The art of sitting

To sit seems like a simple enough action, yet onto its bare back we load an endless stream of connotations which at once make it far more complex than it was ever meant to be.

To sit is to be lazy, to be listless, to be quiet, to be serene, to be thougtful and moody and forgotten and pitied. All in one single, simple action.

I wish it was that same serenity that I saw among the young boys lounging in colorful plastic chairs outside the APHFTA building every morning. Or among the mothers clutching their children to their breasts under the shade of a lonely oak tree. I cannot help but notice the ubiquity of sitting that graces Dar es Salaam. Day after day I see so many of them–sitting and watching a city rumble past them.

I saw them again–the many street dwellers– as I stepped into our APHFTA jeep this morning for the short, bumpy ride to the Muzdalefah clinic in the outskirts of town.

We were going to set up the new computer system that was a gift from APHFTA to the clinic and to see the mMaisha program at work in the real-life environment that it was meant for. At the end of the day, a computer program installation and many beaming smiles later, we began the journey back to central Dar. Gazing out of the window, I could again see the many young men and women observing us with restless eyes–they saw our intrusive movement in this world where there was so little. I realized that we had brought more than a computer to this village–it was almost as if we had suggested an entirely different way of life. We had suggested movement.

“What do they do all day?” I heard myself ask suddenly. I did not remember the question even reaching my lips.

Silence.

“Nothing,” replied Lushen (our internship leader) after a few minutes, “they don’t do anything at all.”

In that instance, an incredible sadness hit me. So much potential lay here, jumbled like lost gems amidst the vegetable carts and dusty plastic chairs. Like small Bonsai trees in small, confining pots they sat, with no idea of the world that lay beyond their village and the chance they had to let their roots spread far and wide so that they could experience it.

Gazing at them, I thought back to my life at Harvard. A rushingbusyschedulesrunning kind of life where sitting was associated with those who had no direction or had lost it, or were too lazy to find something else to do. It was a place where the idea of “sitting and doing nothing” was something yearned for but never fully achieved. Even when I sat, my mind was racing, and I realize that I had forgotten that in sitting too, there is a certain art and beauty. To sit and see and observe is something I rarely do because I have forgotten how.

As I looked at those young men and women I only wished that I could take an ounce of my rushing life and give it to them–give them a jolt that would make them stand up, stretch their limbs, and move beyond the one piece of Earth that had seen too much of them over the years. It would let them spread their branches and grow to realize all that I know they are capable of. And then, quietly I would step into the background and sit a while. To do nothing but serenely watch as a forest of Bonsais broke through their little ceramic pots and spread roots where they thought it impossible for roots to go. Yes, I would pick a brightly colored plastic chair. and just sit. and listen.

¡Hola, Buenos Aires!

In a few short hours (!) I will be off to Buenos Aires. That’s not to say that my bags are packed– they aren’t– or that I know exactly how to get myself around the city– I don’t– but this sure will be one heck of an adventure! The short of it is that I’ll be in Argentina for two whole months staying with a host family. I just received an email this week from my homestay mother and must say I am already feeling the love– not to mention there are three girls in this family who are tiny and are oh so cute! I figure they’ll teach me a thing or two ;)

I’ll be in Buenos Aires interning with a social entrepreneurship firm called Ashoka Social Innovators. I’ll be helping them with their “Avancemos” initiative– by which they are working to empower young people to employ real entrepreneurial skills to deliver social impact. I can’t wait to see the projects these kids are working on!

But of course, being in Argentina is also just a great excuse to travel and explore– and explore I will do, believe me! I’ve got my restaurant list decked out and am planning on visiting everything from the glaciers in the south to the breathtaking Iguazu Falls (think Niagra Falls but much bigger) in the north to every market and street-side café in between! Buenos Aires itself is supposed to be a vibrant city (I mean look at those incredibly COLORFUL houses– I think I might have found my soul city!) and I can’t wait to fill y’all in on everything I find, eat, and enjoy!

Join me for the ride, won’t you? From the looks of it, Argentina is GORGEOUS! xo Inesha

Army pilots and confined spaces…Jambo from Tanzania!

