Rowan – Summer 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tushita Foundation India

Summer 2014 – Volunteers’ Journal

 

 

Rowan’s journal in orange, Rosenda’s feed-back in blue

 

Arrival:

 

July 17th-18th

 

7 hours from NY to Frankfurt – 8 hours of layover time spent sleeping in the airport and 7 additional hours by flight to New Delhi -Alex and I arrive exhausted. Greeted by Rohit at the Delhi Ariport it is late in the night and we are promptly photographed and adorned in beautiful flowers. We then proceeded to travel an hour to the hotel in Delhi where we were treated with such professional hospitality.  I am  writing this log the following night (19th) as I was beyond disorientated and exhausted to coordinate myself the first night.

Sleeping in my own hotel room was such a treat and the breakfast this morning was fantastic! Everyone here is so kind. Alex and I are getting along well and we took it upon ourselves to explore the town around our hotel. I love the cacophony of the streets and the colors I see in textile and paints.

Rosenda, Jan and Ayan joined Alex, Guju bana, and I for a wonderful lunch feast in the hotels’ restaurant. The conversations we had were lively and I was very excited to meet the Tushita Team.

After stuffing myself, we parted with Ayan, Rosenda and Jan, and embarked on our 6 hour drive to the city of Jaipur. The car ride was exhausting as I am very thrown off by the 9 hour time difference. Most of the drive was on the National highway 8 which was remarkable to be a part of.  I saw camels and cows causally walking alongside the honking cars, motorcycles, embellished buses and vans. Along the highways sides were countless- what appear to be automobile repair shops- and stands that sell long strands of rainbow treats. I am curious to try these and learn the names of them.

Something I witnessed which I would never see at home was the motorcycles- commercially intended for one- are piled high with families.  From behind the view is a mass of limbs and tiny children popping out in every direction. The astonishing comfort in the children and parents expressions is something I’m very much enjoying observing.  Very different from anything I am accustomed to back at home.

Finally  after the drive, we have arrived at the Tushita House. We have yet to meet Veenaji which I am looking forward too and tomorrow Alex and I will have time to adjust to our surroundings and hopefully explore Jaipur.

 

19th- 20st

Our first two days out and about :

Alex and I are getting along very well; we both have no reservations and have embarked on our journeys with the same open-mindedness and curiosity. I like this fact, and feel comforted having someone to exchange my exclamations with.

I am finding it hard to articulate what I have been observing and seeing on the streets, I feel very discombobulated on the streets. However I’m enjoying the unfamiliarity and hopefully my jet lag will fade with time. Everyone is so curious and I feel eyes on me most of the time. I do not mind because I fully understand how strange a blond girl and mustached man must look aimlessly walking around the streets.  I look forward to going to the Tushita Foundation on Monday.

 

21st- First day at the foundation and I was so touched to see the welcome signs the teachers made for Alex and I. The teachers were very quiet with us during our meeting; however I am sure we will all get more and more comfortable. The children beamed happiness and could not have been more excited to see the new volunteers! I feel a bit of pressure because of the attention, this is normal and mostly a good thing I suppose. I spent the three sections of the day wandering about and observing how the day is run. I see a lot of opportunity for creativity and already I have ideas brewing.  I write this very exhausted and I suppose it will take much longer than I expected to overcome the time zone struggle. I am looking forward to tomorrow where I will continue to observe and get my footing.

 

22nd-

I spent the majority of the day in Sonam’s class working with the younger children. Today I felt lovely and refreshed in the morning; this is a good sign that I have beaten my 9 hour lag. The weather has been pleasantly hot. I absolutely love the play-time that the children in the foundation get to run around outside. I found myself struggling to hold back laughter and smiles while running around and basking in the monsoon rain. The water was revitalizing and nourished my exhaustion. My friends keep asking for updates but I feel too much is happening for me to individually update them. I hope that with time I will find moments and ways to fill them in.

Tomorrow I plan on involving myself more in a class and seeing how the kids react to me alongside their teacher.

 

 

23rd

After last night’s late night walk and mosquito attack, I awoke this morning more discombobulated than ever.  However the ride from Jaipur to the foundation gave me a chance to re adjust and process my surroundings. I find that these past few days I have had to devote a chunk of my cognition to relaxation, and self-reflection.  I consider myself self-aware and know that when in a foreign environment it bods well for me to take the back seat, open my eyes, internalize and remain calm.  With these prompts in mind I have found my recent experiences more than enjoyable.

Today in Sonam’s class: While sitting on the floor surrounded by curious wide eyes I could not help but feel determined to give these children my all. I am amazed by the variety of personalities and the willingness to learn. The memory of these children is remarkable and their excitement to dictate “CAT” and “EYEBROW” as loud and as close as possible to my face is SO cute! After a child would spell and show me their words I would ask unfamiliar questions like: “How many ____ do I have?” “Where are my ____?” and after two or three repetitions and gestures the answers came with ease.  I find it astonishing the speed at which these students are able to learn; I feel that after they gain a phonetic and contextual grasp on the words their capabilities will be limitless.

 

Payal’s class:

Few students are in this class and their ages run from 11-13. The students are for the most part able to complete the grammar lessons with ease; however as I had them read back to me their own work they lacked confidence and stammered over the words they could so easily spell. This will not be a hard thing to work on. I am sure with more conversational English spoken to and around them their confidence and pronunciation will improve leaps and bounds. It is for reasons like these that I am beyond excited to become fully immersed in the classrooms with the children. I cannot wait to talk- and talk -and talk to these children pulling funny facts out and forcing them to see English as a fun and casual language.  One that can reach beyond the white board and school grammar lessons!

Miscellaneous thoughts:

Maybe jump ropes for the play yard? More hula-hoops/ teaching the kids games like “red light green light 1-2-3” ?

Murals for the classrooms and garden can be done in a color by number system.

Hizba stuck out to me as a younger girl who showed confidence and ease with speaking and understanding foreign questions.

Ruskah showed me his doodles and seemed very excited that we will be able to draw together! (as am I!)

Ayliah loves my finger nail polish!

I need to get a better grasp on these names!!

 

P.s: The teachers are so sweet and welcoming and even feel comfortable enough to joke with me about the monkeys!

 

 

 

 

24th

Sitting on this lovely bed enjoying my caffeine free tea I feel pleasantly exhausted by today. Today was Jen’s first and she was awesome to watch explain phonetics to the teachers; I could see her passion and I know the teachers felt it as well.

I worked only with Ruchika today and felt very comfortable in her “daisy” classroom.  Reading and acting out the short book “The Lost Moon” was tiring to do for three classes but the students’ obvious enjoyment made it completely worth it. Ruchika and I would each read a page in English to the class; then we would ask questions about the subject matter and involve them in the gestures. I saw great improvements in the confidence of the class and as the pages turned the energy level rose and smiles broadened.

After the book came to an end we played a conversation game.  I walked to the front of the class, greeted the students, explained my name and gave a sentence about something I like. Ruchika would then ask the question “What does she like?”  after they answered correctly in unison I would spin around, close my eyes and point to a random child, prompting them to take my place and do as I just did. This worked well, however most of the children spoke quietly and were unsure of their answers, which in most cases were correct.

The day at the foundation came to a close as we all enjoyed each other’s energies playing in the yard. I had a blast jumping over the obstacles (sitting girls) and attempting to limbo…

I felt today my energy level remained more stable than the prior days and this I am sure is because I woke early to run with Pierre and Gajju bana (spelling I’m sorry). I really loved this early morning treat and have already arranged to repeat it tomorrow.

Pierre joined Alex, Jen and I for diner, it was a lot of fun. He is a great friend to have here and acts as a young ambassador for us foreigners to all that surrounds us.

My family continues to send love and this I am sure is a large source of my happiness and serenity in India.

I am so looking forward to my elephant exploration of the Amber Fort this weekend and also the lunch Ruskar has told me we will share with the teachers tomorrow.

I feel my craving for creative time growing and I hope this weekend I will get an hour or so to paint or draw. I also am craving to see local art, and history.

It seems this last event of typing has tired me out completely; I must rest well for my early work out tomorrow, and make sure I can endure the days dealings fully alert.

 

Lovely entry, Rowan,

I was particularly touched by the fact that you know how much your family’s love, sent from across the oceans is sustaining you.

I had a lovely day as well, with you all, yesterday, and I dread my time here coming to an end.

 

25th-

Wow. Am I full. Jennie Alex and I have returned from a magnificent feast at Veena and Gajj bana’s new marvelous home!  The food was extraordinary. Veenaji is a woman who continues to baffle me; what doesn’t she do?! Her presence emits power, curiosity, love and intelligence. I see the teachers looking to her as a role model and I catch myself in awe of the calm magic she performs coordinating all around her.

At the foundation I worked with Ruksar’s class, and because of the holiday only one student was in her first section. Kushi, the only student showed remarkable interest in the new books Rosenda sought out. As the minutes of reading together flew by Kushi became more and more involved. I am so proud to say that she even left the day with a brand new bed-time read in hand!

