Archive for May, 2011
Leaving Dharamsala was hard. The workshops at TCV were very special. The situation in Tibet coupled with the beauty and warmth of these kids was indeed a magical and blessed experience. But it was time to go, and so we packed up and hit the road. It was me and Heather, plus our newest compadre Jeff, also from SF, and our recently found friend Mia from Norway. Six hours out of Himachal Pradesh and into Punjab we arrived in Amritsar. Amristar is home to the holiest of Sikh religious sites, Hari Mandir Sahib, aka the Golden Temple…and seeing as this is one of the most beautiful buildings in India, we wanted to stay close to it. In doing so, you must position yourself in a low “automobile” zone, where bicycle rickshaws, motorcycles and pedestrians dominate the streets. Some how the sounds of horns blaring and mad congestion is never ending on most streets around the temple. We settled into a reasonable hotel and got situated. The plan for Amritsar was to again partner with Pratham and visit Pratham schools. So Jeff and I met with the Pratham district coordinator Navjeet and the regional government coordinator Aman to discuss the project and create a plan for visiting schools. In Pujab, Pratham and the state government are working hand in hand to address the issues of child literacy and improving the quality of education for all government schools. A plan was made and we were all set to visit 3 schools over the next three days, on Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. I am always a bit excited and nervous when a plan is set: where are the schools going to be, how far are we going to have to drive, what are the kids going to be like, how many kids are we going to work with, will there be a space to effectively host the group, will we be well received, etc etc. But once a plan is made, you just have to step back and trust everything will work out for the best. This is one key lesson on this trip. Trust. Let go of control and trust that someone else will handle everything for you. And you know what….it always gets handled and for that I am grateful. So on Tuesday morning our pal Aman, Regional Coordinator for Pujabi Education dept. met us at the hotel at 830am. Our buddy Navjeet, Pratham District coordinator for Amritsar, was in his car on the outskirts of the Golden Temple inner sanctum no-drive zone. So we walked to find him. Streets over-flowing with people even at this early hour of the day. The first school we were going to visit was about 10 minutes away. Jeff, Mia, Heather, Aman, Navjeet and I piled in to this four seater: three in front, three in back. We arrived with a warm welcome from the principal. Greeted with cold Pepsi, a gesture of respect and appreicition: offering the cold beverage, recently purchased showing “we bought this special, expensive drink to share with you, our special guest.” You drink it and enjoy. After a short explanation of the project to the principal, showing her peace cards and photos, we spoke about the quality of education in this school, and the population of socio-economically challenged students they served. It was apparent that lots of love and care was being taken with this population of young people and the principal, her right hand man, and a couple other teachers were expressing their excitement to have us present for this Peace Exchange workshop. The group of students, classes 6-12 were gathered in the multi-purpose hall awaiting our arrival. Chair lined the stage and a glass table was there for us to sit behind. I always find this moment an awkward one…to come into an auditorium of kids and be up on the stage, above them, then with chairs while they are seated on the floor. I often am the last on to sit, walking among and in front of them, making eye contact and saying hello. I like to make that warm connection with the students before talking to them. Usually, I will be requested to sit three of four times before I do. So I took my seat and allowed my friend Aman to explain the project and who we were and why we were there. Remember, let go of control. All will flow.