A Travellerspoint blog

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24 Days to New Delhi...

"So what are we going to call this blog about our grand family adventure to India?" was the question I posed to Jenn from across the porch office. Somehow, at the time, this seemed like a momumental decision to be taken very seriously. Jenn's suggestion of 'The Sanborn Family in India' seemed a little too vanilla for me, and a couple of my suggestions including 'Pass the Imodium' and 'What Were We Thinking?' didn't make the cut with Jenn. So after half an hour of rejected ideas, I recalled a very memorable family dinner last May shortly after I had received news of my teaching assignment in India. In trying to figure out a clever way to break the news we had all been waiting for, I wrote out the name of the place in India where we were going to be living starting in August. During dinner, I brought up the subject of India and how long some of the Indian words were. I showed the name of the city where I had been assigned to teach on an index card to Jenn, Mariana, and Elena asking them "How do you say Thiruvanathapuram?" After numerous attempts to pronounce this novel of a word, I revealed that they each had better learn how to say the name of their new home town in India, and I guess we could say that day marked the official first step of an amazing journey that has hardly just begun.

So just where is Thiruvanathapuram, more commonly known by its English name, Trivandrum? Let's go to the map...

As far as Indian geography goes, its really very easy to describe where Trivandrum is. Simply start at the very southern tip of India and move up the west coast about 35 miles. Trivandrum is the capital of the Indian state of Kerala, neither of which I had ever heard of prior to learning that we were going to be moving there for six months. The more I have researched this part of India, the more fascinated I've become with it. There are some significant cultural and geographical characteristics to this area that make if quite unique to India. The topic deserves more attention in a latter post.

Perhaps the most obvious question is "Why in the world are you going to India for half a year?" Well, why not? Actually, I am very honored to have been selected to participate in the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange program. For close to six months during the upcoming academic year, I will be swapping teaching positions with Ms. Sreeja Rajan who is a science teacher at the Trivandrum International School, a private day/boarding with a K-12 population of 370 students. In September, Sreeja will be teaching my three sophomore biology classes at Andover High while I teach an assortment of biology classes at her school. The exchange involves a partial housing swap as well - Sreeja will be living in our house in Amesbury while we live in a faculty apartment on campus at the school. Both Mari and Elena will attend classes at the school and will get to be "faculty brats" for a few months. Jenn has already begun delving into the world of Indian design and will jump in with both feet once we get there.The school is only about 10 years old and from all of the photos I've seen so far, it is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility.
edu_tn.jpg You can check out the school's web site at http://www.trins.org/

For me, this opportuntiy presents the chance to once again enjoy two experiences that I had previously enjoyed but had not counted on ever doing again. The first is the privilege of participating in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program for a second time. Back in 1991-92, I had a fondly remembered year teaching at the Varga Katalin Gimnazium in Szolnok, Hungary as a Fulbrighter. Only four years into my teaching career at the time, I carried much of what I needed in my packpack and was able to wander far and wide with the freedom afforded a young single travelling solo with few responsibilities except to myself. This time, my experience after 23 years in a classroom will be very different and I wouldn't have it any other way. Not only will I be enriched by my experiences teaching and living in India, but I will also be able to share these experiences with my family and share in their moments of wonder, insight, and joy along with the moments of frustration and upset. It will be the ultimate family adventure and I'm feeling especially fortunate that Mari at age 11 and Elena at age 9 will have this opportunity at such a formative time in their lives. I'm also excited about opportunity to be part of a boarding school community once again. It's incredible to me that 14 years have passed since I moved out of a Gould Academy dormitory. I am looking forward to moving back in a dormitory for a while, especially since I have no formal dorm duties this time around!

Only 25 more days before we all take a very big step well outside of our comfort zones and see what comes of it.

Posted by SteveJenn 20:57 Comments (1)

Getting Oriented

Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC


Day 2 of our Fulbright Orientation program has come and gone. Everyone from both the US and the participating countries arrived during the course of the day yesterday and settled in after a long day of travel for some. Sreeja and a couple of her Indian counterparts arrived late morning to the hotel and it was great to finally meet this person with whom I have been corresponding with regularly since March. Meeting her in person was more like connecting with a friend than meeting someone new for the first time. The internet has truly shrunken our world.
I took advantage of the free time yesterday be a tourist here in DC. I checked out a couple of places that aren't on the main tourist itinerary including the National Geographic Museum and the Ford Theatre where Mr. Lincoln saw his last show. I also had a chance to revisit the Natural History Museum - when I went back in May at the earlier orientation program, the place was overrun by hordes of student groups so it was much more enjoyable this time. I completed my grand walk by checking out the WWII memorial, Korean and Vietnam memorials, and Mr. Lincoln. It was a beautiful night for a walk.
Of all of the monuments in Washington that I have seen, the most powerful and moving one continues to be the Vietnam Memorial. It's power is in it's simplicity - there is no anonymity of who is being remembered here. The sheer multitude of names of the lost and the knowledge that most of them were teenagers or early 20's is emotionally powerful. The statue of the three soldiers remarkably captures the sense of futility that seemed to envelope many of the young men that found themselves in Vietnam. I've been three times now and it is just as powerful every time.


