Monday, February 28, 2011

I Know I'm Not in India Anymore When...

I know I’m not in India anymore when…

-          I got in a taxi today and was asked to put my seat belt on
-          I don’t hear “chalo” anymore but instead hear “yala”
-          I can breathe outside
-          I see green
-          I was instructed where to put my recycling
-          I had a hot shower that lasted more than 2 minutes
-          People speak to me in the native language and expect me to respond in it
-          Fresh veggies have real taste
-          Pita is there
-          Saying “xyz is there” isn’t normal anymore
-          Head bobbles are not there
-          I follow traffic rules
-          There are rules
-          There’s minimal to no honking on the roads
-          I can do my own laundry and not rely on a child laborer
-          My landlord knocks before entering
-          Mosquitoes are gone
-          I can drink from the sink
-          When I see white people I don’t get excited anymore
-          Toilet paper is plentiful
-          The grocery bill from one grocery shopping run equals approximately $40 USD
-          Instead of walking single file down the street I can walk next to others on sidewalks next to the street
-          The security line at the mall isn’t separated by gender
-     I don't have to jump on the bus while it's still in motion - it actually just stops for me
-          No smell of burning garbage
-          I have no goats, hogs, or cows roaming outside my apartment door
-          Billboard advertisements are rarely in English
-          It’s not particularly imperative to check the expiration date on foods I buy at the grocery store
-          It costs money to use a cart at the grocery store
-          I’m wearing four layers of shirts/sweaters and I’m still cold

All that being said it’s definitely bittersweet to have left our Hyderabadi home and to now be settling into our Jerusalem apartment. I’ve wanted to live in Israel for such a long time so it’s really a rewarding experience yet it doesn’t take away from the definite loss I feel from no longer being in India. It seems like just when I got life down to a science there it was time to uproot and head out. My experience there was so up and down and right and left and forward and back and sideways and all over the place that I imagine I’ll be continuing to process all that happened there for quite some time… In the meanwhile, stay tuned for upcoming blogs on my new Israeli life :)

Much love!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Update from Delhi

Written 2 weeks ago...

So here I am in Delhi sitting at Barista coffee shop just watching the Indian world go by. I’m 3 days out of the India portion of my program and I came to the cafĂ© here to put final touches on my internship projects. For the first time, maybe since Mysore, I feel like I’ve got some breathing room and space to process the crazy roller coaster that this trip is. Here goes…

The Program Thus Far

            Now that the India portion of the program has come to a close and I’m moved out of my apartment in Hyderabad I can start to look back with a bit more objective insight into my experience. Overall, I’ll say it was an incredibly challenging four months that was resultantly a huuuuuuuuge period of learning and growth. I was stripped of all my coping mechanisms and forced to adapt to my surroundings in ways that had never been required of me before. I now see myself as someone with much more flexibility, much more comfort sitting with the unknown, and an even greater ability to roll with the punches. I have more patience than I did before and I think I’ve become someone who’s able to function better with less structure than I was before.
            Being exposed to the ways that people live in this developing nation has instilled in me even greater perspective of my life, it’s purpose, my values, and what I believe really truly matters. I’m not yet aware of any significant changes, rather just a strengthening of that which I knew before. I am so privileged and with that comes tremendous responsibility. The experiences I’ve had in India have also forced me to beg the question of what ways I can function in society and really create sustainable changes. When a child beggar comes to my window in the auto rickshaw and I don’t give the child money, have I abandoned my responsibility, or, am I being realistic about how much those 5 rupees are likely to actually change the larger systemic issues causing that child to have to beg? Where are my money, energy, and time most likely to make an impact?
            The fact that I’m asking these questions and that I think I’ve grown so tremendously these last several months tells me that this program has been successful and that it was the right choice for me. I struggled many times with practical logistics and have frustrated to the extent of considering alternative options to participating in the program for the next 4 months, but a bit of distance now from it all reassures for me that enrolling in this program for the year was the right personal choice and I’ll benefit most from completing it in Israel.


