Day 5 in Ahmedabad: The True Meaning of Shooting Stars

Hello LitWorld Friends,

Today was another wonderful day of LitCamp. As Yaya always wisely points out, you can measure the success of day one by the way the children enter on day two. These past four days, especially the two days of camp, have been an extraordinary learning experience. I realized that this is the first time we've run a LitCamp on a first visit to a programming site. While that of course presents certain difficulties, it is also an incredible crash course in the culture. If you ever want to learn the unexplainable nuances of a culture, spend two days playing with the children.

We've noticed that the children have a very difficult time with games that involve teamwork. They are excellent at following directions and playing games where they alone are responsible for their actions (Read Along, Simon Says, etc.) but have difficulty with games where they need to rely on others to achieve a set outcome (the human knot, relay races, etc.). They also have trouble cheering on their friends. They will do it when instructed but then forget to continue on their own.

I spoke with two of our Bal Dosts, Prasad and Armene, about this and both women said that this is highly indicative of Indian culture. Children aren't praised at home or in school and none of the children we are working with have had the experience of playing any kind of team-based sport. For many of them, this is the first time they've been asked to cheer on their friends. And to turn that on its head, this is the first time they've been celebrated by their peers.

In that very vein, I have never seen shooting stars take hold the way they have here. Both the children and adults LOVE to give and receive shooting stars. They take it incredibly seriously. If a shooting star is given, the recipient will stop what they are doing to receive it with a deliberate shimmer down their body. Truly, I've never seen anything like it. In the sweetest way imaginable, the children have taken to giving shooting stars to their Bal Dosts after they lead activities. Be still my heart.

It's incredible to see the transformation that is already taking place. The children are so warm and open to every activity, song, and game. They've already begun asking if they can have another LitCamp next year.

All of these discoveries are not only important moments of learning, they are also crucial points of understanding as we continue to expand and deepen our work here. By running this LitCamp on our first trip, by jumping into the deep end of the pool, we are able to immediately see the structural nuances of our partner organization, the particular cultural differences, and the spaces that will need extra care to teach into.

With a joyful and heavy heart we look to tomorrow, our final day of LitCamp. It will of course be heartbreaking to leave these children that we've already come to love so much, but I leave taking heart knowing that they will all have a LitClub to belong to upon our departure.

With love & gratitude,