How can I describe my last 6 months here in India? Here I have gone through the
highest highs and lowest lows of my life. I can still remember how my host father
picked me up from the bus stop. I was so excited for my host family and new home.
But the fear was unfounded. I received a very warm welcome from my host family
with food and a string of flowers. My host family consists of the parents, my two
younger host brothers and the grandmother. All the family members are totally
friendly and quickly accepted me into the family.

However, I must also mention that the first three months were the most difficult for
me. I didn’t really settle into my new routine, had hardly anything to do in my project
and had to get used to the food and lack of privacy. In addition, I was permanently
ill. I don’t think I missed out on anything here in India. I definitely got food poisoning
once every month and in October 2022, my fellow volunteers and I got dengue
fever. During these three months, I often thought about just quitting and flying back
home. But suddenly, out of nowhere, my whole attitude changed. India was
supposed to be the best time of my life. So I decided to change my project, take up
yoga and plan my travels.

Currently I am working in a government school. Before that, I worked in a women’s
empowerment project. Unfortunately, I had nothing to do in the old project, was
always put off until tomorrow and the language barrier was hard to overcome. It was
good that my coordinator reacted quickly and was able to transfer me to a school.
At the school, I teach English to primary school students. We start the school day at
9.50 am with morning prayer and sing the national anthem. Afterwards, all pupils get
a glass of hot milk. Classes then start at 10.30 am. I therefore usually wait for the
children in my classroom. The other teachers send the different primary school
classes to me at certain times. My teaching consists of waking up the children with
an energizer. Then I try to teach the students English words and rhymes. Now and
then we watch a short film in English, do handicrafts or play games. Then I have
lunch together with my colleagues. What I like about the school is that lunch is free
for the students. My colleagues are super nice. They always take care of me and
most of the time we share our lunch with each other. School ends at 4 pm and
afterwards I go into town, home or to yoga. I usually meet up with my fellow
volunteers and we go out for tea or lassi. When I do go home, I usually play with my
host brothers or help them with their homework. Chess is very popular with us at the
moment. Unfortunately, I am totally bad at it and lose most of the time. Then I go to
yoga three or four times a week. I am so happy that I have found a school for myself
here in the birthplace of yoga. My yoga teacher has become like a mentor to me. My
physical and mental condition has improved a lot since then. He has allowed me to
participate in various festivities and to dive deeper into Indian culture.

My weekends in Mysore are mostly spent meeting the other two volunteers and
planning excursions. In general, I think we are the volunteers who have travelled the
most in India. We have been to Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Mumbai together. I
can’t even say where I liked it best. Each state has its own charm. The people are
sometimes different in appearance, nature is a bit different everywhere and so is the
food. Nevertheless, the Hindus have one thing in common. They are the friendliest
and most helpful people I have met. No matter if it is the old auntie buying fruits, the
coconut seller or the tata at the bus stop, if you need help, you can be sure that they
will help you. Basically, India is a country like no other. The variety of food, fruits,
and colours is hard to find in any other country. When I close my eyes and think of
India, I see the women with their colourful saris and the flowers in their hair. I smell
the spices and incense sticks in the markets. I hear the laughter of the children and
the traditional music on the buses or at small roadside festivities.

Finally, I would like to say that I have experienced so much here that I can’t even begin to list it all. I’m
sure I can think of 100 more moments in the next 10 minutes that I should have
mentioned here. I am also sure that I will experience even more in the next five
months. But what I definitely want to take back to Germany is the great willingness
to help, the sharing culture and the bright colours.

By Anna Roth (LTV Volunteer, AFS-FSL India)

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