Monday, June 6, 2011


I’m am pleased to announce that through the grace of God and with the help of loving family and friends I have met the $9,000 fundraising goal. Thank-you! I am so grateful for all the overwhelming love and support I have received during the past 9 months. Prior to leaving for India, I was really worried about being lonely but these past months have proven to be a time of abundant expressions of support and love (so much so I may just live abroad for the rest of my life for the fantastic care packages!!) In all seriousness, thank-you! It may have seemed like a simple card, or even a consideration during your daily prayers but the support has been felt from 8,000 miles away and for that I’m grateful. However, what excites me most, is the furthering of God’s love in this world; together we joined hands to spread love through our gifts both spiritual and monetary and for that I’m smiling EVEN bigger!!!

A Birthday to Remember

This week I turned 23 and as I told my Mom during our birthday conversation, I finally feel old enough to be considered an adult, so I guess my grown-up life has begun, if it hadn’t before….maybe this explains my lack of sleep due to excitement of turning 23 on the eve of June 1st!
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of the day. Birthdays at home have always been relatively simple- with the big deal being you have your choice of a dinner menu. I hadn’t told anyone at the school it was my birthday so I figured it would be a low-key day. And for the most part it was however, I found the presence of individual’s more meaningful as they learned of my birthday and truly went out of their way to remember me.
One of the school’s servants was the first to say something and her simple words in extremely broken English were the most touching of the day’s. As I seem to always be creating trouble for the students, it is this servant that always scolds the girls, so I just assumed she didn’t think very highly of me. However, on Wednesday she stopped in her tracks and waited for me to walk pass before mustering up the courage to say, “Happy Birthday.” While this was early in the morning, my day had already been made by her simple wish. Later in the day I shared my birthday sweets with the teachers, as it is an Indian custom for the birthday person to supply their own sweets. For the past year, I have been reaping the benefits of this custom but was excited to finally be the person to not only decide what the sweets were but also have the excitement of passing out MY sweets…EXCEPT, my cake was moldy. This was horribly embarrassing and it put a little damper on the excitement- but like so many other things my only choice was to laugh! The icing on the (birthday) cake was when I mentioned to my Malayalam tutor that I always have strawberry cake on my birthday and although I wouldn’t be there to celebrate this year my parents, they were still going to have a cake in my honor. An hour after off-handedly saying this she had gone out and gotten strawberry biscuits and wrapped them in newspaper. Her simple gesture was so thoughtful but eternally meaningful. I couldn’t stop smiling! THEN I went to the dining hall to find that my supervisor’s has a surprise birthday feast for me. The cook normally prepares our food with occasional supplements from outside restaurants but this night my supervisor had gotten chicken tandoori, special bread, and tomato and onion salad- my favorites and such a treat. I had not expected it and it made the surprise that much better!! While I may not have gotten to “choose” my birthday dinner menu this year- it couldn’t have been chosen better for me. I had a great day and will always remember my 23rd birthday in India!!

A New School Year

Beginning June 6th the school year at Nicholson will officially begin. While I have been back at Nicholson for 10 days now, only 2 of the 7 grades have returned. Unlike our schools year, different grades begin the school year at different times depending on their exam schedule later in the year. Most schools open around June 1st with the first day being a time of registration and get to know the class teachers and school schedules. Although just 2 of the standards are currently here, the excitement of the girls re-energized me and made me excited to begin thinking about potential lesson plan ideas. While my time with the new students and teachers will be limited to just over a month, I am excited to think about how the time we spend together can be beneficial to each other!

I must admit I wasn’t sure that I would have the amount of energy I do about this school new year, especially after spending the month of May at an amazing organization. After returning from our month long trip around India, I spent the remainder of the summer at a place called Mandiram; an amazing community that is home to a hospital, old-age home for paying and non-paying residents and an orphanage. I was immediately welcomed into this family and couldn’t have been more happy to spend the remainder of the summer months with this organization. I was struck with the idea of partnership from the minute I stepped foot on their campus. It was obvious that my presence had the potential to add personality to this organization and that I could further learn about life in Kerala through the individuals working and living at Mandiram. My expectations were fully met as I instantly bonded with everyone! They were eager to get to know me and I was equally as eager to learn about their individual families and lives, leading to further reflection of my year. My days were spent visiting with individuals, playing with the girls in the orphanage, being present during morning devotions, serving at meals and helping to plan the weekly English bible studies. It most definitely helped that I was able to walk into this organization with a handle on Indian culture and feel very comfortable making conversation however, the strength of the organization also was prominent. While my time at Mandiram was short, I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend their and will always remember the individuals who helped to make the month of May a memorable one!

