Farewell India

Three planes, two outfit changes, and 30 hours of travel has me back in Columbia, Missouri. It almost feels like the past six weeks have been a dream. Although I have physically returned, my mind is still lingering in India.

Saying goodbye to the teachers and students at Delhi Public East was difficult. I grew very close to my host teacher and her home classroom. She has inspired me to be patient, kind, and motherly to all of my students. 4K (my home base classroom) will always have a special place in my heart. I have never met students so intelligent and genuinely kind. My entire last day consisted of constant hugging, exchanging of emails, and questions asking when I will return to India. As I walked  out of the school I knew in my heart that I would eventually make it back to see the teachers and students who have impacted my life in such a short amount of time.

The next day it was time to leave Bangalore and Fly to New Delhi. Once we arrived in New Delhi, we drove 4 hours to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Red Fort. Five minutes after stepping off the bus to start our sight seeing day we were already dripping sweat and pulling our hair back into buns. I have never been so hot in my entire life. I was afraid I would need an ambulance to pick me up from the Taj. Besides the heat our day was incredible. Needless to say, the Taj was everything I could imagine and more. It truly is a wonder of the world. The translucent marble that it is built with glows from under the moon and almost blends in with the hazy sky during the day. I feel incredibly lucky that I have been able to see and walk inside the Taj because it is not something that most people get the chance to experience. Once we were done exploring and taking millions of pictures it was time to head to our next sight. Red fort was a fascinating visit. This fort looked like a building from the medieval ages and was ginormous inside. It also has beautiful marble rooms and immaculate details. What I loved the most was being able to see the backside of the Taj looking over the river from ref fort. Once we were done visiting both sites ( and sweating away about ten pounds of water weight) we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to Delhi. Once in Delhi we prepared for our flight home.

Now I am sitting in my apartment in Columbia, Missouri wondering how six weeks flew by so fast and thinking of the people I left behind in India. I truly believe that India has changed me for the best. I do not think I have returned the same as when I left. India has left me feeling enlightened and more aware of the world around me. I am so thankful for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Gabrielle, Tony, and the International Knowledge center for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I will never take the experiences I have had on this trip for granted. India has taken a piece of my heart.

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My favorite part of India is YOU.

I spent 6 weeks in India. That estimates to about 1008 hours or 60,480 minutes. I can guarantee that each and every moment will live on with me forever and has impacted my life in the most positive of ways. I want to make a special shot-out to Gabrielle, Suman, Girish, and the many donors who made this trip possible. Six months ago, I did not think I would have been able to go to India, but here I am writing about the most amazing experience to date. I also want to thank the teachers, director, and students of Magnolia who made this a trip to remember. I have learned more than I ever thought I could and have grown to love and cherish a culture that prior to this trip I knew very little about.

During this journey, I have had many first’s.

  • Drank out of my first coconut
  • Rode a bike through India traffic
  • Let a monkey eat out of my hair
  • Went on a safari
  • Went white water rafting
  • Pet an elephant
  • See the Taj Mahal
  • Successfully rode in a rickshaw
  • Experienced an Indian monsoon
  • Got henna on my hands
  • Used my first squatting toilet (which is not as bad as I thought it would be!)

Although India has the most beautiful architecture and is filled with the most vibrant colors, the amazing sites and experiences would be nothing without the people I met along the way. To quote one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild, “Happiness is only real when shared.” On the trip, I met some of the most wonderful people with the most beautiful of souls. I made some new friends and even some best friends. I wouldn’t trade them for even the most amazing sites in India. Some say that happiness is not about the destination but about the journey getting there and that couldn’t be more true. I have had so many laughs and many unforgettable conversations. At the end of the day, I am more likely to remember my students smiling faces and the hilarious moments during my trip in India rather than the Taj Mahal.

Now, I wanted to make a special thanks to some people that have impacted me the most.

