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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's Hard to Leave India....

Eliza’s Thoughts: Today we went to school for the very last time, just for a visit. We walked all around the school to give presents to our main teachers. It felt really sad to say goodbye. We also brought Lupin with us, so everyone pinched her cheeks and said, “oh sooo sweet!” When I walked into my classroom for the last time, all the kids rushed up to me to shake my hand. They all told me to stay here, and cried “why are you leaving!” One friend named Shahi was sooo sad and shook my hand so many times.

When I said goodbye to my friends in El Portal, I didn’t feel so sad because I knew I’d see them again in a few months. But when I say goodbye here in Bangalore, it is much more sad, because I don’t think I’ll ever get to see them again. I hope that someday I’ll be able to come back to India, and visit my friends in Bangalore. It would be really cool if some of them someday could come to America. I would LOVE to show them around my house, and also around Yosemite.

When I left America, I thought I wasn’t going to like it in India. That’s how I felt at the start. But now I feel so sad to leave India, but I know I’ll always have a place for India in my heart. It was especially hard today, because we ate dinner with Sweetie’s family at her house. I asked my Mom if this was the very last time I would see Sweetie. Saying goodbye for the last time was super sad… When we got in the rickshaw and just drove away in the dark night, I just felt empty... She was my best friend in India. I felt like we had to leave too quickly, and I didn’t get to say goodbye for as long as I wanted. I really wanted to play longer, and stay later, even though it was a school night for Sweetie. I hope that I’ll be able to keep in touch, and that someday she can come to America.

I also hope that someday my El Portal friends can come to India with me, and I can show them around Bangalore.

This exchange was really hard at first, and I was so shy and sad to start school here. There were sooo many other kids, almost 2,400 of them… But now I’ve gone to school for more than four months, and have made really good friends. I know so many people here in India now.

I just can’t believe it is over already. I thought the time would go by sooo slow, but actually it went by much too fast. Now I wish we stayed here for at least one or 2 more months. Not a whole year more, but I really want to stay longer. But I also want to go home. It feels like I should be in both India and America. But I can’t be in both places at once, and we can’t afford enough plane tickets to visit every year.

When we first got here, I wished I was magic so I could make time go by faster. Now I wish I hadn’t wished that. Now I wish I could make time go slower… At first I thought going to school here would be like torture, but now I know that it has been really great.

Dad talked about maybe someday teaching again at an International School in India, but I think I’d rather go to a local school so we’d have a better experience making Indian friends. At first I felt like I wanted to do home-schooling, because I was too shy to survive at KVMEG. But now I am happy and also proud of myself for going to such a big school, and making the best out of going there.

Today, all the teachers invited us to dinner at their houses. We only have 2 more nights in India, so we couldn’t say Yes to everyone and go to 20 different teachers houses. I wish we had 20 more nights here, so we could have dinner at all of their houses. In India everyone is so friendly, and they always are inviting us over for tea or snacks or dinner.

I’ve loved my time here in India. I hope I can come back someday. When I go home I am looking forward to telling stories, giving out gifts, and sharing dances and songs from India. This has been one of the biggest things in my life…. So far!

Sylvie says: I didn't think it would be so hard to say goodbye. I didn't think I'd cry so much to leave India. I know I'll be happy to be home, but I feel so sad to go home... It's like now I have two homes..... Daddy? I'm soooo tired.... Can I just go to sleep now?

Lupin’s feelings: I feel sad to go away. I will miss Sindu and Vimala, Sweetie, Supriya, Aninya, Uma, and all my favorite friends here. I will miss you soooo much! I will miss the playpark right next to Sankey Tank (lake). It has the flying merry-go-round, and the elephant slide that’s made out of slipperiest granite.

In India I love that I can walk to Sankey Tank easily, and see the Ganesha statues. I even liked all the food, even the sometimes spicy ones… but not all the spicy things. I love sambar and rasam the best. And plain rice and sweet Dal Makhani.

I’ll miss my teachers at Kidzee preschool, and I’ll miss Angeline and all my different friends. I am sad to not see the bunny rabbits and all the things that I made at Kidzee. I will miss every single thing.

I will really think my friends here will miss me too, but I think my friends at El Portal will be happy to see me.

For Christmas Gramma and Babu gave us some money to help endangered species, or other good things to help. Also Chris and Joanna gave us money to give away. I will give my money to places that can help to have good clean water and food for poor and hungry people, and help wildlife too.

