Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Stephen and Sheba’s son Roshan had already left for school before we appeared. A few more days of examinations before his vacation begins. We are not exactly on vacation here in Chennai, but today was a more leisurely day than usual.
However, it was a day of particularly unexpected events for Margaret.  After Vivian and Sonja did their laundry, they hung it on the roof and came back downstairs. A little while later Stephen came in the door to tell us that Margaret was calling from the roof. She had been locked in. Hadn’t we noticed that the door to the roof was unlocked? Obviously, not. Vivian decided that it would be a day of rest for her, taking her turn at being a little indisposed. At Grace School Margaret was on her own today, combining the two classes. After the lessons she taught the students how to make codes by assigning numbers to letters. They got it! And wrote notes to each other. What Margaret didn’t get was someone to walk her home. A little slip. Someone forgot to come. But she was rescued by a teacher and an assistant and someone with a black umbrella who all accompanied her back to the guest house. By noon she had survived the two unintentional attempts to exile her.
At Assisi Illam the usual routine continued. Dorothy and Sonja sang songs with gestures with the children, reviewed sounds with animals and fruits, and helped with snacks. The children enjoyed sitting in a circle and rolling the ball to one another. Some of the children were very helpful in letting each child have a turn. The children also lined up for a ball toss. They found that they were most successful if they moved within six inches of the pail. There were a couple of very good baskets. Dorothy had started the hand washing routine the other day, and Sonja took her turn at the supervision and also the scrubbing today.
At breakfast time the power had gone off earlier than expected. When we returned for lunch, we found that it was still off. That meant not only no electricity for the lights but none for the pump for the water. We also learned that it would be off until 5 p.m. This occurs once a month. I later heard from Sheba that this is not the case everywhere in Chennai.
It was a good afternoon for conserving our energy, too. There was time for naps and work on evaluations and assessment forms.
At 5:30 p.m. our driver Stephen picked us up to take us to a classical dance program. We drove for about an hour, and the weaving in and out of traffic and watching other vehicles do the same was a dance in itself. The first venue was closed, but another one was nearby. We saw the second half of the first show with a beautiful dancer and heard a fascinating singer and instrumentalists. For the second show we moved toward the front for a better view. The performance was terrific. The dancer had graceful movements; and her costume, jewelry, and hand decoration were lovely.
On each ride our eyes and heads were constantly moving to see the sights – shops, street vendors, public and private buildings. One way we saw the cars lined up to pick up the workers from the shoe factory, shoes for export to the U.S. We saw the cars leaving the IBM building adding to the traffic flow. In one area we saw canopies for a festival. The street life everywhere is energetic and colorful.
During our late evening meal we heard a little about Stephen’s day. It is comforting when all is right in the world of Stephen, Sheba, and Roshan.
Two thoughts for the day
     Life is the most wonderful adventure.
          Danish fairy tale writer, H.C. Andersen
     Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013. 
Construction in  the neighborhood has the Grace School volunteers completely baffled as to how to arrive at the school.  Every morning there is a different route that Stephen1 has to  navigate to get us there. This morning, we arrived from a different direction and were completely lost.  We were grateful that the neighbors know who the volunteers are and are accepting of our foibles as without their help we would probably still be wandering the streets.   Barnabas was there to greet us at 12:00 noon and guided us back to the guest house, by yet another route.   On the way back to the guest house we were greeted by a few neighbors and visited for a short while.  It makes one feel safe to know the community is watching and ready to help. 
Meanwhile, the Assisi volunteers are coming up with new games and songs to keep their kindergarteners entertained and focused.  No small feat, especially now that there are just two develop a schedule for approximately 30 little ones.  They have been teaching the toddlers how to wash their hands before lunch.  The soap dispensers were a little high for some of the little ones, but Dorothy to the rescue.   Move the buckets that were on the little step under the dispensers. Problem solved.
They have been teaching phonics to their group and Dorothy’s daughter has texted some ideas for games and songs that she remembers when she was young.  Things are falling into place. 
 In the afternoon there was a trip to the St. Thomas Mount.  So full  of history and the view from the top of the mount was unbelievable. You are able to take in most of the city of Chennai.  We were lucky to have Stephen 2 along to tell us what we were seeing.  He is a veritable walking history book. 
In  the evening we returned to SEAMS to visit with the children and promised to return tomorrow with our cameras.  So after catching up with them as to their day and having oranges for a snack we bid a fond farewell and trotted off for a delicious meal at Anjappan restaurant then back home to bed and prepare for tomorrow. 
All’s well with the world.

Monday, March 18th,2013
we are not counting the week end—which was wonderful—a week end away going to Pondicherry (sp).  Vivian, Sonja, Dorothy and Margaret with Stephen One driving and entertaining us with stories of what we were seeing and his life.—Felt very safe as he was an ambulance driver.
Today it was back to the school and the Daycare programs—there wasn’t the high anxiety we had experienced a week ago.  We knew where we were going and what to expect—it was not going to be programmed—we needed to be prepared to go with the flow and we knew we could do it. 
Upon our return we were all tired, hot and Dorothy was under the weather and declined lunch. Also, Stephen was  missing. He was  taking care of business.  Vivian, Sonja, Margaret and Sheeba ate together and discussed the morning with seriousness and laughter.  LaCheena left Saturday morning and was missed.
The healthy four took off  for a walk after lunch and picked up soda and crackers for Dorothy/ visited shops and enjoyed saying hello to people who recognize us==we are becoming part of this community.  Our ladies afternoon was a building block towards one of our goals as a team ,
All of us went to SEAMS and were greeted warmly by the children,  Again, that feeling of being part of a whole—the children know us and look forward to interacting with us.  I could write about our accomplishments and frustrations but the real eye opener was the realization that a team had truly formed—we were connected.  The volunteers of Team 124 were becoming friends and co-workers. We were exchanging ideas, view points, concerns and tid bits of our personal lives.
Tonight after dinner we had Stephen with his soft voice and gentle manner going over what we had written as our goals for a team and it was agreed by all we had met the challenge.  We are definitely enjoying the local cuisine, new friendships are forming, we are part of a cultural exchange and we are growing.
Looking back to the time we arrived in India to now I am struck how much our world has expanded and yet so focused on the community we are living in.  We are kept up to date by Stephen about the world beyond us and he adds history lessons to all that is happening in the world.  We listen in awe  and embrace being students again.  Thank you Stephen.
Sheeba brings in her gentle way that we are a family—she watches over us and is so open that we can ask her most anything. She brings beauty into our lives—flowers on the table, the aromas of the food . Her acceptance of who we are .Giving us the sense we are special. Their son Roshan (sp) also brings the joy of being an almost 5 year old,  The three of them are the foundation that makes it all work—we become stronger because of them
So to end this day—it is still hot and a shower awaits me, my thanks to all—we are have become a team thanks to our foundation of Stephen, Sheeba and Roshan.  But where would they be without us. We need each other to make a strong group/team..
So my quote is  from a song I remember
No man is an island    No man stands alone Each mans joy is mine, Each mans grief is my own, We need one another, So I will defend, No man is an island.                                                        


