Thursday, June 09, 2005



Going to India was an invaluable experience for my growth and development. I have traveled to the Amazon, Europe, out west and east in the states, Canada’s tundra, some Mexico and an Island in the Caribbean. However--I was young in those experiences, and I ended up learning more culturally than I ever expected.

The developing world has changed dramatically since last time I visited third world nations (~10 years back in South America.) When I was there, crowds would occasionally follow me because of my blonde hair and fair skin. I saw no TVs in rural villages, and a motorized boat was a rare occurrence. Even India’s slums we visited had many televisions and cable or satellite. And from what I was told, there is medium to high TV penetration in villages. People were more familiar with westerners (I suspect through TV) and no crowds followed me and touched my hair.

Most surprising to me is how India is similar to the west. Of the 100+ children we worked with, most smiled frequently, watched movies (many the same as we watch), played freely, laughed, ate enough food, and had experience with westerners before. This does not mean that there are children in India who suffer immensely. Many do, and we met a few who rose up from horrific pasts. What’s important to me is that it seems the country is moving forward and there are many NGO’s that truly care for kids and give them love, education, food, and encouragement that they may not get in traditional family structures.

Interestingly, many of the original big dreams I had of what the trip would turn into did not materialize. I wanted to film a gut wrenching documentary that would bring tears to any westerners’ eyes. I wanted to compile the artwork to publish a book to raise awareness of needs of Indian Children and sell for fundraising. I believe both of these ideas are still worthy to be done, but we did not film exclusively what was “gut wrenching.” Some shots may be touching, but in a whole this is a country with a solid democracy, free elections, a liberalizing economy, and (in my opinion) an extremely bright future.

Other dreams have materialized. I learned a lot about myself and my friend Jillian. This was hoped for. I saw many more of my own weaknesses and personal development areas I need to improve in that I ever expected. Also, I accept and appreciate more the country I live in—and cherish a common language. India has 84 different languages—not dialects but full fledged languages. I saw first hand the development in the “Silicon Valley of India,” Bangalore. Sitting down and reading the newspapers, magazines and talking to the locals we lived with gave me a huge insight into the country.

It was very good. It was very inexpensive to travel there. I encourage you to do your own travel into a third world nation, live with locals (minimize hotels), and soak it in deep.

So next time where do I want to go? Jillian accused me two weeks ago of already thinking of the next big thing—which may be either China, North India, Thailand, the Warsaw Pact nations, or a Spanish speaking country like Mexico or Costa Rica. The fact that Krishna whom we lived with is planning a budget bicycling and camping journey on the highest navigable road in the world (up in the Himalayas’ of northern India) and I’m invited is a very tempting idea.

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