Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Activity Week Part 2

The 50 children were fun at first, but I will confess that it got somewhat oppressive to be surrounded at all times by a large mob of people who possess a whole different perspective on “personal space,” firing questions at you in a language you don’t understand, and trying very hard to clamber into your tent with you. Fortunately, they were ultimately more interested in our kids, who were closer to their own age, than boring, stuffy old chaperones.

So what exactly were we doing in the village for a week? Apart from providing ceaseless entertainment for the villagers with our strange ways, of course. Take the process of water purification. We would fill up a large jug with water from a local spigot, and then I would carefully measure in the appropriate number of drops of iodine from a small syringe, cursing under my breath as the iodine came out in uncontrolled spurts rather than sedate drops. This is not normal village-folk behavior and they found the process fascinating.

But anyways, my pre-departure initial impression of our trip to the village was that it was to be a service project. We would go to the village and help them construct a school, building up the moral character of our students and giving the villagers a hand. I realized quickly that this wasn’t really the case. For one thing, it became immediately apparent that the villagers really didn’t need our help. We 18 visitors could probably accomplish in 3 hours what 4 dedicated villagers could do in 2. The week was much more about giving the kids a chance to experience a different form of Indian culture than they were used to. The vast majority of Woodstock students come from the well-off portion of the population—they have to to be able to afford private school. Therefore very few of our kids had ever experienced anything like village life and this was a great eye-opening experience for them.

The cultural exchange took several forms. First, there was the school construction. We did go down to pitch in on the construction site a couple times (again, much to the amusement of the on-looking villagers) and were mainly used for grunt labor, moving things. Our first day we moved a large pile of dirt/stone/rubble and this activity gave us all a first-hand taste of construction in the third world. In America, the task would have been accomplished in a few minutes with a bulldozer. We had two shovels, a broken pickaxe, three metal saucers, and several “stretchers” made of burlap bags slung between wooden poles. But in India, people-power is what’s available, not the latest technology, and they make the most of it. We formed an assembly line of diggers, stretcher-loaders, and haulers and make fairly decent progress. And the kids actually enjoyed the opportunity for physical labor, I think. There’s something very satisfying about leaning back after a hard job, massaging your sore lower back and thinking “I’ve accomplished something today. The dirt pile is no more.”

To be continued…


At 2:00 AM, Blogger Preya said...

Oh my, I remember activity week. I went to Gaumukh (sp?) and I remember the taste of iodine-infused water very clearly!


Post a Comment

<< Home