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Team 123:Day 12

Team 124: Day 5

I've had the pleasure of overlapping with two teams for the past 12 days: Team 123 (1 member) and Team 124 (5 members).

Teams 123 and 124 are settling into a nice groove with the children we've been encountering. The feelings of trepidation and fear are dissipating with each day. There's growing confidence that although there will be new challenges each day, we will be able to overcome them by exhibiting the characteristics of a good team we identified during orientation:flexibility, patience, and humor.

As usual, we started our day with breakfast at 8:30. We had one dish that I believe is one of everyone's favorites, kasari (sp), and an Indian version of an omelette. As stated everyday and at every meal, the food was delicious! Sonja has become the team reporter of our culinary experiences and is taking notes for everyone.

Stephen informed us of the schedule for the day. We were going to our respective sites in the morning. Dorothy, Sonja and I were going to Assisisilam and Margaret and Vivian would be off to Grace School. We all would be going to SEAM in the afternoon. We were also in for a special treat: Lunch at Stephen's parents' home! We couldn't be more excited to meet Stephen's parents and to experience dining in someone's home! So, we scurried off to our respective sites in anticipation of this afternoon's special treat.

Dorothy, Sonja and I were hopeful that we had found the right formula to entertain 30 kids ages 2-4 for 2 hours. We met the previous night, as we had two nights ago, to develop our plan of action. Picking the right action songs and activities, while making sure the little ones reviewed old material and were introduced to new information were all critical considerations. We wanted to be successful, but at the same time make it fun for the kids. I was starting to wonder if this was even possible. We decided on a number of songs that appeared to be "hits" with the kids. We also decided to build upon the prior day's success with the modified version of Duck Duck Goose that Stephen led, and decided to have a "relay" with the kids.

Once we arrived at Assisi, we were split up. Dorothy and Sonja primarily worked with the kids, while I was pulled off to help install soap dispensers. From what I could hear from the third floor, Dorothy and Sonja were pros! The kids were quiet at the appropriate times, and were laughing, singing and running at the appropriate times. Perhaps we'd found the magic formula afterall! I, on the other hand, assisted Stephen X with the installation of 3 soap dispensers. These are very much needed at Assisi since the children do not have access to soap to wash their hands after eating or bathroom use. One dispesner, in particular, was difficult to install since there was no outlet for the power drill in the bathroom. So, Stephen X used his genius to maneuver the power cord outside the building and into the room next door so that we could plug it in and get the job done. It was tedious, and I marveled at Stephen X's problem solving skills.

Once I went downstairs and saw how well the children were behaving, I knew that Sonja and Dorothy were no longer in the orientation phase of learning how things work at Assisi. They had found their own rhythm with the children and I'm confident they will enjoy the children all of next week.

On the other side of town, Vivian and Margaret continued to work with kindegartners, 1st and 3rd graders.

Vivian used her wisdom to keep the kids guessing so they would not get bored. Today, she had the students be the teacher and she was the student. The kids loved it! They really enjoyed being in charge!

Next, it was time for lunch. Stephen's parents greeted us warmly at the door and had prepared a feast! Chicken, chicken biryanyi, voda (Margaret's FAVORITE), potatoes, yogurt, green beans with carrots, rice pudding, and a banana ending. It was sooo delicious! After lunch, true to any family's tradition, Stephen's mom shared family photos, even the embarrasing baby shots! It was great to see old and new photos of Stephen and Sheeba's families! You could tell how close-knit they are. Both Mother and Father seemed proud of their sons. You could also see that Stephen's mother was so happy to have us in her home and enjoyed seeing us devour every morsel. We then received a tour of the house and StephenX's house. Turns out that Stephen X is not only an excellent driver and a carpenter, but he is also an artist. He painted a beautiful mural in his living room. It seems the Chinnapan family has many talents. :-)

This evening we went to SEAM. As usual the children greeted us with warm hugs and welcoming handshakes when we entered the gate. It seems that each of us now have a rhythm for working with the children in our unique styles and are able to tailor it depending on the English proficiency of each child. Activities may include math and word games, flash cards, reading exercises, or engagement in basic conversation. Regardless of the approach, it appears that the children love us to be around and simply want to be around us. They even try to prolong their time with us as much as possible, even when their time is up! :-)

Over dinner, Stephen provided us with another lesson about Indian culture and we discussed my plans after I depart Chennai on Saturday. The conversation took on a much more serious tone when Margaret mentioned that the girls at SEAM had lice. Dorothy and Margaret noticed that the issue distracted the children while they were working with them. Stephen mentioned that it was time for another lice treatment and suggested that the team could give the children treatments next week. The team wholeheartedly agreed that this was something they wanted to do for the children. It's a way they could leave their "mark" as Global Volunteers.

This is a team of 5 dedicated women from different walks of life. But somehow, higher forces have brought us together to share this journey. After only5 days, Teams 123/124 have geled together quite nicely. Our ability to laugh at ourselves and each other, while maintaining focused on our volunteer goals is one of our keys to success. Our teams truly exemplify the following quote:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of leave the world a better know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson
La Chenna

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

One week here! It’s been five days of contradictions in many ways. Time has gone swiftly and slowly, we’ve learned very much and also very little. We have experienced both highs and lows. But overall, I believe that all of us feel that we are just a little bit smarter than we were than when we got here. For example, Margaret has learned that the thought of renting a car in India would have been crazy.  We all continue to marvel at the traffic and the ways in which cars, motorbikes, people, cows and dogs manage to negotiate through the traffic and we are so grateful for the skillful eye of Steven behind the wheel.

