Sharon here. So we’ve survived the first two weeks in India, though the same could not be said for our electronics. As of right now, I think the count stands at one computer, one camera, and one and a half cell phones down. Technological difficulties aside, the project is going pretty well so far.
The main components of our project are English and computer classes. We are living and teaching in Shantirani Bhavan, a convent in Orissa, India. The convent is beautiful, and comes with fantastic food and a kind atmosphere. Every morning, our students come to Shantirani at 8 AM (ooooor a little later, in some cases) and we begin English class. The students are sweet and eager to learn, and teach us as much as we teach them. I have to admit, teaching has been more challenging than I anticipated. First, English is truly a stupid language that doesn’t play by any of its own rules. Second, there is a wide range of English capability among our students; even when we split them up into two classes, it is difficult to design lesson plans that are engaging enough for the advanced students and basic enough for the beginners. Computer classes present the same problem, as well as the additional issue of high demand and low availability; it’s difficult to teach 40 students with 4 computers. Overall, however, I think all the project team members are happy with classes, and really believe that the students are benefitting from them. At the very least, students keep coming back- we must be doing something right!
In addition to classes, we are helping organize career planning and literacy events. It has been in trying to organize these that cultural differences have really come into play, and we’ve been surprised and challenged by a number of the interactions we’ve had. I’m sure, however, that our Indian colleagues feel the same way about many of our behaviors.
I’ve learned a little bit about each in a broad range of subjects the past two weeks. I’ve gotten to know my fellow volunteers a lot better, myself a lot better, the English language a little bit better, and Indian culture a tiny bit better, though still almost not at all. I’ve also gained a newfound appreciation for teachers and high-speed internet. I’m happy to be here, and happy with our progress so far, and I believe that the next few weeks will bring continued improvement and success. More to come!
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