Federico, Ivana and Silvia – Winter 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tushita Foundation India

Winter 2014 – Volunteers’ Journal

 

 

Federico’s Journal in orange, in green, Rosenda’s feed-back

 

03/01/2014

 

Jaipur. Finally after more than a month in the mountains trying to learn Hindi and two weeks of intense travelling up and down India, here I am.

My room is very comfortable and everyone here is nice, Lal Singh and Bim Singh (I hope the name is correct), Veenaji, Puru and all the guys at the Tushita office.

 

In the last weeks Ivana, Silvia and I had an e-mail conversation to introduce ourselves to each other and to present our projects. We agreed that it would surely be nice and probably more interesting for the kids (and for us) if we can manage to intertwine our projects as much as possible. Ivana should be joining me tomorrow so hopefully we’ll start planning.

 

 

Welcome Federico, hopefully you are not feeling cold in this particularly chilly weather that has gripped North India.
It is going to be truly exciting to work out a multidisciplinary project.
Make sure that you stay flexible in order to adapt to the different needs of the children.
Do not forget that you will be having a daily session with the teachers, reading a text and discussing the topic approached.
You might look for an interesting article, or why not? Read something about Rani Jhansi. Our teachers are quite some feminists for Indian women; it could be fun for you to hear what they have to say.
I am looking forward to read your first impressions of Amber.
Good night.

 

04/01/2014

Second full day at Tushita house.

I’ve spent it working on possible topics for my classes and for the teacher’s session. I finally had time (and a decent internet connection) to watch the short movie about the Yuwa Supergoats, the all-girls football team from Jharkhand which overcoming lots of troubles managed to go to Spain and reach the third place in an important tournament. I found it amazing and watching it I started thinking about what football (and sport in general) can teach us. So I’ll probably try to teach the kids some history of football using examples of underdog people or teams. Some examples would probably be: Yuwa Supergoats, Senegal team at world cup 2002 beating France, Lionel Messi who managed to become the best player in the world overcoming the problems given by his very small body, Paolo Rossi against Brazil in 1982 and some more.

Do you think it could be a good idea?

 

Reading again the previous volunteer’s journals I’ve seen that the teachers liked reading poetry very much, so if they want to keep on doing that we can easily find some Italian poems to read.

Also, I’m reading a collection of essays and articles by Shashi Tharoor that deal with the current phase of Indian history, between the will to transform and reach “modernity” (I don’t really like this term in this context) and tradition. Do you think it could be an interesting topic for them? And also, is it a topic I can approach or not? I don’t want to give the impression of someone coming from abroad saying that India is an underdeveloped country or something like that.

 

I think for today that’s it. Now I’m waiting for Veenaji to do some shopping. Ivana should also arrive tonight.

 

 

I totally agree, football and sports in general can be a wonderful support to convey ideas like effort and reward, the belief in one’s possibilities that makes one win.
I hope that the children of the Tushita Fondation will learn about hope; what a better way to learn it than through sports?
Poetry is a grand subject for the teachers, they are very sensitive young women, but we must be careful not to choose Tasso for instance. How about Ungaretti or Montale? Their poems would provide an opportunity to talk about the history of those times as well as the idea of the weight of words in the hermetic poetic movement in Italy. However feel free to choose what you love.
Approaching a subject like tradition versus “modernity” strikes me as a very good idea. You will notice that everyone in India, the middle class in particular, is facing the dilemma, making up individually and socially varied solutions to the problem. I don’t think there is anything patronising about the topic. What I consider to be the biggest problem, having to choose between a traditional way of living and the values brought in by consumerism, is that modernity implies individualism, which is antithetical to the Indian way. In India, it is the fact of belonging, to a family, a cast, a group, adhering to one’s destiny is what gives sense to life. It is a fascinating topic to me.
However you can propose and see what are the reactions from the teachers. Remember though that Indians do not feel comfortable with saying no, so try not to ask questions that require a yes or not answer. In this respect, Indians seem to behave like the English.

 

 

 

 

07/01/2014

All set and we are (hopefully) ready.

 

The last three days in Jaipur have been great! Puru and Soomal have been very kind showing us around the city and they even brought us to a Polo match and to see an animated version of the Mahabharata.

Also, we visited the city palace and the observatory yesterday and today we went to the magnificent fort of Amber and we also rode an elephant.

As I told you before our accommodation here couldn’t have been better, we really have all we need and everybody is very kind taking care of us.

 

So the last days have been very busy, sorry if I haven’t written down anything.

Ivana and I are getting along really well, I’m sure working together will be very easy and exciting both for us and everyone else at the Foundation.

Tomorrow we’ll go there for the first time, and Puru and Soomal will come with us, and I’m very excited to finally meet everyone.

Veenaji told us that the first two days would mainly be about observing how things work, so that we will be able to start planning our sessions. Also, Veenaji found in her library a book about the history of the different Rajputs families, so my idea at the moment is to start talking about the Rajputs of Amber, and their costumes and history. I feel that history is much more interesting when you can relate it to your surroundings, hopefully they’ll think the same.

For the teacher’s session, I’ve found some more articles on the modernity versus tradition phase of India, but we want to talk a bit to the teachers and see also if they have something in mind about the hours we are going to spend together. It would be good if we can plan the sessions together.

 

So that’s it, a few more hours and then this adventure starts!

 

 

What a grand introduction to Jaipur!

I feel a bit like the shoemaker poorly shod, I have never seen a polo match yet.

It is very lucky that Soomal and Puru are home for holidays at the moment, because they have been very involved with the Foundation and will help you both break the ice, even though I doubt that anyone will be cold to you, maybe just a bit shy at first.

It is really great that you have a book on Rajput families as a support for your work. It is very important that you try to stretch the cooperation between the royal families of Rajasthan with the Moghuls.

Please show the children how some of the Rajput families were on the side of the Moghuls against, at times, other Royal families who were Hindus. The way the Moghuls fought against Muslim Royal families also.

You don’t have to invent anything, just see how often in history alliances have been made on the base of economic and strategic interests and not religious.

The children should learn that enmity between the two communities is not supported by historical facts. However it is a very sensitive subject and we should thread lightly on it.

If it is not too much trouble, I would like Ivana and you to share the entries of your journal as well as my comments, this will avoid repetition.

Have a great first day at The Tushita Foundation, tomorrow.

 

08/01/2014

First day at the Foundation.

 

After a few days of relaxing and exploring Jaipur we finally went to the Foundation. I can easily say that the first impact with the kids and the teachers was great, and if it’s like today for the next three months I’ll be extremely happy.

 

When we reached there, the first batch was already taking class, so we briefly introduced ourselves in every class saying our names and our country of origin and we asked all the kids their names.

 

Then I spent my first hour at the Foundation in a class where the kids were doing an exercise using “have, has and had” (I don’t remember the name of the teacher sorry), so I checked their exercise, which were mostly correct and then at the end of the class we played a game about spelling. The class was divided in two teams, one person from team A had to say a word and spell it correctly and then someone from team B had to create a new word starting with the last letter of the word of team A, and so on. One of the girls was very good making words that ended with y, and made it very difficult for the other team (the one in which I was playing). In this first class one of the boys, Avesh, was extremely talkative kept on shaking my hand.

Then I spent my second hour in Pryanka’s class, where they were doing an exercise to memorize verbs. I checked most of the notebooks of the kids and, again, I was very impressed by how good this exercise was done. I noticed that Pryanka, the teacher, wrote the verb RIDE wrongly, writing RAID instead, but I felt it would have been wrong to correct her so I didn’t say anything.

I spent more time in this class so I had more time to familiarize with everyone, asking about their age and names and they had a lot of questions for me too.

Then there were not many students in the third batch (some schools are still closed due to the cold weather) so Puru and I spent a couple of hours playing first cricket and then football with the kids. I was happy to see girls, just a few of them tough, playing cricket, and when we moved to football the teachers and the girls played badminton.

 

So I spent the first day with kids with almost the same level of English, and I realized that I’ll have to change a lot my programs in terms of what I’ll teach them and most of all how I’ll teach them. I’ll have to adjust a bit my ideas so that they will be able to understand me better. I’ll try to spend tomorrow with the older ones to see how is their level and then hopefully I’ll be able to start teaching in the next days.

The day was very tiring but all in all great, and we couldn’t have been received there in a better way.

 

 

 

Your description of your first day is very lively, it makes me feel like I was there.

Even though it is really to early, I feel that it is very important for both of you to start learning the names.

How about making a sort of necklace for all of you with a small cardboard, about 10cm long and 4cm high with a colourful string, so that you can all play at looking at each other’s names and pronouncing them correctly.

There is also a game I love, especially for the little ones: the all class in a big circle and each person comes one step forward making a gesture, anything from joining hands to jump in the air and pronounces his/her name. The rest of the group in replay copies the gesture and says the name.

I am very happy that you raised the question of mistakes. We know very well that the teachers are not so proficient, but they are also girls from Amer who need support and nothing like a job to empower them. Our idea is that they will learn and grow with us. And they do.

You keeping silent in front of Pryanka’s mistake, only shows what I already know, that you are the most delicate and respectful person I know. It is not good to correct a teacher in front of her students. However, I suggest that you take Pryanka aside, and you show her both words, RIDE and RAID, English-Hindi dictionary and you will have helped her.

Thank you for sharing your day so much in detail with me, this exchange is very precious for me and I hope for you too.

 

 

 

 

08/01/2014

 

Second day

 

Today we both spent time in different classes. For the first batch I was in Ruksar’s class, and the kids were doing an exercise that consisted in writing down their daily routine in 10 sentences. I noticed that most of the sentences were the same and as a result only one kid (who arrived late and couldn’t sit next to no one) put “I have dinner” in the list. I also noticed that they tried to memorize the sentences instead of understanding them when they had to tell them to everyone else without reading. Anyway their spelling was mostly correct and all of them asked me to check and sign their notebooks once they had finished.

Then I went in Pryanka’s class (yesterday I wrote that Pryanka made a mistake with ride, well I made a mistake too, as the one who made the mistake was Ruchi and not Pryanka) where the kids were reading the story that you wrote. Every one of them read a part of it loud while everyone else listened and then me and Pryanka asked them about their understanding of the story and of some difficult words. So I had my first time in actually teaching! When they couldn’t say the meaning of a word we asked them to search for it on the dictionary and then Pryanka asked them to write some sentences using these difficult words as homework.

Then I spent the third hour in the youngest kids’ class and I enjoyed it very much. I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with historical subjects with them but I’ll try to find some ways to help them improving their English.

Last but not least I spent again some time in the playground with Puru playing football.

 

We decided that we need one more day of observation before starting teaching, so we’ll see some more classes tomorrow and then we’ll start our classes on Monday, using the weekend to prepare ourselves better. We are starting to pick up the kids’ names, hopefully in a while we’ll be able to remember them all.

 

Everyone seems to remember Aurelien a lot, and they keep on asking me about him and if I know him (maybe is the long hair?) and some kids even sang for me the song he taught them to help them remember the Indian States. I’ll let him know, I’m sure he’ll be very happy.

 

 

Ah mistakes!!! What a fabulous subject. I am sorry to say that our children used to be obsessed with mistakes: they often get beaten in their schools when they make one!
The worst was when they wanted to copy a drawing to make sure it would be “right”. I tried to show them by making a Ganesh and purposely drawing a tale on him. Then I asked:” Does Ganesh have a tail?” “He doesn’t” They answered.
So I transformed the tail into a pretty flower that came out from behind Ganesh.
You will see that I have also left some mistakes in the book I made for them and I hope that you will ask them to find them and talk to them about a mistake being an opportunity to pause and reflect, an opportunity for creativity. “Mistakes are good”
Do take your time before you start teaching, but don’t be afraid, we are all teachers and learners, aren’t we?
Have you started the morning sessions with the teachers?
And yes, you should tell Aurélien that he is remembered there and tell the children he remembers them as well. Have you made football teams yet?
Give my love to everyone at the Foundation.

 

10/01/2013

 

Third day.

 

Our third and last day of observation went again very good.

For the first batch I was in Ruchi’s class, and they were studying the difference between nouns and pronouns which they seemed to have understood quite well. Instead they had some problems when in the same sentence they had noun pronoun and adjective (which was the topic yesterday’s class) and they couldn’t really say what was a pronoun and what was an adjective.

I thought a lot about how will I teach history to them, and I think that maybe, at least at first, I can try to connect my history class with the grammar topic they are working on. One example could be writing, “Gandhi was a great man” and “He was born in Gujarat” and then ask them to find the adjective or the pronoun in those sentences. What do you think?

 

Then I spent the second hour in Pryanka’s class, which is probably the most advanced one. With them I’m sure I’ll be able to do some more history, and I’m planning to start with Marco Polo next week. In that class I already have a good relation with some of the students, and today Pryanka left me alone for a large part of the class while we read your story and we searched for words they didn’t know. All and all they seemed quite happy with me even if I had to try to contain Kiren (I’m not sure about the spelling) because she was answering every question I was asking, even it was directed to someone else. She is clearly very strong and bright but sometimes because of that she doesn’t really understand that the other kids need more time to formulate a correct answer.

 

The last hour was in Ruksar’s class, where there were only three kids. They made an exercise about their parents writing down 10 sentences about them (again, it seemed that they memorized them instead of really think about what they were writing) and then we had a game in which the kids had to do an action and the other two had to say what that action was. With them also teaching history will be quite a challenge but I’ll manage something.

 

Ivana and I are trying to write down a sort of a schedule for the next weeks, and it seems that the best thing to do is spending two days with the same teacher so that there would some kind of continuity in our classes. We are still trying to see what is the best way to do it, do you have any advice?

We will start the teacher’s session on 15th, after the holiday for the kite festival. I haven’t made up the teams yet as these days I wanted to attend as many classes as possible, but I was very happy to see that Puru played for a while just with some girls, and that they are enjoying the training shirts that I brought for them from Italy. Next week I’ll try to do some football class too, and since Puru will be here too I think it would easy and fun.

 

We also started yoga this morning, and despite all the terrible things that Aurelien wrote in his journal it went quite well! Anyway it was just the introductory lesson, so I might change opinion tomorrow.

 

 

 

In my opinion, it is not a very good idea to focus on grammar with Ruchi’s students. I would suggest that you talk to her and that you’d rather play games, write sentences that can be read out with an emphasis, involve physical movement. This way the children can learn how to say few sentences and loose fear.
It is probably better if they write: “How was Gandhi?”
And then they all try to answer, and you make a list: Gandhi was great, pious, determined…
And you search the words they don’t know in the dictionary and at the end of it you say, those are all adjectives, qualities of Gandhi.
Then you ask: Who was Gandhi? And they say; A patriot, a Gujarati, an Indian a vegetarian…
Than you will say those are nouns…
You might try the same with Marco Polo, but you need images, and a map to tell them his story.
I hope my thinking out loud can help you a bit.
Kiren is the first child who came to us, she feels the Foundation belongs to her and the Foundation allows her to escape family problems. You might want to talk to her one to one and tell her you know what a good student she is, but she needs to give space to the slower students. Give her a story to write and tell her she can read it aloud to the class next week.
it will be good for her.

I am sorry, but these kids are always asked to write about their parents! Let’s stop that. Ask them to write about the monkeys in the village. Give a price to those kids who write something different from the other. Tell them to write what has happened to them in relation to the monkeys…

Thank you for bringing training shirts, how thoughtful of you.

Enjoy the yoga classes it is a wonderful practice.

 

11/01/2014

 

Activity day.

 

Today we had our first activity day, and furthermore it was the first day we were alone, since neither Puru nor Soomal could come.

I spent the whole day in the playground being the referee for the boys (and a couple of girls!) playing football.

When I reached there they were already playing but there were too many people chasing the same ball (like 25-27) so they came to me asking to find a solution because it was impossible to play. So I divided them in 6 teams and everyone had the chance to play for 10 minutes, they seemed fairly happy with my decision even if everyone wanted to play more.

I was very happy with the effort some of them put in the game, especially Ragu (the spelling might be wrong as usual) and his team, who played very good against a team that was definitely stronger than them.

I like Ragu a lot, since the first day every time I ask him “how are you?” he answers “everything is pink in my garden” which makes me smile and laugh every time.

Shakim on the other hand is clearly one of the best in sports (both cricket and football) but he’s also a bit too confident and that leads to the fact that he doesn’t put all of himself in the game. Today his team lost the first match they played and I messed up a little bit with him trying to push him to be more focused and present on the pitch.

 

So in the end it was a great day. The kids were happy to have someone to organize things for them and they listened and accepted every decision I took as a referee trusting me and without questioning. It’s a very good feeling thinking about the next months.

 

 

 

The feedback I receive from the entries in your journal is very useful.

It allows me to see the pedagogic questions you are faced with and how you solve them intuitively in a grand way. It seems to me that you have very quickly developed into the figure of what is called in French “le grand frère” the elder brother to look up to, someone who is a mentor, but also a friend you can trust. This is the reason why we insisted that there should be a place for male volunteers at the Foundation.

Thank you for sharing such juicy anecdotes with me, I love “the pink garden”!

 

Are you guys feeling comfortable with the food and the weather?

 

I hope that you have had a good and restful Sunday.

 

13/01/2014

 

Kite Festival Day

 

Since tomorrow is Kite Festival and the Foundation will be closed we celebrated it today with everyone. On our way to Amber with Veenaji and Puru we stopped to buy a lot of kites so that the kids could use some today and bring home the others for tomorrow.

 

I was very impressed with their ability to fly kites, they also taught me how to do it and if a first the results were terrible after a while it went slightly better. I have to give most of the credit to Ruchi tough, who persisted in letting me try and even sent kids to call me from one side to the other of the playground to put in my hands the thread of a kite which was already fling high. Tomorrow we’ll do that again here on the terrace of the office with Puru, hopefully the results will be better.

 

I also had the chance to talk a lot with Ruchi and Geeta about the teacher’s session we are going to have from Wednesday. It seems that they loved the mix of poetry, social issues and normal stories on which they can practice their English that they had with the previous volunteers, so we’ll start with that and then we’ll see what comes out. Both Ivana and I think that it would be definitely so interesting if they can bring up topics they want to talk about and if they could find articles it would be even better.

It would be great that, even if at first we will obviously take charge of everything, they would be able to lead the sessions towards what is interesting for them.

 

 

By tomorrow, with Puru’s coaching, I am convinced that you will become quite proficient in kite flying or fighting, it depends.

It is very thoughtful of you to suggest that the teachers choose the topics to work on together, but I believe that they should not know the text you will be studying in advance.

In my opinion the exercise involves a first part which is comprehension.

You read aloud the article first and they try to understand or at least get used to your diction. They also hear the proper pronunciation of the words. Ideally, you should also have some sessions where you listen to a talk, something like a TED talk, and try to follow a native American or English speaker, but I do not know if that is technically possible. Understanding is a very important part of learning a language.

I also think that it would be difficult for them to choose among Italian or Lebanese poets, you could bring a poet from your literary tradition and they could choose poems from Indian authors. It is about sharing each other’s cultural wealth.

I think you will really enjoy those sessions, if you don’t keep the tone too academic, making it too difficult for the teachers, there will be a lot that you will all share. Those classes will be a fantastic insight into the mentality of today’s rural India, very influenced by the very near city though.

 

 

15/01/2014

 

Teaching.

So today was our first day as actual teachers.

We started the teacher’s session with a presentation by Ivana on Lebanon; none of the teachers seemed to know where Lebanon was until today. It went well and then we spoke about similarities and differences between Lebanon and India and about women’s condition in both countries. They seemed interested but it was difficult to have them talking: Veenaji was there too and she had to ask them, mainly Priyanka and Ruksar, to speak up, she expressed her opinion too. Since it was just the first day I’m sure in the next sessions we’ll have more conversation.

 

Then I spent the day with Ruksar classes. In all the three batches there were not many students, (probably some of them are still flying kites!) but I was happy to see that they followed me well and seemed interested in what we were doing.

With the first and second batch I told them the story of a boy from Gujarat named Mohan and how he struggled at first in school, but then studied a lot and managed to go to England and even South Africa and to become a lawyer. The lawyer thing impressed a lot Mehzabi (spelling might be wrong as usual) a girl who told me that she wants to become a lawyer too!

Then I told them that this boy came back to India in 1915 and became a very, very important person, and asked them who they thought he was. They watched me with no clue for a while but then, with both Ruksar’s and my help, they understood we were talking about Gandhi.

Then the exercise I proposed them was to tell me all they know about him. Their initial hesitation rapidly turned in an incredible amount of sentences: from “he was thin” to “he loved all the children” and most of them knew the name of his wife, his father and even his killer. I was very impressed! With the first batch we also had time to do another exercise, which was using the words they said about Gandhi (like brave, strong, vegetarian, etc) write down sentences about their life or the people they know. Again it went really well and Anil even wrote, “Federico sir’s wife’s name is Kasturba” which made both Ruksar and I laugh a lot.

 

Then Ruksar told me that the third batch’s level of English was very low so probably the exercise on Gandhi wasn’t the best choice.

So with them (there were only two kids today) I did some geography since I had a map that I used to show the previous batches where South Africa was.

I remembered some of the work Aurélien did and so we went trough the definitions of Ocean, Nation and Continents and them I asked them to put different countries in their Continent. It went well, but I’ll have to find ways to teach even to the youngest something about history. Maybe I can do definitions of historical words like emperor, patriot, revolution and then, for example, tell them “Akbar was an emperor”. What do you think?

 

To end the day in style I played badminton with the other teachers, and managed to lose almost every match, but I’ll be proficient in that too!

 

The first, important day as teacher is over. The teachers have learned about the existence Lebanon and even have a colleague from there now. Hopefully they will loosen up soon and stop feeling shy.

 

Hats off for the way you went about teaching them about Gadhiji. I love the idea that a little Muslim girl will become a lawyer someday like the Mahatma.

I have my doubts about your wife’s name being Kasturba, because it seems to be a rarely used name now. I have never met one.

I love it when you ask my advice, not that I think it will be very useful to you, but because it makes me think about the way I would go about teaching and frankly, I would really love to.

How to open the little one’s minds to history?

Here is what I would do.

I would find images of man and women from prehistoric times to today and make a frieze on the wall of their class at their eye level.

Without being too ambitious: the cave man with the club, the Moghul Emperor with the sceptre and the turban, the soldier in world war two with the rifle and the modern man with the computer.

Little children learn at best when the words are accompanied by gestures and music.

So for each historical figure, you will have to find a “move”. The cave man moves a bit like an ape, the Emperor moves his sceptre and puts his fist on the hip, the soldier shoots and the modern man types. Ideally, together with Sonam, you could invent a nursery rhyme about the flow of history and the four figures you have chosen to teach them about.

 

Something like:

 

refrain

“The flow of History,

the flow of history,

what was before

and now no more.

 

The cave man hu, hu,

the cave man hu, hu

he has a club to hunt

he has a club to hunt.

 

refrain

 

The Moghul Emperor

The Moghul Emperor,

He’s got the power oh,

he’s got the power oh

 

refrain

 

The soldier only fights

the soldier only fights

he has a rifle bum,

he has a rifle bum

 

refrain

 

 

The modern man today

the modern man today,

he always types tic, tic

he always types tic, tic.

 

refrain

 

Thank you for making me dream

 

16/01/2014

 

Like yesterday today was a good day as well.

For the teacher’s session I brought an article written by Shashi Tharoor. The article’s title is “The Elephant who became a Tiger” (if you want I’ll forward it to you) and is about India but it’s all written as a metaphor: India is at first described as a lazy elephant who spends her time telling everyone else how great her past is but not taking care of herself any more. Then day by day the other animals stop to listen to her and the visitors are less and less because they are more attracted by some tigers living in the southeast part of the jungle. At that point the elephant feels ill and then realizes that the only thing it should do is change, and become a bit like the tigers. The article then ends with the elephant growing some tiger’s stripes on her back, but also with the question: will the elephant manage to keep on changing? Or will he soon go back to be the lazy and fat one that everyone was used to?

 

We thought that the metaphor would have been easy to understand for them but it wasn’t at all. We went trough the difficult words, but then we had to “break the code” of the metaphor because they didn’t get it. But, and here come the good news, when they understood what the article was about they all had things to say. Priyanka and Ruksar were the more talkative, (they are probably also the more confident with English) but in the end everyone said something and they seemed interested in the topic. Since the article was written in 2007 we asked them if the elephant had changed or not, and the general response was that the elephant is changing, very slowly, but it’s changing and hopefully for the better.

Puru was with us today and he liked the article too.

 

Then I spent today’s day in Ruksar’s class again. The teachers told us that the best thing is to spend two days in every class and it seems a good idea to do so. With the first and second batch I asked them if they remembered the sentences on Gandhi we did yesterday and asked the kids that were not at the Foundation yesterday if they had something more to add. I was very happy to notice that they remembered our class and that the new ones had things to add. Then they wrote some sentences on Gandhi that were quite correct (even though one girl wrote “Gandhi was a stick” instead of “had a stick”), and then we played a game in which they had to mime the sentences on Gandhi we had written down in these two days.

With the third batch I did geography again, and asked them to write the names of 6 countries per each continent using the world map, it went well. Today in the third batch there was a girl who was not in class yesterday, so while the other two wrote the countries I told her some basic things about geography. Her English is very weak, and when I asked her if she liked geography she asked Ruksar what geography was. So I taught her that and some other basics geographical words.

 

Your idea about the song is really nice and I might use it in the youngest kids’ class, but with Ruksar’s third batch I feel they need and want something more than a song. At the same time their English level makes everything difficult. Anyway I’ll adjust my classes in the future.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Payal’s classes and I’ll try the Gandhi sentences game again.

 

 

The teachers’ lessons can be challenging, I know. What strikes me every time I attend them is that they have both difficulty in pronunciation and understanding. This is typical of those who learn a language on the books, but do not use it. This is why your presence is so precious for all of them. They need English for communication.

My suggestion is that one of the volunteers reads the all story first. Then he/she or both in turns breaks it up in sentences, then only the teachers in turn read a sentence and you analyse it and translate eventually the words they do not know. They need to develop an ear for the language; I have been thinking that we should show them videos and movies as well. What do you think?

Good to know that Puru is still around, at least you are not the only boy, however “beato fra le donne”.

I hope you won’t be discouraged when you find pupils whose level of English is really low. For some of these children, especially girls, it is sometimes, just about going out of the house and house chores, being with other children and enjoy. We are aware that not all the children will become proficient in English. We hope that they will gain some self-assurance from us.

 

My little song is for Sonam’s class, for the tiniest of our children. At the moment, I have no clue on how to teach History to elder children who don’t understand English.

Maybe, just teach them one sentence at a time and very simple sentences at it.

Do you feel that the teachers help you well in the class?

 

Yes, I totally agree with showing the teachers some movies. Me and Ivana were talking about that just after the session this morning.
I’m not discouraged at all by their English level, it’s an interesting challenge and we’ll find a way to overcome it. Also, geography is as useful and interesting as history, so I’m happy to do that too. And yes, the teachers helped me very well. They gave me the main role as the teacher, but were present and ready to help the kids and I overcome some communication problems. They also gave me advice when I needed it.

 

17/01/2014

 

Today, as it was Friday, it was game day in the teacher’s session. We played charades and it went really well, with everyone deeply participating. I feel we are getting closer and closer with them after every day and it’s a very good feeling.

 

Then today I was in Payal class. I did the same exercise about the story of Gandhi, and again I was impressed with the amount of ideas and notions they could tell me. Their English level seemed a bit weaker than the kids in Ruksar class, and it took a while for them to use the past tense and not the present. Every time they told me a sentence with the verb at the present tense, like “he is a vegetarian” I asked them if Gandhiji was still with us and after a while they understood that they had to use “was” instead of “is”.

Again, as in Ruksar’s class, the third batch is the weaker one. Today only one student showed up and I taught him geography, the names of the continents I was showing on the map. He is extremely shy but being alone in class he had double attentions from Payal and me. In the end he seemed to have understood what I taught him.

 

To conclude the day I played badminton again with the teachers: I’m still terrible but I’m slowly getting better, and I think that the more we spend time doing activities together the better we will work together. Next week I’ll try to push them to play football

 

Now we have a weekend full of events thanks to the Literary Festival, and then Monday I’ll be back in Payal class.

 

 

 

Sorry for not writing, yesterday, I was a bit overworked. I know you must be having a great weekend at the Jaipur Lit Fest, how interesting!

I also guess that you are getting along very well with Dheeraj and Karthik from the Kamalan team, they are very interesting young people.

Knowing the teachers better will allow you to zero in on the subjects and the level of difficulty your articles can be.

Here is an interesting geography site you might like http://projectexplorer.org/ms/quicktrips.php#tt

If I may be honest, I am quite happy that the girls beat you at badminton; it is not often that girls can be better than boys at sports.

Jan and I spoke with Silvia yesterday, she is all exited and a bit worried about her visa. Let’s cross our fingers for her.

 

 

20/01/2014

 

After two days of Jaipur Literatur Fest today we went back to the Foundation.

For the teacher’s session Ivana brought an article on racism in India and on how having a fairer skin is often considered a sign of beauty for women. According to the article, this idea is also pushed by the media and by Bollywood. The teachers seemed interested and since we couldn’t really finish the discussion today, we’ll talk about the same topic also tomorrow.

 

Then after a quick lunch I went to Payal’s class. Due to some time changing in the schools for the first batch there was only one girl, with whom we played the hangman game. Then at 3 all the kids from the first and second batch came together so we had a bigger class. I asked them to remind me what we did on Friday and then asked them to write 10 sentences on Gandhi. Most of them were good, but I was very happy with Avesh’s work: he made a lot of grammar mistakes, but while the other kids just wrote down the sentences we did together, he tried to make up something new and that was very good.

Then I divided the class in two teams and then we played the game of miming the sentences on Gandhi that again went good. I hope they understood the sentences them and did not only memorized them.

 

With the first batch I did geography again. Today I asked them to write down 7 countries from each continent, using the map. It seems a good way to introduce them to the world and I hope it will help them visualize it.

 

Today is Geeta’s class for me, let’s see what they will tell me about Gandhi!

 

 

How was the literary Festival? Did you enjoy it? What did you learn? How was the ambiance? What kind of people did you find there? How was the interaction with Dheeraj and Karthik? I am so very curious.

 

The topic Ivana chose is a touchy one, I hope that you informed the teachers about the fact that white people always try to be tan, paying money to sit under a lamp that makes them dark. It is important for them to realise that we tend to appreciate what is rare, like blond hair in Italy, where so many women dye their hair.

 

Thank you for mentioning those children who are trying to express themselves, it is important to help them also in the future to reinforce this quality. Did you have a chance to correct his mistakes?

Do you feel that there is a lot of confusion in the organization of the classes?

I have been wondering about geography, can children place an image with those counties they are learning? Do they know how the Nigerians look, besides knowing that Nigeria is in Africa? I feel that it is important to show the children few images of each place, its people, its habits. Don’t you think?

 

Today, I was happy because I talked to a lady who lives in Princeton and came to India through Tushita. She came to the Foundation with her children aged 11 and 13, when the teenagers are asked what they liked in India the most, they say the Tushita Foundation. It is lovely isn’t it?

 

21/01/2014

 

Is this Jaipur or Milano? When I woke up this morning it was difficult to remember where I was: it was raining, foggy and cold, a perfect winter day in Milano.

Due to that (the rain was very heavy in the morning) we missed the teacher’s session and I had very few students in class.

 

Today I stayed for the first time in Geeta’s class. I wanted to do the exercises on Gandhi, but I realized soon that the English level of the kids in that class is very low, at the point that reading simple words in English was difficult for them. So we did geography with all the three batches, I explained them the meaning of continent, showed where India and Italy are on the map and then I made them do some exercises like telling me the names of a few countries in Asia. It went well, tomorrow I’ll work with them again so I’ll see if they understood what we did today.

About your idea of the kids having an image of the countries they are learning, I totally agree with you, it would be great, but it will take a while to reach that since most of them couldn’t even find India on the map. But step by step we’ll reach that level.

Today I also understood why you want to build two more classes: working in Geeta’s class (which is not a class but a table and some chairs at the entrance of the Foundation) is kind of problematic since the kids go and come trough there and there is definitely more noise than in the other classes. On the other side I feel that the playground is so vital and crucial for the kids here, so hopefully there will be a balance between building new classes and maintaining the playground.

 

On the organization side I don’t think there is too much confusion, the kids know their timetable and their classes, the only problem is when the schools change their timetables due to the weather.

 

I always take some time to correct their mistakes, especially if it’s me asking them to write down sentences. Also, they always ask me to check and correct their things so I couldn’t avoid that even if I wanted.

 

On the Literary Fest, I’m very happy to have been here during the festival. We went to lots of different interesting sessions and sometimes it was hard to choose which one to attend. Also, being in the middle of such an important cultural event is always very nice and makes you wanting to learn more and more.

With Dheeraj and Karthik it went really well! They are nice and interesting guys and I’ll definitely spend some time with them whenever I’ll be back to Delhi

 

 

Oh, the world is really upside down!
February used to be like a sweet scented spring in North India, but I don’t want to sound like an old lady who says: “it used to be better then”.
Finding the right balance in developing the Foundation is definitely a hard task. Not asking for funds from outside sponsors limits our possibility to develop, but gives us freedom. We will have to talk about it when we come to Jaipur. The space is definitely too small for all the children, but the playground is vital. I guess sport was not on schedule today because of the weather.
Yesterday, I have asked Ivana her opinion about the “Book of me”, I would like to know what do you think and if you would like to continue working on it with the stronger students.

 

22/01/2014

 

Today has probably been the most tiring one since joining the Foundation.

 

I was again in Geeta’s class and we did geography. With the first batch we reviewed what we did yesterday about continents and then we had a game in which one by one the kids would come out at the map and they had to find a country which I chose. When they found it they had to say in which continent the country was, like “where is China? China is in Asia” and after that the whole class had to repeat the full sentence.

Since the weather was very bad and the kids were enjoying the game a lot, they stayed in also during the second batch, so in total I had around 15 kids screaming all together because everyone wanted to come out and find the country!

 

It took some time to make them understand that there was no need to shout all together but that they jus had to raise their hands and ask. When they got that I had 15 hands raised all together saying “sir sir, sir, sir, me, me, me, me”.

 

So it was tiring but extremely good, since the kids clearly enjoyed the game (Geeta later on told me that they asked her if I was going to stay with them also tomorrow, which made me very happy) and I think that most of them understood the lesson.

 

Rafiq seemed the one more interested and that better understood what I thought, and the other girls from second batch too, while Sameer (first batch) had a lot of problems understanding the concept of continent, but he also wanted badly to come out and play the game.

 

Tomorrow I’ll go to Ruchi’s class, where I’ll go back to the Gandhi exercise and themìn the first days of next week I’ll be in Priyanka’s class. Since she has the older guys, and the ones with the better English, I’m planning something on the constitution of India since Sunday is republic day.

 

 

Good work, Fede.
Too bad that the weather continues to spoil the pleasure of playing outside.
Now you know the amount of energy it takes to keep those children interested and yet calm.
I love the idea that you will be teaching them about their constitution. It is so very important.

 

23/01/2014

 

Today finally the weather started to get better.

We had the teacher’s session after a couple of days and we went back to the article about Indian racism and preference for fair skin. Ruksar and Geeta were not there today, and since they are usually two of the most talkative it took some time to finally have the other teachers express their opinion. But in the end it went well, everyone participated in the discussion and we also had time to plan some of the sessions for next week. I’m really happy because we agreed that on Wednesday we’ll have lunch all together and everyone will have to cook something! They seemed happy about the idea, and I’m sure it will be a great way to get closer and closer with them.

 

Then today I was for the first time with Ruchi’s class.  With the first and second batch we did the exercise on Gandhi that I did in the other classes. It was good but they were not as responsive as Payal and Ruksar’s class. I also felt that they (or at least some of them) didn’t want to talk too much to avoid making mistakes in English, and it took a while to make them understand that mistakes are good and I also make mistakes in English since it’s not my first language.

 

With the third batch I did geography again. Ruchi’s third batch is better than Geeta’s (English wise) but not enough to do too much history. So we talked about continents and then we did a game about looking for countries on the map and then placing them in their continents.

They liked it, and I feel that the more they are part of the lesson the more they enjoy it (and hopefully understand it).

 

Since the weather was finally nice I spent some time in the playground after the third batch playing football with Shakib and two other guys which are in Priyanka’s class (and which I like a lot but I can’t remember their names yet). Since it was just the four of us playing football (the others were playing badminton with Puru and some of the teachers) they asked me to train them and to teach them some tricks, which I was more than happy to do.

I thought that it will be good to do some football training, and not just playing,  but I would need to have the playground just for my class and that seems  kind of difficult to do, especially with the second or third batch. I’ll talk to the teachers and hopefully we’ll find a solution.

 

Tomorrow in the teacher’s session we’ll play scrabble, I’ll be in a team with Payal and I’m sure we’ll win!

 

 

 

The subject you guys chose for the teachers’ class is definitely very touchy, in particular for girls in India.

And yes, Ruksar and Geeta are the most talkative teachers we have. Pryanka  sometimes too.

Having the playground for your football class shouldn’t be a problem. Just ask Veenaji to allow you to skip History and Geography once in a while and go earlier to the ground. I am convinced that children will learn English much more easily while running after the ball. It will be very good for the children who don’t know any English, It will also decongest the building a bit if a class is outside, instead of in the class. Please try to implement football classes as a regular activity, maybe twice a week?

 

24/01/2014

 

Second week at the Foundation completed.

 

In the teacher’s session we played scrabble, my team was composed by Payal Priyanka and me and unfortunately we didn’t win. I was quite happy with the words  which came out, but I also have to say that both Payal and Priyanka proposed me words with a wrong spelling.

 

Then I was again in Ruchi’s class. With the first batch it went really good, I asked them to write sentences on Gandhi as a review on what we did yesterday and in the second half of the class we played charades using those sentences.

With the second batch, unfortunately, it didn’t go that good. I asked them to write the sentences, but after a while I realized that most of them were using “had” and “was” wrongly. That meant that they wrote sentences like: Gandhiji was a stick or he had England. So I had to stop them and explain the difference between was, had, wore and went and in the end there was no time to play.

This thing totally caught me off guard, since in the other classes with a similar level of English it didn’t happen at all.

 

With the third batch we revised what we did yesterday on the continents and then I introduced them the idea of state and capital city (an idea I read on Aurelien’s journal) and we finished the lesson making a list of all the states of India finding them on the map.

 

I also had some time to play football with some of the kids, and as you know I’m always happy when I can play football!

But the best news of the day came from Ruchi: yesterday in the teacher’s session Ivana and I asked them to write a small paragraph on the discussion we had on racism and fair skin. Being today game’s day we didn’t expect anyone to bring anything, but in the middle of her class Ruchi told me that she had written a paragraph and if I could check it. It made me very happy, and I was also very happy to see that she started a new notebook with this paragraph so I guess she intend to use it for our sessions.

At the end of the day we asked her to read it in front of us and in front of the other teachers, and now I’m sure everyone will bring something on Monday.

Also, Puru told me that he likes how we are dealing with the teachers, keeping it informal and funny but at the same time making them work and doing interesting things. What I know is that I’m enjoying my time here with them a lot, hopefully it’s the same for them!

 

 

My deeply felt apologies for not writing yesterday. I didn’t have a chance to and I was missing a lot knowing about you all at the Foundation.

I woke up this morning wondering about Priyanka and I am pleased to read here that she is present. Her class is usually the more advanced in English, I do not know if it is still the case. In her class the children have worked on the book of me.

I have been thinking of what we could do for the new chapter of the book that you will start in February.

I thought of making the students work on their STORY ( My grandfather was born in Amer  in 1950) in parallel with the HISTORY of India at that time ( In 1950, the 26th January India became a republic) When Silvia comes, she could look into the structure of the village or the city of Jaipur and see how monuments, buildings or landmarks testify of the history of the place ( when did the Maharaja’s Palace, Rambagh become a hotel,)

Please talk with Veenaji, Puru, Ivana and the teachers and let me know your thoughts.

Normally, if you enjoy someone’s company, they enjoy yours, I am sure that everyone is really happy to have you there.

 

 

 

27/01/2014

 

Saturday morning I realized, while taking a shower, that I had lice (pidocchi) on my head. Imagine what a nice way to start the weekend..

I told Veenaji and Puru and I cut my hair quite short, now I’m using a special shampoo and combing my hair a lot so hopefully we’ll solve this problem as soon as possible.

And, although it’s not sure that I’ve taken them at the Foundation, that’s a very possible option. Do you think we should do something there?

 

Beside that the weekend was good, we went to the Foundation on Saturday for the celebrations of Republic day (which was really good!) and on Sunday we had lunch at Veenaji’s house and then we watched Lagaan. I remembered watching it with you in Paris, but I didn’t remember much about it and we really enjoyed it.

I spoke with Puru and Ivana about your idea on the Bok of Me. We all liked it, I’m just a bit concerned on how to do it: how many of the kids will be able to do that? How will we do it? Also, I don’t want to concentrate only on one class since I’ve enjoyed very much seeing different kids every two days. And I also think it’s a good exercise for both them and me to be able to adapt to new classes and to different level of English.

 

Today for the teacher’s session we brought a poem by Tagore “Where the mind is without fear” which the teachers seemed to enjoy. I took a while to have everybody talking and expressing their opinion about it, but in the end we were happy with the discussion that came up.

Then I stayed for the first time in Priyanka’s class. She has the most advanced class, so I introduced them to the Constitution of India.

I wrote the preamble, which is short but full of meaning :

“We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social economic and political

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation

In our constituent assembly this 26/11/1949 do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.”

and explained them the meaning of all the difficult words and the importance of it as a guideline for the rest of the Constitution; also, I explained them that the Indian Constitution is the longest in the world and gives every citizen some fundamental rights.

They seemed to have understood what I was saying; everybody was really quite and concentrated in class. Also Priyanka told me that they might need those notions a school so it’s even better.
My idea for tomorrow was to ask them (maybe working in groups) to write the Constitution of the Tushita Foundation. I told that to Priyanka and she said that it might be a bit too difficult and they will need a lot of help. I want to make them try to do it, what do you suggest?

 

 

Fede, I am so sorry for your lovely curls, I do hope that you didn’t catch the lice at the Foundation, but we must check. I tried to talk to Veenaji, but now it is too late, I will try tomorrow. I think that we should have a doctor check every child, just to send a strong message and see how we can have the children cleaned if they have this problem.

