Deborah Ash

I actually taught today

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 1:11 am  India  Comments Off on I actually taught today
Apr 072010

These books and the way in which these children learn have been hindering my creativity. I haven’t felt like class was fun or that I was teaching anything other than having the children repeat what I said. They even repeated me saying “mmmm” when I was stuck; thinking what do I do. I have to watch my vocabulary to the maximum because these children are taught to repeat every word I say. They even repeat me when they get something correct I say “very good class” then they say ‘very good class.’ I’m laughing because I can’t even explain this to the teachers because they don’t speak English. Ufffff

Today I looked in the book with some anxiety; attempting to be positive about this the next lesson was about markers, pens, pencils, crayons, etc. I know they have these materials in the class but asking for them would take the entire 30 minutes. Thank GOD I am an artist. I pulled out a paint brush, a palate of prime colors, a marker, pen, crayon, pencil, eraser and glue stick.

I set out for class not knowing how I was going to proceed but knew one thing….I know how to have fun with colors, paints, markers and crayons so I asked God to direct me so that I could teach these children something. I go to class. This is the first time I’ve taught this particular set of ? year old students. I had them sit in a circle. I pulled out a bowl and water. They repeated, ‘bowl’ and ‘water’, then I pulled out the paint brush and paint. They repeated each item. I pulled out the crayon, pen and marker…they repeated each item. I repeatedly picked up an item and asked what this is and they responded. I had to help them some but for the most part they were not robotically saying every thing I said. They answered my questions!!! Yep-Eeee! Then, I put the paint brush in the water and on the paint and said ‘water color’ and they repeated….I painted a brown tree, they repeated, I painted red flowers, they repeated, I had primary colors so I said red and yellow make ….and painted it on the page and they yelled ‘orange.’ Oh, my heart was leaping. I didn’t care what the painting looked like these children were responding and learning. I put yellow and blue together and they yelled ‘green’ and finally I put red and blue together and they yelled ‘purple.

I got the pencil, pen, crayon and marker out with the eraser. I drew something with each. First I used the pencil then I said ‘whoops, mistake’ and erased it. They were in awwww. Then I put a line with the pen and used the eraser and it didn’t work. Same with marker and crayon. Then I went back and asked does the eraser work with marker? crayon? pen? pencil? and they got the answers correct. I then showed them how a marker was stronger than a pen by the way it left a wider mark on the paper and even looked at the back of the paper where it bled through. They understood a marker is stronger than a pen. Same exercise with crayon and pencil. then I asked which was the weakest of all the items. Which of these drawing devices was weak? I took the eraser and tried to erase the marker, pen, crayon, water color paint and pencil. They said ‘the pencil is the weakest.’

Then I got the glue stick out. They repeated glue stick. I asked them if they knew what glue was and got a blank face. I took the picture and put some glue on the back of the page and put it on the wall. I said glue makes paper stick to wall and they repeated. We went over the colors of the picture; the items used as I was packing them up then I asked ‘did you enjoy this class?’ The teacher had to translate and they all said ‘yes teacher.’ I’m so happy! I taught Chinese children for the first time and it stuck with them like glue!

Easter in China

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 1:41 am  India  Comments Off on Easter in China
Apr 022010

I doubt they celebrate Easter in China. Easter is about resurrection and the hope and belief of eternal life in Christian faith.

Different cultures, different climates, different foods, different etiquette, different mannerisms, you name it and traveling the world one will certainly experience an array of ups and downs; happy and sad times; miraculous and miserable times.

This tour with GVN is much longer than my first. In India I was there 5 weeks and was just starting to get the hang of things so I didn’t want to leave.  I finally got used to the cultural shock that bamboozled me the first day. I left the Western Hemisphere and moved back to India and spend the last 90 days there. What a difference time makes in adjusting to another world.

Here in China with months to work it all out I know it will be different. I may come back every 6 months since I have to leave India every 180 days and I believe I would be welcomed to come and go as I please as they need English in a serious way around here. I’ m teaching kindergarten which suits me fine. As I study English as a Foreign Language this is good experience for me to get through my studies.

So, as a volunteer in a foreign country many many feelings come up. Many trials and tribulations in language barriers arise. The food and water can be an issue. There are so many changes and transitions that need to be made that it can become overwhelming.

I’ve learned I can fight it or surrender to it. Surrender is much easier on the entire system while the ego might get bruised; it’s the best route to go. This week I wrote a poem and with Easter in a few days it was serendipitous for me to write a poem for the first time in about 10 years.

I would like to share it with you….

