help_outline Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List
HomeBlogsRead Blog

Dave in India at iRYLA

Day 12 - Vishnagar; Vadnagar; Palanpur
By David GoWell
Posted on 12/29/2014 4:33 PM

Monday, December 1, 2014


Day 12 – Vishnagar; Took a REAL BATH!!!!, Saji sick, left him for ½ day, went to UniqYou International School, did presentations for 4 classes, played marbles, saw Gandhi Ji’s Guru’s Ashram, up on the hill, Vadnagar: Victory arches, Buddhist monastery ; Slept at Dr. Harshad Patel’s house in Palanpur,  


Monday, December 1, 2014


I woke up this morning in a very nice bedroom in a beautiful Indian home. It was owned by the Father-in-Law of Kamini Patel, one of the Counselors at iRYLA. I had slept in the Master Bedroom, I think, because I heard someone come in very quietly, very early in the morning, to get some clothes from the closet. 

The best part of the Master Bedroom was the Master Bath! There was a BATHTUB in there! The first one I had seen in almost 2 weeks! I didn't want to waste the water (or time) that a real bath would require, but I did sit in the tub and spray water all over myself with the ubiquitous spray hose! 


At breakfast I met Kamini's Father-in-Law who turned out to be a Diamond Merchant. That explains the gorgeous house with the fancy bathroom! I told him the motivational story: 'Acres of Diamonds' by Russell Conwell, which was was the first personal development stories I ever heard. My father had played the RECORD ALBUM of that speech to me when I was around 8 years old and had gotten into some serious trouble. I still tell that story at RYLA sometimes.


After breakfast we talked about Indian vs. American kitchens. I had now poked my nose into several Indian kitchens and I noticed something they all had in common: They ALL contained a group of identical canisters (sometimes made of glass, but more often made of aluminum or tin) arranged in a perfectly neat row, with NO MARKINGS on them!

I don't know about YOUR kitchen, but MY pantry and drawers don't look anything like that!

Saji was still sick, so he slept in again. He would meet up with us later.


While Saji rested, Jitu & I drove to Idar to visit the UniqYOU International School, out in the forest area near Idar. He created this school with Dr. Yogesh Patel 2 ½ years ago. Running it is their full-time job. So far, they have poured lots of money into it, and haven’t taken anything out. True Rotarians!


At the school we met with Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Idar and also from the nearby town of Vadali. 


I met members of the school staff, then I taught some public speaking lessons to several high school classes. I asked them to come to the front of the class and tell everyone what they wanted to do for a career and why they wanted to do it. Then I critiqued their presentation skills and asked them to do it again. Everyone showed great improvement and it was wonderful to see that the methods I had developed for the Speak Up! public speaking course would be equally effective half-way around the world.


I met with a group of Interact Members in the school and taught them the Human Knots game. This was the first game of it's type I ever learned. It was taught to me by a RYLA Alumni at Lenape High School when I was thie Interact Advisor there. That was also the day I first learned about RYLA! So I told them that story, too.

Then played some games with the Kindergarteners. They didn't speak much English so this was a lot more challenging. Before I attempt to lead games in another country again, I'm going to come up with some that don't require any explanation. 


Then played with the middle-school kids. First we played marbles and I discovered that they had a completely different set of rules. They had two different 'shooting' styles that were both very different from the American style. One was a 2-handed technique involving the index of the shooting hand and the palm of the other hand (I can't remember it any better than that). The 2nd technique involved standing up, several feet away from the circle of marbles, and THROWING the marble into the circle! After that, we started to take some nice pictures, but somehow things got out of hand and the kids ended up picking me up by my arms and legs and dragging me around for a while! 


When we left the UniqYOU International School it seemed like half the school came out to surround the car and say good-bye to me. Once again, I felt like one of the Beatles! 


