February 10-25, 2012

Day 13

Time in India has really flown by, yet the group seems so used to everything that goes on here. No longer do you hear complaints of burning mouths at dinner, nobody cares that the showers aren’t hot, and everyone is calm riding on autos that swerve into oncoming traffic.  After a late start this morning, we headed to our respective schools. We had some trouble getting autos to the bus stop nearest to our school, but after some haggling Beline snatched up two vehicles and we were off to meet the energetic kids of nursery through the interested students of 10th class. At Dolphin high school, Matthew, Jasmine, Tsedey, and Laura were asked to sing the American National Anthem for the younger students, and Matthew serenaded them with the most enthusiastic voice. After teaching classes about basic computer functions, the groups met up at a local restaurant for lunch and had great fresh food and Slice mango juice.

Once our final day of teaching was over, we headed back to the arts and crafts center in HITEC City to spend the rest of our rupees. The shopping venture was very successful, with many people emptying their wallets. We soon arrived back at home and got ready for our last dinner. All the Idex fellows that we worked with showed up and ate with us. It was a glorious dinner to end the trip with, ending with goodbyes to our new friends. After dinner it was time to head home and pack. I want to thank Barb so much for working so hard to make this trip happen, Wyatt, and Beline for being awesome chaperones, the whole Idex crew for working with us and hosting us, and everyone who signed up for this trip, who were all great to get to know and were awesome on this trip.

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Day 11

Today was very similar to Tuesday; we awoke late to a scrumptious breakfast prepared by Barb, then split into two groups and headed out to our respective schools. The group that went to Nikki's school had a nice, relaxing day. Because we had taught many of the classes on Tuesday, there were fewer kids to teach today, and therefore the vibe was decidedly more relaxed. After some typing lessons, many of the kids started playing with our cameras, with Mahie and Shewit being specific facets of their attention. Erik was not feeling very well, so he took a nap on one of the narrowest benches I have ever seen. The group at Will's school had a more hectic day, with many kids asking for autographs and contact information. The kids in particular loved the art Judy made in Paintbrush.

After the school day was over at 3pm, the two groups met up again for a journey by bus to downtown Hyderabad. We all climbed onto an old, rickety bus, where we were confined for an hour and a half. Finally stepping off the bus at almost 5, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, enjoying fresh air and ample leg room once again. We took this opportunity to go into the towers of Charminar (a very large mosque), and take in the view. Under the early evening sun, the panorama before us was breathtaking. From that point above the city, it was very apparent just how dense and crowded the area really is. After the towers closed, we wandered around the market, snatching up deals on bangles and scarves. Once our thirst for shopping was quenched, we got back on a bus for the very long ride back to Secunderabad. After a nice meal, we arrived back at the house around 11pm. The girls listened to music and talked while the guys played FIFA and darts. Climbing into bed tonight, it is hard to think that we only have two more days left in this amazing country.

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Day 10

Our tenth day began in the same way as all others since we arrived at the IDEX house, by eating another delicious breakfast cooked by Barb. We split into two groups to start our week, having enjoyed our uneventful weekend.  We then departed the house, late as usual, having prepared ourselves for what we expected to be another long day of teaching. One group traveled to Will’s school while the other went to Nikki's. When we arrived at Will’s school the first group split into two smaller groups, with Chris, Nigel, Jackson, and Judy walking to Faisal's school. They were warmly greeted by his school master’s epic stache and more plastic cups full of Sprite. Problems arose when Jackson began to have the tummy rumbles, prompting him to head home early. The rest of the group soon followed, curtailing their Tipp 10 session with the eager students. Over at Nikki’s school, the group was greeted by a female school master, a rare sight in Hyderabad. The groups at Nikki and Will's schools had much more successful teaching sessions, and headed home at the usual time of 2 o'clock. Once everyone had arrived at the house, several students and one of the chaperones began a poker game to follow up on the epic game of the previous day. The game was soon joined by several IDEX fellows, and not surprisingly, the resident gambler of the chaperones quickly accumulated a plethora of betting cheerios in his mug. The game ended up lasting for almost 7 hours, ending with both players going all in on a blind hand. Needless to say, the losing party was not too happy with the result. The girls (probably) checked their Facebooks and talked about boys. Much Imodium and z-pac were consumed before bedtime in an effort to do away with the various health concerns that had arisen, and the group as a whole turned in for a well needed night’s rest.

