SUNDAY (16.7.17) Today marks 290 days left in India before my end of stay orientation. I slept in until 8am and then got ready for the day. My host father taught me some about Indian politics but I doubt I will remember any names because I am horrible with names especially when they are not American. Then I went to feed the cows again. One of them was not a gentle eater and her huge tongue came out across my entire hand. It was quite the experience. Right before I left, one of the cows pushed me out of the way because I guess it wanted me to leave haha! I also visited the temple which was right across the street from the cows. I just visited for a few minutes, but whenever I get the opportunity to do anything here, I always say yes because even if I do not enjoy it, my time in India is limited. Looking back to my time here, I know I will regret any opportunity I say no to.
MONDAY-FRIDAY (17.7.17-21.7.17): This week, I started my third week of school. I hope to get my uniform and textbooks soon! Monday marked 25 days from my home town of Corning! I cannot believe it’s already been that long! This post will talk all about my school life. I will describe an average day because my schedule differs slightly day to day. On schooldays which are the typical Monday-Friday, I wake up at 5:30am and get ready by 6am. Then, I help with chores like putting away the dishes and filling waterbottles to chill (I took the filtered tap water in the US for granted looking back) and then I fill 2 waterbottles, one for me and one for Monisha, my host sister, to take to school. I usually have a banana or apple along with some rusk (a dry bread) for breakfast along with a glass of water. We are supposed to leave for school by 7:15 but we rarely get out of the house before 7:20. I have been late to school 3 times already because either my host siblings are running late or the driver is. To get to school, my host siblings and I go in a van with a driver who my host family hires. I enjoy looking out the window and watching the already super busy Gurgaon in the morning. I am jostled fully awake by the many, many speed breakers on the road and the potholes that accompany some of them. I am supposed to get to school by 7:40 for a 7:45 assembly but I usually get there at 7:45-7:50. I then join the rest of the crowd at morning assembly which is in a courtyard type area in the middle of the school but still outdoors. There is a stage in the front where people go to make announcements and performances. I have already had the pleasure of making a statement to the school just about who I am and why I am in India for a year etc. Every morning, we sing the national anthem which I cannot sing because I do not know the language or the lyrics haha. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will be able to know the words and their meaning. After the anthem, a few students beat very big drums (dont know their technical names) to a beat much like I would imagine the army beat is for marching (left, left, left right left). We file out in a “line” and go to our classes. My class is XI-H. In India, the teachers move classes and the studetns generally do not. Since my schedule is slightly different everyday, I will just go over the classes I am taking. There are 9 periods, periods 0-8 with a break between 3 and 4. The first class I will talk about is Hindi. This is one of my required classes, and for good reason. Most of the people speak in Hindi unless being asked a question in English or participating in class which is talk largely in English. In Hindi, I am currently learning the alphabet and how to join letters to make simple words and then how to read the words. In my other spoken hindi course, I have learned how to introduce myself and respond to “how are you” or “aap kaise hai?”. The next class is English. English is pretty easy since it’s my native tongue but the setup for education is still different here. You really have to know every little detail of the text. For example, what happened on such and such a date in this story? It just requires deeper reading than what I am used to. In my classroom, I have been designated as the English monitor or the person who reminds my classmates to speak in English haha. In Economics, I have some catching up to do with Indian history of economic systems before and after independence. After Economics, the last of my required classes, or classes which I need to graduate in the US, is Physical Education. To be completely honest, I definitely took PE for granted in the US. Everyone always complains how you have to go to class and change into different clothes, but I prefer that to the in-class sessions in India where you actually go into depth in each unit. For example, I just recently took a PE UT (Unit Test) on Monday, and I scored a 18.5/20 on it. That was after studying the most I had ever studied in my life for PE! But, not to worry, I just need to pass in order to get credit back in the US and my grades will transfer as pass/fail so I am not going to spend my entire time in India studying and worrying about grades. The other half of gym is outdoors but I have not participated in one of those classes yet because the grounds were occupied by a football (soccer) match. I am also being tested in one other class which is Fine Arts which is basically regular art class with drawing and painting. I am currently finishing up a still life drawing of a vase and a pot which turned out well in my opinion. I have a UT for this class on July 31 which I am not