You Know Your in India When…

You know your in India when

  1. Cows wonder the streets and act as roadblocks
  2. You have Chipoti for EVERY meal
  3. Not only do monkeys wonder the streets but you also can’t look them in the eye  without fear of your life
  4. You can’t wear half of your clothes due to dress code
  5. Honking is it’s own language
  6. Tok-toks are a regular form of transportation
  7. The Himalayas are at your back door- literally
  8. Your host family doesn’t have toilet paper
  9. Fireworks go off at all hours during the week of Diwali
  10. Henna is a normality and is called Mandhi in Hindi 
  11. You are offered a cup of Chai at least three times a day (and of course you say yes everytime!) 
  12. You haven’t had meat yet….living the vegetarian life 🙂
  13. You hop across a stream and climb 4 sets of stairs to get to work 
  14. You almost forget to take your malaria pills every morning
  15. Losing power is a normal part of your day
  16. Your bed is a wood frame and your pillow feels like a rock but you still sleep great!
  17. Your host grandma only speaks Hindi and thinks that the louder she speaks the better you will understand her (No hand gestures either)  
  18. You find out Adele dropped a new single and your entire group freaks out about it
  19. Your on an overnight train and there is a convict shackled to his bed in the room next to you and two policemen with AK47s – completely normal situation
  20. Celebrating Diwali changes your life- it’s like 4th of July, New years, and Christmas combined!!!
  21. You find out the difference between Namaste and Nameskar (Nameskar is more formal and respectful)
  22. New Delhi is the most overstimulating and vibrant city you’ve ever been in
  23. Painting your house is a yearly routine and is done in preparation for Diwali as a form of cleaning
  24. Squatty Potties are the only option in public areas and surprising aren’t that bad
  25. You release a floating lantern off the roof of your house and watch it float away until your host mom tells you to get down before the monkeys come…
  26. You walk past herds of baby sheep at least every other day
  27. The students have school on Saturdays (Only Sunday is off) 

India is awesome! It’s so different from any place I’ve ever been and I love it. We are staying in Palampur which is in the state of Himachal Pradesh, at the base of the Himalayas. It is absolutely gorgeous. At least 3 or 4 times a day I look up towards the mountains and watch paragliders soar in the air and I have the realization that this is actually real life and also my home for the next month!

But as amazing as India is, I’ve also had certain challenges. I’ve been teaching in Om Private School where I have a limited amount of freedom with the lessons I plan based on their teaching structure which has been frustrating. But I love challenges and am determined to get through to the kids somehow.  And another challenge has been health (both mental and physical).  Luckily I am yet to get sick but many members in our group have and it definitely lowers group morale. Mentally, everyone in our group is exhausted. Balancing lesson planning, seminar reading, and spending time with family makes it pretty easy to burn out quickly. Especially when our seminar reading discusses topics like oppression, volunteer work, and student-teacher relationships. I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend and catching up on sleep and hopefully going in to town to buy/find peanut butter (I miss it so much) and a suit -traditional Indian dress- so I fit in with the schools dress code. 

Mandy- my roommate- and I are living with an awesome family! We have a father who is a 10-12th grade teacher, a mother who is absolutely gorgeous and makes amazing food, a 12 year old brother who speaks some english and loves fireworks and scaring me with his fake snake, an 8 year old sister who I nicknamed Hannah Montana and has been sick with the chicken pox this past week, and lastly Nani (our grandmother) who is just starting to get that I don’t speak Hindi or understand anything she says to me 🙂

Thanksgiving is next week and our group will be celebrating in Armitsar and visiting the Golden Temple. I have always loved thanksgiving because it meant spending quality time with my family and extended family and eating so much delicious food and pumpkin pie. This year, although I won’t be celebrating with my blood family or having a traditional Thanksgiving meal, I will be celebrating with my TBB family and giving thanks for many things I never realized I was grateful for. I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving filled with lots of joy, thanks, and yummy food! 

