Friday, March 23, 2012
As this was our last day, today was always going to be one of mixed feelings.
The day started with a telephone call from
for Janet with the sad
news that her father had passed away. We learnt that he had been doing his
crossword at the time which he loved to do so Janet was pleased to hear that he
had been doing the thing that he loved. Janet was able to share with us a
tribute to her father which was very moving and demonstrated the strong bond
that they shared together. Janet had the support of her team members and felt
reassured by the love shown to her. Australia
As this was our last day, today was always going to be one of mixed feelings.
The day started with a telephone call from
Janet felt strong enough to go to
We really enjoyed our wonderful lunch of sambad and other lovely foods as usual. After eating, Janet and Anne found time to have one last shop at the emporium and managed to find some great last minute gifts because their is always somebody that you forget to buy for!
During the afternoon, Janet learnt that her sister had suffered a minor heart attack after finding out about the death of her father. This came as a double blow for Janet but she faced this news with characteristic resilience and continued making her plans to return home to be close to her family at this challenging time and was looking forward to seeing them at the airport.
The evening soon came around and we were heading off to Seam for the last time. We spent some time talking and playing with the children until it was time for the show.
And what a show it was! The children had had very little time to prepare and there had been a power cut which had made things even more difficult but it did not matter because the result was amazing. We were honoured to be entertained with wonderful Tamil songs which were sung with sung with such emotion. There was beautiful dancing in the dark with candles and then exhilarating tribal dancing which really was a wonder to behold! The children had clearly made so much effort on our behalf and we were so touched and grateful for that. We returned the favour with a little dance ourselves called rinky dink which seemed to go down fairly well!
After the show all that was left was to say goodbye which was difficult again but made easier by the fact that they looked so happy after the show.
We all hope that at least some of the children have benefitted from the time that they have spent with us, even if only in a small way. It may not be obvious from the way they talk or from what facts and figures they know, but I hope that they feel safe in the knowledge that they are loved and that they are wonderful, beautiful children who deserve to be very happy in their lives wherever the path of life takes them.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
And so our transition from our life in
lives back home begins. India
Our work began as usual around 9 o clock. Janet and I (Anne) attended an “awards” day at
. Little did we know we would be the western
celebrities that got to give out the awards and be in all the class
photos. I felt a little uncomfortable as
I have only taught at Grace for one week, but I know that just having a western
face in the school photos will please Esther, the principal, and perhaps give
the school more “clout”, so I understood.
I have to admit it was great fun feeling so needed and so important! The children had good fun receiving their
awards and it was probably a nice easy day for them. Grace
We also did not know that today was
last day of the week, and thus our last day there too. We were saddened by that, as we had fabulous
stickers to give to the kids on Friday and we weren’t quite prepared to say
goodbye, but we and the children did our best to say our goodbyes. I was very saddened to realize I will not see
these children for a while, or possibly ever again.. It was a sad time and some tears were shed. Grace School
Angela and Many also had their last day at Assisi Illam Daycare, and thus goodbyes were said with all our school groups. It was a sad time for them too, as I know they really fell in love with the little ones.
We visited the St Thomas Shrines in the afternoon, the places where
miracles (making water flow) and also sadly was martyred, due to inciting anger
by converting the Hindu King to Christianity.
It was interesting to see a place of Christianity in the middle of St Thomas where we
have seen many Hindu shrines – at least today it seems a peaceful place, high
up in the middle of Chennai city. India
In the evening we had play time again at SEAMS, which was great fun, but all of us are preparing for our final goodbyes tomorrow. Many of us have begun speaking about the work or family awaiting us at home, as we prepare our intellects and emotions for the move away from our great work here in
to our normal everyday lives. India
Which brings me to my quote from the Bhagavad Gita (quoted by a Swami Vivekenanda, a great Indian monk we learned about from Stephen).
