Too much has happened over the past two weeks to possibly try to describe it all. So I’ll start at the beginning, give just the highlights, and try not to bore you.
I arrived in the Mumbai airport without major incident. As I was waiting in line for customs, I met another girl on her way to MUWCI- Aimee from South Africa. We met up with the rest of our group and settled into the car for the four hour ride to campus. (Apparently, we were lucky to get a jeep; some kids were picked up in a bus, and it took them almost twice as long to make it to the school.)
One thing I noticed right away is that honking is used differently here. Whereas I’m used to honking being reserved for expressing anger or in legitimately dangerous situations, here it is a courtesy to honk around turns, before accelerating, before passing, or generally anytime you want to alert others of your location. This is probably a good thing considering the number and variety of people using the road, but as you can imagine, it adds up to quite a lot of noise. Somehow though, I managed to fall asleep in all of it.
We arrived after dark, and the final drive around Mulshi Lake was beautiful, if somewhat disorienting, in the moonlight. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it felt somehow anti-climactic to finally pull up and have to do something as mundane as stumble to my room lugging my suitcases along. Walking around campus now, it’s hard to remember my initial confusion and difficulty getting from point A to point B. But the first few days I mostly had to follow second years or ask for directions to get anywhere.
The first week was focused on integration, and it was a blur of names, faces, and nationalities. Thankfully, I’m now starting to consistently remember the names of most people I see, because initially, it was quite a struggle. I particularly enjoyed Mud-Games when about a hundred of us had a wrestling match on the very soggy soccer field. And Buddy Ball when I dressed as a nerd along with my buddies Kanek from Guatemala and Heda from Norway.
Another one of my favorite parts of the week was hearing from our guest speakers. Arvind Gupta is an educator who designs science-based toys that can be made from trash or other materials that can be easily obtained in India. It was inspiring to see his applied creativity and unique approach to learning. Plus, most of his creations are just downright fun. (If you’re interested, watch his TED talk.)
We also heard from Sara Heinrich, who ran a fascinating session on “Complexity and Systems Thinking.” She’s part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organization working to promote a circular economy that is restorative rather than detrimental to the environment. She’ll be leading a more in-depth course in November, and I’m already looking forward to it!
Last Saturday I went to Pune, a city of about 3 million an hour away from my school. I spent most of the day with Maya, my second year from Colorado, buying things like towels and laundry detergent. She also introduced me to some fantastic street food and showed me the ropes of riding rickshaws. It was great to get off campus and experience being a little more immersed in this area.
This past week was our academic induction. We had presentations on the different classes available to us and completed several group projects designed to help us explore the possibilities. The projects were a great way to connect with some of the students here and a fun taste of what (I hope) classes will be like. We had an intense and highly informative discussion on Brexit involving students from Britain and all around the rest of the EU, not to mention so many other areas of the world. I think I learned more from listening to dialogue between my fellow students than I could possibly have learned in a more formal lesson; the sheer number of perspectives represented by classmates is astounding. Diversity is such an integral part of life here that it’s starting to seem somewhat normal. However, I still can’t help but feel wonder when I look around the dinner table and see people from Kenya, Italy, India, Colombia, Bhutan, Argentina, and Angola, just to name a few countries.
Last night was the First Year Show, a chance for my class to introduce ourselves to the rest of the school. It was full of storytelling, magic tricks, singing and dancing in a wide vareity of forms, including Bhangra, Tonight, the second years will perform.
Someone asked me today what my biggest culture shock has been so far, and I honestly didn’t have an answer. I guess it’s just the little things that surprise me, like waking up to find my sandals covered in mold or being served potato paratha for breakfast. It’s also eerie at night to hear the sound of drums from the neighboring villages. They’re preparing for Ganesh Chaturthi, an Hindu festival. I can’t believe I’m really in India. And I definitely don’t think the fact that I’ll be here for two years has sunk in yet. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable, but it still seems like I’m just here for a summer camp, or something along those lines.
This morning I went kayaking on a nearby lake. The pictures don’t do the beauty any kind of justice, but I’ll add them anyway just so you can get an idea. Our goal today was to scout out a landing area of the far side of the lake so we can return sometime and hike the hill in the background. Apparently there’s a fort on top.
Classes start tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to having a little more structure in my life. Although it’s likely change, (after many hours of agonizing over the amazing options) I have tenatively chosen to take Computer Science, Film, and Math at a higher level and Global Politics, English Literature, and German Literature at a standard level. Tomorrow begins all our co-curricular activities as well. Wish me luck because I’ve heard it will be quite hectic.
Wow! This actually got rather long, so I’ll leave it there. But believe me, it was just the highlights.