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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The End of our First Week of Service

Today we finished our first week of summer camp and GLOW. I must say that it was a successful week. We’re all exhausted. I just woke up from a nap and everyone else is still asleep. Those kids just took it all out of us.

We have about 60 kids in our summer camp. We meet in a little church in one of the slums. We bought every child a notebook and pencil to work with. We finally got in the groove today schedule-wise: first we do something active to tire the kids out. Today we played Gangnum Style and made snakes/trains. I led one of the trains for a while. The kids are super fun and so energetic. I love that they come to summer camp even though they’re on break. After we tire them out we get them working on the English alphabet, thinking of words and pictures for each letter. They are far more familiar with the alphabet than we thought, but it’s a good review for them. We usually split them into groups by age so we can move at a more appropriate pace. Some of the children have a fantastic grasp on English, some not so much. They speak Telegu, so we have a couple of translators there to help us communicate. One woman from SAPID, our partner organization that is helping us to organize the camp, is a fantastic resource – her name is Urmi, and she is so kind and funny. We have kind of adopted her as our group mom. She takes good care of us. A couple of members from the local LDS church join us as translators too – a teenage boy called Ammon and a young adult called Jon. They’re fun and their knowledge of both English and Telegu is so helpful. I really wish I could speak Telegu. It would be so useful right now.

Right after summer camp we head over to a neighboring community for GLOW. We have 17-ish girls in our group. Yesterday we introduced the idea of SMART goals to them (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Based). Today we finished up SMART goals and taught them basic personal hygiene like face-washing and teeth-brushing (this is when it comes in handy to have a dentist brother who taught me the proper way to brush teeth). The most effective part of the lesson was the part about washing hands. Our volunteer Meera illustrated the concepts of germs with glitter – she put glitter on her hands, then shook some of the girls hands and the glitter spread. I love this example for talking about germs. The girls seemed to get what it meant, and hopefully now they will be better about washing their hands.

Next week we tackle the taboo topic of menstruation. The mothers don’t teach their daughters about what menstruation is, so the girls are left thinking something is wrong with them – they’re not allowed to, in some situations, go to school or be in the kitchen during their periods. They don’t have access to pads either, so we’re going to research a way to make homemade pads and other ways of handling it. Mostly we just want them to know it’s a normal part of life and it’s healthy to have a period.

My time here is run basically like a full-time job – we work from 10am-6pm and then after we are free to do other things. We went to an exhibition near our house on Wednesday night. An exhibition is basically a carnival. They have big stands full of bangles and clothes and random toys. They have carnival games and even a haunted house, which we all got up the nerve to go through. It ended up being not scary at all until the end. It was a little gory and creepy though. Eliza had her face hidden in my backpack the entire time.

I am the only blonde person I have seen since I’ve been here. People stare at us everywhere we go. Not only are we white but we are usually loud – Americans are just loud. It’s a fact. People don’t have any qualms about staring, so we stare back. Usually we wave and say hello and they’ll say hi back. It’s weird to be stared at everywhere I go. It makes me feel a bit like a celebrity, but mostly just really self-conscious.

The food finally got to me yesterday and I vomited. I threw up out the door of the bus on the way back from the slums. The driver was really nice and kept asking if I was okay. Annie held the hair out of my face while we rode home – she’s so sweet. I’m here with the nicest people in the world. I assumed I’d throw up at some point, but I was of course hoping it wouldn’t happen. I’m fine today. I’m still a little queasy but much better. I still feel like I never want to eat food ever again. I’m hoping that will pass by tomorrow. I’ve also had bouts of homesickness as per usual Jenny behavior. All in all, all is well. I’m very happy to be here and I have learned a ton about myself and life. What an amazing experience. This is a very grateful Jenny.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I'm in India!!!

Hello everyone! I’ve been in India for almost two weeks now – I know, I know, it has taken me a while to post about it. Here’s why: Internet. It turns out the Internet is ridiculously hard to come by in India. We’ve tried Internet cafes, we’ve tried bumming of wifi at the church, we’ve gone to neighbors, etc. We were supposed to have Internet in our apartment (that’s what HELP told us before we got here) but our landlord signed us up for the worst Internet company in India and though they said it would be activated last week, it has yet to work. So we bought a mobile wifi hotspot from another company, but apparently there was a 200mb data limit on our monthly plan, and we used it all in one night (we paid for unlimited, so this is their problem, not ours). Anyway, if it sounds like I’m frustrated it’s because I am. The Internet is not the important thing – it’s only a minor set back. The important thing is…


Yes, I really am here. And it is amazing. Overwhelming. Crazy. Awesome.

