We caught the overnight train from Hosapete (near Hampi) back to Bangalore. ‘Luxury’ this time on Upper Second Class Rail: 2 tier bunks (rather than 3), better toilets (kind of a very poor British Rail Standard, but a huge improvement to what we have become used to). Arriving back in Yelahanka Town on the outskirts of Bangalore at 5am we headed back to “the Land”. Most went to bed for a nap, I decided to go for a bike ride to explore some of the local rural villages by bike. A great time to cycle as the young people were setting off to school and it was an amazing sight seeing such an array of school uniforms of which the children are all so proud. I stumbled across an interesting level crossing – the train went through but they didn’t lower the barrier – just as well I checked before I crossed! Everyone (nearly) was up and about by 11am and we headed off to “Fab India” and a local supermarket to purchase some last minute gifts and snacks. On returning once again to “The Land” it was time for some scrambled egg butties and to catch up with the blog, and some University work (access to the internet has been a real problem this trip). The rest of the afternoon was spend chatting, reading, ‘swimming’ in the ‘pool’ (it’s about 8 foot in diameter!) and packing. After tea we had a group session evaluating the students’ experiences of, and learning from, Parikrma, Baale Mane, “The Land” and their travelling experiences. In the words of one student: “It surpassed all of my expectations and there are memories I’ve made in the last couple of weeks that will stay with me forever.”
I’ll not dwell on our eventful journey back but the fact we all made it back was testament to some incredible team work by “Team India 2019”. 3 of us were incredibly ill, having salmonella is not a patch on what we were suffering from! Somehow we got through security and passport control, 2 long flights of 4 and 8 hours and a 3 hour bus drive back to Sheffield!
I think we all have learnt so much about ourselves, the Indian education system and culture and definitely appreciate the ‘luxuries’ in the UK we have such as clean drinking water and sanitation.
Thank you to all of you that have supported us financially, with your encouraging words and your interest in our experiences. It has been an incredible journey and adventure for us all.
We arrived in Hampi on Tuesday in the early afternoon, following a day train journey from Goa. When we arrived at the train station there were tuc tucs waiting outside to take us to our hotel. The scary part of the journey came when they decided to place our luggage on top of one of the tuc tucs without strapping them down. Thankfully all of the luggage survived the very bumpy journey to the river where we had to change our mode of transport, this time to a ferry, although I would call it more of a small boat than a ferry! We crossed the river along with all of our luggage and a motorbike which joined us for the journey. Once we reached the other side there was a short walk to reach the hotel or if you were myself it was a small tuc tuc ride away since I had a sprained ankle so I got a trip with the luggage (see the picture below!).
I will also apologise before getting into writing the next section that since I had a sprained ankle I didn’t get to do some of the cool walks so some of this blog is based on information provided by others!
Upon arrival we had a short time to relax and sort our rooms and luggage out before everyone minus myself (again) headed out for a walk around the village, I am told this walk was very interesting and opened peoples eyes to the realities of life in India. Once we had eaten our dinner some people went out for a sunset walk, which I am again told was amazing and there are some images below showing the beautiful sunset!
Day 2 started off very well, we had probably the best breakfast of the entire trip which was so simple but great because it was fruits and egg, some scrambled, some omelette! It was incredible. We set off straight out of the hotel in tuc tucs to the river where we had a ‘short walk’ (it’s long when you have to hobble with a stick!) to the river where we jumped in coracles to take us up the river. The coracles were an experience in themselves they were fascinating because they were made of bamboo and plastic, but also our coracle got stuck and the man couldn’t paddle us up the river someone else had to come and take over, we did eventually catch up with the others!
We then visited the Virupaksha Temple which was an epic temple, there were a lot of things going on like an elephant and monkeys which we were all very distracted by! Once we had had our fill of the temple we went for a drink before lunch at the Mango tree where we had a mango lassi which is a drink made from mango and tougher and it is delicious!
Because Hampi is a tourist destination there were a number of shops to visit, so of course we all went shopping. Most of us probably spent way too much money but it was worth it and I now have some elephant trousers and henna! We went back to the Mango tree for lunch, where a lot of us got very excited about pizza and had eyes bigger than our bellies!
