Thought for the day: My thought for today is really a paraphrase of lines from "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth. His words: "Thanks to the tenderness, its joys, and fears, thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." My words: Thanks to SEAMS children, their joys and cares, thoughts do often lie too deep for tears."
Throughout Thursday, a scratchy throat and irritated nasal passages told me that I must have met something that causes an allergic reaction. By Thursday night, the scratchy throat had grown far more bothersome and my sinuses were not happy. Still I was certain the cause of it all was some allergy. During the night the situation intensified and I grew certain that it was not an allergy; the cough, the sore throat, and loss of a sense of well being sent a chill through my body. All right, not a chill because it is really warm here, but a terrible feeling came over me. It was not just a question of whether I could meet with the children, but whether I would be severely tested on my flight home. The images of this old woman checking her luggage, passing through customs, waiting for a changing flight, all were most unpleasant. As I tossed and turned when sleep failed me, random thoughts scattered in my mind.
Am I, at my age, a fool to travel to faraway places in a quest to serve and try to make the world a better place? I would hope that I am not, but I do know that the body is not as willing as the mind. I also know that whatever contribution I make can never be equaled by the rewards I receive from the Global Volunteer experiences.
Among my random thoughts were those about cows. Cows are ubiquitous on the lanes, the streets, and highways here in Chennai. A cow with a calf at her udder in the middle of the highway slowed traffic as cars and other vehicles swerved around the animals. As we traveled to school, we encountered cows along side the lane, on the lane, or simply walking across the lane. The two black cows just outside the Global Volunteers Guest House was a normal occurrence, although Sheeba said that cows were not often there. The two had found a nice shady spot to rest. Yet in my random thoughts, I wondered about cow manure. What happens to the manure? When we returned from SEAMS last night, a truth hit me. Any girl who grew up or on farms in the
This morning, I began to feel somewhat better; I should not go to school, but it apparent that I will be able to manage a return flight back home. Situations always look more difficult in the dark of night. Sheeba made a special tea for me that I believe will work wonders and I will spend a bit of time catching up on the sleep I missed last night.
I am disappointed that the special last day will pass by without me being with the children at
Saranya tugs at my heart always. She is so loving and so in need of love. Yet, I suspect that school is most challenging for her. We spent lots of time working on pronouncing words and understanding the sounds of various letters in the English alphabet. Saranya is in the 10th standard so I am so concerned about her. Saranya is a delight, a girl who brings joy like a big package to so many around her.
Aneesh has the eyes that look into one's very soul. A man-boy with such a sense of responsibility. He assumes the role of a man when he crushes bricks for a building project or helps install the screens at the home. He is a most thoughtful boy who patiently taught me to say "see you tomorrow" in his native tongue. Aneesh would like to become a computer engineer and I have no doubt that if the doors are open for him to do so, he will succeed. He is a motivated and bright student.
These are but a few of the faces that pass before me in my mind who have changed my life forever and who will indelibly be imprinted on my memory. I long to have them be successful and caring adults. SEAMS offers them an opportunity that would not be available to them otherwise.
And one's heart cannot be touched by Stephen Raja and his beautiful wife, Sheeba. In this world there are good souls who make each day a better one for those around them. It is so with Stephen and Sheeba. My life is richer for knowing them.
It is so difficult to write about the last evening at SEAMS. I am so filled with sadness and yet I know that I must leave tomorrow. I met with some of the girls this evening, each one is now a dear friend. We shared goodbyes, while I thought how often these children must say good bye to Global Volunteers. So there is a bittersweet feeling that flows tonight. When Saranya gave me a tight, big hug and said, "Sister, we are best friends," I felt the pull to return to
Thought for Today; "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others." Mahatma Gandhi
Our morning drive began a bit differently this morning. Two black cows were lying near the gate to the Global Volunteer Guest House. I suspect that they will remain for quite a while since they have found a shady place to rest.
