Saturday, March 14, 2015

Update from Heranjalu

Hello everyone -

We've had internet trouble, so sorry we've fallen a bit behind in the blogging. Tonight we're taking the overnight train back to Mumbai, and perhaps we'll have a chance to post one last time.

This morning we had a program of dance by the students at the primary school, which was a lot of fun. Then final lunches with homestay families, packing up, and soon we'll head to the train station. 

This has been an amazing program, and it's with mixed emotions we all head home. 

- BC

Heranjalu, Day 3

Leaders: Darrell and Nysa

The day began with a generous amount of dosa and chutney accompanied by laughs at having too much food and the chutney being too spicy. When we arrived at Krishna’s house, we circled up and played a game of Kitty Wants a Corner. Then with the guidance of Susan, the group learned sun salutations and stretches. Afterwards, we journaled, guided by the prompt: “I wish they knew…” to think about what we have experienced, and what we would want people back at home, meaning America, to know about India. So ask a person from the trip to tell you what they wrote because we are sure it was very interesting and significant. 

Then, we went to the fields to get our hands a little dirty. The group helped Krishna’s dad pick the orange cucumber-like vegetables and put them into piles and bags. To make this activity more fun and to forget about how much we were sweating we tossed the vegetables to each other. At the school worksite we split up into two groups; one group leveled out the dirt in the stage platform while the other group sanded and painted the kindergarten walls. At halftime the group gathered to enjoy Hide and Seek cookies and a mango drink. 

For lunch, we were invited to one of the homestay houses, where we were served generous amounts of rice with chicken curry on banana leaves.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hello BCS Parents:
The group has been unable to blog, but WLS Instructor Susan Lambert texted these pictures and also the following blog update. The group will blog tomorrow. “Everyone is great and we will try to post tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy pictures from our day at the beach!”

Ross Wehner, World Leadership School

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


We have internet here, but it's slow, so I'm uploading some photos separately from the students' blog posts. Everyone is doing great -- Krishna, Susan, Amanda, Josh and I are loving working with this group. The conversations are interesting and thoughtful, and the group dynamic is outstanding. So we're going to stay for an additional week or two. Kidding! But I really am proud of the way this group is interacting, and would travel with them again in a heartbeat.

We were invited to lunch this afternoon by the head of the school's parents association.

It was HOT today, so as we finished work, Krishna turned the hose on us.

Last night we attended a Yakshaagana performance (Google it).

We ended today with a game of cricket.

Day 2 in Heranjalu

Leaders: Davis and Alex

Today was our first morning in Heranjulu. The roosters clucked and the cows mooed.  Our host families made us delicious breakfasts of dosa— a rice pancake of sorts -- and chutney.  The children of the families left for school at 8:00 a.m., and we walked to Krishna’s house to convene as a group.  We started the day with a few fun activities to get our hearts pumpin’ and blood flowin’.  We (Alex and Davis, the leaders of the day) presented the day’s schedule and challenged the group to learn more about themselves and someone else.  Once the morning meeting was over we headed to the school to begin our work on the stage, which we are building, and to spend time with the students.  

We divided into three groups and conquered.  Our tasks included moving dirt and moving more dirt.  We used the advanced bucket method to move it from the pile to the stage and saw all of our work go to shame when a huge bulldozer came and did our hours’ work in 15 minutes.  But nevertheless it was a great experience and our summer bodies are certainly coming along nicely.  Watch out world!  

All jokes aside our first day with the children was full of laughter and glee as we threw it back to the days of Duck Duck Goose.  The children loved it and taught us some of their own games. We realized that even though we barely speak Kannada, we all know the universal language of dance and laughter.  It was interesting to see that the environment of the kindergarten classroom was very similar to back home.  

After this grueling morning we returned to our homestays for lunch.  Some of us ate and took naps while the others spent time journaling and exploring the woods. These relaxing three hours were followed up by some very aggressive rounds of ninja— hiyah!  Our spinning and splicing through the air was met by confused laughter from the villagers who are probably still trying to figure out us weird Americans.  Then we sat down for a reflective, introspective conversation about who we admire— who knows, it could have been you…  It was a great group bonding experience as everyone came out of their shell and shared the stories that help define who they are.  Alex said— Oops! You really thought we were gonna tell ya? What happens in India stays in India.  It was a wonderful experience to share together and hopefully we learn even more personal stories soon.  We were so enthralled by our peers’ stories that when we looked out we realized the sun had fallen and the moon had risen— it was dark.  

Monday is the day to worship Shiva, and to our delight we were invited to join the villagers in a ceremony at the local temple.  We danced and clanged bells to the rhythm of Heranjalu.  Eventually the boys of the group joined the men and children of the village in dance and song as the girls watched from the side.  A simple step and kick turned into an hour’s worth of jumping, twisting, rolling, and sweating.  While the boys looked exhausted and confused, it was a spiritual experience like no other and a nice welcome to the Hindu religion.   When the ritual was over we walked back home and the day was over.   We fell asleep with smiles on our faces.

Monday, March 9, 2015

First Day in Heranjalu

After a long and bumpy night on the train to Heranjalu, we awoke to the Indian sun shining through the windows.  Everyone was ready to start the day.  At around mid-day we got off the train at Baindur station, and were greeted by a fleet of yellow and green motorized rickshaws.  From there we drove along a conservatively paved road to the elementary school and were warmly welcomed with a banner, a group of singing schoolgirls, and many bouquets of flowers. After countless group photos and fresh coconut water, we walked further in Heranjalu to Krishna’s house. There, we had our first authentic home cooked utensil-free meal.

