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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Return to India!!!

In a couple of weeks we fly back to India & Nepal for Fall, 2010. Check the new blog for updates!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family Photo - Bangalore 07-08

I haven't been able to blog for many months, but India is still on our minds on a daily basis! We have "India nights" where we cook curries at home, eat with our hands, and play favorite CD's from Bangalore. Eliza is trying to learn some of the zany dance moves from her favorite Bollywood DVD, "Om Shanti Om." Rama came to the US to visit relatives in Philly, and "swung by" El Portal for a few wonderful days of visiting. I keep in touch with a few students and teachers in Bangalore via email and Skype, and would love to Skype more with my former wonderful students at KVMEG. If you are reading this my fine students of 7B 7C 9B & 9E, please do contact me via a comment on this blog!!!!

It takes time & is sometimes difficult to love India, but once you fall in love, India never leaves your heart!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I want to bring India home with me!

It's 4:00 am in El Portal. We're back home in California. Snow blankets the peaks around our canyon, and frost hovers in the darkness outside our windows. The wood stove burned well all night, so the living room is cozy and warm. We successfully located and unpacked the down comforters, but no one is snuggling in them at the moment.... Everyone is wide eyed and awake, prancing around our house with all the lights on... playing with toys, petting the cat, begging Mom to make pancakes at 4am. It's JetLag time! Yipppeeee!!!

After 3 long flights from India (Bangalore - Singapore - Korea - San Francisco), and 24 hours of travel time, we were greeted in SFO by both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins wearing party hats and playing drums and kazoos! Took the BART train to their homes for stories, some slides, great meals, and even a few late Christmas stockings and presents. The next morning the raging winter storms subsided, and we hauled our 7 fat heavy duffel bags onto the Amtrak train in Martinez. A switch to the Yosemite YARTS Bus in Merced brought us on our last leg of homeward travel.

As we rolled up the lovely Merced River Canyon, the kids were saying "it doesn't really seem like we've been gone. Did we really go to India?" We all know it to be true, but sometimes it does all seem like a dream! So we turned into El Portal, and there at the bus-stop was the Yosemite Marching Band banging out a raucous out-of-tune welcome song! It IS good to be home!

Lupin awoke crying at 2am, wailing "I want India to come to El Portal... I want India to come to El Portal..." She says "all the friends that I already met in India HAS to HAS to come to El Portal!" Now that we've been home for 2 days, she feels "just great. It is colder here in our house than at India. We had to put warm layers on, and be all cuddly all the time!" She is VERY excited to start pre-school tomorrow morning! She is currently banging on the piano, alternating between singing Happy Birthday, and Jana Mana Gana (India's national anthem).

The living room is cozy, but half buried in baggage, clothing, spices, and various other India chunks. It will take a while to put everything away, and get moved back into our home. We left California in August, during 100 degree temperatures, so all of our cold weather gear is safely packed away in the shed... or under the house... hmmm.... or somewhere! Our friends Sarah and Dan took wonderful care of the house, and fed Dandelion the cat LOTS of nourishing food! She is now a blimp! Karen's first thought was, "Wow... that cat looks like a tick!" ( know, all bulging and stretched out, with tiny head and feet sticking out sideways...) We'll have to put her on a strict exercise program! Cat aerobics will commence at 5am!

Eliza is sitting by the fire right now, writing letters to her friends in Bangalore. She wore her KVMEG school uniform to the first day of school yesterday, and plans to give a slideshow in a few days. She says, "it felt sort of funny being in my old school, because a lot of things felt so different. I didn't remember what to do sometimes, like I had to keep asking what to do. Dr. Sakols kept joking around with me all day. My friend Maya helped me with alot of things. At the end of the day we played volleyball. Overall it feels good to be back, but I really miss Bangalore and my friends there."

Sylvie jumped right back into her beloved K-1 class with Allison.... She is reading on the couch with Mommy right now, and time has just flown by. It's now 5am! Egads, should we start getting ready for school? I hope they don't all pass out with exhaustion at 7:45 when the bus comes!

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!

Christmas in Kerala

So many wonderful experiences.... No time to post right now, as we are furiously packing up for departure in 2 days! Egads! Hope to post photos and stories soon......

Friday, December 14, 2007

Belatedly Bogus Blogger

Ohhhh my.... It has been SO long since I've had time to write. And right now, there still isn't any time! Our life is so full, busy, rich, involved, wonderful and crazy, that trying to write it all down rarely happens. My personal journal has about 4 pages written in it since August! I have about 27 different topics that I'd LOVE to share online, both for YOU to read, and for our family to record for our own enjoyment and reflection.... Alas...

