Thursday, March 8th, 2012
I believe today is a full moon and what a FULL day. The children at Assisi must have been affected by it. They were all riled up today. No matter what we did you to try to calm them down they wanted to do what they wanted to do. So Lisa did what we know best and cranked the American music and let them run free. Although someone may have spiked their milk they were still somehow sweet and loving.
Susan had another great day at Grace School and found out that her schedule will be changed this week and next due to the dance performance next Friday. At least the music was a bit lower today and I do not believe the kids got up on their desks to dance. I think Susan is really rolling with all of these changes. The good news is she can recycle some old material, making her prep time less. SCORE!
We had a great lunch and rested a bit before we headed back to Assisi Illam to spend an evening with the children there, as we were graciously invited for dinner. It was really touching to see Sheeba, the sisters and young girls work together to prepare a very large meal for almost 40 people. While that is normal for them it is not something we/I do not witness very often. All of the preparation is done with great care and you can feel their sense of community. While we read, colored and played games with all new children tonight, they truly seemed like they appreciated the attention. Many of them were very bright and so eager to learn whatever we could teach. Before dinner the children sang for us. It was moving. The sisters served dinner on a rolling cart, I believe it was so it would be more comfortable for us, rather than sitting and eating on the floor. I am pretty sure they do not eat sitting down the way we did tonight. I hope they did not go through too much trouble. For a home that so many people to care for, they truly made us feel like special guests. It is quite magical and we cannot thank them enough.
Everyone has been so nice to us and have made us feel very welcome during our stay. The hospitality and sense of community and family in India is something that I will take with me when I depart this weekend. I don’t think I yet know all that India and it’s people have taught me but I know I am thankful.
Therefore, the message of the day is GRATITUDE!!!! I hope to give thanks today and everyday for this experience and those who have made it possible – including the sisters, the beautiful children, and of most importantly Stephen and Sheeba who have been exceptional hosts and parents to us and my new found friends and teammates, Canada and Suse. Together we found a way to get through 2 incredible and certainly unforgettable weeks. I can’t wait to hear how the rest of it goes…
Also I can’t forget the unsung heroes, Stephen, Barnabus and Rani
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Breakfast was more quiet than usual for some reason but the quiet start of the day would soon give way to another loud and lively time with the kids at our schools. At Grace I taught kindergarten as usual and arrived in the room a little ahead of them so I could put out coloring papers and crayons. That keeps them quiet and happy until I get organized. Today went very well with these little ones and I was feeling very pleased. So now I am ready for the 2ndgraders but wait…..they have to practice their dances again for an upcoming program so in come the 3rdgraders for 2 periods today. No problem…I,m sure I have enough for them to do for 1 ½ hours instead of 45 min. We just get started when music suddenly blares out from right next to our room. The dance practice has begun. Two of my students jump up on their bench and dance. It,s pretty hard not to get up and move when the music is all around you and the rhythms are so inviting. Soon all my students are showing me their Tamil dancing moves and out comes my camera.
We try to do lesson I have brought for the day but quickly I give it up and surrender to the moment. I get the students busy with a drawing and short story to write and I go out to where all the dancing is going on. It was great fun to watch….a real little Kollywood production.
When Steven comes to pick me up, Lisa has come to see the school. She is escorted into meet Easter, the principal, first and then is surrounded by many curious children happy to meet another “mam” from the USA. On the ride home we both share that we had crazier days than usual. The quiet of the quest house is a welcomed relief.
Today we are going to Steven’s parent’s house for lunch which is a short drive away. There we are welcomed by Steven’s parents, his brother Stephen and wife Rebecca and their beautiful 1 year old daughter Monica. Stephen’s mother expresses her sincere pleasure in having us as quests in their home and shares with us a lavish meal A highlight for us is to see family photos, learn more about the extended family, watch little Monica and see how she and other babies sleep in a hammock hanging in the parent’s bedroom.
Back home for siesta and quiet time before we re-enter that special world of kids at SEAMS. And tonight at SEAMS was quiet and a regular session of reading/talking with our 3 kids. It felt productive and low keyed for all of us…..kind of nice after a random and wild ride the night before.
A message that keeps coming up for me is to slow down and move more slowly….do everything more slowly. The weather and other conditions just call out for slowing down and not trying to do too much all at once. I find this advice very helpful if and when I remember it and I feel being here in India is helping me put it into practice. So my message for the day from a wise spider named Charlotte…..Never hurry….Never worry.
