Monday, August 31, 2015

The Kafka Effect

After being in Prague, it's hard not to notice Franz Kafka's influence. Restaurants, cafes, and a multitude of other sites in the city are dedicated to his memory. He's is one of the most well known and talented authors of the 20th century, but this acclaim happened after his life ended.

The more I learned about this celebrated author, the more I realized that his life can be a great lesson to each of us. One of the reasons why Kafka did not become famous until after he died is because he didn't think his writing was good enough to be published. For most of his life Kafka was employed by Workman's Accident Insurance when all he really wanted to do was write. He did write when he wasn't working, but all of his work ended up locked in a trunk until his death. In his will, he asked his friend to burn it all, but his friend decided to publish it instead. He lived with the pervasive idea, as many of us do, that we are not good enough. I call this the Kafka Effect. The more you tell yourself something, the more you begin to believe it. What you tell yourself matters. You can't wait for someone else to recognize your greatness. It must come from within.

The lesson for today is simple, you are good enough, and you can do it.

Would you rather live a safe life that you don't love or take a risk for your passion?

"So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being." ~Franz Kafka

Quote from Brainy Quote

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What is Experteering?

Beyond being a fancy new word, Experteering is a new way of thinking about pro bono international work. The word volunteer used to be the umbrella word for anyone who spends his/ her time helping someone or something else. Now we have words like voluntourist and experteer to describe very different things. In the international world, the mere mention of the word voluntourism can incite heated debates on issues of sustainability and dependence in host communities as well as causing damage to the communities that these volunteers are trying to help. It’s a sticky situation because every year, well meaning people fly to all areas of the world hoping to make a difference while on vacation. The problem is that all the good intentions in the world won’t end poverty, stop human trafficking, or educate a population. The need for volunteers has not gone away, rather the need for skilled volunteers has increased. This is where the beauty of experteering comes in. 

More and more, people are becoming dissatisfied with their jobs, and they are doing something about it. When I left teaching it was a huge step into a black hole. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew I had to go. What I found was that there were lots of people like me who had left lucrative careers in search of a more fulfilling life. Some of them had a plan, but most just wanted to follow their passion wherever it took them. They were the lucky ones. I had no plan and I was lacking in passion, feeling defeated and confused about the next step. I started traveling more, but it wasn’t enough. Then I found Moving Worlds, the matchmakers of the experteer world where organizations around the world are able to find skilled professionals to help them with everything from fashion design to permaculture and everything in between. It’s a great way to find a new passion while still being able to use the skills you have or shake up your life a little bit without ditching your regular paycheck. 

Teacher workshop at Vanavil
Through Moving Worlds I found Vanavil, a small school in southern India. While they were looking for an English teacher, I quickly learned that it was only the tip of the iceberg. I was able to assess the needs of the school and look for ways to meet those needs on the ground. Not only did I teach English, I conducted teacher training workshops, helped to make a computer lab operational, assessed students, and lots of other little things along the way that were very similar to what I did when I was a teacher in the states. Now that I'm back home, I will continue working with the school by writing curriculum and helping with Vanavil's mission of  keeping kids off the streets and in school.Through this work I reignited my love of curriculum development, and I can't wait to explore all of the thoughts and ideas that have resulted from having a meaningful experience in a place that needed me.  Experteering has allowed me to stay fresh in my field while expanding my skills in a completely new and challenging context. 

Take a look at my recent interview with Moving Worlds about my experiences in India. 

If you have questions about experteering or where to start, I would love to hear from you. Post a comment below or message me on twitter @eedowd27.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why I Won't Write About India

I’m miles, and what feels like, years away from India, the place in which I struggled both physically and mentally to adjust, but can’t seem to stop thinking about. It almost doesn’t seem real, my time in a small village in Tamil Nadu, trying desperately to help the children to learn English letter sounds.

How do I begin to write about a period of my life that turned truth on its head and made me question every thought I had ever had?
How do I write about the intense highs and lows that would happen within minutes of each other? How do I write about all of the strong and beautiful people who became friends?
How do I return to a life of comfort and hot showers, cappuccinos and complexity? 
How do I write about it in a way that others will understand?

The answer is, I don't. At least I don't do it right now. I wouldn't do it justice. If you have been there yourself you know what I mean. If you haven't been yet, go and find your own India. 

I learned how to push through the challenges to find what I considered ‘my India.’ I found it in the quiet moments, the moments when India didn’t know I was watching. It’s easy to find the difficulty. It’s easy to find reasons not to do things. In the village, my survival depended on me pushing past what was hard, on seeing the beauty in the ordinary. I will continue to breathe a sigh of relief and smile when I see toilet paper in a bathroom. And I will stop and listen a little bit more to who and what is around me, finding the quiet simplicity in each day. I won't write blogs about weekend trips and local poverty. There's much more to the story than that. 

What this all boils down to is that I love India too much and want her all to myself.  So few places exist in this world that aren't touched by western tourism, but I was lucky enough to be invited into one. And that, my friends, is why I won't write about India.