Back at the hotel after a busy day we had some time to relax before a sunset walk. Again I wasn’t allowed to go on this one and I have been told it was more like climbing than a walk! On the way back to the hotel when coming down the rocks Alison got attached by a monkey and had the monkey hand print on her back to prove it!
On our last day in Hampi we had yet another amazing breakfast including fruit and eggs. It also transpired that in Hampi there was a real life Romeo and Juliet situation going on, there are two family’s which run tuc tuc companies on the same side of the river, they compete for business and now it transpired that a son and daughter from each family were dating, this didn’t go over well with the families so now the rivalry is even more intense causing them to fight over who got our business especially since it was the off season.
Anyway so that leads to to the tour of Hampi via tuc tuc we saw a number of temples, statutes and palaces (some pictures below).
Once we got back it was time to pack have dinner and head for our overnight train to Hampi.
This is where the story gets interesting, we had booked a minibus to take us to the train station however after an hour wait it soon became clear that it wasn’t turning up and we had a train to catch. So we ended up with tuc tucs where myself, Alison, Sally and Nick were in a tuc tuc together, we sped ahead for most of the journey however when we got closer to the station our tuc tuc lost power and started to slow down and everyone else overtook us. It was all going well until we came across a rail crossing with the barriers down and with about 5 minutes to get to the train station we started to panic. I think the train crossing was a the longest train in India or it felt like it! Fortunately though we then learnt that our train was running 20 minutes late and we couldn’t have been happier because we were so close to staying in Hampi and finding another way back to Bangalore our flight! Eventually we made it to the rain station after the most nerve wracking wait and tuc tuc ride! In Alison’s word thank god for late trains! We thankfully all made it onto the train and back to Bangalore ready to fly home.
We arrived in Goa after an intensely eye opening, 16 hour train journey. We stepped off the platform in Bangalore and onto a carriage in the lower second class area of a sleeper train. There were compartments which comprised of 2/3 tier bunk beds (I opted for the bottom bunk as I’ve never been able to climb down the ladders of bunk beds). The train was very crowded, smelly, intensely hot and chaotic. Sitting down, we all looked like deers caught in the headlights but after the initial process of getting on, we settled into it. We flipped down our bunks, got out our neck pillows and sheets and laid down. When the train stopped at each station, we were surprised by the amount of men getting onto the train to sell different foods and drinks by walking up and down the train; masala chai, chicken biryani and cold water to name a few. I tried to sleep as best I could, intermittently being woken up by the train doors slamming (they’re always left open and people usually sit dangling their legs out of them) and also the fact that the beds were about as comfortable as being laid on concrete. Before I knew it, it was 6am and the sun was coming up. I looked outside the window to see men standing on the platform cleaning their teeth and turned my head to look out the other window and saw a little kitten staring back at me; a family had brought their cat with them. From around 8am we started travelling through the Western Ghats. The humidity sky rocketed and we were jumping from one bench to another to try and get a photo which did the views justice. As Goa is a popular holiday destination for groups of young Indian people, the atmosphere on the train became more lively and when we travelled through the tunnels, everyone would scream and hang their arms out the windows. At around 2pm we gathered our bags and got off the train. We had arrived in Goa.
It took around an hour, and a ferry ride, to arrive at the villa. It was an eco-friendly, one-off design by architects with 4 bedrooms and an infinity pool. We fell through the door completely shattered but were immediately woken up by how amazing it was, desperate to jump in the pool.
The day after, we left the villa at around 8am. After going to a Dam in the morning, we went to a spice farm in the foothills of the Western Ghats. We had some lunch and then the guy who runs the plantation took us on a tour. His family had been running the plantation for over 250 years. He showed us the raw forms of many different spices as well as telling us about their medicinal uses. Did you know that turmeric has many cancer fighting properties along with preventing Alzheimer’s? He then showed us his beehive- taking the lid off with absolutely no protective gear on whatsoever!!! He told us that Indian bees aren’t aggressive which made me feel better about how close I was standing to them.
