I arrived in Bangalore exhausted, but excited and thankful for a smooth journey. As the driver made his way to Shanti Bhavan, I could feel my jet lag actively outweighing my culture shock as we dodged cars on dark roads. Looking out the window, I knew I was farther from home than I'd ever been, but at the same time, I felt like that was exactly where I was supposed to be. An arrival time of three in the morning isn't easy, no matter what time zone, so my first priority was a nap. Breakfast proved just how enthusiastic the kids here can be. I was pulled over to a table of girls who, in between bites of food, asked every question they could think of, including if I liked to travel and shop (yes. absolutely. always.). They placed guesses on what I'd be teaching since I didn't know at the time. After breakfast, I got a tour of the gorgeous campus and was serenaded by a classroom of kindergarteners with their rendition of the ABC's—easily the cutest version I've ever heard.
One of my biggest worries was eating spicy food, but so far, so good. I'm also told I picked a great day to arrive. Thursday brought a special snack of grapes in honor of a volunteer's second-to-last day and a party to celebrate the 10th and 12th graders finishing exams. I definitely thought the appetizers were the main course and barely had enough room to finish the full meal, which included dessert. There was dancing and picture taking and Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, and Kesha and Pitbull blasting from the speakers. Fact: even in India, it's really hard not to start dancing when "Timber" starts playing.
On Friday, I was feeling revived from a night of sleep and ready to play dodgeball and SPUD with the younger kids during PT time (remember SPUD?). In the morning, I was introduced to the English class I'll be taking over, and in the afternoon, I sat in on a spelling class, which actually meant playing word games outdoors. I've been making a list of classroom games and activities over the past couple of days. I'll be teaching 7th and 8th grade creative and persuasive writing, 7th grade spelling, and 11th grade English.Since there are only a few weeks left in the school year, I'll mostly be working on reviewing material. Right now, my biggest challenge is learning all of the children's names. Dinnertime brought a barbecue in honor of two other volunteers who were leaving (like I said, I picked the right day to arrive). That was followed by actual dinner where I sat with first graders and had to explain that the "Klean Kanteen" logo on my water bottle wasn't the correct way to spell either of those words. I answered more questions (favorite bird, favorite food, if I like dogs), and we played a few rounds of a clapping game. After dinner, the kids performed The Merchant of Venice.
My schedule will start getting very busy on Monday when I'll officially be on the schedule. Expect m posts to be more about the kids after that now that I've gotten some background details out of the way.
When you travel, things will go wrong. Doesn't matter if you're flying to another state or another country. Take it from a girl who had to dry her hair with a somewhat-broken space heater in Portugal: the sooner you learn to laugh off the hiccups, the better. I'm certainly getting my fair share of laughs planning for India—currently, I am not able to get a referral for vaccines at a Massachusetts travel clinic because I haven't been here long enough to visit a primary care doctor (a necessary step to getting said referral). I also almost overlooked the fact that I need a special attachment for the fancy filtering water bottle I ordered that removes the kind of waterborne diseases I'd be actively avoiding during my stay. I feel like that's something a company should make extra clear in their product descriptions, but hey, maybe they're not as afraid of bacteria as I am. Crisis averted, though.
Some other laughs:
- Trying to perfectly time the pickup of my Visa with my visit to NYC obviously fell through because of processing delays. Overnight mail to the rescue!
- My credit card sent me a fraud alert NOT for the plane ticket to India, but for the purchase of a new computer and clothing for my trip.
But I'm rolling with the punches, getting more and more excited, and making more calls to customer service numbers than I've made in the past five years, combined. In the end, it is all so unbelievably worth it.
Update: Just got a call saying that the General Consulate attached the wrong photo to my Visa. Luckily, it was caught in time and I just need to send a new form. I'm now sitting here wondering whose photo they chose for my Visa.
Another update: USPS lost my water purifier bottle. On the positive side, I have mastered the art of the customer service call. By "mastered the art," I mean "participated in a daylong, 12-part exercise in patience".