Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Off to India!

Here I am, 11 months after my initial passage to India with another plane ticket in hand. As exciting as this is, I can't help but notice a profound difference this time around: it's a one-way ticket. Yikes. In a matter of hours, I will be stepping onto a plane for my next great adventure as a full-time staff member at Woodstock School in Mussoorie. Why am I doing this? Here are a few reasons:

The Job: As a recent college grad in a struggling economy, it is hard to argue with the salary, health benefits, and great work experience that Woodstock offers. Although I would prefer to be teaching art, I am starting out as a "dorm parent." Woodstock is a residential boarding school with hundreds of school kids living on campus. Dorm parents keep them on task, help with homework, maintain general well-being, and offer listening ears to the drama (oh the drama!) that comes with the crew. I will be living and working specifically with the high school girls of Woodstock. There is reason to believe that an art teaching position will arise at some point, but I am not sure. Either way, I look forward to working with kids.

The Place: Woodstock is situated in one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen. Unlike the chaos of Indian cities, Mussoorie and adjoining Landour (the technical home of Woodstock) are quiet communities with many walking paths, beautiful mountain views, and a canopy of old growth pines, cedars, firs, oaks, and maples. Of course there are also angry monkeys, barking dogs, lively markets, and honking cars at all times, but that keeps it exciting.

The People: Woodstock is truly an international school, drawing students and staff from around the world. While some, like myself, claim one cultural identity, many Woodstockers are multicultural or third-culture. For example, a student born of Indian parents might have grown up in Thailand, spend summers in France, speak English, Thai, and French (but not her parents' native Hindi), and go to an English speaking school in India, where a majority of her classmates have similar stories. In short, the people are fascinating and the community is truly multicultural.

The Experience: I have always had the idea of spending a few years abroad, but never thought my destination would be Asia. Likewise, I did not expect that it would be a paid experience in the field I would like to work in. I am so excited to be working with multicultural students and also to see what it is like to invest in a community on the other side of the world, especially one where I don't speak the language or completely understand the culture. I am equally excited to use Woodstock as a gateway into other parts of South Asia. I already have a long list of the cities and countries I would love to visit!

As I think about the changes ahead of me, I know that I will value sharing my experiences with you. Equally, I hope that you will take time to share your stories and updates with me. Please note that Woodstock does have great technology (albeit with frequent power outages), so I will be checking my email daily and blogging regularly. Here are a few great ways to correspond with me:

Skype: nan.onkka (Note that Delhi is currently 10.5 hours ahead of CST)
Email: nan.onkka@gmail.com
Mailing Address:
Nan Onkka
Woodstock School
Mussoorie, Uttarakhand
248179 INDIA

With that, I'm off to finish packing. More to come soon!

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