Aurélien, Jessica and Melanie – Summer 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tushita Foundation India

 

Summer 2013 – Volunteers’ Journal

 

July 8, Monday

 

Jessica:

My first day at the Foundation, from start to finish, was wonderful. All the teachers were very kind and the children were incredibly endearing, eager to express their own knowledge and skills as well as their curiosity about us. We mostly spent the day visiting the different classrooms and quickly introducing ourselves and asking the children about their names, age, etc… As I expected, I particularly enjoyed sitting down with the little ones as my own experience with children has been with children of a similar age. Although their level of English is still rather low due to their very young age, I was still impressed with the knowledge they possessed and also admittedly couldn’t resist their adorable faces. The older ones, however, really impressed me with their intelligence and sweet demeanor. Despite the fact that this day was quite tiring, it has only increased my level of excitement for the remainder of the summer.

 

Aurélien:

 

This morning I woke up quite abruptly while we started our first yoga session with the vigorous Manisha. Jessica and Mellie are apparently a lot more flexible than I am but the daily training should enable me to catch up! We devoured a fruity breakfast and got in the car that would drive us to Amber along with Veenaji, Puru and Gajubana. I remember now – enjoying a while of farniente on the terrace – that we were a lot more talkative on the way to the Tushita Foundation than on the way back, not less enthusiastic of course; but our first day of volunteering has been exhausting: the children are full of energy! We started a two-hour long conversation with the kids’ teachers from whom we received a warm welcome. We are going to share our language skills, as it is required to speak English and only English in the school. We had a very good spicy meal all together and we kept talking until the arrival of our pupils. Today has been an introductory day. After their teachers gave us a very nice and comprehensive introduction of the Foundation, the children arrived at two o’clock. We visited each class for one hour, beginning with the younger and finishing with the elder. Thus we could introduce ourselves to the kids and ask them if they had question for us – they had! – so that we could have a first impression of their characters, interests, their hobbies, as well as their English level. “Good morning Sir! – How are you? – Sir, can you come back at our table? – Are you married? – Do you like cricket?” They were very happy to meet us and everybody seemed really thrilled to be back at the Foundation. So was I! I had the chance to visit last year and I knew that I would do all I could to come and meet them again. I can’t wait to teach my geography classes! After meeting the first group of children, Puru and I took the boys to the field and played soccer for almost two hours with them, while Jessica and Mellie were playing games with the girls. We then met the second group for one more hour, we talked to one hundred and three children today, every single of them was adorable! Looking forward to tomorrow!

 

Mellie:

 

Somewhere between exhaustion and elation, here I am, in Jaipur, enjoying the sweet scent of rain and writing you these words. So far everything has been a dream. Aurélien, Jessica and Puru are lovely. Gaju Bana and Veenaji, Lal Singh and Devi Singh, Rohit in Delhi, and many more have been more than wonderful to us. We have everything we need and more and are very comfortable here at the Tushita House. Particularly Veenaji’s cooking has been the greatest delight. As much as I usually try to avoid speaking for other people, I am sure neither A. nor J. would disagree. India has been very good to us too. While it is hot, hot,  hotter than any European summer, Jaipur is thankfully far less humid than Delhi, and therefore quite bearable. But even besides the weather, I’ve already had many interesting experiences so far. One of the more dramatic incidents has involved a pigeon flying into the fan on our second day in the Tushita House. One of the funnier ones has been a true rickshaw adventure while trying to go for a swim, due to a series of misunderstandings and summer renovation bad luck.

While I could write pages of pages of anecdotes, I will rein in my penchant for long-winded elaborations and tell you about my first day of school! G. and V. have been good to ease us into the process, so after a nice long weekend of exploring Jaipur, our first day has been more about getting to know the foundation, the teacher, and of course the kids! They are wonderful. Absolutely polite, friendly, interested and adorable. As far as first impressions go, they certainly made a good one.

Later we visited all the classes, introduced ourselves and spoke to the children. As someone who has not really had much contact with children, you may recall from the interview, I did not know what to expect. Thankfully everyone involved made me feel very much at ease, and I soon found myself discussing everything from the alphabet, handwriting, names, onto favourite animals, colours, hobbies and even the dream of an underwater submarine journey. Most of the day however was spent outside of the classrooms, in the courtyard. The boys played football with the boys and some of the girls, while the other half of the pink ladies preferred to hang around with Jess and I and go through a repertoire of other less sportive activities. We tossed the hot potato, wandered blindfolded around the courtyard and exchanged hairstyle and henna tips. In any case, I promised to braid my hair tomorrow!

Regarding the level of English… Some of the kids are already impressively fluent. Those who weren’t still made a real effort to communicate, whether through body language or a little help from their friends. Overall, simple conversation was very much possible and honestly, very fun! I can speak mostly about the girls with whom I had the most interaction with today, and I was very pleased to see that they weren’t at all prissy or sensitive but very open and ready for a laugh. The old switcheroo where you pretend to aim a ball in one direction but end up throwing it in the other got them every time.

Overall, while very tiring, my first day at the Tushita Foundation has been a great experience. In terms of lesson plans, I think I will really need to work on subjects and approaches suitable for the different English levels of the students, which also means having to adjust the rudimentary preparations and ideas I’ve collected so far. My Montessori Mum thankfully suggested I incorporate a lot of games in the teaching, which will especially come in handy for the younger bunch. I found a set of small plastic toys of different animals which I brought with me, which I will transform into a typical Austrian game called ‘Blinde Kuh’, whereby some kids are blindfolded, feel the object they’re holding and then have to say what it is. Depending on how eager they are, or maybe to make it more attractive for the older ones, maybe they could be asked to describe and justify their answers. For example, “I think this is a giraffe because it has a long neck.” I also brought some mini 20-ish pieces puzzles, UNO and black peter cards. The Black Peter cards could be useful to teach jobs, but I still have to think about how to make the puzzles and UNO and English language learning experience. I’m also thinking of making a more PC version of Guess Who with aliens. I would design 20 paint-by-numbers aliens, so that the kids can colour them in and also play the game with more fun characteristics, such as pink hair and triangular heads. But this is still very much a work in progress.

Besides games I think I will choose a thematic approach, especially for the older ones. Either I will use stories and articles à la Geeti and Amy, but I also think it is important for them to learn everyday English. I plan on using a lot of theatre methods for this, especially roleplaying. The kids seem to really like movies, so maybe we could stage a scene in a cinema where the kids can discuss what they want to watch. Maybe even assign them “roles”, e.g. Child A plays someone who likes comedies while Child B wants to watch an action movie, which one do they choose? Do they go for the compromise, a romance movie, or do they try to convince each other, or do they choose to go play cricket instead? Or maybe even let them test situations they might actually be confronted with sometime in their life, e.g. a tourist in Amber asks them for directions to the fort, for a restaurant recommendation, for information about India (“What kind of languages are spoken in India?”, “What’s the national animal?” and so on). I think putting their English to use in this way will on one hand allow them to practice new words, negotiation skills but also showcase their creativity. What do you think?

I’ve also been teaching myself the accompaniments of some sing-a-long songs on the piano. But I have to talk to Gaju Bana and Veenaji about how and especially when I’m going to sing with the children, because I just found out today that Saturday is activity day, whereas I thought I was going to be letting Maria von Trapp loose every day. But it’s not too tragic, maybe Saturday can be the singing day and on other days we discuss the vocabulary of the songs or do assignments related to them. One of the songs for example is the theme song from A Land Before Time, and I also brought a dinosaur picture book with me. I don’t know how keen the children are on dinos, but when I was a little girl I only dreamed of becoming a palaeontologist (and a ballerina, and a doctor, and an astronaut, …), but if they’re up for it, I would love to teach them a little about dinosaurs and fossils. They could learn dino vocab like scales, horns, fins, claws etc. and then maybe design their own dinosaur and give it a name, or learn the tongue-twisting dinosaur names. I digress! I’m also going to try to find a recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Bowie I think. Musically it is interesting, because the different animals are assigned to different instruments. I also brought a lot of the music I played when I was learning the piano, made for kids to learn musical association, like a book of spooky music. One of the songs has an Egyptian flair, and is about mummies, another is a Vampire blues. And as I’ve learned, these children too are not strangers to the Twilight saga, so they might appreciate a song about these fanged blood-suckers turned sparkling teen heartthrobs. Another song is about a yucky sandwich with slugs and bat claws, so perhaps after listening to the song they could come up with a ‘recipe’ for their own yucky food. I also have some other classical pieces in my repertoire. Maybe if they like it I can just play it for them and they can talk about how it makes them feel, what mood it sets, if it’s upbeat or slow etc.

Ok, I’ve reached page 3 and I will stop here. I promise the updates that follow will be drastically shorter! It’s just been a very invigorating week and it’s been surprisingly therapeutic to finally sit down and write it all down. It’s also been a pretty busy week, which means that I haven’t had much time or energy to spend on my personal diary or letter-writing duties. In any case, I should probably go to bed, to be in good spirits for our early-morning yoga sessions! Please share your thoughts, take care, and I hope all is well in Paris.

 

Puru :

Day 1

Introduction !!

 

First day at the foundation was full of energy, to begin with we had an  introduction and exchange of words with the teachers there .it was a compelling discussion and we came across many thought provoking ideas.

 

The clock striked 2 and we witnessed  hundreds of happy faces entering the door of the Tushita Foundation. We started with an introduction to the junior most class, we had an appealing and interesting interaction with all the students.

After blending with the children we took them out to the garden,where me and aurelien took charge of the boys and taught them the basic skills of soccer and made them aware of the rules related to it , followed by an hour long game we practised the skills like passing,heading and blocking.Unknowingly it was time to wrap up and the bright day came to an end !

 

July 9, Tuesday

 

Jessica:

 

Simply put, my second day at the Foundation went really well! Before the children arrived, we sat with the teachers and had a discussion that included topics ranging from retirement homes to internet dating. Quite the variety. Several of the teachers, like Priyanka and Ruksar, were very vocal and did not hesitate to express their own ideas and thoughts. And while some of the teachers remained more quiet, everyone talked at least once. Additionally, I’m sure with more time and interaction, the conversation will flow more freely among everyone. Later in the day, I even had a short conversation with three of the teachers about marriage. Many of the teachers expressed interest in poetry as well as social issues so I will spend some time tonight looking for a poem that we can all read together for tomorrow’s meeting. In regards to the children, they were, again, delightful. I spent the first half of the morning with Sonam’s class (there were moments in which I was overwhelmed by the cuteness) and also played in the field where I taught some of the girls some hand-clapping games that I used to play as a kid and some other easy-to-learn games that they seemed to enjoy. I’m set to teach a lesson at Sonam’s class tomorrow so I’ll be also looking up some ideas for lessons that caters to their small, adorable minds.

 

Mellie:

 

Day two and all is still well, if not better! You asked about the teachers’ training in particular, and information about the teachers’ training you will get! So for the first time in the short history of my life, I will cut straight to the chase.

I had some articles with me that I’d printed out before coming, so we started with a discussion of an article on intergenerational relations. Unfortunately we were running late, and I wasn’t able to make photocopies in time, so I read the article out loud paragraph by paragraph and we asked the teachers to tell us what they understood. I think the gist of it came across quite well. Some of the teachers were more vocal than others, but we managed to have a pretty interesting conversation on a range of different topics. We moved from the intergenerational subjects to family relations in general. Women’s issues especially resonated with the teachers, and they were very eager to share their very progressive views on women, child rearing, and education.

In future, the four of us have agreed that we will try a range of different approaches. For tomorrow, Jessica has prepared some poems that touch on what it means to be a ‘phenomenal woman’ in society. That way we can combine the mixed interests in social issues as well as poetry. When it’s my turn to prepare a lesson, I think I’d like to introduce them to a few of my favourite artworks.

This hour with the teachers is a good idea, if only for us to get to know them better. From the conversations I have already begun to associate personalities to the colourful tunics and musical names. Priyanka is very opinionated and not shy to voice her thoughts. And Ruksar has left an impression on me as a very intelligent and poised young woman. All together I am certain that working with the teachers will be a very positive experience.

Today we sat in on the classes and participated in varying degrees. I was paired up with Ruksar, who was doing a lesson on etiquette. She introduced the children to ‘May I’, ‘Please’ and ‘Should’ sentences. Some of the children were very creative with their sentences, especially one bright young thing with two pigtails and a thoughtful gaze. Every time she called me over with a hushed but determined ‘Ma’am’ and whispered her sentences into my ear, I was delighted by the complexity of her constructions. By far, my favourite has been ‘Please help me, I am in danger!’ What a gem! The other kids were just as eager to show me their notebooks. There wasn’t much for me to do but correct little mistakes such as a spelling error or a missing article, but I tried to encourage them to expand their sentences. Tomorrow I will spend the entire day with Ruksar’s bunch, and I am very much looking forward to it. I’ve prepared a roleplay entitled ‘at the market’, designed in a way for them to use the sentence forms that they learned today (‘What should we buy?’, ‘How may I help you?’). I can’t wait to hear what my pigtail prodigy has to say.

I also spent some time in Ruchi’s class today. Because they were learning articles and thus also vowels and consonants, I thought it would be an ideal occasion to play my name-learning game. I asked each of them to say their name and then word beginning with the same letter. I introduced myself as Mellie Mango, and was very pleased to make the acquaintance of Rubee Red, Simian Snake, Shahina Sunflower and many more. Ruchi’s presence was very welcome, as she was able to translate for some of the kids who were not as comfortable with English. And yet, all of them were incredibly enthusiastic and some even showed real wit in the choice of their new last names.

Finally, my stint with the young’uns was pure bliss. They are not only excruciatingly cute, but also charming and curious and confident. One of the most memorable and fun encounters was with a boy called Hesnem, who did not hesitate to proudly show off the fact that he had eleven fingers instead of ten. Sonam, by the way, is great with them. She’s such a warm and encouraging presence, both for the children and for me!

So, the mosquitoes seem to have taken a liking to my blood and I think that may be a sign that it’s time for me to find shelter in my bed. Good night!

 

Aurélien:

 

Today has been the second and last introductory day, as we will be left to our own devices from tomorrow on! I could take aside several children to check their geographical knowledge during the classes. Most of them have never left Rajasthan – if not Amber – and although they vaguely know the name, the localization and the flag of a couple countries – which is admittedly not negligible – several kids are unfamiliar to neighbouring states such as Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh. I spent a year in China at the end of my bachelor’s degree and I realized, for the first time of my life, when I came back to my hometown, how important it is to know where you come from before even thinking about elsewhere. Before coming back in June, I had basic knowledge of Indian states, their population, mountains and rivers, dialects and history; I have spent a month learning more about it so that I have a good grasp of Indian geography now and that’s what I am going to start with. We want a bright future for the children of the Foundation: I am absolutely convinced that geography is a most relevant way to open their minds and that it is a very suitable tool for teaching English language. I will try to make it as entertaining as possible, by giving them not only general learnt by heart knowledge but also cultural elements about the places we will focus on; ultimately I will try to link my contributions to what they already know, to their lives and cultures. Anyway I love geography and languages and hence I do think that’s what I will be teaching the best. I spent the day learning from the regular protagonists of the Foundation, the interaction between the children and their teachers. I can’t wait to actively participate tomorrow! I also need to put sportswear in my bag as Puru and I are running after a ball with the kids for one hour under the blazing sun – between the two sessions of the afternoon… The conversation we had this morning with the teachers was more interacting than yesterday, which augurs well for the coming days. The girls and I agreed that we would take turns to come up with a topic. Sleeping time now!

 

Puru:

DAY 2

Observation !!

 

We had a kick start to the second day and we began with an enthusiastic discussion between the teachers and the volunteers regarding an article by the british council.The article revolved around the isolation of people in old age ,it opened our eyes towards the hardships dealt by them in the old age houses,We came across many interesting questions.We also had a brief discussion on distinct food habits that all of us have ,we concluded that not only just kinds of food we eat but the also the pattern of eating varies for instance, some could not imagine eating with hands while some found the idea of using chopsticks absurd.

 

We headed to the classes and keenly observed the system of teaching and the way in which the classes were held, by observing these classes we imbibed a lot of knowledge and at the same we were glad to see the sparkling spirits and the enthusiasm to learn that rooted in every child.

 

After an hour and a half of studying, we took them out to the garden to get refreshed and physically active by playing soccer ,there had been a drastic improvement and the children seem to be quick learners because of the way they were playing the game today ,Instead struggling with their hands they used their head and chest to block the ball .With another batch of students we played a french game called  “the shark and the tiny fishes”and then polished our skills of passing and shooting .

 

Hence the day ended with fun and games !!

 

July 10, Wednesday

 

Jessica: Although I’ve only worked at the Foundation for three days now, today was easily my favorite. As I mentioned in my previous post, I worked with Sonam’s class all day and I had the most perfect time. We spent most of the beginning of class working on spelling words with some kids focusing on animal names while others were learning the names of fruits, vegetables, shapes, etc… Some of the younger ones were still learning the letters of the alphabet so we spent time singing the alphabet song and tracing the letters together. Although these lessons are obviously very basic, I have always loved helping young children develop their elementary knowledge through games and songs so working in Sonam’s class was perfect for me. Once all the children finished their spelling lessons, I led a simple lesson on body parts through the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. Then I helped reinforced these names into their minds with “Simon Says” which the children absolutely loved. At first, I could see that the rules, albeit very simple, were confusing for some of the children, particularly the youngest ones, but with Sonam’s helpful translations and by watching their peers play the game, all the children were participating by the end. Anytime someone messed up by taking an order without the “Simon Says” prefix, the children would playfully tease each other by hugging their friends or cheer and jump in the air because they had successfully ignored the command. They especially loved it when Sonam messed up; it was very funny and light-hearted. Leading the game was a delight and I can not wait to introduce more games that can both entertain the children but help them learn other basics, like colors, emotions, etc… But even before the classes, we had a great session with the teachers in the morning. I brought in two Maya Angelou poems, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Phenomenal Woman”, with the former delving into the topics of freedom and oppression while the latter is a poem in which Angelou proclaims her own “phenomenal” nature as a woman. After each of the teachers read the poem aloud, we did a close reading of the poems and discussed our reactions to each. Many of the teachers said they enjoyed both while a couple stated that they preferred the inspiring, girl-power message of “Phenomenal Woman”. I’m excited for these sessions and the opportunity to share my own favorite works with the teachers

 

Mellie:

 

We began the day discussing two poems by Maya Angelou that Jessica prepared. I think the teachers enjoyed the poems, which touched especially on themes of freedom and confidence, and I had the impression that they could relate to them. Ruksar, whose class I taught, mentioned that she felt she could identify with the poem about a caged bird longing for freedom. Towards the end of the day she shared her experiences with me, living in a small town as a woman and desiring to be independent, and I could see why. I really like Ruksar. She’s very ambitious and very brave, and her English is fantastic even though she’s only been learning for about two years. Theoretically I’ve always been aware that our lives and opportunities are very different despite both being women of the same age, but the frustration she feels has always been more of a concept, a way to describe the way I can only imagine her life must be. I was really touched by our conversation, and I respect her and the other teachers so much more for holding their head up high and trying their best to do their own thing. The teachers keep insisting that slowly, traditions and society is changing and becoming more progressive, and I hope they realise that it’s largely due to women like them that this transition is happening.

What made teaching today a real positive experience was not only my fondness for Ruksar and her help, but also the children! The premiere of ‘At the Market’ was a huge success, with a talented cast and standing ovations. I prepared an example but also a template with variations on how to say things (‘What should we do today?’ or ‘Where should we go?’), so that the kids wouldn’t just parrot the scene the way I designed it. I also asked them to substitute buying a banana with buying a pair of shoes or a box of chocolates, and then had them justify it: ‘Why should we buy a box of chocolates? We should buy chocolates for so-and-so’s birthday’. I was a little worried if not frustrated at first, because it took some time for the children to understand the point of the exercise. But as soon as they understood, they came up with some really interesting variations, particularly when asked to justify a certain purchase. Later I set up a ‘stage’ with one of the tables acting as the shopkeeper’s stand and had the kids perform in front of each other. Though normally very soft-spoken, they all did their best to speak up! Today, a boy called Bharat captured my heart. He worked with his brother (I had all the kids work in pairs), who Ruksar later explained is apparently also his best friend, and they were very efficient! They were the quickest to grasp and complete the task. And Bharat with those pools of melted caramel for eyes gazed at me with such joy when I congratulated him on a job well done. He was also very eager to do two rounds, playing Friend A in the premiere and the Shopkeeper C on closing night! The later groups were much much smaller, but we still managed to pull off two performances, and Aurélien, Puru and Geeta were very happy (I hope) to sit in the audience.

Pigtail wunderkind’s name is indeed Kiran I believe. Unfortunately she didn’t show up today! But I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mehat, the other girl you mentioned. After the teacher session, Ruksar indicated that I should keep an eye out for her, and I was not disappointed in the least by her wit. Most of the time I would explain something in English, and Ruksar would have to repeat it in Hindi, but Mehat usually got the gist of what I was saying in the first couple of tries and would eagerly share her newly acquired knowledge with the other students. She is also very fluent and already has a good feel for pronunciation. At the end of the lesson I asked for suggestions for future roleplays, or asked if someone would be interested in coming up with their own and bringing it to the foundation. Mehat had the idea of doing a roleplay involving birds, and accepted the challenge to write her own, under the condition that I correct her mistakes once completed. You can imagine what my response was! I’m looking forward to seeing her tomorrow. Hopefully she will have found the time to write the script! I also met Mehat’s mother, and Rukar later revealed to me how much she stood behind her daughter’s intellect and potential. Mehat even takes classes in self-defence!

The four of us decided it would be a good idea to spend at least two days in a row with the same class, for continuity. That way we can go over things learned the previous day. Over and out!

 

Puru:

Day 3

Teaching !!

 

As we all deliberated in the office to discuss the schedule of the day ,jessica had come prepared with two poems.

We commenced with the poem “i know why the cage bird sings “by maya angelou which rotates around the pain and agony which maya underwent in her childhood due to her race.

All the teachers took a reading on the poem and grasp the context .The second poem was written by the same poet called “phenomenal woman”, which is the contrary to the previous one, talks about the empowerment, strength and self belief of a woman.This poem turned out to be intellectually inspiring for the teachers,the motivating words of the poem triggered their hearts.

 

I took charge of the geography class and taught them indian geography, initiating by making them draw the map of our country and marking out the states.

I was surprised to see the accuracy in their work and their sharp memories.while the children ate mangoes satyam showed his eagerness towards playing soccer.  It made me realise the liking which the kids had for the sport.Teaching turned out to be a pleasant experience and i was disillusioned to see the zeal of the children.

Without any passage of time i could sense an upgradation in the way the game was played today.I hope to see them grow and progress each day !!

 

Aurélien:

 

Each of my days at the Tushita House starts with a little of apprehension as I dread Manisha could permanently dislocate one of my legs behind my neck. The rest of the day is not less relaxing but I feel much more comfortable interacting with the children and talking to the teachers than doing the lotus position! Our daily hour of exchange with the latter has been very enriching for all of us. How could one better spend an hour than reading poetry? We are just beginning our “literature” teaching so our method is not quite perfect yet. However we all agree that poems are a very suitable tool to enable language reflection and at the same time trigger conversations of interest; in any case, it is extremely enjoyable to read poetry. I am genuinely pleased when I enter our “head office” in the morning. I still need to select my texts for tomorrow! Since the teachers are very eager to learn more about France, I will try to find good translations.

After the lunch, I settled in Ruchi’s classroom for the afternoon. I taught my first geography lesson to two different groups, but in two different ways. I had five pupils for the first hour and a half, whereas I was in front of eighteen children during the second session. I first naively thought that the group of five children was more fluent and homogeneous than the one of eighteen; after consideration, the second group included more than five fluent kids but they merely would not dare to speak as freely as in the first one; actually it was just more difficult to draw their attention to the map! I think that paradoxically my second lesson was more efficient as they went out of the classroom knowing more things about Indian geography than their predecessors; nevertheless it is possible that the first group was simply less comfortable with the technical vocabulary…

As I wrote yesterday, few children could locate Delhi or Jaipur, Rajasthan or Gujarat on the map on India. I really don’t know what they will remember of today’s lesson tomorrow but, at the end of the class, most of them knew the difference between the words “continent”, “country”, “state” and “city”, could easily locate Jaipur, Rajasthan and the neighbouring states, could also say that “Gujarat is located in the South of Rajasthan”, and were able to come up with similar sentence to describe the location of Pakistan or Bangladesh. I myself drew a map on the whiteboard with the borders of the places that concerned us and they took turns to come to the front and name them – so that I could check their spelling too. I will give more details tomorrow; I admit that I probably did not leave a big enough part to Ruchi during my lesson. Do you have any suggestions on how to better include her?

 

Rosenda

My day just started and I eagerly open my lap top to read all about your experience at the Foundation.
I am pleased to learn that the exchange with the teachers is enriching and that you are taking turns in choosing topics. I couldn’ agree more with Aurélien who feels that the children need to know their country’s geography, but your presence could be a fantastic opportunity to lean about the countries you come from, as well.
The choice of English as the language of communication at the Foundation has come from the sad realization that only those who have a good command of that language have a chance to improve their living conditions in India, much more than in Europe. The teachers we have chosen are girls from the village and often the children’s relatives, they do not use English among themselves; so the volunteers are their true chance to speak and learn this language.
Your observation of the children is very valuable to us, because we will soon have to take decisions about higher classes. PLease ask the children to place a piece of paper on the desk in front of them with their names written on it, so that you will soon be able to identify them. Maybe the girl with the pigtail is Mehek? Or Kiran?
I hope that this experience will teach you about yourselves as much as you teach our little children.
You must be on your way by now. Best wishes

 

July 11, Thursday

Jessica: We had a slightly irregular day due to an afternoon downpour which occurred during our talk with the teachers. Once the rain really started coming down, we all became rather distracted and ended up playing around in the rain. At one point, we went up onto the roof where we jokingly attempted yoga while Sonam and Payal displayed their impressive flexibility. I also took some pictures of the boys who were playing football (or as I know it, soccer) in the rain. The individual portraits I took came out quite nice and I’ll send a couple over to you to check out. Since all of our clothes were soaked through, many of the teachers returned to their homes to change while the rest of us sat in our dripping outfits. And as a result of this rain, many of the students did not show up for the earlier sessions. So during the lull, I enjoyed lunch and some delicious ice-cream that was essentially frozen condensed milk and afterwards created a worksheet titled “How do you feel?” in which I drew around 16 faces with emotions/feelings like happy, sad, confused, angry, tired, and the kids’ favorite: naughty. We all returned back to our respective classrooms for the last session starting at 4:30 and I used the worksheet in Sonam’s class. The kids copied and spelled the various feelings and after a bit of practice, we played a game in which they had to guess which emotion I was expressing; a little girl, Rafat, had clearly absorbed the words from the spelling practice since she was almost always the first to respond. I then introduced the “I Spy” game which a boy named Ayan absolutely dominated; his observation skills and attention to detail are very impressive. Once class ended, the kids cheerfully said their goodbyes and see you tomorrow with many of the little ones grabbing my hand to give it a kiss or my waist for a quick hug. It’s endings like this that make a tiring (and wet) day so, so worth it. I’ve been thinking of more lessons I could teach and with the rain, I thought it would be relevant to teach Sonam’s class a very simplified version of the water cycle, with the focus being more on actual vocabulary and spelling rather than the science behind it. Then I can introduce an interactive game that will allow the children to repeat the vocabulary but in a sillier, more entertaining way.

 

Aurélien:

 

This morning I was in charge of bringing the texts for the conversation with the teachers. We sat in the head office and each of them read on their own the translation of Le Dormeur du val (The Sleeper in the Valley) by Arthur Rimbaud. They asked us the meaning of a couple difficult words such as “tatters”, “dozing” and “scents” and took turns to read the poem out loud. On average they made few pronunciation mistakes, in any case not enough for us to directly correct them. It was only after having finished reading that we pointed out the some mistakes so that they could notice their errors without losing confidence. I think it is important to focus on the language first, to read each of the sentences one after another, in order to check the vocabulary, the potential different meanings of the words, to realize which lexical fields were used by the poet. We grouped words according to themes: the opposition between natural and cultural elements on the one hand, the life and the death on the other and then came up with several interpretations, finally understanding “the” (main) meaning of the poem; when it suddenly started to rain cats and dogs – outside and inside the Foundation, even inside the “head office”!

Apparently it had not rained for a long time. We had to stop our analysis before further discussing the poem, which we will do tomorrow. Puru and I switched our clothes for our sportswear and rushed outside to have a natural, pure and cold shower! So did the girls after a short while of hesitation, but they did not stay for too long since they had no sportswear available… We went for a walk under the heavy and windy shower, seizing the occasion to visit the neighbourhood. We bumped into a couple kids that were happy to be our guides for the time of our peregrination; we then took them to play soccer on the pitch that had turned into a real pond. We had a great time immortalized by Jessica with her phone when the rainflow slowed down. About thirty children came for the first session so lunch was delayed and we taught only one session, after the storm. I met the same group of eighteen children that, to my great satisfaction, remembered quite a lot from yesterday’s lesson. They are able to locate places easily but have a hard time describing the map using the compass rose. I brought the world map in order to introduce them to the continents and the compass points, as well as work on locating India and Jaipur. More about the rest of the world tomorrow!

 

Mellie:

 

There are some moments in life when I’m pleased to observe that the world still has some magic in it. Today was one of those experiences. We were discussing a poem by Rimbaud about a dead soldier lying in a valley, cradled in the mountainous bosom of Mother Nature, and how life, death and everything in between are all subject to the overwhelming strength of the natural world, when all of the sudden, we saw rain trickling through the window and down the yellow walls of the Tushita Foundation. As if our conversation had been an invitation for Mother Nature to come a-knocking. We easily spent the next hour getting soaked to the bone, performing sun salutations on the roof of the house, sailing paper boats on the spontaneous rivers, laughing and cheering and playing in the rain. Pure euphoria!

 

As you can imagine, the organisation of our day was subject to a few modifications. I had expected to work on the play I had prepared, show off my fancy kurta pyjamas and prevent the boys from taking my beloved Bharat outside to learn to play football. Instead, Bharat wasn’t even there for me to fight for, neither were most of the children, and the only adjective that could have possibly been used to describe my kurta was wet!

Nonetheless, this has been one of the best days so far, not only because of our rain games, but also because I had more time to speak to Ruksar and also had the chance to get to know some of the other kids better. We performed At the Market again, and this time I was more focused on giving them cues as a director. I was so proud! They all remembered to stand in a certain way so that the audience could see them and they all made an effort to speak loudly, clearly and confidently! Once the second batch had been released into the wild, Ruksar approached me and suggested we could try some roleplaying with the three boys in the third batch. Their level of English is a little lower than the others, but Ruksar explained that though they knew enough words, but that they simply lacked the courage to speak. Ruksar suggested we try a simple roleplay with short sentences. All of a sudden I realised that I might had been neglecting them a little bit. Firstly, being the third and last group of children, I was obviously more tired. Secondly, because it was only the three of them, Ruksar and I were not as busy bustling responding to constant calls for ‘Ma’am!’, so we would often sneak in a little conversation while the boys studied their sentences. I honestly don’t know what lunacy overcame me, perhaps it was the rain gods thundering inside of me, but in the end I found myself encouraging the boys to follow my lead and bellow their sentences out of the window, loud enough so that the passer-bys would hear. Though initially a little embarrassed, they were such good sports, and in the end it was such great fun! There was also such an improvement in their English! Ruksar was right! Instead of timidly and tentatively stammering over their words, they spoke (shouted?) so much more fluently and enthusiastically! I will definitely plan something fun for them for tomorrow. I’m thinking maybe an Oscars acceptance speech, or something more action-filled. But by far the most touching moment was when Ruksar told me at the end of the lesson that she would never have guessed that this was my first experience teaching children. It was so kind of her to say that, I really appreciated it. Especially because I was so nervous about interacting with the kids, whether I was hitting the tone right, whether they would like me and whether they would learn something from me. But this unexpectedly rewarding experience with the three musketeers has also made me realise that as much as I want to fawn over the more overtly intelligent ones, I have to make more of an effort to respond to the more covert ones. Tomorrow is another Ruksar day and I cannot wait! I love working with these kids and I love working with her! She really cares about the children.

