I learned today that there is a man that works in our colony (neighborhood) that simply is the ‘ironing man’. No – I’m not talking about a James Taylor song. He irons clothes all day for 1 rupee per piece – that equates to about 2 cents a garment. He works between my flat and my neighbors flat, collecting the washed and dried clothes from the various housekeepers and ironing them all day out in the alleyway. That’s India.
I also learned that even though I speak English fluently – I have no clue about English grammar. Seriously, without looking it up – how many people out there know what first person singular is, or what a silent voice sound is, or what a modal auxiliary is? Now, take it one step further – can you explain it to a bunch of people that don’t speak English? By the end of my 4 week placement – I will have re-learned my 5th grade education. I’m sure that all of the people that read my blog are looking forward to my new and improved grammar…lord knows that my writing can use some grammatical help!
We made some much needed changes to my schedule today. Me and my volunteer partner, Thea, have split up the two classes we are teaching so that we are both teaching one class each day instead trying to teach and prepare for both classes. Thea has agreed to work with the younger kids, and I have taken on the older kids – ages 16 – 24. They have varying degrees of English skills and they all seem to want to be software engineers or fashion designers. There are advantages and disadvantages to teaching the older kids. It’s great that they understand me better and I don’t struggle as much with the language barrier; however, since they are more advanced- this means that I am panicked because I don’t know what a modal auxiliary is! Today we worked on contractions and reading comprehension. I certainly faltered at trying to explain why ‘they’re’ wasn’t spelled ‘there’…but they sound the same. At least I know that I am still pretty good at thinking on my feet.
My class told me today that teachers are held in very high esteem in India…even more so than parents. Before I knew it they were taking pictures of me up at the white board in my salwar, kameez, and duppatta (tunic, baggy pants, and scarf) to show their parents. Don’t worry – soon enough I will show you all the picture of my in my classic Indian wear – I know you are all dieing to see it.
We had a lecture today from a Economics professor about the economic state of India. The one statistic that stuck with me was that 75% of the 1.2 billion population make less than $2 a day. I believe the ironing man is one of the 75%.
I finished my day with attending a lovely dinner at my neighbor’s flat. The couple (a retired police officer/laywer, and his wife, a professor) invited me and my flatmates over for dinner. This had to be one of my highlights of my stay so far. I love interacting with locals, seeing lifestyles, and connecting with people. As we sat and had dinner and lively conversation about India and the US, I was overwhelmed with a thought. I don’t want this travel lifestyle to end. I am so happy doing what I’m doing – I just don’t want it to end. My neighbors have two daughters in NYC which I look forward to meeting one day and hopefully returning the lovely hospitality that their parents provided. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the hospitality here – I’ve never quite experienced a culture like this – so warm and friendly. People are genuinely interested in learning about you and vice versa. They love their tourists here – and they treat them with the utmost respect. It makes me re-think all of those times riding the subway in NY where I see foreigners that look lost and I do nothing…just keep walking. That’s not the case in India…it’s the anti-New York. Indians don’t go by the rule of ‘don’t talk to strangers’…as they think that the strangers are the most interesting people they meet – and you never know where you may end up! To top it off – everyone loves to have their picture taken here! What a photographer’s paradise!
I really love it here…it’s loud, crowded, dirty, and colorful…I walk around with a big grin on my face…it’s beautiful. Honestly – I can’t imagine anything surprising me anymore. I find it kind of fun though to watch my fellow volunteers who I’m living and working with deal with their entry into India. They are shocked, and exhausted from it all. It makes me feel good in a strange way – it makes me realize how much I’ve grown used to traveling, to constant change, to patience – and I’m very proud of that. This is really the first time that I think I’ve realized just how much I have changed this last year from my travels. I feel like I can honestly handle anything now…that I will roll with whatever comes my way – not get too wound up about anything. I wonder if anyone will notice a difference in me when I come back…I wonder how I will ever come back!