By Mallika Mitra
With gold bangles and earrings, and a pile of books sitting next to her, Maya Edery ’15 met with me to talk about why she sometimes finds herself wanting to eat with her with hands. After studying abroad in Varanasi, India, and then traveling around the country with her mother when the program ended, there were several habits Maya had to ‘unlearn.’
She lived on the campus of a school for pre-K through high school with six other women from K, and would wake up to the sounds of students doing karate and going to play practice, as well as the barks of Menna and Raffie, two dogs that lived in the guesthouse next door.
The program was service learning based, which allowed Maya to teach classes and take classes, simultaneously.
“I taught a class of English,” she said. “I did a class on sexual assault and rape and sexual education.”
The classes Maya took included Globalization and Local Narratives, Hindi, Yoga, Women’s Studies, and Mehndi, an art class.
The mission of the school, Nirman, was “to bring students of all different castes, classes, and religions” together, Maya said.
For their final exam, the K students had to perform a play in Hindi to the entire school, in which Maya played the goddess, Sita.
During the trip abroad, she went on a “crazy, unplanned backpacking adventure” for two weeks of independent travels with Sonia Morales ’15. The girls went to the Himalayas to white water raft, kayak, and camp. They then went to Kerala to look for tigers at a national park.
“We didn’t decide our trip before going,” she said. “We would decide where we were going the next day based on who we met.”
They met a famous singer from New Zealand who traveled with them for three days, swam in the Indian Ocean, stayed in a guesthouse on top of a hill station in Munnar, and went on a jungle trek that resulted in feet covered in leeches.
It was Maya’s “first time traveling in such an unplanned, spontaneous way,” she said.
With her fellow K students, she rode rickshaws, celebrated Indian holidays with students and teachers, and went to the wedding of her student’s older sister where she learned how to properly wear a sari.
Once, Maya and some friends were running late to Mehndi class and bumped into their teacher, who was running late as well, at a café. Their teacher cancelled class, invited them to her birthday party at a Japanese restaurant, and drove them there motorcycles.
“Getting to know our teachers, who were also our friends, was one of the best experiences,” Maya said.