Reflecting on service and learning, I realized how natural it has become to think of projects in these terms: as involving both service and learning, or more learning and less service, or otherwise. For instance, giving charity might be seen as service, not learning, whereas reading a book about an issue is learning, not service.
However, in the context of MEZA – Resetting the Table, the sometimes natural distinction between service and learning becomes muddled. Meza is a summer program that seeks to explore ways to interact responsibly with people using cultural forms through community based projects. The name Meza is similar to the word for table in Hindi (mez), Spanish (mesa) and Swahili (meza), reflecting the program’s focus on the Global South. From my experience with Meza last year, I cannot distinguish service and learning. They happened through three weeks of a participatory process of exploring. This summer, Meza will take shape during two weeks with many participants including five artists in residence with backgrounds in visual art, theatre, music, food and film. After a week of exploring one of these media in greater detail, we will travel to Ahmedabad for four days and collaborate with organizations there. On returning, we will imagine ways to take these ideas and projects further. Going into Meza for the second time with a new format, the expectation I carry is the expectation to participate.
Just as service isn’t giving and learning isn’t taking, I think the possibilities of any interaction get reduced when measured in these categories. Beyond the classification into service and/or learning, it might be interesting to re-think and re-imagine the possibilities of an experience, and of global citizenship.