It has been a challenging first three weeks here in Pune – one infected spider bite, four couch surfings, and many long and confusing rides to Akanksha schools in remote areas of Pune later, I’m finally starting to feel a little settled (though the housing search continues).
I jumped right into work when I arrived, which so far has entailed doing classroom observations at Akanksha schools and getting to know the school leaders (principals), teachers, and social workers I will be working with throughout the year. As a student of international education policy, I have studied and even visited or worked in schools in numerous countries, but there is nothing quite like becoming familiar first-hand with the nuances of a country’s education system. Removing my shoes before entering classrooms and feeling the Indian Earth between my toes, trying to keep my legs from falling asleep while sitting cross-legged on concrete floors for hours at a time, and children screaming “Didi what is your name” all remind me that although students are reading Roald Dahl and speaking English, I am not at home anymore. They also remind me to heed the most important lesson I have learned in all my studies and work: solutions to all problems are context specific. Taking the time to learn that context is my most important task for the next ten months.
Thinking about the fears I had before arriving in India, I am still concerned about the contribution I can make to Akanksha’s schools. With only nine months to go before heading home, it is a bit daunting to think about how to quickly but effectively begin to understand Akanksha’s systems so that I can act as an informed contributor to this work. There is always a tension between taking the time to be thoughtful and feeling anxious to jump head first into the work, so I am working hard to try to create a balance between these two feelings.
On a different note, social life in Pune is more than I could have hoped for. There are people from all over the world here working and studying, and their generosity and desire to help me get settled has made being homeless feel more annoying than scary. The offers to stay with families and to help speak to brokers to convince them I am not “a horrible foreigner who will ruin their flat” have made difficult days feel a little less hopeless. The numerous parks and trees also create a calming feel after hectic days. I am looking forward to finally having Pune feel like home.
(I still haven’t unpacked so my camera is buried – better pictures to follow)