Marathon Adventure: Mumbai

I have to say, these last few days have been some of my best in India. Teaching has been a lot easier this session. I’m starting to learn the names of my new class 5s since we made name tents last week. They are very enthusiastic and quite sharp but they get excited very easily so I have to be very systematic about giving directions, having fun and implementing my 3B’s: Be Attentive, Be Patient and Be Polite. After all, I want them to learn something. My former class 5s are now class 6s and they seem to have really embraced the responsibility of going up one class. They are much more focused and organized these days. I’m so proud of them.

Last week, I went on the class 10 and 11 field trip to the movies. All 350 girls piled into four school buses and headed to South City Mall where we took up an entire movie theatre. We saw Chander Pahar, the movie adaptation of a well known Bengali story. It was about a young man that left India to seek a life of adventure in Africa. The acting was dramatic, and the portrayal of the Kenyans was questionable (starting every phrase with “We Africans say…”) but the story was engaging. Plus, the teachers got to sit in the last row of the theatre which consists of comfy chairs. I had a lay-z-boy style love seat all to myself. It wasn’t a bad way to spend the morning. After the movie, we headed back to school. I had one more library class to teach before the end of the school day.

On Friday, I spent most of the day teaching and helping out with the Sports Day practice. All of the girls in class 7 and 8 have been learning an aerobics routine set to a remix of Be My Lover  (yes I picked the music from my own cardio collection). I probably should have gone with something a little more current, but I just couldn’t resist putting it on the CD that the dance teacher had asked me to make.

After school, I headed straight to the airport where I had some time to kill before my evening flight to Mumbai. I love being in airports a couple hours early. It’s nice to buy some coffee and maybe a little chocolate and tuck into a magazine or a book thinking I am exactly where I need to be as everyone around you frantically rushes from here to there.

I got to Mumbai Friday night. I met my fellow Fulbright friends at the hotel. One was running the marathon on Sunday, the rest of us were there to cheer him on, and see Mumbai, of course.

Mumbai is a great place for a weekend trip. It has that international metropolitan feel that makes everything seem possible and attainable, Starbucks anyone? There was also tons of sunshine and it was pretty warm, perfect sightseeing weather. We visited the Gateway to India, used the bathrooms at the Taj hotel, stopped at Dhobi Ghat, played amongst the rocks behind Haji Ali Dargah and drove down Marine Drive. For dinner we went to the Barking Deer brewpub. The food hit the spot and the beer was crisp. It’s been so long since I’ve had craft beer. I sampled the The Barking Deer India Pale Ale and the Flying Pig Belgian Wit.

The next morning, I woke up very early for the marathon. There was a buzz among the people as they entered the “runners only” area. Unfortunately, there were a lot of barriers which made it difficult to spectate the marathon with ease. This also meant that I did not get to give any marathon high fives, which I used to love doing during the Boston marathon as the marathoners passed Boston College. After the race, we returned to the hotel, packed, had lunch, headed for the airport and said our goodbyes.

I always love returning to Kolkata. Sure the city isn’t as flashy as Mumbai, but it’s still charming and way cheaper. People here are really nice too.

Monday was another easy day at school. I tagged along for the class 11 picnic at Nicco Park, a modest theme park with all the classic rides, including one rickety roller coaster called Cyclone. I hate roller coasters but its been a while since I had been on one so I decided that I would go on Cyclone just to check out how severe my aversion to the tummy feeling (when you drop at fast speeds) was these days. I still hate the tummy feeling, but I had a fun time screaming with the students and my fellow teachers on the coaster. After Cyclone all the other rides felt dinky in comparison. The next highlight was lunch. It had been a while since I had eaten Bengali food so the slightly sweet paneer (cheese cubes) with pulao (rice with vegetables and cashew), kachori (fried flat dough stuffed with spices) and aloo dum (potatoes in a rich gravy type sauce) melted in my mouth. Dessert was gulab jamen (slightly warm diabetes inducing ball of sweetness– not to be confused with Rosagullah, the rosewater infused diabetes inducing ball of sweetness) and I had no regrets about how full I was by the end.

Tuesday was a busy day. I taught all my classes and helped with the Sports Day prep. After school, I rushed to the gym and then rushed home, wrapped myself in a sari, put on some makeup and headed to my first Bengali wedding. One of the teachers from my school was getting married. Winter is a very festive time, most likely because it is cool enough to stand around without breaking a sweat. So naturally, many weddings take place in winter time. I have been invited to two other weddings this season. I’ll be sure to do a wedding post soon.

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