The next day we visited Old Goa and it’s beach. We were all surprised by a few waves and ended up with wet trousers but dried off walking round the streets of Old Goa. Some of us did some shopping, buying some gifts for our friends and family. We then went to a traditional Goa-style restaurant for dinner. Goa has a Portuguese heritage which influences the food and also the style of its buildings, as well as being a fairly dominant language there. The food was amazing!!! Breads stuffed with chicken, cheese and garlic, meats and mushrooms fried with vegetables and spices- a well appreciated break from Indian cuisine. Afterwards, we visited a nature reserve on the mangroves- travelling down by boat and seeing birds such as Kingfishers and Egrets. Then we walked back through the mangroves, getting bitten to death by mosquitos in the process. I left the mangroves looking like a dot to dot puzzle.
The morning after we were up and on the bus by 5am ready to board our next train to Hampi at 7.30.
“STOP hating yourself for everything you aren’t, START loving yourself for everything you are”
Just a week ago we had been preparing for our last day of placement in England and today we were preparing for our final sessions at Parikrma and Baale Mane. It had somehow flown by and felt like an eternity at the same time and we were all sad that the teaching side of the trip was coming to an end. After a somewhat hazy start following our campfire last night, we reached Parikrma and observed our final assembly filled with all the usual trimmings including our favourite quote of the day so far (see above). We taught our final lessons that were now running incredibly smoothly and we felt like we could have stayed for another week of teaching! Aside from meeting lots of engaged and friendly children we also enjoyed the differences between the school in India and our placements in England. We certainly all feel more able to adapt lesson plans and teaching strategies as part of a group; something which we were all used to doing individually but not at all to the same degree. As much as we would have liked to have stayed, it could not be the case as we had a jam-packed itinerary to carry on with although, the term “itinerary” seems to have a much looser meaning over here in India…
We said our goodbyes to the students and staff and received a lovely card, before heading over to the upper school to witness lessons with older students. This was fascinating to see how lessons progressed and differed for the A-level equivalent classes. Throughout the week it had become clear that there is a large emphasis placed on knowledge recall in the classroom and this was clear also in the upper school.
After a brief stop back at The Land, we headed over to Baale Mane for what would regrettably be the last visit there of this trip. Although, I certainly wouldn’t rule out returning there on future visits to India. For the girls’ final session with us, we gave them a whole host of activities from which to choose including making bracelets necklaces, sewing, parachute games, and more. Predictably, the time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to say our goodbyes. This, of course, would not be complete with a few rounds of traditional dances and songs. Speeches made. Goodbyes said. Tears had. Friends made. Memories created. From a personal point of view we can truly say that our time at Baale Mane has been one of the greatest experiences of our lives and something we shall never, ever forget.
The night ended at the train station where we excitedly boarded an overnight train to Goa. For a few of us, excitement soon turned to dread as the realisation of what the night train would entail dawned. Our feelings and surroundings seemed to be perfectly summarised as whilst taking it all in, we looked out of the window and noticed a three-legged dog. Even he didn’t fancy the train! Alas, we did our best to keep spirits high and after a round or two of The Pointing Game, we were soon relaxed and headed to sleep looking forward to waking in the morning surrounded by the beauty of the Western Ghats.
After yet another early start for a 6am cycle with our host Kiran (well for four of us at least), the twelve of us were ready for day three of teaching.
Arriving at Parkrma School at 08.50 sharp meant that we were able to observe an assembly with a range of the youngest students. This reinforced some of the schools expectation’s on respecting each other, much like yesterday’s circle time. Once again, we assisted in morning reading across various age groups immediately before we taught our respective lessons.
Team Geography taught grade 6 who were very engaged and responsive to the planned activities, especially the outdoor compass practice. The Creative Writers found that their grade 8’s were both focused and excited by the imaginative elements of the story board. We then complimented our experience by observing the current teachers at Parkrma School across many subjects, including English and even Computing – taught without computers! Plenty to reflect on over lunch…
Fed up on dahl, pakora and savoury pancakes, we put our creative hats on in preparation for block printing back at The Land (see our marvellous creations in the images below).
