Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reality check

My trip to India has totally, for lack of a better term, screwed me up. As I've been processing for a few days, I've been faced not only with the scope of this issue, but also with my own inadequacy in covering it.

Let's face it, this issue has been ingrained in an ancient culture for centuries and I have been a writer for barely six months. To top it off, I am a total foreigner and was totally unaware of most of the issue until about a week and a half ago.

Who am I, a privileged white girl from the American suburbs, to try to tackle such a monumental issue that has shaped an entire people for thousands of years?

As I was transcribing an interview from the trip, I began crying over my keyboard because phrases like "modern day slavery" and "240 million people" were no longer abstractions, but faces and souls.

To make matters worse, I looked up the stories that one of the people on the trip, a senior international correspondent for a major Christian network, completed while over there and was faced with the total lack of skill and experience that I am bringing to this issue.

I felt ashamed by my enthusiasm that I had immediately upon returning to the States because it vastly outweighs my skill in covering such stories. Now, simply because I spent 8 days in a country and have a wristband that reads "Free the Dalit" I am some sort of crusader for the downtrodden and oppressed? What exactly can my minuscule efforts do to change that? And what about all the other people in the world who face oppression and persecution?

Even still, with all my insecurities out on the table, I'm thinking of a conversation I had with a fellow journalist during our last night in Mumbai.

He's in a similar situation as me, only having 1 year experience as a writer. We decided that yes, we are both intensely unequipped to cover such stories, especially compared to those on our trip who have 20 years or more of experience. But, at the same time, we have seen something that the majority of the world has not and we must bring attention to it, even if it's not in the most eloquent or concise way. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Free the Dalit

So why, you may wonder, did I even go over to India in the first place?

Anyone remotely familiar with Mother Teresa's work is probably aware of the caste system in Hinduism and India. Basically, it's the organization of different groups of people in India. Hindu teaching holds that people come from different parts of a primordial being to make up one body. The main castes, or varnas, are the Brahmins (priests and teachers born from the mouth), Kshatriya (rulers and soldiers born from the arms), Vaisyas (merchants and traders born from the thighs) and Shudras (laborers born from the feet). Each varna is further divided within itself, forming a sub-caste system within a system. 

After all that comes the Untouchables (or the Dalits, as they have begun to call themselves in recent years), who are considered too defiled to even make up a part of the caste system. There are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India. 

They are out-castes in the truest sense of the word.

Despite their status of being "untouchable," Dalit women are often victims to human trafficking. Because they have no skills and no rights, they are made to be prostitutes, often times at a very young age. An estimated 25-100 million people are involved in human trafficking in India, estimates vary so much because many cases are unreported making it difficult to determine just how many are involved.

Within the last 50 years, a movement among the Untouchables has began to organize to eradicate the subjugation of their people. They have begun to call themselves the Dalits (the crushed, or oppressed).

One particular group that is leading the way in this movement is the Dalit Freedom Network who seek to prevent child trafficking through education.

Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif. put the trip together to bring awareness to the situation in India and the work they've been doing to prevent children from falling victim to the system through education. We toured the schools and slums and met the leaders of the Dalit Freedom Network in India. All I can say now is that what these people are doing in revolutionary. It truly is undermining an entire social and religious structure that has been in place for thousands of years. Pray for them all, they need it.

India Debriefing

Where do I even begin? I just spent 8 days in the most beautiful, dirty, crowded, poverty-stricken, engaging place I've ever seen and I loved it. I wish I had known more about the country before going in, but even still, there is no way to know India without seeing, touching, tasting, hearing and feeling it.

Before going over, I was expecting to say that India attacks all your senses. Because of what I've heard about the pollution, crowds and traffic, I thought that there was just so much going on that there would be no way for me to process it all. While that is certainly true, I think a better way of putting it would be that India engages all your senses (and emotions, for that matter). There is so much going on that there's no way to experience it all in just a few days. What I saw was just the surface of a country teeming with life (and sorrow, joy, love and hatred). India took a piece of my heart when I first stepped out of the airport in Hyderabad and would not give it back when I boarded the plane in Mumbai.

I pray that I will be able to return soon and spend more time there for work (CNA definitely needs an India office ... obviously the rookie white girl would be the best person to make that happen) or for marriage (I am now convinced that I will marry an Indian man ... more to come on that later).

So, these next few posts will serve as an overflow of what won't make it into my news stories. Hopefully this little bit of information will help you fall in love with this beautiful country that so desperately needs our help.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

All the single ladies

Ok, ok. I know I said I'd be better about keeping current with this blog (wait, I didn't say that? Well, I thought it and that's basically the same thing to me -- just ask anyone who tries to text me). Anywho, I'm using the excuse that I just moved into a new house (read: duplex with a massive basement and even massiver garage) and have not set up internet yet.

However, I do have a few thoughts that I believe are worthy of your perusal.

I am not ok with being single.

There, I said it. Now, before you go rolling your eyes and thinking that I'm trying to turn this blog into a listing for, let me explain.

Singlehood is not my vocation. Yes yes, I know that there are beautiful consecrated virgins, but I'm talking about this whole phase of perpetual adolescence that our generation seems to be obsessed with, well, perpetuating.

This revelation was brought on by a conversation with a friend of mine who mentioned that she had a friend who made a similar statement and I realized, hey, me too!

Don't get me wrong. I love getting to stay up drinking and talking with friends, being able to make last minute plans without having to consult anyone, spending my money on clothes I don't really need, going to the gym whenever I feel like it and not having to check with anyone when my boss asks me if I want to go to India.

But, I wonder, is this helping me become a better version of my self?

Maybe a physically stronger fitter, more stylish, better-traveled and more worldly version, yes. But a more selfless, patient, loyal, compassionate, humble, loving and nurturing version? Meh, not so much.

Enter, Marriage: otherwise known as the Gauntlet of Self-Sacrifice or the Marathon of Humility and Patience. Every single day is a challenge to die to yourself in ways you never even thought possible.

Now, I realize that I can also be more aware of the sacrifices God is calling me to make already. Don't cuss out that driver for cutting you off, try to be more pleasant and courteous to co-workers, accept humiliation and misjudging happily, etc. But, dang girl, there ain't nothing like hanging out with my little nephews for a few hours to give me a dose of the kind of holy stamina that is required to be a mother and wife.

Does this mean that I am going to go off on a Husband Hunt and will fling myself at the first male I see with a Miraculous medal hanging around his neck?

No. (But I might walk by a couple times to check if he has a wedding ring on, at least.)

What it does mean is that we single folks need to remember that this stage of arrested development is not our vocation. You don't see men who know they are called to be priests just hang around churches hoping they'll somehow miraculously be turned into a priest. Women who are called to be sisters or nuns don't just hang around convents until a habit mysteriously appears on their heads.

They study, prepare, and pray to transform their lives to be made ready for their calling of a life of devotion to the Church.

I don't know exactly what this kind of preparation would look like for a single person, but marriage prep is not confined to the engagement period or even in dating.

Everyday we can choose to become more like the spouse we'd like to one day marry instead of just accepting singlehood as our destined lot in life.

I'm going to be honest folks, I have no prospects, but instead of going all Charlotte Lucas on a dude, I can have hope that the right man will come along eventually if we're both seeking God's will.

 And in the meantime, we can try and be even cooler people for the one we've yet to meet.