Busy days

Day 1. Week 2. Masters of Adult Education. Community Development stream. Feeling overloaded.
Today I facilitated a discussion on “Communicating for Community Renewal.” The general idea was that rather than approaching economically depressed communities with the idea of retraining the citizens for the workforce, we should be educating the people through art, theatre, literature and debate to encourage personal growth, which will fuel self-started community renewal. The stuff theses are made of, n’estce pas?
I visited Margaree on the weekend, and took Amy, a fellow student along with me. She is from Crows Nest Pass in Alberta and despite travelling many more exotic places, had never been “out east” before. So we went on a nice drive through Cheticamp and the Highlands to Pleasant Bay, then back to Margaree and Dunvegan. I love showing people around my home.
Then we were back to Antigonish for a fantastic Indian feast. Organized by Carla, cooked by Jaya and Jyotsana and the ladies from SEWA. We all pitched in and bought the groceries and helped with the cooking. I was rolling out dough for the poori (fried flat-bread) with a chopstick, because we didn’t have a rolling pin. Not an easy job, but I made it work.
Along with the poori we had poppadom (crispy, bread-like potato-chip like) and vegetable curry they gave a name I won’t even try to spell. There was rice with green lentils, served with a curry sauce. Then dessert, made with much butter and sugar and flour, and with chopped almonds. Very rich, only a small spoonful was needed. We all ate way too much. The kitchen was full and we had a fabulous time. All occupants of the International house were present, including us Canadians, the Indians, a gentleman from Nepal, a man from Bangladesh and two women from Ghana.
I think I am learning just as much or more from living in this residence than I am in class and through my readings.

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Just past midnight

I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, and very small. Small doesn’t even quite cover it. Insignificant. Powerless. One of millions. Billions actually.
I’ve just sat in Jackie’s room (classmate) for the past 3 hours, drinking wine and talking with her and Jaya, a Coady student from India. Culture is such a strange phenomenon. Until you really sit down and talk to someone very different from you, I don’t know if it is fully possible to even understand the world you come from, let alone the world others live in.
I’m not even going to pretend this entry is going to make sense. It couldn’t possibly at this point. I will need hours, if not days, to digest everything we just discussed. It started as a conversation about mortgages, of all things.
Jackie came here as an HR consultant with the Bank of Montreal, looking to work on employee-training-type education. Except that two days before she left she was told they want to move her back into sales. Suddenly she is wondering why she’s doing a Masters in Adult Education. As the only other student with a financial background, I sat with her for a bit over a glass of red wine to discuss options and applications.
Then Jaya walked by the open door and we invited her to join. She talked about “Home loans” in India and how they were essentially the same as mortgages. Then we led into family life, and marriage. She was married at 18 to a man she had never met. Seven days later her father asked for a divorce. She didn’t say why and I was afraid to ask. She does still believe in marriage but says it is not something she wants for herself. Jackie talked about the ups and downs of her 31 year marriage, and I talked of my own seven year experience.
We talked about life, and expectations. She talked about her “boyfriend” and stressed that it does not mean the same thing as it would here, and he is merely a companion, someone she can talk to.
We talked about work and family. About the fact that we were drinking wine and she does not. In India only the lower class and the upper class drink alcohol. It is socially unacceptable for the middle class.
We talked about economic opportunity, and the fact that a woman cannot live alone in India, although a woman could move away from her home as long as it was with another family member.
Along the way, Kathi and Carla joined us. We are planning a group supper Sunday evening. The four Indian women will cook us a “traditional” supper. Later in the week, perhaps Wednesday, we will reciprocate with something “Canadian.”
Then, and God knows how it came up, Jaya talked about how in 1991 there were 100 men in India for every 95 women, and today the estimate is 100 men for every 75 women. Illegal clinics have been set up where pregnant women can test the sex of their baby and choose to abort a female child. A very quick way to silence a group of five women, regardless of where they are from. Where is our value? Why are we so easy to reject? And what are the consequences?