Oh yes! Regarding your suggestion to discuss pedagogy with the teachers… Do you have a good idea on how to include this topic in our daily talks? I definitely get the impression that Ruksar would be very interested in learning about teaching methods and child development etc., but I myself am just playing it by ear. I would feel uncomfortable “teaching” the art of teaching to the teachers. Maybe we could read an article on Maria Montessori or similar alternative teaching methods. I just googled Waldorf schools (some of my friends went to one of them in Austria) and look what I found: http://www.slokawaldorf.org/. It’s the self-described first and only one of its kind in India!

How would we best introduce the subject of pedagogy, do you think? I don’t want it to come across as a criticism or a correction of their teaching methods. After all, we are only guests in their classes, teaching students who have acquired the bulk of their English language knowledge from these women.

I would love to hear your thoughts! To conclude, teaching today was really great! Although I confess, despite always having been a very talkative person, I am getting tired of the sound of my own voice!

 

Day 3

Rain it is !!

 

Today at the foundation we were welcomed by the monsoons .we begin with the poem “The sleeper in the valley “ by a french poet Arthur rimbuad which talks about the beauty of  nature and the conscript who laid down in peace in the arms of the nature .As we were getting deeply engrossed in the discussion of the poem we started to apprehend the rain, and the electricity went off and we rushed towards the main door to take a glance at the rain.

 

The view took us for a wonder, the heavy rain was accompanied by the tremendous winds .Each drop felt pleasantly refreshing and we went ahead to get wet in the rain  .I along with Aurelien had gone to take a look of the village and it felt like nothing less than a flood .we went to our garden which was submerged into the water .I tried to maintain my equilibrium but kept slipping and falling.

 

The heavy showers stopped after an hour and we witnessed the children eagerly for us to teach .Today in the geography class i taught them about the indian mountain peaks and the rivers ,as the children took keen interest and were deeply involved, we went on talking about the political knowledge .Towards the end of the class i took a revision of my previous class .

 

With this the rainy day came to an end !!

 

Rosenda

 

The thought of Aurélien becoming a yoga master is quite hilarious and I am starting the day with a bright smile on my face, thanks to you. It sounds like geography is a big hit with the masculine gender, probably the boys in class will like it as much. Aurélien is raisig the question about the amount of knowledge the children will retain, my feeling is that we have to be humble, give all we can, but accept when the child is not ready to learn.
Concerning the space to give the Indian teachers you are working with, I do not have a ready made answer. You should try to have a conversation with them about it, that is why I had suggested pedagogy as a subject to debate.
You have to consider, though that being a man, Aurélien, you are a bit intimidating for Ruchi, things will ease in time.
Maybe you could ask her and the students about their travel, Ruchi and some of the students have visited the Taj Mahal with us and few other places in Rajasthan. It might be important to make a link between geography and their reality.
I would love to know more about your games, how do you compose your teams? Do girls also play?
It is a pleasure to learn that you all enjoy poetry, the Foundation will soon become “The Amber Poet Society”
Pierre, you had a good idea joining this google doc, I figured that I could not open yours because I was not allowed to have more than two accounts. However, I read your previous entries on the office Mac.Please do not forget your assignment: “the book of me”, maybe you should talk about it with Pryanka whose class has been working on it.
Mellie has realized, yesterday how precious your relation with the teachers can be, not only for the work that you do together, but for the insight into Indian village culture that no other traveller in the country gets. It is true that things are slowly changing in India and it is very true that those women are the agent of change. We believe that only educating a woman you can educate an entire society.

Please continue mentioning the children you notice and possibly, later on, make a small portrait of them, with their picture and your observations.Mehek is a perfect example of a little muslim girl from a village in India whose family supports immensly and wishes the world for her.
It is heartwarming to see that stereotypes are broken at times.
Keep up the good work with the little ones, Jessica and try to help Sonam with her English. She is a bit shy at times, but I am sure that she will open up with you.
If I may suggest, you can make a poetry world tour together, choosing to read poetry from all over, it would be a fun combination of poetry and Geography. Do you still have the world maps up that Anthony had brought?
Have a good day

 

July 12, Friday

 

Jessica:

During today’s session with the teacher, we discussed Aurelien’s second poem, Baudelaire’s “To a Passer-by” which, although initially difficult to many of the teachers due to the vocabulary, was ultimately understood by all of the women. They particularly enjoyed the poem’s suggestion of “love at first sight”, saying that this theme is common in Bollywood movies. During lunch, however, I proposed to the other volunteers that we start delving into topics that will allow the teachers to talk more freely as we spent what I believe to be too much time on literary analysis that sought specific answers. As these sessions are one of the few opportunities the teachers have to converse in English, I believe it’s extremely important for the teachers to talk as much as possible. Of course, the literary aspect is important, especially for the sake of understanding some of a work’s nuances, yet it is a subject that can be, at times, limiting and boring. Asking questions and bringing up themes that allow all of the teachers to express their own experiences and opinions may encourage more speaking on their part. Like all things, finding a balance between free discussion and acute analysis will be necessary.

Regarding class time, I worked again with Sonam’s class. Since Fridays are designated “drawing days”, I decided to save my water cycle lesson for Monday and spent class time guiding drawing lessons. For the first class, I taught the children how to draw a cat which they colored and then named. Most of the children chose to name their cats after their classmates or siblings while others chose names like “Flower” or “Sultan”. I snapped pictures of a couple of the children with their drawings and I’ll send those over with short captions that include their names. Overall, it was a very easygoing day and the children loved drawing. I’m excited for activity day tomorrow and may lead a drawing class myself!

 

Mellie

 

Today was the first day that felt more routine. I spent the day teaching Ruksar’s class again, which was good. I’ve finally learned all their names— and stage names for that matter! Because my little protégés have been so keen on acting, I decided to work on a “Tollywood” Walk of Fame. I made Walk of Fame stars out of card, and had them choose and write down stage names in a similar fashion to the Mellie Mango game I played with Ruchi’s kids. Then I had them ‘audition’ in front of me, which meant saying “My name is _____ and I am here to audition!” as loudly and confidently as they could. If they spoke to softly or shyly, I would yawn or act bored, in an obviously exaggerated manner of course. To make it even clearer that I was just acting, later I reversed the roles. I ‘auditioned’ in front of all of them, where I would act nervous and they would act indifferent and impatient. Later I adapted the game so I would have to prove that I had learned their names. To initiate responses, I would sometimes purposely get their names wrong, and they would boo me. If I guessed correctly, they would cheer.

Due to popular demand, instead of working on a new roleplay, we rehearsed the scenes of At the Market again (also, everyone always wants to be the shopkeeper). One of the girls, Mezahbi Majestic (the name suits her, she’s a real presence), is particularly eager to showcase her acting talent. Her Majesty and two of her friends made an effort to learn their lines by heart! And they’ve even begun acting instead of just saying the words. Later when I worked on At the Cinema with the second batch, I had them act in character, depending on which movie they were suggesting. So the character interested in watching a romantic movie had to act all lovey-dovey, clasp her hands on her heart etc. I want them to start thinking about who they’re portraying. Another girl who really shone today was Zenab Zoo, who up until now had always struck me as one of the shy ones. She really enjoyed the roleplaying! And she made such an effort to remember my cues on speaking up, speaking fluently, hand gestures, facing the audience, etc. Overall I felt the kids were more comfortable to try new things today, and less afraid to embarrass themselves and make mistakes. Then again, I make a complete fool of myself in front of them every day, which sets the bar for humiliation quite high! It’s fun to just go for it.

And now to the third batch! Upon Ruksar’s request, I conjured up three simple roleplays. We worked on one entitled Interview. One of the boys would be the journalist, and the one being interviewed would be a cricket player, or a monkey scientist! It was just four or five lines, but the boys really enjoyed it. Especially Yasin Yellow! He even started reading out the lines for the two other roleplays that I had printed on the same page. Arbaz Apple, who wasn’t there yesterday, really impressed me by his fluency! And Parvez Papaya was so confident and not at all apprehensive about making mistakes. Only Neeraj Nice was a little shy, but he really remembered the things I would teach him to say. He learned how to say ‘famous monkey scientist’ in one smooth breath within a heartbeat and even till the end, that was the line he never stumbled over! He was also the only one who chose to be something other than cricket player!

Tomorrow is activity day! And tomorrow is also sleep late day! Good night

 

Puru :

Day 5

Final teaching day of the week !!

 

As the first week comes to an end,I feel really content to be a part of this voyage .Yesterday as the rain took our attention and were unable to complete the poem ,we did it today .The second poem was “To Passer’s by” which grabbed everyone’s heed as the poem revolves around a man who is struck in love with a passer by and takes him for a ride !

 

The discussion was so captivating that we had no clue that it was  time for the children to come.By the time we realised it, we saw the children had already taken their seats in the respective classes .we were strolling for our classes and they all were desperately waiting for us .I began with the teaching and taught them about the indian states and their capitals .They all work hard and with dedication complete their work .later on, I added their knowledge with the famous political figures and how the parliament of India functions .It was time to take them out for some sports .

In the field today, there were less number of children but the quality of the game was more better than any other day. We played for half an hour and the weather was cool .At the outset of the game we introduced them with the rules of corner, throw in, offsides and various fouls.

 

After a good game, we headed back to our classes and taught the third batch of the day .I made them familiar with the word literate, literacy rate, mountains and rivers of India.

 

 

Aurélien:

 

Manisha almost broke both of my legs this morning. We kept reading and finished studying Rimbaud’s beautiful poem with the teachers. I mentioned at the end of a too short conversation that the Sleeper in the Valley had been written in the context of the first Franco-German war, premise of the First World War, and was quite surprised when Ruksar and Sonam told us that they knew about it – I personally don’t know much about India 19th Century history… I should! Besides, I have to admit that I was a little anxious about studying the second poem I had brought, A une passante (To a Passer-By) by Charles Baudelaire. I still chose it, so I was not that reluctant! But I did not know whether it would be awkward to speak about romance or love at first sight with six Indian girls that I don’t know very well yet. Only Geeta preferred Rimbaud to Baudelaire though! Although the language was quite complex, Ruchi – who is usually the most discreet – understood it apparently faster than her friends. I have to confess that I am guilty of a little infringement of the rule as I accepted to read once the French translation by their request… They really enjoyed the poem and they even surprisingly said that it was just like a Bollywood movie’s plot! The only problem of today’s session is that we did not find the right balance between focusing on the language and post-commentary discussion. The reason I characterized the conversation as “too short” was because I would have liked to have more time to conscientiously study the writing; we are after all devoting this session to the language, but I’d also really like them to be able to enjoy reading poetry on their own at the end of the summer – which will be impossible without proper “commentaries”. Nevertheless Jessica rightly pointed out that they had not spoken enough – which also is the aim of the session. Mellie and Puru insisted that we would find the right balance in time and practice, which we all agreed. We’ll keep travelling around the world on Monday as I think Puru selected two poems by Rabidranath Tagore.

Anthony’s maps of the world and India are extremely useful for my teaching to the children. I also used blank map templates that Pierre handed me: I started my two sessions today with a little “test” in order to check what they had remembered about our two last classes. I did a quick review first and helped them one after another while they were trying to find the right answers: when they finished, they came to me in order to show their work. I gave each of them the same and best grade, not only because my ultimate goal is obviously not to rank them but also because they could remember a lot! On average they learn very quickly. Veenaji came to my class yesterday and Gajubana today. Such pressure! They quickly and nicely told me that they were impressed by the newly gained geographical knowledge of the children. But I look forward to being alone with them to get other feedback. It is very true that Ruchi must be ill at ease when I am in her class, and she has not dared to give me advice so far; however she has already started to take a bigger part in the class, helping the children with the questions I ask them for an hour a half. I noticed geographical progress. Puru and I also realized that the boys are significantly better at soccer than they were at the beginning of the week – should we play with the girls too? The pitch was very quiet during today’s game. Indeed we added a new rule to the FIFA’s chart: from now on, any non-English word will be penalized by a yellow card (five minutes on the bench)! We usually start with a practice game as training. Afterwards we take a while to focus on technical details; and we finish the soccer time with a competitive game.

 

Rosenda

Here we are, the ice is broken, the first week at the Foundation has already concluded.
My impression is that the four of you have sliped into the role quite easily. Put aside the torrential rains and the morning torture that Manisha, whom we recruted straight from Guantanamo, inflicts you, India seems to be treating you pretty well.
Questions will keep popping up and every time, I am convinced you will find an appropriate solution. Keep working on poetry, but choose poems that are not too long and will allow time for both comprehension and discussion.
For once, we accept reading a poem in French, such a magnificent language! But then I wish that Puru could read Tagore in Bengoli, considered the sweetest of all Indian languages.

You must have read by now my mail in which I suggested that you listen to Malala’s intervention in front of the UN, I was extreemly moved by it and I think you will all be as well.
Soccer for girls, Why not! I just wonder if they will want to. Please ask them what do they think.
Also, make sure that you make teams in which an equal number of both religious communities is represented in each team. It is of vital importance.
I wonder if Mellie took out the piano today, I am sure I will hear about activity day on Monday.

Enjoy your well deserved rest tomorrow.

 

June 13, Saturday

Puru:

Day 6

Activity day !!

A pleasant afternoon it was when we reached the foundation, there were already boys playing in the garden ; As it was the activity day we all saw children working on their drawings, Aurelien and I geared up for a game of soccer .As the girls didn’t come out and prefered to stay indoor and to do some activity, the whole field was ours .

 

After a good game, we went inside to have a look at the other children .In the class upstairs there were children sitting and a group of three girls were dancing on a bollywood song in the centre .I felt good to see their moves, we had various dancing styles.

Some of them had learnt Kathak and Bharat natiyam in their holidays and rest believed in bollywood free style and Rajasthan folk dance.

 

Everyone took part in dancing and melie and jessica also learned some steps.Aurelien and I also grooved a bit.

 

 

 

 

July 15, Monday

Jessica:

And I present another tiring, yet very satisfying, day. Once again, I spent the day with Sonam and her little ones. We’ve established that for the most part I will be staying with Sonam’s class since her children are at a level where the other teachers’ lessons may not be applicable and/or appropriate. I taught the class vocabulary words concerning the weather and the water cycle like rain, storm, wind, cloud, cycle, etc… which I wrote on the whiteboard with accompanying pictures. The children then told me which drawing/word combination on the board they wanted to copy into their notebooks and practiced writing and spelling these words. Typically the children write four pages worth of spelling (which makes for 8 words total) but there are always a rather large group of children who, after the four pages, ask if they can do one more. The desire to learn even more is quite an inspiration. Afterwards, we played a game in which the children had to follow a certain command depending on the word I said. For example, whenever I shouted “umbrella”, the children had to form groups of two with one child using their arms to make an umbrella while the other stood under their friend’s arm-umbrella. It was silly and fun. At one point, we went to the terrace to play and coincidentally enough, it started raining so we made our way back indoors. We then played some circle games and before I knew it, the pot or whatever metal object clashed to signal the end of the day. Tomorrow I plan to go over clothing items such as shirts, pants, glasses, watch, etc…

Regarding the session with the teachers, we had a really productive session this afternoon. I may be wrong but I believe the teachers talked the most today and it was great to hear all of them voice their interpretations of the poem. I think they are starting to feel more comfortable conversing with us and I’m very excited with what we’ll achieve for the remainder of the two months. Puru will be presenting his second poem tomorrow and Melanie will be offering something the following day. When it comes back to my turn, I think I’ll present a song since song lyrics can very much be a form of poetry and I think it would be nice to hear the actual song afterwards. However, nothing is set in stone and I’ll search for what I believe is the best option for everyone.

 

Puru :

Day 7

Fascinating day it was !!

 

A bright starting to the day with broad and thought provoking discussion on “Chain of pearls” by Rabridranath Tagore .Interesting thing about today was engagement and commitment that Ruchi ji  and Sonam ji  showed further captivating other teachers in the discussion .I enlightened them with the life of Tagore and his charismatic personality .The poem talks about the poets eternal gratitude for his mother, he values the innumerable sacrifices that she had made for him and the his only desire is to bring her happiness .Surprisingly as a mother Geeta ji got entangled in the poem as she could relate to it .

 

It was 2 and it was time for the children to arrive ,I took out the book of me and took a glance at it ,few children were lacking behind and didn’t complete it .I caught hold of them and made them sit with me and did the remaining topics .They were enjoying making the drawings and writing about themselves .

 

The time literally flew today as i was engrossed with the children !

 

Aurélien:

 

Today we had a real conversation with the teachers, partially thanks to the gripping poem written by Tagore and brought by Puru: the Chain of Pearls. Next time I will try something that could possibly incite our imaginations and interpretations: I will come with a raw poem without any information but the title, not the name of the poet, nor the context in which he wrote his work… I’ll provide these lacking details at the end of the quick reading/short commentary. Indeed, everybody knew Tagore and his “intentions”, which unconsciously led all of us to understand his poem in a way. But anyway we had a fruitful exchange and we can already perceive progress through their confidence, comments and reading skills. Even though focusing on poetry is absolutely wonderful, we will definitely try to diversify the format.

As it had been planned, I met new pupils in a new classroom with a new teacher. Ruksar was more involved during the lesson than Ruchi and it was pleasant to share our methods. The only thing I did not know was that I would have three groups with three very different levels of speaking and understanding. The first one was impressively strong when compared with the average level I dealt with so far; we easily finished what I had prepared, did even more than expected, and I am going to come up with thorough lessons tomorrow. I had considered explaining the difference between political and physical boundaries in order to move on mountains and rivers later; but that’s what the lesson ended with: we’ll go further into geological notions tomorrow. Going from a level to another is not easy! The second batch could hardly understand the difference between a continent, a country, a capital city, a state and a city, while the first one already knew these rudiments and the children of the third one could almost not introduce themselves when I asked them to do so… I had to adapt quickly, otherwise I would merely lose their attention! I will focus more on geography or on language in accordance with the different levels of the groups tomorrow.

 

Rosenda

It is amazing how you all manage to adapt to a very challenging task, teach children of very different levels.
I completely agree with Jessica’s choice to stay with Sonam, or I should say Sonamji. It is a lovely suffix used in India after someone’s name to show respect for the person. I am pleased to learn that Puru feels this way about our teachers. Yes working with little children seems to be the perfect thing to do for you, Jessica.
Aurélien is faced with a very difficult task, teaching geography to such different pupils. I am convinced that you will manage to live up to the task if you compromise on the geography at times and just concentrate on teaching English with certain children.
I gather that today was Puru’s day; his choice of poem was very much appreciated by everyone and he has started working on the book of me. I guess you are proposing it to Pryanka’s class, don’t you?
I am also wondering if you are able to read my comment, because I don’t get any feed back on my suggestions. Did you wathch Malala’s speach at the UN? What did you think?
Obviously, I do not xspect you to take up on my suggestions, but I would love to know why a suggestion is rejected.
Your feed back on the work we do at the Foundation is very precious for all of us and I thought of asking your ideas on how to utilise the “garden” at best.
Whenever you’ll have sometime to spend there, please try to imagine how we could use it at best to suit the needs of the children and of the population of Amber.
It is an exercise in placemaking, you might enjoy talking about it wit the teachers as well.
I am very happy to hear that the teachers are loosening up with you. It is so important for them to be able not only to communicate fluently, but to gain that self confidence that has taken all of you so far.
Have a beautiful day, tomorrow.

 

 

July 16, Tuesday

 

Jessica:

My entry for today will be very short as I did not go to the Foundation today. I woke up this morning to a rather unpleasant allergic reaction so Gajubana and Veenaji took me to see a physician who offered me some medicine and ointment. Since I was still covered in rashes and our work involves young children, we thought it would be best for me to stay home for the day. Fortunately, the allergy medicine worked like a charm and I am all good to go! I really did miss the teachers and the children today and am now even more excited to see all their faces tomorrow.

 

Mellie:

 

As you may have noticed, my entry for yesterday is missing. I’m sorry! I was exhausted and also a little bit disappointed, as my day had not gone as smoothly as the previous days. I exaggerate. It wasn’t a disastrous day, of course. But after what felt like a perfect first week, adapting to the new class proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. I joined forces with Priyanka, who teaches the most advanced kids and whose level I grossly underestimated. I brought a very simple exercise to do, and while some of them did struggle with expressing themselves, I got the impression that they were just bored. After the lesson, I had a brief conversation with Priyanka, and we agreed to work on a story instead and then transform that into a play.  She insisted that the children were already quite proficient in writing, and that it would be more interesting to work on their spoken word. So I spent most of last night trying to find a suitable tale. I finally settled on two stories from my book of Greek mythology for children, Pandora’s Box and Apollo and Daphne, because I thought both of them featured interesting characters, a thought-provoking plot, and would metamorphose well into a play.

So while yesterday left me feeling like Persephone in the dank caves of the Underworld, today I returned to the surface to welcome the spring harvest! For starters, the kids seemed to enjoy the stories! First we read together, then we discussed difficult words, then we retold the plot in our own words, and finally we described the characters. By the end of the lesson, most of them had a good understanding of the story. I am certain that the second and third batches, which count around five children each, were able to develop not only an understanding, but also an opinion on the works we discussed. With the first group, I’m not so sure. It’s a classroom of about thirteen children, so it’s almost as hard to give them more attention than it is to get their attention. Also, some are significantly more vocal than others. Kiran, in particular, is a truly brilliant girl. In my notes, I wrote that she is articulate, confident, eager, independent (she immediately accepted the offer of a dictionary, and began looking up words herself) and also able to understand words within a context. The word ‘dwell’ was not in the dictionary, but she still managed to figure out its meaning and that of ‘dwelling’ by simply thinking about it. She is, unfortunately, not the easiest student to have in a classroom, because she gets impatient quite quickly and either blurts out the answer or interrupts the other children who take a little longer to respond to my questions. Still, I think she has a lot of potential, and I don’t want her to feel like limited by the average level of the class! I will speak to Priyanka and try to think of a way to keep her interested and at the same time increase participation of the others.

The second and third batches feature some interesting students too. Today, I broke off another piece of my heart and gave it to Arib. He is not only such a bright child, but also irresistibly charming and sincerely enthusiastic. He was the first to finish reading the story on his own. But thanks to the small class size, I was also able to notice some of the less obvious gems. Abhishek is definitely one of those uncut diamonds. He is excruciatingly shy, but when he does speak, I began to realise how thoughtful and intelligent he actually is. For instance, at the beginning of the lesson, when I gave them the text to read on their own, I was convinced that he was disinterested. He never asked me to explain the meaning of a word and didn’t try to use the dictionary either. But when discussing the text, he showcased impeccable comprehension! Priyanka later told me that he reads a lot at home and that his level of English is actually very good. His only obstacle seems to be his lack of confidence. Well, well, Abhishek, we’ll see what happens when I cast you in the role of Apollo! Another one I noticed yesterday was Lalit, but today he was feeling ‘ambiguous’, so he kept to himself mainly. I will surely come to speak about him some other time. One boy I really want to talk about is Vedpar! Again, what a surprise! He’s a very quiet boy, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is particularly shy, just introverted. But his presence was very well appreciated today! While his reading is very monotonous, he has a real instinct for pronunciation, barely struggling with polysyllabic words. He is also quite opinionated. In a group of four boys, he was the only one who proudly declared his favourite character to be the strong-willed maiden Daphne, while the others picked cunning Cupid. In fact, the little cherub was seated among us today, in the form of Suraj, who is Kiran’s brother and spitting image. With an ever cheeky glint in his eyes and his dimpled grin, he would just talk and talk and talk and incessantly talk. I loved that! He has quite a wide vocabulary range, but his reading is unfortunately still quite poor. I am certain that he will not only enjoy acting, but I think he will also shine in his preferred role, Cupid!

Oh! I completely neglected to talk about the teacher session! It went really really really well today, I found. We discussed a poem by Kabir called ‘Having crossed the river’. The teachers were familiar with the poet and also really appreciated the subject matter. So they had a lot to say. Actually, they had a lot of different things to say. It was wonderful to be reminded of the interpretative freedom of poetry, and interesting to discover links between the teachers’ viewpoints and personalities. Tomorrow may or may not be my turn to come up with something to do. Since I have a lot to prepare for tomorrow, Jessica has kindly agreed to prepare something in case I may not finish in time.

Finally, with a very brief remark, I will sum up my thoughts on Saturday: Tushita kids sure know how to dance!

 

 

Puru :

Day 8

 

It was unfortunate for Jessica as she was down with an allergy and could not come with us to the foundation ,The day started with the poem “Having crossed the river” by Kabir .As the poem revolves around life and death ,the teachers liked it .We also had a short discussion on the link which you mentioned and they all were aware of it .We discussed about the indian cinema and the predictable endings of the movies .

 

As the book of me was not completed by many, i made sure that they complete it and I did the second chapter which is “what makes me happy” with them and made a point to stick to them throughout their work so that they could complete it by today .Unfortunately they were unable to complete it today but would do so by tomorrow.

I would be starting with the sets of question given to me on thursday.

 

I went out with Ruchi ji and Payal ji to take care of the girls in their class and to teach them soccer, as they took keen interest and looked happy it was really  a great site to see them playing .

 

Now i can feel the heat in me to do more and be ready for tomorrow !

Aurélien:

 

The exchange with the teachers is every day more enriching and it definitely reached a peak this morning, with the girls speaking a lot. I really enjoyed reading and commenting on the second poem Puru selected, namely Having Crossed the River by Kabir, although we could not agree on whether the narrator actually crossed the river or not! That’s indeed why this poem was great: it triggered many different interpretations, each of us having a say on what someone would dare adding to the previous comments. I asked the girls two things last week: first if they could put together our texts in a folder that they would bring for each class (they are already doing it); second that we would appreciate someday to listen to them reciting one of their favourite poems… We’ll see! Regarding Malala’s speech at the U.N., it has been forgotten so far for two main reasons: first, although it is of definite interest – I am absolutely convinced the teachers will love it – we have tried to avoid a topic on which Amy and Geeti apparently focused during their whole stay, i.e. the women’s rights; second, because we are just very enthused about doing poetry! However I think that we cannot miss this opportunity and we’ll definitely bring it soon.

The two batches I had today were even more different than yesterday. The first one was even better; I had to deal with a new difficulty though: a couple of them being really enthusiastic, so that they could not stop themselves from speaking up when I had asked other less confident pupils! Nevertheless they usually manage to hold back when I raise a little bit my voice… My second group was made up of two little children, with a very shy and sweet Neeraj whom I am going to pay special attention to during our next meetings. The two of them have serious difficulties in understanding what I say and speaking what they think. I think that paradoxically Neeraj is maybe better than Yassin, but he merely does not dare speaking, providing me with a timid smile as an answer to every question. I asked them to tell me what they had done before coming to the Foundation, using “first”, “them” and “finally” with simple verbs and nouns. Afterwards I started a loud conversation with Ruksar in order for them to listen and look out for words they could understand. “Ruksar Mam, do you want to travel? – Yes I do. – Where do you want to go? – I want to go to France.” They wrote down the two questions and two answers before doing a role-play. Together we also managed to find the quickest way to reach Paris by road on the map! We did another one, following the previous role-play, which was: “If you want to go to Paris, it is very easy. – First you take the car from Amber to Jaipur. – And afterwards? – Then you take the train from Jaipur to Delhi. – O.K. – Finally you take the plane until Paris!” We did a lot of language and still a little bit of geography!
Rosenda

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about Jessica’s allergy, but I am so pleased to know that the good Indian doctor has found a soltion to it. I am convinced that the children and Sonam ji have missed you a lot too.
Mellie, your entry made up for the mising one. I know that you will go through discouraging moments that will make every victory even more delightful.
Greek mythology? Just fabulous! And yes Surej as Cupid, just perfect.
I know how difficult it can be to have an outstanding student in a class, Kiren is the first child who has come to the Foundation and her family situation is not too bright. Please try to give special attention to her, a book to read home, a fashion magazine, since she wants to be a designer, if she is made to feel special, she might stop asking for attention.
Thank you Puru for taking great care of the book of me, there is no need to rush through the answears, give them time to do a good job.By the way, do they make a rough before writing on the Moleskin book? It might be a good idea to correct their mistakes before they write on it.
Aurélien, I must congratulate you for finding a way to make geography so practical and understandable for children whose level of English is not so good. I wonder if you and Mellie discuss your work with your parents who are teachers, I am sure they would be proud of you.
It seems that our classes are not as full this time, maybe it is just the beginning, or maybe we should ask the teachers who are from the village why some children have not come back after the holidays.
Last, but not least, I agree with you that social issues were discussed at lenght with Amy and Geety. The only reason why I suggested Malala’s talk was her outcry for education, but I am more than happy to know that you are enjoying focusing on poetry.
Please do not let any little set back discourage you.
 

 

 

July 17, Wednesday

 

Jessica:

Albeit entirely exhausting, today, like many of the previous days, was great. For Sonam’s class, today’s vocabulary words were centered on the question “What are you wearing?” as I presented words like shirt, watch, pants, and button. After the children copied their usual four to five pages worth of spelling words, I taught the class some of my favorite songs we used to sing at the summer camp I worked at. Sonam particularly liked a song called “Baby Shark” and the kids enjoyed the “Hokey Pokey”, especially when I asked them to put their tushies in and “shake it all about”. Rafat in the third batch loved the song so much she asked that we sing it two times in a row. And it was as much fun the second time as the first. The kids (and Sonam) really seem to love songs and dance so I’ll be looking up more simple repeat-after-me songs that I can teach the kids.

As for the teacher session, today was my turn to provide the material of the day so I chose two Adele songs: “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”, both about heartbreak but with very, very different tones. We read the lyrics aloud and then listened to the songs. The teachers were quick to note the angry, revengeful lyrics of “Rolling” and the melancholy yet forgiving mood of “Someone” which at one point moved Sonam to tears; it was very sweet. All the teachers save Ruchi preferred the sweet, melancholy melody of “Someone” while Ruchi boldly stated that she liked “Rolling” because of its vengeful tone, claiming that the man who had so horribly toyed with the singer’s heart deserves a few harsh words. I thought that was great and we had a laugh about it. I’m excited to see what else we cover during the future sessions; they’ve been quite great thus far.

 

Mellie:

 

First off, I sincerely apologise for not better responding to your comments. I admit, I have my technophobic moments, and coming to grips with the intricacies of Google Docs has been one of them. For some reason, your new comments don’t show up at the bottom of the side bar. They’re in between the older ones. So often, I’d check for your replies and couldn’t find them. Do you know what can be done about this? It would be really handy to have all the comments appear chronologically instead of having to sift through the old ones all the time, especially once they start accumulating.

So to your newest comment… thank you so much for your good advice on Kiran. I am sorry to hear that her family situation is not ideal. I had actually thought of giving her some extra stories to read, but I was hesitant. Veenaji and Gaju Bana instructed us at the very beginning not to give homework, because a lot of the kids have to work or help around the house after school. I am sure that it will be okay to make an exception for Kiran. Also, thank you for letting me know that she is interested in fashion. I will try to come up with something intellectual yet interesting for her. I had her today in my class as well. We acted out the play that I had typed up for them, and I was actually quite surprised that K. didn’t immediately volunteer to play the lead role of Pandora. When I asked her if she would like to play Pandora, she shook her head and preferred a much smaller part instead. I’m not sure if she didn’t like the character, or was shy, or maybe a little bit cross with me for not having responded to her enough during class.