 

I agree with you that every child should do the book of me, but I also know that some of the children will not be able to. You have to discuss with the teachers. What is important is to work on a time line

 

 

1950:

In my story

 

ex: My husband was born the 19th december

 

In the History of India

…………………………..

 

In the History of the world

……………………………………

 

Ideally the children should learn how to search in history books or on internet and find out by themselves.

 

I absolutely agree that we should have a constitution at the Tushita Foundation and the children should write it with you. I do not agree with things being too difficult, what is difficult is simplifying a subject for the children to understand.

How can there be JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY among everyone at the Foundation? Ask the children to find examples. If we give a banana to every boy at the Foundation, but none to the girls, are we treating all the children equally?

Do I have the liberty to say that Italians are stupid?

If Veenaji only accepts those children who speak good English is she doing justice to the principles of the Foundation?

If I like green and you like orange, can we still feel that we are brothers, fellow human beings, do we have fraternal feelings for each other?

Sorry Fede, I could go on and on, yesterday I saw “12 years a slave” such a major film that every one should watch.

Let me know how it goes, I feel you are doing some quality teaching.

 

28/01/2014

 

The started as usual with our yoga session. I have to admit that I was a little sceptical about that before coming here, but now I’m enjoying it very much, and I feel better and better everyday after that.

 

The teacher’s session started really well with Payal and Priyanka having done a summary of the Tagore’s poem we read yesterday! We are very happy about them doing these exercises at home after being in the Foundation for the whole day, it gives us the idea that they are enjoying we we do together.

Today we brought an article on men’s movement for women rights, which we thought was extremely interesting. We didn’t have too much time to talk about that since we spent some time on Payal and Pryianka’s summary, but overall they didn’t seem to have fully got the meaning of the article. Tomorrow we’ll go back to it again.

 

Then I spent my second day in Pryianka’s class. As i told you I wanted them to write a sort of a constitution of the Tushita Foundation and that we did! I asked them to write the 4 most important things for the foundation, following the example of the Indian constitution (Justice, Equality, Fraternity and Liberty) and the 6 fundamental rights of the Foundation, and after some struggling they did it, and they came up with very interesting ideas. With the first batch they worked in couples, while in the second and third everyone worked by himself. Once they finished writing them on their notebook I asked everyone to tell me their 4 important things and their fundamental rights and I wrote all of them on the whiteboard. I took some pictures of it which I’ll send to you as soon as possible.

In the second batch they even asked me when this constitution will be adopted so I’m thinking about writing it down with a sort of a structure (some of their ideas were about possible changes, so maybe I’ll do a section on how to improve the Foundation) and print it for them.

Overall it was a great achievement for them and I’m extremely happy today!

 

Thanks for answering and taking care of the lice problem. I’m using the special shampoo and I feel that it’s getting better and better since my head itches way less than the previous days. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a great comb yet, the only one I’ve found is made with plastic and not metal so it doesn’t work perfectly. I’ll keep on looking for one, and Ivana helps me a lot in removing the eggs so hopefully all this will be over soon.

 

 

It is so touching for me to think of Ivana helping you with the lice problem. I would call it a wonderful example of Fraternity. I think that sharing such an experience like the Foundation can make a life long friendship.
Veenaji and I talked on the phone today and she has understood that we must take the situation very seriously. She will buy anti-lice shampoo for the affected children, call the mothers and ask them to use the shampoo and wash the bed sheets. The child will have to stay home until he or she is free of lice.
The teachers working at home is a clear sign that they understand the opportunity they are getting to improve their English. They are intelligent girls and I am very proud of them.
Please share with me the children’s ideas for the Foundation Constitution, this is a major achievement and we will definitely look into the children’s suggestions.
Maybe, once the constitution is finalised, we can print it at the entrance instead of the inspirational quotes that sometimes are a bit strange. We could write it is Hindi and in English, so that the parents will also be able to read it.
You can be happy and very proud of yourself!

 

 

 

 

29/01/2014

 

I think that both me and Ivana will remember this day as the one when we really became friends with the teachers at the Foundation. For the teacher’s session Ruksar and Sonam brought us to see a part of Amber, their part of Amber, the tour was really great and we ended up having tea at Sonam’s house just before classtime. Walking around we had the chance to talk a lot with them about their city, their lives and their ideas for their future, which was really interesting and made us closer and closer.

We had spoken with Veenaji about the possibility of visiting Amber with the teachers, but we didn’t know that we were going to do it today, so it was a great susrprise for us!

We also spent a lot of time with all the teachers before leaving the Foundation. Since Devi Singh was late in picking us up (Veenaji tonight has a dinner with 20 people coming from France and who came to the Foundation to have sewing class today, so we guessed he must have been very busy too) we waited just outside of the Foundation for nearly an hour and the teachers stayed with us for the whole time. We joked and chat and made fun of each other so nicely and easily, it was really great!

 

During the day I was in Sonam’s class. I couldn’t really prepare anything for them, so I followed Sonam’s lead and helped the kids with spelling exercises and games on animal names. The little ones are seriously adorable, happy and you can see on their faces how much they enjoy to be there.

I don’t think I’ll be able to have any lesson with them, but I’ll keep on visiting their class since I had a lot of fun and received a lot of joy from them.
We know you and Jan are coming quite soon to visit us and everyone here, and I’m very happy about that!

 

 

What wonderful news! It is the first time that the teachers open their houses to volunteers! So, you have been to the Muslim part of town, let’s see if you will be welcome in the Hindu side as well.

Poor Veenaji, she has 20 people at home and the lice situation to face. Hopefully she will find time to rest too. I also hope that your day was not too long. Your mom has sent me a lovely picture of you with the teachers laughing, I wonder what you were telling them.

I also adore the little children’s class, they are just irresistible, but I worry about them learning how to read properly. They actually learn a word and recognize it, but do not know that S+O make the sound so and N+A makes the sound na and so on and so forth. So please, try to play games with the children for them to put letters together and learn how to read that way.

History can wait, but if they learn how to read properly, we have done a miraculous job.

Jan and I are also very happy to come to Jaipur and most probably, Naeem will come from Kabul and join us. He has been volunteering on week-ends with a girls school, so that you can compare notes.

Is the weather ok now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

30/01/2014

 

With today I’ve been for two days in every class, tomorrow I’ll start again with Ruksar’s class.

 

We started the day at the Foundation going back to the article about men’d movement for women’s right and today we had an excellent discussion about it. I have to say that most of the credit goes to Ruksar, who broke the ice and started talking about how she thinks that men are important in women’s life, and if men push to achieve equality between the genders they are more than welcome to do it. Other girls, mainly Pryianka,  counteracted that women don’t need men to achieve equality, so the discussion was very interesting and deep.

 

Then I spent the day again in Sonam’s class. What else can I add to what I wrote yesterday? They are lovely and adorable, and most of all full of joy for being in the  Foundation. And I’m sure they are already learning a lot, actually some of them speak even a better English then some older kids in Geeta’s class.

Tomorrow with Ruksar’s class I’ll try a lesson on the Mughal Empire, I want to see what they already know and also we can do a bit of geography (which they love) showing them the extension of the Empire under different Emperors.

 

Today also was Pryianka’s birthday, so we had a small celebration, but since thursday is her day of fasting we postponed the celebration to tomorrow, we are planning to bring in a cake.

I think it’s a very excellent idea to offer Pryianka the chance to do a one year course, but why in Mumbai? There are many schools also in Jaipur and it might be easier for her to choose it and still get married, no?

 

 

Fede, in Mumbai there is the Montessori method teacher training school and I am really fond of our dear Maria’s pedagogy. Jaipur, unfortunately, is not a very intellectual town, but we might want to look into it and see if there is a way to improve our teachers’ methodology and knowledge.

I am so happy to learn that the little children are learning, I feel that they are the ones who can at best take advantage of what we offer at the Foundation. We can try to provide good basis for them to work on.

The Mughal Empire is a fascinating subject and you are doing very well in showing them the evolution of the empire on the map.

Give Priyanka my best wishes for her birthday.

 

31/01/2014

 

The day at the Foundation started very well with a very big and nice birthday celebration for Pryianka. We brought two cakes and the other teachers brought some more food and balloons to celebrate it. We spent most of the time in class just enjoying ourselves eating the cakes and the other sweets, and then we had some time to briefly play charades.

 

Today I was back in Ruksar’s class, and as I told you I taught them about the Mughal Empire. I made a list of the 6 most important emperors, and then showed them on the map of India how the extension of the Empire changed under Babur, Akbar and Aurangzeb.

Also, since they all knew about Akbar marriage with Jodha Bai (who was the princess of Amer) I explained them why the marriage was and still is so important. I gave them 3 reasons: first, because it was an Hindu-Muslim marriage, second because with the marriage Akbar added Rajasthan to the Empire without fighting a war (I simplified it a little bit, but in the end it’s what happened) and third because with her he had a son, the next Emperor Jahangir.

I’m planning for monday to ask them to imagine themselves as the Emperor or Empress of the Foundation and to ask them to tell me the first 10 things they will do.

I think it might be a way to integrate the work I did on the Constitution with the older ones, and I might add their ideas to th possible projects for the Foundation.

 

Tomorrow is activity day and with Puru we planned a sport day with some competitions for the kids, like football, cricket and racing and we’ll also have a race between the teachers! And it will also be Silvia’s first meeting with everyone.
It was very good to talk with Jan on the phone, we are waiting for you!

 

 

Sorry, I am late again, but I am sure you will understand. Because our dear, dear friend came from Italy, I was busy catching up.

Your work, today, is of great importance and touches the nerve of the village history. I am very pleased with your idea of asking them to think like emperors and empresses; it will hopefully allow them to express their feelings and dreams. It does integrate and complete the work on the Constitution very well.

 

I spoke with Puru, yesterday evening and he seemed vey exited about the sports day, but also very happy to go back to Delhi and study.

I am looking forward to read Silvia as well and her first impressions of India.

 

 

 

03/02/2014

 

As you know saturday we had planned a sports day. It went really really well! We had simple race and race with to people with one leg tied o each other, then a cricket and a football match. For the race we divided the kids in different categories, small ones, girls and boys, and also we teachers run. At the end of the day we gave prizes to all the winners fro the races and the teams that won the cricket and the football match. On the same day it was also Puru’s birthday, and his last day in Jaipur for now, so we had a lot of reasons to celebrate the day.

 

Today for the teacher’s session we brought an article on the Yuwa supergoats (remember? you sent me the article) and the speech that one of the girls delivered on a Ted Talk. The discussion we had afterwards wa not the best one we had so far, but they had good moments too. Tomorrow we’ll start watching “Bend it like Beckham” with them, and we’ll probably keep on doing that for a couple of days. Watching a movie is an interesting exercise, and hopefully they’ll like it.

 

Then I was again with Ruksar’s class. We revised what we did on Friday and then I asked them to write ten sentences as if they were the Emperors of the Tushita Foundation. I got some nice sentences, but I also have to say that it took a lot to make them use their imagination and to write something new and different than usual.On this exercise the best response came from Raghu, who understood that he could really use his imagination and wrote something like “I want a swimming pool, a helicoter and a lion”. The other more common comments were mostly on having computers and improve the playground (with flowers or grass). I took pictures again so I’ll share them with you as soon as possible.

Also, due to the fact the Payal and Pryianka had to attend a wedding, Ruksar left me alone for almost the whole second and third batch since she had to check on the other teachers classes, and it went very very well! I had no problem in keeping the kids concentrated and focused on what they were doing and they were happy with me teaching.
Tomorrow I’m in Payal class and I’ll start again with the Mughal Empire class.

 

 

I must admit that my only complaint with my beloved volunteers is that they don’t share any photographs with me, so I will have to come and snatch them away from you guys!

 

How exiting it must have been on Saturday! Puru might have had mixed feelings: happy to go back to the student’s life in Delhi and sad to leave you all at the Foundation.

 

What are Silvia’s first impressions I have asked Ivana also to help her start her journal.

 

I am convinced that the film you are going to watch together will touch a cord with the teachers, Ruksar in particular who wishes her family would be more modern and understanding.

 

It gives me immense pleasure to learn that you can keep a whole class of children attentive and actually, I am happy that the occasion was given to you by Priyanka and Payal’s absence.

Obviously, being sisters, they both have to attend family functions together.

.

Raghu definitely seems to be the freer among the children. Maybe you can try to push him further and ask him to write a story about the Emperor of the Foundation. What would he do with the swimming pool, the helicopter and the lion? How about adding few drawings to it? This week end I got Cipì and, reading it again, I thought this is a fantastic job the teacher did with the children.

 

How about the girls? Have you spotted any girl who has the courage to let her imagination go?

 

 

04/02/2014

 

In today’s teachers session we started watching Bend it like Beckham. We watched the first part of it and they all seemed to enjoy it very much! Unfortunately Ruksar was not in class as she was not feeling well, hopefully she’ll feel well by tomorrow and we’ll ask the others to explain her what we saw. If she doesn’t come we’ll make sure to give her the movie so that she can watch it at home.

Also, for tomorrow we’ve planned a lunch all together with the teachers and everyone will have to cook something. Hope they like pasta…

 

During the day I was in Payal’s class. With the first and second batch I did the same class on the Mughl Empire that I did in  Ruksar’s class and it went very well. Showing them the extension of the Empire on the map of India helps a lot since they can also “play” with the map.

Tomorrow I’ll ask them to write the sentences as if they were the emperors, and I have high expectations from Avesh and Putul (in first batch) who are overall two of my favorite students and definitely very clever. By the way, in saturday Putul won every competition, as she was in the winning football and cricket teams and also won the single race for girls.

Since the sencond batch is a bit weaker I’m thinking about make them work together on the sentences tomorrow. In this way they will not copy each other and hopefully come out with something very interesting. I might also make it into a game with two or three teams and see which team can come out with the most interesting ideas.
In Payal’s third batch I did geography, their English is very weak so geography is a bit easier. Today we focused on the Indian states, so now that they know Indian geography a bit better maybe tomorrow I’ll try to do with them the class on the Mughal Empire. If it’s too difficult I’ll change and do a class on India’s neighbours, maybe using the book of the states that they have at the Foundation to show some images of the people.

 

 

What a pity that Ruksar was not there today, I thought she would be the one to enjoy the film the most. Anyway, she will catch up and it will be good opportunity for her colleagues to speak up while telling her what they saw.

Pasta yes, who doesn’t like pasta? Well, Dheeraj doesn’t  to Ayan’s dismay who lived with him in Delhi and tried his best to make him appreciate our national dish.

My suggestion is go a bit strong on chilly and obviously make it vegetarian.

Putul used to be a shy student, I am so happy to hear that she is coming out and showing her talents.

You are right to watch out for copying, at time we used to have the same sentence over and over!

And how about the book of me? Dipuma senior would not be happy to know that we are not using those beautiful albums he gifted the Foundation! Besides jokes, I really care for that project, see if something can be done.

Thank you for showing the children the people who live in the different geographic areas you are introducing them to. This way geography will come alive.

 

05/02/2014

 

Today’s teacher’s session was all about lunch all together. We reached the foundation a bit late so we didn’t finish to watch the movie, but we had time (while the pasta was cooking) for the other teachers to tell Ruksar what we saw yesterday. Also at the end f the day Ruksar watched part of the movie by herself so tomorrow won’t be too much a problem for her to follow.

The lunch went really well, everyone brought something very good. Sonam is definitely the best chef among them, but everything was good. I think they liked the idea so we’ll try to plan another lunch before we leave, maybe next time a can do a risotto.

 

Today I was again in Payal’s class. With the first and second batch we revised what we did yesterday and then I asked them to write sentences as if they were the Emperors of the Foundation. Some of them came out with very interesting ideas, but I noticed that for them it’s difficult to use their fantasy and imagination, so most of the sentences were vey easy and plain (like a big ground or a big class). For the second batch I made them work in groups and that helped a bit, and one group even wrote down “there should be a club for dancing, singing and rocking” which made me and Payal laugh a lot.

My favorite student Avesh wrote some very sensitive things like “we should teach all religion because in the foundation there are children from every religion”, and Putul added “All should have a bicycle”.

All and all I’m happy with the ideas they come out with, I just wish they were a bit more propositive and less shy of expressing themselves.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be in Geeta’s class, I’ll try to do again the class on the Mughal Empire, hopefully they will follow me. If not I’ll shift to geography.
Book of me: you’re right, the project is very important and needs our contribution too. I’ll have Priyanka’s class monday and tuesday and I’ll try to prepare something about that. Your idea about their history and Indian history is very good, maybe we can broaden it to the world? It would give more things to discover but it would also be much more difficult. I’ll talk to Priyanka tomorrow and maybe I’ll ask the kids to tell me on friday in which year they, their parents and maybe their grandparents were born, so that I can come on Monday prepared with events for those years.

 

 

Jan says that if you make risotto, you will have to make dal on the side and I answered that for us food is a religion and you don’t mess with it. However I must inform you that every time I tried, Indians did not like risotto, but maybe when it is a Milanese making it it will be different.
It is a pity that children in India don’t know how to tap into their creative potential. Probably, it is because of their educational system that only asks them to learn things by heart.
Luckily, they are very much in touch with their bodies and enjoy “dancing, singing and rocking” I really hope that we will find the means to build the theatre and the few classrooms at the end of the play ground.
I would love to ask Avesh what would he think if we didn’t talk about religion in the Foundation at all and that everyone would be just another student. Would the Emperor be able to ask everyone to keep religion outside the Foundation? I honestly don’t think that it is possible for an Indian to think of religion as a private matter, for him religion is identity, like the colour of the skin.
It is already great that Avesh allows other religions in his Empire!
Thank you Fede for understanding my passion for the book of me.
Even though extending the work to the entire world will make it more difficult, it will allow you to bring in geography and that seems like a good idea.
You can have one page called:
1950 here.
The child will list whatever has happened in his family, in Amber and Jaipur.
Next page: 1950 in India
Few facts of India’s history, maybe drawings as well

Third Page 1950 in the world
Possibly an historical event in every continent.

Please let me know what do you think.

 

 

6th February

 

Today I had some time to look deeply into the books of me. I think we can do try to make the project you wrote me about, and as a start limit it to Amer and India. Tomorrow I’ll ask the kids in Priyanka’s class to prepare for next week the dates of birth of their family (they, their parents and maybe also grandparents), so if they tell them to me on Monday I can hopefully be prepared for wednesday, when I’ll be in their class, with facts about Indian history.

It is not as creative as the rest of the book of me, but maybe I can ask them to draw at least one of the most important events. I’ll obviously try to look for nice and interesting events, the only thing I’m afraid about is finding for some years only “bad” events, like wars or fights but I’ll try to look in depth in order to find better things.

 

In today’s teacher’s session we finished to watch Bend it like Beckham, which the teachers definitely enjoyed a lot, then we had again lunch together (we went there earlier today) and we also had some time to play football all together. Next week we’ll use the movie as a starting point for a discussion.

 

Then I went to Geeta’s class. I always find it as the most difficult one for me: they are in the middle of the entrance so it’s very difficult for them to concentrate, plus their English is very weak. So it’s very difficult to catch and maintain their attention, and also most of the time they answer without even listening to my questions. For example, today we did countries next to India, so I explained them which countries are and showed them on the map, but then when I asked them to tell me the name of the countries they started saying totally different things, like Oceania o Africa (which were the topic of my previous class with them). So it took long time but in the end I think they got it, and showing them pictures of the countries definitely helped.

Tomorrow I’ll be with them again; I was thinking about doing the capitals of some important states, do you think it would be ok?

 

Happy birthday! Hope you are enjoying this day as much as you can!

 

 

Oh yes, I did enjoy this day very much because Ayan surprised me and came from London just to be here today. I feel so pampered!

Thank you for taking over the book of me project and do not worry about sad events in history, we can not shield the children from them. It might be a good exercise for them to draw about war and fighting in order to evacuate fear. Many men from Amer are in the army and if you look into the previous work in the book of me you will see some of the boys want to become soldiers.
I must admit that I am wondering if it makes sense for you volunteers to teach in Geeta’s class. Some children will never learn English and we might to better if we concentrate on those who will.
Let me know your thoughts about it.
I am really looking forward to coming to see you not only for the pleasure of meeting you all, but also because I would like us to discuss our methodology.
Please write down the points that you feel are important to talk about.

 

07/02/2014

 

As you know Friday is game day in the teacher’s session, so today we played both scrabble and charades. Game day goes always very well, and we really enjoy each other’s company.

 

Today Geeta was absent because of an influence so I took her class upstairs and shared the room with Priyanka so that she could help me a little bit since they don’t speak and understand much english.

Today we focused on the capitals of the country next to India, so we did a review of what we did yesterday, then I explained them what a capital is and showed them how to find it on the map (is written bigger). At the end of the day they seeme to have got the name of the cities, but they still couldn’t pronounce Myanmar, and every time they tried they always came out with strange names before bursting into laughter.

I felt they enjoyed the class a lot more today and I’m pretty sure the main reason is that they were not in the middle of the entrance so they could focus much more. Hopefully soon they will have their own classroom.

 

I also spoke to Pryianka’s class today asking them to bring for monday the birthdates of their family, so that I can have a couple of days to prepare events and other stuff for the book of me. They seemed quite excited about working again on it!
Tomorrow Dheeraj will bring us to a wedding of some of his friends here in Jaipur, we’ll let you know how it goes, ciao!

 

 

Ciao Fede, I am happy to learn that you are going to an Indian wedding. It is an amazing production, you will have a good time.

Your insistence on the need for the Foundation to have more space has convinced me to start doing fund raising. We will talk about it in Jaipur, but I feel that some of our travel agent clients will be able to help us as well as some of the travellers who have come by the Foundation.

A lady from the States has just sent some things from there, but I feel that what we need the most now is help to build the classrooms.

What do you think?

I know that pronunciation is sometimes really impossible for our kids, but then who is asking for perfection?

So pleased to hear that they love the book of me, I do to and you also will.

My recommendation is that the children submit their texts to you for corrections before they copy it on the lovely album, you must have noticed a lot of mistakes in the previous works.

We will be travelling to Delhi tomorrow and will be in Jaipur on Friday morning.

Enjoy the week-end

 

 

 

 

 

10/02/2014

 

Sorry for not writing the journal yesterday, I didn’t feel really well so I just had dinner and then went straight to bed. Nothing serious though, probably just a mix of cold and tiredness, and today after a long sleep I’m good.

 

Due to a huge traffic jam yesterday we didn’t reach the foundation in time for the teacher’s session (we actually arrived there a few minutes before 2) so we had to postpone the discussion on Bend it like beckahm to today.

Then I stayed in Ruchi’s class and did with the first and second batch the class on the Mughal Empire. In the first batch I had only 5-6 students and that helped to have a very good class since everyone could partecipate well, in the second one instead they were 13-14 so it was a bit more messy. Anyway they followed the class quite well and today I’ll ask them to write sentences as if they were the Emperors of the Foundation. Since it’s a lot of them I’ll probably divide them in two/three teams and make them work together. That will end the session of classes on their ideas on the Foundation and hopefully by next week I’ll be able to write down a sort of a Constitution.

 

With the third batch I did geography and we worked on India’s neighbours and their capitals. Ii showed them how to find the capital of a country on the map and so for today I’m planning a little game with two teams and some capitals from around the world to find.

 

Are you enjoying Delhi? See you soon!

 

 

Thank you Fede for reassuring me, I was ready to come to your rescue armed with Arborio rice and olive oil!
I was thinking that I would like to intervene with the children, actually more the teenagers, to tell them the story of Tushita, it might help them understand our intentions and therefore produce a better Constitution.
Delhi is cold inside the house, but quite pleasent when you walk out in the sun.
I enjoy the office atmosphere, our Tushitas are nice people.
Can’t wait to see Naeem and all of you, though.

 

 

11/02/2014

 

Today we reached the Foundation on time and so we had the discussion on the movie that we planned for yesterday. Three teachers wrote interesting ideas on the movie and the others will bring something for tomorrow.

The discussion easily shifted on the topic of marriage and marriage with a gora (a white man). Iit was interesting to see that they wanted to talk about it and at the same time we felt that it wasn’t the easiest topic.Also, Geeta told us the story of her marriage and it was interesting for everyone.

 

Then I went in Ruchi’s class where I asked them to write sentences as if they were the Emperors of the Foundation. In the first batch it didn’t go to good as they all came up with very easy and most of all extremely grammaticaly incorrect sentences. But we had time to correct their mistakes and I think they understood them.

In the second batch it was definitely better and I got some nice sentences: Parvez wrote that he wants 11 teachers and another kid wrote that he wants always 2 teachers in class, and Shaqib proposed to open two other foundations in Jaipur and Delhi.

 

With the third batch I did a recap of our study on India’s neighbours and then I divided them in three teams and asked them to find on the map some countries and their capitals. They all enjoyed it, and hopefully next time they will remember where some countries are.

 

I’m preparing for the book of me class of tomorrow. I asked the kids to bring me the date of birth of their families so that I could prepare a list of historical events for the same dates. I’ll send you here the draft of the list, I’m trying to find some more interesting events for some of the years, to avoid having too much rioting and violence among Hindu and Muslim in the book of me. I know it’s important that they know their history and that there’s nothing to hide but still it would be better to have some lighter events.

Please let me know what do you think about it and if you have any suggestions

ciao!

 

Book of me

History of India

 

1947 – Indian Independence, partition with Pakistan

1948 – Assassination of Gandhi

1950 – Constitution of India

1952 – First general election

1953 – Birth of  Andhra Pradesh on linguistic basis; conquest of Mount Everest

1959 – Dalai Lama reaches India for political asylum

1961 – Indian troops enter in Goa, Portuguese dominion over

1962 – Indo-China war

1964 – Death of Nehru

1965 – Indo-Pakistan war

1966 – Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister

1969 –  Split of the Congress, one led by Indira Gandhi and one by Morarji Desai

1970 –  Death of Sawai Man Singh II, last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur (born in 1911)

1971 – Birth of Bangladesh

1972 – Simla  Agreement between India and Pakistan “put an end to the conflict and confrontation”

1973 – Project tiger to save tigers from extinction; Formation of Karnataka

1974 – Project “Smiling Buddha”, India has nuclear weapon

1975 – Sikkim becomes part of India; First Indian satellite “Aryabhata” goes into space

1976 – Year of the Emergency, civil liberties suspended and Indira Gandhi’s political opponents jailed; Hijack of a flight from Delhi to Srinagar

1977 – Morarji Desai prime minister, it’s the first non-Congress government

1979 – Mother Teresa nominated for Nobel Prize; Morvi floods, 1200 dead

1980 – Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister again; Mother Teresa gets Bharat Ratna; Sanjay Gandhi dead on a plane crash

1981 – First Indian expedition to Antartica

1983 – India wins cricket world cup

1984 – Assassination of Indira Gandhi; Bhopal gas tragedy; First Indian man to go to the space (Rakesh Sharma)

1985 – Centenary celebrations of Indian National Congress

1988 – Voting age brought to 18 from 21.

1990 – Nelson Mandela honoured with Bharat Ratna

1991 – Rajiv Gandhi assassinated

1992 – Demolition on Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya, after that violence and nearly 2000 dead

1993 – Bombay bombings, 260 dead; earthquake in Maharashtra

1994 – Surat epidemic of pneumonia

1995 – Bombay becomes Mumbay

1996 – Madras becomes Chennai

1997 – Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi, joins the electoral campaign of the Congress

1998 – 2 more nuclear tests

1999 – Two months conflict with Pakistan in Kashmir

2000 – Birth of the India’s billionth citizen; Lara Dutta becomes Miss Universe; Formation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal;

2001 – Release of Lagaan; Calcutta becomes Kolkata

2002 – Gujarat violence between Hindu and Muslim

2003 – Vajpayee speech in Srinagar to stop violence between India and Pakistan (“Guns will not solve the matter but brotherhood will […] both sides should decide to live together”)

2004 – India wins its first test match in Pakistan; Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, 19000 dead in India

2005 – Bombings in Delhi two days before  Diwali, 62 dead

2006 – Bombs in Varanasi; opening of the Nathula pass between India and China for trade

2007 – Launch of four satellites; Hyderabad bombings

2008 – Mumbai terrorist attack in touristic places

2011 – India wins cricket world cup; earthquake in Sikkim

2012 -60th anniversary of Indian parliament; Sachin Tendulkar scores his 100th Hundred in International matches

 

Rosenda:

Bravo Fede,
it is a powerful journey. I hope that the children will realize that we must live together.
I can’t wait to come and discuss so many matters with you.
Good luck with the book of me.

 

 

 

 

12/02/2014

 

Since I had stomach-ache the whole night this morning I decided not to go to the Foundation. Gajju brought me to a doctor and he gave me some medicines saying that it’s nothing serious and that in two three days I’ll be absolutely fine.

I had stomach problems before since I am in India so I thought I was over with that but evidently I wasn’t…

Anyway don’t worry, I’m already feeling better.

 

Obviously we couldn’t start the book of me project but hopefully I’ll be able to do it tomorrow.

 

Come on Fede, your health is most important! I’ll be there the day after tomorrow with olive oil from Umbria that will heal you in no time. Take good care of yourself and get well soon.

 

13/02/2014

 

Today I felt much better and so after a very light session of yoga we went to the Foundation.

For the teacher’s session we read another poem by Khalil Gibran “On Joy & Sorrow” which originated one of the best teacher’s session discussion we had so far. Everyone was involved and had something interesting to say! Also, before that we checked what they wrote on the poem they read yesterday and it was good, especially from Payal who wrote a quite long piece.

 

Then I started the Book of Me project, and I have to say that it went really well. I was a bit worried that they could find it a bit boring and less creative than the rest but I was totally wrong.

Everyone worked on that really well and I had not even one small complaint. Not even from Mini or Shireen, who sometimes enjoy being the big girls that want to prove that they know already things or simply want to challenge you a little bit.

I was very impressed by how deeply they were into the book of me and they kept on asking me advices on how to make it perfect.

We asked everyone to write it first in pencil and then with colours so that they could have it written nicely. Anyway you’ll see it tomorrow.

For tomorrow I’ve planned to let them finish it with drawings but if someone finishes it earlier I want to talk with them about the events that happened in their years of birth, so that they can have a better understanding of it. And if I have no time for that I’ll do it with everyone next time I have Priynka’s class.

 

I noticed that some of them don’t have a Moleskine book and so they wrote it on their normal notebook, we should do something so that everyone has the same book of me.
We’ll talk about that tomorrow as well, have a good flight we are waiting for you!

 

Music for my ears!
Please ask Veenaji to give the children new Moleskine books.
See you tomorrow!

 

 

17/02/2014

 

After your very much-appreciated visit over the weekend, we started the week with our routine of yoga, breakfast, preparation of classes and drive to the Foundation.

For the teacher’s session we brought another poem by Gibran on the concept of giving. It was definitely more difficult than the previous ones but we decided to try it since the topic is very interesting and much related with the concept of the Tushita Foundation.

As we expected there were a lot of words that the teachers didn’t know, so we’ll surely have to use tomorrow as well to complete our discussion.

As usually some of the teachers wrote a page or two as a comment on the previous one, and we are very happy that they are keeping on doing this.

 

Today I was in Sonam’s class so I don’t have too much to tell you. As you know the kids are adorable and love to have us around. I followed Sonam’s directive and helped them with the writing and the reading. I feel that some of them have a much better level of English compared to the others, and I was wondering if we could try to move them to Geeta’s class once it will be in a better position.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be in Ruksar class and I’m still not sure about what I’m going to do: I’d like to have a class on Jaipur and its planning but I don’t feel so confident about it and I’m also afraid that the kids might not get it, I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow

 

The facebook page is going well, the teachers liked the idea a lot.

I enjoyed very much having you around during these days, and I was very happy to see Naeem that I hadn’t seen since our time in London.

Hopefully you’ve reached Mumbai and you are enjoying the city by now, ciao!

 

Here we are in Mumbai, I ran around all day and was positively impacted by the city I don’t know well. Our guide is a wildlife conservationist and she save snakes…
I also really appreciated being with you all in Jaipur and hope that our inputs will be implemented very soon. Jan intends to write about punctuality soon.
I agree with you that some of the little children could move on from Sonam’s class, please talk to Veenaji about it.
I hope that Silvia will feel better tomorrow.

 

18/02/2014

 

The teacher’s session of today was dedicated to complete the discussion on Gibran’s poem about giving. As I told you it was quite difficult but we loved the topic and I think they also enjoyed it after many explanations. Geeta was very eager to get everything and Ruksar cam to me after the session (I was in her class) to tell me how nice it was the poem even if yesterday she didn’t understand it much.

 

After a long thinking I decided to drop the class on the building of Jaipur, and to save it for the next time when I’ll be more confident on how to structure it and make it accessible for the kids.

So I decided to have a geography class, with the first and second batch we went through India’s neighbours and I explained them th concept of boundary. After that we went through the capitals of the states near India but in a sort of a game. First I explained them how to locate a capital on the map and then one by one I asked them to go to the map and find the capitals.

To end the class we played another game: I divided the class in three teams, then one person from each team had to go to the map and find a country of my choice and its capital, when they found it they had to go back and write it correctly on the notebook and at the end we checked which team found the most and wrote them without spelling mistakes.

I was happy that they could find most of the states I asked them to find but they made several spelling mistakes.

Tomorrow I want to go through India’s geographical regions (like mountains, deserts etc) and I’ll keep on doing the capitals game that they really enjoyed a lot.

 

With the third batch everything is a bit slower so I couldn’t finish the whole class but I’ll do it tomorrow.

 

Snowy got vaccinated this morning and when we arrived she was completely asleep right in the middle of the entrance of the Foundation.

Also, someone came to see the roof and they advised Gajju and Veena not to put cloth but a sort of a roof made with fiber glass, they said it will take a week (so maybe a couple), we’ll keep you posted on the development of the work.

 

Grazie Fede, thanks to your inputs the necessity of covering the roof has become an evidence.
And Snowy being vaccinated is great news too.
I admire you for lowering your standards to make the children feel good about their learning capacities.
It is not easy, but it is the right way to go. Even with the teachers, we should try not to challenge them too much, even though i have the feeling that they like that.
Will you choose a poem from Ungaretti’s one day, or do you think “l’Ermetismo” would be too much?

 

19/02/2014

 

Visiting the other side of Amer.

 

Today we visited Amer with Ruchi Pryianka and Payal. As the other visit with Ruksar and Sonam, everything went greatly. They brought us around their neighbourhood, then we stopped in Payal and Pryinka’s house for a sweet and a refreshing papaya juice and to complete the visit we went to the Mira Temple, just next the fort.

We loved it, and I’m quite confident in saying that they liked the idea of bringing us around their city, even if for them it was the first time walking around with three goras..

 

In the Foundation iI was in Ruksar’s class, and since she was not there today due to a family function I took by myself the three batches.

For the first batch we came in a little late because of the visit at the temple and so I played with them the game of finding capitals on the map, which they love. With the second batch instead I had more time, so I explained them the physical geography of India, dividing it into 5 subregions: mountains, indo-gangetic plain, coast, highlands and desert. Then I brought plain maps of India and asked them to color it using different colours for every region, at first they didn’t want to draw but then I think they enjoyed it.

During the third batch, for my delight, Aisha and Ifat, two girls from the first batch, came back to the class because they wanted to play the game of finding capitals again! So I asked them to help me teaching to Yaseen and Neeraj (the two only students in Ruksar’s third batch) what is a capital and how to find it on a map and then played with us.

 

The other day I forgot to write you about Kashik, a girl in Sonam’s class. She is definitely one of the most impressive ones regarding her English and her willingness to learn. She kept on asking me to write for her new words to write because she wanted to complete her notebook, and when at the end we did a small test to see if she remembered the words, and she did, I gave her a “Very good” which made her smile for the whole afternoon.

I think that her comprehension of English is way more advanced than the kids in Geeta’s class, and that she and a few others in Sonam’s class may try to join Ruksar’s or Payal’s third batch. I’ll talk about that tomorrow with Veena and the teachers and I’ll let you know what they say.

 

I am so curious to know more about the differences that you might have noticed between the two sides of the town. It sounds like you enjoyed both of them.
I wonder if there is anything we could do about the irregularity of the number of students in each class, maybe you could talk with the teachers and Veenaji about that. I will have to mention being late as well. Kashik is our little peacock, you might have seen her pictures from the play, she is truly adorable and very intelligent. The difficult part about moving her from her class is that she is much younger than the others. See what the other teachers think.

 

20/02/2014

 

Yesterday I tod you about the possibility of moving Kashik Farah and some other students from Sonam’s class, today I told it to Sonam and she replied that she thought exactly the same during the previous days, so from today they are in Geeta’s third batch. Nice eh?

 

Our day at the Foundation started with a teacher’s session on the article you sent to Ivana a few weeks ago on the use of sari.  It was interesting and the teachers had things to say, but I’m not sure if they got the point of an Indian woman living abroad and using sari not as a normal dress and not only as a special. They all told us stories about how and when they use saris, but they didn’t really address the main point of the article.

 

Today I was in Payal’s class and with them I did the class on the neighbours of India and I told them the capitals of these countries. After that we played the game of finding the capitals, which they really love. In this game they have to find the capital of a country of my choice on the map, then go back to their place and write it on the notebook without looking at the map again. It was extremely funny today because in first batch Vishal was aways the first to find the country and the capital but then when I went back to write it down he always forgot the name…and he was the one laughing the most about it

Since they like the game so much and I think it’s pretty useful for their understanding of the world I’ll do it again tomorrow.

 

In third batch there was only one kid today so we asked him if he wanted to stay in class or play outside (it didn’t make sense to force him to have class just by himself) and he chose to go to play. So me and Payal, for one day, enjoyed staying in the ground longer than usual.

 

Ivana and some students came up with a great idea for a small play, we love it and I’m sure you’ll love it too

 

Dear volunteers,

Ii just read your entries in the Cochin office after fighting last evening with the internet to no avail.

In a little while, Jan and I will be travelling to a remote area of Kerala and I know that it will be difficult to get a connection. So I am asking you to be excused to reply to your entries, that I will definitely miss a lot. It will be a pleasure for me to read them all together though.

I managed to write too quickly to Silvia and I am also very happy about the play that you have come up with. Thank you for being an agent of change and improvement at the Foundation, it is important that the children sit in the right class. Concerning the delays , I wrote Veenaji very nicely about it and I am convinced that the question is over now.

 

Please enjoy this week and post on Facebook if you want.

 

Love,

Rosenda

 

21/02/2014

 

The journal thing is spreading to the whole foundation. Today Payal told me that since the last two days they are also trying to keep a daily journal with all the activities they do at the Foundation. I think it’s a great exercise fro their english and for the development of their classes. Straight after the end of her classes I saw Sonam writing it extremely concentrated, so nice.

 

For today’s teacher session we introduced a new game: in this game everyone has the name of a person written on a piece of paper attached to his/her forehead, and has to guess who this person is asking only questions that can be answered with yes or no. They liked it but not too much, so maybe for next friday we’ll bring something else. Anyway game day is always very nice as we spend time with the teachers playing and making fun of each other, it’s a great way to build a friendship.

 

As the weather was Milano-style today (light rain and fog), and I had Payal’s class, we moved it in the office and we played the capitals game all day. The first batch was deeply into it and we could see it by how much they were pushing their respective teammates to find capitals on the map as fast as possible. Just by the records, the team of Putul and Avesh won both the Asian capitals round and the Afro-European one.

The second batch loved it too but without the passion that the first batch showed. I’m trying to think about how can I transfer this enjoyment they have for finding things on the map to some historical subjects, we’ll see.

Since no student came for the third batch, Payal and Itook over Ruchi’s class as she was absent today due to an exam. They were already doing an exercise about writing 10 sentences about themselves (which I find boring and very repetitive) and after finishing that they asked to write about their favourite teacher. Instead of letting them do that I though it would have been more interesting to push them a little bit to write a sentence for every teacher.

 

I think that one of the main problems of the kids here is the capacity to think outside the box, and to propose and imagine different thoughts from what they are used to. I guess their education plays a huge role in that, but at the same time I’m sure that being exposed to different things as they are in the Foundation will help making them at least more adaptable to the challenges that life will throw at them.

 

Tomorrow and  Sunday we’ll go to Ajmer and Puskar, excited to travelling once more in new places!

 

 

Hi guys,

 

I must admit, I can’t stay away from you and your lovely journals. After a few days abstinence, I have taken out my 3G key and went and read your entries. The comments system does not work well here, so, I thought I would just write you a small message to tell you that I find what you do really great, even though you might find it a bit frustrating at times, realizing how much the children lack in freedom of expression and creativity. It must be a form of luxury to be able to explore who we are and try to make something out of it. For the families of our children, school is just a way to get a job, possibly a government job, where you have a sure salary, work little and have a little power. Kiran is a good example of this mentality that has been pushed on her. Still, I feel that it is great for her to be exposed to theatre classes. I didn’t hesitate when you proposed the project, Ivana, but I knew some would resist it.

On the contrary, I am not surprised that the children love the architecture project, it is concrete and talks about their lives, maybe, you can print maps of Amer for all, Silvia?

Thank you Fede for informing me about the journal, I am so pleased to hear that the teachers are writing one too. I wonder if I should ask them to send it to me, I just don’t want to step over Veenaji’s territory.

Now, I can’t wait to hear about the week-end trip, but I really don’t understand the weather, maybe Fede you brought a bag of clouds from Milan along with you?

 

Have a lovely evening,

 

 

 

 

24/02/2014

 

Our weekend in Pushkar was great. Veenaji came with us, Puru was in Jaipur for a wedding so he decided to join as well and on the way to Pushkar we picked up Soomal from her school in Ajmer, so it was a sort of a family trip! Before reaching Pushkare we visited Soomal’s school and Puru’s former school (of which he is extremely proud).

Pushkar is lovely, even if full of tourists, and provided an interesting change from our Jaipur routine. We visited the Brahma temple, had a Puja with a Pundit that Veenaji and Gajju know very well and had a lot of time to wander around and do some shopping. Veenaji brought us to some beautiful hotels, both for our staying and for lunches, we felt really spoiled for a couple of days and we loved it.

 

For today’s teacher’s session we brought an article about disappearing languages, which was well received by Geeta and Ruksar which had interesting things to say about globalization and the diatribe between learning a new language to be uptodate with the world and preserving your own heritage. Sonam and Payal weren’t into it too much unfortunately and Ruchi and Priyanka were both absent today.