Tuesday march 6th, 2012
After a busy Monday, we started Tuesday morning with the challenge of India’s key phrase ‘go with the flow’. Lisa and I learned we were going to be split up because I was going to do construction work at SEAMS and she was going to manage the orphanage on her own. At SEAMS they were tiling a new bath and library for the kids so my job was to carry all the tiles to the right place, fill a big barrel of water and cleaning tiles for the workers. Though there was a strong language barrier between me and the workers, with the help of Stephen’s translations and hand singles I was able make out to what the workers were asking me to do. It was a change from working with kids but it was good to get some physical work in, even though I was sweating buckets. When I got to the house I was curious to know how Lisa made out with 20+ kids on her own, and I was happy yet surprised that they were better behaved and quiet today. And yet again Susan had a great day with the kids at grace school, even when her day got a little changed around she handled going with the flow very easily.
At SEAMS we had some more going with the flow moments. As we walked into the gates we saw all the boys getting their hair cuts. Because of their hair cuts I am not sure if any of had any of our students to teach. But we all went with the flow and read, colored, and got covered in stickers with the other children. I even got a new hair style buy some of the girls. After seems we went to the movie theatre to see our first Kollywood movie. The theatre was very much like the theatre at home, minus the metal detectors, bag checks, and no English, but for a minute when you walked in and smelled pop corn it felt like home. All I can say for the message of the day is to continue to go with the flow. There are many moments you have to realize that what is accustomed here may not be at home. India is a place to test our comfort zones so if we keep an open mind and a go with the flow attitude I know we will make it through just fine.
Monday, March 5th 2012
This weekend we took a wild ride (led by Stephen II and his American hip hop music soundtrack, circa 2005) to visit some temples & rock carvings, we bought silk scarves at the Government store and had a lovely dinner on the beach getting to know each other even more. The highlight was probably the dog that followed us, well Susan, the entire walk from the beach to the hotel. We think Stephen sent the dog to protect us on his behalf. Oh I can’t forget to mention Phillip with a D. Even if he swindled us, he worked really hard at it and treated us like royalty in the process. Plus we are all really happy with our purchases.
Today definitely felt like a Monday after the great weekend. I was feeling very tired and unenergetic. We had a great dosa breakfast and the non natives decided to Americanize it by putting peanut butter and jelly on it. It was actually quite delicious.
Sus (as she will be referred to going forward) was ready to head to Grace School, camera in hand, and Lisa and I were off to the kiddies at Assisi. Of course, because I was feeling so tired today, it was especially hectic. There was a full house for the regular day care children plus there were a few older kids there who had off of school today. And to make it even more interesting there were two new boys in matching shirts who cried (or screamed) for the better part of the morning. Needless to say it was a bit noisier than usual. Thank goodness Rinna came by with a nice cup of black tea to give us a boost. We tried to keep them all entertained but it was challenging being they are all at different levels. We sang some songs, played with the life saving legos and duck duck goose and then blew up balloons and beach balls. Running around with the tireless children was exhausting for us all and both Lisa and I don’t think we have ever sweated so much before. Even with the extra confusion it was an amazingly fun day. The best part of Assisi for me today was seeing little Daniel interact with others much more than usual today. He is usually extremely quiet and introverted and today he was running around and playing with the other children. I think I even saw a smile. I pray that this is a new beginning for Daniel. Also little Jasmine (who I have only met once prior, as she is not usually with us during the day) sat on my lap and put my arms around her tightly. Although we did not communicate with any words she clearly was able to relay what she wanted… just some needed affection. At the end of the day they are all children and they want our love above anything else we can offer. That is why we are here and in that moment I was sweetly reminded=)
After a great lunch we headed into town to shop at the big market. The ride there didn’t seem so crazy. Is it possible that we are just getting used to it or perhaps we were especially tired from an eventful weekend and morning? Shopping was actually fun. I guess we picked the right day because the store was not as crowded as we expected. The employees there were very helpful. It was interesting to learn that a large is the “starting size.” For very reasonable prices we all left very happy, including Roshan who got a nap in and woke us just as we were heading home.
