Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Street Smarts

Street Smarts

I have always believed that there are many types of intelligence. Academic knowledge, technical expertise, emotional intelligence, and street smarts are but a few. Aadam has had a chance to utilize each of these types of skills during the trip so far. He has been great about completing his assigned homework and has been learning about the geography of Mount Everest as well as Sherpa culture. He has been writing in his journal daily. He has been recording biological measurements on himself and recording the data. He has had to adapt from just interacting with dad to functioning within a large group -and he has made this transition with ease. Finally he has had to navigate the challenging traffic, the foreign currency, the need to negotiate, and the importance of being aware of one's environment. It is this latter point which if often challenging for many people. We are so accustomed, in developed nations, to assume that everyone will follow a set of pre-assigned rules. It is these rules that bring order to society. But what if, those rules were bendable: cars could go whenever they wanted, pedestrians were expected to watch out for cars as opposed to vice versa, the set price of an object was in fact not its true price, and you were constantly surrounded by people who were begging or looking at you with intensity and recognizing that you were foreign. It can be quite overwhelming! Again, this is where Aadam has really shone. I am just so impressed with his ability to be aware of his environment while not being intimidated or scared. Sure, cars and bikes would pass very close to him and he would simply jump aside, relay his amazement at how close they came, and then simply trudge on. He has become a pro at crossing very large and busy streets, weaving in an out of traffic, like the locals - what to do, there are no traffic lights to abide. He can now seamlessly convert the local currency to American dollars and has honed his skills at negotiation. But what I am most proud of is that he can walk the streets at night with complete confidence and awareness. He is not scared of this foreign environment! He recognizes that this is the Nepalese way. We have interacted with many locals and Aadam recognizes them for who they are - simply people working hard and trying to live a fulfilling and meaningful life with what they have. We have had many discussion about what defines happiness and that simply having possessions does not make a person more happy. Who is to say that a vendor on Durba Marg is any less happy than Aadam or I. Sure we have more possessions but is that really what defines happiness. We have reminisced about what modifications could make this society 'better' - smoking bans, less pollution, working traffic lights, better road infrastructure, more accessible education, etc. But we have also discussed what are the system limitations to providing these things. He gets it! He however is not complacent to accept that things have to be this way. He has come up with many creative solutions that if implemented really could make a difference. As time passes on this trip we will further develop this concept and also talk more about drivers of change - what does it take to make change happen and how can he be a catalyst for change.

I am so proud of Aadam. His street sense and environmental awareness are skills I really wanted to nurture on this trip. I love that he can accept a foreign environment for its differences and not be scared or intimidated by these differences.

We thank his teachers so much for their support of this trip. As you can see, we are seeking out opportunities to learn and grow.


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