- Nigel

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Day 9

Today was a holiday here in India - schools were closed, many businesses had shorter hours of operation, and government offices were for the most part closed. What did this mean for us? We were much... less active than usual today. This 3-day weekend has been a much-needed break from the long, tiring days of teaching that we had last week. Today the group lounged about the house, as some took small excursions to nearby locales. The boys (as usual) woke up late, then went out to a barber shop down the street. Chris and Matthew got quality haircuts for 70 rupees a piece (approx. $1.40), while the rest of the group got hot shaves. It was excellent. Many of the girls took this day as an opportunity to go shopping, visiting some nearby bazaars and Fab India, the local equivalent of Forever 21 or American Eagle. Others stayed behind, tanning on the roof (it was 93 degrees and sunny today) or catching up on homework. The boys started a game of high-stakes poker, with Jackson cleaning up as the ultimate victor. The girls cooked pasta for dinner, as we enjoyed our first home-cooked meal; it was a welcome change from biryani rice and naan. Tomorrow we will resume work, going to teach at schools and work with computers. I can't believe that we are already in our second week - this has been an amazing experience, and time is flying by at an unbelievable rate.

- Erik

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Day 8

Sleeping in sure feels good here! Although the ground had become our bed, everyone seemed to wake up feeling great. It is Sunday today, and schools are closed, so we got another free day full of R&R. Barb cooked up some delicious scrambled eggs with onions and peppers, which tasted amazing after a few days of having candy and Chocos (Indian cereal that is a knock-off of cocoa puffs) for breakfast. After relaxing around our new home and showering under heated and pressured water, we took off to HITEC City to hang out. Here we went to an arts and crafts market that was great for shopping. At last the boys found a shop where they could buy clothing for themselves! Everyone walked out of the market with something new (some maybe had too much new stuff... *cough* Mia *cough*) and some were starting to run low on rupees.

Satisfied with our new purchases we headed off to a nearby hotel to cool off in a pool. After sweating in the hot sun a swim really hit the spot. The weather here has been getting a little hotter every day, and the forecast for the rest of the week continues to show this trend. After hanging out for awhile in our first tourist location, it was time to leave for dinner. We headed back to Secunderabad to visit one of the IDEX fellows' favorite restaurants. It was delicious, with some of the best biryani rice yet. With incredibly full stomachs we went back to the apartment to hang out and get ready for sleep; what a relaxing day!

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Day 7

Today was very relaxing. It was the first day that we didn’t visit a school, so everyone slept in past 10:00. When we finally did get up, we slowly packed our clothes as this would be our last day at the hostel. After we ate some late breakfast we went to a nearby bus stop to head to Charminar, one of India’s largest mosques, which is surrounded by a huge market. However, we learned firsthand how unreliable the bus service is here. After an hour of waiting in the heat we finally hopped on the long bus ride to Charminar. Once we arrived we shopped around the crowded market. With fruit stands on one side of the street and a plethora of bangle merchants on the other, we had many things to do with our limited time. Some people shopped for saris and pearls while others shopped for sandals and incense. We all met up at an American-style coffee shop to compare our hauls from the day.

Done with shopping, we began our journey to the IDEX house, where we will be spending the second week here in India. We made our way back to the hostel, packed up all of our luggage onto a charter bus, and headed for the IDEX house. Located in Secunderbad (just North of Hyderabad), the house was a major upgrade from our old abode. After a wonderful dinner, we all settled in, enjoying such luxuries as hot showers, Wi-Fi, and even an Xbox with Fifa 12. The 7 IDEX fellows who live here are all great people, who I can’t wait to get to know better over the course of this week.

-Matthew & Erik

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Day 6

Today we attempted to get an early start, but due to sleepy kids and late buses we didn’t arrive at the schools until 10 o’clock. Everyone continued teaching at the same schools as yesterday. Some worked on internet use, some on typing and others just spent valuable time bonding with kids. One of the two schools closed early at 12:30, and they gave a wonderful presentation to display some skills and show their appreciation for our work.

After many thank-yous and goodbyes, we departed to join up at the other school. Once everyone was together, the boys were taught an extremely entertaining game called Kabbadi. This game involved chanting “kabbadi” over and over while trying not to be caught by the other team; it was a blast! (It’s a bit more complicated than this, if you are interested, look it up! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabaddi ). While the boys played this rather violent game, the girls learned a type of traditional stick dance. It sounded very difficult, but by the end they were all experts. After a few rounds of cricket, Nigel and one of the teachers compared dance moves, calling it “the crazy dance of Hyderabad”.

Exhausted from all the teaching and fun, we passed up the opportunity to nap to visit a small theme park by the Buddha statue in Hyderabad’s lake. Here we hopped on a ride or two and hung out on the grass. Soon some locals started a game of Kabbadi on the grass field and the boys gladly jumped in. After the game ended, everyone was ready to crash. We headed back to the hostel, ordered some food, and hit the hay.

