Friday, 12 February 2016

The Lohri Festival, Treks and Teaching in India

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: James Rosengren

Emerging from our first week in India and the weekend Jodhpur desert trip, we began our first real lesson with our little kids at the school and the 'too cool for school' teen boys at the Boys' Home. We began at first with some basic testing in attempt to determine their academic level and hence tailor our lesson plans to suit their literary and numerical needs.

We are always bombarded by our gorgeous little cuties as we arrive in the morning, and have to move from the usual morning song to our rug outside the classrooms or inside a room to begin teaching. Our class size varies as attendance rates for the kids at school is always interrupted by differing family requirements.

Finishing at school, small groups often journey into the markets for a bit of an escape from the house and some time in the busy city centre. Squeezing into the already packed public rickshaw, we make our way into Udaipur's market for shopping, strolling and whatever the day decides to throw at us. Eventually arriving in Haithpole, we wander the streets before returning home to Bedla for chai time and the boys home.

We are tested to the boundaries of our teaching skill as we attempt to keep them entertained with educational type games. The teaching, however, is always followed by the usual sport routine – and heading for the volleyball court, soccer dirt or for some handball – we greet the older boys we have grown friendly with. Friendly banter flies left, right and centre as the ball soars in similar directions. Some of the girls are starting to learn that the ball isn't too scary of an object, and as a result of the reduction in the number of screams, are becoming vital members of our mixed teams.

A number of us awake earlier then the rest each morning in an attempt to burn off the mountain sized portions of bread and rice we are served daily. As such, we all do running, skipping and body circuits.

School and lunch went by as normal the following day, and after packing 115 bags of snacks for the Boys' Home festival celebration we would attend that night, a number of us made our way into the markets. Jam-packed with exotic elephants, tumbling turbans and a cacophony of crazy cows, shopping was great fun and the smaller sized group made the experience all the more enjoyable.

After a few of us purchased some low priced leather journal/diary type things, the friendly shop owner asked us for our names. Translating them into Hindi, he told us that when we returned next he would have leather bracelets waiting for us. And, indeed, as we strolled by on our way back to the Tuk Tuk, he called out from his shop. And so we now can show the kids our bracelets to remind them of our names.

As it was the Lohri Festival celebration, we moved to the Boy's Home later then usual and launched straight into sport. At the festival we each take turns to place a burning branch into the kindling fire, the flames leaped and jumped in unexplainable spasms of nature. Licking at the wood with the greediness of a bear before hibernation, the hungry flames climb up the branches just as a tiger stalks it's prey at night, silent but with an orange glow radiating outwards.

Then the dancing began, and things got wild. Kids hit the tiled floor with groovy moves before we were dragged out to show the youngsters how dancing was meant to be done (We were out danced for sure).

And so it was that Saturday morning arrived, and a 5:30 alarm had 11 of us up and drinking chai in preparation for our 6 hour bus ride to Pushkar – the destination of our second weekend excursion. A popular pilgrimage, Pushkar is a small city with little to do except relax and enjoy the serenity. Arriving at our Luxury Accommodation we relaxed, and enjoyed the sunlit gardens and green grass.

Another early morning saw us walk 40 minutes through the dark streets of Pushkar to the base of a mountain. Then next period of time is a bit hazy as we attempted to ascend the steep stairs before the sun graced the sky with it's luminescent presence. Our chests burned as we battled to reach the top - and as with all things in life – the best things come from hard work, and the sunrise was indeed stunning, the suns rays stretching their long arms over the orange tint of the horizon. Met by a bundle of monkeys as we reached the summit, we shared the gorgeous skyline with our not so distant cousins.

The week moves by at an ever increasing speed and the 4 weeks of the uni break placement is almost coming to an all too early conclusion.

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