We have just said goodbye to our hosts and there were lots of tears and hugs. We are now waiting for our flight to be boarded, spending our last remaining rupees on coffee and cake to feed the pigeons that scuttle between the waiting passengers.
This morning school started with our cultural presentation, where we talked about the highlights of our stay to an audience of all the twelfth-graders of PSBB. This was followed by a classical Indian dance illustrating the life of Lord Krishna, and a brilliant beat-box performance.
After lunch, all the people involved in the Luxembourg-India Project gathered for a formal debriefing session, at which we exchanged feedback and suggestions for future improvements. We also talked about the learning outcomes of our project and discussed the differences and similarities between our educational systems and students’ everyday lives in India and Luxembourg.
In the afternoon, Abinaya’s and Pavithra’s parents invited all of us to have high tea at a local restaurant. We got a very nice surprise – each of us received a framed group picture that was taken when the Indian students visited us in Luxembourg in spring.
At six everybody went home to spend a final evening with their hosts. While Ivana was shown how to make chapatis, Caroline participated in a dancing festivity after her host mom finished the mehendi on her hands. Mika exchanged parting gifts with his new family, while Drago and Louis worked on their math homework…
A heartfelt Nandri to you all,
Wednesday 21 October
Today was the last day of the Navaratri festival, so school was cancelled and we had the possibility to sleep a bit longer. At 11, we met up at the mall, where we played a nice round of bowling. Caroline surprised with her performance, managing one strike after another. After the bowling game, some of us tried to show off their skills in some rounds of air hockey.
Later, we all had lunch together at a sandwich restaurant with very creative names for their meals. We enjoyed our ‘The Great Gatsby’-Sandwiches and ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’-Burgers with some delicious freshly made milkshakes. Afterwards, some of us met up at Rahul’s place, where we could compete against each other in a fun dancing-game.
Everyone rejoined their host families to spend the evening with them. Some went to a dance event, which was organised as part of the Navrathri festival, while the others had enjoyable dinners with their hosts.
Mika, for Team India
Tuesday, 20 October
To begin, this morning all of us went to school. After one hour we took a small freshly “air conditioned” bus to go to Madras University. There we visited their old and very big library, which was fascinating because of its authentic charm.
Then we went to a Jain temple. Everyone of our group enjoyed the beauty and serenity of this white-marble temple.
After the temple visit, we went back to school for lunch and then we drove to the offices and press of Makkal Kural and Trinity Mirror, two local newspapers. Thanks to their kindness we were given the opportunity to go to the heart of the production. We were given a guided tour of the offices, the production unit and distribution of the newspapers.
After this long day, we all went home to rest a bit and then we went to a large shopping complex and spent an enjoyable evening in the company of our hosts.
Ivana, for Team India
Monday, 19 October
Today has been a day of debating. In the morning we had some time to finish the preparation for our school debates. Then Drago and Mika competed in a one-on-one debate on the motion “THBT private possession of weapons should be banned in all countries”. After their performance they were given feedback by two university professors who had been especially invited as judges for the debate.
After lunch we had a first a presentation about mathematic-modeling, which is a way of finding a solution to problems in everyday life using calculations and mathematic formulas. For example, one of today’s topics was the emergency evacuation of a skyscraper and our task was to find a solution for evacuating the building in 15 minutes. This was the first time that both our Indian friends and we have been given such a task.
After this presentation we debated the motion “THBT security cameras are a necessary invasion to privacy”. We were team proposition; in other words, we were speaking for this topic.
Thankfully after the debate we had a yoga and meditation lesson, which helped us to calm down after this stressful day full of presentations. Besides doing some warm-up exercises and yoga, we also spoke about what we expect from a true friend. At the end we did meditation where we had to become aware of the sounds which are surrounding us and also concentrate on the vibration we feel when saying the Sanskrit syllable « aum ».
It was a wonderful experience that helped us find out a bit more about ourselves.
Sunday 18 October
Today our journey began very early. We – Drago and I – were woken up by my host Shashank at 05.45 and headed to the beach to enjoy the sunrise and some free time. While the warm waves wetted our feet, we saw many crabs and just enjoyed the ocean’s calm. A sleepy Drago meditated quietly beside the sea under an umbrella. After it had become too hot, we went for a traditional Indian breakfast. Then we all went to our homes, where we had time to prepare for our upcoming debates, mathematical problems and catching up on our school work from Luxembourg.
In the evening we went to a huge mall where we did some shopping and drank coffee. After that we met the girls at Hardrock Café. There, some of us could finally enjoy the taste of meat again. All of us participated in a YMCA-dance on the stage of the Hardrock Café. As Westerners, we were an attraction for the whole café.
Louis, for Team India
Saturday 17 October
After having a longer sleep than usual – as we didn’t have to attend school for classes on Saturday, we reached school a couple of minutes after 9, where we were supposed to meet the others. Even if Deep and I were a bit late, it wasn’t an issue at all as we arrived before the most of our fellows.
After everyone had arrived, we departed by a bus that had been organized by the school, for our trip. We reached our first destination after 90 minutes. Our first visit was to Mahabalipuram, a town 60 km south of the city of Chennai. There, we visited Pancha Ratha, which is a monument complex at Mahabalipuram that includes 5 different monuments. To our surprise foreigners have to pay 25 times more to get in than locals do.