Working with Kushi today touched me, with her I saw in real time a child go from not knowing and feeling lost to realizing that her capabilities aren’t limited because of a language barrier.  I feel that no matter the language difference that exists between people, the eye contact that the two can share in moments they create together has the ability to douse both souls in love and energy. With Krushi today, a part of me awoke and a part of her came out, and this makes me smile.

I feel at home here surrounded by the beautiful people. Something has brought me to this place and I feel that I have much to learn; however I am not quite sure exactly what about yet. The adults who have cared for me this past week, I am afraid will never know how much their presence has made an impact already in my adventure/life. I have found myself silent numerous times in conversation with several people, not because of boredom but because I want to completely absorb the energies I see they emit.

Today was yet another day and has felt completely anew and shocking, like every day so far.

 

So far the most touching entry of your journal. You seem to have eased in the work to do with the children effortlessly, because your intention is right and your desire to embrace this life changing experience sincere.

 

26th

I may have stayed up a bit too late last night, I felt my morning was running on low reserves and I lacked the footing to fully greet the day.

Feeling a bit lost when I entered the foundation I soon found my center with help from the children and fellow teachers. I danced and drew forgetting of the drowsy morning and shook off my unneeded thoughts.  It’s amazing what a room full of happy bodies can do for the inner psyche.

Saying goodbye to Rosenda was very difficult for me. Without her I would not be here and for that I owe a life of love.

I can write that I look forward to seeing soon, but this feels that it lacks the sincerity I feel when I think it.

I really want to thank you, but I haven’t found the words just yet.

 

 

With much love-

Rowan

 

Reading your entry early morning has renewed the overwhelming feeling I had yesterday when I left you all. I felt like a piece of cloth been torn in two by the hands of the tailor.

One piece of me has stayed back with you, and with you Rowan in particular.

The few days we have shared have made me realize what a fine young woman you are, and the love you are also talking about has sprang out of my heart in the most unexpected way, awaking my desire to spend more and more time with you and share my thoughts and work. I must also admit that the thought has crossed my mind that I would love to work with you in art therapy. And I think we will, because this daily exchange will give has a space to share our observations, even though, I know, I will cruelly miss looking into your eyes and seeing the depth of your soul.

I am always amazed by the pertinence of your observations; you are so right when you notice what movement and togetherness can do to the psyche.

Please don’t thank me for being at the Tushita Foundation, you only owe it to your courage, your curiosity, your openness to life, but for what the life of love is concerned, I feel exactly the way you do and I know that I will always carry you preciously in my heart, one of the mysterious gifts that life showers with those who embrace it passionately.

 

With much love and light,

 

Rosenda

 

27th-

All of us went to the old city to do some shopping and Alex and I acted hilariously with our bargaining and negotiating with the men selling various items. The elevated conversations and high level energy was just what Alex needed to let loose and I loved being a part of such an unfamiliar setting. Jennie expressed that she was new to a situations such as those and brought up a good point; she feels insecure when haggling because she is worried she will offend the sellers. Although I can see validity in her feeling, I do not feel the same and had trouble talking her away from that perspective.

Today I had time to paint read and meditate which has centered and refreshed me.  I finally made enough time to call the list of people whom I was procrastinating to do so. My family and friends were very nice to speak with but I kept the conversations moving because I want to really invest most of my energy into where I am. I feel that dwelling on where I am not, would cause me to feel unnecessarily homesick, a feeling which I haven’t yet felt here in India and don’t look forward to.

I write this after a four hour dinner with Jennie and Alex and I really have to say how pleased I am to be here with the two. Jennie has so much travelling experience and holds herself beautifully, and I feel Alex and I have been friends for years already. I’m more than glad to be in such a place in my life where I am surrounded by and living with these two very different people.

 

The fabulous camaraderie that can be created in a situation when you walk out of your comfort zone and take the risk to take a step in a very new environment.

 

28th-

After staying up later than we all should have the three of us rolled out of bed to go ride elephants up the Amjer Fort. I had a blast doing so! However the ride was short and the harassment from the vendors dampened my spirits a tad. Jennie is experiencing her jet lag and was very exhausted; this made me worry for her. I want her to be as comfortable as she can be here, but I feel she is having a tougher time adjusting to life here.  I know she misses Rich and has felt overwhelmed from the moment she arrived. Alex outwardly seemed to be the exact opposite mood today and this afternoon I went out onto the porch to find him dancing and smiling to the fresh post-monsoon air. It makes me very happy to see him in such a good place, I know this week has been that of discovery and rebuilding for him and I am glad to see a smile under that mustache!

Going through a day like today, exploring the fort and then living with two opposite moods caused me to fluctuate in feeling. I found myself quiet and introspective. Jennie’s homesickness is causing me to reflect on all the relationships with friends and past people back at home. I feel a bitter-sweetness when I think of all those people; of course I miss them, but I know they will be there when I return and I have to live where I am and enjoy and welcome any moment or feeling I have, such as a guest house.

The foundation today was frustrating because it was the day before the two-day vacation and few children and teachers came. I stayed downstairs with Jennie in Sonam’s class and took in a small handful of children; we played games, sang songs and drew a bit. Jennie and I were extremely tired and the lack of other teachers made us feel lost and confused as to what to do. We had gotten up today with the intention to discuss with the teachers what they want to do; as far as having us involved in their classes.  Jennie has raised a point and I agree that we should get a sense of how the teachers feel they can use all that we have shown possible in the past week. The lack of teachers and the monsoon rain dampened our plan and little was discussed or accomplished. I am determined to accomplish much more on Thursday when we return to the foundation.

 

This feeling of frustration could happen again at the Tushita Foundation, because in India, one does not have the same drive to achievement that we do. A religious festival, a family function, all such things take the absolute priority over work. This is part of the Indians “weltanshaung”, their vision of the world and their life philosophy. I know too well the impression of wasting my time, but I came to realize that admitting someone else’s way of life is also very much part of this precious process you have chosen to go through: living in a different culture.

I know that you will come out of it with many new insights on yourself and the world.

 

As far as our lives back at the Tushita house, all three of us have agreed we would appreciate time and space to cook for ourselves.  I would like the opportunity to explore the kitchen here and cook with Alex and Jennie. I also am not acquainted with having someone to cook for me every day and feel a slight discomfort having someone tend to me such as Bim does.  I would like to give him more time to himself and family.

 

Here also, you find yourself dwelling in cultural differences. I agree that you should have the possibility to cook and make yourself at home. However, Bhim would feel very hurt if you completely close the door of the kitchen to him. He will think that you don’t like his food and he will fear to loose his job. I have come to realize that in India there is so much domestic help, because there are so many mouths to feed. Reading the situation as, we don’t need to be pampered and we are capable of doing it ourselves is a Western way to think. In India, you need to give Bhim the possibility to make a living for his family. I suggest that you ask Veenaji to free him on week-ends and during holidays, but please don’t get rid of him.

 

29th-

I’m thinking a lot about my past year in New York City and what it was like living in such a place while experiencing my freshman year. In the city I saw a lot of people, fast people. In the city I learned more about myself and art than anywhere I have lived so far. In the city I felt frustrated and intoxicated by the noise and my independence. I think I love the city. I know I have to return after this journey for my studies, and for the people I met there. I am determined to return with all my energy. Seeing people here with much less opportunity makes me realize a few things: I have time, love, life and curiosity that I want to explore. I want to let people know I am alive and I want to show people they are as well.  I have already seen and met amazingly beautiful people thus far, and if I continue staying true to myself and following my life I can’t wait for what will come. Maybe this is false confidence or nativity, to assume I will be surrounded by goodness but I feel compelled to think this way. I really believe in self-awareness and love for question and knowledge and as long as I have my thoughts, wherever I am I will be ok.

 

Your reality is at first imagined in your mind. If you think that you will be surrounded by goodness, that is what your reality will look like. At such a young age, you have already understood some very important facts of spiritual life, like the need of tending to your thoughts and meditating to center yourself and be in touch with your inner world. This reinforces my belief that the soul comes to this world with a previous luggage and some of us are old souls.

 

On a more concrete note- today was a holiday and I slept my heart out waking up around 12.  Jen and I laid out on the roof, I was surprised by the look of my skin in sunlight!  We then went to see the Bollywood movie titled “Kick” with Pierre and Alex which I found hard to sit through. The movie made me rather concerned for the delicate children watching and absorbing the vulgarity and awkward social cues.  I know I may be reading into the sub culture of the film but I really thought it was bizarre. The audience was enthralled by the immature nature and easily manipulated by the music and props. I am so curious about gender roles here and this movie made me even more so. On one side the woman was an intelligent independent figure; however as soon as the male protagonists were introduced she fell by the way side and seemed fragile and confused.

The movie was a lot to think about and has left me tired and ready for peaceful dreams.

 

I completely agree with you. Bollywood movies are often very empty. There is a small, but very interesting production of indie films in India that I invite you to discover if you can. I think of the magnificent movies by Satyajit Ray and some more modern, but meaningful like Monsoon wedding by Meera Nair who has made quite a few good ones and the latest Lunch box, as well as Three idiots. Veenaji might have some of these on dvd.

You are also asking about books and I am happy to share with you some of my favorites that you will have to order, though, because I would be surprised that you will find them in Jaipur.