As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee
This quote I believe represents our team, a mix of secular folk and Christian folk, and the Indian people, a great mix of many religions.. For a few brief weeks our streams have mingled together to experience a wonderful moment of love and service. We will all separate soon, but we take a bit of each other as we go back to our own lives. And may our efforts and good works bring us all to God.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
What a wonderful morning, it’s nice and bright outside! I am looking forward to a full day ahead! Finally, I'm getting used to getting up right when sunrise hits, usually at 6:00 am. This time around, I’ve been getting tons of sleep, feeling very restful and content as I start my normal morning routine, keeping my friends and family updated on Facebook, with my precious iPhone! And with Wi-Fi connection, my cell phone has been very useful for me. It has definitely made my life so much easier! Guesthouse
, you rock! India
As For the rest of my team, they seem delighted in their morning routines as well. Ann and Angela enjoying their Yoga on the breezy rooftop while the little cute kittens where probably being entertained by them stretching away! Janet, as always is preparing her teaching materials, being so well organized, in starting her day off with the wonderful students at
Breakfast, here is always pleasant. We had scrambled eggs with green bell peppers and some amul cheese in the mix, along with a yummy Indian sweet kus kus dish and as always my nice sweet morning coffee, freshly made by our awesome chef, Roni! After our meal Angela and I quickly brush up and on our way to teach and play with the children at
Before we got to Assisi Illan, we stopped by the local store to get some water
and some juice, so that we may have enough energy and strength to keep up with
the children as they have tons of energy. Assisi
We started out with our set system which is counting numbers out loud to the kids, counting from one to ten by using our fingers and saying the days of the week starting from Sunday to Saturday. Lastly, we end it with saying all the months of the year! We repeat twice so that it gives the kids the chance to learn and to be able to follow along. By repeating it slowly, I believe this method will help them with their ability to focus more. After that, we had the kids playing musical chair, the kids ran around the chairs just having a great time. Sister Rose did mention to me that the kids really enjoy listening to music in general. “Good to know; now I know what to reward them with after class.” Kids simply just want to have fun after all, kids should be kids!
I was quite thrilled that sister Rose assigned little four and half year old , Karthik as my student for the day. I had a great time teaching little bright Karthik to write and to memorize the lower case letters. I’ve also taught him numbers from 1 to 20 which happens to be his first time learning numbers. I must say, it only took him a couple of seconds to remember the lower case alphabet and numbers. I gave him an A plus score. I was so delighted to see his sparking big smile as he ran straight to Sister Rose and shared his well done work! Rose was very proud of Karthik as well as me.
The rest of the kids played with Legos which is practically their daily activity. Looking at the clock, I realized we are slightly late with our daily chore which is folding the orphans’ clothes. There were more clothes than all the previous days too, but we managed to finish folding all the clothes just before Steven arrived to pick us up, heading back to the guesthouse for lunch.
Right after a delicious lunch, Janet, Anne, and I including Stephen, his cute little son Roshan and his lovely wife Sheeba, went shopping in downtown Chennai. While Angela decided to relax and have quality time at home. So we went on our way, Oh boy, I didn’t expect to buy more things at the Saravana store and I was thinking that I was all done with my shopping. Surely, I thought wrong. I have definitely fallen into temptation with all the gleaming Indian accessories and clothes. Everything there was reasonable priced. It seems like the rest of my teammates were also successful at getting what they wanted as well. Now, the time is up! Shopping must stop! We all met up at the store lobby and walked to our rides. The rest headed back in the car with Steven and Anne and I took the Auto Rickshaw instead because we really love riding on this another crazy version of a golf cart ride!
In the evening we all got to teach and play with the orphans over at the
. They were so excited and very happy
to see us. I got to communicate with them, play, color and reward them with
smiling sparkling stickers and let some of the kid’s use my camera like it was
their new toy for the moment. They love to get their photo taken and as well
take photos and video clips. I got super tired by the end of the night.
Honestly, the kids that night was quite a handful, but it’s worth the time and
energy simply to see them rejoice in our company and learning from us. Their
sparkling smiling eyes bring me peace and joy. They are truly the reason why
I’m here serving, basically showing my love. Assisi
I must say, I am truly blessed to have this opportunity to sow encouragement, love and hope into their little precious lives!
The quote of the day!