Then came the moment we’d all been waiting for: Homestays. We received our groups and all went our separate ways. Each group had very different experiences, but by the end, everyone got more comfortable living in their new homes. After spending two hours in our homestays, we regrouped at Krishna’s house and went on a walk around the village. As we hiked through the peanut fields, we talked to our hosts and learned more about them as they learned more about us. For the final time today, we met back at Krishna’s house to talk about our experiences in our homestays and reflect on our days as a whole.

Everyone agreed that the first couple of hours in our homestays felt foreign and slightly uncomfortable. After attempting to try to find common ground, either by playing games or helping out around the house, we all managed to start to connect with our new families. Showing interest in the local culture, like trying to speak Kannada, really made the process of adjusting to our new homes way easier. Our hosts insist that we always eat more food, and even if we’re full, it’s hard to say no. It feels slightly uncomfortable taking one of the family member’s room, but the hosts are very excited to have us there, the first foreign students to visit the village.

Zoe and Jacob


Today [Saturday] we all went to the Dharavi Slum and spent most of the day touring and interacting with local children. We started our day by taking a Mumbai city bus to the train station, where we caught the train to the slum. The Mumbai public transport was quite hectic and it was very nice to have Krishna to guide us through all the yelling and honking. We then started our tour of the slum by walking through the commercial area where we were able to see the massive recycling industry present in the small winding streets of the slum. Every square inch of space was utilized from the floor space to spread the crushed up plastic, to the roof where everything was laid out to dry. It was fascinating to see the way this area that western stereotypes portray as horribly impoverished and filthy, is actually home to a vast and booming industry.

After spending some time looking at the industrial side of the slums, all of us went to the small houses where people live. Later we took a tour of Krishna’s school and spoke to some local students, grade and high school. Despite not understanding Hindi, interactions with the students were very fun and interesting. We played hand games, learned about their families and friends, and danced to some Bollywood music. 

The girls from our trip went to play soccer with younger Indian girls while the guys split up into two groups to bond with the teenagers in Krishna’s development program. Communication was mostly through fractured English and hand gestures but there was no denying the immediate bond that was formed between the two groups of students. Within ten minutes we were sitting side by side with the natives talking about; life in Dharavi, life in New York City, sports, and hobbies.

After that we went back to our hotel to relax and reflect on the day’s journey before getting packed and heading out to the night train.

Our experience today in the Slum was both enlightening and humbling. There is no doubt that an additional perspective on Indian culture and the Indian way of life was gained. We got to see tough, unsanitary, living conditions. With that however we also got to see a vibrant and resilient community with individuals in it who are trying to make a difference the world. The most inspiring moment of the day was when one student started talking about what learning English has meant to him and how it inspires hope within the community, and within himself. He talked about breaking the cycle of poverty and proving that if you work hard you can be successful no matter what. This message of hope coming from a place associated with such great despair was truly beautiful and inspirational.

Now we are a 14 hour trainride, heading towards Heranjalu!!!

(Happy Birthday Dad)

Jake and Devin

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Arrival in Heranjalu

Hello Parents:
Quick note to say I have been in communication with Berkeley Carroll group in India this morning. After an overnight train journey, they have arrived in Krishna's home community of Heranjalu. The students will spend their week in the community and will be blogging tomorrow, once they have access to internet tomorrow. The kids are doing great and are in high spirits, according to Krishna and our instructor Susan. As always, feel free to call World Leadership School on (303) 679-3412 with any concerns.
Ross Wehner, World Leadership School

Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Holi!!!

Today we boarded our bus into the center city of Mumbai not knowing what to expect. The media and stereotypes prepared us to witness run down homes and sad faces. Instead we saw residents dancing joyously with beaming smiles. This happiness and welcoming feeling the locals brought to us is not an experience one can obtain living in New York.
Within moments of exiting our bus, individuals wearing paint, which covered every inch of their entire body and face, approached us. Today was Holi, a Hindu celebration of the slaying of the Buffalo Demon.  Because of this holiday, almost every person was painted entirely from head to toe with a multitude of different colored chalks. People greeted us, as they swiped colorful powder all over each of our faces.  Throughout the day many more people smeared our faces with color. They were all very friendly in their approach and seemed excited to be celebrating this holiday with a group of foreigners. An even crazier moment of this day for us was when we were ambushed by some of Krishna's friends, who proceeded to dunk our bodies in more colorful powder. At this point our entire bodies and faces were covered in different colors. Everyone was laughing and having a great time.
            This celebration showed everyone how joyful people can be. The Hindus turned a death of the buffalo demon into a celebration where everyone is covered in bright, happy color. Everyone was nice to enough to greet strangers with a huge amount of respect and make them feel comfortable. This phrase "Happy Holi!" was repeated again and again by the same people who were embracing us with their bear hugs and firm handshakes almost every time we walked down a street. This was a culture shock for us because it was so different from the Mind Your Own Business( MYOB) attitude in New York City.
Although we spent a fair amount of time celebrating Holi Day, we also enjoyed other parts of Mumbai. We visited an intricate temple, which housed a fire in which everyone could burn coconuts. This act symbolizes discarding the unwanted things in life. To enter this temple, we had to remove our shoes, which was another instance of the change in culture for us. We also experienced the internationally renowned Indian food in a restaurant during our lunch.  We tasted an assortment of different Indian sauces that were dipped on to the top of our delicious roti and naan breads. The lunch, we all agreed, was very delicious and quite the experience. Finally, we fed green grass to the cows at a local cow shelter while inhaling the refreshing scent of fresh cow dung.  The cows seemed very happy to be given the green grass and we especially enjoyed feeding it to the baby cows. Cows are very important to the Indian culture because they are sacred to the Hindu religion. This is why there are so many cows in the city.
After this exhausting but exciting day, we reflected on our journey through Mumbai. We discussed the amazing smell of spices, the sound of happy music, and the thick clouds of colored powder in the air. 
    - Ryan and Patrick