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Thursday, 9 August 2012
Reflections upon Summer 2012 - Natalia Choi
Team member, Natalia Choi reflects on her experience in India working with ITSA Summer 2012
I guess the word I would describe my overall experience with India would be
“Up Close.” This word has been in my head since the first day of the trip when
little kids came knocking (and some climbing) on our van for money until the
last night when our group gathered in a circle at night to share things we
appreciated about each other. Being with around 12-20 people throughout
the trip (I realized just how around people I had been when I was waiting alone
in the Delhi airport for 12 hours…), we were first of all, physically “up
close.” Everyday, we shoved ourselves into the 9-person “tourist vehicle” van,
squeezing in and sitting on top of one another. Our record I’d have to say was
the time when we left the drive-in theater when we fit 10 people in a small
compact vehicle meant to fit maybe 5~6 people at most. And since we stayed
together as a group most of the time, we spent A LOT of time with each other
especially at Riana’s grandparents’ apartment which acted as the headquarter
office for ITSA in India.
During my time in India, I also met wonderful people like my host
family, Riana’s family, the ITSA India team members, and my workshop students.
From them, I got to learn a little more about the Indian culture and also
realize the culture I’m coming from. I’ve especially enjoyed meeting Riana’s
grandmother “Dadi” who has fed us (almost literally since she stood over us at
each meal to make sure we were getting plenty of chapatis to eat). Though I
wasn’t always able to meet her standard for eating enough, we bonded over time
and made chapatis together during the final week. My host family was also
amazingly sweet and made me feel right at home making me the best masala chai
and packing me a delicious tiffin (a stacked metal lunch box) full of yummy
vegetables, rice, and chapatis for lunch. The many Indian college students who
also volunteered with ITSA were also really vital part of our “ITSA family.” As
our guides, they helped navigate the crazy-ness that is India by helping us
bargain, to not get lost in the streets, and to take rickshaws. As our friends,
they introduced us to the latest bollywood hits which we danced to together and
celebrated festivals like Holi and Diwali.
Riana's Family, and their home crashers
The students I worked with in Ahmedabad and Rajkot also made this whole
trip experience rewarding and inspiring. It was amazing to see how the lesson
plans which we imagined were actually implemented to give ideas and thoughts
for the students. I was especially excited for the lesson plan on modern day
slavery since it is an issue that I had been much interested in. In this
lesson, we first started by asking the students whether or not they thought
slavery still existed in India. We had mixed opinions, some saying a definitive
yes, some maybe in certain areas of the world, some “not in India.” So when
students were given a fact sheet statistics and facts on modern day slavery,
many were surprised by the magnitude of the problem. Through watching a video
on child trafficking and continuing discussions about the effects of poverty on
the security of human rights, students gained a deeper understanding of the
complexity of the issue. Students also created a web with words like illiteracy,
corruption, and globalization connected to slavery in order to learn about how
interconnected issues were in society. I also shared my experience on leading a
Fair Trade campaign during my high school to show them that high school
students are very much capable of contributing a positive impact on the world.
It was exciting to see how much students progressed throughout the workshops in
understanding issues we discussed (slavery, corruption, gender discrimination,
and environmentalism) and also in gaining a sense of social responsibility.
Students cumulated so much energy to do something for the world that all the
60+ ITSAprenuers (workshop students) signed up to pursue social action projects
at the end. Having worked with such an enthusiastic and bright group of
students like our ITSApreneurs, I have gained more faith in the power of
education and also hope for a better world.
How could I not? Doing my classic Natalia presentation spreading awareness about Fair Trade
Often times it seems that it’s the sites, the great monuments and museums
that we pose in front of that we remember most after travelling. But I think once
we get to spend more time in a place, it becomes the people we interact with
and get to know that we remember most. Travelling with a large group in the
second most populous country for five weeks, I think I’ve gotten to encounter
people who’ve left a mark on the way I see the world. I’m grateful for having
had such opportunity to meet such a fun and eclectic mix of people whom I’ll
miss, but at least I have plenty of wonderful pictures
(2000+) and unforgettable memories to look back on and smile on.
The Social Action Team in front of our 60 foot long mural!