 

My week started in  Geeta’s class. With the first and second batch we revised what we did the previous time and then I showed them on the physical map the various regions of India. Also, I brought a blank map of India for everyone and I asked them to colour the different physical regions with different colors. They loved it but in the first batch I had 14 students all together and that made it very noisy and messy since they everyone needed my help to put the right colour in the right place. I was lucky that Mehazbi, an older girl from Ruksar’s second batch, came earlier than usual and was there with nothing to do, so I asked her to help me and Geeta since the kids were demanding a lot of attention and as you know have a lot of problems in understanding even the basic English.

 

From last week Geeta’s third batch is made of kids that were previously in Sonam’s class and that the teachers decided to move to a more advanced level.

Since I didn’t know what to expect from them I started with an easy class about what is geography and the different continents, and I was so so impressed by their level and understanding. They picked up the different location of continents extremely fast and remembered it very well during the whole class.

I did the same lesson the first time I was in Geeta’s class with the other kids and they it was a huge struggle to make them understand the same things. It seemed to me that these kids (Farah, Kashis and the others) are much more prone to learn, while most of the others in Geeta’s class simply try to memorize to make a good impression when I ask them questions. I guess that’s what their education system require from them but it’s sometimes this thing is quite frustrating to see. On the other hand I’m so happy that the best kids from Sonam’s class moved to a more advanced level, they deserve it and I’m sure that in the next years they will impress the volunteers that will come here.

 

Dear Fede,

 

Your entry make me jubilant! The children from Sonam’s class you are talking about, who are now in Geeta’s class are all a product of “coming to the Tushita Foundation at a very early age”. I am convinced that being exposed to volunteers who shared a different view on education has been truly beneficial for them. It might be interesting to do a small survey and ask the teachers who are the children who are in their classes for at least 3 years. We wouldn’t be surprised if we found some great elements among them.

 

It is a pleasure to know that mother India and Veenaji have pampered you last week-end.

 

Best,

 

Rosenda

 

 

25/02/2014

 

For the teacher’s session today we brought something funny. We decided to stay on the same topic as yesterday, language, and we brought a text with words from all over the world that cannot be translated in English. We laughed a lot with the strange sounds of the czech or hungarian words and the teacher really enjoyed it, and we did too.

 

Today was my second day in Geeta’s class. I’ll be a bit repetitive but I find that class always the most difficult and stressful for me. With the first and second batch, English and location are obviously two relevant factors in their not keeping any attention to what I say, but it’s also that sometimes they are simply not doing what I say even if I repeat it a hundred times. Especially with the first batch, which has the biggest number of kids, I was very frustrated and upset     today. After their class Lalit (a guy from Priyanka’s class, one of the sweetest and nicest boy) came to say hello and told me “Sir, I think you are angry today, I can see it in your face” I obviously told him no, and that I’m always happy at the foundation but I was impressed by his empathy and by his capacity to see that something was at least a little bit wrong today.

Anyway it wasn’t that bad and I managed to complete what I planned to do today, so all good.

 

Third batch was great as yesterday, I already told you how good they are and I’m sure in the next 5-6 years they’ll be great.

 

Dictates, by all mean dictates!

This is a grand idea Ivana!

You know I don’t use exclamation points easily, but I really think it is a good idea.

Silvia, what you are doing for the children, taking them around their village, is very valuable and contributes to their understanding of the world around them. They all despise pigs because both Hindus and Muslim consider the pig impure. It symbolizes dirt and all that should be avoided. You will probably ask why they are even present in the village and the answer is, because there are Dalits in the village as well, those who are out of the cast system and perform the dirty jobs. They eat pork.

Fede I am sorry that you had to face frustration today, so did Ivana. In my opinion, sometimes you have to accept your impotence. It is very difficult to do so and I know the feeling too well, but at times we must admit that there is nothing we can do. I feel very frustrated when I think that there are children in the village who can not come to the Foundation because they are Dalits, but if I were to insist there would be no Foundation. So we find ourselves in front of a wall and we must go on and turn our gaze towards what we can do. Just like you did Fede, noticing Lalit’s kindness.

The teachers’ sessions are becoming more fun it seems, well done for the choice of article.

 

Good night

 

 

26/02/2014

 

We started the day with a visit to Amber fort thanks to Geeta’s husband who is a guide. Ivana and I have been there before but Silvia was not here yet so it was nice for us to go back to such a beautiful place and for Silvia to finally visit it.

 

After the visit we had our teacher session and we focused again on language, as we thought it could have been interesting to look at the same subject from different point of view. Today it was body language, and we showed the teachers 3 video: an introductive one on how same hand gesture can mean different things in different parts of the world, one on how we italians move our hands while speaking and one on the indian’s shaking of head.

It was really nice and they enjoiyed it and it gave us the opportunity to talk about the many different way to communicate even without using words.

 

Then today I was in Ruchi’s class. There have been a lot of changes in the composition of the classes since some students have been “promoted” to a more advanced class and so there were some new faces in class. With the first and second batch I did the class on India’s neighbours and on the capitals and on Friday (tomorrow is holiday and the foundation is closed) I’ll do the game of finding capitals that the kids in the other classes loved so much.

Then with the third batch I started a lesson on the different regions of India, but due to a heavy rainfall approaching we sent everyone home before the rain would reach Amer. When we left it started pouring down and they told us that in Jaipur it was even hailing!

What’s going on with the weather in this country?

 

Dear all,

 

India should profusely apologize for serving you such awful weather, I have never seen winter continue until end of February. I want to hope that Lord Shiva whose day will be celebrated tomorrow will have pity on you.

From your entries, I can tell that you have found a way to keep the teachers sessions very interesting by now, you have probably all become quite good friends by now.

My idea about the correction of the dictates is that the teacher writes the text on the blackboard and the children correct their own work rewriting the words they have misspelled with a different colour pencil. They should also calculate their note and write it themselves on their books. It will be a way to show them that we trust them. The teacher can then view the work and sign it to make them happy.

What do you think?

I hope that Silvia is well and just didn’t get around to write her entry.

Actually, I just disturbed you on the phone while you are having dinner at Veenaji’s.

Enjoy

 

28/02/2014

The bad weather hasn’t left us yet and this morning storm prevented us to reach the foundation in time for the teacher’s session. Too bad since friday is usually our game day..

I spent my second day in Ruchi’s class and since it’s Friday I decided to dedicate the whole day to the game of finding capitals, which the kids (and the teachers too!) really love and enjoy.

I usually divide the class in two or three teams and it’s always so nice to see the kids in the same time trying to push their teammates to find the capital as soon as possible.

In Ruchi’s class a few weeks ago arrived two new students, I remember the first days they were here they were quite shy towards me, normal of course, but also not so confident in themselves and integrated in the class. Well, after a few weeks everything has changed and they are clearly starting to feel as if they were in the foundation since long time, joking with their classmates and having fun.

 

We had quite a relaxing week, with one day of holiday on Thursday, and we are finishing it with two more days of travelling over the weekend to Jodhpur. Veenaji has arranged everything, (train hotel and even driver in jodhpur) and we feel as usual very spoiled.

 

03/03/2014

 

What a day! I’ve never expected my birthday to be celebrated so greatly as it happened.

First, in the morning we had a cake with all the guys from the Tushita office, and Veena and Gajju brought me a surprise gift sent by my parents from Italy.

Then, we had other sweets and celebration with the teachers and they even gave me a beautiful present, a very nice watch.  I was so impressed and speechless by their gift. I expected a small party or a sweet but I couldn’t imagine to receive something that important. Tthey thought about this and wanted to make my day special and I’ll never forget that. They asked me if I was missing my friends in Italy and I told them yes, but also that next year I’ll miss my friends in India and I’m sure it will be like that.

Shakib (Sonam’s brother, he is in Ruchi’s class) also brought me a small present, a bracelet.

I brought sweets for everyone as it’s the custom here and every time I entered in a class to give them to the kids I was warmly welcomed with happy birthdays songs and everyone came to shake my hand.

To end the day Gajju and Veenaji brought us, the teachers and a large part of the kids to witness to Light and Music show at Amber Fort, and that experience was also amazing and I think the kids loved it too. Everyone beside us volunteers knew about that but they were really good in not telling us anything and at the end of the show they kept on asking me if I knew anything and when I told them me they were extremely happy and proud.

After the show Ivana Silvia and I went out for dinner with Gajju and Veena and so my day ended with amazing food.

What more can I say? Even if I am far from home Ii felt all the warmness and love that a family or a group of friends share, and I’m so happy about that.

 

P.S.

If you’re asking yourself if I thaught class today the answer is no. From the moment I entered Priyanka’s class and saw on the whiteboard a drawing and a happy birthday message for me I couldn’t manage to teach history and so we had a game day. Guess, which game the kids, loved the most? “Nomi, cose e animali” the game that me Naeem and Ayan used to play every time we met when we were kids.

 

How to translate “Che bello!”

It is about the beauty of happiness and joy and sharing, I guess.

However, I must admit that Jan and I had orchestrated the Light and Sound show from far away. We thought this would be a lovely gift for a History teacher. We also feel good about the children from Amer being able to enjoy their fort. They couldn’t afford going there otherwise.

Veenaji and Gajju Bana have been very good at keeping the secret and I love reading about your surprise.

And yes, now you are among those who will always miss someone on the other side of the world.

Once, coming back from India, Naeem and Ayan were commenting about this and Ayan said: “Let our heart be split in thousand pieces”.

It is a bit the way it feels when you have dear ones in different corners of the world and still the warmth and care is the same and it is stronger than distance. I like that.

 

 

 

04/03/2014

 

After all the amazing celebrations I had yesterday (thank you so so so much for setting up the light show at Amber fort!!) today we went back to a normal day at the Foundation.

 

For the teacher’s session we brought an article about why we celebrate birthdays. It was very interesting as the article was a sort of history of the birthday celebration, going from the ancient Egypt to the story of the creation of the famous song “happy birthday”. Payal and Sonam couldn’t reach in time for the session but we heard the other teachers telling them what the article was about afterwards. I’m quite sure they liked it even if the session wasn’t particularly lively.

 

I spent the day in Priyanka’s class. Due to the fact that the work on the roof has started and there was a lot of noise we couldn’t have class in the usual classroom so we brought the kids in the office.

Since when we did the work on the book of me many of them kept on asking what was the meaning of the events they were writing into it, I decided to have a class about explaining them the events. I started with the events of 1947, 1948, 1950 and 1952 to give them a base of India’s contemporary history and to revise the work we did together on the Costitution.

Then I went on their and our birth years and analysed those events. I tried to push them to express opinions on the events, which worked only partially: for example for 2003 I had Vajpayee speech in Srinagar “guns will not solve the problem but brotherhood will, both sides should decide to live together” and so I asked them if it was a good or bad speech and why. They all agreed on the fact that the speech was good and that war is bad, and I was happy with that. In first batch we had a fun moment while I was trying to explain them the event “formation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal: they didn’t know the word formation and couldn’t understand my explanation so I started a sort of a story fo three people leaving their place and create a new one by their own. In my mind the three people were the three states and the place was the states they were part of before (Bihar and Madhya Pradesh) but for them the three people immediately became us three volunteers and the story went on for a while about us fighting to get to teach in their class. It was really funny but unfortunately I had to stop them to finish the explanation of the whole event.

Unfortunately for many other events I really had to push them to get any ideas or comment about them.

 

All and all I think they liked the class even if it wasn’t difficult for them to express their opinion, and in the end I’m confident they now have a better understanding of important events that happened when they were born.

 

You are so welcome!

And here you are teaching History again. I can imagine how difficult it can be, the students level of English does make it hard for them to understand. But we rejoice with little victories, like children hearing about brotherhood.

I love the metaphor of the States like the volunteers, these kids have imagination.

As for expressing their opinion, I am afraid that this is something they are really not used to even in Hindi, but we should keep trying.

 

 

 

05/03/2014

 

Our day at the Foundation started in best possible way. Since the first day we arrived here we asked the teacher to bring something to read during the teacher’s session. Since we don’t have too many days left we pushed a little bit more them to bring something, and today finally Ruksar brought an article. And not only she brought an article but a perfect one! It was the first part of the autobiography of India former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and in this part he focused on his childhood. The main highlight of it was his friendship with kids coming from Hindu family, one of them from a bramin orthodox one, and his memory of when at school a teacher ordered him to sit far away from his friend just because he was Muslim. To put the icing on the cake, the article ended with a quotation from a poem of Khalil Gibran that we read all together.

I was sincerely touched by her choice and if I think about the life at the foundation I can’t imagine any of the kids having problems with one another because of religion. Also, the friendship and love that the teachers have for one another si so deep and important for them that the question of religion (to my eyes) never appears.

 

Today I was in Sonam’s class and I’m happy to see that the kids now do also math, I think it’s important for them and it’s good that they start learn it now. We had a French couple visit today and they were great: they asked if they could sit for a while in Sonam’s class and in a few seconds they were sorrounded by kids asking them to check their notebook and to help them with spelling and math. In the end the stayed with us for at least half an hour, and everyone enjoyed that.

 

I forgot to talk with you about the tourist visits to the Foundation when you were here. We feel that it’s great that people travelling in India come and see all the goodness of the Foundation, but on the other side sometimes they just come take pictures and leave in a few minutes, doing in the end nothing more than interrupting the classes. When instead they come and spend time here, even if it’s just playing in the ground, than their visit acquires a deep meaning and makes sense.

I don’t know exactly how and why people choose to come and visit the foundation, but if they come just to see another attraction then it doesn’t make much sense.
Our day today was really good, the article from Ruksar and the french couple really made my day. We don’t have too much time left here unfortunately, but the memory of a day like this one (and like almost all the days I had here) will definitely bring me here again in the future.

 

After reading this entry, I do feel very moved, almost to tears.

So often I have been wondering, are we doing the right thing, are those we have chosen the right teachers for our children and right now, I feel I have been given the answer.

We chose those girls, because they belong to Amer and they are role models for the children. We chose them because we want the Foundation to belong to the people of Amer and it doesn’t matter if their English is not so good and their qualification not the right one.

The article Ruksar has decided to share with you shows how much she cares for what we feel is the most important objective of the Foundation, social harmony.

These girls have understood that they can live together peacefully.

This is just fabulous.

Concerning the visits, I thank you so much for your observations. We thought that it is good for the children to familiarise with foreigners and see again the need of speaking English. We thought that a traveller could come and share some thing with the children: read a story, sing a song, play football… I will have to write to the only travel agency that send clients there to explain a bit better what we expect of their clients’ visit. It has always obviously a lot to do with the person who sells a trip to the client, he/she needs to explain.

Oh, I am thinking, how about reading the article by Abdul Kalam with the elder children as well?

 

 

 

 

06/03/2014

 

After Ruksar breaking the ice yesterday bringing an article, today it was Pryianka’s turn. She brought a very interesting article on the reservation/quota system in  India. The article proposed the abolition of the quota system and the development of a policy of equal level education for everyone in order to have real competition in examinations and public jobs assignment.

It was interesting to see their approach to that: coming all of them from the “general cast” sector they all face or have faced the fact that in exams for public jobs someone with a lower mark then them got the place because of him being part of a scheduled cast.

We had a very lively discussion about this trying to bring up the different perspectives and possible approaches and the class was really interesting.

 

It felt really good that she chose to talk with us about such a sensible problem, everytime we bring an article we always try not to bring up topics that  might be too sensible, so it was really nice to see that we can talk about those things with them.

 

We are thinking about some presents for them before we leave and we thought it would be nice to give to each of them a nice book. But we obviously don’t want to give them something that might be too difficult to read or with a topic that would make them uncomfortable. Do you have any suggestions? We bought “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull” which I remember being really good and I was also thinking about Sepulveda’s “The story of a Seagull and the cat who taught her to fly”, do you think they would like those books?

 

Today I was again in Sonam’s class. I like how they have restructured her classes, with only two but longer batches. What happens usually is that some kids sit near to me so I work with the same 5-6 for the two days when I’m in her class The little ones are so nice and even if I just follow what Sonam is doing I really enjoy being around them.

 

It is really interesting to see how much the teachers open up with you.

They feel safe and know that you will not judge them. I tend to completely agree with the article, even though I know how difficult it would be in India to open the doors of good schools to the underprivileged.

Yes, those books are really beautiful and inspirational, they will probably love them. Maybe you can also suggest some film in English that they could watch to improve their comprehension skills.

Please, when you are in Sonam’s class, try to make the children read. I mean understand the sound of the syllables, what two or three letters together sound like. I know that they tend to learn the words by heart and that troubles me, really. It is not a good way. I can see you sitting in Sonam’s class, just feeling happy.

 

 

 

07/03/2014

 

Friday at the Foundation went really smooth.

For the teacher’s session we were missing Geeta and Sonam (Sonam has an exam soon so she is not coming and from next week also Priyanka and Payal will miss the teacher’s session due to upcoming exam), and since is Friday we took it very easy and we brought a song, Three little birds by Bob Marley with the lyrics and blank spots to fill. We felt it was a good idea but they really wanted to play games today so we listened to the song and then quickly began a session of charades.

 

Today I was in Ruksar’s class (probably for the last time) and now I can say that her class is probably the one I work better with. Since we went to Amber fort for my birthday, with the first and second batch I did a class on Man Singh, the founder of the fort. I had prepared also something on Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, but I didn’t want to overwork them since their exams are coming very soon and so we dedicated the last part of the class to the capitals game which went really good.

I have a very good connection with them, and this episode is a perfect testimony of that: I misspelled a word on the whiteboard but realized when they had already written it on their notebook, and in the same sentence I didn’t put the fullstop at the end. I corrected it when Ii noticed and then Nurein, with a huge smile on her face, said: “Sir, today two mistakes, not very good eh?” which made me laugh a lot; also, I couldn’t finish to write a sentence on the board that Aaisha (again with a huge smile on her face) would say “Sir, don’t forget the full stop please”

 

Ruksar’s third batch has only 2 boys, Yasin and Neeraj. With them I almost always do geography and today we did the regions of India with also a map to colour. I think that Yasin and Neeraj have really improved in the last two months, and we completed the class very fast.

 

Some updates on the thing we discussed while you were here: the work on the roof has slowly started and is going on and hopefully next week the work will be over. On the other side the doctor thing is not really going on; Veenaji and Gajju said that they are looking for one nice doctor or nurse who can take the thing and come regularly but that it’s extremely difficult to find a dedicated person at the moment and no one of the doctors they met has yet agreed to come. We can’t really do anything about that so hopefully they’ll manage to find someone soon.

 

Reading about “the last time” It does feel a little difficult even for me, I don’t know how you guys are feeling.

You must be measuring how much your presence has made a difference for some students. If they can even joke with you, you can be sure that they feel very comfortable. I like the fact that you show them that everyone can make mistakes and then correct them. We actually learn a lot from mistakes.

Ivana has sent me pictures of the roof. I did not expect the base for the poles to take up so much space, but I guess we will be sure this way that no one will be able to uproot them, not even the monkeys.

I don’t know what to say about the doctor. At times, we find ourselves in front of a wall. Doctors in India are such businessmen, I guess they don’t want to take time for this.

Please keep reminding Veenaji and Gajju bana, we might get lucky and find someone if we keep on searching.

 

10/03/2014

 

From Saturday the play is definitely going on. We spend the activity day at the Foundation talking with the kids Ivana selected as actors and reading the play all together. They like it and laugh a lot while doing it so hopefully everyone enjoyed it. Today Ivana and Silvia did another rehearsal which seemed to have gone well and we’ll keep on doing that everyday after class. I couldn’t participate in today’s rehearsal, as I was busy with a very important task: mastering my cricket. Now that I know what to do I really enjoy playing and couldn’t leave the guys and Payal (who is always involved in every game).

 

Going back to a more precise chronological order, today Geeta mam brought an interesting poem for the teacher’s session. Langston Hughes’s “Mother to a Son”. The poem was written by an Afro-American in the 1940’s and it had a very peculiar English, and it took us a while to fully understand it. Geeta also brought an article about empowering women which we’ll read tomorrow.

I am sincerely happy that they are bringing articles: they told us that that’s the first time they do it and that they like it and they understand how useful it is. Ruksar told us that she understood how difficult our job is and good we’ve been finding a different article every day, and Geeta added that it’s very useful for them because they need to read, understand and decide if the articles in interesting or not. And Pryianka in the previous days told me how much she is also appreciating this “homework”.

Unfortunately, due to the upcoming exams, only Ruksar, Geeta and Ruchi were there and the situation will be like that probably for the next couple of weeks.

 

I spent my day in Ruksar’s class, and I really enjoy that class. I feel very comfortable joking with them and for them it’s the same with me.

I started my class doing a recap of all the work we did together and I was impressed by how much they remembered. We started going through the lesson on Gandhiji and I asked everyone of them to tell me a sentence on him, when someone said his birthdate (2/10/1869), Adnand said “mine is 4th of October!” and then I replied “so we’ll call you Adnanji” and everyone laughed a lot.

After the recap I told them about Jai Singh II the founder of Jaipur and we went through some difficult and new words like astronomy and observatories (Jai Singh was very fond of astronomy and built 5 observatories all over India). They enjoyed and followed very keenly the class and we even had time to have a brief session of hangman.

With the third batch, instead, I completed the geography class on the different regions of India.
It’s really sad to think that that was my last lesson in Ruksar’s class. Her class was the first one I took and to think that it’s already over it’s not really easy to get, especially knowing that from now on it will be the last time for many things here.

 

Oh my goodness, like Pizzaji would say, the time of your departure from the Foundation is approaching and I also feel a bit sad. All good things have an end, what to do?

You will have to start a cricket team in Milan when you’ll go back then.

It is a pity that the teachers are busy with exams, right now. What do we do with the children when they are out? I have been thinking of hiring an experienced teacher and Veenaji is looking for one. She would be a sort of pedagogical director, but we need a modern and open-minded one. Not so easy to find in a village.

Reading you, I think that you did manage to teach History and that the children learned a lot from you. You should be proud, you know?

Make every last time a feast, no English doesn’t work, I mean “una festa” Until you’ll come and visit again.

I have the feeling that India will not leave you easily, she is the one to decide.  I know what I am talking about.

 

11/03/2014

 

Our day at the Foundation started with a short teacher’s session (we arrived a little bit late) focused on an article brought by Geeta mam about empowering women. The article was very interesting but also long and full of difficult words and so we couldn’t really work too much on it, but we’ll do it in the next days.

 

I spent my day in Payal’s class and did a lesson on Man Singh. It went really good with the first and second batch and since we had time at the end of class the kids asked to play the capitals game.

With the third batch it was a bit more difficult because due to the reorganization of the classes Payal now has some students coming from Ruchi’s class plus two kids which English is very weak so it took more time to complete the class. Anyway we managed and Payal was very helpful translating whenever they needed.

 

Before the classes I did a sort of recap of what we did together and I pleasantly noticed that they remembered most of the things we did.

 

The preparation for the play is going on well. Today I joined Ivana, Silvia and kids and we rehearsed a few scenes. They are getting better and better, what they need to learn well now is the timing and the movements, but I’m sure we’ll get there soon.

The only not good thing about the play, for me, is that I don’t have much time to spend with the kids in the ground after class. For the next days I’ll try find a balance between playing with them (and with Payal) and checking out the actors.

 

Again, the issue of arriving late! I don’t know what to do. What can you do in country that uses the same word for yesterday and tomorrow! No sense of time.
The fact that Geetaji chose quite a difficult article shows that the teachers are willing to work and better their English.
I am not surprised that our children learn fast, they are very intelligent and they could do much more with proper guidance.
Maybe you can let the girls work on the play and you can take care of the playground, after all, your project entailed football as well.
It’s up to you.

 

 

12/03/2014

 

Another great day at the Foundation today. We started with an amazing teacher’s session: we wroked on the article brought by Geeta mam about empowering women and all of them had a lot to say, even Ruchi who is usually not very talkative. The discussion went on well and switched to the different life a woman has before and after marriage (when her husband is the one who decides), and the problems she has to face to empower herself. Geeta mam told us her story, that before the marriage she and her husband had agreed that she would have remained home doing domestic works and taking care of the kids, but then he changed his mind (or she made him change his mind?) and he was the one who actually came up with the idea of her working at the Foundation. Did you know that? We found that amazing.

Ruksar, on the other hand, talked about how much things are changing in the hindu community but not in hers, and that she won’t be free to do what she wants after marriage. After hearing that Geeta mam almost took fire by how much she was into the topic: she repeatedly said that Ruksar will manage to have abetter life than what she thinks and that she will change the mind of whoever she will be married with. She also added “if he wants you to wear the burqa all the time tell him to take the burqa and marry it, not you!”. It was a bit sad to see Ruksar so sure about having a future she won’t like but on the other side the support she received from the other teachers was really overwhelming and I’m sure they will always be there for her at anytime. Me and Silvia (Ivana unfortunately wasn’t there due to an interview for the university) also added that she should think how much her life is different from the one her mother and grandmother had, and so hopefully she will manage to achieve what she wants.

It was also so nice to see that Sonam, who arrived at the end of the session with Payal and Priyanka, intervened in the conversation just after a few seconds saying “Ruksar what are you talking about?! We don’t like the burqa, we’ll change things!”

For the first time (icing on the cake) the teachers remained with us while we were having lunch so we kept on talking and joking together for a little bit more.

 

I spent my second day in Payal class and after a recap of what we did yesterday we worked on Jai Singh and the foundation of Jaipur. They liked the class and were very focused on what I was teaching. We went through some difficult words like astronomy and observatories and I had my first personal moment of glory when, in third batch, they understood the meaning of astronomy without Payal translating it in Hindi. We had time with the first and second batch to play the capitals game which they keep on asking to do. When I first tried to capitals game I thought it was a nice way to introduce them to capitals of the world, I couldn’t expect they would have loved it that much.

My second personal moment of glory came when Payal told me that she has always found history boring but now she is enjoying it.

 

Silvia and I practiced again with the kids the play, even if we were missing some students due to some weddings and other ceremonies related to holi. I was really happy to see that Mini, who couldn’t stay after class to rehearse, asked Pryianka is she could practice by herself on the roof during second batch.

At the end of the theatre practice I even had time to play badminton for a while, so everything really went perfectly today.

 

 

What an amazing day!
I am so touched by your account of the teachers’ session. I really feel bad for Ruksar, such a beautiful and intelligent girl, let’s hope that she will find a decent man to marry! Sonam seems much more optimistic, because her father is quite a nice man. Let’s hope that they will manage to change the mentalities, really. How moving this friendship that the teachers have woven among themselves!
It is a very good idea to ask the teachers to choose their articles. It forces them to read and on top of it, you can be sure that the subjects chosen will interest them.
Your History classes are definitely a hit, if even Payal likes History now.
And Mini who gave so much trouble to Ivana, now stays back to practice, great!

 

13/03/2014

 

Since yesterday’s discussion on women empowerment went that well, today we decided to bring the article you send us about stories of women’s empowerment. We reached a little bit late and the article had a lot o words the teachers didn’t know, so we worked mainly on that and we didn’t have time to talk too much. No problem will do it in the next few days.

The article was really interesting and raised a few fundamental points that otherwise would be extremely difficult for us to bring, especially the one about sexual awareness.

 

I spent the day in Geeta’s class. Since the last time with them I did the regions of India, I decided to raise the bar a little bit and do physical regions of the world. So I introduced to them important mountains chains all over the world and the oceans. Using the map and the small globes that Silvia brought we made the class quite interesting and engaging for them as they were very much involved in finding mountains and oceans on the map.

For tomorrow I’ve planned to do deserts and rain forests, hopefully they’ll enjoy it tomorrow too.

 

I think that this was definitely my best time in Geeta class, which has always been the most difficult one for me. The fact that some kids were not in class today definitely helped, but I also think that Geeta is the one who got the biggest advantage after the moving of some students. Her third batch is now very good and she has overall less students than before so they can focus much more.

 

We had some more tourists coming to visit today. First a lovely French couple who stayed in my class for a while and spend some time in every class actually enjoying it. Then we had a big group again from France.  As usual with big groups is really difficult to see what they can bring to the foundation, especially since they speak very little English. Anyway Veenaji told that that is going to be the last big group coming in and we are quite happy about that.
Tomorrow we’ll start the Holi celebrations at the Foundation, can’t wait to see it and participate in it.

 

Hopefully, the teachers were not to embarrassed to discuss those topics and even more in front of you and Veenaji.

I am so pleased to hear that Geeta has got some good students now. Is her class still in the corridor or has she moved to the roof?

I have just put my foot down and there aren’t going to be any more groups coming to the Foundation. I don’t know how that happened, but it is out of the question now, I just talked to Amaury (the commercial person here) who will make it clear to the agency.

Enjoy Holi, anche per me.

 

14/03/2014

 

Holi day!

Again and again, the amazing days keep on happening at the Foundation. We reached a bit earlier today since Devi Singh had to fix something on the car and needed a lot of time, so we had time to play some games with the teachers and then, thanks to an idea of Geeta, we went to Mira temple where today started the Holi celebration.

We obviously loved the idea, and it was even better when Ruksar told us that it was her first time in a temple. And not only that, we had an almost private music show (the real celebration was actually yet to come but the musicians were there already).

Geeta started the dancing and the first person she asked to dance with her was Ruksar, amazing eh?  Ruksar was of course a bit unsure about what to do but in the end accepted to dance and we could clearly see that she loved that. After Ruksar joined Ggeeta we all had to join them as well and we did for a while before leaving to go back to the Foundation.

Can you imagine that? Not only I’ve danced in the middle of an Indian (luckyli empty) temple, but I was joined by a Muslim girl. After seeing that I asked myself why we still have all these problems with religion: if 4 hindu girls, a muslim girl, a lebanese gilr, a brazilian girl and an italian  boy can dance all together inside a Hindu temple why people should fight because of religion?

 

The only bad thing about the morning was the fact that Sonam was not with us. She is recently not coming to the teacher’s sessions because of her soon coming exam, and we didin’t manage to contact her to tell her to come. Hopefully there will be another occasion soon.

 

We unfortunately had to leave the temple as class time came quickly, but when we reached the Foundation everyone was in an extremely happy  and holi-awaiting mood so I decided not to do class but to make the kids draw the the things we worked on yesterday (mountains, oceans, polar regions).

 

After the brief funny and relaxing class we all went to the ground where we had Kachori before starting the colours celebration.

What can I say about Holi? It’s probably one of the funniest thing I have participated in! Everyone wanted to put some colour on me and I did my best to put colour on everyone, including the teenagers who were not totally into it and of course all the teachers. I loved how everyone in the end had the face painted in some strange ways and how free I felt (and everyone was) celebrating it.

Even Snowy was not white anymore with all the colours that were in the air.

We took a few pictures after that; we’ll try to send them to you as soon as possible.

 

After the colour battle we had some more time with the teachers before Devi Singh arrive to bring us home, and I have to say that the time we spend with them is always great. I really feel that we are friends beside the fact that we work together in the same place, and that days like this one will remain in our minds forever.

 

It will be very difficult to leave them, as it is every time you leave a friend and don’t know when you are going to see him again.

 

Fede, I told Ivana, actually I wrote Ivana that you guys are “miracle workers”. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about Ruksar dancing in a temple in Amer and yet, I know that there are fabulous Muslim and Christian singers who sing devotional Hindu songs. India is in reality a land of syncretism, but some narrow minded religious and political leaders make a mess of the all thing.

I never thought that Geeta would be the most adventurous one, but then, when I think of it, she is already married and she has some leverage.

Now I can’t wait to see the pictures of Holi mood at the Foundation.

I will also miss your daily journals terribly when you’ll go.

 

 

 

 

18/03/2014

 

After the long holi weekend today we went back to our normal life at the Foundation. Or that’s what we thought while going there: when we reached the neighbours were still celebrating holi playing drums and horns and dancing in the street next to the Foundation. The noise of the music was so intense and loud that we couldn’t have a proper teacher’s session (we even tried to move to another class but it was impossible to concentrate), and since today Ruchi brought a poem from Wwoodsworth we thought it didn’t make sense to spoil the discussion doing it with all the noise. So we had a pleasant hour talking in English with Ruchi and Ruksar (the other teachers couldn’t join the session today) and we’ll work on the poem tomorrow.

 

Today I was in Ruchi’s class. I had prepared the class on Man Singh for today, but since Ruchi has some new students who were previously in Sonam’s class I was a bit afraid it would have been too difficult. So I discussed the matter with Ruchi before class and we decided to give it a try putting it down as if it was a story and not history. It actually worked even if Ruchi had to translate a lot and we had to take it very slow.

 

I was particularly impressed by Priyanka, a girl who came to the Foundation for the first time a couple of months ago, she was very shy and not talkative. Well, today she was probably the one who got the most of my class and wasn’t at all afraid of talking.

 

Ruchi asked me interesting questions about Man Singh: in my lesson i always talk about the war between Man Singh, who was at that time the prince of Amer and the general of the Mughal Army, and Rana Pratap, the king of Udaipur who didn’t want to surrender to the Mughals, and Ruchi asked me: “then who was good, Man Singh or Rana Pratap?”

It is an interesting question because of course it doesn’t have a correct answer. None was good or bad and both had reasons to fight. But in the end I like the fact that Ruchi wanted to know more, it always makes me happy when I see some of my classes get the attention of the teachers.
The preparation for the play is going on really well, we feel it’s developing good and the actors are improving a lot since the first time we rehearsed.

 

In India we learn how to accept the unexpected. There is always something or another to stop us from doing what we plan to do.

I always say that India is the school of patience.

It is good to know that Ruchi is opening up to poetry and history. She seemed such a shy girl at first.

Telling the story behind history is a very good dispositive to awake the children’s curiosity for History.

Please make Ruchi and everyone else note that the interpretation of their history in which the Mughuls are the bad invaders is not correct. They had important allies among the Rajputs. Knowing one’s own history is a way of knowing oneself, you have done a very important work bringing history to the Foundation.

Maybe you will want to brief me on the technical aspects of the play? Where are you going to put up the performance? When? Are we going to make a video of it? Are you going to invite the parents?

 

 

9/03/2014

 

Holi seems to be definitely over even among our neighbours at the Foundation so today we could have a real teacher’s session. We worked on Wordsworth’s poem “The world is too much with us” brought by Ruchi.

The poem is about the fact that human beings are far too busy with their life (wasting it in the end) and are forgetting the importance and the beauty of nature. The poem was very beautiful and touching and even if the English was quite difficult they all got it and all of them had things to say about it. Also, it was the perfect link to the project Silvia is bringing on with the kids about improving their neighbourhood. Silvia showed them the paper about how long it takes for different things to decompose, and all of them were very extremely impressed, Ruksar most of all.

 

After lunch I went back to Ruchi’s class. We did a short recap of what we studied yesterday on Man Singh and then we talked about Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur.

It’s the same class I did in Ruksar and  Payal’s classes, but I have to say that in Ruchi’s class they enjoyed it a bit less. As yesterday I tried to tell them History as if it was a story, and helped a bit to gain their attention. The thing that most of all impressed them was that Jai Singh at 11 became Raja of Amer, and since in class they are more or less the same age they talked and laughed a lot about it.

The other thing that they liked the most about the class was when I tried to explain that once Jaipur was built Amber Fort remained as the defensive fort of the city for enemies coming from the north. Since it was a bit difficult I made a small (quite terrible by the way) drawing on the whiteboard, and they immediately got what I was trying to explain with words. After copying the sentences I wrote on the board, they asked me if they could copy also the drawing. I’m quite confident that thanks to this little thing they will remember the story of Jaipur for a while.

 

After class we kept rehearsing the play, and as I told yesterday we really feel that they are getting better and better day-by-day. The one the struck me the most today was Zoya: her english is quite weak but she putting all herself into the play and her interpretation of Geeta si quite hilarious.

I think Ivana is sending you all the technical things about the play, please let us know what you think about that.

 

This sounds like a very interesting teachers session. I agree that the interdisciplinary element in it is quite successful. Silvia’s subject is very useful for the children in Amer. When I think that the playground used to be a rubbish damp!

Isn’t it incredible that our children needed an Italian teacher to tell them about their own history? Sometimes I wonder what do they learn in school? Macaulay’s programs, I guess, the colon’s school for the colonized! I am always so surprised when the children ask to copy a drawing, I don’t remember doing that while growing up.

I wish I were a fly to be able to see the little Zoya imitating her teacher. A grand idea!

 

20/03/2014

 

Big news day! Ok you might know it already thanks to Veenaji, but the big news of the day is that Priyanka is officially engaged. It totally came out of the blue as no one knew it, not even the other teachers. Priyanka seemed quite confused about this thing (she said it all happened quite suddenly) but in a good way, I guess she is probably happy to get married but she didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and she also remarked how nice the family of her future husband is – even the grandma! Payal also was super-happy today, and she said that when she heard the news two days ago she danced the whole night.

 

We got the news when Pryianka and Payal reached the foundation a bit before 2, but the day was already signed by the wedding topic: since only Geeta was present for the theacher’s session (and thanks to whatsapp she knew it in advance) she brought the picture of her wedding for us to see.

 

Of course for the Foundation this news is not the happiest one, as Pryianka’s future husband works in Jodhpur and is from Udaipur, so after the marriage she will most likely move there and therefore leave the foundation.

 

I spent my day in Pryianka’s class and it was quite funny to see that almost all the kids understood quite fast that she was engaged, Keiran especially got it in a second. In class I read with them the article that Ruksar brought for the teacher’s session: the childhood part of the autobiography of ajp Abdul Kalam. We didn’t finish it today since we worked a lot on some difficult words that they didn’t know. We’ll finish it tomorrow and we’ll have time for some discussion, the part the intrigues me the most.

From this class I got mixed reactions: the first batch loved it. They kept on asking questions, everyone was paying attention and focusing and they all wanted to read out aloud (never happened before). Also, since sometimes they asked the meaning of words that they already knew I manage to make fun of them and they all laughed when I imitated them. Mahek asked the meaning of a lot of words, and every time I gave her the meaning she said “Accha!” out aloud, so I started to say “Acccccccccccchhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaa” after her and they all loved it.

In the second and third batch, on the other hand, they liked and followed the article but did not enjoy the class as much as the first batch.
This is one of thing that keep on surprising me about teaching at the Foundation: I think I’ve found the perfect way to teach something, a new little challenge comes up, what is great for one batch is average for another and ok for the other one. I’ll enjoy this challenge for a few more days.

 

Oh Yes, Fede, you got the picture, The Foundation is loosing a good teacher, but we will find someone hopefully as nice as Priyanka.

We wish her lots of happiness.

I wonder what went through your mind watching Geta’s wedding pictures and her account of her experience.

Frankly, I don’t know what clicks with some children and not with others. Definitely, there is a part of performance in teaching. When the pupils laugh, you’ve got it right. The little Mehek is a wonderful student and I truly hope that she will go far.

 

21/03/2014

 

Our day at the Foundation started with a nice session of charades, and today even Veenaji played a little bit with us. The level of difficulty in the choice of words has increased a lot since our first session. It went really well, charades is definitely the game the teachers like the most.

 

Then I spent my second day in Pryianka’s class. With the first batch I was welcomed by a surprise: as soon as I entered the class, all the girls and then also the boys asked to go to the ground and play football. That pleasantly surprised me and of course I agreed and brought everyone in the ground for a while. Unfortunately the sun was really too much so we couldn’t play more than 10-15 minutes. Still I loved the fact that the girls asked to play football and put all they had in the game. We used the second part of the class to finish reading Abdul Kalam’s articles, and again today they all asked to read out loud.

Mehek is definitely one of the best students, even if she always wants to be the first in everything she does.

 

With the second batch we finished reading the text and we also had a little time to comment on it and talk about it, with Jeetendra taking the charge for most of class in summarising and commenting the text. As I said yesterday, the second batch liked the article but definitely not as much as the kids of the first batch.

 

For the third batch only Abysheek showed up. He is clearly a very good student adn his level of English is extremely good. So we finished quickly to analyse the text and then since it was only him we played a short session of scrabble which was enjoyed also by Pryianka. Almost at the end of the class Keiran arrived saying that in this period she has math tuition so she can’t come on time but she still wants to spend some time at the Foundation. So she joined the scrabble and played with us for a little bit.

 

The rehearsal went really well, everyone is getting more and more in their role, we need to organize the thing a little bit better. Luckily we’ll have a lot of time tomorrow during activity day and for Thursday it will be hopefully done.
Tomorrow night after activity day we’ll bring the teachers out for dinner in Jaipur, they told us it’s the first time they got out for dinner with volunteers and we are so happy (and proud to be the first).

 

Thank you Fede, it is so nice of you to take the girls out. And it is so nice that they are allowed to come. Even the Muslim girls!
So football is definitely a big hit in Amer. I don’t mind if children go to tuition somewhere else, we don’t want the Foundation to become a tuition centre.
What we bring the children seems very important to me.
I have been thinking that I would be very thankful to the three of you if you could conclude the journal with a reflection about the progress and changes you saw in both the children and the teachers in those three (or for Silvia two) months.
Do you mind?

 

24/03/2014

My last week at the Foundation started in Sonam’s class. Unfortunately since we had to fix the last details for our leave for Agra we couldn’t reach Amer in time for the teacher’s session.

The kids in Sonam’s class are so adorable (I know I say every time I spend some time with them), and the hours with them are always nice and full of joy for me. I’m quite happy with the new schedule Sonam has, with two longer batches instead of three: it gives the kids time to do well English and Math and also to play.

Do you know who is Arshi? The little super-shy and super-cute girl in  Sonam’s class, who is always very quiet and plays by herself? Well, the three of us really love her and we always try to play or talk to her usually with very low results.

Sonam asked her to wear a special dress for us on Thursday  to surprise us,but she misunderstood and put it on today, reaching the peak of her cuteness. Also, I don’t know why, she was in an incredibly happy, joyful and active mood today: I probably have seen from her more smiles and heard more words today than in the last three months! Today, she was all the way, playing with others, jumping, talking, she really made my day. She even came to tell me “Goodbye Sir, good evening” while usually the maximum she does is waving her hand disappearing.

I obviously checked everyone’s notebooks and helped with the spelling and the maths exercises, but I have to admit than one eye was quite often on her for the whole day.

Due to a heavy storm we had to send all the kids home earlier than usual, and also we couldn’t practice the play today. Tonight we’ll finish to prepare some things for the costumes, and tomorrow we’ll buy the other things we need.

On Saturday evening we brought the teachers out for dinner. It was a great evening and they kept on saying that the loved it, and so did we. They came to Jaipur all together on an auto rickshaw all dressed up very well for the dinner. It really looked as it was a special event and we are so happy we managed to bring something special for them even if only for one night.

 

Now that your travel plans are all set, you can spend the last few days in full immersion at the Foundation.

