Internet Challenged

For the next week, I will be teaching at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidayalaya (KGBV), where there is no internet access.  I will try to get to an internet cafe or otherwise get access when I can, but if you don’t see something for awhile, that’s the reason.  It is 13 km from Forbesgunge.

I have been told that the girls at KGBV (there are 50 between the ages of 11 and 16) have been taking karate for the last two years, and only recently their teacher has been unable to come.  I have seen pictures of them breaking flaming boards with their heads, and other pictures show them doing some wicked kicks.  I’m not so sure that I’ll be teaching them, or they’ll be teaching me!  Either way, I am very much looking forward to the experience of spending time with these young ladies.

So, until I write again…hopefully soon..

My Heroes

This is an adjunct to my ‘Impromptu’ post.

Two of the three girls that I taught also sang an impromptu song.  I didn’t understand a word of it, but one of the girls looked off into the distance as she sang, and the other one’s eyes stayed fixed on the ground.  Their voices were not strong – there was no joy in their words, and no smiles.  The song finished, they sat down.  The Apne Aap project coordinator who was there leaned over and explained that the song the girls sang was about why are boys treated so much better than girls, why do they get schooling and food when girls do not.  And then it hit me why these young ladies sang the way they sang:  in front of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, teachers, and strangers, they made a declaration – that there is no reason why girls are any different than boys.  Out of all the things they could have sung about, the message of equality is what they wished to convey.

This is a message that definitely needs to be voiced.  Women appear to be marginalized here for the most part.  In my few short days here, men are the predominant force on the street – they are the drivers of all vehicles; I haven’t seen one female driver.  I have not seen a female professional anywhere: at the Baghdogra airport or in the hotel where I am at, all men.  They are servers, ticket-takers, cleaners, cooks, shopkeeps – all men.  Where are the women in this economy?  I’ve seen many of them doing backbreaking work in the fields.

But back to the girls, aged 12.  Their courage to voice their opinion like that makes me speechless.  These ladies are my heroes, the ones who, hopefully and with some support, will eventually make a difference in their lives and possibly the lives of others long after I’ve returned to the US.  Maybe I just witnessed the performance of a female version of Gandhi.  I hope so.

Greetings from Sweatville

I thought cutting weight by sitting in a sauna was tough for Nationals this year, but I never thought I’d be sleeping in a ‘sauna’ aka my hotel room.  Power outtages plague this town – there are at least 15 per day at the hotel.  This makes getting on the internet a bit of a problem, and is a bane to a cool room.  Well, I knew I wasn’t signing up for luxury, so I’m sucking it up and getting use to a continuous coating of moisture on me day and night.


Taught my first class today; was very impromptu.  On spur of the moment, I was invited to go to a remote village (it took about one and half hours to drive 15 miles because the roads here are so terrible) where there were 13 school girls between the ages of 8 and 13 from underprivileged families.     ‘Underprivileged’ here means the family makes less than 50 cents a day.  This puts the girls in an ‘at risk’ status.  So we get there, and a computer demonstration was cut short as internet reception was not happening.  So I asked the girls to raise their hands if they liked karate.  All of them raised their hands.  I then asked them what they liked about karate.  “Because we can protect ourselves,” was their answer.  So I then asked if any of the girls, who have been taking karate for just 10 days, if they would like to show me anything.  three of the older girls got up, in their school uniforms, and demonstrated a hopping-type warm a little more vigorous than what I do back home, followed by a punching demonstration.  I then asked if they would like me to show them, and they all said yes.  So, I performed tournament-style Heian Godan, with bowing and announcing.  At the kata name, there was a collective suck-in of breath.  At the first kiai, I made a child cry.  They certainly hadn’t seen anything like it, and there were giggles and laughter.  But it was great.  I then asked the three girls to line up in front of me and punch me in the stomach.  They looked at me like I had five heads and fire coming out of my mouth LOL.  But they did, and I showed them how to punch keeping their elbows in, and how to reach their target.  And I have to tell you:  these girls were STRONG.   And they were like sponges, absorbing everything in spite of the language gap.

