When it Rains, It Pours

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,

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most accurate picture to sum up my life here. frizzy hair and all

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

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working hard on tracing and coloring

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

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only slightly freaked out by the amount of food we ate

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 IMG_3764elephants. 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.

with love,

Jill

Hot Days, Cold Showers

Well, we officially have been in Bangalore for a week and what a week it has been. I truly cannot express how good it feels to be back. It feels even better to be at DPS-North with the teachers and kids who have been nothing but welcoming. I have mentioned in the
previous post that I will be working with Chandan and Manisha over the next few weeks

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the best table mate I could ask for

in their small office located on the top floor of DPS. It’s been quite positive and reassuring to talk to them about special education in India versus the United States. Quite surprisingly it is very similar. The dialogue is really informative and allows for a lot of different discussions concerning approaches, curriculums, interventions, assessments, and data collection used. We have shared resources with one another in addition to the daily conversations, stories, and laughs. On Friday Manisha shared a quote with me that I will never forget and probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. She said,

“Being Hindu, we believe in multiple lives. You being here must mean that we have met in some previous life. We have all met before, and now we are meeting again. You are supposed to be here.”

Cue the tears.

The school day came and went and we were finally free to enjoy our weekend of rest and relaxation. It was anything but that. Friday night we experienced the night life and the many adventures that come with that. Saturday morning we found ourselves waking up later than 6 am (truly a blessing) and grabbing breakfast before heading out to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. Lalbagh is one of my favorite places to be in Bangalore. It is a small oasis in the

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Lalbagh

middle of the loud city. Everything is so green and fresh. It was the perfect afternoon after a late night out. Saturday was one of the warmer days we’ve had here. It was quite sunny and humid, and I was quickly reminded of the weather in St. Louis. No bueno.

After walking through the garden for about an hour we were whisked off to New Heritage Collection on Infantry Road. The shop is filled with everything from small key chains to huge marble elephants. Everyone browsed and had the chance to practice their bartering skills. I found myself being escorted around the small shop by a very nice man who claimed he would “give me a discount” because I was a student. I was skeptical, but because I am cursed with trusting others (some may call this being naive, but I think I am above that) I went ahead and listened to just about everything he had to say. He was very helpful in the long run and presented me with a lot of different

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finally, gold anklets

items to choose from. I should make something clear… when in any shop whether be Commercial Street or really anywhere, if you show ANY interest in something be prepared to be persuaded to buy it. After about 20 minutes or so I had more items set aside than I planned on. When in India…? Although I am very happy with all of my purchases I made sure to replace the anklets I bought three years ago and lost in the airport on the way home. I think it’s safe to say I have bought plenty of clothes and jewelry for myself.

This time around I really thought I had everything figured out. From the light switches being opposite direction to turn on, 3rd floor in India really meaning the 4th floor (first floor is considered ground floor), and accessing warm or hot water. I was wrong. Very very wrong. The first week Chrissy and I took cold showers. And when we couldn’t handle standing under the freezing water we resorted to using the buckets placed in each shower with a scoop. It was better being able to control when the cold water would touch your skin rather than shivering the entirety of the shower. Luckily on Saturday the hot water was restored to us when we realized that a certain switch needed to be on in order for the hot water to come. It was quite the realization. There are days, like Saturday, where I come to appreciate a nice cold or cool shower. But let’s not get crazy… I prefer nice warm ones too.

Before I left I was asked a lot of questions about the weather in India. Let me break it down as best as I can. For those of you who live in Missouri you might be able to relate to this… the weather varies day to day. The temperature is pretty consistent ranging between 78-81, but then you have to factor in the wind, the rain, and everything in between. For example, the other day at school the temperature was around 77, but because it was so windy teachers and students were saying they were feeling cold! 77 degrees cold. Can you believe that? Well immediately I bought into it and found myself pulling my scarf around my shoulders to warm up. In regards to the monsoon season we currently find ourselves in, the rain usually holds off until the late afternoon and only lasts a short while. Most days have been overcast with periods of sunshine, but for the most part it is quite

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channeling my inner Schmidt

pleasant. I am still wearing scarves with jeans and short sleeve shirts. To quote Jessica Day from New Girl when speaking to Schmidt about his attempt to fit in with the new neighbors, “This is not the outfit we talked about…And what are you doing here? Your arms are hot, but your neck is cold?”