But yes, the play! Working with the first group was a quite frustrating experience, again, because there were simply so many of them. Those who weren’t directly addressed would just turn around and chat with their friends, which made it really hard to get through the play. The children would be so distracted that they didn’t realise when it was their turn to speak. And yet, with my patience waning and my voice a tad testier, the play was overall very successful! The good thing about the Pandora play is that there are many different characters, with some smaller parts for the shyer children. Actually, I don’t think a lot of them were shy. I think they were just afraid of embarrassing themselves, especially some of the girls. It makes sense. In a big group, there are more people who will potentially laugh at you, AND there are more people to sanction non-participation. I shared this view with Priyanka, and her solution was to ask some kids of the first batch to join the later groups.

The group size is also the reason I think the second and third batch play went so well! Really, I could not believe my eyes! In the second batch, we worked on Apollo and Daphne. Only four kids were there, and they very eagerly participated in the warm-up games (which I can say from experience can often be excruciatingly embarrassing). Their acting was excellent too, because they really tried! Do you remember the kid I wrote about, Abhishek? Priyanka later revealed to me that he is usually one of the first ones to leave the classroom, but today he actually stayed for two batches! He also really got out of his comfort zone. First I cast him as Apollo, in the second round as Cupid, and finally I thought I’d try my luck and asked him to try his hand at Daphne! Of course, at first he giggled a little sheepishly, but once the curtain opened, he didn’t seem at all bashful about playing a girl. In fact, he did a really good job! And his English was great too. But apart from our prima donna, I was very impressed by the delivery of the other children. Two of the girls, Shirin and Shirat, who don’t usually speak nor stand out much, were really instinctive. Shirin, in particular, played a perfect Daphne. The third group was only boys, and I expected some resistance about playing a girl. But no! They proved themselves to be very versatile, and easily rotated through all the roles with the professionalism of a true thespian. Suraj and Hashim really went for it. You would have especially appreciated Hashim’s Daphne catwalk strut and sultry pout. Or even the old man quiver he had in his voice when he portrayed Peneus, the river god. It was also very endearing to see him slip into the role of the acting coach for his classmates. I can’t wait to rehearse the play with them again, maybe even with some rudimentary props and costumes. Hm… maybe Kiran will be interested in toga-tying?

Unfortunately Puru is going to kidnap some of my Greek deities tomorrow so that they can immortalise themselves in the Book of Me…

Oh yes, as far as I know, the reason some of the children are not showing up to the Foundation is because some schools have changed their timetables; or extended their hours, so that it overlaps with Tushita time. But if you like, I can ask the teachers again tomorrow.

Regarding non class-related news, today we went dictionary shopping! We got about twenty copies of an English-Hindi dictionary, with the word in Hindi but also a description in English. I think it will be extremely useful for the children, not only for their comprehension of new texts, but also for them to familiarise themselves with using a dictionary. And you asked for some ideas for the courtyard. On Sunday, during dinner at V. and G.’s house, I suggested we invest in some jump ropes or other outdoor games as an alternative to football or other team sports. But I couldn’t think of any other outdoor toys except for the skipping rope. Jessica mentioned Frisbees, but, still scarred from the pigeon decapitation, I had an awful vision of neon-coloured discs slicing through the necks of innocent children. Do you have any suggestions? Oh, hackey sacks might be fun!

 

Aurélien:

 

Unfortunately I had to do something I really don’t like this afternoon: I scolded the adorable and super-smart Aafreen that could not stop herself from answering questions addressed to other less talented classmates; she did it four times, I repeated three times that she was not supposed to speak, and I told her that I did not want to listen to her for a moment. I noticed that she was really sad, she had probably not understood, so I asked her to stay for five minutes at the end of the lesson, when the children left the room, in order to explain to her why I had reacted this way… I think she understood that her classmates also needed to get involved during my class. Besides, she was upset because she is competing very seriously with another very clever girl; apparently Ruksar Mam told Aafreen and Mehek to come in different batches but they refused to do so as they want to be in the same class to keep challenging each other! Why not? Anyway I am of course doing my best to avoid favouritism; still I try to involve the two of them when the questions become harder so that they can get satisfaction for their bright answers. They both make me laugh a lot! So do a couple of other pupils during this first session. The distracted boys want to impress me with their knowledge as I myself impress them on the soccer field (Adnan, Bharat, Priyanshu)! I shook up the shy Aisha, Monika and Neeraj many times today to get them out of their comfort zone. The latter has not seen the last of me yet: I started to annoy him when he showed up on the pitch, one hour before his class, asking him the tricky “What did you do today?”. He must think I am a little retarded as I asked him the same question at least fifty times in two days. But he almost answered this afternoon! We kept doing role-plays with Neeraj and Yassin while Ruksar worked on other basics with Arbaaz and Parvez, who were not in class yesterday. After succeeding in doing well the last role-play, I “rewarded” them by playing hangman for the last fifteen minutes.

I had planned to introduce it later, but considering the level of the first batch, I finally brought the globe in the classroom. I also made them use the compass that I have on my cell phone, which is useful and more entertaining than the compass rose that they had drawn in their notebooks two days ago. Therefore they could use three different tools to answer my difficult questions: the compass, the maps and the globe. They managed to use them well and could show me with their index fingers in which directions they could walk to go to Delhi, Gujarat, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. The soccer time is not easy as it used to be: Puru is so conscientious in leading his “Book of Me” task that he does not have time to join me on the field anymore! I took the Hindi yellow card out of my pocket several times today!

 

Puru:

Day 9

Rolling in the deep !!

 

It was a musical start to the day as jessica came prepared with two songs by adele “Rolling in the deep” and “someone like you” which are inspired and linked to her original life and the hatred she has for her ex love . The teachers understood her pain and sorrow in the song .On our way to the foundation, we bought some pocket dictionaries .

 

As it was the third day for me to sit with the children and do the book of me ,they finally managed to do the completion of the “book of me”. I will be starting my sets of question from tomorrow and accordingly I had asked all of them to be on time tomorrow .

 

Fareen who sits in priyanka ji class took me for amaze as i was astonished to see her drawing and the way she loves it ,she is no less than an artist .

 

I took out some time and did some sports ,I played soccer and cricket for a while with the children ,and then returning back to the class where I had to keep an eye on the “book of me”

 

As all of the students who were lacking behind did complete the “book of me” by the evening and finally felt a bit relaxed !

Rosenda

Hopefully, this time my comment will appear in the right position. I must confess my Google illiteracy, I will ask Ayan to train me when he comes at the end of the month. Thank you for bearing with me.
It is always a great pleasure to read you and I feel like a cheerleader, raving about your performance with the teachers and the children. You dare do things that I wouldn’t do, like talking about heartbreak with the teachers, ask a boy to play a girl or keep a child after class to talk to her and make her understand that everyone deserves a chance to speak up.
You are such natural teachers!
Handling the children’s psycology seems to be the biggest task. Kiren does have to help her mom a lot with house chores and that could be the reason why she preferes not to take a big role for your play, Mellie.
With the little children things seem a bit easier that way, but please be careful with Sonam who has a very sensitive heart.
Can you believe that some of the students are so competitive that they want to seat with another good student just to see who wins? I am not very fond of competition, it can make someone impossible to work with later on in life. I would rather foster a spirit of cooperation in the children, but I know that certain characters can’t be changed.
I hope I have not ruined your fun with the book of me, it is a project I am very fond of, but maybe Pryanka can take care of it while Puru plays football?
I need to hear what Puru has to say about it and if he finds the book of me beneficial.
Bravo for the Hindi yellow cards! With you not knowing their language, I don’t want to know what the boys might have said on the field today.
Puru is writing to me right now, I will get back to him later.

 

July 18, Thursday

 

Jessica:

Without a doubt, today was the most exhausting and hectic day I’ve experienced so far at the Foundation. The first batch went as smoothly as previous days but after a trip outdoors to play around with the kids, I found myself embarrassingly exhausted after the half-hour of running around under the sun. To make matters even more exhausting (and quite awful), Sonam slipped on the ground and injured her knee which caused her to leave the Foundation early. So I remained in the class with Geeta and this short, yet intense, period of time made me quickly realize Sonam’s command of the class because in the wake of her absence, the classroom became very close to chaotic. Several of the kids were shouting and hitting each other and despite my separating them and demanding “No hitting!”, they didn’t really listen and/or understand what I was saying. I left fairly exhausted with fingers crossed for Sonam’s speedy recovery. Hopefully, tomorrow’s classes won’t be as hectic!

 

Puru:

Day 10

 

The day was really good.To begin with the morning session ,Mellie had an incredible thought and she came up with some photographs clicked by Jonathan Hobin .

As the title for the album is “in the playroom” , the clicks were of children depicting the muck of the world or the world of blood and hatred.All the photographs were based on the real life tregedy which took place all around the globe like the 9/11 and the death of Princess Diana in 1997 ,he wanted  to show how the new era of constant media influences a kid’s life and how bad it could be.He captures the childhood fascinations with the darkest aspects of adult life in his polarizing series.Teachers liked the photography and took keen interest in the discussion about the photos .

 

The first day for the “book of me”, children started with the chapter “my name”.They loved doing the book of me as the chapter was about their identity .We did a part of the first chapter and rest we will do tomorrow .The classroom was very humid and everyone felt hot, they were tired after a set of questions and wanted to leave.

 

As the children were tired of writing, they came out to play soccer .As always we divided them into two teams and asked them to take their positions .The whistle was blown and the game begins and soon I started to feel the upgradation in their game, there was passing, calling for the ball and raining of the goals! As everyone played with their full energy the game became enjoyable .On the other half of the ground mellie and jessica were running around with the little ones and the girls.

 

Yet another luminous day comes to an end !

 

Mellie:

 

I think out of all of us, only Jessica really knows how GoogleDocs works! Last week we had a moment that was first extremely frustrating, and then extremely funny. I had accidentally deleted everyone’s posts, and Aurélien had managed to delete some of your comments. But we are learning! Just this morning, I figured out how to view your newest comments. Apparently, all this time I have chosen to ignore the big button on the top of the screen that says ‘COMMENTS’…

 

Yesterday was exhausting! I was in bed by half ten. It was good to wake up this morning feeling refreshed. Usually I stumble out of bed and trudge into the living room with a zombie gait. Today I even managed to smile at Manisha! Really, I do not usually have the discipline to get up early, but the yoga sessions get me out of bed (though unfortunately, I think I will always be a pathological latecomer). I am surprised at how much better I feel from morning yoga. It’s only an hour and not that physically demanding (although there have been days when my legs have had a hard time forgetting the painful memories of the Downward Dog and other animal attacks…), and yet it really seems to make a difference. Just yesterday, I looked at myself in the mirror and discovered that I have collar bones! And I feel so much more awake and energised and ready for a long day at the Foundation.

It was my turn to come up with a topic for the teachers’ session, and I thought I’d try something a little different, to spice things up. I also wanted to take your cue on pedagogy. So, I brought some photographs by Jonathan Hobin, who in his In the Playroom series depicted children recreating tragic events in their games. By juxtaposing real life violence and a child’s imagination, Hobin refers to media penetration and presentation of traumatic experiences, such as Lady Di’s death, the 2004 tsunami, 9/11, but also beauty queen murder or kidnapping stories that generated a lot of news coverage. I think in some ways the photos shed light on how media can often become a kind of fiction itself, because TV and newspapers in the end have to choose which stories to focus on and more importantly how to tell them. To add another layer of debate, I decided to include a Dailymail article on the backlash Hobin’s art has received, notably from concerned mothers who accuse him and the models’ parents of exploiting young impressionable minds for financial gain.

At first, I was really worried that the teachers would not really appreciate my choice of topic, but my, oh my, was I proven wrong! We went through the slideshow, and I asked for first impressions. It was really interesting to see how some of the teachers described the tragedy first (plane crashing into the twin towers) while others chose to focus more on the children’s games, which is exactly the direction I was hoping they would take. Later, as the discussion began, the teachers very instinctively pointed out the big themes which inspired the photographs. Priyanka immediately raised the issue of media and its influence on children. Geeta pointed out how kids and even her own little Krishna are prone to recreate scenes seen on TV shows. Ruksar was interested in the accountability of parenting, and the need for parents to explain to their children the difference between reality and fiction. What I really appreciated about yesterday’s debate was that the teachers all had very different opinions on the subject matter, and that they even began interacting with each other instead of simply responding to our questions or cues. They also disagreed with us, the volunteers. Of course, even among ourselves, Jess, Aurélien, Puru and I did not have the same viewpoints. At some point, the talk reached a never before seen intensity! It was exhilarating! Later, in class, Priyanka, who is very interested in social issues, came up to me and said that she really enjoyed the session. In future, however, AJP and I agreed to mix it up a little more, so that every teacher has their chance to shine. Ruchi and Payal were quite quiet yesterday, and I think A. is planning to do some short stories, which is Ruchi’s preferred approach.

Working with the kids was fun! The first batch was significantly smaller because a large part was working on the Book of Me with P., and so preparing and performing the play was much easier and less nerve-wrecking. The kids were also less embarrassed about doing the silly warm up games. I can sympathise with them, though. I’ve always slightly disliked these kinds of exercises, but they are so important! The real idea behind them is of course to loosen up your body for the actual acting, but I am inclined to believe that it is also a matter of learning to take risks and laugh at yourself. The play went well! The kids have really begun acting! At the end of the lesson we did a quick read through, but this time I asked them to add emotions to the lines. I think today I will unfortunately have to assign roles… I don’t know how to go about this. I don’t want to audition them because I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve lost or that they weren’t good enough. And as much as there is sufficient overlap between a child’s capacity and preferred role, sometimes there are two contenders for one part. We’ll see how it goes!

As for the second group… The play went well! The kids are beginning to remember important things such as positioning and timing. I tried to encourage them to learn some lines with a game. I asked them each to learn two lines of different characters. First, they would walk around as one of the characters, when I clapped, they would have to freeze and say their line. Then, I would clap again, and they would have to switch to the second character, and again, clap, freeze, say line. It went well! The third batch was just one boy, Hashim! For about twenty minutes I sat with him and helped him learn some lines. He’s such a natural! His English is not great, but he is such an instinctive actor, and not bashful at all. He will be joining the second batch today, so that he can actually showcase his thespian talents.

Oh yes, I should probably add that we performed the play outside, in front of the Tushita house and in front of neighbours, passer-bys and other students! And the kids, though a little giggly at first, didn’t mind at all! I was very impressed. I would have been way too self-conscious at their age.

Finally, a last remark on their English language skills: I was unsure at first if my plays were a good language teaching method or simply a fun way to pass time. But I think that they are picking up new words. They now know what wounds are, what it means to heal someone, what a whisper sounds like. I think their language acquisition is probably less measurable, but surely it must be beneficial for them, especially with regards to fluency. What are your thoughts? Should I integrate more old-school methods in my Express yourself approach?

 

P.S.

The lime juice is excellent. The best part of my day is arriving at the Foundation where Lal Singh greets us with a tray of juice. I usually gulp it down in a heartbeat.

 

Aurélien:

 

Mellie brought wonderful pictures for the teacher’s session this morning. Jonathan Hobin is a great photograph who created among other things a series – I would say a Family album! – entitled “In the Playroom”. Not only are the pictures wonderful, but they also enabled us to talk about education and express different points of view. For instance, a part of the conversation was based upon the fact that it is maybe not the same for a young boy to play Rama versus Ravana or cowboys versus Indians, GIs versus Taliban… For children playing 9/11 is the same as playing Sita’s abduction! How do these games influence them? What about videogames? And fake weapons? If it is undeniable that children are very often not able to differentiate between reality and fiction, it is however a well-known fact that forbidding something is not always the best solution, far from it! We discussed the roles of the parents, compared our relative experiences, and savoured Jonathan Hobin’s work. Mellie also brought newspaper articles about several points of controversy triggered by “In the Playroom”. Deviating from our poetry program is not such a sin when one has such a good idea! And Ruchi asked for “stories”: I am going to cater for her tastes next time.

As for the children, after a quick review, I asked the first batch to tell me which were the “biggest countries of the world”. They carefully looked at the map and they cautiously uttered a couple guesses. Some of them were right: when you look at a Mercator planisphere, it is quite obvious that Russia is the biggest. Still Nurain suggested Switzerland! Then I introduced the difference between area and population rankings. We listed the “ten biggest countries” in terms of size and population and spent the rest of the session playing a game. Each of them had to choose a country, which they did after answering questions about what we had studied the previous days. They all changed citizenships in ten minutes and their identity switched too as I gave them a new name corresponding to their new nationality. They played their respective roles for the rest of the class: Gulafsha turned into Yoko from Japan, located in the North-East of Asia, living in Japan and eating sushi while Zuned turned into Li Ke from China, located in Asia, to the South-West of Japan, living and Beijing and eating roast duck… During the last session, Neeraj and Yassin spoke so loudly that people in the next classroom must have had the shivers.

Rosenda

So sorry to hear about Sonam’s knee, I am afraid that you are all overeximating your capacity to bear the monsoon weather. The humidity in the air tends to make you tired and you should drink a lot of water or “nimbu pani”, lime water, with a pinch of salt and sugar for reyidration, please ask for it often and don’t run around too much, I don’t want your parents to find you melted once you’ll fly back home.
I know what the little kids’ class looks like when they feel there is no authority around and you will be surprised to know that it was Sonam facing the problem in the beginning of her tenure.
You might want to ask her how she managed to gain such a command of the class.
If you were to face the same problem tomorrow, maybe you can try playing a very soft music and asking the children to tale the sawasana pose, flat on the floor, eyes closed, legs and arm apart. Hopefully, Sonam will be all right by tomorrow, though.
Congratulation for the interesting topic of conversation Mellie brought up with the teachers, I am convinced that the exposure to so much violence is really disturbing, just like junk food for the spirit.
I can’t wait to read the answers to the book of me questions, I am happy that the children enjoyed the excercise.
And please Puru, let me know how you make your teams, you know this is a very sensitive topic and I would love to be reassured.
I gather that Mellie and Aurélien are out like a light, I don’t blame you, today must have been a tiring day.

 

July 19, Friday

 

Jessica:

Sonam came back! Woo hoo!! Although her knee was still in a bit of pain, she made her return this morning and I was eternally grateful. Since today was “drawing day”, we spent the first half the class reviewing spelling words from yesterday and then I led the kids through a person/alien-drawing tutorial. I was impressed by the kid’s creativity as they drew characters with square heads, three eyes, and babies for hands. Since some of the kids started get a bit restless towards the end, I thought it would be good to release some energy through song and dance so we did another round of their favorite, “Hokey Pokey”. Overall, despite the tiring heat, the day went much more smoothly than yesterday.

In regards to the teacher session, we followed Amy and Geeti’s tradition of “Game Day Friday” and played a variety of game with the teachers. It was a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I’ll be looking up some different games we can play for next week’s game day.

 

P.S.

I wholeheartedly with Melanie’s previous statement about the lime juice. I was just talking about how great it would be to have a jug of it around the house.

 

Mellie:

 

Friday, finally! Don’t get the impression that my week was terrible. It’s just that this weekend bears much to look forward to! First off, tomorrow, the morning will for once not belong to Manisha but to massages! V. is getting a lady to come to our house and knead those sore shoulders like bread. I’m also getting my eyebrows threaded, so I will look less like a character on Sesame Street. After the spa treatment, we’ll be spending the afternoon at the Foundation. I’m planning an arts and crafts session, and the kids will help me make props and costumes for our plays. Also, Sonam is going to mehendi my hands! When we get back to Jaipur, G.B. is taking us for a swim! And on Sunday, we’ve been cordially invited to V. and G.’s place for a Bollywood movie marathon. I will finally get to watch Ye Jewaani Hai Dewani and maybe shed a tear or two (or a thousand).

My day at the Foundation was good, and actually pretty easy. Because my third batch has been seized by Puru, I spent the last hour talking to Priyanka and planning the arts and crafts session for tomorrow. With the first two groups, I learned lines. It’s unfortunate that I won’t be with Priyanka’s class on Monday, mainly because I worry that the progress we made will be lost. To make sure we can continue from where we left off when I join Priyanka’s playhouse again, I gave each of the kids a sheet of paper with the lines of their character, written out in bold, colourful letters, and instructed them to hang it up somewhere in their house and take a minute every day to reread them. And when I bump into them on the staircase or in the courtyard, I will most certainly quiz them on their lines!

Surprisingly, two paragraphs is all I have for you this time! Have a good weekend! And enjoy Italy (if you’re still there).

 

Puru:

Day 11

Lively friday !!

 

Yet another successful and vigorous week comes to an end ,swiftly playing the knowledge games which included famous personalities in the field of sports ,education,politics and historic figures .We started with a game in which a team had to pick a chit and act accordingly ,we played several rounds of it and in different manner .Another game was an alphabet was chosen and everyone had to write few things which started with the concerning letter in a particular frame of time .Finally one more game was introduced in which there were two murderers ,a cop ,a nurse and remaining were citizens .It was a good session with the teachers and everyone shared a good laugh .

 

There were children eagerly waiting for me to arrive and start with the next chapter which is “My story” as they had come prepared with the answers, they wrote it and decorated the book of me. As the weather was fine today, we did not feel much hot and enjoyed the work.

Everyone should work hard and play hard, the children of the foundation feel the same so they geared up for an hour of sports .I tried to play with the girls and the boys as well .I taught the girls how to do a header. The girls also played badminton .It was six p.m. ! And no one wanted to leave the ground as they were having their time of the day.

 

By the end of the second week at the foundation, I can say that the pain leaves your body and happiness takes its place !

 

Aurélien:

 

Manisha’s favourite movies are the Final Destination series. For real. We reiterated the “cool Friday” that Amy and Getti used to do. And we really had fun with the teachers this morning. First we played fishbowl. Then we did a “petit bac” and we finished with “mafia”. Next time, I’ll suggest adding the character of the yoga teacher in the village.

I sometimes feel like I am in the shoes of a tyrant: I did not let the poor Priyanshu go to the restroom until he substituted “Sir, restroom?” with a correct question; what about his best friend Bharat who pleaded with me to accept his afternoon snack’s banana? How funny it was when Aisha, after having finished an exercise, asked me to sign the notebook’s page: not only did each of her classmates ask me for the same favour but they kept asking after finishing every single exercise! Admittedly most of them got tired at some point, when I told them I would not sign any new exercise if I was not asked the question in a correct English… But the ones that could do it easily persisted until the end of the class. I am glad to notice that the second lesson has been going a lot better today than it was at the beginning of the week. Suraj – I don’t know why but he did! – joined Arbaaz, Neeraj and Yassin for the last session. We wrote a role-play together with simple geographical questions and answers. We explored the globe, they asked me questions and I answered them. I explained which were the continents, the oceans, the countries and the seas… My week in Ruksar’s class has been wonderful.

Rosenda

Good to know that yoga is a useful addition to your daily routine. It is important to change your patterns at times and discover a new you.
Your attention to the teachers needs and desires is highly appreciated.
Your approach of the teaching English seems very beneficial to me. The children in Amber have difficulties expressing themselves in English and performing is a way to gain confidence.
Playing is a great way to learn, I thnik.
Sorry for my short comment, mornings are a bit busy for me.
I imagine the four of you in the Foundation office right now, discussing…I’ll find out later.

Hopefully, I have mastered the art of opening the comment window in the right place and you are reading my comments without pain.
Hopefully this journal is not too much of me to ask.
I guess by the end of it you will be happy to have a record of what happened during these two months.
I am truly pleased to hear that you are enjoying the sessions with the teachers and that sometimes you take it lightly and just play games. I completely agree with Puru that one should work hard and play hard.
I am also very pleased to hear that the little children are showing freedom of expression in their drawings, this is the result of Amy’s work.
I didn’t mean to take away the children from you with the book of me, maybe Pryanka and Mellie can also help Puru in the task. Hopefully you take time to correct the students’ ruffs so that no mistake finds its way in the book of me.
The garden seems to be a big hit with both boys and girls, I come to realise that we have really changed the face of the village with this space.
Amazing!
Have a lovely week end.

 

July 22, Monday

 

Jessica:

Today ran smoothly as per usual. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred and we did the usual routine of vocabulary words (today’s theme was “Opposites”), some songs, and then did some running around on the playground (although I learned my lesson from last time and knew not to overexert myself  during the first batch). During the teacher session, we went over the Malala speech you recommended. Although I knew of her story, I also read the speech for the first time today and was in awe by the speech’s conclusion. We followed the reading with a discussion about the importance of education, the opportunities it allows, the different effects of nonviolent vs. violent protests, etc… It was overall a successful, non-hectic day.

 

Aurélien:

 

We finally read and talked about Malala’s speech this morning! The teachers were both moved and pleased by this wonderful text. They first read two paragraphs each and we straight asked them their impressions to start a conversation. It was also the opportunity to introduce the exempla Malala quotes in her speech, such as Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali Jinnah or Nelson Mandela, as well as checking who was Bacha Khan, whom none of us knew before the session. We spoke about education, priorities of “development”, and non-violence. As both Ruchi and Payal agreed that we should read “stories”, I am going to bring one tomorrow, thereby delaying my poetry plans… We asked them to tell us how they work on improving their English and we encouraged them to read and watch films in English when they get back home too.

The morning session is a great idea and I do believe it will help them make significant progress. I went to Priyanka’s class for the first time this afternoon; we agreed with Mellie that we would probably take turns each week between Ruchi, Ruksar and Priyanka classes. What do you think? I might switch after half a week though as I think it is important not to do only geography with the children five days straight – after the broad introduction of the three first weeks. Today has been a cool session since we took the time to introduce ourselves and I “tested” the kids with simple oral questions in order to check both their level of English and their geographical knowledge. I was pleasantly surprised to acknowledge that Priyanka, Anthony and Puru did a great job, as the children know a lot! The class is supposed to be the “best” one I believe but they are still not used to making proper sentences when they give an answer or ask a question. Then Puru and I led our second rugby training – after the introduction we did on Saturday; it is just difficult to make them pass the ball backward while they are running forward! However I am convinced that they are going to enjoy this new sport a lot once they familiarize themselves with the rules.

 

Puru:

Day 13

Education opens the door !!

 

The heart whelming topic for the discussion of today was the speech delivered by Malala Yousafzai in U.N. As she believed strongly in the education for every human,We all were inspired by her bold speech .She is just 16 years of age but reading her courageous words,she merely shook the globe .We discussed about how the education opens the door to the sky and the need of education.Teachers took keen participation in the discuss and totally agreed with the right of education .We also discussed about the famous personalities mentioned in her speech .It was a great interaction session.

 

After a good session with teachers it was time for children and “the book of me” .Today we did the chapter no. 3 which is regarding the features and characteristics of oneself.They found this chapter interesting and did it quite comfortably .There was silence in the class which showed how engrossed they were .Farheen is a girl who is only into painting and drawing and doesn’t  like to write.

 

It was then time for sports ,we played rugby first and then soccer. They found rugby really tough but as practise makes a man perfect ,Aurelien is trying his best to teach them the correct manner .Seeing their capacity they would really pick this sport quickly !Soccer has  taken over cricket  nowadays .Children love playing soccer and I am sure same would be for rugby in the coming days .

 

Pen is mightier than a sword !

 

Mellie:

 

Today we switched classes again, and I took on Ruchi’s class. I find first days in new classes a little difficult. I prepared a version of Guess Who to play with the kids, and after a few rounds, some of them confessed that they felt bored. This time I was prepared for the awkwardness so I did not feel as disappointed as I did after my first session with Priyanka’s pups. It takes some time to get to know the kids, their interests and their level. Also, moving from the most advanced class to the beginners is a challenge for my acclimatisation skills. I asked the children for their opinion and advice on what we should do together, and most of them insisted on stories. So stories it is! At the same time I will try to find a way to change things up a bit. Actually, Geeta had a very good idea! She suggested I try to conduct a discussion with the kids, the way we do it in the morning sessions with the teachers. I don’t know if this will be possible with Ruchi’s class, but maybe it would be interesting to find a story that acts as a microcosm for greater social issues. In fact, maybe I will bring the James Mollison photo series ‘Where Children Sleep’, which consists of portraits of children from all over the world and their bedrooms. It could be an interesting follow-up on A. and P.’s geography lessons, and also perhaps an introduction to the subject of socio-economic disparities. Or is this too sensitive a topic, do you think? Maybe this would be more suitable for the older kids?

 

Rosenda

I spoke with Veenaji and the teachers today and they all sounded thrilled by your presence at the Foundation.
They realise how much you help them improve their English and their work.
Now you know Aurélien why we insist on English so much, because we see that the level is quite low in the village, but we hope that it will improve.
Malala’s speach is meaningful and touching, I am glad that you shared her words with each other.
During our conversation Veenaji informed me that the fridge has arrived and that you will have plenty of nimbu pani and mineral water. Please do not forget to drink, it is very important for your wellbeing.
Taking turns with the classes is a very good idea, children are thus exposed to different combinations of teachers, it will work well.
I am so happy about rugby, can’t wait to see the “Amber lions” play when I’ll come.
Have a pleasent night.

 

July 23, Tuesday

Jessica:

Another successful and smooth day, but with more song! After a vocabulary/spelling lesson which focused on “school” words (ex: teacher, pencil, board, student, etc…), I taught the children two new songs. One of them was definitely a bit too difficult since it contains a lot of words that the children didn’t know but the other one, which mostly involved following motions and repeating words, went successfully. I also taught the children the game “Heads Up, 7 Up” which they seemed to enjoy. The third batch then demanded that we do our daily dose of “Hokey Pokey”. Sonam and I finished the last half hour of class with a trip outside where we all sweat profusely while playing around. During the last half hour, I played some rounds of badminton with Payal who is basically a professional. Sonam again suffered an injury but much more minor than her previous knee slip; she stubbed her toe. We joked that next she should injure her head and shoulders so that we can sing an injured version of “Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes”. I really, really like Sonam and thoroughly enjoy being in class with her. She interacts so well with the little ones and we always share a laugh, especially when the children give me their adorably bewildered looks of confusion when I attempt anything too complex (I tried to have the children sing in a round and the children looked at me like I was crazy when I would interject in the middle of their singing; I couldn’t stop laughing). Like yesterday, it was a successful day overall and I’m excited for tomorrow!

 

Puru:

Day 14

Tremendous Tuesday !!

Today for the teachers session, Aurelien was up with a greek mythology story by Ovie .which was translated in simple english .The old mythology was diverse and new for everyone. The poem for the same by Jonathan swift was also a part of the discussion .We diverted from the topic and talked about various other things.There has been an improvement in the way the teachers read and pronounce the words .They told us that they go through the english newspaper everyday and watch movies in english to have a command on their language .Ruchi ji has started speaking up and grasping the conversation as the others do.

 

I was astounded to see the children already on their seats ,I started to write on the board and they very patiently decorated their book of me .We commenced from where we left yesterday and then the questions come regarding the hair and hairstyles ,as their were many questions on hair Suraj and Satyam asked me that why are we writing so much on hair .Putul who seems quite stable and soft is the atom bomb of the class because when she explodes she rocks the whole class,when it comes to work every child gives their best and do with the best of their ability .The topics really interests them and specially the girls because they like to write about their dresses and favourite accessories .

 

At the ground today, children with full energy said they wanted to play soccer and not rugby as it was not their cup of tea. We enjoyed and played a good game of soccer which was enthusiastic .I witnessed the striking of the goals and the amount of passing.