A few quick notes:
  • "half yearly" exams are over for Paul.... finally! It was 2 weeks of heaving grading every night... I felt like I was living in a cave! Nice to be back out in the light!
  • Just 3 weeks left in India, and SO much we'd still love to do
  • Chris and Joanna arrive in a week to visit for 10 days. We'll go to Kerala for Christmas...
  • Having a big Christmas Party on the Solstice (21st) for friends, neighbors, and faculty from Paul's school.
  • All 3 girls are starting to feel the pain of leaving... They'll be SO sad to leave India, but excited to see friends back home.
  • Karen got to do a 4 day retreat to a National Park up north (in Maharashtra?) with a bunch of fanatic wildlife enthusiasts. YES she saw a tiger!
  • Paul is stilll taking tabla lessons, and can actually make some reasonable sounds now.
  • Still eating as much amazing food as possible...
Hmmm.... I'm hungry... We have to get out of the house soon, swing by "corner dosa" for some tasty food, then off to a concert at our neighborhood performance hall. I'll try to blog more... someday!!!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Becoming a Birder!!!

Sunday the 25th of November is a day I will remember so fondly. Not simply because I got to continue to live out my birding fantasy and get to a new place to see many new birds and rekindle the romance with some of the ones that I have become familiar with. Not just because our whole family willingly awoke at 4:45 to catch the ride up to Nandi Hills – a birding hot spot about an hours drive north of Bangalore. Together with some of the finest birding company and just really cool people; Deepak, Deepa, Prashanth, Uma, we Amstii witnessed a gorgeous sunrise and stunning sunset as bookends to a full and gratifying day. And we did get the privilege of chasing several Asian Paradise Flycatchers of both genders and had pretty good views of them. But those gems of experience paled in comparison to the thrill of seeing our daughter Eliza, become a passionate birder that day.

I knew she was hopelessly hooked when faced with a surprise holiday yesterday, and of all the offerings of this area, she begged me to take her birding. Not shopping. Not out for a burger. Not even to her beloved horse riding school. She said, “Momma, can we go birding today? Pleeease!”

Now, I’d love to take some credit for igniting that spark in her, but really, I had nothing to do with it. None of us did. The real “magic wand,” the siren call, was from the incredible tail of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher himself! I saw the sparkle in her eye when we first began to chase him, hoping for a good look at those silky white feathers. Our friends hefted their giant lenses and took aim at his tail streamers waving in the autumn breeze as our bird effortlessly led us further and further into the forest. Beautiful bird for certain, but my eyes were glued to Eliza as she beamed with each clear sighting!

Finally at the end of the day, a perfect male Asian Paradise Flycatcher perched near enough that we all got to see. Many cameras aimed through the leaves attempting to capture the elusive being on film, and Eliza asked Paul if she might try to get a photograph. He chuckled as he told her that there was no way she would ever get the shot. Looking at the position of the bird in the tree and the dim light and everyone else’s photographic difficulties, I had to agree. Somehow Eliza did manage to convince Dad that she should at least try for the “impossible photo,” so he gave her the camera.

Holding so still and patiently waiting for the bird to hop onto the perfect branch, she snapped and snapped and snapped… and finally came away with a really great shot! Well, I think so. Take a look at that bird! Who wouldn’t get hooked on birding with a great sighting and a first ever “bird photo” like that! The sight of the glowing pride and joy on her little freckled face was the highlight of the day for me, her mom. My new birding companion is born! She is now saving her rupees for a camera and some good binoculars…beware of future lemonade sales!

Really it was a superb day for all of us! The morning was actually quite cold! Can you believe that my hands were numb as they tried to focus the binos and hold still enough to identify the tiny warblers! Prashanth was finding so many new birds to look at that we didn’t have time to complain or think about our temperature much! What a mad birder he is! How lucky we felt to be able to have his expertise to know every tiny avian speck and song by name as he tip-toed around the chilly forest all morning with us eagerly following watching for any movement in the trees all around. Uma and her beckoning smile aimed her eager camera often creating great opportunities for photo records while breaking only for onion puffs and raisin buns from our local bakery “Bun World” and a chance to play with the kids now and then. Deepak shared his adventures in just about everything there is from para-gliding to rock climbing and travel while birding and making sure none of us were too close to the cliff! Deepa, with her positive approach and amazing home made chocolate (the way to my heart…or what!!?), spotted birds and shared her playful spirit with all, making the kids feel so at home! These are the kind of days I will always treasure, along with the people that make them so.

-posted by KAREN!