Looking forward to starting a new week at DPS and continue on our adventure over on the other side of the world. Happy Independence Day!

Be sure to check out some photos from the past week.

with love,

Jill

Milestones

Our first few days have been quite exciting. I’ve hit a lot of personal milestones my second time around. On Saturday the whole group walked through Richmond Town trying to get a better sense of the neighborhood we would call home the next 6 weeks. It was a lot of walking and we covered some serious ground. We headed to commercial street soon after where we enjoyed lunch at a personal favorite, Konarks. This was the first time everyone had the chance to order authentic Indian food and become more familiar with different dishes. I obviously went for the dosa because it’s essentially a potato filled crispy rice pancake served with chutney. Right up my alley. We learned a few lessons… Sharing food is essential, fresh lime soda is delicious and much better sweetened, and finally taking a group of 12 to the restaurant has its challenges. We finished eating and headed towards FabIndia for some kurta shopping. It was quite rushed because we had to zoom over to Casa, change, and then head over to IKC for a “Welcome to Bangalore” presentation. The

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bharatanatyam dancers

bharatanatyam

presentation included an incredible traditional dance performance known as bharatanatyam. Check out the photos page for pictures. After the pair of girls danced they invited out group to participate. Milestone #1. This is the first time I’ve attempted any kind of dance in India. Not my best performance, but to be fair the dancers can begin training as early as 5 years old. Both had been dancing for at least 18 years. 

After the IKC we met Manju m’am and Geetha m’am for dinner. Manju is the principal and Geetha is the vice principal at Delhi Public Schools Bangalore- North. This also happens to be my host school for the next 6 weeks where I will be working with the special education department consisted of a counselor and a special educator. Manju and Geetha are absolutely brilliant. They both give off such a positive energy that I hope to feed off of during my stay. 

Everyone was pretty exhausted so we called it an early night because we had a 6 am wake up call for a cycle tour around Sankey Tank. The tour started around 7:30 am and was led by experienced cyclists and proved to be knowledgeable guides. On the tour we made a few stops including: Tharangini Arts Foundation (hand block printing), breakfast at Veena Stores, Kadumaleshwara Temple, Nandi Theertha Temple, Dhobi Ghat and a Heritage home. Did I mention that our tour was on the street where we were inches from traffic? Milestone #2. Never in my life did I think I would be on a bicycle on the streets of

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hand block printing

Bangalore fighting the organized chaos called traffic. I like to think I’m pretty good on a bike so I didn’t feel too uncomfortable being so close to cars, motorcycles, etc. Don’t worry, we wore helmets! (Are you proud, Connor?) Our first stop was hand block printing. It’s an amazing art using hand carved stamps with intricate designs dipped in paint and pressed onto material. Again, check out the photo page for more info. After that we biked our way over to breakfast to have idli and vada with chutney. It’s by far one of my favorite breakfasts. An idli is like a rice dumpling and vada is a fried rice dough that looks like a doughnut. After a quick breakfast we headed over to drink fresh coconut water. We quickly learned that you cheers someone else with a coconut and say “bottoms up” before drinking. 

Although the tour provided us with some physical activity, immersion, and a decent amount of laughs, it was also quite hot and a little more challenging than we expected. We finished up around 1, came home and took some time to ourselves before heading to dinner at PlanB. PlanB is a American grill that serves everything from beef hamburgers to mozzarella sticks. It was a great way to end the long day. It didn’t take long for everyone to settle back into their rooms and head to bed. My bed, as I am so very blessed to have one, is as hard as a rock. Thankfully I am quite exhausted by the end of the day that I hardly notice it until I wake up a bit stiff. Also, my current sleep schedule is from like 11 pm-4am… not ideal, but what can you do.

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DPS North; the picture doesn’t do the school’s size justice

Monday and Tuesday the whole crew visited the four schools we would be working with for the next 6 weeks. Monday we saw DPS- East & AECS Magnolia and Tuesday DPS-North & Vidya Shilp. The two days were very enjoyable and it got everyone quite excited about their placements. On Monday I found myself wide awake at 4 too excited to visit Shilp again and see all of the teachers I’ve befriended. It felt like I was going to Disney World. Also, that morning I was VERY excited because I finally tied my own saree. Sure Suman had to fix the pleats, but it was a victory nonetheless and milestone #3.

