How it all began….a tale of three continents…


New York, the Statue of Liberty and my home town

It started in Greece, I had been a chaperone for a group of American high school students traveling throughout the Greek Islands and Athens. Now, our cruise was ending, it was our last meal on the ship and we were seated with a group of people from India. Two of the kids were with us, very articulate and funny kids, and it wasn’t long before our table of very diverse folks were laughing and exchanging emails. I was especially taken with Shamlu, a dynamo of a woman, who was brilliant, interesting and witty. We laughed and talked the night away, promising to email each other after returning to our respective countries.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece......where we met

We corresponded -emails flying at a rapid rate as we realized that we had much in common, from our own life stories and our committment to global community service.
I googled Shamlu and the organizations she chaired. Needless to say, about 40 pages later, I was extremely impressed with the work she was doing to rehabilitate and educate woman and children in Calcutta and asked her what I could do from the US to help her endeavors.
She had googled me, and without missing a beat she invited me to come to India to teach art and my technique of painting and collage at Udayan, a boarding school for children who’s parents were leprosy sufferers. Shamlu didn’t say “come anytime”, she said please come in January and I said YES.

That was in April. I went happily along to the library and bookstores to research my upcoming journey. It seemed everywhere I went people were offering new insight and recommendations for literature, guide books, friends to look up when in Kolkata and more. Sitting in the bookstore one evening I discovered that Frommer’s India devoted a whole page to Mrs. Shamlu Dudeja – page 568 under Shop ’till You Drop. One of her many accomplishments has been the revival of the art of Kantha embroidery working with a team of rural women, and her shop was listed as one “not to be missed”. Wow.

Summer came and went while Shamlu and I planned what direction our partnership would take, the art supplies needed, and my application for a visa. What had been planned as a 3 or 4 week jaunt would become a 7 week stay – teaching the 300 children at the school, then mounting an exhibit of their work. Excitement was building, I had no fear of leaving my teenagers, or my country for such a long stay. Riding high on anticipation of going to India, a place that had always been a source of fascination and mystery to me I never stopped to really THINK about what I had committed to do.

After a visit to the doctor for a few (so I thought) vaccinations, reality hit. Aching arms and a roomful of supplies like impregnated mosquito nets, transformers, surge protectors, malaria pills and snakebite kits shocked me into the NOW of it all. I was really leaving. And, I was leaving very soon – to work with a wonderful woman who I had met just once.
What had started as a nice dinner in Greece had turned into a Life adventure in India.

The Indian Flag

The flag of my upcoming "home".

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16 Comments

Filed under art, commuity, India, travel

16 responses to “How it all began….a tale of three continents…

  1. Cindy Hess

    Stacey, this is SO exciting and I can’t wait to watch you on your journey. Spend a lot of good, quality time with this kids and Rick before you go, as y ou will be gone for so long!! Love, Cindy

  2. Roxana sirdar

    Hi Stacy good luck on your trip it’s sooo exciting I can’t wait to watch you on your trip to India . Good luck on your journey . Love Roxana

  3. Nick

    Hey, it’s Nick from Chat in Scaresdale; just wanted to see how your flight went. You could email me at ngizzo.student@manhattan.edu

  4. Wendy Weinstein

    Hope you had a safe and easy flight and am looking forward to your updates! Hope it is am incredible experience.

  5. John Byrne

    Stacy, I hope you had a safe trip. I’ll keep you in my prayers (not that you’ll need them but just in case). I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about your adventure.

  6. It was so wonderful talking to you this morning. I hope everthing goes well for you and for the children you are teaching. It was great to “meet” Shamlu. She sounds like a wonderful woman.
    Stay well

  7. Ilene Nechamkin

    Thinking of you and your leap into the next decade. Hope all is well and your dreams come true!
    xox,
    Ilene

    • Thinking of you too Ilene! Keep reading, there’s much more to come. I am a bit behind in my posts as the day at Udayan is quite long and I have little time to write. I try to post between classes, but usually the children are in the art room early to help or to ask questions (which I cannot always answer as language is a small challenge) but I have many pictures and hope to catch up these next 2 days! My love to you!

  8. Lil' Bro

    Hi Sis

    The JETS WON! 24 – 14. If Baltimore beats NE tomorrow, the Jets come to San Diego next week!

    Love your posts – and you as well!

    M

    • lil Bro, keep me posted! It is now 9:15 PM on Sunday night, just been with the Dalai Lama for a special lecture and an amazing 3 hour day with HH. It was so enlightening and moving. I leave for Udayan again tomorrow and will post pictures of the school and the children. met some wonderful people (from California) who are originally based here in Kolkata. They are coming to Udayan to photograph and film my work with the children. It should be very special. This has changed my life forever, I am so happy! I love you very much. xxoo Sis

  9. I loved talking to you today, Stacey. You can’t imagine how much I miss you. I know you are doing wonderful work, and that makes me happy.
    Love,
    MOM

  10. John Byrne

    Stacy, I just had a chance to catch up on your adventure. All I can say is “Wow”!! Sounds like you’re having a great time, learning, teaching and meeting so many new friends. Do you ever sleep? It seems like you’re getting about 3-4 hours a night. Take care and enjoy the adventure!!

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