Monday, April 12, 2010

Steady as She Goes

Hello Friends and Family,

It has already been two weeks since my last post, which really amazes me. Things have been very steady around CKS. Shubhra returned a few days ago from a week or so of training villagers and other NGOs in disaster preparedness. One of the places she went was the Sundarbans, which if you remember is where Loren and I went to visit and evaluate another NGO. It is on the Bay of Bengal, and it very lush and tropical. It is where Cyclone Aila wreaked the most havoc during it's short tour of West Bengal.

Anyway, spoken English classes are still going well. There are officially nine registered students in the 7:30AM class, and five in the 7:00PM class. There's so much to learn from these young people; I really enjoy it. Being a student over the years, teaching always appeared to be quite the challenge. Only now am I becoming aware of just a few of the realities of teaching. It really pushes me to be on my toes, and to be attentive to each student - their level of comprehension, speaking ability, listening ability, etc.

This is the white board for April 8th, as you can see. Pretty simple stuff, but fun to work with when trying to put together grammatically correct sentences.

Besides that, I've completed the process of digitizing (photographing, editing with software, storing) an administrative atlas of West Bengal. It contains detailed maps about each district in the state, and code numbers (like zip codes) for each village in the districts. India's address system has some similarities to ours, but for the most part is quite different. The next task, which is completely separate from the atlas, is to create a map of Bolpur using googlemaps. All you have to do is have decent photo editing software and access to the internet. I am taking screen shots of google maps, pasting to my document, aligning the map tiles, and repeating the process. It's pretty fun, actually. The finished product will be printed as a big poster-map and put on a wall somewhere in CKS. It will be helpful for volunteers and interns who are trying to get their bearings. We will be able to put tacks in it and mark important areas of Bolpur. I hope to make one of Edmonds this summer. Also, I will start working on a calender for CKS soon.

So, things are steady spaghetti. Andrew is the other volunteer with me now, and is really a great person. He is very intelligent, focused, funny, prayerful, and easy to get along with.

Shubhra is hard at work preparing for her next round of trainings in a different state (Bihar, I think).

Andrew and I were invited to Mr. Pandit's again. He is the man who binds books for us. One of Andrews projects is to build upon CKS' current library by printing out published documents about disaster management, and have them bound into books. On April 11th, we went to his house for tea, noodles, and just plain old hanging out. It was really nice. His family and neighbors are so warm and welcoming.

Mr. and Mrs. Pandit

In the foreground is their little boy, and behind him is the neighbor girl.

The woman, older boy, and girl are neighbors. They all live in a building that is connected and forms their two living areas. I wouldn't really call them neighbors, come to think of it. They're more like housemates.

The whole bunch after sharing photos, drinking tea, and eating some noodles.


I've been running a few miles every other day in the early early morning, and it has forced me to think about how blessed I am. So many of the people I see at 5:30AM have already began their daily efforts to earn a living - tractor drivers hauling sand and laborers heading for a day of construction, tea stall owners pouring their sugar, milk and tea into kettles above mud stoves, farmers laying their paddy (rice plant) onto the road to dry - all this going on as I expend so much energy for the sake of fitness and health. I'm blessed to have the economic and personal freedom not only go running in the morning, but to even be able to even think about fitness and health. By blessed, I by no means am saying I deserve any of it. To quote Clint Eastwood in one of my Dad's favorite movies, "deserve's got nothin' to do with it". It has much more to do with our country's position in global politics and international trade - and our government's willingness to exploit just about any and every situation to maintain that position (never shying away from subterfuge or outright brutality to keep that 'free market' rolling). But to the billion plus people out there dragging their bodies around in their daily labors for the sake of filling their stomachs or the stomachs of their children (one time a day), what a foreign concept running for exercise must be. At the very same time, the people I described above, who we in America would consider destitute, are able to laugh and find goodness and light in the midst of so many hardships. This is not to play down the significance of their struggles, fears, and suffers - horrendous circumstances beset the poor in India - I am only trying to make the point that life without so much is still very much worth living and that there's much to discover in it. If it came down to a choice, I'd rather be economically and materialistically destitute than spiritually destitute. We should not be defined by our possessions. Of course, to apply this maxim to my life would unveil plenty of moral failings. I have more than enough food for me on the table, I have more clothing than I need, my family helps me so much with money, I have a cell phone, and so on. I hope, at least, to further explore these thoughts and be guided by whatever truths I discover.

Anyway, I'm sure you have all heard similar rants, but the subject of poverty has been on my mind over the past few years and more so lately for obvious reasons.

I love you, and thanks for listening to my blabber.




  1. Jeff, you are blessing to all those whom you meet and help.

  2. Jeff - thank you for sharing your insight. It is so healthy for us back at home to read.