Intensified Phenomenon

My enticing heart is dancing, and my gratefulness loves its progression.

My transcending heart speaks in affection with exceptional devotion.

My fascinating life opens up my heart and circumvents isolated bewilderment.

My heart is tranquilized solace!  All of a sudden, separation is not recognizable.

My enchanted heart fills my livelihood with transformed stillness in silence.

Astonishment strolls with me and confuses me; it feels like spirit gazing at vulnerability with an amorous smile!

Each day I meet wonder on my path; I gather its petals, visit its ports of call, and listen to its harmonious chime.

Once I am regenerated, everything will look ingenious.

My mesmerizing heart is dancing, and my soul loves its Creator.

Volunteering in a world you are unfamiliar with…

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 4:03 pm  India  Comments Off on Volunteering in a world you are unfamiliar with…
Mar 302010

There comes a time when you must stand alone.

You must feel confident enough within yourself to follow your own dreams.

You must be willing to make sacrifices.

You must be capable of changing and rearranging your priorities so that your final goal can be achieved.

Sometimes, familiarity and comfort need to be challenged.

There are times when you must take a few extra chances and create your own realities.

Be strong enough to at least try to make your life better.

Be confident enough that you won’t settle for a compromise just to get by.

Appreciate yourself by allowing yourself the opportunities to grow, develop, and find your true sense of purpose in this life.

Don’t stand in someone else’s shadow when it’s your sunlight that should lead the way.


 Posted by Deborah Ash at 8:44 pm  India  Comments Off on China
Mar 152010

Arriving in China after India feels like I’m in the western world again. The city of Yantai is clean, the roads are organized, the buildings are modern and the sea is beautiful. I have an airplane full of emotions running through me. I have been in USA, India, USA, India, Thailand and now China in less than 6 months. I wanted to travel the world and help bring value to people and did not realize the value this experience would give me.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am not the same person I was 90 days ago. I still have much to let go of and all this traveling is certainly one way of getting out of any comfort zone and letting go of old habits, thoughts, speech, body language, etc.

I am waiting for someone to tell me what to do! It’s cold and the heat doesn’t provide enough heat to keep my fingers from tingling. The campus is huge. 8,000 students, a gym, pool, more than enough walking space. This campus is out in the middle of nowhere. I have a nice apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath, washer, TV, computer. All of which are Chinese so I haven’t a clue how to read any instructions… here we go again! I know nothing and I’m here to teach English. What a wonderfully strange world I am living in.

Many sites are blocked here so I’m not sure if this will hit the net or not.  Anyway, tomorrow I start kindergarten class! I know the volunteers from India last August can appreciate my apprehension to this. 😉


 Posted by Deborah Ash at 7:52 pm  India  Comments Off on Delayed
Feb 282010

My booking agent booked my flight but did not give the airline my ticket number and the airline cancelled my ticket. After six hours of trying to get things worked out I’m still in India waiting for the booking agent to get back to me. I’m so disappointed. I will reach China sooner or later.  Stay tuned…

China here I come…

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 3:43 am  India  Comments Off on China here I come…
Feb 162010

Life is but a dream….as the song goes. I never thought in all my life that my dream of traveling the world and helping people would come true but it has. In August last year I arrived in India. The world on the Eastern Hemisphere changed my life. I left the Western Hemisphere and moved to Kolkata, India. I’ve been here 60 some odd days and I am preparing for China.

I started taking an online course Teaching English as a Foreign Language and I have already started using what I have learned in India. I am tutoring a few people in English. When I arrive in China I will be volunteering at a school for four months in Yantai, Shandong, China teaching English. This is truly a gift from God above to make such a glorious door open for me.

Life on this side of the world is so different. I look forward to seeing what China has to offer. My body is still adjusting to all the different elements in India and I get to start all over again in China. What a challenge! I’m up for it. I can do just about anything with a little help from my friends. The love and support; the prayers and good wishes makes me know that I am not alone even though I may stand alone at times. Technology is great! I get to Skype with family and friends and see them every day so that I can share my joys and hardships. We laugh and cry. Every day is an adventure I have no idea how it will turn out. One thing I do know is that I have changed. My heart is open again and I am not afraid. Even though I don’t know the languages yet I feel at home in my spirit.

Anyone curious about Global Volunteer Network can rest assured, they are great! Very organized and helpful with the cultural shocks that come from visiting a foreign land. I look forward to meeting the 3 other volunteers that will be in China the same time I am.  Check back in from time to time. I will update every few days starting March 1, 2010.