 

“Women who run with the wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarissa_Pinkola_Est%C3%A9s

 

“The way of the dream” by Marie Louise Von Franz

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Louise_von_Franz

 

 

“The gift of therapy” by Irvin Yalom

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irvin_D._Yalom

 

The three of them are renowned psychiatrists and therapists that I highly appreciate; most of their work is very interesting and accessible.

 

However if you wish to read a novel by an Indian author, I would suggest

“The namesake” by Jumpa Lahiri

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhumpa_Lahiri

 

 

30th

Today we had the day off and the three of us walked and spent time together. I loosely wrote a poem type verse. The inspiration for the poem came from our tour of the Amjer Fort.  On our tour we got to look through the queens welcome window. The window is more of a massive slab of cut marble with etched out hexagons for the queen to peak out through and observe the courtyard and all her guests.

—-

-Taking her eyes by their hands.  –

 

Like the patterns in her dress

The concrete marble shaped into holes

Cast shadowed micro-cosmos.

Symphonic hues dark and light

Reverberate the walls she feels.

A lash dusts the peak of light

That catches her pupil,

Blind and alive,

Her shadow sleeps along

Line by the window.

 

It is such a pleasure to see you write and draw. I couldn’t have been happier to open your entry today. Please forgive me for adding the punctuation to your poem. It might not be what you have meant for and you can change it, but I feel that it makes the poem clearer. What do you think?

 

 

Ive attached a quick sketch I drew alongside the entry in my sketchbook: (sorry for the size of the image, my computer doesn’t let me easily resize the image)

 

 

 

The drawing is very effective as well. I love the lines of energy coming out of the well-drawn hexagons.

 

31st-

Alas the homesickness has made an appearance. I woke this morning missing my brothers.  I’m glad that before I left I spent time with them. My youngest brother Regan will be turning 13 this week.

This past year, because I was away at school I only saw him sporadically. It seemed every time I saw him he grew a foot. I can only imagine the man that will be there when I return from my time abroad.

I want to write a lot; however I feel overwhelmed by the task. I need to devote time this weekend to articulating my thoughts and feelings here.

The foundation was great today. Jennie Alex and I went in on a mission to get things accomplished and we did! We had great conversations with all the teachers and they were awesome. We all established short-term goals and improved our communication. We encouraged the teachers to really let us know what they think about how we can help, and went around in a circle all pitching project and lesson ideas. I worked the whole day in Ruksar’s class and we had a blast. The first session we acted out different situational conversations i.e. on the train, in the market, in their room etc… The second session we sang silly phonetic songs and used the desks as drums laughing and conversing making rhymes and music.  In the third batch we talked about adjectives and verbs and created characters, working with description and verbs. I wanted to do a variety of things with the three sessions to see how the kids would respond and to get Ruksar comfortable with a few new activities.

The foundation brightened my mood and lessened my homesickness. A call to my family tonight will do me well.

 

The work at the Foundation is the backbone of your experience in India. There you can measure how your energy can make a difference and I know that it will. Collaborating with the teachers is also a very important part of the task at hand; accepting the differences and understanding their reasons, but also proposing new methods and exercises.

And, don’t forget, the love you will give those children will pull you through emotionally, see your brothers in everyone of them and you will feel him near. Send your dear ones a great dose of daily love and you will feel they are not so far after all. This is the technique I use when missing my children tries to become an excruciating pain in my heart.

I wish you joy.

 

 

August 3rd

Today was one of the hardest days here and one I am grateful to have experienced.

The public water park that the teachers took us to may very well have been a male exclusive sausage fest. The ratio of female to male was roughly 60 to 10, there being approx. 300 people total.

The women who refused to stop dancing no matter the severity of the male harassment astounded me. These women are so strong. The harassment that they deal with their whole lives hit me like a train yesterday and easily pushed me to tears at points.  However I was determined to keep on and take lead from the women who have to deal with situations like these every day.

I can walk away from these men at the end of my time here; but the women who live here cannot.

The fact that yesterday was friendship day could not have been more appropriate.  Each one of the teachers holds a spot in my heart and yesterday cemented that.

After we all reached our breaking points due to harassment the ladies took us to the ladies only pool. The fact that such a place exists as a sanctuary is both appreciated and saddening to me.  Here is where I felt tears; but these were tears of joy. As I waded into the yellow green 4ft deep pool a smile grew on my face; a smile of release. I thought finally I can enjoy my time here.

Sonam was scared of the water, but I wanted so badly for her to see that in this place with me and this moment she doesn’t have to feel scared. I took her hands in mine and held them; myself in the water and her body sitting on the first step. She told me she was so nervous and I kept still holding her hands, breathing and closing my eyes. I felt her grip relaxing and reassured her I would keep her safe. She trusted me. We walked together, step by step into the pool, every moment of dissention she tightened, but didn’t ask to turn back or let go of my hand. I walked with her until she was in the center of the pool.

And here I saw her breathe.

She could not stop smiling and the other girls looked and their smiles widened, she did it, we all felt it, we all were together.

Geetaji is someone who I feel so strongly for and connected to. Of all the teachers, I have up until this point spent the least amount of time with her. I have witnessed her intelligence, grace and presence at the foundation but yesterday I grew a lot closer to her.

In pool that Sonam was now frolicking in, I noticed that Geetaji was saddened and off to the edge. I looked at her and we both knew that this world she is surrounded by causes her pain. Without me saying anything she said “some men are animals.”

I agreed and said, “some.”

I asked her if she could swim, and she said no and looked at her son Krishna and I could see a string of thoughts dissipate into his splashing.  I took her hands and showed her the breaststroke motion, the other girls joined in excitedly.  I brought Geetaji to the wall. I showed her how my feet were moving and she quickly grabbed the wall trying to mimic my motions. She caught on and her face sparked. She exhausted herself completely trying all she could. Soon I found myself holding her on her belly while she so happily swam round and round. I must have looked so silly because I was smiling so large my cheeks hurt. The other girls watched in awe and I felt overcome with joy, we were all there together and Geetaji was swimming.

After Geeta became too tired she hugged me and this is a moment I will remember my whole life.

The other women flocked to me and one by one I held each in my arms and they flew.

I’m having trouble accepting the environment that I experienced yesterday. In some ways it was traumatic, but more than that it was eye opening. I need to be here and I need to learn from these women. They are beautiful warriors.

 

Rowan, your words bring tears to my eyes. Our teachers are beautiful warriors and you are a born therapist. I am in awe.

 

Day with the birds-

 

Pierre continues to surprise me.  His ability to balance his academic career and his casual demeanor is very refreshing and I enjoy the time I spend in his company.

 

He is a wonderful young man, very generous and understanding.

 

The train ride and rickshaw ride that we took would have been very difficult without his guidance and negotiating skills. The locals of Barahatpur were much more aggressive than any I have encountered in Jaipur so far. Their looks cause me more discomfort and I felt less welcome.

 

Please try to avoid unknown people’s eyes. It is a good form of protection and it is what women in India do traditionally. This will spare you feelings that you can avoid.

 

The sanctuary was less formal than I imagined it being. The space consisted of a dirt path with government bikes that we chose to cycle on during our tour. The tour guide was a very sweet man who knew an impressive amount about the local history and wildlife. This was great for all the questions Jennie and I had to ask.

I often see butterflies wherever I go. The sanctuary had a shocking amount; as I cycled I felt their tiny painted bodies whirl around me in the heat.

I needed the nature that this trip exposed me to. The landscape was beautiful and I am so glad I got to have a day of serenity and experience sublime natural beauty.

 

Nature is the great healer.

 

At a point in our exploration of the park grounds Jennie and I stopped to take pictures and when we did a group of locals stopped and snapped a shot of us. I thought this was hilarious and almost a bit embarrassing. We were as much of an attraction to spot for the locals as the birds were to us.  I think it’s good to have moments of embarrassment like this; they make memories and cause you take a step back and see yourself through the eyes of others.

 

For some people you meet in India, you might be the first foreigner they meet; quite an attraction, no?

 

August 4th-

 

The teacher meeting on the 4th was a hard meeting for me to be a part of. Jennie, Alex and I went in with hopes of discussing the waterpark adventure except I was not pleased with the outcome. Alex and Jennie took to comparing cultures and desperately wanted the girls to dump their feelings on the matter of gender inequality.

Comparing cultures and trying to convince someone of the inferiority of their own is a no, no.

Could you please remind your colleagues what you have learned in anthropology class. I am really worried that their opinionated attitudes could hurt the teachers who are so generous with their time and friendship. Would you like someone to stay with you in the States, share your world and keep criticizing it?

 

I was up for talking about the surprising nature of the day and how I felt but I feel it was a bit out of line to request so much from these women. The differences that I am seeing between my culture and the culture these ladies are accustomed to is that they tend to keep a lot of their feelings inside. For us to demand personal opinions, on deep rooted cultural aspects of their lives, that we are outsiders to, felt forced and awkward. I would prefer to have free discussions, where the women feel compelled to divulge their thoughts as they please. I do see the validity in Jennie and Alex trying to break the ice and get close to the teachers I just feel it would be beneficial to both parties to ease into it. I think by the end of the meeting the teachers felt okay with our high energy questioning, but still I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. I wonder why I felt so uncomfortable in this setting and I know Alex and Jennie didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I did.

