Monthly Archives: September 2011

CHI goes to GOAGOA

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…really its just one Goa… essentially it is the florida of India.

as CHI is a not-for-profit, nearly all aspects of the school are sponsored by someone. in this case, a resort time-share company in Goa provides the funds for the cafeteria and daily food expenses. as part of their contribution and a bit of philanthropic PR for them, they invite students to the 4-star resort each year.

this year about 150 students (grades 5-9) and 20 teachers (including myself and NC) went for the 4-day trip. we left Sunday the 18th and returned Friday. i started the trip not feeling so great which didn’t bode well on a 14-hour train ride that got steadily more humid as we got further from our oasis in Bangalore. the train itself was fairly new and relatively clean for having the windows constantly open. the floor was even swept and mopped twice throughout the journey. my fever kept me from sleeping at all, plus the claustrophobia of being on the bottom bunk with two above me and no possibility of sitting upright. i have since decided that the side berths are definitely my preference simply for the extra head-space and breathing room.

-side note for american friends who haven’t seen an Indian train.. when you walk into the train there is an aisle down one side. to the right of that aisle are open coaches with two long bench seats that double as beds at the lower level and a back rest that pulls up to the middle row of bunks and a top third row of bunks.
to your left, opposite the 6 bunks are two bunks situated parallel to the aisle, one a sitting-level and one that requires climbing; these are known as the ‘side berths’. therefore for each “coach” there are a total of 8 beds.

anyway, we made it to Goa around 6am and got settled in the hotel then went for breakfast. all of our meals were at a nearby event hall, so we ended up walking about 10 minutes for every meal.

our first day was already jam-packed with activities, which was wonderful for the students since they had mostly gotten a full night’s rest on the train, while the teachers just tried to stay awake after a night of vigilance on a public train. the first night held quite a show for the kids including a magician and fire-dancers.

most of the rest of the week’s activities were typical camp-type activities that were enjoyable for the students. the ones i want to highlight though are the brand new experiences…

1. The ocean! for students that had not been on this trip before, this was the first experience seeing an ocean of any kind. Goa is on the Arabian Sea which is quite rough this time of year, so teachers kept students restricted to the shallow water, OH i have never seen a group of children more excited to sit in the waves, get sand in, well, everything, and splash in 5 inches of water. they were beyond ecstatic, it was a purely joyful experience for both students and teachers, many of whom took on a child-like excitement about the water as well. it was quite a sight to see with 75 children all sitting in the water, fully clothed (traditional bathing suits are not well-known in India) and having the time of their lives!!

2. the pool! since they didn’t get actual swim time in the ocean, the sensation of jumping into a pool was also quite a joy for students. all had water wings to wear, which was a sight in itself, and were restricted to the shallower end of the pool. most had no concept of how to swim which made flailing around in water wings all the more amusing for me and NC. even most of the teachers don’t know how to swim, so seeing an adult reaction to being immersed in a pool full of water was really interesting. i can definitely say this was an experience i will never forget.

though the resort provided everything for us free of charge to the school, the resort staff and volunteers treated us as honored guests which was such a blessing, especially for children who have never stayed in a resort or seen a beach. the overall experience was truly amazing and one that i will treasure always.

i’m also happy to say that the train journey home was much more enjoyable than the first one. the Indian countryside with hills, waterfalls, and rice paddies was beyond beautiful. and the air became steadily cooler and drier as we made our way inland. everything was topped off very nicely and with only a few minor injuries (a fractured wrist, and a minor allergic reaction), the trip was a complete success.

one heck of a month!

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i can now say that i have settled into my little life here in Bangalore. the only thing left to do is pick up my foreigner’s registration from the local immigration office… which was a task in itself that should, with a little luck, be accomplished very soon.

after arriving very early in the morning on the 24th of August, I attended school and jumped back into the work i’ve been doing in the resource room. the school has felt very much the way I left it. my relationship to the school is slowly changing. i’m starting to feel much more a part of the staff and system here. everything is starting to come easier for me and the inter workings of school-bureaucracy in India is coming a little more naturally now.

the week i arrived, i got wednesday through friday off school because of Ramadan and Ganesha Chaturthi (Hindu elephant-headed god’s birthday celebration). I got to spend that extra long weekend visiting with friends, having some truly wonderful food, and reacquainting myself with the city.

teacher’s day was directly after this holiday and though we were in school, i’ve never known any school to show so much appreciation for teachers than an indian school. each teacher was given the equivalent of about $100 worth of gift cards to a good department store here in Bangalore. plus a nice box of sweets and a small piece of jewelry, as well as some very kind words from the education and finance directors. the students were especially excited to stop teachers in the corridors and wish them a happy teacher’s day and shake hands. it was truly a day that i was proud to be a teacher.

life in general has been extremely busy. i’m now lucky enough to have another foreigner, NC, from the U.K. in the school for about the same length of time as i am. about a week after i arrived a female volunteer from the U.K. was here for two weeks and NC and I were both really excited to be able to show another person around, which is something neither of us had the first time we came to India. the experience of showing someone else around showed me just how much i have learned and grown since my first arrival in India. especially being able to understand more of what people are saying is a huge realization. my first two weeks i had difficulty even being able to tell if someone was speaking english to me because i was not accustomed to the accent of an Indian-English speaker. sharing experiences with these two companions has made my first month back an easy transition. finding my way around the city has become much less of a hassle and i really know where i’m going most of the time.

besides foreign friends, i have really started to develop friendships with many of the younger teachers at school and have been officially invited to 3 homes now. its exciting to have social breakthroughs when there are often misunderstandings from both sides that can be the root of many misunderstandings. also my own natural tendency toward introvertedness has been a slight obstacle to immediate friend-making, through slowly but surely i’m definitely feeling more connected.

about two weeks ago i got to go to one teacher’s home for a Malayalam (people from Kerala) harvest festival known as Onam. we had amazing food and ate on the floor with our hands… the traditional way 🙂 it truly is amazing to be welcomed into an Indian home.

I’ve had an amazing first month and will tell you all about our school trip to GOA in my next post (to come soon). I’m going to attempt a once-monthly blog so friends at home can keep track of what i’m doing and where i’m going.

much love.
Sarah.