 

Life is full of surprises and here I got one ! I love to spare my time at the foundation.

 

Mellie:

 

So I ended up choosing three fables for the kids that I felt were united by a common theme. I chose the Bird in Borrowed Feathers, about a crow who wins a beauty competition by wearing assorted feathers from other birds, and later gets outcast by everyone when his masquerade is exposed. The two other stories were variations on the same theme. There was the Cowardly Bat, who refuses to join either side in the Birds vs. Beasts, alternatively claiming ‘I’m not a Bird’ or ‘I’m not a Beast’. In the end, because he refuses to commit to either side, the bat is left alone and rejected. The third story featured the same idea of being neither this nor that, but with a positive twist. A bat gets caught by two weasels; the first mistakes him for a mouse, the second for a bird. The bat escapes by insisting to the first weasel that he is winged and therefore a bird, and to the second that his lack of feathers means he must be a mouse. I thought all three stories approached the topic of identity from a different perspective.

Unfortunately, today’s session was harder than I had expected. The children in Ruchi’s class still have great difficulties reading out loud let alone expressing themselves. While I selected simple stories, I think overall some of the vocabulary and sentence structures were a little confusing. We ended up not doing the bird story and only focusing on the shorter, simpler bat fables. In the first two sessions, after reading the story together, I explained the plot to the kids, asked them which ending they preferred and I think by the end most of them understood. For the third batch, which is a little smaller and has some more advanced students such as Arshi, I thought I would attempt a different approach. I brought the dictionaries in and asked them to look up the words they didn’t understand and make a list in their notebooks with the Hindi translation. My aim was for them to develop their own understanding of the stories without too much intervention on my part. I was a little surprised by the words some of the children were unsure of, such as ‘about’ or even ‘come’.

Switching classes has proven to be a bigger challenge for me than I had expected. I’m finding it very difficult to design classes that are basic enough yet at the same time complex enough to keep eleven year olds interested. After discussing my concerns with A. and J. at dinner today, they had the good suggestion that I should set an objective for each class. Maybe for Ruchi’s class tomorrow I will try to teach them some vocabulary, and later have them construct sentences with the newly acquired words. When I asked Ruchi for her opinion, she said it would be good to practice questions and responses with the children. My idea for now is to ask them to write postcards. I’ll bring postcard shaped cards and ask them to draw a scene representing a country or a city, and then ask them to write three or four sentences incorporating words such as ‘sunny/rainy weather’ or ‘spicy/delicious food’. Maybe afterwards they could ‘send’ the postcards to each other, and present them. So if the postcard says ‘I went to the Taj Mahal and it was beautiful’, the recipient has to change the pronoun and say ‘She wrote that she went to the Taj Mahal and that it was beautiful’.

I will try to come up with some more ideas before falling asleep. I think I will try to prepare as many activities as I can so that if one of my ideas fails again I can simply experiment with another.

 

P.S. Scroll up for last night’s entry! I forgot to upload it, sorry sorry!

 

Aurélien:

 

Today I have to confess that I prepared something too complex for the teachers’ session. I wanted to work on the myth of Baucis and Philemon. First we read a simplified version of this story by Ovid, which I found in Mellie’s book; then we studied the too long and too difficult poem by Jonathan Swift inspired by Ovid’s metamorphosis… I had also brought two paintings about the theme of Nature and the Human Body, the first one was Winter by Arcimboldo and the second Landscape with Philemon and Baucis by Rubens. We still spoke about hospitality, which is a very important aspect of Indian culture. They enjoyed the first version I had brought; but the second was a real failure! They got bored after trying to read it and the conversation about the links between the Ancient and Renaissance periods – such as the Pagan gods used in the first text while the second refers to Christian saints – did not flow. I will make sure to do a better job next time…

Fortunately my two language/geography lessons went way better! As Puru studied Indian geography with the first batch, I decided to focus more on Asia. I wanted them to express correct sentences to describe the political map of the world. By the way I also introduced them the difference between political and physical geography, political and natural boundaries, and I told them that we would study political maps at first. I gave them a couple very simple definitions, such as “A map is a drawing of the Earth’s surface or a part of it.” or “A continent is made up of many countries while an ocean is made up of many seas.”, etc. We described the Asian continent and we started to write the names of the different Asian countries on a blank map I had brought. We will finish tomorrow and start something else. Usually, in the second session, I am in the courtyard for the soccer/rugby training. The second batch actually ended up attending the last class I taught, as they apparently wanted a geography lesson! Therefore I had two batches for the last session, with a lot of new students – so many new students arrived in the beginning of the week – and I introduced them to the basics of my geography class, namely the compass rose or the differences between continents, countries, states and cities. For them to understand once and for all these concepts, I improvised a role-play between an Indian teenager from Amber travelling abroad and a foreigner who has never heard about India. “Where are you from? – I am from Jaipur in India! – India? Is it in Africa? – No it is not!!! India is an Asian country! – Oh yes of course! Jaipur is the capital right? (…)” I am currently trying to set a new English and only English speaking trend at the Foundation, among the pupils as well as the teachers! I have already found some partners in crime. We will see the outcome in a month… It’s already become quite natural on the playground! Do you have any advice for this?

Thank you Puru for followng up seriously the work on the book of me. Even though some children do not like to write, having to answer precise questions should be of help. Help Farheen make short andcrisp sentences.
Let’s find names for our soccer and rugby teams.

 

July 24, Wednesday

Jessica:

Once again, a successful and sweaty day! Today’s vocabulary lesson focused on the ocean with words like fish, seaweed, shark, and eel. Lately, I’ve been “awarding” the children by drawing a heart, star, smiley face, or “Good Job!” on their notebooks if they write neatly and recite the spelling correctly and it’s been a hit. Some of the children who had previously only done the minimum number of pages will now ask to do an extra page of spelling so they can win another opportunity to have a star or smiley face in their notebooks. We finished with our usual shenanigans in the field. Excited for tomorrow but hoping it isn’t as brutally warm as it was today!

 

Mellie:

 

Rosenda, thank you for your thoughtful advice! I agree, it is not about us or me but about the children, which is particularly why I felt so frustrated. I felt like I was not responding adequately to their needs and interests, and obviously my goal is for them to benefit from the lessons.

Today went pretty well! I ended up doing the postcards. I prepared five questions: Where did you go? What did you do there? What did you eat? What did the people wear? What was it like? And I prepared four destinations: a city break in France, a camping trip in America, a skiing trip in Austria and a beach holiday in Malaysia. I had the kids draw their ‘tickets’, pieces of paper with the places on them. So in each class, about four kids would be travelling to one of the destinations. I also brought a lot of pictures with me, of the landscape, the food, the clothing and the activities. This was a good idea to bridge the language barrier, I think, and also widen their horizons about the world. You are probably right, and none of these kids will ever write a postcard themselves, but from their reactions to the photographs I could tell that they were very curious. A. is doing a lot of geography with them, and I thought it would be interesting to offer them an impression of the countries they learned about beyond the names. This is why I also picked countries that correspond to where AJ and I come from. Unfortunately the printer at the foundation wasn’t working, so I couldn’t bring the vocabulary sheets I had prepared. What I did instead was just go round to each group and show them the pictures of their holiday destination, and I asked each child individually which activity or which food he/she preferred, and then gave them the sentences to repeat and copy in their notebooks. We were unable to finish all the questions, and therefore there was unfortunately no time left for them to design and write on their postcards, but we will do that tomorrow. I plan on printing out the images and hanging them around the classroom to inspire their artwork.

My conclusion from today is that the key to cracking Ruchi’s class, at least for me, is using props. Even though a lot of the kids probably didn’t understand what I was saying, by introducing the images (and also the globe to show them where and how far the destinations are from their home), they at least had an idea of what I meant. They managed to complete the tasks with very little translation intervention by Ruchi! This is why I’m also really keen on having them draw their own postcards. They may not be able to express their sentiments or impressions of a country in English words, but they may be able to communicate better through art. But at the same time, I hope they will remember the new vocabulary. Tomorrow I am going to ask them the questions again, and have them answer. Even if they need to look at their workbooks for the responses, if they are at least able to aurally comprehend my questions, that will be excellent!

Another positive development of today was that I was finally able to learn more about the personalities of the students. For one, I had an idea of who they are based on their choice of activity and from their reactions to the images. Also, I was very nervous about integrating the new students whose level is a little lower and who are of course themselves feeling very nervous. But it went really well! Especially because I had the kids sit according to the country they drew, which meant that even among the children themselves there was more integration. The new kids tend to sit together at the back of the class, and today the more seasoned Tushita kids were helping out their new classmates if ever they didn’t understand something. I would tell you more about the kids I noticed today, and there were several, but I am still having trouble with the names! Hopefully, by tomorrow, once they sign their postcards, I will be able to associate names with faces and personality.

Also, I think your suggestion to ask the kids to draw or describe their bedrooms is excellent. I will definitely make this a topic for the next lesson. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! You are right that this is a new and challenging experience for me, but I am learning a lot by doing and also simply by being here.

 

Aurélien:

 

On the way back from the Foundation yesterday, we stopped at Crosswords in order to get fresh supplies of books. I found a First Geography Encyclopaedia, which is going to be useful for the preparation of my future lessons. I used it this afternoon to show a physical map to my pupils. I wanted them to remember the concepts we had studied yesterday through the description of this new kind of map.

They told me what the colours were and that blue was used for water while green and yellow were used for land, probably for forests and deserts. They recognised the shapes of the different continents and said the names of the oceans too. I asked them what was different from the maps we usually use and they found out that this one had no countries and that there were indeed no boundaries on this new map. No boundaries? Do you remember what a boundary is? YES IT IS A REAL OR IMAGINERY LINE THAT SEPARATES TWO REGIONS! On the physical map, you see, the rivers, the lakes and the mountains do separate different regions. These are called “real” boundaries, real lines, unlike the boundaries between countries that are “imaginary”! People imagined political boundaries. People drew them. People created them. What is different between India and Pakistan, between France and Italy? (I had to repeat the question several times to make it clearer…) What language do people speak in India? HINDI! In Pakistan? URDU! … In France people speak French while in Italy people speak Italian! Well, there’s the planet on the one hand, the people on the other hand. Physical maps show the planet whereas political maps are all about the people! On both sides of a political boundary, you have the same people, but they don’t speak the same language, they don’t have the same culture, nor the same capital city! A long time ago, people drew political maps with political boundaries in order to show where the people speak Hindi, where they speak Urdu, Italian or French. But the physical boundaries sometimes show these differences too. Where? … You see the Himalaya Mountains: on this side of this natural border, people speak Hindi; on the other they speak Urdu. Now let’s have a look at our usual map of India. Is it a political or a physical map? A POLITICAL MAP!!! Are you sure? YES SIR! Why isn’t it a physical map? BECAUSE THERE ARE POLITICAL BORDERS! What about this blue line? It is a lake. You see, it is the “Pangong Lake”: on this side they speak Hindi; on the other they speak Chinese. What kind of boundary is a lake? A POLITICAL BOUNDARY! Isn’t a lake natural? Is it really created by human beings? A NATURAL BOUNDARY! Yes! Maps only show the planet, the shape of the continents, the oceans, the land, the deserts and the forests when they are physical; maps show the planet and the people when they are political. Got it? YES SIR! What are physical boundaries? MOUNTAINS, LAKES AND RIVERS! And political boundaries? LINES BETWEEN COUNTRIES!

 

Puru:

Day 15

Stars- the limit !

 

A very interesting and jovial day .We started doing the 3rd chapter on my feelings ,the children today were not that quiet as usual and tried to get into mischief .As they started writing they kept shut and followed me .Every one in the class made good sentences and liked to decorate their pages. Farheen has a lot of problems in writing ,she is unable to write words which are easy for others , she cannot make sentences and have a problem in pronouncing the words .On the contrary Kiran,Shabana ,Abhisek and sohail are very good at expressing and writing .

A question was there “how do I feel inspirational?” ,children answered in various manner but when I rolled my eyes on Abhisek’s book of me ,it was stunning to see his reply because he had written that “I feel inspirational is when I see the stars”

 

It was time for soccer, I tightened my shoes and played a game of soccer, it was hot and warm today but still when you play one does not feel it.

Rosenda

Yes, Mellie, I understand the difficulties, but please do not feel discouraged. Your presence among these children is a precious gift that will sparkle the desire in some of them to learn English, go for higher studies, open their minds. Where children sleep seems to me a very interesting project that you could finish up asking them to draw and, for those who can, describe their bedroom.

What I have learned at the Foundation is that the children learn best when their bodies are involved in the process, you seem to know that well, Jessica.Your friendship with Sonam overjoys me, how lovely to have someone you feel close to with whom to share the marvellous adventure of teaching. Please look after your friend and make sure she doesn’t hurt herself, the children need her badly!
Keep laughing and enjoy yourself.

Thank you Mellie for your choice of stories, the question of identity is very important in the village. The two communities live side by side almost ignoring each other. It is good to raise questions about identity through stories that hopefully will make children reflect.
Yes, it is very difficult to switch classes and to adapt to a very low level of English, but this is also were this experience challenges you.
My impression is that none of you have ever been confronted to a reality where academic knowledge was so low. Here you need to step out of your comfort zone and accept to lower your standards.
Here it is not about you, but about them and this is the most important part of the experience in Amber.
The postcards idea is lovely, but I am not sure that any of these children will ever write one for real. However you are there to open new horizons for them, so it is good to try. But don’t take it badly when the children don’t love what you propose. Don’t forget that they are really lucky to have you there.

What I just wrote to Mellie concerns all of you obviously, because the educational divide is there, also between you and the teachers.
My suggestion to you Aurélien as well is, try to choose simpler subjects, poems, discussion topics, so that the teachers are not faced with their limitations.
It is a form of kindness towards others and it will bear its fruits.
Your geography classes seem perfect to me, because you are using the subject to foster English speaking and comprehension.I am so pleased that you have understood how important it is to use English as a form of communication at the Foundation.
Last, but not least, please excuse my delay in writing to you, I have had a long and tiring day yesterday, but I always look forward to reading you and sharing your difficulties and your joys.

Good intuition, Jessica, children love rewards, I can picture their exitement.
Please try to wrute about particular children whose achievements or behaviour you are noticing, it is important for us to follow the children and your observatin is important to us.

I am so pleased to read that your efforts are bearing fruits. You are bringing the world to these children and what you are doing is fabulous. I truly appreciate the way you have approached the postcards project. I know how much you want to do well and I know how humbling teaching at the Foundation can be, but I am very pleased to learn that you feel you are also learning. It should be a beneficial experience for all, the children, the teachers and you. Can’t wait to hear about individual children and what they each has done with the region you have proposed.

COUNTRIES

Beautiful!
Here I am in the class with you.
I can see your theatrical skills come handy to keep the kids’ attention.
What a fondamental lesson to teach them about boundaries!

Thank you for sharing your work.
Please make sure that you correct the children. Abhisek’s sentence is absolutely wonderful and poetic, but he should express it correctly:
I feel inspired when I see the stars” How touching!
Please help Farheen writing a sentence for her that she can copy, it must be so painful for her to be faced with her limitations all the time.
Nobody wrote about the morning session with the teachers, was it all right?
I thought that maybe one day you could talk about food, but then be aware that meat eating can be looked down upon in India, so maybe better to talk of dishes that don’t involve meat.It could be fun with the variety of foods that you are all used to. Again, just a suggestion.Good night

 

July 25, Thursday

 

Jessica:

I’m starting to feel repetitive here but I can honestly say today was another smoothly-run, successful day! Today, I taught words concerning “people” like child, adult, mother father, family, baby, etc… These were words that most of the children knew but didn’t know how to spell so I thought it would be good practice to match the word with its letters and sounds. Some of the children are still not at the level of being able to string letters and their sounds to make a word so I also went over the alphabet and the letter sounds on an individual basis. One girl in the first batch, Jubiya, is slowly but surely making progress and I think it excites her to see me excited with her progress. She still confuses certain letters but I think with a little more practice she’ll gain a solid comprehension and will be able to move on to words.

Regarding the teacher session, Puru brought in a poem called “Closed Path” and while we focused on the poem for the first half of the session with each of the teachers reciting the poem and providing their own interpretation, the conversation eventually led to a variety of subjects which sparked a lot of opinions and comments from the teachers. During a discussion about reincarnation, Sonam said she would like to come back as a peacock. During a discussion on euthanasia, Ruksar firmly voiced her disdain for assisted suicide saying that life should be preserved to the fullest while Geeta said that a person should have the right to die if in severe pain. Overall, it was an interesting topics that allowed for a friendly back-and-forth among the teachers.

 

Puru:

Day 16

 

At the foundation, we did a poem by rabindranath tagore “closed path” which revolves around no looking back in life and if one door gets shut there is always another door which opens for you .Everyone was engrossed in the discussion, we also diverted the poem  to other topics like suicides, life of animals and death  .Ruksar told us about her grandmother who is 120 years old and is very brave and strong .Everyone participated equally and hence it was a good session with the teachers.

 

It was time for the class, I  went to the class and they all were ready with book of me busy decorating it .We did the chapter on the feelings.Most of the students are starting with their exam in the school but told me that they would come and do the book of me .I made farheen sit in the front and asked about her problems,they did their work peacefully and then we went to the field for soccer. .

They have become  good team players and the skills are also very good !

 

No whatever happens in life, the show must go on !

 

Mellie:

 

Postcards went well today! As the students slowly filtered in, I would ask them the questions that we had answered the previous day, and I was impressed by how some of the children were able to respond without looking into their notebooks! At the same time, I quickly noticed that not all of the children were able to pick up the cue words in my questions. There was also some difficulty when I jumbled up the order.

The last question we discussed, ‘What was it like?’, was the most complicated to explain, because it involved concepts I couldn’t elucidate with images. Because I wanted them to learn some new words, I wrote some adjectives on the board. I drew a smiley face and wrote ‘beautiful’, ‘interesting’, ‘relaxing’ and ‘breathtaking’, whereas I associated words such as ‘tiring’, ‘boring’, ‘disappointing’ and ‘exhausting’ with a sad face. Then I doodled different weather conditions and their descriptions. Some children were confused by my whiteboard masterpiece and proceeded to simply copy the chart in their notebooks. But overall, they all managed to understand, and I was very pleased to see that one of the kids even came up with his own words to describe his city break in Paris: ‘amazing’! I was also glad that a lot of the children chose words they hadn’t known before, instead of sticking to simpler ones such as ‘beautiful’ or ‘interesting’. A lot of the kids found their holiday experience to be ‘breathtaking’. I just hope they will remember these words!

While I was able to explain most of the new words with simplifications or pantomime, I had a very hard time describing what ‘disappointing’ meant! So after trying different formulations of disappointing situations, I asked Ruchi to supply the Hindi translation. Even though I agree that English should be spoken to a maximum extent at the foundation, I find that some situations like the one above are most efficiently dealt with by using Hindi as a tool. The three of us, AJ and I, had a long discussion last night on the use of English and Hindi in class. What A and I observed is that some of the teachers will automatically translate what we say in English, thereby minimising the incentive for the children to try and understand. Or, if the kids don’t immediately understand, instead of asking me for clarification, they will ask the Indian teacher. In my case, I have spoken with the teachers and request that they only intervene in Hindi when I ask them to. At the same time, I think that Hindi should not be ruled out completely. Certainly, as A argued, at some point, after repeating instructions in English long enough, and by trial and error, the children will probably come to understand without any Hindi help. But I think that this method is very time-consuming and must also be very frustrating and discouraging for the children. Moreover, I see the emphasis on getting them to speak and practice their language skills through use. With the acquisition and familiarisation of new words, I think their comprehension will improve too, because they can recognise more vocabulary. So in the case of ‘disappointing’, I thought it would only bore and tire them out to insist on explaining it in English. Also, it is very possible that even if they are then able to use it correctly, they might have mistaken its meaning for a related but slightly different emotional experience. A, J and I all had slightly different opinions. We plan to debate the topic of English vs. Hindi with the teachers before reaching a conclusion, and I think it will be interesting to hear their views. After all, they know these children and the Foundation much better than we do, and they may be able to provide an insider’s insight, just as we can contribute a semi-outsider’s perspective.

But back to my day! Unfortunately, for the first and second group, there was no time left to start designing the postcards, as we had to finish writing the responses to the questions. The third batch was a little quicker, and so they were able to focus on their artistic expression for the rest of the lesson.

Before showing them the pictures I asked the children to describe what they remembered. The question was a little tricky in the beginning and generated only blank stares. When I provided a wrong suggestion, like ‘Describe Austria. Does Austria have sandy beaches?’, they would enthusiastically nod or repeat what I said. But it was quite funny. I would react in an exaggerated way and supply the correct answer. Eventually the brighter kids pioneered the question-answering session, and the other kids were quick to understand. On hindsight I think I should have focused more on description though. When I first showed them the pictures, I did insist on describing the images, but I think it would have been beneficial to integrate the descriptions into an exercise or game for better memorisation.

Once they had given me their spoken impressions of the different countries, the children moved on to their artistic impressions. I went round the classroom with the images as inspiration, all the time insisting that they shouldn’t just copy, but try their best to give an individual account. Unfortunately, though, some the kids were very prone to copying each other. One would start drawing herself tobogganing and the girl next to her would draw the exact same scene. I think I shouldn’t have had them sit according to their countries for this part of the postcards project. Overall, however, I think the kids had a lot of fun and produced some really interesting work! In any case, the next time I go back home to Austria, I will be sure to keep a look out for the evergreen coconut trees swaying stoically in the snow!

 

Aurélien:

 

Manisha sent us a book about yoga so that we can pursue our learning once we are back in our respective countries. Contrary to all expectations, I might consider it! Yoga really helps us to wake up and feel healthy early in the morning. The teachers’ session went really well this morning as Puru brought a second beautiful poem by Tagore and the conversation flew in many directions afterwards.

I focused on English language and interaction between the pupils of the first batch. We used the concepts we had learnt the previous days in order to describe the maps of India and the world. Therefore we reviewed the compass rose, the special verbs such as “locate”, the differences between political and physical geography… The shy little Vishal I met for the first time on the pitch three weeks ago is now one of the most extroverted pupils of the class – he is even too extroverted sometimes! The same goes for Adnan – whom I sometimes have to call to order whereas he did not dare speaking at the beginning of July! As Gobind and Sandeep were often distracted by their neighbour Vishal, I asked him to seat next to me in the front and this way he could focus more easily! The two of them are serious and remember easily what we study. Sandeep, the oldest, has very good English understanding and speaking. As for the girls of this first batch, they are at the same time attentive and interested. Angeli, Fiza, Shireen and her sister Shirat have the highest level of English as they have attended the Foundation classes for a long time now. They are so eager to learn and speak! So is Ayasha, even though she tends to be more distracted sometimes… Areeb Khan and Areeb Urdin are probably the best at geography. The former is quite shy both in class and on the playground; he is the only child that raises his hand automatically when he knows an answer, while his classmates cannot wait to tell me what they know and usually shout the answer as fast as they can! The latter is the opposite as he is probably the most outgoing child of the Foundation – along with Satyam and Suraj.

I had some difficulties to deal with Suraj at the beginning, as I had not realized how much care he needed. He was always confronting me on the playground, even physically! Once I whistled for a mere foul and he would not stop playing, I ran after the ball and took it, he grabbed it back and ran, I ran again, took it and tried to explain to him why he had to stop behaving this way; he did not listen to me and tried to get the ball back, so I just moved him aside with my arm and started the game again, thinking that I would talk to him later. I did not have to do so as he came to me with a wooden stick… and started to draw car brands on the ground to check whether or not I knew them. I was quite surprised! At the time, I did not even know his name yet. “Sir, do you know this one? And this one? (…) ” I played with him for a couple minutes and then started to pay attention to the game and the other children; but I could not as he was following me with his stick and drawing new car brands behind me! I kept playing with him for a while and when I told him that we should play with the others, he agreed (he still came at the end of the game, when we had to go back in class, to draw a couple more brands). From this day on, he was the most respectful of the kids on the ground. Teaching sports’ rules to young boys is not an easy task! However Suraj is the only one able to master any rule the first try. The only lasting problem now is that he tends to be violent with the other boys. He actually once came up to me with a cell phone in order to show me a very violent wrestling match. A French psychologist would undoubtedly advise his parents to enrol him in a rugby club… That’s what led a lot of my friends’ parents to make their children start this sport. Suraj can exert himself through rugby games, within the rules, and I am on the field to supervise. From time to time, when I feel that he is nervy, I just push him to provoke him, he tries to push me back, I lift him up and shake him – which he enjoys a lot – and then he just calms down and starts playing normally.

 

Rosenda

Please Jessica keep repeting that all is well and that you enjoy your days at the Foundation, I’ll be delighted.
I am really pleased to read the children’s names and their progress, Maybe you can focus on a different child each day and try to describe his character and inclinations.
You might choose to take a picture of the child as well and at the end of it, we will have an album of your class mirrored by you.
Please do not forget to keep doing the work on sounds and how to read combining them together. This will bring a life saving true ability to read to them. It seems that in their schools children only learn how to recognized words, that is not reading!
Fascinating, the variety of subjects that you touch with the teachers, you might want to start a debating society there!

 

July 26, Friday

Jessica:

Another great day, partially due to the midday shower that cooled the temperatures to a more comfortable level. We started the day with game day with the teachers and several rounds of Mafia. Sonam and I proved ourselves as great, deceiving “killers” as we won it all during the last round. We followed with some Pictionary which was also very funny and filled with many ridiculous drawings.

Then for the Sunflower class, Geeta ma’am exhibited her very impressive artistic skills with some pictures on the whiteboard. The children copied the drawings and their accompanying words and since it was raining, we stayed indoors and finished the classes with songs and dance. The Sunflower class has several students gifted with artistic talents such as Aman and Rehan from the third batch. During the second batch, another student who’s new, Yousuf (spelling?), exhibited his beautiful singing voice and crooned a song with heart and even some vibrato. However, the moment that particularly sticks out to me was when Anubhav, a student in the second batch, decided to give the class a small dance recital. His face completely lit up and he had the greatest smile on his face. The whole class loved it and cheered him on. Although I’m extremely excited to go see the Taj Mahal tomorrow, I must say I will definitely miss the kids!

 

Puru:

Day 17

Fun Friday !

 

A bright day and and we started playing the game “Mafia” which is liked by all .I always become a citizen in this game .Another game we played was “Pictionary”, in this game we were witness of the artistic side of everyone .We had a good interaction during the games ,its good to refresh yourself with games. Everyone enjoyed the drawings and the session .

 

I did the ch.3 on feelings .The class did it at a slower pace but with dedication .We did some questions and then they wanted to have a break and do the decorating of the book of me ! Many children have started making good sentences. Some of the names are Jitendra, Suraj, Mini, Bonny ,Abhisek and kiran .They were taking a well advantage of the dictionaries. After a short fruit break we started again, we did a couple of questions more like how do I feel angry ?how do I feel courageous ? Etc. As it was pouring in Amer we could not go out to play.

 

Miracle afternoon with Taj tomorrow !

 

Mellie:

 

My last day with Ruchi’s class has been a wonderful conclusion of the postcards project. It was finally time for the first two batches to get down to drawing. I was very curious to observe differences among the drawings from group to group.

Austria was described very much in the same manner regardless of group, in fact, there were only two observable approaches. Either the postcards would depict a tobogganing scene or a snowman! But they were marvellous, and very well drawn with great attention to detail. The kids were particularly rigorous on colouring the slightly yellowed card white.

Paris was depicted in very different manners. It was one of those cute coincidences of life that the more artistically inclined children had been sent on a cultural weekend trip to Paris. Sameer drew a street musician on a bridge, with a boat passing by underneath on the optimistically blue waters of the river. Two girls imagined their Seine boat rides as turbulent adventures, with the Eiffel Tower in its glimmering green glory serving the purpose of a lighthouse. The more modernist artists of the Paris bunch decided to focus on the French culinary prowess. White and yellow geometric shapes were stacked on top of each other to form a cheese platter. Orange swirls and black spots were explained by two isolated words in the middle of the card: Choco Amand. At my suggestion, they all added a flag loosely based on the French one, which made the three beige phallic objects more recognisable as baguettes…

The beach holiday in Langkawi, Malaysia, was a little more homogenous in colour, but not in style! One girl decided to dramatise her serene seaside scene with a figure floating in the water, sketched in frantic black lines. Is he swimming or drowning? I think her postcard was a commentary on perceptions of plight. Another girl chose to depict a brightly coloured and harshly geometric sailing ship amidst a torrent of deep blue. This strikes me as a reflection on the relationship between mankind and nature. Two very different children from very different groups surprisingly produced a very similar artistic rendering of sandcastles. There was something very intriguing about the juxtaposition of the act of building sandcastles as a motif, which involves many layers and dimensions, and the use of colour-blocking and thick black outlines, reminiscent of Gaugin.

As for Arizona, most kids decided to draw either the Grand Canyon with its sunset mountains or campsites with fireplaces. One girl, Mansi, impressed me with her choice of an eagle to represent her vacation; an ‘American dream’?

All in all, a very successful day. Because the third batch had already completed the postcards, I decided to play hangman with them, insisting that they use the new words we had learned. What a lovely way to end the week!

I plan on surprising the kids and actually sending the postcards to their homes in Amber, now that I know that Puru’s ‘sincere’ insistence that the Indian postal services no longer circulated postcards within the country was but a cruel joke! He pulled a similar stunt on my gullibility when he casually informed me that he would not be accompanying us on our trip to Agra! How strange to think that it has already been nearly a month and that P will be leaving us soon. His presence will be sorely missed, and the first sign of his departure will be the silence of the car rides. The day Puru leaves is the day the music dies!

Finally, what a coincidence for you to suggest the Pico Iyer video for the next teachers’ session, because I had already printed the transcript to bring for the Monday session before even reading your mail! How very auspicious! I really enjoyed the speech myself. He presents a situation I can very much relate to, and I loved his discussion of internal and external journeys and discoveries. I’d never heard of him before, but after some research, I am very intrigued in reading one of his books. Have you read some of his work before? If yes, do you have a recommendation? For the teachers’ session, I think I will also try to find an article that argues the contrary to what Pico Iyer describes. I am sure that there is sufficient literature on the beauty of sedentariness, of dying in the house you were born in, and so on. As someone who is constantly on the move, I have begun to long for something more long term. My high school friends in Vienna, for example have a certain assuredness about their future which allows them to grow in a different way. Where I grow in width, accumulating new experiences, languages and visa stamps, they are probably growing in depth, consolidating old friendships, rediscovering familiar settings, knowing where they are going to be in five years’ time. Hopefully I will find something. I just sifted through a report on ‘Generation Rent’ and homeownership in the UK, which showed that young people are feeling increasingly stifled in their ambitions, personal relationships, family planning and community feeling because they are unable to afford to buy property. I think this would be an interesting counterpart to the speech, because here, having a physical home is very much linked to having a psychological home.

 

Aurélien:

 

The cool Friday started by a game session with the teachers. We all agree that “Mafia” is a good one and we did three rounds during which Payal and I killed a significant number of our peer teachers! The Pictionary we played afterwards was very funny; Puru and I used our geography teachers’ skills to make the playing cards and won several rounds thanks to Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal.