 

Again, I count on you to let Alex and Jennie know that they have to thread light with the teachers. Breaking the ice doesn’t mean pushing someone to say that they hate their world.

When I invited you to discuss the experience at the water-park, I meant more for you to discuss in a friendly manner Alex’s protective outburst and the opportunity for young women to go to such a place. However, it is better to move on, now.

 

 

August 6- 7th

I spent both days in Ruchi’s class. For the first day I spent the last twenty minutes reviewing the phonetic sounds “a” “s” “t” “p.”  I am amazed by the quickness of these children and their ability to learn the correct pronunciation.  The second day I did a similar review for all three batches and the children seem to have the sounds completed. I played various phonetic games and had each child stand up and tell me their name and spelling. I’m terrible with names but I think finally now I have a grasp on more than half the children of the foundation. More and more I’m seeing their personalities come out and I couldn’t be happier.  I am making a habit of having “Free draw time” at the end of the batches I teach and sometimes if I can see the children are restless and uninvolved I move the free draw to the start of class, and spend the middle of the lesson having them elaborate on what they have drawn. It is so reassuring in my love for art to see the impact that creative time has on these children; every batch that I have attended and any age I have suggesting drawing to, all enjoy and love showing me what they have created.

My favorite part of my days here is during these moments of expression and closeness I experience with the children. I really look forward to each day, and each smile that is shared with me.

Your journal will also benefit from your involvement with the children. You will be able to mention which child has done what and how you feel he is reacting to your teaching. Please try to take notes while in class, chalking down the names of the children. We should be able to recognize them and their unique individualities.

 

 

 

 

August 8th-

Today was raki and the day was filled with energy and children. I took Sonam’s class, which due to the influx of new children contained three times the normal amount, plus Geetaji’s batches. The classroom was packed like a sardine tin of adorable little people and I was feeling ambitious. I decided to start the class with one by one giving them whiteboards and paper. As I handed one to a child the surrounding children would rush and yell to get my attention; however as I stayed calm and focused on the child in front of me smiling and saying “you’re welcome” after their prompted “thank you” I was able to subtly calm the grabby hands. Then came the biggest struggle, sharing. As I passed out crayons I instructed groups of children to share the boxes of crayons. Most of the children understood; however all did not want to. I worked very hard to sit with different groups and practice sharing.  As I did this I saw improvement. I really want to make it a goal of mine to give sharing a good push in the classrooms. I think it is a great tool in life for anyone to have.

OH, this is so true! Very well, Rowan.

On the board I had drawn a few happy things, flowers, rainbows, people, nature, and told the class they could draw any/all of it along with whatever they wanted.

This was awesome because I really got a chance to work one on one with the children and see how they approached the task.

Jaysing, has taken a close position to me in the class, he is always interested and attentive. He wants very badly to learn and when he pronounces his words he does so with energy and a tightly squeezed face. I noticed as the kids were all drawing he was sitting alone pressing very hard with pencil and erasing almost every line he engraved into the paper. This little boy holds a lot of stress and insecurity, and I saw that very clearly in the rainbow he drew. I will take pictures of their work and send you. Jaysing came up to me at the end of the class and he handed me the rainbow, we shared a look of happiness and admiration for the beautiful drawing he had worked so hard to craft. I will be working with him when I can, one on one.

Thank you, Rowan, he needs all the love and care he can get.

Alyina, is 10 years old, one of the oldest in Sonam’s class. She comes in early most days and leads the younger children to set up the room. I press her for conversations and today I spent time working with her on the whiteboard before class. She has a good understanding of common vocabulary however has not challenged herself or had the need to.  I spoke to Veenaji about this and she will hopefully be moving to Geetaji’s class next week. I will be excited to see how rapidly she improves, I have confidence she will be fantastic.

I agree, she is a very bright child.

Tokeer, is a new student and is very small but makes up for it in his large eyes. He sat very quietly and paid excellent attention the whole class. I was surprised the level of comprehension he showed for his age. He was able to understand my directions and even express that he made mistakes. I loved working with him, he is patient and attentive and I think will be very successful at the foundation.

I love the way you share your experience with each child.

Naesha, is also a new student who I saw on Thursday for an hour. Today she wiggled in with a personal chalkboard and chalk. She seemed excited and even tapped my foot to show me what she brought. It was heartbreaking to find that after two hours of intense energy and movement she had been pushed out the crowded classroom. I found her crying by the entryway with her chalk-board and chalk all wrapped up. I sat with her and drew faces on her board, no help. I grabbed a foam ball and tossed it with her, a smile grew. We kept playing until she was standing and Fazim walked by. I explained she was sad and if he knew if she had an older sibling. He worked as the translator and we all played ball together.  Together we all held hands and walked around looking for her brother. We found him in Payal’s new class and she ran quickly to his feet. I will be working to include her in the classroom from now on, along with the other new students.

It is so touching to see what trouble a little child can go through. Thank you for consoling her.

I tied a raki on Rinku’s arm. He is a sweetheart who from day one has stood out; he shows me his drawings and always carries a lengthy conversation. I have yet to really work with his batch but I look forward to doing so. I think it is helpful to have friendships with the older kids if you want to interest them.

Exactly. I also share your feelings for Rinku.

 

 

 

 

August 9th- Veenaji and Pierre toured us in Pierre’s old school. It was a beautiful facility and very interesting to compare to the surrounding areas. The towns surrounding the school were small and much less affluent than the school. I love the animals and bird sanctuaries within the campus grounds and the assortment of physical activities the boys and girls can choose from.  We picked up Soomal, and also saw a little of her school.  Soomal is very curious about psychology  which made for numerous interesting conversations.

I knew you would like each other and find lots to share.

 

August 10th-

Today it poured and because of the weather Jennie, Alex and I were trapped in doors. We had made plans to visit Sonam’s house in preparation for her wedding on the 11th. Unfortunately we could not make it to Amer; instead we all napped, laughed and ate for basically the whole day. We did actually make a brief visit to the old city to shop for Jennie, but most shops were closed because of the holiday and the fact that it was additionally a Sunday.

Dolce farniente, literally “sweet doing-nothing”, Italians are good at it, I suspect it is the source of their creativity.

 

August 11th-

Today was a colorful day. After making it late to the foundation due to wedding shopping I was able to spend the little time I had left with Ruksar’s last batch. Yasin and I have become friends, I didn’t have time to teach or start a project but it was nice to talk with the children and doodle.  We left from the foundation with our sarees on to Amjer Park. The décor was fantastic purple and white drapes, and Sonam looked amazing. She was covered head to toe in sparkle and was beaming. She was very nervous and I was honored she wanted us around her to comfort her.  I am very tired now, and look forward to a day with the children.

A privilege to be part of a friend’s wedding in India, but emotionally draining.

 

August 12th-

I woke up feeling very exhausted and thought as the day progressed I would feel better. However as I stood in Ruchi’s class and worked with the class I felt my health declining. I resorted to laying in the office for the last batch. Veenaji was feeling ill as well.  I’m hoping a good sleep will do me well tonight and I will be okay for tomorrow.

 

I am afraid that the food at the wedding was not up to the mark. It is difficult to keep hygienic standards when cooking for so many and at monsoon time. Please be very careful with your food for sometime and go to the doctors if it persists. My recipe is white rice with a pinch of salt and olive oil.

 

August 13th-

 

Sick day ….

Was able to meditate and enjoy the calmness of the day.  Looking forward to tomorrow, I know I will go to the foundation regardless of how strong I feel. I do not want to miss sports day.

I love reading about how attached you have grown to the Foundation already.

 

August 14th-

I was able to decorate and reorganize the bookcase today. I added a little bit of creativity and color which caused children to come up and ask about it.  This Saturday I will spend my time around the books, advertising and helping children explore the library.

THANK YOU!!!!!!

 

The activities of sports day were unlike the events I have ever participated in. I had so much fun watching and racing with the other children and teachers.  I was most impressed by the two little hula hopers who battled it out for at least five minutes. (Pictures of this sent through Veenaji’s mail) The children of the foundation are a constant support of happiness for me.

Something I am noticing that has caused me to worry a little:  the new students are being picked on. I wrote about Naesha previously and again I feel the need to mention her. She has such bright eyes and a clever attitude; however I see her fall to the back of groups and get talked down to by older kids who feel because they know more English they are better. I have already made progress in getting children to help her and the other new comers integrate into groups. Naesha has trouble communicating, but in the past few days I have been lucky enough to receive her friendship.

And it is so precious for her. This is a particularly difficult time, because we are integrating new children, the presence of a budding therapist is so important for them. Please keep me posted on the progress these new ones make. Do they have uniforms? I think this outer prop will help them fit in.

 

 

August 15th- Friday, we had the day off today and Jennie left.  I woke early to travel to the airport and hug her goodbye. It was emotional leaving her but I am glad she will be back in her environment with loved ones.  After returning from the airport I slept and mediated most of the day. I was able to go out for a walk and paint a bit.