I am afraid that I don’t know Arshi, or if I do, I don’t know her by name.

Please ask Ivana to take a picture of her and send it to me. I am so overjoyed when I hear that the children change in the Foundation. They become happier and more confident. I would have loved to see the special dress, she must have felt like a princess.

I can picture the three of you all involved with cutting and pasting and sharing your trepidation about the play.

I really can’t believe the weather.

Thank you, really for inviting the teachers, where did you go? What did you eat? It is so wonderful that they all came!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great day in Sonam’s class!

 

With the end of our time at the Foundation approaching, yesterday I thought for a moment about skipping Sonam’s class and help Ivana with the play and the other things we are preparing for the teachers, luckily I didn’t do it.

These last two days in Sonam’s class have been the best with her kids. I already told you about Arshi (by the way she is the girl in the picture you put on facebook yesterday), and now I’ll tell you about “pushing session”: I can’t say how it started, but yesterday some of the boys in class wanted to arm wrestle with me and the moment I accepted, everyone wanted to do the same. You know how the kids in Sonam’s class are, always looking for attention and full of energy, so the arm wrestling quickly became a pushing game with four of five boys pushing me and me pushing them back (not hurting anyone obviously), then the girls joined in and since the boys were pushing me from the front the girls started to push from the back to support me and help me win. It went on for a while and after that everyone one wanted me the hold them up in my arms, which I was more than happy to do.

 

When it was time for them to leave I was out of energy but extremely happy. I think that that’s something they can do only with a guy (just imagine them pushing Sonam all together!) and I was so happy to be that guy.

 

The practice of the play is going on really well, we have the feeling we’ll be ready by tomorrow.

 

Our day then ended in a very special way: we planned to give to Lal, Bhim and Devi Singh a small surprise party to thank them fro everything they did for us. So on the way back we stopped to buy Kachori, Samosa and many other delicious things and then we ate everything with them and Veenaji.

She was, as usual, amazing. We asked her to help us making them a surprise, and so to tell them she was very upset and she needed to talk with them in front of us. Not only she loved the idea but she improved and better it: she went into the car as if she was ready to leave, then stopped everyone and started asking them questions, concluding with “someone broke Ivana’s camera, who did it?” Then she brought the boys upstairs and only then, they found out the surprise.

Veenaji is the best, a real drama queen.

 

Children universally enjoy the tug of war, that is how it is called in English, I wonder why, but it makes me smile to imagine all the little ones trying to win with you! And then you were sandwiched between the girls and the boys like a kind giant between the little people. That must have been great fun. I guess the children must be sensing that you are leaving soon and want to get the most of you.

I don’t worry for the play, even though Ivana does a little, it is going to be fabulous with Silvia’s props and costumes.

Veenaji as drama queen? I didn’t know this aspect of her personality! The poor guys must have been really scared and then…. Surprise! You are all so cool.

What do you think of the questionnaire? You can do it in Delhi if you prefer.

 

 

 

 

01/04/2014

 

Dear Rosenda,

you find here the last entry of my journal. I wrote that in different moments, mainly during the travels between Jaipur and Agra and Agra and Delhi, in the days immediately after we left the Foundation. So maybe you’ll find some more emotions than events but those were the feelings in those days.

Tomorrow I’ll start my last weeks of travelling, and since I’ll have a lot of time on Indian trains I’ll manage to fill your questionnaire.

I’m sure we’ll also have time to talk when I’ll be back in Milano,

un abbraccio

Fede

 

28/03/14

Last two days at the Foundation.

I’m writing this last entry on the train from Jaipur to Agra. Yesterday, our time at the Tushita Foundation came to an end with a lot of emotions involved, laughter and tears mixed together. When we finally left the foundation I thought that that was not a goodbye but just a farewell.

So many things happened that I hope I can remember everything; I’ll try to follow a chronological order.

Wednesday morning we had our last yoga class with Manisha, then at the Foundation we spent the day doing rehearsal, but I also had time to spend in the classes. In Ruksar’s I asked the kids to teach me something and they wanted to teach me how to read in Hindi, so I let them do it for a bit then told them I wanted to try and surprised everyone. When they realized I could actually read in Hindi (even though very slowly and making several mistakes), they were really happy. When we finished the rehearsal I went to the ground to play cricket with the boys and girls that were already playing, but before I could do that they asked me again to read in Hindi for a little bit, for the joy of Devi Singh who kept on smiling and laughing while telling me “acchha sir!”.

Then I played cricket for a while before the kids left and badminton with Payal (who came just at the end of the day due to an exam preparation, I guess just to play badminton for a little while) Ruchi and  Ivana.

We spent the evening at Veena’s home eating another delicious dinner and enjoying our time with her a lot, as usual. After dinner we went home with still a lot to prepare both for the play and for the farewell gifts for the teachers, Veenaji, Manisha and the three Singhs, Bhim, Devi and Lal.

Thursday, our last day at the Foundation!

We woke up early and incredibly we managed to finish the last things we had to prepare for the play. Beside the play we had prepared a little picture slideshow for the kids and the teachers to see while we did the last rehearsal. So on the way we picked up a projector and a screen and the projector operator who stayed with us at the Foundation until 9.30 pm when we finally left the Foundation. Poor guy, I guess I didn’t expect to be stuck for the whole day in the middle of lots of kids screaming laughing and crying!

When we arrived at the Foundation we had a huge surprise: the stage in the ground. When Veenaji mentioned that we could have a stage for the play we didn’t expect to have a real, big and perfect stage. It took a while to realize that the opportunity we had, but I feel that having a real stage really made everyone step up their performance for the play.

Before practising we had a brief delicious lunch with the teachers, then the time to set up the slideshow and explain the teachers how to make it start and stop (the slideshow was on my laptop which is obviously in Italian) and how to start the music (Bob Marley’s One Love) and then I left the room to join the others in the ground. On the way from the class to the ground I could hear the screams of excitement of the children looking at the pictures.

We had to practice for a while before being able to perform the play. We all needed a bit of time to adapt to the big stage and also it was the first time we had all the costumes. The rehearsal was a bit messy and with some mistakes but I’m sure it’s quite normal. By the time all the students and teachers entered the ground, we could see a little tension in the back stage. Zoya especially asked everyone to practice her scene again and again to be sure that she didn’t forget any lines.

Finally it was time to start, and the ice was broken extremely fast: as soon as Priyanka and I entered the stage dressed as students everyone erupted in laughter, exactly what we were looking for. The play went quite well, with a few mistakes of course, but we can easily say that we are very satisfied with what we did. The kids, both the ones acting and all the other watching laughed and enjoyed the play a lot and teachers loved it and thanked us warmly. I’m pretty sure they liked the idea of having students playing their role and making fun of them and of themselves. The Oscar for best performance, for me, goes straight to Rinko who impersonated Ronam Mam and Maperico  Sir greatly.

The play didn’t last long, but the stage was definitely not wasted. As soon as we went off the stage Ruksar and Payal put music from their phones on the big speakers, and in a few seconds a multitude of kids jumped on stage to dance like crazy. No need to say that we were forced to join them and to dance with everyone until it was dark and the kids had to leave and go home. I can’t say for how long I was on stage, but I know that at the end I had sweat so much that it looked like I had just taken a shower.

During the dancing, a lot of different things happened. First of all Veenaji and Pryianka had organized to have sarees for all the girls, Ivana and Silvia included, and so after a while they all appeared in the ground dressed with the beautiful traditional dress.

The kids started to realize that that was our last time together and some of them started crying, managing to make me cry too, even if I tryed to control my tears in order to avoid spending the whole afternoon in tears. Satyam and Abhyshek were really inconsolable and kept on hugging me sobbing and asking me not to leave. Mehek was sitting alone crying and I had to go to her and hold her in my arms for a while before she could get over it and join everyone on the stage. Shireen, one of the older girls and definitely one of toughest ones, was fighting with her tears but couldn’t hold them, and some other kids were weeping too. I spent time with all of them telling them that I would come back (and I really meant it, I’m sure I’ll be spending some time at the Tushita Foundation again), showing a smiling face and trying to convince them to spend our last hours together enjoying it. It actually worked until Rahul, a guy in Priyanka’s class, run to the stage, hugged me while crying and left me after a few minutes saying goodbye and running home.

His tears were the trigger for my tears as well, and I had to cry a little bit too.

I had a great relation with everyone at the Foundation, but obviously with some kids the feeling was a bit deeper and Rahul wasn’t one of them; I always liked him but never spoke nor spent too much time talking or playing alone with him, so his tears were something really unexpected and I guess that was what touched me the most: the realization that my mere presence at the Foundation had touched everyone there struck me deeply, and I’m still processing this thought in my mind. It’s a great feeling and it made me feel important, but it also meant that the separation from the place and from its people was very hard.

Hugging and shaking hands with everyone we said goodbye to every girl and boy, and then we spent some more time with the teachers and Veenaji.

We watched the picture slideshow all together and we also showed them a little video we had prepared for Veenaji as a way to thank her for everything she has done for us.

We brought gifts for the teachers too: we got everyone a book trying to match it with their personality and with what they like, along with a pictures of all of us together that we also printed in big and framed so that they can keep it in the office. The teachers too got each of us a present: a bag for Silvia and Ivana and a nice leather wallet for me. I told them that along with the watch they got me for my birthday they were really trying hard to make real gentleman of me.

We ate Kachoris all together and we even played badminton for a little while since they were still working in the ground to dismantle the stage and there was some light left.

But then the time to leave came. If it was difficult to leave the kids it was painful to leave the teachers: the relationship we built in these months is far deeper that what I expected at first, we are friends and we are going to miss each other for real.

They are all special in different ways from one another, and I never, not even once, felt a bad energy from any of them. They welcomed us with open arms in the house that the Foundation is for them and also in their private homes; they shared everything with us: knowledge, time, emotions, feelings, personal confidences; they were always there when we needed help in class and ready to answer any question we had. They definitely helped us understanding their life, so different from ours.

We kept on hugging and saying goodbye but no one wanted to move so we stood next to the car looking at each other before finally accepting that it was time to go.

To end this last entry I really have to thank you and Jan for giving me the opportunity of spending three amazing months at the Foundation. It was an experience that definitely changed my life, and I can’t wait to be back there.

Farewell Tushita Foundation!

 

Here I go again, my eyes filled with tears, while reading your beautiful entry. Please do not thank us, you brought all these love and care to the Foundation and it was mirrored back to you. Jan and I are humbled by the realisation that what we were hoping to do at the Foundation has come true in such an overwhelming way. There is no cultural barrier where there is the heart. India has thought me that whatever I do in life it has to involve the heart, all the rest will follow.

Enjoy the rest of your time in India, I can’t wait to meet again and talk and talk about the Foundation.

Thank you Fede for all you have done for our children.

 

 

Ivana’s Journal in pink, in green, Rosenda’s feed-back

 

7th January

 

It’s been four days since I’ve arrived in India, I can’t believe it I feel like I’ve been here for much longer. I think it’s because of the huge amount of discoveries in so little time. When I attempt to describe India to my friends or family I have a really hard time. Chaos is the first thing I think of, but chaos that functions, maybe functioning charming chaos? All I know is that I can’t wait to know more about this culture and it’s people, I feel I constantly have a surprised look on my face with an open mouth…

My pre-travel’s apprehension and nervousness immediately disappeared when I met the Tushita family who welcomed me so warmly and continue to do so. Also, knowing that Fede (the other volunteer) also has fears about teaching relieves me (it’s selfish I know). The accommodation is perfect, I have my own room and bathroom and two adorable sort-of butlers/cooks/nannies that take care of everything, I wouldn’t want anything else!

Tomorrow we are going to the foundation, finally, my curiosity that has been growing for the past few months is going to be fed!

 

Welcome to India Ivana.

I am pleased to know that all is well in terms of accommodation, even though I had no doubts.

Your definition of India seems very appropriate to me, at least for what concerns the first layer of it. The trouble is that even after 26 years of intimate connection with this incredible country and its people, I feel I will never get to know it all.

Don’t worry about teaching, go with the flow, share what you love, don’t judge and trust your Indian colleagues; don’t be shy to ask when you don’t know.

It is going to be an amazingly enriching experience.

It is a very good idea that Fede and you coordinate, it seems to me that his subject, the History of Amber and its region, can help you create fantastic stories and beautiful sketches and plays.

Can’t wait to hear about your first day tomorrow.

 

First Day at the Tushita Foundation

 

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”, this beautiful quote by Mark Twain is the first thing I saw when I entered the Tushita Foundation.

 

Federico and I introduced ourselves in every class, the kids seemed shy but honestly I felt more shy than ever when introducing myself in front of those big brown eyes. The class ‘observation’ started and the kids naturally came to me asking me questions and wishing me happy New Year. As strange as it sounds they broke the ice and made me feel super comfortable which I was really not expecting! The teachers were also very welcoming and relaxed; I feel they teach with such serenity, which I admire…

There is one thing I think I might have to struggle with: the accents. Honestly, I have some trouble understanding some (most) words and had to ask kids to repeat what they were telling me, but articulation exercises will fix this and so will habit! When the kids were introducing themselves I noticed they didn’t raise their voice, another aspect in which theatre can really help. Also, being called ‘ma’am’ is something I’ll have to get used to…

Meeting the kids and actually being in the foundation made me even more excited to start spreading the theatre virus!

 

It is a beautiful quote indeed and I am very pleased to learn that you felt that way by entering the Tushita Foundation.

You have noticed that English is not yet a comfortable language the children use and that is why your presence is so precious, English becomes necessary to communicate with you. Theatre is definitely a fabulous activity to improve diction and clarity.

Please don’t place the bar too high though, it doesn’t matter if not all the children lean perfect English. What matters is that they enjoy their time with us and feel that they are precious human beings.

 

Second Day at the Foundation

 

Today was also an ‘observation’ day, I attended the classes which I hadn’t gone to yesterday. I participated in the teaching process by joining the teacher in finding phrases with adjectives and correcting mistakes. When I would ask students to give a phrase the first few were really shy and hesitant. However, when I insisted with a big smile and encouraging words they were unstoppable! It gave me such a nice feeling to see them participating excitingly with me and to see that the teachers trusted me enough to leave me alone with them.

When I don’t understand what they tell me, I now ask them to repeat slowly, explaining to them that I’m not used to their accent and surprisingly enough they’re very understanding and all participate in making me understand! I noticed that I remember quite a few faces from yesterday I just need to learn their names which is gonna take some time.

 

The more I get to know the kids, the more my theatre program changes.  First, there is the language barrier: since in one class there are contrasting levels, proper scene improvisations are going to be the goal of the last sessions. Second, a lot of theatre exercises need physical contact between actors, but it might be a problem for students (especially girl/boy contact) so I will try to limit the exercises with a lot of body contact. Third, unfortunately I am very hesitant on putting on a play at the end of March. There is so much to be done before putting on a decent show, and from what I understood we have the same group of students solely for 3 hours per 2 weeks… This is all still vague; I want to actually start the theatre courses to see what can be done. So by the end of next week I hope to have a clearer view on things.

 

So far so good, I expected to have to change my project. I can’t wait to start theatre games next Monday!

 

 

See, after all you do manage to communicate and it proves that where there is a will there is a way.

Have you suggested that you all wear a necklace with you names written on them for few days until you all learn each other names? I think I had suggested that to Fede, hadn’t I?

I wouldn’t be too pessimistic about the theatre play at the end of your tenure. the show that the Sciencepo Paris students have put up two summers ago was amazing! read the story: “Children of Amber” I suggested Silvia to read it as well

http://www.kamalan-travels.com/blog/2012/09/

They managed to write a simple, but beautiful story and every child was involved: the little ones singing and dancing, the elder ones with simple and clear lines and then, like in every good Indian story a lot of dancing! Why don’t you talk about that play with the teachers and Veenaji? It will be very important for you to get their feed back.

Also, concerning the physical contact in exercises, just separate boys and girls and you will have no trouble, I think.

 

Third day

 

I always knew I got along with kids in general, but today I discovered I actually LOVE small kids. For the first time, I attended the class with the youngest kids (approximately 5 year olds) and absolutely melted. The previous days I wasn’t very interested in the ‘beginners’, I thought it would be a bit boring so I avoided observing that class, oh how wrong I was… They are so adorable and funny, I felt completely at ease with them to the point where I stayed in that class for 2 batches. I just clicked with them, I helped them read stories out loud, we also played guess what animal this is (with sounds and mimics) and drew! I felt so happy and energetic after a few hours with them.

I also attended one of Ruksar’s classes, where students had to write about their parents. The system was to write down 10 sentences about one’s parents, make sure it is correct then recite it out loud in front of the class. Most students wrote the same thing (ex: I love my parents/they love me back) and when they would recite they wouldn’t raise their voice at all (which I kept insisting on) and talk very quickly. Attending this class made me sure about two things: my theatre focus will start by being very much about raising one’s voice and articulation and also creativity! In the fear of doing the exercise wrong they copy one another and don’t let independent thinking happen, which is what theatre is about! I also noticed that they aren’t really used to ‘adults’ acting like clowns (basically like I do), which I intend to make-up for!
Oh yes! The little ones are adorable! Not yet conditioned by society so much, they are natural and so endearing!.

And how about Sonam, our own wonder kid? She came very shy, not having a idea about teaching and the little ones just allowed her to bloom

Let me know about the way the two of you relate in the class.

 

First Activity Day

 

Who knew activity day would be so tiring?

When I arrived I was immediately drawn upstairs to the dance class where I stayed for almost the entire day… The girls dance so well!! And their dance teacher seems adorable. The girls really impressed me from the youngest to the eldest. They looked like they were having so much fun, it was very pleasing to watch. The only thing I regret is not seeing any boy in that activity…

Of course, at some point, I was ‘forced’ to dance (which I usually agree to do in very specific circumstances) but they totally disinhibited me with their sincerity so I just had to give in… and I don’t regret it. I actually had fun and felt I got closer to some of them! After taking a zillion pictures of them dancing, I went downstairs where I got called by the little ones to go dancing in their classroom. Again, how could I say no? This time they taught me the dance moves to ‘Sunny Sunny’ (which is apparently a very, very popular song amongst the children) and everyone was dancing whether girls or boys, young or older.

 

It was such a joyful mess, I love activity day!

 

It is a real pleasure to share the explosive joy at the Foundation on activity day. I am always amazed by the level of comfort the children have with their bodies. I am glad that you could let go and enjoy the groove. Don’t be surprised if the boys don’t share the fun of dancing together with the girls when they grow older. The village of Amer, like all the villages in India, still follows a very traditional system where boy meets girl is not an option. The families arrange their children’s marriages, and everyone seems to feel more comfortable that way.

We at the Foundation cannot afford to be pointed out as those who bring “bad” western habits in their society. So the girls dance and the boys play in the garden, as far as everyone is having great fun that is good for us.

Maybe one of those Saturdays you could share with them some Lebanese music, I am not very knowledgeable, but I love Ibrahim Maloof.

Would you please send me some of the pictures you took through www.wetransfer.com

I would love to see them and maybe use them for the new site we are trying to put together.

Thanks a lot

 

Kite Day

 

Since the first day I arrived in India I’ve noticed the kites (it’s not hard to miss, they’re everywhere). Also, during my first day at the foundation the kids (mostly boys) would use the phrase ‘I love flying my kite’ in exercises. Today I had the pleasure of seeing the kids flying kites, the foundation provided 2 kites for each student: one to be used today and one for tomorrow the official holiday (yes official holiday, how cool is that?!). For once, the kids were too concentrated on flying their kites than to ask me to take their picture… It was such a beautiful sight; kids in blue and pink running around the field and the roof, with extremely focused faces staring in the sky. I attempted to fly a kite for the first time in my life, but alas I don’t believe it’s my thing (at all). Seeing the teachers as focused on the kites as the kids was also a lovely sight!

Now I actually feel ready to start the theatre courses! Can’t wait for Wednesday!

 

PS: I’m sending you the pictures I have so far right away!

 

Please Ivana,

I can’t wait to see the photos! It is quite touching to see the children grow so fast and seeing their first moustache when only few months earlier they looked so small.

 

Kite flying is definitely a national sport and there is neither age, nor sex barrier for once. India can become very creative with kite making. Playing with of fighting with kites is the highlight of the festival Makar Sankranti.

According to Puranas, on the day of Makara Sankranthi, God Sun pays visit to the house of his son Shani (Saturn) who is the swami of Makar Rashi (Capricorn Zodiac sign).

 

Makara Sankranti is the day when the Sun begins its movement away from the Tropic of Capricorn and towards the northern hemisphere and this period from Makara Sankranthi to Karka Sankranthi is known as uttarayan (northward revolution).

 

To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makara Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom and knowledge even as the Sun does from the Day of Makara Sankranti.

 

The festival of Makara Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from north to south. The day is known by various names and a variety of traditions are witnessed as one explores the festival in different states.

 

Owing to the vast geography and diversity of culture in India, this festival is celebrated for innumerable reasons and in innumerable ways depending on the climate, agricultural environment, cultural background and location. On this day children fly kites.

Above is the description of the festival from Wikipedia, I thought you would care to know. Maybe we should point out to the children the universal idea of the return of the light that this festival celebrates.

 

14th January

 

First Day teaching

Today was our first teaching day, it started with the teacher’s session where I made a little presentation about Lebanon (a bit of everything) since I felt no one had any idea where I was from. Indeed, the girls had no idea where it was or even anything general about it (like most Indians I meet). After the presentation we discussed the differences between the two countries, which was super interesting for me. We exchanged our thoughts on living in a country where there are numerous religious sects or simply about being a woman in those countries. To be honest it wasn’t the most animated conversation I’ve ever had but I feel that once the ‘wall’ between us is broken we’re going to have very interesting debates. Also, they seemed pretty open to any kind of work with us and didn’t really give specifications on what they expected from Fede and I, we’ll have to improvise…

I had a mix of excitement and nervousness concerning today’s teaching, kind of like the jitters you have before performing in a play. However, once I started I forgot everything else and really enjoyed it. It came naturally and the kids were very responsive I think, so was Ruchi who really helped me communicate with them. After explaining to them what is theatre by noting the differences with movies (which they are much more familiar with) we went up on the roof for basic theatre exercises. I started with voice and articulation exercises that are fun then exercises that are all about looking and enjoying being ridiculous. At first they were hesitant and shy but seeing each other give in the fun they all opened up (and of course a LOT of encouragement on my part and Ruchi’s). Some kids were tougher than others to break, but eventually I think all put effort into it. It was a fun theatre class with giggles and much fun, breaking the ice part 1 (which was the main goal of this class) was definitely completed!

 

So, the first day as protagonists for both Fede and you is over.

You must have had a fill up of emotions.

I don’t know why the teachers are acting shy, I remember having very interesting conversations with them.

Maybe the ice is not completely broken yet. Let’s wait and see.

In general, it is not very easy to have Indians express they liking and disliking, not even say if they prefer one dish or another for lunch. It is considered impolite. In India everyone tries to make the other happy going sometimes to the extent of telling you what they think you wish to hear. In this case I guess the teachers prefer not to disappoint you by choosing a subject you might not be interested in. It is called cultural differences, in India you are bound to feel them often.

I am very pleased to hear that you managed to accomplish what you had set your goal for, namely break the ice.

It is so good for the children to learn how to be confident and speak up and it seems that they are really enjoying it.

It will be wonderful to go back to this page in April and realise how much they will have learned and changed by then.

 

16th January

 

Second Day Teaching

 

We started off today with the teacher’s session where we read an article that Fede found on India, a sort of metaphor describing India as an elephant. For a first session I think it went quite well, we now have an idea of the teachers level of English. We decided that we shall proceed as they previously had with the volunteers: reading the article together, vocabulary then debating about the subject(s). I had planned on a group reading of an Oscar Wilde play but after today I think we’ll stick to articles and so on… We also agreed on keeping the Friday session a ‘game’ day which I think is great because it would only get us closer!

 

I definitely had more students today than yesterday, especially during the second batch; I had more than double the amount of yesterday. It forced me to repeat the exercises we did yesterday. It was as fun as yesterday, lots of laughs. I was also pleasantly surprised that yesterday’s students remembered the tongue twisters (ex: Red Blood Blue Blood) and all the other exercises. I feel like they had fun and actually enjoyed the class. This realization really puts me in the best possible mood ever. The third batch has the weakest English and only four students so I’m trying to level with that by giving them different, easier exercises.

 

Very very good day: D

 

Ivana, is a good day a D  day?

I have been puzzled by your last sentence. Is D the grade you give your day, or something else? Please clarify for me.

 

I know that the teachers do not easily understand metaphors and jokes. The summer program volunteers had tried to read a fake article about education and even though it was proposing an absurd theory, the teachers didn’t dare think that it could have been a joke.

Please try to keep your communication first degree; it has nothing to do with the teachers’ intelligence, but with their command of the English language.

This is the time for you to realize how lucky you have been for having had access to a great education and even more to the right exposure.

I am pleased to hear that the children keep coming to the foundation and that you make them laugh.

Nothing like laughter and tears to reach someone’s heart. We do want to avoid tears.

 

Very good day: A-

Since A is too perfect, I guess.

 

Dear Rosenda, if I had to grade today it would definitely have been an A!! The sign :D is a smiley face!! Sorry I am very used to using them… Your comment really made Fede and I laugh!!

 

Oh, now I have a different comment appearing on my computer!

I feel a bit like an ET in this google world!

And oh I am glad if I make you laugh. This is quite magic, I feel like I am part of the team.

Thank you guys,

Rosenda

 

 

17 January

Teaching teenagers

 

Today, I taught Priyanka’s class, 13-16 year olds. Today, I realized how frustrating it is to deal with teenagers… The first batch gave me the hardest time, they were 12 students, 12 ‘we want to challenge authority’ kids. They wouldn’t stop talking to one another; they wouldn’t listen carefully as the younger kids did. I had to be strict and snap at them (even though I hated it) they kept talking to one another in Hindi and wouldn’t take the theater exercises seriously. I learned a lot, I had to push every single one of them to get over themselves and let go of their ‘cool’, it worked for a few but certainly not for the majority… I’m definitely starting Monday’s class with how important it is to act stupid and ridiculous because unfortunately they’re at the peak of self-consciousness. I really did not enjoy today’s class because I felt that they weren’t into it.

I understand what it is to be a teenager, I do, It’s certainly not easy BUT that doesn’t mean they have to challenge everything just for the sake of it. I know exactly which students are the ‘trouble-makers’ (I hate that I am writing this) in every batch… I am quite frustrated because most of them didn’t even try to make an effort, all they would do is giggle and tell me they couldn’t make a pose or a sound or anything. I need to reaffirm myself and show them somehow that they absolutely need to relax and enjoy letting go of their over-conscious self.

 

Apart from dealing with puberty and hormones, the teachers’ session went really well. We played charades (our team won!) and we really bonded with the girls. It was definitely fun; I’m looking forward to next Friday!

 

This weekend I’ll be “googling” the approach of theatre with teenagers, Monday’s class is not going to go the way it went today.

 

Dear Ivana, I am sorry to hear about your troubles with those idiotic adolescents. I also feel that you will face the challenge and win the battle. You know by now that I always put my self in your shoes and try to think of what I would do in your situation.
My instinct tells me that I would first try a serious speech, asking Prianka to translate in which I would state that the theatre class is not compulsive. That you came all the way from Lebanon to share what you love and what has helped you succeed in life and I would give them few examples on how practising theatre has helped you. I believe you should say that you are not imposing your knowledge on anyone, so those who are not interested are welcome to go out of the class; otherwise, they will be invited to go out of the class if they insist disturbing others. I guess this should work.
Do let me know.

For now, enjoy the Lit Fest, I would love to be there.

 

20 January 2014

 

Teaching Teenagers Part II

 

I kind of apprehended today’s class over the weekend. However, to my surprise it went quite well. Today’s first batch had less students due to changes in school timings. I started by telling them that I didn’t think they understood the whole point of the exercises which was kind of my fault since I hadn’t started by explaining why at first. So we recapitulated what was done on friday, I asked them what they thought these exercises could give them (observation, trust skills, etc.) and I also told them how these elements helped me in everyday life. I also showed them what a play looked like, and compared theatre to movies (which they are much more familiar with). I made them write everything to let the notions sink in. I was actually pleasantly surprised that some students remembered what was said and done in the last session.

 

I definitely understood that unlike the younger ones, before every single exercise I should explain the point of it and what they would gain from it (plain fun isn’t enough). I also bonded with quite a few, particularly ‘Minnie’ (who really gave me trouble on Friday) she stayed voluntarily with a bunch of others after class and we talked about random things and I discovered that she’s quite the clown which made me so happy.

 

There are only two boys in the third batch, they’re really smart but not really in the whole let’s get crazy attitude. I kind of understand them since they are only two, it’s really not as interesting to act unlike being in a group. So I’m thinking of maybe introducing them to screenplay writing since they told me they enjoy writing and their English is clearly better than the rest (what do you think?).
All in all today went quite well, teenagers are not as bad as I thought they just need more time and explanations.

 

Great, I am really happy that you have learned how to cope with the teenagers. I am also pleased to know that they need to understand what they are doing and why they do it. It is a good sign, isn’t it?

Since I asked Federico, I would like to ask you too about the Literary Festival. Please drop me few lines about the experience, I think it is one of the highlights of coming to Jaipur during the winter program.

What do you think?

Oh, yes, I definitely encourage you to help those children to write who want to. We have a couple of boys who love to write, Amy used to guide them a lot.

I also wanted to ask you about the book of me. It is a very interesting on-going project. The children have been gifted beautiful Moleskin books and there are more to be distributed. Please ask the teachers and the children if they want to continue with it. I can prepare a set of questions to work on if you wish me to do so.

 

21 January

Teaching Day 5

 

The weather was terrible today (cold and wet) so I couldn’t use the roof for my class as I have been doing so far, plus I thought I deserved a break so I stayed in Sonam’s class. The younger ones simply put me in amazing mood. I completely followed Sonam’s lead on the teaching; we would write words on their notebooks (animal names, means of transportation, etc.) depending on their ‘level’. We also read stories together and guessed names of animals ‘acting’ as they adorably say. They get so happy simply by being told ‘good job’ and getting a bit of attention… They shall be therapy for every time the older ones don’t respond as well as I want them to.

 

About the literature festival, I totally agree with you it’s definitely one of the main highlights of our stay in Jaipur. It was the first time I attended a literature festival that was so big. I really enjoyed it and thought some of the talks were really interesting and of course others less, but still good experience. I really enjoyed seeing all kinds of people in the festival, from foreigners to locals all attracted by this great initiative of opening up knowledge and debates for all. Also I felt like there was an interesting variety of topics, there was always a talk that I wanted to attend (even though some were disappointing).

What I also really enjoyed apart from the talks were the concerts. Every night since Friday we’ve been listening to amazing music like Rajasthani music, a Ska band from Delhi, the Indian Dj Karsh Kale and on Monday one of my favourite bands Tinariwen who blew everyone away!
About the book of me, Fede and I talked to Veenaji who told us it would ‘start’ again on February 1 so if you have any advice/comments please share!

 

Thank you for sharing your impressions on the Lit Fest, I am happy to know that there has been a lot of music going on.
Please don’t feel shy to go and work with the little children, I have very high hopes for them because they are still open to learning.
Let me work a bit on the book of me and let’s share ideas. It is a very interesting project for those children who are used to just learn by heart and copy.

 

22 January

 

Teaching- Day 6

 

Today was also foggy and wet; I stayed inside with Sonam’s class. There were more students today, I was amazed by Sonam’s patience with the little ones. They are adorable but they can get very hectic, she knows how to deal with them by being firm but at the same time extremely nice and friendly. By the second batch I got a bit tired but she was still energetic and patient! I really feel that the little kids are so eager to learn, and as you said they’re not conditioned by society, a real breath of fresh air. Some really blow me away by their vivacity and quickness like Farah and Kirin’s little brother (I have a problem with names…) and a few others whose names I really don’t remember…

 

I noticed today that they tend to memorize instead of understanding. For example, when they forget how to spell one the words that they had to write down several times before, I would articulate the word very slowly to give them a hint of the letters but alas they wouldn’t pick up and instead ask to see the written word and repeat it several time alone before spelling it again to me… I guess memorizing is the method used in schools here, which is good but not so much if they aren’t able to understand without memorizing.

 

I also spent some time with Akuhantam (??) who’s mentally slower than the rest. He’s about 9 years old and isn’t capable of writing single letters without a lot of help. I think I had a good contact with him, he would show me his work excitedly and we played with a doll together (he didn’t want to leave class when time was up which made me so happy). I’m really impressed that the foundation also includes kids like him, it mustn’t be easy having his condition and living in a small village like Amber… Veenaji told me that in the future he is probably going to go to the only school adapted for his needs in Jaipur which reassured me.

 

All in all I had a great day! (apart from the weather) : D

 

Oh Ivana, you have pointed out the problem that we have been trying to solve since Amy’s and Geeti’s time.
The children do not learn how to read by putting letters together, but learn with the global method, just remembering the words. It is very bad. Please raise the question with the teachers and Veenaji in the teachers’ morning class and ask them about the methods Amy and Geeti were using.
It makes me so sad to see how real education is not imparted to simple people in India.
I am very touched that you have spent time with the boy who is challenged today, I also love him a lot and I feel that those children need to share with normal children.
When I grew up in Italy we always had such children in our classes and we learned how to be attentive of their needs. There was obviously a teacher assigned to them and that was a big luxury which, I am afraid, has been taken away by now.
I am happy that Veenaji gives space and attention to all who are in need.
I honestly don’t know what has happened to India’ lovely weather.

 

23 January

 

 

Teaching- Day 7

 

I taught in Ruksar’s class today, it was a mix of ages ranging from 11 to 15. I think I can say I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes. Instead of going straight up on the roof and starting exercises, I made them write the differences between movies and theatre. I also explained key notions: the stage (downstage, upstage, etc.), the audience, the curtains, how a play looks like (acts and scenes), etc. During the last 15 minutes we did vocal warm-ups. I took my time in explaining to them the goal of theatre and why it’s mainly acting exercises. The response I got was very positive, I felt like they were excited and interested. Two of them actually told me they would like to become actors. I made them write on their notebooks that looking stupid is mandatory in my class and insisted that they shouldn’t feel shy around one another and especially me! I’ll test their ridiculous abilities tomorrow.

The last batch is kind of a problem because they’re only two students. Theatre exercises need a big group and their English is much weaker than the rest so writing scripts is out of the question. I’m thinking of maybe printing out scenes that they can read out loud (with intonations of course). Ruksar told me that tomorrow there might be more students in that batch so I’ll wait and see before deciding anything.

Tomorrow we’ll do a recap of what was done today and do more exercises, and I will explain the goal of each exercise.
The funny thing in Ruksar’s class is that there is a pigeon which is present during all the classes. Yes, you understood well, there is an actual pigeon which stays above us on one of the window’s frame. The students and Ruksar call him ‘Ibrahim’ or ‘John’. It’s definitely a special class!

 

I wonder what Ibrahim, alias John is learning. Maybe this could be a subject for a short story or a little play. For children who don’t know any English, even an exchange of two sentences can be empowering.

“Oh, look, there is a pigeon in the class!” “Yes, his name is Ibrahim, his nickname is John, he coos very well, he is the singer of the class.”

I also have a little story to share with you that you might pass on to the children if you wish.

It is called “the reason why the pigeon coos and the sparrow chirps.

Once upon a time in Tibet, a pigeon and a sparrow were flying to a Buddhist monastery to listen the monks pray. On they way, they heard a woman cry and lament on the porch of her house. The pigeon decided to go and see if he could help her, while the sparrow flew on, eager to go for prayers.

When they met again, the pigeon was cooing, just like the woman was crying and the sparrow chirped the way the monks prayed. They spoke a different language then and couldn’t understand each other any longer.

It gives me a great satisfaction to see how teaching is a great learning experience for you too.

 

24 January

Teaching- Day 8

 

Thank you for the story Rosenda! I’ll definitely pass it on to the kids, it’s short and has plenty of meaning and depth. Today I was again in Ruksar’s class where we were joined by Ibrahim/John and his supposed wife who were building a nest with branches on the window frame!

The teacher’s session went very well, we played scrabble it was fun (my team got second place we’re planning on winning next time).

 

The weather was much nicer than yesterday so we could go crazy on the roof for as long as we wanted. First 30 minutes I asked them to close their notebooks and started asking about the notions we had covered yesterday and I also asked them to spell these notions. A few students in all batches really remembered what was said yesterday, the rest really needed a fresh reminder which made me realize that next time I get them I’ll redo a recap to make sure everything sink in.

On the roof, they remembered quite well the vocal warm-ups (which consists of saying the vowels with as much voice and expression as they can). We started the proper ice-breaking exercises to introduce ourselves and feel comfortable. There were lots of laughs even though some really needed pushing, I started asking those who wouldn’t be active if they’d rather be in class writing essays. A technique that kind of worked with most. The last batch (with the weaker English) had three students today so we could go on the roof and do theatre exercises in which Ruksar and I participated in.

 

I feel like the weather is getting better and better. I’ll make a little sun-prayer when we visit the monkey temple tomorrow!

 

It is very interesting to learn about Ibrahim/John and his wife. It reminds me of a lovely book that a school-teacher in Italy wrote together with his class called  “Cipi”.

It is the story of a sparrow and his adventures. It is a touching story.

I will try to find the book for you and bring it when I come next month, Federico will be so kind to translate a few pages for your students.

Hopefully the good weather is there to stay now, you should be enjoying a lovely spring.

Have you had yoga classes this week?

 

27 January

Teaching Day 9

 

Today like every day for the past 2 weeks, we woke up to yoga class with Malisha. I’ve loved yoga before coming to India but ever since I’ve started with Malisha I feel I’ve gotten so much better. I hate waking up early in the morning, but waking up at 7h30 for a yoga class is really not so bad. After yoga, there’s our little routine, we have breakfast, prepare the day’s teacher session and read/listen to music on the roof if its sunny till 11h30.

 

We read a poem by Tagore in today’s session with the teachers. It was a really nice poem about India’s independence amongst other things. I think the teachers responded quite positively to it, they seemed interested. As usual we had to push them a bit to get their interpretations but once they opened up they said some very relevant and interesting things (particularly Ruksar and Priyanka).

I taught in Payal’s class today. Because of school timings and the fact that Republic day was the day before, we had no students in the first batch so we played some badminton (she won but I was very close). The second batch was very receptive, they were answering excitedly to my questions (what’s the difference between a play and a movie for example) and when we started the exercises they asked me to repeat them again and again. The third batch was composed of 4 students, 2 of whom were supposed to be in the second batch, even if Payal hadn’t told me I would have noticed because their level of English is way better. The varying english levels in the same class is a bit difficult to handle since some get the subject faster than others but I always try to check if everyone got it.
Ever since Saturday I’ve been having a lice phobia. I got lice in camp when I was 12 and ever since I’ve been scared to death of catching them again. Fede did all the necessary things but still it’s very contagious and I have long thick hair (I shower with anti lice shampoo every night and keep my hair tied). I’m getting very paranoid with the kids too to be honest. Is there ANYTHING you advise us to do?

 

Wow! This is the first time that we have a lice scare at the Foundation and I plan to take it very seriously. I just tried to call Veenaji, but I am afraid it is too late.

When I was growing up in Italy, lice were a distant memory that grandparents would talk about sometimes. It had to do with the war and bad times; “pidocchioso” was an old fashion insult that meant poor.

When my eldest son, now 24 was 6months old, I caught lice in India I had no idea why I was scratching my head and when I went to the doctor’s and he told me I had lice, I totally freeked out. My hair was and is long, but I managed to get rid of lice with the shampoo and the special comb. Hopefully, you won’t catch them.

However I plan to ask Veenaji to call a doctor and check every child and see if the lice come from the Foundation or not. In case the children have the problem, we should provide the cure for everyone. In the meantime, I would suggest that you tie a scarf, around your hair in order to protect it and was your bed sheets often with very hot water.

If this can be a consolation, please note that the schools in Paris are full of lice and every pharmacy shows a wide variety of shampoos every September when school starts.

 

Good to hear about the teacher sessions slowly becoming more alive.

 

28 January

 

Thank you Rosenda for taking this lice issue seriously! I feel better already.

 

Waking up to yoga with Malisha is great as usual. I picked an article for today’s teacher’s session. It was about Indian male movements advocating empowering women. Some words were difficult but the majority of the words were easily understandable. However, Fede and I sensed that the debate was going in circles so we’re tackling the same article again tomorrow.

The teaching with Payal went really great today. The kids were in the right ‘mode’ and let themselves go, some even attended the next batch’s session! I can spot the kids that have the theatre ‘thing’, it comes more naturally to them such as Avesh and a girl whose name I forgot (as usual). Even with the ‘weaker’ batch it went really well, even though Payal needs to translate most of my instructions, they were laughing and so were Payal and me. Puru even told me that a group of boys said they were too tired to play football after my class, which is very positive for me because it’s a sign that they really got involved.

 

Today’s weather was superb. It was warm and sunny just like I had imagined India to be. The only negative thing this weather brings is the fact that I give class on the roof and the sun gets really strong and heavy and tires all of us. When the weather will get even warmer and sunnier I’ll have to find another space for theatre exercises…
Hope the weather in Paris is not too bad!

 

Do not worry, Ivana, Veenaji and I talked on the phone today and I am sending a mail with the procedure to follow to, let’s hope, eradicate the pest as soon as possible.
Please try to choose articles that are not too much of a challenge for the teachers, we risk to discourage them.
I am so happy to hear that the children are enjoying, even those who are not so good in English, they can laugh and bring home good memories.
We are going to think of a way to tackle the problem of the sun draining your energy away. Unfortunately, the monkeys don’t allow us to pull a canopy over the roof. Let’s talk about it when we’ll come in a few weeks.
Please send me some pictures, I am longing to see the children doing theatre exercises…
Oh, the weather in Paris? Just dreadful!

 

 

29 January

 

Teaching- Day 11

 

Today’s teacher session was replaced by a tour by Sonam and Ruksar in the muslim neighborhood of Ajmer. As a Lebanese I didn’t find it strange that we went to the muslim quarters with them and next time we’ll go to the hindou quarters with the rest of the teachers, I’m quite used to these kinds of separations unlike Fede. The visit was very pleasant, I had wanted to walk around Ajmer since the first days. We visited Ajmer’s ancient step water well (not sure if this is the right term). We also went where the elephants that ‘work’ in Amber Fort are kept, we took the touristy pictures with them and to my surprise Ruksar and Sonam were terrified of the elephants, it was quite funny. It saddened me a bit to see the elephants chained like that… We ended the visit by going to Sonam’s house for chai, the Indian welcome really reminds me of the Lebanese one, its so warm and involves lots of food.