It was another good day at
After returning to the Guest House this afternoon, Stephen drove Stephen Raja and me to Stephen's family home for lunch. It was so very pleasant to meet his family. They are so very kind and we enjoyed both great food and good conversation before we returned to the Guest House for the remainder of the afternoon.
Tonight's time at SEAMS had an undercurrent of preparing for a special event; the pastor's birthday will be celebrated this weekend. Tidying up and preparing for at least 700 people is no small task. I met with several girls this evening and enjoyed the time as we read, worked on some special skills in both math and English language. The electricity failed several times. At first we simply moved the table and chairs outside library and carried on. When it became too dark, some boys delivered a large light for us to work by. When the electricity came back on, we returned to the library for the remainder of the evening. The girls that I have been with at SEAMS are such beautiful young girls, kind and loving. I shall miss both the girls and the boys, and I shall remain concerned about their paths to success.
I must prepare for my last day of classes. I do so with mixed feelings. I look forward to returning home to see family and friends, but I also know that I will miss the new friends I have made in Chennai. Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I can't believe that it is Wednesday and there are only two more days with the children. I will truly miss them.
Today was a lovely day at
The fourth graders and I built a "chart" of the multiples of nine. After I wrote on the chalk board that nine is unusual, a word we talked about since we could talk about the meaning and opposites, I also wrote that nine is an odd number and we talked about the two meanings of odd. I finished off with the big word that is not part of their vocabulary, but big words are fun. Nine is extraordinary. We than explored the crazy world of nine.
After we finished with nine, we spent some time with letters that form the sound of A, like ai and eigh. We built words with those letters and then alphabetized our list of words that we had put on the chalk board.
The chain word experience seems to be one that the children love so we finished class with that. Their vocabulary is quite impressive and their excitement when they come up with the connecting English words is fun to behold.
Stephen drove me home from the school; it is quite a jaunt from the Global Volunteers Guest House.
Today I met with five boys at Christ the
The fourth grade is such a delight. We began class with some tongue twisters and then changed the tenses of the verbs and continued to twist our tongues. We "played" with English words and their sounds and such, finishing off by making chain words on the chalk board...
After class, Sheeba and I traveled to The Central Cottage Industry Emporium. What a lovely shopping place, especially when one understands that the proceeds from the sale of the goods go to the cottage businesses that created them. I bought far more lovely elephants than I should have, but for my children, family, and friends, I could never acquire enough.
The evening at SEAMS presented yet another interesting challenge. The library was open, but the electricity was not working so I met with the children outside the library until it began to rain when we scurried into the library. Fortunately electrical power had been restored. Through it all, time with the SEAMS children is always wonderful.
When we arrived at SEAMS, I met the pastor's wife -- a lovely woman. Noticed that the yard had been swept in a beautiful pattern that would remain until footprints changed that and the rain fell. As I prepared to climb the stairs to the library, I stepped around the children washing their clothes on the clean cement. The small children as well as the older ones are responsible for doing their laundry. They hang it to dry upstairs and outside the library. Of course, when the rain began to fall, they also scurried to get their clothes from the lines and walls.
We returned to the Guest House where I began to think about plans for school tomorrow. It was a fine day.
Today I am wearing the red circle on my forehead and jasmine blossoms in my hair, thanks to Sheeba who so kindly attempted to make me more beautiful. I also smile when I partake of the variety of Indian dishes, dishes that were unfamiliar to my palate, but which I have come to appreciate. I smile because of Stephens’s account of returning to Chennai from
My experience with the fifth graders at the school was more than delightful. I worked with a small group of girls on calculating passage of time, a skill that was beyond their understanding at first. Remembering that there are sixty minutes in an hour is finally a fact that they can remember and use in their calculations of passage of time. We became so excited about working with the "problems" that I had little girls begging for more problems so they could work them in their notebooks so I could check them and affirm that they had calculated correctly. One little boy managed to "escape" the regular classroom to "join" us to work some of the problems as well. Although the concept was one of review, this was the first that the students had that "AHA" moment and grasped the process. The teacher for the fifth graders has a very large multi-aged class that makes teaching concepts especially difficult. AHA for the day!
