Tag Archives: travel

Aside

…well i finally figured out what it’s been that’s kept me from updating my dedicated followers (i.e. the friends and family that monitor me to make sure i haven’t gone completely over the deep-end). shame.

yep, shame.

now don’t go getting all worried, not that scary wrist-cutting shame that causes so much grief you can’t even live with yourself. no, its that kind of shame you get when you put something off just long enough to feel bad about it. then you get to that point where you’re afraid that if you try to make it right you’ll just draw more attention to the irresponsible procrastination you let yourself fall into in the first place and the shame sets in again. you know, the paralyzing kind that makes you want to avoid attracting attention to yourself? (at least if you’re an ‘avoider’ like me) its like that.

i think what it boils down to is the fact that i’ve never been a particularly disciplined person. throughout my schooling, assignments always seemed to be a day late, and i think certain teachers came to expect my heart-wrenching pleads for just one more day and the concession of a few points so that i could “finish” it. which meant that at about 9pm that evening i would frantically begin the project and stay up all night brooding over it to come out with a fairly decent rendition of what it should have been had i planned out the whole 2 weeks i’d had to get it done, further reinforcing my tendency to do it again. that is my life. has been for as long as i can remember and, clearly, i’m not growing out of it any time soon.

so, long, drawn-out excuse over with, a LOT has happened since the last time many of you heard from me! here’s the short list:

1. i made the formal decision to finish out a second school year with CHI! so that means i’ll be here through April/May of 2013. luckily, NC and i made somewhat of a pact so that neither of us would be here alone, which leads to the next 2 points

2. i officially got my visa extension which will be good through July 2013! not that I need it that long, but I’m glad to have leeway and not have to worry about doing it again*

3. NC and i have officially moved out of our previous home-stay accommodations and gotten into a new two-bedroom abode about a 20-minute bus ride from work! (which cuts my commute time in half!) i’ll dedicate another post to this on its own.

4. i got to spend about a month in Indiana this past May and got to see a few of the people i had hoped to see. hopefully i’ll be able to plan out my next visit  a little better (mark your calendars for December, people!) and get more visits in!

5. my very brave father spent a week here with me on my way back and got a small taste of my life in India. i think there was a bit of shell-shock, but overall i think his experience was good. i enjoyed being able to finally show off how much i’ve learned about life here and prove to myself just how ‘indian’ my lifestyle has become!

6. we currently have the special ed coordinator from Indy here working with us at school which has been a HUGE help for getting ourselves better organized and focused for creating procedures in the school.

well, you’ve now got the abbreviated version of what’s happened in the past couple of months. overall, things are going well and i’ve etched out some sort of life here that i think i can manage for a while. i’ll update soon with pictures and details of the new living situation.

tata for now,
sarah

*= new & exciting info originally neglected, added 23/07/12

shame…

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now for 1,000 words on October…

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oops 🙂

obviously i seem to have been neglecting my blog and as one might expect in India, quite a bit has happened since september!

here is a quick run-through of all i’ve been up to in the past month and a half:

