Last Day with the Kids
I woke up this morning to a noise I haven’t heard since I left home… my alarm. I must have had the volume turned up the whole way because not only did it startle me it also woke everyone else into room, oops. By the time I got out of my bed (or my couch with pillows and blankets) all my roommates were asleep again. I went downstairs and started to write the ever-changing schedule on the marker smudge covered “white” board. The day before I had found out that the mentors had a surprise for us which at the time all I knew was that the boys wouldn’t enjoy it as much as the girls would. My next task was to wake everyone. I left the warmth of the common room and went out into the cool, misting air outside. It wasn’t cold but it was raining, so naturally I went barefoot. Personally, I hate (strongly dislike) waking up to large pounding noise or screaming people so instead I knocked gently on every door and listened for sounds of life. Apparently my attempt at a kind awakening didn’t exactly work because only half the group showed up for breakfast and a few friends of mine told me the proper procedure for wake up calls.
After breakfast it was time to see the little balls of energy at our daycares. Sadly it was the last day of placements, it was really hard to keep a happy face on for the kids when I knew it was probably the last time I’d see them, but due the fact it was our last day it had to be our best one yet. The daycare I was in is pretty small so we never have that many kids and unfortunately only two girls showed up today. On the bright side it was a very personalised party and we all had fun. Saying goodbye was most definitely the hardest part of this trip so far because you manage to grow so close to their happy faces and so accustomed to getting up, having everything ready and going to see the kids that the realisation of the fact that this was the last time came only after I left. I’m going to miss them so much but, I can also leave knowing that even if it was a small portion of India’s youth, that I and the twenty-seven others on this trip have helped and changed those children’s life’s, even if it was only by teaching them the alphabet or how to colour inside the lines.
Next we came back for lunch and as usual the food was great. I really, really love the food here. Once that was finished we worked on our storytelling strategies until the time came to present them. I worked in a group of three and we chose the topic of preconceived notions people have before coming India, overall I believe it went well and I was so impressed with the amount of detail in every single persons project.
The mentors surprise was the best surprise anybody could think of! A Bollywood dance class, it was fantastic. I may have been terrible but that didn’t matter it was so fun and once the teacher left India sweets came and we stayed dancing the rest of the night (even past our bedtime ohhh) Then the night came to a close we went to bed and my day as leader was over. The next morning we were leaving Dharamsala, my experience in India was amazing, truly the best three weeks of my life. I will dearly miss each and every person I met. My mentors were all terrific, and the friends I made I hope will last a lifetime. GLA has made such a brilliant difference in my life.
Today was a really exciting day for me not only because I was leader of the day – we also went on our second day hike that replaced the trek.
In the morning, we had our usual breakfast that included bananas, some eggs, toast, cereal and of course the famous Indian masala chai. We had to pack for the hike the night before and even though we were urged to gather all of the rain gear we have – we were lucky and didn’t need it! The weather was great the entire day.
We then drove about 40 minutes through the beautiful Kangra valley until we arrived to our starting point of the hike. Overall, it was much easier than the one two days ago but it was still challenging and fun! We took a break by a gorgeous river and sat on the rocks to hopefully get inspired by nature and it’s mysteries. I also really enjoyed looking at how powerful the water was and how it shapes both rocks and lives of people. From that stop on, we became a bit paranoid with every step we took because a lot of group members had leeches on them, they were alright after but the experience wasn’t very pleasant for them but a bit entertaining for the viewers.
We continued hiking and met some goats on the way who immediately befriended us for a few minutes until their owners made them continue on their way. When we reached the top we stopped for lunch and also visited the small Hindu temple there. We got blessed by the monk inside and had orange Tikas on our foreheads. We rested there, took some group pictures and hiked our way back down. Even though it was foggy, we could see some other trails on other mountains, including the one we would have gone up if we stuck to the original plan.
After the beautiful yet tiring hike we relaxed at our home base – awaiting for the well deserved dinner, PIZZA! Once the boxes were put on the table we stormed them and finished 18 boxes of pizza in under 10 minutes (don’t worry parents, they are not starving us here!) we also had ice cream after which was a perfect finish for the meal. The rest of the evening was spent singing from the top of our lungs – also known as karaoke night which was a bonding experience and very funny to watch as well.
To conclude this experience so far – I feel like the time here goes linearly but the amount of learning, inspiration, and fun I’m having is growing exponentially from day-to-day!
Reporting from Gamroo, India
Mission confirmed as accomplished – Captain Noam Wizel
Having A Great Time
This past week in India is hard to describe, as you’d really have to see it all for yourself to believe how amazing it is. Everyone who’s gone on this trip kept saying that “the pictures don’t do it justice,” and they were so right.
Today we headed off to placements in the rain, it’s the start of monsoon season. It was the first day we’ve been out at our daycare in the rain. Our daycare building is not completely finished being built yet, but luckily we’ve been able to work off of a porch right across from its location. Because of the weather it was nearly impossible to work outside. We were invited into someone’s home and the kids were ushered upstairs with us. Some of our rainy day activities were puzzles and drawing, but the biggest hit was the face painting! One little girl named Deepali even tried to give me a manicure with the paints!
I’ve loved working with these kids so far, and it’s really going to be difficult leaving. On the bright side, they’ve taught me a lot.
