My First Week in Mankundu

I have been in India for one amazing (and crazy) week now! It is a complete sensory overload. India loves bright colors, loud noises, strong flavors, and intricate patterns. It’s a beautiful place, but a bit overwhelming coming from a comparatively quiet culture. It is extremely hot and humid here, and when I first walked out of the airport it felt like hitting a wall. Before I came here I was dreading the beginning of the monsoon season, but now I understand that it brings much needed relief from the heat. I wish that it would come sooner! It has stormed a couple nights, and the following days are always noticeably cooler. My host family has been most welcoming, and they are so sweet. All of the foreign volunteers live in the same house with the family, which I really like because it helps me to learn about the culture much more quickly than if I were living by myself. There are four German volunteers, and they have been a big help to me as I adjust to the customs, language, and climate. Human Wave runs an English medium school, but it is on summer holiday this month. The tutorials remain open, though, so I have been going with the German volunteers to help teach there. Since the public school system in India is very inefficient, it is nearly impossible for the students to keep up without having outside tutoring. For students from poor families, this can be a huge financial burden. This is where Human Wave comes in. They have set up tutorials in some of the poorest areas around Kolkata and the Sunderbands which students can attend at a very low cost (about 0.50 USD per month). They also sponsor the students who go to school regularly and put effort into their studies, helping them to pay for school uniforms, supplies, and other things. I have gone to two different tutorials now, teaching English to students in classes 1-5. The kids are so cute, and some of them are very quick to learn. They love cameras, and crowd around and pose every time I take mine out. My first day here was the birthday of a famous Indian poet, so the village had a big function to celebrate. The children recited poems and songs, and there were also dancers and musicians. The two German girls have been taking Indian dance lessons, and they performed with some of the locals. On Wednesday we were all invited to a wedding, so I got to experience that and wear a sari for the first time. It was a lot of fun, and a great introduction to Indian culture. Last night we were invited to attend a football game between two local villages. We were the guests of honor, and when I asked why, the other volunteers said that it is officially because of the NGO work that we do, but mostly because we are foreigners (aka white). This seems to me a silly reason to be honored, but I suppose it is the first time many of these people have seen a white person, and for some might be the last. They had us sit on a stage and gave us flowers, cakes, and chai, and we went down to the field to shake hands with all of the players before the match started. It was quite an event! If the internet is working well enough, I will upload photos from my first week soon!

India_with girl India_wedding2 India_wedding India_girls eating India_ looking up India_ by window

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About Jamie Lutz

Jamie Lutz is a junior majoring in Architecture in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Jamie plans to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning with a focus on developing countries. Jamie will be volunteering with Human Wave, an NGO based in Kolkata. Human Wave serves the local community in a variety of capacities, including community development projects and English medium schools for children who reside in slums. Her volunteer work will include teaching English in one of the schools and participating in ongoing community development projects. Jamie’s research project will focus on the distribution of public and private schools in Kolkata in comparison to population density and demographic data. She hopes to discover where there are gaps in public education and how these relate to the locations of slum communities. Jamie will utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to do this research.

2 thoughts on “My First Week in Mankundu

  1. Hi, Jamie! I am so glad things are going well! I absolutely love your photos! What an exciting first week – to be honored at a football game and go to an Indian wedding! Your NGO work sounds like it will be very rewarding – the kids are adorable! I can’t wait to hear more!

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