I hope you manage to draw and paint and be creative enough.

 

August 16th-

Saturdays at the foundation can be draining. The high energy of the dance class and the constant slurry of moving children is something that requires full attention to be a part of. I enjoy letting go and dancing with the girls during the dance time, I am happy to see the new younger girls joining in alongside the others.

Everyone needs to let go once in a while and this is the purpose of the dance class for me.

I wonder if you have managed to introduce free dancing on English music. It would be useful to teach the children the text of the songs and allow them to move freely without the choreography.

 

The older boys have a funny way of interacting with others during the free time at the foundation on Saturdays. I love how Alex kindly asserts his positive male energy and re directs their angst into laughter and better behavior.

Alex has lots of experience with boys.

 

I made a new friend today, her name is Neha. She is 11 and a bubbly girl filled with conversation and ambitions. She wants to become a doctor and is a pleasure to talk to.

And she is so beautiful!

 

In between dancing I would run downstairs to the bookshelf and entice passing children to pick a book and flip through it. I got a handful of children to stick around with me in the daisy classroom and read! Ashish and Samiyah showed a lot of interest as well as two new students who unfortunately I do not have the names of.

Fabulous! Thank you for the lovely pictures.

 

Today was a successful day and I am excited to get the library popular!

 

To many more successful days at the Foundation!

 

 

August 17 and 18th

 

Alex and I enjoyed Jaipur, our novels and each other’s company.

 

August 19th

 

Great day at the foundation today.

Up until this point I have only spent a maximum of two consecutive days with a teacher. I am planning now to work with Ruchi’s class for as long as it takes to complete a creative project. This could potentially be two weeks.

This is a very good idea.

 

The project that I have decided to do involves a number of steps. Today the first was completed. I asked the children to use their imaginations and pick a handful of their favorite animals. After choosing their animals I showed them examples of creatures that I created combining lions, elephants, butterflies, camels etc…  My examples made the children smile and proved to show them to relax and be creative.

Each child created four creatures and then one by one came to me and we discussed and decided which one to develop further. By working with the children individually I got to really explore each child’s excitement and approach.  Rafeek, and Gourav in the first batch stuck out, in that their efforts were precise and technically beautiful. Kagel required more attention and fought with herself while combining the various limbs and animals into one. Eventually we worked it out and she was happy with her creature by the end of the class.  Jyant and Prachi came in late. The two have advanced conversational skills, however I fear this causes them to undermine surrounding students.  For example, while I would be working with a neighbor of Jyant he would talk over me and push his papers over the child I was helping.  I found great success in smiling at him and calmly kindly requesting 5 minutes.  After a number of times and instances I saw him calm down and wait with more patience.

Two students that surprised me were Vikas and Sohil. The two, although in separate batches both had great difficultly and insecurity in today’s task. Vikas came up with two creatures in total and the first was a copy of his classmate Gourave’s Cowcatfly.  After I noticed this I sat between the Gourave and Vikas. From here I worked step by step in choosing animals and pieces to fashion a Vikas original. He showed surprise and excitement in the freedom but was equally as confused by the lack of restriction.

Here we are! This is the biggest problem with children in India. Creativity and freedom are not at all encouraged in their upbringing. We are trying to offer a safe space for them to explore. Well done, Rowan.

 

Sohil sat in the front and stiffly created a pile of scribbles. The scribbles when looked at closely were of various whole animals stacked on top of each other. After discovering this I restated the directions and worked with him and his neighbor Ashish to help him create his own simpler creature. Ashish was a great help in comforting his friend and translating when points of frustration were reached.

You must realize that some of the children cannot understand nor adhere to what is asked of them. Why make this crazy unrealistic figure? You might try to explain simply the reason why you have instructed them to do so and the advantages in their lives to learn a creative approach. It will be important for the teacher as well.

 

Tomorrow we will be working on descriptions and developing personalities and stories for the creatures. I have asked each child to bring in a small box that we will eventually decorate and fill with the habitat in which their creature lives. I plan to later this week move onto painting the creatures and perfecting the short stories and descriptions.

I am excited to see a project through with these children and think great results are on the way!

And I love your project! It is wonderful for these children to be exposed to such quality!

 

Also today I was able to spend some time in the yard. Here is where I really work hard to get the children to communicate and share with one and another. I would like to continue to mingle the girls and boys and get everyone included.

 

When Jennie mentioned it, I didn’t want to go into the subject of mingling girls and boys.

You will be able to understand, though, that it is not a good idea to change some of the societal structures in place in the village. Children know the norms that are in place in their environment and we should respect that. However, there is nothing wrong in making mixed teams when the situation allows. Just try not to focus on the matter. You have seen how arranged marriages work and most of the people are very happy with them. A separation between boys and girls, at least in the mind, is necessary for it to keep working smoothly.

August 20th-

 

During the teachers session today we spent the time discussing and finishing an article I brought in the day before. The article is called “Tribe of the Nacirema.” The teachers enjoyed this article and we all had a great discussion on anthropology.

Did they see the metaphor with our westernized culture?

Ruksar was especially interested in the topic of cultural perceptions and will be bringing in a reading for tomorrow.

It will be very interesting to explore the subject further. Maybe you can ask Ruksar why is anthropology important for her.

Geetaji was absent today which caused for Ruchi to take her class. I took Ruchi’s classes which made for an exhausting full day.  The first batch had full attendance so we were able to start drafting write-ups for the creatures. The second batch had moderate attendance and the third only two children.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that a majority of students brought in shoe boxes like I had requested the day before.

We have to find out why is Geetaji so often absent these days. Now that we have new students, her absences are quite a problem.

The students’ attempts to create stories for their creatures were successful; however I will have them create the habitat and creature before the final draft is created. I hope that after the child sees the creature in the habitat they are inspired to write more and develop their writing further.

They probably will. You are stimulating their imagination in a very productive way.

Because I was the only teacher in the daisy classroom I had little time to work with students individually. I hope that tomorrow will allow for me to work alongside Ruchi and devote my attention to spending one on one time with the various children.

The absence of individual attention to each child’s reflects in your journal. No student is mentioned and I feel sorry that you couldn’t give some quality time individually. We have chosen to work with the limited resources and space we have for now, but I hope that we will be able to grow.

 

21st- Yet another day without Geetaji; Nanoo is sick and she has been home caring for him. Hopefully she will be back tomorrow. Payal is also ill and Alex has taken to teaching her batches.

Wow, this sounds like a difficult situation.

Ruskar brought in a phenomenal article. The topic of Muslim prejudice was highlighted and you could tell this was a topic dear to her interests. I am so glad that the article I brought in the prior day made her excited to share a little about her own culture and how it is perceived.

This is really wonderful.

I again worked alone with Ruchi’s class. I made the decision to take a break from the project and wait for Ruchi to return. I feel more successful results will come from two teachers being present in the classroom. If Ruchi is in the classroom she and I can split up and tend to individuals with more ease and patience.

So instead today I worked on the white board. I drew pictures of monsters, animals and various items. Next to each I created sentences with blank spots for adjectives. In doing this exercise I wanted to plant a seed in the child’s mind, one that would get their minds moving towards creativity and description.

With much effort it seemed by the end of each batch the children were catching on! They were surprised that they had the choice to pick any adjective and fill in the blanks however they see fit.

Learning freely is a big step for them.

Again I am sad and honestly admitting I had little time to work individually with specific children. Although I have noticed that Gourav has opened up enormously to me and chooses to engage in classroom participation, which is very different from his efforts last week.

I mentioned in previous journals Jayant’s extroverted demeanor and today I must mention it again; however he was miles more respectful and I found with a little more eye contact and attention he seemed to quiet down.

You are learning quickly Rowan and I am amazed by your authority with children.

After class I spoke with Ruchi about the efforts of the students and she was surprised to hear that Kagal and Samiya were so engaged. This made me happy.

The last 20 minutes of each batch was spent reading from the library.

YES!!!

Ashad flew through his book and went right for another, he was so excited he forgot to ask if he could leave the room!

How touching!

Successful day. I hope for Geetaji’s return so that I can start on the project.

I am so happy for you, and for the children who are lucky to have you as a teacher.

 

 

22nd-

The first batch with Ruchi’s class went beyond what I could have hoped. Within no time the children caught onto what the project was and the freedom they had to be creative. I was so happy to see Gourave S create a scene unlike any I had showed. He came up to me and asked me how to make a cactus and sand! The first batch had to be pushed out of the classroom because they all wanted to stay and continue their projects. I am so pleased to receive such positive attitudes.  I will bring my phone to the foundation on Monday to snap some action shots and photos of the projects.

YES!!!

Because Ruchi was with me in the classroom, we were able to work together and keep all the children calm by dividing our attention. This I feel is necessary, especially with the younger children.

The second batch did not all have their boxes, and two new students were introduced. I passed out the new reading packets that Veenaji ordered and we went over and did the activities in the packets.  The children will be bringing in their boxes on Monday, and I will continue my methods with them.

The third batch also only had a few students with their boxes. Like the second batch I will be starting their projects with them on Monday.

