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Ellen: I just attended the meeting of the Rotary Club of Phalodi, India.

November 5, 2010

Well, actually it was the staff meeting of the Urmul foundation…but it was exactly the same vibe as a Rotary meeting, barring a few minor details. The 40 staff members gathered in the big multipurpose room (after leaving all 80 shoes outside) and sat on the floor in a circle. Like any Rotary meeting, I brought the total number of women in the room to a whopping three. The meeting was called to order and “Harry Begley” led a few rousing tunes, rather, Hindu prayers. Then I was introduced (I only know this because everyone started starting at me and attempted to say my name “aylin” “eleen” “ellit” and then I was asked to introduce myself—IN HINDI. Now, this is what I have been preparing for my whole life (those rotary types don’t scare me). I was spontaneously asked to introduce Petra Dlouha in front of the whole club and did so without batting an eye. I know that a room full of professionals who are working for the good of their community and world really aren’t that scary. It was empowering to be a young, white woman speaking a language I only started learning 6 weeks ago in front of 40 Indians and do so with confidence.

The meeting proceeded with individuals presenting their specific area of the organization [Urmul has a women’s weaving cooperative, sponsors girls’ schools, trains teachers and librarians, advocates against child labor and child marriage and supports local agriculture in many villages in western Rajasthan]. After each presentation there would be questions and discussion and it would get heated! “Jack Woldvogel” would say something that would make everybody speak up at the same time, “Ken Mainland” would try to calm people down, “Charlie Gano” would say something that would make everybody stop and recalculate, the “Brummelers” would be having their own conversation by just looking at each other from across the circle and of course, there was a jokester right up front.

Then we went to lunch, ate dal, subzi (vegetables), rice and chapati chapati chapati (only using the right hand of course). They talk and joke and laugh and I know they are the types to try and include me, but I am a videshi (foreigner) and cannot speak their language well enough to schmooze.

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