The 4th graders, a sweet bunch of students with a wonderful and effective teacher, practiced listening to English directions as I took them through the steps of making paper boats. Each mastered the step by step process which concluded with a boat in each student’s hands. We then did language exercises centered on boat sentences: everything from verb tenses, to rhyming words, to use of apostrophes to show possession, too proper and common nouns, and the list goes on. These concepts are all reviews of what they have studied this year and will be tested over soon.
Tonight presented an interesting challenge. When we arrived at SEAMS, we learned that the pastor had the keys to the library so we had no way to enter it. I met with the students outside the library with just my bag of tablet paper, pens and a few books. The library books were no more available than the library itself. The time passed quickly as we did some impromptu lessons in math and reading English; then we moved on to creating questions and answers written on my yellow pad. Before the evening was over we were working under a bulb by the library door. The library is on the second floor so our time spent together was as though we were in the trees. When we arrived at SEAMS one of the boys was just finishing his laundry, a task done by hand out doors. They are responsible for their laundry, hanging it up outside the library area, and hopefully gathering it in before the rain falls. That area also contains the special container gardens that the children for which the children are providing the care. I must say that I have grown to love and care about this children. As my last week begins to pass, I know that I will miss them very much.
Sunday's adventure took us to Mamallapuram. Sheeba and Roshan joined the two Stephens and me for the trip. It is a tourist spot located on the shore. We were not there to enjoy the shore; rather we walked about and marveled at the stone carvings. In the location we first visited on our way to Mamallapuram had granite carvings that date back to the 7th century. The carvings in Mamallapuram itself were carved later and demonstrate the skill learned through the centuries. The history and stories that are part of the carvings is so very interesting. I must explore the history and stories of these carvings further when I return to
Since we left early this morning, I am taking a short rest this afternoon, preparing a bit for tomorrow, and joining the family for dinner at a restaurant this evening.
Thought for the day - I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, I woke and I saw that life is all service, I served and I saw that service is joy.
Today we did not meet with the children. Instead, Stephen (Stephen Raja's brother) drove Stephen and me to Kancheepuram. We left early in the morning to avoid the hotter afternoon sun. The trip took at least two hours. There are European crazy drivers, there are
We stopped on our way to walk through Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial, the place where he was slain by a suicidal person. It is a beautiful peaceful, place. The five tall spires with golden tops stand for the issues that were important to Gandhi.
We continued on our way to Kancheepuram and arrived under cloudy skies. It managed to be warm and very humid. I was barefoot for the time we spent at the temples. Awesome. Stephen told the stories that went with many of the carvings and the temples themselves. I gave an offering to the elephant who then placed his trunk on my bowed head.
When I return to the States, I must learn more about these temples and about
Thought for the Day: Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. Albert Einstein
I was quite exhausted after our big day yesterday and the accumulating affect of the change in time so I didn't go to the school to work with the 4th and 5th graders today. I feel a bit guilty, but I also know that if I am to hold out for the full time I am here, I must pace myself.
One of the dear ladies who came to SEAMS yesterday is now my Face Book friend. What wonderful women they are to take the day to bring joy to the children at the Home. They bring home-made food to share with the children, as well as organizing games with prizes for them. And they have been doing this for 19 years. It appears that it is a tradition that will continue. I spent some time talking with a young woman, and 11th grader, who joined her mother to be part of the group. She shared family photos with me; her father is an engineer, her 22 -year-old brother has completed his studies to be an engineer as well.
I do plan to go to SEAMS to work with the children tonight. I feel much more rested now.