As I focused on my first batch in yesterday’s diary, I will now write an insight about the second one. I already wrote at the beginning of the week that the children of the first session had homogeneously a higher level of English than the children of the second. I merely skipped physical geography and focused more slowly on other aspects. We did role-plays and descriptions for the whole week and focused more on English. I spoke slowly, with simple words, and I often checked – and signed! – their notebooks. There’s a bunch of girls who just arrived in the Foundation. Deepa, Mahera and Urmila are three shy girls whom I am trying to get out of their comfort zone. I kept getting them involved in the lesson as much as I could during the whole week. As for Mansi, she does not necessarily have a higher level of English but she dares to speak a lot more so she at least seems to be making progress. The second batch is usually calmer as it takes place later and the pupils are less excited; it would have remained the same today if a monkey had not suddenly entered the classroom and attacked Geeta! It just wanted the apple she had in her hand and, when it got the fruit, it left as quickly as it had come. Priyanka was sick today so Geeta replaced her. As we finished the sport session a little earlier than we usually do, Yasin and Neeraj were idle and I took them aside for twenty minutes outside in order to review what we had done last week. The last days, Neeraj has been able to tell me without any mistake what he had done before coming to the Foundation, which makes me thrilled. The shy Yasine is now as boisterous as Vishal and it is hard to contain him as he always replies with a large smile when told to calm down. I wish for Neeraj to be as boisterous as them at the end of the summer, but he seems to be of a definite shy nature. So we reviewed the simple role-play we had written together about someone asking them where they are from. I have to prepare something simple for next week, as I will switch to Ruchi’s class. It will be my first time coming back in a class I have already taught.

It has already been three weeks at the Foundation and I just hope that the children have learnt from us as much as we have learnt from them. The time goes by really fast as we’ll have done more than the half of our stay at the end of next week. Puru is unfortunately leaving us on Wednesday: it is going to be hard to be the only man remaining! But he is still here now and tomorrow the four of us will be going to Agra!

 

Rosenda

Thank you for taking the time to drop a few lines. It is important for us to have a record of our work and of the children’s performance and development.
Enjoy your visit to the Taj Mahal, take pictures, even if it rains.

 

Repeating myself I must state again that you bring the world to those children. I find it amazing that they are aware of so many places aleady, making them their own. It is a grand idea to send their postcards home.
What a beautiful synchronicity that you were already thinking of bringing to the table a subject that is so important to all of us.
How do we come to terms with the world as our playground?
Sometimes I think that in my case I had a choice. I chose to brave the world, go out of my comfort zone and go on a journey. My children on the contrary were born to multiple cultures and moving homes.
Tomorrow our younger child, Ayan, Aurélien’s friend, is coming back from Nairobi, leaving behind a home he has built for 5 months.
We’ll be in Paris for a week, then we’ll come to India, then to Italy and England and everywhere it is home.
It will be so very interesting for me to read about your exchange with the teachers who are bound to a much more predictble lifestyle.
I am not sure that those who lead sedentary lifes go deeper. In my experience, depth is inside, in a very special place I can find everywhere when I close my eyes and I breath slowly.Only when I am connected to that center I can be at home, in my body, my mind, my soul. I can carry that home everywhere.
Pico Iyer is a fascinating scholar, I love his diction and I would be curious to see if the teachers can follow his speech. Comrehension is an important aspect of the teachers’ growth.I have read “The man within my head” an interesting inner conversation with Graham Green, but I think you should read “The global soul, Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, & the Search for Home”. His site is beautiful too.
http://picoiyerjourneys.com/
It is a pity that Puru has to leave you, hopefully he will be able to come back once in a while on a week end to visit.

Yes, time goes by so fast and it is already time for Puru to join University in Delhi. I wonder if the book of me questins are over or if he is planning to ask one of you to finish off the work.
You must have had a nice time in Agra, hopefully, the Taj is always so unbelivable.
Thank you for sharing your experience with the children, it is good practice to take advantage of the moments when you can single out few students and focus on them.
Monkeys are then again part of the hazards of teaching in India, they are so big and fearce that you can not try to negotiate with them, I just wonder how they dare coming into the rooms.
The arrival of new children might have caused some difficulties, how is it going, do they adjust well?
Thank you for your dedication.

 

July 29, Monday

Jessica:

Since today went expectedly well and there are no necessary problems or hiccups to report, I’ll focus today’s entry on a particular student, Fardeen of the third batch. Upon meeting Fardeen for the first time, I immediately thought “Indian Elvis”. With a charming smile, bright eyes, and immaculately slicked-back hair, Fardeen has two younger brothers, also present in the third batch. He definitely carries himself as a responsible older brother, remaining calm and focused even when his younger brothers become a bit more restless; and he commands their respect in a manner that remains very quiet and calm. Fardeen also has a sweet and open demeanor that makes it difficult not to like him as soon as you meet him. In addition to his affability, Fardeen has shown himself to be one of the most driven students, continuously eager to learn more and more. While many of the other students are (understandably) eager to finish the lesson so that they can run off to the field, Fardeen always asks for additional pages of words and spellings. Nearly everyday, we reach a point when he has done two or three additional pages and I start rejecting his requests for more words, telling him that he should also run around a bit with his peers. He reluctantly accepts that he’s finished for the day but I always promise that we’ll learn even more the following day. Since the day he introduced himself, Fardeen has impressed me with his curiosity and passion for learning which is at a level that I know I personally was not even close to at his age. With this drive, I believe Fardeen can and will go far and achieve great things for himself and his family.

 

Puru:

Day 18

Magical Monday !

 

Today for the teachers session , we did the speech by Pico Iyer “where is home”,which took us all for wonder as how he describes what is a home ,how it could be different depending on the phases of life .A question was raised which was “what is a home” according to everyone .The teachers gave their own perceptions about what a home is .For many of them its a place where you have a shelter ,family ,food , security and familiarisation to the language used .Another question was raised “who wants to live abroad ?” , Ruksar ji was the only one among the teachers who said she would like to go to Paris if given an opportunity and if she is been offered a job there , rest everyone said they would like to stay close to their families  and not stay aloof . Mellie enlightened everyone about her parents who are from Malaysia and Austria and how for her father Austria has become a home .Another example popped up of Mrs.Sonia gandhi ,whose native nation is Italy but for the past many years she has been living in India and well adapted to indian culture, traditions and language . As we were coming to the end of a very interactive discussion which was full of enthusiasm we saw the news of Kawa band from jaipur performing in Buckingham Palace for the newly born baby .

 

It was 2 , and the children with a smile on their face were greeting everyone . Unfortunately today only about half of the class showed up ! there were only 11 students in my class .It was rainy and a cloudy day so i assume that might be the reason for not coming .As we had to complete our chapter which was going on , we did it today .There were less number of children so they did their work with more dedication and allowing me to help them . Witnessing their progress and quality of work , I  felt happy and I gave them a round of applause which I am sure was motivating for them to keep up .By coming to an end to this chapter , Kiran started to talk about the movie “aashiqi 2” and few others came in with other movie names . The topic seemed interesting and I introduced them to the next chapter “Movie of my life” ,as soon as I wrote on the board they were delighted to know more about it. Kiran and Tanya wanted to make a romantic movie whereas the boys looked firm on making a serious and action packed movie .Satyam and Rinku stood out as they wanted their movie to be comedy .I have provided them with the respective questions and tomorrow they will fair it out .

 

It was time to get refreshed and move out for a game of soccer ,it was drizzling in the afternoon so the ground was slippery and moist .We enjoyed thoroughly the game as there was raining of goals ! By the end , Aurelien and my t-shirt was completely soaked in water .

 

Day came to an end with Fun and Games !!

 

Aurélien:

 

Mellie brought the transcript of the speech by Pico Iyer for the teachers’ session. The reading triggered a very interesting discussion as none of us had a cut-and-dried opinion regarding the questions raised. “Where is Home?” As I am currently reading a book about the Gandhi dynasty, I asked the teachers whether Sonia Gandhi’s home was India or Italy. They answered at once that her home was India; but I was not so convinced… Maybe it is! I thought about my grandfather, I also asked about Mellie’s father; Puru and Ruksar raised an interesting point in saying that home is a place in which one feels secure. So I am wondering how I would feel if my mother-in-law and my husband had both been assassinated for political purpose and if, at the same time, I was myself about to enter politics!

After lunch, I went to Payal and Ruchi’s classroom. I have to admit that I did not expect the level to fall that much: Priyanka’s pupils have a very high level when compared to Ruchi’s. I had prepared something very easy anyway, but we will merely spend two sessions on this lesson instead of one. – “Continents are the biggest pieces of land while Oceans are the biggest bodies of water.” – Fortunately the pupils I had met three weeks ago remembered something and they could help both their classmates and me to speed up. But they still have forgotten a lot since our last class together and I am thinking that I should maybe move more often between the three classes. Besides, I am afraid that geography could become tiring if taught everyday during a whole week. I will see on Wednesday if we have completed the program I prepared for them.

What is the exact policy about the Foundation regarding the difference between classes? I noticed that the children are divided up regarding both their age and their English level. In Ruchi’s class, a new pupil whose name is Manzer has a higher level than his classmates as well as the majority of Priyanka’s pupils. Am I supposed to do something? On the one hand he can help his classmates’ progress; on the other he might be bored quickly. Moreover I don’t really know whether streamed classes are more efficient than heterogeneous ones; a priori I would rather tend to think the contrary… What do you think?

During the break, I overheard a conversation between Mellie and Veenaji about a possible Foundation’s monthly newsletter and I told them that I thought it was a very good idea. We played soccer with the kids and Puru because they were a too large number to play rugby. The problem I am facing with my rugby project is that the rules are really not easy to teach so I would need to be on the pitch alone with no more than thirty boys sometimes, in order to make them master the basic rules once and for all. Saturday afternoon is the perfect moment as the girls and the very little are doing other activities: I will try to catch up at the end of the week.

 

Mellie:

 

Our Agra trip was great, despite the debilitating heat! We were all crying sweat (or sweating tears?), but the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort were beautiful. It was good to have a change of scenery. Sunday was all the more relaxing. I slept till midday! We spent the evening at G and V’s place, where we were served a scrumptious (as Aurélien would say) dinner and were invited to attend their wedding via a photographic time machine.

With both my body and mind well-rested, I was more than ready to tackle a new week today. It was my turn to lead the teachers’ session, and I brought the Pico Iyer speech, a short article on the UK housing crisis and its social impact, and a picture of the ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ vans, a controversial government measure supposedly offering illegal immigrants advice and assistance in order for them to leave the country without fearing prosecution. I thought the latter would be interesting because of its use of the word ‘home’, which is so strongly described as a place you feel comfortable and safe; What if the country of your origin is no longer a safe place for you to be? The discussion was a little difficult. I think the problem lay in the fact that the teachers couldn’t really relate to Pico Iyer’s depiction of the 21st-century mobile and multicultural traveller. Still, we talked generally about what home means to us, whether Sonia Gandhi would feel more at home in India or in Italy, would the teachers be interested in spending time abroad if the opportunity ever arose, etc. When we discussed the ‘Go Home’ image, I was a little surprised by the reaction. For me, the image has an incredibly menacing quality to it, and I am willing to look past someone’s status as an illegal immigrant in determining where they feel at home. But Priyanka interpreted the image in a more positive light, as she pointed out that the government was offering the illegal immigrants a way out. She also did not agree with my suggestion that you could be at home somewhere even if you were there on illegal terms. Fair enough. In fact, I’m always happy when there is a disagreement during our morning sessions, because most of the time, all of us have fairly similar opinions. In the evening, Geeta later admitted that she thought the discussion was quite difficult, mainly because she had a hard time responding spontaneously to some of the hypothetical situations we set up. She said it would be a big decision for her to pack up her things and move abroad, because of the responsibilities she has towards her family, both extended and nuclear. And yet, she said that if her sons later wished to seize an opportunity and move to a different country, she would let them go. I’m glad she decided to follow up on the discussion from this morning. It’s always interesting to hear what Geeta has to say, because she is the only one among the ten of us who is married, has children, and thus has taken on many more roles than simply young teacher.

Inspired by this morning’s session on ‘home’, I decided to do the Where Children Sleep photos with the kiddos. I showed them the portraits, had them guess where some of the children were from, and then showed them their bedrooms. I told them a little about some of the kids. There was Alex, an orphan who lived on the streets of Brazil and slept on an abandoned sofa outdoors. Then there was Alyssa, an overweight American girl from a relatively poor family who couldn’t afford to patch the hole in her bedroom ceiling. I included Alyssa to show that not all the white American kids were ‘rich’, and that there are socioeconomic differences within a country. I also tried to convey similarities between children who lived on the other side of the world. I compared Rhiannon, a Scottish punk with a Mohawk, to Kana, a Japanese teenager with an eccentric fashion sense. A more uncomfortable juxtaposition was Anonymous, a former child soldier, and Joey, an American teenager with a passion for hunting, weapons, and camouflage. The big concept I tried to introduce was that of personality, and how some of the rooms better communicated who the person was that occupied them, something unfortunately largely linked to the child’s socioeconomic status.

The children seemed very interested in the photographs. Some of the countries they knew by name from the geography lessons, and I wanted to give them a face and a story. Mehzabi, Shoaib, Bharat, and of course Mehek in particular were very vocal and had a lot of questions. Actually, most of the children were very curious and eagerly questioned me on some of the children, their fates and their bedrooms. I also asked them to describe the bedrooms. They mainly listed objects they identified in the bedroom, but this was actually an interesting way to learn about how these children perceive the world. I was very surprised by the fact that in all the batches, at least one kid pointed out that Delanie’s bedroom was missing a window, something I had completely overlooked despite studying the image countless times. They were also very apt to distinguish minor details, such as a scooter in the corner, a torn poster, a matchbox on a bedside table. The first batch also instinctively made qualitative judgements of the bedrooms. Of course, they expressed very positive opinions on the colourful bedrooms, with toys and posters. But they also pointed out that Dong from China had very old furniture and dirty walls. In fact, they were really interested in Dong, something I hadn’t expected. Another child they were very interested in was Bilal, the son of a Palestinian goatherd whose house in the West Bank is periodically demolished by the Israeli government. While their questions regarding child soldiers, Mao, or obesity among America’s poor were easily broken down, I found it very hard to simplify the Israel-Palestine conflict. But even once they had grasped the gist of it, they still asked me ‘why’. And indeed, why? It is hard to justify the hardship faced by innocent children with politics and international relations.

Overall I think the day was quite successful. The children spoke up a lot and had to construct their own sentences to share their opinions. I also hope I have given the children some food for thought. Tomorrow I will continue with this topic in a more light-hearted manner. I plan on bringing my camera with me, and taking photos of the kids against a neutral backdrop, in the style of James Mollison. Then, as you suggested, I will ask them to draw their bedrooms, and ask them to think about especially focusing on details in their sleeping areas that possible reveal who they are. Even if they share their bedroom with their siblings or their parents, a schoolbag under a desk or a doll on the bedside table can say a lot about the occupant. So with the photo and the drawing, we will have our own Where Children Sleep series. Plus I think the kids will enjoy having their picture taken. Another possible activity would be to ask the children to pick two children and bedrooms to compare with each other: Riza and Kaya are both from Japan, but the former sleeps on a mat on the floor and the latter in a bed. And the children could also articulate their preferences: I would rather have Kaya’s bedroom because she has a lot of toys. Something like that.

Only two kids showed up for the third batch, Parvez Papaya and a new girl named Nisma (Nimsa?). I told them to tell me eight different words they knew, then put them together in word search puzzle, and gave it to them to solve. I also asked Parvez to create sentences with his eight words. Then with the words we played hangman together.

I cannot believe it’s been almost a month already! It’s that strange feeling of reaching the peak of a mountain, somewhere between achievement and melancholy; after ascending towards new experiences, people and challenges, you enjoy the view, and then it’s slowly time to descend back into old habits and surroundings. I’ve thought of a good way to fill the last month though! I think it would be cool to launch a Tushita student magazine. The kids could contribute articles (on upcoming festivals, or put their geography knowledge to use by writing about the difference between continents and countries), artwork (we could showcase some of the postcards), poems, maybe reviews of their favourite movies or of the plays I’m doing with Priyanka’s class, or even simple crosswords or word search puzzles. Veenaji suggested that we also allow some Hindi contributions, for the parents to be able to read some of the magazine. Maybe this would also be interesting for Kiran? I could ask her to write the fashion column! Aurélien also suggested that we include excerpts from the volunteer diaries. After speaking to V, I learned that the idea of a Foundation magazine has been around for a while, but that the trouble was finding someone who would be responsible for it. Granted, it might not be possible to publish new editions in regular monthly periods, but one could be a start! Maybe some of the later volunteers would be interested in continuing it? Or maybe one of the teachers would be willing to lead the project? I think that if we set the deadline for the 31st of August, it is an achievable goal. I also think this would be a good way to engage all of the students, even the little ones who could provide their drawings. I also welcome your opinion. Do you have any advice or suggestions?
Rosenda

Dear Jessica, your observations are very valuable to us. We need to follow the children in their development and try to be of help discovering each child’s talent and inclination. Now the time seems so far away, but we know how fast it goes. We should be prepared to help Fardeen one day if she need support for further studies.
Please continue to write about each child and if you can, make a word document with their pictures and observations, it will help us help them.
This is a grat entry, Puru. I can picture so well Kiran and Tania as romantic divas, romancing their “beau” around a tree. Satyam and Rinku a perfect pair to make us laugh.
I can’t wait to hear more about it. On a more serious note, the book of me is a very interesting tool to know the children better.
Thank you for your entry, Aurélien, it s very interesting to read your views on the idea of home. It is a pity that you didn’t have the occasion to hear the interview given by Pico Iyer, his English is beautiful.
I have also often wondered about Sonia Gandhi, I guess she didn’t have a choice, but give up her native home to become an icon in her husband’s.
The level of education of some of the children is indeed very low and we do see the difficulty of bettering the situation.
I personnally think that a more capable student should sit in a stimulating class. Maybe Manzer should move to Pryanka’s class? Those are the kind of topics I suggested that you address when I proposed pedagogy as a subject of conversation with the teachers in the morning.
I have also beeing thinking that for some children geography could be too abstract. How about starting with their own village? Can we find a lay out of Amber and identify each child’s home? Find out if it faces North or South? Teach them about directions with the sun? I am just thinking aloud, remembering a beautiful documentary about an Italian teacher who brought back to school slum children in the outskirts of Rome. Yes, there were slums in Rome after the war. He managed to find subjects that concerned them.
In our case there is also the language barrier. You might need to use movement in order to losen up the child’s fear. I am thinking of a game with a ball for instance. The children are standing in a round. Each of them represents a direction: North, North-East… You stand in the middle and you ask:” where is North? And throw the ball to the child representing the direction North. He/she will catch the ball and shout, Here is North! It might work to teach them directions….
We are also learning through trials and, at times, tribulations, that is why we need to share our discoveries.
Don’t worry too much about rugby, it is another excuse to make the children feel engaged and capable of learning.
Oh yes! The Tushita Foundation magazine! What a grand idea! And what if we make only 1 number for now? There is plenty of material with the great work you have all been doing. My suggestion is that you have to have mainly photographs and drawings with captions in both English and Hindi, to convey the equal importance of the languages. But I do not know how to go around the disappointment some children would feel if none of their work will appear in it. So maybe we’ll have to make a big magazine where every child can show his/her parents, this is me!
I would think that we should go for a simple lay-out. Can’t wait to come and talk to all of you about it.
Your work on children’s bedrooms confirms my intuition that we need a concrete support to help the children understand what we say in English. We need subjects they can relate to.
It is true, one month is already gone, what do you think you learned from this experience so far?
I have a little secret to share with you, you might not know, but the 7st August is Gajju Bana’s 50th birthday, it is a big one! Please sing happy birthday to him of our behalf too.

 

 

 

July 30, Tuesday

 

Jessica:

Today’s class with Sonam went smoothly as per usual with the theme of the day being “actions”. The kids learned how to spell walking, dancing and eating among other words. The teacher session also ran quite smoothly as I presented the group with some iconic photos such as the “Tank Man” and Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”. I asked the teacher for their impressions, what emotions they believed the photo was conveying, as well as some descriptive words.

 

Today was also my first day with a new group of older students, mostly girls around 16 years of age with a sole boy, Hashim. I wanted to spend the session gauging their level of English so we spent the hour conversing and making up ridiculous stories with each student providing a sentence for the plot. Priyanka told me the focus for our class would mostly be practicing speaking so I’ll be preparing some acting and speaking exercises for tomorrow. The group seems very cheerful but I have already noticed that some of the girls are much quieter and reluctant to speak so I will also have to work to make them feel comfortable speaking in class and expressing themselves.

 

Puru:

Day 19

Terrific Tuesday !

 

Jessica came up with a group of photos to be as the topic for the teachers session which proved very interesting and great .The photos triggered the real life tragedies and important issues such as the protests in Egypt in 2011, Tank man, Charles a boy who was deaf but was able to listen for the first time and the Pale blue dot.

Jessica’s favourite was the pale blue dot which is clicked by Carl Sagan where he captures a small dot which apparently is our Earth, He says that our planet is lonely speck

in the great enveloping cosmic dark and we should not fight among ourselves. Teachers liked a picture the most which was about a woman who was serving in the U.S army and has returned from Iraq after 7 months, its very interesting to see how she is on her knees and hugs her daughter at the airport , Geeta ji could relate the photo to her life and everyone else enjoyed to put forth their views about it .I personally liked a photo in which an old aged guy from South Korea see offs his Relative who is from North Korea .Overall it was a very good idea to talk about the photos and have different perceptions.

 

Coming to the class, first I tried to complete the chapter with the children who did not come yesterday and then we moved on to the next chapter which is “movie of my life” where I explained how to go about it .They were thrilled to put up their views and ideas .Putul and Suraj who did not come yesterday, said that they needed a day to think and write about a interesting movie .Mini and Avesh wanted to make a romantic movie .Jitendra is a very expressing

Writer who just needs a little guidance to be perfect .By now I know that Salman , Ranbir and deepika padukone are their favourite actors .

 

After the class ended, we marched towards the ground where we played soccer for the initial time which was followed by a strong game of Rugby .Both the games

Were played with great energy and skills .Rugby was a great success today as the children did less of fouls .

 

Mellie:

 

I continued the Bedrooms project with the children today. We briefly went through the photographs we had seen the day before, and I asked the kids to describe which rooms had personality and why. I also asked them think about differences and similarities between all the rooms. Finally we took the portraits with the camera I had brought, and they then began drawing their own bedrooms. I asked them to particularly focus on showing how their rooms reflect their personalities. The kids were very keen on drawing, and it was so charming to see them concentrate so hard. When the lesson ended, most of them hadn’t finished, so they will do that tomorrow then. The third batch was cut short because of the rain.

Kids to look out for are definitely Afreen and Mahak. I actually think they could be moved up to Priyanka’s group. They are both already very fluent and Afreen in particular never ceases to impress me with her scope of vocabulary. Some of the boys were laughing at one of the portraits, the child soldier, and Afreen bravely challenged them ‘And suppose you were him?’ Shoaib (we’ve nicknamed him West Indies Boy, because for some reason, he insists on integrating the West Indies in every conversation) is not unintelligent. He speaks relatively well, but he is always distracted, and if not, then he is distracting the other boys. I will jumble their seating up next lesson. Another girl I noticed today was Aisha, who is quite silent but when she does speak, she is quite sharp.

Excuse the brevity, I’m feeling a little under the weather and might try to get some shuteye soon. I took Ruksar and Geeta’s advice and just asked Bhim Singh if he could conjure up some lemon and ginger tea for me. I’ve also just finished addressing the envelopes for the postcards. I hope it will be a nice surprise for the kiddos.

 

Aurélien:

 

I really enjoy the morning yoga session! Today was my second day in Ruchi and Payal’s class. I am definitely going to plan a session on Amber, as you suggested; it is true that geography must be quite abstract sometimes for the children, particularly for the youngest. The first batch’s lesson went very well. We reviewed the continents and oceans’ names, as well as their number and simple definitions. Once there was no more hesitations, I gave them blank physical maps of the world on which they wrote the names of the seven continents and five oceans. I also introduced them to the concept of “legend” as the continents were coloured in white and the oceans in grey. When they finished their work, they came to me for the sacrosanct signature. I thought that I would not be compelled to make a difference related closely or remotely to grades; however when Mehreen came with an “excellent” map (clean, perfectly-filled in, without any spelling mistake), I had to substitute the collective “Very good! Aurelien.” for an “Excellent! Aurelien.” Devraj and Mohan also got one as their maps were “excellent”. I felt bad afterwards and I will try not to do it again… Although I am not quite sure that they actually perceive the subtlety.

I was about to introduce them to the compass rose tomorrow as they asked about it today. The ball game will be a very good introduction to this introduction. The second batch’s lesson started strangely: the children already knew what I had taught in the previous batch! I was really surprised and about to adapt the lesson to their higher level… When I realized that a couple of new children – who were not in class yesterday – were using the notebooks of pupils from the first batch! I directly turned towards my peer teachers with a wry smile and they told me that the new children had not been given a notebook yet. So I merely asked them to close “their” notebooks – and hide “their” filled maps! – and work in group with their classmates. I only gave “Very good(s)” and went to play on the playground at the end of this second class. I am not worrying too much about rugby but I would really like them to enjoy it; moreover I am absolutely convinced that it is a very good way for young boys to exert themselves. When I arrived on the pitch, they were playing soccer with Puru so I joined one of the teams and we played for a while. Yet we decided to devote the last twenty minutes to rugby and the game went way better than the previous times.

On the way back from the Foundation, Puru and I stopped in a printing shop so that I could get brand new maps for the next classes. Anthony left two very useful political maps but I also need physical maps for my pupils, both of India and the world. They will be more appropriate to make the kids picture and describe different environments. Besides, I downloaded and printed a world map of languages, which will provide a new approach to human geography.

 

Rosenda

 

Interesting so learn that you are moving to another class, Jessica it will be an enriching experience. Elder children have already imbibed social rules, like girls must be quiet, that is why you will find some of the girls so shy. Hopefully with your encouragement thay will speak up.It is a good idea to use images as a support for your interactions with the teachers. And yes the practice of spoken English is cruelly missing in Amber, so thank you for making it needful for the children at the Foundation.

I am so pleased to hear that rugby is finding its way among the boys at the Foundation. Not only it is a good way to spend the extra amount of energy, it is a way to learn that rules are important, by learning new rules.
Thank you for noticing the children’s characters and behaviour. I am not surpriced that they enjoy the chapter,”the movie of my life”. They are all lovely little stars.

Sorry to hear that you are not so well, teaching is a very energy consuming activity and I am not surpriced that at times it drains you. Please do not worry about the lenght of your entry, I am happy to have few lines rich in observations. It is a pleasure to read that the children can exchange so much in English by now. It was really not the case when we started.
Have a good night sleep and feel better.

“If it doesn’t break you, it makes you” It must be the case with you and yoga, Aurélien!
There is no harm in calling excellent an excellent work and even though the children might not know the difference your body language showing that you are very pleased does.
I try to imagine what a big deal it must be for these children to have their work signed by a blond teacher with blue eyes! Even though I wish it weren’t so, I know that this makes them feel so proud!
As I said to Puru, I am pleased to learn that rugby is sinking in, but I am still very curious to know how did you make the teams.
I guess you will tell me when I’ll come. Can’t wait…
And Yes, human geography is what I personnally find would open our children’s minds to the idea that “the other”, though so different, is like me.

 

July 31, Wednesday

 

Jessica:

Another successful/exhausting day! We started the day with reading an article on poverty reduction with the teachers. We asked them for their own definitions of what poverty meant and what solutions they believed would best alleviate this problem, a problem that many of us have witnessed ourselves in the streets of Jaipur. We again stressed the importance of education and the opportunities it provides for social mobility. After the session, I spent my day with Sonam and her class bd we learned how to spell various words starting with the letter “A”. Sonam, Geeta and I shared a laugh at one point when a student from the second batch, Anubhav, was feeling rather romantic and tried to kiss a couple of the students. We told him no and to respect his peers’ privacy but we couldn’t resist giggling amongst ourselves. I then worked with the older group for my last batch and we played games like 21 Questions, Hangman and What is My Name? It was good fun but I think I’ll focus tomorrow’s class on more speaking with an improv exercise. And that’s all for today!

 

Puru:

Day 20

We started with an speech on poverty reduction by Nancy Birdsall on 8th February,1997. We discussed with the teachers about how the poverty stricken people survive and how they can be uplifted .The speech rotates around poverty in Latin America and East of Asia .Its really frustrating to see the gap getting widened between the poor and the rich .We also discussed about the definition of poverty ,according to Priyanka ji the person who is not introduced to education ,lacks a shelter ,problems with food and money is a poor person .We also talked about the junk foods which people gulp in large amount from the joints like McDonald’s and barely know about their bad effects on the health. We also discussed how we as individuals can help the people living in slums to rise up and be a part of the real world.

Moving to the class, the fan was not working and as it becomes a bit humid and hot we planned to move upstairs to the terrace where we can arrange the sitting .As everyone came prepared with a movie in their mind .Suraj and Sohail’s story of the movie was quite interesting as it involved a lot of action and violence .Suraj in his movie is like the one man army where he fights with a gang single handedly. On the contrary Neha’s story was sweet as she writes about a romantic story. It was really pleasant and everyone enjoyed their work .Kunal keeps shut all the time and focuses on his work. Kiran asked me for some help in the writing of her love story. It was great to see them all working with passion and efforts. Rinku after finishing with the work he quietly went in a corner and started looking up for random words in the dictionary. We moved down again to do the next chapter in which they had to make a self portrait. girls were delighted by this idea but the boys seemed low and Satyam asked me to draw him as he sat in front of me on a stool .

For the refreshment we went out to play soccer and rugby, we played soccer for the first half an hour and then rugby for the rest  half an hour. We had the whole field to us as it was drizzling and the girls went inside .Tushita rugby team is doing a great job!

 

Aurélien:

 

The teachers’ session was devoted to a text about poverty reduction brought by Puru. We discussed developmental issues and asked the teachers what poverty meant for them. They mentioned education, food, health care and we tried to think about what we would teach first to a child coming from a slum and not having been provided with schooling yet nor having received any encouragement from home.

After a review of what we had done yesterday and the day before, I (re)introduced them to the compass rose on the board and the globe. There were only eight pupils, which was very comfortable. On the globe, I showed them Jaipur for the centre, Jaisalmer for the West, Srinagar for the North, Lucknow for the East and Bangalore for the South. They found the respective directions of these cities from the classroom by means of my compass. I asked them to move their chairs and sit in square and provided them with an eraser for lack of ball! They threw the eraser to each other after shouting the direction in which they were throwing it. As they were making many mistakes – except for the little Sonam who remembered how the compass works pretty well – I drew a small table to write down their points. That was efficient! Actually only two children had attended my class three weeks ago and Aman, who gets easily distracted, almost did not remember it at all! I don’t know what to think about this 50% result. The second batch was more difficult to teach as it is much more heterogeneous, regarding both age and level. Besides the children were not eight but fourteen – which remains a decent number but is still harder to deal with… I drew a table on the board resembling the following one:

QUESTIONS ANSWERS ANSWERS
/ Teacher Pupils
What is your name? My name is Aurelien. My name is …
Where are you from? I am from France. I am from India.

 

I found the first questions and then asked them to find the further ones, all the while suggesting they use the geographical concepts we had considered before, such as cities and their locations, states, continents, locations, the colours of our flags too… But in the beginning they also came up with “simple” questions, which triggered more interesting ones, such as the names of their parents, which led to the language spoken at home. Talib tried to be clever by writing that he spoke Spanish with his parents but, when I pretended to speak Spanish in asking him a random question, he laughed and wrote “Hindi” too. The questions being closely related to our respective identities, we just prepared the future lesson on Amber.

 

Mellie:

 

I woke up this morning feeling much better! Tea with adrak and nimbu really seemed to do the trick! In any case thank you for your kind words. I hope you didn’t get the impression that I’m a ‘petite nature’ though! Everything is going great. I just think I caught my cold on the Icicle Express to Agra J

With the teachers, we discussed poverty and development. But by far the most controversial debate we had was whether Shah Rukh Khan was Hot or Not. The look of disgust on Ruchi’s face was priceless!!

