“MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE”,AUTHOR
Now readers,set back an enjoy our chat with this author and her amazing story of life in INDIA….
Without further ado, welcome SANDRA!!
MBA&M: Sandra, please tell our readers a little about yourself?
After graduating from Highland Park High School, I attended the University of Colorado. I was lucky to meet my future husband within months of starting school. We married young and I followed him back to Chicago so that he could attend law school. I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
While living in suburban Chicago, I had four sons. While raising my family, I earned two graduate degrees. One was in Education- Instruction and Curriculum from the University of Colorado-Boulder and the other was in Jewish Studies from Spertus College. I am a licensed K-6 Colorado teacher with a K-12 linguistically diverse education endorsement.
I have taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses.
In 2010, my husband’s international job created a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in India. I fulfilled three passions – a desire to travel, a zeal for writing, and a love of teaching. My Indian adventure became the backdrop for my book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir.
MBA&M: I understand you had some unexpected events which caused you to have to move to India, but why write “May This Be The Best Year Of Your Life”?
For decades, I wanted to write a book. I couldn’t decide on a genre and I procrastinated. A memoir was never part of my initial list.
My husband and I have always maintained a low profile. We purposely avoid being in the public eye. When President Obama visited India, one of my eldest son’s friends asked if I wanted to be interviewed by an American television station. I declined. I wasn’t ready to go public.
I vacillated between my desire to publish a memoir and to maintain my family’s privacy. I was willing to let go of our anonymous status when I realized that I had an incredible story to share. Now that I had an engaging message, I could not resist writing about my adventure or the lessons that I learned.
MBA&M: How hard is it to write a memoir? Does it require an inner strength to write?
Even after I decided to go public with my story, I had some reservations. How much of my private life was I willing to reveal? What parts of my story would engage others? Would the events that I wanted to write about flow together in an organized fashion?
As I mapped out the key strands, I had to face both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects of my story. I had to come to terms with my shortcomings and be painfully honest with what I wrote. In some respects it was cathartic because I was able to look at the “big picture” by first analyzing different segments of my journey. After I had a vision of the big picture, my writing allowed me to put my frustrations into perspective.
MBA&M: The culture shock must have been tough, what was the biggest shock to you? Why?
As soon as my husband and I left the airport, my senses were overwhelmed. Our assumption that our driver would be fluent in English was incorrect. His weak command of the language forced us to focus intently on his broken English as we struggled with the ill effects of jet lag.
Even though it was the middle of the night, horns were blaring nonstop. Every time our vehicle approached an intersection, the driver beeped his horn. Most people were sleeping, despite the pervasive noise.
The air had a foul smell that at first was unrecognizable. We eventually saw small fires burning garbage everywhere and cows, sheep, wild dogs and chickens roaming the streets freely. Manure was an obvious byproduct that was rarely cleaned up.
The darkness was not able to camouflage the sporadic heaps of debris and garbage that lined the roadway and sidewalks. In some places the litter appeared to blend in with the rundown and dilapidated buildings, but seemed out-of-place adjacent to modern and sleek buildings.
The drivers on the road did not appear to follow any rules. Red lights were ignored and most vehicles-large and small-weaved back and forth with little warning. Rear lights were reserved for only a select number of vehicles. Our driver came too close for comfort when he came upon vehicles with no lights.
By the time I reached our apartment, my senses were on high alert. Exhaustion took hold of me and the symptoms of culture shock were abated until I awoke later that day.
MBA&M: How hard is it to get accustomed to a different culture, the people, their customs, economics, their faith, and yours?
There is a distinct difference between visiting a country and living in a country. Being a visitor is a temporary situation that requires respect for the culture and a limited amount of indoctrination. However, when you relocate to a new country and become an expat, it is vital to become acclimated to the new environment.
It was a challenge for me to adapt to life in India since it was very different from my American background. So many things were foreign and strange. My initial reaction was to be unreceptive to what I observed. Slowly, I learned that I had to have a more flexible attitude. As long as I lived in India, I would have to realize that most things would be totally different from my suburban American life. Embracing my new adventure helped me overcome my trepidations.
MBA&M: What was the hardest thing for you to get accustomed to? Why?
I lost my freedom to come and go as I pleased. I was dependent on others to get me from point A to point B. I did not have a car and could not drive myself anywhere. Instead, I was limited to foot power and hiring others. Most rickshaw drivers, private drivers, and taxi drivers had a limited command of English. Oftentimes I found myself in vehicles that took circuitous routes to get to a destination or that admittedly got lost along the way. Inflated fares naturally followed. This only added to my bewilderment.
MBA&M: You taught at a boarding school, correct? How hard is it to teach at a school different their an America? What credentials did you need?
To my surprise, none of my American credentials were checked. In the US, teachers undergo several levels of scrutiny before they are hired at a public or private school. In the US, fingerprints, background checks, and employment verification are standard procedures. In India, my word was taken at face value. The school did not even ask for a copy of my college transcripts or my Colorado teaching license.
The international school followed a British curriculum that was very different from my American training and experience. Fortunately, my director allowed me to take a hybrid approach. I followed the mandated curriculum, but infused several American theories and methods into my
lesson plans. I was also provided an opportunity to share my literacy expertise during a primary faculty meeting.
This was an amazing opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed. I realized that my efforts would be limited since my time at the school was short termed. Nevertheless, I wanted to model quality instruction. I have recently learned that some of my American methods are still being used in the 5th grade.
MBA&M: Where you alone in India or did you have family, friends, etc. with you?
