final blog – dallin r.

The reintegration period into American life- more specifically University life- has been very rushed, yet very productive. Growth means having more and more things to take care of. The energy of being in India, and the knowledge of the experience of being somewhere else in the world, has been motivating me to try to take care of as many things as I possibly can to get my life to where I need it to be. Though it’s a constructive journey, it’s difficult.

But difficulty doesn’t equal negative. It means having to defeat more obstacles, and gain more muscle, and slay more dragons. And even though I might slip and fall, that doesn’t mean I’m on the wrong path. It just means I need to get better shoes.

I wouldn’t be able to look forward to the budding experience of being in the classrooms here in Columbia with as much vigor and excitement if i didn’t have the chance to be at Vidyashilp. Being fully immersed in a school for the entire school day, learning how to collaborate with teachers, and all around being an active part of a school community gave me the best primer possible for being an active student teacher in a school here in Columbia.

The mountain climb of finishing a degree is painful, but so worth it. All I have to do is look back on all I’ve overcome to be able to be here, and it gives me just that much more strength to continue forward. And the continuing forward part is what’s important.

Going to India was a step forward. Coming back was a step forward. This semester, and any that follow, is a step forward. Working after my graduation is many step forwards.

Success isn’t getting to one point and being able to say you’re there. It’s about looking back, no matter where you are on your journey, and saying, “I’ve done all that.” That’s success.


never to yield – dallin r.

I’m trying hard to keep my cool about leaving India, and focusing on all the positive. I can’t wait to be able to go home, see my friends and family, and start the next chapter of my life. But the fact that I have only about a few days left in India is heartbreaking, and I don’t want to leave.

So much growth has happened here, but I know it’ll be so amazing to take what I’ve learned here back home and apply it to my career. I’ll take this bittersweet feeling, and all these emotions, and channel it into my academic work to get myself to the point where I can be in India again. Whether that’s another six-week program, a scholarship for study, employment, or just recreation: I know I’m meant to be here again, and I cannot wait. That being said, these last couple weeks have been rife with discovery and work.

I was privileged to be able to be a judge for a 6th and 7th grade Slam Poetry contest here at Vidyashilp. The other judge was a student from 10th grade, and we watched as each student came on the stage and recited a poem aimed at the theme of “Inequality.” The articulation, social awareness, and cultural relevance these students are able to not only grasp, but master, is breathtaking and inspiring. How students of just 11-12 years old are the next generation and already have this much skill in terms of pointing out injustices and unfairness is truly encouraging.

This last week here has put an addition into my carpentry workshop: I showed a group of 8th grade students the lab in order to help them understand measuring length and width. A few of them showed interest in carpentry, and so I’ve been working with them in showing them the basics of carpentry. It’s nice to be able to get a different perspective of learning styles, enthusiasm, and skill level. They’re eager to learn, and eager to work.

I was fortunate enough to witness some of Vidyashilp Academy’s Model Parliament, that lasted two days last week. It was amazing to be able to see these 11th and 12th grade students handle this event with humility and care. They had outlined out an entire agenda of topics to discuss and debate, and though I wasn’t able to sit through all of it, it’s always amazing to me the level of intellect and connectivity these students, and the people of India as a whole, have and apply to their lives. To make a better India. To make a better world. They work towards that goal, as Lord Tennyson said, “to strive, to seek, to find, and never to yield.”

the city without a sky and the crown of the palace – dallin r.

            “You know, one of the things I was most excited to see about India was how each city was different,” one of our MU facilitators said on the drive to the Bangalore airport. “I know that back in the States a lot of cities are different, but we’re a diverse country. India is a very similar country, so it’s exciting to see how each city will be different.” We were on our way to Delhi, for a mid-summer getaway experience. It was definitely exciting to be able to see another side of this beautiful country.

            We had been told that Delhi was hotter and that the air was more polluted than Bangalore, so I was dreading the atmosphere, but when I got there, it really didn’t feel too bad. The humidity felt worse than the heat, but thankfully, having experience in Missouri and Louisiana prepared me for humidity. Though I haven’t been in 100+ degree heat since I lived in Nevada, it felt nice to be in that kind of heat again in the country of my dreams.

            The pollution affected the look of the city more than any air quality I experienced. And it wasn’t exactly negative- it was sublime. It set the city apart from the world, a dome of chemical-yellow, cloudless sky covered this capital, adding a pensive backdrop to all the scattered relics of the city, adding to the story of Delhi.

            Though I did miss the home and natural feel of Casa Cottage throughout the weekend, I had no qualms with being put up in nice hotels in Delhi and Agra. It was a luxurious experience that truly touched my soul. It’s a consolidated version of my gratefulness of this entire experience- especially geared towards the U.S. Dept. of State, Dr. and Mrs. Smith, Gabrielle and Dean Cheval, and GenNext: how I can be sponsored to experience something I’ve been working my whole life to experience, and be somewhere I’ve been waiting for my entire cosmological existence, just so that it can give me an opportunity to grow and because my sponsors want to see that growth.

