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Last Saturday was Holi! It’s the Hindu festival of colors that celebrates spring/summer. It also has some ties to Hindu mythology – apparently there are references to the god Krishna playing with all his girlfriends, or gopis, throwing colors at them. Elizabeth and I went to a friend’s house – Bhaswati – on Friday night since it’s not always safe to travel on the morning of Holi with all the people out in the street, especially as a foreign woman. On Holi, many normal social restrictions are broken – you can come up to anyone on the street to shower them with the colors, touching their face, spraying passers-by with colored water, and many people take drugs on Holi. We didn’t want our host parents to worry about us, so we went on Friday night. Saturday morning was the celebration. Another friend, Raka, came over and we all went up to the terrace. First, Bhaswati did a small puja (ritual) by putting some of the red powdered color (gulal) on various idols and pictures of ancestors, as well as on her grandmother’s feet. We all went up to the terrace to play then – throwing gulal at each other or another powder that when mixed with water turned into a clothes and skin staining paint! We moved down to the street to get some passers-by, and some neighbors joined us. It was so much fun – and I wish we had this holiday at home!

 

before

after

On Sunday morning, my roommates and I went with our friends Haroon, Atif, and Adil to Atif’s farmhouse just outside the city. It’s not really a farm – but more like a countryside small cottage with a fenced in area. There’s a lovely vegetable garden, and a variety of tropical plants. It was nice to get out of the city and I had a lot of fun playing soccer and relaxing in the hammocks :)

The rest of this week hasn’t been too eventful. Classes are…still pretty lame and frustrating. It’s so hard that our educational systems are so different – here the students just take down the notes dictated to them and it’s so hard to deal with that when we come from a system where we are allowed to speak our minds and learn as much from our peers as we do our professors. At home, the professor is a facilitator of discussion – the students make the class into what they want it to be – whereas here, the teacher is the ultimate head of authority and knowledge. I am reallly looking forward to getting back to my CSB/SJU classes. We’re actually having a meeting with the administration tomorrow to go over some of our concerns. Though we knew it is the first program and very little was going to be sorted out before we arrived, we thought there would SOME more continuity than this. It’s just frustrating that it seems there is a serious lack of communication between the administration and the teachers and between our school and St. Xavier’s. For example, one of us went in to talk to one of the admins about something in her class, and he made a comment like, “oh, are you taking this course for credit?” The admins apparently don’t even know that we are here as real students who are taking courses for credit and will get grades that will be going back to our college at home as real grades.  And it’s also hard that student expectations are not very clear – at home we get a syllabus that lays out your assignments, what you’re supposed to do, when it’s due, and what you can do to succeed in the class. Here, it seems like the teachers make up assignments on the spot in a kind of offhand comment, and we really don’t know if that’s serious or what they want us to actually do for the assignment or when it’s due. It’s just very frustrating. And at this point, it’s too late for there to be many changes for our group (since we only have another month of classes, in which I’m sure about half of them will be canceled) so we just hope this can be better sorted out for the next group.

Yesterday, some of us went to the Park Hotel – a very fancy hotel here – since Kathryn’s family is visiting and are staying there. We went over to enjoy the pool and I was surprised to realize how much my standards/expectations have changed. This was a very nice hotel by American standards even, and I felt like I was not India. The bed was so soft and wonderful – such a contrast to my rather lumpy bed here at home. It was weird to be in a place so incredibly clean – not a spot of dirt anywhere. I never wear shorts and a tank top outside of my bedroom, and I felt practically naked going down to the pool in just shorts and a tank top. Small glimpses like this of the reverse culture shock I will experience when I go home makes me think I will have a hard time adjusting back to life in the US.

I can’t believe it’s the end of March…I will be home May 9th, so I have about 6.5 more weeks left. I have less than 50 days til I’ll be home! WOW. I’m not entirely happy or entirely sad about this – I will be glad to be home finally, to get some stability and normal back to my life. I’m not sure yet if India is a place I will visit again or if I’ll be “done” with it. I’m pretty sure I would like to visit again, but not for a long time. I would need a good break from India for a while,  and to be honest I’m not entirely sure if I’ll make it back here since it’s so far away. I will definitely go back to France though – I love France for so many reasons, and I really do love India too (for completely different reasons) but it’s definitely more of a love/hate relationship here.