Despite the dreadful heat, we enjoyed our visit and we were even happier as we were able to buy some souvenirs for friends and relatives at the site. This was a great opportunity to prove and improve our bargaining skills.
Afterwards, we continued our trip to Dakshina Chitra, which is a museum portraying the beliefs, arts, folk performing-arts, crafts and architectural styles of India, in particular of the South. Firstly, we had a delicious lunch in the restaurant which belongs to the complex. This was our first lunch without any plates as the food was eaten off a banana leaf.
After lunch, we had the opportunity to visit the site and to buy some further gifts. Some of us got a Henna Tattoo and I had the chance to witness a traditional dance by men on stilts.
Laden with gifts, we left the museum after 2 hours and returned to Chennai. In the evening, my family took me out for dinner in a restaurant, where I could enjoy and discover even more of the traditional Indian (vegetarian) cuisine.
Caroline, for Team India
Friday 16 October
Today was a busy day; after witnessing the daily prayer of my host family, we headed to school. There we did our presentations in front of a huge audience, which was different from our presentation the day before, where each of us talked to one class only. Apparently it was a great success, as many students came to us afterwards to ask more questions or to simply thank us for the presentations. We felt like stars. Later we were interviewed by three members of the school’s media club.
After school some of us had a little break at Shashank’s, who is one of the Indian students who came to our school earlier this year. From there we then went to Choki Dhani, a village built in the style of Rajasthan. On our long way to the destination we sang “Iwwerrall wou mer higinn”, a Luxembourgish song. Riding camels, playing Indian drums, meditating and getting our future told by a fortuneteller were part of the visit. While Mrs. Diederich performed an Indian dance, Louis nearly lost Thanatos (my ball).
In the restaurant, we sat in a semicircle on the floor, where we ate traditional Indian food (although some of us were not really keen on dinner after eating throughout the whole day). Then the school bus took us back home to our comfortably chill rooms.
Drago, for team India
Thursday 15 October
Today the PSBB school organized a Salad Day especially for our benefit. They prepared a variety of salads using both local and international fruit and vegetables. After tasting the salads and discussing their nutritional content, we went from class to class and gave the PSBB students the presentations we had prepared at home in advance.
Mika and Drago organized a quiz show with four Indian candidates and gave the class some information about Luxembourg’s capital and our grand-ducal family. In the second lesson, Ivana raised the topic of the European refugee crisis and illustrated Luxembourg’s efforts to help, and Adriana talked about our Indian friends’ visit to Luxembourg in May 2015. We concluded this lesson by showing them the video of the street interviews we had conducted in Luxembourg city, and the PSBB students were surprised and amused by some of the ideas people associate with India.
In the third lesson, the boys talked about the history, geography, climate, culture, politics, and economy of Luxembourg. And in the final lesson of the day, Caroline then provided an introduction to the business of steel production In Luxembourg.
After school, we went home to take a little rest from this busy schedule at school, and in the evening our host families took some of us shopping, others to the movies, and Mika to the cricket pitch.
To be continued …
Wednesday 14 October
As soon as we arrived at school this morning, all the students of PSBB were herded into the main hall for the school’s morning ritual of news telling, praying and presenting the day’s agenda. Unfortunately we couldn’t attend the whole ceremony because we had to leave early to sit in on the debating club’s presentation in the context the world mental health day. This gave us an insight into the official international debating format, and we met the guest judges that had been invited especially for the event.
Later we attended several classes and participated in an impromptu presentation, at which Mika showed off his vocal talents. Afterwards we were glad to discover the succulent lunches packed by our hosts.
In the early evening we started off today’s cultural programme at Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, a place of meditation and contemplation – and a welcome oasis of calm, and serenity in the midst of all the buzz. And off we went to the neighbouring temple of Kapaleeshwara. Having left our shoes under the watchful eyes of the temple cats and dog, we marveled at the shrines and statues bathed in festive lights and colours at the occasion of the Festival of the Nine Nights.
Before returning home to finalise our presentations for tomorrow, we took a stroll through the busy streets of the temple district filled with stalls offering bright figurines of all sizes and colours.
To be continued,
Tuesday 13 October
Having arrived at our homes at two o’clock in the morning, after a long flight, we had a late start at our partner school. First impressions: loud, busy, crowded.
We visited some classes, where we didn’t understand everything, but it was very interesting to see the mutually respectful student – teacher rapport in Indian schools. The dancing class then presented some traditional dances and we were absolutely mesmerized by the bright colors and the students’ moves. For lunch we went local and had a first taste of a dangerously hot sauce going with a tasty vegetarian dish. A yummilicious Mango Lassi cooled our taste buds down.
Adriana had a go at drawing a traditional mandala with rice flour in front of her hosts’ entrance. Not only does it look really beautiful, it is also good for the ants!
The afternoon brought us more impressions. Our first ride in a … Bollywood-bus, complete with a set of highly decorative curtains. Through streets crowded with cows, dogs, autorikshaws, we made our way to St. Thomas Cathedral, where we learned about the Apostle of India, who brought Christianity to this continent in the first century AD. A stroll along the foodstalls on Marina beach then took us to the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean where we dipped our toes into the salty surf.
We concluded the day at our friend Deep’s home, where his parents welcomed us with a tasty Indian home-cooked buffet. After saying goodbye to our hosts we went home to join our good friends the mosquitoes.
To be continued,