Laura & Ollie:

Words cannot describe how much you both mean to me. You have been with me since day one of the trip and I can promise both of you that this trip would not have been the same without you. Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably throughout the entire trip and for introducing me to the fun game of “Capitalism.” I have enjoyed all the movies we watched together on the trip and meeting such friends as Krishna and Bala along the way. I loved our crazy adventures and the even more crazy experiences of taking rickshaws and trying to find transportation throughout India. I loved all of our late night conversations and pillow-talks. You both have let me open up to you without the fear of being judged and I am so grateful for that and I hope you experienced the same with me. I have loved all of our failed attempts of taking photos together, which I know will make me laugh when I look back at them years from now. Laura, with your loving, compassionate, and expressive personality and Ollie, with your spontaneous, honest, and bold personality created the perfect balance for me. You will both be in my heart forever and I am excited to see you both soon!

Suman:

Going to foreign country thousands of miles away from familiarity can be an overwhelming and terrifying experience. It takes a special person like yourself to make India feel like a second home. You make the planning and logistics of our time here seem effortless, although I know there is much work and preparation that goes on behind the scenes. Thank you for creating a safe and comfortable experience for us that has allowed me to grow as a person and an educator. I feel like we connected right off the bat and have many commonalities between us! I will miss our talks and the laughs we have shared along the way! I hope we get a chance to meet again, but for now I hope to keep in contact with you through email or Facebook. This trip has meant the world to me, so thank you for making this journey possible! Thanks again for being our ‘Indian mom” and Wonder Woman! ❤

And last, but certainly not least, my students:

To the 6th, 7th, and 8th standard students at Magnolia that I had the wonderful privilege to work with, thank you for making this experience a special one that will live on with me forever. You were my favorite part of each day and I always woke up excited know that I would get to see you all at school! Thank you for allowing me to teach and observe in each of your classes and it has been such a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you. Thank you for your patience as I tried learning your names and butchered the pronunciation. I will miss the good times we shared and the many laughs we had. My last day at Magnolia was the hardest. It took all of my strength to hold back the tears as I was saying good-bye. I loved all of the thoughtful gifts, good-bye letters, and the many, many friendship bracelets I received. After spending six weeks with all of you, I know for a fact that teaching is the career for me. I was initially worried about working with middle school students since I am used to teaching high school students, but you all made my job easy and I loved every second working with you all and I hope you enjoyed the time we shared together. I wish you all the best of luck for the rest of this school year and I hope one day we get the chance to meet again!

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At the end of the day, 6 weeks went by too fast, but no matter how long the trip is, saying good-bye will not get any easier. But nothing worth having ever is. I have left India with a heavy heart that misses everyone I have met, but my heart is also filled with many life-changing memories and experiences. Thank you all for everything and I hope to see you all soon.

Until we meet again,

Tay ❤

Final Goodbyes

Dear DPS East, Sukanaya ma’am, and the class of 4M,

I want to thank you for allowing me into your lives for the past 6 weeks. DPS East was amazing school and I’m so lucky to have been able to be there. I’m unbelievably blessed to be able to meet such caring people who have no doubt etched their names in my heart. I’m going to look back on my time here at DPS East with the fondest of memories. The hospitality Kacy, Ollie and I were shown was truly awe-inspiring and something I want to emulate.

Before coming to India, I was nervous. Nervous about being in a new country, nervous about teaching, nervous about almost everything. My nerves were eased instantly when I met a smiling Manila Ma’am and gracious Sukanaya Ma’am. Sukanaya, thank you so much for opening your class, life and heart to me the past month. You’re always a smiling face and you’ve truly shown me how great an educator could be. The students really respect and admire you and it’s been amazing to see you teach.

To the kids of 4M, 4H, 4E, and 4L, thank you all for letting me into your lives. I hope I taught you a fraction of what you taught me. You’re beautiful smile, intelligent questions, and hilarious stories will be missed dearly. From the first day I waked into your classes, you all impressed me. These kids are so smart, beautiful, kind inside and out. I’m going to miss the “Good Morning Ma’am”s and the million questions.

To all of DPS East, I will miss you so much. Thank you for a truly eye-opening and life-changing experience.

Until we meet again,

Chrissy

Goodbye DPS-N!