Our creative juices kept flowing as we headed over to Baale Mane in the evening. After each pair of girls created a small section of a dance, they then got to showcase and teach it to the rest. After half an hour the girls had managed to teach each other – and more miraculously, us – their entire dance to music. We then sat in our smaller groups and completed the sewing crafts from our previous visits. This included finishing bookmarks, for use in the brand new on site library, and some girls even designing and creating pin cushions, so that they can continue similar crafts after we leave tomorrow evening.
On our return to The Land we were greeted with dinner (tea), including the greatly anticipated return of the syrup ball dessert, commonly referred to as a ‘solid 9.5/10’ (Grasmeder, 2019). This being our final night at The Land before our north-westward journey on to Goa, we celebrated with a couple of beers around the campfire. But first, our final day of teaching..
The day began with a bike ride at half five by some of the more active members of the group. After the bike ride and a quick breakfast, we headed off to school once again.The morning activities were different today, as instead of reading time, we helped with an activity called ‘circle time’. For this activity, the whole class reflected on what they would like to improve themselves over this coming school year, one behavioural aspect and one academic. Pupils offered responses such as “don’t talk over the teacher”, “don’t shout out”, “I will improve my Hindi with my friend’s help” and “I will do well in all my subjects”. After this, they discussed school rules as a class so that the teacher could see if they had remembered them.
Next, we began our classes for the morning. This time round, we switched classes – the creative writing group taught Grade 5 whilst the geographers took over the Grade 7 class. Both groups were really impressed by the level of English language that the Grade 7s could understand. For the creative writing group, it was interesting to see just how different the classes were and the lesson had to be adapted heavily to suit the pupils’ needs. Based on reflection from the day before, we had a clearer understanding of how the pupils behaved in class. Using this reflection, we decided on what activities we thought would benefit the class more, focusing more heavily on the creative side of things, such as mask making which they absolutely loved. The Geography group felt that their group had made some excellent progress and were able to use what they had learnt the day before to deliver an engaging lesson that Grade 7 really enjoyed. Once we had left Parikrma we had the opportunity to visit an Indian supermarket and purchase some typical Indian snacks and sweets for us to try out. Then we headed back to The Land for lunch and the group had an opportunity to do some yoga and to relax after our hectic morning! It was back to Baale Mane to visit the girls in the evening, where they practiced some more of their dances and taught them to one another, ready for their grand performance. After this they had some time to finish off their bookmarks. Just before we left, the girls took us up to their newly built library which they are very proud of!
The library was packed full of fiction and non-fiction books, mostly all written in English. We then helped the girls check out some books so they could use their bookmarks for the first time.
After saying goodbye to the girls for the night, we set off back to The Land for tea and a presentation by Kiran on the Indian education system. We found out about a whole host of different types of school in the country, such as international schools, old Catholic faith schools and learnt about all the different languages in the region. It was interesting to learn that only 30% of the Bangalore population speak the local language!All the different types of schools had their own pedagogical philosophy, teaching a wide variety of courses and qualifications, such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and even the international baccalaureate and teach in a wide variety of languages from English to Hindi to Tamil and beyond!
After having some time to reflect on the facts and figures we were shown, it was off to bed to rest for the day ahead…
“A perfect world is a world where there is no capturing or killing, but more rescuing and saving.”
After a brisk early morning cycle around the local area, we gathered our resources and headed back to Parikrma School filled with excitement and, somewhat nervous about our first teaching experience in India. Upon arrival, we were welcomed fondly by students and staff alike and began the day with an uplifting whole-school assembly – audience participation was not forewarned! After listening to some fun marine-life facts (did you know that a blue whale’s tongue can weigh as much as an elephant?!) the assembly was concluded by a pupil sharing the school’s ‘thought of the day’ (see quote above) which wonderfully summed up the underlying conservation theme of the morning.