I taught in Geeta’s class today. I definitely understand why there’s talk about construction plans, teaching a class in the corridor is a nightmare, there’s always someone passing by, it’s really hard to focus. I really like the students but their English is the weakest I’ve experienced so far, writing what was on the board wasn’t easy for most and they would copy the words with mistakes… I took the first batch on the roof and the sun really hit us hard, to the point where we just had to go back downstairs in the shade. With the second batch we tried doing the exercises in front of the foundation but its not something I would repeat, they will never go ‘crazy’ where random people pass by and neither will I.

So tomorrow, the first batch will happen in the ground, the second and third batch will have to happen on the roof… I have a suggestion, could we maybe put on the roof 4 iron/wooden stakes which we can put up a cloth or a cover made of hay (or something like that) that we could put and remove every day. Do you think its possible? If yes it would solve my space problem, I realized after today that the beautiful weather is really going to affect my class negatively…
Today I can say with assurance that I’m friends with the girls, all 6 of them! It’s really natural and easy, I’m really myself around them (no more on my guards) and I feel like its reciprocal. Davie Singh was late to pick us up today (and I’m glad he was), all the girls stayed with us until he came and we laughed a LOT!

 

Yes, Ivana, Fede and I grew up in a place where everyone belongs to the same religion and it is very hard for us to understand segregation. We don’t understand why can’t Priyanka and Payal come along and have tea at Sonam’s place and even though we accept the reality, we can’t really feel what it is all about. I wonder if you will ever be able to talk about it with the teachers, I guess it is a difficult topic of conversation though.

However I am very happy that you were accepted and invited at their homes and that you enjoy each other’s company. Jan and I are really delighted.

Concerning the space to work, I have already suggested what you have about the roof, but I am told that the monkeys would tear the canopy down and that it is dangerous if the children fall down.

Now, I feel that we should pull a canopy in the playground, just the way you said, and if the monkeys pull it down, we will pull it up again.

I will write to Veenaji about it.

We still need to find some more space for the children, but our funds are not unlimited and the project that was submitted to us is really too costly. We’ll talk about it when we’ll come.

Give my regards to your Indian friends, the teachers.

 

Teaching- Day 12

 

Today’s teaching session was definitely one of the best, we re-read the article about Indian men’s movements advocating female/male equality. For the first time we had a proper debate, usually everyone agrees with everyone and the subject is over, this time everyone had a different opinion which is great. Ruksar stated that women do need men to fight their battle along with them whereas Priyanka thought the opposite, that women can do and should do it on their own, and the rest took sides but with their own nuances. It was really interesting to see their points of view, we learnt more about each other’s mentalities.

Also, Fede and I have been using ‘watsap’ (chatting via phone) with them, it was their idea to take our numbers! Every morning I receive the cutest messages from Priyanka, Payal and Ruchi!

With Geeta’s first batch we went on the playground and they were definitely more active. Today’s class went quite well (even though I needed Geeta’s help to contain the kids).

 

About yesterday’s ‘tour’, I really had no idea that it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for Hindus to be very good friends (go to each others house etc.) with Muslims and vice versa, I’m quite sad about this fact. I innocently thought that it was just a neighbourhood thing like in Lebanon… Talking with the teachers about these societal norms would indeed be extremely interesting, however it is a very delicate subject and I’m not sure I’m diplomatic enough to bring it up.

The article you sent me is very interesting and I definitely think the teachers will enjoy it. I’ll let you know what comes out of it when we read it in class!

 

Thank you Ivana for sharing with me the progress your relation with the teachers is showing. I am truly happy about that. Hopefully, Silvia will be also easily adopted.

The work with Geeta’s batch must not be easy at all; children who don’t have much language skills tend to be more nervous and difficult to teach to. I will be very interested in knowing what the teachers think of the separation in their town, but do, please thread softly.

I love the semantics of clothing and in India the subject is particularly interesting. Earlier, everyone wore traditional clothes that would immediately indicate one’s religion and even cast. With fashion coming into the pictures some codes are blurred, but still very strong. Can Muslim girls wear saris? Would our teachers like to wear skirts? Do men have to follow equally strict dressing codes? Why does wearing western clothes indicate modernity or upper class? A very interesting discussion is in store for all of you.

 

31st January

Teaching- Day 13

 

Today we celebrated Priyankas birthday! It was actually yesterday but since she fasts every Thursdays we decided to do it today instead. After yoga, Puru, Fede and I went to a bakery near by and got two cakes (chocolate and butterscotch). We orchestrated the whole thing with Payal and Ruchi’s help, we met them 15 minutes before in the foundation to decorate the office with balloons, candles etc. Then came Priyanka who I think did not expect all this at all, we sang the birthday songs and put cake all over each other’s faces (priceless moments that I have on camera). We ate together the cakes and Indian sweets that they had brought. It was so much fun, really!

 

The teaching cycle started all over again, I had my ‘first’ class again today: Ruchi’s class. I started with a recap on what was said the 2 weeks before. They remembered some things but not all which is totally normal. I also added what I hadn’t previously done with them but with the other classes, since I got a tiny bit more experience. The class went really well, for example, the kids were excited to show me that they had practiced the tongue twister I had taught them ‘Red Blood Blue Blood’.

I think I found a solution for the sun problem, I asked Ruchi (with Veenaji’s permission of course) to tell her second batch to come either during the first or third batch on Monday. All the first batches I’ll teach will happen in the playground where the trees provide perfect shape and there’s plenty of space and privacy. The third batch will take place on the roof where the sun is much more bearable. I’ll try this ‘no second batch’ thing with Ruchi’s class on Monday and if all goes well, I’ll ask the rest of the teachers to do the same thing.

 

For tomorrow’s activity day we’re planning on organizing a little sport ‘tournament’ with races, matches, etc. We’ll be going earlier to prepare everything.
We met our new colleague today (my new roommate) and thankfully we all clicked right away!

 

Ivana, sorry for nor answering yesterday, my very dear friend is here and, you can imagine, we had a lot to share.

It sounds like you also have the talents required for event management! Priyanka must have been so touched!

Please, please, send me your pictures though wetransfer.com

I can’t wait to see your cake smeared faces!

Your organization for the space sounds perfect; at the Foundation we learn how to do with what we have.

We spoke with Veenaji and Puru yesterday, who told us about the competition, today. I can picture the children’s excitement under a bright blue sky, while the weather in Paris is so gloomy, I can’t wait to come to India!

I am quite relieved to learn that Silvia and you like each other, Federico had met her in Milan and I trusted his judgment. I am sure that you will all have a grand time together.

 

3rd February

Teaching- Day 14

 

The most dreaded day of the week started really well! First, there’s Silvia’s presence, its nice to have a fresh new someone!

Also, teaching in Ruchi’s class made me really happy: the kids not only remembered the previous notions and exercises but also let go! I could see for the first time that they actually let go of their shyness and made an effort to do the exercise properly. They got creative and imaginative on their own (of course some more than others) which made me extremely excited since it’s the first time I see them taking initiatives! Creativity and taking initiative are part of the main goals of my classes! Finally I can say I’ve seen very positive improvement today.

The division of the second batch in the first and third one went quite well in Ruchi’s class. However, I have Priyanka’s class tomorrow, I asked the teenagers if they could divide the second batch but everyone had an excuse so I kept the second batch, I’ll figure it out tomorrow…

Today’s teacher session wasn’t the liveliest, it might be because it’s Monday… The article Fede brought was really interesting, it was about this Indian girl football team ‘Supergoats’ going through many obstacles to play in a Spanish tournament. This article goes well with the movie we’re going to start tomorrow ‘Bend it like Bekham’ by Gurinder Chadha (a British film maker with Indian origins) which is about this young Indian girl living in Britain who isn’t allowed to play football by her family, etc. It’s a movie I enjoyed very much and I think the teacher will like it too!

 

 

A new week and a new month have started today and you have a room-mate now.

Your main goals are the two elements that are really missing in the education of the children of Amer, so I am very pleased if you can manage to make some of them come out and use their creativity, knowing that no one will beat them, on the contrary will reward them.

Do not worry about your teenagers, you will find a way around their resistance.

Regarding the teachers’ class, maybe Silvia’s presence has made our young ladies from Amer all shy again, or maybe they don’t see the point in talking about football. I guess they will understand very well once they’ll see the film  ‘Bend it like Bekham’ that I also loved and watched several times.

It is about tradition and modernity again, and above all about parental love. In the film, the parents understand their child’s needs and because they love her, they compromise on their belief system.

I am convinced that the teachers will have something to say about this subject.

Please help Silvia start her journal.

 

 

Teaching- Day 15

 

During the teacher’s session we started to watch Bend it like Bekham, we watched approximately one hour of the movie and no one asked for explanations etc. which surprised me! I expected them not to understand everything but they did! They also loved the movie and burst laughing a lot! I can’t wait to start discussing it (probably after-tomorrow we’ll be finished).

 

The teenagers class that I was apprehending went well.

The first batch is the hardest to handle since they are 12, before starting the class I asked them if they would rather write screenplays or do acting exercises, they all wanted to act. We went to the ground, they were much more responsive than last time (Priyanka was also there to help me this time). If I felt they weren’t into an exercise I would simply ask if they wanted to change. There was only one student that was really not agreeable, he would refuse to do a lot of things (even if I paired up with him numerous times), I told him he was welcome to miss tomorrow’s class, he was caught off guard, I’ll see what happens …

 

The second batch went really really well, they were 7, a good mix of girls and boys. We stayed inside the classroom (we moved the tables and chairs) the roof was impossible to work in but it was okay inside! Some students that had given me a hard time in the previous class were actually enjoying the acting exercises. For example, Angeline who wouldn’t raise her voice the last time was much more at ease and today (I heard her very well!). The ‘painting exercise’ which consists of creating a painting with poses under a specific theme (beach, wedding, classroom, etc.) was very popular, they asked me to do it again and again!

The third batch solely composed of Abisheikh and Vepal went okay too. After a recap on the previous notions I asked them to start writing a scene in a theatrical form. They didn’t have time to finish it so they’ll complete it tomorrow.

 

After yoga tomorrow morning I have to prepare Taboulé (Lebanese salad) for the teacher’s lunch!
PS: I’ve lost the cable that connects my camera to my laptop, I’m getting a new one tomorrow hopefully and send you the pictures as soon as I can!

 

So curious to find out what the teachers will say about the movie, you know English man loving Indian girl? It sounds like you are becoming quite proficient teaching those teenagers. You did well to suggest the boy who does not make an effort will not to come tomorrow. Do you remember his name? How old is he? Maybe you can ask his teacher about him, there must be a reason why he behaves like that.

 

Usually Indian like Lebanese food pretty much, I wonder if you could add a green chilly thinly sliced to your preparation, it will make it more palatable for your colleagues.

How about food otherwise, are you comfortable with Indian cuisine?

 

See, now I know what happened with the photographs

 

 

5th February Teaching- Day 16

 

While I was making Tabboulé this morning I realized that I was cutting coriander and not parsley (like I should have)… I shouldn’t even be allowed to call myself Lebanese!! I had no idea parsley and coriander looked the same. Still, I managed to make a fake tabboulé. The teacher’s lunch went really well, even though I had to constantly blow my nose (as usual). I like Indian food but eating spicy meals all the time just isn’t for me, also I have daily dreams of juicy steak-frites… But food is part of travelling and I think I’m getting used to explosions in my mouth.

We didn’t have time to continue the movie today but we’ll do it tomorrow.

 

The teenager’s class is going better and better. The girl posse of the first batch even told me they enjoyed today’s class (Finally!). Souraj, the boy that had given me trouble yesterday, had a bit less attitude today, he didn’t bother me as much, even though I felt like he was still trying to prove something… However, I was impressed by Rikou (Vepal’s younger brother) who is very quick and takes very creative initiatives.

The second batch has two clowns whom I absolutely love, Satyam and Abisheikh (the young one). They really led the group with their initiatives and hilarious, over-exaggerated actions, they have so much potential for drama it comes naturally to them!

Overall the teenage girls are starting to leave their comfort zone and are accepting that its okay to look stupid (even in front of the boys).

Teaching teenagers has definitely made me reflect on my teen years, I remember not being comfortable in my skin (like all teenagers I think) and I wonder if I was ever a student teachers would not want to have…

They are letting me in slowly, and I’m enjoying discovering their different personalities. I’m learning a lot there’s no doubt.

The third batch consisted solely of Abisheikh, we continued writing a theatrical scene that he had started. He’s very smart but I feel he doesn’t tell me what he honestly thinks, I asked him numerous times if he’d rather do something else, or if he had understood etc. he always nods and stares right back at his notebook. Don’t get me wrong he’s very nice and polite, he’s just a bit cold and I know that he’s creative because I went through his book of me today and was amazed by what was in it! I’ll break him eventually.

 

 

Oh my dear, I must admit, I will never get used to spices, my Italian stomach longs for olive oil and salads when I am in India! The coriander tabboulé must be quite an invention, we won’t tell your mother. Besides, I am not sure you could find parsley in Jaipur.

I am glad I asked you who was the boy who was resisting your propositions, because Suraj is someone I know well. He is Kiran’s s brother, very proud artist, who thinks he has to fight his way through life. Their family set up in not ideal, but eventually, you will manage to involve him. I wonder if it isn’t time to think of a small play to make together. I am afraid that some of your teenagers may be wondering what is the point of doing exercises if you don’t put up a play.
Suraj is someone who could be asked to paint the decor, he would do a great job. I feel that the students who give you a hard time are actually your best teachers, they challenge you and allow you to search further.
It is such a pleasure for me to read about the different children you mention. I remember Satyam wearing a costume made of leaves and not minding it at all, while other children did not accept that at all.
With Abhishek I would suggest that you think together of a scenario for the play that you are going to put up.
Share your questions with him, how many children do we have? What kind of story shall we write? Do you think we could make a play out of the Sory of Nakoo and Neeko? What will the little children do? Will there be songs and dances?
It will be really nice if before your departure, you could invite the parents to their children show in the playground. We could set up a stage, have music and all. What do you think?

 

I think a play in the sense where there are only dialogues is just not doable. However a show like the previous ones with dancing and music (reducing the talking to a minimum) is feasible. I would only do it if Fede and Silvia want to (I’m pretty sure they would be up for it) and of course the teachers. I will bring the subject up today and let you know what
happens. My main concern is the timing, when will we ever have the time to practice, we have the same group for only 3hrs every week and a half! But making the ‘older’ ones write the scenario is a great idea, maybe something historical (Fede would help them with that).
Anyways, I’ll see with the others what they think and give you the feedback tonight!

Have a nice day!

 

You are certainly right, the children could not sustain a proper play, but working towards a performance, even of song and dance can be a very beneficial exercise for them. Not to speak of the coming together of the parents to see their children on stage.
However, please do not feel pressured to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with.
You can discuss the matter among yourselves and feel free to take the decision that seems the right one for you. I only share my ideas and suggestions with you, but I am not there on a everyday basis

 

 

6th February Teaching Day 17

 

We went earlier to the foundation today, we finished the movie and all ate a delicious lunch that Sonam prepared (she’s really a great cook!). Tomorrow is game day so the deep discussion of the movie is going to be on Monday. I asked them right after the movie what the term ‘gora’ was (it was used numerous times in the movie) and they told me it meant white “like you, Federico and Silvia”. I asked them if they found the gora (the actor that the main character falls in love with) attractive (which he really is by the way), they said they did then when I asked if they would marry him they all laughed… Monday’s talk will definitely be interesting.

 

I spent the day in Sonam’s class, as usual they were doing the transportation/domestic animals/playground themes. Same problem when spelling out loud they do it by remembering and not by listening to the letters. This time however I forced them to enunciate slowly the word with me, and would count the letters on my fingers, this ‘method’ was quite slow but effective (for most). I kept telling them that when they don’t know the spelling they should repeat the word slowly out loud to find the letters. The small kids are really the cutest but they somehow drained every inch of energy I had (in a good way).

 

A performance would be a really nice achievement! But I definitely can’t take that task on my own because dancing is really not my area of expertise (I’ll talk more to Ruksar about this issue) and there’s too many kids with different levels. Fede and Silvia agreed that a show with music and dancing would be fun! I also asked the teachers if they would be up for it and it was a yes from everyone. Fede started thinking about a historical event that could be used for a play. I’ll talk more in details about it with the teachers and Veenaji tomorrow. Give us the weekend to set up a more concrete plan!

PS: Bim found my camera cable in the laundry basket… You’ll be receiving pictures soon!

 

Yes! Your cable is back, I am so happy.
It sounds so interesting to talk about Goras!! I would love to ask the teachers what did they think of Goras honestly before meeting the volunteers and if anything has changed for them after meeting all of you. I would also love to hear what they have to say about the differences they have noticed between French, American, Italian Lebanese…If any.
How do they think Indians are different?
Maybe they could write something at home and share with you .
What do you think?

Little children do require a huge amount of energy and I really admire Sonam for working with them so well.
I am so concerned about them learning how to read properly and not remembering the words.

Ruksar is a fabulous dancer and you can really count on them to organize the choreography of the show. The performance can only be fun if everyone participates and the talent that every one has is highlighted. We can talk about it next week when Jan and I will come. I am looking forward to it.

 

7th February Teaching- Day 17

 

Like every Friday it was game day during the teachers session. We played scrabble, Payal and I won (by far). It was fun as usual, we’ve become so natural and relaxed around one another I love it.

 

I spent the day in Sonam’s class. It was drawing day, we copied what Sonam drew on the board. The theme was food so she drew a couple of food items like Burger, Milk, Pizza, Cakes, Bread, etc. The kids were so concentrated on drawing; it was really cute to watch. When they finished they would go around the class showing off their drawings then move on to other classes to do the same. I like drawing day but I think it would be more interesting if it didn’t have to be about copying like the rest of the days, maybe we could ask them to draw a dream they had/ what scares them the most/ their favourite food, etc. Like in the book of me! Do you think its a good idea? Because maybe the point of drawing day is to learn more words while drawing… When they were done with their drawings we played the ‘traffic lights’ exercise that I use in every class (even the teenagers like it). The exercise consists of walking around silently in the space, when I say red the students freeze, when I say yellow they sit and when I say green they walk. Of course in Sonam’s class the exercise was rather a game, the older ones were paying attention but the youngest were just copying what the others were doing (very cute scene to watch). It was a big joyful mess and they asked me to play it again and again!

I’ll definitely think of more ‘introduction to theatre’ exercises for Sonam’s class. I admire Sonam more and more after each class spent with her, she’s so loving and patient with the kids. She seems to have this loving authority which the kids respond to immediately.
Can’t wait to finally meet you in person next week and yes I definitely would love to talk about the show when you get here! Bon Voyage and Happy Birthday!

 

Thank you Ivana, I am also very eager to meet you and have a fee flow discussion with all of you.

So far, it feels like you are having a truly meaningful time; your presence enriches both the teachers and the children.

You have some very good ideas for the drawing class and you should try to implement them. Maybe we will try to discuss the possibility of taking away the children from this copying system, but we must also be careful not to go too much against the ways they are used to in school as well as at home. Change can happen gradually and the most important change I see necessary in Sonam’s class is that children learn how to read phonetically and not globally.

Please talk to Sonam about it and see what she thinks. I believe that Amy and Geety were teaching her how to go about it.

Enjoy the week-end.

 

Teaching Day 18

 

Due to crazy amount of traffic we missed the teachers session today and barely made it on time for the classes.

I was with Ruksar’s class, I started with a recap on what we had done the previous weeks. They remembered the concepts but not the specific words, I asked them to spell everything and what came out was a mess. I told them again and again to listen to the word in order to spell it (I’m doing the same words again tomorrow to see if they actually got it). I don’t know if it was because it was strangely cold or because it was Monday but I felt the kids were tired and not in their most creative mood… I guess it happens some days are more alive than others.

I still needed Ruksar to translate and to help me contain them, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to deal with them on my own for a whole afternoon (hopefully soon!).

The third batch is always problematic because they are only three of them and their English is much weaker than the previous batches. They barely remembered the previous notions so I had to go over them again, tomorrow I’ll also take the time to see if they actually got it.

 

Not my best teaching day to be honest, but i’m taking revenge tomorrow!

 

Dear Ivana,
I hope Fede is feeling better and he is not down with something bad. Food at marriages can be really too heavy.. I wish I could be there to make him boiled Arborio rice with just salt and olive oil; see the Italian mother is wishing to rush to the rescue…
You must have been really stressed and exhausted by the time you arrived at the Foundation today and children pick up immediately on our level of energy.
Do not worry, there is no performance duty, what you are doing is already a lot for the children, we must stay humble on the possibility of improvement.
Dheeraj has sent me your photo at the wedding you have attended together, you are all looking lovely.
It seems that you are having an advanced introduction to Indian weddings.

 

Teaching-  Day 19

 

Today’s teacher session went well. We finally talked about Bend it like Bekham, we had asked them to write a little something about what they thought of the movie. Half of what they wrote was about the plot of the movie and a few lines on their opinion of it, which should have been the contrary… Next time I think we’ll specify that we do not want a repeat of the movie but their thoughts and opinions. Nevertheless it was all positive, they all enjoyed the movie and thought it was inspiring. We asked them if they would let their girls go abroad on sports scholarships alone and they all said “of course why not?” but when the marrying a gora subject came up the “why not” was not there… They admitted they weren’t used to seeing a foreigner falling in love with an Indian girl (unlike the other way around). Ruksar said that she (and her family) wouldn’t have a problem with it if he was Muslim like her. The other girls however said that he had to be Hindu and from the same cast. I asked if love wasn’t enough for two people to get married and they replied by saying having the same culture is very important. I think Fede, Silvia and I didn’t really dare to go beyond in this topic, we have such different views on marriage, it’s hard to ask questions without sounding judgmental… I’m realizing how accepting they are on certain things and how much it contrasts with my upbringing, it’s a really interesting topic to discuss but I always feel like there’s a certain limit we reach when we talk about it.

 

Ruksar’s class went much better than yesterday. We re-did the spelling of previous notions and they almost got everything right (except for the third batch with whom I spent the entire class re-explaining the key notions). To my surprise some kids asked me if we could re-do some of yesterday’s exercises which I thought they hated. They were much more inventive than the day before. For the ‘painting’ exercise in which they have to create a painting with their bodies following a theme that I give them they tried new/different things and I spotted the ones that think out of the box. I also noticed that telling the ones that they were being creative and that it was very good made them go even further; oral praise for the deserving ones really matters.

 

For the next teacher’s sessions I think it would be good to stop talking about India and tackle different problematics… do you think they would be interested? And of what kind of topics could we talk?

 

Ivana, I would really like you to talk about pedagogy, about Maria Montessori innovative principles at her time, about using syllabi for the English classes, about the ways we can improve.
The teacher should not feel judged; you could share your feelings about teaching and ask them to share theirs. I wish to know if they feel they are growing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Montessori

 

Teaching Day 20

 

We introduced the teachers today to Gibran Khalil Gibran. We studied Children, a poem from The Prophet and I think they enjoyed it very much. We started by reading then  explained definitions followed by a discussion as usual. The discussion was interesting even though we all agreed on everything… We decided to choose another poem from the Prophet for tomorrow’s session since they liked it and the poems are universal, everyone  can relate to them.

I had Payal’s class today, the sessions went really well. They remembered every notion from before and knew how to spell them! Even words like audience, curtains, scene, playwright which are usually the words the other classes have the most difficulty spelling (even the teenagers). For the exercises they were very receptive, they were focused and I didn’t need much help from Payal to contain them. One of the introductory trust exercise was interesting to watch: students pair up, one leads the other who has closed eyes around the space. When the ones who had their eyes closed really let go and kept their eyes close the entire time, it was nice to see the evolution of their facial expressions from being super scared to being relaxed which is exactly the point of the exercise.

 

Lalit, a student from Priyanka’s first batch even joined my second batch and told me he wanted to come again tomorrow which of course made me incredibly happy.

 

We also have a new member at the Tushita Foundation! An adorable white puppy that we named Snowy (the name might change in the coming days, we are a democracy after all) I hope we can keep it! Can we?
PS: I’m googling Maria Montessori right now!

 

 

Oh yes, I do hope you can keep the puppy, but you must ask Veenaji’s permission.

Thank you for sharing the content of your exercises, I believe they are very important and hopefully the teachers will continue with them later on, because they help the child connect with his emotional world.
I am not surprised that they love it.

Gibran, the great master, so lucky to study him with one of his countrymen, actually lady.

You’ll let me know what do you think of Montessori’s ideas on child development; she was very revolutionary for her times.

 

Teaching Day 21

 

Today’s teacher session went really well, actually it was one of the best so far (even though Ruksar couldn’t make it). We read and discussed another poem On Joy and Sorrow by Gibran Khalil Gibran from The Prophet. As usual we read it, cleared up some difficult words then started talking about it and the discussion was very interesting. We all had different interpretations on the poem as well as on joy and sorrow. We all shared the most joyful moments we could remember, we got to know each other much better. I felt intellectually challenged and I think everyone did! It was a deep and meaningful conversation about human emotions. Even Sonam who is usually the most quiet one gave a really, really interesting and personal input. I hope we have plenty more of these conversations.

 

Payal’s class also went really well today. We did the same exercises as yesterday but went further. For example, the blind exercise that we did yesterday, this time the ‘leader’ (who has open eyes) could not touch the blind one, he had to lead him around the space solely with vocal directions. They were super scared and uncomfortable at first and we had a few bumping accidents (nothing to be worried about) but little by little trust was established and their mortified expressions disappeared. I introduced a new acting exercise which consists of walking in the space according to what I tell them (ex: walk like an old woman, walk like there’s glue on the floor, etc.). This exercise was really popular, they kept asking for more! Even the shyest ones seeing everyone break their bubble started getting into it and acted!

 

All in all, even though the weather was chilly and windy my day went very well!

Can’t wait to meet all the Tushita family tomorrow!

 

Yes, we are coming! We are all really looking forward to it.We have so much to share finally in person!

 

Day 22

 

Tiring Monday. The day started with another of Gibran Khalil Gibran poem On Giving from The Prophet during the teacher’s session. This poem was harder for them to assimilate compared to the previous ones: it was longer, there were difficult words and complex metaphors. We expected this poem to give them some difficulty and it did, but I think it’s positive. We explained each verse one by one so it took us quite some time, we didn’t manage to finish it completely today. I believe that doing the same poem tomorrow is good because they’ll have time to reflect on it and let it sink in more.
Geeta’s class requires extra energy as usual. They are cute and motivated but they need translation for every single thing. We started by spelling the key notions (again and again) I hope next time we won’t take as much time… During the first batch, a French family visited the foundation composed of a 12 year old boy and his parents. I told him to join the theatre class and with no hesitation he did (I’ve gotten so used to extremely shy kids). We were doing the exercise where they have to walk around the space as I tell them to (ex: the floor is hot, like an old woman etc.). Victorien (the French boy) blended in perfectly, he acted so naturally that the others were even copying him. The contrast between the 12 year old French boy and my 12 year old kids was striking. Apart from clothes and corpulence, Victorien was much more at ease than the others; he was simply doing his thing and not caring which is not what I can say about my kids (even after a few classes they are still hesitant). The reason behind this contrast is surely because the French parents were looking at their child acting with such awe and pride which I’m sure would not happen if my kids’ parents came to attend my class… seeing this contrast live (and not imagining it) reminded me of what you said Rosenda about the foundation being a place where kids who do not have Victorien’s parents can at least have a taste of a different kind of education.

 

You are raising a very important point and I am so happy to hear that a French boy could take part in your class. However I can’t avoid thinking that Victorien does not come from a country that was colonized for a long time like India. What you see in your children is definitely a result of that. Therefore we need to try to help them come out from the inherited inferiority complex.
It has been a great pleasure meeting you in person and I hope that we will have other occasions to get together.

 

Day 23

 

The teaching cycle started all over again. Ruchi’s class is always the class I use to perfect my new exercises. I try to see what is the best way to explain a new exercise or which one they enjoyed the most, etc. and apply my findings with other classes.

I started with a recap of the previous notions, the first batch remembered almost everything whereas the two other batches not so much. I’m going over the concepts again tomorrow and I hope it’ll be the last time we have to repeat them.

I introduced them to an exercise called ‘the machine’ where one by one, each student has to go onstage and produce a sound and a movement until everyone is part of a ‘machine’ they create. We had to do it three times because they weren’t getting the right rhythm but eventually they got it.  I also made them do a new tongue twister ‘Red Leather Yellow Leather’ that they have to repeat five times in a row as fast as they can. Tongue twisters always make everyone burst laughing, they are a great way to start the class. Two students caught my attention today, Sajal and Anch (I’m not really sure about the spelling) they are the most creative ones in their respective batches. Anch is definitely one of the smartest; even though he’s physically much smaller than the rest he has a very, very powerful voice too.

During the teachers session we continued studying the same Gibran poem as yesterday. The discussions were interesting but I think we aimed to high we should choose poems that are less complex, they even told us they found it quite hard. We were thinking of introducing new poets and poems, maybe a Brazilian and an Italian one. I like the fact that we’re not only talking about India anymore.

 

Yes, I agree, we can’t pick on India all the time. It is difficult for you to understand that some poems can be very difficult for the teachers and I cannot stop repeating that we should try to avoid making the teachers feel inadequate. But we will get there eventually.
Thank you so much for contributing to make the roof cover happen!
I enjoy reading about your exercises and the way children react to them.
Have a lovely evening

 

Day 24

No teacher’s session today, we visited Amer with the Hindu teachers Priyanka, Payal and Ruchi. As usual, Priyanka was the one in charge. We visited ancient maharajas tombs, temples and a huge well. The visit was really amazing, especially the Mira temple, a breath taking site near Amber Fort. Priyanka and Payal received us in their lovely home, where we were fed to the maximum of course. The only ‘uncomfortable’ moment was when we took the bus to go to the Mira temple, even though it was for a few minutes I felt it took forever because of the stares… During the tour we were in a hurry because we arrived late to the foundation, so I’d definitely want to do it again and take many more pictures.

I had Ruchi’s class again. The day before I had told the 2nd batch to either come on the first or third batch because of the sun. I had a few during the first batch and a LOT during the third. When there is a lot of students it’s automatically harder, I focus more on containing them than on seeing how well their doing the exercise but this problem will be solved soon enough with the roof top.

We did a new trust exercise today ‘The Fall’ that consists of a student letting himself literally fall in the arms of his partner. It took some time to explain to them the safety precautions and that it was more an exercise of balance rather than weight but eventually they were able to make it.

I had three students that gave me trouble today, Shakib and Parvej (who were stuck to each other like glue) and Fardeen who is just super shy and a pre-teenager. The fact that they were all present during the third batch didn’t help. But there are always students that make up for the other ones like Anch, Sajal, Shoyab and Satyam (who’s been attending almost all my classes!).

Great facebook entries! I’ll send you the pictures I took today via wetransfer.

 

 

Wonderful, now you know both sides of the village! I wonder what the differences are!. Please try to ignore people’s stares, it is a very common Indian feature and no harm is meant, they just don’t think it is bad to stare and are very, very curious.
It is really a pity, that you are often late, I will have to write about that to Veenaji, now.
Hopefully the internet will allow me to take down your photos from wetransfer.
Feel free to post on Facebook, I don’t have the monopoly of it.
Could you please also change the date it was founded, it is 2009 and not 1999. Sorry, I just added 10 years!

 

Day 25

 

We used the article you sent us about the problematics of wearing a sari for the modern Indian woman. I think the teachers enjoyed it and I learnt a lot of surprising things about saris, for example the fact that Hindu women wear it after getting married. Apart from Geeta, all the others considered the sari to be way too uncomfortable for every-day life and apprehended having to wear it once they get married except for Ruksar who said she’d rather wear saris than burqas. I was shocked to learn that once married the custom for Indian Muslim girls is to wear a burka! It made us all feel a bit down when Ruksar sadly said that she would probably have to cover herself in a few years… Also, it was hard to imagine Geeta in a kurta before she was married! Geeta maam told us she was waiting for her mother in law to buy her a kurta since she would allow her to wear one if there’s a picnic or a sports event at the foundation (I’ll send you pictures asap!). All in all, the girls didn’t really agree with the writer of the article because they find the sari too much of a hassle for every-day life.

 

I had the teenagers today, it went really well, no one gave me trouble today! As usual Satyam attended two classes, I love that he loves it but he tends to overdo it (talking to me non-stop and ‘leading’ the class) but I told him that the others have to learn too and he got it. I noticed that for ‘the fall’ exercise (falling into each others arms) the boys were much more at ease than the girls, I’m trying it again tomorrow.

 

For the first time, Priyanka’s third batch was really interesting. Souraj, Kirin’s younger brother joined Abisheik and Vedpal. We decided to start writing a funny play about the foundation called ‘One Day at The Tushita Foundation’ where we will make fun of both the teachers and the students (in a nice/funny way of course). We started writing about the characters which are inspired from the teachers as well as the volunteers and we laughed so much. The 3 kids along with Priyanka and I got so excited that we decided to make a little play, involving a few students and us the volunteers.

The general idea is to have a narrator ‘Once upon a time, a little kid wanted to come to the Tushita foundation’, this kid (Boy or girl we’re not sure yet) passes through the 6 classes where there will be over exaggerating of certain aspects of all the teachers and volunteers (who would be played by students) and of the students (played by us the volunteers). A short self-ridicule play by the end of March, what do you think?

 

Dear Ivana, Silvia and Fede,

 

For more than a hour now , I am trying to open your message on google drive , but for some reason it is not working.

I am in Cochin right now and the internet is very slow.

I will try tomorrow in the office, hopefully, this message will reach you.

 

Love,

 

Rosenda

 

Dear volunteers,

Ii just read your entries in the Cochin office after fighting last evening with the internet to no avail.

In a little while, Jan and I will be travelling to a remote area of Kerala and I know that it will be difficult to get a connection. So I am asking you to be excused to reply to your entries, that I will definitely miss a lot. It will be a pleasure for me to read them all together though.

I managed to write too quickly to Silvia and I am also very happy about the play that you have come up with. Thank you for being an agent of change and improvement at the Foundation, it is important that the children sit in the right class. Concerning the delays, I wrote Veenaji very nicely about it and I am convinced that the question is over now.

 

Please enjoy this week and post on Facebook if you want.

 

Love,

Rosenda

 

Day 26

We introduced a new game for the Friday sessions: ‘Guess who’ which consists of guessing who is the personality written on your forehead by asking yes or no questions. It was quite fun, I’ve noticed that when we play games we can see each others funny quirks come up, for example Ruksar is just bad at games, Sonam cheats with Ruksar in a very funny obvious way, Payal is the competitive one (like me), Federico is the one who always reminds us of the rules, etc etc.

With the teenagers we re-did the trust exercise that consists of falling into each other’s arms and this time they were all at ease. I also mixed the pairs; girls catch boys and vice versa and to my surprise the boy/girl trust exercise worked quite well. Since yesterday, I’ve noticed that Gitender who’s part of the second batch is taking my class much more seriously than the first few times, he’s attentive when I explain the exercise and when others are performing onstage which was really not the case before. He used to chat with others and make no effort, which is still the case with Kirin, even though I like her and she’s polite I can see that she doesn’t think my class is serious enough. She’s what I consider a know-it-all, she’ll get the point of theatre eventually.

We continued writing the play with the third batch. For the first time Vedpal, Abisheik and Souraj were really interested in something we were doing together (finally!) and we were all laughing (even Vedpal!!). I have to say I’m really excited because we came up with some pretty funny things. I’m going to try typing the play this weekend.

 

Day 27

 

Ruchi and Priyanka did not come this Monday, something about state exams… But the session went quite well, the article about ‘endangered languages’ that Federico found was extremely interesting. It was also a relevant subject to the teachers since India has a very wide range of spoken languages. This subject brought-up the globalisation debate, is it good? is it bad? and we didn’t all agree on the matter which is great. As usual, Geeta and Ruksar were the most active and participative ones. Even though we encourage everyone to participate, it’s hard to really insist on the others speaking because after all, we are colleagues and of the same age…

 

After the teenagers I enjoy two days of Sonam’s class. I was extremely happy to see that 7 students from Sonam’s class were moved to Geeta’s third batch, honestly it was time for them to get to the next level. The plus side for Sonam is that she has a bit less students which makes a big difference because she can now focus on kids with the same level. As usual they struggle with spelling according to what they hear. I’ve never seen teachers give dictations in any class, is it part of the teaching method here? if not, I think it’s a great way for students to learn to improvise spelling simply by hearing the words, I’ll suggest it to them tomorrow.
Pushkar was breath-taking, I’m sending you a few pictures via wetransfer right away!

 

Hi guys,

 

I must admit, I can’t stay away from you and your lovely journals. After a few days abstinence, I have taken out my 3G key and went and read your entries. The comments system does not work well here, so, I thought I would just write you a small message to tell you that I find what you do really great, even though you might find it a bit frustrating at times, realizing how much the children lack in freedom of expression and creativity. It must be a form of luxury to be able to explore who we are and try to make something out of it. For the families of our children, school is just a way to get a job, possibly a government job, where you have a sure salary, work little and have a little power. Kiran is a good example of this mentality that has been pushed on her. Still, I feel that it is great for her to be exposed to theatre classes. I didn’t hesitate when you proposed the project, Ivana, but I knew, it would be resisted by some.

On the contrary, I am not surprised that the children love the architecture project, it is concrete and talks about their lives, maybe, you can print maps of Amer for all, Silvia?

Thank you Fede for informing me about the journal, I am so pleased to hear that the teachers are writing one too. I wonder if I should ask them to send it to me, I just don’t want to step over Veenaji’s territory.

Now, I can’t wait to hear about the week-end trip, but I really don’t understand the weather, maybe Fede you brought a bag of clouds from Milan along with you?

 

Have a lovely evening,

 

Rosenda

 

Day 28

Another rainy day in Jaipur, the weather’s been strange lately shifting from warm to cold… But the teacher’s session was fun! The article we read was about untranslatable words used in various languages from Filipino to Inuit, words such as ‘dépaysement’ in French that require numerous sentences in English in order to be explained… Clarifying these words to the teachers and realizing how cultures can be different from one another via language was very interesting and most of all funny! Fede even took out the map to test them on the different countries the words come from!  The article had a much more laid-back style than the previous ones we brought, it’s good to change from time to time. Even Sonam was vocally very active for once! I asked the teachers if they ever do dictations and they all said that they didn’t. We told them it’s a way to make the kids listen to the words instead of memorizing them. Maybe I should make a dictation in the next class I give, what do you think?

It was day 2 for me in Sonam’s class. We did the usual copying then spelling. Certain kids are so much faster than the others its blatantly obvious, for example Isba (?) who apart from having the cutest cheeks is also very bright she kept asking to spell rather difficult words and she would do them perfectly well in one shot! Unlike Harsh, a cute but really quiet boy whom I had a lot of difficulty to explain the spelling of the word ‘orange’ he kept repeating the same mistakes ‘O, Double R, G’ even when I would ask him to repeat the spelling letter after letter with me… Sonam told me she had noticed that he was very weak, I got a bit frustrated because I literally spent half an hour with him to explain the spelling and still it didn’t work… What can one do in this case? Even though I tried really hard, I felt like I was talking to a wall.

I’m glad you enjoyed the Pushkar pictures; we are very lucky to be so well taken care of! I’m sending you a few pictures of today’s teacher session.

 

 

Day 29

No yoga this morning, we woke up and went straight to Amber fort to meet Geeta’s husband who is a tour guide. Since Silvia hadn’t been to the fort we visited it again. Having a different guide made us discover new things about Amber fort, this time I paid attention to other things. The visit was nice but exhausting, we tend to forget that it’s tiring to be a tourist! We were kind of late to arrive to the foundation. We showed the teachers videos on hand gestures and body language around the world including a parody of the different ways Indians shake their head and the meanings behind it, all of it was in English of course. We all compared hand and body gestures from our respective countries, the results were quite hilarious particularly the Italian ones. I think it’s great we talk about cultures around the world; simple things like hand gestures are a good way to introduce the teachers to different cultures.

I had Ruksar’s class, for some reason there were very few students today: 4 in the first batch, 3 in the second and 2 in the last… I think it’s because there’s an official holiday tomorrow so everyone’s taking it easy. Satyam attended my first and last batch, it’s great to have him around, I use him as my example to explain exercises to the others, he’s also my translator as well as my ‘assistant’ in checking that everyone’s doing the exercise the right way. The last batch ended quite quickly because it started pouring rain, the whole foundation had to pack up and leave it felt like the word was ending which was quite comic.

Ruksar told me that she did a dictation the day before, I looked at some notebooks and saw a large paragraph from a children’s book. I asked the students if they had enjoyed it and they all replied positively, she also enjoyed it and told me she’ll do it more often. She told me she tried to ‘articulate’ as much as she can (which is a word I had explained during my first classes). I suggested that she does a few in class then one that she would collect and grade to make it a bit more serious for the kids. I will also insist on dictations in the other classes, I was happy that Ruksar did it naturally without me insisting!

Tomorrow is a day-off for us, the chance to take Silvia to other must-see monuments in Jaipur like city palace and Jantar Mantar, I hope its not going to rain.

 

 

Day 30

 

We woke up to a thunderstorm. From 7h30 till 12h30 the sky was grey and pouring rain so we decided not have a teacher’s session and weren’t sure if we would open the foundation. Suddenly, around 1pm the sun showed up and the schizophrenic weather was normal again, we went from winter to summer in an hour…

 

I had Ruksar’s class again, even though not a few students showed up I was still able to finish all the exercises I had in mind. I’ll keep in mind that I might have to repeat them when I get this class in the next teaching cycle. I upgraded the usual ‘traffic lights’ exercise (which consists of stopping when I say ‘red’, sitting for ‘yellow’ and walking for ‘green’) by asking them to make certain group shapes, for example 2 triangles: in a few seconds they have to manage to make 2 groups and position themselves accordingly to make a triangle. This exercise requires teamwork, speed and leadership the result was quite hilarious at first because they wouldn’t work together but after a few tries they managed to make pretty decent shapes. We also re-did the ‘toy boat’ tongue twister, the result was much better than last time, I spotted immediately those who had practiced.

