Wow so it’s been a super long time since I posted a blog so it’s definitely about time I catch you all up to speed! I guess the old saying is true: time does fly when you're having fun :)
Generally speaking things are going so so well!! I’m at a place now where I’m really feeling settled in, really enjoying my routine, loving work, and actually really enjoying my living situation, too. After living alone the last 2 years I’m realizing now how nice it is to come home and have other people (even if it’s 6, at least) to just hang with.
Traveling: Oongol, Markadapam, Vizag
The last 2 weekends I spent traveling: last weekend to the small villages of Oongol and Markadapam for work-related assignments, and then this past weekend all 7 of us traveled to Vizag – an absolutely beautiful beach located in Coastal Andhra. The bus rides there and back were 17 hours each (shoot me!) but 4 of us stayed in a luxury suite at a resort on the water ($11/night) and the beach + pampering made it all pretty worth the long bus rides. I’ll post pix once I upload them from my camera.
The trips out to Oongol and Markadapam were equally as treacherous with the long car trips (7 hrs there, 10 hours back, all within 1 day!) but the meetings we had were really interesting. While the Engilsh/Telugu language barrier persists to be quite a challenge I’m really learning how valuable it can be to observe how something is being said as opposed to purely listening to what is being said. It was fascinating to sit on this rooftop for a late night meeting with about 50 teachers from local villages all discussing their perspectives on corporal punishment. As the token American, I was asked on the spot to just give a 20-30 minute lecture on the status of the American education system and how it regards corporal punishment. Given the lack of fair warning I had to prepare I’d say I actually spoke really well. I talked a bit about the lack of corporal punishment and the reasons we don’t practice it in the states, I addressed the status of education in the US post the passing of No Child Left Behind, and then I provided some concrete teaching practices used in the United States by teachers who have overcrowded classrooms (a common justification for the use of corporal punishment here is that it’s the only way a teacher can maintain control of his/her classroom when there is 1 teacher for 50-200 students). I had to really maintain an awareness of my White-ness and my American-ness and understand how it might be easy for them to feel judged by me or inferior to me because of that. I did my best to name the difference, drop my ego, and keep the door open for challenges and/or follow-up questions to my comments. I received lots of thanks after my lecture and I had my picture taken a whole bunch with meeting attendees and their children who seemingly traveled to the location of the meeting to meet the White Americans who were visiting their village. An interesting and unprecedented experience for sure.
So Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday was soooooooo much fun!! All 7 of us ate at home and invited our Indian program director, Venkat, and his family over to join us. Each of us cooked at least 1 dish and made each portion large enough to feed 11 people – sooooooooooooo much food!!! They don’t eat turkey in India so we had to replace it with chicken but we also had mac and cheese, stir-fry veggies with tofu paneer, Israeli salad, some Brazilian chocolate treat with fresh pineapple, egg fried rice, mashed potatoes, aaaaaaaaand my favorite two dishes that just so happened to be made by me and Rachel were stuffing and curried pumpkin-vegetable soup. Deeelicious!! Of the 11 of us at the table it was the first Thanksgiving for 6 people so it was really something special to be able to share this part of our American culture with everyone else. The evening concluded with naps on the couch and then an early morning Skype date home – perfect J
So that’s about the long and the short of it from the last few weeks. I’m not planning on traveling again for another 2 weeks so I should have more time to keep my blog updated. Much love to everyone at home!! I miss you guys J