This post is coming a little late because it has been a crazy hectic last couple of days in India. Thursday was our last day of school in Bangalore and when I said goodbye to DPS-N. It started off just like any other day and it wasn’t until the end of the day when Jill, Sarah, and I were drinking coffee in Manju ma’m’s office (the principal) with Geeta ma’m (the primary school’s vice principal) and Sowmya ma’m that it hit me we were leaving. To say it was hard to say goodbye is an understatement. Over the course of the last 6 weeks I have grown so close with the students, teachers, and staff and it was hard to imagine I may never see many of them again. DPS-N has become my home, where I have grown immensely as an educator and a person. I hope that I will be able to visit the school and all the amazing people sometime soon again. I wrote a thank you note to the DPS-N students, teachers, and staff about my amazing experience these past 6 weeks. I’ve attached it below.

Thursday evening we had a group reflection and a celebratory dinner. We also had our Bollywood dance performance for the dance we had been learning. A dance instructor had come to teach us the dance at Casa for a few days after school to teach Jill, Sarah, Chrissy, Kacy, Laura, and I. It was so fun! Mehar ma’m, Suniti ma’m, Sowmya ma’m, and Rena ma’m (the vice principal of the high school) surprised Jill, Sarah, and I by coming to watch our dance performance and to the celebratory dinner. It was nice to be able to spend more time with them and share all of our groups experiences with them over the last 6 weeks. The food was so delicious, a good last Indian meal. There were a few tears shed after dinner but we comforted ourselves by saying it wasn’t goodbye, but until next time (as they say in Indian culture). I do believe wholeheartedly I will see them again, whether that will be in India or the United States. I know it is not goodbye forever.

 

August 4th, 2016
Dear DPS-North Students, Teachers, and Staff,

Before I left for India, I was really nervous. I had recently been accepted into Phase II of the Elementary Education Program and I was worried that I would not be prepared to student teach. I was also nervous to be in an entirely different culture and worried I would not feel accepted. However, my worries quickly vanished as the DPS-North staff and students welcomed me with open arms. Not only am I not nervous or worried anymore, thanks to DPS-N I feel like I have a purpose and a home in Bangalore. I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you for welcoming Sarah, Jill, and I into your home at DPS-North. In the past 6 weeks, I have felt so welcomed, appreciated, and loved. I have met so many friendly faces and had many unforgettable experiences. I have learned so much about myself and what it means to be a great educator. Thank you for the amazing experience, I feel truly at home here.

DPS-N continues to amaze me every day. With over 6000 students and 30 acres, the school is massive! But because of the closeness and kindness of everyone, it does not feel that way at all. You are all a family. Each student, teacher, and staff member is so proud of DPS-N (as you should be) and it is very admirable. I amazed by the passion of the students. In each class when ma’m asks the class a question, hands shoot up and students wave them feverishly begging for the ma’m to call on them. Students are eager to learn and to dive deeper into the curriculum as well. I had the pleasure of observing the mock UN conference and the students participating in the conference were so impressive! It was evident that they spent countless hours researching and preparing to know their position perfectly. I hope to encourage even half their enthusiasm and passion with my future students. I attended a fifth standard debate and the Say No to Facebook assembly. I loved how both of these events were student-led and I was amazed by the grace and confidence of these students. They stood on stage in front of their peers and teachers arguing their positions on whether “Time not spent in studies is wasted” and why children under the age of 13 should “Say no to Facebook” and other social media sites. Even in the first standard English class I observed, the teacher had students talk about themselves in front of their classmates to encourage talking in front of others. As a 20 year old, I still struggle with public speaking in large groups and these students did it with such ease. I am so impressed with how passionate, talented, graceful, and confident DPS-N students are! I am amazed by the teachers as well. Teachers at DPS-N have the perfect balance of nurture and authority in their classrooms. They have such close relationships with students and I hope to achieve that in my future classroom as well. I love how each day the staff comes to school with a smile on their face. I can tell that they actually want to be at school despite what might be going on in their personal lives. They take care of every individual and make guests feel welcomed. DPS-N is one of a kind place.

