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A Journey to Remember: Our South Indian Experience

Registered Date October 01, 2019 User ID noveeSCC Read 41
School Southern Christian College Scranton Scholarship 2015 Undergraduate Scholarship
User Name NOVEE WILA M. RAFAELA
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Understanding one’s culture and tradition by reading books and watching documentaries or videos is very different than experiencing this first-hand. I believe that first-hand experience is the best way of learning. I am very thankful that MPI and Bread for the World made this trip possible. This trip was one of the most unforgettable moments I ever had since it was my first time to ride a plane and travel outside of the Philippines. I am also thankful to Ashok and Florina who invited us to and accommodated us in India as well as to their family.

 

One of the things that amazed me during this trip was how the people in India still practice their traditions in these modern times. For example, during the Pongal Festival in Coimbatore, people from the city go home to their provinces to celebrate the festival. I remember Florina telling us to finalize the names of who will be joining the India trip because they needed to book the train tickets as it would be sold out before you know it. That is how very important this festival is to them.

 

Pongal Festival is a thanksgiving ceremony for the year’s harvest. We got to experience this on our second day in India. We made kolam (a traditional colorful pattern made from ground rice hand-drawn at the main entrance of the houses), dressed up in saris and ate the pongal (sweetened rice boiled with lentils). Also, we were able to visit their temples and see how they praise their gods and goddesses with music and rituals. The celebration of the festival was simple, traditional and meaningful.

 

Their food was superb. I really liked their food, even though there were dishes that were new to my taste buds. I really appreciate that Ashok and Florina let us experience eating their local dishes all throughout our trip. They made it so that we were really immersed in the place during our trip. Our notion that Indian foods are mixed with curry powder as we know here in the Philippines was debunked. Their dishes were made of different spices that made the food spicy (which we really liked). They made all the dishes from scratch.

 

Ashok’s family has this one wall just for the spices. Although there were curry dishes, they were different from what we knew and expected. What made it enjoyable was using our one hand to eat. We Filipinos like to eat our food using our two hands, so it was really good when we were able to get to do that in India. The difference is that we use our two hands and they use only their right hand to eat the food. They say that using the left hand is not socially acceptable because it's not hygienic to use it for eating. Imagine how difficult it was not to use our left hand while eating the delicious food.

 

Indian hospitality is warm and generous; it is almost the same as with Filipinos. The families of Ashok and Florina were lovely. They were very accommodating, thoughtful and fun to be with. We were able to organize a short closing program at Ashok’s home and showcased our talents in singing and dancing. Also, we got to experience the Indian wedding reception; it was simple and intimate. We prepared a song for the couple and spent the night singing karaoke.

 

We were accommodated very well by the organizations we visited. I was really inspired by the organizations’ vision of helping people in their society: refugees, the LGBT community, domestic workers (women and children), and poor communities. The interventions of these organizations made a positive impact on the direct and indirect beneficiaries as well as the communities in which they live and work. Hearing their stories personally touched my heart because not all organizations can make a positive impact on their beneficiaries. The beneficiaries were also inspired by the organizations’ work and inclined to help them multiply their efforts to the community. I am happy to know that these organizations exist and continue to help the people, even if the organizations also face different challenges, like financial challenges.

 

We also became ambassadors of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute when we visited two of the big schools in Chennai, Loyola College and Stella Maris College. The Social Work Department of these schools prepared a panel discussion format where we got to introduce MPI’s work and the Mindanao situation. We were able to encourage them to participate in the Annual Peacebuilding Training as a participant or as a volunteer. It was surprising when we learned that the students with whom we were talking are Master’s students. So, we felt a bit pressured, but we were able to handle the discussion well. It amuses me how these kids pursue higher degrees at such a young age. It motivated me to pursue my Master’s degree too, if given the time and money.

 

Our 10-day visit in India was amazing. Being exposed to a different culture is interesting and a good learning experience for me and my colleagues. I feel that our memories will again be renewed knowing that there are Indian participants coming to the training. I believe that with our experience, it will provide us an opportunity to share stories and relate to them more than before. Also, being exposed to the works of the organizations we have visited strengthened my commitment to peacebuilding work.