India a Country of Contrasts - By JoDee Baird
Hello, amazing parents, friends and past YMAD participants, who are checking the blog for bits of news on this expedition. As you can tell our Internet has been spotty at best. Welcome to India. This is my 7th time to India. I don’t think you ever get over the contrast of this country. The dirt and the beauty; the wealth and the poverty. Sometimes it takes your breath away.
I am sure the teens have told you all about their experiences in India and the schools. Their enthusiasm leaks out of the blogs. For what ever reason, we have never had a teen come with us to India who does not leave a piece of their heart here. When you get them away from their cell phone, the Internet, their social life, school, friends and families, they are able to live in the present. They are not thinking about their past, or their future. They are very much in the “now” with every one of their senses. When they are with a child at a school, they have no distractions. Very rarely in life do we have the opportunity to give your whole soul and attention to everything and everyone around you. Someone said, “To really be alive is to be completely present in life.” If you think about it, most of us are never fully alive; our minds are living in the past or the future. These teens experience being alive and they love it. Creating the opportunity for them to live in the present is the magic of India. When they get home they are homesick for India. What they are really homesick for is being fully alive. So, how do we achieve that in our day-to-day lives? That is a great question, right?
This is YMAD’s first expedition to Sunder Nagar. It is in the lower Himalayas. We are staying at a Forest Guest House. The teens have no idea how lucky they are to be here. This is the nicest facility we have ever had. Three people to a room, western toilets, great dinning hall, safe facility, parrots, monkey’s and all sorts of beautiful birds chirping all day. This is the biggest city that YMAD has worked. I was worried that maybe these children would not be as needy as the children in the mountain villages or the jungles that we have worked in before, but I was wrong. There are children who need our help everywhere in India, just drive 5 minutes and they are there.
The drive from the airport to here took about 6 hours, even though it was only 86 kilometers. It is not switch back mountain roads, like Chamba, however, it is full of potholes that could swallow an elephant. This makes the driving rough and slow. I am proud to say we only had one person get carsick. That is quite amazing.
For those of you wondering who is taking care of these teens, let me tell you.
They are being lead by some of most, loving, mature, patient, non-drama, emotionally solid leaders I have ever taken to India. They don’t take the teens, or themselves, too seriously, but they know how and when to draw the line. They all have these perma-grins on their faces watching the teens work with the children at the schools. They are proud as peacocks of each of their teens. They have all told me, when they are alone with me, that they have the best teens in their groups. Don’t tell them that they all think that. I want them all to think “they” have the best teens. They all think they have the “best” school” and the “best” translators as well.
This is also the healthiest team I have ever had. We have had a few with a little nausea for a day, but that is about it! We feel blessed to be surrounded by amazing teens and adults. Raj, our Indian YMAD Leader has worked his guts out to make sure we are safe, and have an amazing experience. Our interpreters, Nandini, Yash, Cantah, Vinaykak and Riteka are so amazing! I wish you could meet them all. Life is good here in India!