Tuesday, 2 August 2011

India: Mon / Tues

Woke up sweating - theme of the week. The school has 'government power' which is very unreliable, so they also have a generator. But with temperatures in the mid 30s, only going down to low 30s/ high 20s at night, the generator needs to be switched off regularly to cool.  Which means, no fans during the night. I got out of bed and had a shower. Felt good to cool off, but was sweating again as soon as the water turned off. The only way to describe it is to say that it feels like you are standing in a steamy sauna, all day long.

Half of us went to Purnea City school this morning to do our observations. We are working with 3 schools that are all part of Harvest Mission. The drive was rather interesting as we went through countryside full of village type houses, and also through a small city. Some pretty unreal sights. At one point we had to drive down along an overpass and it was a whole community under there. People has staked out their spots next to different support beams. Some had vanity tables and chairs, some had card tables, other had fenced off their areas and had livestock. A whole other world to what I am used to.

We arrived just as they were all lining up outside for their morning assembly. So adorable listening to them say their morning prayer while a cow munches on grass in the background. We met the teachers we would be mentoring at this school and observed some lessons.  It was immediately obvious that they needed some training on how to deliver lessons to children. While some of the teachers are from the area, most are educated and from other parts of India, mainly southern states. But, of those who are educated, they are not trained teachers. They are people who got degrees, then had a calling from god to help so have travelled to this region to do their duty to god. It is very humbling to hear what they have given up to help in one of the poorest regions of India.

Morning Assembly
Class on the verandah, classes too hot

Class under tree, along with dog and cow

Group session
After our observations, we returned to the main school and after lunch did our first afternoon training session with all of the teachers. It was great to see how willing they were to learn and try out new ideas.

After dinner we visited a nearby temple, then had dinner at Purnea school on the rooftop. The power went out a couple times during dinner which allowed us to see an amazing starry sky (no stars in London!). We also saw fireflies, which I was very excited about!

Holy man at temple
Millions of bugs around light at dinner

Feeling the heat in my saree
Woke up Tuesday morning sweating again. I am now beginning to wonder if my poor swollen feet will ever return to their normal size. Did my lesson observations at Ranipathra (the school we are staying at). It was moving to see teachers already trying out activities they had just learned the day before. But the best part was seeing students who were actually involved and getting excited to learn. In the afternoon it was my turn to do my session on Active Learning. Tamara and I decided to team up for our lesson and it went over great. We had different stations and lots of game ideas for the teachers. They all had a lot of fun.

Ranipathra morning assembly
Learning to use sock puppets

After the session, a couple of the teachers took us on another walk through the village. This time we went right in, rather than looping around. As we were walking past the woven bamboo and mud huts one the the teachers turns to me and asks, "Is this what the houses are like in England?" I was at a loss for words. We tried to explain that they are made of bricks, but thinking of houses back home, how could you ever explain to her about drywall and siding, carpet and wood flooring? Nevermind even windows and curtains. It was definitely just another of many eye-opening moments of how truly blessed I am.

On the walk we had one family invite us into their home. By now we had quite a following of children, but many scattered and reappeared with plastic lawnchairs, offering us a seat. The man of this house turned his fan around for us to enjoy and offered us chai. We sat somewhat awkwardly, then asked the teacher with us if he has any questions for us. Basant translated as he asked us where we were from and other questions. We then asked him some questions and found out that 8 people were living in his hut, including 2 grandchildren. His daughter went to the school, so we asked her some questions too. She told us she wanted to be a police officer when she grows up. We asked why and she responded, "Because a lot of my people are uneducated and there is lots of fighting. I want to go to school and be police so I can help stop the fighting". Again, just speechless hearing this from a girl of 9 years old. Makes you wonder what kinds of things she has seen.
The villagers were all very friendly, and many wanted pictures, especially of their children. Yet, amongst this poverty was a real juxtaposition. As we were walking out of the village a group of small children run down a path towards us and one of them is on a cell phone! It is true, everyone in the world has a cell phone!

After dinner, Diana did some henna for the girls and we climbed into our beds for another warm sleep, crossing our fingers for power. I was sharing a room with Diana and Connie.
Connie's sleeping advice: You have to lay as sprawled out as possible with no part of your body touching another - including your hair.  Here goes nothing..


Kitchen, dual fire stove for rice & curry

Our little buddy Ayush

Link to my video of 
life under the overpass:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEkpiH0_YuU

Now take a moment and think about where you live. I bet you can come up with a list of things that are great about it. So stop worrying about whether your couch is worn or there is a stain on your carpet and be thankful!! :)

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