Patty Dougherty

Leaving South Africa

Tomorrow we leave for India! We said goodbye to Plettenberg Bay and our host families last Friday and have been spending the last few days relaxing in Addo. It was a bittersweet goodbye because it was hard to leave a host family I really connected with but I’m excited for the new adventures that lay ahead.
Julia (my roommate) and I lived with Sally and John, our host parents, and their kids Megan (14) and Joventis (18). Sally is one of the sweetest, most adorable women I know. She calls us her babies and makes amazing food- Monday nights were always my favorite because she made a delicious chicken curry! John is a carpenter and made it his personal goal to teach us the game of rugby. He was definitely successful because I can know watch a game and know 99% of whats happening. Side note: New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup and South Africa got bronze! Joventis is a typical 18 year old boy who is usually out hanging with his friends so we developed a pretty routine conversation each day. Megan is a beast. She can sing and dance (really really well), she is super athletic and was the youngest girl to ever make her schools varsity netball team, and she’s super smart. Megan is sponsored by a lady in Belgium to go to Wittedrift High School. It’s a very nice school with a hostile that she stays at all week, so we only got to spend time with her on the weekends. Our host family practices the Greikwa religion which seems like a combination of Christianity mixed with cultural beliefs. They have a 5 AM service on Sunday along with another at 10AM. I went to the 5AM service twice which consisted of everyone standing in a big circle and going around in a circle singing, praying, and praising God- although everything was spoken in Afrikans so I still don’t know exactly what they did. It was awesome to experience what a church service is like almost half way across the world!
We did seminars after work usually 2 or 3 times a week. They are all very interesting and challenge me to think deeper about public health and what we can do. Some of the questions I walk away with are: How can you break the cultural/social stigmas around HIV/Aids? Why aren’t patients taking their medicine if they have it? And is access to state-of-the-art medical treatment a human right? The seminars can definitely be frustrating at times because I’m someone who likes having answers so it’s hard for me to talk about questions like these and not come to a conclusion. But that just reminds me that they aren’t supposed to be questions you can sit around in a circle for an hour and find the resolution. If they had such easily solutions then HIV/Aids would’ve been eradicated already.  But they have definitely open my mind to thinking in a way I haven’t before and challenge me to really change my perspective and assumptions on EVERYTHING.
In each core country, we all have to do a media project which is basically where you take a question that you have and go out and see what you discover. Sophie, Noah, Sam, and I were all interested in happiness and if the reasons that cause happiness change in each country. We interviewed many of the Plettaid staff and our host families and asked them all 5 questions: How do you define happiness? What makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? And how do you think happiness in the USA differs from your definition of happiness? The results were very fascinating and once we have time to upload the video I will definitely post it for everyone to watch. We presented our media projects at our farewell party last Thursday. There were 4 other groups whose projects were: What does it mean to be a women in South Africa? What makes you who you are? What is aid? and What is the drinking culture in SA like? All the projects turned out awesome and it was fun to show the community of people we’ve been surrounded by the last few weeks what we’ve learned. Although it was sad to say goodbye to the plettaid staff, my caregiver Marie, and the amazing staff at Ingwe.
During each core country we get an IST or Independent Student Travel. This is an opportunity for us to break into smaller groups and travel for one weekend. A group of about 8 of us traveled to Cape Town! We left Thursday night in order to get a head start and took an 8 hour overnight bus to Cape Town. Friday morning when we arrived we went to Robben Island. Robben Island is a prison that’s famous for holding political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and many others from the ANC. It was super cool to visit and I was expecting something similar to Alcatraz but it was way bigger than that. The rest of our time in Cape Town was spent doing two beautiful sunset hikes, walking around local markets and shopping centers, and eating lots of amazing food. It was an awesome first IST and although it wasn’t the most relaxing, it was a lot of fun!
Right now I’m in Addo, SA which is famous for it’s elephant park. We took a safari and saw elephants, warthogs, rhinos, springboks, kudu, and many other animals. Today we went kayaking down a river which was extremely fun and very beautiful!
Tomorrow morning we leave for India! We are taking 3 planes, an overnight train, and a 5 hr bus in order to get to Palampur where I will be staying the next month. I’m super excited for the new adventures that are coming ahead.
Let me know if you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Patty Dougherty