The trip went very well. Much better than what I expected. There was a lot of learning for me and the group. There were some minor hiccups, but those were really quite minor. The enjoyment was much more.
The only little thing that bothered me about some of the group members the most was that they chose to read books instead of soaking their environment. Even the president did not pick up a book while there, so the other group members should also have tried to just be there. I am quite sure for most of these students, this will be the only trip they will take to India, they may go to Europe or South America, but India may not be on their list of places to go. So it would have been better if they had taken time to absorb their surroundings. Or maybe different people have different ways of absorbing their experience. I do know that they will never forget India and will may remember certain incidences many years from now.
The group did take back a few things with them forever: tea, glucose biscuits and mangoes. They will also not forget some of the poverty stricken areas of Mumbai. They will always remember, with a sigh, the traffic congestion.
There were so many things during the trip that were good:
- the way all the members kept themselves busy during the long bus drives.
- how the members ate whatever they could and tried to enjoy all the foods possible.
- the unexpected learning that came from the road trips is not possible in any classroom or prep session.
- I was impressed by how well behaved the entire group was all the time. I did not have to worry too much about them.
Bipin’s enthusiasm was so contagious. He was also very knowledgeable about so many things. I could not have done any part of this trip without him. He was more of the "unknown" in the group as he had come to very few prep meetings and I also did not know him well. For me there was a lot of learning in this trip. There was a lot of affirmation too also for myself since there were so many things I had thought of and a almost all of them worked beautifully. The rest were completed by Bipin.
Things I would differently for myself:
- writing on a daily basis. My only excuse for not writing this time was that I was so tired and there was so much to do on a daily basis that I was just exhausted.
- assuming that everyone would enjoy the trip as much as I enjoyed planning it.
- not involving some of the adult members in the group in the planning process early on.
- reflections are an integral part of this kind of a trip, and I feel I could have done a better job, but again there was this whole time constraint. We tried to do some of those in the bus also, but a stationery place would have been much better.
Think about this arrangement - take one leader, give him/her a mix of faculty, staff and students of all level and put them together for seven days in a foreign country. So much could go wrong! Or in my case, so much could went well. We all hit it off from day one. The group was amazingly excited to go to India. Being an Indian I was a little worried, because I would not be able to take it well if they criticized my country too much. I was ready for the shock they would get from the crowd, garbage and poverty.
A lot of this kind of trip depends on having a good plan to begin with.
Be ready for anything despite the good plan.
- Always have food/snacks and water just in case.
- A first aid kit is a must, especially for intestinal disorders and minor cuts.
- Make contacts ahead of time, but don't depend them. Always have a backup plan.
The one thing one cannot plan on what kind of group one will have. I was very lucky in having the best group members. They seemed bore proof, self entertaining, easy to talk to, flexible, punctual, adventurous and in general got along very well. If that had not been the case, I could not have entertained them for all the road trips!