Monday, June 30, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays....

June 30, 2008-(Monday)- Palumpur, India
Today was a great day overall. I didn’t sleep all that great. The beds here are composed of a thin mattress on a wooden frame—no box spring. This makes for sore hips, neck, and shoulders, and some achiness. Soreness aside, I was excited to go to my placement today for several reasons. For one, we now had the new schedule and I was hoping things would go more smoothly. Secondly, I now had my custom made clothes and I was excited to wear them to the school. Any day—in my book—is better when you feel comfortable in your clothes. I arrived at the school and I was ready to work. I first met up with my friend, Minakshi. She is one of the English teachers. She is 23 and soon to be married. She is really sweet and I ask her all kinds of questions. This morning one of my questions was about the lyrics of the song that the children were singing during the opening ceremony. Minakshi said that the song was a prayer. The prayer asks God to help them with their work , their play, and in all the activities of the day. I was especially touched by the fact that Minakshi said that she was worried about me and had wondered why I was not at the school on Friday and Saturday. I explained to her that I ate something and got very sick. Her concern and apparent fondness for me touched my heart.
After the ceremony it was off to class. I first went to the 10th grade English class. There they were reading a poem in English. It was an older poem and unknown to me, but I was able to work with it anyway. I did wonder why they (text book author) used a poem which would have been challenging for English speakers, let alone ESOL students (English as a Second Language). The regular teacher gave me a book, showed me the page, and told me to teach it in the way I thought best. I began by having a student read the first sentence. After the student read the sentence to the class, I repeated the sentence correcting any pronunciation. Then I chose words from the sentences that I thought the students might not know. I then asked who knew the meaning of the words. Once we got through the meaning of the words, We went on to the next line. Some students needed help with meaning, some with pronunciation, some with both. At one point it got really fun because the word “Peace” was in the poem. When I asked what the meaning of the word was, they gave me the definition referring to a “part of a whole”. Here was my opportunity for a teaching moment. I explained to them, slowly and with words they knew, that the sound “peese” was spelled two different ways, piece and peace, and that each had a different meaning. Ironically the word “cricket” was also in the poem. When I asked them the meaning of cricket, they exclaimed, “bat ball” ! I laughed. No, I explained, the meaning of cricket in this poem is an insect which makes a chirping noise. That period went quickly. Next, I had Science, but I was called into the principle’s office. There we had a meeting and the whole schedule changed again. I hope this is the last revision as things are really getting confusing. During the meeting with the principle, I was given a letter requesting my presence at a ceremony to be held tomorrow. It seems that the volunteers had finished painting / renovating the empty classroom and they were holding a dedication ceremony. The letter requested that I be the person to cut the red ribbon at the conclusion of the ceremony. I felt so honored! I can’t think of any reason that I was chosen besides the fact that I am the eldest volunteer at the site. Based on their respect for age, choosing me would make sense. Whatever the reason, it is a big deal to them, and I feel very flattered. The CSS staff will be there and they will be taking pictures, and the event might even be in the local paper ! After the meeting I spoke some more with Rajesh, the principle. He was concerned that I did not go to the school on Friday and Saturday. He thought I was angry and that he had offended me in some way. I explained to him about the illness and assured him that it was nothing that he had done.
Following the meeting, it was on to the next class which was Minakshi’s class. They were working on verb tenses and I tried to explain to them, but I needed Munakshi’s help translating. In the end, I did a mini lesson in English, and she explained in Hindi. Based on what they were working on I decided on making up some worksheets for them for tomorrow. After this class I had a free period which I spent preparing a lesson and finding a place to use the bathroom where I wouldn’t fall off a cliff. Before I knew it, the work day was over and it was time to go. Right before I left, I invited Minakshi to tea on Wed. That should be fun. She is so nice and perhaps we can keep in touch and I can visit her in Australia someday.
I am really surprised with some of the volunteers. A few of them are major whiners, and I hate whiners. Some whine about the food, others whine about the placement, some about the people, some about the weather, and they don’t complain once and let it go, they go on and on and on…. I think back to my old saying, “If you have time to whine and complain about something, you have time to do something about it.” While it is alright to make a complaint about something to someone in order to change something, to go on and on about what’s wrong, instead of what’s right is a waste of energy. I speak to myself here as well since I sometimes whine for the sake of whining, but I think that I’ve grown past this for the most part. Well, I’d better stop writing about this since otherwise I’ll be doing it myself !
When we got back to the house I decided to take a short nap. This was very difficult as it was raining and it was Monday—(no reference to the song intended). Everyone was in the house and being very noisy. No fault of theirs as they were going about their regular routines and stuff, but the building is made of concrete block and the floors and stairs are made of marble—thus you have major echo. Everyone was at home instead of out and about because the village pretty much closes down on Mondays. It’s their day off, like we have on Sundays. Like in small towns in the U.S, not much is open on the off day. After about an hour of lying there, I decided to just go downstairs and work on email and my journal. I got some emails from Joel and Rachael. Joel’s especially worries me. I will have to write him back a long letter dealing with some of these issues. Rachael misses me a lot. She says she was crying the other day. I feel a little guilty for leaving her, but I know that 1 month out of her life is not much to be gone when I’m there for her all the rest of the time. Still—I feel bad. On a happier note, I received 2 encouraging emails from students in my online classes. This made me happy. I then made up the worksheet for English tomorrow. That done, I began another project. I want to help Rajesh find some grants to help buy materials for the school. I research some things online and submitted a few emails. I hope my efforts are fruitful. I imagine what a grant from a company like Cisco, AT&T, Hewlett Packard, or Microsoft for even a small amount like 5k, would do for the school. Electricity, clean drinking water, a toilet, and basic teaching materials would do wonders for this small community. While surfing the net, I also looked into how far away my Church’s mission is from my location. If I cannot find anyone to go to Amritsar with me this weekend, then maybe I can go to the mission and help for a day or two. I’ll have to wait for an answer from Vedek, the missionary there. It will mostly depend on how far away the mission actually is from Palumpur. Whatever I do in my free time cannot interfere with my volunteer duties, so I would have to be able to travel there and back in a weekend.
I have to say that I’m finally beginning to feel comfortable here. I can easily find my way around and feel pretty confident in what I’m doing. This is one of the reasons I chose to go for 4 weeks. It takes a week or so just to adjust to where you are.
Well, that’s it for now. Tomorrow we are going to Dharmasala after work for a lecture, shopping, and to see some of the temples and monuments there. I am looking at a Full day tomorrow, so I am going to go try to get some sleep.

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