This morning at Issisi was La Chenna’s last, and again, more contradictions because we are both happy for her next new adventure and sorry to see her leave us. We started out with songs and when the kids got too loud Sonja told them to shush in her special way and I noticed many of the kids emulating her. It is good to see that she is teaching them a new way to settle down, it’s really cute. Before lunch we had a balloon fest;  many of the children insisted on just hugging their balloons while others wanted to play catch. Trying to catch the balloons was virtually impossible, especially with a fan on but it was a ton of fun. Another soap dispenser has been installed: this one outside for the kids to wash up for lunch. We will look forward to getting  the kids acquainted with it next week.

Margaret was not feeling well so she spent the morning resting. Vivian soldiered on without her but it was obvious that Vivian was missing her before she walked through the door to go to school.  It turned out Vivian had another good day with her combined class. It sounds as though she is a fun teacher who combines both accountability and laughter in the classroom.  

This afternoon we had another special treat – after lunch we had a cooking class presented by Sheeba and Rani. We all watched the preparations and some took careful took notes detailing ingredients on the demonstration of making some of our favorite dishes we’ve had so far.   We were able to eat the vadia after the cooking demonstration and Margaret and I had seconds – Margaret thinks the dish resembles onion rings and I have to agree.  We all watched intently as the Peanut Chutney was made as well, because we all just love it.

Tonight at SEAMS was a different twist:  we played in the courtyard with the kids. Stephen went upstairs and started throwing balls down to some eager boys in the courtyard below.  Before all the balls were dropped Stephen pointed out a monkey that had decided to join us. He was gone as quickly as he appeared, scurrying away along the wall.   After the toys were assembled, the kids played Frisbee, kickball and volleyball, badminton, baseball, and jump rope. I have to admit that as a blogger I forgot my job to observe my team members because I was just having too much fun playing with the kids. It was so fun to play with the kids and I noticed that they were all good sports and playing well with each other, careful to take turns and give each other a turn to play. As for me, I remembered how much I loved badminton when I was a kid and it was so fun to do it again after all these years.

     After our games we helped the kids wash their hands with the new soap dispenser that was installed and many of the kids got a real kick out of sudsing up. Some even decided they needed to wash their hands two or three times. Vivian and I were not very disciplined about insisting they not because we were just having way too much fun watching them enjoy the suds.

The grand finale of the night was going back inside to listen to songs and watch the kids dance and celebrate. During the group sing, many of the boys came up to dance and they were fantastic, it looked as though their dance was a combination of break dancing and individual dance expression, and they danced to the drum beat with an intention that you could see in their eyes – their dance said, “look at me, I’m me and I’m alive and it’s great!” and it was wonderful.

We finished with the kids saying goodbye to La Chenna and singing her a special song and providing her with a handmade card signed by all the kids. I’m too tired to type anything else.

 A fun and exhausting day with more to come next week.

  “Doing your best for this moment puts you in place for the next moment.” Oprah Winfrey

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Our team doesn’t have a nickname, but I think that “supportive” is one of the characteristics that our team has had from the beginning. And, of course, our team leader Stephen and his wife Sheba exemplify this quality.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I think this saying applies with a twist to our schedule. We follow the same assignment, but we know that we have to expect the unexpected and to improvise. It can be challenging but is really quite rewarding.

One event that is regular is breakfast with our team meeting and the reading of the journal. It is always interesting to learn the names of the delicious food. This  morning the question was: Is it tofu? Is it chicken? No, it’s eggs. Not a disappointment but a clarification. Maybe an embarrassing one for the unnamed person who thought it was chicken. The Ramen noodles, probably so identified by those who ate a lot of them in college, turned out to be Veg Maggie noodles, a much more enticing name.

We are going to the textile, gold, and silver market this evening. (More about this later) Stephen explained about quality and prices. There is no question about India that he can’t answer with humor and patience. It is good that he will be with us this evening, maybe even to give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down on a purchase.

The morning at Assisi was lively and noisy although Dorothy said that she didn’t think the decibel level was as high as yesterday. Stephen and Sheba, as well as Sangeetha, joined us in the active games. Stephen was able to help us, or rather we helped him, in getting the children into a large seated circle. Then the children played duck, duck, goose. They didn’t understand the concept of tagging  one another but ran around the circle excitedly. The other children clapped. The songs that LaChenna, Dorothy, and Sonja selected the evening before are popular, and there are lots of actions. The craft project of drawing hand outlines was successful with a few of the children who have good hand coordination. Other children tried and then went on to free coloring. The chalk board activity of making the letters went well and will be tried again soon. Flash cards and stories with lots of physical and verbal illustrations work well with small groups. There is some pummeling among the children, but there are also examples of friendships and helping hands. We are there to help the children go to the toilet, wash their hands, later to have snacks and finally lunch. Then they take a nap, and we can also do so after lunch.

At Grace School under the direction of Margaret and Vivian there are innovative developments every day. In Vivian’s class one could say facetiously that the inmates took over the asylum. What really happened is that Vivian let students be teachers one at a time under her guidance. The other students were attentive to their classmates. It is an excellent exercise for confidence building. In Margaret’s class the students saw BINGO written on the board. The children knew the song, but didn’t sing it. The word   was an introduction to tomorrow’s activity. Margaret laughed heartily this evening when we teased her about having gambling in the class. Vivian’s remark about Bingo in Catholic churches was muffled to me. And did Margaret laugh just a little too heartily? Seriously, it is a good exercise in letter and number recognition and concentration.

The next culinary event was very special – a traditional meal served on banana leaves and eaten with fingers of the right hand. Stephen said that we could utensils, but no one opted to do so. We are also a team that honors openness flexibility. I am going to try to list the foods but will ask Stephen for the exact names: rice with sambar (a medium thick sauce of South India with drumsticks, the kind that grow on trees), a small whole fish from the sea, green beans, cooked shredded coconut and carrots, a crisp bread (appallam or papad), and for dessert a sweet little ball, ghee laddu,  based on wheat and sugary sweet and a little syrupy on the outside, and a banana, one of the 80 varieties in India. (Over  a dozen are available in Chennai.) Stephen and Sheba gave us information about the food, its origin, and its preparation. Stephen also filled us in on politics, police, and culture in a northeastern state. After the meal we folded the banana leaves toward us to indicate that we liked the food and that we wanted to be invited again.  Folding the leaves away shows that we didn’t like the food and didn’t want to be invited again.  An exception to the latter is at a funeral because one does not want to come back to a sad event.

