The experience in India was amazing, but I really don't have time to relate it here, so I'm just going to paste the article I wrote for the college magazine.
Missionary, tourist or celebrity? That was the question Mr. Pang posed to us during our reflection session on the 5th night. Did we come for this 9-day OCIP trip to Tamil Nadu with the mentality and true spirit of missionaries, putting in all effort to touch the lives of those we encountered and persevering under sickness and hardship, or were we simply tourists or celebrities, going to see the sights or expecting to have first-class treatment and bask in fame?
We believe the results speak for themselves. From the 14th to the 22nd of November 2007, a group of 16 students and 2 teachers from CJC set off on what would be an absolutely unforgettable experience to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India. Trepidation and nervousness about what would be in store for us was in our minds as we assembled at Changi airport on the morning of the 14th, but at the same time there was a palpable sense of excitement as well.
Our trip to Tamil Nadu was hardly a sightseeing touristy one, with a sense of purpose etched deep into the fully-packed schedule we had almost every day in Tuticorin. Over there, our main activities were to teach two English-medium classes of 7th and 8th standard students lessons on English, Mathematics, Physics and Biology, the syllabus for which was among the many preparations made before we embarked on our trip, and alongside such pedagogic activities we visited various slums, tuition centres, a home for physically disabled children and an old age home.
During the 5 days we were in Tamil Nadu we were positively swarmed by children who were simply so happy to see us, and the welcome we received from the students and staff, in addition to that from the community was a truly a heart-warming one. Despite the language barrier for many both sides never ceased trying to communicate, soon finding that the most effective way of simple communication was just through a smile or wave.
The living standards of the people would be deemed by Singaporeans as substandard, and yet they never failed to always try and give us the best they had, pulling out the stops in their hospitality towards us. Although classroom were sparsely equipped and classes were often as large as 60 students each, such conditions failed to dampen the enthusiasm for learning and curiosity of the students was overwhelming, a dearth of which can be found in our country in spite of everything we have. During our visits to the old age and handicapped children homes, our interaction with the old folks and the handicapped children allowed us to understand their situation, and being able to bring joy to them through our games, performances and activities brought smiles to our faces. Through our visits to the slums and tuition centres, we discovered how the people in the slums still have a sense of purpose and satisfaction in life, and although poor, they did not fail to extend their warmth and hospitality to us. The eagerness to learn, and the value the children and students at both the tuition centres and school placed on education was truly an eye opener for us.
Part of the experience we had was also illness. By the 6th day, almost all of us had fallen ill, with fever, vomiting and diarrhoea being the order of the day. Through it all, however, it was mind over matter as we persevered, taking everything that was thrown at us with gritted teeth but without battered spirits. Sickness was a challenge, surely, but it was something that we were prepared to face going for this trip.
Simply put, this trip was a truly amazing experience, quite impossible to put down in words to have the reader truly understand, and it made us realise the reality of what it was like in poor places, helping us to appreciate what we have while at the same time allowing us to realise that love, peace and joy can exist and are independent of the place and material comforts. Missionary, tourist or celebrity? Perhaps some of us went for the trip with differing mentalities than those of altruistic nature, but at the end of it, touching the lives of those we encountered and having our lives changed in return – missionaries, that’s what we were.