Monday, 14 April 2014

India Part 1

This year at school I was given the amazing opportunity to accompany Year 9 students on a two week trip to India. The first week was spent at Daly College in Indore, which is a Round Square school. Round Square is an organization of schools world-wide that share the same goals around learning, called IDEALS: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service. My school in Mebourne is also a Round Square school.

We left on the morning of Friday 14th March - 18 students and 3 teachers, including myself. We had a fairly horrendous itinerary, a 7 hour flight to Singapore, 4 hour stopover, 6 hour flight to Mumbai, 8 hour stopover, and then an hour flight to Indore. The 8 hour stopover in Mumbai was overnight and prior to landing I was recalling a night spent in an Egyptian airport (Luxor I think?) in 2008 that was probably one of the worst nights of my life: freezing airport, hard metal benches, dusty floor, nothing to eat or drink. Thankfully the terminal we were in at Mumbai was pretty new and clean and there was a small snack bar where we could get tea and pastries, and the night passed without any incidents. We had to take a shuttle bus to another terminal to get our domestic flight to Indore, and then hilariously once we had gone through the gate we boarded another bus to take us to the plane, which was back at the international terminal. Hmmmm, fairly inefficient system I think! I also have never had my bags scanned or my boarding pass checked so many times as in this airport - I suppose since the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 security is extra tight, but man did it feel like overkill!

Once we got to Indore, Vijay, a teacher from Daly college who would be with us for our first week, greeted us and took us to the bus. The first thing I noticed about India is just how noisy it is on the road. I thought people in Melbourne overused their car horns, but they've got nothing on the people in India! However we learned that when people beep their horns in India it means something like "hey, just wanted to let you know I'm here!" rather than the aggressive or annoyed tone it takes on in Western countries. And the longer we were in India the more I was glad that the horn was used in this way, because the driving is insane. It was pretty much how I had pictured it... cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, cows and pedestrians all sharing the same space, all going at different speeds, but miraculously I never once saw an accident the whole time we were there. It was impressive to watch, in a way driving there is an art form.

Daly College, Indore
Finally arriving at Daly College around 8am on Saturday 15th March, about 30 hours after we left Melbourne, we were thrown right into a packed first day. We spent our first 6 days at Daly, where we took classes on Hinduism and other religions in India, Indian festivals, Indian history and Hindu Gods and symbols. As teachers we also sat in on the lessons and had to take tests at the end of each class. I loved being taught again, and learned so many things about Hinduism in particular that I must admit, I was pretty ignorant about before (I supposed my Grade 11 world religions class probably did not feel as interesting or relevant to me at the time!) 

A classroom at Daly College

Yummy Indian food at Daly

We were also there in time for the Holi festival, which is a Hindu festival celebrating love and colours. The eve of the festival starts with a bonfire, and then on Holi people celebrate colours by chasing each other around with coloured powder and water. We celebrated with other students in the school on school grounds so it was pretty tame - unfortunately taking a group of students out into the city to participate in the festival was not in the risk assessment!

Georgia (other teacher) and I after Holi
Bonfire on the eve of Holi



Vijay taught most of our lessons, as he is the religion and Sanskrit teacher at the school, and is also a priest to the royal family in Maheshwar. We went on an overnight trip to Maheshwar and the students were all able to meet Prince Richard Holkar - who turned out to be a pretty down to earth guy! His residence is Ahilya Fort which is also a hotel overlooking the Narmada River, where the students were able to take part in a ceremony to honour the river.

After Maheshwar we went on to Mandu where we stayed the night in a new hotel... so new that it didn't quite look like it was finished! Exposed wires, holes in the walls, and frequent power outages were just a few of the problems we had, however the food was excellent so we can't complain too much! 

Watching the sunrise at Roopmati's Pavillion







We were up at 5:30am so that we could arrive at Roopmati's Pavilion at dawn. The sunrise was beautiful, and totally worth waking up for. In Mandu we also visited the Jahaz Mahal, an impressive palace which included a haram for the 1500 wives of the ruler of the palace!

Jahez Mahel


Once back at Daly College the students also had a chance to do some pottery, art classes and cooking classes. They also learned a traditional Indian dance that they presented at an evening performance where parents of the Daly college students came to watch. The performance was great, a real highlight of the trip, with local newspapers covering the story of Australian students at Daly, and performances from other dance groups including a deaf dance group and the winners of India's Got Talent!

My attempt at Indian art

Temple at Daly College
After our first week at Daly we departed on Friday 21st March to start the sightseeing portion of our trip, starting with a 11 hour train ride to Jaipur. I will write about the second week in part 2...

Garry, one of the other teachers, kept a fantastic blog for the parents which you can read here if you are interested in seeing lots of pictures and details on the trip.
Monkey mom and baby

Who doesn't love a random Monkey shot? This one acted like he was posing for the cameras!

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