English Department’s S2 Windows of the World Programme to Kerala, India
by Canaga-Retnam Maia Jie-An (S2S) and Yew Yones (S2R)
A group of S2 students and three English teachers departed from Hong Kong on 8 March 2018 to Kochi, India for a week’s worth of exciting adventures of exploring India, and learning not only about the culture, English language, food and religions of Kochi, India, but also its history and traditions. Some places of visit included Mattancherry, Athirapally, the Niagara Falls of India, a tea plantation and the Tata Tea Museum in Munnar, as well as our ride on a backwater cruise along Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom.
One of the highlights of the programme was attending a cooking demonstration at a local family’s home where we witnessed how ingredients worked together and were able to enjoy some of the tasty dishes cooked. We also learned that most of the food in India utilised spices in its recipes because they provide a strong and unique flavour. Some of the common spices used in India include: cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa beans and black and white peppercorns, many of which we were able to see at the spice planation visit that followed. Did you also know that due to European influences, Christianity and Catholicism religion is practised by many in Kerala, hence beef is available in restaurants and markets of Cochin?
Another enriching experience was our evening outing to the Cochin Cultural Theatre to watch a Kathakali show, a traditional dance that originated from this state – Kerala. We watched the dancers put their own make-up on before performing, and the show comprised of three parts: the performing of a prayer, an introductory demonstration with English narration and finally a play. Afterwards, some of us were even able to take photographs with the professional dancers, standing next to them in their magnificent costumes.
We were able to interact with different groups of children on two occasions, both of which really opened our eyes. Visiting an orphanage was different from what we expected, and we learnt much on our visit. The orphans were not only well taken care of and had been well-educated but could also be offered a job as an adult at the orphanage’s paper and cloth factory, ensuring a stable income in the future. We learned a local dance with some of the students and we also got to perform it in front of everyone. Afterwards, we split up to play a variety of games with them, which formed some unforgettable memories for us all. Similarly, our visit to a small local primary school was heartwarming as we interacted with the children, conversed with them in English and even watched them perform a song for us.
One of the most memorable adventures during this seven-day trip was when we went on board the jeeps for a tour around the many different farms and plantations, learning more about how land is used in this area. This made us question how people impact their environment as we were able to capture the magnificent sight of banana trees, coconut trees, a large grape plantation and even got caught in a huge herd of cows!
Even though all the activities planned out for us were so fun, we were also given some free time to rest and bond with our friends at the hotel. Whether it was swinging on the swings, throwing Frisbees in the swimming pool, playing table tennis, checkers or just sitting down and talking, it was a wonderful opportunity for us to bond with one another as well!
Overall, the trip provided us with many opportunities to be independent, responsible individuals, and increase our appreciation of the English Language, Indian history, geography and culture in Kochi. Our seven-day trip provided us with experiences of observing and appreciating the unique nature and practices of the people of Kochi, helping with our research with the other S2 students to produce our S2 newspaper, The Kerala Kaleidoscope, on display in the school library.