just liked everything we did that day, it's truly rewarding.
Some of the children have really stood out to me, showing caring and honest characters. Some moments have also stuck with me. Yesterday there was a goat walking around in the yard (it's not uncommon) and it's legs were tied with a string so it couldn't walk properly. In the past I've seen children throwing things at animals or hitting them, but yesterday the kids worked together to untaggle it's legs. On the second day sitting in groups we asked the children a few questions about their lifestyles and their personalities. We asked the children of our group what they were afraid of and a few boys answered God. When I asked why they said because when they die God will punish them by hitting them and slapping them, taught by their religion. Another day when we were naming the captains a small boy named Useer was named captain and you could see the pride as he stood in front of the group. A few boys shared with everyone that they were happy that we chose him as captain.
It's always hard to watch the kids show up in the same outfits everyday, a little dirtier then the day before. Or to see the scarrs on some of their legs that start from the knee and go down to their ankle, it's obvious that they weren't able to recieve stitches or proper care. Some days a few of the children seem tired or sad, being present but not actually present in the moment with the group. Learning about their potential and their individuality is a huge part of our project, but at times when I see how happy they are to be with us I would gladly drop the rest to be with them for longer. Such a short amount of days here left, I just hope that I can fit them all in my suitcase.