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let's not get smushed by elephants, photos

Notes from the airport

Good morning (or good evening?) to you, all of my snow-bound friends!

I write to you from the airport terminal in Hyderabad. I’m en route to Bhubaneswar to catch the lastest endeavor in the India rugby world (seriously, love or curse the fb, without the lucky rugby-related facebook events I catch popping up on my newsfeed this project wouldn’t be half as interesting! Creeping can be a lucrative business…). I’m sitting here, running on two hours of sleep and three cups of coffee. The caffeine crash is coming and it’s coming quick — so while I’ve got my little buzz on, I figured I’d throw some life updates your way. 🙂

Still living and loving life here in the Pune. Aaron, our friends David and Ayrel and I caught a night train to Goa for a few days during their fall break from Marathi class. We ate all sorts of fish curry and Goan pork sausages om nom nom, boarded some seriously Catholicized buses (lots of Virgin Mary dashboard pics, decaled infant Jesus references and rosary beads swinging galore) experienced lots of the “Can I photo you and your milk-water skin?”, patted some elephant trunks and escaped mostly unscathed — aside from a few scrapes from a small motorbike crash, shh — and returned to Pune refreshed and ready to start working again.  It’s amazing what kind of clarity a little time and space away from your home base can give ya’.

Good morning Goa! 6:30am and fresh off the train to catch to sunrise over the station
Don’t sneeze.
Sightseeing along the way

Over the past week the Pune skyline has been lighting up at all hours in the name of Diwali, the festival of lights. Imagine Christmas + 4th of July rolled into one! Clark Grizwald would have a flippin’ field day. Aaron, Virgina — a Tennessee transplant, fellow rugger and environmental activist — and I went down to Laxmi road for an afternoon of street feeding (among our finds: dosas and sugarcane juice!) and wandering.

Fresh pressed sugar cane and lunch on a banana leaf

And since this holiday is all about spending time with family…and we’ve basically orphaned ourselves over here, sad face…we spent the evening at a classy establishment called the Burger Barn (which, in case you were wondering, does not serve hamburgers) and wandering back through Koregoan Park…all the while trying not to get set ablaze by small children lighting off fire crackers in the streets.

Small children wielding explosives all over the city…

(I always say I’ll elaborate more on these things later…and I will!)

And now, less than bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I’m sitting amongst other bedraggled travelers. I find airports somewhat comforting, albeit strange: they are like vacuums — air-conditioned, sealed off and safe (we try!) from the world beyond the soaring glass windows. It’s quiet. Drink your coffee, read your book. Where ever I am — where ever I’m going — I always feel the same: the familiar calm anticipation, a certain inner stillness all-the-while in transit and a comfortable vulnerability of sometimessss not knowing where I’ll be laying my head night…but having faith that I’ll figure out a where I need to go and something will work out. So, that’s kind of where I’m at right now. 🙂 A few more minutes yet ’til boarding…

So! When I get to Bhubaneswar: I’ll be tracking down the crew from the Tag Rugby Trust — an amazing organization from the UK that tours developing countries and uses rugby as a vehicle for community development.

Booked my tickets and was thrilled to read the fine print (and when does that happen?) and realize that a portion of the $$ went to Magic Bus, another sport & development (girls and soccer) organization based in Mumbai!

They use the sport of tag rugby as a tool to teach the local children teamwork (of course!), build a sense of camaraderie between different communities, to break down social barriers and generate tolerance for other cultures. And, of course, with this comes a bit of confidence, pride and leadership skills and a chance for these kids just to play. We’ll be working with a few different schools playing on the field and conducting leadership workshops as well. The school that is hosting this tournament is absolutely incredible: the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences is home to over 15,000 (!!!!) tribal children from the state of Orissa. The state has about 62 individual tribes, making up almost 27% of the state’s population (we’re talking about 10,000,000 tribal villagers). At this university, the students — from kindergarten to high school — come from their rural villages to receive education, room + board and all necessary amenities completely free of charge.  The thought behind this institution is to enable these children to become change agents to their communities — believing that education will eradicate the poverty that they left behind — and provide them with an independent, sustainable livelihood.  It’s absolutely incredibly — here’s my plug for these guys — check out their website if you get a chance! And interestingly enough, they have an incredibly successful rugby tradition at this school. I’m super excite to meet up with my friend Bhagya, who I met at the national team camp, when I get up there .

The Tag Rugby Trust crew has been so awesome as to bring me on board on such short notice (I may or may not have booked these tickets two days ago…eek!). Totally thrilled to see what both of these organizations are all about. I’ll be here for almost two weeks doing a little bit of coaching, a little bit of playing and a lot-of-bit photographing…

Til then…

xx

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The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State, the Institute of International Education or the Fulbright Program.

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