Thursday, 19 June 2008

My New Indian Home

Written by Georgia King - India 2008 Year Out Volunteer

Namaste sat et saab!

For want of a better cliché, time is flying here. After a somewhat complacent period late in the middle month, the days are passing by all too quickly. Sleep is coming to us later and later as we try to fit in more last minute errand runs. My placement with Channel Youth finishes in 2 weeks today! My headspace is changing (dare I say 'changed') to the European mindset. I'm finding myself daydreaming more and more about skipping through fields of tulips in Holland... In clogs. This is probably due to the odd hour I'm spending on the computer daily to make sure that I'm not left alone in the middle of Bosnia.

You would think that we would be prepared for everything that the kids throw at us by now (often, literally throw at us too). Well, anything is apparently possible in India.

Note to self: any craft activity that involves both pipe cleaners AND water bottles was always doomed. Always.

Never has a day gone so badly since that fateful second day of school – that one where they stoned me. Remember? Why did I think that putting the 2 things that whip the children into a frenzy into one ultra-activity would be a smart idea?? I take full responsibility for my suggestion at the craft activity – it was well intentioned, I swear!

But it failed. Badly. By the end of the activity, the kids were running around whacking us over the heads with bottles; ripping the pipe cleaners off other kid's bodies because they liked the colours better; proceeding to prod me with said pipe cleaners until I sticky taped them on as arms to the bottle they were previously bashing me with; then the sticky tape would fall off due to the insane humidity, resulting in them asking for more pipe cleaners; and when there were none left they would rip the pipe cleaners off someone else again, starting in another chain; then they thought that there might be more in our bags; so they would tip or bags upside down and spread the contents through the room until they realized there were none; but they WOULD find stickers and stamps, which they would then adorn their faces and clothes with; we would get angry, and take their bottles off them; then they would steal someone else's bottle and the cycle would continue…

Rinse and repeat until you are sitting in the tuktuk and hour later hyperventilating with the 8 other teachers.

Taz and I are seriously discussing what whiskey and chai would taste like. Personally, I think that valium would be just as effective, without taking away from the faint cinnamon and aniseed undertones…

Naturally, I've decided that I'm not cut out for teaching! But I will miss making matchstick drawings with crayons and crepe at midnight. This is often the time during these late night cut&paste sessions that the funniest conversations and quotes come out. We tried to recite the entire of Marry Poppins last Thursday, and I wrote all of my kids' names out in Japanese last night for an example! But I will miss my kids. I'm trying to think of a smart way to describe how much I will miss them, but I simply just can't. It's too painful to think about.

I feel as if I'm only just really starting to form a relationship with them. I know all of their little quirks - what type of grey lead they like to write with best, who will want pink paper and who will want yellow, little things like that that make you feel just that little bit closer. I even identify with some of them! Jagdish, Hansa and I are all complete control freaks! Jagdish is a little extreme though… He refuses to defer even the slightest from the example that I make everyday for craft. He will trace the pattern, ask me which glue I used, and refuses to colour-in in anything that isn't the exact colour that I use. If I give him the wrong purple, he will first test it out next to mine to check that it's perfect. And if it isn't, he throws it away! His twin, Hansa, is the same. She won't draw anything herself – she always gets me to draw for her. And I'm a hopeless drawer!!

We're also learning more about their home lives. I went on my second community visit yesterday, and it was a lot more informative than the first! It was threatening to monsoon (more about this [mon]SOON… heh…) so a lot of the parents had been sent back from the fields to get undercover – meaning that we could talk to them through Gaurav's translations! I found out a have 2 sets of twins in my class!! And I didn't even know!!!

And I also found out that a lot of them are missing parents. About half of the kids don't have mother's or fathers, and 3 brothers/sisters have died in the 3 months I've been teaching. It makes you feel a little guilty when you're teaching family members. I don't feel right teaching 'I have 1 father' if 5 of the kids don't…

On a more positive note, we've also just begun an eye testing program with some of the money that a few girls raised before they came here. We figure that out of 80 odd kids, at last SOME of them are actually going to need glasses! So we're beginning the long process of testing all of their eyes – so far, my kids are luckily all okay!