Even though Ruksar didn’t come till the second batch because she had to go to Jaipur for university admissions, I was able to successfully work with the children and communicate the tasks I wanted them to do. The kids completed their artworks, and those who finished first proceeded to the third part of the Where Children Sleep project. I had them randomly pick the names of two children, and then had them compare the bedrooms. So one child would write about how Bilal sleeps outside and Delanie sleeps inside, Jaime has a colourful bedroom and Dong’s bedroom is plain, both Thais and Rhiannon have posters on their walls, etc. All in all, I think the task was both appropriate for their level as well as stimulating enough to keep them interesting.

There are some new kids in Ruksar’s class, and some of them are really quite brilliant. There is Ansh (?) for example, a true extrovert (as R observed) with excellent English. He was also very eager, and finished his work so quickly that he even did two comparisons! At the end of the class, we exchanged stories of pigeons flying into fans. Another new kid on the block to look out for is Ragu, who is both artistically inclined and linguistically quite talented. Another girl who I’ve been taking note of for a while now is Mehzabi. Although she can be quite bossy at times, overall, I really like her! She’s very talkative, confident, witty, and can be very charming.

I played charades with the third batch. It was so wonderful to see how much more confident these boys have become! Yasin Yellow in particular really was not shy about acting in front of his classmates at all. His portrayal of a monkey in particular was Oscar-deserving. But I was surprised to see that even Neeraj wasn’t embarrassed. In fact, he even volunteered to go first!

So in conclusion, I had a pretty good day. I will sign off now, we’re playing Would You Rather questions!

 

Rosenda

Thank you Jessica, we also just had a laugh here in Paris imagining the little Romeo romancing the girls in Amber.
Have a restful evening.

Congratulations to the Tushita rugby team for its achievements.It looks like the book of me has kept everyone busiy all along. Just for your information, the self portrait is a form of exploration of the child’s unconscious perception of him/herself. It would be of no use for Satyam if you do it for him. I know that little boy well, he is witty and a bit boiterous at times, I can very well picture him posing for you.
Reading you, I have being thinking that I would have loved to be part of the conversation on poverty. The situation of slum dwellers has always challenged me and I would have loved to hear your opinions on it.
Will you be there tomorrow? I hope so, because your presesnce will be your father’s best birthday present. Please wish him for us.

When I read you and I perceive your desire to see results, I wish I could be of better help. I am afraid that the work we are doing takes long time and we have to live with the feeling that the children are not grasping the lessons. However, they are in a very stimulating envirroment, learning that foreigners can be kind people and feeling important because someone has come from so far for them.
At times, we have to be satisfied with small achievements, but the Tushita rugby team is not a small one.
And if some child dares to jocke, it is that we are on the right track.

Congratulations Mellie, for keeping the class all by yourself.
It could have turned out to be a disaster. The fact that it didn’t is a great accomplishment.
It is wonderful to hear that some of the children are capable to communicate in English and that they enjoy it
I am curious to find out what the parents will say once they receive the postcards from their children.
I have not understood how Shah Rukh Khan came in the picture of poverty, if anyone cares for my opinion, I am not fond of him either, my favourite is Aamir Khan, a man who is deeply involved in education, besides being a fabulous actor. Do you know him?

 

August 1, Thursday

Jessica:

Upon writing today’s date, I actually exclaimed, “Woah… it’s August”. Time really has passed by rather quickly but it’s also reassuring to know I still have a month left. Due to some heavy rain earlier in the day, we arrived at the Foundation just after 2 p.m., rather than the usual noon, and started with the first batch. To my dismay, Sonam was absent but thankfully, Geeta ma’am was extremely helpful in keeping control of the class so as to prevent the insane chaos that occurred the last time Sonam was not present. Today’s class centered around words starting with the letter “B” and the children were responsive to my “award” system of stars and smiley faces, with many of them demanding extra pages. For the last hour, I met up with my last batch of older students and we played various oral exercises and games. We formulated sentences together and ended the session with a game called “Truth or Lie” that went really well. A student would come up, decide whether they wanted to tell a truth or lie, expressed their statement, and the rest of the class would ask questions to gauge whether or not the individual was telling a truthful or false statement. If the individual seemed unable to answer the questions quickly or pulled a face while speaking, we would declare it a lie. One student, Anjli, lied about having two pet parrots while another student, Areeb (the lone boy for the day), truthfully stated that he had a garden in his house. We all shared a funny moment when I decided to tell the lie that I am currently married. While most of the questions were fairly standard (What is your husband’s name? Do you have any children? How old is he?), a girl named Kirti very forthrightly asked, “Is your husband the color white?” The class laughed together and I later said that it would be more correct to ask “Is your husband white?” and omit “the color” part (by the way, my fictional husband was Japanese, so no, he was not the color white). Most of the students could tell I was lying but I’m proud to admit that I fooled at least three of the girls. Overall, a good day that ended on a delicious note with some kachori from LMB.

 

Aurélien:

 

Today the rain prevented us from attending our daily teachers’ session. However we arrived on time for our first class. We played the “eraser game” again with a couple new rules. Besides directions, we found on the map four Indian cities and four neighbouring countries that are to the North, East, South and West of Jaipur. First I said “direction”, “city” or “country” and then they threw the eraser to a classmate, shouting the name of his direction, city or country. The second batch’s level is way lower, so I did a simple role-play based on questions related to their identities. It was essentially oral but they also wrote down the sentences. I asked two pupils to stay at the end of the lesson: first Arslaan to ask him whether he could come earlier tomorrow in order to be with classmates whose English level is as high as his; second, a little new girl whose name is Kanchan.

At the beginning of the class, I usually ask the new students to fill in a simple form that I keep in order to know them better. They have to write their names both in English and in Hindi, their age and how many years they have studied English for. Kanchan answered me when I asked her name orally, but she could not write it in English – no problem – nor correctly in Hindi, and she did not know how old she was – when Payal exceptionally asked her in Hindi. She’s an adorable little girl and she made me feel very surprised for the first time at the Foundation. I kept her for five minutes after the class in order to explain to her what we had done during the lesson a second time, correct her writing mistakes with her and at the end I tore out the page of the notebook so that she can read it again when she is out of the Foundation – it was not her notebook anyway. I am going to pay special attention to the little Kanchan. I also got a third batch today, which I am not used to as I usually play on the pitch during this session. But the rain made it impossible today. I met students I had not met for the two last weeks, such as Alfiya, Nisha, Rubee and Ragib. They remembered the compass rose! But I decided to introduce them to the oceans and continents. I was exhausted at the end of the three sessions and Ruchi laughed at me wholeheartedly!

 

Mellie:

 

July was washed away by heavy showers of rain inaugurating the first day of August. As follows, we postponed going to the Foundation, thus missing the morning session and arriving at 2pm to meet the children.

My day with Ruksar’s class was spent tying up the bedrooms project. Ansh, the eager beaver, readily accepted my suggestion to do a third (!) comparison! This time things went more smoothly; first because I had brought black and white printouts of all the bedrooms, and second because I was able to explain to the whole class what exactly the task was. Yesterday, most of the kids were still finishing their drawings, so I only quickly briefed the ones who were ready to start the writing assignment. This time I better articulated what I wanted them to do, which was not simply list the items in the respective rooms, but attempt a more analytical comparison. I wrote down two sentence structures for them to use: one to express similarities and the other to express differences. Some kids were quicker to understand than others. I am obviously referring to the recurring characters Mahak, Afreen and Ansh, but there were some surprising guest stars! Nurain, in particular, who had always stood out with her impish grin and confident charm, but never really for her linguistic prowess. She speaks a lot, but communicates predominantly in one-word sentences (her vocabulary range is quite advanced too). It was, however, not until the writing task that I realised how developed her comprehension skills or instincts actually are. She was one of the only students that didn’t need much cajoling to get down to real comparisons. While the other students would awkwardly pair descriptions of the two bedrooms, Nurain clearly knew which details were irrelevant and which contrasts or similarities to highlight.

With the third batch, I practiced simple questions and answers. I had them randomly pick a destination (e.g. the cinema) and then describe where they wanted to go and why. While the ‘where’ question was answered by the scrap of paper they drew from my cupped hands, the ‘why’ was left open for them to decide. I wanted them to justify the destination on their own for them to practice spontaneous responses. With the Fantastic Four, Neeraj, Yasin, Arbaz, and Parvez, everything went well. But there are two new students in the class, Nasmi (Nimsa?) and Sameer, whose level is significantly lower than the other boys. I was surprised by what a difference it made. In a bigger group, the six of them would all belong to one level, but within the small batch, they actually form two separate levels. For tomorrow, I’ve planned an exercise that is both fun and more inclusive. I will ask them to work on a comic strip, maybe in pairs. The English for the dialogue does not have to be so sophisticated, and they will get to express themselves in a different form. I think especially for the new kids, this will help them feel more comfortable and confident. I regret not having been more attentive to the needs of the third batch this time round. I will definitely make an effort to do a better job the next time I’ll be working with Ruksar.

I have to say, I really enjoy working with Ruksar’s class. The children are wonderful—both invested in the learning experience and bustling with personality—, and it definitely helps that their average level of English is high enough to facilitate communication yet provide an interesting challenge. I am very pleased by the way the Bedrooms project turned out. The children really seemed to enjoy it, and so did I! Also, working with Ruksar is a great experience too. We get along really well, and have interesting chats on a range of different topics, from the students over women’s rights onto hypochondria.

For the continuation of the postcards project I think I will spent two days in Ruchi’s class next week. I’m sure the kids who were sent to freezing cold Austria and had to eat sausages and sauerkraut will be happy to travel to Brazil and feast on delicious chocolaty brigadeiros instead! Also, last week’s postcards should be with the Indian post by tomorrow. There was some confusion over the names and addresses of a couple of kids. Even the teachers weren’t quite sure how to explain why everyone’s last name seems to be either Khan or Bano! On the subject of Khans, I’ve been acquainted with Shah Rukh and Salman, but never Aamir. I read his wikipedia page though and I can see why you prefer him to the King of Romance. As for female Bollywood Babes, I am smitten with Preity Zinta. What a remarkable woman!

Thanks for the reminder on GB’s birthday! But I think it’s next week, on the 7th. It’s going to be a festive time, first Ruksar’s birthday, then Gaju Bana’s 50th, then Eed (Eid, Ied, Iid, Eat?), then your visit! As sad as I am that it means that we’re one month closer to September, I’m very excited about August. Apparently there are three festivals coming up. I can’t wait!

 

Jessica

DJ for the day

Little ones are music to

My ears. Keep dancing.

Aurelien:

I am really excited about Manisha and Mellie’s blossoming friendship. I am convinced that flexibility is the key to life. Playing rugby with the children today was as enjoyable as ever. Although, it definitely felt like there was something (or perhaps someone) missing. Ruchi and Payal Mams joined in, which was a great addition. I worked with Ruchi Mam’s class today, reviewing the location of India, some of it’s major cities, and it’s neighboring countries. The children also drew maps of the world from scratch (with varying success), but all of them put in substantial effort, and that’s what counts. Planning on making pasta tonight in honor of Puru’s departure tomorrow and Geeti’s arrival today.

 

Mellie

Dear Diary,

The day started off well, with yoga with the wonderful and charming Manisha. I can really feel our connection growing stronger every day. And my quads, as well! It was really nice meeting the volunteer from the winter, Geeti. For Friday, we played games with the teachers today. Unfortunately, I was immediately detected as the killer in our game of “mafia,” but to be honest that did not diminish my love for the game.

I worked with Ruksar’s classes today, which was so fun. They are so enthusiastic and intelligent. Unfortunately, I could not muster up the energy to enjoy the great outdoors in the Foundation’s garden today, so I relaxed in the office instead. But, I felt wonderfully rejuvenated afterwards and geared up for an evening of lovely conversation, pasta cooked by Aurelian and his incompetent apprentice Geeti (but actually mostly Bhim Singh), and playlists a la Jessica.

I love it.

Puru

It’s my bachelor party. I’ll cry if I want to.

Geeti

Today was out of this world. The opportunity the inspirational new volunteers and reuniting with the children and teachers was, in a word, magical. In four words, it was exactly what I needed. What an excellent reminder of how much fun I have had in India and what a great experience this year has been. The new volunteers really appreciated my cooking skills. I was happy to share my talents with them. I also was really successful in playing badminton and skipping rope with the children in the garden today. So glad that they have a way to let loose physically. Looking forward to another activity day tomorrow!

 

Rosenda

Dear Jessica,
The question Kirti has asked (by the way Kirti means valour) has intrigued me quite a lot.
In Latin countries like France and Italy, we do not believe that men should be divided by race. We believe that we all come from ancestors who were black and adapted to different climatic conditions that tinted the colour of our skins differently. Not to speak of the migrations and mixed marriages that occured through the ages and make it quite impossible to determine correctly people’s colour. What is interesting is that our little student has noticed that you are different from other volunteers. I am so thankful to you for teaching the children by your sheer presence that we are all human. Sometimes we are afraid of what we do not know. In India the colonial history has left a certain fear of the white man.I hope that our little bright minds will be free of that.
Not surpricingly, Veenaji keeps spoiling you with delicious treats, she loves doing that.

“Merci” Aurélien for the little Kanchan who might be finding for the first time in her life someone who cares about her education. For some families a girl is an economical burden, how sad!
Hopefully, the rain has not disrupted your plans today.

It makes me smile to picture your little girls competing for knowledge! The ones you mentioned all belong to the muslim community. It makes me happy to know that they are allowed to study and grow. The last names Khan and Bano, are actually the expression used to identify Muslims in the community, Khan meaning chief and Bano loosely translated Madam.
In India religion is identity.
On a lighter note, let me suggest that you discover a fabulous woman filmaker, Aparna Sen, whose movie « Mr. and Mrs » Iyer is a must see.
Her daughter Konkona Sen Sharma is a remarkable actress.They are from Bengal, the most intellectual of all Indian States, the land who has given us Satyagit Ray, probably the most respected Indian filmaker of all times.
If you have a chance you should watch his movies, quite different from Bollywood.
I am looking forward to share a little bit of the fun with all of you at the Foundation.

Wow! This sounds like a great party! Too bad I missed it, anyway, I am too old for it.
Thank you for sharing though, I am so happy imagining all of you having a grand time. Thank you for making the Tushita Foundation such a special place. Can’t wait to come and see you all.
I hope Geeti will be still there by the time we come.
And yes, Puru, men can cry and wash away their sorrows. But don’t you worry, you’ll be back soon.

Wow, this sounds like a grand party, too bad I am not there. I know I am too old to join in anyway.Thank you for making the Tushita Foundation such a special place! I trust Aurélien’s pasta to be perfect, it’s genetic and Geeti’s assistance very fine too. Don’t know what Jessica’s music would be about, nor what’s Mellie’s contribution. A memorable evening, I am convinced.
Hopefully Geeti will still be there when we arrive.
And yes, Puru, men can cry to wash away their sorrows, but don’t you worry, you’ll be back soon.
Enjoy!

 

August 5, Monday

Jessica:

An exceptionally smooth day. I’m not sure if it was a result of the rainy weather or the fact that it was a Monday, but the children seemed especially calm and eager to learn today and all three classes were absent of any small tiffs. After a lesson based on words starting with the letter “C”, I read a book to the class that described various animals. Though the vocabulary wasn’t there, it was fairly easy for the children to perceive the meaning through body language.  Then we ended the session with some songs and dance which is always fun. I also introduced some of the students from the second batch to some Southern California slang with “What’s up, dude?” for when “How are you?” gets monotonous. It was hilarious to hear Zeyneb, who has one of the most high-pitched, infantile voices, utter the phrase. My last session with the older students was cut short due to the impending rain and the teachers wanted to make sure the students were able to make it home before the downpour (and boy, did it pour). Since we had some extra time on our hands, the teachers all went out to play badminton in the field where Veenaji impressed me with her forceful swing; I’m guessing that an arm wrestling match with her would end badly for me. And during the moments I wasn’t playing, I had a chat with Priyanka as she described her studies and eventual desire to practice law for an NGO focused on women’s rights. I’m so impressed by her ambition and intellect and am eager to hear about the great things she accomplishes in the near future. We concluded the day with a trip to Crosswords to purchase books for Ruksar’s and Gajjubana’s respective birthdays!

 

Mellie:

 

It’s great to have Geeti around! Both witty and intelligent, she is very easy to get along with, and is definitely helping to ease the pain of P’s departure!

Everything went smoothly at the Foundation. We had some tourists from France drop by for a visit, a mother and her daughter, but otherwise the day was quite uneventful. I felt very much at ease today. Normally I should be with Priyanka’s class this week, but I wanted to initiate Postcards II with the Ruchi’s kids. I was very pleased to see that the first batch in particular was able to remember quite a lot of the words we learned. It was also good to return to a class I had recently taught. The children remembered me and were real angels today. Also, the groups today were quite small, I’m not sure why. Veenaji recruited a girl whose name unfortunately eludes me to assist me with the postcards project. Though very gifted artistically, I feel she lacks a little confidence. Nonetheless, her postcard will ambitiously feature a rendering of Michelangelo’s David! This time I selected the destinations according to the different places associated with Juliana. So we will have Florence for Italy, La Provence for France, Rio for Brazil and finally I thought I’d add Amer too, so that the kids can share impressions from their hometown for a change! By the way, do you know the names of Juliana’s children by any chance? V and I thought it would be nice to address the postcards to them.

Oh! I was interviewed today by a journalist called Monika Gupta. She wanted to ask me some questions on the Bedrooms project I did with Ruksar’s class. You might be able to find the article in the Tushita student magazine, hopefully coming out later this month! On Friday, since we had completed the Bedrooms project, I wanted to work on the magazine project with the kids, and Ruksar and I settled on interviews. I asked the children to choose interesting interview topics related to the Tushita Foundation in some way. Aurélien can expect some questions on rugby, football and his experience as a coach. And as far as I know, Mahak, Ifat and another girl are working on an interview with Veenaji on women’s rights and education! There’s also an interview on the Book of Me with Priyanka or Geeti lined up. I’m very excited to see how this turns out. I thought that by interviewing the volunteers, Veenaji and the teachers on Tushita topics, these interviews are not only a good exercise for the children, but also interesting for outsiders to read and learn about what’s going on in the Tushita Foundation. Actual news, if you will.

Tomorrow I’ll either be switching over to Priyanka’s class and have Ruchi lead the end of the postcards project, or maybe I’ll spend another day in her class. I’m not sure yet. I’d like to supervise the postcards projects, but I’m also itching to get back to my plays! Plus, something incredibly sweet happened today! Because the fan in Ruchi’s classroom was broken last week, the kids have been having their lessons in the room upstairs normally reserved for Priyanka’s batch. Since the weekend, things have reverted back to normal, but I didn’t realise until I accidentally walked into the upstairs classroom full of P’s kids. Not only did they seem really happy to see me, but they were also very reluctant to let me go, despite my insistence that I had to spend the day with Ruchi’s class. This was such a wonderful moment, because it feels a stamp of approval from the ones that count: the children!

Thank you for your film recommendations. I will definitely try to watch them soon. On the subject of movies, we went to see the Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi yesterday. I’d been anxiously awaiting its release in Jaipur, and I was not disappointed! I think you would like it. It is a spin on the Ship of Theseus problem, told in three seemingly unrelated stories that tackle questions on identity and belief. A visual and intellectually stimulating masterpiece!

Okay, dinner’s just been served! Have you arrived in India yet?

 

[Sorry, I posted my comment yesterday but when I just logged on to read your comments there was nothing there.]

 

Aurélien:

 

As we had to be ready to welcome the two ladies at the Foundation, we finished the teachers’ session earlier and did not have enough time to finish reading and commenting on a scene of The marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais that I brought. Not only was the play the first one written in France in which a servant directly confronts a nobleman – his master – but the tirade by Figaro (act V, scene 3) is also famous as it predicts the privileges’ abolition ten years before the Revolution (“You went to the trouble of being born-nothing more!”). Figaro also praises freedom of speech throughout his monologue so there should be ground for discussion. I will provide more details about the conversation tomorrow.

I taught geography to two more – oldest! – students today. The two ladies from Toulouse were delighted with both their first travel to India and the Foundation. They arrived during a comprehensive description by the pupils of Ruksar of the differences and similarities between political and physical maps of India and the World, as well as the map of Languages. I also showed the playground to them after the class but they did not play soccer or rugby with us, despite the fact that they are both from Toulouse. What a shame! The third and last batch did not stay in the classroom for long as the capricious weather made them go back home quite early. We just had time to meet again and review some basics. It’s been a short but enjoyable day.

 

August 6, Tuesday

Jessica:

As today was another smoothly run day with no hiccups, I will focus this entry on the students of my last batch. As of now, we have 13 students in the class although we haven’t had session yet in which all the students have been present. First, I’ll start with the youngest ones: Areeb, Anjli and Hashim. Areeb and Hashim are the only two boys in the class and are always a source of comic relief, providing humorous answers to questions. And although she is the youngest girl in the class, Anjli is perhaps also the most vocal and is always ready to respond to questions with a raised hand. Another particularly vocal student is Shirat who impressed me today with her quick learning and ability to retain information during our lesson on tenses. Next, we have Urimala and Deepa who both seem to be very nice girls, although on the quiet side; these two girls have also showed up to the least amount of sessions so I do not know them as well as the others but we always share a “Hello, how are you?” whenever we pass each other in the Foundation. Mansi and Sheerin, both 17, and Nisha, 16, are also bright young women who participate regularly. Mahera, 14, has a calmer, quieter presence but never hesitates or shies away when asked a question. The quietest students are Kirti and Kanchan, sisters, and Khushbu who manages to be the older sister of our chatterbox, Anjli. So far it has taken a little coercing to get these girls to talk but I have already observed a level of improvement compared to our absolute first day. Priyanka has told me that the students have expressed a strong interest in improving their speaking skills so I will be looking for lessons that cater to speaking with proper grammar and vocabulary.

 

Mellie

 

Ruchi took over the postcards project today, and did a fabulous job! She showed me the finished product and I was so thrilled! The Florence postcards are good, but somehow almost exclusively depict ice cream cones. I guess I should have expected that the kids would pick gelato over a cultural day at the museum! The Amer postcards all depict different animals of India, so we have an elephant, a monkey and a peacock of course. One girl chose to draw the Tushita Foundation, though, with girls and boys dressed in the unmistakable pink and blue kurtas! And another, Adiba, expertly sketched Amer Fort with an elephant climbing up the hill. The Provence pictures really capture the colour and the feeling of a weekend in the countryside. There is a very charming card of a girl picking sunflowers. I think I will try to take photos of all of the postcards. They did such a good job!

I spent my day with Priyanka’s group. The batches have been reconfigured, because previously there were so many students in the first batch and only a handful in the later batches. This meant that there were quite a few students in the first group who were meant to be in the second play, and some actors for the Pandora play were missing. But it all worked out in the end. Some of the boys, however, really got on my nerves today. They were both distracted as well as a source of distraction for others. Also, there were some new students who were not familiar with the play, whereas many of the others have already perfected their lines. I don’t think it will be possible to integrate them into it at this point, so I will work on the play tomorrow, and ask the new kids to work on the props while we practice the play, and then spend the last two days of the week on the student magazine.

I was so proud of my kids today! Shalu is a perfect Pandora! She remembered all the acting cues, and performed so naturally alongside the three different Epimetheuses that we have. There is actually quite a lot of Black Swan drama around the role of Epimetheus, between Aisha and Priyanshu. They are both excellent, and both very competitive! Priyanshu learned ALL OF HIS LINES! And he had quite a lot! He actually stayed on for the second batch as an understudy for the role of Peneus. Vishal has a very small part—he plays the brown-winged creature that brings evil into the world—and he has mastered his lines, cues and performs with such passionate ferocity.

The second play, Daphne and Apollo, also went very well. I am so amazed to see how Shirin and Shirat have developed! They went from shy and quiet to confident starlets! Shirat, by the way, is quite the artist, and every glance at my hands reminds me of it! On Saturday, she made me her living canvas for her Mehendi artwork. I am really impressed by the way she took into account the curves and shapes of the hand when choosing where to place a leaf, a flower, or a swirl. I first noticed her artistic spirit when she designed one of the golden arrowheads we’re going to be using as a prop for the Daphne play.

I was able to get to know Kiran better today. With Priyanka, the kids had been working on an essay on the most wonderful day of their lives. Kiran very shyly asked me to read it and correct her mistakes. She wrote about the day she found out that she was ranked top of her class, and how proud her father was. I was also impressed by how she has begun abbreviating words. I think it takes some familiarity with a language to be able to abbreviate words in a way that they are still readable and comprehensible. Also, maybe because we were on the roof in a ‘play’ setting, and not the classroom, she was less attention-seeking. Rather, when I asked the kids to brief me on the plays, the characters, etc., she would sometimes just say to me ‘I know’, and I would wink at her in acknowledgement. I think she likes these little you&me moments. Kiran has a really intelligent and inquisitive mind. I told some of the kids that I had gotten married because of the mehendi on my hands, and Kiran refused to buy it. She questioned every addition to my story! The name of my supposed husband was a name picked at random, Ayan, and she immediately pointed out that that was the name of Rosenda Mam’s son. And when I tried to insist that this was indeed the Ayan I had gotten married to over the weekend, she would simply not let herself be fooled, and would try to find a leak in my story! I’m certain that Kiran is aware of her intelligence, and yet, as proud as she may sometimes appear, I think that she is not as confident as she lets on.

Today was a special day because we celebrated Ruksar’s 21st birthday! We got her a Paris coffee table book as a gift; I think she really appreciated it. We ended the day with badminton, cake, coca cola and conversation.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how two months is really not enough time, like you mentioned in the interview. It took a month for us to get to know the teachers and the students, and for them to feel comfortable around us. And now it seems all the more sad that we will be leaving before fortifying these new relationships. I think it’s wonderful that Geeti and Amy got to spend an extra month. If only my uni started in October!

 

Aurélien:

 

The weather was so heavy today, but almost no rain. We arrived a little bit late at the Foundation and we did not have time to finish the reading I had prepared. However the conversation about freedom of speech versus censorship flew well, in particular from “without the freedom to criticize, praise has no value”. We tried to think whether a little bit of censorship could be tolerated or not, with very different opinions according to the matter considered.

I found out a song to learn the Indian states and their respective capitals this weekend. I am going to try to play the music with the keyboard while Ruksar is going to work on a possible choreography including geographical elements such as the directions of the compass rose! I brought the song on my cell phone and we read the lyrics, which are merely the states put in the right order. We will see how it is going and if we can make something good out of it.

During the sports’ session, we played football with the boys. Accidentally, half of them wore a uniform today so it was really convenient to form the teams. Neeraj arrived in the middle of the game with his spotless white uniform. He apparently wanted to play in my team but I was unfortunately not wearing a uniform today… He is not of a very talkative nature so, instead of arguing desperately when I told him that he had to play for the other team, he suddenly disappeared. I was admittedly a bit bothered when I realized that he had left, but such things happen with little men’s egos… And the game was intense as we were losing by two goals so I could not leave my teammates to go to look for him. He merely came back fifteen minutes later wearing red pants, a pink shirt and the same sandals: I could not say anything and he helped us catch up on the score!

The third session, which Yasin – the tiny and mischievous, faithful partner in crime of Neeraj – livened up more than I did as he was all excited today, was devoted to description of maps and conversation. At last we celebrated Ruksar’s birthday. Everyday I cannot help thinking that she only 21, one year and a half younger than me, and seems to have already had real-life experience. So do Sonam and the other teachers. The treat was delicious!

 

Rosenda

Today, I am writing from Delhi, feeling considerably nearer to you.
I have had the pleasure of spending the evening with Puru who was really happy to talk about his experience as a volunteer and the time he shared with you.
Richard, a graduate from Oxford, who is interning with Kamalan will be coming to Jaipur on the 16th. He is a videographer and plans to record the celebration of Raki at the Foundation. I am not sure if he can play rugby, but I believe he will be good company for a few days.
Hopefully the rain will not intrude in your work again today.

 

August 7, Wednesday

Jessica:

A wonderful day graced by a downpour. With Sonam and Geeta’s class, the class went through the usual routine of vocabulary words with some songs and playground time. However, perhaps as a result of Eid and the shopping trips it requires, many students were absent today. So Geeta ma’am, Sonam and I had some time to chat freely and we covered quite a variety of subjects, from the custom of women avoiding kitchens and temples/mosques during their “time of month” to child marriages and even Indian celebrities as I expressed my disdain for Shah Rukh Kahn and Salman Kahn (who Sonam adores with a passion despite his laundry list of misdemeanors) while Sonam and Geeta ma’am recommended I watch a film featuring Amir Kahn who they consider one of their favorite actors. During my last session, I went over the present continuous and present simple with the young ladies. After presenting my own examples, I asked each of the students to write their own sentences in both the continuous and simple form and I think by the end they understood the difference between the two. Just to make sure, I’ll do a quick review of today’s lesson during tomorrow’s lesson before starting the next one. Towards the end, we were all out in the field where we greeted Gajjubana with both the English and Hindi renditions of “Happy Birthday” and played around until it started raining furiously. While many of the teachers and students (and Veenaji!) stayed outside and played under the rainfall, I sneaked indoors with Sonam and Geeta ma’am where we continued to chat while enjoying a delicious cup of chai. Once all the teachers were back and the children were gone, we spontaneously had a dance party in Sonam’s classroom as Ruchi and Payal showed off their Punjabi dance moves. It was a lot of fun but made bittersweet with Geeti’s eventual departure. It was wonderful having Geeti here for these last couple of days and I told her that I would visit her in Chicago whenever I craved Indian food. Overall, a great day!

 

Mellie:

 

I always know it’s a good day when the laundry comes! And thank goodness it came when it did, else I would have had to go to the Foundation in my pyjamas (not the kurta kind)!

Also, Veenaji is such a sweetheart. She is definitely our surrogate Mother India. I bought some beautiful bangles from Kushbu’s mother, and the notorious klutz I am, I already managed to break one (with Aurélien’s help…). So today she presented me with a little gift! Beautiful red, green and gold bangles… made of metal! Unbreakable even for me J

We all received another present today. As a final goodbye gift, Geeti led the teacher’s session this morning. It was interesting to experience a taste of what these sessions must have been like with Amy and Geeti! She chose a short story by Orwell, called The Hanging. A man in a Burmese prison is to be hanged for a crime unknown to the reader, and the story depicts the scene from the perspective of one of the wardens. It was a very good choice! We had a passionate debate on the death penalty afterwards.

 

The rain got in the way of play rehearsals, as we usually practice either on the roof or in front of the Foundation. Still, we managed to do two runs of Pandora. The kids just keep getting better! I’m so thrilled, and so very excited about the first performance! Luckily I had made a little trip to the stationary shop this morning, so we spent the day working on props for the play. At times I felt like the manager of a sweatshop; in one corner, children were braiding golden cords, belts, anklets and bracelets; in another, they were painting whispering boxes, arrowheads; on the other side of the room, they were cutting out leaves for the laurel crown. By the end of the day, we accomplished quite a lot! I will write out a final list of props we need today. Our debut might be on Monday, for Juliana’s visit. I didn’t think it would be this soon, but the kids are so eager to perform! Gosh, I love these kids! Today Anjli came up to me and told me how much she enjoyed my lessons, and that she felt like she was learning a lot. I honestly did not expect the children to appreciate the play this much. I was so worried about returning to the class and being faced with disinterest, but no, they all religiously learned their lines and cues and everything! The children really put me in a good mood today; it was a day filled with creativity, team effort and jokes!

