India is huge! The whole subcontinent is nearly as large as Europe and that is why the fastest way to cross it is by plane. The only problem with this way of transportation is, that even modern planes can’t handle the huge quantity of steel, ore, coal or wood which has to be carried every day. For transporting these heavy goods, one still must rely on the railway system. This Tuesday our ten German exchange students from Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium Straubing and their Indian partners from LVIS explored on a trip to Modern Industries in Sahibabad how weight wagons for this railway systems are built.
The bus navigates through the busy roads of Sahibabad and stops in front of a modern looking building with a well-maintained garden. We are standing on the ground of Modern Industries one of the of the largest manufacturers of Railway Wagons in India, but nothing reveals about the heavy work that is going on behind the gate.
Before the children got to see the building process the administration team showed the twenty students and the two accompanying teachers a small presentation about the history and the development of the company. Immediately afterwards the interested students started asking many questions about workers’ training, steel prizes or the competitors on the international market.
After all these questions are answered the exchange group went into the actual manufacturing facility. There workers welded together heavy steel plates, bended huge metal pieces or painted the wagons in a bright green colour. Standing next to the cutting area one could feel the vibration in the ground when the cutting machines sliced the huge steel plates. It was also astonishing to see the sparks when the plasma cutter just went through steel like a hot knife through butter. Continue reading “Roll Wagon Roll”
Today was Monday, meaning first day of Indian school for the German students. After reaching school with their host students, they assembled and met the principal of our school, Dr. Ruchi Seth. After a meeting, they went on a school tour, and saw our magnificent school in its glory.
After the school tour, the German group had a Hindi lesson, where they learnt a few Hindi phases, enough to get them comfortably through the trip, and of course to greet host families in the Indian language.
After returning from the factory, the students attended an Art lesson, where they learnt Warli art. Warli art is a form of Tribal art, which incorporates only basic geometric figures. The lesson was enjoyed by all and all made a Warli painting each.
After the Art lesson, the students went home with their host families, having learnt new things and having new knowledge, and experiencing a brand new culture.
What a day! For our ten German students the day officially began at 7 am in Straubing when their bus headed for Munich airport. As soon as they reached the exchange participants managed to check in and to drop their baggage without further problems. They went through security checking and passport control and after one and a half hour finally they settled down at gate L15 to wait for boarding.
Till then the atmosphere in the group was quite relaxed. The trip still felt like an average school excursion and not like the big adventure they all have been waiting for since their partners from Lotus Valley International School left Straubing several months ago.
But this feeling slowly changed when the students from Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium entered their airplane and took their seats. There they could listen to the voices and accents of the many people who also were on the way to India. Additionally the students were severed their first Indian style airplane lunch and at last they realised: We are actually going to India! We are going to see our friends! We are going to explore a new culture! All these thoughts in mind they became more and more nervous and when the plane landed at Delhi International airport one could feel the excitement among them.
Luckily the now following procedure at the immigration control went well and the German group could head towards the exit. At this time it was already 11 pm but nobody felt tired yet. It was quite the opposite; when the exchange participants entered the arrival hall of the airport the suddenly felt alive and full of energy. The host families were waiting their waving posters and cheering wildly. What a welcome. The partners rushed towards each other and hugged.
The next two days the German exchange students will stay with their families to get comfortable with the weather, food and habits. After that out tough project schedule will start. I am looking forward to all the adventures to come.
Today is the day of our departure. Finally ten students from Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium, Straubing will meet their exchange partners in India. As happy as they are to see them again as excited they are because of the flight and all the ‘surprises’ that can happen.
A small text message from the Indian teacher that I received in the morning lightened up my mood and proofed that we don’t have to worry. We have friends there in India!
After months of waiting the time has come to receive you and your students. I wish you safe journey and we all would be there to receive you at the airport.
See you soon
In barely two weeks we are going to fly to our partner school in India. This means it is high time to inform the parents of the latest news from Lotus Valley, to hand out the schedule prepared diligently, and to answer the most pressing questions of all participants. Therefore, the German parents, some of the exchange students and me, being the participating teacher will gather at the Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium this Monday evening.
The most urgent question to answer will certainly be whether we will get our visa in time. Luckily, I got an email this week from the consulate of India in Munich guarantying us the help of the consulate. Thus, I feel more than positive that the visa problems of the last weeks are off the table and that there won’t be any more surprises.
As we also already got our tickets from our travel agent we are theoretically ready to travel, and the meeting is obsolete, isn’t it? That’s a hopeful but somehow naïve wish. The experience of several years of exchange have taught us that there are far more topics to clarify, not only to settle the parents’ worries but also to avoid further misunderstandings.
So, here is my checklist for all the teachers who must conduct such a meeting. I tried to make a list of all the topics that usually arise during the meeting and that I put in my presentation in advance. Please drop a comment if I forgot an issue.
Like every year a brave adventurer went to Munich this September to apply for the visa to India. Having a five year long experience I was quite sure that we didn’t make any of these mistakes we did the last years:
For instance, this year all the students signed their application forms several times, all the pictures were at the right size and were glued to the right position and even the telephone numbers were written down only in that way the visa office asked for. To be on the safe side I checked all the papers and double checked the requirements on the consulate’s homepage every day to be ready for any changes. Full of confidence I headed towards Munich.
And once again the Indian bureaucracy proofed me wrong. When I handed over the well elven prepared application forms to the case officer I was quite shocked when I saw him rolling his eyeballs and shaking his head furiously. “Sorry, I can’t accept these! You have to come back again with new forms!” he told me with a smile. “You and your students chose the wrong visa type by checking the wrong checkbox on page two.” I was shocked. Apparently, the office decided only one week ago that you must apply for a student visa instead of an entry visa like in the years before. However, they didn’t mention that change on their homepage (it is still wrong there). Because of that they are happily denying all school exchange applications and are sending the passports back to the schools for another try.
Luckily the change from one visa type to another would be an easy task. The requirements and the questions to answer are all the same you only must check another box, and that’s it. Unfortunately re-checking any boxes is 7.50 € each and a surprising extra fee of over 80 € was added to our travel costs. Furthermore, the office recently got rid of the pick-up-service as well. Now you can’t collect your visa from the office any more but they will send them to your home address for only 23 € per passport. That’s why, in addition to the regular fee of 7.40 € our “gratis visa” for school exchanges costs now nearly 40 € for each participant.
Luckily, we finally got a small discount because I went there in person and was able to explain our disappointment with the new procedure. I just feel sorry for all the schools which sent their passports via mail and will be shocked when they receive their unworked application forms soon.
What to do next year? Apparently it doesn’t help to read the homepage or to bank on your experience. The only chance is to call the office the very day you apply for the visa. But with our luck they will have changed the telephone numbers one week in advance without telling anybody.