My time with some of the children raised questions for me. I asked Stephen and Sheeba what happens to those children, especially those girls, who do not learn to read. If they do not pass the necessary exams at the end of the tenth year, it can pose a problem. If there is family with the means, a marriage might be in their future. It becomes more desperate if there is no family and no means. If the students can pass the exam, then they may proceed to additional schooling. The roles of nurse or teacher are then an option. My reason for raising the question became important because tonight I spent time with a most cheerful and kind girl who is in her tenth year, but is unable to sound out words. She relies upon photos and memory of stories to say the words. For example she may point to the word 'ship" and say "boat." She is such a lovely young girl that my heart hurts when I realize that circumstances have prevented her from reading. It may be that she came to the Home too late to address any educational needs, but certainly the public schools do not do a good job of actually identifying those who may need help. The classes are large; the teachers are few and not always qualified. To really teach those who need the help. The children are caught in a difficult situation; because of their circumstances their only option is public school, while those from homes with tee means may attend private schools.
After my discussion with Stephen, he asked if I would like to meet for longer sessions with Saranya; of course, my response is yes, and yes again. I fear that such a limited time will not bring optimum results, but if I can help her the time will be well spent. We will work on the sounds of letters and blends with the hope that provides a key to reading English for her.
I met with Aneesh tonight as well. What a bright young boy. When he left, he said that we need to return to some additional long division problems so he can become even better. He has been one of the best readers that I have encountered at SEAMS. That he is a thoughtful and kind young boy is a bonus.
I shall miss the SEAMS students when I return to the States. There are only five more days of meeting with them next week before I must leave.
Thought for the day - There are o foreign lands. It is the traveler who is foreign.
Indian Independence Day
Because of the holiday, I slept in a little longer than usual. Big mistake. I should have shampooed my hair and made myself look a bit better, but the reason becomes clearer a bit later in my journal. There is no school today, but Stephen, Sheeba and I, along with Roshan, went to SEAMS around 10:30 with the plan to nail strips on some windows so we could install screens. I dressed for that occasion -- tee shirt and scrub pants.
As we were ready to depart for SEAMS, a little impromptu parade in celebration of the special day walked down the street that intersects the lane in front of the Global Volunteers Guest House.
Again, the lanes were especially treacherous with a great deal of standing water and slick mud with pot holes hidden beneath all sorts of water and mud. I am so pleased that we did not have to walk to the Home. We arrived at the SEAMS before the children had returned from their school celebration. As soon as they arrived, they unlocked the library so we could begin to pound our nails on the strips that would keep the screens in place. I think every child at the Home wished to assist. Anish and Sarana proved to be the best of "carpenters" to help, but the others were shooed out of the way. We successfully installed screens in the library with the assistance of some of the students.
I noticed many lovely ladies had descended on the Home with their stainless steel containers of food. Because of the holiday these ladies bring food and have games with the children to celebrate the special Independence Day. They implored us to come for five minutes to watch the games and the five minutes grew into several hours. There were many photos taken, all of which Anuja promised to post on FaceBook. I look like a drowned rat in most of them with hair that was damp from both the rain and perspiration; working in the close area of the small library on an upper story did not produce great photography material. The women were most gracious and insisted on many photos to be taken with me. Oh, My! The games were small competitions with little prizes awarded to first and second place winners. I was asked to be a part of the presentation of prizes -- again photos. Then the five minutes continued to grow as we were invited to join the children for lunch. The women had brought home-made dishes that they served on banana leaves. I was most thankful that I have mastered the art of eating with my fingers. Each dish was most tasty; I enjoyed the rice pudding the most. It is a delectable, delicate, sweet tapioca pudding dish seasoned beautifully. My dad would have loved it.
After more photographs, Stephen's family and I excused ourselves to return to the Guest House. The children and the ladies would have preferred for us to spend the rest of the day with them. Yet, we plan to return to the Home for my evening helping the children with English and math skills while Stephen and Sheeba will spend time the rest of the children.
