Chalk With S: For Whose Amusement?

Today, my sister got home after her day at college, and was quite upset about a video her class watched. I would like to share her experience with you here.

The video points out that many schools in rural India have teachers that are unqualified and are teaching their students incorrect information. It focuses largely on the incorrect spelling being taught in English, starting with the days of the week. The teachers are interviewed and asked questions, which they are unable to answer correctly.

While the video points to issues that need to be addressed, my sister found it quite sad to watch. There are sound effects to encourage the viewer to laugh at the teachers. The way the questions are phrased are meant to belittle the teachers and mock their lack of knowledge of the English language, and ability to teach the same. My sister observed the reactions around her as they watched the video, and was disappointed to see that there was laughter, that some people found this entertaining.

In my opinion, whether or not you understand Hindi, this three minute video’s intention to make fun of the teachers is quite clear. Look at the writing on this chalkboard:

I agree with my sister on her view that drawing attention to a problem such as this need not include mocking the English language skills of those involved, when what needs to be looked at is the system. It brings up questions about media ethics, and how to write a story, and for whose benefit or amusement the story was written.

What do you feel about the effectiveness of stories told this way?


Chalk With S: Awkward Santa Claus

I was last home with my family during the holiday season five Christmases ago. I have spent this December between my two homes, Kenya and India. This got me remembering all the Christmases I have had in these countries, including the one where I was an awkward Santa Claus.

I must have been around seven. We (the Deanes) spent that Christmas with my aunt and her family when we lived in Mumbai. Food, music, and family; all was festive and fun. Then, it came to present-opening time, and I was stoked. By then, I had accepted that someone had to put on a Santa costume and pass around presents on Christmas, because it just wasn’t practical for Santa to make an appearance at everyone’s gift-distribution sessions. What I hadn’t anticipated was being asked to step into his shoes for the occasion.

My aunt came up to me and asked me to be Santa Claus. She told me it would be fun, and she makes everything fun, so I took the fake cotton beard, and red clothes she handed me. But then I had my doubts. I put on the costume, thinking “no one is going to buy this”. I was seven, a girl, beardless, and Indian. I was not a large, old white man named Nick. Everything was working against me. But, I did it, because someone had to do it, or no one would get presents. It ended up being quite a laugh playing Santa, and my family enjoyed seeing the little one in costume,  but I did feel like a fraud. I kept thinking, “you know it’s me, and I don’t even look convincing”.

Can Christmas look like this?

Can Christmas look like this?

Now, I understand that moment a bit better. I had this idea that Christmas was only really Christmas if it looked like it did on American TV. My family are Christian, and have been celebrating Christmas for generations, but it still felt to me like we were not the real deal because we did not fit the image. I had many questions as a child, trying to understand being part of a minority culture seen by many I interacted with as being closer connected to the “West” than India. Were we believable? Church looked like churches from around the world, but did we fit the image? What about Church services in different Indian languages… were they considered authentic enough? Could you really wear Indian outfits to Church? Why am I called ‘Anglican’, and not ‘Catholic’ like the people I go to school with?

Being asked these questions in India, and the other countries I’ve lived in did play a role in solidifying my identity awkwardness. But, because I was asked, I looked for answers, and I understand all of this better as an adult. I now know Christmas can look different everywhere, and that the rotund man from the North Pole can be played by anyone, and is, in fact, optional.

Chalk With S: Before You Turn The Corner

What goes through your mind as you are about to step into a new space? 

Before you walk towards something new

Before you walk towards some place new

I am sure we all have different questions, fears, levels of excitement and concerns about going to new places. What are yours? How do you feel when you are going somewhere new, or even venturing into a different space with new people?

There are few things I love more than travelling. But, I have to say I do have certain anxieties about how people will respond to me, worries about offending them by saying the wrong thing, or making an inappropriate joke, or just not being informed enough about what is going on there. To summarise, I think my concerns revolve around a fear of being seen as an ignorant and insensitive outsider. This is usually what I am thinking of… along with excitement at the prospect of discovery, of course 🙂

Which of these chalk faces represent how you feel when you come across something new?

We’ll be back on Dec 29th to talk more about Wandering and Wondering!

