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How wonderful it is that nobody wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

Sunday, July 9, 2017, is the day a group of five women (Devra, Linda, Lisa, Greta, and Venisha) from various parts of the United States came together in a guest house in Chennai, India to begin their plans to improve the world. After a delicious breakfast, Stephen, the country manager, explained the mission of Global Volunteers, led the group in an ice-breaker, and helped us establish our group goals. We divided the goals into five categories: To hang with cool people (build community), to help others, to experience India, and to gain perspective. To establish these categories, each volunteer wrote the top three reasons or goals for coming to India, and when we shared them, we grouped them together--amazingly so many of our goals were similar. We also established our expectations for our group norms. These ranged from acceptance and patience to flexibility and humor. Afterward, Stephen shared cultural norms and any laws to be aware of while in India. We learned that women should have covered shoulders and knees. Through observation today, we noticed that showing the midriff is acceptable. Personally, I think my midriff is more risqué than shoulders and knees but so go those cultural differences. We also learned that we shouldn't buy alcohol because the places to buy alcohol are sketchy for women. Stephen offered to buy it for us if we needed it. So far no one has needed it. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we still feel we don't need it. We also learned some key Tamil phrases like, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

We talked about the schedule and our projects for the week. Our jobs will be to teach conversational English in grades K-1 and grades 4-5 for the morning session. For this session, we'll be going into two different schools. After this first session, we will return to the guest house for lunch. After lunch, a group of university level students studying catering will stop at the house for English lessons for their professions. For so many Indians the ability to speak English is necessary to secure a reliable trade in a land with so many languages and a substantial global economy. Our third session will be focused on informal, conversational English at a church nearby. Any neighborhood kids can stop by and play English games and try out their language skills. Finally, we spent some time talking about free time activities and our weekend plans. Our group decided on saree shopping today, visiting the big flower, fruit, and vegetable market, seeing a couple of churches, and visiting an orphanage. For the weekend we are thinking about a visit to a neighboring city and an overnight stay in an air-conditioned hotel with real showers.

This orientation was productive and a great way for us to get to know one another.

The afternoon was a blast. Global Volunteers sponsors students from the orphanage to go to university. Several of those students stopped by to practice their English and talk about their experiences. This was extra fun for Linda as she was here last year and knows many of the students. One of the drop-ins was a man who has finished college and now works in his profession. One of the female college students traveled two hours to the guest house and had to travel two hours home.
After we had finished with the conversational English practice, Sheba, Stephen’s wife took us shopping for Sarees.We also stopped off at the grocery store for refreshments and snacks. I chose the quality and hygienic ones and decided to pass on the chicken lollipops.


Our dinner tonight was at an Indian restaurant. The meal was delicious. My favorite was the garlic Naan bread and the Tandoori chicken. After the meal, we got caught in a monsoon rain storm with crazing lightning and thunder. We tried to walk back to the guest house as quickly as we could without getting hit by motorcycles and open taxis. Luckily we all made it home safely.

At the guest house, after hanging our wet clothes to dry, Devra, Greta, and I talked through our lesson for tomorrow with our 4th and 5th graders. We also thought about what we would like the whole week to look like. Devra is a nurse in Dallas, and Greta is a science teacher in Milwaukee. I have my ten years of ESL experience, so our plans took all of our strengths into account. We've decided to focus on body parts, hygiene and health, and introductions. Our week will be full of songs and lots of English speaking.

Linda and Lisa are dealing with jet lag after just arriving last night super late. They did an amazing job of powering through the day like champions. Devra, Greta, and I arrived the night before so we have had more time to adjust. While I have been in Egypt for a week, and Greta in Abu Dhabi for a day before India, there is still a time change for us. It's late now (11:30 PM), and I am finishing up the daily journal that we are required write and share at the beginning of each new day.

All in all, it was a fabulous day full of laughs, reflection, conversation, and new friends.

And so the journey begins to improve the world with kindness and English conversation.

Posted by venisha 11:41 Archived in India

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