Over at SEAM’s tonight we were assigned three new children to read with. Just as we were getting used to the last group it was time to change. Nothing new these days. Also we the library construction will begin tomorrow so Canada and I will have to each work there for one day this week rather than going to Assisi. Although we will miss the children, the library being built is well worth it. Only if we knew where we could get some new books around here to help fill it? On a side note: Ezekiel’s foot seems much better today. He proudly wore his glow in the dark skeleton pajamas as his family stood around and held his hand while his wound got cared for by Sheeba. It is so touching to watch the children care for one another.
Another great dinner!!! We had traditional South Indian rice in water dish. It was very good, especially with all of the other amazing veggies. Not even enough room for watermelon. We are getting spoiled.
There is a famous saying… it takes a village to raise child. I have a greater understanding for what that means now and I think we are part of that village here, even if only for a little while.
Message of the day: Have fun!!!
Friday, March 2nd 2012
After 5 days of being here and experiencing our assignments we have settled into a definite rhythm. I know for me whenI enter Grace School I am one of the teachers anda member of their happy family. I enter my room and 4 happy, bouncy, noisy kendergarteners are eager tobegin. Goodmorning Mam they chime and it’s time to begin. Today we sing an opening song, read a story, do an action rhyme, vocabulary and lettersand end with writing skills. The bell rings and they are off to snack.
My 2nd and 3rdgraders composed and wrote back letters to students from my home town. I am impressed with their writing skills and touched by what they want to say and write to their new friends in the USA.
I am touched by so many things I see at this school. Yesterday the entire school gathered around one birthday child who was receiving a blessing from the mother of the principal. Their birthdaybegins like ours….happy birthday to you and then they add…..May God bless you…..and Happy long life to you. Then the child feeds his father and sister a bite of cake and his father offers him a bite. Then everyone receives a bit of cake.
At the guesthouse we are met with fresh coconut milk and traditional Tamil meal served on banana leaves cut from the backyard. We each take photos of this colorful display and have our first experience eating with our fingers. Over lunch we hear about the great morning Lisa and Lisa had with their little ones blowing bubbles, musical chairs and dancing.
After 5 days with the same kids at Seams, we are getting to know each other and there is a greater ease with our reading sessions. For me the one kid who had been reluctant to read with me on previous days, was the first to come and take my hand and say….sister, come read….sit here. Another boy and I had the best time laughing together as we tried to play the word game ..hangman.
Tomorrow the 3 of us are away on our own for two days of being tourists. After dinner Steven helped us the itinerary and a few dos and don,ts…..and we are ready for this.
As I reflect back on all I have experienced this past week, I,ve come to enter each day knowing it will unfold in it,s own way. There will be amazement, surprises, challenges and delights. It helps when I can lessen my expectations and accept whatever comes along. So….my message for the day is to Expect nothing…..Accept everything.
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
It was yet another exciting day in Chennai India, with both going with the flow and living in the moment are our phrases to live by. Lisa and I made it through yet another day of energy filled children at assis. We are currently refreshing our memory on nursery rhymes and children’s games to entertain there short attention spans. Susan continues to have a great time at grace school and is feeling that everything is running very smoothly. On our free/prep time today we did some more shopping for some weather appropriate clothes. Though we were without our guide sheba, we did very well on our own. At SEAMS we had a great night filled with reading and games. We played our first game of their version of dodge ball and the kids were very excited to show us how good they were at it. Tonight we also got the special treat of going out to dinner at a local restaurant. We ate a whole assortment of great food, with roshon of course getting his favorite chicken lollipops.
One of the greatest benefits of joining global volunteers has been learning so much about the Indian culture. We have been very lucky to live in their everyday activities. It has both opened my eyes and heart to a brand new culture. My cousin sent me off with this quote, "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes". So my message of the day as we finish our first week is to continue have open eyes and heart to such an amazing culture.
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
And with the flow we went. Shortly after breakfast the power went out. Apparently the power goes out for most of the day about one day per month because there just isn’t enough power for the area. There was no running water, no air conditioning, etc… Luckily Lisa and I were on our way to Assisi Illam and Susan to Grace School, both of which had not lost power so we were very lucky. Susan went to greet what she thought was her new lower level class. When she arrived, however, she found out that the change had not actually occurred yet so the plan she put together the night prior for the younger kids was no longer relevant. She had to change plans and teach the older students. Being a lifelong teacher, I am sure it worked out wonderfully.