Prep time was spent in several ways. Naps can definitely be preparation and energy savers for the time at SEAMS in the late afternoon. We walked and rode to SEAMS and were greeted enthusiastically as usual. We spent an enjoyable one-on-one time with students. Because we were going shopping we left at 6:30. The group split up, half in Stephen’s car and half in a motorized rickshaw/cab (name?), and we set out for Tnagar the number one shopping center in Chennai on South Usman Road. The trip itself was an adventure. It was rush hour in  Chennai although the streets are always filled with cars, buses, and motorbikes. The three of us in the cab were amazed, as we swerved from one lane to another, coming close to both bikes and cars, but never too close. Vivian remarked that she hadn’t seen any cars with big dents, but she had to emend her comment. We noticed that many of the bigger vehicles had the words Sound Horn on the back. Nobody seemed to need any encouragement to honk. We looked at the passing scenes of small shops, street vendors, open doors.

At the shopping center we started at the textile store. A staff member led us to the correct floor and was a big help. Two of us, Margaret and Sonja, didn’t buy anything to the disappointment of one clerk. However, the others, Lachenna, Dorothy, and Vivian, bought items which we hope they will model. From there we walked to the gold and silver store. With the advice of everyone LaChenna bought a beautiful bracelet. We have yet to see Dorothy’s purchase.

The trip back to the residence was a reversal of the first one – thick traffic, passengers on motorbikes who didn’t hold on to anything, swerving vehicles, seemingly close calls, and then a safe arrival “at home”.

For dinner we had egg curry, okra, and rice. It has become commonplace to say that it was delicious. But it was.

Thought for the day

     I am life that wants to live amidst life that wants to live.     Albert Schweitzer in Africa

     As Global Volunteers we are sharing our lives with others, giving and receiving  cultural nourishment and nurture.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
March 12 and it’s day three for Team 124. Yesterdays fears for some of us have translated into confidence as we have a better idea of what to expect. We haven’t fully acclimated to the time change yet so we had a pajama party in the wee hours in Sonja’s room. She has glass on the sides of her door so we know if she’s awake. She might want to rethink her accommodations if we invade her space too often which might happen as she has cookies.

Breakfast was wonderful as usual. Plans for dieting have been thrown out the window and I know for one I am going shopping for an Indian cook book when I return home. Get ready Margaret.

Yesterdays fears are lessening and we are growing in confidence. Like G.E we have a better idea. We head out to face the day with joy and trepidation in our hearts. Our game plans are in place and we feel better about how we are going to progress. However, I think someone forgot to mention this to the children. Dorothy, LaChenna and Sonja went long into the night planning songs and activities for their group only to find that a major challenge was having the children form a circle holding hands. It sounded like picking up mercury with ones fingers might have been easier. We are still struggling to find the proper level of challenge for the ages of the children so tomorrow we try again.

Margaret and Vivian went into action, well, mainly Margaret. She has a large and very active kindergarten group. Vivian has lucked out, however she has Borath who plans on being a judge when he grows up by bypassing the legal system and just entering the bench by gaining “experience”.

We were tested yesterday and I think we passed muster because today the older children were quieter and listened better. Margaret and Vivian both brought books and crayons to class which excited the children of all ages and we each managed to integrate the coloring and drawing in with the reading and counting. Again the challenge will be to find the appropriate level to challenge the classes.

In the afternoon we returned to SEAMS to visit with the children there. They are so sweet and I feel like a heel when I can’t remember most of their names. When you do remember you are rewarded with such joy from them that you want to hug them and never let go. I wish they knew how very special they all are . I still would rather dig a ditch for Global Volunteers because I know it will be one of the hardest things I do when I have to leave here.

Well, onward and upward and to quote Scarlet O’Hara……Tomorrow’s another day.

Day two -  Monday, March 11th 2013

A couple of quotes for today Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Second quote—Voltaire

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do

Individually and as a team we are not guilty—we are trying our best to do our best..

Where to begin?  This morning we gathered for breakfast early as there was a knock at the door around 5:30AM—the missing luggage had arrived –Vivian and Margaret were ecstatic—it was Christmas.  The whole house had been awakened, thus the early congregating –happiness emanated from all.  Then reality came into focus—this was our first day of work—we were going to our assigned schools.  La Cheena was an asset to Dorothy and Sonja—but the reality was still there—gathering a plan for working with 2 to 4 year olds.  Margaret and Vivian were  to  school and would not be working together—totally on their own with grade school children.  Their plan was no plan—just jump in and hope for the best,

Returning home at lunch time I could see we had all been challenged.  LaCheena seemed calm and had a sense of she was on the mark—able to change direction with the children as needed.  Sonja and Dorothy was exhausted and stated the attention spans and abilities of the children were diverse—at times difficult to engage the children.

Vivian and Margaret also found some children motivated and others seeing the time spent with these ladies as play time.  Both women were able to handle each situation but felt frustration—noting that when the children were not engaged they could become disruptive to the others. Margaret  mentioned to some students that the principal was nearby—that would calm the child being disruptive.

We arrived  home chattering away—the conversation focused on our adventures with children—Stephen and Sheeba were most helpful—suggestions and ideas were in the air and the energy level increased with plans for tomorrow. The bottom line was to emphasize the need to have the children use English, keep them engaged with activities that flow into one another. And (for the grade school children) if disruptive have them leave the classroom.

Sonja gathered us after lunch to discuss plans for the week end—unanimous on taking the trip to Pondicherie. Then it was preparation time before we go see the children this afternoon.

This afternoon we decided to walk to SEAM---looking at my surroundings all I was seeing was contradictions---beautiful homes with gorgeous gates against a foreground of trash, unpaved roads and numerous dogs—not on leashes—are these really pets?  But in the midst of contradictions were people-all shapes and sizes, doing what people around the world do—taking care of their business, their family, laughing, talking and being part of a community.

Arrival at SEAN brought the children with hellos, handshakes, smiles and willingness to meet one to one for reading, math and conversation.  Again, the question was what do we bring to these children.  We are not teachers and yet that is what is expected.  We discuss ways to reach the children but with many there is the language barrier---we are here to assist them with conversational English but before we can help them we need to help ourselves.  We need to keep looking for the best approach, we need to support one another and to always remember every little step we take just might open the doorway for someone.

