Last post before I leave for home. Bags are packed, taxi to the airport booked, flights confirmed, sun still very hot - in for a temperature shock no doubt when I get back.
So, as I'm all ready I've been given some biology exam papers to total up the marks on, every day is a school day in India, Joy marked these papers on Christmas day!
Had a sad goodbye at the hostel last night, we're all going to miss each other. Got lots of photos to share when I get back plus some vidio clips.
It's been a fantastic experience and I'll write a proper review when I get back - hopefully without a sticky key board and power cuts.
So that's it from India. Wish me luck for my return trip. Look forward to seeing everyone very soon.
Thanks for reading
It's Christmas - where did that come from all of a sudden?
School has finally finished and tomorrow I'll be on my way home, the four weeks have flown.
A sad day Friday saying goodbye to the staff, they've all been so helpful and friendly and I'm going to miss them all.
We had the teachers Christmas Party in the afternoon after the students had gone home. Open air meal and then various performances. Lots of singing from the lady teachers, some magic and a pantomime from thre volunteers. They'd never seem a pantomime before and Robin our German volunteer hadn't either. But he did put in an outstanding perfomrance as the Fairy Gott Mudder in our three person version of Cinder Hannah. I played the evil stepmother, complete with home made paper wig (resources are limited over here). The staff were a little slow getting into "oh no you won't " and "She's behind you" but eventually got the hang of it and laughed a lot. The things you do for cultural exchange!
Saw Hannah off at the airport, she should be back home in Scotland by now. (hope you had a safe journey - really nice to have met you)
Started sorting everything out ready for packing. Baked cakes for Christmas.
Had church early Christmas morning (5.30am) service was nice but all in Tamil, still Ocome all yea faithful etc. still have the same tunes so I sang along in English. Visited the hostel as there are still a few children (and staff) still there who haven't gone home to be with their families for Christmas.
Finally got a bit of an iffy tummy, not sure where that came from as for four weeks I've eaten everything and been fine. Still it's on the mend and I'm hoping it behaves for the journey home.
Then it's off to the airport on Monday to start the long trip home. Been great but I'm looking forward to getting home - a hot bath, a mug of tea and my own bed!
Happy Christmas to everyone both in The UK and India.
Well the students have finished - no such luck for the staff we're in tomorrow. Working in the morning preping for next term then staff Christmas party in the afternoon. We three volunteers are doing a mini pantomime, not sure if the staff will understand but what the heck!
Hannah and I were invited to a half hour Christmas party with some of the senior students today. Went well upto the point when it came to eating cake. Seems it's the Indian custom to feed your cake to others. We were a little overwhelmed by everal students thrusting cake at us at the same time. The room was rather littered with crumbs when we'd finished.
Rather sad that this is the last time I'll see most of the students. Managed to hold back the tears today but I'm sure they will flow tomorrow when I say good bye to the staff. Grown so close to so many of them.
I think I may have to have a return visit!
Going to the hostel again tonight, should be fun.
Made a cake last night. Was an interesting experience, not quite the same as at home. No scales so guess the weight of flour (not sure what type it was), gues the weight of the granulated sugar (definitely not cator sugar), eggs are eggs so that was ok. But no butter! had to guess an appropriate amount of oil to add, added some cocoa powder and put it went in the oven. Oh yes - we had the daily power cut part way through. Amazingly it turned out rather well!
Booked to do some more baking on Christmas Eve - according to Joy home made cake will be a good gift for neighbours, and it won't matter what it tastes like.
Looks like Christmas day will be busy. 5.30am church service, visiting the hostel kids and I think I've been invited on a trip with the kindergarten teachers - sometimes my English can't keep up when several of them are talking at once and getting excited. Will have to see how that one develops.
Must go now, need to practice for the pantomime and make my costume as well as wrapping some Christmas presents. None stop in India.
Had my second Hindi lesson this morning asked my teacher the Hindi for "please speak sowly" thought that would be a conversatin starter. Gets a little confusing when you get letter combinations you don't get in English like DH and HH together wth other letters to pronounce.
Had lunch then caught the bus to go into the city to do some serious shopping. Good job we had Vimila with us (our favourite kindergarten teacher), don't think I would have been able to cross the road from the bus station otherwise. Best way to cross the road in India seems to be close your eyes and hope for the best!
Can't believe how many shops there were selling Christmas trees, lights and decorations! Together with pictures and statues of numerous Hindu gods!!
On the bus men and women can't sit next to each other so you can't give up your seat to let a lady with a babe in arms sit down, Vimila ended up holding someone elses baby for them whilst they stood up both there and back.
Managed to get a photo of three on a motorbike, still need to have the camera ready for the family of five on a bike that often occurs.
Took some photos of Madurai shopping area, not quite the Victoria Quarter in Leeds but highlights the huge gap between the two, will load when I can.
