Rice, rice, and more rice
Week 1: Getting used to Kochi, starting project work
It’s been nearly a week in India but it’s felt like a full month already. Fort Kochi, the northern part of a peninsula called Kochi right off the main city called Ernakulum, is definitely an interesting area. Fort Kochi is filled with busy streets packed with street vendors and various types of entertainment. Early into the trip, GVI staff (the organization we’re volunteering through) told us something like: “Most people don’t understand how India really functions, it just kind of does.” Traffic seems to flow without street signs or traffic lights and the people seem to be much more relaxed even in busy settings. After my first week, I’m starting to see what the GVI staff were talking about.
The streets were really confusing at first, especially without a data plan (working on it), but they’re gradually getting less confusing. I’ve been going running in the morning when the streets aren’t as busy to explore new areas and familiarize myself with the city. Once Ramadan ends, probably on Monday, the streets will get a little busier as many of the shops in certain areas are closed during the day. Life pretty much shuts down in Kochi around 10 or so. Kerala has been moving towards prohibition, so nightlife is not a thing and is pretty frowned upon.
The fruit in Kerala has been amazing. We start most days usually with a full meal of fruit. Kerala has particularly great coconuts, mangoes, and avocados. Who’s complaining? What’s even better, GVI has a tab for us at a local fruit vendor so we can just pick up fruit whenever we want.
Food otherwise has been good. We’ve eaten a lot of rice, which is definitely something I’ll have to get used to. The curries have been great and I think I’ve expanded my flavor palette a lot. I’m not going to lie, I was a little surprised when our first meal didn’t have any silverware. It was a little weird at first, but there definitely are a few golden techniques to eating without utensils. Also, only one hand. If you’re curious why, feel free to ask and I’d be happy to explain. I’m working on learning the different names of the foods I like so I can bring some of my favorites back with me. There’s this lime pickle that’s a little sour and pretty spicy that’s served with a lot of meals that’s AWESOME. (I dare you to try to make it at home)
It’s really amazing how friendly the people in Kochi have been. Everyone says hi to each other and people smile a lot more, which is a lot different from America. Many people I’ve seen are a lot more comfortable hugging their friends and being in physical contact. When we see some of the school kids walking back from school, they always have their arms around each other. I’ve been trying to learn some Malayalam, the predominant language spoken in Kerala. I can read some words in Malayalam but my pronunciation and my comprehension are pretty much at a solid 0%.
Project wise, things have been going well also. We’ll be working at 3 different project locations. We’ll be working at two different primary schools teaching a class about gender and gender equality, at a relief shelter for people with mental and physical disabilities, and with a woman’s self help group. We started working at the two schools this last week and will start up the other projects next week.
We spent a lot of this past week prepping lesson plans and getting briefs about topics that’ll help us plan lessons and prepare for our different projects. We taught our first two lessons in Kochi for kids in Standard 9, which are mostly 13-14 year olds. It’s an after school class that the kids opted to take offered twice a week. Throughout the course, in addition to the topics about gender, we’ll be helping the students practice their English and expand their vocabularies. The first two days of class were really about getting to know the kids, learn names, and try to see their English levels. When we arrived at the school the first day, kids came running from all over to say hi to us. A lot of them came up saying, “Hello, my name is ______. What is your name?” They seemed to love to practice their English with us and it was cool that they were so excited to see us.
I’m excited to start the other projects next week and establish a more concrete schedule here in Kochi. More updates to come. Haven’t gotten sick yet, so that’s good at least.
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