Why India?

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July was a month of destinations for our team at La Puerta Abierta.  While Isa and Isaias were in Mexico, Juanita and I traveled to India and collaborated with APV School in the Himalayas.  

I am the mother of two daughters and I remember wondering while I was expecting my second child, if my heart would stretch sufficiently to love two little ones.  It did.  I often think of La Puerta Abierta as my first born, and APV School as my second. 

Here’s why…

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Many months ago a friend asked me to put into words the uniqueness of my first trip to APV School in India. He had received a general flyer about the program, but still wondered what made my trip authentic.

He asked, “What would you say was the main takeaway that you got from going last year? Among all of the professional/personal development activities you could do in the world, what makes/made this one special in your mind?”

I still haven’t responded…not for lack of enthusiasm or time. I’ve struggled with finding the words to capture with integrity, the magnitude of spirit, learning, sharing, exploring and feeling experienced during my three-week retreat.

This quiet morning I find myself nearly a month  post my second trip to India, memories of my most recent experience to the Himalayas floating through my mind like a chain of snap shots. I can nearly smell the ginger, cardamom, and star anise of the old Delhi spice markets. My nose feels a faint itch when I think of the sea of chiles that I passed evoking tiny sneezes from my nose.

I can feel 8-year-old Pria from APV at my side, singing gently during morning assembly, and a smile wide on her face as she hums, “I am happy to be born on the green earth.”

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I can see the glory of the Himalayas from my bedroom window, clouds occasionally forming small halos over their peeks. And speaking of my bedroom window, I remember the smiling buffalo that lives across the street, named with love, Fuffulo. Her bells woke me each morning with a melodic tink-tink-tink.

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An image floats into my mind of Puja, the 19-year-old APV teacher who I worked with, side by side. She’s a recent graduate from  APV School and is now in her second year of teaching. From Puja, I learned a new grace of working spontaneously with students. I observed her teach lessons in a community setting with children sitting on the floor in an intimate circle, engaged in lessons, which required very few resources. I also think fondly of day #6 of my literacy training with her, when she confidently shared a book with her students, a new skill which she had been practicing throughout the week.

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Did I mention the glory filled mornings at APV when I was wakened by a gentle tap at my door and greeted by the chai-guy who routinely brought me a steaming cup of tea to lull me out of bed for morning yoga? And the yoga…. I’ve never felt quite so tall, open, balanced and healthy as I have at APV.

The snapshots are plenty…there is no shortage of memories, but if I had to choose one main “take away” it would be this:

EXCHANGE–In an era when we often hear about the downfalls and struggles of educational institutions, APV shines with hope and inspiration for an alternative method of educating children holistically, with a focus on meditation, mindfulness, nature appreciation, and spontaneity. I have been motivated by observing, participating, and exchanging ideas with both the APV staff and other educators from around the world who have been present on the retreat. Likewise, sharing my skills as an early childhood educator with local teachers and children has been gratifying, meaningful, and heartfelt.

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 As for the second question, “What makes this particular trip special when there appears to b a plethora of personal/professional development activities to choose from in the world?” A single phrase answer has challenged me for months. I believe the word AUTHENTICITY captures my experience. We are truly fortunate when we find our own, unique, authentic “retreat,” which differs for all of us. As an educator, traveler, and an individual who appreciates nature, music, creativity, mindfulness, yoga, exploration and culture, the APV experience caters to my “retreat.”

Oh, and I don’t know of any other retreats which encourage participants to walk barefoot in rice patties and help a group of local women plant little baby rice sprouts in their village fields…this is most special.

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And a few insights from Isa…

La Puerta Abierta is growing and expanding.  This year marks our 10 year anniversary as a project in Santiago Atitlan, and also a turning point as an institution.  This year, we’ve been invited to collaborate with a different educational projects both near and far to our home.  Isa shares about her travels to Chiapas where she and Isaias spent two weeks partnering with Yo-onik.