After a 5-hour bus ride to NYC, 7-hour plane ride to London (yay, London! Favorite place in the world), and 10-hour plane ride to Hyderabad, I finally arrived! On the flight to London they fed us and then I gave it back to them in a barf bag when we hit turbulence. In the London airport I was able to find one of the other volunteers – I determined it was him because he was wearing a BYU shirt. 

His name is Eric Townsend, and we arrived in Hyderabad together. After a little hold up at the immigration desk because I didn’t have an in-country address and phone number, Eric and I retrieved our luggage and were greeted by Julia and Ben, our country directors. It was around 6:30am. We spent the rest of the first day calling home so our parents would know we were alive and setting up the apartment our CDs procured for us the day before. It’s an awesome apartment – a full service apartment. So basically it’s like a hotel with room service and breakfast and dinner cooked for us every day, filtered water brought to our door, etc. The best thing about the apartment is that we have AC. It’s so lovely. We picked up the other volunteers in the following days.

And then there is Hyderabad. It’s definitely a different world. The driving is crazy. They don’t follow the traffic lines, and they barely follow the traffic lights. The auto rickshaws drive up and around and in between all of the other cars and moped/scooters, somehow never touching each other. It’s amazing. Somehow I feel safer riding in an auto than in a car. The cars are bigger and scarier. The rickshaws are a bit more mobile. We’ve had some really awesome auto drivers. One guy had his little boy riding with him, and the boy understood English pretty well so he was laughing at everything we said. His dad was teasing us as we went. It was great. Some of the drivers sing while they go, and some of the younger drivers have sound systems and radios in their autos. It’s awesome. Love it.

And then there’s the food. It’s amazing. So good. Hyderabad and southern India in general is known for being spicy, and that’s not a lie. However, I have loved every meal I’ve had. Favorite things to eat are masala dosa for breakfast and ghee sweets. I love the sweets. I think I’m the only person in my group who truly does.

The group! You need to know who the people in my group are! With Help Intl volunteers come in waves. As part of the first wave, we have Eric Townsend from Oklahoma and BYU, Eliza Dowdle from Holladay and the U of U, Annie Pinnock from Holladay and BYU, and Meera Andersen from Orem and UVU. Our country directors are Ben Reichert and Julia Darley. Bottom line: everyone is awesome. We have a few more people joining us in June and July, but I kind of feel bad for them because our wave is already so close. I’m sure they’ll fit in just fine.

And now to the important part of this post: the service! We have already started three projects and have plans for many more. Today we held our first session of summer camp for kids in the slums. We’re reviewing school concepts and playing games and such to get them ready for the new school year that starts in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow we hold the first session of GLOW right after summer camp. GLOW is an empowerment group for teenage girls in the slums. We’re going to be talking about leadership, health, maturation, self-esteem, and many more things. I hope it goes well. We have also started work on getting five bore wells underway. I’m helping make a video for the fundraising part of that. I’ve already been able to film a bunch of stuff – so glad I brought my camera.

Projects to come: painting educational murals on school walls, possibly working in a hospital with leprosy patients, teaching English classes to community members, and many more.

So much fun! So much to do! We are very busy.

And this weekend we are taking a trip to Bangalore! It will be wonderful. Keep checking back for updates.


Monday, May 13, 2013

The day is here!

Well, the day has finally come! I am currently on a bus to New York. From there I will fly to London (ahhhhh!) and then Hyderabad (wooo!). 

Honestly I'm scared. Well, perhaps nervous is a better word. I didn't expect leaving Boston to be so painful - I love it here, and spending the summer here would have been lovely too. Plus, me being me, I tend to get a bit nervous/scared before I go on a big adventure. I felt this way before going on my study abroad to London, and that ended up being the best two months of my life. Here's hoping India is a wonderful experience. I'm sure it will be. New situations always make me feel uneasy, but I guess that's how we grow.

Right now I'm just missing my friends back in Boston. They've become my family, and I'm afraid I left a bit of my heart with them. 

In two days (two looooong days of lots of sitting and strangers sitting too closely) I will be in India. Crazy. I'm so thankful for everyone who donate to make this possible. I will try to make you proud.

The woman sitting next to me on the bus has the button tones on for her phone, so there's an obnoxious beep every time she presses a button. And she is texting. Blargh. Oh well. She doesn't stink, so that's something. 

More updates to come :)