This really is a completely overdue post. Sorry y’all. If you’re still curious to know what I’m up to, here’s a semi-quick rundown:
Where are you?
I’m currently in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. Located in the southern end of India, it is constantly hot and humid - all day, all night. Recently, the rains have cooled the temperature, but you can expect to be a magnet for dust and dirt all over the crescents of your body.
Madurai (denoted with the red “A”) is considered the 3rd largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu, after Chennai and Coimbatore. (Image: Google Maps)
A typical street in Madurai.
Madurai is most recognized for its Meenashi Temple - a Hindu temple that is at the heart of the city.
One of the entrances to the temple.
The Vaigai river flows directly through Madurai, almost cutting it into two halves. But the term “river” is used very loosely; more often than not, you see cattle roaming around grazing on grass and trash while children play cricket as you cross the bridge.
More specifically, I’m living inside Lady Doak College’s campus. LDC is a 10 minute drive from Meenashi Temple, in a quieter neighborhood called Chokkikulam. I have my own two-room apartment inside Oberlin Hall - a faded pink building built with funds from Oberlin College in 1968. This building is also home to a Ph.D. student, an English professor, and the International Studies Centre.
What are you doing there?
Last December, I was extremely fortunate to receive the Oberlin Shansi Fellowship. A two-year commitment, the fellowship program strives to improve and promote understanding and communication between folks from the States and Asia. In my cohort there are nine of us - two in India, two in Indonesia, three in China, and two in Japan.
My position at LDC is slightly different than some of my peers in other countries. In addition to teaching anything of my choosing, I act as the Director of the International Studies Centre (ISC). Working in conjunction with the ISC Committee, we provide a space to explore personal, academic, and professional interests with an international framework. This often happens through exchanges with study abroad and community service students, movie screenings, discussions, and workshops on accessing higher education abroad amongst other activities. Want to follow and see what the ISC is doing? Follow us on Facebook!
What do you do with your free time?
Read! Cook! Bollywood dance! Travel! Exercise! Journal! Shop on myntra.com!
How are your language skills?
Rompa rompa bad. Summer-la, naan tamil patikkireen. Annaa, naan tamil peecu illa. Adenala, yenkita tamil tutor irukkeen.
(Very very bad. I studied Tamil in the summer, but I cannot speak Tamil. Therefore, I have a Tamil tutor now).
I’m really grateful Shansi gave me the opportunity to take an intensive tamil summer course at UW-Madison, but the lack of speaking practice and emersion in the language made me forget a huge chunk of what I learned. Luckily, I found an amazing and patient tamil professor at LDC who tutors me about four hours a week. Although I can’t hold a full conversation in tamil, saying that I know koncham koncham tamil (a little bit of tamil) is often greeted with surprised expressions and giggles.
After being asked what my name is and where I’m from, the third most commonly asked question is, “Do you like our (Indian) food? Is it too spicy for you?” OF COURSE I love Indian food. Living off of Devon St. in Chicago gave me instant access to Indian food 24/7, whether it was samosas from the corner shop with a bright red parrot sign in the window or the tiny shop that expanded because of their colossal servings of delicious biryani.
On top of that, I do love my spicy food.
Although I’m not extremely talented with preparing meals, I am determined to learn how to cook typical South Indian food. My first mission was to make vegetable pulao with egg curry. It’s a simple rice dish with carrots, green peas, onions, and potatoes, but you can definitely add whatever vegetables you prefer.
With the help of a great friend, we pulled it off without burning anything down :) We made more than enough, and it lasted me for the next day and a half. If you interested in making vegetable pulao, I included the recipe we used below (it’s a home recipe from her mom) :)
Pranee cutting up yummy vegetables.
Ready to serve veggie pulao.
Finished product. Make sure to also serve curd on the side to offset the spiciness of the dish. Here, we mixed some raw onions with the curd.
(Note: I can’t remember the quantities used to make the dish, but once I figure it out I’ll update the recipe!)
(Note II: curd = yogurt, jeera = cumin)
This post is two months overdue….better late than never! I wanted to write something else for my inaugural post, but let’s start with today’s adventures.
We had a wonderful visit from 2nd and 3rd year students at Davidson College. They’re on a study abroad semester based in Chennai, but spend a great chunk of time traveling throughout India. The majority of them are political science majors. They had the opportunity to engaged in conversations with Lady Doak College (LDC) students around gender dynamics, student activities, and ecological initiatives. LDC students also put on a mini-show for the Davidson students that included dancing, singing, and performing a mime.
Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy the program! Safe travels to the Davidson students and we hope to keep in contact with them!