You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have. ~Jim Rohn~
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Today dawned with a lovely light breeze, so refreshing on the terrace with Mumma cat and her kittens after days of stillness.
While we were appreciatively eating our usual gourmet Indian breakfast a lively discussion began about the wonders of driving in
. It seems
so crazy, so chaotic. There is a system Stephen explained and it goes like
this. Pedestrians give way to cyclists, cyclists give way to motor bikes, motor
bikes give way to rickshaws, rickshaws give way to cars, cars give way to buses
and trucks, buses and trucks give way to cows and buffaloes. So in India it’s the cattle that rule not
the biggest. India
Angela and Munnie had another good day with the little ones at
except for one little boy who seemed to be coming down with something the
children were more animated than yesterday Assisi
And eager to participate.
Anne and I were at
It was good to be back with the children after my day of forced rest yesterday.
Our day went well with the kindergarten, 1st, 2nd 3rd
and 4th graders.They have got to know our routine and really love
the colouring sheets but we insist on work first . I love the way they break
into song while they are colouring and choosing the right colours is
particularly important.After a week at Grace School
I had been expecting the unexpected but all went according to schedule. Grace School
Balaji in 4th standard gave me a letter for Susan – he is missing her so much he is crying – said with the biggest smile.
For lunch Rani had prepared a very delicious fish and tamarind curry complete with bones for extra texture.
We were also treated to Jack fruit for the first time. Stephen had bought it from a roadside stall on the way home from our Pudicherry trip. Barnabas and Rani sitting on the kitchen floor preparing it was excellent photo material. Another one of those unique
that is so fascinating for us Westerners. India
After lunch Angela and Anne went to The Emporium – both came home with beautiful purchases including wall hangings and and other speciality crafts of
Sheeba took Munnie and I to the tailors to collect our sari and Punjabi but due
to the power outage today we will have to wait till tomorrow. India
No water one day,- no power the next, could be difficult, but we are going with the flow and taking it all in our stride.
When it was time for us to go to SEAMS, Stephen suggested we go in the car instead of taking our usual stroll, to conserve our energy. An hour later after playing exhilarating ball games with the children this senior citizen was very grateful that some energy had been saved. Angela had thoughtfully bought a selection of balls and skipping ropes so Stephen arranged for us to have a play session with the children. There was basketball, cricket, volleyball, football and sundry skipping and handclapping games going on over the course of the evening.
Sheeba joined in with enthusiasm showing her natural sporting ability. It was good for the soul to see them so happily occupied and hopefully the boys who missed out the session because they had not earnt enough points will mend their ways and be involved when we repeat the exercise on Thursday. It was a fun night.
We ended our night with our favourite beet dish and all enjoyed icecream except for Ann who opted for another serve of beets.
Quote for the day –for any of us volunteers who may wonder at times if we are making a difference
`A teacher affects eternity she can never tell when her influence stops `.Henry
Apologies for changing the gender to make it more applicable for group110.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Well it was back to work today for all of us. It had been a very busy and dynamic weekend as three of our team departed the guesthouse. Susan and Lisa were continuing their travels to have more exciting adventures and Melissa was returning home to
. So after saying fond farewells, we packed our bags as well as we were all
off to do some exploring too! Munnie went to see the family of her friend and Janet, Ann and myself set
off to see the wondrous temples, stone carvings and the amazing town of New York with its futuristic centre of
Matrimandir. We were accompanied by
the two Stephens – one was an excellent
guide whose knowledge of most things knows no bounds (except perhaps the
subject of trees) and one was a great
driver who rivalled Jenson Button in his skill in dodging the crazy cars and
motorbikes that flew in our direction (especially when they weren’t supposed
to). It sounded as though Munnie also
had a great time learning about the joys of shopping in Chennai and also
discovering the local beach with the family who showed her such hospitality and
care that she felt spoilt. We were all
well rested and rejuvenated and shared exciting stories of our adventures on
Sunday night. Auroville
So all was good but then it became apparent that there were a few clouds on the horizon. Unfortunately, Janet and Anne appeared to have come down with the dreaded “traveller’s tummy” which is no fun at all. Hence we were a depleted number who set off to our work places, Munnie and myself were busy at day care and Anne set off to Grace school while Janet sensibly rested in her room.