-Matthew

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Day 5

As usual, the boys all slept in the longest, staying at the hostel while others ate a good Indian breakfast. Soon the IDEX fellows arrived, one with a new and ridiculously awesome moustache (some girls begged to differ. They said he looked like a pedophile.) Now split into two new groups, we traveled to two new schools. My group caught a rickety bus that squeezed its way through the outer Golconda Fort walls. We arrived a little late at our all Muslim school, but were nonetheless greeted by a delicious lunch. The school master brought plate after plate of delicious biryani rice, insisting that we continued to eat. With stomachs ready to burst we prepared lessons for the kids.

Most of the kids had been exposed to Microsoft Word and Power Point but beyond that, no exposure to the internet.  We started by teaching how to navigate through Google and Wikipedia and then ended lessons with some Nobel Prize Education and Free Rice.com games. The kids were quick to figure their way around the internet, their skills drastically improved by the end of the lesson. By 4:30 when we finished teaching, we were incredibly worn out. Much respect was gained for how difficult it is to teach, but also how incredibly rewarding it could be.

After the groups had reunited, we visited a beautiful baobab tree that was only a ten minutes walk from the school. Led by kids from the school, much more valuable time was spent bonding with kids. Standing next to the massive tree, we had a small dance party to a Justin Bieber song, played from one of the child’s phones.  Kids from every school were always elated if they could convince us to sing or dance for them. Next we visited the beautiful Golconda Fort, led by a quick paced and enthusiastic guide. After viewing a light show in the fort accompanied by its history played over loud speakers, we made our way to a delicious veggie dinner. The food there was delicious and surprisingly not too spicy, by this point everyone was ready for bed. Everyone returned safely on autos, but we would not slip into dreamland until we battled and defeated our first centipede and cockroach. The girls were a little unsettled… Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

-Matthew

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Day 4

Breaking off into the same groups as the day before, we sped away on autos to our respective schools. Erik had stayed up late the night before installing Tipp10, a typing program, and a program similar to Microsoft Paint onto all of the computers. When we got to the schools, each of us took one laptop and paired up with two kids to begin teaching. Many of the kids had never typed before, but they were very quick to learn. Some students, who understood English better, would help teach those who struggled understanding us. It was hard to keep the kids’ hands on the keyboard in proper position as they could type faster using a hunt and peck method. However, after a quick demonstration of how quickly I could type a sentence, they were convinced that using all ten figures was much faster.

After we finished teaching, we took off for a delicious lunch. The food was amazing but one dish of purple-colored chicken was the spiciest thing we had had yet! With burnt mouths, our travels took us to a large exhibition fair, with many stands to purchase goods, and some sketchy amusement rides. My group of four was the only one to hop on the large, fast, rickety Ferris wheel. It was pretty terrifying. We continued walking around the giant fair, buying stuff for ourselves and gifts for others. Jackson cleverly traded the fake watch that he had bought at Charminar for three scarves that were all more expensive than the watch, by convincing the merchant that the watch was from America. I believe this will be the only time that a store owner gets the bad end of a deal from one of us. Too tired to go out for food, we ordered take out and all quickly got ready to sleep.

-Matthew

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Day 3

The group awoke again to the varying sounds of a Hyderabad morning, i.e. barking dogs, various clangings and car horns. While some munched on the last of the Reese’s Puffs and Pop-Tarts, many decided a traditional Indian breakfast was in order. The breakfast was surprisingly almost free of spice. We ate Dota, deep-fried unsweetened donuts, Vata, cone shaped sour-dough crepes, and more chai, which we now know will finish almost every meal. After a short conference about the previous day and to plan for the current we split into two groups and sped off to two different schools in different parts of town. The school I traveled to was a private school for lower-income students. The principal was very happy to have us there, and did not hesitate to make us feel at home. Cups of steaming chai were shoved into our hands within minutes of entry. There was a photographer on hand to record every moment of our time at the school. Apparently, we will be featured in the school's advertising campaign for the coming year (having foreigners come to school is a big deal). Our time today was spent mingling with the children, and discussing their favorite subjects, hobbies, etc. After a while, we set up laptops, and spent some time teaching the kids. The children were very receptive to our teaching, and enjoyed spending time with computers very much.

Leaving school in the mid-afternoon, we caught a local bus, then transferred to rickshaws as we made our way across town. We rendezvoused with the other team at a restaurant, where we had (in my opinion) the best meal so far on this trip. The waiters brought out endless platters of Kabobs and Naan, which were a welcome change from the curry and rice we have grown so accustomed to. After lunch, we hiked up a hill to the White Temple, one of Hyderabad's most notable monuments. After removing our shoes and going through a security checkpoint, we climbed dozens of white marble stairs on our way to one of the most amazing views I have seen. The Temple is situated on top of Hyderabad's largest hill, and offers a sweeping 360 degree view of the city. The unending urban sprawl was beautiful in the light of the slowly setting sun. The Temple is an amazing work of art in itself; entirely composed of white marble, the designs on the walls were intricate and stunning. The whole place had a feel of tranquility to it. We spent a half hour lingering on the marble railings, gazing upon the city below us. We received a blessing from the priest before we left, and began our journey back to the hostel. Exhausted from another long day, we all collapsed gratefully into our bunks, looking forward to another day in India.