There was a hint of sadness lingering in the air, though: Geeti’s departure. I’m sorry to see her go. She’s a very positive presence, and such a good person. But I think she got the farewell she deserved (and G.B. was dramatically welcomed back). As we all gathered in the courtyard at the end of the day, a storm broke out! We danced and played in the rain together, drenched to the bone, all sorrows and strains washed away by the rainy caresses! And then warmed our bellies with chai and hot cross kachoris. Perfect. The ride home was fun too. I don’t know if the motorcyclists we splashed would agree!

I love the monsoon. There’s a faint scent of cardamom in the air. The lightning has stopped now, but the thunder is still purring in the distance.

 

Aurélien:

 

Geeti came up with an interesting text by Orwell, “A hanging”, as well as two other very useful pages, for difficult vocabulary and for post-reading questions. I think that I will also use these new tools for my future sessions. Having her for a few days was really pleasant and we wish she could have stayed longer with us. Without realizing it on the moment, I am sure though that her short stay will have helped us to different ways in our work at the Foundation. It is good that we are three volunteers; we come for different backgrounds and have diverse ideas and ways of teaching that influence each other’s very constructively. I am used to being involved in teams on the rugby fields but I am definitely an individual student and tend to be an individual worker too… I needed this co­-experience, even though it is often hard to reconsider one’s own methods!

As for the first session, while I was learning how to play the song on the piano, Geeti helped the kids with the lyrics and Ruksar started thinking about the choreography. It was easier with the first group than with the third – for which I was alone – but a different method was used for the different levels. Each of the kids learnt a different part of the song during the first session whereas we focused on slowly repeating the first half with the third. It was necessary though as several new students were still working on the alphabet with Ruksar yesterday. For now it is just repetition… However, after spending twenty minutes on the five first states and their respective capitals, they began automatically singing the name of the capital when I said the name of a state. When we add the choreography showing the direction of the location, it will all come together.

We started to learn a rugby chant that the kids seem to appreciate a lot, during our sports’ session. You will be surprised when you come. Mellie helped me work on the lyrics yesterday night. After the rehearsal, we started to play rugby and, once again, as it was the first time for several new kids to play this difficult game, I had to give in to their wish to switch to soccer… Let’s see how it goes next Saturday! The second deluge of the summer prevented us from going back home after the classes. We had a first celebration of Gajubana’s birthday – before Friday’s party! – with sweets he had brought. We were able to make the most of Geeti last moments with us and talk with the teachers. Please think about me when you have you second bite of the divine yakhni this weekend; I know for a fact that it won’t be possible during the first.

 

Rosenda

Yesterday, I had a very busy day and couldn’t open our journal. We have sent off Gajju Bana this morning who was eager to join you all at the Foundation. He will receive a loud happy birthday from all of you. Thank you for describing Pryanka’s class with elder students, it will be more difficult for them to pick up English, but hopefully we will have a surprice. Please read aloud to them in order to improve their comprehention skills and ask them to read aloud individually to improve their pronunciation.
I wonder how the lonely two boys feel in class.

Please Mellie do take pictures of the postcards, or if you wish ask “your husband” Ayan to take them when he comes next week. I would love to have a certain amount of them printed and give them to our visitors.
I am always so happy when I see that now some children dare to draw something different from the other. They use to copy from each other constantly.

Do feel free to invite the children who disturb to step outside. They are offered an opportunity, but if they are not capable to grab it, they should not spoil other students’ chance. I would suggest that you introduce a song in your play for the new students to allow them to appear on stage. I think that is important for them and for their parents.

Competition instead of collaboration, what a pity! But what can one do against human tendencies. The positive side of it is the drive to excell that it produces.

The biggest satisfaction for all of us is to discover the children’s talents and see them evolve. Oh, Kiran, we all love that girl. She was the first one to come shyily to us taking her brother Suraj along. One could make out that these children were a bit hurt and in need of attention. Kiran was so afraid to make mistakes, to be beaten… When I look at her today, I really think the Foundation has given her much joy and confidence, besides improving many of her skills. Thank you Mellie, your desire to stay longer is the best compliment you could give the Foundation. We are still in the process of finding out what is best for all. We didn’t think that anyone would want to stay more than three months, but for next winter we are opening up the program for those who take a gap year from their studies and want to volunteer the all winter. Let’s see how it goes. What an interesting topic, and what a pity that the weather is slowing us all down. Delhi feels like a steam oven to me.

Music and movement are a fabulous support to learning, in particular for students who have no knowledge of English. It is as if the body remebers this way.You have had a great intuition when you found a song to teach them about Indian geography.

I love you anecdote Aurélien! You have been exposed here to Indian JUGAAD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugaad
In India I have often felt that people are more mature than their age. Ruksar comes from a world where women have children when they are 15 or 16 years old. She is probably the first one in her family who has delayed marriage and has studied instead. It is never easy to be pioneers, but these young women know that they carry the responsability to open a new way.
I have a lot of respect for them, thank you for showering them with attention.

 

August 8

 

Aurélien:

 

Today was the last day of a short week for us as tomorrow will be a national holiday; it was also the last day of Ramadan’s fast for several children of the Foundation. After giving us friendship bracelets last week, they wanted to shake hands with us today in order to wish us an “Eid Mubarak”. We will celebrate it all together in due form next Tuesday. Nevertheless we already ate sweets Gajubana had left for his birthday as a first celebration with the kids…

Mellie came up with an interesting text about the use of force for the teachers’ session. I don’t know yet how to interpret this observation… but it seems that the teachers tend to trust authority a lot more than we do. The text deals with a quite sadistic doctor who admittedly wants to heal a sick little girl, but whose behaviour and thoughts would make me brutally throw him out of my house if I were the father… However the teachers did not think that his violent practice was a big issue since it was first aimed at healing the girl. Once again, it was very constructive to compare each other’s opinions; the three of us were absolutely convinced that the doctor was not professional – as I wrote above! – while the teachers all thought the exact contrary. The same goes for the death penalty for example: in Geeti’s text by Orwell, we don’t even know why the character has been sentenced to death but “there must be a good reason” according to them. At first sight such statements are very shocking to me and I am obviously not willing to review my opinion on the death penalty or presumption of innocence; yet I am definitely eager to discuss it with them. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to do so today or yesterday, but I will try to come up with other texts in order to have a broader discussion on this topic.

I was very satisfied with the states and capitals song today. We would have needed one more day for it to be perfect, but we’ll still have time next week. Even though the music is not great, after singing it several times, they are inevitably able to associate the capitals with their corresponding states. The children are very fond of the piano and a couple of them who will be in my class next week already asked me to bring it with my teaching material! Tomorrow we will rest in the morning and attend the Teej festival in the afternoon with Kamal. It is going to be a peaceful weekend, as apparently no children will come on Saturday since it is sort of a vacation weekend. We cannot wait to welcome you next week and show you what we have done with our pupils. I especially cannot wait to eat Ramadan delicacies next Tuesday! I wish you a nice weekend.

 

Mellie:

 

It was my turn to prepare the teacher’s session today. I chose a short story, ‘The Use of Force’ by the redundantly named William Carlos Williams. It’s narrated from the perspective of a doctor in his attempt to obtain a diagnosis from a young girl who resists his treatments. The doctor, however, departs from the pretence of professionalism, ultimately admitting that he draws an irrational pleasure from hurting the child. The parents, though obviously disturbed, watch idly by. I think the text raises some very interesting questions on the (ab)use of force, trust in authority, accountability and whether the ends justify the means. The teacher’s opinions were interesting. Though Geeta expressed some discomfort towards the actions and the inner thought processes of the doctor (and noted that he did not even try to speak to the child to put her at ease, and even went as far as threatening her), ultimately, the teachers agreed he acted in a way that would be morally permissible; there was, after all, a risk of the girl dying of diphtheria. They also insisted that a child does not always know what is best for him or herself, and that it is sometimes necessary for adults to intervene on their behalf. As for me, instinctively, I find the doctor’s behaviour quite condemnable. I have been to some horrendously bad doctors, so I often find visits to doctors quite humiliating (Austrian doctors rarely choose the profession out of a desire to help people, more out of a desire to play golf and inherit the family practice). As a patient I am vulnerable and scared when I share my symptoms with a doctor, who is obviously in a position of power, possessing the medical knowledge and experience I don’t have. If anything, this dynamic leads me to distrust them. While I probably don’t have the same respect for authority that the teachers seem to have, I definitely agree to some extent with their statements. Still, for me, violently wrenching open a child’s mouth would definitely be a last resort, and I was surprised that alternative means of obtaining a diagnosis were not really discussed. Still, overall a very interesting debate!

Later in the day, I worked on the play and some more props with the children. Everything is coming together nicely. Unfortunately I had to have a talk with the kids in the second play. They were being quite difficult to work with, not concentrating, constantly interrupting, etc. Since we were out of the classroom setting, rehearsing on the roof, I understand how that could have happened. But nonetheless, it was a very gruelling experience. I don’t enjoy slipping into the strict teacher role at all. Still, after the conversation, they were as good as gold and went through the play very smoothly.

It is interesting to note that the children are not very comfortable with the idea of having multiple students cast in the same role. Every now and then they will approach me and ask who is the real Epimetheus, or the real Peneus, etc. My answer never changes. I simply tell them that there are two for each role and that we will simply perform the play twice. They are rarely satisfied with this response.

Looking forward to the long festival weekend!

 

August 12, Monday

Jessica:

After a three-day weekend of much appreciated rest & relaxation (plus a gang of monkeys at the monkey temple), I was excited to return to the Foundation and see all the students and teachers. I saw some faces that had been absent for a couple days due to Eid preparation such as Hizba (aka “Potato” who has, without question, the chubbiest, cutest cheeks [and face, overall]) as well as my little Komal who had been visiting her grandparent’s house most of last week. It was a delight to see all their small faces and they completed their vocabulary/spelling lesson without problem. After the session with the Sunflower class, I went upstairs to work with the older girls. Yet, as I arrived, I saw that they were all busy painting in preparation for their upcoming performance with Mellie. So we decided we would skip a lesson just for today so that they could continue working a bit. I joined in on the decorating and had a chat with Khushbu, Kanchan, Deepa and Anjli where the girls talked about their favorite subjects, colors, stories (Cinderella is a popular one) and I drew them little signs with their names in calligraphy. To finish, it was an easygoing, successful day. Tomorrow is my turn to lead the teacher session and I plan to introduce two poems, one American and one Korean. We’re also all very excited to see you and your family. Safe travels!

 

Mellie

 

The weekend was wonderful(ly long!). Manisha didn’t come on Friday either, so we were able to sleep in for three consecutive days! Besides our lazy mornings, I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday weekend. We had dinner at G and V’s place—always a treat–, went to the delightful Teej festival in Jaipur, had a power workout at the Monkey Temple, and I haggled like a champ at the market! My prize was three pairs of beautiful earrings!

Still, it was great to be back at the Foundation today. Everyone was in a good mood, and so everything went smoothly today. Even the weather decided to play nice, and after a short spray of rain, the sun shone proudly, and took charge of the lighting for our play rehearsals. The second batch was really good today, and after a few runs, they amazed me with their ideas, improvisations and enthusiasm. The props are all nearly finished too. I’m happy to say that the kids deserve all the credit for them! Kiran handed me a beautifully written article on India for the student magazine. I think she is currently working on an article on Deepavali.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say, except that it was a good day. See you tomorrow!

 

Aurélien:

 

The more time I spend with the children of the Foundation, the more I feel that the departure is going to be difficult. It is already in three weeks… How happy I was to meet my pupils today after a long weekend of separation. I was warmly welcomed in Ruksar’s class. She was about to start a story-reading session when the children asked to do geography; I had prepared something but at the same time I did not want to ruin my colleague’s plans. I did try to mix both topics by telling them that we could write a story together about a boy and a girl travelling around the world. A few of the children finally accepted to come up with two Indian characters and started thinking more about their identity. I just had enough time to write “The long journey of Aaisha and Neeraj.” on the whiteboard when a sudden general outcry prevented me from advancing more on the project: they wanted to finish our States’ song project… And it was true that we had not been able to work on the choreography and singing at the same time because of the four day week. Ruksar took control of the situation and told several children to come with her in order to start working on the choreography she had thought about. I had roughly half of the class with me and was determined to write our story; but they were jealous of their peers who could go dancing with Ruksar instead of writing a boring story with me! Facing more and more wishes to go dancing, I agreed to most of them and, quite quickly, we were only five remaining in the class! When Priyanshu decided that he would rather go dancing – and his best friend Bharat would probably follow him – I delayed the story-writing project, rushed downstairs and came back with the piano, to the great satisfaction of the children. I played for them and gave modest tips on their dance moves. The second batch arrived a little bit earlier; I took them aside and reviewed the song, which they remembered quite well. Afterwards I positioned them next to our dancers and they sang in chorus to accompany the choreography. We stayed in the classroom until five o’clock: no sport today! And the show was really successful! After more than a month, I am still amazed by their dancing skills… Ruksar’s choreography is a very well-thought mix of moves from diverse states’ songs of movies and directions of the compass rose related to the respective locations of the sates quoted. You will have the chance to attend a rehearsal tomorrow I think!

The teachers’ session went well as we spoke about several topics related to a simple newspaper article I came up with: “Language in books show how we have grown more selfish”. The discussion was about individualism and community, selfishness and personal improvement, modern and traditional society… I was late tonight because Mehek asked me whether I could help her with her Ramadan’s speech for tomorrow and I could not say no!

 

August 16, Friday

Jessica:

Another great day to follow your visit, the delicious meals we enjoyed together, and an Independence Day holiday. After a relaxing day of sleeping in, watching movies, and finishing up my current novel of choice, I was eager and energized to return to the Foundation and see the teachers and students. As today is Friday, our teacher session was transformed into our weekly game day during which we played Charades, word games and finished with a round of Mafia (in which I was killed off first :( ). Then the students arrived and we conducted our regular day. I taught the Sunflower class how to draw peacocks, goats and monkeys which the students then assigned names. I had the privilege of being several of the student’s animals while others chose to name their animals after classmates or their siblings. I then went upstairs to work with the older girls and we engaged in some friendly competition with word games. We formed teams, which they then named (three teams opted for flowers: lily, sunflower, and rose while Shirat took charge and named her team “Team Shirat” with Mahera’s consent, of course). First, we played several rounds of “categories” in which the teams were required to write as many words as possible that fit in the category and every word that was spelled correctly gave them a point. Categories included animals, fruits/vegetables, countries, colors, and words that start with the letter “A”. They really enjoyed this game and it was a success. We followed this with some Hangman with each correct letter giving them 2 points, answers giving 20 points, etc… Overall, it was a lot of fun and they all participated and did well. Shirat, however, particularly impressed me with her vocabulary and quick thinking.

 

Mellie:

 

The two festival days were really good ! It was nice to bond with the children outside of the classroom context. Plus, I felt like a proud parent watching my children perform their plays ! I will never erase the image of little Vishal dressed as a dragonfly-demon from my mind.

Going back to regular lessons was very nice too. Because it was the end of the week and thus my last day with Priyanka’s class, I thought I wouldn’t prepare a big project, and instead supervised the children while they worked on articles for the student newspaper. I had a very interesting conversation with Kiran, who brought up the subject of female foeticide. Bony apparently was in a school play on the subject, entitled « Who will be your sister-in-law ? ». I asked her to think about why she thougt that this was a phenomenon in India , and requested an opinion piece from her. Actually, the question WHY was definitely central to today’s session. The children had some very interesting suggestions for articles. Vedpar wrote a piece on political corruption, but what was missing was a part on why he thinks not keeping campaign promises was wrong, why  he thinks political leaders become corrupt, and why he thinks it is important to care about the opinion of the people. Vedpar also came up with a short story, on his future girlfriend ! I was very impressed, because he approached the subject with a lot of innocence and yet so much maturity. He wrote about moving to Delhi, meeting a girl and falling in love, having his heart broken and declaring never to love again. Abhishek wrote an invigorating and thoughtful piece on police corruption. He’s a very intelligent boy, and I’m very happy to see that he’s opened up so much more.

We actually had the lesson on the roof at the children’s request, so the atmosphere was perfect ; calm, convivial and with a beautiful view on Amer. It was a very condusive environment to get to know the kiddos better. I spoke to some of the children about their futures. Kiran shared that she dreamed of being a fashion designer and moving abroad, but that her father would probably not allow it. The compromise she had decided on was to work for the government. I really want this girl to go far. I didn’t know what to say to her, except that she should try to do whatever she thinks is in the realm of the possible, and that her father’s opinion may change if he sees how successful she is.  Vedpar wants to go to America and become an engineer.

Another boy I finally got to know better was Govind, whom I’d read about in Amy and Geeti’s diaries. I can’t remember if I’d told you about the story he’d written about a boy who lives in the ocean, develops magical powers and saves all the animals, all the whle not realising himself that he is in fact human. In any case, today he gave a copy of the story as well as a letter to Priyanka, asking her whether she could send it to Amy for him. Govind apparently is in a very important year in school and has to sit a nation-wide standardised test at the end of the year, so he is very busy and constantly studying. Between school and the Foundation, he takes tuition classes. I asked him whether that leaves any time for him to play, and he told me that he has only about half an hour a day to play. It’s very difficult to find a balance between work and play, and I know how easy it is to slip too far into one extreme. Of course, it’s important to do well in school as good marks can definitely be a golden ticket. Still, I do hope once this year is done, that Govind will find some time to be a child. He is already very mature though. Priyanka later showed me his notebook filled with articles and stories that he has written. I was so impressed, especially by one piece entitled ‘Girls’. It’s a very thoughtful reflection on girls in Indian society. Also, Govind is Satyam’s brother! I was quite surprised to learn this. The writing talent seems to lie in the family, as Satyam also wrote an incredibly creative short story about a giant and his servant who live in a magical castle.

Only Suraj showed up for the third batch. He seemed a little down today, so very much unlike his usual bubbly and talkative spirit! I essentially spent the entire hour trying to cheer him up. I introduced him to a drawing game, whereby one person draws a random head, folds the paper over so that only the neck is showing, leaving the next person to draw the torso, etc. We came up with some very interesting looking creatures! A moustached Cyclops with butterfly wings and high heels, a dog with a Mohawk, sailor tats and a mermaid’s tail, and a two headed barefoot tentacle creature! By the end of the day he was chirpy as usual, and even pocketed the drawings to take home with him.

Another observation I made today was that the children really still do not know where I’m from. Either they think I’m from Australia or Malaysia, or England or America. Some of the girls have requested photos of my family, and I think I will try to bring some, along with one of Aurélien’s maps. I guess it must be quite difficult for them to wrap their head around where I’m from, as it’s a concept a lot of people in “my world” have trouble understanding. And it may also be a way of teaching them the difference between ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where do you live?’.

On the subject of homes, you must be back in Paris now! I hope you had a good flight and a good time in India.

 

Aurélien:

 

After two days of celebration at the Foundation and a holiday for Independence day, we came back to our teaching routine today. Not really though, as it is Friday and the teacher’s session is usually devoted to games. We played charades and mafia before lunch, and the teaching started afterwards. At the moment we are at the Tushita House waiting for unusual pizzas as well as our new colleague Richard, who is scheduled to arrive in an hour.

The children, Ruksar, and I finally wrote “The long journey of Aaisha and Neeraj”. They came up with the ideas whereas I limited my involvement to making suggestions and, above all, taking care of grammar and spelling. Both Neeraj and Aaisha were from Chandigarh, he was a twenty-nine-year old boy while she was twenty-eight years old, and they only knew Haryana and Punjab, enough to travel elsewhere though. They decided to discover their country through a long journey, hitting the road with a black and red Tata Nano. Surprisingly, when I suggested that Aaisha could be the one out of two having a driving licence, several girls, such as Aafreen or Pratima, were formally opposed to it, while the boys did not really care – although they admittedly felt more comfortable with Neeraj at the wheel of the Nano… Finally the reformists with Nurain in the lead won after a tight vote. This little girl always surprises me; she really has a sophisticated humour: when there is something silly to say, she always jumps on the opportunity, but she does it very well. At the end of the class, I took some more time to make each of them read the text to me and correct both their spelling mistakes and pronunciation. The class was really fun.

As this first batch stayed a little longer, I felt guilty for the second batch and did not go out to do sports. We reviewed our song and they drew two maps on a blank sheet of paper, India on one half, Rajasthan on the other – Rajasthan appeared on the first one too as I asked them to draw this lone state on the map of India in order for them to be able to localize it, as well as Jaipur. They have not mastered the song yet, so we practiced it during most of the third batch’s class. We also played a team game: one team had to ask the other one for the capital of a state and vice versa. I had meticulously put as many good students in the two groups, so Yasin and Neeraj were separated for the first time… But they accepted this new situation quite easily because I gave them responsibilities: they both successfully helped weaker classmates.

 

August 19, Monday

Jessica:

Today remarked a semi-return to normalcy as we conducted the usual teacher session (on an article based on literature and its cognitive effects) and the three batches. The Sunflower class focused on the letter “H” today with words like hen, house, happy, hospital and helicopter among the mix. With the older group of girls, we quickly went over the concept of “I wish I was/had” statements as I explained how they were used to indicate a level of dissatisfaction with or desire to change present circumstances. It was not difficult for them to comprehend and they were able to formulate sentences easily by the end. However, as we chose to celebrate Rakhi today, the day ended with sweets and the trying of bracelets. In addition to our early Rakhi celebration, today was Shravan’s 8th birthday and the Sunflower class sang him “Happy Birthday” and I made him an additional small card decorated with some cartoonish balloons and a cake. Although tiny in size, Shravan has an intellect that greatly exceeds his physical stature. He purposefully seeks the more difficult, longer words for his spelling and like Fardeen who I wrote about earlier, always demands extra pages of spelling until I have to force him to call it a day and play a bit outside. In addition to being a spelling wiz, Shravan also maintains a cheery disposition which helps him avoid getting involved in any sort of spat with the other kids. He’s such a great kid all-around and I expect that he will continue to succeed seeing his combination of smarts and kindness.

 

Mellie:

 

Today was a wonderful day! Because of the holiday tomorrow, I decided not to jon Payal’s class, and instead check up on the children in Ruksar’s class and help them finish the work on their interviews. Some of their questions are really good and really thoughtful! I gave them some pointers on what kind of questions to ask in an interview, and I explained to them the difference between Yes or No questions and questions that require more reasoning; ‘Do you like elephants’ vs ‘Why do you like elephants?’. Kunal was very quick to understand the difference! It was lovely to hear from him for a change, as he is one of the quieter students in the class. Nurain also made a very intelligent contribution. She suggested something I had not anticipated: ‘Do you like elephants. Why?’ I was arguing against using Yes or No questions in interviews (because they can make interviews very brief and uninformative) by explaining to them that we cannot anticipate the answer the interviewee will give us. And Nurain was very right with her suggestion! No matter whether the interviewee answers Yes or No, he/she will be encouraged to give a reason! Although the day went very well and I was very proud of the children, I could tell that they were a little bit restless and probably eager to commence the Rakhi celebrations. Afreen for example came up with very good questions for me on my experience in India. I answered quite elaborately, and every time we stumbled over a word she didn’t know, I insisted we interrupt the interview and discuss the vocabulary. She is usually very eager to learn new things, but today I noticed that she just wanted to end the interview quickly and go to the ground. Of course, I understand. Our last month has been saturated with festivals, and it can be hard to keep focused on the work week. But yes, Raksha Bandhan! It was a lot of fun. Veenaji had planned a lovely celebration in the ground, but unfortunately we had to make some spontaneous changes due to the rain. In small groups, the children were called into the office and the girls would tie the Rakhi around their newfound brothers. Areeb and Krishna are my new additions to the family! It was a lot of fun.

 

Thank you for your comments. I will take your advice on teaching the children about where I’m from, and I will do a session on identity with the children tomorrow. I am interested to know how you think they perceive your children, especially because they have seen them with both you and Jan.

 

I plan to type up the children’s articles on the weekend, and I will send you them. I think that’s a very good idea to publish some of their work. I was planning on putting together a little magazine of their interviews, articles, photographs and artwork. I will also send you the photographs of their postcards. Richard kindly lent his photography skills and the work was done in 10 minutes!

 

Richard is great! We all get along very well. Funnily enough a lot of the children asked me if he was my brother, because we allegedly look similar. It’s very interesting to observe how the children perceive ‘foreign faces’. Jess and I had a discussion on this once. In the very first week, Gulafsha came up to her and said that they looked similar, which they simply do not. But at the same time, Gulafsha doesn’t look like a lot of the other children, her skin is fairer and her features a little different. Jess obviously does not resemble the children at all. Maybe G saw two differences and put them together. The children in general also are able to distinguish that both J and I have Asian features; they used to ask us if we were sisters, but they never asked if any of us were related to Aurélien for example! It must be very strange for them indeed. I also wonder how used they are to seeing non-Indian celebrities. Do you know if there are a lot of American TV shows or movies diffused in India?

 

 

 

Aurélien:

 

After Manisha’s birthday yoga session, we went to the Foundation. For the teachers’ session, I came up with a text summing up research led by British professors to show how the classical works of English literature and poetry, such as Shakespeare or Wordworth, “boost the brain” more than any other text. This way we could discuss pedagogy matters, in particular what approach should be adopted when teaching young children.

Richard came to the Foundation for lunch. Even though he is British, we got along well as he accepted to sleep on the terrace. We had a lot of fun together and he took beautiful pictures of the children. Unfortunately he is leaving on Wednesday and girls will surround me again! The afternoon was a special one as we celebrated Raki’s festival. I have ten new sisters now, including the teachers, Mellie, Adiba, Shirat and Sheerin! I will have to think about bringing a gift back, as the tradition goes. I taught Priyanka’s first batch for two hours, before going to the ground to have the big party. I came up with a title, the same as for Ruksar’s class, and they started to write about “The long journey of Aaisha and Neeraj”. I will tell you more about their stories on Wednesday as we mainly did the preparatory work, with the help of Richard Sir!

 

Rosenda

 

Thanks to your journal, I am back at the Foundation, cherishing the memeory of the short time spent with all of you. I am impressed by your accomplishment, the children look happy and ever more eager to learn. Jan, Ayan and I had a fabulour time.

Oh yes, he looked marvellous!

Such a heavy subject for a young girl, I can tell how intelligent and thoughful she is.

I am so exited to hear about the children’s writings. Is it asking too much to have a copy of some of them? I am seriously hoping to be able to do a bit of publishing at the Foundation. Small books with stories and drawings signed by the students, wouldn’t it be awsome?

Mellie, you and I really root for Kiran and both of her brothers as well, even though boys have it easier. They are the first children to come to us and I can tell what a difference the Foundation has made in their lives

How wonderful for Amy and Govind to have created such a bond!

I am also surprised to know about them being brothers, such different characters, but definitely equally bright and capable. We must look after them

That’s what I mean, the Foundation has brought a lot of joy in these children’s lives

This is so interesting, what I think, Mellie, is that you should show them a picture of your mom and Austria, its cities, mountains, people and a picture of your dad, accompanied with images of Malesia. This will probably help them understand. What do you think?

Actually, I am in Italy now, in the countryside, among the olive trees.

How is it oing with Richard? Can a French man get a long with an English?

Fantastique Aurélien! I couldn’t even dream three years back of something like this happaning at the Foundation. I was writing Mellie also that I would love to receive some of the stories and work on the lay-out, for us to publish some books with the children’s stories. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

The Italian in me really loves the idea that stronger students helping the weaker ones. It might be a bit « catholic », but I think it actually helps to build a better envirroment. Don’t you?

I am curious to know more about the Raki celebration and Richard’s presence among you. How did it work?

Ah, I am very curious to know how many sisters you have after Raki celebration. It might be an overwhelming number…

 

August 21, Wednesday

Jessica:

As a result of a rather restless night and little sleep, today was especially tiring and ended with me falling asleep in the car ride back to the house. But the day overall remained satisfying and despite any fatigue, it’s always a mood-lifter to see the little ones. For the teacher session, I thought I would offer something a bit different and  presented the teachers with some scenarios which result in a moral dilemma, a classic one being the scenario in which you can save three people tied on the train tracks from an impending train crash if you choose to push off, and resultantly kill, another individual off a bridge to halt the train before it can reach the group. Do you choose to not act and knowingly allow three people to die or do you actively push someone off, a traumatic deed in itself, in order to reduce the death toll? Many of our answers differed and it sparked a discussion amongst all of us. Afterwards, I worked with the little ones on their vocabulary and spelling which went seamlessly except during the second batch when I discovered that a couple of the students were having their older siblings in the class do their spelling for them. Sonam and I stressed to the older siblings that doing their younger brother’s work was actually very harmful to them as it prevented them from practicing and learning on their own. Upon being caught, those caught in the act were clearly embarrassed and apologized and I hope that they discontinue the scheme for their own sake. I later spent the last hour with the older girls during which we learned how to formulate questions, either by inverting the first words of a sentence or adding a “Do” or “Does” at the start. The lesson went smoothly but I’ll do some review at the start of class tomorrow just to make sure it stuck with them. We ended up with a couple rounds of word games which were fun as usual. I’m starting to come to terms that we’re leaving so soon, Sonam explaining that many of the younger ones think I’ll be staying an additional month. Breaking the news will be heartbreaking for sure but until the date of departure arrives, I’ll make sure to cherish the moments we are all sharing together.

 

Mellie:

 

Today was my very first day in Payal’s class. The first batch was very proficient in English. I decided to try the two Bat fables again. It went very well. We discussed some difficult vocabulary, played hangman with the new words, and I introduced them to neither … nor sentences. Unfortunately time ran out very quickly and we only had time to work on the first story. I’m looking forward to tomorrow though ! I really want to discuss the concept of multiple overlapping identities with them, especially after the neither … nor statements, which taught them to describe themselves as what they were not. The remaining two batches were at a significantly lower level. Inspired by a game Jess played with her older girls, I had the children of the second group randomly be sorted in three teams. I wrote a long word on the whiteboard (responsibility, compliment) and asked them to look for it in the dictionary. I know you suggested we avoid activities that encourage competition, but I wanted to introduce some kind of stake, and also made sure that in the end all the children would find the word on their own, and write both the English and Hindi translations in their notebook. The second part of the game was to make new words out of the long word, and I was very impressed by what the kids came up with ! One girl made ‘moment’ out of compliment, and another boy came up with ‘lion’ ! I played a variation on the game with the third batch, albeit without teams. The third batch has two Tushita kids and mainly new students. I wrote up a few words, wrote them on the blackboard and asked them to write them in their notebooks as well as the Hindi translation. To help them remember the word, we played a series of games in which they had to use or recognise those words, like hangman, pictionary, and even a word association game, where each child picked a word randomly and had to say only one word related to it, e.g. ‘hair’ as a clue for ‘braid’. I think the kids enjoyed it, and it was a good way for the new kids to open up and feel more comfortable around me. Even Geeta’s son, Krishna, joined in for the last round of hangman ! He is such a cutie ! I adopted him as my Rakhi brother, and today he brought me some chocolate as a gift ! For tomorrow, I think I will try to come up with some roleplays or games to teach the children some grammar, or just how to make simple sentences. It’s good that there aren’t so many students in Payal’s class, because even though their level is lower, it leaves time to focus more attention on each child individually and their confidence is boosted. I still find Ruchi’s class one of the hardest to teach, simply because there are so many children who still have trouble understand or expressing themselves comfortably in English.

All in all, today was an excellent day, even more so because it was the Return of Puru ! Unfortunately he is already leaving for Delhi tomorrow, but we are all looking forward to seeing him again next week. It is maybe the only silver lining of leaving the Foundation so soon, too soon… Even the children have started talking about it !