I am excited by how happy I see the children in the first batch while they create. I will be doing the same project with the older chidren upstairs next month. I feel it will go over very well up there, and I can push the older children to write and speak more during and after the project’s completion.

I have had so many beautiful moments with a variety of children this week. Whether it is for a second or for ten minutes each interaction leaves me feeling valued and excited. I am glad I can surround myself with such bright little people who have no prejudice and no qualms towards outsiders and their bizarre ways of speaking.

 

It is marvelous indeed.

 

23rd-

I took the weekend off and ended up not joining Alex and the teachers on activity day.

I was prepared to go in on that Saturday, but I woke up feeling exhausted and in need of a personal relaxation day. My needs were fulfilled and I spent the day baking haphazardly for Alex, Bhim, Lalsingh, and Veinderji!  Although the pie was not exactly what I hoped for, I had a blast grooving to music and navigating the kitchen. Baking back at home is a love of mine; ask anyone who knows me and the will assure you if I’m spending time at home I’m baking something.  Baking for me combines more than ingredients; it is a perfect blend of chemistry, creativity, satisfaction and relaxation.

I agree, a form of art that too.

24th-

Sunday and Alex and I again found ourselves enjoying our time to unwind and soak up our surroundings.

Very well.

 

25th Today I resumed my plans with Ruchi’s class. The first and second batch all were prepared and brought in their materials.  I was very pleased to see that the children had been looking forward to today. Gourav brought in little stickers from his home and snuck them onto his tree. I am really astonished to see how much he has opened up to me and the class. He is a talented artist and only by doing this project have I been able to really engage him in conversing.

The final batch of Ruchi’s three is dramatically smaller and diversified. The four children are all at different English comprehension levels and ages. Only Rafat brought in a box. Luckily the box is large enough for all the four children to work together.

I love the idea.

This is an interesting thing for me to do, and I feel very healthy for the students. In this situation, the students have to communicate with not only me, but their fellow artisans. In this case they must learn the importance of patience, communication, and respecting someone’s creativity.

There is so much about life that a child can learn in a project like this.

Harshista and Sarhana are two very quiet girls. I see great concentration in them and I am happy to say that such concentration has begun to manifest itself creatively. Harshista nearly buried herself in paper clippings and was practically head deep in her diorama. Sarhana spent a majority of the time carefully constructing tiny little pink flowers for her miniature garden scene.

I m looking forward to seeing the pictures of such marvelous efforts.

Tomorrow I will be taking a break from Ruchi’s class. I want to start familiarizing myself with the older students in hopes that next week I can start a project with them. I also want to take this day break from Ruchi’s class to allow her the alone time with her children and their newly sparked creativity.

I would be curious to know how Ruchi incorporates this experience in her teaching.

 

26th-

My first day with Pryanka’s class went well. For the older children, this week has been packed with exams and studying; because of this I took to purely helping them individually. It was good today to talk with each child and start to get to know them. I appreciate Pryanka’s firm attitude and strict no Hindi rule.

It was a bit of a language shock coming from downstairs where the children are at various lower levels of English comprehension to the upstairs Rose classroom. I find that conversing with the children upstairs comes with more ease; however much less intensity.

Here, you will be confronted with a different outlook of things. Most of our elder children already have  a set of ideas in place that they have learned in their environment. I fear that some of them might find your project “ a waste of time”. Creativity has never been stressed as a quality in their schooling before. Please take time to explain what are the benefits of such an exercise.

I am planning to take my creature project to different lengths upstairs. In Ruchi’s class I used the project to increase participation, interest, confidence, and relationships.  Yes, I will be focusing on these points also upstairs; however, because of the levels of the children I will be able to push them further.  Upstairs I plan to have them create a cast of creatures, diorama, character descriptions, and stories that go alongside all the above mentioned.

27th-

I started each batch today in the Rose classroom. During this time I introduced the project, provided drawings and got the classroom relaxed. After some time in each batch, when I knew I was understood and the pencils were making contact with paper I would pop downstairs. It was awesome to walk into Ruchi’s class and be greeted by excited faces holding their nearly complete dioramas. Ruchi too was excited to show me what the children were creating. She laughingly told me that Jyant was rushing to finish his so he could bring it home to his family.

This s so touching!

I also had a few minutes to step into the sunflower room. Here I spent some time helping Rahila. I was able to spend time with children I had been missing, and work with the newer kids on simple sounds and letters.

I also have to make mention of the fantastic role that Alex has been on with Geetaji’s batches. He seems comfortable, happy and in control of his engaged audiences.  This makes me happy to see.

And me, delighted.

September 1st

 

Alas another day with the Rose class. I am growing to really know the kids in these batches. The change in school hours has caused for Sheeren and Sherat to be unable to attend their allotted batch and other students appear to be very busy with testing still. However I go on, and the project still is making its way.

I had few children in my batches, the third batch only two. Avesh and Tulindar (the spelling I am sorry for) these two boys are remarkably bright and this fact is causing me to push them in every conversation I have with them.  Alex has warned me of Avesh and his sometimes overzealous distracting energy levels, and I have seen moments where this attitude appears; however I find with the right attention he settles down. Tulindar is a sweet boy, who I have to make sure to challenge and push enough, otherwise I see he loses interest quickly.

It has been great spending time with the teachers upstairs. I mentioned in a previous entry that each teacher has opened up to me and I feel each day this is becomes truer. Payal especially proves to really appreciate our conversations, as do I. She always has a smile or funny wink to send me from across the room and loves joking with me about basically anything and everything.

After two months, you just begin to know each other. These friendships will grow while sharing your love and attention for the children.

 

 

 

 

 

September 2nd-

 

Today was a day of rain and Veenaji did not join us at the Foundation.

I had the idea to give each one of the ladies a significant person in history and the assignment to do some research. I provided them a name, and requested that they bring in biographical information to teach the other teachers and if their person is an artist provide an example of their craft as well. I tried to pick a very diverse group of historical people, examples: Anne Frank, Amelia Earhart, Whitney Houston, William Shakespeare, Napoleon Bonaparte….  I am curious to see what the teachers pick from the internet and if anything the find really interests them.

Good idea.

I worked in the Rose class today and caught up the students trying to get them all on the same page for the project. At this point I would say 70% are all in the midst of drafting a 3 page minimum story for their cast of creatures. I hope that by Friday the final copies of the stories and creature descriptions will be completed, so that the hands on segment can be started next week.

Boy, you are going to make these children write well in English.

Something I have started to do with the rough drafts of the stories, is have the children ask their neighbors for proof reading. I am encouraging the kids to share their notebooks, bounce ideas off one and other and express their comments aloud and of course in English.

Because most of each batch was spent allowing the children to free write their stories I had time to sit in the middle of them and paint the trees out the window. I will attach a picture of my small painting.

Thank you for the lovely painting which I have posted on facebook; I hope you don’t mind.

It is a good idea to incite the children to help each other. In India, competition is normally encouraged and I feel the Foundation should be free from that.

I have been wondering if our book project is growing anyhow. It would be wonderful if all this writing could be compiled in a book that we would print and the kids could be proud of. What do you think?

 

September 3rd-

The stories are starting to really come alive. The children have such bright imaginations and I think this project is providing an appropriate outlet for this.

Neha wrote over four pages and finished well before anyone. She had so much plot and subplot details stringing in and out of her story. At times it was hard for me to fully comprehend her writing, but the desire and interest made me determined to try my hardest, just as she had done so with her writing.

We definitely need to help the children improve their English. Unfortunately, they don’t have a very good base and writing is quite difficult for them. Hopefully, they will improve with time.

Abesheik sometimes gives me difficulty because he is older than most in the class. After some subtle discipline techniques, I got him to engage his creativity and I was so happy with the results. His story, and his penmanship flow beautifully and although there were errors I could tell he had actually put in effort.

Please correct every child’s writings and ask them to rewrite the correct version. In this manner they will have an example of good writing that comes from them. I insist that we should make small books out of these stories.

I’m finding myself in situations where some of the writing is so hard to understand due to errors, I have talked with Priyanka about this. The benefits of doing this project for me have been that I now have a very clear and close understanding of each of this children’s levels of English writing.  I have compiled a list for Priyanka of themes in grammar that generally all of the children seem to struggle with.

This is a good idea, but I insist that they should write the corrected version of their stories. It will be a good lesson in applied grammar. Also, make sure that they go on to the next project before this one is entirely finished.

September 4th-

Now finally some of the children are moving away from the story and onto the habitat model. Rinku and Neha in the first batch were able to start adding sand, grass, mountains, and other details to their boxes. The second batch had more catching up to do because of the frequent absences.  So with the second batch only Putal and Chavi were able to start their boxes.

Satiyam in the third batch is great. I am aware of his relationship with Alex. Satiyam is a sweetheart with a lot of energy. His English is good, but I find he requires specific attention, and if not given this specific attention he deviates from ‘ideal’ behaviour. He has decided to create a play rather than a story in which I am the protagonist who has two monster friends. The two monsters mould together and create one as soon as I feed them an apple.  He has a deep vocabulary and I love reading his writing and being surprised by the interspersed eloquence.

He also needs to learn his grammar and sentence structure though, but his enthusiasm is great and he seems very confident.