Visited the hostel attached to the school last night, joined the children in dinner by torch light - yes we had the daily power cut - but when the lights came back on we swapped dance moves and sang songs. They called me Uncle which is a sign of respect in a family sort of way. They are amazing! The hostel dining room looked like a sceen from Oliver, but the food was plentiful and tasty and they all seemed to be happy despite been away from their families. Hope to visit again before I leave.
Two more days at school, and less than a week in India left to go.
See what I can cram in before I go. A Christmas programe fro the teachers on the 23rd, Christmas Eve and Christams day. Pack my bags and off to the airport.
See you all very soon ....
Since my last post I have seen a lot of different places, occasions and I got many more experiences about the Indian culture.
I have attended at three weddings and an engagement which were all very interesting. In South India more than 90% of the marriages arranged. In some case the engagement is the first time that the upcoming wife and husband can meet each other. As you see, there is no dating or anything like that in South India. Therefore, the teenagers here never have a boy-/girlfriend before they get married.
Nevertheless, the couples always seemed to be very happy and excited about getting married. Of course, the relationship between husband and wife is not like in western countries. I have never seen a couple kissing, holding hands or stuff like that. Romantic or “love satisfaction” are not as important as the family as a whole. One of the female teachers at school told me that the most important thing in her life are her children and then her husband. Only if they are pleased she’ll care about herself. Her main focus is that her children and her husband are satisfied and healthy.
Two weeks ago we had a Christmas program at school. I wrote the script for the major scene, a play about the birth of Jesus Christ. I also practiced the play with students from CBSE 3rd standard and 5th standard classes (age 7-9). The expectations were high and the students were under a lot of pressure. Some students didn’t play very well during practice; therefore, we had to substitute some students and because of that I saw many tears during this time.
I was extremely surprised how fast the students could memorize their text. After one day everyone could act without text papers. On the day of the Christmas program I was very excited but after all I was extremely proud of my students because they acted so well. After the program we got a lot of praise from the other teachers and the principal.
The weekend before the Christmas program I went with some other volunteers to Thekkady in Kerala. This place is around 4 hours away from Madurai by bus. On the first day we visited a spice farm and we ate several spices directly from the plants. On this day I haven’t eaten in the morning at the hotel; so, my breakfast was some leaves and tree bark. Furthermore we saw some elephants at that place. In the afternoon we went to martial arts show which was pretty good. On the next day we had a trip through the jungle. There we saw some monkeys and some other exotic plants and insects. Moreover, there were millions of the leeches and it was kinda creepy when you saw them climbing up your shoes, trying to reach your skin. Finally, one leech bit me and after I removed him the wound bleed for two more hours. However, I took some pretty amazing pictures of this place and I’m looking forward to upload some of them asap.
At the moment is exam time at the school. I prepared for the CBSE and for the 5th standard classes English exams. What an epic feeling. But I hope I won’t make the students cry again.
In India they focus mainly on memorizing. Thus, I had to prepare task like “quote from memory” or they should answer questions about texts which they had read during their lessons.
Furthermore I had a nice birthday last week. At school I shook hundreds of little hands and my favorite students and my host family gave me some little presents. In the evening I invited my family to have dinner, so we went to restaurant and had some good Indian meals.
Last weekend I was with some other volunteers at Kanyakumari (8 hours by bus). This is the southernmost part of India. There we visited a huge Hindi temple, an old castle near the coast, one of the biggest bridges in India and an old palace. In the afternoon we spent some time at a beach. This could be the most beautiful beach that I have ever seen in my life. There were no people, the sand was soft and almost white, the water was clear blue, no hotels only palm trees and the beach was as long as you could see. Additionally the waves there were awesome; they reminded me on my vacation in California some years ago. At the end of the day we saw at the beach a beautiful sunset.
Yesterday I played cricket for the first time. To play it was fun but to watch it on TV is really boring. Or maybe I just don’t understand this game…
In the last weeks I saw many nice things in India. But I also see lots of poverty every day. At the bigger places are so many beggars. Some of them are women which carry a baby, but it could be that these have stolen these babies to look more mercy. I also have seen small children begging for money.
Some people life here under the subsistence level and when you see those people you are thankful for your own situation which is in comparison to this totally spoiled. Honor the little things, some humans don’t have them.
I hope I can upload some picture soon, Facebook sometimes gives a hard time here.
All the best.
Only three more days left at school, where has the time gone?
Spent a day in kindergarten, where the three and four year olds were revising for their exams!
Oh are they cute or what! Went round each class with Sam the puppet, only made one child cry so did quite well, the children asked him questions and described what he was wearing. He's now the latest recruit at the school and won't be coming home to England.
