India: Day 1

The first day in India has been incredible. We arrived at the airport at 4 in the morning and then finally the Mahindra UWC at 6 in the morning, where we were fortunately able to sleep until 11. We then toured the beautiful campus, were introduced to the program and work we will be doing in the villages, and met the Akshara kids.

Arrived!! Taking the jeeps down to the villages for the first time
We made it!! Taking the jeeps down to the villages for the first time
Beautiful rice paddies of the Mulshi Valley 40 km outside Pune, India
Beautiful rice paddies of the Mulshi Valley 40 km outside Pune, India

The highlight of the day was visiting the villages and seeing, observing, and asking about their lives. It was truly magical when Anna and I were given a “tour” of the village by two beautiful 15-year-old girls.

Overlooking the gorgeous landscape and a colourful temple, a sanctuary from the blazing heat
Overlooking the gorgeous landscape and a colorful temple which was our sanctuary from the blazing heat

We were invited into one of the girls’ homes and saw their 3 cattle and ox, went to the many colorful temples, and learned to dance -bollywood style. We still have a far way to go with the dancing but rest assured I will grasp it by the end of the week.

Anna and Pratiksha standing under the temple. Although there's only a 2 year difference its clear how different our bodies are!
Anna and Pratiksha standing under the temple. Although there’s only a 2 year difference its clear how different our bodies are!
Pratiksha's bull: It lived along with three others in the basement of their house with an extra door leading out. Apparently it is a sign of wealth to house your cows in your home. It shows that you keep what is valuable close, and that you respect the animals as if they were family
Pratiksha’s bull

This bull was one of 4 that livedin the basement of Pratiksha’s house. Apparently it is a sign of wealth to house your cows in your home because it shows that you keep what is valuable close to you and is a sign of respect to the animals.

Water Buffalo cross a school yard
Water Buffalo cross the high-school yard

The buildings you see behind are part of the local highschool that many children in the valley attend. The classrooms consisted of modest blackboards and wooden desks and chairs. The manure from these bulls are used a fuel so shortly after they left an older woman ran behind and scooped up the manure, covered it in dirt, and carried it on a cardboard plate back to her house where she dries it in the sun to create large “chips”

There were of course many shocking factors, but with poverty that is expected. The day has made me think over what I have, and do, take for granted; sanitation, health, personal space, school, and frankly my rights as a woman.

Trash- everywhere. At first it made me almost cry at the hopelessness of it, but after a while we all got used to it. Luckily, steps are being taken (gradually) to solve the problem.
Trash

The thing that hit me the most was that there was trash- EVERYWHERE. At first I was almost induced to tears from the seemingly hopeless situation, but after a while I got used to it- unfortunately (in this case) humans have an incredible ability to adapt to their surroundings. Luckily, steps are gradually taken to solve the problem, and by the time we left 6 trashcans had been erected in both villages we were working in.

One of my favorite pictures from the trip. Sitting here with villagers and my good friend Maud who did the homestay with me
This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. I’m sitting here with my good friend Maud who did the homestay with me and a hoard or “fans” hahahaha I’m just joking, but they were adorable and followed us everywhere.
The little girls wanted to pose with me, so I now have endless pictures of the super tall awkward white me, and these little beauties
Some of the most common things I heard were “Nora come, take picture!”

Despite many of the unsettling factors the beauty, sense of community, and spirit of the children we met has left me awe-struck, grateful, tired, but above all, happy.

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