India Travel

Early this morning we arrived back to Ongole from our seven week travel around India. The travel has been absolutely amazing and has made me love India even more. Each place is totally different, each with its own culture and things for us to experience.

We went to a total of 15 different places, on nineteen trains, five buses and two flights. Needless to say, it’s been busy! We have calculated that in total we were over 18 hours delayed (this is adding up the very dependable Indian railway, redbus service and one annoying flight).

We started off the holiday in a group with all of our friends and fellow volunteers (minus the Tangatur trio) in Hampi. Here we drove on scooters, swam in waterfalls and saw stunning temples. As we got to know a few of the locals it made me realise how conservative Andhra Pradesh is and they even made fun of us for thinking we should be in our Punjabs! We met two other boys who were also on their gap years traveling who ended up joining us along a lot of the rest of the holiday!

Then onto Goa for a few days before heading to Mumbai. This was the first large city we had explored and it was amazing seeing the energy of the city. Catherine and Emma fell in love with it and have plans to live there in the future!! We also went on a very thought provoking tour of India’s largest slum with a guide who showed us all of the business that happen and a little of the life there. After Mumbai our little group split and we all travelled in our pairs for some time, whilst sometimes overlapping with each other.

Next the two of us tackled Rajasthan in the hottest season of the year. First we went to Udaipur which was stunningly beautiful and ended up bumping into Jack and Archie for a day. After we travelled by a very long (made worse by Catherine being ill) sleeper bus to Jodhpur. Jodhpur – the blue city was lovely, if you ever find yourself there I would recommend the omelettes in the main square! Next was Jaisalmer, we went on a camel safari which was amazing. We trekked in the afternoon before making a camp where we were fed some lovely dal and fell asleep looking at the stars. But due to it being off season as it is too hot for most people to travel it was rather empty and a lot of the restaurants were closed. Our last stop was Jaipur before heading up to Manali. Here we went to a block printing factory where we were taught how to block print and then printed our own design. We tried and failed to get into a cricket match and explored the pink (which should really be called orange) city. Manali wasn’t originally in the beautifully organised spreadsheet which had our holiday plans down to every minute detail, but with temperatures of over 50°C in some areas we ended up changing our plans and heading north to hide from the heat as it was making us ill.

We went to Manali with Archie, Jack, and Harry – who joined us from his gap year travels in China. Manali was one of my favourite places and we ended up staying for 5 days, it was so green and the cold of 18°C reminded me of home when I had to wrap up warm in borrowed jumpers and even had to wear socks under my sandals. We went on treks, water rafted, Harry enjoyed some gaming and we all ended up sprinting a few miles back at night due to traffic, we even watched some of the royal wedding in a small cafe!

We then got a long bus to Delhi where we explored for a day and picked up Catherine’s friend from home – Sophie who came to visit. There was a lot of us in Delhi, as we met up with Luana and Katie who happened to be there the same time, we also got to meet Katie’s lovely Matt. Catherine, Jack, Archie and I went to India’s biggest mosque, but did not actually go in due to the extortionate price of 600 rupee entry fee, so explored a rather intense bazaar. Before all splitting up, the boys to Nepal and us leaving Katie and Luana behind as we headed to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We also got the best curry of the whole holiday there! We then headed back to Delhi where I spent the day in hospital due to my very infected eye, but after an expensive consultation and a few more tests I got some drugs and assurance that it would get better!

Next stop was Rishikesh, the taxi ride from the airport was an experience, having to argue with the driver about paying for a bridge crossing, him only speaking Hindi and us English… We swam in the Ganges (we were told by a man who was in our hostel dorm that it was good luck to do so on this certain day), did yoga on the roof and explored one day. But best of all was Harry finally getting the hair cut which had been in dire need! Unfortunately, due to my eye and Sophie also being ill we spent one day in bed in the dorm room whilst the others explored. We also spent some time in Khajuraho which is know for its erotic temple art, it was slightly strange to see people carved into stone having sex, but there you have it.

We then had a hellish journey to Varanasi, turns out the train we booked to Varanasi from Khajuraho changed destination so instead only took us half the way, we then had to get three-hour taxi before we finally (12 or so hours later) we made it to Varanasi. Varanasi was one of my favourite places I loved seeing how much a part of life the Ganges are. We took a 4am boat ride which meant we could see much of the life around it, children learning to swim, women doing their washing, we also sore some cremations occurring. We had to say goodbye to Harry who had been traveling with us since Manali before heading off to Darjeeling.

