Archive for the ‘India’ category

Staying with nuns in India

April 23, 2007

Dominique Gelder-Smith
1. How old are you and what’s your occupation?
I am 19 and I am currently on a gap year
2. What made you decide to go to India?
I’d never thought of it until my friend asked me if I’d like to go with her
so that her parents wouldn’t get too worried about her.
3. Which organisation did you go with?
I stayed with an order of nuns called the Holy Cross Sisters for five weeks
in Mekkarai and Achinkovil and then I went on a tour of MP and UP with
4. How did you find out about them?
I went to a school that was founded by the sisters in New Malden and one of
the sisters who curently woks there invited us to isit those in India. I
found out about the Intrepid tour through my sister.
5. What were you doing out there? What sort of project was it?
The Holy Cross sisters that I stayed with ran several different projects in
their local areas. I helped at local visits to patients of the two small
dispensaries that acted as hospitals for the villagers, who live so remotely
from government funded aids. I worked in two nurseries run by the sisters
and one school where the sisters were placed as teachers. I also visited
homes of those with domestic problems in Achinkovil, where the sisters act
as independant social workers-diffusing domestic violence and educating
about alcohol and drug addiction. I also visited some women’s self-help
groups that had been set up in both communities to provide loans and support
for the poorest families.
6. How much of a cultural difference was it?
The cultural diffence was greater than I could have ever imagined. The only
thing that was not different, I noticed, was that they drive on the same
side of the road as we do in England. Eating idli and chatni for
breakfast…with my hands, seeing teachers caning 4year old children,
monkeys on the roof and washing in a bucket were the cultural differences
that made the trip real.
7. What was your best part of the trip?
The best part was probably helping at the nursery annual school day or
driving across the mountains in a storm
8. What was your worst part of the trip?
On the final night of my stay in Achinkovil I suffered from the worst asthma
attack I have ever had. It was inmpossible to convey my problem to the nuns
and I had to wait five hours until we could get a jeep with a driver to take
me to the hospital which was another 4 hours away. I never really got to say
good bye to my friends at the convent there.
9. Would you like to go back again?
Yes definitely…I’ve been told to bring my little sister back next year,
then my parents, then my husband and children…I’ll have to see how it
10. What was it like being back in England after being in India?
Cold and safe. It’s a bit lonely not waving at people all the time, and no
one invites you in their house just because you’e passing. I miss the food
but I don’t miss the diahorrea.
11. Where in India were you based? Did you do any travelling outside of
your project?
I spent time in Mekkarai, a small village on the Tamil Nadu border and also
in Achinkovil, a village in the Keralan rainforests. I spent a ittle time in
Kollam and Trivandrum and also travelled with a tour group near Agra, Delhi
and Varanasi.
12. What advice would you give people who are planning to go?
I’d advise anyone who’s travelling in India to bring plenty of toilet paper
and immodium.
13. Do you have any images/videos that I could use in the article?
I have lots just check out facebook.


gunilla funch bangalore placement

January 29, 2007

Gunilla Funch


Born: Copenhagen, Denmark

Live: Edinburgh, Scotland

Arrived at University of Edinburgh, October 2003

International Business with French

Went on placement in India at Rave magazine, based in Bangalore, India. I thought that it was an easy way of going abroad and working while travelling, if I had a placement then I’d at least have something to do.

Went onto the I-to-I website and it told you everything you needed to know, it cost £1,000 for a five week placement.

It was a bit of a mixed experience while being on placement, wasn’t at all what it said it would be in the description. But I would of gone even if it said I’d of been an office intern. Generally wasn’t the most exciting thing to have spent the summer doing placement wise. I think it’s a lot of money to pay for something that you don’t get anything out of directly; maybe the description could have been more honest about the placement description and what I’d actually be doing.

From the placement I learned how to navigate MySpace. I learned interview techniques and how to research for articles, but I don’t think I’m cut out for a career in the media. I liked the pressure of working under deadlines but I don’t think I’m meant to be a writer.

I loved India, absolutely loved every bit of it. I came with no expectations and over the years I’d always thought it would have been a nice to place to go and see. The people were so friendly and really open-minded compared to back at home. Some people complained about the beaucracy of India and how long it took to get anything done but I lived in Paris for a year and it was nothing compared to the French way of doing things.

I had very little experience with Indian food and I found that I really liked it. If I ever went again I would probably more different foods, I didn’t get food poisoning though like some of the people I was staying with! The climate wasn’t too bad either, in Bangalore it was temperate and it felt like home sometimes, especially with the coolness in the evenings.

We travelled every weekend and the placements were pretty flexible about having time off and taking say a Monday off so that we could have a long weekend. I got to see a fair bit of South India. Hampi, Kerala, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mammallporam.

Kerala was one of the early trips that we did and it was just a beautiful place. Mammallporam felt more Westernised and there were always tourists around.

I quite liked having a placement because we had a base in Bangalore; it was nice to have somewhere to come back to after a weekend away. The place that I was staying at was much better than I expected, there were some great peope and we got all our meals cooked for us and we even had hot water!

If I went again I’d of definitely chosen a different placement. I don’t know if I’d of been cut out for a teaching placement but people out there who did teaching placements seemed to have a really good time and got a lot more out of it than media placements.

I missed India almost as soon as I got back. It was nice to be home at first, you get your own bed, the family around and bran flakes. But after a while you realise just how quiet it is and you miss all the people you met out there. You form quite a strong bond with the people you stay with and you’re out there together so you become close to them and then suddenly those people aren’t there.

Definitely go back in the future, I would like to see other parts of India but would definitely back to Bangalore at some point.