Jill Dobbe has created a compelling tale of the highs and lows of teaching in a foreign country. This book is well-written, the story flows well, and the author keeps you always wanting to read more. It's insightful and enlightening, and offers a glimpse into the educational views and culture of India. Much of Jill's experience reminded me of my Peace Corps service in Suriname, so I know none of this is made-up!
Dobbe writes "Only in India" in first person, and it brings her travels with her husband, Dan, to life. It's a powerful story that shines a light on the illegality of (foreign) educators in India. She writes "Hearing about (Michael) Jackson’s death at that particular moment gave me new perspective on our situation, and I knew that for the rest of my life, I would equate the time I left India with the moment I heard that the world had lost a much-loved musical genius." But it doesn't end there, and each word brings the reader into the author's mindset and experience. It shows the culture and diversity of the Indian people in contrast to Americans, men and women.
It's an amazing story.
I read this author’s book “Kids, Camels, and Cairo” and thoroughly enjoyed it so was happy to see another book by her. If you enjoy a combination of a memoir and a travelogue written with the tone of a missive to family and friends, this is the book for you. It is a beautifully written and adventurous story.
After leaving Egypt, Jill and her husband Dan applied for jobs in India. They were excited when they were hired as principals at a school in Gurgaon. So off they flew to India. Now anyone doing this type of job has to be extremely flexible and quickly adaptable to other cultures. And a good sense of humor is a must. This is certainly the case with Jill and Dan. (They also exposed their children to this way of life which, in my opinion, will result in the children being highly adaptable.)
Jill does tell you right up front in the book that they had to leave India abruptly, even before the end of their contract. Yet this negative experience did not tarnish the accounting of their time in India.
While they were aware of the unpleasant aspects of a visit to India, they were still not totally prepared for the complete immersion into the daily life of the Indian people – the noise, the sometimes highly unhygienic conditions, the sparse living conditions, the inconvenience presented by the sacred cows, and the aggressive monkeys. Along with this though came the helpful nature of the people, the colorful surroundings, the intricate architecture, the festivals, and the diversity of the people and their cultures.
Jill’s superb descriptions vividly portrayed day-to-day life there – a surreal experience. Where else do drivers maneuver around the sacred cows sprawled out in the middle of the road and women wear simple yet colorful cotton saris while working in the rice fields? And where else does a teacher arrive late to school with the (acceptable) excuse being that a monkey was sitting in the middle of her living room? In my mind I could hear the sounds of the people and the traffic around her, smell the pungent scents of cooking spices and the not-so-pleasant smells, envision the various modes of dress, hear the chants of the Buddhist prayers, and feel the hot and muggy weather conditions. I felt her frustration with not speaking the local language and being taken advantage of. She pulled me into her world and let me experience it alongside her.
There were comical moments. I laughed at the description of “laughing yoga”. (Makes sense once you read why.) The ant invasion gave me the willies – yuck – but I do hope they were able to laugh about it afterwards.
Jill takes you along as she visits the Taj Mahal, the famous Gyarah Murti sculptures, and other notable sites in India. She explains the various styles of dress, the celebration of holidays, and the caste system. She made learning about India very enjoyable.
If you have ever dreamed of visiting India, be sure to read this book. As much as I have traveled India has never been on my “must see” list so I applaud Jill for her endurance.
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am an international educator who has lived and worked in seven different countries. I currently live in Honduras where I work at an American school. I write travel articles and take photos and have been published in several magazines. I have also published three travel memoirs/travelogues.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest travel memoir is Only in India: Adventures of an International Educator. I wrote it after we found ourselves leaving India much earlier than we ever anticipated and due to reasons beyond our control. Living in India is a unique and adventurous experience in so many ways. While writing my book I got to relive my time there.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Nothing unusual. I do use diaries and journals that I keep while traveling. Once I start writing I am very focused and often have to tell my husband to please be quiet so I can concentrate.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I enjoy reading the travel memoirs of other authors. I also enjoy reading the memoirs of brave women living in developing countries around the world who work to improve the lives of other women, such as A Thousand Sisters by Lisa J. Shannon, A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo, and Well: Healing Our Broken World by Sarah Thebarge.
What are you working on now?
I am marketing my books on social media wherever and whenever I can. I am also continuing to write articles and sending in photographs to different travel magazines.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I belong to many memoir and travel websites where I promote my books, learn about other books, and network with other authors of travel memoirs.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice to new authors about getting their books noticed is to use social media as much as possible. Find sites that cater to books like yours. Use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads and Amazon and join promotional sites.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The best writing advice I got was to use beta readers, and as many as I could get to read my books. Beta readers will give you honest opinions while reading with new sets of eyes. Through my beta readers I learned about passive voice, adding details to my writing, and showing instead of telling.
What are you reading now?
I am taking a break from my usual nonfiction reads. I like to scour for free books and found Halsey Street by Naima Coster. It's a good read!
What’s next for you as a writer?
I will continue to promote my books and get started on writing about my time living and working in Honduras. I have been here for eight years now and will have lots to write about.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I really don't have a favorite book, but I do have a favorite genre. I prefer to read, and write, inspirational books about travel and living overseas.
JILL DOBBE’s Social Media Links