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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The nature of this teaching

Since coming to Kayamkulam I have been introduced to many ways of living and many different beliefs. It’s such a spiritual environment; everybody at the hostel is Christian, the school is Hindu and it’s also of the spiritual Art of Living foundation of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Everybody who works at the school worships this Guru. They live by his wisdom, they devote all their time to him. And for many teachers, it’s their main reason for teaching at the school - it’s not for money because the salary is next to nothing, but they see it as a “service of duty”. I’ve been to a few meditation masses, where they sing and praise the Guru. Last week I went to a gathering and it was the most overwhelming experience. There were over 100 devotees there to celebrate the Guru’s birthday. I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal. But what a celebration! Singing, speeches, presents, food, festivities and meditations too. People were crying but also blissful. It was so powerful. I was then unexpectedly asked to come up on stage and give a speech after being appointed the special guest, all the way from Ireland who was “bringing English to the town”. I was blown away by the reaction I got after I rambled some unprepared words down the microphone. I got hugs from people, a massive round of applause and chains of flowers. People were coming up to me telling me how happy they are that I’m here; people who weren’t even related to the school and who I‘ll probably never see again.. So strange! A great experience - but maybe a little overwhelming.

Actually, this is something that is starting to feel a little bit unnecessary: people treating me with so much respect and looking at me with so more admiration than I deserve, when really, I’m just like them. I don’t want to be treated like something more than they are, just because of my skin colour or because I speak English. I could be anybody from any Western country, and I’d get the same reaction. So how can I ever know if they are treating me this way because they genuinely like the person I am or if it’s because I’m white and they can practise their English? I can never know and the only way to find out is if I get close to certain people. But that doesn’t always happen because I’m never around for long enough. I know what I’m describing right now, is all apart of teaching English in such a country and many other Western teachers would say the same thing. It goes with the territory, so I have accept it and I won’t let it get to me. But it doesn’t take away my longing to be seen as equal to them. Wanting this isn’t a crime, but it’s also something that will never happen; not if I want to be in remote places where I can make a difference. So I suppose I AM making a difference in such areas and if the people are aware of this fact then it may only be gratitude and appreciation that they are expressing towards me and instead of feeling overwhelmed and unworthy of this, I will be thankful. Looking at it from this perspective shows me it’s all like one big puzzle, or like a circle almost.. How nice the world can be!!

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