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 children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo EmersonLa 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