Lisa and I got in the car with Stephen and Sheeba and headed over to Assisi to the darling little ones. It was another fun ride fighting oncoming traffic, motorbikes, buses, and pedestrians (including the usual cows, goats, etc…). Once we arrived we sang nursery rhymes, did the hokey pokey and played duck, duck goose. No matter what game we are playing the children are just so affectionate, not only with us but with one another. Day after day we witness these tiny people recognize when their peer is not felling well and they find a way to comfort them, sometimes without words.
And as “going with the flow” would have it, there was some construction being done on the roof so Sheeba, Lisa and I had to stop what we were doing to get the clean laundry off of the lines upstairs and fold them on a separate floor, so not to interfere with the workers and dust.
Once that was done it was long awaited balloon time. The children ran around with their balloons, throwing and kicking them, laughing but mostly biting and eating them. We then spoon fed them their lunch (they were much calmer today than earlier in the week) and said goodbye.
Back to the house to have lunch and relax before heading to SEAMs. It was slightly hard to relax since it was pretty hot. Lisa was smart enough to go to the roof to get some fresh air and discovered kittens living in the shed. We all went up there to check it out.
Off to SEAMs to play and read with the children. Our time with them was shortened today because we were heading to town to see a dance performance. The time reading with the children seemed a little easier today, maybe because it was shorter or maybe because we are starting to figure out what kind of books work for them. I am amazed at their desire to learn to read in English and am so moved by the look on their faces when you tell them that they are doing a great job. The highlight of the night for me was when I got to watch some of the donations I brought be given out to the children. It was so moving to see how excited they were by some new clothes, even if they were too big
Stephen II kindly drove us to Chennai to the theatre where the dance performance was being held. Driving in Porur is fascinating but this was even wilder. The city area is so crowded. I’m not actually convinced that two cars can fit down a road at once, but they sure do try. Through Stephen II’s patience and slick driving skills we arrived safely. It appeared as though we were the only non Indians in the quaint theatre. Right before show time they announced that the show was canceled so we got back in the car and headed home. Even thought we didn’t get to see the dancers it was definitely worth the ride.
We returned home to a great meal and were very excited to learn that the power was back. After a day of many unexpected twists and turns we were all exhausted and ready for bed. I am sure for the locals it was just another day. For us foreigners it was another great day of growth and surprises. It feels like it is all starting to sink in. We are really here and the experience is WAY better than I could have imagined.
Message of the day…
Live in the moment. Among all of the craziness there is not much we can control so maybe we can try to be present and enjoy every moment.
Tuesday, February 29, 2012
No need for an alarm clock at Global Volunteers House. Early morning arrives around 6 am with the sounds of singing birds, a few howling dogs, clanging of pots and people stirring. Houses are built close together. People live close together. The neighborhood, the city, our house, wake up together.
S o much happens in one day. At 9:15 we’re off for our 2ndday to the groups we’ve been assigned. It felt good to walk into the school today knowing so much more than yesterday. I am at Grace Nursery and Primary School working with small groups of children ages 7-9. They are happy to greet me and are ready to receive whatever I have to offer them. During their lunch time, I am brought into their room to sit as the special guest they have made me to be. I see beautiful children sitting quietly on the floor eating their lunch and it feels so special to be invited into their world.
Around 1 we get back to the guesthouse for lunch…another delicious meal. The two Lisas are laughing when telling about how they tried to guide and direct a room full of 2 and 3 year olds without the results they had intended. Tomorrow they go back fortified with balloons and more games to play.
Soon after lunch we’re off again with Sheeba to shop for Indian style clothes. She knows where to take us, how to guide us across the streets of crazy traffic and to help and guide us in every way. This experience hs been made truly more culturally rich in every way by the hospitality and attention given to us by Steven and Sheeba.
At dinner we are a bit more quiet and tired from our busy and full day. I’m having a slight schedule change at my school tomorrow which keeps things interesting. It certainly is appropriate for the message of the day I had picked which is to”Go with the flow”. There is a definite rhythm and way of doing things in India and it is helpful and fun to just jump in and swim with the current….go with the flow.
