"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.
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.