            And trust me, this flower is growing.

            The capstone of the entire weekend, of course, was being able to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It truly is a wonder of the world. As soon as we stepped through the intricate and passion-filled gate, following the middle line that led right to the Taj, and saw the beauty of the tomb of kings, I was immediately overwhelmed with the feeling of remorse of the fact that I. couldn’t bring everyone I had ever cared about to this place. It is my goal, as soon as I laid eyes on that marble wonder, to bring all my loved ones, friends, and family, to see the Taj Mahal and stand reverent in its presence. The sky in Agra was bluest of blue, the trees were greenest of green, the marble was purest of pure, and the space inside the tomb itself was spiritual, subtle, and filled with such ethereal history that one couldn’t help but shed a tear when hearing the workers and guides sing the names of those who passed through the room up into the dome of the tomb of the emperor’s one true love.

            Any human is lucky to experience a fraction of the love this emperor had for his wife. I truly believe this.

the first birdhouse, so far – dallin r.

When I was preparing to come to India, never did I imagine that my experiences at Job Corps would carry over.

But one look at my resume, with details about the skills I learned at the trade school, Selvi Ma’am was interested in utilizing these skills in tandem with my observations in the classrooms. And with this, I have gotten into a rhythm here at Vidyashilp: I’m observing a two block 11th grade creative writing class three days a week, and with Selvi Ma’am’s support, I have created an extracurricular carpentry workshop for 11th and 12th grade students during their free periods. It started with four students, but then quickly grew to about nine, and now I have about four groups of students cycling through free periods throughout the week. It started with pulling a few desks together, finding some scraps of wood, and borrowing some materials and tools from the on-site carpentry shed, and we had ourselves a class. I started with the basics of cutting the woods, getting comfortable with the rhythm of the physical movements and exertion that comes with using the saw, and got them started on little assignments: cutting two inch by two inch blocks, and two inch width triangular blocks.

These students have been more than supportive with this endeavor- I was scared they’d be bored, but they are all enthusiastic and excited to be a part of it. I’m not sure how much of it is doing something new and different, and how much of it is doing something productive in material terms as well as mental education, or how much of it is just a love of engaging with a new learning experience. I am convinced it’s a combination of all three.

I have grown in more ways than expected being in India and being at Vidyashilp. Realizing that the small steps along my journey that got me to where I am, as opposed to just the large spaces I’ve been able to be in over the last few years, has helped a huge deal. Being able to remove myself from most of my friends, family, and comfort zone, and just be immersed in the India experience has been purifying and cleansing, spiritually and emotionally. Personally, I feel like I am in the perfect place in my life to have been able to be on this trip- not a year ago, not in a year from now. Right now, as I am, I am where I am supposed to be, experiencing what I am supposed to, and reflecting on every single day, event, and moment that preceded me stepping onto the plane, and every moment since I landed in Bangalore. All the things I’ve learned while being here, the adapting, shifting, and welcoming, are things that will never leave me, for as long as I live and no matter where I go.

Just today, my carpentry students begun work on their first birdhouse.

the second week – dallin r.

This last week, I have had an interesting perspective when it came to trying out the food here: a digestive issue. Nothing too serious as it’s already passed, but it definitely limited my performance when it came to trying new things and being present during meals. The culture’s emphasis on sharing meals reflects their welcoming attitude in their communities, something that’s similar but different than in the United States. In America, meals are a staple of our time at home and going out to eat is a common activity, but the emphasis on sharing homemade foods, connecting with the food, using your whole body, mind, and soul to connect with all the food at all the times.

This philosophy also carries over into their education system.

Replace the food with information and learning. The school systems here are heavily built upon the idea of sharing information, coming together in harmony to engage the information with your whole mind, body, and soul.

And it’s heavily exemplified in Vidyashilp academy.

At Shilp, all of the students are asked to partake and engage in academia in all different ways. They are asked to examine their own education, their own interests, their own skill development, and it shows that it renders amazing results through their organization skills, retention skills, and interest for learning.

Their engagement and well-rounded interest levels are only boosted by the ShilpDew and Encounter programs- the newsletter opens up a dialogue between the students and allows for their work to be peer reviewed and examined, and helps frame their interests in an academic way; the debate program invites them to build stances on policies, events, and the future, defend those stances, and dialectically come up with questions regarding those stances.

I sat and had a conversation with an 11th grade student who had spent a significant time of their life in Dubai.

“I was born in Bangalore, and grew up here a little, but I did most of my studies in Dubai,” they explained to me that the school system they went to had a lot of students from a lot of different countries. This student spoke English well, but has developed a kind of makeshift accent from being exposed to so many languages most of their life. “I don’t really get problems from anyone about it; my friends tease me that I’m not from India or that I don’t sound Indian, but I am from here. I am from Bangalore.”

