Ironically enough this post does not address the monsoon season. I am sure there will be plenty of stories in the next 4 weeks. Another week is in the books. It’s crazy how time flies. Hard to believe in India where everything seems to move a little bit slower than I am used to, but I can’t complain. I’d be lying to myself and to those reading if I said that these past two weeks have been easy. They have been quite difficult for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons include: recent events happening in Dallas, St. Paul, Dhaka,
Istanbul, and the many others that go unheard daily; dealing with personal mental health; and the stress of being abroad with a large group. Looking back on the past couple of weeks it sounds like it would be difficult to find positivity amongst the tragedy. Of course there have been many high points and happiness along the way, but for the most part it has been hard. I rarely confront my own feelings and find it quite distressing to do so, please bear with me. Although I have expressed my own personal struggle to a select few and have even come across as ashamed of my current mental health state, I am now finding how important it is to be willing to take steps forward in becoming healthy both mentally and physically.
I am very blessed to have such a strong support system both at home and here in Bangalore. There are countless people I have found comfort in and truly feel as if I am able to face different obstacles along the way without feeling hopeless. So here’s a HUGE thank you to those who reach out, listen, talk, and make me feel better. Of course nobody wants to address the bad or difficult times during their time abroad, but if anyone is going to be honest about said difficulties I will be the first to admit them. For those who know me personally I think it is safe to say I am a positive person usually looking for the silver lining on any situation. More recently though I found myself going back to a dark place of self-hate and lack of confidence in what I am doing. After a day of much needed reflection and having conversations with those who have given me nothing but support I am starting to feel much better about the next month. This blog post may seem vague and maybe even cryptic to some about what has been happening personally and as a whole group, but come on… I still have personal feelings that I don’t feel need the be shared across the world wide web. Just know, that today is the day that I have taken my life back into my own hands and am taking steps to providing myself with a positive outlook on the future. I am also taking this time to turn this somber blog post into what you really want… pictures and an update on what the group has been up to.
School has been great. The kids are great. The teachers are great. The food is really great. Things could not be going better at DPS- North. Last week I got a better look at how special education is handled in addition to the grueling planning process that involves way too much paperwork and is overall super exhausting. Chandan and Manisha make it look so
easy. They handle everything that comes their way with poise and grace that I hope to have an ounce of by the time I leave. It truly has been a blessing working side by side with such strong, positive women who continue to impress me day by day. I could talk about these two for hours, but I will limit myself to a paragraph per post. OH! I am also so excited to share that I have joined Chandan in instructing a remedial upper kindergarten class of about 25 kids every morning. It’s been SO fun. Not only are the kids too cute to describe, but they are also highly motivated and I have been able to practice the many different strategies and practices I have been learning over the past year with Dr. McCathren. Big things are happening here, people!
Last week was a very exciting time across the world for Muslims. Eid had finally arrived signifying the end of Ramadan. Before last Thursday I had never hear of Eid and didn’t know what it all entailed. Because of the undying hospitality found in this city, Sarah, Abby and I were invited to Ayesha’s (senior counselor at DPS- North) house to celebrate with another counselor, Deepa, Ayesha’s family and some friends of theirs. Did I mention that Eid- ul Fitr is a holiday and therefore schools across Bangalore had Thursday off? It was wonderful. Sarah, Abby and I headed towards Ayesha’s house around 12:30 knowing we had about a 25-30 minute Uber ride over to her home. We arrived at her street when realizing we had NO idea what her house looked like, if it was an apartment or house, and did not have the ability to read the Hindi street signs. Things were going well… After some wandering around, calling Deepa, and interrupting strangers to ask for help, we finally made it to Ayesha’s house. Little did we know it was about 20 feet from where we were originally dropped off. Oops! Upon our arrival we were greeted by Ayesha, her sister, and
mother who quickly invited us in to visit with one another before eating lunch. It was such a perfect afternoon. It felt as if we had known all of these people for years. We talked about everything and anything over the next 5 hours. It felt like being at my own family party, which was very comforting. Ayesha and her sister seated the three of us and their other guests at the dining room table and began serving us the traditional homemade Eid meal of biryani, curd, masala curries, and roti. I am sure I am missing a few of the other things we ate, but I am not kidding when I tell you there was barely time to breathe in between each serving. Ayesha and her sister made sure that our plates were never empty. We ate like queens.
After lunch we made our way to the front room where we enjoyed a homemade frozen dessert that tasted similar to Kulfi. I am a firm believer that there is ALWAYS room for ice cream or something similar at the end of a meal. I mean the ice cream just melts in your tummy and just fills all the empty spaces, right? I have been telling myself that for years so I am just going to stick with that. Ayesha then surprised Sarah, Abby, and I with mehndi (henna) on our hands to go out with a bang on Eid. Mehndi is typically done for festivals and special occasions so we were definitely going to take advantage, plus we look really cool with it on our hands. It’s the simple things. It was getting late and Ayesha’s family was heading to a family member’s house to continue the celebration so we headed back to Casa to share our afternoon with the rest of the group.
It’s experiences like being invited to celebrate with a family that has me wanting to come back. I am not by any means well versed in Muslim beliefs or practices, but from living in a predominantly Muslim community in Richmond Town and spending an afternoon at Ayesha’s house, I have never felt so lucky to come in contact with so many people with different values and beliefs. That afternoon Muslims, Catholics, Presbyterians, and Hindus shared a meal, stories, laughs, smiles and hugs. It was an important reminder that, despite religious or political views, people can be accepted anywhere in the world. Especially Bangalore.
Over the weekend the whole group climbed into our Traveler and started on our hour journey to Bannerghatta National Park. This isn’t your average park. In addition to the zoo on a piece of the 30,000 acres they also have a safari including bears, tigers, lions, and elephants. It was beautiful. The pictures are amazing and if for no other reason you are reading this post other than to see the pictures from the trip, I accept that. Seriously, go check them out because they are great. I can only provide you with a small sample of the photos with this one.
Now for a shameless plug for mental health…
The weekend came to and end with a lot of different feelings of frustration, insecurity, and sadness. Although I feel very comfortable in this city, in the schools, and working closely with the students, things are starting to wear down on me. I cannot stress enough how important it is to put yourself first, to make sure that you are mentally prepared and healthy enough to handle whatever comes your way. Fortunately for me, I am no stranger to these kinds of feelings and have been battling them for awhile now. I say fortunately because I feel better equipped to handle the anxiety and depression that hangs over like a dark cloud some days. I am no longer ashamed of feeling a certain way and no longer believe that I deserve to feel that way. It’s been a HUGE learning process and may have taken a little longer than I may have wanted, but I’m healthy now and know that are steps that can be taken to advocate for yourself.