The time is coming….

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 3:20 pm  India  Comments Off on The time is coming….
Dec 022009

December 11th I close on my home and fly out that evening arriving in Kolkata on December 13th. I am set up at a guest house with a private room until I find an apartment. I have met some lovely people online that have helped me more than I can ever thank. I’m working on the banking situation. India requires more background checks than the USA to open an account. I opened an account in the New York Branch but it appears I have to do all the paperwork again in India.

Once I arrive, I will meet Susan a volunteer that arrived the day I left. She will be finishing up her time. It will be nice to see how life has treated her these past few months.

I’m taking an online course to Teach English as a Foreign Language. This is a four part course. The fist class gives me ‘assistant teacher’ title, the 2nd “teacher” the 3rd is for business men and women and the 4th class give me the title “Master Teacher” This organization can arrange for me to travel the world teaching English and get paid for it. They also have a bartering system where the host would fly me out, put me up in a room and feed me. There would be no pay, but it won’t cost me anything. I am super excited about the possibilities. I only need the 1st two classes to teach in India. If I can obtain a working visa then I will be set for the time being.

GVN has been instrumental  in the lifestyle changes that are occurring in my life and I am most grateful to have found such an organization that helps not only people but animals and the planet.

I’ll update once I return to my new home  – INDIA!

Going back to India

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 8:08 am  India  Comments Off on Going back to India
Nov 182009

My trip to India in August changed my life. I sold my condo and I”m moving back to Kolkata. A huge leap of faith. All I know is I want to continue to help the people of India improve their lives and bring smiles to their faces.

I am also going to China March – June 2010 to teach English. I am truly blessed by having found GVN. This is a great NPO and I recommend them to everyone I talk to.

More to come…

Back from India

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 6:33 am  India  Comments Off on Back from India
Sep 032009

I’m back. The trip home was horrible, the plane food made me sick but I am grateful that the only time I was sick is coming home. At least I’m in the comfort of familiar surroundings. I was fortunate that I stayed healthy in India.

The first week was so overwhelming. The plane ride there was longer than I would have liked and the 12 hour layover in New Delhi seems like it took a decade. I felt like Tom Hanks in Terminal. I didn’t think those 12 hours would ever end. I got off the plane in Kolkata and into a cab. The smell was something I never smelled before. The right side of my brain kept telling me it was ancient and holy.  As we drove, my eyes saw slum homes near a pond that was surrounded by piles of garbage with a woman picking through it. The left side of my brain told me the smell was sun baked, humidity steamed filth. I decided to stick with the original conclusion that it was ancient and holy. I knew within 24 hours I would not smell this smell again and I was right. The next day, the smell was gone but other new smells infiltrated my nostrils. After about 10 minutes in the cab my ears noticed how loud things were. The cars were honking their horns constantly. I found out that it’s the law “honk horn.” About half way into the cab ride I noticed how hot it was and wondered why I wasn’t sweating. All I had to do was bring my awareness to it and ‘bamb’ it felt like it was raining in the cab – I was soaked. The only sense left was to taste India and I knew that would come soon enough.

The first venture out I was almost run over by a bike that had at least 50 half dead, half live chickens. If it had fallen on me I think I would have gone home immediately however, the cars, bikes and people know how to maneuver around so we just missed each other by an inch. I wish I could record my perceptions because the first day I felt I was living in “Night of the Living Dead” the people, streets, shops, smells were terrifying. As each day went by, I became use to the sights and wasn’t bothered at all (well most of the time I wasn’t bothered). I got lost 3 times by myself. I was running on pure exhaustion and willpower. As it grew dark I stopped by a rickshaw driver and pulled my map out. This guy wore a lungi (a type of wrap-around garment). I was told that if a man is wearing a lungi, he can’t afford pants. He had no shoes. I’m pointing on the map like an idiot. If he can’t afford shoes and pants, what makes me think he can read. A few more men came by and they were talking in a language I couldn’t understand. Finally two school girls walked by in uniforms. I asked “English” and they said “yes mam” I asked which way was Park Street and in 3 minutes I found my way back after going in circles for an hour.

The first week of orientation we visited a few projects where women work to get off the streets. They make blankets, jute bags and candles. We visited the slum schools and decided to volunteer at the school. The kids are so talented and grateful for any encouragement. I have such a heart for these kids. The school only goes to 3rd grade. If they don’t get sponsored after that, they do not get to continue their education. We visited their homes and I have to admit I was quite impressed. Anywhere from 5 to18 people (some goats and hens too) live in a small square room, the biggest was about 10×10. They have no bathrooms so there is a pay toilet nearby that they have to use. Their homes were clean on the inside. The ones by the railroad tracks were a bit scary. The train came by and they live maybe 6 inches from the tracks.

