I remember waking up the first morning in Ahmedabad feeling irritable. I was tired of what seemed like a month’s worth of travelling. I knew I needed to get my bearings if I was to get into the right mindset and hit the ground running for the adventure that awaited. So I grabbed my iPod, put Lissie’s Pursuit of Happiness on repeat and headed for a walk. Now the idea of spaces was prevalent to 2015’s India GCELE from the start. During orientation, we were informed that part of our experience would be helping to construct a shelter that would act as a safe space for women needing a reprieve from whatever circumstance was causing them harm. So maybe that is why I was being mindful of the intentions of the places as I wondered. My initial observation as I left the hotel was Ahmedabad was boring. The street was lined with the hustle and bustle I was accustomed to find in the morning at home. Kids were going to school and adults were headed off to work. I soon discovered a Subway and KFC. I started to think did I really come all this way for this. Not that I was expecting an experience of Indian caricature. But at least something worthy of the eighteen-hour plane ride. Could I not see at least a monkey. With not a lot of excitement to encounter, I did not wander for very long. So I headed back to the hotel. I did not realize it at the time but if I would have roamed just a bit farther in all most any direction I would have encountered a shanty town, a community made up of makeshift homes using whatever materials could be gathered. I would come to learn that these communities existed in pockets throughout the city.
Looking back at that initial morning I realize that my impression of Ahmedabad was incomplete. The spaces I walked that morning were intentionally boring. Fortunately, the group had a couple days to explore the city. We would have the opportunity to visit Gandhi’s Ashram, shop at a market, meet with local activists, and eventually see the different shanty towns that existed throughout the city. It turns out Ahmedabad was a much more complex place than I initially considered. So what does that mean for global citizenship? I guess it is important to make an effort to challenge what we believe to be true. To try and develop a personal understanding of the spaces we encounter by exploring and trying new things on a meaningful level. This GCELE certainly provided this opportunity for me.