30th November 2013
Cultural exchange is a massive part of ICS, something that makes the experience so unique. Jumping head first into a host community far removed from the comforts of the UK can be a little daunting at first; there aren’t any hot showers, internet or comfy double beds here. This total immersion into a village is what makes the experience so rewarding.
Over the past month in an effort to integrate with the community here we have attended meetings, drank hundreds of cups of Chai and visited villager’s houses for treats, lemon juice and cricket. We’ve facilitated awareness classes, taught children the benefits of tooth brushing and hand washing and organised village wide volleyball games - we even got ourselves in the local paper. Although all of these have shown the village that we care about them and are here to help, it wasn’t until the past week that we truly felt at home.
So how did it happen? Festivals! If you haven’t experienced an Indian festival before then you really need to; it’s like nothing on earth. Everyone comes together to celebrate in a sea of colour, music and food.
‘Festival season’ kicked off with Dasara and (Karnataka Rajystava) which gave us an insight into how Indians celebrate. The fun really started though at Halloween. As a group we toured the village in a range of costumes, chasing children (and some adults) handing out sweets from a carved pumpkin. As we went from house to house the crowd swelled with more children joining, hoping to frighten their friends and relatives. Overall, the villagers loved ‘the children festival’ and the fact that we had made an effort to share our culture with them.
A few days later came Deepavali (Diwali to those who know it in England). This is a big one – Mason’s and farmers lay down their tools, Hindu’s go on pilgrimage and people pour onto the streets. For three days we street danced to the sound of drums, had Pooja’s at the local temple, played in a local village cricket match, wore Saree’s (luckily Marcus didn’t put one on again) and received traditional coconut oil massages. All of this showed us the rich culture of India and the local practices that still exist.
For all the team it has been one of the biggest highlights from the trip so far and one that we’ll remember for a long time to come.
So, if you’re thinking of applying for ICS and are still unsure, the answer from India Yankee 9 is a resounding yes. You’ll be challenged in so many ways, experience local cultures and traditions that are impossible to achieve if you’re simply travelling and you’ll help a host community grow and prosper, through a range of projects that really make a difference.