By David Rogers. April 4, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Don’t expect Blowing Rock’s Breanna Meadow to come back from India as an expert wicket-keeper or newly converted Bhuddist monk, but certainly she will have stories aplenty to tell thanks to a special Girl Scouts program to which she has been accepted.
To help her offset some of the special expenses of the trip, Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church and Breanna’s Girl Scout troop are hosting a Spaghetti Feed on Saturday, April 8th, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm, in the Rumple Church Fellowship Hall, 1218 Main St., Blowing Rock.
After being selected from a group of other top Girl Scouts in the USA, Meadows is headed for the historic and sometimes mysterious country for 10 days in July. After she represented Watauga High School in a 1600-meters race recently, she sat down with Blowing Rock News to talk about the honor, as well as some of the unusual expenses of her sojourn to South Asia.
Blowing Rock News (BRN): So Breanna, how did this trip to India come about?
Breanna Meadows (BM): This is a Girls Scouts program, though not specifically with my troop. Girl Scouts USA and, internationally, Girl Guides offer trips called, “Destinations.” You can apply, but you are selected based on answering a bunch of questions and writing an essay. Based on that screening process, you are accepted or selected for a trip you might apply for, each one oriented toward leadership and team-building skills.
Once you are accepted, it is usually just 15-25 girls in your group who are accepted. Most are around your age, but it can vary. You can start applying for Destinations trips at 12 years old, up through high school.
I am very excited about this opportunity.
BRN: Other than leadership and team-building, what are these trips about?
BM: They focus on things like culture and service. The domestic trips (inside USA) might focus on animals and nature, but the ones I am interested in, like this trip to India, are focused more on culture.
BRN: Where will you be staying?
BM: We’ll be in one of the Girl Scouts World Centers, called Sangam. Girl Scouts are able to stay there at a lesser charge. We’ll be immersing ourselves in a South Asia culture that we wouldn’t otherwise probably get to see or experience.
BRN: Why India?
BM: I am very excited about this opportunity. I chose to apply for the India experience because I thought this would be an experience that would be harder to get without the assistance of Girl Scouts. It would be really hard to plan and get things together, find things to do and immerse myself in the culture without the help of people who know what it is like.
BRN: Are you on the higher end of Girl Scouts now when it comes to age?
BM: Yes. I am 16 now, but Scouts now can go all the way through high school. I am a “senior” now, but after next year I will be an “ambassador.” I can still be a member of Girl Scouts until I graduate from high school.
BRN (smiling): Any thoughts of flunking school so you can stay in high school and continue being a member of Girl Scouts?
BM (laughing): Well, no. That thought had not crossed my mind! I’m not sure that would quite work. And I don’t really want to flunk high school!
BRN: So when you talk about culture, are you going to be looking at social mores or, say, the caste system that still exists in India? Food? Religion?
BM: While I’m there, all of our meals except for a couple of nights are going to be pretty traditional and mostly vegetarian. We’ll eat a lot of rice and dal, things like that. We’ll be learning a lot about culture through religion, dance and art.
I understand that we will be going to a traditional marketplace, which should be very interesting.
Most of the time will be spent within a few hours of Pune.
BRN (smiling again): Are you going to learn how to play cricket?
BM (laughing again): I don’t know about that! I am not a very sporty person…
BRN: But you just ran the 1600 meters!
BM: Well, that’s not quite the same thing as playing cricket!
BRN: Cricket aside, we understand that the caste system is still pretty entrenched in Indian culture. How much will you have a chance to actually see that?
BM: Yeah, those economic levels. Within our facility (Sangam World Center) they say it is not very prevalent, but as soon as you go out in the village called Pune, it is supposed to be more prevalent in how different people treat each other. I’m told you can see the differences just in how people treat each other as they are walking on the street.
BRN: Where are you going to fly into?
BM: We’ll fly into Mumbai and be there briefly. There have been some instances of terrorism there, but I have heard it is kind of nasty, a lot of smog and stuff. We’ll be spending most of our time within a few hours of the more conservative town in which we will be staying, Pune.
