It's really hard to put into words all that has happened over the past two weeks of the course. Today the remaining attendees are catching rickshaws, buses, trains and planes scattering them about India and the globe. I will head via bus to Rishikesh tomorrow.
Yesterday during our final lecture, an older French woman asked the Prime Minister of Tibet a question. They each struggled in English to understand each other, English being neither their second nor probably third language. It struck me that all these people - Indians, French, Germans, Japanese, Portugese - were participating in the course in what was not their mother tongue. It felt like an incredibly generous gift, one that I couldn't return if I had to. If the course had been in any other language, I wouldn't have been unable to understand. So one of my goals when I return is to become proficient in at least French or Spanish. It's hard to be a global citizen when insisting that everyone know your language.
The theme of the course was "Gandhi & Globalization". We were exposed to the very real, tangible result of our way of life, how what we consume and shape the world, affects the global south and the ecology of the planet.
On a very cynical level, at several points during the course, I felt like taking out a red white and blue switch and flogging myself. Whenever the "west" was mentioned, it was in a negative connotation. Whenever he U.S. was mentioned, it was followed by a scowl. When I brought up the excessive population, I was shot down immediately and lectured that 1 American child consumes the resources of 30 Indian children. Ironically enough it was he Americans who jumped on me. I had already been aware of this statistic, and it's implication. But still it felt that I garnered a different response simply because of nationality.
My initial reaction was to defend my own country, our way of life, our military adventures around the world. But the objective facts are not on my side.
In assisting my young Austrian friend with her Tibetan article and interview with PM Rimpoche, I summoned all my recently acquired international relations knowledge to explain to her exactly why international law doesn't really matter. Why the UN will never force China to move on the Tibetan issue (or on Darfur) because China has veto power. Why the US can use torture, even though it's against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without consequence. And why at the end of the day, in the world we've created, the country with the most dollars and the most tanks win. She is an incredibly intelligent 19 year old with a good understanding of world events. And yet when I finished explaining why no one can do anything about Tibet, she looked at me like I was crazy. How do ethical people, intelligent people, capable and powerful people let this happen? After living in the world for a while, you start to accept things as unchangable But through the eyes of a (relative) child, you can see the madness.
We've all decided that it will be hard going back to our daily lives. Hard to constantly explain why we don't eat meat without sounding preachy and holier-than-thou. Hard to pay taxes that support violent endeavors but don't pay for the healthcare of my loved ones. Hard to ease into consumerist world around us. Even this paragraph sounds preachy! I don't want to be that girl. But I have seen a sort of raw truth come from our experiences here and overlooking it does not mean it ceases to exist. My challenge will be to bring what I've learned into my world and share it wiht others when hey are curious, rather than force it upon them.
So yes, I'm setting out to the wilds of India. I am much more comfortable with the country than when I arrived. I've learned a few steps of the dance of the busy city streets. I no longer fear the rickshaws rides. I know a bit of Hindi. I think I will be fine. I'll try to update as I go!