A Year in India

Faces of the Day
November 29, 2008, 4:24 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: , ,

Jyothipura Girls

Girls from Jyothipura Government School in rural Bangalore.

More new photos here.


Teacher Training Workshop
November 26, 2008, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Educators | Tags: ,
AYV educators during a photo essay workshop activity

AYV educators during a photo essay workshop activity

Though I tend to focus a lot on the Adobe Youth Voices students, a huge part of my work here revolves around AYV educators.  Each AYV site (government school or NGO) has two teachers/facilitators that I work with to run the video production program.

Last week, my coworker Chandan and I held a teacher-training workshop.  As if in reaction to my previous gripes about non-interactive learning, the workshop was largely activity-based (which is unusual in the Indian education context).

An example from the storytelling portion of the workshop: we split the 30 teachers into six groups and gave each group five puppets.  The puppets ranged from a robot to a Ganesh to a mango tree.  The educators built a story around these characters.  One teacher later told me that she had never thought to use a character as a driving force for a story.

In addition to this learning, I noticed that the participants really seemed to be having fun during these activities.  To me, the casual, humorous tone of the workshop was as important as the hard work and focus that came out of it.

This report describes the workshop in more detail.  Photos are posted here.

Kikeris For Obama
November 26, 2008, 9:28 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: ,

A few glasses of wine in at a family wedding in Bombay last weekend:

(Kikeri is my mom’s maiden name, and Ajji is what we call my grandmother, a staunch Obama supporter!)

In The Classroom
November 19, 2008, 10:47 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,
APSA group presentations

APSA group presentations

Now that I’m getting more settled into my life and work in Bangalore, I’ve started taking a closer look at the nature of my project.  One aspect that’s increasingly frustrating to me is the teaching style used in the schools and NGOs.  Classes often involve an educator standing in front of the youth and lecturing.

The tendency towards long lectures during Adobe Youth Voices sessions is especially ironic given that the goal of the project is to promote interactive learning.  Further, Adobe has provided us with phenomenal educational resources (lesson plans, activity guides, etc.), so we have all of the tools we need at our disposal.

I had the chance to run my first AYV session entirely on my own last Monday.  I led the slum youth from APSA in a hands-on, small-group brainstorming activity.  I’m hoping to plan and implement similar activities in the future.

I remain a bit unsettled on this front, but I’m happy to be making small steps.  How to create a more established culture of action and interaction for my project is another, larger challenge.

Election Day
November 6, 2008, 1:03 am
Filed under: Election '08 | Tags: , ,

As the sun rose in Bangalore today, I started receiving texts from friends at home with promising exit poll results. The final news came as I arrived to begin the workday at a rural school outside the city. It was quite something to be standing in the school’s expansive field, its modest concrete buildings on either side of me, finally grasping that Obama had made it happen.

While the students presented a documentary they had made about women’s empowerment, I realized that as much as I was wishing to be in my hometown amidst the Grant Park crowds, the moment here in India was actually tied to Obama’s message: hope for kids in unfair situations to be given the tools and support to share their voices.

The morning was only made better when the kids read my excitement and began giggling and saying, “Bama! Bama! Good president, good man!”

Clearly feeling a real mix of reflective, giddy, and hopeful on this day of days.

Om Obama
November 4, 2008, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Election '08 | Tags: ,

“Entire Town in India Praying for Obama Win”

... And oceans away, voters lining up before dawn in Vienna, VA

... And oceans away, voters lining up before dawn in Vienna, VA

November 3, 2008, 12:42 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags:

I just got back from an AMAZING trip to Kerala with Ekta, Michael, and Rick (three other AIF fellows) as well as Chandni, Rick’s good friend who has been living and working in India for the past year.

From the idyllic scenery to the late-night conversations to the delicious food, the trip was about as exhilarating as it gets.  All five of us now realize why Kerala is known as “God’s Own Country” … it’s literally one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I’ve even been.

Below is a photo montage of our trip.  (It’s followed by a description of what we did each day.)

Just for some background, Kerala is a state in southwest India.  It’s known for its tea plantations and its rolling, green hills.  One of the area’s attractions is its wildlife park, home to – amongst others – elephants and tigers.  Kerala has the highest literacy rate (99%) of any Indian state.  It was ruled by the Portuguese and Dutch for many years, thus it has a large Christian population.  Being coastal, Kerala is famous for its seafood and backwater channels.

Day 1:
After arriving in Cochin, we visited Jew Town, a very European-feeling area centered around a famous Indian Jewish synagogue.  We also saw the Dutch museum and coastal fishers.  Later, we went to a dance performance at an impressive new arts center.  The performers highlighted several forms of typical Kerala dance (including some spectacular martial arts).  We were lucky enough to spend the night at another fellow’s family’s home.  Natassia’s lovely family fed us a sumptuous dinner and made for some lively company.

Day 2:
On our drive from Cochin to Munnar, we stopped at a few gorgeous waterfalls.  We were able to walk to the base of one of the falls so that we were practically in the water – it was one of the best and most exciting moments of the trip.

Day 3:
In Munnar, we began the day with a visit to Eravikulam National Park, where we walked up Rajamala, Kerala’s highest peak.  On the walk, we saw an endangered species of mountain goat and some of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen.  Afterward, we went to a waterfall where we were able to jump in and swim!  In the evening, we went to a performance that showcased Kathakali, a traditional Kerala dance driven by certain facial expressions, hand movements, and elaborate costumes.

Day 4:

Our fourth day began with a drive through sweeping tea farms to Thekkady.  In Thekkady, we toured a spice plantation where we saw cinnamon, clove, vanilla, cardamom, and even natural rubber.  We also had a chance to ride elephants (touristy but fun) and take a boat tour on Periyar Lake.  During the tour, we saw many animals including swimming snakes and wild elephants.

Day 5:
We started off the day with a three-hour hike through Thekkady’s forests.  After that, we took a scenic drive from Thekkady to Kumarakom.  Along the way, we saw more tea plantations and visited a tea factory.  In Kumarakom, we took a sunset boat ride through the backwaters and relaxed at our beautiful, quiet hotel.

Day 6:
In the morning, we drove to Alleppey, another small backwater town.  In Alleppey, we boarded our houseboat for the night.  On the boat, we celebrated Ekta’s birthday, went swimming, ate lots of fresh seafood and other Kerala specialties, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and talked for hours.  It really was the perfect end to the trip.

What isn’t captured through my list of sights and sounds are the great travel companions I had during this trip.  Everyone’s curious, positive attitudes made for a really nice dynamic.  And whether it was “Desi Girl” on repeat or Ekta’s unintentionally sarcastic comments, there were so many laughs that it’d be impossible to write them all out … all I can say is that the group was a huge part of what made this trip so memorable.