So I will start teaching formally on Monday.  Am going to a girls’ hostel and living there for a week or two, depending on how the classes are being received.

I am borrowing someone’s computer because have been uanble to get internet connection earlier, so must go.  But more later.  And I’ve lots of pics – stay tuned!


I thought I was a bad driver.  Now, not so much.  For those of you who know me, take my most ultra-aggressive driving that you have ever seen me do, then multiply by 100.  I am in heaven. ; )

Arrived Baghdogra yesterday.  Could see the Himalayas from the airport.  But the drive to Forbesgunge took me farther and farther away from hills.  In fact, it is flat plains here.  There are tea fields and rice paddies everywhere.  And goats, cattle, dogs, and children.  The heat is not too bad; like a very humid Chicago day. Constantly.  I did not have A/C last night, but the hotel staff thought it was a good idea to bring in this big box that blasted air toward my bed.  I didn’t care; I was zombie by that point.  I slept 9 hours, with ear plugs in, and only awoke for the occasional power outtage (there were only 3) when the heat and stuffiness poked in to even my sleep deprived brain.  Outtage only temporary – generators kick in

August 5th

So far so good.  In Kolkata.  Spent the night sleeping in the International Terminal.  Not bad, really.  At least it was some shut eye, and had really interesting company:  a group of Muslim young men heading back to Thailand for a break from their studies here; an older retired couple, both doctors, both live in India, returning from touring the U.S. for six months.  At 1:30 in the morning, terminal sleeping was the safest alternative to venturing down an unlit street for two blocks (I did it in the daytime and it was not nice) or taking a taxi downtown on little sleep – God knows where I would have ended up.  Did some cleaning up in a bathroon (bet it is the last sit-down toilet I see in awhile) and put on a change of clothes which made me feel like a human being again. : )  Almost undid all that good when I went to brush my teeth – and without thinking wet the toothbrush in the tap water, which is not clean.  Stopped myself just short when I realized.  Dodged a bullet there – would have not been nice to get belly problems with one airplane ride and a three hour car ride ahead.

My next, and last, flight boards in an hour.  Received confirmation about the car that will pick me up (whew) when I got on to email just a few minutes ago.  Right now I’ve just seen a lot of the inside of an airplane, airport security, and terminals.  My last hurdle is to make it on this last flight and have my luggage at the other end.  Keep your fingers crossed…

More later.  And thanks for reading.

Wild Blue

It is calling – the wild blue yonder.  Or is that just someone knocking at my door?  Is that my ride to the airport?!?!  Are they early or am I late?!?!  Ah, it’s the certificates that my friend Randy printed.  I wanted to have something to hand out to the ladies who take the classes.  And, as always, Randy has done an awesome job.  Lots of embossed gold swirly designs.  Very cool.  I want one.

I have managed to get everything into a large backpack, a small carryon backpack, and large-ish purse.  Thank you, compression bags!!!!

Just taking care of last minute stuff now:  tearing only necessary sections from travel guide; downloading podcasts and music; organizing paperwork to take with me; and where the heck are the snacks that will sustain me until Thursday night?

It is hard to say what I’m feeling right now.  Coming down off of focused preparation mode still.

I am incredibly grateful for all who have sent their support and encouragement.  So much generosity – I am truly honored.  Thank you.  I will carry all of this support to India and use it to nourish those young ladies – given the amount, it is going fill them for a long time.  Keep it coming for them.

Must go.  It will probably be a few days before I am back in contact.  Check back if you like on Saturday for updates.

Joy and Blessings to All.

The Brightest Light

In two more days, I will go to Forbesgunge, flying from Chicago to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Kolkata, Kolkata to Baghdogra, then a three hour taxi journey to my final destination, Forbesgunge.  It is a place where only 20% of the population has electricity; only 16% has indoor plumbing; spiders the size of your hand are common.

I have been asked repeatedly by my good friends and family:  why THERE?

Here is my response:  Because the brightest light often comes from the darkest places.

Please watch this video of Apne Aap that explains better the mission of the organization that I am going to assist.  Really, after you see it, you will not question why I would go –  I hope you would question why I would not.

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