            My internship is over! Well, almost… I’m just working on final edits right now so I can submit what are hopefully close to flawless presentations and research. I gave my final presentation last week and while I’m not terribly impressed with the content of the work I would say that in terms of the process it was a success. My 3 program directors, all my roommates, and a friend of mine from Hyderabad attended the presentation along with approximately 15-20 co-workers. I had about an hour to present my research titled “Corporal Punishment and Alternative Teaching Methods.” My job was to highlight teaching methods practiced by teachers who do not practice corporal punishment. What I found was that amongst those teachers (of whom there were approximately 50 who I interviewed and observed from about 10 schools in Hyderabad government schools and surrounding districts) they demonstrated awareness of 4 key elements as evidenced by their teaching methods: a) The importance of building interpersonal relationships with their students, b) Emphasizing rewards as much, or more, than punishments, c) Understanding of child development and various learning styles, and d) Value of empathy and compassion.
            The research paper I’m submitting to them is a more comprehensive view of what I presented in my powerpoint. Both are being submitted to MVF this week and they’ll review them, send editing requests back to me, and then they’ll submit it for publication!!  YAY! I can’t remember the exact name of the journal but it’s something like Social and Political Weekly… something like that.  When there’s movement on this I’ll be sure to keep you all posted J  Needless to say it’s very exciting for me :)
            Finally, and perhaps most excitingly for me, I developed a teacher training program for MVF to use and disseminate to other appropriate NGOs and government agencies. The program is titled “Understanding Corporal Punishment and Developmentally-Nurturing Teaching Methods.” It’s most rewarding because a) it’s what I think they can benefit from the most, and b) it’s been the most formal way I’ve been able to use my degree and experiences with teaching and counseling. It’s also been a fun challenge for me to review my presentation and make sure it’s culturally relevant and appropriate in terms of language, pictures, recommended teaching methods, and even just the way I encourage presenters to deliver the information. Lots of fun for me!


            So I’m learning from this trip and my Mysore trip that it’s a good thing I never had an interest in being a travel agent, I’m just not so good at planning vacations… Whomp whomp. I’m in Delhi now with Phil and arrived here two days ago without much of a plan. As a result, we’ve ended up spending more money and not really maximized our time (I’m typically one who maximizes pretty well so I’m gettin a little stir crazy here…). However, lesson learned, AND, I’m still in Delhi and having a great time in the big picture of life so no complaints to be had…
            We’ve done a bit of site seeing around the city Red Fort, the biggest mosque in India, Connaught Place, India Gate, and Old Delhi. Overall this city seems to get a pretty bad rep relative to what we’ve experienced. The people have been nice enough, the metro system is probably the nicest one I’ve ever been on (even beats Europe and NYC), and the weather has even been fine (even though it’s raining a bit now). I’m not sure this is a city I’d be inclined to travel to again but I can certainly see why someone would want to live and work here.
            Without a doubt the best part of our trip so far was the day trip we took yesterday to Agra. We first stopped at Agra Fort, then a little shopping center, then we went to the TAJ MAHAL!!!  The most appropriate word to describe it is breathtaking. Literally breathtaking. I actually had to remind myself to exhale after first glance… As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I worry that all my fortune and travels have jaded me to life’s beauties but that certainly wasn’t the case yesterday at the Taj. My wish for everyone reading this is that you too have the opportunity one day to be able to treat yourself to visit this site… truly remarkable…

