The Scavenger Hunt and Rural Mapping
When assigned these activities this morning, my group and I immediately began brainstorming how we could not only get as much out of the experience as possible, but how to best communicate our processes and positively influence those that we interacted with. Even after hyping the day and setting our bar high early, I was pleasantly surprised at how impactful this experience was for us.
Basically, the requirements of the assignment served as a spark to our day. They helped push us into situations that we might not have otherwise experienced, ones that I would not trade for the world…
First, we had the chance to interview the head nurse at a local medical facility today. After taking us back to the delivery room, in which we were asked to remove our shoes, we quickly moved from a somewhat scripted exchange to an open dialogue about the troubles that the facility faces. We took a picture with her, and what really stuck with me was how interested and appreciative she was in receiving a copy of the picture.
Second, we entered a government services villa just as a CPM (Communist Party of Marxism) sit-in protest was happening. They were fighting the new cap on subsidized gasoline, as well as what they considered as other government faux pas. After interviewing one of the journalists covering the protest, we were asked to sit \with the group and were told that it was going to be on the evening news.
Lastly, on our quick walk back to the van, we ran head-on into a cultural activist “parade,” which consisted of a few hundred 8-13 year old Indian children showing their support for preserving languages and traditions. Immediately upon spotting us, the very passionate leader grabbed our hands, yelled “Americans!” and had us help lead! Different news crews were documenting the event, and the leader taught us the phrase to yell in order to yield a response from the hundreds of participants behind us! We were told that we would be on the news again.
Keeping this short in order to not ramble, I will say one thing about the afternoon: though more relaxed in excitement, the connections and experience were just as impactful. Our interviews and physical mapping allowed us to meet people in a more intimate setting, join primary school sessions and join community members in their homes for discussions. We were welcomed with smiles, interest and compassion from every single person in the village of Vempadu this afternoon. It was extremely touching.
What I Loved
The part that really sank in today was the Indian hospitality. We were informed, pre-trip, that Indians will invite you into their homes and give you food that they can barely, or sometimes can’t, afford. We were told that everyone would want to meet us and talk. No part of this was exaggerated. Every time I shot a smile at someone, they burst into a genuine smile and asked my name and how my trip to India has been so far. I’ve shaken probably between 150-200 hands with school children thrilled to meet an American.
The part that I have loved the most is the smile and warmth reciprocation. Though I consider myself a -warm and compassionate person, I feel as if my self-processing body language comes across as closed off. SO I have been putting much effort into smiling at everyone that I meet eyes with. This has benefited my experience with individuals and as a whole more than I could have ever dreamed.
Beyond the much discussed hurdle of lost communication through translation, I encountered one noticeable challenge. I am a social person, juxtaposed with my instinct to observe situations around me. This has always caused an inner conflict, to learn through watching or jumping in. I have been trying really hard to balance this, aiming for 20% observation and 80% action.
I need to make more time for myself to process what is going on around me. The problem here though, is that being in India is such a special experience that I do not want to sit and miss anything. At the same time, taking time to completely soak up and process my experiences will help them stick while they are fresh, helping me draw meaningful and lasting takeaways from this trip. It’s a classic quality vs. quantity. I’m hoping I can talk myself into sitting in quality’s corner.