Scavenger hunt, or the benefits of experiential learning

The team, accompanied by the Byrraju staff, spent the morning in Bhimavaram City and the afternoon in a nearby village.

I’m a firm believer in experiential learning to anchor theoretical knowledge; a big shocker since I’m India. One of our required readings, Out of Poverty by Paul Polak, offers 12 “practical solutions to poverty” which include:

  1. Go to where the action is.
  2. Talk to people who have the problem and listen to what they have to say.

Sounds a lot like experiential learning, doesn’t it?

In my opening post, I talked about perceptual lenses and the importance of being mindful of them. Despite that awareness and the intent to be watchful, it took being out in the field to realize I was still looking through the the lens of my own context.

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One of our survey questions was “If you were to dream of a much better life, what would that life look like?” I found the scale of dreams in the responses to be surprisingly small compared to what I realized later that I had been expecting. The rikshawala (rikshaw driver) we spoke to, for example, didn’t want to do anything else but keep pulling rikshaw for the rest of his life. Another person who had a water buffalo that produced income-generating milk, would have liked another water buffalo.

Try as I might, I could not get away from my own cultural context, expectations and assumptions. Perhaps it’s a function of the lifetime exposure to the halo effect of the American Dream. The underlying question I’ll be thinking about in the days to come is who decides whether the dreams expressed by these people are either appropriate or self-limiting?

Go For Launch – at last…

… I am underway!

Sitting in Portland International Airport on a clear Saturday morning, the sun just peeking through the clouds, I am elated. I made it; I’m going to India!

A good friend of mine has a great way of acknowledging and overcoming complex situations with one deft line: “there are a lot of moving parts here”. For a non-US citizen applying for an entry visa to India while residing in the US, the parts were many, and they moved in ways I didn’t know existed.

I didn’t know if I’d get there at all, let alone get there on time. Fortunately it all worked out and while I will arrive a couple days late, I will arrive. It helped a lot to focus on my Circle of Influence, knowing what I can control and what I can’t. I can plot my course and keep my sails trimmed right, keep a keen eye out and adjust when I need to, but at the end of the day there are so many other factors at play beyond my Circle of Influence that help to get me to my intended destination.

I think the whole ‘pre-adventure’ has set me up well for this voyage to India. It makes life more uncertain, but all the more wondrous as well. I’m cool with that.

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Setting sail for India, across the mighty Pacific Ocean to immerse myself in a civilization 100 times older than New Zealand, my home. We travel light, but no orc-hunting today!

We all have our reasons…

With only four days left to the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and preparations winding down, I have a million things on my mind… finals to survive, projects at work to hand off, friends/family to see before I go, etc. But there is one thing I’ve made an effort to always keep in mind no matter how hectic things get. Why am I doing this?

The answer? My family. My interest in social enterprise stems from my genuine gratitude for the foundation my parents provided throughout my childhood and for their continued support today. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for all they’ve done. I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters a few years ago in an effort to help a child who has been less fortunate in her family life. I hope to someday utilize social enterprise to assist underprivileged kids and to strengthen family units because of the impacts strong family ties have had on every facet of my life.

Anyone who really knows me knows that my parents and two brothers are my world. And as hard as it will be to miss the holidays at home, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to further explore India beyond the program. And my family’s support has been fantastic. Within 24 hours of one another, I received two incredibly thoughtful gift packages: one from my brother and one from my mom. All of the items were amazing and greatly appreciated, but two items were particularly meaningful: a moleskin journal with hand-written notes from my brother and a suitcase Christmas ornament from my mom with ‘India 2012’ written on it.

Travelin' Gifts from the fam
Travelin’ Gifts from the fam

My family led me to where I am today as I’m about to embark on this adventure, and their support solidifies that I made the right decision to grab this opportunity. I can’t wait to embrace it with this incredible group of fellow travelers.

And so, I’ll leave you with the ‘Travelin’ Proverb’ written in my journal:

“May your walkin’ sandals carry you to new places, new experiences and new understandings without so much as a single blister or stubbed toe.” – A wise Dan once said, Dec. ’12

-Kate-