Getting to Darjeeling was also not a smooth a ride. Due to a five-hour delayed train we missed the toy train which should have taken us a scenic route to Darjeeling. This resulted in three slightly moody girls, but all was ok as we got a taxi which ended up being a lot faster. We were reunited with the girls which was lovely, it was nice to travel as a group and catch up on all of our different travel experiences. We did end up getting into a little bit of hotel drama which involved Catherine, Sophie and I getting into a fight with our hotel manager, this was because of the toilet leaking all over the floor, damp walls and rude staff, so after being told to check out we left and ended up stay with Emma and Caitlin in their lovely hotel.  We visited a tea plantation and enjoyed being cold again.

Last stop Hyderabad! We had to say goodbye to Sophie who had been travelling with us for the past few weeks as she had a morning flight. As we have friends here it was more a stop to see them over the city, but we did get to visit the biggest mosque there during Ramadan which was interesting to see – a whole market square was taken up by men praying. As we had treated ourselves to a Radisson blu we spend the majority of the first day in the hotel and the pool. But the second we got out to spend a day with our friends (Kalyani’s family), meeting all of the neighbours and even ended up at their local church.

We then got a night train to Ongole where we only have another 48 days. The new school term starts tomorrow so here’s to making the last few weeks amazing and memorable!

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School trip!

This Sunday was a school trip to a garden and swimming pool with 1st to 5th class (over 300 students). This meant almost all of my students would be there and they had all been asking me if I was going and chatting excitedly in my classes about it. Everyone squeezed on to 6 buses (4 to a seat) and off we went. Music blaring through the speakers, kids and teachers dancing in the isle. Just going on the bus made everyone even more excited to get there!

When we got there we saw the swimming pool was slightly shallower than described, but seeing as out of everyone there, students and teachers alike, the only people who could swim were Catherine and I. Which made everyone splashing about trying to swim all the more stressful. But as we were joined by Kalyani (in a sari) and about 5 men standing around the pool with canes to make sure the kids weren’t doing anything silly.

After everyone was all done swimming and very well fed (in true Indian function style) we played a few games of kabaddi – my team beat Catherine’s (go 5 B/S!!). Kabaddi is very popular here and it is basically capturing someone from the other team and wrestling them to the ground. On the drive back we were lucky enough to drive past the beach(?). We stopped outside to have a look from inside the bus, to be fair there were so many of us it would have be absolute chaos if we were allowed to go. We also stopped at a temple which was very calm and peaceful before it had children running all around it!

Days like these really make me appreciate India and how much I love it here. I really love India. It’s sporadic field trips, the children dancing on the bus, the smallest thing can just make you so happy and feel incredibly lucky to have experienced it

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Republic day!

On the 26th of January (I know, this blog is late) was republic day. This marks the date (26th January) that the Indian Constitution came into force.

We were joined by Bharavi and Fra – the Project Trust India representative – to celebrate the day. Andhra school often goes quite big on celebrations like this, and republic day was no difference. All of my students had been getting excited and telling me all about it for a week before.

The whole school came to watch the performances. There was traditional Indian dancing by a young girl Catherine teaches, a very well organised dance using saris to make the flag and a slightly less well organised dance/performance/pyramid piece by the boys.

And then of course in true Indian style there was a lot of different foods to eat after!

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January holiday!

Due to there being a big Hindu festival, the school got 10 days holiday! For this holiday we were joined by 5 other girls from projects near us, Molly, Eilidh and Abbie from Tangatur and Katie and Luana from Pernamitta. It was so nice to travel in this group and I can’t wait for our summer holiday to do it again!

We started off the holiday with a train delay – which I now know to expect from our last holiday. But thankfully not as delayed as one we saw in Chennai which was 16 hours delayed. All of our trains this holiday we at least a little delayed but the longest we had was 7 hours.

When we arrived in Alleppey I knew it was exactly what I needed, it was so calm and peaceful which was a nice change of pace to my usual life on Ongole. One morning we woke up at 5am and went kayaking down the backwaters which was absolutely beautiful, words cannot describe how stunning it was so please have a look at the photos! In a kayak we were able to see the people’s lives who live around the backwaters as we could fit through the narrow lanes. It was definitely the best £15 I have ever spent and a memory I will cherish for a very long time. We went to a beach and had a quick dip which was amazing, although we did all feel self-conscious even getting our shoulders out after being fully covered for the last 4 months. We also took a different boat tour around the backwaters, so although we had already been in some of the same places it was a very different feel to the kayaking – especially as this time I wasn’t scared of being run over by a house boat!

Next, we travelled up into the hills to a place called Wayanad. To get there we took a rather cramped train and then a 2-hour bus journey which had incredible views of the tea plantations. We spent 2 days here which included us going to the Phantom Rock which gave amazing scenery and a lot of green (which I do sometimes miss from home as we don’t see it in Ongole). We then went on a safari in a nature reserve and WE SAW THREE TIGERS and TWO ELEPHANTS! We spent our last day in Wayanad wondering around some nearby tea plantations which meant more stunning views. Katie and I even worked up the courage to ask some of the tea pickers if we could take a photo and got to see what they were doing close up!