Dinner was quiet—Stephen was alert that some of us were stressed and moved the conversation to the positive events of the day.  Everyone was able to find a morsel that may have positive outcomes.  We are a united team which makes it easier to have the upbeat feeling.

It is 8:30 pm and all are still preparing, sharing ideas and gathering materials for tomorrow.  Also a night of listening to the hit parade of songs for 2-4 year olds.

One last thought---am I the ugly American—here are all these children who are fluent in their native tongue and learning English—all I’m able to do is remember a few words of their language. .  I feel privileged to be a small part of their lives.  Thank you Global Volunteers


Sunday, March 10, 2013

“in learning to know other things and other minds, we become more intimately acquainted with ourselves and are to ourselves better worth knowing.

Philip Gilbert Hamilton (author)
Today Team 124 officially met and got to know each other in our orientation class. I can tell already that we have a great team: Vivian and Margaret who have traveled together from Massachusetts, and made it despite a harrowing trip rife with hiccups along the way, Sonja from Illinois who had arrived the day before , and LaChenna from DC who already has spent a week here, and then there’s me, from California. LaCheena is a delight and seems to know much more than one would expect from a team member that has been here for a few days, we have unofficially assigned her as our “go to gal” for questions about her experience so far. After our introductions I was saying a silent prayer of thanks for being able to share this experience with such intelligent and interesting women, and I’ve discovered that they all have a good sense of humor and no one is taking themselves too seriously. We have already shared funny stories about ourselves, and I feel like I’m in a group of old friends instead of folks I’ve just met.

Stephen gave a great overview each facility we will be working with. He has already given us information in handouts, but talking about them again brings each facility into clearer focus for me. After that we decided where each team member would work the first week. It was decided that Dorothy Sonja and LaCheena would work at Assisi and Margaret and Vivian would work at Grace School.

We each landed on three things that we wanted to do (making sure it is an action phrase – to “do” something), and we shared our objectives with the team. Then we categorized our objectives and built them into team goals: To Enjoy Local Cuisine (and I could write an entire blog about how much I love the cooking provided by Rani, who appears to seamlessly create delicious delights), To create new Friendships, to Encourage a Cultural Exchange, and to Grow (I may grow with Rani’s cooking via my waistline, but our goal is more on an existential level!)

After our orientation meeting we had a great lunch. I noticed that I was still eating after everyone had finished (and I’m not a slow eater). We also laughed and chatted and Stephen, in answering one of my many questions, told us the story of how Ganesha, the Hindu Lord of Success and showed us the wooden inlay on the front door. How could it be that I’ve walked through that door and never noticed him?

I think we are looking forward to going to Seams later this afternoon, but after our lunch and chat we were given time to rest. Poor Margaret and Vivian, in addition to not having any luggage yet, are still exhausted from their very challenging trip. Sonja and I had a fun chat while I read some other Global Volunteers blogs.

After our free time (which we all spent doing some things and also taking a nap) we walked to SEAMS to meet with the children. When we arrived we were give a warm welcome from the children, who ran up to us and started shaking our hands and introducing themselves. They are all so uniquely beautiful and wonderful. They called us “Auntie” and several giggled about some of us being grandmothers, and whispered to each other that this one or that ne is a grandmother. It was challenging to hear and pronounce their names, but I’m sure that will come easier in time. After our initial greeting, we went inside to have our more formal introductions, we were treated to two lively songs complete with enthusiastic clapping and drum accompaniment. We noticed the different expressions from the children, some very happy, some a little sad, some silly and some bored. All wonderful as children are.

Our dinner was a special treat out, at a Anjappar, a restaurant that tickles tastebuds with wonderful spices. We learned that our food, according to Stephen, was not spicy, and we all laughed. All the wonderful flavors were a delight to the senses. The restaurant has been franchised around the world, but originated from Chennai. It was fun to see Roshan anticipate the arrival of his favorite dish “Lollipop Chicken” and enjoy his special treat ordered especially for him.

I think we are all tired but anticipating our first work day tomorrow with excitement and perhaps a little trepidation. Stephen warned us today to not have too many expectations the first day, and that days will get easier as time goes by. I know our group intention will be for learning as much as we can tomorrow about the children and setting an intention of love and not only doing our best to teach the children, but allow them to teach us in their own way as well.





Saturday, March 9, 2013


"Never say never!"


I am member 1 of 1of Team 123. I arrived in Chennai on March 1st and the next 7 days have simply flown by!


Last year, I decided to celebrate my 40th birthday serving others.  I didn't want to be consumed with a big party or fancy vacation. I simply just wanted to "be" and start living each day with purpose.  So, I decided to join Global Volunteers, but  I had a little difficulty choosing my assignment.  I was very hesitant to work with children. I do not have any children and I never seem to really connect with them. I didn't have a clue as to how to start a bonding process with a child who was a complete stranger. But, since I wanted to do something EXTRA ordinary for the big 4-0 and also do something outside of my comfort zone,  I decided that working with children was EXACTLY what I needed to do.


That purpose was brought to light on my birthday, March 3.  I had met the children at SEAM's the prior day.  We played and got to know each other a bit.  A few greeted me with open arms; a few were more curious about me. They were most intrigued with my hair texture since it was so different from theirs.  They actually asked me if I combed it!  LOL... Admittedly, I get these questions from people of non-African American cultures, so it really was no surprise! I answered, "Yes, I comb my hair..."


On Sunday, Stephen told the children it was my birthday and they started singing the Happy Birthday song in English!  The fervor in which they sang the song was soo heartwarming!  I knew then that I was exactly where I needed to be at that exact moment. Any thoughts of doubt I had were washed away with my re-confirmed commitment to make any mark I could in their lives.


My birthday celebration was extended to the next day when I met the "tiny mites" at Assisi.  OMG, the children were soo cute and adorable!  The immediate warm welcome they gave me was infectious. The way they call me "Auntie" is the most endearing name that I have ever heard. It doesn't matter that I don't understand a word after that, they were calling me. :-) This feeling has motivated me to do the best I can to have fun with them, and hopefully, help them understand English better, in the long run. For my "tiny mites," I've really had to dig deep to remember and research nursery rhymes that encourage action by the kids.  They seem to really like the "Hokie Pokie!"


