Happy (belated) Diwali

Diwali was this week and it was amazing! Diwali is the celebration of when Krishna defeated Narakasura (a demon). Or the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.

In the lead up to Diwali you could occasionally here a loud bang (which I now know is a lakshmi bomb) but nothing could prepare me for the overload of noise and light that followed. Catherine and I celebrated with the hostel kids – in particular the boys! As they were desperate to light the ‘bombs’ and fireworks, with each of them fighting over it each time. The girls we shyer when the loud bombs came out so stayed back with the sparklers or lighting candles around the street.

The only way I describe Diwali to someone who hasn’t experienced it is Fireworks night without any of the health and safety. Little boys were lighting crackers in their hands and then throwing them, bombs were being light, and if there were any impatient boys around, they would either poke them or the ‘safe’ option throw stones at them to make them go off faster. I was in my element, lighting fireworks with the boys trying not to get hit to many times by crackers, whereas Catherine was a bit more uneasy with the noises so enjoyed the sparklers with the young children.

The night ended with my ears ringing and smelling of gun powered. And once all of the fireworks had been used, the girls came out and we swept the road to get rid of all of the rubbish even though it was the boys (and me) who had made the mess.

It was a fantastic celebration and I can’t wait to throw myself into the next festival!

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First week teaching!

We started off our first week of teaching with a day off, something I was not going to complain about as it meant that we would have a whole day to make lesson plans, organise everything so that on Tuesday, we would be ready for anything that would happen. So whilst in theory this is a good plan, it didn’t end up happening as we were whisked away to the beach and we went swimming for the first time since we have been here. It was amazing! The sea was warm, the beach was beautiful, but it was still odd to be swimming fully dressed.

That meant that for the next day (official first day) we had nothing prepared. But luckily, the head teacher had calmed our nerves and told us that we would just be watching for the first few lessons so we knew how things ran here. Again, this did not happen. So, expecting to watch, we were thrown into classes and taught. It actually went surprisingly well considering we had absolutely no idea what was happening.

This feeling did last quite a lot of the week as we weren’t sure what classes we were teaching until the morning of the day we would be teaching, but it was really good to finally be doing what we came here to do. Once we had been given a temporary timetable for the week we were able to plan lessons, for me that was English to three different classes and but for Cathine she had the surprise of teaching social which is basically the history of India to a few classes instead of English. But even with our timetables, there we were always teaching different classes for teachers that weren’t here, or because there was a test on that we weren’t told about.

By Friday we were knackered, but in India the school week doesn’t end on Friday, but Saturday. This means even if you want to sleep in you can’t because you have two nursery classes and a 4th and 5th class left before the weekend starts. This Saturday was a bit special though because it was one of the English teachers, who we have become good friends with, house warming party. So straight after school we were picked up on a motorbike and taken to her house – I have never wished for a helmet more in my life. But it was a great way to end the week, and we finally got to wear saris for the first time (after only being here a one day less than a month).


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First Holiday!

After only a five hour wait for our delayed train and a four-hour train ride we had left the only part of India that was familiar to go on holiday and be a tourist for a week. It was the first time since arriving that we could do thing by ourselves and were alone.

The train ride to Chennai was filled with lovely people asking us where we were from, why we were in India and where we were going. A kind man in the bunk above me even shared some of his cake with us. And the women we were sitting next to asked me if I was married for the first time since getting here and why we weren’t. One of them told me she liked my hair and wanted to turn it into a wig which I am going to take as a compliment. And of course, the views were beautiful.

Once we had arrived in Chennai, we had a new challenge to concur, getting an auto and not getting ripped off to badly. We managed to get to the hotel but in doing so ignored one of the first pieces of advice we were given and got a taxi.

Chennai was beautiful, it was so busy and felt like a real Indian city with everyone always doing something and with such amazing colours. The beach there was beautiful though we chose not to swim in it. We visited my first Hindu temple which was absolutely amazing to see, but even in the temple, we were still asked to take photos with people which is now just a usual occurrence. Though I think the main reason for the increase in photos was due to Eilidh’s blond hair.