My decision to travel to India was predicated on my husband’s job with an Indian based company. The initial terms of his employment called for approximately 6 months in India and the remainder of the time traveling in the US and the UK. My husband and I felt that the new position was a wonderful opportunity that would allow us to see more of our eldest son who was already working in India.
As a result of this business arrangement and the fact that our eldest son had been living in India for years, I retired from my teaching position at a local community college. In January 2010, I traveled with my husband to India.
I interviewed for teaching positions in India and accepted a position at an international school. In the meantime, the terms of my husband’s employment started to change.
I did not anticipate living by myself when I accepted the teaching job. Due to a number of unexpected twists and turns, I ended up living on the school’s campus by myself.
MBA&M: Sandra, please tell our readers where to connect with you and where they may purchase your title?
I’d be delighted if your readers would visit my website- www.sandrabornstein.com. The site includes general information, a photo gallery, a video book trailer, and an active blog
Readers can also join me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Goodreads.
Thank you Sandra, for spending time with us and our readers today. What an amazing story!
May This Be The Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir
by Sandra Bornstein
- Paperback: 314 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 3, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1478198052
- ISBN-13: 978-1478198055
Book Description(From Amazon)
Publication Date: December 3, 2012
Based on a private journal, memories, and a blog that chronicled her adventure to India, Sandra Bornstein wrote May This Be the Best Year of Your Life to serve as a resource and guide to help others overcome the challenges of living outside their comfort zone. When her husband accepted a job that required extensive international travel, the author was living her version of the American dream in Colorado, never imagining she would be faced with several dilemmas that left her feeling uncertain. After a series of events, she found herself in a life altering experience that placed her alone in a three-hundred-square-foot dorm room while teaching at a renowned international boarding school in Bangalore. This compelling, honest, and edifying memoir shares everything she learned about perseverance, travel, education, faith, and family. Had Sandra never resided in India, she would have missed out on an experience that ultimately enhanced her resiliency, confidence, and passion for life.
Excerpt(from the author’s website)
Ira was going to India. He didn’t have the official offer yet, but somehow I knew that it would soon become a reality. He would leave . . . and what would I do? I tried to envision different scenarios.
I could travel as Ira’s companion.
Yeah, right! This was possible—only if I was independently wealthy.
Or maybe I would just stay in the United States and he’d travel back and forth.
More daunting was the idea of living and working in India. Ira and I could follow in Josh’s footsteps. Josh, in his 20s, dived head first into Indian culture. Ira and I were in our 50s.The whole idea seemed insane. Tossing away an established American life and relocating to a Third World country didn’t seem logical for a middle-aged couple. When Josh had accepted a job in India, I wept for days. I feared that our family would become fragmented and that our moments as a cohesive family would become distant memories. I couldn’t say anything because it was, after all, his life. But now Ira and I were potentially causing an irrevocable schism. Living halfway around the world from most of our immediate family seemed ludicrous.
By far the safest choice for me was staying put and not going anywhere. Ira was free to pursue this job, and I could continue my life as if nothing had changed. But I would have a part-time husband; each of us would need to fend for ourselves when we weren’t together. This alternative position was equally unsound. As a married couple, we derived our happiness and security by living life together. If I wanted to live a separate existence, I would ask for a divorce.
None of the options fell under the category of “the secrets of a successful marriage.” But I felt I would be selfish if I told Ira that he could not pursue this fascinating career path. Just like Josh had chosen his way years ago without any interference from us, I didn’t feel comfortable telling Ira not to take the job.
Too many sleepless nights went by without any resolution, and the lack of rest began to play tricks on me. One minute I felt that an Indian adventure was something to look forward to—a new challenge for the next stage of our lives. And in a blink, I’d change my mind and feel like our cat, Chloe, who likes to hide under the bed. Whenever Chloe doesn’t want to be bothered or is afraid that we’re going to take her for a much-dreaded car ride, she positions herself under our bed, knowing that she’s out of harm’s way. Unlike Chloe, however, I had nowhere to hide.
This wasn’t an easy time for Ira either. Some days the Indian company led Ira to believe that a contract was in the offing, while other days he felt that the deal was sinking like a ship. This went on for weeks as the structure of the job changed and the anticipated time that Ira would need to live in India fluctuated. The company treated Ira as if he were Geppetto’s puppet, controlled by the whim of the puppeteer. Oftentimes he was told that someone would call at a specific time but the phone never rang. He would wait and wait. Without seeming too impatient, he eventually sent e-mails to a contact person in India who then provided an excuse. Some were ridiculous, some seemed genuine. But all of them became old after months of the same act.
Frustration mounted whenever promises were made and broken. Words such as “tomorrow,” “later today,” or “we’ll call soon” turned into triggers that created skepticism. We learned that these words simply meant “an unspecified time in the future” and weren’t an actual promise. Ira and I could only chuckle and make bets about when the next stage would occur.
Ira remained intrigued over the prospect of being the legal head of a legal process outsourcing (LPO) company. Over the years, he had watched as the cost of litigation skyrocketed. By using qualified lawyers and legal assistants employed at a lower hourly rate, clients could decrease their costs. Ira was excited to take over the reins of India Sourced Technology’s (IST) LPO it was still in its infancy. IST was one of India’s largest companies and a global leader in technology with revenues in the billions.
After months of discussion, negotiation, and uncertainty, Ira received a written contract in December 2009. I felt like I was acting in a Disney World commercial when I asked, “How does it feel to be the new delivery head of the IST LPO?” Ira hadn’t won the Super Bowl, but he was beaming when he said, “I can’t wait to mentor hundreds of Indian lawyers and also have an impact on the legal profession.”
Now I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of my life:
What was I going to do?
May This Be the Best Year of Your Life is available on Amazon.
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