The last part of this blog post focuses on how I have grown in the past three years. I normally try to stray from being too serious, but I felt as if it was necessary seeing as I am almost 30 (the sarcasm never stops, I apologize). Three years ago I was timid and unsure of how I identified myself as an educator. I was caught up in trying to get everything right on the first time around, afraid of failure, and most of all lacking a great deal of confidence in the classroom and working with other faculty and staff. This was probably due to my lack of experience in the classroom, but I have come a long way since then. Milestone #4. I have never felt more confident walking into a classroom full of children. I have a better understanding and finally have a philosophy of education that is based off of best practices I’ve learned over the past few years. I have started challenging myself, going out of my comfort zone, and adapting to whatever is thrown at me. I haven’t felt this kind of confidence in a long time. In fact, this is one area where I felt the least comfortable in. With the support from family, friends, a boyfriend, teachers, etc. etc. I have real confidence not just the front that I tend to put on. It feels good. Really really good. That being said the first day of school today (Wednesday in India) went as well as I hoped. It was filled with lengthy conversations comparing and contrasting the different special

Home
Casa Cottage, or better known as home

education models with Chandan m’am and Manisha m’am. These two women are insanely passionate about what they do and work like a well oiled machine. It’s truly a blessing to be working so closely with two women who have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life for students both inside and outside of the classroom.

There is so much to be said about the first day. Here are the major events: yoga class with second standard, delicious lunch, incredible conversations, and making new friends with 4 fifth standard boys. I would say it was a success.

For now I am quite tired and am looking forward to another day at DPS.

cheers,

Jill

Hurry Up and Wait

Jill Baranowski

My apologies… I have been posting to my personal blog! Here is what I’ve experienced so far since arriving a week ago.

After over 24 hours of traveling we’ve finally arrived. International travel is arguably one of my least favorite things to do. Although this time around things went fairly well, there was a lot of waiting. Waiting in lines, waiting to board, waiting hours upon hours until the next destination. The only thing we didn’t have to wait for was food. On every flight. Seriously, I think we were fed every hour. At one point when the stewardess offered me a “light dinner” (this was a little over an hour after eating a full entree) and I refused, she smiled, giggled, and said, “is this too much food for you?” Yes, it is quite a lot of food.

Our day started out in St. Louis where we enjoyed a very short flight to Chicago. We then left Chicago shortly afterward for the 13 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. After the last long international sleepless flight three 3 years ago I thought I would absolutely fall asleep. I was very wrong. Instead I slept for about 30 minutes total, finished two Autism classes (this is my biggest accomplishment to date, I think), and watched really bad movies. I also learned I’m a pain to sit next to on a long flight because apparently I want to use everything in my carry on. So here’s a big shout out to those who I sat next to and politely acknowledged my lack of efficiently and overall annoying tendencies. From Abu Dhabi we quickly boarded a plane to out final destination of Bengaluru. We landed with no problem (other than lack of sleep and hygiene). It wasn’t until baggage claim where we waited, and waited. Long story short, the airline failed to send a few of the passengers bags from Chicago to Bangalore via connecting flights. What a nightmare. After about 30-35 minutes we all finally made our way to the exit and were immediately greeted by the cool Bangalore air and the staff at IKC. Although they were not familiar faces, it was a warm welcome I was anxiously looking forward to.

Our group made our way to the bus so graciously lined up by Suman. As we started on our way I was immediately reminded of the first time I experienced the streets of Bangalore. The nostalgia was real. Fortunately for me I had a good idea of what we’d see along our way so I had the opportunity to enjoy all of the gasps, smiles, and laughter from the others as they got a taste of Bangalore and the art of driving in traffic. Trust me when I say that driving in a city like this is an art form. There are no rules. We waited in the congestion of traffic and finally made our way to Casa Cottage or what we would refer to home for the next 6 weeks. A perfect, quaint home.

I feel like all I have done since the beginning of the spring semester is wait for the next thing to happen. Waiting to finish classes, pass Comps, go to India, graduate, find a job, etc. etc. I find myself constantly rushing to get things done (no thanks to my procrastination) only to have to wait. I am overjoyed to be spending the next 6 weeks no longer waiting, but doing. It’s cheesy, sure, but I’m willing to accept it. Here’s to new memories in a place I call myself local.

Cheers,

Jill