In her words…

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Mi visita a México fue una experiencia muy positiva, conocí personas increíbles que llenaron mi alma de paz, tranquilidad y amor. Fue grandioso compartir, y conocer el proyecto de Yo’onik, los maestros y ver el rostro de los niños esperando ingresar a la escuela, esperando con emoción encontrar cosas nuevas, niños que me seguían pidiéndome que les leyera un cuento mas y contándome la alegría que tenían en sus corazones al ver cosas diferente.

Fue muy divertido poder trabajar en equipo con todos los maestros y amigos para ordenar el espacio, pintar, limpiar, comprar, reciclar, cortar patas de mesas y luego usarlo como juego de bloques etc…

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Esta experiencia no solo me permitió ayudar y compartir sino también me hizo ver el trabajo que hace la Biblioteca y Escuelita Puerta Abierta en las comunidades de Santiago Atitlàn desde otra perspectiva y recordar como ha evolucionado este proyecto que empezó hace años atrás y la entrega que ha dado a la educación guatemalteca, fortaleciendo la educación creativa, divertida y sobre todo apoyando a los distintos centros educativos compartiendo distintas metodologías.

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Me emociona ver que Yo`onik es una institución que esta sembrando semillas nuevas y que pronto florecerá abriendo el paso a un nuevo sistema de educación en la comunidad de Zinacantan y fortalecer las distintas destrezas de los niños, veo mucho futuro para este proyecto, todo es un proceso, paso a paso, durante este viaje logramos tantas cosas y espero que tengamos otras oportunidades para seguir compartiendo ideas y lograr lo que en este viaje no pudimos trabajar por el tiempo.

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Insights from Isaias

One of my greatest pleasures of working at La Puerta Abierta is being a part of a team of talented teachers who stay for multiple years at our center.  I’ve watched Isaias grow in confidence, creativity and innovation over the past five years.  Last month, Isaias and Isa were invited to work with one of our sister projects, YOONIK, located in Zinancantan Chiapas.  They spent two weeks modeling creative teaching practices for educators, setting up the center and connecting with local children.  

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In his own words:

Me siento tan agradecido con el proyecto Puerta Abierta y Natik por darme a oportunidad de conocer el país de MEXICO.

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Mi experiencia en una de las comunidad de Zinancantan fue impactante por su culture. Las familias trabajan en florerías, tejidos y turismo. Convivir con la familia y la comunidad me ayudo a conocer más de su cultura, tradición y entender poco a poco su forma de comunicar en el idioma Tzotzil. Conocí a Doña Magdalena, la madre de mi amiga Xunca.   Cada mañana ella  nos prepara avena y una variedad de tortillas para degustar cerca del fogón, con café caliente y muchas energías positivas para empezar cada día.

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Mi instancia en el Centro YOONIK fue sorprendente. El primer día observe todo a mi alrededor lleno de colorido y mucha paz. Mi compañera Isa estaba emocionada y de lo mucho que teníamos para compartir y trabajar.

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Una de mis experiencia favoritas en el centro fueron los centros de aprendizaje que la maestra Isa implemento en la escuela y los nuevos cuentos que compramos para el programa de Biblioteca Móvil. Tuvimos la oportunidad de cantar, contar cuentos y hacer varias actividades de destreza, pensamiento crítico y mucho arte con el equipo YOONIK.

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También conocí a varias personas maravillosas amigos del proyecto YOONIK, todos en la gran orquesta de educar, amar, compartir y crecer juntos en armonía. Me siento satisfecho y con ganas de regresar pronto en MEXICO y visitar a mis nuevos amigos Yoli, Xunca, Magdalena, Marcos Diaz, doña Rufi… todos quienes nos ayudaron durante nuestro experiencia en México dándonos  los platillos típicos y sabrosos de su pueblo.

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Mi cuento Chapín y sus aventuras en México continuaran, para seguir conociendo más de esta cultura tan espectacular y única.

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Gracias Natik,  Gracias Puerta Abierta por esta hermosa experiencia de vida.

Esta historia continuara…