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Day 2

Today we woke up and had a shower, now known as a "bucket party". Pop-tarts were on the menu for breakfast. While half of the group went to the bank and store, a few stayed and were pleasantly surprised by a monkey turf war in the street just outside. Apparently seeing monkeys is quite rare in Hyderabad, according to Barb’s daughter Nikki. After the group came back, we walked up to the main street to catch a bus to the old city. The buses here are still segregated by gender—women in the front and men in the back. The girls got to pose with some really cute kids and there were smiles all around especially from the little girl who scored a Kit-Kat from Mahie. From the bus stop, we all crowded on a fleet of autos. When we arrived at the school, we were greeted by the principal and his wife who were known strictly as sir and ma’am . They told us a little about their school; most of the kids spoke at least four languages by the time they were six, it was a Muslim school, and they had a champion cricket team. We walked through the school drinking Sprite out of plastic cups. Every time we poked our head into a classroom we were greeted by grins and enthusiastic waves from the children. We eventually got split up into groups of boys and girls. The boys went off to participate in a prayer and then get their butts kicked in a game of cricket. The girls went into the girls school to meet with other girls who were around our age. We went from class to class and sang songs with them  and taught them how to play hand games like slide.  Then we sat down and they gave us all henna! It was so much fun to talk to them about their lives and learn how to do henna. After we were done we said ‘shakria’ and walked back over to the boys school to meet up with the other half of our group. We all walked to a restaurant a few blocks away and had a meal consisting of chicken biriyani and dal (as the vegetarian option.) The chai here has taken a little bit of getting used to—very different from American chai but still delicious. After dinner we took autos to Charminar to look at the mosque and walk through the bazaar. . We arrived home after a long, cramped auto ride and collapsed, exhausted in our bunks ready for a solid night of Z-catching. –Laura

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Day 1

Wow, the first day here felt incredibly long. We arrived at the airport at about 4:00 Sunday morning. Here we were greeted by our first car ride into Hyderabad; as expected, it was nuts. Swerving between lanes, honking horns, we sped towards the city while an automated voice repeatedly told the taxi driver to “Please slow down, you are breaking the speed limit.” With the windows down, we took in the distinct scents of the city, some sweet others pungent. The dirty streets got busier as the sun rose, now covered with auto-rickshaws and motorcycles. Once we arrived at our hostel, everyone ran inside to pick out a bunk and set their bags down. In a state of curiosity and culture-shock, the team went on a walk around the neighborhood—our eyes taking in the first elements of the Indian experience. Exhausted and jet-lagged, we shortly returned to the hostel, and all collapsed into our bunks for a mid-day nap.

Everyone awoke in a drowsy state and prepared for our first Indian meal. We sat down to let Barbara struggle with the task of ordering for 15 teenagers. Soon the waiters whisked out platters with buttered chicken, chickpeas, palaak paner, garlic naan, and biryani rice. The gratuitously spiced Indian cuisine was delicious, although we all felt that we could breathe fire after we were done.  After lunch we made a quick trip back to the hostel and got ready to go to the mall; so began our first ride in the auto-rickshaws. Squeezing between motorcycles, buses, and hundreds of other autos was at first stressful, then entertaining. Full to the brim with six people (or so we thought, we later saw autos carrying up to nine…) we weaved through crazy traffic, sometimes only inches away from other vehicles. The mall was a hit with the girls, many leaving with bags in each hand. The boys left empty-handed, but with stomachs full of McDonald's soft serve. Next we walked to see a bollywood film at a nearby theater. The film was interesting, but nobody understood the plot (it was all in Hindi with no subtitles) and our row, still very jet-lagged, quickly succumbed to exhaustion - we were all asleep within half an hour. We left the film early and went back to the hostel. Never had a cold bucket of water felt so good to wash with.  - Matthew (with a little editing by Erik)

The first things I noticed were the looks.  India is not nearly as diverse as Seattle, and almost every person who notices us will stop what they are doing and stare.  The strangeness is fed with the ridiculous amount of people.  I have never seen this many people or a city this crowded. I have been to New York, Boston, and Chicago, none compare to the mass of people who swarm this city on their motorcycles, cars, and in their street stands.  Now imagine all those eyes looking at you.  At first, I thought that it meant that we were unwelcome.  As it turns out, these looks are simply out of curiosity as Indians in Hyderabad do not meet many foreigners. -Jackson

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