Last night Alex and I spent the evening with Veenaji. It was excellent. We had traditional southern Indian cuisine and watched “Highway” the movie. Alex was exhausted so we paused the movie and retired for the night, sleeping over at Veenaji’s beautiful home.

In the morning I did her hair, she rocked a yellow sari and we went to meet Nandini, one of Tushita’s employee from Mumbai. Nandini came to the foundation with us and graced all of us, including the teachers, with her diverse and deep knowledge of Mumbai and India. Priyanka and Ruksar especially loved hearing her talk, I was not aware of the fact the Ruksar hopes to be a tour guide eventually and I am so happy to have discovered this.  The teachers all felt Nandini was a role model, and I agree. She is a woman who loves her professional job, married for love, and commutes everyday by herself. She even has her husband run errands and cook for her if she is tied up at work late!

I think it is awesome for the teachers to hear women of India speak like this and spend time with them.

What is wonderful at the Foundation is the opportunity to meet people who come from very different walks of life. This is what we are fortunate to bring to the village of Amer.

 

September 10th-

 

Rinku has finished his diorama, Neha is almost finished and Kunar is in the midst of a creative flow. The other children of the first batch: Abeshik, and Vedpal are still in the beginning stages of constructing their dioramas.

The second batch, also the largest of the three has shown the most creative team work and energy. This may be because of the larger size of the class. Mini, Putal, Chavi, Ragni, Avesh, Suraj, Kupal, and Bony all get along very well, and joke frequently. I have decided to allow some hindi between the students, because I am so happy with the amount of interest and action taking place. I feel that if I were to constantly step in and interrupt the kids I would break the flow of the room and squander the newly awakened artistry and teamwork. I will press more for English during the final stages of the project, which I will go into later.

This is a very wise choice, we don’t want to pressure the children too much.

The third batch, for the past week and a half, has been terribly small. Luckily the second batch stayed until the end of the third. This kept the atmosphere lively and awake for Satyam, the only attendee of the third group.

Next week Priyanka will be taking new students from Payal, and reorganizing her batches.

I have talked with Priyanka and we have decided to compile the stories of the students into a collaborative “Creatures of the Jungle” book, like you suggested.  I am hoping that once the dioramas are all finished we can photograph them and attach the pictures to the illustrated stories. This project will require more coordinating and push my time with Priyanka’s class into late next week. I am excited to create such a book, and I think the kids will love the result. Do you have any suggestions for photographing the dioramas?

Yes, I think you should use a good camera, ask Veenaji, she will lend you hers. Shoot the diorama as close as possible to immerse the viewer into it. I could help you with the layout if you want. I am so exited about this.

 

 

September 11th-

Today was a rainy day at the foundation. I spent the first and second batches working with few students on their projects, and created new signs for the Daisy, Lily, and Rose classrooms. Ruksar, Payal, and Priyanka all helped me and enjoyed creating the decorations for the rooms.

I am working still to get paint for potential murals. I hope maybe that by next month I can start at least one painting for the foundation.

I feel like a broken record when I explain how surprised I am by the involvement these children show in my art projects. But seriously, every day I have children staying over their batches time just to color an extra palm tree, or really perfect their creature’s house. It’s in their concentration, respect, creativity, and surprise that I find so much to love and explore.

Rowan, after reading your words, I feel that everyone at the Foundation is really blessed to have you there. Thank you.

The teachers had so much fun today helping me construct signs and explained that in their schooling they never had such fun creative projects. I am glad I can be at the foundation and open such creative outlets for not only the students but also the teachers.

Exactly

 

 

 

Dear Rosenda,

 

I owe you an apology. Yesterday I did not tell you that I took a day of silence. I thought it best to keep my journal light for you, given the past few weeks. Also I am now aware that Alex has mentioned my silence in his journals. This I should have known would happen; yesterday was a hard day for him to say the least, and I was put in a very tough position being his trusted confidant.

I kept to my silence. But I do believe a lot of what he needed from me I gave in my presence and eye contact. I am a firm believer in less is more and the power of eyes. Today after his day of rest we shared a lovely meal and walk. He and I differ greatly in our approach on self-centering. He is one who levels with words and conversing, whereas I am one who levels internally through mind motion. Our differences aside, I realize this is a time where he needs a friend and I am more than honored to be that for him. And you should feel honored.

I will attach the short blurt that I wrote and passed to the teachers yesterday to explain my silence. (it is the second page of this document)  I do have to say the experience was one I have never had. I found myself in a strange limbo of discomfort, happiness, and nostalgia for most of the day, the mixture left me quiet anxious before sleeping. Luckily I wrote thoughts and poem bits down, which quieted the rattling and anxiety enough allowing me to sleep.

Doing a day of silence stirred up a part of my consciousness. All I have been able to take away and articulate is that it made me feel more grounded to my surroundings. I know this is vague. I am working on fully comprehending my experience and new – one could say – spot of enlightenment?

I want to reassure you that my time with the children at the foundation was still just as I described it. I wrote on the board that I will not speak today and Priyanka explained further in English. In most cases it intrigued the children and interested them to form more sentences.

When I read about your silence at first I was a bit upset. I didn’t think you would had taken such a decision if you were working at any other place in the USA.  I also thought it was not fair towards all the victims around the world. We can’t only commemorate American deaths.

It wasn’t fair towards Alex either who needed you so much.

But then I read the paper that followed and I realized that your decision came from the right place. It was your own experience with loss and grief that you were staging and that is what an artist is used to do, transform life into some sort of creation. This is what your silent day looks like to me now.

What worries me the most, though, is your colleagues’ reaction to your powerful “blurt”, like you call it. I am surprised that your gesture and paper didn’t stir up a vivid conversation.

What is the matter with the teachers’ sessions? I really wanted to hear your thoughts about it.

So I will try to call you again soon.

 

Today I will not speak.

I have chosen to do so in honor of the people in history who have lost their voices to tragedy.

This date, September 11th marks a day in my life where I found myself surrounded by loss. I was in first grade when my mother called my school and demanded for me to return home. She wanted her family all together and safe in our house. She feared for the safety of her family.

I came home and saw my mother and brothers huddled around the TV watching the live news. On the screen I saw the destruction of the Twin Towers taking place.

My uncle was working for a company in the building the day the buildings were hit. He rushed down hundreds of steps stopping to open doors and help people out from their burning offices. As he ran as fast as he could down the endless staircase he heard people crying, and screaming. He saw burning bodies fall past him, and saw his life before his eyes.

I was standing next to my mother when she answered her phone. It was my uncle. I could hear the conversation, he was yelling over screaming and crashing noises in the background. I heard him prepare for his death, in the one minute conversation he begged my mom to tell his wife and children that he loves them. He called my mom as he ran down the steps, thinking it was his last conversation. (he mis-dialed and called my mom instead of his wife)

I remember the look my mom had on her face as she listened to his desperate voice. I remember the TV screen and the sounds of the crumbling buildings.

I remember the sadness that took over what felt like my whole world after that day.

The people that died that day, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, aunts, uncles, friends, lovers all lost their voices to tragedy. Their innocent lives were ended and not only were they silenced but were the millions of conversations they had yet to have also silenced. The potential ideas, talks, creations, emotions, embraces, love that these people hadn’t yet given to the world were squashed in the rubble of the buildings.

I am grateful my uncle made it from the building, but even he lost a part of himself while running from the chaos. To this day, he carries a burden of sadness.

September 11th is a day in my life where I was exposed to the value of life and of conversation.

Throughout the world’s history, people have died for unjust reasons; innocent people have lost their voices and opportunities due to horrific events.

Every day that I can speak and live is something I am grateful for.

Silencing my voice for one day, I feel, honors the countless people who have been silenced.

This is for me performing art. And don’t take me wrong I admire the process.

 

 

September 12th-

Alex stayed home today. I played scrabble with the fantastic ladies and we laughed a ton during the teacher session. At points the Hindi dominated the English language to which I demanded at least a translation. This helped expose the fact that in the act of only speaking Hindi they are excluding me.

I worked like a mad woman today, making check lists of the children in the Rose class and their various progress points for the creature project. Things are moving along well. I can say that all but three children are finished with their dioramas. Tomorrow will be the last day to work on the boxes, and then the attention will go fully to perfecting the stories.

Music to my ears! I love this mad woman!!!

So excited to say that Rinku and Bony are both done with their wonderful stories! They have started making their book pages. I cannot wait for you to read their imaginative stories, and see their boxes.

I was not able to take pictures of Alex teaching today but not to worry I will as soon as he feels well enough to return! I got a few shots of Ruksar today, whom decided to venture into the sunflower class at points.

The individually sized chalk/white boards that Veenaji purchased two weeks back are getting ample use in the sunflower class.

I plan to work for a long time after Priyanka and Geetaji with the younger children in Rahila’s batches.

It is so exiting to see that you are so involved, bravo!

 

 

­­­September 13th-

 

Activity day flew by as I worked with various children in the Daisy classroom.  Alex and I came late around 2:30 and were greeted by a French couple who were curious to see the foundation. They were so kind and danced hilariously to Shakira with the children and dance instructor upstairs.