Flying can really make you feel like a small child again. Scheduled meal times, every need handed to you, and frequent nap times.

But what I realized just a few days ago, sitting on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, was that flying can also give you an opportunity to do what children are not supposed to do–talk to strangers. Sitting next to me in the cramped, blue carpeted space of row 32 of our airplane was a military pilot, about 45 years of age. And, inevitably, when you’re sitting next to someone for 7 hours straight, you start talking. He regaled me with stories about flying all around the world and spending one year living in a tent in Afghanistan. He reminisced about flying school with a faraway gleam in his eye and a smile brightening his face.

In short, I spoke to a stranger that day, and he opened an entire world to me. I don’t think I would have ever approached him or had the opportunity to speak to someone of his experience in a normal, day to day environment–say, if were standing next to each other on the subway, or in an office building. But airplanes, for all their confined spaces, are strangely liberating.

After 8+ hours of sitting on airplanes, I arrived safely in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and, though I miss everyone at home terribly, I am excited to be here and to experience this wonderful country and the people who make it so :)

So, in signing off, I am sending you a hearty “Jambo!” through this amazing ol’ internet that connects us even when we are miles apart. Wherever in the world you are, I hope that you will join me in my adventures in Tanzania over the next 2 months–I cannot wait to share them with you!

xoxo

Ishani

Conversation Starters: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

“Conversation Starters” is a series in which we will spotlight top female leaders who have worked hard to shine a light on the challenges that women face– these women have started the conversation… how do we move it forward?

A Stalled Revolution?  

In her now famous TED talk, Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, states pointedly that the problem we face is that “Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world.” Sandberg calls this phenomenon the stalled revolution, for while women and men now enter college in equal numbers, the same is not true for women entering the higher echelons of the workforce.

And so, this powerful female leader advances three key pieces of advice for her female counterparts:

  1. Sit at the table. Raise your hand, speak up, negotiate your salary. Make sure you are heard and that you contribute.
  2. Make your partner a real partner. No woman can balance a pristine home, children, and her work life perfectly. Make sure that your husband, boyfriend, or significant other really is your PARTNER and EQUAL.
  3. Don’t leave before you leave. As Sandberg puts it, many women start thinking about the rest of their lives—family planning and all—far ahead of their male counterparts. But once you start doing that, she warns, you automatically (and often, unconsciously) start pulling back. You don’t go for that CEO position or that promotion because you’re anticipating… your waiting for what’s coming next. But until you HAVE to make that decision, DON’T. Don’t stop giving it—your work, your passions—your all.

Another interesting point Sandberg makes, this time in her commencement address to Harvard Business School Graduates in the Class of 2012, is that there exists a “professional ambition gap” between men and women. Have we seen and felt this gap? Yes. In fact, a large part of the reason we started this blog was because we literally felt and saw that gap WIDEN dramatically during our freshmen year of college itself.  Thoughts?

And I’m the other one :)

Hello there! My name is Ishani. Inesha just introduced me as her twin sister. I’ll admit, the role has taken some getting used to, but I’d say that now, as a young adult who is still plenty mistake-prone, I may finally be getting the hang of it. I guess 18 years of practice will do that to ya :)

But most days, I’m just me, a college student who, like my sister, is trying to make it happen–day to day. I love peacocks and elephants, traveling (and thinking about travel,) scrapbooking, snapping photos with my iPhone (and now, new camera!), reading, writing, and studying people and how they work. I’m fascinated by foreign cultures and the way in which people live around the world and if you tell me you’re part Swedish or three quarters Bosnian, you’ll just have to be ready because the questions will surely start coming. I simply love culture and everything that implies it.

I’m off to Tanzania today for a global health internship in Dar es Salaam, but I promise to keep you updated from there. You can also find me here, on my personal blog. Other than that, I hope you find Seeing i-to-i to be a refreshing space where we can share stories about trying and failing and trying again. As women we must support each other–at least that’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from having a twin sister. But the twin saga continues, I assure you…more chapters to come!

And that’s all for now folks–much love and talk to you soon!

-i