Around 5 p.m. we rode to SEAMS; the recent rain and construction have made the lanes like stormed tossed seas, except we are on hard earth under the mud and large, very large puddles. The cost of this weather and the related conditions has made it difficult for venders to sell their goods. I was impressed by the sight of the young man who delivered eggs. Literally dozens and dozens of eggs in three dozen flats were packed on the back of his three-wheeled bike. I saw him several times restocking his supply for delivery in the rain. I can't begin to imagine how he navigated through the bumps, puddles, slippery mud and traffic to deliver this fragile cargo. But I must return to our evening at SEAMS. I met with a number of very bright young children: Aneesh is so very smart. We reviewed some math problems and then he read to me about volcanoes. He is so very inquisitive and quite fluent in English. What a delightful young man. Aneesh told me he would like to become a computer engineer. I certainly hope that goal is attainable. I also met with Sweety again; she is in the tenth grade. We did some reading together and every time we met a contraction in the story, she would tell me (most of the time) what the contraction meant. Sweety and I also talked about Gandhi and Independence Day. She told me about Republic day that first was celebrated in January of 1950. Joyce is younger; she too is very bright. She is so very quick with math skills and understanding. And, she is an excellent reader of English.
The evening always passes too quickly. We returned to the Global Volunteer Guest House, where I watched a bit of a comedy movie with Stephen's family in Tamil language. I could follow the story, but decided to turn in for the evening. We had so very much to eat while we were at SEAMS earlier in the day; I decided to pass up another big meal tonight. Sheeba gave me a taste of a very sweet dish -- it was so very good, but I am more than full and truly ready for bed. I cannot believe that tomorrow is the last day of my first week here. During those days, I have met children every day, including Saturday and Sunday. It has been very good.
Thoughts for the Day: I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. William Faulkner
The rain, the sound of glorious rain, awakened me early, very early, this morning. Although the rain made for a rather wet outing today and roads that were more than muddy, it was a welcome rain for those concerned about the water table in this part of
Today at the school, I taught in two classes, fifth and fourth grade. The fifth grade continues to be a puzzle. The principal had requested that I present materials in unit one as a review for the fifth standard; unfortunately they must not have retained anything from the previous weeks. I suspect their inability to perform the simple work makes behavior an additional problem. We worked on clocks and measuring time. They could put time on the clocks and also tell what time is marked on the clock. But to measure the time between to events eluded them. We reviewed how to count and measure the hours and minutes between two events. This became even more challenging when it became clear that some of the students did not grasp the idea of 60 minutes in an hour. The frustration of being so lost trickles down to lack of attention and behavior concerns. Clearly the students need to work on some skills so Stephen has suggested that I work with them in very small groups. It's an idea that I like and hope we can get the agreement of the classroom teacher.
The fourth grade performed wonderfully; their participation showed that they understood the concepts. Their teacher is to be commended for assuring that this happens. I have observed her when she is working with just the fourth grade alone (without having the fifth graders thrown into the mix) and found her to be most capable, caring and positive with the children. The morning with the fourth grade was so very rewarding.
When I returned from school, Stephen, Sheeba and I enjoyed lunch. Stephen informed the principal yesterday that I had mastered (or nearly so) the art of eating with my fingers without the aid of a fork. I am finding it a most convenient method for eating the interesting Indian food.
I decided to take a short rest after lunch because I had arisen far too early this morning. Unfortunately, I really rested and barely woke up in time for our evening at SEAMS Children's Home. Tonight I spent time with some of the same older girls. We read a bit and worked on multiplication and division problems and strategies. I am always called away from these sessions -- the time passes far too quickly.
Tomorrow promises to be a very different day. The children have no school since August 15 is
I am rather tired tonight so will turn in a bit early and look forward to tomorrow. Meanwhile, plans are underway for me to take a few trips to see the sights this weekend.
Oh, yes, I am learning some interesting facts about
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Thoughts for the Day: The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon for each day to have a new and different sun. Christopher McCandless
I awakened early this morning anxious about how to handle the large group of 4th and 5th graders. The anxiety was ill-placed. Stephen joined me in the classroom and delight of delights; the classroom held only fourth graders. It was a small group and certainly more manageable than the large group of the previous day. The class was well behaved and the teacher was far more relaxed than yesterday
all with good reason. She was required to take an extra class because the fifth grade (they are called fifth standard) teacher was absent.