The nine of us all set of to Puducherry which we were all very excited about seeing as from what we had read and heard with sounded incredible. We ended up splitting into smaller groups of five and four as traveling as a nine can be hard to organise. Puducherry is influenced heavily by its French history so is a unique blend of India and France which let me tell you makes a great place for food.  After only eating spicy Indian food at our projects we were all excited to be able to choose what we ate, and on morning we went to a bakery, and I had bread for the first time in three weeks, I didn’t realised how much I miss bread but it was amazing; and a kind woman there even gave me my first bindi and stuck it on my head! We also visited a market which I could have happily spent all day in, the beach and wondered around the French quarter which has beautiful colour building wherever you look.

The train ride home was definitely an experience, as we only had one confirmed bed out of the 5 I booked for a nine-hour sleeper journey. Which lead to us accidentally stealing people’s seats until Indian kindness and hospitality shined though as we were invited to share beds with absolute strangers. One man even rearranged his family around to make a spare bed which two of us shared.

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First week in Ongole

My first week in Ongole has had a vast range of emotions and experiences, some of which have been great others have really not. I have decided to be brutally honest in this blog as I have read some that only ever talk about the good side of this year which I don’t believe is fully representative and I want to be true to myself, and so anyone who reads this can get a better look into my life here.

The first few days in Ongole I found really tough, I felt very homesick and at some points even had to remind myself why I was doing this year. Ongole is very different from what I’m used to say the least, I come from a small green village where most people know each other and have little conversations when you see them. Ongole is a loud colourful dusty town with many odd looks for the two tall white girls who are sweating more than they thought possible in the heat. I think that the completely different culture is probably one of the reasons I am missing home so much as there is nothing that is similar to what I’m used to, which over the year I’m sure I’ll grow to love.

As the school has had exams this week there has not been too much for us to do which makes it hard to keep busy and not think of home and how much I miss my mum, brother and sister, I really hadn’t appreciated how much I need my family, which when I think about is odd as I have been away for them for longer than this, think it’s just the knowledge that it is for a lot longer than anything I have done before. To be honest I really didn’t expect to feel this homesick but I guess that just means I have a wonderful home to go back to.

But everyone has been very kind to us which definitely makes it easier and all of the children as adorable and say “Morning Mam” whenever we walk past which makes me more excited to start teaching and the fact that even though it will be scary it will definitely keep us busy! I also find it funny how the first thing that is asked by everyone once that have worked out the pronunciation of Hannah is “What is your fathers job?” and all of my family’s names.

Another thing I have actually really struggled to deal with is the way that teachers here discipline the kids as it can be quite violent. And how they only seem to respect you if you have a cane in your hand. But hopefully when I’m teaching I will be able I show that this is not needed to make them learn.

Kalyani, one of the friendliest English teachers here who has been kindly looking after us took us to get clothes after being in Ongole 4 days, I think she must have realised that Catherine and I had been wearing the same trousers all week. We both got two Punjab suits and when we were at the market we were told that we would be going to a wedding on Saturday so had to get a “party outfit”. So no saree as of yet but hopefully we will get one next week.

On Friday we were both left to manage classes individually as they needed to revise for their exams. It amazes me the working hours of the kids here as class start at 9-12 then a lunch break before going back to between 1.30-4.25 and 5.30-7.30! I can’t imagine that any UK schools have primary school kids doing this let alone 6 times a week (Monday to Saturday)

On Saturday after invigilating a Social exam we went to our first India Muslim wedding. Just the drive there is an old bus that struggled to get over speed bumps was an experience. But the colours at the wedding were so bright and all of the woman looked beautiful in their sarees.

After another week of exams we have a holiday so at the moment we are trying to figure out where to go for a week. I’ll keep you updated!

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First few days…


When I first landed in India it was a cool 24 degrees as we had been previously warned by the crew that it was a bit chilly 😂

I’m sure it’s cliquey but the first thing I felt was the heat combined with the morning fog as it clung to us, this might sound odd but the air smelt thicker – I honestly couldn’t try and explain that but it did.

We landed about 6.30 Indian time and then found Abhilash who took us to find a bus to take us to the Kodali quest house where we would be staying for two days. It’s odd, but even when waiting for a bus it still didn’t feel real that I was in India and would be for the next 11 months.