Further on our extra-humanitarian work, we've just endeavored to start evening schools with the local rural community. They DO have a school, but the teacher very rarely comes because he is drunk. There is a large drinking problem in the community, and most of the men don't work because of it, leaving the women and children to labour in the fields to support the family. So we're starting 2 classes – one for the children in the late afternoon, and one for the women in the late evening. For now, we are just running the kid's one. This is because the tribe is not very trusting or foreigners yet, so we're taking it slowly. The idea is to get the level of English up in the kids and women so that they can aim for high paying jobs, as well as empower the women. Ultimately, we want to address the issue of alcoholism, but that's at least a decade off!

But perhaps the most EXCITING time is upon us! Monsoon has come early!!! I'm experiencing a true, Indian monsoon!! One of the things we've all realized about India is that it lives up to its stereotypes. Not once when I came here did I actually EXPECT it to be like in the movies and books. I thought that they would have been exaggerated. But you really DO dodge cows and goats and donkeys on the roads, flying down the streets in bits of 3 wheeled metal scraps. The women actually do wear all of those crazy ear, lip, nose and neck adornments and drift through the mud is vibrant coloured saris, balancing 3 round pots and a bundle of sticks on their heads. Everyone really does break into dance at the sound of the latest Bollywood hit emitting from a preppy's mobile phone. They DO wiggle their heads constantly – and I've started doing it too (much to the amusement of the house, and the delight of the locals)!

Monsoon is the same. It was predicted to come a little early this year. (what the locals called 'premonsoonal showers, we called the apocalypse. The power would cut 6 times in a day sometimes! I swear that I could hear The Doors' 'Riders on the Storm' in the background most days. I even swear that I saw an emancipated turbaned man on the roadside with a sign saying 'The End is Nigh' . But I may have imagined that… Well it came A LOT early. In fact, we were so confident monsoon wouldn't hit that last Sunday, Taz and I decided to go horse riding.

Can you see where this is going…?

I vaguely remember saying to Taz 'wow, those clouds like ominous…'. Then BAM!! Monsoon!! It came on so fast that you didn't have enough time to register what was happening. It just STARTED. And it was so hard and so cold that it HURT! And the sound… We were only 5 or 6 metres from each other, but we were screaming at the top of our lungs to be heard! So here we are, 45 minutes from the closest town, stuck on 2 bucking horses that neither of us have ridden for nearly a decade, in the middle of monsoonal rain. And we couldn't stop laughing!! It was SO bizarre that all we could do was laugh to the point that we couldn't get off the horses. We eventually we helped off by an assistant who was riding behind us, and we huddled together for body heat under a metre tall wall – futile really!

We ended up hitching a motorbike ride back to the ranch. But the rain was coming so hard ad at such an angle that you couldn't open your eyes – it was a wonder that we didn't crash! You couldn't see 50metres in front of yourself, so I guess the lack of eyesight didn't make much difference either way… The bike kept on stop because the tank was getting waterlogged. It eventually conked out, and Taz and I ran the last 500 metres back!

We were so saturated that the purple dye of my pants turned my knickers purple. Now THAT is an accomplishment! Unfortunately, you know you're in trouble when you take the battery out of your camera, and a little pool of water comes out with it… RIP camera…

BUT, all in all, monsoon is rad!! I love the weather, I love the spontaneity, I love the rain, I love the lightening shows, I love the quips, I love the comfort chai… I love it all!

Even though I complain, I would never be ready to go home in 2 weeks. If I went home now, I wouldn't be satisfied! I wouldn't feel as if I've spent enough time away. Whilst I can still remember the details of home, I won't be ready to return. Because I think that I need to forget home to be able to come back and appreciate what I have, and WHO I have! Home will always be there. You can change where you are, but you can't change where you come from.

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