Hi Everyone! I'm so sorry for taking this long to post. We have limited access to the internet, and for some reason blogspot hasn't been working for me. So, I hope this post is successful.
It is 10:31pm on January 22nd. Loren, the other intern from Seattle U, and I have been here since the early morning of January 13th. We're definitely settling in well, and getting a hang of Bolpur, which is where we will be until late March.
So, backing up a bit. I'm a super senior at Seattle University. A few other students and I have been given the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the International Development Internship Program (IDIP), which is a program run by Seattle University that sends students to various countries to intern in the development field. In our case, development refers to the strengthening of key sectors such health care, agriculture, education, government administration, and in my case disaster management.
As it turns out, Loren and I have been sent to India for our internship. We are working with Puthumai A. Nazarene, who plays a unique and dynamic role in the administration of disaster management in the Indian State of West Bengal. He is the lead coordinator of the State Inter-Agency Group (SAIG), which links and organizes a multitude of non-profits and NGO's who work for the welfare of those struggling in India. This includes large multinationals like World Wildlife Fund, CARE, and UNICEF, as well as local grassroots agencies. Puthumai is a mover and a shaker to say the least. He has a shining heart, absolute committment to serving those in desperate need, deep faith, and wonderful humor and energy. It is a blessing to have the chance to interact with him. In addition, another beautiful soul has been by our side since we've been here. Puthumai's colleague, Shubhra, is our other 'Local Guardian'. She is leading the charge on Puthumai's latest endeavor. He is starting an NGO called the Center for Knowledge and Skills (CKS), which is in response to the great need to increase the capabilities of the non-profits he interacts with through SAIG.
The house CKS is now located in is the house Loren and I will be remaining in for the duration of the internship. Up until the last few days, we were in a hotel waiting for the purchase of the house to be finalized. So, it is freshly ours and we're excited to help CKS get off the ground.
So far, it's been all positive. Loren and I have meshed very well together. It seems like a lot of our habits are similar, as well as our senses of humor. We've been good partners in exploring Bolpur, the small city of 60,000 or so that we are living in. It's been a great adventure diving into the language, customs, food, neighborhoods, and people. We stick out like a few sore thumbs here. Although it is a college town, with Visva Bharati University and a few other technical colleges, we haven't seen very many westerners around. The smiles and laughs can be a bit discouraging from time to time, but it's simply a reality that we look and dress differently. Anyway, it is all made up for by the beautiful people we are getting to know. Shubhra's (Mom, Dad, two younger sisters and their husbands) have already made us one of their own. They are all so kind to us, and it is like always having a comfy wark blanket to know how much we are cared for here. Puthumai is also checking in on us very frequently. If he isn't able to come see us, he will call us and exchange a few updates and kind words. It's great. We're loved. Thanks God.
As far as our work goes, things are just now getting off the ground. Loren and I have moved into the house, which is great. We are dealing with a few minor details before getting going on the library for CKS. Our laser printer needs paper for us to print masses of published documents about disaster risk reduction or rural development. One of my projects is to rally international students from the schools around the area in the hopes of holding regular gatherings. It would provide a nice forum for exchaning ideas and impressions regarding studying in India, and would allow me to facilitate a dialogue about using education for bettering the world and being committed to service. Also, I hope to gain ideas from them to put together in a manual designed specifically for international interns like me who would be coming to CKS to volunteer for a few months.
Shifting gears - Bolpur is a famous city in India. It is home to Rabindranath Tagore's famous school called Visva Bharati University. He was an intellectual, a leader during India's push for independance, a social progressive, a nobel prize winner, and had a profound impact on India's education system. During that time period, there were many ideas floating around in Indian intellectual circles about how to break from the British institutionalized education system. Although many had ideas, including Ghandi, Tagore went the extra step by founding and nurturing his own school. It has growng and thrived in the light of his personal philosophy and myriad literature works. He is very revered around here, and it is amazing to be witness such a historied area that I previously would only have read about. India's past is so much more real after only being here for nine days.
Ok, this hasn't even touched the surface of what we've been doing. There are many good stories to share, none of which I will delve too deep into at this moment. Just to give you a taste - riding the trains, meeting locals, giving a speech to a bus load of students and being treated like a rock star afterward, eating lots of different and delicous foods with our (right) hand, mosquitos, a festival for the goddess of education, using an Asian toilet, puppies!, learning Bengali, cooking, catching a ride home at 11p.m. with Raj on his motorcycle after hanging out at his clothing retail shop.
Ok, much more to come! I really hope this post will be successful. Blessings to you all! For all you other IDIPers, keep posting and know that Loren and I are with you. I love you all.