They went on to explain to me that having an outside perspective on the growth of Bangalore has been interesting to see, how when they were a lot younger Bangalore was a lot smaller and a lot less busy. I asked them how old they were: “I’m turning 17 soon.” I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, “I want to get into Engineering. But I feel like everyone here wants to do that. There’s a good Engineering school in Germany, but I wouldn’t want to come back to Bangalore, I don’t think.” When I asked them why, they explained to me that they wanted to take their Bangalore experiences and apply them to the rest of the world.

I’m hoping that when I get back to Mizzou, I can do the same.

the first week – dallin r.

Being in India is so much better than I thought it would be. I was expecting to be overwhelmed, to be touched in my mind, body, and soul- my spirit. And I have been exposed to so much more light and power than I ever thought possible. The pulse of the earth flows through this bustling oasis.

Bangalore is a techno-industrial flower that is both in full bloom and flourishing at the same time. The flow of the people, the traffic, the culture- they are all alive and thriving here. And it is exemplified most in the schools. All the different schools we have experienced are, in their own right, a shining example of the power of India. At my school, Vidyashilp Academy, there are is a prosperous population of growing intellectual students, fully tapped into the creative river of potential. We have been to one of the government schools, placed in an underdeveloped section of Bangalore, where students that don’t have the same opportunities as the students at Vidyashilp still gather to be in a socio-educational environment. The two clashing school environments, and those in between at the Delhi Public Schools and Magnolia, still have the same underlying acceptance of student potential and creativity.

I can already feel my personal experience here growing. I knew as soon as the opportunity to come here was solidified, I was going to come back changed. Though I had expectations, naturally, and I have the conditioned bias of growing up in the privileged diversity of American culture, I was as open as I could possibly be for this trip, and it’s benefitted me directly.

To parallel with my experiences trying all the different food, I am partaking in a variety of different things I don’t even have the opportunity to think of trying in America. All the little ins and outs of India culture, of Karnataka culture, Bangalore culture, even Richmond Town culture- the density of the population- the constant flow and sounds of the cars, people, animals- the trees, and how they play an important part in the physical infrastructure of the city- the constant activity- all play a part in making this place so much different than America.

The beauty of a place like this existing- from the high-rise corporate buildings to the gritty, trash-ridden sub-streets- is that it is home to so many people, not because they’ve ended up here through biological happenstance, but because they have made this place their home. They have created their environment, their ecosystem. They have adapted to the terrarium that is Bangalore, and to see that, hear that, experience that- is a sublime knowledge that I can’t wait to see evolve over the next five weeks here.

Dallin Rickabaugh: A-Talkin’ Pre-Departure Blues

shifts in seasons are transitions on such grand scales.

semesters ending, vacations starting; such huge shifts.

not only am i preparing for this trip to india, i’m also preparing to move into a new apartment- while i’m out of the country. i’m packing up all of my belongings to put in storage, and when i return from this amazing trip, i’ll be living somewhere else.

it adds a perspective: the trip being bookended by being in one place and returning to another.

celebrations are in order. congratulations have been had.

this trip is an insanely amazing opportunity- and i hope my open eyes and ready soul are ready for it.

i feel they are.

i feel they are.

i’ve wanted to go to india ever since i was a little kid.

when i saw my first bollywood movie, i was instantly smitten.

i did as much research as i could on bollywood films and thought it was so much cooler than hollywood.

whenever teachers or adults would ask what i wanted to be when i was older, i told them i wanted to be a bollywood film director- and that’s still kind of true.

the magic, mysticism, and overall charm that comes from bollywood-

even their rip-roaring action comedies-

is something deeply attached to the culture they live in. a culture i cannot wait to experience firsthand.

i also loved movies and stories about india, like ghandi, which gave me a lot of perspective about the country’s culture.

when i came to mizzou, during my summer welcome, it was simply mentioned in passing that there was an education teach abroad program to india.

i had only recently (in the last couple years) found out that i wanted to be a teacher. i knew i wanted to go into film, but it wasn’t until i met a dear friend (also a teacher) that set off my passion for educating.

this will be an amazing origin story of my educational career.

the time i’ve spent before the trip has been all seeing people that wish me well on my journey.

there isn’t a single person in my life that doesn’t want me to go.

everyone that loves me and cares for me knows how important this trip is for me.

the only one who doesn’t fully grasp it is myself.

i’m still haunted by feelings of “i don’t deserve this” and “i haven’t earned this” when, in reality, i sure have.

and i know i have.

but hopefully this grand shift in perspective will help reconcile something in me that will help me be a better educator, and, ultimately, a better citizen of the world.  

let’s go.