I will miss so much about DPS-N when I am back at home. I will miss Chandarakantha and Masala chai tea breaks in Geeta ma’m’s office. I will miss 1st and 2nd standard yoga with Shivitsala. I will miss Dahl and Belgium chocolate ice cream in the canteen. I will miss students saying good morning ma’m when I walk into a classroom. I will miss Mehar ma’m and helping her teach classes 2K, 1B, 1F, and 1I. I will miss Reya, Zoya, Saaraah, and all the smiling faces of the students. And Indria ma’m, Sudha ma’m, Suniti ma’m, Ayesha ma’m, Deepa ma’m, and many other teachers.

Thank you class 2A and Aparna ma’m for allowing me to teach my first lesson. Thank you Mehar ma’m for being my role model and sister across the world. You are an amazing teacher and I have learned so much from you! Chandarakantha thank you for taking care of Jill, Sarah, and I for these past 6 weeks. We love you! Thank you Geeta ma’m for all the hugs and smiles, I will miss you so much! Sowmya, thank you for being our Indian mom. You have taken us in as your own for the past 6 weeks and made sure we had the best possible experience. We love you so much! You are our family and I know I will see you soon again. And lastly, thank you to Manju ma’m! Thank you for making this internship possible. And thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make sure Jill, Sarah, and I see everything DPS-N and India has to offer. You are an amazing leader and role model to all females in education! You inspire me!

This has been the best experience, one I will remember for the rest of my life! Thank you again to all of the DPS-N students and staff! I hope to return the hospitality one day, if you are ever in the USA near St. Louis, MO please contact me! Saying goodbye to DPS-N is really hard, I am not ready to leave! I feel very privileged to have spent these past 6 weeks with you in DPS-N and in the crazy colorful city of Bangalore I now call my second home. Please keep in touch.

Until next time and namaste,
Abby Jozwiakowski

Anansi and the Snake

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Thank you Gabrielle, Girish, Suman, DPS East, donors, and everyone that made this exchange possible.  The work you do is truly life changing.  If you’re goal was to facilitate a meaningful experience for both sides, you most definitely succeeded.  And Gabrielle, as for your mission to re-humanize teacher education, I can’t imagine a better way of doing this than sending pre-service teachers to learn from Indian educators and students.  I feel as though part of the human in me has been restored through this program and through connecting with teachers, students, and locals.

The last day of school was the most unforgettable.  I taught three or four English lessons on an African folk tale about a spider named Anansi, and a snake named Snake.  The spider wanted to prove to the animal kingdom that he was more than just a small weak insect; he was clever.  So he made a bet with the lion and the monkey that he could capture the most feared animal in the forest, Snake.  Then he would gain their respect and people would listen to him.  But snake also wanted to prove something.  When Anansi finally captured snake, he did so by appealing to that part of him.  He said, “The other animals think you are not the longest in the forest.  I wanted to measure you and show them that you are in fact longer than the giraffe’s and all the other animals.”   Snake fell for the trap and let Anansi “measure” him by tying his tail to the end of a branch.  Then, before he could move, Anansi tied the rest of his body as well.

I’m writing this from my hotel room in New Delhi.  As of yesterday, I’m on my own in Northern India and I’ve intentionally planned very little.  This wasn’t the idea originally, but as I talked to locals and learned more about India: what parts to avoid, what’s worth seeing, what’s overpopulated, my plan was increasingly ripped to shreds and I decided it would be better played by ear.  All that remained was the intention of heading north to the Himalayas.  But even this one vague hope was highly discouraged by a group of Delhiites over a McDonalds dinner last night.  Apparently the monsoon rains are so bad near the mountains that it can be very dangerous and keep one stuck for days.  I’m not sure if this is enough to deter me from going at all, but I’ve taken it into consideration.