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As I write this, I’m sitting in bed drinking rehydration salts. They don’t taste very good. After about a week of feeling great, I’m now back to being sick. Not sure with what this time – it started yesterday after lunch, a general discomfort in my stomach. It later turned to stomach pain and uncontrollable heart burn, until I eventually threw up and spent the night tossing and turning from stomach pain. Today, I’m feeling a little better but decided it would be best to take it easy – perfect opportunity for a blog update.

It’s funny how the doctor/medicine works here – very different from home. Here, it seems like no matter what you’re sick with, they throw some anitbiotics at it first to see if that will solve the problem. They hand out antibiotics like candy here – all you have to do is go to the pharmacy and ask for it. Sometimes they will ask for a doctor’s name, but that’s about it.

Over the past week it feels like so little and yet so much has happened. I haven’t had much class yet – we figured out new class schedules on Friday, only to have them changed 2 more times. We had our society and history class on Friday, and it was a little more interesting than the other classes I’ve had so far. That class is just for us, so it can be tailored more to help us understand.

This weekend, my roommates and I headed out to see the South City mall. We walked there and ended up walking through a great market of clothes and bags and other crafts! It was great – we are definitely going to have to go back to do some clothes shopping. The mall is nice – just like being in America, but with some different stores. I didn’t get anything but enjoyed looking around, and some of the other girls got some henna done. We went to Kia and Kathryn’s house afterward to hang out for a while and have dinner. Their place is so different from ours – it’s much smaller, a little apartment. It was cozy and cute though, and it was fun hanging out with everyone playing cards. We actually ordered pizza for dinner – Pizza Hut! It’s weird sometimes the collision between East and West here and how much American influence there is. (The Pizza Hut wasn’t very good though).

We had an awful experience trying to get home though. It’s hard to deal with being such an obvious foreigner and not being able to blend in, and cab drivers are the most at-ready to take advantage of this. It’s difficult not knowing the city so well. It’s not easy to navigate, and the streets have 2 names and change directions at certain times of the day. Our host dad usually gives us a route and a map each time, which is very helpful, but if the driver starts to take a different route, we don’t know how to get back on the right route. So, from Kia and Kathryn’s house we hailed a cab and were happy enough to get a driver that would start the meter. All we had to do was drive straight and take a left, but the driver immediately gave a little detour. We finally got him back on the right road, but he was driving very slowly. After we had been driving for a while, we realized we had overshot the turn onto our road, so we had him pull over and called our host parents to talk to him. He talked on the phone for a while and kept repeating the same things. He pulled a U-turn and then stopped the car and got out. We had had enough by then, so we got out as well and started to walk away (not the best idea). He came after us and we drew a bit of a crowd – we couldn’t argue with him because he didn’t speak English, so we paid him a little money and left. We later found out from Arundhati that when she was speaking to him on the phone, he was pretending to not know where he was and that he didn’t speak Hindi and was instead using a dialect from a small region far away – luckily a dialect that Arundhati understands. I’m so frustrated with getting scammed by cab drivers! We also found out a new scam the other day – while we were waiting in traffic, our driver pulled out a wire and starting moving it to increase the meter! Luckily we noticed it right away.

We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and doing homework. This week, we went to class on Monday as per our new schedule we arranged on Friday – only to find out we weren’t supposed to follow that new schedule yet. We’ve been sitting in on random classes in the meantime – not so interesting, and kind of a waste of time. The only good thing about that is that I met a few Indian students! They are really nice and welcoming. I spent a class period writing notes with the girl next to me (reminds me of high school!), but she was really nice and took my phone number and offered to take me around the city.

Other than that, I’ve just been trying to settle in more here. Turns out we won’t really be having class until February – next week, we won’t have class Monday Tuesday or Wednesday because of festivals and holidays, then one day of class on Thursday, and Friday we’ll leave for our trip to North Bengal. When we’re in North Bengal, we’ll be in the foothills of the Himalayas! And by then, I’ll have been in India for a month then….bizarre!

