Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Journey 5

After our sweaty 'cool-downs' (some of the Team insisted they were 'warm-downs' as we would be shivering from the cool mountain air) it would be bath-time.

The adult volunteers would beg the youths to bathe as quickly as possible so that the adults could bathe after in time for dinner... to which the youths sweetly acquiesced and bathed lickety-split so that the adults had plenty of time for their own bath-time... yeah, right!! We wish! Adults were lucky if we had 45 mins for all of us to bathe!

To be fair to the youths, bath-time was quite a chore as iron pails had to be lugged up stone steps to a metal 'tong' that stood in the courtyard with a wood-fire burning under it all day long. The pails would be filled by the helpful staff of the lodge, and then hauled to the individual dorm bathrooms.

To save the hot water, we all bathed together-gether - one pail of hot water mixed up with cool made enough for two people usually. It was the only way to get hot water baths as the electric heater in the bathroom usually was out along with the electricity.

The boys saved a freezing cold bath for the last night of their stay when they crammed 7 people into the boys' bathroom, but that's another story... ;>

After the adults marathon showers, we would hurry the youths back to the dining room (amazingly, youths canNOT get dressed in the time that it takes for adults to bathe!) and hop over the doorstep before the Discipline Mistress could catch us late.

Dinner at 6:30p.m., and the menu would be carefully written on the wall for our reference each day, so our tummies would be growling by the time it was served. The boys agreed to wait for all of us to go at least one round before taking a second helping, so Tank would wait until he was the last person, and triumphantly take TWO helpings of dinner at one go!

After dinner and clearing up, the adult volunteers would lead a debrief of the day's activities, running through what had been done in the various areas - primary, pre-primary and infrastructure.

A short stretching break, and then would be a time of sharing...

Every other day, the adults would facilitate a sharing based on a topic... These were special moments as the youths openly shared thoughts and dreams and wishes and life-experiences... and the adults shared too!

Thomas facilitated a time of examining what we wanted to see during Expedition, why and how we were going to achieve it. The room was quiet as he shared his own story of growing in confidence and self-belief... and his dream to see the youths, too, grow in this area during Expedition.

Another session examined how we saw each other as leaders... what were the strengths and what were the weaknesses? The youths honestly fed-back to one another, and to the adults!, the areas to grow and to improve and the areas to acclaim and to praise in each. I was not at this session as I was taking care of Nuraini with a super-high temperature :>, but I received my feedback card from the boys in my team. I cherish it <3

David and I did a session on CHANGE - how had we changed during the Expedition and what were we going to bring back after the Expedition? I will never forget seeing the eager sparkle in the youths' eyes to share as they took turns to tell us how they had grown as leaders during the Expedition, and what their plans were to bring those changes back to their futures.

Shufen and Wendy did a session on culture, and so clever - they got us to sit in the centre in a circle of chairs! Otherwise we were dopey by that stage of the Expedition from the decreasing temperatures and late nights! The ladies asked the youths what were the differences they had seen between the people of Singapore and the people in Kolakham?

The youths shared how they had seen contentment in the people's faces, the simplicity there... some wanted to stay on in Kolakham and not return to Singapore! ... And some shared how they were thankful for things that we took for granted back home - electricity, public transport, schools!

Serene had a thought-provoking statement... she shared that she wondered if the people in Kolakham were truly contented, or if they, too, longed for the better life that we represented. She reminded us that Bhaskar, our guide, had told us that the population in the village was decreasing as the youths would leave the village in search of jobs and a better life.

Calvin and Sophia led a session that had all of us break into groups and share about the lowest point of our lives. In the quiet security of our assigned small groups, with promises to keep whatever was shared private, youths and adults opened up to share about painful moments in our pasts and how we had grown from those moments to where we were today.

Adults had a glimpse into the struggles that our youths faced - stories that broke our hearts but which showed us too, the resilience, the strengths to overcome of the youths of EA.

And the youths had the chance to see into the lives of the adults :>... to know that we, too, had gone through tough times to become stronger, and to give and love and be there for those coming along the journey behind us.

Tears flowing freely... voices faltering and growing stronger... we shared. And grew bonds of love and trust that will last a lifetime.

After the sharing times would be free time! By then it would be about 9:30 p.m. - insanely early in Singapore, but not in the frosty mountains of India! And certainly not with the electricity off (usually!) and shivering in our winter gear in the unheated dining room!

The youths would troop off to the boys' room for youths debriefing (a meeting they initiated to which adults were strictly not invited!) and the adults would stumble down to the girls cottage for adults debriefing... which normally lasted not longer than maybe two and a half hours... *grin*

These 'free-times' were fully used... The dorm next to us had a 'Ladies Night' with the youths and adults - the youths loved it! ... There were appreciation cards to get ready and the youths would bundle themselves in their sleeping bags and jackets to design 50+ thank you cards for donors ... And some of the youths would be sitting outside on the garden benches looking up at the clear night sky hoping to see shooting stars!

By midnight, almost everyone would be cosily snuggled into their thick caterpillar-like sleeping bags, off to Dreamland... knowing that tomorrow would be another beautiful day with exciting possibilities awaiting - to share together!

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