Today was my second day in India and my first day of work. Suzie met me at 8:15 to go to a center I will oversee; Zensar. There is a morning group and an afternoon group. We arrived after the students were already doing their lessons. There were a group of boys in one larger room; they looked like a mix of 8-12 year olds. In a second, much smaller room there was a group of maybe eight 15 year old girls. It just so happens that the girls were all older, the split was not intentional. The boys were doing several team activities involving indoor and outdoor sports and then saying two sentences about those sports. I didn’t get many names; a few of the boys’ names are Rahul and there was one very rambunctious boy named Ashish. Like many boys they had way too much energy. They were learning how to speak and come up with their own sentences. The next part of the lesson involved making a Diwali card. Diwali, a national holiday that celebrates something that I’m not too sure about (one story Susie told me reminds me of the Odyssey but with Indians and the journey was to Sri Lanka) begins next week. They also celebrated the students of the month as well as sang happy birthday to a boy in the class. In between I visited the girls section. They were rigorously studying math or reading about history. All of this was in Marathi (the local language) and the boys were taught in English. The girls are studying for state tests, something very important.
From what I learned today about the school system; schools go until the 10th grade. They take a test, only once, and if they pass they can go to “college” but is probably equivalent to our 11th and 12th grades. Then they can do further studies. From what I gather though, they can only take this test once, and if they don’t do well, they are seriously limited in what they can pursue as a career. This was explained to the second site I visited, Crispin, a girls home run by a very friendly, talkative, church man (unsure the denomination). Most of these girls do have homes to go to but for some reason or another (jail, institutionalized, other) they live at the home. Not all girls at the home get Akanksha services. The ones who do all speak English, the ones who don’t, can’t speak a word. The school, because it gets funding from the state, has to be administered in Marathi. The Crispin school was amazing. The girls were great.
The kids here have been overwhelmingly nice and inquisitive. One child at Zensor asked me about wind energy, drawing a diagram because I was unsure if I was clear what he was asking me about. My name is Didi, just like every other adult female they meet. They ask me where I’m from, how I like India, how long I am here, etc.
I also met the office today. Mansi, the head of HR, greeted me with a hug and the words finally. It was nice to meet everyone. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of information I’m taking in about Akanksha, but that is normal. Combined with cultural inundation, I’m exhausted!
I went with Anandhi to the Crispin center. She is the Director of the Pune site. We spoke several times over skype and email and it was also nice to meet her too. She is very nice. We went to the Crispin center together in her car. She has a driver. When Susie and I traveled, we went by auto-rickshaw. It was really nice to sit with her and talk for a while. On the way back we stopped at the handmade paper store. There, you can buy a large, handmade sheet of paper, which they slice into normal size sheets for you, for .22 Paisa. This would be the equivalent of maybe .50 cents. I got two notepads (Jenny I’m thinking of you for this one), and a couple of Diwali cards that are hand painted. I might have spend $5. Something of this quality might cost me at least $20-30 in the States.
Homesickness has not decreased (it’s only been 2 days so I’m not expecting miracles) but I’m utterly exhausted. When I got back from work I went to Susie’s place, met her husband, and we went out to get some food. When I got back to the apartment, I sat down for a minute and found myself lying on the bed, eyes closed, and had to force myself to get up to shower and write. And now that I’m done, I think, even though it’s only 9:15, I will start getting ready for bed.

    • betsy
    • October 29th, 2010

    Hey woman! So happy to read about your adventures. Just let me say that everything you are feeling is NORMAL! There will be times when you HATE (and I don’t often use that word) India. And then there will be times (increasingly, I hope) that you LOVE India. This is normal and expected. And please be careful in the traffic- Road Safety is a hugely serious issue (which I am trying to work on with Hizzoner’s $$$). Be well, be embraced, just go with the flow. Chapal will be a great resource. I’ll msg you Safeena’s info also.
    Love you!!!!!!

    • Simmi
    • October 30th, 2010


    So proud of you!! so impressed that you drank the milk and are already thinking about drinking filtered water! eek!

    can’t wait to read all the updates. stay strong, rest up and enjoy every moment.


    • V. Manivannan
    • November 2nd, 2010

    I wonder if the story Susie told you was about Prince Vijaya voyaging from India to Sri Lanka, as Buddha had prophesied… it’s in the Mahavamsa, I think, but I’m not as certain of it as I’m Tamil and it’s more of a Sinhalese story.

    Also, I totally forgot about Diwali. Oops…

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