After I presented the lesson, Stephen and I spent some time with the principal who had not been present at school the previous day. What an interesting and helpful man. The principal provided me with books for the fourth and fifth standard which should prove most helpful. My fears about serving at the school have been allayed and Life Is Good once again. I must thank Stephen and Sheeba for putting up with my concerns.
This evening, we returned to SEAMS Children's Home where I met with more young girls individually. Although each had her own strengths, it is clear that they differ in many abilities. We spent time with words, math, and reading. Again, I was ready to stay longer than the time allotted.
Thoughts for the Day: Your basket and my basket will feed the nation. Mauri saying gleaned from the
Cook Islands trip
Last evening we experienced another bit of rain. I could hear it falling and thought about the muddy lane near the
It was not a problem since I was provided a car ride to the first school
for the day. The trip was one that assaulted the senses: I love the
aroma of cooking with the exotic spices of Global
Volunteer Center , but there are sometimes
other odors that creep into the car as well. Yet, the spices are what I
most notice and appreciate. My eyes were filled with the colors of the
women in their beautiful saris, the yellow of the autobuses (those three
wheeled vehicles that weave their way through the traffic of cars, small buses
and motor bikes), and the buildings covered with signs and lovely colors.
Today I saw for the first time cows roaming free on the lanes.
Sheeba, Stephen's wife and assistant, told me some people feed them so
they stay close and are available for quick drinks of milk. Of course,
there were a few goats, dogs, and chickens sharing a piece of the roadway.
The sounds -- always the grumble and rumble of the motor bikes weaving
their ways through the traffic and the beeps of car horns warning pedestrians
and cars alike of their approach. Stephen (Stephen Raja's brother) drove
us to the school this morning, maneuvering his car through the animals,
pedestrians, the motor bikes and other vehicles. India
For an old school teacher, this morning's class was quite an experience. Stephen had told me that there is a shortage of teachers, a truth that became most evident. I popped into a classroom of nearly sixty 4th and 5th graders. They were quite a handful, especially since nearly half of them were seated on the floor. Apparently, the teacher was covering two classes. This situation promises to be a challenge because the teacher rules with a stick and provides lessons in a way so very different from the process in the States. I shall do my best to help the students be more effective with the English language.
Tonight provided a delightful experience. I worked one on one with children at SEAMS Children Home. Tonight it was three girls; the time passed far too quickly. It is so easy to love these children. I met with some of the older girls -- very bright and very interesting. We played with building words, interesting math facts, reading and conversation. I could have stayed for another hour easily. Even an older lady can stay up a bit late.
We had an extra passenger for our ride home. Stephen and Sheeba brought one of the children with us to be taken to the hospital to look into the problem that might arise since he swallowed something like a safety pin (I think). All is well and now that he has been fed an evening meal, Stephen and Sheeba are taking him home and picking up their son Roshan. Stephen and Sheeba are such caring people and truly a gift to the community.
Now need to be ready for tomorrow.
It's Sunday in Chennai and I overslept so I didn't join Stephen and his family for church this morning. I must awaken early next Sunday so I can be with them in church. Perhaps the sleep was necessary for me to get my days and nights oriented and be ready for my week.
Stephen spent time with me in and introductory orientation and I must say that it was excellent. In the short time that I have been in Chennai, I have learned so much; Jamie provided a good introduction on Saturday and Stephen continued the process this morning. I began to work on my plans for tomorrow. I will meet new students tomorrow morning and then return to SEAMS later in the day.
This evening, Stephen drove his family and me back to SEAMS for another get-acquainted experience. When we arrived, we were met with a plethora of sensory delights: a number of beautiful fires were burning over and under big pots, the aroma of food cooking on the open fire, and the cacophony of the children shouting as they ran to greet us. What fun! The children played games and I had the opportunity to talk with some of the students. The evening activities ended too soon and we drove back to the