We went on a weekend excursion to Bakkhali Beach. It was quite an adventure. I was a little disappointed with the beach. I never saw a beach and water the same color before. It was nice to get out of the city though and see the country side of India. The green grass and the fishing boats were so colorful. The fishing huts were made of clay and had grass roofs.

We made friends with a few of the vendors. I had the pharmacy guys working hard to find me the right kinds of remedies for the kids at school. (The kids at school thought I was a doctor because I always had some ointment or Band-Aids for them.) A few restaurants and waiters were more than willing to recommend great food. We found a great place to buy cheap clothes and shoes. All in all, the people in India are quite cordial. My Bengal language skills sucked. People were laughing at me all the time. My dyslexia kicked in and I would say things backwards. Oh well, I tried.

I had one moment where I not only wanted to be out of India I didn’t even want to exist. I had the opposite problem from the rest of the volunteers. They had diarrhea and I was constipated. I finally found some Milk of Magnesia after 9 days and it kicked in on our way back from school. We got off on the wrong street and had to cross the street to get to the other side in order to catch another cab. We were in the medium with cars on both sides honking their horns, the exhaust was overwhelming and I was about to have a bowel moment in my pants. I had a full blown anxiety attack. I put on my sun glasses so no one would be the wiser and started to cry. I couldn’t get to the bathroom soon enough. I was fortunate that was the only bad experience I had. I did have 4 moments of feeling like I belong. For me belonging isn’t something I’m use to. I grew up in circumstances where I didn’t belong. So having a feeling of belonging is of great importance to me. I feel like I’m supposed to go back to India. I ask God to direct me so I make wise decisions these next few weeks and months.

We got the kids to paint bookmarks and I’m working on getting them sized so I can make color copies and put a sticker on the back stating all proceeds go to sponsor a child in the slums for their continued education. I am also looking into getting a business loan to purchase blankets from one of the projects. They take 5 sari’s and stitch them together. They are so beautiful. I know with winter coming up, I’ll be able to sell these blankets and help the women in India as well.

Global Ventures, the local NPO was a tremendous help to all the volunteers and Vishal is one of the happiest, sweetest men I’ve ever encountered. That’s it for now. I will be posting my personal journal on which will include my personal thoughts through out the trip as well as pictures. I also have photo albums on

Getting Ready for India

 Posted by Deborah Ash at 9:17 am  India  Comments Off on Getting Ready for India
Jul 082009

Little did I know how much work it takes to go to a third world country. The visa, police check, vaccinations for just about everything except Yellow Fever.  I need a first aid kit loaded with needles and syringes in case of an emergency (hospitals don’t necessarily use clean syringes – yuck).  I’m loaded up with Antibiotics for diarrhea and salt tablets for dehydration. I have my Malaria meds and my face mask (the swine flu is starting to rise in India right now). I had to get a water purifier. I will need to learn how to use a squat toilet and not use my left hand (which is my dominate hand) for exchanging items or eating since the left hand is for cleaning yourself after the toilet (they don’t use toilet paper either).

As I prepare for this trip I’m grateful for living in the USA. I don’t have to worry about the water I drink, the food I eat or the multitude of diseases that are lurking around in India. I even appreciate the fact that in the summer I can wear sleeve less shirts and I don’t have to cover my head. I will be covering myself from head to toe in order to respect the culture in which I will be visiting. I especially appreciate the fact that we use toilet paper!!

As with anything I do, I take the hardest route. I’m going in August the hottest month of the year with highs in the 115’s and lows in the 90’s with no A/C and high humidity. The conditions will probably be the worst I’ve ever encountered  with 50% of the population in poverty, but the chance to help children and women far exceeds any discomfort I will endure.

I’m attempting to learn Bengali but can’t seem to get it right. Some how I need to hear how it is pronounced before it sinks into my brain. Once I’m there I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I also have to remember that women are not equal in India. I am going to have to bite my tongue and it’s going to be quite humbling I’m sure.

Global Volunteer Network has been great helping me prepare for this endeavor. They have even given me tools to raise money for this trip. I’m currently unemployed and every penny counts. I have received some money and it is greatly appreciated.  Three weeks and I’m taking off on 7/29 arriving two days later.  I’m not sure if I will have internet access while I’m there so I’ll keep a journal and update it when I get back.

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