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I’m surprised that it has already been a week since my last post! Time is flying by now that my days are full of class, theatre, and tutoring! Let’s see if I can remember all that has been going on…

Last Sunday, we took a mini excursion to the nearby cities of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. We woke up early and took the first bus headed for Nice (which stops on the way) and stopped first in Antibes. I liked the feel of Antibes – it’s surprising how a city only about a 10 minute drive away has a completely different vibe. We headed straight for the Sunday market – full of fresh food (even a whole roasted pig) and flowers. We stopped at a little cafe, where I had some tea and a croissant – yum! I was happy they brought me my own little tea pot again – so cute! Next, we all headed out as a group to the Picasso Museum. I always wish that I understood art more…I feel like I would appreciate it more then. I just don’t understand how some his drawings are considered great works of art when they are very child-like…like a fish and lines drawn in crayon. I keep trying to understand art, but I think I just have to cut my losses and realize it’s just not for me. I liked another exhibit more…it was a more modern exhibit that used superimposition of text on pictures – a lot of it was very dark but I feel like I got more out of this artwork.

The Picasso Museum

After the Picasso museum, we went back to the market and the nearby streets in search of something for a picnic lunch. I stopped at a little panini stand with some of the others and had a club chicken panini – very delicious! A thing learned about standing in line here: push your way to the front! Don’t be afraid to assert your place in line because others will just run you over if you don’t. We had a lovely picnic next to the Picasso museum before we headed to Juan-les-Pins, where there was supposed to be a huge end-of-the-season clearance sale at all the clothing stores. Mickey and I perused for a little while, but didn’t find anything we liked, so we stopped at an ice cream shop and headed to the park. We enjoyed relaxing on the park benches and talking before we headed back to Cannes.

When I got back to Cannes, I only had about a half hour to rest before I went to meet the family of the girl who I will be tutoring! It was just completely wonderful how everything clicked!!
He met me here at the College on Sunday night – picked me up in his SMART car! I was really happy I got to ride in a smart car, they are so cute and it has been a tiny dream of mine to be in such a tiny little car. He – Franck – was incredibly warm and friendly right away, plus he complimented my French! That’s one of the highest compliments – to be complimented on your French from a native! He said he was really surprised at how good my French was in the emails I sent (though I checked them like 5 times!). He was really easy to talk to, and I was just so happy with myself that I was actually speaking French and it was working and I wasn’t making (too many) mistakes! We got to his house and met his family and they were just as wonderful! They were all really happy and excited that I was there and were so welcoming. I met his wife, Souad, and they have 5 kids (!) David – 19, Nina -18, Sara – 14, Eva – 11, and Samuel – 7. I’m going to be primarily tutoring Eva, and I’m going to be helping her with her homework in all subjects – math, science, geography, reading, and history. She’s in an all English school now, and I think reading is the most difficult subject for her (which I totally understand, that’s what happens when you study another language).

Leah and I at Morrison's

And I’ll also spend a little bit of time each week with Sara, just have like an hour of conversation with her and explaining any grammar she doesn’t understand. So, we worked out that I will be tutoring on Tuesdays from 6-7:30 and on Fridays from 3:30-6:30. Fridays isn’t the most ideal since I would have preferred to have Friday afternoons to jump start traveling, but it will be so worth it. AND he’s going to pay me! I would do it without pay just because it will be such a good experience, but I definitely appreciate the extra euros (15 E an hour!!!!!). SO PUMPED. It all just works so perfectly – the bus picks me up right outside school and takes me to only a few blocks away, they’re really excited to have me – Franck said I could even stay for dinner after the lessons!!!! I am so happy about that, and so excited that I will be able to spend time with a real French family! Could this get any better?? I think not! I think this whole experience will really enrich my time here and make it more like I was hoping it would be – really connecting with the culture.

Just look at that backdrop! Antibes

I just had my first lesson on Friday with both Sara and Eva and this coming week will be my first full week of tutoring. I was happy that the first lesson went well. I walked to their house instead of taking the bus since it was so nice out and I figured I should familiarize myself with that area of the city a little more. Again, they were very warm and welcoming to me. I even got my first taste of home-cooked French food – a piece of apple pie that was delicious! My hour with Sara went very well – her English is pretty good and explaining the grammar was easy. The time with Eva was a little different since we covered more subjects, but overall it went quite well, and her English is very good for her age. I only felt bad when I had to explain math – my least favorite subject when I studied it, and I haven’t done math in a few years! I understood the problem and how to get the answer, but I had a very roundabout way of explaining it. I hope she understood like she said she did! I’ll have to work on my math explanations. I left a little earlier than we had scheduled since Eva was very tired after a several-day field trip with her school, and I took a nice long walk home by the beach.

