Monday, September 24, 2012

Student Post: Aleena Plummer on Home Visits!

A couple of weeks ago we sent our students on home visits, when they are paired off with a BACAS student to visit for the day! Aleena had a great experience learning about what life is like for an Indian student here. Here are her thoughts, originally posted on her blog. Happy reading!

Escaping City Life
by Aleena Plummer

On Saturday, the students from the India Studies Program were sent home with some of the students from BACAS (the college I’m attending here in Coimbatore). Now, many of the students who go here are from places far away and live in school housing which is called “the hostel”. These students are referred to as “hostelites” and have LOTS of rules. But the remainder of the BACAS students live in and around Coimbatore with their families, and those were the students we were sent home with.

The bus drivers wanted a picture with us.
Ashley, a fellow ISPer from Pennsylvania, and I went with a girl named Yoga to her family’s home. We rode two busses in a journey that ended up being about an hour and a half long just to get from the school to her house—which she makes twice every weekday. It was crazy! Anyway, Coimbatore is bordered by some sort of mountain range which can be seen even from in the city but are quite a ways in the distance. Well our bus journey took us all the way to the last stop on the 3 bus and almost to the foot of the mountain range. It was amazing! Yoga lives in a small village that her family has lived in for over two hundred years, according to her uncle. Several of her family members all live within a few houses of each other and we spent a significant part of our day simply visiting with each different aunt in her family, touring their homes, and attempting (and failing) to refuse the food that EVERYONE in India offers to (read: forces on) guests. Her uncle who is a lawyer in the city was able to converse with us, and another sixteen year old uncle (Yeah, I don’t get it either…) also knew pretty advanced English. I only know about two words in Tamil at this point (hello and thank you), so communication was limited. But it was nice to get out of the city for a day.

Yoga’s family has traditionally been farmers and they still own their farmland and employ ten to fifteen people to farm it, so Ashley and I got to journey on the backs of motorcycles along a rutted, one lane, dirt street to the farmland the family owns. At that point, we could literally see the base of the mountain. The landscape here is remarkable because the land is completely flat and then the mountains just bust up out of the earth.The farm was pretty interesting. Not really what someone from America would picture a farm as. Everything was still all dusty and didn't really seem like good soil for growing things in.

While we were in Yoga's village, we visited a local government run school. Because we were foreigners and guests to the village, we were able to walk through the rooms that the students were working in. They were all so adorable that I just wanted to take them all home with me! I was dying. All I had to do was wave at a little kid and they would be so excited they couldn't even sit still. It was precious.

By the end of the day I was so tired that I almost fell asleep on the bus ride back to the city! And it was only about 4:30 in the afternoon. I can't believe that Yoga rides the bus an hour and a half every morning, sits through a day of school, and then travels all the way home again in the evening. I thought it was bad to ride in to Hall-Dale from Richmond when I was in high school. At THAT was in my mom's van, not public transportation. Overall though, it was a great day and I was really glad that I got to spend a day away from the noises and crazy traffic of the city!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Field Trip: Perur Temple

It is temple week here at ISP! One of the many wonderful things about living in India is that our learning extends far beyond the classroom and stretches into the streets. This week that means our students are heading out on their first field trips to temples to learn more about what they are studying in their classes. 

Students are excited to be on their way to Perur Temple!
Our first visit was to Perur Temple, which is dedicated to Shiva the destroyer. This temple is on the outskirts of our lovely city of Coimbatore and is situated on the banks of the Noyyal River. It has been standing for the past 1500 years and devotees from the surrounding area regularly come to worship there.

Outside Perur Temple which is dedicated to Shiva, depicted on the ceiling.
 Many students were excited to see their first elephant in India at Perur! Elephants are often kept in Hindu temples to bless people as they come through by placing its trunk on their head.

Aleena, Johanna and Morgan enjoying some refreshing coconuts!
Keep an eye out for our upcoming posts as we take our first weekend trip to Madurai where we will explore the ancient Meenakshi Temple!

Photos taken by Karmen Tam

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Pictures: Amazing Race: Coimbatore!

Orientation would not be complete without a little adventure! So towards the end of their first few days here we sent our students out on the Amazing Race: Coimbatore.

ISPers with the tailor at Feelings.
What is the Amazing Race? Students are given a list of important locations in the area and turned loose for an afternoon of exploration. This is the first chance that they have to be out on their own and part of the aim is to encourage ISP-ers to gain confidence in getting around their city. At the end of their afternoon they are met by a staff member for a celebration dinner where they share their stories!

Aleena tries to push up the leaning tower on Race Course.
Their tasks ranged from finding the grocery store and discovering new produce (ask them what butter fruit and brinjal are!) to spotting the replicas of famous landmarks from around the world that dot Race Course. 

Tanner and Ashley at the neighborhood Ganesha Temple. 

On the way they also searched for Connexions (a nearby bookstore), peeked into some neighborhood temples and braved buses and autorickshaws. 

Morgan discovers Bollywood movies!
Despite their jet-lagged state, all of the teams had an exciting afternoon that they're not likely to forget soon!

Aleena explores Pazhamudir, a local grocery store.
Photos by Aleena Plummer, Kelly Uchiumi, Hannah Burgess and their teammates.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Our students have arrived! They have hit the ground running as they learn about India and get acquainted with our sprawling city of Coimbatore.

ISP trying new foods on their first night in Coimbatore.

Right off the plane they were welcomed by staff and peer mentors and they began taking in the sites on the bus ride through the city. The students wrapped up their first night here by sharing a giant family dosa, an ISP tradition!

Rangoli, a traditional decorative art, done by BACAS students to welcome ISP.
Photo Credit: Kelly Uchiumi
  Everyone was kept busy as “batch 3” conquered their fears of the public bus, tried on salwaars for school and kicked off their first few days of classes. We capped off orientation with the Amazing Race: Coimbatore, where students head out and hunt for different landmarks around the city.
The students after being thoroughly welcomed and garlanded by BACAS.

For now, everyone is settling in and learning more about doing life together in India. Stay tuned for our next post!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meet the staff!

Vannakam! My name is Karmen and I am excited to be the new program assistant at ISP. I first came to India as a student, and have kept returning since then. My experiences here have been formative in my understanding of the world, introducing me to ideas of international development, globalization and how our faith integrates with them. These have gone on to influence what I pursue – from resettling refugees in the US and studying in the Middle East to working for a non-profit furthering education in Central and Southeast Asia. I’m looking forward to being with our ISP-ers as they walk through challenges and new experiences on their journey in India!

Karmen Tam, ISP Program Assistant, exploring Turkey