Monday, June 25, 2007

Ladakh

After our trip to Agra, we buckled down for the rest of the weeked to write a report on our findings and observations from our work in the Education sector of Deepalaya. Our MIT team has teamed with RF students to split into the two sectors of Education and Health. The idea is that after two weeks we finish with a sector and then switch with the other team to learn about the other sector. We don't communicate about our respective projects and at the end of 4 weeks we meet and discuss our results and how the differ and compare.
So, we began today formulating a survey for assessing the key factors in child general health: sanitation, water supply, breastfeeding, and vaccinations. We're trying to gain access to visiting medical schools, teaching hospitals, local clinics, and professional social workers to learn about the health problem more broadly.

A vaccination card for children

The highlight of the day was meeting some of the Indian students that Catherine (Cat) had previously befriended in the canteen. These girls are studying airline ticketing (and airline hostessing) and are eager to practice their English with us. I've never heard of this kind of "major" in a college in the U.S. but it seems quite a popular option for girls on this campus.

The Rai Foundation has provided 70 girls complete scholarships and these group of girls were some of the lucky underpriviledged few to get them. Though some are from Bombay, a lot of the girls look very tan and asian (of tibetan descent) and are from the area called Ladakh in the most northern part of India. I was told I look Ladakhian. It's amazing that the blend between so many looks can occur under those that inhabit a single country. All of the Ladakhian girls come from farming families and they help with fieldwork when they go home for break (only 1 month in a year). Many are intensely religious and have brothers and sisters who are monks or nuns in the monasteries. Many highly respect and celebrate the Dalai Lama. After learning more about them and teaching one another helpful phrases from our respective languages we headed out into the night air (dinner takes place 8:30-9:00 pm here!).


The orange region is the area in which Ladakh is in, and the green dot represents Delhi.

The girls invited us to participate in their way of having fun at night. Groups of girls sit in circles on the campus lawn singing their favorite songs and making each other dance, kind of a throwback to middle school recess. Catherine surprised them with a classic American love song and I can't sing so I did some bhangra moves for the girls. We all had fun joking with our bits of common language and enjoying each others' cultures. They taught us their version of "Duck Duck Goose" in which a girl drops a hankerchief behind you to "tag" you. If you end up in the middle you have to perform for the entire group! All the girls were incredibly amused with Catherine and I and laughed and cheered us on! Girls here are very affectionate and we parted ways with many of the girls lingering to hold our hands and enthusiastically wish us good night.

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