Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
But somehow it all works and people are able to get where they need to go amidst all the chaos.
My mentor teacher, Mr. GS Reddy took me to school one day on the back of his motorcycle (I usually took an auto rickshaw). I used the opportunity to video record the adventure...
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Although I love the traditional dance costume, I couldn't get over the thick, black hair extension which had been woven into Erin's golden-blonde braid. In some ways the braid represented the contrasts of our home cultures - Erin could weave herself into Indian culture but she would always stand out as a foreigner. I am of course commending Erin - in fact we have become quite close friends. She is the epitome of the "intrepid traveller" - and I admire her on many levels. In this case she demonstrated the confidence to perform and integrate into her host culture as best as she could - one of the hallmarks of the cultural exchange mission.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Nayanika agreed to record herself playing the veena - a distinctly Indian stringed instrument - so that everyone back in the US could see what it looked and sounded like.
Monday, December 17, 2007
For starters everything is done outside. I made it a point to greet at least one teacher or student each day with "Aaj ka mosum bahout acha hai!" - which is Hindi for "The weather is very good today!" Indians don't know how good they have it.
The assembly begins at 8:30 AM with each class getting into neat rows while standing in front of a large stage. They start with a prayer which includes some mantras spoken in Sanskrit - the mother of all 28 Indian languages. Soon they switch into Hindi, the national language, and pray for open-mindedness and the willingness to learn. The prayer is followed by a pledge, which is spoken either in Hindi, Sanskrit, or English, depending on the day.
I took a video of the morning prayer which I then had translated by T. Virajita, the elder daughter of Dr. TAV Sharma, my exchange partner. She is 13 years old and a student at Kendriya Vidyalaya Tirumalagiri - my host school.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Anyone who knows Jessie and I understands that we're huge fans of Indian cooking (I suppose food in general for the matter). I remember the fateful day when we began looking at the Fulbright exchange as a real possibility, and perusing the list of countries that US Teachers can go to. I won't hide the fact that we gave serious consideration to India not because of its insane diversity, warm and inviting people, magnificent cultural heritage, or astounding monuments - rather, we decided to come to India because our bellies would be perpetually filled with spicy deliciousness. India's trump card is its food - and we've rarely been let down since we arrived in August.
Did I say spicy? Chillies are like salt to south Indians - they put them in everything. And of the 28 Indian states, we have come to spicy kingdom. Menus in neighboring states have asterisks next to the words "Andhra style" - implying that the food is heavily spiced as is the custom in our home state of Andhra Pradesh.
Fellow US Teacher Paul Amstutz (he is the crazy math teacher from Yosemite, California who is currently in Bangalore with his family) once generalized Indian food as "loads of insanely spicy goo served over rice" and we have been laughing about it since. Paul's statement isn't entirely off basis, but what Indian cuisine lacks in presentation (from a western perspective) it more than compensates for in taste. The food in India, and I must admit to an inherent subjectiveness here, is undoubtedly superior to American cooking. To speak frankly, we've got nothing on these Indians. They make our food look silly. Really.
Our hosts Sudha, Virajita, and Vipanchika, as well as about every other Indian we have dined with aren't shy about telling us the truth. Fellow teachers at KVT chuckle at my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and boxed oatmeal as they whip out delicate chapathis (flaky wheat breads that look sort of like pitas), myriad of curries adorned with just about every vegetable imaginable, or my personal favorite - masala. Ah - there is nothing on planet Earth quite like a proper masala.
Eating south Indian style involves rice - and lots of it. Typically we sit and eat with only our right hands (to offer your left hand in any matter is considered rude, to EAT with you left would be considered kind of gross) - no utensils. Eating rice with your hands does take some time to get used to, but Sudha has guided us well on these matters. To do it well involved preparing the rice by sort of kneading it with your fingertips before mixing in your dal, rasam, curry - whatever it is. This way the rice absorbs some of the flavor and becomes more easily formed into little balls that you can lift into your mouth.
Some regional dished include the incredible Hyderabadi biryani (a spicy basmati, or long grain, rice served in a small brass pot over chicken, mutton, or vegetables), haleem (a Muslim dish popular during Ramadan - wheat is mixed with mutton (with bone!) and pounded into a paste and then cooked throughout the day and served with raw vegetables), and a special bringal (eggplant) curry.
But south Indian meals don't stop at the main course - can you imagine incredible desserts without a gram of chocolate? Indians often serve sweets with the main course (OK, that part I never really got used to). They are often made with ghee (butter fats) and filled or glazed in sugar syrup (sugar cane grows in abundance in almost all regions of the subcontinent). The laddu (pronounced ladd-DOO) comes in hundreds of forms and is a favorite of Lord Ganesha (he is always pictured with one in one of his four hands) - my personal favorite is the dry fruit laddu which is customarily given for the birth of a child. Not far behind is the juicy kaja and kovapuri, as well as halwah (with cashews, almonds, carrots, you name it!).
Here is a video of a south Indian "buffet" served at our school on the occasion of a three-day regional track and field meet.For those Americans who haven't tried Indian food - you have no idea what you're missing.
About the Exchange
"The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government's flagship program in international educational exchange, was proposed to the U.S. Congress
in 1945 by then freshman Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. In the aftermath of World War II, Senator Fulbright viewed the proposed program as a much-needed vehicle for promoting "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world." His vision was approved by Congress and the program signed into law by President Truman in 1946.
Fulbright grants are made to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Since the program’s inception, approximately 279,500 participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential—with the opportunity to exchange ideas and to contribute to finding solutions to shared issues."