What’s Upcoming…

            So in just a few hours we’ll be heading to the bus station to leave Delhi and head to Pushkar (in Central Rajasthan, Southwest of here). It’s supposedly similar to Hampi in that it caters to tourists, it’s full of rooftop restaurants where you can spend the day just chilling out, and it’s really inexpensive. Our 4 other roommates will be meeting us there at the end of the week so we can all go to a wedding together on Friday and Saturday (Indian wedding are the beeeeeeeeeeest! Can’t wait!) and then Saturday night we’ll take an overnight bus back to Delhi to grab our flight to Goa!!!  We’ll spend all of next week there just beach-ing and safari-ing it up and a few of our friends from Hyderabad are planning on meeting us there for our last few days in India as well. My life is good… no, it’s great… I wouldn’t change a thing.
            We arrive in Israel on Feb 27 and will have a few days to get settled in our apartment and culturally adjusted. We start Ulpan that Monday, which we’ll be doing 12 hours a week for 4 weeks. The second week we’re in Israel we’ll be attending a leadership workshop produced by MASA and then when we return on week 3 we’ll finally be getting started with our new internships. I’m not yet sure what work I’ll be doing but my hope is to work with an organization there that provides support to bereaved families who have lost relatives in military duty. As a Jewish-American I can’t think of much more meaningful work than that.

Soooo…. That’s the long and the short of it for now. I’ve done a pretty good job this past hour procrastinating finishing up my project so it’s probably about time I get back to it.  Much much love to all you at home. I love and miss you all so incredibly much! While I’m really enjoying my time here I look so forward to the day I get back to Chicago (and then Nashville) and can see you each in person and just be together.

Giant hugs and so much love to all of you!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Final Week in Hyderabad

The last few weeks have been quite an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. I've experienced high his and low lows much similar to the way I was feeling during my first month of transition after leaving home and starting this adventure. As I've been starting to wrap it up the last few weeks I've been feeling more pressure to really get to doing a lot of the things I've been interested in doing that I just kept putting off. I wish I had the energy and time to write separate blogs about each of them, but, since I don't, here's the outlined version that hopefully I can fill you each in on in person once I get back:

  • I went to an AA meeting with one of my roommates to learn more about what the issues of alcoholism and addiction look like in India. It was a fascinating experience, tremendous professional development, and one that I'd love to share more about another time.
  • I went to Paradise (the restaurant) with all my roommates and program directors and had an amazing dinner!
  • I watched the movie 3 Idiots - a must see film!
  • Tonight I'll be going to Syn for Hyderabad's best sushi :)
  • I went to Novotel Hotel for Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch and pool  time
  • My roommates and I threw a farewell party last night - biiiiiiiiig hit!

Just 2 days ago our program directors from Israel arrived and we're now officially in our closing week here in Hyderabad. Our days are being spent this weekend in meetings and seminars where we're focusing on logistics for the transition from India to Israel, doing a little bit of Torah study, providing lots of feedback, reflecting on our time thus far and brainstorming ways to enhance the next 4 months, and generally just having some really valuable group bonding time.  We're also all going to be giving our final presentations to this week. We'll each be presenting the research we've been working on at our respective NGO's and will do so in front of all the members of our program as well as our co-workers from the organizations. It's a bit nerve-wrecking but it's really very rewarding too... few things feel better than the sentiment that comes with knowing you've been a part of creating positive change :)

It's also been a nice few days as I've been able to sit in this communal, reflective, and structured because I'm really gaining new perspective on these last few months in India. I feel like I was running on a treadmill at a fast pace and only now am starting to slow it down to a speed where I can actually start to process all that's around me. This is really such a whirlwind of an experience and while I have some awareness of the ways it's impacted me I'm really starting to see that the majority of personal growth and lessons learned from this experience won't be brought to consciousness  until several weeks or months after I leave. What a journey this is...

Meanwhile, in addition to transitioning from India to Israel, I'm currently planning my 2 week travel.  Yaaay!!  It looks like I'll be going up North with Phil for a week to Delhi, Agra (just for a day to see the Taj Mahal) and then also possibly with Rachel and Nurit around Rajasthan.  Week 2 Phil, Rach and I are heading down to Goa to relax at the beach and meet up with some of our other friends we've met in Hyderabad who are coming to spend our last few days with us.  Should be a perfect way to wrap things up!

As for now... it's nap time after a long day of meetings and an even longer week of work. I hear this is Super Bowl weekend so I'm looking forward to hearing about the Black Eyed Peas halftime show and any worthwhile commercials :) Enjoy for me!

Much love,