Ahhhhh….yes, I’m blogging…I really can’t believe it myself! I figure I’d jump into the 21st century and communicate with everyone that I need to with modern forms of media technology. In the long run, it saves me from having to feel like a broken record. Bear with me as I attempt my first blogging effort…
When I tell people that I’m going to India to teach, the first question is “Why India?” Honestly, I didn’t really set out to do work in India and I have to admit that India wasn’t even on my top 10 list for places I want to visit. I like to think that India found me. Which leads to the second most popular question “How did you find this opportunity?” I was introduced to a boarding school for South India’s untouchable children called Shanti Bhavan. For my master’s thesis, we were required to research and write a communication strategy for a client. Finding the perfect client sounds easier than it is. In a state of desperation from prior unsuccessful soliciting, I emailed my distribution list and my friend Colleen forwarded my request to her colleague Mike who had done some pro bono consulting with Shanti Bhavan. Good ol’ word-of-mouth should never be underestimated! After a couple teleconferences and meetings, my relationship with Shanti Bhavan started to evolve.
After interviewing volunteers and the staff for my research, it became obvious that Shanti Bhavan was a special place. Famed author and journalist, Thomas Friedman, traveled to Shanti Bhavan and mentions the school in his book The World is Flat and in his NY Times opinion column. I was intrigued in the school’s ability to attract thoughtful and compassionate intellects. The more I interviewed, the more I found myself wanting to be part of this esteemed group and craving a similar experience. The volunteers often described their tenure at the school as “life-changing,” “the best time of their life,” and “magical.” So when my job position at Pfizer got eliminated, I jumped at the opportunity to satisfy my yearning to travel and to be part of the Shanti Bhavan family.
I leave for India tomorrow to start a new chapter in my life. I have so many mixed emotions – gratitude for having supportive family and friends, sadness to leave NYC, anxiety about the long flight and my ability to immerse myself in a completely different culture, excitement to meet my new students and colleagues, frustration in my inability to pack lightly, happy to be on a new life adventure, and mostly humbled to embark on a philanthropic opportunity that I truly believe in. I have some preconceived notions of India from my friends that have traveled there and from my Indian friends about the ubiquitous poverty, the distinctive fragrance in the air, the sacred cows on the streets, the unrelenting heat and spicy food that might bring me to tears, and the colorful landscape. Even with the best preparation, I imagine that there will be some good and not-so-good surprises along the way. I say – bring on both!