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.