India has been so fun for me. I love India.

Daddy’s turn… (just a few of the flood of thoughts and emotions) Wow… How can I add to what my sweet daughters have expressed? Their feelings are so simple, pure, and clear. In comparison, I feel a bit muddy and overwhelmed with this powerful, enlightening, and intense experience.

Saying goodbye to students, teachers and friends has been more difficult than I imagined it would be. I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection & appreciation showered on my at KVMEG. My last few days at school were filled with presentations, speeches, parties, cake-cutting…

Many classes organized holiday parties, inviting me and other teachers as “guests of honor.” Rooms were decorated and usually a ceremonial ribbon cutting took place before anyone could enter the classroom. Some of my students prepared elaborate dances and musical presentations for the farewell. Others had decorated with streamers, balloons, and colorful paper shreds hidden on top of the ceiling fan blades…. Turn them on for the shower of confetti!

One class had an hour-long variety show, complete with narration, dance numbers, a magic show with card tricks, cake cutting ceremony, snacks, drinks, and music between each event… (As there was no outlet, the extension cord ran outside the room, and down the hall, so periodically other students tripped on it and we lost power!) As time was so limited, I had to tear myself away from each party too soon. I wish I could have honored each group with more time, but there was usually a crowd banging on the door to pull me away to the next classroom.

The last few days were filled with thousands of handshakes, hugs and high-fives… “Best wishes sir!” “I wish you a safe journey home!” “Happy Christmas and New Year Sir!” “We will miss you Mr. Paul Sir!” “Oh please never forget us!”

Walking down the hall was a challenge, with students crowding around for yet another handshake, or an autograph. Once one kid pulled out a notebook for me to sign, others would beg for me to sign my name on their hands, arms, or daypacks.

I was almost buried in sweet heartfelt cards, flowers, mementos, and gifts. A teacher warned me in advance, “Mr. Paul, you’d better bring a few big bags tomorrow. I think the students will be giving you a few presents!”

After one class party (complete with gentle cake feeding to the teachers, and then students smearing frosting on each other’s faces), a guitar was passed around for some singing. I sang a few for them, and then one student brought the class to tears with her beautiful song… I asked for the translation…. “Never say goodbye”

I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with such wonderful teachers and administrators. I feel blessed to have spent this time with these sweet students, and am humbled by their outpouring of affection for me.

All along I’ve felt that I was doing a pretty good job with my teaching here in Bangalore. Of course, there were many challenges & difficulties, and I sometimes felt trapped within a educational system that didn’t allow me to teach the way I’d like. Still, I worked hard with limited resources, made the best of each day, and hoped that my teaching style was beneficial and effective for my students. After these last few days, and the flood of appreciation from everyone here, I feel confident that I have indeed made a positive impact on many lives here in India….

Did my students learn mathematics better or easier under my guidance? Will they excel on the next round of exams? Who knows…. But that is not necessarily the goal of the Fulbright Exchange. The primary purpose is to “promote understanding among people of the US and other nations.” It’s not an academic consulting program to change or improve other nation’s education policies, but a cultural exchange program to promote mutual understanding. It goes both ways, and all of us involved are both students and teachers. On that level, I feel that my exchange has been wonderfully successful. Everyone involved, from the students and teachers, to the gardening staff and daily rickshaw driver, to neighbors and shopkeepers we’ve befriended, and each member of my own family, has been touched in so many positive ways from every interaction and experience here in India. I look forward to expanding the impact when I return home through slide shows, articles, and daily interactions with friends and colleagues.

I hope that the Fulbright program continues to flourish and grow. It is one of the most positive and successful foreign policy investments that our country makes each year. Numerically its impact might seem small, but in each exchange location, both at home and abroad, the positive effects are immense. What if someday we were asked to support a “surge” of tens of thousands of additional exchange teachers, fanning out across the globe, winning the hearts and minds of people through math, science, English literature, poetry and song… Now that would be a policy I would believe in!


Robins Tomar said...

I am delighted to read your post. This is really a heart touching departure, I can feel the emotions you and family might have had while leaving from India.
Hope you guys will start your normal routines in USA, and will continue to have all these soft memories in your heart, forever.

Karen & Paul Amstutz said...

Thanks for the comment Robins! After one week back in the US, we are adjusting to the time and pace. We'll always carry India in our hearts! Now if only I could find a source for dosa and idli flour!

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