I’ve never done anything like this before.  Living day by day.  It’s exciting but frightening, nourishing but lonely, freeing but challenging.  Before I embarked on this journey, my friend Louie who has backpacked Europe, warned me of traveler’s ego.  It’s when you lose sight of the important life lessons and become distracted by your ego, which seeks to prove to the world that you’ve done this or seen that, and that’s what makes you special.  You see all the picture-perfect tourist attractions and upload them ASAP because it’s not that you’ve been there, it’s that other people see that you’ve been there that really gets you off.  Especially in this age of the front-facing camera, an epidemic taking the teen population (or, let’s face it, everyone) by the millions, we’ve got to know the difference between being and posing.

20160803_114029Anansi and the snake both fell victim to their ego.  Snake literally became trapped, and even though Anansi succeeded in gaining the recognition he was looking for, he let that desire rule him for too long, spending every day trying to trap snake in different ways.  What if he had spent his entire life seeking this recognition?  Or what if he found that recognition didn’t bring him a sense of lasting peace but only a fleeting moment of glory?  What if his achievement gave him the social status he wanted, but left him without any true friends?  All these outcomes seem far too likely to me.

At the end of my home room fifth grade class on the last day, some of the students spoke a few words expressing their thanks for having me teach and spend time with them.  Then, as a class, they started thumping their desks in rhythm to a beat I taught them in music class over which the girls had hummed the melody while I sang the lyrics to “Hey Baby” by Stephen Marley.

They go like this:

“I’ve been gone a while away from you and I hope you understand
That I’ve got to do what I must do to be a better man
‘Cause if I was just to act a fool, do nothing with myself
Then all my blessings would be cursed, my world would crumble in

Hey baby don’t you worry, even though the road is rocky
I’ll be coming home to you again
If you thought that I was lost,
Know I had to bear my cross
Now I’m free from all these chains.”

One of my students  gave me a letter in which he wrote,

“[…]You are a really good teacher!  Make that your profession instead of mowing lawns.  Please do this.  I know you may visit in the future.  I know I might not be there, but I want you to never forget me, as I will never forget you.

Stay awesome,

Vaibhav”

If only he knew how much that meant to me…

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To everyone who’s been reading and supporting, thank you so much. I’ll continue to blog about India on my personal wordpress site: ollienaeger.wordpress.com

Till next time,

Ollie

Farewell to India

It seems strange that our time is up here in India. We have had so many adventures and learned a great deal, I even felt like Bangalore was starting to become my home. The last few days have been very busy. We’ve flown to Delhi, drove to Agra, spent the night, seen the Taj Mahal, seen Agra Fort, drove back to Delhi, and now we are on a plane en route to the USA. 5 hours into my 30 hours of travel time, I’ve had plenty of time to think about the things I will miss about the great country of India and more specifically the city of Bangalore and DPS-North. The following is a condensed list of all the things I will miss as I arrive home in the states. 

  •  DPS- North
  • Sowmya Ma’am 
  • Manju Ma’am 
  • Geeta Ma’am
  • Suniti Ma’am
  • Mehar Ma’am
  • Suda Ma’am
  • (All the Ma’ams :))
  • The students at DPS
  • Mango juice
  • Masala Chai
  • Tea time with Geeta Ma’am
  • Brownie (the stray dog that Casa Cottage has basically adopted 

  • The staff at Casa Cottage
  • Commercial Street
  • Daily naps on the way home from school
  • Amazing coffee from Coorg
  • Mehndi (henna)

  • Anklets and toe rings
  • Colorful sarees

  • Dosa
  • Bangalore’s weather 
  • Jasmine in people’s hair
  • DPS all white uniforms
  • Amazing temples 
  • Random cows in the street
  • Rangaswami (our rickshaw driver turned friend)
  • Palm trees 
  • Students calling glasses “specs” and markers “sketch pens”
  • Friendship bands from 5H

  • The hospitality 
  • Kindness of everyone I have encountered 

I will miss so much about the beautiful place that I have spent 6 weeks. So much so that this list barely even begins to scratch the surface. Thank you to India, University of Missouri, College of Ed, International Knowledge Center, Gabrielle, Girish, Tony, Suman, DPS-North, donors, and everyone who helped create this amazing opportunity. I have learned so much and made so many memories that I will never forget. Goodbye India…for now.