Monday, February 27th, 2012
Today was the start of the ultimate reason why we came here to Chennai India, to help and care for children. As a retired teacher Susan began her first day at Grace School teaching 7-9 year olds, and from what she has told us she had a great day getting to know all the children. Both Lisa and I went to Asissi Islam day care/orphanage to work with children 2 to 4 years old. The day started with yet another crazy ride though the streets of India. Im not entirely sure when I’ll get used to cars and scooters riding inches from each other as I watch from the back seat, but it makes for a very exciting morning. As soon as Lisa and I arrived to the orphanage, which is surrounded by slums and worn out homes, we were greeted by smiles and hugs from the beautiful children living in the home. After a brief tour we were both thrown into the daily activities of the orphanage. These activities included a game of duck-duck-goose, lego and blocks time, outside play time, and lunch time. These children were filled with love and affection, they constantly wanted to sit in our laps and hold our hands and show us there tall towers they had built. It was a wonderful day to start off the next couple weeks.
The the next part of our day after our naps and reading, was regular visit to the seams children home. The walk there is always exciting, mostly for susan who constantly was startled by the street roaming cows. At seams we spent the whole time working with three children each helping them increase their English reading skills. Even though they read at different levels it was very clear these children wanted to learn English. The most beautiful moments were when their faces lit up in excitement when you told them how great they were doing. In one day ive come to a lot of realization about what these kids need and wants from us. All they want and need is selfless love and affection from us as the volunteers. Love is a powerful key to many things in life and already on this trip I have seen in all around me. I have seen it in our host family among Stephen, sheba, and roshen and you see the love in these children eyes every time they see our faces come through the gates. So my message for the day is love. Yes, sometimes it’s that simple. All these children need is our selfless love
Sunday, February 26th, 2012
Today started off as a simple day. We awoke at the guest house and had breakfast together at 9 am. We were all finally here after many hours of travel— Stephen, Sheeba, little Roshan and the volunteers (Susan and the two Lisa’s). Sitting around the table over breakfast and sharing stories was a great way to get to know each other. It felt like home already.
After our meal, Stephen sat down with the volunteers to have orientation until around noon. We discussed policies and guidelines and set personal and team goals. It was nice that our personal goals overlapped, therefore, our team goals were pretty effortless.
1. To serve the children
2. Personal growth
3. Appreciate Indian culture
We had delicious dosas over lunch and learned a little more about one another.
By 5:30 pm it was time to walk to the South East Asia Mission (SEAM) Children’s Home. The moment we walked through the gates the whole day changed. All of the children rushed toward us with beaming smiling faces to greet their new friends. The extremely affectionate children came up to each of us one by one and said almost word for word, “hello, how are you? I am fine. My name is XX, what is your name?” They were so full of joy and so were we. We all walked through the dirt courtyard to the main room where the children quickly sat in lines in front of us. I think they were in age order, girls on one side and boys on the other. The volunteers sat in chairs in the from of the room facing them and the children began to sing us a song. It was magic. They were beating drums and even two of the little boys could not help but to get up and dance for us. It is such a joy to be able to witness children dancing with all of their hearts, as if no one is watching. They came directly in front of us and danced the entire song. They were so free and happy. What a gift!!! Then each child formally introduced themselves to us and we were taken on a tour of their home. I was told just three years ago all of the children all slept together in the main room on the floor. Since then dormitories have been built and they have proper rooms with beds and a working bathroom in each room. It is up to them to keep everything clean and they have a point system and are rewarded for who can keep the rooms the tidiest. Today the reward was a pack of Life Savers. The children were elated to show up their home, including the kitchen and wash area. They even brought us up on the roof to show us where are the clothes are hung to dry. They have a small reading room. I do not believe it has lights because the little girl kept pulling the chair over to the window to show us how they read. Also they are in the process of building a library.
Susan said it best while at the children's home, I have never felt so special before, I have never felt like a celebrity until today.”
After the tour we went back into the main room and the children sang us another song. We had some free time to mingle with the kids and then the bell rang and I believe they were to prepare for bed.
So we left the children's home and got into an auto rickshaw and had a wild ride to the place where we would have dinner. I am sure the ride was quite normal to someone from here but for us non-Indians it felt like something out of a movie. There were people, cars, motorbikes and animals everywhere. Plus it doesn't feel like there are many rules in the streets. There was a little anxiety but mostly exhilaration. We had a lovely dinner and then returned home. What started off as a simple day turned out to be full of life.
We were all very tired and needed to get ready for our first day of work.
Message of the day:
During orientation Stephen recited a quote that very much stuck with me… “India is a country of patience. If you already have it you will lose it and if you do not have it you will gain it.”
For me it was wonderful to be reminded of this and a good way to gain perspective in our first few days.