The weather (and lack of time) also changed some other plans for the day. At first we were going to see temples in the area and learn about religion in India, but instead it was Bollywood night! – Rachel Elfezouaty
First we went to the market to buy saris. There were many beautiful colors to choose from. Some designs were more simple, while other saris had jeweled brocade. We also were able to purchase bindis and other traditional Indian clothing. After we were done shopping, we headed back to home base. The girls were taught how to tie saris while the boys learned how to tie turbans. It was fun dressing up while learning about the traditional dress of another culture. We were also able to get henna designs on our hands. Each design was unique and beautifully done, although it was a challenge trying not to bump your hand while it was still drying! We gathered for a group picture after everyone was ready, and then headed back inside for a delicious dinner. – Stephanie Wright
A Wonderful Day!
-Luis and Ileana
Its been 2 weeks since we arrived to Dharamshala. Despite our early (too early) wake up, we woke everyone up with smiles and shouts. Breakfast was wonderful, a perfect combination between occidental pancakes with oriental tea. It was food day!
We left for our placements and had a fantastic 2 hours with the kids, either by playing sports such as football r arts and crafts. When we arrived at home base for lunch, we were treated with traditional street Indian food, cooked at home base. We had some fried veggies and an exotic sandwich.
After a delicious meal we left for Mcleodganj in the midst of monsoon. After an hour of buying gifts for family and friends and having all our clothes soaking wet, we returned home base for a cooking lesson by Chef Sachin. We learned how to make a delicious Chai tea followed by lentil soup and chapati. Once the cooking class finished, we had a delicious dinner of what we had cooked. After dinner, we watched the most beloved Bollywood film, called ‘The Man With The Heart Wins The Bride’. It was a wonderful day!
Learning & Growing
Everyday here is filled with new experiences, new challenges, and always an opportunity to learn.
Today has been filled with all of those things, multiplied by ten. The day started off with a quick breakfast before we headed to our placements (day care center, arts & crafts camp, or sports camp). I work at one of the day care centers which is located 5 minutes away from our home base. Working with the children has been very rewarding. I specifically work with the children at the center who don’t know any English. With one of the goals being to teach English, the challenge is put on my partner and I to build their foundation. That can be very nerve-racking. However, I like the pressure it puts on me to always be on my ‘A’ game. What I love most about the children is their desire to learn. They come in everyday with this smile that is like none other, saying, “Good morning dee dee” (Dee dee- big sister) That is something I’m definitely going to miss.
After coming back from our placements we had the opportunity to learn and converse with a documentary film maker named Ronnie who showed us how to use media as a tool and talked about some misconceptions people have of India. What I enjoyed most was the fact that everyone contributed something to the discussion, which sometimes lead to a couple of debates.
Later, we had dinner at this amazing Tibetan restaurant called Common Ground. While we were there we saw two short documentary films that shared the lives of some Tibetan Refuges. The second documentary impacted me the most: A woman shares her vivid memories of her 27 years spent in a Tibetan prison. I could see the pain and sadness within her as she shared her story but also so much strength and resilience.
Another amazing day has come and gone, I’m excited for every new day filled with new experiences, new challenges, and the opportunity to learn & grow.
A Full Day
Leaders of the day: Wendy & Ben
Thursday July 10th 2014 at 6:30 in the morning,a girl and her roommates are rudely awakened by the alarm she set the night before on her cell phone. This girl would be me. As part of my responsibilities as leader of the day, I am required to wake everyone up in the morning (and occasionally chase a giant spider out of someone’s bedroom). This also means I am required to wake up before everyone else.
Thursday July 10th 2014 at 8:00 in the morning, we all meet up in the common room for breakfast. We ate family style (as we do all of our meals) and I couldn’t help but feel that this was extremely appropriate as family seemed to be the main topic of conversation throughout the meal. We’ve all already opens up to each other so much, I’m confident that we will be great friends by the end of this trip.
Thursday July 10th 2014 at 9:30 in the morning, we split up into our previously established groups and left for our first day at our placements. We were all so glad to meet the children for the first time (and also quite relieved to discover that they had a better understanding of English than we had initially thought).
Thursday July 10th 2014 at 1:00 in the afternoon, we all gather in the commons once again to eat lunch and share stories about the events of the morning and the children we are working with. The food (as always) was excellent.
Leader of the Day: Juliette
Wow. As much as I am going to find it difficult to put words to what I have seen I will try…
We get out the car. As we walk through the streets men stare. Soon I hear religious music like an echo through the temple entrance. Large and white. Honk of rickshaws bicycles, organised chaos and pungent smells. Arrive at temple. Shoes off. Walk in…
Breath taken away as I walk into another world- a world I’ve only heard or seen through the virtual medium of a screen. Golden temple and white columns all the way around a vast ‘pool of nectar -Amritsar. ‘GLA photo, gather round’ cried Priyanka one of our mentors. We smile and people gather round like we are a show. I feel self-conscious, watched. And then I think-this is a two way relationship. If we come here and are allowed to observe and absorb why aren’t they? We are just as foreign, both passive subjects of interest to the other party I feel like an intruder. But no. Respect, look, observe you are not an intruder. This place is open to everyone.
Up the stairs into the temple people praying, washing the stairs with their shawls, chanting. Breathing is harder I want to cry. The strength of the feeling of spirituality here is overwhelming. There is a contrast between the beauty and complexity of the temple and the simplicity of the people I see-eyes watery or closed. In prayer.
We climb down the stairs our ego goes down- explains our guide. God is within you don’t go expecting God to suddenly come upon you. Theories of science completely go out my head as my spiritual self overtakes the rational self.
The kitchens: women, children, babies, thin people, grown men, old men. Banging, clanging and clashing of metal plates thrown as hundreds of people are given food from oversized pots.
We leave in silence, beginning to process this amazing experience.
All students have arrived and are at the home base ready for an amazing program! One student is arriving late due to travel. Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!