 

I noticed a new interesting student: Ragu. I think I just realized that he has a lot of potential because he doesn’t come regularly to the foundation but I’m going to insist that he does because he’s good: he’s creative and quick and it’s obvious that he loves being onstage.
We’re taking an early morning train to Jodhpur tomorrow, it will be my first Indian train ride I’m quite excited!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 31

 

Sorry for the delay Rosenda but yesterday was so hectic as you know, it was Federico’s birthday so the day was full of surprises. It started with a birthday cake with everyone in the Tushita house/office, followed by another cake with the teachers at the foundation. They decorated the whole foundation with balloons and got Fede a nice watch as a present, I think he was very touched by the whole thing, especially the fact that they had noticed he never wore a watch. I was hearing Happy Birthday during the whole day from Priyanka’s class where Fede was teaching. He also did the sweets distribution in every class like all the kids usually do when it’s their birthday. At around 7 we were taken by Veena and the teachers to the light and sound show of Amber, it was really magical and the fact that Priyanka and Ruksar’s class was there made it even better. The day ended with a humongous dinner in a restaurant with Veena and Gajju. As you can see, Fede’s birthday was celebrated properly.

 

I taught in Payal’s class. I had 6 students during first batch plus Satyam, the class went well in the ground I didn’t need Payal as much as usual to translate. I noticed that the kids were trying to explain things to me in English, usually they just ask the teacher to translate or directly ask her questions about the exercises. All in all, they’re definitely improving, they go onstage without hesitation, they are less afraid of making fools out of themselves which brings me great joy. The only one not doing an effort to speak to me in English was Avesh, he kept mumbling things in Hindi…

The third batch was composed of  16 students: Payal’s second and third batch as well as Ruchi’s third batch. We went on the roof where we had little space because of the metal poles for the new roof. I didn’t mind having the poles on the floor in the middle of the roof just because it means we will have shade up there soon! Even though I needed Payal’s help to contain everyone, I felt the class went very well because the students that usually give me a hard time were enjoying the class. Kfardine (Ruchi’s class) who usually rolls his eyes during class actually asked if he could go onstage again, I was over the moon. The boys group of Shakib, Parvet and co that usually don’t take my class seriously were participating actively, I hope it lasts.
The weekend in Jodhpur was great, we were so well taken care of as usual. I’m sending you pictures of the weekend and Fede’s birthday. Hope you arrived well in Paris.

 

 

Thanks a lot Ivana for the pictures.
Yesterday was a day of trepidation. Jan and I were wondering how Veenaji and Gajju Bana would orchestrate the surprise at the end of the day. They were perfect as usual.
We are all very thankful to you for taking time to come and teach our children, we want to show our gratitude however we can.
I am convinced that Ivana’s “pagal” classes will never be forgotten by the children at the Foundation, even the teenagers.
Satyam seem to be a steady presence in your classes, he really wants to learn from you.
So, work on the roof is in progress and I hope it will be ready soon.
We have arrived in Paris early this morning and a pale sun has welcome us, crocuses are out in the garden and it feels like Spring is not too far. I am quite tired though.

 

 

 

 

Day 32

We found an article on the origins of birthday celebrations, why do we celebrate it with a cake and candles across cultures? It was quite interesting for the teachers and us. Geeta said that she had never thought about it before but that knowing those few facts made a lot of sense. Some words that we had previously explained came up again, the teachers remembered a few of them and the rest was completely forgotten. We insisted yet again that they get us any kind of document in English for the next teacher’s session, from songs to poems. I really hope they share something with us.

The roof is under construction! We saw the workers today and they installed around 12 metal poles on the roof. Of course we couldn’t use it but it doesn’t matter it’ll be over soon, I’ll take pictures of the constructions and send them to you.

Payal’s first batch went well, we deepened yesterday’s exercises. Avesh was still mumbling things in Hindi that seemed to make everyone laugh (even Payal) I got a bit annoyed because he wouldn’t stop even after I told him that the whole point of my presence was to help them talk in English. I think I should take him aside after class next time because I actually like him. The second and third batch fusion went really well, I had always thought that having fewer students in class was better but with this group it somehow works. I think the fact that they are 15 is more of a ‘positive challenge’ for them. Also having Payal really helps, I can focus on some while she focuses on others and vice versa.

I’m almost done with writing our little Tushita foundation play I’ll send you the script as soon as I’m done with it.

 

 

What a good idea to show the teachers how even simple traditions can be a source of learning and understanding. To be inquisitive is not a quality often required in India.

Good to know that the roof will be ready before the sun will become very, very hot.

Probably Avesh needs a one to one talk and even a little warning that if he continues speaking in Hindi, he will be dispensed from coming to your class.

I am happy for you if you can handle a group of 15 students, it is not an easy task.

Looking forward to reading your play. Have a lovely evening.

 

 

Dear Rosenda,

 

I woke up with my throat hurting, my sinus blocked and my head feeling heavy… I caught a proper cold so I decided to rest and stay at home for the day.

I feel much better now that I had some rest.

 

I managed to finish writing the play, I’ll see with Fede and Silvia if they have anything to add and send you the final version as soon as I can.

 

I hope you’re enjoying French food!

 

Ivana

 

Dear Ivana,

 

You took the right decision, I hope that you have drank hot water with ginger and honey and that you’ll be fine tomorrow morning.

I am looking forward to reading the play, I am sure it will be fun.

French food is not really my cup of tea, too much butter! With the delicious olive oil that you know, I can make my light and wholesome food so much missed in India, though.

I forgot, I always wanted to ask you if someone could take pictures of your classes, I would love to make a Facebook album of them.

 

Rosenda

 

 

Day 34

 

I skipped yoga this morning because I still felt a bit weak, I’m hoping I’ll be able to do attend class tomorrow. I woke up however in a much better state than yesterday.

 

For the teacher’s session Priyanka brought a text titled ‘Do we still need a reservation and quota system in India?’. The article was extremely interesting, it tackled the issue of favoring lower casts for public jobs, basically what the West calls ‘positive discrimination’. What was even more interesting was the teacher’s point of view on this ‘favoring’ system, they all had the same feeling of injustice because they are from general casts which means getting public jobs is harder for them than the lower casts (if I understood their point of view correctly). Ruksar gave us the example of a test she passed with a grade of 70% for a job at the hospital which she didn’t get unlike her lower cast friend who obtained the job with a passing grade of 40%. The general opinion of the teachers was that the quota system urgently needed to be updated since it was created during independence. Updated not abolished since I understood as a ‘general cast’ they do gain certain things from this system. I personally learnt a lot about the cast system during this session, since the beginning it’s always the subject that I’m too scared to bring up but that I’m very curious about. I had absolutely no idea that Muslims also had a cast system. I really don’t let myself formulate an opinion on the matter since I wasn’t raised to accept or understand the cast system and I’m grateful for having that choice.

 

Geeta’s class is without any doubt the most demanding one, I truly admire Geeta for being able to handle them. I think they have good intentions but it’s obvious that they haven’t learnt how to behave yet. It’s not only their weak English level that’s the problem, it’s their attitude, if someone is performing onstage they are incapable of staying still and simply waiting for their turn no matter how many times Geeta and I tell them to calm down. The ‘blind’ exercise was borderline dangerous with this group because they don’t behave and don’t listen to the rules. However, Geeta does a great job putting them back in place even though she has to do it continuously…

The new third batch in this class is simply mind-blowing. The ex-Sonam students are tiny geniuses, we finished in less than hour general-key concepts of theatre (Movie vs Theatre, Stage directions, etc.) which took students from other classes much more time to get. They copied everything properly in their notebooks (which is not the case with the previous batches) and were participating in a much smarter way. I can’t wait to start theatre exercises with them.

 

We just finished eating a delicious risotto made by chef Fede, it feels so good to eat non-spicy things that have taste. I’ll take pictures of my theatre class tomorrow and send them to you. Thank you for the wonderful link about Beirut inspired art, I’ll definitely check out the exhibition when I’m back and send you my feedback.

 

PS: I’m sending you the first draft of the play asap

 

Ivana, your play is really funny. I hope it will help every one realise where we could improve.

It is such a good idea to ask the teachers to bring articles. The subject you discussed today is very touchy in India nowadays. I think we even talked about it when I came and visit. Someone who was not brought up in the cast system cannot really understand it.

My perception of it is that there is a place for everyone in society and everyone feels at his place, no need to struggle. The fact that the Muslim teachers have told you that Muslims follow a cast system too proves that no matter the religion, the general culture is Hindu in India.

Geeta’s class does make me worry. I keep wondering if working with the volunteers is not too much for them. I have sensed that the three of you are against it, but I feel that these children need to learn the basics before being exposed to English.

Please discuss it with Veenaji and the teachers and let me know. what do you feel is the right course of action.

Geeta’s new third batch is the living proof that when you teach a very young child, you have a good chance to succeed. There should be reservation for good kinder gardens and elementary schools, not for jobs.

I am not surprised that Fede cooks very well; it runs in the family, both his parents are excellent cooks.

 

Day 35

 

I’m so glad you think the play is funny! I noticed that I didn’t write the character names of the volunteers: Maperico is Fede, Kilvia is Silvia and Banana is me.

Priyanka read it and told me she thought it was perfect: funny but not difficult to understand. I have in mind a few students that could be a part of it, I’ll take them on the side tomorrow during activity day and tell them the whole idea and of course that it has to be kept secret since it’s a surprise.

 

We played the song Three Little Birds by Bob Marley for the teachers. I honestly don’t think they liked it very much, even though I consider Bob Marley a classic I understand that they might not enjoy it since they listen to other kinds of music. I’m  a firm believer that music can and does bring people together across cultures, if Bob Marley isn’t the one then we’ll find another artist.

 

Yesterday night, when preparing my new class I realised that it was the last class I was going to give. It’s scary how time flies. I set myself the goal of getting them to improvise scenes by the end of the three months. I think that the older ones (Priyanka and specific batches in Ruksar’s) have the potential to improvise little scenes with lots of help of course. But the other classes, I have to be realistic, aren’t able to express themselves easily enough to improvise. I’m going for silent improvisation exercises.

 

Ruchi’s class was completely changed, the students that I was used to seeing moved to Payal’s class and new faces from Sonam’s class appeared. Although I was happy to see these changes, I had to change my class plans accordingly. The Sonam students were completely lost at first (it was quite cute) but after a few tries they were MUCH more at ease than the older students. We did ‘creative objects’ exercise: a stool is onstage, one by one the students have to use this stool as anything they want but a stool. The first try was a fiasco, they wouldn’t think outside the box, it’s after a lot of encouraging that the second round got creative. We also did the ‘group photo’ exercise, which consists of posing for different themed group photos (Family picture, Cricket team, Wedding picture, Climbers on top of a mountain, etc.). It took some time but they eventually did really cool things.

There is one new student called Priyanka who showed a lot of creativity and another boy (ex-Sonam student) who was more imaginative than his older peers.

 

I took a few pictures of my class from today and yesterday you’ll recieive them as soon as I upload them. You’ll see the constructions on the roof in some of them.

I’m really excited about starting the rehearsals for the play tomorrow. I’ll keep you updated with how things go.
PS: I found this article online. It’s very interesting but it might be uncomfortable for the teachers to talk about it with Federico there… Please tell me what you think, doable or not during a teachers session? (this is the link: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26260978

 

I am sorry Ivana, I should have thought that the one screaming colours out of her lunges was you!

For some reason Banana didn’t strike me as being you.

What to say about someone not liking Bob Marley? It is like someone who doesn’t like spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and basil!

I enjoy reading how you are flexible enough to adapt your goals to the reality of the children in the Foundation. It is a great quality to use in life.

It is not surprising that younger children are more at ease with your proposals, they are not yet formatted by the environment.

I just saw the photos you have sent, it looks like the children are having great fun. It is a pity that they had to put such big bases to the poles for the roof, but I guess they were afraid of the monkeys tearing down the all thing otherwise.

Concerning the article, I would say that the topic is really taboo to be discussed in front of a man. Ask Pryanka in private and see what she will say. It is a very important issue that stops girls from going to school in some places.

 

Day 36

 

We started rehearsing the play on saturday and continued today. These two rehearsals consisted of reading the whole play together, assigning the characters and explaining exactly what will happen in every scene.

 

This is how we assigned roles (for now):

 

Satyam→ Iguana maam (we changed my name) + Geeta maam and Lussendra

Abisheik (senior)→ Narrator

Minny→ Puksar maam

Rinkou→ Maperico sir and Ronam maam

Bonny→ Piyala maam

Abisheik (Junior) → Pagal maam and Kilvia maam

Lalit→ Pizzaji

 

We are missing girls for the play but I’ll make sure we get minimum two actresses since more roles need to be given. The kids found the play very funny and were all excited to join, we made it clear that they needed to keep it a secret (hope it works). We will rehearse every day from 5h15 to 6. It finally started!

 

Geeta got an interesting poem by Langston Hughes, an afro-american poet from the early 1900’s called Mother to son. It was an intriguing choice since the English used in the poem is old afro-american slang which was difficult for all of us to understand. God bless the internet and smart-phones, we could look up the style of the poem (jazz poetry) and the old expressions that they used back in the days. We even found vocal recordings of the poet reading this poem. The teachers who were present (Ruksar, Geeta and Ruchi) told us that they now realized the work the volunteers have to go through for teacher’s session, that it wasn’t as simple as it sounds to find interesting articles. Just hearing that from them made us (the volunteers) so happy. It’s always nice to hear that your work is appreciated.

 

With Ruchi’s class we could use our new roof today! They finally installed the whole thing, you shall receive pictures tomorrow. The kids loved it as well. There were new Sonam students who for a first theatre class were pretty good. The same kid as last time ‘Aman’ from Sonam’s class amazed me again, he’s really a natural, it’s a pleasure to watch him during exercises. I just realized that it was my last time teaching Ruchi’s class, I’m so glad to have the play to keep my mind off thinking about this fact…

 

Iguana maam, it is such a funny name, I love it. It is so exiting to read about the play in making! I can picture all those lovely faces in the effort of giving you “the author” what you want.

I just have one question: why to you give two roles to Rinkou and Abishek? Maybe you can’t find anyone else who would do a good job? Lalit as Pizzaji? Too cool.

It feels so good to hear that the teachers have expressed their appreciation for your work. They are benefiting greatly from it and I would be really surprised if they wouldn’t realise it.

Thank you so much for making the roof happen, I had being trying for the past three years to no avail.

I know that the end of your time in India is approaching, but I also know that you will carry marvellous memories with you. I feel fortunate to be able to meet you in Paris soon.

 

Day 36

 

We started rehearsing the play on saturday and continued today. These two rehearsals consisted of reading the whole play together, assigning the characters and explaining exactly what will happen in every scene.

 

This is how we assigned roles (for now):

 

Satyam→ Iguana maam (we changed my name) + Geeta maam and Lussendra

Abisheik (senior)→ Narrator

Minny→ Puksar maam

Rinkou→ Maperico sir and Ronam maam

Bonny→ Piyala maam

Abisheik (Junior) → Pagal maam and Kilvia maam

Lalit→ Pizzaji

 

We are missing girls for the play but I’ll make sure we get minimum two actresses since more roles need to be given. The kids found the play very funny and were all excited to join, we made it clear that they needed to keep it a secret (hope it works). We will rehearse every day from 5h15 to 6. It finally started!

 

Geeta got an interesting poem by Langston Hughes, an afro-american poet from the early 1900’s called Mother to son. It was an intriguing choice since the English used in the poem is old afro-american slang which was difficult for all of us to understand. God bless the internet and smart-phones, we could look up the style of the poem (jazz poetry) and the old expressions that they used back in the days. We even found vocal recordings of the poet reading this poem. The teachers who were present (Ruksar, Geeta and Ruchi) told us that they now realized the work the volunteers have to go through for teacher’s session, that it wasn’t as simple as it sounds to find interesting articles. Just hearing that from them made us (the volunteers) so happy. It’s always nice to hear that your work is appreciated.

 

With Ruchi’s class we could use our new roof today! They finally installed the whole thing, you shall receive pictures tomorrow. The kids loved it as well. There were new Sonam students who for a first theatre class were pretty good. The same kid as last time ‘Aman’ from Sonam’s class amazed me again, he’s really a natural, it’s a pleasure to watch him during exercises. I just realized that it was my last time teaching Ruchi’s class, I’m so glad to have the play to keep my mind off thinking about this fact…
Iguana maam, it is such a funny name, I love it. It is so exiting to read about the play in making! I can picture all those lovely faces in the effort of giving you “the author” what you want.
I just have one question: why to you give two roles to Rinkou and Abishek? Maybe you can’t find anyone else who would do a good job? Lalit as Pizzaji? Too cool.
It feels so good to hear that the teachers have expressed their appreciation for your work. They are benefiting greatly from it and I would be really surprised if they wouldn’t realise it.
Thank you so much for making the roof happen, I had being trying for the past three years to no avail.
I know that the end of your time in India is approaching, but I also know that you will carry marvellous memories with you. I feel fortunate to be able to meet you in Paris soon.
Day 37

 

The rehearsals are getting better and better! We read the play again but since the actors had time to practice they were much more at ease with their text and even added their own things. About giving two roles to one actor, some roles like Pagal’s is really brief and consists of only tow lines and since Abisheik (junior) is very talented and has good english it would be a waste not to have him act more. But for Satyam I agree, even though he’s a natural and blew us away during rehearsals giving him two ‘big’ roles might be too much. The problem is: I asked new students to come to rehearsal today but they didn’t show up and time’s running out. I’ll make sure they come tomorrow and see what we can work with.

 

Essay about Women Empowerment was the title of the text Geeta brought for the teacher’s session. As yesterday, Geeta really put the bar high, the essence of the text was easy to understand but it had a lot of difficult and technical words. Words like ‘discrimination’ that we had already explained came up, after giving them a few hints they remembered the definitions, I think they won’t forget these words again. The teachers sessions are only being held with Ruksar, Ruchi and Geeta, we all miss the rest of the girls, however I have to be honest, we now have deeper conversations and they get to read aloud for longer.

 

I was welcomed in the teenagers class with a huge ‘WELCOME TO IVANA MAAM IN ROSE CLASS- you are very good teacher’ with a drawing of Ivana maam on the white board. I literally melted, if someone had told me at the beginning of the program that the teenagers class would touch me this way, I really wouldn’t have believed it. Needless to say the classes went really well. I introduced a new tongue twister “She sells seashells on the seashore” the results were hilarious; knowing them, they’ll practice and do it better next time. The improvisation exercises were very creative, they found a lot of ways to use a stool differently, after a few rounds and lots of encouraging from Priyanka and I. But it’s the result that matters!

 

About meeting up soon in Paris, I have a skype interview with the director of Sciences-po’s Communication department at 11h45 Paris time. I tried to see if they could change the timing but it’s Sciences-po (in other words French administration) so they told me straight away it was impossible. I’m going to have to miss the foundation tomorrow… I plan on spending only one day in Sonam’s class (which comes right after the teenagers in my teacher’s cycle) to complete my last class with the teenagers. Fede, Sil and Priyanka are handling the rehearsals tomorrow.
PS: I took a few pictures of the amazing new roof that we have, I’m sending them to you right away.

Wow! Ivana Mam, I am so happy for you! I guess that you will never forget those teenagers.
Thank you for explaining your rational behind the choice of the children for the play. These exams do disrupt our activities a lot, but what to do?
My impression is that the teachers at the Foundation find a place there to ventilate their worries and frustration. They show their desire to grow when they choose difficult articles to share with you.
Concerning Science-po or even better Paris in general, please remember that Parisians are prone to always say NO. So, in the future, when you’ll come here, be determined to insist on everything you ask and don’t take no for an answer.
Thank you for showing me the pictures of the roof.

 

 

Day 38

 

We finally have two new actresses for the play! Chavi from Priyanka’s class will be playing Puchi ma’am, she’s really amazing she got the part right away and we were all pleasantly surprised. Zoya from Payal’s class, even though her English is weak and Priyanka had to translate all our directions she was very good for a first reading, she just needs to be alone with her text and practice. I’m so happy we’re performing a play, the actors are really excited and their daily improvements are obvious. The play is becoming more and more concrete every day, they come up with new ideas and add them instantly to their characters. We’re also getting closer as a theatre troupe, we have a lot of laughs during our 45mn rehearsals, it’s a really great atmosphere (all the secrecy makes it even funner).

 

The article about girl power stories that you had sent us was the text we read during the teacher’s session. Even though we didn’t get much time to discuss it, words and notions that we had explained before came up again, they remembered most of them. There was one awkward moment when Geeta asked what were contraceptives, thankfully Veenaji was here to explain it in Hindi. Veena’s presence during the teacher’s session is useful for questions such as these but she definitely makes the teachers nervous which is totally understandable. The fact that she’s not present every time makes the whole thing okay, because I feel they’re not as open and spontaneous when she’s there as they are when they’re solely with us.

 

It was my last teenagers class, I was a bit sad but so happy with the results. The improvisation exercises made us all laugh, it consisted of four actors imagining they are waiting in a doctor’s waiting-room. Even with a minimum of conversation and a little help from my part they were funny and above all improvising! It wasn’t perfect but they were having fun and accepted looking stupid which was the ultimate goal of my classes.

There was one unpleasant thing today though, I had 14 students in the first batch that were forced to stay during the second batch because tourists were visiting the foundation. The students were tired, I had to contain 20 students and come up with new exercises so they wouldn’t get bored. The first batch kids kept asking me if they could leave and I honestly couldn’t find a reason why they couldn’t. It’s not the first time it happens but today there were just too many and the second batch’s class didn’t go as well as I had planned…

 

However, Satyam and Abi sheik (junior) made it all better after when they told me not to leave and to stay another month “We can’t imagine the foundation without you Federico sir and Silvia maam” which gave me a bittersweet feeling. Also, my contact with Souraj (Kirin’s brother) has been going quite well recently. Now that he’s in the third batch with his sister, Abisheik (senior) and Vedpal I’m discovering that he’s quite the actor, out of the others he’s the best. I think the fact that he’s with a smaller older age group makes him act more maturely.

 

Thank you for the new links I’ll check them out right away. Also, I’m sending you pictures of Silvia’s class in which they made really cool things!

 

Good to know that your play is turning out to be a great experience.

At first I thought I should stop insisting that you would make one, but I knew that, even though imperfect, the result would be wonderful and even more the journey to get there.

I understand what you say about Veenaji’s presence and I have seen it happen even more when I am there.

However, I am a bit disappointed that we are making efforts for the tourists who come to the Foundation. Jan and I intend to talk to Veenaji about it. We don’t want the children to have to stay for them.

No wonder the children did not participate as well in the second batch.

I often think about the fact that the children get attached to you and then you leave, but then isn’t life often that way?

Souraj is a little artist and I am very fond of him, I am so happy that he has found a better spot to express himself.

Thanks a lot for the pictures, we are a good Facebook team.

 

 

 

Holi at the foundation!

It all started with a ride on Ruksar’s scooter to Mira temple where we started celebrating with all the teachers (but Sonam).  Geeta had the idea to bring us there since her sister in law was going to be dancing as tradition entails. It was Ruksar’s first time in a temple; she was so excited (as much as a child on Christmas eve) it was amazing to see her like this. There were musicians playing and singing beautiful traditional holy music in this ancient scenic temple, the whole thing was surreal. Of course, music requires dancing so we all had to join the dancing after watching Geeta dance beautifully. Even Ruksar the foundation’s dancer joined in, at first she was reluctant, which is very understandable since she’s a Muslim in a Hindu temple but after seeing us all dance she just went for it, a really fantastic moment…

I spent the first batch in Sonam’s class where I attempted to do some theatre exercises with the little ones, since the kids that came from Sonam’s class in Ruchi’s surprised me with their skills. It was a huge mess but they were having fun and that’s what matters. We did the traffic lights exercise (freeze when I say red etc.) and also the creative stool (use the stool for everything but a stool) they were copying each other but it was adorable to watch.

Around 4 the celebrations begun, I have never seen the kids so nervous and excited. They were all gathering up looking at the colourful powders being set up on the table and we could see and feel their exhilaration. As you can picture, it was way too dangerous to take out my camera during the intense throwing colours part so I only have pictures of the before and after. The during was quite a spectacle, colours everywhere, kids putting colours on our faces every second ‘Happy Holi ma’am’. I will not attempt to describe how we ended up looking like; pictures are sometimes better than words (they even got Snowy).

All in all, it was a really memorable day. You will receive pictures after my long intense shower.

 

Probably, you will go down in history as “the miracle workers”.

It is so exiting to hear about Ruksar joining you at the Hindu temple. We cannot really imagine what must have gone through her mind and heart. She is really a remarkable young lady. Bravo for creating a situation conducive to this.

It is also very good that the kids have a place to make a mess and just enjoy. Who cares if the exercises don’t come out well sometimes! And Holi is all about breaking barriers for one day

 

Day 40

Our little actors practiced well over the four-day weekend! We really saw improvements with all of them (except Minnie and Lalit who didn’t show up today…). They were much more comfortable with their texts so we could focus on movements, positions and intonations. We managed to rehearse the whole play twice for the first time! Chavi (aka Pucci ma’am) was perfect she didn’t any coaching even though it was her second rehearsal. Zoya (Peeta ma’am) on the other hand needed more help, it’s probably because her English is weaker. Priyanka and I sat with her for 10 minutes and practiced, she was much better after.

Ruksar and Ruchi were the only ones present for the teacher’s session. The house next to the foundation was still celebrating Holi with a music band. It was nice to see but the noise of the drum and tabla were so loud that we couldn’t focus on the poem Ruchi brought. We moved to another class but alas the noise was still too loud, so we decided to keep the text for tomorrow (plus there would be more teachers). We spent the hour talking and spending our last moments together.

Ruksar’s pigeon class is always pleasant, especially now that we have the roof. During the second batch Anil and Raghu took over the class, they were hilarious especially during the creative stool exercise (use the stool for anything but a stool) they were so excited and imaginative, which enabled the others to focus more on being creative. Even Mehzabi who usually stays in her own bubble was participating actively as well as Shoyab and Zouhail (who are non-stop holding hands and talking to each other) made an effort. It’s so encouraging for me to see that some students with good energy make the others want to try harder.

I am so exited about your play that I have already asked Fede to let me know more about the project. When, where, how?

What I love about a play is the synergy that is created between the children and everyone else. There is a concrete project and everyone has to contribute one’s best.

You must have noticed that in India it is all right for boys to hold hands and show affection to each other. It is not at all the case in Italy, how about Lebanon? I would think that they wouldn’t want to be seen dead holding a friend’s hand, right?

Paris has gone back to its usual grey, I suspect Dheeraj to have taken the sun along to India when he left on Sunday.

 

Day 41

We had another great rehearsal this afternoon. We asked the actors to memorize the lines so we can start practicing without texts, they were also told to make a list of the accessories and costumes they think their characters should have. The play will be performed on our last foundation day (next Thursday).

The idea is to create the stage in the playground, we will divide the stage into three parts/classes: Sam will go from class to class (we’ll be moving along with him).

Space 1 –> Space 2 –> Space 3
Peeta Ronam Pucci
Pagal Puksar Piyala

When the actors won’t be performing they will be helping with the set-up of classes, which requires a lot of organization. Tomorrow we’ll start practicing on the roof, we’ll divide into three parts and see how we can make it run as smoothly as possible. Since the roof is open (like the playground) it will be a good test on their voice. Maybe we should put microphones on the floor to help project their voice during the actual performance, what do you think?

Since it’s a really short play and the subject is every-day life at the Tushita foundation I don’t think it’s necessary to invite the parents, again, what do you think?

Also, Veenaji told me she found a projector that we could use for a day so we can make a slide show of the pictures of the kids accompanied by music, but we need to figure out a way to show it numerous times since we need a rather dark room… For speakers and microphones she also assured me that it wasn’t a problem.  As for videotaping the performance we could use my camera but having a professional one with a tripod would be the ideal thing, I’ll also ask Veenaji about that.

We finally read Ruchi’s William Wordsworth poem with Geeta, Ruchi and Ruksar. The poem was a typical sample of the Romantic movement, it was all about the poet’s desire to go back to simpler times where the beauty of nature was enough to make man happy.  We explained what a literary movement was and discussed the Romantics and how interesting it was to see that this longing for nature is a universal and timeless issue. We talked about the contradictions in India concerning nature, the respect for animals and trees surrounded by garbage and dirty streets. Ruksar admitted that before listening in Silvia’s class she would litter on the streets without thinking twice about it. It was definitely a very interesting session.

Ruksar’s class went amazingly well today, I think it had something to do with the fact that they overheard Puksar telling me it was my last class with her… They were on their best behavior and tried really hard. One of the exercises consisted of going onstage one by one and making an advertisement for an empty water tank and then a scarf, they really came up with the funniest things, expressing themselves with actions more than words.

 

Last Foundation day! The word is out, I am going to miss our daily correspondence. Veenaji will help you organize the stage and make sure you’ll get microphones otherwise the children’s voices are lost, I witnessed that last summer.

You are probably right, there is no need of inviting the parents. You know? Your play has no dancing and Indians don’t understand a performance without dance.

Maybe you can use Payal’s class for the projection of the photographs, i am sure that the children will love it. Please ask Veenaji where you could rent a tripod. Ayan, my other son, has either rented or bought one  in Jaipur I think. Gajju bana helped him. It might be a good idea to buy one for the Foundation. It’s no point to ask a professional, we have done that once and did not like the result at all.

I am so happy to know that we are bringing some ecological awareness to Amer.

 

Day 42

 

PRIYANKA IS GETTING MARRIED!

This is the highlight of the day. She didn’t come yesterday, which is really not habitual for Priyanka. The secret is out: she was making her engagement official with the groom’s family. She was so nervous but excited, she looked happy however her sister Payal looked even happier. The future fiancé is from Udaipur but works and lives in Jaipur. She met his family and was reassured by the fact that they were very friendly and warm. Seeing her this excited couldn’t make me happier, I’m glad I got to witness these first moments.

Geeta was the only one present for the teacher’s session; she took the opportunity to show us her wedding photo-albums (which we had asked to see previously). It was an English exercise for her and a Hindu traditional wedding introductory class for us. We really went into details and asked a lot of questions, it was simply fascinating: the in-laws dress the bride and the groom; the little boy in all the ceremonies represents Ganesh, etc. I wonder, do Indian Muslim weddings have traditions such as these?

The creative object exercise and group photo exercise were really understood and appreciated by Payal’s class. No one was hesitant or went onstage giving me the ‘I have no idea what you want me to do’ look. Rahul (the tall one who’s good at cricket) really impressed me, unlike all the other times, he wanted to go onstage first, he was really funny because unafraid to make a fool out of himself (he willingly took the role of the crying mother for the wedding group photo). Chakib (Sonam’s brother) who is new in Payal’s class is so much better than when he was in Ruchi’s, he’s got much less attitude and way more creativity, I definitely like him more in Payal’s class. All in all, they were on top of their game; I can’t wait to try improvisation exercises with them tomorrow.

This time we rehearsed on the roof, and I realized that there’s a voice issue. In an open area like the ground we will barely be able to hear them, I don’t know if mics on the floor are a solution… Abisheik the narrator will be holding a mic but for the rest I’m not sure yet, I’m going to google some solutions.

Since we were on the roof we started organizing those who will help me with the set-up when they’re not acting. We need a way to create a backstage in the ground, maybe put up a wall of white boards, just enough for the actors to change quickly, do you have any suggestions?

The new character will be Samantha and not Sam: Priyanka (the new girl in Ruchi’s class) who’s a natural actress agreed to join our team, and was considered perfect for the role by all. No need to say our actors are getting better and better during every rehearsal, especially Fede, Sil and Priyanka who love being the students.

 

Wow! What a scoop! Please convey her my Mubarak, congratulations and wishes. I wonder if she will be able to continue working after the wedding, I am afraid she won’t.

I wish her a lovely husband and a happy life.

It is so lovely of Geeta to share her marriage experience with you. Not many travellers in India have the opportunity to hear such a first hand account. Please ask Ruksar about the way Muslim weddings are performed. If you are interested, maybe one day, I will show you the pictures of my Kashmiri Muslim Wedding. There are two tents, one for the women with the bride and one for the men with the groom. I didn’t like that.

The microphone is necessary, I don’t know if children can pass it on to each other without spoiling there acting. Maybe they can have a couple of standing ones at their height. Maybe you can create a backstage by pulling white sheets, what do you think?

 

Day 43

 

Rehearsals went smoothly today. Except for Lalit who didn’t show up for the fourth consecutive time, he has a small role but still he needs to come, I’m going to try to catch him after his class. The rest is going very well, most of them don’t need a text anymore and are very comfortable in their roles. Priyanka our little Samantha is doing a great job at looking super scared of the teachers and the kids. We’re in the interesting part of the rehearsals where we are relaxed enough with the texts that we add and improvise things. As for the backstage, tomorrow we will attempt to hang a white sheet in the ground, I hope we find a solution.

Our last game day! Everyone was present, we played charades and as usual it was hilarious: Geeta not moving or doing anything to make us guess the word ‘ordinary’ or Ruchi trying to make hand movements to make ‘pizza’.

Payal’s class wasn’t as good as yesterday. I blame it on the heat it was particularly hot today. Still we laughed a lot: Veshal and Rahul impersonating two pregnant ladies in a doctors waiting room or when Archi had to convince the audience to ‘buy’ little Shoyab. It wasn’t the perfect improvisations but I clearly saw a difference compared to the first classes and that’s all that matters.

Priyanka’s future engagement was still the talk of the foundation. I’m not sure how the kids found out but they were discussing it too and congratulating her, she looked genuinely happy the whole day.

 

Ivana, your pictures are lovely! What will happen to our Facebook page without you?
I am surprised about Lalit’s behaviour, he seems such a responsible boy!
Laughing together is so important, that’s probably why everyone likes you so much, Ivana mam.
Marriage is a bit deal, everywhere, but even more so in India. No wonder the children talk a lot about it. They must realise also that their beloved teacher will be leaving. I do feel about it as well. The balance we have achieved will change, let’s hope that Veenaji will find a nice replacement.
Tomorrow will be an important rehearsal day, I will be thinking of you

 

Day 44

 

No teacher’s session today since we had to stay longer in the office to prepare and discuss our travelling plans. Now that we actually planed and booked everything for our departure it really feels like the end…

Geeta’s class went better than all the previous times. The students didn’t need to be contained, she even left me for a bit with thirteen of them and they all behaved very well, there’s definitely improvement. Since they’re younger and ‘wilder’ the exercises didn’t require any pushing/encouraging. For the creative objects exercises I really felt like it was very easy for them to imagine using a stool differently. The group photo exercise was a bit harder to implement since they have issues to hold still for more than a few seconds. However, all went very well I’m happy to say that I no longer apprehend teaching Geeta’s class (it was about time).

A raging thunderstorm disrupted the third’s batch class. All the students had to leave before getting completely soaked, so we had to cancel rehearsals today… I decided not to teach tomorrow and after-tomorrow so I could focus on practicing the play.

Tomorrow, I’ll take every available student and work one-on-one with them on their part, see what their costumes are going to be and manage all the details. Wednesday will be ‘répetition générale’ during first batch in the ground with all the accessories and the stage. We stopped at a stationary shop on the way back to get the materials we need to use for making the accessories (under Silvia’s supervision).  We’re starting the arts and crafts session right after this diary entry. Veenaji will make sure the microphones, projector and speakers are going to be available on Thursday.

Priyanka came up with a solution for the backstage: we will put to tables over each other and put up a cloth on them, it would create a ‘fake’ wall for the actors to be able to change. Also we need a few costumes items (masks, wigs, etc.) that we will purchase tomorrow on the way to the foundation with Veenaji.

 

It is good to hear that you feel you have managed to learn how to contain difficult students, it is not at all an easy task.

If you guys agree, I would like to prepare a short questionnaire that will not be posted and will stay with me. Can you please ask Fede and Ivana also if they wouldn’t mind filling it? I think it will be a good support for your reflections.

I am very exited about the play, can’t wait to see bits of it. Have you managed to find the tripod to film the play? You are doing well to focus on it right no, it is only few days away.

How badly are you missing home by now?

 

 

Day 46

 

I spent the whole day rehearsing individually with the available students.

I had forgotten how hard it is to act in front of others. Alone with me, Zoya was truly excellent in her role then at the 5 o’clock rehearsal with all the others she wasn’t half as good as she was before. I talked to her with the help of Priyanka, told her she was very talented and that she should forget about everyone else when onstage, that she should enjoy it, she’s just nervous it’s normal. It’ll go away during the performance with the adrenaline rush.

Our Puksar (Minnie) is getting better even though she has trouble going completely crazy during the dancing. Silvia started the John-Ibrahim costume and it looks AMAZING, she made wings out of newspaper. Chavi will look great in her pigeon costume.

Everything is going well so far, they don’t need their texts anymore and keep on adding the funniest expressions (especially Rinkou and Satyam). Having Silvia in charge of making the accessories is perfect; she comes up with the coolest things.

The scenes that I’m quite confident about are Ronam’s, Puchi’s, Pagal’s and Puksar’s. I’ll work more tomorrow on the Peeta, Piyala scenes and the final scene.

The only negative thing is the fact that there are no-shows, 3 students didn’t show up today. For tomorrow’s repetition générale during first batch, I hope that everyone will come. Priyanka and I will bring the list of costumes needed. Silvia and her will try on the Tushita foundation uniforms of Shirin and Shirat. For Fede it will be harder since he’s much bigger that the big kids of the foundation. A tight uniform will be uncomfortable for him and funny for us.

I talked to Veena about filming the play, she suggested that we take her niece’s portable video camera. I think it’s a great idea since my camera’s quality isn’t as good as having a real video camera. Also, this way we could have a film of the play as well as pictures (I’ll give my camera to someone for pictures).

Having to prepare the play and our departure makes it easier to forget this feeling that I always have when leaving: I want to go home because I miss not being a stranger, but eventually I want to come back to Jaipur and have it like it is now, with Fede and Silvia, Veena, all the teachers and the kids. I’m taking as many pictures as I can to make sure I immortalize every moment here.

Yesterday night was a blast! We got a mix of Indian snacks and drinks and surprised Bhim, Lal and Davie Singh. I’m glad we did this, I think they really appreciated it. I’ll send you the pictures when internet works properly.

 

The last days of rehearsal, I wish I were there. Please do not worry so much if children don’t perform so well. In their previous experience, the magic peacock, la repetition générale was a disaster, but then, all went very well for the actual play.

I can’t wait to see the costumes and You guys in the kid’s uniforms, it is a grand idea!

Maybe you can ask the teachers to call the absent children and remind them that they have signed up for the play. Thank you for finding a way to film the play.

I know only too well how departures feel, but then this seems the destiny of globalized people like us. I am afraid that the children will miss you terribly too.

Thank you, merci , grazie, danke, gracias, shukria, dhaniabad and I wish I knew how to say it in a thousand languages, for all the lovely pictures you have taken.

And thank you for surprising our boys in the house.

 

 

Day 45-46

 

THE END

-Part one-

We did a repetition générale during first batch with everyone. We explained where everyone had to stand, repeated over and over again the basic things (Raise your voice, don’t give your back to the audience).

All in all, the rehearsal was okay but their tiredness under the 2pm sun was palpable. I spent the rest of the day practicing one on one with those who wanted to (like Zoya). We made sure everyone understood what they had to bring for the play, answered the questions, and called it a day.

After the foundation we head straight to Veena’s house where we felt at home. It was a lovely evening. Once a Tushita House (even though we were in a food-coma) we finished making the play’s accessories and made sure we had all the last details completed (like downloading the songs). I also created a slideshow from a selection of pictures for the kids to watch during play rehearsals since the ground was going to be closed. We also completed the photo album we planned on giving to the foundation and the teachers.

-Part two-

Woke up with a mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement. We arrived at the foundation, saw the ground: it was grandiose! Veena had told me that she could provide a stage; I imagined a simple wooden stage that would solely separate the actors from the audience. It was much more than a simple stage:  high above the ground and large stage, aligned chairs for the audience, four huge speakers, 14 mics, a sound man, beautiful curtains and most importantly a backstage! All these casse-têtes to find a way to create a backstage were useless; the new backstage was perfectly set up behind the stage so the actors could enter from both sides. It was so unexpected and such a nice surprise, the actors felt instantly more ‘important’.

The last supper with the teachers was wonderful. It was just like at the beginning, in Ruchi’s class with good food prepared by all. But this time we were much more comfortable with each other (inside jokes were on the menu).

We set up the slideshow accompanied by ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley in Priyanka’s class. The kids were super excited to go in, I didn’t stay for a whole session but I could hear the laughs and exclamations from downstairs.

We closed down the ground and started a 2-hour rehearsal. We got so focused we (almost) forgot about the heat. It was the first time that we rehearsed with music. Since we had a big stage and 2 backstage entries, we decided there was no point in dividing the stage into three parts and instead use all the stage for each scene. Plus it was way easier for the students.

The actors were very excited. There was no major incident to report except for Bonny who gave us trouble by refusing to wear a kurta/leggings for Piyala’s role… Fortunately for him, Priyanka came up with a compromise where he only had to wear a kurta. If she hadn’t intervened I would have probably gotten crazy because of the stress (especially because he decided to become a diva on the day of the play and not before when he perfectly knew he had to wear one). Rinkou on the other hand was adorable, he got so excited when he had to wear his kurta for Ronam’s role and he rocked his kurta/legging outfit.

After two main rehearsals, questions and a warm-up it was time for the play. I was nervous, the kids were nervous, but the nice kind of nervous. We could see Zoya’s ‘trac’ from miles away she was too cute.

As soon as Fede stepped onstage with his Tushita uniform scotch-taped on him the laughter started. For a full ten minutes the laughter did not stop. I was so focused on the play that I didn’t really focus on the audience but the pictures Payal took of the audience show huge smiles. I definitely think the play was a success even though some things could have been better. Under the stress, Abisheik the narrator was reading his text a bit too fast, but it didn’t matter because the funny stuff was for the actors. And I tell myself that when I met Abisheik he wouldn’t utter a word and there he was three months later reading onstage. Our great actor Satyam got stage fright! In Peeta’s scene he was supposed to bark and throw the snowy puppet onstage but didn’t, without thinking I grabbed the doll and barked so it wasn’t noticeable (years of theatre have trained me to act fast). Also during Puchi’s class as I entered as Veenaji with the tourists, I don’t know what bit him but he left the stage and came back a few seconds later. I now find it hilarious because he told me he couldn’t even explain why he left the stage “I forgot ma’am I forgot!”.

Rinkou was really great as Ronam and Maperico. The teachers (Silvia, Fede and Priyanka) were really into character and hysterical (in the good way), they played the students perfectly and they looked like they were really enjoying it.