excited for because as per the Indian way of knowing every little detail, I have to know the who, what, when, where, why and hows of 6 different sculptures and be prepared to answer any question about them. It is definitely more challenging than art in the US. Aside from these 5 classes which I must take tests for, I also have a few periods a week of dance, piano, and sculpture. I am learning traditional dance and I am not very good but if I can learn one dance through to the end, I will be pleased with myself. In piano, I am learning the Indian style of playing which is all played with the right hand and no sheet music. To add to that, the notes are not even labeled as “A,B,C...G” but with other letters which is a little confusing. I have really enjoyed learning a new way of piano that I had no idea existed before. In sculpture, I am sculpting a human head which is super advanced for the amount of experience I have with clay. My teacher says I am a natural, but my human head looks more like an alien right now! It is very enjoyable though, and I like having a hands on activity rather than lecture classes all day. I want my experience in school to be as fun as possible because even though I came to India on a scholarship, I am here to study culture and form relationships more than I am here to ace the tests (which is actually impossible here). In between 3rd and 4th period, we have a small break for “lunch” (I am actually not sure what meal this is because then I eat “lunch” when I get home from school). I really enjoy the break because I always meet so many new and interesting people. School ends at 2pm and I usually get home by 3pm. Sometimes, I get ice cream after school because it is very hot outside and ice cream is a nice way to cool off and it is sold by street vendors everywhere for really cheap. I am currently knee deep in work I have to catch up on for school but once that is finished, I will be very happy.
SATURDAY (22.7.17): Saturday was the most eventful day I have had in India so far. It was the first time I left Gurgaon and went to New Delhi. I left the house at 8:10am and got to HUDA city center metro station at about 8:40. It took me a while to get situated because I had to meet two other people there, McKenna who is another exchange student, and Anuj who is a local volunteer. I bought my metro token for 40 rupees (64 rupees in 1 USD) and went through security to get to the platform where I met up with McKenna and Anuj. This station was not very crowded and neither was the metro. We sat down in the Lady only seats next to Anuj and rode the metro for about 30 minutes before it came to our stop. When we had to get off, the station was soooooooo crowded. It was shoulder to shoulder crowds. I luckily was able to follow Anuj and we went to platform 3 to get on the next train. This train was A LOT more crowded than the first. We were the last to get on and we were jam packed right next to the door. Luckily, we got off at the next station. When we walked up the exit, we were in New Delhi! We still had to walk about 10 minutes and then we got to the National AFS office of India. The national office is in the very heart of New Delhi where all the embassies and things are so it was very nicely built. Luckily, it has air conditioning. I would have died if it didn’t haha. McKenna and I were the last to come and we said hello to the other kids hosted in Delhi. It was the first time we had seen each other in 3 weeks! We listened to a somewhat boring but helpful presentation about Delhi and transportation options. No one had any questions so we took a group photo and left to go see an 800 year old well that is now a tourist attraction. We went because it was only like a 5 minute walk from the National Office. The view was amazing. Pictures do not do it justice. It amazes me that such an old structure can be right in the center of a bustling city. After visiting that, we went to eat at burger king because most of us were craving something “American” aka non-veg. I had a lot of food. Probably too much. But it was all very tasty. We walked the row of shops there which I hope I can return to because there are sooooo many nice stores there. Alex and Yutaka were picked up from this shopping center and then Colin, McKenna, Olivia and I all went to Olivia’s host home for her host sister’s birthday party. I really enjoyed driving through Delhi because it is much more modern than where I am hosted in Old Gurgaon and the sights were beautiful. I am sure I will be going there very often. The birthday party was really fun. I met a lot of people and enjoyed talking with them and playing card games. We then had ice-cream cake which was really nice. Anyone who wants to join me for the Indian style of eating cake is welcome anytime after I come back. People do not cut the cake into neat slices but rather cut off chunks and use their hand to first feed the birthday girl and then eat the piece themselves. Ice cream cake is a little messy to eat using hands but it was a great experience I hope to share when I come home. I went home from the party with McKenna and her host family which took about an hour and a half in the traffic. I pretty much immediately rinsed off and went to bed because the day definitely exhausted me! I hope to have many more days like this in the future!
Hi! My name is Anna McKane. I am 16 years old and have had a pretty ordinary life up to this point. I believe this experience will change me for the better and I will try everything I can while I am abroad.