Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Settling into a Pattern

June 23, 2008

Today was our second venture into the community here in Mumbai. I felt much more prepared for the experience, having already been exposed to similar environments on Friday during our STCI home visits.

It has not gotten easier for me to see the living conditions in the slums here in India, but I do feel that I have become accustomed to it. On our first day here, Mr. Mundra drew a distinction between observation and judgment. Over the past week here, I think that one of my personal achievements has been developing the ability to look at something without drawing premature conclusions about it. That has definitely served me well as we have ventured into the community, where we are usually greeted with friendliness, but where we also have to be prepared for animosity and wariness on the part of community members who see us as outsiders. It helps to go in without assumptions, as Mr. Mundra said: observing, but not judging.

Our assignment this afternoon, given to us by Akanksha, was to take two hours in the community to complete a kind of scavenger hunt in small groups. Our goals were experiences, not tangible objects-- things like finding the cheapest oranges in the community, faking an ailment and visiting a doctor, using a public toilet, and finding the oldest person in the community. My group was able to complete most of the tasks fairly quickly, so we spent the remainder of our time interacting with community members, even visiting some of their houses.

I never cease to be surprised by the generosity of these people. When we visited the homes of STCI students last Friday, their parents were very welcoming to us, but part of me wondered if they only were so open and inviting because they had already known we were coming. I now know that this is not the case; on many occasions today, I was invited with open arms into a stranger’s house (a stranger who did not expect me), where I was offered food, told stories, and allowed to play with the family’s kids. This kindness always surprises and touches me. That I should be shown such patience and consideration, when it would be easier (and completely justifiable) to greet me with anger or disdain, is a rare and meaningful thing.

On a side note, I think it is getting hard for a lot of us PA kids—many of us are battling sicknesses, allergies, sleep deprivation, and the difficulties of dietary adjustment. On top of it all, we are 8,000 miles away from home and are no longer running off adrenaline. We’ve settled into a pattern here and are slowly but surely beginning to realize how very over our heads much of this experience is. I think it will take a lot of perseverance for us to continue to get as much out of this trip as we possibly can, but I have no doubts that we all have it in us. We’ve proven it again and again already, and I can only believe it will get better. Our willingness to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into yet another challenging and nervewracking experience today was again an example of the drive and strong character of each and every person on this trip that makes me honored to share this experience with them.



HeyShaLaNeyNo said...

Jet lag can make you feel sick even when you're perfectly healthy, so take care guys and get enough rest to enjoy your experience.

amy said...

Hey Anabel, the judging vs observing thing is such a great life lesson. Thanks for the Blog and keep posting them, eh?
Much love, Amy (Griffin)