 

Aurélien:

 

Puru came back today! We went together to the Foundation and we first discussed several questions Jessica came up with, about ethics. After lunch, I went back to Priyanka’s class and my pupils kept writing the story of Aaisha and Neeraj. Puru and Priyanka were of great help as each of us could focus on three children’s essays. It was almost a one-on-one Oxford seminar!

Lalit, Manzir and Priyanshu are particularly at-ease with English writing and I feel that I have – almost! – nothing to teach to the first one. They have very different ideas and, although the form is pretty similar, the stories won’t look the same. For instance, Priyanshu is writing a story that is taking place in Kashmir – and he is part of it! He apparently knows Kashmir very well. As for Manzir, he is writing about a journey from Delhi to Paris, and he chose not to be part of the story. Ayasha thinks that Aaisha and Neeraj are two students whereas Riza thinks they are two children from different families travelling along with their parents. As my mother suggested, I am going to take their works at the end of the week, type them out in a nice way and give them to the children in order for them to have a “published” version.

At the end of this first class, I took on the role of a guide and introduced the Foundation to two very nice French ladies. Gajjubana did the introduction and the conclusion – he really does speak a very good French – and, at the end of the visit, they gave me a bag with many coloured pencils, which I was very glad to accept. When they told me that there was an envelop with money inside, I gave it back to them and suggested that they should rather give it to the boss. I had the premonition that the Tushita Foundation was not used to receiving funding from thirds; premonition that was confirmed when Gajjubana refused to accept it. We obviously thanked them warmly for the coloured pencils and they left the Foundation very satisfied, I think, with their visit!

After the visit, I took the rugby ball and Puru on the playground. We stayed there until the end of the afternoon as I decided to involve the little ones in the game and I have not seen something as funny for a long time! I separated the children into two teams on either side of the ground, each with one hand against the wall, each of them having a special number, from one to fifteen – at some point, thirty of them were playing, girls included, Sonam and Ruchi included! I first said “ONE!” or “THIRTEEN” and threw the ball into the centre; then the numbers one or thirteen of both teams rushed to the ball to grab it and get it back to their respective sides in order to get one point. Once everybody understood the rules, I started to call several numbers and I wish you could have seen the little boys doing a scrum in the middle of the ground! We all really enjoyed the moment and I can’t wait to reiterate the experience.

 

Rosenda

So much rain this year, but it is necessary and yes, probably too many festivals. The children seem to be learning a lot anyway though.

I think that in India everyone tends to believe that the children belong to their father’s tradition, even more so when they carry names that come from his religion. They must be noticing something unusual with Naeem and Ayan, though, the way they talk, dress, behaive. Anyway, it is important that the children at the Foundation to realize that there are other identities in the world, equally human and acceptable

Thank you, Mellie. You might be better asking the teachers about the tv shows in India, I watch very little tv even in Europe

This sounds like a very enriching topic, great choice!

So, Richard slept on the terrace! I thought that a Frenchman and an Englishman couldn’t possibly share a bed! Fair enough, you managed to work well together. Now that you have so many sisters, you have to be very responsible and protect them from all evil. “Vaste programme”

 

August 22, Thursday

Jessica:

Although I had a rough start to my day due to a nightmare in which I got bit by a rabid dog, the children and teachers of Tushita proved once again to be the antidote to any downers. We started the teacher session with articles provided by Mellie about the Femen movement which provoked discussion on feminism, the efficacy of certain actions, and religion, including the wearing of burkas by some Muslim women. Afterwards, I went to my little ones and we did our usual routine and without any cheating this time around (woo!) followed by some time outdoors. Once 5 o’clock came around, I went upstairs to work with the older ladies plus Hashim. We quickly reviewed question constructions and then went over articles. Afterwards, we played a grammar version of Jeopardy with the categories: Present, Past, Questions, Articles. Once Jeopardy was done, we finished with their favorite games “Categories” with categories like body parts, words that start with the letter “F”, and words longer than 6 letters. Everyone was very involved and we unknowingly went 15 minutes over class time because we were all too into it.

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver just came up on my iTunes shuffle and reminded me again that my departure is soon approaching. I’ve grown incredibly attached to the students and the teachers, especially Sonam who has been my partner in crime for the past two months. Just as John Denver so melancholically sung, I will definitely hate to go.

 

Mellie

 

Today it was my turn to lead the teachers’ session. Because the teachers are very progressive when it comes to women’s rights issues, I wanted to introduce them to radical feminism in, in the form of Femen. I brought four texts in total: excerpts from a Femen article about why they bare their breasts, a Guardian article presenting the Femen training that new recruits have to go through as well as raising the question of efficiency of their tactics, a Femen call to arms for a ‘Topless Jihad’ against Islamism and the forcible internment at a mental hospital of a Tunisian Femen activist, and finally an article written by a Muslim girl on why Femen doesn’t represent her. We read them in this chronology. Interestingly enough, after reading the first article detailing what Femen is fighting against and why they need to be naked, the girls almost unanimously agreed that the women should not be punished for baring their breasts, that they were probably doing it as a last resort to make themselves heard, and that they had the right to take their nudity and sexuality into their own hands. Ruchi even made a surprise contribution, insisting that no man is justified in raping a woman, no matter how naked she is. There was a little bit of tension as we read about how Femen opposed religion and in the particular case of the article we read, Islamism/Islam (Femen doesn’t make a distinction). Ruksar pointed out how often islamophobic rhetoric confuses Islam with governments abusing religion as a means of gaining power. We also had a discussion on choice later. The Topless Jihad sparked a reaction from many Muslim women around the world, both veiled and non-veiled, who accused Femen of a savior complex and even of a form of neocolonialism. By allegedly liberating Muslim women from their oppressive religions, Muslim women in fact claimed that Femen was patronizingly speaking on their behalf, assuming that these women wanted or needed saving. We also spoke a little about the Burka. Personally, I agree that many women may freely choose to wear a Hijab, and I don’t think it is a particularly oppressive article of clothing, because the scarves are chosen according to personal fashion choices, reveal the face, and also allow freedom of movement. But the Burka is for me definitely a step too far, because it prevents any form of individual self-expression, and I find it very hard to believe that women would ever freely step into these “black sacks” (to quote Femen); after all, there is a difference between ‘modestly’ covering your arms and legs and wearing a shapeless black cloak that completely conceals a woman’s face and form. Ruksar however argued that some women did freely choose to wear a Burka, because they believe that their bodies are only for their husbands. Maybe she is right, but for me this argument is a dangerous step towards ‘women get raped because they wear miniskirts’, because both versions imply that men are sexually starved animals who have no control over themselves and therefore it is the woman’s responsibility to cover herself up lest she inspire lust in them. Overall a very interesting debate though! Ruksar later joked that she was lucky to have been born in India, and that a girl like her, who doesn’t wear a veil, dances, and rides a motorcycle, would die in a country in which Sharia law applied! One thing I didn’t realize during the debate, however, was that there was a little confusion over the difference between Femen and feminism, as Priyanka later explained to me. Granted, they do sound very similar, and must be hard to distinguish in a conversation if it is not your mother tongue.

 

Class with the children also went very well today! I continued the story with the first batch. One of the new kids, whose name I will definitely learn tomorrow, is really brilliant! He knows a lot of words, and learns new words in a heartbeat. I only have to repeat an explanation once and he has understood and remembered it! In the second batch, I decided to teach the children the different types of words, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc. I was very pleased by how quickly they picked it up! Later we worked on the conjugation of regular verbs. Granted, the only challenging thing about it is remembering the He/She/It ‘s, which is ultimately not an important mistake, but I think it will be good for the children to familiarize themselves with some grammatical terminology. Initially I had planned to do a lesson on the present and past tense, but it might not be such a bad idea to gloss over the basics before proceeding to something a little more complex.

 

With the third batch I learned some new words, with the same games as yesterday. I also worked on pronunciation with them, teaching them to recognize the way the pronunciation of ‘A’ for example can be mutated by the presence of other letters. They seemed to get it, or at least one of them, Saddam, definitely did! He was always the first to shout out the answers. There is one new boy in the class I’d like to ask you about. I haven’t yet had the chance to speak to Payal about him, but it appears that he can neither read nor write in Hindi. Have there been illiterate children in the Foundation before? Do you have any advice on how to handle his situation? So far I’ve been trying not to make a big deal out of it, and I simply include him in all the games with the other students. He knows a couple of letters in English, so he can compete fairly well in Hangman, but because he has only just started learning the English alphabet, he obviously has difficulties reading in English. I’m sure just listening and seeing the letters on the whiteboard or spoken out by his classmates will help him, but I wonder if there is anything in particular that we can do for him?

 

Aurélien:

 

Time went by really fast today. A little catastrophe just occurred as my computer apparently just died – with  my thesis’ work! But the rest of the day was really pleasant. Mellie came up with four newspaper articles on Femen. We discussed the topic for the whole session and we surprisingly all agreed on the points we mentioned: in a nutshell, the effect of their movement is probably the exact opposite of the messages they wish they could convey.

As for the classes, the journey of Aaisha and Neeraj will supposedly finish tomorrow with the end of the week. Besides the maps, I provided the little writers with a wonderful atlas Geeti left as a gift for the Foundation. It was of definite help since it is never easy to speak about a journey one has not done oneself. For the last paragraph, I would like them to write about the differences and the similarities Aaisha and Neeraj discovered about their final destination.

The second batch started to make a new game for the Foundation: a geography-themed memory. Each of them chose a famous monument or place within the world symbols mentioned on our political map and they also made a copy of their first drawing. Moreover, back home, I finished writing descriptions of the places that I would have liked to integrate into the game – before my computer blacked out. I will do it again tomorrow in the morning.

During the last half hour, I went on the playground with my rugby ball and all of the boys ran to me asking for the “rugby numbers’ game”, especially the tiny ones. We played it along with Sonam and Ruksar and had a lot of fun once again! I had not really thought about it before but it is undoubtedly a very convenient introduction to rugby as I can make the most of it to teach them how to tackle and even prevent them from passing the ball backward.

 

August 23, Friday

Jessica:

Although I walked into the Foundation slightly terrified upon hearing that Sonam would not be there due to a wedding, the day went smoothly and ended perfectly with kachori and nimbu pani, which I believe is one of the most scrumptious combinations. As today is the designated “drawing day”, I led a tutorial on drawing a mouse, dragon and rabbit. A highlight among the three classes was during the second batch with the smallest ones, Ankita and Yarsh. Although many of the kids attempt to emulate my every move, even including the mistakes I make in my own drawing, Ankita and Yarsh march to the beat of their own drums and have no problems with the fact that their pictures look completely different for my own. Several of the children often ask that I draw the pictures in their notebooks which I always refuse since it’s important that they try and I remind them that it is unnecessary and even undesirable that their pictures look exactly like mine. Yet Ankita and Yarsh, despite being the youngest and least “capable” of copying my every move, always draw to their best ability and make these fantastic, hilariously abstract works of art. I told Ankita she was the next Picasso and although the reference was totally lost on her, she giggled anyways. I’ll send you a picture I snapped of her and her masterpiece!

After my time with the little ones, I went upstairs to work with the older girls. Since it was Friday, we spent the session playing word games such as “Cateogories” and speaking games like “21 Questions”. Priyanka revealed some rather shocking news during class, telling me that she had just learned that one of my students, Mansi, was getting married in a couple of months which may explain why she has been absent the past several sessions. I was truly speechless and was not sure how to react to the fact that my 17 year-old student was to be wed. I really hope that I have an opportunity to see her and talk to her before I depart, not with any intentions or goals but to hear her speak about the situation herself.

Officially only one week left at the Foundation. Don’t know how I’m going to compose myself!lie

 

Mellie:

 

Today, it’s official. Only one more week till we leave the Foundation! I can’t believe it’s happening so soon. There’s still so much I want to do with the children…

 

Everything went well today. I finished reading both stories with Payal’s first batch. We compared both stories, which feature a similar storyline but a very different message. The children quickly pointed out that both stories featured the same characters, and with a push in the right direction managed to pick up on the different way the bat’s position between Beast and Bird was treated.  I was again very impressed by the boy I mentioned in my last comment, whose name I finally learned: Arslan. He is truly a bright kid. He was the first one to declare “The bat is both!”  Because of the rain, it took a while for the kids to show up, and even in the end we were less than half of the full class. I decided to postpone the grammar lesson, and instead, we played the anagram game again.One of the boys from the first group, Areeb, decided to stay on for the second group. At the end of the lesson, he later joked that he would from now on only show up for the second batch, because “In the first we do stories, in the second games!” If he does join the second group on Monday, I am sure he will be disappointed when we work on conjugation!

 

I learned some new words with the third batch. The two seasoned Tushitites remembered the new words well, and so did Mohammed, one of the new boys. Over the weekend I will try to come up with a way of integrating these new words in a speaking activity. I think it’s time I worked on sentence building with them.

 

As for the boy who can’t read and write, I spoke to Payal and Veenaji about his situation today. Apparently there are some new children in Ruksar’s class too that face the same difficulty. Veenaji also told me that Saddam couldn’t read and write in Hindi either when he first came to the Foundation! Geeta taught him and another boy how to read. Maybe it would be good to gather all these students in one group and focus on literacy lessons with them.

 

Afterwards Veenaji and I had a chat about the change in the students since coming to the Foundation. She told me that Anjli was so shy when she first arrived, something I find impossible to believe when I think of the chirpy, chatty girl she is today! It is wonderful to hear these stories and to realise how much a project like the Tushita Foundation can help them grow in more ways than simply develop their language skills.

 

It’s going to be so hard to leave, especially now that being here feels so natural. I think it’s a good idea that you are offering the winter interns to stay for the entire term. If any of them need convincing, put me in touch with them! I will be the first one to tell them to stay as long as they possibly can.

 

Aurélien:

 

This morning we played games with the teachers before Veenaji joined us for lunch. The first batch of Priyanka’s class finished the writing exercise. I collected the copies and I am going to type them up this weekend. This activity was interesting and funny: with the help of physical and political maps, I showed Manzir that neither the Carpathians mountains nor the Black Sea were in France; I also told Satyam that all of the French kids are used to going back home after their school days too and don’t necessarily live in hotels, but I did not correct him when he wrote that French people’s favourite dish was couscous, why not! I will provide you with more details when I type them out; I can also send you the texts if you want to. With the first batch, we finished colouring the cards of the world’s most famous sites and we started to play, the class being divided in three different teams: the girls, the boys, and the teachers (Priyanka and I)! Each team won once and everybody was very excited during the games; there was a lot of pressure and noise in the classroom! They had to uncover two same cards and say the exact location of the places. As for the third session, I organized a badminton tournament with teams of two. But the boys wanted to play rugby… Which we did during the last half hour and, just like during the past few days, we had a lot of fun and were all very disappointed to stop at six o’clock…

 

 

Rosenda

Today, my internet connection is working and I can write to you.
I am sorry for the nightmare that must have left a lingering fear when you woke up. I love it when the time goes so fast because we are engrossed in what we are doing, I can tell that you are really enjoying your time at the Foundation, Jessica and that the departure will not be so easy. I think that you will carry all those beautiful memories with you and the friendship you share with Sonam.
Maybe, you will also come back and visit one day

Interesting topic of conversationyou have suggested for the teachers. I am so impressed by them, they are a thinking lot!

Ruksar is pointing out an issue that every muslim in India does face. Here is the root of the differences between their vision and ours: beauty needs to be hidden and given only to one man. No westerner can understand this. It is great that she realizes what sharia would mean for her and make s a distinction between her religion, Islam and the interpretations of it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good solution to the problem of a child who does not know how to read and write yet, but I am convinced that being exposed to learning, he will pick up.
I will discuss the situation with Veenaji and see if he is going to the governement school and if we can ask Geetaji to help him overcome his problem. Thank you for pointing it out.

Oh no!!! Hopefully your computer has decided to work again Aurélien, hopefully you will recover all your work once in Paris. I believe your ticket has being changed. I am so impressed by the amount of ideas that come out from this Foundation, I love the geography memory game.
By now we know that you could be a rugby coach as well. Thank you Aurélien for your efforts, but what are we going to do with our promising rugby team once you are gone?

Thank you Jess, I adore the picture and the drawing. It makes me so happy to see the children ganing freedom of expression.

It is nice to talk to her about her future, but please do not show her how affected you are. I am too, but there is nothing we can do about it. It would be wonderful if this little girl could keep coming to study at the Foundation, but I don’t have much hope that it will happen.

Confidence is the most important gift the foundation is hoping to give the children and I am really pleased to hear that many of them are ready to accept it. The younger, the better.

 

 

August 26, Monday

Jessica:

Such a fantastic day at the Foundation. First off, my dear Sonam returned! Woo! The Sunflower class focused on the letter “K” with words like kid, kiss, and kettle. Today, however, I was particularly impressed by the children’s display of ambition. As these two months have passed, I have definitely witnessed the children grow more confident in their speaking and spelling skills and with this confidence, they strive to learn the longer, more difficult words. Instead of seeking the shortest words, many of the children today asked immediately for the longer words like kangaroo, keyboard, and ketchup and were so proud of themselves, as they should be, when they were able to spell these words correctly. Along with this confidence, many of the children have come out of their shell. Nihal, for example, has gone from one of the quietest and most timid in the class to an incredibly bright and vocal student who always has room for jokes. The same applies to others like Jubiya, my pixie-cut cutie who has the brightest twinkle in her eye. With my older girls, we played a variety of games to practice our tenses, vocabulary, sentence structure and spelling. As usual, it was fun and they impressed me with their knowledge. Kieran and Anjli are the youngest yet they are so impressively intelligent. Kirti, the oldest, although a bit more quiet than the previously mentioned students, is one of the sweetest girls I have met and she, too, has grown more vocal over these past several weeks.

I have already experienced an emotional moment with Sonam today during the transition between the first and second batch when it was just her and me with two students. The attachment I have for these children and teachers is so strong; although, the idea of returning home always excites and comforts me, I will definitely be losing a piece of myself on that imminent flight back. I really don’t know how I will say goodbye.

 

Aurélien:

 

For my last teachers’ session of the summer – already… – I came up with a text related to something I am good at: vexillology! I found this article on the study of flags by serendipity while I was looking for something relating to flags for my pupils. The session was very interesting as the teachers were interested in the topic. The article was simple and introduced us to the significance of colours and symbols of many flags, their use throughout history and gave us the opportunity to speak about nationalism, which does not have a negative connotation in India as it does in Europe!

The afternoon went by very, very quickly! I will spend my last week in Ruksar’s class and I will introduce the students to vexillology – cautiously avoiding this barbarian word though. We started to speak about flags and they explained to me the significance of the Indian flag. Then we played memory with the cards Priyanka’s pupils drew last week. I spent an hour playing badminton and rugby on the playground under a blazing sun. Finally we drew flags with the last batch and started to play a simple version of memory as an introduction to our new field of study!

 

Mellie :

How quickly the time has come : the first day of our last week at the Foundation… Still, despite this melancholy afterthought looming over our heads, it was business as usual today.

I read the Bird in Borrowed Feathers with the first batch, and in the last ten minutes I started a discussion on standards of beauty, because the story is about a beauty compétition. Tomorrow I will bring a photo series, portraits of people who have undergone extreme plastic surgery, but done in a way that suggests that they are beautiful too, and not simply freaks. I think this will spark some interesting responses. With the second batch I continued our grammar lessons, focusing especially on the conjugation of ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. I will bring some images too, and ask the children to describe them. With the third batch I progressed on to prépositions. While they are familiar with the words themselves, I wanted them to pratice describing where things are in coherent sentences. I also incorporated a lot of the words we had learned together.

Next week , on Monday, Geeta will take on the group of students who cannot read and write. I’m glad that the Foundation is also reaching out to these children.

Unfortunately I was unable to type up the stories yesterday, because our return from the outing with Manisha ended up much later than expected. Still, it was a nice day. Her cousin and his family accompanied us to a kind of theme park slash cultural heritage muséum.

 

August 27, Tuesday

 

Jessica:

Although smoothly run and without hiccups, today was particularly difficult for me only because it is getting harder and harder to accept that I will be leaving so soon. During the first batch, one of my little ones, Nihal, asked when I would be leaving and I couldn’t help but break out in sniffles. I could tell the children were so confused by my unprecedented display of sadness and tears and it made me giggle to see their quizzical expressions but I was hit again with a tinge of sadness when I revealed to the class that our last day would be on Friday. I was able to pull myself together with the help of Sonam and a couple of napkins but it really is heartbreaking to say no to the kids when they ask if I can stay just one more week.

 

We continued on with our vocabulary and spelling lesson focused on the letter “L”. One of my new students, however, Anjli, impressed me with her separate lesson on letters and the alphabet. The past couple of weeks she hasn’t been able to remember the sounds associated with their corresponding letters but today she recited them with little faults. I’m so proud of her. Anjli is also lucky in that she has an incredibly sweet and intelligent older sister, Jyoti, who helps guide her while avoiding helicoptering her every move which can prevent Anjli from learning herself. They’re such a sweet pair and I’ll miss then dearly.

 

With my older girls, we played more vocabulary and sentence structure games while reviewing the different vocabulary for past tenses, ex: ate/eat, drove/drive, swam/ swim, etc… The older ones are great in that they all enjoy friendly competition but are never nasty about it, probably because they recognize that they are just games and games for the sake of learning. I also made them promise that they would all show up to our last class together on Thursday so that we can have our proper goodbyes. I am not at all excited for this moment to happen. But as McCarthy woefully writes in The Road: “And so it was.”

 

Aurélien:

 

Indeed I was thinking about laminating the cards last week when we drew them, as well as finding a little box and leaving a paper with “rules”. I will prepare that for Thursday. I shall also not forget to type out their stories before I leave! It will be done. We kept playing with the cultural sites’ cards with the first batch and I was glad to realize that they remembered quite a lot! As for the third batch, we described the flags that were drawn yesterday. During the recess time, I organized little tournaments of badminton and rugby and took pictures of the kids while they were playing. It quickly turned into a photo shout though as they all love having their picture taken! Ruchi and Ruksar asked me to bring my camera back on Thursday so that we can take photos with everyone on the playground. These will be great memories for all of us…

 

Mellie:

 

I really enjoy teaching Payal’s class; there are some really bright and bubbly kids in there. Arslan I’ve already mentioned to you, but there are others who deserve a mention. Avesh for exampe (erroneously referred to as Areeb in one of my posts) is such a charmer! And another boy, whose name eludes me for now, is definitely one to look out for. He is very thoughtful, very intelligent and just a really good kid. For a change, it’s the boys who really stick out. From my experiences teaching the other classes, it has usually been the girls.

 

I looked at the photos I had planned to bring again this morning, and decided not to use them after all. I didn’t think they would resonate with the children too well. Instead I brought a different portrait: The Picture of Dorian Gray which I adapted for them. With the second batch I continued the grammar lesson. I think they are at an opportune level, where the kinks in their English is easily ironed out. It will be useful for them to be aware of grammar, which I think will make more sense of their learning-by-speaking. With the third batch we practiced prepositions again. They are getting more and more fluent!

 

One last concluding thought on Payal’s class: the first batch is very heterogeneous. It might be a good idea to reshuffle some of the children into different groups.

 

Rosenda

Hopefully, you will all have a great party and will carry home a great amount of beautiful memories to cherish, and the gratitude of everyone you have helped grow these past two months.

Vexillogy, so interesting! I have never heard the word before, even though “vessillo” in Italian means flag and it makes sense to me. It is a very good idea to have introduced the children to the study of flags, I am sure that they love it. I was also thinking that it could be appropriate to plastify the memory cards, even make a copy of them for each class, I wouldn’t want them to be spoiled with time. They will be remembered as Aurélien Sir’s cards.

Oh Jessica! I wish I could do or write something to lighten your heart.
The beautiful pain you are going through is the price of joy and friendship. You will learn how to feel close with the ones you love even though far away. I have mastered the practice by now.
Enjoy those last few days and think of your dear ones at home.

Yes, yes, I also want pictures of you all! This summer, it seems, time has passed even faster. I was thinking that I am amazed by the creativity of our volunteers who find so many different ways to teach, help, share.

It is definitely true that where there is a will there is a way.
I only have one volunteer for the winter program so far, hopefully the situation will improve. Like Ayan says: “When you leave a language, it leaves you”. It would be a pity for our children to loose their English.

 

August 29, Thursday

Jessica:

The last diary entry, evidence that time really does fly. Fortunately, I was much more composed today than I was on Tuesday, allowing me to spend more time laughing and smiling with the children during our last class together rather than looking for napkins with which to wipe my weepy tears (can’t say how tomorrow will go, however). We conducted our usual class but ended with me squeezing each of the little ones individually in case they aren’t able to come early tomorrow for goodbyes. It’s difficult to write in words how much I will miss the students of the Sunflower class. Each of them has a certain quality that makes them incredibly endearing, such as Shaddha’s peaceful, sweet personality; Zeyneb’s high-pitched, sing-song voice (which has rubbed off on me; there have been moments when I’ve found myself emulating her voice); Nazish’s speediness and capacity to retain information; and Yogesh’s continuously quizzical expression. Although it’s sad that I wasn’t able to spend as much time with the other classes at the Foundation, I would not have had it any other way. I think the Sunflower class, in particular, benefitted from having a consistent volunteer since I was able to remember and personalize their lessons according to their varying skill levels. The Sunflower class has quite the range in terms of knowledge of English so it is difficult to provide a lesson on any topic other than basic spelling, letter sounds, and vocabulary since there are students who enter and start with the most basics of basics. In the future, if you are to recruit another volunteer who shares a similar passion for elementary education and working with little children, I think it would be greatly helpful to have them also stick with the Sunflower class during their time with Tushita. I must add, however, that I very much enjoyed my supplemental class with the older ones for the last hour. With them, we were able to tackle more advanced topics and grammar lessons and engage in real conversation which I loved.

I will also dearly miss the teachers. They are all such phenomenal women and despite the fact that we don’t share the same mother tongue or culture, I feel I was able to forge real friendships with them. I don’t know why I only thought of this today but a suggestion for the teacher sessions with the future volunteers is to have small group teacher sessions along with sessions that include the whole staff. Perhaps once a week, each volunteer could meet with just two or three of the teachers in separate classrooms. This way, the teachers and volunteers get to know each other better and each volunteer can provide more personal attention to his/her group of teachers who will also have more time/opportunities to speak up. This individualized session might come across as intimidating at first to some of teachers but knowing them, I think it could be a success with a little time and smart session planning catering to the teachers’ interests.

To conclude, my time in Jaipur and Amer has been incredible. Veenaji, Gajjubana, and the men of the house, Devi, Lal, and Bhim Singh, have taken care of us so well and never hesitated to go above and beyond to ensure that we were comfortable. Lal Singh’s nimbu pani has marked a place on the top of my list of all-time favorite beverages. Veenaji and Gajjubana became our Indian parents and the thought of not having a weekly meal cooked by Veenaji makes my stomach cry. The children and teachers of Tushita Foundation, most of all, have captured a piece of my heart, a piece that will remain in India for me to retrieve on my (most definite) return. I will be leaving India with an impressive collection of mosquito bites, a sad heart, but also, an abundance of beautiful memories. Thank you for everything you and Tushita have done.

If you have any specific questions regarding anything, feel free to ask!

 

Mellie:

 

His name is Jitendra!

 

For my last day of teaching, I decided to do something more laid-back the story with the first batch again, I asked them to draw their own Picture of Dorian Gray, a portrait of themselves aged 80. Their drawings are fantastic! Mohan had the brilliant idea of drawing himself with glasses! I thought that showed a lot of insightfulness, that he was able to imagine impaired vision as a natural consequence of aging. Jitendra drew a portrait of a balding Arslan. Avesh and Talib also drew each other, but their inspiration from Dorian Gray was stronger. They drew each other as vaguely demonic creatures. I was so impressed by their artwork! The girls of course also did a good job. Farheen’s portrait of herself as an old woman is very interesting, and not only because of her exceptional artistic talent. She drew herself with a veil! I will take pictures of their drawings and send them to you.

I played games with the second and third batches. Also, Veenaji spoke to little Shoail today about literacy classes, and I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the boys who took reading and writing lessons with Geeta last year. He is set to return to the Foundation on Monday! And Veenaji is going to organise maths lessons for some of the older kids who will be sitting a bit standardised exam at the end of the year, in which he will also be participating.

Overall a very pleasant day. One of the more heartwarming moments was Priyanka’s Priyanshu’s sweet gesture: He brought me an aloo paratha as a goodbye gift, with curd and pickles and everything!

How sad to think that we are already leaving tomorrow. I haven’t quite processed it yet. I have a feeling the pang of realisation will only hit me in the plane. Hopefully a kind seat neighbour will lend me a shoulder to cry on!

I have had such an amazing time here at the Foundation. Having never worked with children before, this experience has made me so much more interested in learning with and from children. Of course, I am sure that the Tushita kids have spoiled me. They are some of the most charming, intelligent, surprising, mature, and lively individuals I have ever met. All I can think about is new projects I want to start and new topics I want to discuss with them.

I will send you a more detailed report on my impressions of India in a couple of days, once I have settled down in Delhi and am less plagued by thoughts of packing, last-minute errands, and of course the sad reality that tomorrow is the day I leave the Foundation, the children, the teachers, Gaju Bana & Veenaji, the Three Singhs Devi, Bhim and Lal, and the home I have found here in the past two months; not forever, I hope, but at least for a very long time.

 

Aurélien:

 

Today was a sad day. I made my utmost effort to pretend not to be sad during the whole day… But Payal and Priyanka both sent me an email to comfort me! As I was really surprised, I did not know what to reply. So I said that I tried not to show it because I am a man! Though I could not hide it very well… The day started with an argument over a text by Kipling, We and They, which I think is very ambiguous… Then we had a delicious lunch. The dinner we just had was scrumptious too! Mutton! Although I have almost turned into a vegetarian through the summer… My pupils welcomed me in the classroom with a very tender message written on the whiteboard. I also gave them our new memo game. I asked them what they wanted to do and this time they taught me their language for the first part of the class. We also had a conversation over what we had done together throughout the weeks of teaching and the song was almost unanimously the most popular thing. But a couple of children even enjoyed the maps studies, such as Adnan and Kushi. They also told me that they liked the memo game, so we played it during the second part of the class. And we had fun! Once the game was over, we went to the garden and I stayed there during the rest of the afternoon, playing games and taking pictures of the kids. I have several good ones but, unfortunately, you will have to wait a little before seeing them as I don’t have the right cable within reach. I have to prepare my luggage and I will go to sleep right after I finish it. I will write a longer and more enthusiastic “sum up” this weekend. Have a good evening!

 

Dear Volunteers of the Summer program 2013,

 

It is equally sad and joyful to bid you farewell. Sad to know that all the amazing amount of energy you have deployed at the Foundation will only linger on for sometime; sad for the children who will miss you, sad for all good things come to an end.

Sad but also joyful because you have accomplished so much with so little, because, when I saw you at the Foundation, I thought you were at home.

It is truly joyful to see how we can come together with an objective, no matter how different we are, and it is a joy for me to think that all together we can make a difference.

The Tushita Foundation has given me a lot of confidence in life, that no matter how difficult a situation looks, it can still be tackled. It has confirmed my intuition that in young people lies the answer to our future and that we must make space for them to thrive. Hopefully this experience has made a difference in you as well and if you find the time and the desire to share, I would be happy to read your reflections.

I am sorry to hear that you have had a nightmarish journey from Jaipur yesterday, hopefully you will have some time to rest either in Delhi or at home.

 

Last, but not least, let me thank you on behalf of everyone involved in the Foundation for all your efforts, your energy and your creativity.

 

May you fare well in life and find a path that will fulfill your dreams.

 

Best wishes,

Rosenda