Sunday, 18 March 2012


Moving to India for 3 months required some forethought. Below, you see my things laid out, ready to be packed.
I managed to fit everything in this awesome bag borrowed from my friend Lisa. Woo hoo.
Now, with just under two weeks left, I'm starting to think about getting stuff home. I seem to have acquired quite a bit and I've had to go buy an additional suitcase. For the record, I'd like to point out that I am not the only one in this position! There have also been several trips to the post office recently...
The crazy thing is that the bag I bought today at Laxmi Road is actually bigger than the one I started with. It's pretty full already, after my trial run at packing, and I still have a few more things to squeeze in.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

I Heart Recycling

I love India and it is a great place to live. However, one thing that I have not been able to come to terms with is the amount of garbage I see everywhere.

But, rather than taint my viewpoint of this marvelous country, it has caused me to reflect upon my own environmental footprint. Back home in Canada I recycle quite a bit (I even compost!) but I will admit that there are far too many things I just simply throw away. Out of site, out of mind -- we have dumps away from the cities where all of our garbage goes. Do you?

Recycling is not a foreign concept in India, it just seems to be taking time to gain momentum in a way we are familiar with. Thankfully there are organizations, such as eCoexist - one of Sangam's community partners - that are making efforts to shift the practices of people here. One such way is by promoting the use of eco-friendly canvas bags instead of plastic carrier bags (which are everywhere). It's also worth mentioning that Mumbai's Dharavi slum (one of the largest in the world) has incorporated recycling waste from the city into its own self sufficient economy. I have seen evidence of this resourcefulness in areas of Pune as well.

So, as I prepare to return to Canada, where just about anything I need or want is right at my finger tips (excess packaging included), I am now more conscious of my contribution to that big waste facility that I cannot see outside my door.

Have you thought about your footprint today?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Holy Moly Holi

My first introduction to the Holi festival was through an episode of the Amazing Race where the teams had to race through a crowd of people to find their clues, all while having coloured powder and water thrown in their faces. That's pretty much how it is, although much less staged and loads of fun!

Holi festival takes place at the end of the Winter, in Spring (aka the two days before it gets really hot) and is a celebration of colour, light coming out of dark, etc. Indians love celebration and have some sort of festival each month of the year; Holi is one of the big ones.

Our festivities kicked off with our Children's Camp, where some of the children came from each of our sites for a day of activities and a holi party. It was great to interact with them on a smallerscale and see them out of their school environment where they could just be free and excited. The camel rides were a highlight for them and I really enjoyed my ride with Vishl.

eCoexist provided the natural holi colours and the kids had a blast throwing the coloured powders at us and each other.

On Thursday we celebrated together with eCoexist at a big party on the Sangam campground -- this time with water. Imagine a giant water fight with crazy sized water guns. Or just massive buckets.
After going crazy with the natural colours we decided to venture beyond the gates of Sangam to the streets of our neighbourhood to see how the locals were celebrating. As you can see by the vibrant (and chemically altered) colours on our faces and clothing -- it was a party out there.

"Ranga pancha" is the fifth day of Holi and it just happened to fall on a school day. Our afternoon at Anand Gram involved absolutely no teaching. Instead the teachers started throwing colours at each other and naturally the students, Elly, and I joined in!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Teacher in India

I love being a teacher; it is woven into every aspect of my being. I am deeply passionate about education and providing opportunities for students to recognize their potential, which is why I was eager to work at Anand Gram School.
Settling into the teaching here was a challenge initially, as it is so different to what I know and do in BC, but I feel that together Elly and I have made some good progress and it's hard to believe that our time here is nearly over. From the beginning we have focused on teaching essential English skills in a way that would hopefully make them excited to continue their language students. We were also hopeful that the teachers would see some new teaching strategies...

It has been a remarkable journey, learning to work within an almost entirely different system. We have bonded with our students for sure; there are some great personalities that will never be forgotten. 3rd Standard has some real gems. Harshal, who chased us down the lane last week to return my star pointer. We could hear in the distance "Madam! Nadia Madam! Elly Madam!" and turned around to see him running towards us with that ever-present beaming smile on his face. There is also Dipak, who we only taught a few times before he switched classes, but whom we argue over which one of us will take him home. Vishal and Sandeep, with their politeness and hard work -- they have learned so much!
Then in 6th there is Sonali, with her gentleness and infectious giggle, and Akshay, who is our comedic translator. Mahesh, the delightful keener, who is always trying to make sure his group is listening.

5th Standard is the lively group with a lot of kids that aren't yet aware they have the potential to succeed. Hopefully we've made some progress in this area... My fondest memory from this group is when Nikhil's father came up and spoke (in broken English) with us about us teaching English to his son. This was while we were waiting for our bus home on the main road!
Our singers and quick learners can be found in 4th Standard! Nagsh, who was so excited about his ABC notebook that he took it home to write in. Shamboh, Vijay, Ajay and Protiraj who share their ideas freely and with exuberance.
I could probably keep going, but with 50+ kids in 4 different classes (most of whose names I've learned!!) this would be a very long post. So, I will conclude with a favourite quote of mine:
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
~ Nelson Mandela
I hope we provided opportunities for positive change during our time at Anand Gram.