Taking a Walk (Or Run) in Someone Else’s Shoes

I find it hard to believe that my trip is halfway done. Only 18 more days, and it seems like I arrived yesterday. I would be lying if I said that I’m completely settled in and know how everything works, but I’ve decided that is perfectly fine. I think it would take a lifetime to understand everything here, the children teach me something new each day. It has taken a lot for me to just go with the flow and let the children lead me. They’ve dragged me away from my Western mindset of schedules and plans and shown me how to really have fun.

I’ve started to do art with the children and it’s mostly letting them create whatever they like. A few of us worked on the painted elephant project I made to teach them how to use crayons and watercolors together. From a teacher’s perspective, I now fully appreciate the fact that I will be teaching classes of children who are the same age and around the same skill level. It’s very difficult to explain watercolors to a four year old while their older brothers and sisters can handle the medium much better. Although, I have to say, Steve Thomas is right: let children play with age appropriate materials, but also let them experiment and challenge themselves. The younger children who experiment with materials that are a bit outside of their skill level are never frustrated, and always having fun, so why stop them? Their creations are always more interesting than anything I could come up with.

Originally I had anticipated the kids would want to keep some of their creations. Could I have been more wrong? Almost every single piece of paper (so far) in the 20 pound box I brought has been given right back to me covered with beautiful creations. If we are to learn about generosity from anyone, it should be from these kiddos.

This experience has forced me to transplant myself into the shoes of these children. I’m learning about the world from their perspectives. We’ve talked about world issues like the recent violence in France and Pakistan. These children understand the world on a completely different level than you or I. They understand the need for peace, to take time to listen to others’ stories and share their experiences. I knew my time in Norway this past summer would influence my experience here in India, but I didn’t know it would be so direct. So many of the things I learned I am utilizing here, and the kids already know it without having spent a summer in Norway.

Today I stood in someone else’s shoes when the group of 28 or so Augustana students came to visit the Ashram. I did not realize just how much I changed in my short time here. My first experience at the Ashram was two years ago for just a few hours. Those few hours inspired me to return. This outsider perspective is so very different from what life is actually like. I feel like part of the family here, no longer an outsider who needs to be presented with pretty chai tea glasses or the “Western toilet” (the kids get a kick out of that).

I’m looking forward to the things I will learn in the coming weeks. The staff here is incredible and really know how to love these children with all of their hearts. The kids all joked around when we said goodbye to the Augustana group by saying goodbye to me and that they never wanted me to leave. I am already tearing up at the thought of leaving these sweet children on the 28th (and already planning a future trip). It’s slightly frightening to think of how much I will have changed when I return, but I know it is all for the best. I know the shoes I wear home will not be the same as the ones I came in, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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Ansula took my shoes for a spin…

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Simi…what a cutie pie!

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Paresh and his elephant creation ๐Ÿ™‚

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Simi was so focused while creating this, and I love it!

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Play time!

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Sita and I make lots of funny faces…

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The kids are so much better at taking photos than I am.

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