Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reflections from Shelby Lines


Travelling to India has been nothing like I expected. I've never travelled out of the country before and definitely had some anxiety about it, but India has relieved some of these feelings. India is so full of life. All of the colors, between the clothing, homes, murals on walls, are a beautiful site to see. The people of India are so kind and hard-working. I feel welcomed by anyone I have come in contact with and I don't always get that when I'm at home.
     We have seen many beautiful historic sites, such as the Taj Mahal, while learning about the culture's history. We have also been to a couple of colleges, Loyola and Stella Marris, where we learned about the school as well the students. We spoke to the students about what human rights and social justice issues they face in their culture and I was surprised to learn that a lot of their issues are similar to issues being faced at home. This includes transgender rights, women's rights, and many more.
     We were able to participate in a march with the Loyola students to protest women's harassment. I felt very connected with the students. We have also visited many non-profit organizations and learned about the work that people do for their communities including helping the disabled, poor, elderly, and those in need of medical assistance.
     One non-profit that stood out to me was Sevalaya where free education is provided to children in the many surrounding villages. Not only is the school for younger children, but there are also college program available as well. The children were full of joy for life and just seeing their smiles and curiosity and drive to learn warmed my heart. I was amazed at how much the students knew. We were counting with the lower kindergarten students and we stopped at twenty, but they kept going on their own.
     Sevalaya is doing great things for the lives of these children, as they are becoming ambitious, driven, and respectful members of their communities. They are receiving an education instead of working to support their families. It was also wonderful to me that if any of these students wanted to further their education that the school would pay for it. 
     We read a book called "The God of Small Things" before leaving for India. The book was based in India and shared the consequences of the caste system and how it affected the lives of one family very negatively. In comparison to this book where the caste system and human rights weren't met, by unjust treatment and oppression, I am seeing India as changed. I can not see consequences of the caste system just by observing others. One student at Stella Marris said that it is less apparent now and it is mostly common in rural areas.
     So far I am seeing activism grow for human rights. I am hearing stories from students that are making a change. One student from Loyola helped organize a protest that ended with 700,000 people. The instructor at Stella Marris, and other non-profit directors, have mentioned that the Caste system means nothing to them and they welcome all. With this attitude India will continue to change and the needs of people will flourish.
     I am very grateful to experience all of these things. I am feeling so inspired and motivated to make a difference at home, especially in the field of social work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reflections from Liz Rogers

Day5 (March 14th):

Up this very early morning for no other reason than to reflect. Words can't begin to express the thoughts and feelings that I have experienced here in India. My expectations and impressions from others were imprinted in my head. Some have remained the same, such as the smells, the trash everywhere and the poverty. What has changed are my thoughts and expectations on how beautifully spirited the people are. The North and the South are different in comparison, much like the United States. However, the people are still amazing. I have been so blessed to be immersed in a culture that is so amazing and intriguing. This is a culture of family values, love and respect. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit two universities. One all woman university Stella Marris and Loyola. We discussed Human Rights and Dignity as well as Social Justice. I learned that India has a department of Human Rights and a department of child and safety. My professor was asked if we had that and the closest thing he could think of was the department of urban housing, which is now getting cut by billions to "balance" out the budget. I protested with students in a woman's rights demonstration conducted by the students, and supported by the university. I learned about all the movements and advocating that the students at both universities are doing. It was such an empowering time and it makes me so happy to see this going on. I would send my daughter to study abroad here in a heart beat. My journey is not over, we have many more stops to make. I will be posting a lot. I am safe, empowered to make an even greater change in our world. Have a great day.

Reflections from Anne Silverstein

Going to the bathroom in a foreign country, such as India, is not always the easiest. Now imagine trying to figure out how to use a toilet that is merly a small hole in the floor, not to mention in 100 degree weather, and then walking out of the stall and realizing your whole group accidentally left you. As bad as this situation sounds, this was actually one of the positive turning points of this trip. To elaborate, as soon as I came to the realization I was completely sperated from my group on Loyola's college campus, I went into survivor mode. My first instinct was to not panic. Unfortunately, that first instinct didn't work out so well. As I slightly began to panic because the nightmare I have been having month before this trip had finally came true, I was then left to my second instinct; just start wandering. As I wandered around the beautiful campus of Loyola for a few minutes, I final found the classroom that my group was previously in. My group had previously left the building to attend a student march. Yet, I decided to sit inside hoping someone would come find me; and, to surprise, someone did. However, the people that did find me were not from my schools group. These individuals that followed me into the classroom were the locals from Loyola. I am not even sure if they realized I was lost (however, with the sheer confusion on my face, they probably did) but the local students sat down one on each side of me and chatted, joked, and just shared more about themselves with me. This was my first close, personal encounter with individuals for India. Going into this trip, I was not sure how a tall, blond, pale, American would be viewed. What I realized from this encounter is that they don't care to judge foreigners, they just want to share their culture and just simply interact.

