Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fellow blogger: Mother India's Lessons

This post contains a fellow blogger's reflections on things she has learned about life from living in India.  Please check out her peaceful and thoughtful words.  Thank you.

Click on the following link to connect to the blog where the post below was taken from:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mother India’s Lessons

Summary: In my four months here, Mother India has managed to teach me a few things. To date, my coursework has included: expectations, time, planning, persistence, standards, openness, cynicism, generosity, patience, humor, and control.

Four months ago today, a clueless, naïve, idealistic, and slightly crazy Chinese American stepped off the plane in Lucknow, oblivious to what lay ahead. This silly girl thought she was going to help improve education in India, unaware that the real education was the one in store for her.

In a mere four months, Mother India has managed to teach her quite a few things about life and survival. So far, her education has covered the following:

Expectations: Your view of the world often doesn’t translate. Don’t expect anything to happen, but be prepared to respond to just about anything. Because your expectations will often mislead you, andanything just might happen.

Time: Things will happen when they happen. More often than not, time runs late. Time is valuable, but living in and enjoying the present for what it’s worth is just as important. Getting frustrated when things run late is futile.

Planning: Closely tied to both expectations and time. Things willnever go as planned, but you have to plan for the unexpected. Be ready to throw all your plans out the window, for flexibility is key. Appreciate when anything goes well, because that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

Persistence: When people tell you “It is not possible,” they’re basically saying, “Find another way.” Life is full of obstacles, whether it be underdeveloped skills, uncompromising bureaucracy, or cows. 

Standards: Standards are certainly relative, and need to be adjusted so. Status quo is never acceptable, but the definition of “success” lies somewhere along a continuum. Perfectionism is not an option. Think baby steps.

Openness: Freeing yourself from your own worldview and implicit judgment is a very difficult but necessary prerequisite for understanding another’s culture. Things that make no sense from your perspective can often be understood when the others’ culture and worldview is considered. “Equal but different” can, and does, exist.

Cynicism: Never underestimate the power of the situation, and try not to lose your belief in the inherent goodness of man without losing your mind. Thinking that everyone is out to “get” you is unhealthy, but believing that everyone always behaves virtuously is naïve. 

Generosity: No matter how poor, people always have something to give (and often do so). If the poor can be generous, why are the wealthier not more so?

Patience: Unwanted attention can be uncomfortable, and touts can be quite trying. Every moment consists of a choice – do you accept it for what it is, or do you fight back? You don’t have the energy to fight every battle that’s waged, and even a battle you win has already been lost.

Humor: Taking a step back, humor can be found even (especially?) in the most ridiculous of situations. Humor is like a Swiss Army Knife – carry it around all times, for it can save your life.

Control: Most things come down to control. In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey astutely suggests proactivity within your locus of control. Everything else is mental energy wasted. Sometimes you just have to throw your hands in the air and let things run their course. If nothing else, India teaches you that less is in your control than you think, yet at the same time, your locus of control may actually be larger than meets the eye.

Basically, life is full of contradictions and paradoxes you need to wade through.

Thing is, Mother India is quite the hands-on teacher. Once is not enough. This oblivious girl encounters each of these lessons at least once a day, in different shapes and forms. And four months later, she still struggles with them. Old habits are hard to change, but Mother India is not one to give up anytime soon.

I suspect she spends a little more time on this girl because the girl is “special,” and a tad more stubborn than the rest of her class. Don’t worry, Mother India, she’ll get it soon.

By the way, when’s recess?

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