However, the one who astonished me was Zoya. She was the one who needed the most attention during rehearsals and would always ask for more practice. She was the first ‘kid’-actress onstage and that’s always tough but she acted perfectly. Nothing like the rehearsals, she put everyone laughing on the floor, I was and still am so impressed. We always considered Satyam like the number one actor, he’s got some serious competition.

The play was filmed by Veena’s Ipad since there was a last-minute problem with the video-camera, it was the best solution we could come up with under stress. She promised to send it to all of us, I’ll remind her over and over again until we get it, promise. And as soon as I get to Beirut I’ll send you the pictures!

We were surprised by the teachers and Veena, they made Silvia and I wear a typical Rajasthani dress. The teachers all looked beautiful with their matching red traditional dresses. I have to be honest, the dress I got to wear was beautiful but it was quite a struggle. It was heavy and there was cloth hanging everywhere, plus it was hot and we had to dance with all the teachers and kids onstage. I now bow to Indian women who manage to wear these outfits daily, never would have I imagined that it required so much strength and patience: Respect.

After the play, the crying began. I really did not expect so many tears from the kids. The last image I have of Satyam is him in tears, he really wouldn’t stop crying, it broke our hearts. Abisheik junior, Zoya, Nourain, and little Isba were also tearing when hugging us goodbye. It was horrible. I hadn’t realized how much we affected these kids until I saw them crying… But the worst was yet to come, after showing Veena the video we made her, giving the books to the teachers and receiving their lovely gifts it was time to say goodbye to the teachers. We spent 40 minutes in front of the car in a circle not wanting to move and saying ‘we’ll see each other again’… Goodbyes are dreadful especially that we don’t know when we’ll meet again. I’m so happy I met and got to know all of them but knowing that I’ll probably never see them again is awful.

Little did I know that this feeling was going to be ten times worse the next day when we said goodbye to Veena. Leaving the house made me realize that it was really over, for good. Saying goodbye to Veena at the railway station was a moment I’d like to forget. We got so close to her in these three months; she really treated and pampered us like her family. I now associate Jaipur to her and I’m going to miss her a lot. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m surely going to see her again either the next time I’m in India or somewhere in Europe.

All these great friendships and memories wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you Rosenda. Thank you so much for creating an amazing foundation and thank you for letting me be a part of it. As cliché as this may sound, this was a life-changing experience. I don’t know how I’ll be able to go back to reality after these three months.

I am writing this last entry on the road Agra-Delhi where we spent a lovely time, still recovering from the beauty of the Taj Mahal and all the mixed emotions from the last few days.

Thank you thank you for everything and thank Jan for me, we were so well pampered during our trips.

I’ll see you soon in Paris Inchallah!

 

Oh, dear Ivana,

Your entry made me cry too. How silly do I look sitting in front of my computer with tears in my eyes.

Jan has had to read the last few sentences aloud, because I couldn’t go on. We are both so thankful to life for this wonderful opportunity to make our dreams of the Foundation come true. Nothing would have happened without Veenaji and Gajjubana, though, so hats of to them.

Thank you for your energy, your enthusiasm and the wonderful memories you have left everyone with.

Have a safe and pleasant journey back home, we will meet again, I hope.

 

 

 

 

Silvia’s Journal in blue, in green, Rosenda’s feed-back

 

 

1st and 3rd February

 

Day 1 and 2

My first day at Tushita Foundation was a Saturday. On this day, it was sports day so we didn’t have classes. It was a pleasant day. We spent all the afternoon outside on the ground playing with the kids. The sport of the day was racing and we could practice different types of running and the kids really seemed to be enjoying the activities. All the kids were so excited to play outside! I felt very welcome either by the kids, the teachers and staff.

(Of course I wouldn’t even have to mention the amazing reception of all the Tushita Travel crew! I’m feeling too spoiled!)

Me, Federico and Ivana already had a nice time together either just hanging out or helping me to get to know everyone from the Foundation and planning my classes. They are both very excited about being here, the kids and working at Tushita and it gives me a nice energy to start.

Today was my starting day at Tushita. The first scheduled activity was the English session with the teachers. Federico and Ivana had chosen an interesting article. We read and discussed with them about the 13-year-old girl who became a football player. The teachers didn’t seem so excited to participate even if they state to like the theme and the text.

Later on, I decided to take rounds on the different classes to understand the English level and to get to know the kids and teachers better before starting with my teaching.

For the first batch I participated on Pryianka’s class with the teenagers. It was interesting and they welcome me very well. I just helped them with some English exercises and it was cleat that even if they have the same age and are attending the same batch, it’s possible to see that some of the kids are in a more advanced level than others. It was interesting and funny to participate, they kept asking me to check their exercises and to leave them a signature and a grade… The grading seemed to be very important (and also a matter of competition for some of them!)

For the second batch I joined Giita’s class with the smaller kids. They were learning about pronouns and I always amazed that they were actually willing to participate in class, repeating after her the words! Payal’s students joined Giita’s today and I helped her to manage the exercises, helping Payal’s students to have their exercises done.

To finish, we went to the ground – as I’ve seen so far, the most exciting and waited moment for the small kids specially – and everyone was playing, running and having a good time, teachers, kids, me, Ivana and Federico.

In general, I appreciated the experience and being around the kids, they are always very polite, smiling and welcoming. I mentioned to some of them what I’m planning to teach, about architecture, and I could see that they have interests on that topic. I’m excited to start teaching!

 

Yes! Here you are, welcome to the Tushita Foundation, Silvia!

It is good to know that you feel pampered and well  taken care, but how about India? What is your first impression? Does India have anything in common with Brazil?

Have you been around in the city of Jaipur a bit? How do you like it?

The idea of a Brazilian, a Lebanese and an Italian volunteer working together in India really makes me smile inside, it is our own version of the United Nations, I guess.

 

It is intriguing to see that the teachers could not engage with the topic of football playing. Did you ask them about their lives? Do they play any sports? Do they enjoy it? Would their parents send them to Spain to compete in a football match?

Always try to bring the topic you are discussing to their lives.

Even though I know that it is not so easy, I would be thankful to you if you could try to remember some of the children’s names and write anecdotes about their learning or not. It makes your journal more interesting to read and gives us information on the children whom we might choose to help continue their studies.

Please look carefully at the playground and how everyone uses it. We need to understand what would happen if we construct the structure I have sent you the plans of.

It is a very important choice and we don’t plan to take it lightly. Thank you for giving a professional look at it.

It will be interesting to hear how the children react to architecture.

 

 

Hello Rosenda! I’m sorry for not telling you my first impressions.. It was not because it hasn’t been impressing mean, as a matter of fact I’m surprised all the time, the reason is that the days have been pretty intense. So many things happening and there is a lot of information that I’m not even able to talk about them all!

I have to tell you that many people told me about India and how I would get impressed as soon as I arrive. I tried to not have any expectations in advance and take it all as a surprise! The first thing I have to talk about of course is the traffic. I think that it really is a super different experience! On my way from Delhi to here I was so tired from the flight that I was napping on the car, of course there was a big traffic jam and it took us around 6 hours to arrive. I met Veena as soon as I arrived to Tushita House and later on I met Federico and Ivana when they arrived from the Foundation.

On Saturday, as I mentioned before, we went to the Foundation on the afternoon and then we went out for dinner. We went to this type of barbecue restaurant and I was really shocked by the fact that it was totally Brazilian style (of course not as the food itself but the way it is served)!! The food was delicious and I kept thinking that many other things reminded me also of Brazil! The variety and types of fruits and the way they are sold on the street, animals walking around, beggars, crowded public transportation…. We don’t have camels or elephants though and I’m always amazed to see them!

On Sunday we went out for a walk, Ivana and Federico showed me the market and we went to the Albert Hall. We took a tuk tuk to go there and it was a very nice experience. I was so tired later on that we just came back and rested to start Monday for of energy for the Yoga class!

As I mentioned before, Monday we had the teachers’ sessions and we actually made a lot of questions like the ones we suggested but still they didn’t engage that much.

Today we decided to show them a movie on the topic of women playing football. We started to watch Bend it like Beckham and they seemed to like it. We haven’t finished yet so we didn’t have time for discussions but we hope that tomorrow they will be willing to participate more.

After the session, I thought it might be good to keep following the teachers so I can get closer to them and the kids before start to teach. I joined Sonam’s class with the little ones and I really liked it. They are so into learning and they were all the time asking me to check their writing and spelling. I had a good time.

For the next class, I joined Giita’s class again since Ivana was with Pryianka and Federico with Payal and Ruksar was not feeling well so Giita had the double class again.

During her class I helped these two boys with writing and spelling but I was not sure they were in the same level as the others in class like Ruksar and Giita’s students. They were having trouble on writing the names of the months and this really shy boy called my attention. I couldn’t get his name though; he was too shy even to speak with me.

For the third batch I went back to Sonam’s. For the third batch there were quite few students so I was helping Sonam with the numerous class. I met Nazish and Tarnnum these lovely brothers that impressed me with their English skills, they were making the exercises very fast and they wanted to learn more and more words. Nazish even helped me to spell a word that I said that I was not sure about the spelling! Amazing kid! I wanted to know his name so I asked him to write at my notebook for me, of course all the kids wanted also to write their names, so I started my autograph Tushita book!

We went to the ground and had some fun for finishing the day. I tried to observe how they use the space and I already felt that there is an area on the back that it’s actually not very used. I’ll take a look at the plans again and check how it’s going to take over the space.

I was thinking about having some workshops to produce some recycled furniture to the ground. For example, plastic bottle stools. I feel that there is a need for a place to sit specially for the grown ups like us who can’t keep up with the kids energy!

 

 

 

 

Thank you Silvia for this lovely page of your journal. I could not resist asking about the similarities between India and Brazil because I have never visited your country, even though I dream to travel there one day. I picture it as a bit chaotic and joyful just like India, with its own character though. I wonder what is the Brazilian dish you’ll be making tomorrow. It is very adventurous for our teachers to try different cuisines. Please keep it vegetarian, avoid even using eggs. Food is for Indians very much connected with religious dictates.

 

It sounds like your first few days at the Foundation have been enriching and interesting for you. Obviously the little ones have stolen your heart too. Thank you so much for the photos, actually if I may, I wish to appoint you as the official photographer of the winter program 2014; you can go around to every class and send me some images trough wetransfer.com

It would be very helpful! You can even make videos if you have that option on your camera. We must redo the TF website and we need images of course.

 

Thank you so much for keeping a professional eye on the playground.

Do you have the plans with you or shall i send them again?

The idea of recycled furniture is grand! It will teach the children how to be creative! Go ahead and make stools for the “old bones” with plastic bottles. I am thinking that little children can also be involved in the process.

 

 

Rosenda,

Unfortunately I couldn’t think about any dishes that I could cool for today. First because it’s very hard to find something vegetarian, most of our traditional food has meat, and then we didn’t have time to go to a supermarket to check which ingredients I could find around here. Anyway, I promised the teachers that I’ll bring at least dessert one of these days!

 

About the official photographer, of course I would like to help me but I must say that Ivana has thousands of pictures already and she’s much more into photography than I do, even if I would really like to register the moments we are having there. No worries, we will take care of providing new and nice pictures!

 

Regarding the playground I have the plants, I’ll print them and bring with me tomorrow and I’ll take some time to analyse in the site. I’ll think about other ideas for the area also!

 

Today we didn’t have the teacher’s session because we had the lunch together, we just talked a bit about the movie we had seen the day before. We are going to finish the movie tomorrow and have some time for discussion.

 

I thought it would be nice for today to stay around the teachers that I haven’t been with yet. So I joined Ruchi for the 1st batch. The kids were learning pronouns and I was around helping them with the exercises. I really felt that their english level was kind of low, it took them a while to understand simple things like that in the sentence “There 10 books on the table” the verb is missing. But they seemed to be interested in learning and they were all asking me to check and help.

For the second batch I joined Ruksa and they kids were writing about their daily life. They wrote very creative and nice sentences and I was impressed that they almost didn’t have mistakes. They were very friendly also, one boy caught my attention, Ragu. He was reading faster than the others and he was the first one to finish his exercises.

 

The third batch I spent with Payal’s students because Federico was teaching and I wanted to see how he has been teaching so I could see what kind of approach I can have in class. There were only three boys but they were paying a lot of attention and they looked like they got engaged with the topic and with Federico’s class.

 

Later on I joined the kids on the ground. One thing that I feel like it’s unfair is that there are four football balls but only one badminton ball and one of those rings that the girls like to play, they are always fighting for their turn to play with it. The day was tiring but interesting though. Tomorrow I’m starting the classes with Ruchi and I’m preparing something to relate with what they have learned in their english classes, so they can also improve their english while learning about architecture. I’ll try to make it simple, I’ll show them tomorrow the buildings and parts of it, how we use it and who they share their spaces and homes with. I really hope they like it!

 

One more thing that crossed my mind today, do the teachers have any methodology for teaching? Do they follow english teaching books? I think it would be useful for them to have something to follow even to make sure they don’t make english mistakes.

 

Sivia, don’t worry, it is not easy to arrive in a new place and find your way to cooking.
I am so relieved to hear that there are plenty of pictures of this program, now I know that Ivana has lost the cable to transfer the photos.
You have obviously noticed that the level of English at the Foundation is pretty low, in certain classes in particular. Even the teachers level is not fantastic, but you must understand that those girls never had a chance to use English in daily life before meeting volunteers.
We have chosen to give jobs to local young women compromising on the level of teaching, because they would be accepted by the community.
Your idea of using a sillabus could be a good one. How about going out with Veenaji, Ivana and Fede and try to find good grammar books to follow? Please tell Veenaji also that I will be more than pleased if she buys some more material for girls to play outside. She is very busy and she needs your help to improve on these things.
It might be very good if you could find a way to show the children different dwellings in different parts of the world, it will contribute some more knowledge to their geography classes. From there, they can then concentrate on their own homes and village.
It is just a suggestion, what do you think?
In Priyanka’s class, you might want to do some architecture oriented work for the book of me.
They have those beautiful Moleskine albums that are ideal to draw.

 

Rosenda,

 

Today I had a very interesting and tiring day. We arrived early to have lunch again with the teachers and also finish to watch the movie. I think it’s good to spend some time with them, we can get closer and also we share more ideas about the kids, about teaching and even other subjects. Ruksar has been the most friendly teacher with me so far. She always asks how I am doing, my opinion about books or tips for studying english and today she even approached me to ask about architecture, saying that she would like to learn and understand a bit about it. I thought that this was very interesting and I’ll see if I can find any articles to work with them that are related with architecture.

 

I started teaching today in Ruchi’s class. For the first batch, it was very nice. The kids seemed to be very interested and they understood everything I tried to explain. I started with simple things, like what’s the difference between a house and an apartment, what type of house do you live, which are the rooms we have in our houses and how we use them and for what. What furniture do they have, which appliance do we use… And then I asked drawings for different objects and I asked them to draw their kitchens, gardens, bedrooms. I went through all the house rooms and they were very into it!

For the second batch, there were many kids and the boys sitting in the back were a bit messy. That made the class happen on a slower rhythm even though I think they could understand what I was talking about. In this class, we only did the bedroom and they made drawings of their bedrooms. I asked them: “who likes to draw?!” and two kids didn’t raise their hands. They were kind of bored most part of the class and they were the ones talking and interrupting. I’ll see if I can have a different approach with them next time. It’s so good when we feel they are engaging and participating!

The third batch was also nice. The kids were paying attention all the time and two kids caught my attention for being very fast and smart! Two new girls that started today were very very shy, they almost didn’t look at me. But i could feel that they were actually paying attention and comprehending everything. I’ll just give them some time to get more comfortable around the other kids.

 

By the way, Veenaji told us that it’s your birthday today! Happy birthday!

 

I took this picture today, it was so funny to arrive and see all the animals just chilling at the entrance of the Foundation! :)

 

 

Thank you Silvia, for your kind wishes and thank you for the lovely picture. I am a visual person and it makes me happy to see what you see.
It is very good for the children that you approach architecture from their point of view and I am not surprised that you have caught their attention.
Please try to learn the name of the children you mention, it is important for us t record your observations.

Ruksar is a very fine young lady. She is really eager to learn and is very open to the volunteers. She has helped every one of them to feel welcome and understand the Indian village ways.
It is a bit late tonight and I do not find much inspiration to write, however we will be meeting in a week’s time. I am looking forward to it.

 

Rosenda,

Today it was finally friday! I feel like this week has been like a month. So many amazing experiences and I feel like there are so many things going on that we lose the sense of time. Not that I feel tired or bored, more like the contrary, and it has been a very nice first week.

 

Today was friday, so day of games with the teachers. We played scrabble and charades. They seem to enjoy a lot games day and they get pretty excited for playing. They are very competitive between each other, but in a good sense. Payal looks like the one more dedicated to win, especially on sports. I think that this is a nice thing and that it can stimulate the others.

 

I was on Ruchi’s class for the second day and what impressed me was the fact that even if the class was very good for the first day it doesn’t mean being at the same level for the second. For example, the first batch was very excited yesterday but today they seemed to be a little bit less interested. I decided to make them draw their houses according to what we have learned about houses, the different parts and elements. The result was very very nice, as you can see.

 

Mehreen did this amazing drawing about her house, I could see that she actually followed what I’ve been saying the day before and you can see that she used all the different rooms to explain her house. She did all the small details even the water tank at the roof!

I’m uploading others students drawings as well. Fardeen also did a nice job, I can see he’s an attencious kid, he was the only one putting thickness to the walls and he even drew the entrance stair in perspective :)

 

The second batch that seemed not really into it yesterday was very excited today! They all participated a lot, laughed all the time and we had a really nice time together.  I went through the parts of the house and they kept calling me to show their drawings. Two kids are very nice Vansh and Krishna, they were all the time participating and smiling.

Third batch was also nice, even if the kids have a lower english level. There are many girls in class and they are all cute and they keep asking my attention to evaluate their drawings.

 

This was a very interesting first week and I feel better getting to know well the kids. I’m always amazed how polite they are and how they always ask for permission to enter and leave the class, for our approval for their exercises and how they are almost all the time in a good mood.

I hope to have a good second week. I know it’s going to be challenging, I’ll start with Pryianka’s teenagers class!

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much Silvia, for the lovely drawings and thank you for pointing out the children whom you have noticed.
I am not surprised that you feel like it has been a very long week, your senses must be over saturated with images, impressions, feelings.
You seem to be coping very well though, and your subject is important for the children.
Don’t worry about Priyanka’s class too much, maybe you can start by asking them to draw their dream house and describe it. How many bedrooms, who lives in it, who does the cooking, where do they eat….
I think they will enjoy it.
Soon enough I will be there and I hope that we will find time to discuss all that it seems relevant to the three of you.
Have a nice week-end,

 

Today we arrived at the foundation very very late, there was a muslim celebration and the streets were blocked. We arrived there around 13:30 so we didn’t have time for the teacher’s session. We are planning to discuss about the movie we watched together.

 

I started with Priyanka’s class, the “frightening” teenagers. For the first batch I started talking about the types of dwellings (houses, apartments, farmhouses). Then I showed them the different elements of our buildings (doors, stairs, windows, ceiling, floor, roof…) they already knew it but I imagined it would be useful to practice the names since they don’t use some of them a lot. Next thing I talked about the types of building we have in the city. The different activities that take place in different spaces. They could understand that the hospital, the hotel, the school have different features but when I asked why the temple is different than a church, Minnie started saying “I don’t get anything, I don’t understand you”. In reality i think she was just trying to show off, like trying to frighten me. I said it again and I really think they got it. The attitude of some girls that are always staring is challenging. They really look like they don’t want to engage. They boys were way easier and active and they really liked the idea of drawing the foundation. They made nice drawing so far.

 

I planning to go on with them with a project called “Our Dream Tushita Foundation”. So I asked them to make a drawing of how Tushita is for them today and write some sentences about how we could improve it, of course, always related with the physical space. So for next class the plan is to walk around Tushita with their drawings and see how the spaces are and what they like or don’t like about them. Let’s see if a more dynamic approach will make them more active.

 

For the second batch I started with the same approach and it was much easier, the kids are much nicer and I think they enjoyed the class and make drawings.

For third batch only Abisheck  was there. We drew Tushita together then we went walking around and checking what is the real space and what we put it our drawings. We discussed what we like and don’t like about the spaces. He’s a really nice student, I’m going to think about something special to develop with him.

 

Silvia, your insights on the frightening teenagers are are very interesting! We are facing the problem of adolescence! I didn’t see it coming. If Veenaji, and the teachers agree, I intend to talk to each of them individually and see what I can get out of them.
They should realise that one does not spit on a gift. But then hormones are in circle at this time and theydon’t know really how to stand in life yet. Minnie used to be such an adorable and beautiful little girl!
Since you are all working around the Foundation, maybe it is time for me to tell them the story of Tushita, hopefully, we will have time for that on Friday.
Thank you for paying particular attention to Abisheck, it is important to help those children who want to learn.
See you soon

 

 

Today we chose a poem by Khalil Gibran for the teachers’ session. We read the text together, we gave some definitions for the words they didn’t know and then we started discussing about it. At first, the girls seemed a bit shy to explain what they understood about the text. I appreciate the fact that Geeta always has the guts to start speaking. She explained what she understood in a very nice way and then the others also joined her. It was a good session, I think that poetry is also a good way to develop their English skills.

I had Sonam’s class today and of course it’s much more difficult to get some activities done with the little ones. But I really like their energy and enjoy their happiness, as well as Sonam who is a very careful teacher with the kids. We practiced some words related with the houses together and we made drawings about their houses, one shy kid caught my attention.. She almost doesn’t speak but her notebook was so organized and her handwriting so cute! Her name is Gubea, if i understood well.

Today Federico didn’t go to the foundation because he was not feeling well and we missed having him around. During the third batch, we left early also because Veena was not feeling good. Yesterday Ivana also felt a bit sick and i’m hoping this is not some virus going around! I hope to stay well for the next days and keep up the work…

 

Oh my God! I hope I will not find my dear volunteers in a bad shape when I’ll come the day after tomorrow. Please be careful and take care of Federico, hopefully the doctor has given him some effective remedy

 

 

Today we had a very good session with the teacher. We chose another poem by Khalil Gibran from The Prophet book and it was nice to see them describing their different interpretations and giving their opinion about the poem. We really felt they engaged and enjoyed the topic. We also had a good time because the poem was about Joy and Sorrow and all shared with the others our joyful moments.

 

I had Sonam’s class again and it went fine. Today I only helped her writing with the kids. They are always funny and cute. It’s nice to be around them.

I had a very funny moment when I wrote for this girl Gubea, the cute shy one, the fruits WATERMELON and BANANA for her to write and spell. When I checked, she wrote Watermelon with few spelling mistakes and Banana was written like this:

 

BANANA

 

bana

banana

bananana

banananana

bananananananana

banananananananana

 

I really couldn’t hold my laugh and I really don’t understand why she wrote it like this.. anyways she had this naughty smile, I think she knew it was wrong and was just trying to have fun! I told Ivana and Federico and we laugh a lot about it!

Sonam’s class is always fun.. The little ones really make me laugh.

 

Can’t wait to be there tomorrow.

 

 

Day 11 and 12

For not missing the count of days, day 11 was yesterday and I was not feeling good so I didn’t go to the Foundation. Let’s talk about day 12, when I started with Geeta’s class.

Before, we had the teacher’s session in which we finished the reading and discussion about the poem Federico and Ivana brought yesterday. The poem idea is really nice, I feel that it’s good for discussion since many different interpretations apply. Even if the poem for the session yesterday and today was not so easy, we tried to understand and interpret together. It was interesting to see them trying to explain what they got from the poem and what are they favourite verses and what they mean to them.
For tomorrow, we’ll bring something new and maybe we can go back to poems any of these days.
As said many times during this weekend, Geeta’s class is always challenging and hard either because of the position of the classroom and also due to the low level of english of the kids. Even if they sound interested and they were very polite it’s complicated to get their full attention and concentration in class. I started talking about “our house” and we can see that Geeta has to translate a lot, they couldn’t get simple sentences like:  “What are the objects in our bedroom?”. Anyways, if the help of Geeta we could continue and for first batch we discussed different rooms in our house, what are the actions we do in each of them and what kind of elements/ furniture we have inside. They were many today, all the third batch came together with the first (as I understood they had a wedding to attend) so it was hard to deal with many kids plus the others passing by to get in and out the building. They were pretty active though! They came to the board to write words and were all helping saying different elements of their house.

For the second batch there were only a few kids but I felt that then it was easier to keep their attention. I started asking their help to spell the words and they were coming to the board and writing. After they started making drawing about their bedrooms, using pencils, rulers, colors… Some of the girls stayed longer doing it very nicely since there wasn’t any students for third batch. It seemed like they enjoyed the class and that makes me feel happy.

 

Good to hear that you are feeling good today.
It seems that you managed to have an entire class with the teachers and it is great to see how much you can get out of a poem together.
We spoke with Gajju Bana today about the roof and I am very happy to learn that things are moving.
If you enjoy teaching them, the kids will enjoy your class as well.
Greetings from warm Mumbai

 

 

Day 13

Visit to Amber for teacher’s session! Federico and Ivana had done it before with Sonam and Ruksar and for today we went with Priyanka, Ruchi and Payal. We arrived a bit late so we started around 1pm. We walked around Amber and we visited the tombs at this square close to the foundation, an old water reservatory and this amazing temple called Sri Jagat Siromaniji. We also visited Payal’s and Priyanka’s house and we had a glass of papaya shake and some sweeties. It was very pleasant and also very interesting. I was fascinated by the temple architecture and the surroundings with the mountains and the fort is astonishing! We had a very nice time and it was nice to go to the teacher’s house, it was kind of them to bring us there and offer us something to eat and drink.
Since we arrived late for the tour, we also arrived late for classes. We arrived back from our teacher’s tour around 2:30 so we didn’t have time to eat, we went straight for classes. I had Geeta’s class again and I was expecting the kids to be like yesterday, not so focused and agitated from all the people coming and going.. But surprisingly they were very good today! They really engaged with class and were participating a lot! We had a funny first batch, I really had a nice time with the kids. The second batch was also good, we did more drawings today and some of the kids were doing amazing drawings! We found some time in between second and third batch to have lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miracle, my internet connection works now!
I wish I could have taken the tur of the village with you, it sounds really interesting! Now you know your colleagues, the teachers a bit better.
I do not know what to say about copying, we have beeing trying very hard to make the children understand, but, I am afraid, this is what they learn in their schools.
I am happy that the children meet children from France, maybe they will be inspired to be more free one day. Thank you for the pictures, they are lovely!

 

DAY 14

We arrived on time today! We used the text written by the fashion blogger who defends the idea of wearing saris on a daily basis that you suggested Ivana and we were actually expecting them to react more. After discussing about the article and explaining some definitions I think they engaged a bit more but for sure I was expecting them to be more comfortable talking about that subject.

I had Ruksar’s group and the kids were very good on first batch. They are very clever and they get everything on the first explanation, which makes the class flow in an easier way. We discussed our home spaces and we made some drawings.

On second batch I was impressed by Ansh and Mahek, they really stand out from the group. They are both pretty active, funny and extroverted. Mahek was helping me to teach, translating some words to their friends. I talked to them about houses and after they started drawing. After drawing I asked them to write down the names of the different spaces in the house and then I got surprised because all of them had spelling mistakes, even if I had written the words on the board before. I was just not expecting many mistakes because they sounded so good! Anyway, I don’t think spelling mistakes are so terrible if they were able to communicate so well.

For third batch we only had two kids and they were very very shy, it was a big difference between second and third batch, which I think it’s kind of hard after you get used to the other kids always trying to participate. I actually think that it’s necessary to prepare a different type of class only for third batch, using different words and presenting the topics in an easier way.

 

You will always be in time from now on, because Veenaji has agreed to send the driver half an hour earlier.
Mahek is a very promising student with a very supportive Muslim father, she will surely go on for further studies, but she needs to get her spelling right.
Please make sure that the children read at home in English. Maybe you can suggest a book to read and ask her about it once she brings the book back.
As for the teachers’ discussion, I have the feeling that we should avoid any “Indian” subject, they might feel judged by foreigners, so please find different topics to address.

 

Day 15th

Friday is game day! We had a fun teacher’s session playing games, it’s a nice moment because we can get to know the teachers better and I think it also works the other way around. We always laugh a lot and it’s good to spend an amusing time with them, not talking about the students or the article’s topics. It went well even if Geeta and Ruchi were not there because they had exams today.

 

I had my second day at Ruksar’s class and since yesterday we had a class about the house, today we had classes about the neighbourhood. I told them what the word neighbourhood means, it took a while for them to get it but I think it really is a hard concept to explain, something in between the house and the city…  We discussed about the buildings and things we have in Amer (schools, hospitals, park, ground, garden, street, animals, people, cars, etc) and they were very much into describing to me all the things they have and see in their daily life. Then, I printed some google earth images of Amer and give it to them to work in pairs, to find the Foundation and then their houses.

In the first batch kids liked the map, they got fascinated with the idea of seeing Amer and found it cool to search for the houses in a map.

The kids on second batch got really excited with the map, they even wanted to keep it and bring it home. I didn’t have enough copies for all of them though. All of them wanted to show me their houses, their schools, their neighbour’s house. I was happy that they liked to play and learn from a map. I also asked them to represent with a drawing their path from their houses to Tushita Foundation, what they had in their way, what do they see in their daily route. It was a bit late but they stayed in class in the back finishing their drawings when third batch came.

Third batch again was a bit more challenging but when they are drawing they can feel less ashamed and I think drawing can be a nice way for them to express themselves. The very shy girl from yesterday actually did a nice drawing about her path from her house to school, it makes me feel good to give her the chance to say something through drawing.

 

I’m attaching Raghu’s drawing, I really liked it! :)

 

 

Dear volunteers,

Ii just read your entries in the Cochin office after fighting last evening with the internet to no avail.

In a little while, Jan and I will be travelling to a remote area of Kerala and I know that it will be difficult to get a connection. So I am asking you to be excused to reply to your entries, that I will definitely miss a lot. It will be a pleasure for me to read them all together though.

I managed to write too quickly to Silvia and I am also very happy about the play that you have come up with. Thank you for being an agent of change and improvement at the Foundation, it is important that the children sit in the right class. Concerning the delays , I wrote Veenaji very nicely about it and I am convinced that the question is over now.

 

Please enjoy this week and post on Facebook if you want.

 

Love,

Rosenda

 

Federico found a nice text for this Monday’s teacher session. It was about the extinction of unwritten and undocumented languages and the importance of the relation between language and culture. It was an interesting topic that allow all of us to talk about our languages and our experiences with learning new languages. They told us the example of Marwari and how the language is disappearing with time because many people don’t learn it anymore. Priyanka and Ruchi were missing today, if they were there we probably would have had a better discussion about the article.

 

I took Ruchi’s class for our second teaching cycle. I introduced the topic “My neighbourhood” and we talked about Amer, their spaces, what do we have on the surrounding areas of the Foundation and what they like and what they don’t like about it. It was important to hear them saying that they are bothered by the trash and dirty areas and streams of Amer. If they already realized those are bad things – and not common things! – it’s because they are aware that the neighborhood could be better. I would love to have a class in which we walk around and I could tell them about the importance of keeping the street clean and not littering in the rivers and streams. Maybe I’m dreaming too big but what if a few kids of Amer could change the mentality and behavior and build a cleaner and nicer environment for all?

 

Since Ruchi was not there, we were in Payal’s class and she was there with me (as her students were with Ruksar). The kids enjoyed being in a different class.

During first and second batch, as usual, the kids were much more focused and interested but third batch is always a bit more relaxing and classes have a slower rhythm. But anyway we managed to discuss the same content in all batches. I’m printing the map for all of them now, I never thought they would like to keep it! They all wanted one today too.. I was happy that they were able to find their houses in the map, identify different buildings from an aerial view and to describe their way from home to the Foundation.

 

Hi guys,

 

I must admit, I can’t stay away from you and your lovely journals. After a few days abstinence, I have taken out my 3G key and went and read your entries. The comments system does not work well here, so, I thought I wold just write you a small message to tell you that I find what you do really great, even though you might find it a bit frustrating at times, realizing how much the children lack in freedom of expression and creativity. It must be a form of luxury to be able to explore who we are and try to make something out of it. For the families of our children, school is just a way to get a job, possibly a government job, where you have a sure salary, work little and have a little power. Kiran is a good example of this mentality that has been pushed on her. Still, I feel that it is great for her to be exposed to theatre classes. I didn’t hesitate when you proposed the project, Ivana, but I knew, it would be resisted by some.

On the contrary, I am not surprised that the children love the architecture project, it is concrete and talks about their lives, maybe, you can print maps of Amer for all, Silvia?

Thank you Fede for informing me about the journal, I am so pleased to hear that the teachers are writing one too. I wonder if I should ask them to send it to me, I just don’t want to step over Veenaji’s territory.

Now, I can’t wait to hear about the week-end trip, but I really don’t understand the weather, maybe Fede you brought a bag of clouds from Milan along with you?

 

Have a lovely evening,

 

Rosenda

 

Day 17

Inspired by the text we brought to the teachers yesterday, today we brought an article containing a selection of words in different languages that can not be literally translate into different languages. Besides the article being interesting the session was also very funny, we could see that the teachers were having a good time. The explanations about different words and in which context they were used helped us to explain english expression and also how habits and culture influence the use of language. Since the words were from different countries we also used a map to show where the countries were located. In the end, we all enjoyed the session, amusing and informative at the same time.

 

I took Ruchi’s class for the second day. We talked first about what we discussed yesterday and then I proposed them for use to take a walk around the Foundation to see the things we appreciate about our neighborhood, what is nice and to check what is not nice and what makes the neighborhood “ugly” and not functional. I was interested to see their reactions to the common things they face everyday and how these things can bother them, for example the piles of trash on the streets and empty plots. We had a storm last night so the streets were muddy and I thought it could make the visit even more interesting.

 

Me and Ruchi went for a walk with all batches and they told us that the dirty streets were bad and the “not nice” buildings were something they didn’t like. By “not nice” they meant the ones without or with old paint. The appreciation was about new buildings with nice colors and mosques and temples. The “elephant’s house”, the place where the Amer elephants stay, is also appreciated, they seem proud to have the elephants living in their neighborhood.

What they really don’t like – and I heard this in all batches – are the pigs. They are seen as very dirty animals, but I don’t really know what this animal represent for them. When we went back to class we discussed about we have seen and then we wrote sentences about “My perfect (or dream) neighborhood”. What it would be good to keep and what is not good to see.  The sentences didn’t go as good as I expected, the kids in second batch are really good, very active, like Vansh but still they had problems in understanding:

My neighborhood HAVE …

My neighborhood DOESN’T HAVE…

But I think it’s just a matter of practicing and training.

I like the fact that Ruchi has the 2 first batches in a good English level and the third, even if it’s in a bit lower, is still good and that there are almost the same amount of students for the 3 batches. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to make the kids work and become active if they are only 3 or 4 in class, especially because those are the ones with the lowest level and newer in the Foundation. It would be much easier if there was a balance in between the 3 classes. For example, some kids from Sonam’s class are now in Geeta’s third batch (Kashish, Farah and some others that I don’t know the name, sorry!) made Federico’s class today much nicer!

 

Snowy today was sleeping in Payal’s lap… and then was hiding from the cold (the weather is very weird!) inside Surender’s jacket! I couldn’t resist taking some pictures!

 

The children from Sonam’s class you are talking about, who are now in Geeta’s class are all a product of “coming to the Tushita Foundation at a very early age”. I am convinced that being exposed to volunteers who shared a different view on education has been truly beneficial for them. It might be interesting to do a small survey and ask the teachers who are the children who are in their classes for at least 3 years. We wouldn’t be surprised if we found some great elements among them.

 

It is a pleasure to know that mother India and Veenaji have pampered you last week-end.

 

Day 18

We continued the topic on languages for our teacher’s session. Today we chose some videos about body language and the importance of non-verbal communication. One of the videos was about the Italian hand gestures and we also had one about the indian hand shaking signs. It was interesting and also a funny class. We were a bit late because we went this morning to visit the Amer Fort. It was amazing, the palace is even more impressive than I expected, it was really a nice visit!

Later on I had classes with Pryianka’s students. We talked about the neighbourhood, what kind of buildings and natural elements we have and how we use the spaces. I printed again the Amber map from google earth and then we spent some time looking for the important things of the neighbourhood we talked about before on the map. It’s important for the kids to be aware of their living environment and of the relations we have with the city and our neighbours. It was interesting to see them finding the buildings in the map and checking how close and far they are and finding all the teachers and other kids houses in the map.

I had pretty much the same class with first and second batch. When I was going to start with Abishek, the only student for third batch, a pretty heavy rain was coming. All the teachers and kids got a bit scared and we left the foundation early. The weather has been really weird lately!

 

Dear all,

 

India should profusely apologize for serving you such awful weather, I have never seen winter continue until end of February.I want to hope that Lord Shiva whose day will be celebrated tomorrow will have pity on you.

From your entries, I can tell that you have found a way to keep the teachers sessions very interesting by now, you have probably all become quite good friends by now.

My idea about the correction of the dictates is that the teacher writes the text on the blackboard and the children correct their own work rewriting the words they have misspelled with a different colour pencil. They should also calculate their note and write it themselves on their books. It will be a way to show them that we trust them. The teacher can then view the work and sign it to make them happy.

What do you think?

I hope that Silvia is well and just didn’ get around to write her entry.

Actually,I just disturbed you on the phone while you are having dinner at Veenaji’s.

Enjoy,

 

Rosenda

 

 

 

Day 19

Another day of crazy weather! It was raining a lot today during the morning so we skipped the teacher’s session. We thought it might be hard for everyone to arrive at the foundation. We arrived for first batch. I had the second day with Priyanka’s class. We still worked with the topic of My neighborhood. I took the kids for a walk around the Foundation and asked them to observe what they didn’t like about the neighborhood and the reasons that make them don’t feel comfortable in certain areas. We went back to class and we made a list with the things that are not good in Amber. Of course, the first cited thing were the muddy streets, the rain was pretty heavy during morning so the roads were full of mud.

Then again the complaints were about garbage on the streets and the animals that either make them feel afraid (mostly the dogs) or dirt the streets (cows, goats and the pigs). I told them about the importance of not littering and I asked them where they throw their trash. Most part of them told me that they don’t litter and if they have any trash they keep until finding a dustbin. I was happy to hear that and I proposed them an idea: spread the word about not throwing trash on the street and common areas. They all agreed that would be better for living and that they believed that we could make a difference for Amber.

I gave them the example of the plastic, that can take around 500 years to decompose and they were impressed with this fact.

My idea now is to start working with the recycled materials to show them that trash is not always trash and how reutilizing and recycling can help to reduce the environment pollution.

After that I asked them to write some sentences answering the question: “How can we could our neighborhood?” for our next meeting.

Lalit came up with a very nice text, he started writing it right way. He’s really an amazing kid. He wrote the proposals by himself! I didn’t give any ideas!

 

Since we only had 3 kids for second batch, the kids for the first stayed longer and started a drawing that I proposed about “My dream neighborhood”, including the things they would like to have in Amer. On the meanwhile I went for a walk with second batch. When we came back, we discussed the same topic I have discussed with the first and they all finished their drawings.

 

For third batch we had Vedpal, Abhishek and Areeb and we walked around the Foundation and they also wrote a text about how we could improve AmerHere are some drawings from today’s class. Mini, Rajni, Lalit are here but others also did a very good

job!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 20

After our lovely week in Jodhpur, the week started with Federico’s birthday. We had a very pleasant day – I’m sure that he agrees – full of funny moments and sweets!
The celebration started even before coming to the Foundation, in the Tushita Office we had cake together. We arrived at the Foundation and the teachers had decorated the office and the halls with balloons. Veena brought a sweet and we shared with the teachers. Federico even received a gift, which was very kind from the teachers.

 

All the kids were all the time saying “Happy birthday, Sir!” while Fede was distributing some coconut sweets which were delicious by the way. It’s amazing to see how polite and cute the kids are and how everyone was putting effort to make the day nice and pleasant to Federico. He was very touched, we could see!

 

I had Sonam’s class and, as usual, I had a good time with the kids around. Now in her class there are only 2 batches, from 2 to 4 and 4 to 6. We do half of the class on english and half of math (in english anyways) and I think it’s nice. They got a bit confused about studying math in english but I think they will get used to it. After the first batch we went for the ground for 20 minutes before second batch comes. The kids were driving Snowy crazy, poor dog! They were all running after her and she was a bit stressed I could say. I spent some time with them explaining that she’s a dog, not a doll.. Since she has the teeth growing she was biting and they got a bit scared. I was trying to explain that this is normal and that they should respect the dog and treat her well.

 

Back to class, Federico came with sweets and the cutest scene was little Arshi saying: “Happy birthday Sir!”. It’s good to see that she’s speaking more and becoming more extroverted.

Some of the kids in third batch really have a low level of english. I think they still have problems in understanding the alphabet for example. It’s hard to have kids that don’t even know how the letters are and others much smarter that can do everything faster. In this case, I was trying to give a special attention to the lower level students, since Sonam has a lot of kids and it’s hard for her to follow up all of them with the same attention.

 

When we finished classes we all went to the ground. And we waited and waited… It was clear that Veena and Gajju had prepared something special for Fede. And we also didn’t know what it was. After one hour of wait, we got into the car and Geeta, Payal and Sonam went on the car with us. Others had left first but we didn’t know to where. The surprise was complete when we arrived at the Sound and Light Show at the Amer Fort. Some of the kids from the Foundation were also there together with the other teachers. Surender and Devi singh came as well.

It was a lovely surprise and the kids were fascinated with the show. Every new light effect we could hear a “WOW!”. I felt so happy, I kept smiling and I’m pretty sure that Federico and Ivana were happy as well to see the kids fascination.
After the long day, a nice dinner for closing up the lovely day.

 

Jan and I wish we would have been able to share this day with you!

We have orchestrated the Light and Sound show last week and Veenaji kept the secret very well, it seems. We thought this would make a good birthday gift for Fede.

It sounds like it has worked out really well and I am very happy that you have enjoyed your week-end in Jodhpur, not a week, Silvia!

I guess the lapsus shows that you really enjoyed it.

Thank you for showing the children how to behave with Snowy, they need to learn that too.