I honestly had such a great time today working on various projects and free drawings/ creations with a multitude of kids.

I feel my time at the foundation with the kids is so valuable. I have to admit that without the foundation I think my time here would be difficult. Spending time sick and alone in the office, being restricted to not explore can be mentally exhausting. I came to India wanting to explore so badly. I have a dream that one day I will walk in sand that touches the great Bay of India, and see the natural beauty of Kerala. I have to admit that the more and more time I spend here I realize that it is unlikely for me to travel solo and safely.

I have done research on the railway system of India, including reading blogs and articles by women traveling solo. What I have gathered from all of my findings is that I am lost.

If I cannot travel, I am still glad I have the foundation.

Rowan, don’t waist your time with blogs and ask Rosenda man.

You have a travel agents’ family behind you and you would not be just another woman travelling solo. I suggest that you take some time before going back to travel to Kerala. We have an office in Cochin where lovely people work. Among them there is Joseph, who is a dear friend with a charming wife and Usha, the mother of two lovely children.

They will make sure that, when you go to Kerala, you will be safe and taken care of. Yes, in India a woman has to be protected and even though we might not agree with it, we need to comply with the customs of the country we are in. So, you will walk on sand that touches the great bay of India, no problem. You might even take Alex along, it always help to be accompanied by a man, unfortunately, but you can even do without when Tushita is watching.

You can write to Joseph and ask him for some ideas on where to go, giving him your dates. It will be fun to organize a tour with a travel agent. Just make sure that you tell him you are our volunteer and that I told you to write to him.

joseph.anthony@tushita-india.com

 

 

September 15th

 

September is flying by, and so is my time at the foundation. I joke with the teachers and Alex how I wish there was a fourth batch frequently.

A sign that you love what you do.

A very successful day with my friends in the Rose class, again every child stayed beyond their batches time even with the new time slots. (The start time has been pushed forward to 1:30 due to change in the schools schedules)

Thank you for the info.

I worked on editing and creating with each student today. Their confidence and creative independence is growing exponentially. The conversations between my-self and the various kids are anything but forced and I know each on a comfortable level. I have had ample time and opportunity to get to know each personality. I feel I could write so much about each child.

Oh, I wish that you would do. Maybe a child a week?

We took a tally vote on the title of the final book. The winner is: “Creatures of the Tushita Foundation”

I love the title

My contribution to the book will be designing the cover and assembling the masterpieces into one.  I predict will have at least 3 or four more days to work on the project.

Sure, no hurry. How about the stories? Are we going to type them or use the children’s handwriting? How big do you think the book will be? What size?

I shall be in Jaipur around the 10th October, maybe we can work on the assembling of the book together, or maybe, I can just look after the printing part. I know someone in Delhi who works regularly with us.

Lalit and Satym are finished with their stories however are slowly approaching their boxes. Areeb has been more or less absent for most of the project and I saw him today looking sad in the corner of the classroom. I talked with Priyanka that he should still be involved in the final book. I have taken on the position of devoting enough time tomorrow to sitting with him and accelerating his box and story. I would absolutely hate that a student be left out of such an experience and know it.

You are absolutely right.

I have to say I am excited by Abeshiek’s final box. He may play up the role of being too old for arts and crafts, but today he was pain-staking-ly working on his night sky scene. This made me smile and joke with him, which I’m sure he enjoyed.

In general people in India don’t understand the importance of art. It is not required to become a doctor or an engineer, the two professions that all parents in India would want their children to embrace. However, children are intelligent and they sense that what are doing is important besides being great fun. I am very exited with the idea of publishing our first book: “Creatures of the Tushita Foundation”. Another dream come true.

 

 

September 16th-

 

I write this a day late. Arriving home around 10:30 pm from a day starting in early adventures and ending with late – new chai company, yesterday was tiring to say the least. (Of course in a fantastic way)

The day started with Manisha (her name I am sorry for) – whom I consider a close friend – taking us to central park. We walked for what felt like minutes but we discovered actually was over an hour. The park I had seen before, but this section – for walking only, was new to me. Beautiful landscape, colorful flowers and fresh air set the tone for my day.

Arriving at the foundation and working with my friends went by so fast. We have such a rhythm down and every day I feel the hum of the creativity around me. I am so excited to show every one of the final result. All the kids are beautiful orbs of energy and personality, and this, shows in their work.

And I can’t wait to see the amazing result of your work.

I must mention the teacher sessions we had today. Geetaji blew everyone away with her eloquently delivered information about TuPac (90’s African American rap artist). She engaged us, new so much, and brought in her Ipad and print out sheets of lyrics and show music videos.

All the teachers loved learning of him and had questions. We freely talked about his struggles in life and how that translated into his lyrics. We also talked about the hardships of growing up without opportunity. These aspects of his life, we discussed happens in all corners of the world.

You had a great idea when you asked them to work on different personalities’ biography.

After the third batch cleared out (Satym) Alex and I prepared to leave. We ended up taking the AC bus to the old city, because Veinderji was at the office with a guest. I honestly loved being on the bus, it reminded me a little of NYC, and the metro buses I used to ride. It was a fun way to travel our daily route in a new way.

Alex and I met up with Bc, whom Alex met previously and made friends with. Bc showed us his shop and his friends. When we walked into the shop there was a woman. Her name is Ava and she was in Jaipur for the day, leaving that night at 11. She spoke a plethora of languages and Alex was able to speak Polish with her. She had many travel stories and had met Bc 4 months back, on her last trip to India.

We all had so much fun getting acquainted with one and other and exchanging various languages.

I guess there was no danger is such a meeting and I am relieved of my motherly fears.

Alex and I took a rickshaw home and I quickly fell asleep.

 

September 17th-

 

On last activity day Geetaji brought Krishna. Krishna stuck with me in Ruchi’s class and created his own creature box. He was awesome, helpful and interested. I was so pleased with Angili’s help, she aided in cutting and translating for him. Something I did not notice which I now feel terrible for, was that Krishna had found Satyams sketches of creatures and used the paper for tree construction… Satyam didn’t mention this to me. The past few days he has been working feverously to make up for his past absences.

So today I noticed that his box, rather empty was missing the three sparkly green bushes it had last week. I asked him where they went and he responded that they were torn off. He said they were torn off with the agreement that better replacements would be made; however it seems his business partner had abandoned him, bush-less.

I then, minutes later, found out that his creature had been unknowingly refurbished into oak trees. Feeling his frustration, and also motivated to help. I sat with him and recreated his bushes and encouraged him and he cutout his new creature.

He left the room today, with a smile on his face, an ease in his step, and a finished box on his chair. Success.

I am so pleased by the way you faced the challenge. Children know that they can count on you.

Also, to mention the teacher session – Ruksar provided us information on Amelia Ehart. She spoke so clearly and again knew enough to answer our questions with extra flare! So happy with how well received the idea to give each teacher a new person of history had turned out. We all agreed that when they were finished, Alex and I would be given each a person of their group choice. I look forward to this.

I suggest Anna Halprin, the American dancer, great lady.

 

 

September 18th-

 

Today Priyanka made the suggestion to add more to the book. We decided that each child will attach their picture and a short paragraph about themselves and the process of creating their project.

What a grand idea!

I was so surprised in how appreciative and hilarious some of the kids were in their paragraphs. Shalu was able to mention the fact that I drink lemon water every day and Neha jokingly called me naughty! I love these kids!

And I can hear you say it, I love this naughty girl.

Chavi and I had a lengthy conversation about camels and the traffic they cause. It was nice speaking with her, she is quiet and usually tends towards grouping with other girls. It was nice getting to talk with her and see her sassiness come out independently. What an intelligent young woman.

You bring out the best in them.

Today Ruchi presented on Whitney Houston, which went well. I am so so impressed by how well the women are treating this experimental assignment. We even decided to skip game day and continue with the presentations due to curiosity and excitement.

I am so happy about this.

Geetaji and I had a good moment when she came upstairs to show me her journal entries about the other teacher’s presentations. She writes beautifully and is articulate and aware of her own voice. She truly is an amazing person and I love spending time with her.

Please tell the teachers that I would be very honored if they wished to share their journals with me. The Tushita Foundation is becoming a great hub of creativity and growth, I would love to compile all this beautiful work.

After the third batch, Alex took a joy ride on Ruksar’s scooti while I spoke of child labor with Geetaji, Ruchi, and Rahila. We had hilarious conversations and even Rahila was interested and laughing in English with all of us.

Please check the spelling of her name; I have corrected you, but I am not sure of myself.

She is Sonam’s sister and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’ll turn out to be a fabulous teacher.

 

 

 

September 19th-

 

Fun day Friday with the teachers! Though we had decided to continue with the presentations Friday, Ruksar and Geetaji’s absence decided that we would push the remaining presentations to Monday.

We played scrabble, which seems to be our go to and the time went by quickly. Everyone misses Veenaji dearly and we talked about how excited we are for her to come back.

With the kids all finishing up and working wonderfully I had time to sit next to those who finished and joke around. Ragu, who is normally in Ruksar’s second batch, was testing in our room today and finished early. He sat next to me, Rinku, and Lalit. