Sunday, January 19,
Namaste. Today I had convinced myself that I had already been in India for 3 days, but I slowly realized that not even two full days have I been in this incredible country – less than two days of street food breakfasts, early morning runs, field visits to rural social enterprises and NGO’s, a local flight on ‘SpiceJet,’ and potentially the best part, spending time with inspiring individuals from a unique mix of countries and areas of work, people all passionate in some form about development and social entrepreneurship.
I will start by saying how both my days have began with very early morning runs. My first meal (post Day 1 run) was a traditional Indian street food breakfast of chutney, spice, and everything nice. This morning’s run began in the darkness of Hubli shortly after 6am, after all the travel had me up at 3:15am.
After my run this morning I boarded a colorful bus and headed out of the city to the first stop of a full day of field visits. About twenty minutes outside of Hubli, a loud “pop!” came from underneath the bus. Out myself and the other conference delegates piled onto the side of the highway to examine the blown tire. As we milled about on the side of the highway, something pointed out that we were stuck only a few hundred yards from what looked like an incredibly elaborate temple of some kind. Up the highway we walked, taking advantage of our unexpected pit stop. What we discovered was a Jainism temple with massive statues of identical figures standing on 50-feet tall replicas of the planets of the solar system, complete with the sun and the moon. It was an incredible place, not only did it have this elaborate temple, but the Jainism priests ran a school program for over 4,000 children from all faiths, many of them orphans of the AIDS epidemic.
After visiting the field sites of a few agriculture-focused NGO’s a long bumpy bus ride took us into the forested hills far outside of Hubli. Tucked away admits the trees was a beautiful partially solar-powered school. This school was no ordinary school though. Originally started by a Canadian couple passionate about Indian music and art, Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya puts equal importance on academics and music for children coming from the poorest families in the area who can not afford school fees otherwise. Every scholarship-supported student takes 3 hours of music class a day to complement their 3 hours of academics. Run by a local staff coupled with about one dozen international volunteers, KSV is an inspiring place that proves how an unconventional approach to education can produce life-changing results.
When I travel, one day can feel like a week, and a week like an entire year. Embracing the long days and the unexpected adventures of broken-down busses, that is how even a 5-day mid-January trip can feel like a lifetime of an adventure.
With love from Hubli, India,