When India Is More Rainy Than Oregon

This Oregonian has missed the rain. With Oregon having had such a dry year, the rain here in Ahmedabad has been comforting and familiar to me. But even years of Willamette Valley rainy days haven’t prepared me for India in the rainy season. It’s insane. The rain was coming down hard all day today, filling the streets and (at my school at least) the hallways. Of course, that didn’t stop me from enjoying every second of it! One of my favorite moments today was when a teacher, whom I don’t know, said she and someone else have been reading my blog and enjoying it. I guess it has spread around the school! It blows my mind that people who don’t know me personally are interested in what I have to say. Thank you so much.

Over the past few days I’ve developed a bit of a regular schedule here. I get to school around 7:40 and then join a class either with one of the student mentors or with Jinal, an amazing teacher who has been working with us. This is one of my favorite parts of the day — it almost feels like I’m a normal student. Except I don’t wear the uniform, am taller and blonder than everyone else, and leave for art class at 8:30. Today I joined the Psychology or “Psycho” class again. It’s such a fun environment! Everything is a conversation and they don’t move on until the whole class understands. I love it. Afterwards, it was time for pottery.

Photographic proof that I can actually find art fun sometimes
Photographic proof that I can actually find art fun sometimes

Believe it or not, I, Margaret Gleason, actually did and enjoyed art today. Yep, it’s true. I made a clay pot on the potter’s wheel and, if I do say so myself, it’s not half-bad! It might not come home with me though because it’s a bit heavy. The process was messy, and I broke the first pot I made, but I had a lot of fun! Our art teacher doesn’t speak English particularly well, but with the help of Tanmae, our student mentor extraordinaire, and descriptive hand gestures, we manage to understand each other.

My amazing Hindi teacher  feat. Abby focusing intensely.
My amazing Hindi teacher feat. Abby focusing intensely.

After art, we have our Hindi class. I’ve said it before, but I love this class so much. Today we reviewed the introductions that we’ve been working on and learned names of fruits and how to count to eight. By the time I leave, maybe I’ll be able to count to 20 and name vegetables! Pretty advanced stuff! But in all seriousness, I can’t wait for this class every morning. The teacher makes everything fun and it’s such a good feeling when I manage to understand a new phrase or make a new connection. When I get home everyone’s going to have to deal with lots of Hindi practice from me — I need to keep up my skills!

Hindi was followed by a geography class. It wasn’t a class for us, but rather we sat in on a normal Grade 11 class to experience typical Indian classroom. Of course I’ve done that every day since I arrive early, but it was interesting to see how a different teacher operates. The students were learning the location of major geographical features like rivers, mountain ranges, etc. It gave me intense flashbacks to Craig Wiebe’s freshman geo class and also made me realize that I retained maybe 55% of what I learned that year. I was still doing better than some of the other students though! I guess I did learn something. The most amazing thing about the class today was that the teacher was able to draw all of the continents, and place the geographical features, freehand and without a reference. It was incredible!

Guys, yoga is hard. We have a fantastic yogi who comes to teach us each day and I can only imagine how frustrating she finds our lack of ability. She doesn’t show it thought and is always very patient. I think I’m getting better though! Maybe. Her goal is for us to memorize two sitting poses, two standing poses, and two sleeping poses by the end of our stay. Since we do similar things in dance warmups at home, I’m feeling fairly confident. No promises I’ll do them correctly though!

At the end of our stay, all of the AFS students have to present something in a Cultural Learning Showcase. They also wanted us to do a group performance so Jimmy is teaching us a traditional Gujarati dance! We started learning it today and it has so much energy and movement! It’s quite a good workout. I’ll make sure to get a video of the performance and post it. Wish us luck!

The "terrible" canteen food
The “terrible” canteen food

After dance, it was time for lunch. Now, if you’ve ever had American school cafeteria food you know that it can reach obscene levels of disgusting. Indian students have told us on multiple occasions that there is no way it’s worse than their canteen food. They are wrong. While it’s definitely not great, it’s a whole lot better than what we get! To start with it’s actually prepared fresh at the school. I mostly included this part just to publicly announce that American school food beats Indian school food on the gross-o-meter. If you don’t believe me, come to the U.S. and you can try some. Then I’ll take you out for ice cream to apologize for what you experienced.

Our last class of the day was Indian vocal music. We had this on our first day as well, but it was more about different styles of Indian singing than actually learning any music. Today we started working on a raga and it’s so beautiful. The teacher sings wonderfully and she said that if I come back a few more times she’ll teach me the full song! It’s so nice of her to take the time and I can’t wait to learn from her. In exchange I’m showing her a video of my a cappella group. Connecting lives, sharing cultures, right AFS?

Gujarat is a dry state - no alcohol allowed. This is the closest thing I've seen to a bar and it's in the mall food court!
Gujarat is a dry state – no alcohol allowed. This is the closest thing I’ve seen to a bar and it’s in the mall food court!

Today’s activities were supposed to include a visit to a marketplace in the Old City and a temple, but because of the rain we went to the mall instead. I was sort of disappointed at first, but ended up having the best time! Several Indian students from school joined us and after doing a little shopping we went to the food court. We all sat around one table and it was like we’d known each other forever. I felt so at ease that it didn’t even seem like I was on the other side of the world with people I’d just met! It made me so happy to feel like I belong here. Even writing this I can’t stop smiling. Also the food was fantastic. Samosas are great.

After the mall we came back to the school and then headed home. Because of the rain, all of the windows fogged with humidity and we could barely see anything. Parts of the road were at least a foot underwater. It was crazy! But we made it home safe and sound! Since then I’ve been hanging out with Gaurvi and around 8:30 we had a delicious dinner. And now I’m writing this! Well, by the time you’re reading this I’ll probably be in bed.

As you can see, the rain didn’t mess up anything at all. Each day here is just as wonderful as the last and I couldn’t have wished for a better trip. Everyone told me India was magic and now I know what they meant. I’ve taken to carrying my journal with me to capture every moment and I filled over two pages just today! I’m so happy here. Sharing this experience with all of you makes it all the more special, so I hope you’re enjoying it too. Until next time, अलविदा!

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