January 7- February 4
I am now feeling adjusted to life in our school hostel & ready to get back to a normal blogging schedule. Although we return home on weekends and special occasions, I spend the school week in the dorm. I share the room with seven other girls- the four NSLI-Y girls and three helpful and cheery ninth graders. The room has a pretty typical set up. Next to each of our beds is a sizeable wardrobe which I’ve enjoyed decorating, and we share a bathroom.
Since this post serves to update on hostel life, this post will aim to recent happenings into our daily schedule.
Although I have no bus to catch, I wake up at the same time as I would at home. Our warden comes in and switches on the lights. We are all supposed to sit up so the warden knows we’re awake, but each morning, as soon as she heads out the door, everyone flops back into bed. I am almost always the first to mobilize. Each morning, a different didi (Hindi word for older sister) sits next to a huge pot of boiling water in the center of the floor. I enjoy a little hoarse Hindi conversation as I fill up my bucket. By 6:40, the second bell rings & I usually wake up the other girls. By 7:15, we are out the door to breakfast.
We follow the same school schedule as before, with a few changes as a result of extra time. Since I can swim in the afternoon, I spend the morning activity learning the sarangi, a traditional stringed instrument. It has three melodic strings, which remind me of my viola days, on top of many smaller vibrating ones. The bow is gripped much differently than viola, in an underhand movement. To sound each note, I press my cuticle on the side of the melodic string. Although my playing is very basic, I have almost finished learning my first song. When my teacher plays alongside me, I have a lot of fun attempting to follow the beautiful sliding and shaking hand movements. Sarangi class has also permitted me to practice lots of Hindi. I speak only in Hindi with my teacher, who writes the “sheet music” for me in Devanagiri script.
Our Hindi class is primarily taught by Sadhna Ma’am, who we have all enjoyed becoming closer to. Working through a textbook given to us at the July orientation has enabled us to make larger, or at least more organized strides. We have recently learned subjunctive and , and I feel much more comfortable expressing myself. Lately, we have been working on projects for our upcoming trip to Varanasi. We were each allowed to choose a topic relating to the city, and are now preparing to interviews field experts on the trip. Sadly, with board exams approaching, my English class has come to an end. After Hindi class, I have found time to work on our upcoming Varanasi project. We still attend dance class, which has been put on hold for our teacher’s sister’s wedding.
Sometimes we are surprised with no activity schedule! One such day recently was Republic Day, which we celebrated on the cricket field. Houses competed in track & field events and we watched an exciting parade of athletes and dancers. I remain loyal to Amethyst house, despite our last place overall standing.
We have lunch in the dining hall (which is much different than a cafeteria, I have been informed) and then head back to the hostel to rest. I usually have yellow dal and roti, sometimes with a side of sabzi. The food at the hostel is a little spicy and oily, but nonetheless does the job!
On our way to lunch last week, we were showered with flowers by the junior students. We were included in the title ceremony, an event marking the 12th graders’ last day of class. Each student is given a title, a few nice sentences about their impact on the school. Two of my best friends, head boy & girl, gave great speeches reminiscent of a valedictorian’s address. Making friends with students at school has such a meaningful part of my exchange, it was very special to be included in the title ceremony.
It still feels chilly getting into the pool for my afternoon activity, although I become more confident in my decision as the weather begins to heat up. While the boys play water polo in the deep end, girls are allowed to swim or play games in the shallow part. My first week, I had a lot of fun playing beech ke bandar (monkey in the middle) and learning various hand clapping games with my poolmates. The number of girls in the pool has greatly reduced, since it is too cold for them to swim. I’ve enjoyed using this time to exercise, and make sure to chat with my friends sitting poolside. Each girl in the hostel has been patient and kind while talking with me in Hindi. My swimming friends recently refined my water polo explanation.
We eat snack, which for me is a piece of fruit and chai, followed by tuitions. The five of us NSLI-Y girls sit in a room behind the principal’s office. Besides studying, this is our time to use electronics. Students in the hostel are not allowed electronics besides MP3 players. As exchange students, we are allowed to use them for a couple hours each evening- to contact family in the US, research for projects and procrastinate blogging.
Dinner is relatively the same as lunch, with non-veg on Wednesday and Saturday nights (not my favorite days). After eating, we have freetime in the hostel. I usually hang out with the younger girls, read, journal or do laundry. I assumed we would have lots of free time in the hostel, but each day feels filled to the brim. It is a nice adjustment, having busy days, and scarily makes the three months we have here pass by very quickly. I climb into bed exhausted and usually fall asleep before lights are turned off at 10:30.
As always, my schedule here continues to be flexible. On Mondays, we have continued to spend time with kids teaching English at a government school. I absolutely love teaching! The kids are full of laughter and eager to learn. In addition to helping us with Hindi, they have helped me make much needed process in both my mehendi (henna) and dancing skills. Before our large Hindi test, they took care to wish us each good luck.
Last week, Steph’s host family invited us to a Punjabi wedding. Since I went home to my family on the weekend, I was only able to attend two out of the four days, but had a ton of fun! The first night, we had sangeet in the gurudwara (Sikh temple). Family members performed dances, each bringing the bride into the performance. We got to bring back our Orissi dance from August, and were only slightly rusty. I was also able to brush up on saree wrapping, an important skill as our school’s farewell event approaches. I’ll be back with an update soon, pakka (promise)!