As we drove away from the school Jitu pointed out a building on a nearby hill. He told me that was the Ashram of Gandhi's Guru! Mahatma Gandhi was really coming alive for me on this trip! First I discovered that he had run his own Ashram (eventually, I found out that he had organized at least three Ashrams) and now I was finding out that Gandhi had his own Guru at some point.   

From there we drove to Vadnagar and looked (very briefly) at a pair of 12th Century Victory Arches. I never did find out who had a victory over what, but apparently, one side won a battle and celebrated with these pretty arches.




From there we went to Vadnagar, where after a lot of wrong turns and asking directions from many people, we finally met up with a retired historian...and SAJI!


We were there to look at the excavation of an 1800 yr old Chinese Buddhist Monastery. Besides being a place where Chinese Buddhists lived and prayed, for 500 years it was also an important way station for Chinese pilgrims that traveled from China to India to see the birthplace of the Buddha. Can you imagine the difficulties that those pilgrims must have endured during such a long trip?! 



The monastery had two votive stupas and an open central courtyard around which initially nine cells were constructed. The arrangement of cells around the central courtyard creates a swastika-like pattern.  


Then we drove to Palanpur, where we first visited a school in Kanodar, which is heavily supported by the Rotary Club of Palanpur Diamond City. When we arrived there was a marching band playing for us!




There were trumpets and drums and banners. They gave us the traditional Talikha welcome,




...placed scarves and garlands of flowers around our necks, put bouquets of flowers in our hands, then little girls showered us with rose petals!




Finally, they released 2 live doves in our honor!!!





We visited many individual classrooms then they brought the entire school out and we did some sort of assembly with everyone. There seemed to be some sort of presentations, possibly to some exceptional students and/or exceptional classrooms.




At one point we handed out a bunch of packets of crackers. I have no idea why.




For some reason I decided that I needed to tell the students the story that my Past District Governor Ken Garrett had told so many times:

Once upon a time in ancient India an old Holy Man was on a pilgrimage when he came to a roaring river that was too dangerous to cross on foot, He stopped by the bank and waited. As the sun was setting 3 horsemen came by and seeing the problem they immediately offered to carry the Holy Man across the river. By the time they arrived safely on the other side the night was black as pitch and the Holy Man said, "I will reward you for your kindness. Walk into the river and pick up some small stones from the bottom." This was a very strange request and didn't seem like any sort of reward, but the 3 men did as they were asked. The first man picked up 4 or 5 stones and put them in his pocket. The second man put 3 stones in his pocket. The 3rd man placed just one small stone in his pocket. Then they said farewell and the Holy Man walked off toward the north and the 3 horsemen rode off toward the south. The next morning, after they woke up in the bright sunlight, the men remembered the odd things that happened the previous night and they pulled the stones from their pockets. The men were both very, very happy, and very, very sad, at the same time. They were very happy because the stones turned out to be precious gems. But they were very sad that they hadn't picked up more of them. 

The 3 men by the river are like you students, here at this school. The Holy Man is like your teachers. The gems in the river are like the wise and knowledgeable things your teachers tell you. When you get older you will be very happy about all of the knowledge you learned here. But you will be very sad that you didn't pick up a lot more of it.
We left that school and drove to the Vidhya Mandir Trust, School of Technology. This was Jitu's Alma Mater. We met with a large group of Interact students and Rotaract students. They showed us a presentation about many of the activities and service projects they had done recently. I congratulated them all, told them about my own experiences with Interact, and taught them the Human Knots game. I sure was getting a lot of milage out of that game! 
Then we drove to the Balram Palace Resort, which was built in 1922 as a hunting lodge by the King of Palanpur. We had a short Rotary Club meeting where we exchanged Club Banners and they showed me some photo albums of some of their past activities. They also gave us some beautiful souvenirs of Palanpur and of course, more bouquets of flowers.
Then we went onto the restuarant for dinner. My stomach was still a bit queasy so I only had some Rotis and some Lassi sweetened with Mango Ice Cream. 

We slept that night at the beautiful home of Dr Harshad Patel, who is a Gynecologist.

                    Continue to Day 13