I have been surprised, flattered, embraced and edified: Sam Schindler

Dear Ghulam:

I hope you have arrived safely and soundly back in the US. I’m writing briefly to update you on my experience here. Thank you for checking in with me before you left — it gave me the opportunity to offer in broad strokes what I have thought and felt in the 5 days I’ve been here (though it feels more like a month.)

I have had encounter after encounter with students and teachers alike wherein I have been surprised, flattered, embraced and edified. Surprised by the depth of knowledge and worldliness of teachers who, despite the remoteness of this area and their lack of access to resources we take for granted back home, are sophisticated thinkers along with being inquisitive and open-hearted. Certain people whose language skills at first I disregarded, have moved to the fore as primary conversationalists, about nuanced topics like politics and history. I am astounded by the vocabulary and skills of expression certain of them have. And those that don’t have the vocabulary are tireless and courageous in their efforts to communicate complex thoughts to me. They are also endlessly patient with me in my attempts to communicate with them.

I feel the same about the students, too. From class 6 to class 10, despite the real difficulty the younger ones face in understanding, students are patient and respectful through and through. I mentioned to Class 10 today that it is no small matter that I have come 8,000 miles from my home and get to speak in my own language. This would not be the case were they to come to the US. I noted how difficult it is for them to maintain conversations in a language not their own and which they are only just getting acquainted with.

Accolades have been heaped upon me, but in no frivolous manner. People are genuine about their eagerness to learn about my teaching methods and whatever content I provide is quickly absorbed. I have very much enjoyed sharing idioms with a couple of the teachers, and hearing them used properly is wonderful; more wonderful than that is seeing the genuine enjoyment of he who is using these new idioms. It’s like opening a gift for them, without any pretense.

Similarly, unlike in our country, where graciousness often comes at a price, Bengalis freely share of their possessions, their minds and whatever services they can offer, even if it’s carrying my laptop back the mere 2 tenths of a mile from the apartment to the school campus. I would be remiss if I did not admit that this sometimes leaves me feeling like some 19th century British imperial governor, having people wait on me in this manner, but again, the service (I would stop short at calling it servitude) is in earnest. “Can I help you sir,” is a 100% true statement here in this tiny village, as opposed to, for example, what you hear when you walk into a convenience store in the USA.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s necessary for me to share with you my experience with Mr. Iqbal. Though it took me a little while to grow accustomed to his manner because he is a man who guards his inner emotions fiercely, there simply isn’t a sufficient store of superlatives to describe his effort to make me comfortable here. He is forever at my side, seeing after my food, my quarters, my equipment, my absolutely everything. He has carried umbrellas above my head as the Bengali rainy season does its worst, and would have carried me over mud puddles had I let him. He has seen to my learning about the surrounding village and region, my taking the proper amount of classes to teach as well as observe, and my getting the proper amount of rest. He has done all of this with a happy disposition and nary a word of complaint. He also possesses a great sense of humor and we will often share a joke, mostly to break the tension that must inevitably build between two men who want nothing more than to communicate freely and easily with one another yet find themselves sometimes hampered in this endeavor by language and culture. We have found, Iqbal and I, as we pass these long, sweltering days together, that we are often of the same mind on many matters, and it is almost as though we have begun to communicate without speaking. He works tirelessly for the betterment of The Carter Academy in every way, and his commitment to the students’ welfare and edification is most evident. In addition, his dedication to the success of this venture between ourselves and our two schools has led to many a long night, uploading videos on torpid Bengali internet connections and exhaustive efforts to record as much of my visit as humanly possible. On a daily basis, I am awed by both his professionalism and his kindness.

Though I admit that at times my energy flags, I am buoyed by the ever-smiling faces of students and teachers here. And, while days are long and sometimes arduous, I know that, all too soon, my time here will be complete.

Thank you for your hand in creating this opportunity for me.

Sincerely,

Sam Schindler
Lancaster Country Day School
U.S. Humanities
MUN Director