But with the help of the girls, my excitement and energy around being back at a school setting is high! I’m excited to continue building relationships with the returning teachers and am looking forward to forming relationships with the new teachers. I know this next month will go by fast but I look forward to each day and the joy and laughter to be had!

Snippets of my thoughts over the past 2 months

During the past 9 months I have kept a simple diary of the significant daily happenings in a year-long planner. I have never been a very sentimental person but when I left home last August, overwhelmed by the amount of time that stood between me and my return to family and friends, I thought this would not only serve as a helpful way to watch the days past but also provide a special souvenir (although I still think my MRI is the best souvenir I have, I mean how many Americans can say they have an MRI from INDIA?) So while I haven’t been great at keeping up with this blog, I hope this offers a little insight into my thoughts during the past several months.

-I took the pen out of many father’s hands today and placed it in the student's so she could write down the uniform needs and take may be a small act but one of empowerment nonetheless.
- Monsoon season where are you? I need you NOW this heat is melting me.
- I’m so thankful for my YAV-India family. Achen and his wife are extremely generous and go out of their way to make us feel at home during what could be lonely periods. And I couldn’t be luckier to have 2 amazing other volunteers experiencing this year alongside me!
- WahoOooOoo I met the fundraising goal!
-Got new glasses today and was able to skype my parents to show them!
-Madison and I ate a WHOLE jackfruit today, I hope we can do that again!
-Mathew Uncle’s perspective on life is so fascinating, he makes me think so much I often leave his room with a headache.
-Great bible study! I have never considered the Trinity to be a hierarchy but the conversation really forced me to articulate what I believe.
- Madison, you are so good at articulating just what I need to hear!!!
-I went to the new hospital ward inauguration only for tea but there wasn’t any. :/
-Is it better to fight this and say women are just as entitled to be near the altar as men or is this something I should just accept living in India?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let the Adventure Begin

It is the end of March, which means our all India tour departure date has arrived. Included in the YAV India year, is a month long tour around the country. Our supervisor gives the volunteers a stipend, the responsibility of arranging and executing all of plans each year. This month long tour is seen as an educational experience rather than a vacation, as we learn about the various cultures, experience life in different regions and see the amazing sites in this vast country! But of course, we will make learning fun!!

While I am very excited, I must admit I am a little nervous as well. Madison and Jim joke that I’m a hygiene-freak and that my Type A personality often clashes with Indian life (admittedly, both are true (but HAVE gotten much better after 7 months)) I don’t have enough clothes to last the month, let alone underwear. Additionally, my plan ahead personality is being tested as the adventures that could ensue are unfathomable. However, this morning I went to the doctor and stocked up on all medicines (homeopathic- simply to defy the notion that Americans take so much medicine!) that I may need. I even picked up a strand of rope and will take along some Breathe Right strips just in case! This month will surely put my personality quirks to the test, as long hot days and little sleep often cause Maggie the beast to become active. Despite all of this, a grand adventure is on our horizon and I am looking forward to it!

I have included an outline of our itinerary so you are able to follow along. I would recommend pulling up a map of India if you are interested so you can trace our exact travel places, as the place names probably won’t mean much. Prayers for good health and travel mercies would be appreciated for the 3 of us!! I will return to Kerala on April 24th…until then, peace and love!

