Spotted in Manila, 2014

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

About Shanti Bhavan

As the students arrive on campus (!!!!!!!!!!) I am beginning to understand what an incredibly special place Shanti Bhavan is. This school is a beautiful bubble, that serves children born into the lowest, "untouchable" caste in India's ancient, illegal, and still quite-present caste system. Sent by their families from their homes to this boarding school to receive and excellent education, these students begin their studies at age 4. They continue these rigorous courses (as well as eat healthy meals three-times a day, drink clean water, play sports, sing and learn instruments, celebrate holidays, have access to free healthcare and constant safety and security, and open their minds to staff and volunteers of all cultures, languages, and beliefs) until they graduate at age 18. At this time, their excellent test scores and language fluency in both English and various Indian dialects earns them enrollment at the best higher institutions in the country, funded by Shanti Bhavan and its George Foundation, preparing them for jobs with India's best companies and corporations. In this way, in just one generation, the caste system is completely reversed, and eliminated. This place is absolutely a dream come true.

Possibly the most exciting part, though, is that every student and graduate of Shanti Bhavan is excited to voice their ideas on how they will change the world upon their graduation. Each one has thoroughly thought-out plans about founding their own Shanti Bhavan in their home villages, to spread the mission of the school, and pay-forward the incredible gift they have received. These young people are going to be the ones that save the world.

For more information about SB:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arriving at Shanti Bhavan

I am writing this brief entry by the light of my flashlight, and periodic lightening strikes that illuminate my room during an evening power outage here in India. I arrived in Bangalore on Wednesday morning at 4am from a long flight from Houston (via 23 hours in London, and 22 hours in Frankfurt!). It was an exhilarating adventure that I lived to the fullest, thanks to a 3 day adrenaline rush. So of course it felt amazing to collapse onto my scratchy, creaky, musty, and GLORIOUS bed.

Since our arrival on campus at Shanti Bhavan, our bright-eyed, and inspiring team has worked together to prepare our lessons, classrooms, and brains for the teaching-weeks to come. As wonderful as it is to spend time getting to know each other and this new country, we are anxious to get into the classrooms with students. Luckily, it begins tomorrow with our opening performance and welcome!

That's all for now, as I try to conserve my computer battery (since who knows how long the power outage will be!)

Found in my diary from 2 days ago:

First impressions of India and Shanti Bhavan:
I'm hot. This means cold bucket showers feel good. 
How refreshing, to be woken up by birds outside my window that are not grackles and pigeons (see quickly-growing bird count on next page)
OBSESSED with the jackfruit tree.
Still haven't seen a scorpion... Waiting, wishing
There's no way I will get sick of this food.
How will I ever capture the beauty of all of these flowers in just a photograph?
Glitter all over--saris, bangles, sandles, why don't we all try to put this much bling in our lives?
COLORS!!! Clay-red soil, every-shade-of-green palm trees, ocean-blue sky, pastel-purple houses
How am I so lucky to be here?!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Shanti Bhavan and India!

I'm so anxious/excited/thrilled/nervous to be only 10 days away from my departure for India! From May 20 to June 13, I will be in Bangalore, India working with other volunteer teaching artists in many different disciplines at the Shanti Bhavan Children's Project through Artists Striving to End Poverty. This is a country and a project that has been calling me for many years, and finally my schedule and finances allow for me to participate. I feel so fortunate.

My travel time will take about 3 days to make the trip to India (via 24 hour layovers in both London and Frankfurt), and on May 16, I begin this journey. I look forward to tracking my work and progress as a teacher here for the few weeks I am on site at Shanti Bhavan. These kinds of outreach experiences are so valuable to my growth as a musician, teacher, ambassador, activist, and human. That is why I'm so hooked on using my musicianship to take me around the world, and meeting all kinds of beautiful people in doing so.

Let the adventure begin!!!

On a darker note, here's a shot from the preparation I've been doing for the trip.

The realism of traveling...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trash Pick-Up in Austin

Our ASTEP in Austin chapter kicked off the semester with a trash clean-up in East Austin this weekend! It was a beautiful day and this was a fun and productive way to spend time in the sun with friends. Overall, the 8 volunteers collected more than 60 pounds of waste and recyclable items, and we plan to make a banner for our chapter out of the recycling we collected!

Picking up this much trash in just a 2-block section of Austin makes me realize that the work we did was just a tiny drop in a giant bucket. But it is a relief to know how simple it was to organize a neighborhood clean up like this. Thanks to Keep Austin Beautiful, we were supplied with free trash bags, first aid kits, and gloves. I look forward to doing it again soon!

Thanks to Keep Austin Beautiful and these rockstars!