We spent the last two days on Goa just on the beach dipping in and out of the sea and shopping at the market which is exactly what we all needed. Catherine and I finally got our embroidered jackets which we have been dreaming of since Pondicherry. And on the last night 6 out of 7 of us got a piercing (sorry mum)

We ended our holiday with 36 hours of train travel back to Ongole. Which actually wasn’t as horrendous as it sounds, just a lot of naps.

This holiday has been absolutely amazing and has made me realise how lucky it is that I am actually in India! And how excited I am to go back to teaching (I missed my kids).

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Christmas and New Year festivities!

A VERY belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone. I though seeing as its not every year that you spend Christmas and new year in India I should fill you in on what I have been up to.

When we first got to India Christmas felt like it was so far away, but now we are already in January and I know the next 8 months will fly by, which is quite a scary thought.

I almost dreaded the thought of Christmas before I left, for me Christmas is all about spending time with family and the idea of not doing that was really hard. But unlike at home where Christmas is everywhere from November, here, Christmas is only a weekend holiday.

Our school celebrated Christmas on Saturday the 23rd of December, the last day of school before the holiday. Due to some school politics which I won’t go into, the school had only organised sweets to be given out to teachers. This annoyed Kalyani, Catherine and I so we went around the teachers and asked them if they would chip in to buy enough sweets for all of the kids, and lucky enough did! So with a Santa costume one of my pupils borrowed from a nearby church Catherine dressed up (in a felt Santa suit in 30 degree heat!) and we went to all of the classrooms and gave sweets out to everyone. It was so much fun and really put us into the Christmassy spirt, even if we were very judged by the older kids and scared a few of our nursery students!

On Christmas eve, all of the volunteers around us came to Andhra school. We spent the day at our close friend Kalyani home eating, chatting about our different experiences and dancing with some of the neighbourhood kids who always seem to be at Kalyani’s! It was really nice to show them our little part of India. In the evening the Tangatur girls went home, and Katie and Luana stayed at ours so we could have a sleepover and spend the whole of Christmas together.

Christmas day was definitely a very different Christmas to anything I had experienced instead of waking up and seeing my family, we all got up and put on our fancy sari’s (and helped Catherine as unfortunately she was ill throughout Christmas). We went to church with Kalyani and even say joy to the world! It was a good day, difficult at times (because it is hard being away from your family at big times like this) and nothing compared to what I am used to but it was in its own way wonderful.

Thank you for everyone who sent me cards and boxes – I have already eaten half of the snacks! But it was so special to be able to open things from home.

Right, so new year. New year and the days leading up were honestly some of my best days here, I had such an amazing time and made memories I will cherish.

On the 30th of December all of the class teachers were given coloured chalk to decorate their boards, so Catherine and I headed to separate classrooms to do this. I did get a little competitive at the start, but later realised that no other class had let the kids draw what they wanted on the board, so I let go of winning my imaginary competition and got every child to draw at least one picture and colour in some of the board. So whilst it may not have looked the most put together, my class definitely had the most fun doing it (maybe we did win after-all 😉 )

On the 31st Kalyani took us to a different church to our usual one, this one was bigger and for the first time I had the struggle of covering my head with a sari. But the more shocking first was the people we saw who felt the holy spirit within them, people were screaming, shouting, and crying. It was quite a new experience for me and to be honest I don’t fully know how to process or understand it yet. We then ate blessed food cooked for us by the church sisters (Indian nuns), before rushing back to school to run art club for the hostel kids. The crowns really seemed to be a hit and after the boys invited us to play cricket and kabaddi! It was so much fun and I can’t wait to play again 😊. We finished the year dancing with the hostel girls, smearing cake on each other’s faces, and hand feeding EVERONE.

New year’s day was also spent with Kalyani (strong theme here!) in her fancy saris. We spent the first half of the day with our classes eating cake. Afterwards we headed to Kalyani’s where we played games with the neighbourhood kids (we even played the card board box game), they taught us some dances. And now they call us “Acca” which means sister so that is so cute and I really feel at home here.

I hope everyone else had a great time celebrating, and have an amazing 2018!

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Sunday Art Club/ Our Secondary Project :)

We have decided to set up a secondary project thanks to the funds raised for our project at the Class of 2017 mums and friends get together. The Beetle Drive and raffle that Gillian set up and her amazing generosity, (Who was a big help to Catherine when she was fundraising to come here), it is so kind that you thought of us when deciding where the money should go. The secondary project / Sunday art club wouldn’t have been able to happen without the kind donations, so thank you.

