by Derek Y. '22
We have begun the physical aspect of our service learning trip: building a bathroom for a local family. By today, the cement mixture we had poured on top of the base layer of rocks yesterday had dried and hardened. In the morning, we laid down the cinder blocks that would serve as the guidelines for the walls of the bathroom. We spent the entire day layering block atop block with cement mixture in between to hold the blocks together. By the end of the day, the walls were fully constructed and we began brainstorming ideas for the murals we will paint tomorrow. I think that we students have found our footing and pace working with each other and I enjoy the perfect blend of comedy and labor that we find.
The sense of harmonious labor is not the only thing the construction of the bathrooms has given me to think about. I have also been thinking about the sense of unity I feel from the construction of the bathrooms. Apparently, when bathrooms are built, many locals will come together and build the bathroom together. Many people come together for the benefit of one family; however, that family will also contribute labor for the bathrooms. Everyone is willing to help and contribute where they can. If that does not create an overall sense of unity, teamwork, and respect for one another, I can’t say I would know what would.
Working alongside my fellow students, teachers, and locals, I can physically see the sense of unity manifest itself in the form of jokes, lax attitudes, and willingness to be vulnerable to each other. I feel like I have opened up to my peers and feel a lot more comfortable talking to them. Other students have done the same. We all treat each other like longtime friends and less like students we have seen in the hallways of school but never really talked to. I can only imagine the sense of togetherness the locals build with each other coming together time after time to help each other build houses, bathrooms, and other structures.
In fact, a sense of unity seems to prevail in all corners of the village. Families gather every day and spend time together. Families accept students as members of the family and treat us as if we were biological children. People don’t hold grudges against us simply because we are strangers. Every time I see a local villager crossing paths, I wave hello and am greeted with a smile and a friendly wave back. I wander onto someone else’s yard to follow a yak and am permitted without question. People here are so unified and pleasant that I hardly feel like I am among strangers; I feel loved and accepted. This GSL experience has been amazing so far and I have nothing but high hopes for the road ahead.