Chalk With S: A Different Kind Of Souvenir

What matters to you? What matters to other people?

I am in Diani, Kenya at the moment, thinking of all the things I brought here with me. When I travel, I take a lot more with me than just the stuff in my suitcase. Ideas about the place I am going to, what I imagine life to be there, and many other thoughts. I’m sure this is true for you, too. This weekend, we suggested three things to consider while wandering and wondering. Today, I am thinking of another preconception to ask yourself about: what issues or concerns matter?

Thinking of different souvenirs by the beach Diani, Kenya

Thinking of different souvenirs by the beach
Diani, Kenya

I think we all have a sense of things that matter, in terms of social justice, human rights, animal rights, and so on. This is something you can take with you on your travels, as you encounter new places. You may be surprised by how the attention given to some issues varies, in comparison to where you come from. While it is important to note this, and make suggestions, I do not think limiting it to one-way flow of ideas is a good idea. It is also crucial to consider the issues that the people who live there are concerned about. What can we learn from these?

For example, whenever I am in Kenya, I think more about animal rights issues than I do anywhere else. This offers me some fresh perspective, and points to things I should thing about in other places, too. I can then go back to India and Canada (my other homes at the moment), and think about these issues are being addressed there. It’s something I can take back with me and keep; a different kind of souvenir 🙂


Chalk With S: Seat Belt Conversations

What do you tell people you meet on planes?

Travelling by myself means fewer conversations and more listening to the people around me (when I don’t have my headphones on). On my flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt on Friday, I decided to pay attention to the questions strangers asked each other while confined by seat belts for almost half a day. Culture and family seemed to be the top two topics.

Seat Belt Conversations

Seat Belt Conversations

I heard people narrate very personal issues, related to why they were travelling. I know I have had excellent conversations with people, who have given me useful input and fresh perspective in a very short amount of time. Perhaps it is the shared mission of getting from point A-B that lends the sense of having something in common with a stranger on the plane. “Why are you going to place B?” seems to be a kind of shared curiosity.

That shared curiosity combined with a shared destination is what appears to drive the conversation, and allows people to learn about lives different or very similar to their own. I think this could apply to learning processes in general, when information is shared and people work together towards a common goal.

I also noticed that many assumptions about culture surfaced in that space. The kinds of questions people asked each other were telling of their perceptions of what other people’s lives were.

How do you introduce yourself? What kinds of questions do you ask people you meet on a plane, or similar situations?



Chalk With S: Distraction/Direction

What words rhyme with “unattainable”?

Inspiration posing as diversion is something I am learning to pay attention to. When Heidi and I chalk, we find ourselves in new places, spaces, chalking constantly evolving messages on different surfaces. Sometimes, something we stumble upon fast becomes integral to our chalk work of the moment. Ideas and opportunities often whizz, whirl and cartwheel past us. We may notice them, but may not offer them fair consideration. New ways to attain goals can be missed, or dismissed as distraction.

Distractions or Direction?

Distraction or Direction?

Pausing to look at something fascinating can be more than just a moment of wonder that takes you away from what you are working on. Even if the eye-catching thing is unattainable, it could offer you ideas on a new direction to move in, a different way of operating, or just something to aim for.

Walking around outside, and coming across new chalking spaces is one of my favourite ways to go about chalktivism. It helps reach more people and places,   and challenges us to see what we can do with the ideas that present themselves to us.

How do you deal with things that you come across while working on something of interest?


Chalk With S: A Few Feet Away

Are there things you prefer to think about from a distance?

Watching from a Distance

Watching from a Distance

There are some issues and ideas that find their way into many of our conversations frequently and repeatedly. There are others that we are less comfortable with, or are just not ready to talk about. For me, this happens when I feel like I do not know enough on the subject, or have strong enough opinions on it, or simply when I do not feel like it is my place to speak.

The way I see it, this could stop even those who are interested in certain social justice issues from joining conversations on them. How can that safe distance be overcome? It happens for me when people encourage my questions and thoughts, and express an interest in the same, regardless of my familiarity with the issue.

What puts that distance between you and an idea or discussion?
In what other ways can we encourage everyone to offer ideas and listen to thoughts expressed about the subject in question?

I would love to hear about it, and chalk about it!