Thank you Gabrielle, Girish, Suman, DPS East, donors, and everyone that made this exchange possible. The work you do is truly life changing. If you’re goal was to facilitate a meaningful experience for both sides, you most definitely succeeded. And Gabrielle, as for your mission to re-humanize teacher education, I can’t imagine a better way of doing this than sending pre-service teachers to learn from Indian educators and students. I feel as though part of the human in me has been restored through this program and through connecting with teachers, students, and locals.
The last day of school was the most unforgettable. I taught three or four English lessons on an African folk tale about a spider named Anansi, and a snake named Snake. The spider wanted to prove to the animal kingdom that he was more than just a small weak insect; he was clever. So he made a bet with the lion and the monkey that he could capture the most feared animal in the forest, Snake. Then he would gain their respect and people would listen to him. But snake also wanted to prove something. When Anansi finally captured snake, he did so by appealing to that part of him. He said, “The other animals think you are not the longest in the forest. I wanted to measure you and show them that you are in fact longer than the giraffe’s and all the other animals.” Snake fell for the trap and let Anansi “measure” him by tying his tail to the end of a branch. Then, before he could move, Anansi tied the rest of his body as well.
I’m writing this from my hotel room in New Delhi. As of yesterday, I’m on my own in Northern India and I’ve intentionally planned very little. This wasn’t the idea originally, but as I talked to locals and learned more about India: what parts to avoid, what’s worth seeing, what’s overpopulated, my plan was increasingly ripped to shreds and I decided it would be better played by ear. All that remained was the intention of heading north to the Himalayas. But even this one vague hope was highly discouraged by a group of Delhiites over a McDonalds dinner last night. Apparently the monsoon rains are so bad near the mountains that it can be very dangerous and keep one stuck for days. I’m not sure if this is enough to deter me from going at all, but I’ve taken it into consideration.
I’ve never done anything like this before. Living day by day. It’s exciting but frightening, nourishing but lonely, freeing but challenging. Before I embarked on this journey, my friend Louie who has backpacked Europe, warned me of traveler’s ego. It’s when you lose sight of the important life lessons and become distracted by your ego, which seeks to prove to the world that you’ve done this or seen that, and that’s what makes you special. You see all the picture-perfect tourist attractions and upload them ASAP because it’s not that you’ve been there, it’s that other people see that you’ve been there that really gets you off. Especially in this age of the front-facing camera, an epidemic taking the teen population (or, let’s face it, everyone) by the millions, we’ve got to know the difference between being and posing.
Anansi and the snake both fell victim to their ego. Snake literally became trapped, and even though Anansi succeeded in gaining the recognition he was looking for, he let that desire rule him for too long, spending every day trying to trap snake in different ways. What if he had spent his entire life seeking this recognition? Or what if he found that recognition didn’t bring him a sense of lasting peace but only a fleeting moment of glory? What if his achievement gave him the social status he wanted, but left him without any true friends? All these outcomes seem far too likely to me.
At the end of my home room fifth grade class on the last day, some of the students spoke a few words expressing their thanks for having me teach and spend time with them. Then, as a class, they started thumping their desks in rhythm to a beat I taught them in music class over which the girls had hummed the melody while I sang the lyrics to “Hey Baby” by Stephen Marley.
They go like this:
“I’ve been gone a while away from you and I hope you understand
That I’ve got to do what I must do to be a better man
‘Cause if I was just to act a fool, do nothing with myself
Then all my blessings would be cursed, my world would crumble in
Hey baby don’t you worry, even though the road is rocky
I’ll be coming home to you again
If you thought that I was lost,
Know I had to bear my cross
Now I’m free from all these chains.”
One of my students gave me a letter in which he wrote,
“[…]You are a really good teacher! Make that your profession instead of mowing lawns. Please do this. I know you may visit in the future. I know I might not be there, but I want you to never forget me, as I will never forget you.
If only he knew how much that meant to me…
To everyone who’s been reading and supporting, thank you so much. I’ll continue to blog about India on my personal wordpress site: ollienaeger.wordpress.com
Till next time,