Over the past week, I've gotten to know the children at SEAM's, about their personalities and strengths and weaknesses with basic English conversation.  This hasn't been an easy task since I am not a teacher by any means.  However, the Conversational English guide is very helpful in giving me ideas about how to connect with the children and, at the same time, teach some English fundamentals.  My first task was to assess each child's knowledge of his/her ABCs, ability to count to 100, and understanding of basic questions (e.g. What is your name?  How old are you?  Do you have any brothers or sisters?) and compile a report in hopes that it will help future volunteers identify strengths and weaknesses so that they won't have to start from scratch. Now that the initial assessment is complete, I am working with the children on the next stage relevant to where they are, for example, days of the week, names of calendar months, English commands (stand up, sit down, etc.). With the more advanced speakers,  we have conversations that encourage them to speak in English.  The kids seem to be having more fun with these tailored approaches.  I know I am!  Exploring ways to teach children and keep them focused is turning out to be a lot more fun than I thought!


Based upon my experiences over the past week, I feel motivated that I can work with children in the United States and influence them in a positive way. I NEVER thought I would ever feel that way.  But, as the saying goes, "Never say never!"
La Chenna

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Week of February 4th-8th, 2013

            Once again, as the days go on, the children of SEAMs bring me close to tears (not only because they drive me crazy with their misbehavior), but more importantly because every day that gets closer to my departure reminds me that I will soon be far away from them again. I had already prepared myself for this trip knowing that 2 weeks flies by and that it’s never enough time to truly feel like I have been around the children long enough to say goodbye. But still, every day I wish I could stay longer, and every day I just want to rip up my plane ticket and tell my husband “too bad honey, I’m stuck in India!”

            Don and I had a delightful weekend, being typical tourists in Puducherry, Kanchipureem, and Mamallapurum. As we returned to the guesthouse, all Don kept saying was “oh goodness, how much I have to prepare! What am I going to do with these rambunctious children!” … and many other jokes about the difficulties of keeping the children’s attention at Grace School. So Monday evening I showed Don the grammar books I had used in 2011 which worked great at Grace School, both for the students and teachers. So he had a much more enjoyable day on Tuesday and Wednesday, focusing on present continuous forms and converting statements into questions. He also tried to teach the children a math quiz called Kenken but the concept seemed to be too difficult for them to understand.

            Monday I again met with Doctor Sister Rexline and the principal was once again unavailable, but Sister Rexline wanted to talk, so we spoke together for over an hour. She said that in the wards and in the ICU, many of the nurses will simply leave the urine foley bag filled and not empty it, or document vital signs when they didn’t really take the vitals (she used the example of a nurse who documented a normal temperature, but then the patient was found to have a really high temperature), or hang an IV drip and then never check the drip again for the rest of their shift. So she concluded that our presence in the ICU could develop into a very successful intervention to teach, educate and motivate the nurses, as well as promote professionalism among the nurses. She believes that through these actions, it has the potential to improve patient outcomes.

            Tuesday I had a very long, tiring day at Assisi by myself. Imagine 22 small children jumping up and down, smacking you on your head and pulling your hair, waiting for the nursery rhythms to end and for the games to begin, and the teacher looking at you saying “Okay, what’s next?” Thank goodness I brought crayons, coloring books and Don’s “Save-the-Day” chalk with me because that made the children very happy and busy. I then ended the afternoon with alphabet flash cards with animal sounds and singing the alphabet song about a hundred times. Therefore, Wednesday I came very prepared with alphabet letters, a jigsaw puzzle I had bought which had alphabet letters that connect with the corresponding word, building blocks, and to end the afternoon with a bang (or many bangs) we blew up balloons for them to play with. Usually my favorite part of Assisi during each visit is helping the children eat lunch, but this time my favorite part was helping them go to the potty. The teacher had put me in charge of potty time, so each child flings off their undies and pant or skirt, runs to the potty, and then eagerly comes over to me with their panties for me to put back on. As each of them place their hand on my shoulder and lift their leg up and say “Thank you Auntie,” I want to hug each one of them and never let go!

            This week was different from my previous four GV trips because at the last minute I realized there was a meeting in Bangalore with the Columbia University Alumni of India Club, and not only was the lecture about NGO’s, but the president of the club started a healthcare program in Delhi (not an NGO) and could help me look into the certification process of getting registered in India since my next stay with GV (if the project is approved) would be for 8-9 months, so I most likely will need a work visa. So I’m taking an adventure to Bangalore for not even 24-hours before I hop back onto the train. Finding my train platform was easy, but finding my seat was absolutely impossible so I finally (stubbornly) asked for help with only 5 minutes left before the train was about to depart. At least I had found the correct car before asking ;)  The meeting went well with the speakers being amazing, having done such great work for India with urban planning and citizen involvement in government actions. However, I learned that even with volunteering, if I’m going to be in India for greater than 6 months, I have to get a work visa, so now I need to research that in great detail. But to achieve Don’s team’s goal of “To Survive,” I will push forward and see what can be done in order for me to have a longer stay in India to help the volunteers.

            While I was away, Don was left pouting all by himself, with his favorite Grace School students to keep him company. He says that his teaching methods are going well, but there is one boy who is difficult to control, and the 3rd graders love to dance so he always treats them to a harmonica song at the end of the class. He taught the teachers songs as well. He also continued his one-to-one tutoring at SEAMs with many of the children rotating each day.

            As I was basking in the riches of Indian culture, sitting on a 6-hour train with no AC and a strange man next to me with outstretched legs over mine, reading a book from the GV shelf called “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture,” I came across this great quote from the author Marvin Harris – “If you don’t believe that a puzzle has an answer, you’ll never find it.” And that’s exactly how I feel about the mysterious and beautiful puzzle called India.



Journal Entry Friday, February 1, 2013

            Well, here we are again at the end of another wonderful week spent as Global Volunteers. I cannot believe all that we have accomplished this week as a small group of five strangers, coming together to work in concert with one another to make even the smallest difference in the lives of these children, who strive for our love and attention.

