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A Day in the Life of an American Volunteer School Teacher

...and yet another toilet situation

all seasons in one day 58 °F

A Day in the Life of an American Volunteer School Teacher

5:30am- I am awaken by pigeons on the roof rehearsing their tap routine. I roll my eyes and go back to sleep

6am - Grandma goes downstairs and rings the bell to wake up the hostel boys and inadvertently me. She then starts the music... Religious Hindi mantras dedicated to Ganesh, Shiva and Laxmi coming from a small but mighty speaker in the kitchen. I actually enjoy the mantras and lay in my bed contemplating getting up but it's so cold outside of these covers I think to myself. I decide to stay a little longer.

6:30am - The man from the Hindu temple next door to my bedroom window begins chanting "Om Namah Shivaya namah Shivaya namah Shivaya namah Shivaya." This goes on for about 10 minutes EVERY morning. I am fully awake now.

6:30ish am - I begin my own Yoga practice in the small but sufficient space of my bedroom.

7:45am - If the sun is shining and I am not freezing cold I take a shower. In reality this ends up being every 2 days. Showers don't happen everyday here and when I found out the hostel boys only shower once a week, I didn't want to be the greedy American asking for a bucket of hot water every morning. Yes, I said a bucket of hot water. What do I do with that? A shower silly! It's actually quite nice and I have gotten used to it. My favorite part is at the end when I dump the remaining water over my head and it all comes rushing over me like I'm under a warm waterfall!

The one part of the no running water in the bathroom situation (there is running water in the kitchen) that I have yet to get accustomed to is the toilet. Another toilet situation right? I know! So as you can see from the picture there are 3 buckets of water. Those are used to flush the toilet... but only for going #2 because it is too much work for #1. We just let #1s build up until a #2 comes along for the big flush.

The big flush: You take the top off the back of the toilet where all the inner workings of the toilet live (you know, the parts you hope to never have to bother with) and you pour in one of the buckets of water at the same time you push the lever to flush the toilet. Seems easy right? Well it's the most difficult task I have all day! Things get quite precarious because a bucket full of water is heavy! Holding the bucket, I try to figure out the best way to hoist it over the back of the toilet and not spill all the water when I begin to pour. I need both hands to pour because it's so heavy but I also need another hand to flush the toilet because it all has to happen at once. At this point I am wishing I was one of those Indian deities with extra sets of arms. Velocity is the key here so I have to pour enough water, with enough force, and flush at just the right time to get everything to go down the toilet.
I'm 0-20 folks. Every morning, I leave the bathroom embarrassed and hoping no one is waiting behind me because I can never get it all to flush. Most of it goes down but never all of it. You only get one shot at this game because (1) you don't want to waste a whole other bucket of water and (2) it's just like a regular toilet that doesn't flush back to back. That second flush is always weaker. Soooo...gross fact...there's always a little something extra floating after Ivorie leaves the bathroom.

8am - Breakfast!
Everyday is different. Some days, Cornflakes and warm milk which I surprisingly love. It's very chilly here so every liquid is served hot. Other days, eggs and toast with jelly and a cream cheese spread that I make into an egg sandwich. Sometimes however, just a plate full of bread, biscuits and cookies. Yesterday...chopatis filled with veggies and potatoes. And of course Chai tea.


Not quite sure who I am these days... I don't like eggs or excessive carbs but I do not want to complain so I just eat.

8:35am - 8 minute walk to school

8:45am - Morning ritual of school song, school prayer lead by the school captains in the front yard of the school. Then one person from each class comes up and gives their fact of the day- some current or historical fact ranging from a short Ghandi or George Washington bio to last night's Cricket score.

on Fridays morning stretches are added

on Fridays morning stretches are added

9:00- 10:20am - Classes 5 and 8 (all classes 40 minutes each)

10:30-11:45 - BREAK
I have tea of course, check emails, plan weekend trips or prepare lessons for my afternoon classes.

11:50- 12:30pm - Class 10 (my highest level class)
For my USA week, while the younger students worked on the maps, we talked US politics. Dem vs Rep and debated issues polarizing the 2 sides i.e. gun control, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc. Very hard to tackle these issues in a language that's not native and they did a great job.