I didn’t do a lot this weekend – went out to our favorite pub, Morrison’s, on Friday as a little goodbye for some friends who left the Collège yesterday. Saturday, Mickey and I headed into Cannes to do a little shopping – he bought some things for Christmas gifts, and I bought some scarves! The weather is getting a little chilly on some days, plus scarves are très chic here and will dress up my plain black sweaters. I also got to spend some time chatting with Karl – appreciated and enjoyed every minute of it! And, even though it’s October, the weather is still gorgeous! I even spent a few hours on the beach today :)

Otherwise, my classes have been taking up most of my time. Like I’ve said before, we virtually have no homework here (it’s a joke compared to what we have to do for homework at CSBSJU), but we have really long class periods so we’re in class a lot. We still have class on Mondays and Wednesdays for Beth’s class (our prof from CSBSJU) and her class is on the French Revolution. We are playing a game in class that has to last 6 class periods (only 4 left to go, thank goodness) where we are each a historical character from the Revolution. Some of us have names (like Mickey is King Louis XVI, and Evans is Layafette) and some of us don’t, but all of us have our own agenda and ideology. We each have a little packet that tells each of us our game objectives…and my character is a Jacobin (leader of the Jacobins was Maximilian Robespierre) so I’m pretty radical left and don’t want anything to do with the king and believe we can establish our own system of government.

strike a pose!

The game situation is that we’re at the critical point of the Revolution where we are in the middle of writing the new Constitution and all of us are able to “rewrite” history if we wish – we don’t have to do things according to what actually happened. It is a good idea for class (because unfortunately you actually have to READ and know wth you’re talking about) but it makes class so stressful and intense! We’ve had 2 sessions of the “National Assembly” where we debate parts of the proposed constitution and it just gets really intense since there are people with really incompatible ideologies. in addition to the meetings, we have to write newspapers  that talk about our views of what’s happening. I’m the editor of my group’s newspaper, so Tuesday night i was up til about 1:30am compiling everything, thinking, “Well THIS feels more like CSBSJU.” I’m glad there’s only 4 more class periods left and we can have a less stressful class again.

Leah, Me, Shawn, Evans

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Societe Francaise, with Sylvie my grammar teacher, and Wednesdays I have Cinema class.  We filmed most of it our female-version-of-“The Hangover” movie yesterday, and have a few more scenes to film next week. Then, this coming Wednesday we’ll compile and edit everything. It’s only going to be about a 2 minute movie, and I’m sure we will put it up on youtube so everyone can watch it. Wednesdays are really long for me because I’m literally in class all day, from 9am-7pm. On the flip side, no homework but still, 9 hours of class in one day is too much.

The harbor in Antibes

And, theater has finally started! It’s actually not so much rehearsal time right away – but I think we will still have to rehearse more once the actual show comes closer. The director, Patrick, is also the director of the college, and he writes the play every year, and writes in parts according to our French ability. So far he’s only given us the first 4 scenes – he’s  still writing and rewriting the rest of it. The story is about these 4 roommates, and they kind of stumble along this elixir that will make you tell the truth. My character’s name is Sophie, and she’s the mean and self absorped roommate. I don’t mind playing a mean character though – those characters are more fun to act!  I’ve only had one real rehearsal so far, and Patrick just kind of tells us how to say the lines – it’s hard right now to read the lines and tell what kind of emotion he’s going for, so it’s helpful when he just tells us! The play is less about our acting, and more about improving our French – pronunciation, enunciation, projection, and intonation. So, I should be speaking wonderfully when the play is finished!

Leah and I on the terrace at the Picasso Museum

Other than that, I’m still trying to plan a few more trips. Some friends were planning to go the Loire valley and see all the marvelous chateaux this coming weekend, but it’s just not going to work out for me. Since I couldn’t leave until late Friday night or Saturday morning because of tutoring, it just would be too expensive for the actual time spent there. Instead, I’m planning to visit Monaco this coming weekend, which will be nice. I’m going to make a full day’s trip out of it, so I’ll see the castle, the Ferrari dealership and the casino, Monte Carlo. It should be a good trip! I’m really going to try to set up a trip to Cinque Terre for the following weekend, though finding train tickets has been difficult. I think I’ll stop by the train station sometime on Tuesday to talk to someone there about it, because the website is very confusing. And, I’m a step closer to finalizing my trips to Paris and London to meet up with my friend Kate. Can’t wait for all this traveling! :)

Love to all at home!

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