We were divided into two teaching groups: geographers and creative writers. The geographers created a jigsaw of the continents and spent some time outside doing an activity to practise using compass points and directions. The creative writers looked at the story George and the Dragon and used it as inspiration to create masks, storyboards, and create their own scenes!
We’re not sure that anything could have prepared us for our first taste of teaching here and despite the efforts made by both teaching groups to plan for the challenge, we were faced with unprecedented levels of energy (and noise!). Needless to say, we headed back to the drawing board with our lesson plans and strategies and feel confident that we’ve suitably adapted for tomorrow.
Back to The Land for a delicious lunch; the food has been incredible all week and we all feel we’ve been spoilt in this regard. Following a debrief about the morning’s activities we headed outside for some much needed R&R and even got the chance to create our own Rangoli patterns. We were shown the traditional method by one of The Land’s employees – truly mesmerising.
We then left for Baale Mane for what should have been a mere half an hour bus ride – that was not to be…
Around a disputed 1km away from Baale Mane, our bus suffered a flat tyre and we were promptly asked to vacate the vehicle so that the driver could tend to the tyre. Some inspired, quick thinking from our course tutor Alison led us to safety away from the busy road into a grassy clearing. Thinking on our feet, we used the time to prepare a dance for the girls at Baale Mane which swiftly attracted the attention of the locals; who knew that The “Cha-Cha Slide” was still popular? After lots of dances, selfies, and the prospect of finding ourselves at the top of Bangalore’s most watched YouTube videos, we were back on the road. With the journey back on track, one unfortunate member of our team realised that he’d “taken it back now y’all” into an unfortunate mess left in the field. Chaos ensued.
We’d finally reached our last stop of the day and, as expected, were received with an incredible amount of warmth and friendliness. The fun continued and we demonstrated our silky smooth dance moves (#snakehips) before helping the girls to choreograph their own dances and share with one another. We look forward to finalising the dances in the coming evenings and learning a thing or two from the girls. After a half hour cross-stitching session, we said our many goodbyes and headed back to The Land. As ever, the evening was finished with a cracking spread for tea and we made our final preparations for the day ahead.
It is ever more apparent that anything can, and DOES, happen in India and we are all buzzing for more!
We thought the first travel day was the longest day ever but today definitely came close! It has been the most jam packed yet eye opening day. After being up through the night due to power cuts affecting air conditioning (aka the ceiling fan) the 6am start was tough. Luckily, we’d already had a wake up call from the local church community, who could be heard at 5am singing and praying.’ Bucket bathed’ and layered in factor 50, we quickly ate breakfast before heading off into Bengalaru (formerly Bangalore).
We arrived at the city centre and met our guide who took us to a nearby Sufi temple and gave use an in depth history of the city and its citizens. Dodging the traffic on foot, we then went to a traditional Indian restaurant for breakfast, which consisted of Dhosa and Idli with different sauces to dip. Makes a change from the Yorkshire puddings and gravy that we are accustomed to!
We then continued our tour through the city centre. Seeing the city centre incredibly enlightening , every corner we turned had something different- from cows to corner shops, silk factories to schools. It is also clear that overpopulation has had a negative impact on the cities landscape as it was filled with litter, sewage and slum like homes- I naturally took way too many photos of this for Geography case study evidence! We then went to flower market, the most colourful market I’ve ever seen and one of the most famous in India.
How many student teachers does it take to clear a buffet?
For lunch we cleared our way through a well-needed ‘all you can eat’ Indian buffet whilst enjoying views of the city from the 13th floor. Despite having a multitude of qualifications between us AND a maths student teacher with us, we are still yet to figure out how to split the bill.
After lunch, we visited Parikrma school where we will be teaching later in the week. The students and staff were very welcoming, and the cute little primary school children made me question my decision to teach teenagers. We were then given a tour of the school and the local community. For me, this was the most surreal part of the day, seeing how real people live in these overcrowded cities, and seeing what the children’s lives are like outside of school. The houses were make shift, often only 1 room per family- this really put into perspective how lucky we are.
