I hope everyone is holding strong through this monsoon season. I wanted to fill you guys in on my past journey to the state of Goa. Because there is a lot to be said, I am splitting the blog into two: the work/experience and then the people.
In the last few weeks, I was privileged to attend LAHI’s biannual training for its instructors and school partners. The training itself lasted 5 days but we left 2 days in advance to get everything prepared.
Our journey to Goa was an experience in itself. We traveled by car with our trusty driver, Anup. Between speeding highway traffic, dirt roads and drizzling rain, Anup made the ride quite comfortable. The sights were beautiful; we drove around mountains, saw a glimpse India’s tropics and sped by cows. The 12-hour journey flew by as we talked about international politics, Hindu spirituality/culture, and Indian cuisine. I also received some informal classes on Marathi…it was respectable effort.
[Notice how the cow is unamused by its companion.]
When we finally reached the town in Goa for the training, I felt like I was in the jungle. Goa is what you can call a state in the tropics. This means that through sheer, hard work, and perhaps some insane persistence, people managed to tame the land that they squatted. It is quite obvious that Goa was once a thriving and vibrant jungle. In many ways, it still is. However, people have somehow managed to place roads, houses and other necessary institutions besides trees, wildlife and majestic beaches.
I have to be honest: I was not prepared for this. I packed my bag for what I heard was a tourist’s paradise: cheap fish and great weather. I was told that Goa is paradise- known for its only-on-TV beaches and its unparalleled nightlife. North Goa, that is.
I was in South Goa. I was well aware that I would not going visit the many tourist attractions. But I was not told that each night I would have cows, frogs, crickets, bats, monkeys, crabs and some other unidentified creatures keep me company every night. In short, it was an unusually fun adjustment.
[To your left, you see resilience. To your right, you see a pack of cows relaxing… in the hallway of the school.]
The training itself was an amazing experience. As an intern, I have spent a lot of time learning about what happens “on the ground” or when LAHI and its partners actually interact with students. Finally, I got to experience it! Throughout the week, I saw the hands-on education students receive through our Introduction to Basic Technology (IBT) Program.
The practicals- what we call the hands-on exercises- were not easy.
A little bit of background, the IBT program is broken down into four components: Engineering, Electricity & Envirinment, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, and Home & Health. All of these have more or less 8 practicals dedicated to their implementation in the daily life of students.
I learned how solder metals together, cut lemons, build a stool, build a blackboard, make cookies WITHOUT an oven (let’s just say, it involved cooking sand, top right), knit, wire the electricity for a room and construct different irrigation systems. The fact that kids come out of the program knowing all of these things- and more- boggles the mind. My preconceived notions of what an “education” can look like have been utterly shattered.
Surprisingly, the exercise that I found to be most challenging was knitting. Through algorithms and pure creative genius, someone thousands of years mastered this art…that took me days to learn.
In short, through this experience, I have been humbled to re-learn another reality about humans: working and changing our environment can be beautiful, balanced and sustainable. Something as simple as sowing seeds on the ground can possess something truly telling and fascinating about our evolution. In developed countries like the United States, we overlook how empowered we are as human beings. Our survival, our existence can be peaceful and mindful of Mother Nature. We simply need to look to the Earth to realize it.
On to the next one,