Mumbai, India (8 Sept 2015)

A GET Challenge Day in Mumbai

India is definitely a country I want to go but I don’t have the courage to explore it yet! After departing Singapore, the one week in sea passed swiftly and everyone was excited when we reached Mumbai, the busiest city in India. Most of us had very meaningful experiences in Mumbai. Some of the GET teachers visited Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, and had eye-opening encounters. While I wished I could have joined them, I was very lucky to be part of the GET Challenge in Mumbai.

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What is a GET Challenge?

  • GET Challenge Programmes (CP) are special paid programmes in port organised only for GET students
  • There are usually about 3-6 CPs for each voyage (on 88th voyage, we had 5 CPs – Cebu, Mumbai, Gibraltar, Cristobel and Samoa)
  • With the guidance from GET coordinators, GET teachers take turns to be in charge of their respective CP
  • The CPs allow GET students to use their English and Spanish communication skills in an organised cross­cultural situation
  • Some examples of CPs can be communication task-based “missions”, one­day cultural exchanges with local people, or overnight home­stays with local families
  • GET coordinators and teachers organize pre-CP orientation (like information session and language workshop), facilitate the programme in port and lead post-CP feedback session onboard)

The GET Challenge Day in Mumbai was extremely successful because of our wonderful partner, YMCA Mumbai. We were warmly welcomed by them in the morning.

It was a hectic, activity-filled morning. The GET students watched Indian dance performances, interacted with the YMCA volunteers and engaged in a variety of cultural exchange activities like trying ethnic costumes, making rangoli making, writing names in Tamil, henna-painting and indulging in a delish Indian snacks. The YMCA volunteers were excited to wear Japanese yutakas and learn how to write their names using Japanese Katakana. One of the most memorable activities was when everyone did the Bollywood dance!

The kind hospitality continued at lunchtime. We were overwhelmed by a sumptuous spread of Indian cuisine. By the time we left YMCA for our tour of Mumbai, we were so full of food and warmth from our newfound friends.


Half day Tour of Mumbai

Unfortunately, I lost most of my Mumbai pictures so I will just quickly introduce the places we visited.

1. Banganga Tank

A sacred water tank, Banganga forms a part of Walkeshwar temple complex in Malabar Hill. The origins of the tank are linked to Hindu myths related about the Hindu God Rama. The site has a reputation for medicinal abilities and purification.

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2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

We stopped by this monumental train station built in Victorian Gothic architectural style for a few minutes for photo-taking. Formerly known as Victoria Terminus, this UNESCO World Heritage Site represents the fusion of architecture, culture and history.

3. Gateway of India

Constructed during the British rule in 1924, this colossal structure commemorates the historical legacy of Mumbai. The security checks at the entrance form a reminder of the tragic terrorist attacks in 2008.

4. Colaba Causeway

We walked over from the Gateway of India and spent a short time there. Many GET students bought traditional ethnic costumes.

Before the day ended, we invited the YMCA volunteers onto Peace Boat and showed them around. I felt incredibly happy and humbled to see how the YMCA volunteers truly enjoyed the tour as it was the first time onboard a passenger ship for many of them. We were so blessed to have this amazing opportunity to travel around the world and made new friends in Mumbai. It was very hard to say good bye to them as we were very touched by their kindnesses. One of them even helped me to buy over 20 stamps and send all my postcards.

I felt a strange connection to India as a result of the “The Village by the Sea” by Anita Desai. I had a love-hate relationship to this novel as I had to teach it to young teenagers for many agonizing years. Only after I stopped forming test questions and grading essays about the novel, I finally could appreciate the story. When the tour bus passed by Chowpatty, I imagined Hari strolling along the beach on Coconut Day and Mr Panwallah saying, “The wheel turns and turns and turns: it never stops and stands still…”