We then dashed back to The Land to grab our resources for our first evening at Baale Mane orphanage for girls. I really loved this evening: playing games, making up handshakes, doing the cha cha slide, parachutes and more! The girls were so sweet and I honestly can’t wait to spend our evenings. I especially bonded with a little girl named Jessica (of course)- she loved that we shared the same name, referring to me as ‘sister jessie’. Day 1 at the orphanage and we have already found ourselves becoming attached to the kids, tissues at the ready for our last day there!
We then said goodbye and headed home to prepare for our first day teaching at Parikrma. An early night was in order, after we had bonded over some Parle-Gs and Ginger Nuts we went to bed ready to do it all again in the morning!
It’s been the most chaotic few days of my life but 100% worth it.
We have FINALLY arrived in Silvepura and what a journey we have had…
It all started back in Sheffield, Broom Hill, where the mini bus picked us up. We shared out the resources and presented Alison and Sally with the T-shirt’s we had made for the trip (images below)…
After a sleepy drive down to Heathrow we whizzed through customs and went on search of a much needed fry up, which for must of us turned into several items purchased from Pret because we were indecisive and then ended up with no time! Luckily for four of us, a kind member of staff gave us a lift in his airport vehicle to our gate …
The first flight was delayed by an hour before take off, then when finally in the air we had 7 hours to do whatever we wanted, which for me was sleep- but I couldn’t due to it being the middle of the day!
We then landed in Dubai, the airport was INSANE! The gate that we needed to get to for our connection flight to Bengaluru was that far away that we got to use the in airport shuttle train! That again was a good selfie experience…
Finally, we boarded our plane to India, by this point we were well equipped and used to the luxuries that Emirates had to offer. I started to watch a film (3rd film of the day!) and then the best part came… the food menu! This food was very different to the food experienced on the first flight… we had after dinner digestive, which tasted like a sambuca shot, some of us had mutton and some of us even managed to embrace the cottage cheese pudding- personally not a fan!
We then landed in India, all very tired and disorientated, we stumbled across to the visa check. After what felt like 3 hours of intense interrogation we were all through and ready to start our ADVENTURE…
We got some money out in the airport, that also was a long process and seemed very unorganised handing passports back and forward not knowing what was going on! But then we were out and heading towards our taxis.
Those who know me might say that I don’t pack lightly- this was problematic for the taxi driver who then strapped mine and Jade’s cases to the roof of our car- scared faces and natural reaction to this process below…
The car journey from the airport was exciting. All the girls in my car were shocked at the immediate cultural differences, the caged chickens, goats and speed bumps.
Finally arriving at The Land in Silvepura we quickly met Kiran and Roshan the hosts and then went to bed for a a couple of hours before waking up to a the busy days ahead!
We’re a group of 10 student teachers from the University of Sheffield travelling to Bangalore in southern India, specialising in subjects such as Geography, History, Maths and Languages. Over the past 9 months we have been raising funds to donate equipment, materials and money to a local school where we will be teaching and for materials to take to a local orphanage.
From Baking to Bonus Balls, Raffles to Go Fund Me pages, the generosity of friends, families, colleagues and total strangers has allowed us to raise just over £1,000 in order for us to buy materials to take with us. One of our most successful fundraising efforts was the Bonus Ball in which people paid £3 for a number between 1-100 in a hope of winning £180 and then £120 going towards our fundraising efforts. Overall from the Bonus Ball alone more than £300 was raised, It’s crazy what some people will do in a hope to win some money! We also knew we could rely on hungry student teachers to snap up our amazing baked goods. Everyone from gluten free to vegan was catered for and it was very obvious the vegan brownies went down a treat!
Not only have we been fundraising, we have been practising our creative skills such as making pin cushions and bookmarks to teach the students whilst we are out there. Although at the beginning some of our sewing skills were questionable, we soon got the hang of it and a lot of us found sewing quite relaxing. You can see some of our creations at the bottom of the page!
We’re all so excited for this amazing adventure and we’re all certain we will be telling our students about this trip for years to come! The next time you hear from us we will be our journey and no doubt we will be very tired, hot and jet lagged!