Today's highlight's included a very informative and entertaining presentation on adapting to new cultures in the morning and a bus tour of a few of the sights in DC including the Capitol, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials (again), and a stop at the White House. Before walking back to the hotel for the official opening dinner, one of the other teachers going to India and I enjoyed a couple of drinks on the rooftop terrace of the Washington Hotel with its fabulous view looking down on the National Mall, the White House, and other sights.

Sreeja and Steve at the Capitol

Sreeja and Steve at the Capitol

The program gets going in earnest tomorrow with a full day of sessions planned. The evening will be free so that we can go out to dinner with the other members of our country group if we want - plans are still to be made.

Posted by SteveJenn 18:02 Comments (0)

I'm not speaking for Hillary...

State Department official disclaimer

I have learned during my orientation that I am required to convey an important message regarding reading this journal, it is important to know that we are not putting words in the mouth of Hillary Clinton or anyone else at the State Department. To assure that you know this, I am required to post the following disclaimer regarding the opinions and comments presented in this blog. Get ready - here goes...

This web site is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the US Department of State

Hopefully, this clears up any confusion you might have had about this concern.

Posted by SteveJenn 12:09 Comments (0)

It's almost time to fly

After all these months of preparation, it's strange to be in the blocks waiting for the starting gun to fire. It's about time - I'm tired of all of the training. Things are calm - we are ready to go. In fact, the absence of the panicked frenzy that often accompanies our departures for trips is a bit unnerving. What are we missing? Can't think of anything at the moment.
It's been a very busy but truly enjoyable couple of weeks. My week in Washington, DC with the other Fulbright teachers not only left us with a multitude of logistical and cultural adjustment tips, but also heightened my sense of anticipation by being in the presence of so many people on the cusp of great adventures. Far and away the most enjoyable aspect of the past week and a half has been coming to know Sreeja Rajan, my exchange partner. Andover High school is in for a real treat this semester for she is clearly a dedicated and capable teacher and a completely delightful person. I am a bit envious of my colleagues who will have the chance to come to know her better and I also know that I will have some big shoes to fill when I arrive at her school. Her husband, Pradeep Kumon, arrived last evening around two o'clock after an amazing journey that involved planes, trains, multiple subways, and a taxi from Haverhill at 1:00 am. The story of his trip here was fascinating but not very surprising once I've had the chance to get to know him a little this morning. He is a jovial, adventurous type of guy who is instantly likable. I was pleased to learn that he might be here for a couple of months.
We had a little excitement this morning when Mari returned around 9:30 am from my parents after a sleep-over and showed us a cracked molar. What family trip can begin without a little ancillary excitement? Fortunately, we were able to get her into a dentist and it turned out to be a baby molar that was being pushed by the new tooth underneath. It got yanked.
Soon we will have to say goodbyes, to my parents and to Daisy, who definitely knows something is up. It's very emotional when I dwell on it, but the ability to Skype diminishes the separation. Our flight departs for Amsterdam at 7:00 pm and after a 3 hour layover, we're on to New Delhi - about 15 hours in the air altogether - we'll land at 10:50 pm on Thursday, India time. I have photos to post from the various events of the last few weeks leading up to today, but it will have to wait. Just one last bag check...I must be missing something...

Posted by SteveJenn 11:15 Comments (0)

We have arrived!

Day One in New Delhi

sunny 92 °F

It was a long haul, but we landed on time in New Delhi late Thursday night, passed through immigration without any problems, met our driver at the door, and were wisked off to our Bed and breakfast arriving around 1:00 am local time. It might have been earlier except for a lost driver who gave us a tour of some parts of the city where I don't think we would have seem otherwise.

The flights were great - the girls were amazing in their tolerance and patience despite the sleep deprivation and waiting around. We slept in a bit but awoke to have a huge breakfast prepared by our delightful hosts here at the New Delhi BnB. Ajay, the owner, and his son, Ashu, set up a car and driver for us for the day (Ru 1200 or about $27) to take us wherever we wanted. Our first stop was to visit the beautiful lotus shaped temple of the Baha'i faith, an amazing structure in it's scale and beauty.
mosque_col..girls-3.jpg. It was a sweltering, humid day in which we quickly surrendered to the reality that we were going to be sweaty and hot all day. Our visit also gave us the opportunity to get used to attracting the attention of other tourists since we look just a little bit different - we found ourselves on the other side of the camera on more than one occasion.

After the temple visit, we visited the archaeological site at Qutb Minor where ruins of Muslim tombs, mosques, and an amazing minaret provide a great sense of the way things used to in this area a millennium ago. mosque_col..girls-5.jpgDSCN0294.jpg

After two tourists sites, jet lag started to set in for some of us, especially Elena,
so we decided to visit a craft market to get a feel for what was available. The Dilli Haut market is an area that allows vendors from different parts of the country to take a stall for a couple of weeks so the selection is always changing with the vendors. The girls are starting to understand the how haggling process works and I expect that they will become quite good at it quickly.

Our last stop brought us over to the Khan market, a more contemporary shopping area where we ate dinner at little Hollywood themed restaurant and then crawled home in the Delhi rush hour traffic. It was long day given our confused internal clocks and our adjustment to being is such a different place. We retired for the evening relatively early and as expected, I was awake at around 3:30 am this morning with my brain ready to start the day. I hate jet lag! We're hiring the car again today for more sight seeing and are being careful to organize a plan to accommodate tomorrow's celebration of India's Independence Day.

Posted by SteveJenn 21:44 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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