Tsukumo’s Week 0: Preparing for the Un-prepareable

Namaste! My name is Tsukumo, and I’d like to welcome you to my first post on the Summer in South Asia 2016 blog.

It still hasn’t really hit me that I’m about to leave my home next Monday to Varanasi, India, where I will be working with an NGO called NIRMAN. Partially, it’s because I had just come back from a three-week trip to Brazil. (I was part of the PCAP/GCC Brazil program with Professor Ashley Lucas, where I was making and seeing a lot of theater with various local groups.) But mostly, it’s because I can’t believe I’ve finally made all of my plans to leave for India after all the hoops I needed to go through.

Coming to this point took A LOT of patience and flexibility. I applied to the Summer in South Asia (SiSA) program knowing that I wanted to work with a project that combined my interests in arts and social justice, and I prepared an application with such project in mind. I was working on my research question, homestays, and other logistics for months, before and after acceptance to SiSA. However, this plan fell through for unforeseen reasons just a few weeks before I was about to depart. As heartbreaking as it was, I knew that I had to find another plan as soon as possible to stay a SiSA fellow.

Janelle Fosler, our wonderful and hard-working advisor for SiSA, was quick to connect me with Nick Pilarski, a SiSA alumnus from 2012 who has done a project involving theater and political action. Nick helped me get in touch with NIRMAN, an NGO that works with the community to provide education to students of all ages, from English classes to various arts-related workshops. As a music major trained in Western classical music, as well as experience in teaching English as a Foreign Language and leading improv theater workshops as a Prison Creative Arts Project volunteer, I thought perhaps I could offer something for the program and learn how arts can be used to talk about social justice. I feel very lucky that they have offered me an internship position that I will be starting next week!

Located in northern India, Varanasi (a.k.a. Benares, Kashi) is one of the most spiritual cities in the world. Hindus consider this city an important pilgrimage site, abode of Lord Shiva and home to River Ganges that can wash away all sins. I am very excited to get to know this beautiful city over seven weeks, and I know I’ll have a lot more to say about this place after my time there.

I don’t really know what this trip will be like. I try not to have too many expectations going in, except that it will be an experience of a lifetime no matter what happens. (I still have nightmares about my plans falling apart, though. Hopefully, that will stop soon.) With a few cotton clothes, some toiletries, a brand new journal, and my oboe, I hope I am ready for my next adventure.

Trying to learn how to write in Devanagari, script for Hindi and a few other languages. Reminds me of having to learn hundreds of kanji letters in Japanese!

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About Tsukumo Niwa

Tsukumo is a junior with a double major in Oboe Performance and International Studies. After graduation, she is interested in finding a career that would allow her to combine her passions for social justice, the arts and multicultural understanding. Tsukumo has engaged in a wide variety of projects dealing with social justice, including the Prison Creative Arts Project, Diversity Peer Educator program at the University Housing, and IGR CommonGround.

3 thoughts on “Tsukumo’s Week 0: Preparing for the Un-prepareable

  1. That roller coaster of emotion must have been really tough! Glad things worked out to this point, and I’m sure it will be great! Don’t worry about the dreams though, they’ll always be there. Before starting my master’s and about six years after undergrad, I still had dreams about showing up to a class I didn’t know I was in and having a project due that week. So that’s always fun. How is the language learning going? It’s so much harder to learn something with a different writing style. Kanji would be tough too! You’ll be so well-versed in world languages!

  2. Even after some setbacks you still found a wonderful program and I know you will have great experiences — I can’t wait to read about them! Awesome that you’re trying to learn the language as well.

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