July 29, 2009
First Post! My waning days in NY
Well here is my first post. It is Wednesday afternoon, August 29th and my plane leaves for Delhi from New York Saturday, August 1st at 5pm. It’s a direct flight to Delhi, and a two-hour flight from there to Calcutta. A representative from CRAWL—the NGO I am volunteering with—will meet me at the airport, and drive me to the hotel at which I’ll be staying.
While the organization’s headquarters, the school, and the female residences are located in Kardah (a short train ride from the city’s center), I and the other male volunteers stay in a hotel which is right in the city. I have been emailed pictures of a room there, and it doesn’t look too bad. I may even have my own bathroom! Experiencing the daily commute from the city to the Kardah site will certainly add perspective to my project, allowing me to better understand the distances and boundaries, both literal and figurative, between the organization and the city.
CRAWL runs two main services: the school in Kardah and medical aid in the urban slums. I intend to experience both, and observe how these two services, differing in both content and landscape, interact within the organization. Presumably, offering both education and medical assistance requires two distinct orientations or philosophies regarding the best ways to help the communities. For instance, education largely deals with the future, while medical treatment deals with the present, which for some may be too late. Why did the CRAWL decide to offer both? How do such varied operations affect the organization, its structure and the people it serves? Are the children aware of the organization’s services in the city? Are they encouraged to give back to the urban poor? Or are they shielded from these gritty activities, involving bodies and environments that are not protective and supportive, but exposed, vulnerable, and degrading?
Each time I think of the organization, the ideas feel fresh, as more and more questions come to mind. Of course I really can’t know what to expect, and preparation can only go so far. However, I get excited nonetheless, hoping that present thoughts can give some shape to future experience, though it appears to me now as amorphous and opaque. I intend to just dive in, keeping in mind a base of questions I want to ask, but understanding that other questions will inevitably arise and attract me.
There is more to say, but I’m about to watch a movie. The film is called Born Into Brothels (2004), and it's about child prostitution in Calcutta. It won the 2004 Academy Award for best documentary. I assume it will give me a visual idea of the city beyond the images I’ve garnered through reading novels and guides. So I’ll let you know how the movie goes.
Talk to you soon!
Posted by cheyman at July 29, 2009 05:14 PM