            Although I was supposed to go to the hospital today to meet with the Principal of the nursing school, she was unavailable since it was a school holiday but Sister Rexline said that she would be available on Monday, so I made my way to Assisi. At Assisi, the children were full of energy with very little crying events, so Layla, Ellen and Pat sang nursery rhymes, did their last hokie pokie and jumped up and down as little monkeys do. We then read alphabet books to the children as they sat in our laps, and kept them from hitting each other over the head with the books continuously. We then helped feed the little ones and open their water bottles for them. Pat started to get sentimental when we were leaving and Ellen made fun of Layla for crying when she really just had some lint in her eye. Don said that all the children at Grace School had “Friday-itis" and although he struggled to keep them focused, he succeeded in his quest to teach them English grammar, and then helped the teachers as always with their conversational English, comparing chicken prices in the U.S. to those in India.

            As Friday came closer, I thought of new ways that I could get Layla more involved with the children since I can tell that she loves caring for them. Yesterday I gave her more responsibility with keeping track of the times of each child’s ear cleaning and calling out each of their names. This not only gave her more interaction with the children, but it also helped her learn the children’s names as well. On the downside, it meant that she had to respond to each screaming child who would ask her every 30 seconds, “Sister, time? How many minutes?” Since we were able to finish the majority of children’s ears yesterday, today I had planned to start cleaning the girls’ finger and toenails, which would allow Layla to paint them afterwards with the nail polish I brought for them.

            As I said goodbye to Pat, Ellen and Layla, I gave a huge sigh of relief … just kidding! I have to joke about their departure in order to keep the thoughts of sadness to a minimum. Although Don is great company (besides scaring little girls into thinking there’s a dog, rooster and cat outside the doorway), it was an absolute pleasure spending time with my amazing group members who have made such a difference in the lives of the children this week. I am sure that Vijay and the other little ones at Assisi daycare will miss Pat’s gentle and nurturing presence over the next coming weeks, and the children at SEAM’s home will miss Layla and Ellen’s kind and warm natures.

            Although I am absolutely sure that I could find a better thought for the day, and especially for the week, I cannot help but use one of my favorite quotes related to who I am and how I like to view the world (plus a part of me thinks Pat, Ellen and Layla will enjoy it as they depart India): “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History.”




Journal Entry Thursday, January 31, 2013


Today was a particularly busy day, beginning with a morning trip to the flower and vegetable market for Maria, Layla, and Ellen. After breakfast the team when their separate ways, Maria spent the morning meeting with doctors at the hospital. After meeting with the ward doctor, emergency room doctor, and ICU doctor, she concluded that the best place for medical volunteers would most likely be the ICU.

Don continued his work at Grace School and is particularly enjoys spending time with the third graders. He has also begun preparing lessons for the teachers; topics include grammar exercises and comparing grocery prices between Chennai and the US.

Ellen, Pat, and Layla spent a joyful morning at Assisi, where even Sanjay (who has cried for the past three weeks) perked up and joined in with some of the activities. Everyone sang songs, read books, and for a special treat; colored with crayons.

For lunch today the team was invited to Steven’s parents house, we met his charming parents, and adorable niece, and ate much more than was probably good for us.  

The rest of the afternoon was spent in rest and preparation for SEAM, with the exception of a quick trip to the family store.

At SEAM Maria and Layla continued to clean the children’s ears. Senthil Kumar was announced the winner of the who-has-the-most-earwax-competition after Maria extracted lump of earwax the size of a small fly from his ear.

Ellen, Don, and Pat continued to teach the children at SEAM one on one. Ellen and Don both reported that the children they taught at SEAM where very squirrely. But they preservered. Pat, on the other hand, had a much more relaxing evening.

After a quiet dinner the team retired in preparation for what will be the final day of their week together.

-Mother Teresa.




Journal Entry Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Team #122 is working together well, and we are getting to know and like one another. Stephen and

Sheeba, as always, are gracious and helpful, doing all they can to make us comfortable and welcomed. And Roshan is a wonderful helper, counting place at the table, passing out food, and helping Ellen wash her hands after dinner. Rani keeps us all well fed on delicious Indian food, Barnabas watches over us, and  Stephen, our driver skillful gets us where we need to be.

Today particularly, we feasted – on dosas and peanut chutney for breakfast, a tasty lunch and then a special treat, a traditional South Indian meal served on banana leaves, which we attempted to eat with our right hands. There was much laughter and pleasant talk over dinner, fine ending to a productive day.

Maria stayed “home” this morning to work on plans for her health project while Pat, Layla and Ellen played with and loved the children at Assisi Illam. They, the children, were more cheerful than any day this week, with the exception of the little “crying boy’” who Pat tells us, has been crying for at least three weeks. Today he tried to make his escape through the kitchen door. Ellen followed him uyntil one of the young women helpers fetched him back.

Don’s time at Grace School is becoming more and more successful. He has been asked by the teachers there to stay after class to work with them.

We had a quiet afternoon, then back to SEAM’s, where Maria and Layla continued their ear cleaning. The boys are in competition as to who has the most earwax. Pat, Don and Ellen worked with nine moirĂ© children, three apiece. Two of Ellen’s students were Swathi and Sneha, whom she worked with two years ago. She notes that in her journal from that trip she wrote that Sneha was the only child she had run across in Chennai who drew free-hand, rather than copy from other drawings and that Swathi was “less creative, but more mischievous.

We were tired by the end of the day, but it was a satisfying sort of weariness, knowing we’d done our best.

“Every small thing we do is something that would not have been done if we didn’t do it.” 


Journal Entry Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Tuesday dawned with a better understanding of the “opposition” at Grace School, thus lending more confidence in reentering the battle zone.  After another hearty breakfast featuring rice cakes, etc., we listened to Pat’s journal account of Monday’s adventures.  Stephen reviewed the Plan of the Day and all departed to their respective duty stations. 

The Grace School classes, including the 30 minute class for the teaching staff, went quite well.  A picture worksheet on “What are they doing” occupied most of each class, while the final ten minutes were devoted to learning to sing “How Much is the Doggie in the Window”.  The third and fourth grade students were particularly enthusiastic about the singing effort, which was enhanced by harmonica and animal sounds.  The fifth graders were much like fifth graders around the world, feigning disinterest, but really displaying a decent knowledge of English when pressed.  Ellen, Pat and Layla played with the kids, taught nursery rhymes and sang motion songs at Assisi Allam.  Maria met with Sister Rexline (MD) to discuss tasks and responsibilities of a potential Global Volunteer supported health program, using Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants.