12:30- 1:05pm - LUNCH
I walk back home for lunch. It should be noted that when I walk through the town EVERYONE stares at me as if I was doing grand jetes through the streets. They can't quite figure me out... She's brown enough to be Indian but too tall... maybe her parents are Indian? Indian American? And she's definitely not dressed like an Indian. (While my sense of style is not lost, there's not a whole lot of options in my backpack, so right now my style is a mix between a librarian and a hippie. Not dressing to impress these days.)

1:10- 3:10pm - Classes 6, 7 and 9

3:30pm - Back home for tea and biscuits. Read the paper and my latest book, plan my classes for the following day and play with Advaita, my host family's son.

6:00 - 7:30pm - TUTORING
After school tutoring for Classes 9 and 10 in the hostel students' homework space at the my homestay. Class 10 is prepping for final exams which will place them in a junior college in the bigger city of Darjeeling so Sir Devin insists they do extra tutoring. Class 9 will become Class 10 which takes on the responsibility of being the leaders of the school so Sir Devin feels they need the extra time as well.

8pm - DINNER
I must mention how amazing all the food is! I have not had a bad meal yet! When I travel on the weekends, I find that some restaurants are no comparison to my home cooked meals. The women of course prepare the meals- that's Grandma, Sister and Wifey. They are so cute because for the first week they cooked an American version of every meal for me that was less spicy. Now my taste buds are adapting and I'm asking for them to pass the chutneys!

My host family teaching me secrets of their kitchen

My host family teaching me secrets of their kitchen

Cooking lesaons

Cooking lesaons

We have meat three times a week. Yes, I've been eating meat and eggs and there's no almond milk so I'm drinking cows milk, no quinoa so white rice it is, you saw the carb situation at breakfast and of course I'm eating lots of potatoes. Who am I? And how have I not gained 15 lbs?! My theory is that the food is prepared with love and I eat it with gratitude so the pranic value is high. My gluten free section of Whole Foods will be waiting for me when I return to LA. And Tovah got me excited because she just vsent me a Snapchat of my favorite Brown Rice Tortillas now available at our local Ralph's!!

8:45pm - Yoga Private with Advaita :-)

9:30pm - Fight sleep until it's useless and lights out

Weekends - On most weekends I take time to travel to places nearby. So far I have travelled to:

Kalimpong where I spent time with some other volunteers and visited my first Buddhist monastery,


Darjeeling where I walked through the tea plantations and pretended i was Julie Andrews while singing The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.
this funny lady runs the tea cafe outside the tea plantation

this funny lady runs the tea cafe outside the tea plantation

And just this weekend, Gangtok, Sikkim (get your maps out folks because if you're not Indian, I'm sure you have no idea where that is)
Sikkim is a magical place even cleaner and prettier than Darjeeling. On a clear day Mt Everest is visible. This is a sign on Mahatma Ghandi road in the center of town.

And here I finally had my 5 Star "Treat-yo-self" weekend.
I stayed 2 nights at this place with lots of wealthy Indian families

view from balcony

view from balcony

Then 1 night at this place, Hotel Pandim, with my other Budget travellers.

IMG_20140419_171303.jpgview from balcony

view from balcony

All that complaining about my 5 Star and I think I prefer the later!

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 21:02 Archived in India

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by Miss Florence

You are having an amazing, transforming trip Ivorie. I can hardly wait to talk with the "new" you, for you shall be indelibly changed after this forever. I love you so much. I am living vicariously through you, I hang on to your every word and read your posts asap. I wish I was with you - except- I'm way too American :-( ; I do NOT negotiate on the plumbing!! Always be safe, always remember that you have family prayers surrounding you, and that our mantra is: "be safe and feel our love". Absorb every thing that you can so that you can be our/my teacher when you return. I, for one can hardly wait. All my love to you sweet pea from me and Uncle Walter.

by Aunt Cecilia

I am so pleased to hear all your stories Ivorie, Praying for you everyday, embrace all and live all. proud of you Jenkins! Lima xoxoxo

by Wellington Lima

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