Had my first Hindi lesson today (a bit late in starting so won't get my fourteen hours in but never mind). Not only is it gender specific but age specific, looks like I'll have fun. Hoping my teacher doesn't hit me or grab me by the cheek and shake me! The teachers did find it difficult to understand that we can't beat children in the UK. What do we do when they misbehave? Good question - not sure I know the answer.
Been a bit overcast today and a bit of a breeze which was nice for some of us. Very tired though didn't get much sleep last night. It would appear that there was a death in the vilage. When that happens Indian music is played all night lon though very large loud speakers. Am very sorry for the loss but very tired.
Will have to go before the daily power cut.
Sure there will be much more to update on in my last few days.
Bye for now ....
Can't believe it's gone so fast and I only have little more than a week to go!
Exams are in full swing at school, these take place in the mornings with revision in the afternoon. Just been given another English exam to write for next week. Will be helping with revision shortly. Just so kids back home know how lucky they are - Yes there's an exam tomorrow morning SATURDAY!!
Very hot again though there are still plenty of ear muffs and jumpers being worn around school, might need to get some for when I get back.
Shopping again last night. Shops seen to stay open all hours, main stores are open at least until 10 and I think that's normal not just for Christmas.
Point of interest, we did pass "Chunnai Fried Chicken" last night on our way for some take away from from rival "Planet Chicken"! Some things are similar wherever you are.
So popular with the staff that I'm in big demand for the 4 till 5 teacher's sessions every day after school finishes for the pupils. I've got kindergarten, primary English and primary maths my top groups at the moment, with English slightly ahead. The staff are fantastic!
Decided not to go on the trip organised for volunteers this weekend, although visiting the tip of India sounded quite good I didn't fancy the seven hour bus ride there and seven hour bus ride back. I could be home in that time and fourteen hours on an Indian bus might just finish me off for good! So I'm stopping at the home, plenty of school work and preperation for Christmas to get on with. Been invited to the Hostel on Monday for dinner. This is like the boarding school for those pupils who come from redculous distances away. Some of them only see their parents probably once a year!! Yes the school is that good!
More to come ......
Bye for now.
Mr Paul is what I'm called at school - a sign of respect
No escaping Christmas
Outside the chapel
Temple in the city
City centre - note the number of motorcycles. Taken in a lull in the traffic
One view from the roof of the house
View from the roof - the back of the house - note the thatched roof, mountains, palm trees, lots of green. oh and no clouds. Was in the thirties when I took this, but the kids are still wearing earmuffs and jumpers!
Photos if I get this right
My Welcome at the School
The Senior block and "play ground"
Some of the choir - not in school uniform as it was Saturday morning
Proud of the choir after their performance - to an audience of 3,000!
Kindergarten watching the Christmas concert - not the young man on the third row who slept right through it!
City centre shopping
Been out and about visiting over the last few days.
Went to see one of the teachers who had just got married. She only met her husband a couple of days before the wedding. Apparently the husband and his family pay for the wedding but the brides family buy all the appliences for the home. Then went to relatives of the principal who's son had had a special ceremony and "party" to celebrate having his ears pierced, a big event in India. Today we visited one of the teachers who had just got engaged. We were invited to join in the meal. Disposable party wear consisted of palm leaf plates - yes diner served on an actual palm leaf!
The ordinary streets in India don't look very inviting, single track dirt roads rubble and litter and various animals including goats and chickens. The sort of street you would normally give a wide birth to. Yet once invited into the home, those we've visited have al been upper floor appartments, it's a completely different world. The appartments we've visited have appeared generally small but you are made so welcome. Always offered food and drink and made to feel like royalty. The homes seem to be well equiped with the usual electrical appliences, TVs, computers etc. Shame about the power cuts! Marble floors and shelving seem to be common, easily swept clean as there is a lot of dust about due to the climate. The ladies are dressed magnificently in a huge range of colours and decked with gold jewelry. Apparently this is the fathers responsibility to ensure daughters have plenty of gold, one of the reasons that girls are expensive to keep and a fact that can lead to daughters been disposed of at birth in some instances. A major cultral difference.
I supose the homes we've visited are those of reasonably affluent Indian families. Those of the poorer families are undoubtedly very different as can be seen from our daily walk to school and back.
I'll try to load some pictures, if I can, although having enough difficulty getting the power and conection to write the blog.
Been working with Hannah the new volunteer on producing a "skit" (sketch) about humility for Monday's assembly. The kids are just so good at picking things up, I'm sure it will be successful. Sent them home with their lines to learn tonight, sure they'll have committed them to memory by tomorrow. Got more exam papers to write tonight so will have to go soon. Oh, yes the papers are written out by hand, so writer's cramp rather than repetitive strain in India.
An amazing place and amazing people, would recomend it to anyone who wants to get a new perspective on life.
More to follow .....
Bye for now.
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