  • the first week of October was spent on the South Indian holiday of Dhasara. since we had an entire week to ourselves, NC and i decided to spend a couple of days in Pondicherry. Pondy was originally a French port and the small area near the ocean is very reminiscent of a small european town. many people even still speak French here. though, as is most of india, Pondy was most definitely HOT. though we got some relief from the heat by visiting the home of an acquaintance which was right on the beach and very peaceful with a nice sea-breeze. sitting on the beach and putting my feet in the water was one of the most relaxing things i’ve done in a while. i definitely wish i could have stayed there a bit longer, but we came back on a friday to greet a friend of NC who was just starting a tour of india. it was nice for us to show someone else around for a while, made me realize how much i’ve learned about where i am and how to navigate the city.
  • after a week back to the grind of school, we spent a nice weekend socializing with some school colleagues and visiting homes of some of our students. its a truly unique and enjoyable experience to be welcomed into an indian home, and most of the time they cannot wait to stuff you full of biryani, or chicken curry, or kebabs, or just rassam and rice. and obviously something is wrong with you if you deny a second helping, literally they will pile your plate again and say you don’t like the food if it’s not sparkling clean by the end. we also got the amazing experience of going to our first official indian festival. though a little late for Dhasara itself, we went with a colleague to the place where he has lived his entire life in Bangalore for the most unique experience i think i’ve had yet. we didn’t even arrive at the thing until 11pm and apparently it was “just starting.” I can only liken it to a stationary parade with “floats” built and funded by family and neighbor groups. each with a special seat for a hindu deity statue. apparently at some point in the night the floats actually make a trip around the central blocks of the area… but we were there until 4am and saw no movement. YES i was out on an indian street, at a festival, until 4AM!! the strangest part was the families with small children were also out enjoying festivities, shops were open selling snacks and chai, and large drum groups were egging on festivities and copious amounts of dancing. it was beyond incredible, to say the least.
  • the second half of October was slightly less exciting except that we had two working SATURDAYS in a row which was painful to say the least and one thing i don’t appreciate about indian work culture (working a couple saturdays in a month is standard for most jobs).
  • Diwali, however was a bit of excitement in that final week of the month. being the Hindu “festival of lights,” Diwali involves copious amounts of oil lamps, candles, and especially fireworks (aka “crackers”). in the way people celebrate, the holiday is similar to an American Christmas celebration in that it involves getting together with close family and friends. Hindus perform special poojas (prayer ceremonies) on this day, burning oil lamps to invite the goddess Lakshmi inside the house, and bursting crackers to frighten evil spirits away from the home. i got to spend this lovely holiday with a small group of friends in the home of a Gujarati couple (Gujarat is a state in western india). the evening was definitely enjoyable and almost made up for my missing the 4th of July at home, though there weren’t any large gatherings for professional fireworks displays. we had a very nice “savory and sweet” meal and enjoyed watching everyone set off extremely loud and bright crackers on the street.
  • unfortunately diwali was followed by yet another working saturday and utter disorientation as to what day it actually was (we had 3 days off for diwali, then 2 working days, then 1 sunday) especially since the following week we had tuesday off for the celebration of Karnataka’s statehood.
  • throughout all of these weeks, NC and i have started spending sundays at a boy’s hostel where about 10 CHI students stay. the hostel is very near to CHI itself and about a 20 minute walk. we have also been commissioned by the Father there to help a few of the older boys (who do not attend CHI) with improving their English. the time we spend at this place is like nothing else i’ve experienced in india. for one, the place is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, with a small, rambling, mile-long dirt road, for which “pot-holed” is not nearly an accurate descriptor. the hostel itself is a fairly large 4-story building that has the beginnings of a school within its walls. thus far, the school only extends to the 3rd grade, hence older boys go to CHI or other nearby schools or PUCs for the older ones (in India, Pre-University College is the format for the 11th and 12th grades). i’ve found that the utter peacefulness that exists at the hostel is an extremely welcome break from the chaos of the city. also, there is a certain amount of simplicity of life there that makes it a breath of fresh air. the boys all have daily jobs/chores and there is a fairly regular schedule followed which daily includes recreation (usually football [soccer for my american friends], sometimes cricket). though it’s not perfect, as nothing is, the work that the Father does here is nothing less than highly admirable. the boys that stay there come for a wide variety of reasons; many are from small villages and were looking for better education, some want to become priests, others come from homes that simply cannot support them in some way. whatever the reason they are there, most of them refer to one another as ‘brothers’ and treat each other as such. the family camaraderie is what makes it so enjoyable to visit and to see some of the students outside of the school atmosphere.
  • most recently, this past week the school celebrated Children’s Day with a “special assembly” put on by the teachers. yes, i participated in a short indian dance with some of the other teachers. the program was enjoyable, though i did feel bad for the students as they pitifully wilted in the hot sun for nearly 2 hours, but i believe it was successful none-the-less, and i discovered just how musically and theatrically talented some of my colleagues actually are.

as you can see, the month of october was a banner month for indian culture and experiences. i have immensely enjoyed most everything. not to say i haven’t had my bouts with homesickness, but keeping myself busy has gone a long way in keeping my sanity. i have friends and especially NC to thank for keeping me centered and focused on why i’m here… CHI and the kids. that’s why i came back and why i can keep myself balanced. i love what i’m doing and am rewarded everyday with the relationships and academic successes i see in my students. more on all this later, hopefully you all can feel updated now.

thanks for reading 🙂

Sarah

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.

here i go…

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this is my new beginning.

monday. this monday. i will be leaving for Bangalore.

i have about 500 things to do before that time, most troublesome of which, keeping my luggage to two 50-lb bags. my whole life in 100-lbs. as scary as that sounds to me the $150 charge will be a great motivator to trimming it down.

i’m not so much nervous about leaving my home, rather freaked out about trying to make sure that i get everything i need together for the long journey. not only do i have all of my personal effects, but i’m also traveling with a number of supplies for the school that are not as easy to obtain in India. given that organization is not my strong suit, i’m really just anxious to have everything ready to go and get on the plane monday without a hitch.

up until then, i’ll be packing, organizing, getting in last-minute friend visits, and generally stressing myself out. wish me luck!

*a note on this blog in general: my goal is to post once a month at minimum, though hopefully i’ll be able to exceed that.

import: god’s own country…

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import: quick update

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Dear friends, family, and strangers,

Here is an update of the things I did for the past few weeks, I’ll leave this as my update and try to keep up for the next couple weeks.

3rd week I was here I went to a region called Coorg. This is a rainforest region that is covered in coffee plantations. I stayed at a really cool place called the Rainforest Retreat, which is an all-organic and environmentally friendly plantation. Unfortunately my first day there was spent recovering from the long, extremely bumpy bus ride and a stomach issue from the previous night’s dinner. It did turn out to be a very nice place to recover though. The second day I was there I was really able to enjoy the scenery and go on a couple of hikes as well as explore the plantation itself (including having to quickly pull two leeches off my ankles, eeekkk!). It was all beautiful and I will post pictures soon 🙂

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