Aug. 10, 2016
Editor’s Note: This summer, in addition to the team’s foreign tour of France and Monaco, four Notre Dame women’s soccer student-athletes took advantage of study abroad opportunities. Kiley Adams, a senior goalkeeper on the Irish squad, blogged about her experience spending nearly two months undertaking independent research (made possible by a Notre Dame Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement research grant) in India, returning just days before preseason camp kicked off on August 2.
By Kiley Adams ’17
Forty-eight hours. That was all the time I had to adjust from the organized opulence of our French trip to being alone in the hectic and raw streets of India. While I thought I knew what I was getting myself into having worked in India last summer for two months at an NGO for children with disabilities, nothing could prepare me for this new adventure. The adventure was supposed to entail independent research on the Community Based Rehabilitation model for peoples with disability in rural India. Little did I know it would also entail an overnight camel safari into the Thar Desert, time spent living with a rural village family and learning their traditional trade of carpet weaving, or literally walking into another country (Myanmar) after playing a game of glorified charades with their military personnel on border patrol.
There are no sufficient words to describe India or my experience in it. The sounds, sights and smells are a constant assault to your senses and you finish every day both fully exhausted and fulfilled by simply living there. Nonetheless, here is my best attempt at a meaningful description.
I began my trip in the most southwestern state of India called Kerala, living with a close friend’s family who I now refer to as an extension of my own. Because “the guest is a god” in India and because many Indian women express their love in cups of tea, I was fed and offered chai approximately 15 times a day. As a result I acquired some niche phrases in Malyalam, the local language: “I like it.” “What is it?” And most importantly, “I’m finished with it.” When not being fed, meeting family, exploring the area via boat, or doing research, I was attempting to work out. This was a town spectacle – likely because of how much I sweated in the relentless Indian heat, but also because I was a foreigner wearing shorts.
My trip continued to Chennai on the southeast coast where I was reunited with the therapists, teachers and – most importantly – kids whom I had the opportunity to work with last summer at Vidya Sagar. I interviewed numerous professionals, played countless games of peek-a-boo, and spent most evenings swimming in the Indian Ocean (a spectacle possibly even funnier than my evening workouts in Kerala). Here I celebrated the Fourth of July by dressing in my best red, white and blue Indian attire and buying corn on the cob on the beach.
After Chennai, I headed to one of the least explored and most rural areas in India – a place called Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. There I lived in the Changlang District, which is in the shadows of the Eastern extension of the Himalayas bordered by Myanmar in the east and Tibet in the north. I lived with the Bishop of Miao who took it upon himself to show us every aspect of the local culture – a unique blend of the 26 Indian tribes and Tibetan refugees who reside there. I learned the most about my research interest, how to help with disability services in rural India, by just talking to families on their bamboo porches while sharing a boiled bamboo meal with them. The living conditions are simple; the people are extraordinary. I didn’t mind sleeping just an hour or two a night in the over 100-degree heat while being devoured by bugs because it meant I got to wake up another morning and live. Some days living entailed playing soccer at the Tibetan refugee camp; other days it meant trying and failing to help make chapathi (a local bread) for lunch.
I finished my adventure in India in the northwest-most corner exploring Rajasthan. Yes, I saw the Taj Mahal. Yes, it was spectacular. But even more spectacular was the family we stayed with in the Salivas village who let us make carpets and pottery, cook meals and wear the local dress with them, or the guides on our camel safari who continuously told us that we were about to enter Pakistan (sorry mom!). The discomfort of continuous mosquito bites, heat stroke, or my camel attempting to throw me off of him ultimately just made me appreciate my trip even more. It is with immense excitement, however, that I am now home and preparing to start my final year with my Notre Dame family. I look forward to learning more about how to increase care for peoples with disability regardless of their language or location in the coming months and possibly returning to India again soon to learn and live more with my new family there.
Read about more of Notre Dame soccer’s international travels this summer:
Irish Abroad: Yu’s Japanese Immersion
Irish Abroad: McGowan’s Brazilian Adventure
Irish Abroad in France: Monaco & Nice
Irish Abroad in France: Avignon
Irish Abroad in France: Paris, Part I
Irish Abroad in France: Paris, Part II