Our Trip to India
Posted on November 18, 2016
The main purpose of the trip was to spend 10 days with the staff and students from our sister school, the Moravian Institute in Dehradun, which turned out to be an unforgettable visit. We really did squeeze the most out of our trip with additional visits to Delhi - at the beginning - and then Rishikesh, Agra, Corbett National Park and the Silent Valley Farm in Nainital in the later stages of the trip.
India is everything we had expected, and many things that we didn't! Every outing was a true assault on the senses - the smells, sights and sounds combined were nothing like any experience you could get anywhere in Europe. As some Year 11s said, ‘We knew it would be different; we didn’t know it would be THIS different!’ For many of our students, this made the experience an exciting challenge, far beyond that of any school trips or family holidays they may have encountered previously. We safely negotiated bustling markets and mastered the art of haggling, we learned to avoid scooters, tuk tuks and cows when crossing busy streets, and how to manage the attention which we received whenever we set foot in public.
Our students were thrust into many new experiences and often took these in their stride: tutoring children, some of whom could speak little or no English; performing in the talent show; and competing in sports day simply to represent the school - in temperatures and sunshine that would be unheard of in the North of England! The second part of the tour included additional challenges and the opportunity to face fears - whether this meant jumping off a 10m cliff into the Ganges, camping for the very first time, or dealing with spiders bigger than your handspan! Spending a night on a sleeper train, rising before 5am to complete long journeys or go on safari, and a few lengthy walks were not necessarily the highlights of the trip for everyone - but these experiences combined created an adventure which helped to test, and build, character - and will leave the students with many, many happy memories.
THE MORAVIAN INSTITUTE, DEHRADUN
Our week at the Moravian Institute started even before we reached the building. We had received an invitation from the Principal to attend a regional music, dance and arts competition that the school was competing in, which we had eagerly accepted. One of the first things you have to realise about India is that the estimated times of any journey are almost certainly going to be way off. We arrived hours late to find they had slowed down the competition for their ‘friends from England’. Thousands of pupils from different schools had waited patiently for us to arrive. The feeling was daunting to say the least as we hurried into our seats. In our honour, they had chosen a hymn based on the melody of ‘The Derry Air’ which left Mr McD emotional straight away! After a very impressive round, the Moravian Institute won!
Afterwards we had the opportunity to chat with our hosts and introduce ourselves to Rev and Mrs Kundan, the Principal and his wife, who guided us through the busy streets of Dehradun to our hotel. Tired, we ate and trotted off to bed.
Early the next morning, we were taken to the school by an old-style yellow school bus where the whole Institute was hosting a week of sporting events. We had decided previously that, rather than disrupt the running order of the events, Fulneck would compete as a fourth house.
On the Monday we had the girls’ discus, long jump and 100m events. Everyone got stuck in and tried their best. The boys’ 100m was a great race with one Moravian boy impressing everyone watching with his speed. In the afternoon we had a friendly game of cricket with the Moravian boys. We mixed the teams so it was slightly fairer on the Fulneck pupils but it was all great fun.
At the start of the week we were each buddied up with a Moravian girl or boy who boarded at the Institute. Over the following days, we did sports in the mornings and tutored young children from the school improving their English skills in the afternoon. By the end we had all become great friends, promising to keep in touch. We got a chance to take part in other activities around the Institute, helping around the facilities whenever we could. These times together gave us a chance to appreciate the backgrounds of our buddies and what the school meant to them. They also reinforced the contrast between the British schools and those in post-monsoon India; how quickly things grow and what kinds of fauna and wildlife to look out for. Squeals rang out throughout the week whenever a Fulneck pupil saw a monkey or giant spider, things barely acknowledged by the locals.
Just before dinner, just as night fell, we held evening devotions each day. These consisted of singing religious songs with the Moravian Institute boarders; this was very upbeat and fun. To encourage us to join in, the children mainly chose English songs, often with movement and dances, so the starlit sky echoed with the laughter and singing of happy voices.
As a final bash, we held a talent show where pupils from both schools performed a variety of acts, showing the breadth and depth of our abilities. It ended the visit on a high note, bringing our time full circle, starting and ending on a song.
Over our time, we explored some of the Himalayan foothills, visited temples and academic institutions but all too soon it was over. Whilst for us that meant further adventures on the Ganges and elsewhere, it was still sad to say goodbye. Our thanks go to all the staff and pupils of the Moravian Institute for their generosity and warmth. Our stay was truly magical.
TOUR OF UTTARAKHAND
After a week at the school we travelled around the North of India. Our first stop after the school was Rishikesh; there we looked around the Hindu temples and visited the colourful, lively markets. In the evenings we visited Hindu devotions along the Ganges, called Aarti. These were sunset ceremonies that consisted of fire, chanting and the placing of marigolds into the Ganges; they made everyone feel welcome regardless of their own religion.
While we were in Rishikesh we also ventured down the Ganges, white water rafting. This was the favourite part of the trip for many of the group because it was a new and exciting experience for them. During this adventure, students got the chance to face their fears and jump off a 10m cliff. The water was freezing cold but it was great fun!
After this we went to Corbett National Park to hunt for tigers; despite doing two safaris we came away somewhat disappointed (especially those of us who had missed sighting a tiger by a matter of minutes!). We did see monkeys, deer, eagles and a jackal - and some of the group got up close and personal with an elephant!
We then visited a farm in the Himalayas, where the views were stunning and living was more basic. We used machetes to clear some of the ground, and planted some seeds which should come into bloom in the spring. We had time to relax by the river, and did walking tours of the local area to see what life is like in rural India.
Finally, we made the trek to Agra which included long bus journeys and seven hours on the overnight train. In Agra we visited the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. The architecture and atmosphere were breathtaking - no wonder the Taj is considered one of the Wonders of the World!
The day after, our last full day in India, we travelled the four hours back to Delhi, stopping off to travel part of it on the Metro. On the final day we ate breakfast at the hotel and then travelled to the airport for the nine-hour flight back to England. We returned to school with fantastic memories and many a story to tell - it really was a trip of a lifetime.