Namaste,

Sarah

Comparing Indian Schools

Yesterday Manju Ma’am, our principal at DPS-North, took us to a few schools in the city of Bangalore. It was really cool to see the different schools and the way they differ from one another. The first two schools we went to were run by the central government of India and the last was run by a trust.

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JNV Campus

The first school we went to is called Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV). We arrived at JNV and saw a beautiful campus that seemed remote compared to most places we have seen in the city of Bangalore. It was peaceful and quiet and we were greeted by one of their students with a flower.

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Flower from JNV

After having tea with the principal we learned that JNV is run by the central government of India. Their goal is to bring quality education to the rural children living in villages around the state of Karnataka. The school requires children to take an entrance exam to attend, so only the gifted ones in the rural areas are accepted. Their school starts in grade 6 and goes on to grade 12. In India school works a little bit differently, high school consists of 9th and 10th grade and 11th and 12th are considered junior college. So students have the option to leave school after 10th grade and start working, or take a difficult test to continue onto 11th and 12th. Most that enter JNV in the 6th grade do not know English so they begin learning once they are accepted into the school. We were given a tour of the quaint campus and then had tea with the principal and his wife. The food was lovely and afterwards the cook showed us the kitchen, the pots used to cook were almost equivalent to the size of bathtubs. In regards to food, the school provides three meals a day, education, and dorms on campus for all the students to live in. So not one cent comes from the parents or children. It was amazing to see such a well run and successful school with 99.3% of students moving onto University after graduation, that is funded completely by the government. It is evident that India takes education very seriously. America—take notes please. As we were touring campus we walked into a smaller version of a lecture hall at Mizzou and introduced ourselves to a 12th standard statistics class. Manju Ma’am told us we were talking to the smartest 12th standard students in the city—just a little intimidating. After our tour we left having learned a lot and we were on our way to the next school.

We arrived at Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) a little bit after 11. Their system is similar to those of JNV’s as it is run/funded by the central government of India. Differing from JNV, KV has grades 1-12 and the students do not live on campus. The school caters to children from the rural populations as well as those with parents in government jobs who travel frequently. There are a lot of KV schools all over the country of India so it is convenient for those who move so that their children can follow the same curriculum as their last KV school.

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Students at KV

On the way, Manju Ma’am told us that she and her brother attended KV schools because her father was in the armed forces. She attended 10 different schools in her 12 years of schooling. That seemed difficult to us, but she told us she loved it because it was always a new adventure. We had another tour and again had coffee with the principal. (Our caffeine intake was at an all time high this morning). On our tour we visited with a 12th standard class and answered questions about the college application process and traveling to the US for schooling. Many were interested in the idea of coming to the states. Afterward, we talked to the headmistress of the primary block and a few of the teachers as well. It was a very enjoyable visit and we had a lot of new information.

The last school we visited was called Parikrama, and this one was truly my favorite. Unlike the first two, Parikrama is funded by a trust to pay for the student’s education, food, and healthcare. The school only takes students in the worst situations; they have social workers that do extensive research to take those who are most in need. Students at Parikrama come from the slums of India, orphanages, and villages. There are four Parikrama schools in the city of Bangalore and one with junior college (11th and 12th.)

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Students at Parikrama

When we walked in we saw kids playing kabbadi, an Indian game of tag, much more aggressive, but that is the best way to describe it. They were running around shouting and having a great time. We talked to the principal about their goals as a school and then took a tour of the classrooms. The principal told us that the mothers and fathers of some of the students are employed at the school as cooks or bus drivers. It is so cool that they employ the parents in need so that they can receive a steady income. As we were taking our tour we went into an upper-kindergarten classroom where the students had just learned English. These kids were absolutely adorable trying to pronounce our names and singing us songs. We had such a wonderful time at this school and I really felt a connection there. As I was walking out I turned and looked at the school; I knew I would be back.

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Chalkboard at Parikrama

Namaste,

Sarah