 

Day 21

We brought a text about birthdays celebration for the teachers today since we were all still in birthday mood. It was an interesting article presenting the evolution of birthday’s celebration along time and how it changed throughout the years according to beliefs and regions. It was stimulating for them also because it included some historic facts regarding different countries so we used a map to talk about locations and culture.

I had my second day with Sonam’s students. Again we had a nice day; I really enjoy spending time in her class. One kid called my attention, Harsh. He wrote pineapple and when asked to spell, he said: P-N-G, Pineapple. I tried spelling with him, again and again and he would still say: P-N-G. Ivana had the same situation with the same kid before. I think that it’s essential that besides learning the letters, they should learn the sounds the letters make when put together: C+A = CA, B+E= BE, etc. I can see that some of the kids are lost trying to memorizing the spelling instead of actually learning and understanding the sounds.

I would suggest them to have some listening classes, besides music, they could hear some words and improve also their listening skills.

As I mentioned yesterday, we also worked on Math. It’s surprising to see some kids that prefer Math to English. I’m so not used to that! Maybe they think English is harder than Math. They all wanted to finish English soon to start with the Math subject. Anyways it’s helpful and we also speak in English. I really like Math so for me it’s a pleasure to help (not so sure about other volunteers though!)

 

Very interesting indeed, your article about the birthday celebration.

Silvia the point you are raising about the spelling is crucial, please bring it up with Sonam and see what she has to say. Amy and Geeti also realised the problem with the little children and I do really wish for them to learn how to read properly; it is vital.

Of course they prefer maths, Indians have a mathematical mind and feel very comfortable with it. English? The language of the colonizers and the upper classes, not very appealing, but necessary.

 

 

Yesterday we told the teachers again to bring articles or suggestions for our session. Surprisingly today Ruksar came up with a very interesting article about Abul Kalam. The text was an autobiography about his childhood and me and Federico were touched by the choice. The article mentioned our daily topics at the foundation: relationship between muslims and hindus, difficulties to study and improve your family life and cultural shocks. It was even better because we could discuss the muslim-hindu topic at the foundation and we were happy to hear their opinion highlighting the fact that the relation between them is very nice and being a muslim or a hindu doesn’t matter for the students of the foundation and does not stop them to become friends. Very good results for today, I feel like the teacher’s session are getting better and better. It was a pity that Ivana was not feeling good, so she didn’t join us today.

 

I took Payal’s class. Avesh and Putul were shifted to Priyanka’s class so I only had 3 students for first batch. It went well anyways, I started “My neighbourhood” topic. We talked about Amer’s features, we found different buildings on the google maps basis I printed and they made a map about their way from their house to Tushita. Second batch had more kids and it went good. The kids really enjoyed the map and finding the buildings. We didn’t have time for drawing a map because we spent more time in analysing the printed one I brought. Previously the third batch had only 3 kids but today, since they shifted some kids from Ruchi’s class, we were 7. They had already attended my class about My neighbourhood on Ruchi’s class before so we worked on writing some sentences. Later on, we still have time and I realized they were a bit tired so I suggested them to make a drawing about “My perfect neighbourhood” following the topic we were writing sentences before.

 

Some tourists came to visit, a young couple from France, and they sat on the floor and talked to the kids. It was lovely and we could see that the kids enjoyed their attention. Federico mention they did the same in Sonam’s class. It’s very nice when the tourists get involved, at least for a while, and spend some time with the kids.

 

Like I said to Fede, I think this article should be read in the elder students’ classes. It is very important.
Reading a map is definitely a fun and useful exercise.
As for the Tourists, I will write to the agency to reiterate the fact that we want visitors to interact with the children, and share something they can share, not just take pictures.
You can also invite them to talk to the children or read them a story or sing a song for them….

 

Priyanka brought an article for our session today. It was about the reservation/ quota system in India. We all thought it was very interesting, especially to hear about this topic from the teachers’ point of view. It was good also for us to understand more about the issues Indians have been facing on the past years.

 

For the classes, I had Payal’s class for the second day. Today we would have the visit in Amer and the students who had shifted to Priyanka’s class wanted to come and join our class, Neha, Putul, Talib and Avesh. The first batch that had only 3 students ended up with 7 which made it more interesting of course. But, by the time we went out for the walk around the Foundation, the “bigger” kids were actually quite annoying and disturbed the class. I tried to explain that even being outside this was a class and that they should behave in a better way. It was complicated to get them to focus and pay attention on what I was saying. Anyway we managed to finish the visit and went back to class to write sentences and make drawings about the neighbourhood.

 

Second batch was a bit better, we went for the walk, but again they were not so focused. They enjoyed the visit anyway and we went back to class and talked about our visit. They wrote some sentences about what they like and don’t like and what they would like to change in their neighbourhood.

 

For third batch I was expecting the same level of distraction, the biggest part of the class is from Ruchi’s class and the two kids in third batch are pretty shy, so I decided not to go for the tour. They still had to finish one drawing from yesterday and we started the class working on that. Then they started asking: “Mam, what about our visit? we are not going for the walk?”. Of course I felt very happy that they wanted to go so they finished their maps and we went out.

 

They were all smiling, happy for the tour and they all wanted me to go and see their houses, they all had the printed map in hands and were showing me this and that, and their house, their neighbours. It was a very interesting experience, to see the kids enjoying to present me their spaces and showing me how they live in their area. It was lovely to have them as guides instead of me being the guide. We got back to class and we talked about the problems we could observe (the accumulated garbage, dirty roads, open sewage). The beginning of the day, a bit tiring because of the heat and also frustrating because of the kids not getting focused, was completely overshadow by a good feeling that the class was enjoyed by the kids and it’s so rewarding to perceive that!

 

Sometimes I wonder if you realise how different it is for those children to do what you propose.

The stretch from their regular school to the Foundation activities is really very wide, especially with you and Ivana. I know how enriching it is for them, but they sometimes don’t.

So you have to be patient and maybe sometimes also strict. “If you don’t behave, we go back to class”.

I am very pleased to hear, though, that your efforts were rewarded at the end of the day.

It is a very good idea to let the teachers choose the article to talk about sometimes.

 

For today’s friday game session we brought the teachers a song. We all agreed that introducing Bob Marley could be a good idea, peaceful songs with easy and cute lyrics and nice rhythm. The song was Three Little Birds. We listen to it and we got them the lyrics with some blank spaces so they had to fill it with the words they were hearing. We expect them to react more but even if they enjoyed, they didn’t show much appreciation. Also Sonam, Geeta and Ruksar were not there and it’s not so interesting when half of the teachers are missing. We shifted from music to games and then we had a good moment, it’s always funny on fridays.

 

After on, I went to Geeta’s class for closing up my second cycle. We are always a bit worried that Geeta’s students are in a lower level than others so we come prepared with an “easy” class. But since some kids were shifted back to Sonam’s and others to Ruchi’s, i think the class is more balanced and I had a really good time. There are a few kids in first batch that have some problems for focusing but I managed to finish “My neighbourhood” topic and we talked about Amer, its natural features and characteristics. I used the google map so we could recognize the area.

 

At this point, all the kids know that I’ve been having a tour with the other so they are always asking: “Mam, can I show you my house today?”

One of them even asked if I wanted to go and have tea in his place! How adorable! But I explained that this is the first class, so I present the topic and on next class (monday) we will go for the tour.
The second batch is also better now. I also managed to finish the class and we talked about the map and found the buildings and their houses. Third batch is composed basically by Sonam’s kids and they are amazing! Farah, Kashish, Nazish, for example, are so focused, kind, polite and smart! Since they were in Sonam’s before I started the topic “My house” and they made beautiful drawings about their houses. On Monday I’ll go to “my neighbourhood”, they are smart enough to get everything in one class. After class Kashish was playing “hand clapping” and dancing with me, how lovely is this girl!

 

How can anyone not be enthusiastic about Bob Marley?

I would have thought that he is the Universal singer, but maybe not. I am also not so fond of Bollywood songs and the teachers would wonder how. Our tastes are formed very early and we need exposure to e able to appreciate certain things.

It is good that you have found a common ground with games.

By now, you must be knowing Amer pretty well, maybe you could produce a project when you go back to Milan on how you would improve the village. Hospitality is definitely a, Indian quality, even the little ones have it. The problem is that if you go for tea to one child’s house you will have to go everywhere. Not a good idea.

I am happy for Geeta that she inherits some great students as well.

I can tell that you will never forget some of these children. It is amazing to realise how much we receive when we are actually thinking of giving.

 

Geeta brought our teacher’s session text for today. We were very happy about it. She brought a poem and also an article. We only had time for the poem today, even because it was a bit complicated. It was written by an african american writer from the 40’s so the english was difficult. The theme was not so difficult though, it was related with mother’s advices to kids so we found our way to clarify what they didn’t get. The session went well, it was a beautiful poem and besides that, we all appreciated the fact that the teachers are getting involved with providing materials for the class. Geeta and Ruksar both said that they realized how difficult it can be to chose interesting topics and showed their appreciation towards our effort in looking for texts for every session. That was very kind.

 

I had my second day with Geeta’s class. The day was too hot for our usual “exploring our neighbourhood tour” so we just made it shorter. For the first batch, we went for a small walk just around the block. We came back and the kids wrote sentences about their likes and dislikes regarding the areas around the Foundation.

 

With second batch we could walk a bit more, the weather was better. We went back in class and they listed their likes and dislikes about Amer and we wrote sentences together about it Since the stray animals and garbage was always the first thing they mentioned on dislikes, I told them about the importance of not littering and how they could contribute for a cleaner Amer.

 

On third batch we have the kids from Sonam’s class so, since Friday we worked with “My house”, today we talked about “My neighbourhood”. We didn’t have time to go for the walk but we worked with the google map and they could all recognize the important features of their neighbourhood.

 

Closing up the second cycle, I feel that it was important to create some consciousness about their neighbourhood spaces, how we use them, how to work with a map, recognizing areas and distances and to raise the topic of how we could improve Amer with small gestures, for example not littering. My next topic should be “The city” but I decided to change the path of classes. For the last round I’m preparing a class on how much time the different materials take to decompose and I’ll show them the importance of recycling and how we can reuse some materials producing new things that are useful in our daily life.
After classes, I joined Ivana for the play rehearsal. We actually started it last Saturday, and we realized that it’s going to take a while for them to get everything but we are hopeful to reach nice results. Ivana decided not to pick to many actors, so it’s easier for us to manage. As the second day of rehearsal we already felt that they improved a bit. The biggest problem now is that some kids can’t stay at the Foundation after the classes because they have exams. The ones who were there today are really into it and we were happy to see Rinku, Abisheck (junior) and Satiam interpreting the teachers and us. We are so excited for the final play!!

 

Today I feel a little bit puzzled, the teachers are out for exams, the children have exams, I hope we are not disrupting their lives too much.

Good to know that the teachers are appreciating your efforts and they tell you so.

Thank you for bringing the children an ecological awareness, we might see a better Amer in the future. India was an extremely ecological place before consumerism came in. I can’t recognise the place.

You should be happy about the play, it sounds really great.

 

Geeta brought our teacher’s session text for today. We were very happy about it. She brought a poem and also an article. We only had time for the poem today, even because it was a bit complicated. It was written by an african american writer from the 40’s so the english was difficult. The theme was not so difficult though, it was related with mother’s advices to kids so we found our way to clarify what they didn’t get. The session went well, it was a beautiful poem and besides that, we all appreciated the fact that the teachers are getting involved with providing materials for the class. Geeta and Ruksar both said that they realized how difficult it can be to chose interesting topics and showed their appreciation towards our effort in looking for texts for every session. That was very kind.

 

I had my second day with Geeta’s class. The day was too hot for our usual “exploring our neighbourhood tour” so we just made it shorter. For the first batch, we went for a small walk just around the block. We came back and the kids wrote sentences about their likes and dislikes regarding the areas around the Foundation.

 

With second batch we could walk a bit more, the weather was better. We went back in class and they listed their likes and dislikes about Amer and we wrote sentences together about it Since the stray animals and garbage was always the first thing they mentioned on dislikes, I told them about the importance of not littering and how they could contribute for a cleaner Amer.

 

On third batch we have the kids from Sonam’s class so, since Friday we worked with “My house”, today we talked about “My neighbourhood”. We didn’t have time to go for the walk but we worked with the google map and they could all recognize the important features of their neighbourhood.

 

Closing up the second cycle, I feel that it was important to create some consciousness about their neighbourhood spaces, how we use them, how to work with a map, recognizing areas and distances and to raise the topic of how we could improve Amer with small gestures, for example not littering. My next topic should be “The city” but I decided to change the path of classes. For the last round I’m preparing a class on how much time the different materials take to decompose and I’ll show them the importance of recycling and how we can reuse some materials producing new things that are useful in our daily life.
After classes, I joined Ivana for the play rehearsal. We actually started it last Saturday, and we realized that it’s going to take a while for them to get everything but we are hopeful to reach nice results. Ivana decided not to pick to many actors, so it’s easier for us to manage. As the second day of rehearsal we already felt that they improved a bit. The biggest problem now is that some kids can’t stay at the Foundation after the classes because they have exams. The ones who were there today are really into it and we were happy to see Rinku, Abisheck (junior) and Satiam interpreting the teachers and us. We are so excited for the final play!!

 

Today I feel a little bit puzzled, the teachers are out for exams, the children have exams, I hope we are not disrupting their lives too much.
Good to know that the teachers are appreciating your efforts and they tell you so.
Thank you for bringing the children an ecological awareness, we might see a better Amer in the future. India was an extremely ecological place before consumerism came in. I can’t recognise the place.
You should be happy about the play, it sounds really great.

 

We worked today again with the article Geeta brought yesterday. The topic was very important, about women empowerment but the text was a bit difficult though and we spent some time just explaining definitions. Tomorrow we’ll probably have a discussion about it and it’s going to be a more interesting class. Sonam, Payal and Priyanka are not coming to our session because they have their exams soon and they are using this time to study. Of course we miss them and having them around makes the classes nicer.

 

Today was the beginning of my third cycle of classes. And also my last one. I want to make sure the kids will get something interesting and remarkable from this, even if short, experience. I took Ruchi’s class. I prepared them a class about the importance of recycling and reusing. I gave them a small table about the time trash takes to decompose and I explained them about the garbage classification and how we can reuse many things that we throw away.

 

The entire first batch has been in my class last round so I introduced the theme by saying how we could improve Amer just by taking care of our trash: keeping clean the roads and reusing the materials we can for producing new products. I presented the class and then I showed them some ideas of projects with plastic bottles. They were in love with the ideas, I heard so many “WOWs”. I was very happy they enjoyed it. I’ve been asking Surender to collect plastic bottles since I arrived so today we made one simple project, a small garden pot. The kids loved making it. Under mine and Ruchi’s supervision they cut the bottles and made it by themselves.

 

There they are, all happy and proud after class! I promised that tomorrow we will paint it and make it cute. I stopped on the way back at the bazar and got some materials for my next classes: colored tapes, ropes, strings, colored paper… I hope they enjoy it.

The next picture is the image I got from the internet as a reference, that’s how it should look like in the end!

 

 

 

The second batch has many kids coming recently from Sonam’s class so they didn’t have the class on Amer. Anyways I told them about recycling. They also did the garden pot and they enjoyed it as well. Third batch has a few kids from Sonam’s class but most part of the class has been on my classes before. So I told them about Amer, the problems we have observed while walking and how reusing materials could be useful for our neighbourhood and important for our environment. They also built the garden pot.

 

The day went by so fast! It’s incredible how when we are producing something the time passes so fast. It was a very nice day, I feel good about teaching the kids something that they can produce with their all hands. I think it’s important to work with what we have and exercise our creativity. Tomorrow I asked them to bring more bottles and we are going to try to produce other things. I hope they come excited for class as they were today!

 

Me and Federico stayed in Prianka’s class with Ivana after classes to rehearse for the play. The kids are getting better and we are really excited for it!!

 

Ecologies at the Tushita Foundation! This makes me so proud.
No wonder the children enjoy it. We all need to make things, I am convinced of it.
Maybe you can plant flowers in your recycled bottles or tulsi, a sort of basil which is considered sacred by the Hindus. Just make sure that you shelter them from the monkeys!
It is also very important for those children who don’t grasp English very much, to feel empowered by making things. Not all of us can go to University, but we can all develop skills and talents. At the Tushita Foundation we want to give every child self confidence; I believe you have found a very good way. Thank you, Silvia.

 

For the teacher’s session today we were supposed to finish the article Geeta brought yesterday. Me and Fede were thinking that the session wouldn’t go so well since we wouldn’t have Ivana, Priyanka, Payal and Sonam. The session started with some definitions we were missing from yesterday and then we began a discussion on the topic. Of course women empowerment is very important and completely adequate to the foundation purposes. Geeta took the lead and she was awesome! We were very proud of her, talking about the situation of women in villages and especially after marriage, when they are suppose to live for the family and consequently give up on working. She was standing up for the right of the women to work and have their thoughts and opinions about life. Ruksar commented how this reality is much more complicated for the muslims and how she actually have a pretty open lifestyle but that she’s expecting this to change by the time she gets married. Geeta was affirming, so secure, that she has to stand up for her ideals and not bend for the husband’s opinion. Ruchi also participated a lot on the discussion which was a good surprise since she’s usually more quiet.  It was amazing for us to see how they felt comfortable talking about their opinions and about their personal feelings in front of us, especially because it was all related with the topic of the text. It was a pity that Ivana missed the session.

 

I had the second day at Ruchi’s class. I asked the kids to bring more plastic bottles today so we could continue our project. Most of them brought it, they were very enthusiastic about it. One of the moms came today and asked what were they trying to build with the bottles because her kid, Jayant, tried to do it at home but he couldn’t remember how. I was so excited that they liked the idea and tried to it by themselves.

 

We spent the day with first, second and third batch cutting, pasting, coloring, painting… all the kids came into Ruchi’s class to check what was going on. We even had to tell the other kids from other classes to go away at some point because they were too many inside the classroom! I got a cute compliment by Raghu, who was passing by and came to me and said: “Very nice project, mam!”. You can imagine how happy I was!

 

Geeta is a wonderful woman and with her husband they make a lovely couple, but she lives with her children at her in-laws and that is not an easy life, even though in this way both the children and the elderly are looked after. Geeta is lucky that she is allowed to work.
What makes me really sad is the idea that these brilliant women will have to stop working after marriage to go to some unknown family and serve them all day long. Hopefully, they will find understanding families to marry into. It is a pity for Ivana that she wasn’t there for this discussion.
You must be really proud of the success your class has. It makes me think that we should not neglect the manuality of the children.
Please try to take a few pictures so that I can post an album on Facebook called: Ecological awareness at the Tushita Foundation.

 

Starting with the teacher’s session, we brought today the article you sent us yesterday about the book produced by a grassroots movement on the girl power topic. We imagined that it would be nice to keep the topic for today since yesterday they really engaged with it. The text had some difficult words so we spent some time defining and explaining some words. We didn’t have much time to discuss about it so we are probably going to use some time of the friday game day to work on it.

 

I had Ruksar’s class today. Federico and Ivana always enjoy her class very much but I feel some difficulties in dealing with the class. Maybe for the fact that the class is open I feel that they get easily distracted. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that the times I was there the kids were a bit more agitated. Anyways, they are very good students, especially in first batch and they have a good comprehension of english which makes them an easier and nicer class to teach. I told them about the problems in Amer regarding the pollution of the roads and how we could help our environment by creating awareness on what we consume and what we throw away and recycling. I still had some empty plastic bottles so we build the garden pot. They did a very good job with them! Ruksar was helping them to paint it and they looked very nice.

 

When second batch arrived, first batch was still in class finishing the painting. I repeated the class, in a more simple way, it’s clear that they have a lower level of english compared with first batch but they were nice. They also did a nice job with the bottles. Third batch arrived and second batch was still there painting the bottles. Even if they were sitting in the back part of the class it was difficult to get them focused. I had to reduce my class so we used the time producing. I asked them to bring more bottles, cans, plastic containers tomorrow. Let’s see how inspired they will come to class tomorrow.

 

After class we continued the rehearse for the play. All going well. Ivana recruited more girls for today. We don’t have much time but we really think it’s going to be funny and special!
Tomorrow I’ll send you pictures from my class. We didn’t take many today.

 

Well done, Silvia, we will make Amer an ecological village! I am partly joking, of course. I know that Indians have the habit of throwing stuff on the road, it comes from the times, not very far back, when they where only using recyclable materials like clay that would melt with rain. Now in the plastic age that system has to change.

i am glad to hear that the children enjoy their activities with you.

I will be waiting for few pictures tomorrow.

 

It’s holi at Tushita Foundation! What an incredible day!

 

We arrived early today because the car needed to have the tires replaced, so Devi singh dropped us at the Foundation around 11:30. We let the teachers know and Ruksar was already there when we arrived. Since Friday is game day, we waited a while for the others to come so we could get the games started. What we were not expecting is that today there was a celebration for Holi at the Mira Temple in Amber and Geeta asked if we would like to come. We called Veena and she said it was ok for us to go. We were asking ourselves if it wouldn’t be a problem since we had Ruksar with us but they said that everyone could come and everything was fine. Sonam is not coming for the teacher’s session because of her exam.

 

We all went to the temple and it was an amazing experience. There were a band playing and there were carpets for us to sit around a carpet for the women to dance. As we entered Ruksar mentioned that this was her first time inside a temple. Everyone was ok with it even if she was a bit nervous and kind of laughing about the experience. We sat and Geeta opened the dancing session. How beautiful she was! Graceful and nicely she came and took Ruksar to dance with her. She refused. Then she invited us and we all danced in the middle of the templo followed by the glances of the curious hindus coming to pray. Ruksar couldn’t resist and at some point she joined Geeta for dancing. It gave me the goosebumps. When would I imagine a muslim girl dancing on a hindu celebration inside a temple on a village like Amer? Everyone was in such a great mood, we laughed and danced and enjoyed the music for a while.

 

Then we went back to the foundation, the kids were all excited for Holi, they were all the time saying: “Happy Holi, mam! Happy Holi, sir!”. They joined second and third batch because we would have our Holi celebration during the third batch but some kids came also in first batch instead. The foundation was full of kids and they were all super excited… A bit hard to teach! I had Rukar’s class so we worked with all the batches together with the bottles they brought and we did some painting.

 

Around 4:30 we all went to the ground, we had kachoris and then, COLOR time! All the kids running around and, of course, me, Fede and Ivana were the main targets. We got completely colorful since we received tons of colored powder from all the kids! Such an amazing experience! The teenagers were all in the back, leaning against the walls, trying not to get dirty but of course we tried to get them involved. The little ones were the most enthusiastic about it together with the teachers. We danced and laughed and danced! We arrived home late and super tired and I have no words to describe better this experience, so I leave you some pictures of the day! (my pictures are not that good, Ivana is our official photographer!)
And, of course, a big thank you to give me the chance to enjoy this entire indian experience!

By the way, as you can see in the picture not even Snowy could be safe!

 

What do you mean you are not a good photographer? I love the portrait you took of the teachers and the photo in the temple! Unfortunately I cannot extract them from your document, please send them to me separately.

What you are experiencing is quite extraordinary even for us. The teachers are now so much empowered by your presence that they go out of their ways, it is wonderful. This is the reason why we didn’t want to even very good teachers coming from outside, because the Tushita Foundation belongs to the people of Amer. Actually, I would like to say to the children and the women of Amer.

I am convinced that the friendships that are born in the Foundation between the two communities will foster peace and harmony in the village.

Holi is great and it must be so much fun, I have never played with. Hopefully one day I will share in the fun at the Foundation.

By the way, you look very pretty with your original make-up.

And Snowy, soooo nice!

 

After Holi, it’s time to go back to work. Or not. We arrived and a family living next door to the foundation (as I understood well, it was Kiren’s family) was still celebrating Holi. Including a trumpet, drums and singing, it was hard to keep the teacher’s session with the poem Ruchi brought for our session today. We were just 5 (me, Fede, Ivana, Ruchi and Ruksar) so we used the time to talk in English for a while because it was impossible for us to focus in a class. Anyways, we were happy to see that Ruchi also got something for the class. We are going to work on it tomorrow, when we have other teachers to participate and, hopefully, less noise.

 

I took Priyanka’s class today. The kids already knew about my plans to work with bottles so they were already expecting what I was going to talk about. Before starting with the project, I told them about recycling, how it works and why is it important to protect our environment from pollution. It’s very good to teach the kids in Priyanka’s class because their english level is good so it’s easier to speak and interact.

 

First batch they were not so many, the school time has changed again so we had more kids in second batch. We didn’t have enough bottles for them to start the projects today but they all compromised to bring them tomorrow so we can build things together. Third batch, as usual, we had only Vedpal and Abhishek so I did a dictation on the Recyling topic. It went well, I mostly had to explain some words they didn’t know but the spelling was quite good.

I’m more excited for tomorrow’s class to check the results of our big ones creativity. I’m hoping for cute results!

 

Festivities are so important in India, they tend to linger on. I wonder how long this will continue. Maybe in the villages where “the fast life” like they call it has not yet arrived. The high achievers that we are a bit disturbed by so much play and little work. I am curious to know about Ruchi’s choice of the poem.

I agree it is great to work in Priyanka’s class, those are the children who have been with us for long and it is easier to communicate with them. Thank you for giving the boys dictations, there is a lot to be learned from them. Did you let them correct the mistakes themselves?

I am also exited at the idea of seeing the children making things.

 

 

Today we didn’t have any Holi celebrations so we could go back normally to our teachers session. You wrote me yesterday that I could think they play much, work little but as a matter of fact, they have pretty much the same rhythm as brazilians… I feel home sometimes. Especially with all the music, I wouldn’t expect the drums and rhythms to be so similar!

And yes, I let the guys correct their own mistakes, with a red pen, making sure they understand what was wrong or right on the dictation!
As I said yesterday, we worked with the poem Ruchi brought. It was a romantic poem from the beginning of the XIX century by William Wordsworth with a good message but a difficult English. We had to search for some words on the dictionary because we also didn’t know. Entitled “The world is much with us” the poem was talking about the relation of men with nature that had been transforming over time, and how we don’t pay enough attention in natural elements as was described by Ruchi. I was impressed that she spoke out and gave a definition for the poem, I think that is the good part of them bringing the subject. They feel that they should engage more in the discussion and put a bigger effort in explaining it to the other girls. Ruchi said that she got the poem from her university’s english classes, so she already had have classes on it.

 

For my classes, I had second day with Priyanka’s students. Priyanka didn’t come today so Payal was with me while Geeta took her class. Some of them brought bottles as I requested the day before, some didn’t but they went downstairs and around to find some more. In the end many kids participated and it was good to see them letting their creativity flow. Some students from other class (and also other teachers, I must say!) came to check what was going on and when I will come to her classes.

 

It was quite tiring in the end, all the kids calling me at the same time, either for my help or just for me to check their work, but very pleasant, I really enjoy the day. After class we continued the rehearsal for the play and it’s good to see that they are always improving. I will also work with some recycled materials to produce accessories for the play, in this way they will all get involved in some way.

 

Good idea to make the sets and props with recycled material.

I am sure that by now, you are the hit of all the children. Making things is a human priority and one that gives great satisfaction.

Thank you for sharing the parallels between your culture and the India, I think that your definition of the divide between North and South is very appropriate here. India, even though not physically, belongs to the South, but for how long?

And how about Brazil? Will it sacrifice its “joie de vivre” on the alter of consumerism, the American way?  We shall see.

 

The teacher session class today was replaced by Geeta explaining us how an hindu wedding happens through her own wedding pictures. All of this because half of the girls are usually not coming for the session because of the exams and Ruksar and Ruchi couldn’t come today. We have been communicating on whatsapp so we knew they were not coming and Geeta, being the only teacher in class, brought her photo album to show us, as we asked her before. It was nice to hear about the different traditions and the amount of ceremonies the hindu weddings have.

 

The others came later on and Payal, especially, was in a very good mood. She came into the office with sweets and told us to say “Congratulations” to Priyanka. She is engaged! That’s the reason why she didn’t come yesterday and we all didn’t know, she kept as a surprise. We ate some dessert and everyone was happy for Priyanka, and, of course, making questions about her future husband. She showed us some pictures of him, of the engagement and she seemed happy even if she demonstrated being anxious and a bit nervous. Payal was super happy and we were all glad to hear that the family is pretty nice, they liked the future husband and all his relatives.

 

For teaching I got Sonam’s class today. It’s a bit hard to teach the little ones about ecology so again I just followed Sonam and helped her dealing with the kids. I really like to spend time with her and her kids. She’s lovely and it’s amazing to see how they respect and react to her, she doesn’t raise her voice not even once during class! And the kids, I’m never going to get tired of saying how cute they are!

 

After classes, we went to the roof for another day of our play practice. The play is taking shape, we are reproducing the stage now and rehearsing using objects and trying not to follow the papers anymore. It’s getting better!

 

Good news about Priyanka, I am very happy for her and a little sad for us because, I am afraid that she will stop working at the Foundation. Actually, I am pretty sure of it. Well, life goes on, she will come and visit with a little cute baby soon enough.

I think in Sonam’s class we receive more then we give. We receive a lot of affection and joy. It is wonderful indeed and Sonam? She is a natural.

I am so, so curious about the play.

I hope you guys will be able to record it on video.

 

 

Another friday of games! Everyone was there, they all come for games day even when they have to study… We played charades and it was funny as it usually us. Veenaji was there and she couldn’t resist joining us. It was good to see everyone interacting and having fun together!

 

I had Sonam’s class again today. Friday is drawing and dancing day and it was even better and funnier than other days I spent in her class. I helped some kids with their drawings and I even had time to make some by myself. The kids were all around to check what I was drawing, which at first was the same as them: musical instruments was the theme for the day. Then I did this Tushita cartoons, just to amuse the teachers and the kids.. They had to find out who was who.

I gotta say that Payal loved her character! You can also try to identify, I’m going to help you saying that each character has its own specific accessory or dress style.

 

The dancing teacher also came in the middle of the day. The kids made me dance all the time with them. I enjoy dancing and I’m a fan of the indian style so it was nice to spend this time with them. Even with the same bollywood songs they like to listen over and over again… It was nice to see the boys finally interacting more with me. In the beginning only girls were coming closer and talking to me but today during dancing all the boys were taking me to dance with them! It was adorable!

 

After all the drawing and dancing we had the theater practice. It didn’t last long today because some kids had to leave. Tomorrow we will have some more time for theater.

 

 

Finally one day for everyone to be present! I am happy to hear that Veenaji can also join the fun sometimes. Your drawings are lovely, but I will need more time to analyse them and identify whom you drew. I can easily recognize Fede, though.

Dancing is a wonderful activity that brings people together. I am a great fan, even though I am a bit shy when it comes to Bollywood dances.

Enjoy your last Saturday at the Foundation.

 

No classes for the teachers today. We got stuck in the office to take care of the details of our trip to Agra and Delhi. We reached the foundation after 1pm but we let the teachers know we wouldn’t come. We use whatsapp then it’s easier to communicate with all of them.

We arrived first and they came later but they stayed with us for a while during out lunchtime. Today there was a festival so many schools were on holiday and the foundation was quite empty. I would say that half of the students came.

I took Payal’s class and for first batch there were two students. Second batch we had four and third was almost complete. We talked about our last class on Amer and how we could observe that it is polluted by garbage and how we could help it to improve. I told them the concept of recycling and we started working with the bottles.

The weather completely changed suddenly during the end of second batch and by half of the third batch we called off the day because a big storm was about to come. The kids were all sent home and we spend more time at the foundation talking with the teachers. A heavy storm started and it went on for time enough to get the roads flooded. We got stuck in the foundation for a while but we spent time talking. When the rain stopped we came back home.

Tomorrow I’ll have my last class with Payal and the kids are supposed to bring more bottles so we finish the project. Let’s hope for a very nice last day with no rain to interrupt the classes early, even because we need to practice more the play!

 

What is going on? I thought Jaipur was almost a desert! You seem to be getting more rain than Paris.

Things seem a bit slow lately, I wonder what is it? Do you feel that the children are not enjoying coming to the Foundation so much any more, or is it just the weird weather?

I hope that there will be no disruption for the play.

 

We didn’t have the teacher’s session again today. We canceled because we still had something related with the play to solve. We arrived around 13:30 so we had some time with the teachers anyway. It’s amazing – and sad at the same time – how close to them we feel now, just when we are about to leave. You told me in the beginning that less than 2 or 3 months it’s not enough and I really have to agree with you. It takes a while to break the ice but as soon as you are part of the team you feel very welcomed and comfortable. We are all the time making jokes and laughing, it’s always funny!

I had my second day with Payal. She is busy studying for her exam this Thursday so she told me she would only come in the end of the day. This class is a bit hard to communicate sometimes, some kids understand English very well but for some others the translation is necessary. I thought I would need Ruksar help all the time but the day went pretty well. Payal’s class was too hot so we sat on the back of Ruksar’s class and she came sometimes to see if I need help. The class was about making the plastic objects so it’s pretty simple to communicate through gestures and simple words. We went back to Payal’s class when the weather was better and I took care of the third batch almost by myself. Payal arrived but she didn’t have to explain much. I was happy about it!

After classes, it was time to practice our play again. The play is getting better and better and we are working hard on it. I hope it’s going to be as funny as we plan. At night we worked on a few accessories, part made with recycled material. You will see it on the pictures. Unfortunately time was too short to work with the kids for making the objects for the play. I wish we had more time so they could do it. Anyways, I enjoyed doing it and I put Ivana and Fede to help me with the arts and crafts. We can have fun with everything so we had a good time.

At night we also thought about something special for our super nice Tushita House team: Bhim Singh, Devi Singh and Lal Singh. We stopped at this very good bakery/ pastry shop (our favorite, we buy kachoris there all the time) and got some snacks and sweets to make them a surprise. Veenaji helped us and got them busy downstairs while we set up the table. Then she made up a story so they all came upstairs at the same time to open the door and find out we had prepared something for them. In the beginning they were a bit shy but then they started eating and laughing. We felt they were happy about it and they actually told Fede “Thank you for this, you are very nice…” We took the funniest pictures after Veenaji left. Ivana will send you!

 

 

In today’s entry, I can feel how much you have grown attached to the Tushita Foundation, how much affection you are sharing with everyone and how much you are measuring the progress of your teaching. I am very pleased, but not surprised.
Arts and crafts is a very important feature that you have brought to us and I hope that other volunteers will follow. Making things is a very important ability in life and your precious addition is: with recycled materials.
Thank you for mentioning that two months are not a long enough period to work at the Foundation, but that is difficult to imagine when you apply.
Last, but not least, thank you so much for pampering the Tushita House team.

 

The last days have been pretty busy. It’s even hard to remember everything that happened but I’ll try…

 

On Wednesday we were worried about how the play would come out so Ivana decided to use the day to practice and for sure she would need our help. I still had my last day of teaching on the third round of classes and I haven’t been yet in Geeta’s class. The kids in her class were waiting enthusiastically for the day of working with the bottles, they’ve been asking me for the past week when I would be in their class and they had already started bringing plastic bottles to make the flower pots… Of course I couldn’t miss that class!

 

We played Scrabble for the teacher’s session since it was just us and three of the teachers and of course it was our last day so we thought we would be funny to spend it playing games. Later on I took Geeta’s class, which was taking place in Priyanka’s class. Priyanka was one of the actresses of the play, so she had to join practice and help Ivana to deal with the kids as well, when some translation was necessary.

 

I spend some time with the kids in Geeta’s class but later I joined the theater crew in the roof to rehearse. I promised to keep coming downstairs to check their work. We were worried with the play because our little actors couldn’t just focus… Maybe they were just too excited. We managed to practice for a while and later on I came back down to Geeta’s class during the end of third batch to help them finish their work. After the foundation we went to Veena’s for dinner. We got home exhausted but we still had to finish some details for the play and for the photo albums we made for Tushita and Veena as gifts.

 

The final day has finally arrived and we woke up early to finish everything and get ready. We went to the foundation. The huge and nice stage arranged by the Foundation impressed us when we arrived. The projector was set up in Priyanka’s class to show the pictures Ivana had been taken over the past 3 months. We prepared a slideshow with the best pictures together with a Bob Marley song. We hope the kids would get more enthusiastic about Bob than the teachers…

 

We started setting up the backstage for the play as soon as the actors arrived. As the kids started coming to the foundation, we stopped for having a lovely lunch with the teachers, they all brought something from home and it was delicious.

 

We went back to the ground to meet with the actors and practice on stage. We tried our customs – me, Fede and Priyanka were wearing Tushita uniforms that Priyanka got from the bigger kids like Vedpal and Shiren – and we locked the ground so the other kids couldn’t see it. Of course they were dying of curiosity and they kept looking through Priyanka’s and Ruksar’s classes to the ground and we had a hard time yelling and telling them to close the windows, we didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

 

At some point the actors started feeling stressed, especially Zoya and Satyam, so we decided it was about time to present it. After one last rehearsal we open the gates and invited the kids to come and sit. Ivana started presenting and the kids in backstage felt the pressure of presenting the play to all the others, everyone was excited… We could hear all the kids commenting something from the backstage while coming into the ground.

 

Abishek started as the narrator and it was time to face the stage. For me it was also a nice experience, I’ve never been acting before. Better than any other practice the play went well and smoothly. No big troubles and with pretty good timing, the kids did a very good job. Ivana told me later on that some details didn’t go the way she expected but from my perspective on the stage everything was perfect. Each scene we could hear and see all the audience bursting in laughter and the feeling was amazing! It was good to see that the play that we prepared with a lot of attention and dedication was received in a very good way. We were a bit worried that maybe some kids wouldn’t understand it very well but with all the gestures, customs and accessories made it simple enough to be captured.

 

We finished and went backstage and it was time to celebrate with our group. And also time to start our goodbye party. The teachers disappeared for a while only to come back wearing amazing poshaks, the rajasthani half sari. They looked amazing. Of course Veena together with the teachers would have prepared something special for us but we still didn’t know what -even if we had the impression that it would have Indian dresses involved. They brought us inside the foundation and Veena helped us to get dressed with beautiful poshaks that belonged to Soomal. There were also accessories: anklets, bangles, bindies… Fully Indian style!

 

We went to the ground and all the kids were impressed. We got so many “you are looking good, mam!” They had to make us dance, you know how they are when it comes to dancing… They even made us go up on stage and dance with the dresses. We had a big trouble trying to keep the poshak, learning the coreography and dancing with the other 50 kids on the stage with us.

 

I love the Indian good mood for dancing. I love the way they dance with to problems everywhere and with everyone: kids, adults, teachers, bosses (Veena joined us), husbands (Geeta’s husband was there) and it’s beautiful to see them showing themselves extremely happy while dancing. I tried to be on the side just observing because the Indian “masti” for me is absolutely amazing to see… But I had to join even if I feel shy for dancing.

 

The sun was setting when the kids started to say goodbye. The sad moment was about to start. I would never expect some of the kids to be as sad as they were. Satyam was so emotional… He was the first one hugging us and bursting into tears. I just couldn’t hold my emotions. Other kids started coming and hugging and all of them at the same time. Mahek was super sad, it broke my heart to see her crying. She’s such a tough girl But also very sensible as I could realize. The teachers were trying to control the situation, helping the kids and me not to get to emotional, getting us back to the stage, back to dancing. But seeing the cute girls in Sonam class saying bye was really, really touching. This went on for a while until it was dark and it was time to say bye to the teachers.

 

We went back to the building and upstairs to Priyanka’s class. We had prepared a funny video for Veena and we wanted her to watch it in the big screen with the projector. The teachers had also participated in the video so it was nice to watch together with them. Veena is one of those tough women but I could see that she was actually holding herself not to get too emotional. The video was cute and funny and the teachers also enjoyed it. Later we gave them some gifts. They were books for the teachers that we chose according to their personality. A gift, but it was as well a push for them to practice more their English.

For the foundation we printed and framed a picture with all of us at the entrance of the building. We made also a photo album with our best moments. I hope they enjoyed it.

 

We got gifts as well, this I got to say that I was not expecting. Ivana and me got bags and Fede a wallet. It’s thoughtful of them to think about a gift. The hectic and long day was coming to an end and the emotional part was about to restart. To break the ice, Payal suggested a final badminton match with Federico, Ivana and Ruchi – i’m really not into sports. The others and me stood for watching.

 

Geeta was the first to say goodbye. I have a special affection for Geeta. I see her as a strong and determined woman, conscious of her intelligence and I really think she plays an important role in between the girls not only for being the married and oldest, and consequently the wisest one, but also because of her distinct personality. It was hard to say goodbye.

 

Sonam and me were the first ones to start crying. She’s very emotional and she couldn’t hold her tears. We were standing outside for a moment that in my mind lasted for an hour. Awkward silence. We were all staring at each other with sad faces. But at the same time, the moment was full of love and we could see how much we affected each other’s lives. One by one we hugged and said “goodbye”, that in the end we agreed in saying a “see you soon” instead.

 

The ride home was silent and special. Ivana and Federico were also very sentimental. My feeling now is that coming back one day is certain; see how the kids and foundation are going to keep growing. I feel very special to be chosen to be part of this group and blessed for having found such good friends not only at the foundation but also Federico and Ivana. The friendship we built was amazing and it’s hard to think that we are not going to be intensively together for a while. Not forgetting to mention Veena of course, that not only was there to help and pamper but also an amazing company. We became so attached to her! Saying goodbye to her was pretty harsh.

 

The final moments are difficult to deal with. Changing again the daily routine, going back to Milano and university… All of this is just easy if we compared to the difficulty of saying goodbye to everyone that was part of my life in Jaipur and at the foundation. Being part of the Tushita Team is a life changing experience and it’s hard to put on words in which way it changed my mind.

 

Anyways, I’m pretty sure we add and change things around in Amer but the entire experience is really valid for us volunteers. Thank you, Rosenda. For giving me the opportunity to participate in the beautiful work with the kids and for bringing them new perspectives through introducing new ways of thinking and living and sharing my skills. You can be sure that I gave my best but I really feel that I got immensely more than I gave. Being a part of the Tushita group is getting a full Indian experience that allowed me to grow as a person and make lifetime friends.

 

Dear Silvia,

I am at loss of words. The feelings you all have shared at the Foundation are so overwhelming and so beautiful. The three of you have written with strong conviction that this experience has changed you and I wonder if it is not the fear to love and care that has maybe disappeared. Even if it hurts a bit sometimes, it is so precious and necessary.

You have received so much, because you have given all you could. Thank you for all you have done for the children and the teachers and thank you for this wonderful journal that as brought sunshine to my days.

I hope that we will meet again.