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13th (Day 4) - Loyola College & Stella Maris College in Chennai

We had a day of interaction with students and faculty on two college campuses, predominantly with Indian Social Work students. From our group reflection tonight here at the hotel the consensus was that the large group discussions, short talks, the march-protest-street theater (will let the pictures speak for this), and the small group exchanges were enlightening, fruitful, touching, engaging, and overall very positive. While we arranged and expected these multi- and intercultural exchanges to be worthwhile, we were delighted to hear of the kinds of impacts this time made on each of the students in this course. Hopefully we can share some of their direct comments and thoughts here in the coming days.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12th (Day 3) - Chennai and Anandam

We now have wifi in our second hotel and am able to post here to the blog. For pictures of our time in India, which are being updated daily, see here.

After our sightseeing in Delhi and Agra, we are now in Chennai, India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Shortly after we landed we had a chance to visit Anandam Old Age Home.

It was surprising how vastly different these "elders" - mostly over 70, without family support, and without an income for themselves - live out the twilight years of their lives in community together without having to pay anything.

Sleeping 8 within a large room, cooking and cleaning their own food and living spaces, having group meditation, prayer, and/or yoga on a daily basis, and engaging in community projects are just a few of the things we learned. 

Furthermore, by these elders expressing what needs they have to the volunteers and social workers that live adjacent to them, this itself drives how funds are raised, what capital and labor projects are undertaken, and how the community itself morphs into a larger, wholistic life center. Check out their website and this short video description of the new Free Clinic facility.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Final steps?

As we wait to collect luggage that failed to arrive with us yesterday in Philadelphia, a few are en route to KC, some waiting here at the international terminal for bags or arriving at domestic departures, and others are back at the hotel awaiting evening flights. An anti-climactic end to an amazing wonderful 9 days in India. Though we are at present 84 hours into our return trip to KC, this is an extremely resilient group that pushed through like well-seasoned global sojourners.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Overnight in Philly

We are stuck in Philadelphia at the Wyndam hotel, courtesy of Qatar Airways. Thankfully we will be able to eat and shower then catch flights back to KC tomorrow (at different times). USair, American and Delta had no open flights until at least Wednesday but we were able to book everyone a ticket through Southwest. 

Goose Bay layover

As of 1230am, closing doors for departure. 2.5 hours from Philadelphia. 

As of 1130am, still waiting. Serving breakfast on plane right now. 

As of 1020am, we are further delayed due to equipment issues with loading bags. Pilot says 30 more minutes. 

As of 1010am our time, no updates. We continue to wait to take off again for Philadelphia. 

As of 9am our time, we will be on the ground for 1.5 hours, we were told. Baggage needs off-loading and wings de-iced. 

Bright side of traveling abroad

What Interdisciplinary Studies travel course can say, in a 24 hour period, they've been in 4 different countries, 3 distinct weather situations, 2 different international flights both diverted and all with a group who are keeping perspective and actually kind of enjoying these unexpected complications as a whole additional adventure?

Delay...Again and Again and.....

At 6,488 miles in our trip we find ourselves safely landing in Goose Bay in northeast Canada. A passenger is in need of immediate medical attention. Once the situation is under control we will continue on our (seemingly never ending) journey back to KC.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

24 hour delay

Looks like we have to spend the night in the airport and fly out on flight 733 tomorrow morning around 8am (landing after 4pm Dallas time on Monday). The Spirit air flight we will miss in Dallas is not refundable so we have to purchase new tickets. Can anyone launch a Kickstarter campaign for our tickets? ;). 

Still in processing

Recharging in more than one way. 

Desk to get a flight change

In Doha

Deja vu?