The reason for doing an art club is because Catherine and I thought that the hostel kids here needed some enjoyment and down time. When we first arrived we were shocked at how much the children here work.  They work from 5 am to 9 pm from Monday to Saturday and even have study from 9-12 on a Sunday. We believe there should be a balance that isn’t met between school/study and time for them to have fun.

Two weeks ago was the first day of the art club and I believe it was a big success, usually after study they all go into a classroom to watch some tv, so we came and offered them the choice to come and make some masks instead we showed them the ones we had made and everyone leapt at the chance to try and make their own!

And then this weekend to try and start to get in the Christmassy spirit we did a Christmas themed art club where we all made and decorated snowflakes. We were joined by Katie and Luana, two other volunteers who live only 10 minutes away. They helped us to run it and it so really good fun to be singing Christmas songs with other people who know the lyrics instead just getting slightly odd looks! The kids were able to decorate the snowflakes any way they wanted with glitter, pens, pencils wool and any other scrap paper we had which was great to see as last time they aren’t as creative so stuck to copying the example masks we had made.

With the money raised we have been able to buy all the equipment for this club such as coloured paper, pens, glue, scissors and more bits and bobs which are on the way!


Hope you are all enjoying the snow (if you are lucky enough to have it), today it was 31 degrees so not quite at cold enough here for it! And have an amazing Christmas 🙂

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2 Months of Teaching!

Sorry it has taken me so long to write a blog, life here in India is busy but I will be better next time!

I thought I was time to update everyone on my teaching and what it is I am actually doing here 🙂 I have now fully got into my routine and am getting into the swing of teaching. Although when I think about my life here I still think its crazy how only 5 months ago I was sat behind a desk being taught and now I stand in front of at least 30 kids (usually more like 40 – 50) in each class being solely responsible for their learning.

I teach an age range from about 2 1/2 to 11 years old. I am teaching Spoken English or Grammar to two nursery classes (aged 2 1/3 – 4), two Lower Kindergarten class (aged 4-5), two Upper Kindergarten classes (aged 5-6), one first classes (aged 6-7), two second classes (age 7-8) and one third class (aged 8-9), two four classes (aged 9-10) and one fifth classes (aged 10- 11)! I have all of these classes multiple times throughout the week so I’m shattered!

Teaching, for both me and my partner at least, has been and is an emotional roller coaster. Some lessons are great and you come out feeling amazing. One that comes to mind is a recent 5th class lesson; it annoyed me that everyone I asked “How are you?”, the only response from I got was “I am fine”. So I spent a lesson teaching new and more interesting ways of answering, I now have kids coming up to me and saying “I am amazing” or “I am fantastic!”. But others aren’t as good and I often end up struggling with behavioural management.

Classroom management for the younger pupils is something I am struggling with. This is partly due to their limited English and my lack of Telugu, and also because they know that neither Catherine or I will beat them which is the only punishment they have here. And giving out my two stickers of the lesson to the pupils that behaved the best in the lesson (or as they now refer to them as “silent stickers”) isn’t doing the trick. However my older students (aged between 7-11) love these rewards. As soon as I get the stickers out all bums are in their chairs, fingers on lips and the room is finally quiet. They all want a sticker and will do anything for one! If you have any advice on how to stop 4 and 6 year olds going crazy in class, let me know!

On the other hand, it has definitely made me more creative. I have to figure out how to keep the young ones on track so they don’t get to distracted and cause havoc. One thing that is so simple but they love is writing the answer in the board, once they see me hand a student who answered correctly the chalk all hands go up for the next answer.

I have been basing my teaching around positive encouragement as there are limited ways I can punish children for being naughty, so I choose to focus on all of the good things the children are doing. Kids now run up to me with their boards to show me how much they have done so I can write “well done” or their favourite draw a star at the bottom!

There are some other challenges I face when teaching, for example in two of my classes there are autistic children, which do not get the right help or attention that they need. Which I also struggle to help with as I also have the rest of the class to teach and manage, so I have found small activities for them to do by themselves which I can come and help and check on whilst the other students are working. Which is not a perfect solution, but it is better than before when they just caused distractions to everyone as they couldn’t do the work. But it is also great as when they have completed it the look on their faces says it all as they are so proud to have got it right.

All in all, teaching is tough and when I think about all of the education I have had I am so grateful but at the same time I have a new respect for all of my old teachers. But the feeling of satisfaction you get when a kid finally is able to do what you have been working on is just amazing. My favourite memory of this is from my younger nursery class who are still learning how to write the alphabet (they are only 2 1/2!). One boy was really struggling with the letter ‘A’ and the first time he wrote it by himself I was so happy for him and because he could see how proud I was of him went and showed all the other teachers. So whilst it is a challenge it is the most worthwhile one.

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