Things at the day care were fairly hectic as I think the children seemed to have developed that Monday morning feeling and struggled to concentrate but were keen as always to do some building work the bricks. Anne had a good introduction to work at Grace school and learned the essentials of being a good teacher which included being able to rap on the table to get some attention!
Then it was back to the guesthouse for some much needed R& R or a spot of shopping in some cases! There was DIY work to be done at the guesthouse which included fixing the door and also the well as it was pretty tough for us girls to cope with the lack of showering water in this heat!
It was lovely to be back at SEAM in the evening with new students to teach and to get to know. I think the children also had that Monday sickness which seemed to be contagious and the teachers may have caught it too as everybody was a bit subdued and quiet. Despite this,, the time went quickly and we were soon saying our goodbyes and heading back to the guesthouse to relax and enjoy a much needed dinner. It was great to see that Janet was feeling better and ready for some food.
We had a great cause to celebrate after dinner as we learned that Stephen was excellent at DIY and had fixed the well! So hurrah, we could all luxuriate in a shower again and realized how lucky we were to be able to do this at all. It was only for 24 hours that we were without running water and that was definitely enough for all of us.
So after a slightly dodgy start to the day, things definitely improved and ended on a clean and healthy high for all.
Quote for the day: in light of the challenges of this day, I will leave to Sri Aurobindo:
“But difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome.”
Friday, March 16, 2012
Our day today was split between our work in the morning and a celebration for Grace school in the evening. Little did we know that our evening event would be a charming and truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Our morning work routine was a little different today. Due to the celebration at
, Janet and Susan
did not teach there in the morning, so they joined me (Anne) at the SEAMS
children’s home for 1:1 tutoring. I enjoyed observing them as they both are experienced teachers
and I learned a lot just watching them out of the corner of my eye. Manee, Angela, Melissa, and Lisa spent their morning at Assisi Illam daycare. For now, the Global Volunteers work on the
painting is finished, as the portion they are painting now requires scaffolding
or ladders and I guess Stephen is worried about our safety. I must confess I had a secret longing to
climb the bamboo and sticks scaffolding I have seen Indian workers use…..but I
guess I’ll have to climb Indian scaffolding next time I’m in Grace
School . India
We worked hard and then enjoyed lunch & a break before heading out to the Grace Nursery & Primary School Cultural Program and 12th Annual Day Celebration. We dressed up a bit for it, which was a good thing because we were some of the guests of honor . The programme was scheduled to start at 5 pm, and we arrived almost at that time (just a little late). However, it was on
time and didn’t actually start til 6:30 or 6:45. I was
very glad that it started late because we got the chance to observe the Grace
children in their costumes, full of excitement, as well as the local
children. The staff set up loudspeakers
and played some great Indian music, and the
neighborhood kids who weren’t in the program danced their hearts out .
It was a treasure to witness them dancing with wild abandon, especially
if they knew we were filming them with our I phones.. For a minute, they were Bollywood stars. The India children gathered around Janet
and Susan, their teachers, so eager to show off
their costumes, which were mostly cholis
(a small top and a skirt). They were
very excited to show their western English speaking teachers their beautiful
outfits. Grace School
The program itself started off with speakers – quite a few speakers, and several of them talked for quite a while. Luckily Stephen our team lead had warned us, so we were prepared. Our very own Stephen, Janet, and Susan spoke, and represented our team very well. Susan & Janet even included Tamil words which won the hearts of the audience. After the speakers came the dancers! We watched several dances, including a fashion show with the little kindergartners (perhaps 4 years old), in costumes representing famous Indians such as Ghandi and Nehru. The children that danced performed with grace and skill. The Tamil children seem naturally gifted dancers…and they truly love it. We realized that we were witnessing a local event that most travelers would never get to see – many dances common to a specific cultural area, performed by our new friends and neighbors. This to me seems the essence of the Global Volunteers experience.
We left on a high, and felt like celebrities as many of the local children kept asking us to write our names in English for them. There was so much excitement and joy in the air.
