Emma, outbound to India

Greetings, from my new home in India!
I have been here almost a month now and time is already going way too fast. After getting over jet lag and adjusting to my new routine I have almost forgotten what life is like back home in Florida. Hindi and Guajarati words are coming to me before English ones do, if there’s a traffic jam I know there must be cows standing in the middle of an intersection and if someone gives me a price I can bargain them down almost immediately. Although I have adjusted quite well to Indian culture, it is a very drastic change from life back home.

India is truly distinct and is a place you have to see to believe. Some of the first things you notice are the amount of people, the heat and the social customs. The roads are packed with not only cars, scooters, rickshaws, bikers and walkers but cows, donkeys and street dogs, as well. Although it’s crowded, the traffic flows pretty well, unless the cows decide to stand in the middle of the road.

The weather in India is hot, but also very humid too! There is absolutely no point in styling your hair or putting on any makeup because it comes off almost instantly. The climate was also a great excuse for me to purchase a brand new wardrobe of traditional kurtas and leggings.

I’ve noticed a variety of differences in social customs. India is a more conservative and traditional country, than most European and Western nations. Before greeting elders, to show respect you touch their feet. Indians also generally never want to tell you “no.” They will usually tell you what you want to hear to avoid conflict but then do the opposite if that is what they prefer. This can be difficult when you’re asking rickshaw drivers if they know where someplace is, because they normally don’t know where it is, but always say “yes.” Only after we set off do you figure out that they don’t know where they are going!

My typical day in India is waking up at 6:30 am and going to school by 7:30. Since my time zones are 9 ½ hours ahead of those in the Eastern United States, that means that my days begins at a time everyone at home is getting into bed for the night. I have to remember that when I think of what my family and friends are doing as I set off for school! During my first week of school I started as a student and sat in the 11th grade commerce class. The students were very focused on school and their board exams. It was difficult to make real friends especially because the students are two years younger than me and less mature than I am used to.

Since I have already graduated high school, in Florida, attending classes was not a direct benefit to me. At first, I spent most of my time in the library reading and working on college applications for back home. After a few days of this, I met with the Headmistress of the school to talk about a new plan for me. She noticed that I fit in better with some of the teachers and they were very interested in the western style of teaching. We decided that I could be more helpful, and have a better experience if I helped teach some of the younger grades in subjects such as English.

Now, for the rest of my time here, I will be working as a teachers-aide alongside some of the other teachers at my school. I have helped out in Yoga, English and art classes. In addition, I sit in on younger Hindi classes to learn language and have someone tutor me. At the end of these two months I will give a speech on the differences and similarities between school in the United States and school in India. Also, when there are any field trips, no matter what grade, I am invited to come with the teachers. So far, I have been to an organic garden and to a demonstration on terrace farming.

After school, I come home for lunch (I’ll tell you about the delicious food in a later post!) and have adopted the Indian custom of taking a short nap afterwards. This is followed by an hour or so of yoga at a local studio, which I have taken to very well to because of my practice back home. After Yoga, I come home and eat dinner usually around nine o’clock and then sleep and repeat!

Life here is just now getting started. Soon, I plan to be volunteering frequently and starting my own project. The first month has been difficult as well as very enjoyable. Hopefully there are great things to come!

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