Class preparation continued after lunch.  Power was off from 4 to 6 as usual.  The team spent 5 to 7 at SEAMS. Maria and Layla continued ear wax removal.   Ellen, Pat and Don continued one-on-one tutoring sessions with the students, averaging 3 students each per evening.

Thought for the Day:  “I’ve learned that you should never tell a child that their dreams are unlikely or outlandish.  Few things are more humiliating and what a tragedy it would be if they believed it!”


Journal Entry Monday, January 28, 2013


Today was this team’s first work day. Ellen, Layla, Maria and I went to Assisi. Maria and Stephen enjoyed talking with Sister Rose about their health project. The children had fun being swung around by Layla and Maria. It feels good to have younger volunteers here. We easily broke down into four groups when it was time to read. Later, we played games and sang action songs. The children seemed more relaxed today.

Don found teaching at Grace School a challenge and said that the best part of his day was 12:30: that he could identify with the little boy at Assisi who couldn’t wait to go home after lunch at 12:30, He is busy tonight working on new strategies to engage his students tomorrow.

At Seams it was time to clean the children’s ears. I’m sure the twelve children who had their ears by Maria with Layla assisting can now hear better. Ellen and Don did very well with the older children, conversing with them, in addition to teaching math and reading. Stephen was very helpful to me, explaining that my young boys were making progress.  I felt more confident that the simple tasks in which we were engaged were at the appropriate level.

Our team met our most important goal of the day which was to survive.

Do not take lightly small good deeds,

Believing they can hardly help,

For drops of water one by one,

In  time can fill a giant pot.



Global Volunteers India, Team 122 Journal

Journal Entry Sunday, January 27, 2013

            Well, here I am again in beautiful India! Both of my flights from New York to London and then to Chennai had screaming children sitting directly behind me, so I smiled as I was reminded of the thought of being with the rambunctious children (and Roshan) soon enough. I also gave a big sigh of relief as I entered Heathrow and saw that there was not a single snowflake on the ground this time. It’s funny how each airport has its own distinct smell, and as strange as it may seem, as soon as I exited the plane, I felt a warm sensation come over me from the familiar smell of the Indian terminal. As I left the Chennai airport, ecstatic to have my luggage in hand this time, I was surprised to immediately spot Stephen’s smiling face among the hundreds of people waiting for friends and family. And as soon as we drove up to the guesthouse, all I could say was “Ah, home sweet home.” Hello India, my 2nd home.

            The following day I awoke to meet my warm and friendly group members. Ellen and her lovely granddaughter Layla have travelled all the way from Portland, Oregon and have already done a tourist trip around Delhi and Kerala last week. Ellen volunteered two years ago in India and enjoyed the trip so much that she wanted to share the experience with Layla, who actually is a senior in high school and interested in International Relations and NGO work. She’s also a middle child like me so she rocks. Besides what she tries to say about her degree in English Literature not being useful, Ellen is very well accomplished with 18 published children’s books, so I’m sure she will offer amazing lessons to the children. Pat came all the way from Needham Massachusetts and she happened to be involved in one of the original Global Volunteer groups to India 11 years ago! She also has done 6 other Global trips, including Ukraine and Vietnam after retiring as a psychiatric nurse, for which we give huge amounts of respect for her career. Last but certainly not least is Don. Don wasn’t present in the morning when we first started breakfast since he had gone with Stephen and Sheeba to Sunday Mass. But boy did he make an entrance when he arrived. As soon as Don opens his mouth, wonderful tales of romance, drama, and excitement fill the air. Since I was just discussing my recent wedding with the group, Don chimed in and told us the amazing adventure he had to take in order to convince his wife to marry him. My husband is a shy engineer and I am the first girl he’s ever kissed. Apparently back in the day in order for engineers to pick up girls, they had to go help out at the convent where girls from other countries were staying before they could get a steady job. Needless to say, Don doesn’t seem the typical shy engineer to me, and he soon found a beautiful Nicaraguan girl he fell in love with. So he wrote to her from the Navy and asked her to marry him, and he had to wait 2 months to hear her reply as her letter travelled around the Navy post until it finally found him. He then lost his entire life’s worth and almost lost his stomach as well taking a train, bus, car, boat and all-stop flight out to Nicaragua to marry her (I’m not sure about the boat part, but I added it in for effect). Don has 5 children and 10 grandchildren, so I think it was worth it in the end.

            After discussing life, love and India, our group had our orientation with the best individual goal coming from Don, simply stated : “To Survive.” My goals were a lot more specific since this trip is very different for me as I have to meet with Doctor Sister Rexline to find out what specific services or assistance might be needed from Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants.  I have been working with Global Volunteers to form a partnership with Sister Rexline to create a sustainable healthcare program involving nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Yet, there is still much more I need to learn about global health logistics and treatment strategies in resource-poor areas.

            In the evening we made our way to SEAM’s Children’s Home. As always, the children surrounded us with their eager hands, hearts and enthusiasm. The boys and girls still surprise me with things they remember about me, and tricks I can do. Yet the newer younger ones still make me feel bad by telling me their names and then 5 minutes later asking me “sister, what is my name?” as I embarrassingly try to change the subject or let another child whisper to me what his or her name is. After they sang and danced for us, the children screeched in amazement as Don showed off his animal impressions (the rooster is my personal favorite), but I’m worried about Don losing his voice by the 2nd day. The nicest moment of the evening was when Rajesh shook Don’s hand and in the same moment pointed to me and said “Don, this is Maria, she is my sister.”

            To end the night with spice, we went to an Indian restaurant called Anjappar. On the way to the restaurant, Don and Layla enjoyed the wind in their hair as they got to ride in their first open 3-wheeled taxi. To everyone’s delight, Stephen ordered us meals to share, including Tandoori chicken, chicken fried rice and mutton naan. I introduced one of my favorite starters, Gobi 65, to Layla since she said she loved cauliflower. I don’t think she’ll like cauliflower in the states anymore after eating deep fried spicy Indian cauliflower. We were stuffed beyond believe as we headed back to the guesthouse. As Don, Stephen and I attempted to cross the street without being run over, Stephen scolded me as I hesitated and Don almost fell over the stone we were standing on in the middle of the road.

            I look forward to learning more about my team members and sharing the coming week with them. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.”

-        Maria