We flew into Delhi and spent the night there before flying to the city of Visakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Then we drove another 4 hours to get to the first school, which was in the city of Kallata.
We spent a week in Kallata training teachers there. Then we drove another five hours to a second school in the city of Khordha, Odisha, where we did a second week of teacher training. We then flew out of the nearby city of Bhubaneswar back to Delhi and then back home to the U.S.
There are 5 schools in the Carmel English Schools system. We conducted teacher training at only two of the campuses. The one here in Kallata was the first. Although not openly presented as "Christian" schools, they are owned and operated by a Christian family that is involved in multiple ministries: education, poverty relief, women empowerment, church planting, and political involvement. Their goal is to impact their culture for Christ.
Dr. McCracken and I were greeted ceremoniously as all the teachers stood, bowed, and presented us with these beautiful leis made of fresh flowers. Although they were heavy around our necks, we wore them the entire first day.
Air conditioning is rare, but -- especially since temperatures rose to 114 degrees while we there -- we were thankful that they installed an air conditioner in our bedroom!
We had a couple special guests in our sleeping quarters: an extremely large ant in our bedroom and a friendly frog in our bathroom.
Since neither of us had ever visited India before, let alone taught in that culture, we were unsure what to expect. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Our experience far surpassed our expectations!
The faculty we taught represented elementary, secondary, and all subject areas -- math, science, English language, Indian literature, etc. They were so engaged! They not only listened well but also participated fully in collaborative learning activities and presentations. The more time we spent with them, the more comfortable we were with them and they were with us.
That's not to say that there weren't any challenges. There certainly were! For instance, although they do speak English, language was certainly a limitation. We had to teach at a slower pace and re-state concepts multiple ways. Using American idiomatic phrases was sometimes a problem, but it also led to a bit of humor and clarity as we discussed differences in language use.
Diversity of religion was another challenge that we did expect but that was surprisingly not as much of a barrier as we thought it would be. Because there are so few qualified Christian teachers in India, most of the Carmel faculty are Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist. They were so tolerant and respectful, however, of other beliefs -- much more so than Americans are!!! I think it's because religion is pervasive in Indian culture -- even in their government-controlled schools. The public square is full of religious influences -- mostly Hindu, which has over 300 million gods! Yet, the faculty knew that they were expected at Carmel English Schools to teach from a biblical perspective and were excited to learn how to do this more effectively.
The Community of Kallata, Andhra Pradesh
KHORDHA: Second Week of Teacher Training
Week Two of Teacher Training
This was our second opportunity to teach the same content but with a different group this time. So, we built upon what we learned that worked with the first group. Being a more urban area, many of these teachers had to travel by bus or scooter/moped to get to training each day. It was so very hot that we decided to start each day earlier than planned so that we could dismiss before the hottest part of the day.
The Knowledge Bank runs year-round for two hours every evening except Sundays. It is an enrichment program to help students prepare for their achievement tests.
One afternoon, a terrible storm delayed the teachers from arriving on time, so they asked me to substitute teach until they could get there. I had flashbacks of the time I had substitute taught in a Houston Spanish-speaking kindergarten class. This was much harder! The students, though, were so gracious. They participated in a discussion of the similarities and differences between the cultures of India and the U.S. We focused on the influence that Gandhi had on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mr. Shankar attended our faculty training all day and then tutored students at the Knowledge Bank for two hours each evening. Both he and these students are on their summer "holiday," but they do this 6 evenings every week, year round. By the way, there's no air conditioning, and it was 106 degrees. DEDICATION!
India has more honors students than the U.S. has students!
On the evening before our departure, the Knowledge Bank students gathered together to sing us a farewell song.
Closing Ceremony of the Last Teacher Training
The principal of the Khordha campus presented us each with a gift.
In the closing ceremonies at campuses in both Kallata and Khordha, the teachers danced. I think we should do this after teach in-service training in the U.S.!!! We might just enjoy our training sessions more if we took time to celebrate more often!
Our Hosts: The Pani Family
Ancient Buddhist Monastery
Dr. McCracken saw many monkeys while we drove from place to place, but I kept missing them. Biswajit, our host, promised me that he'd make sure I saw some monkeys before I left India, so he took me to this ancient Buddhist monastery where he assured me there would be plenty of them.
This is the entrance to the ancient Buddhist temple on the grounds of the abandoned monastery.
Caves served as dwelling places for the Buddhist monks.
Overrun by Monkeys
Monkeys have claimed the ancient monastery as their home. They were nice as long as you fed them something. Otherwise (and I speak from experience), they are known to attack.
When I tried to sit beside one for a selfie, it promptly jumped on my head but was scared away when I screamed like a banshee! Our host just laughed and then apologized that he should have told me to feed the monkey before trying to take the picture.
Entire families move to the leper colony if they have a member of their family with leprosy. The children are there to be with their parents and grandparents who live there.
Notice the men on the right. One of them has no fingers at all, and two of them have partial fingers.
We opened with a worship service. Biswajit, our host and the one whose idea it was to go to the leper colony, introduced Dr. McCracken and me. Biswajit's family regularly visits the colony, so they are very familiar with him.
Biswajit later asked me to tell them about Emily and how we had come to honor her memory by sharing chicken curry with them.
The children enjoy singing worship songs as Biswajit plays the accordion, a common instrument used in church worship services.
After worship, we prepared to serve the meal. Leaves sown together with toothpicks and cut in circles served as plates. The "plates" were placed on the ground.
Large helpings of rice -- a staple of every meal -- were scooped onto the leaves.
On top of the rice, generous portions of dahl were poured out. Dahl is a soup-like gravy made of lentils, peas, and beans.
They were very excited to get chicken curry, which is a rare treat for them. Biswajit and I pitched in to pay for the meal, and some of the teachers in the teacher training helped prepare it.
Their precious smiles made it well worth it. What a special way to honor our Emily's memory!
Students at the Carmel English Schools pay tuition and are from fairly wealthy families by Indian standards. However, the school pictured here is not a Carmel school. It is for children in poverty and is one of the ministries our host, Biswajit, helps to sponsor. This community is one of the poorest in all of India. Without Biswajit's support, these families could not afford the education, clothing, and food that is provided for them.
Education is an opportunity for these children to escape poverty.
Upon our arrival to the village, the children gathered in an assembly to greet us. They sang and provided us with these handmade leis. They were all so gracious and kind. Dr. McCracken and I told them stories and helped lead a chapel service.
This well is their village's only source of clean water.
Biswajit took us to these hot springs where people believed if they drank the water it would heal diseases, bring good luck, and make women fertile.
The water was extremely hot and had a strong smell of sulfur. We were directed not to drink it, as our weak American stomachs most likely could not handle it.
On our last day, we visited the Golden Beach near the city of Puri on the Bay of Bengal.
Dr. McCracken and I took a camel ride along the beach.
Unlike Western beach-goers, most people dress very modestly on Indian beaches -- even though the temperatures were very high while we were there.
There is an open-air market along the beach that sells all kinds of trinkets, clothing, food, etc. At night, the market is all lit up, and everyone searches for the best possible bargains before heading home.