March 31st Fly to Delhi

April 1st Day in Delhi

Sleep in Delhi

April 2nd Day in Delhi

Sleep in Delhi

April 3rd Day Fly to Srinagar

Sleep in Srinagar

April 4th Day in Srinagar

Sleep in Srinagar

April 5th Day in Srinagar

Sleep in Srinagar

April 6th Day travel to Jammu

Sleep in Jammu

April 7th Day travel to Dharmasala

Sleep in Dharmasala

April 8th Day in Dharmasala

Sleep in Dharmasala

April 9th Day in Dharmasala

Sleep in Dharmasala

April 10th Day travel to Amritsar

Sleep in Amritsar

April 11th Day travel to Delhi

Sleep in Delhi

April 12th Day travel to Agra

Sleep in Agra

April 13th Day travel to Agra

Sleep in Agra

April 14th Day travel to Jaipur

Sleep in Jaipur

April 15th Day travel to Jaipur

Sleep to Jaipur

April 16th Day to Jaisalmeer

Sleep in Jaisalmeer

April 17th Day ride a camel

Sleep in Desert

April 18th Day in Jaisalmeer

Sleep in Jaisalmeer

April 19th Day in Train to Mumbai

Sleep in Train on way to Mumbai

April 20th Day Fly to Goa

Sleep in Goa

April 21 Day in Goa

Sleep in Goa

April 22 Day in Goa

Sleep in Goa

April 23 Day in Goa

Sleep on Train to Kerala

A Visit to Hyderabad

Back in October I was supposed to run a marathon with an Indian friend from Xavier. After having to cancel plans due to my crazy eye, I was able to visit with him and his family this past week! And what a ball we all had together!

It was quite the experience and shed light on a whole different side of life in India. India is a vast country both in size and diversity. Getting out of Kerala and being surrounded by a very affluent community gave me the opportunity to experience a whole different perspective allowing me to further reflect on my time in India.

My friend Ashwin graduated from Xavier with his MBA in May of 2010. During his 2 years on campus he easily became the most well-known, life of the party, willing to do anything for anyone, charismatic, involved in every extra-curricular, not able to go anywhere without knowing someone Indian charmer. The minute I met Ashwin at the Hyderabad airport, I could tell that the Xavier Ashwin I knew was no different from the Indian Ashwin. Everywhere we went, Ashwin knew at least 5 people. While I lost count of the number of people I was introduced to after 250, I think I easily met more than 700 people during the course of the week. 2 lavish weddings, an engagement ceremony and a birthday party helped contribute to the insane amount of people I met. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. All week I was surrounded by people who worked for their very successful individual family businesses. Ashwin’s family makes the liners for pistons (during the course of the week I learned so much about car engines I can now maintain a conversation with anyone about car parts!!) I was given a tour of a liner factory and met lots of people in the industry. It was interesting to watch and take part in the conversations that mainly revolved around work and subsequently profit making. This was a very different experience from my past 7 months at my site. Furthermore, two days before I left to see Ashwin, I was told the annual income of a teacher at Nicholson- spending this same amount of money for 1 dinner for 4 was hard to swallow.

Another interesting experience was interacting with men. For the past 7 months the only male gender I have interacted with consistently have been 2 men by the name of Tim- and that has only been over the phone. This week was the complete opposite; I was in the company of another woman once. At first I was hesitant to talk and assumed an Indian woman’s position amongst the group of men- but then I pinched myself and joined in; a person creating change doesn’t conform.

I really enjoyed my time with Ashwin and his family. I am grateful that I was able to see a different side of Indian life as it reaffirmed the work I am doing in Kerala. As I sat talking to Ashwin’s friends, all I could think was, ”Someday, I hope the girls at Nicholson have the ability to feel comfortable and confident to go out alone with a group of guys.”

X for Xavier Nation!!!

The End of the School Year

Right now in Kerala, it is HOT! I know I said it was hot when I came back in September, but that seems like sweatshirt weather compared to the temperature now! It is just plain HOT, hence, the commencing of summer vacation here in India.

The education system is very different from ours in the United States, with its own strengthens and weaknesses, I have gained a new perspective on our education system in the United States. In India the whole month of March is dedicated to exams. At the beginning of the month, I was so confused on the logistics of the exam schedule- thinking every standard was on the same schedule, however, as the end of the month approaches I have finally figured out the schedule and now understand a little better the exam schedule here in Kerala.

Just like in the US, with the end of exams comes the beginning of a break. For the students here in Kerala, that break is their summer vacation, fitting because it is so HOT! The school will re-open again in May with the majority of classes beginning in June. For the month of April I will travel and May my time will be spent in various parts of the state visiting and being present among the people here in India.