BRN: What are the dates of the trip?
BM: July 8th to July 20th, counting the travel days.
BRN: And from where will you be flying?
BM: The group of girls that I am flying with — none of which I actually know, but all Girl Scouts — will fly out of JFK airport in New York on July 8th. We make a connection at London’s Heathrow Airport, and from there fly into Mumbai.
BRN: So you are going to be a world traveler! Have you been out of the United States before?
BM: Yes, mostly with family I have been to Spain, France, Italy, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Germany. I have done a Destinations trip with Girl Scouts before, too, to Costa Rica, a couple of years ago for a service project. Of course for the family trips, my parents try to always make them educational, too.
BRN: What can you tell us about this fundraiser you have coming up?
BM: It will be a Spaghetti Dinner, and will be held in the Fellowship Hall at Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church on Saturday, April 8th. I’m just trying to raise money to pay for the flight, the trip itself, and there are all these extra travel expenses because I can’t make a same day connection out of JFK. I have to fly up the day before and stay overnight, so that means a hotel room, too, getting to JFK, and then of course the flight itself.
I flying out of JFK with the majority of the girls in my group, but there are some, like the girl from Guam, for whom it is not really feasible to fly out of JFK. She’s already on the other side of the world where we are going! But quite a few of the girls are flying out of JFK, so I’ll meet them up there.
So with the help of some friends, we’re doing a spaghetti fundraiser on April 8th, with spaghetti, drinks and all that good stuff. It is from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. There is no set cost, you just come and give what you feel you want, what is in your heart to help me.
My Girl Scouts troop has been absolutely fabulous in helping with this fundraiser.
BRN: Who is helping you put this together?
BM: My Girl Scouts troop is being absolutely fabulous about it. A lot of them have volunteered to bring in supplies, help cook, help clean and help setup. Also, a lot of members of Rumple Church are helping me out, as well as other members of the community. It’s amazing how supportive this Blowing Rock community has been in helping me. Of course we welcome anyone to come. Already this has been a wonderful opportunity to meet new people in the community. This is an honor to be accepted, but it’s one of those things where we have to pay a good share of our expenses. It is not free.
BRN: How much have you prepared by studying about India, the country and its people?
BM: I have a little bit, but not much past the very basics.
BRN: Are you going to study more, or are you just going to let the experience hit you as it will?
BM: That is an interesting question because in some places where I might travel, I find that not knowing what you are getting yourself into is sometimes the best option. That way, you don’t really have any expectations for what you think it is going to be like. But other times, sometimes that little bit of extra information is useful. It keeps you out of trouble, or at the very least out of awkward situations. Words or hand gestures might mean something different. Etiquette that we find acceptable in the USA might be offensive in another country. Then we become one of those “ugly Americans” that we don’t want to be.
BRN: Where are most of the girls in your group coming from?
BM: The majority are from the United States, but we also have a few Girl Guides that are also coming from other countries. There are a few from West Texas, I think one from California, some from Philadelphia, New York, Michigan and Wisconsin. I am the only one from North Carolina.
BRN: And what did you have to write about for this essay?
BM: Well, I wrote about why I wanted to go to India. To prepare to write, I had to look up a lot about our World Center. I could list all of the Girl Scouts World Centers if you asked me to, but for this one I felt like I had to learn a lot more. They all have pretty much the same Girl Scout beliefs and adhere to the same general ideals, but I wanted to make sure there weren’t some things that this Sangam center valued more.
BRN: Have you had any special preparations for this trip?
BM: Oh yes. I had to get a Yellow Fever vaccine for this trip. That’s kind of a scary thing, to think that I could face the potential of contracting Yellow Fever. I also have to go back on the malaria medications, which was fun for the Haiti trip (with a group from Rumple).
Any and all are welcome to share in the spaghetti dinner feast and make any size donation. Contributions may also be made payable to Breanna Meadows India Trip, C/O Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church, P O Box 393, Blowing Rock, NC 28605.