Written by Sarah Shaw – India 2008 Year Out Volunteer
So far I've had the best time. Getting here was an adventure in itself. I flew from Sydney with another three girls, then met up with another two in Singapore (there are 7 aussie girls all together), our first stop. When we arrived, we were told that our flight had already left and that we would be spending the night in the Crowne Plaza hotel (5 star, individual rooms and expense paid of course!) This was pretty exciting even though we were only there for 4 1/2 hours!
The next morning we flew to Mumbai, waited for six hours at the airport and then finally arrived in Udaipur (let me tell you, checking in at Mumbai airport was not the best introduction to 'India time'! As we had to change flights and were redirected from Singapore, there was bound to be confusing anyway...)
Nevertheless, we arrived safely and were greeted at the airport by two of the Channel Youth coordinators. From here is when the fun really started- the smell, the cows, the driving... oh India :)
We were all amazed though by their driving skills and their ability to utilise the space available and dodge oncoming traffic, though. As crazy and sometimes scary as it is, no western could do it!
I'm surprised at how well I'm doing as far as culture shock goes. I feel really comfortable here and the people are soooo nice. What makes it even more comfortable is having Meenaji, our cook at the volunteer house who makes the most amazing food I've ever tasted! She is so lovely :) All the coordinators and other volunteers are great too (there are 22 volunteers in total- the most they've ever had). The house is in the village of Bedla, about 20-30 minutes from Udaipur.
We took a trip into town on Friday afternoon and were very surprised by what we saw! We just wanted to do some shopping and check out a few sites, but we ended up being spectators to a festival that was taking place at Jagdish Temple (it was his 70th birthday so everyone was out to celebrate and pay their respects. It was crazy! I think what I found the most amazing was that we had to move for a car trying to get through the crowds of people! Like we weren't squished enough!
Wow, I better rap it up soon-
I started teaching on Monday at Bhilwara school. I am teaching grade 3 with another girl, Hayley. We have 24 students in our class, however, only 13/14 have showed up so far. This has been an amazing experience. Everday the kids get one free meal provided by the government. We are introducing a hand-washing program to get them to wash their hands before eating. So the whole school (grades 1-7) lines up and we have to wash and dry their hands. Then we distribute their meals (usually a curry-type dish with rice). The first day there wasn't enough rice for them all, and the second not enough plates, so we had to re-use a few of them. Little things like this make me realise how fortunate I am to live in Sydney. These kids mainly live in mudhuts, some don't wear shoes to school and they are all so skinny (we saw some private school kids in town one day- you can really tell the difference).
Another thing about the traffic- everyone beeps their horns for no reason! Its so funny. Sometimes its to let you know they are coming so you should move off the road, other times its for fun and other times they get so annoyed at you and so beep and then stare you down like only an Indian can.
So far it has been great- the teaching and lesson planning is getting easier already, even just after two days. The kids are so great. Of course you get the naughty ones but this just makes you realise that they are just innocent little kids inside, wanting some attention and wanting to learn about you, anything and everything. I'm even getting their names right! I have Ambalal, Rekha, Jagdish, Gopal and Meera, to name a few!
Anyway, I'd better be off. I have to go and pick up my photocopied worksheets for class tomorrow
Love to you all and I hope everyone is well! I would love to hear from you all- keep me updated!