So far I’m really enjoying my time here. My first few days at Sevalaya weren’t the best but thankfully things are much better now. I’m pretty sure I got food poisoning from a restaurant the day we got in to India and could barely leave my room at first (please guys, be smarter than me and don’t order garlic mushrooms outside of the states lol.. ). That was pretty hard for me because I really wanted to show my appreciation for being there and eat meals with everyone and teach our classes, but it just wasn’t possible. Definitely not the first impression I was going for. On top of that, the heat was a bit extreme at first. There aren’t any thermometers but it’s definitely hotter than any Florida summer I’ve had. It’s been six days since I first got sick though and I’m now feeling a million times better. Even the heat isn’t really bothering me, so I think our bodies needed time to have their own culture shock period as well. I can now easily wear the traditional leggings and a long top or long baggy pants all day with no problem 🙂
Our accommodation is much more than I would expect for being in a rural village in India. We have our own bathroom with a western toilet and shower, a king bed we share and a pretty powerful ceiling fan. We’re fed three times a day huge meals of rice and vegetable sauce that the staff grows and prepares daily. It’s not exactly my favorite but I’m definitely warming up to it. It’s actually really amazing the amount of people they are able to feed for free a day, it has to be close to 200 hostel children, old age home residents, and staff members. The portions are massive and they also give seconds if you want them. I haven’t been able to finish my first plate yet but I’m sure by the end of the summer I probably will. We also all eat only with our right hand- no silverware at all. I’m actually getting used to this and I’ve heard once you’ve mastered it you can shovel food in way faster than with a fork.
All of the staff, residents, and children are so sweet and helpful. Communication really hasn’t been too much of an issue for us. Everyone knows at least a little bit of English, and some of the children know an almost scary amount. For the Social Science classes we’ve been teaching we’ve been doing some lessons on America because all the children seem really interested in it. The first few days everyone drew mini American flags, then they each wrote some facts about the country and we had a few mini discussions on what they already know about it. They all said things like “America is so beautiful!”, “America clean, India dirty!”, and “Obama! Obama!” They also thought everyone was white and spoke English. We tried to explain that America is diverse just like India, but I can understand how it would be hard for them to imagine when they’ve only ever heard and seen pictures of the most lavish parts of our country. Another project we’re going to be starting to hopefully help open up the children’s eyes to other parts of the world is making models of each of the Seven Wonders and writing up histories and facts about them, and hopefully when that is completed other volunteers can make more models of other great things around the planet. Doing this for some of the amazing sites in India would be great as well.
There are a few other volunteers with us here, but the campus is so large that we all are able to easily pursue our own interests. Three siblings are here from Utah doing eye glass clinics and then there are two girls from London and Scotland here on there “gap yah”. They’ve already been here 9 months and after speaking with them our little summer visit seems so short in comparison. This is the kind of place that you definitely need to be shown how to get to the nearest town and what kind of things are safe to eat and drink for foreigners, so I’m so happy we’ve been able to meet them.
In summary, I think coming to Sevalaya was a really good choice for me. It has its challenges but there’s also so much potential to learn everywhere I look, which is exactly what I wanted out of this experience.
Meant to post this last time! Last year’s Global Scholars Katrina and Lee Anne came to the airport to send us off ❤