The hour bus ride was definitely a new experience, when we first left the airport I was surprised by how green it was but the closer we got to Hyderabad, the dustier and louder it got. We saw what I thought was incredibly strange, but I guess it’s just the norm here for example, a few cows were just laying on the equivalent of a B road and it was probably one of the weirdest traffic jams I’ve seen. A woman was just having a small fire at the side of the road and everyone was crossing fast roads anywhere they could.

Once we arrived at the Kodali quest house we were told to rest for the rest of the day which I did gladly with a 6 hour nap 😆

Another thing I have realised I am going to have to get used to is the concept of time, there is no rush to arrive when you have been asked to get there. We discovered this when we all arrived for dinner 5 minutes before we were meant to and Abhilash didn’t arrive until 45 minutes later.


Abhilash drove me, Catherine (my partner for the next year) Molly and Eilidh to the train station which was a whole new level of different. On the drive we were asking about what it is actually like driving around India and he came out with my favourite description “it’s like the hardest level of Mario cart, but with only one life”

So I am currently sitting on the train to Ongole which is such a different experience to any train I have ever been on. We are on a second AC sleeper train meaning I’m not overheating too much! I am on the lower bunk which folds into two seats so me and Catherine are just relaxing looking out the window in to India. Only another 8 hours to go!

Seven hours in and the time had come, I had to use a toilet and that was a change from what I am used to to say the least. Just the fact that it was a squatting toilet was a something to adjust to but when the train is moving from side to side makes it a whole new challenge


We woke up in the room that would be ours for the next year and this realisation mixed with everything being new was a hard thing to deal with but once we were out of the house and looking around the school we were both feeling better.

The head teacher took us round all of the classes and introduced us to all of the teachers individually. Everyone was very friendly and intrigued to know where abouts we were from. I now just have the job of learning everyone’s name which will be difficult.

We will be watching in on some classes for the rest of the day and hopefully tomorrow before we get our timetables and are thrown into the world of being a teacher!

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12 hours to go!!

I can hardly believe the time has flown so fast. I have just finished packing but somehow I still don’t think that it has sunk in that in tomorrow night I will be arriving in India.

At the moment I keep switching between being incredibly excited and absolutely bricking it 😂 I am also looking forward to meeting the rest of my country group who I will see at the airport tomorrow.


I just wanted to say again how thankful I am to everyone who has helped me get to this point whether that being donating, helping me set up, and even today when some of my best friends helped to me pack my bag 🙂


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Training week

So last week I made the trek back up to Coll, just like I had to do almost a year ago, although this time I did not have a travel buddy and almost missed my flight, but I made it none-the-less! Before getting to backpackers so many thoughts we rushing through my head, what if I’m a terrible teacher, what if my project partner doesn’t like me. But it turns out I didn’t need to worry and I had an amazing week.

The week has made me so much more confident about my year away, not just the teaching aspect, about how to fit in with the community, how lovely my partner is and how I know it will be amazing even though it will be riddled with ups and downs and that’s okay.

I also got to meet some amazing people, I met half of my country group which couldn’t be nicer and spent the week with other country groups – Sri Lanka, Senegal, Japan and Thailand. All of them amazing people I’m really excited to spend the next year with 🙂

It’s incredible what can change in a week and how teaching two lessons has made me so much more confident in what I will be doing. We had talks on classroom management something that had been worrying me as in India corporal punishment is not uncommon but we learn other ways to manage the class in a more positive way. We also learnt the basics of teaching have helped me so much, which I really owe to the Project Trust staff. And in an amazing lesson completely in Thai where we learnt how to chant pineapple – Sapparot!! I also managed to win the proud title of ‘Geek of the week’ for my knowledge of insurance 

I also found out the date I will be leaving! 8th of September – only six weeks to go 😀 This is definitely not the easiest journey and I have always known this but training has reinforced to me just how important and incredible it is going to be. I can’t wait for the next year of my life.

I also just wanted to thank all of the Project staff who helped (especially Rosie), as well as the amazing summer staff who helped to keep us laughing all week.













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