Which leads me to my quote for the day, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” So many of us in our busy workaday lives forget to just be joyous – to have fun, to listen to music, to feel so moved by it that we MUST dance. We get so bogged down with our problems. It is so good and right to take moments to be glad of the gift of life – to listen to the music and dance because we are so filled with joy that we just cant help it.
Today’s quote for the day:
"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can fly only by embracing each other." -Luciano de Crescenzo
Today started super early for a few of us, as Stephen had arranged for transportation at 6:30am to take Janet, Lisa and me to the fruit & flower market for a photo expedition. Sadly (and strangely), the electricity went off in only my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning, leaving me hot and sleep-deprived by 6:30. So, I opted to stay behind while Janet & Lisa ventured off into what I’m told was a beautiful wonderland of colors & scents. The silver lining for me was that they brought back a bundle of roses for me, as today is my birthday!
The rest of our group met at breakfast, which was another delicious meal of eggs and mini rice pancakes with peanut sauce, lovingly prepared by Ronnie. After our morning meeting, my wonderful teammates Angela, Anne, Lisa, Munnie, Janet and Susan, plus Stephen and Sheeba, presented me with a musical card and colorful bangles—which I’m told were purchased during a treasure hunt on the main drag of Porur. What a lovely way to start the day!
Our morning work assignments were much like the rest of the week. Janet & Susan completed another day of teaching at the
Lisa, Angela and I worked with the toddlers in daycare at Assisi Illam; and
Munnie & Anne put in a few hours of hard labor and finished off the
painting of the SEAM home’s new library. It
was a productive morning, but half the team decided to forgo our
afternoon siestas in the name of shopping!! Stephen, Sheeba and Roshin escorted
Janet, Angela, Anne, Munnie and me into town for a few hours of treasure
hunting. The street and shops were bustling, loud and chaotic, but Sheeba tells
us it was actually a slow day in that area. I can’t imagine what it must look
and sound like when it’s busy!! Anne, Janet and I left the shops with some
lovely clothing & jewelry, while Munnie found some gorgeous saris, Roshin
got new shoes, and Angela purchased a bagful of balls, jump-ropes & other
fun toys for the children at SEAM. All in all, I would say it was a successful
journey. J Grace School
After a quick stop at the house to freshen up, the whole team headed over to the SEAM home for the last time this week, since the
has a celebration planned for us tomorrow evening. The SEAM kids had their own
celebration planned, since tonight is the last time Lisa, Susan and I will see
the children before we leave Chennai. To kick off the evening, Stephen taught
us how to play the game of Grace School Coco (which seems
like a form of tag) with the children. First we played a few rounds with the
girls, and then we played with the boys. Everyone had a chance to participate,
and there was a lot of laughter and fun camaraderie throughout the game. It was
hot, though, so it was a lovely surprise to find that the team had brought ice
cream cups in honor of my birthday. I was thrilled to be able to share my day
with these beautiful children, especially Paul Anthony, since it turns out to
be his birthday, too! After our yummy, cool treat, the children assembled us
inside for a beautiful performance of dancing & singing to show their
gratitude to us volunteers. They then thanked us individually and presented
Susan, Lisa and me with cards signed by every child. Towards the end of
evening, they invited us all to join them in dancing. With a flurry of
handshakes, hugs, and bids to visit them again, the children of SEAM bid us
adieu one last time. It was a bittersweet end to our time at the home, and I’m
sure Anne, Angela, Munnie & Janet are grateful to have more time with the
SEAM kids next week.
To end a wonderful and busy birthday day in
, Stephen took us out for a
celebratory dinner at a local restaurant. The team shared an absolute feast of
tandoori chicken, vegetable biryani, palak paneer, butter naan, chicken tikka
masala, prawn fried rice, and egg
noodles. And, for one last surprise, I was presented with a gorgeous black
forest birthday cake—exactly the cake I had said I wanted. I could not be more
grateful or love my new friends any more for making me feel so loved when I’m
so far from home. Global Volunteers definitely attracts the best people on earth! Thank you all for a wonderful trip and
a birthday I will never forget. J India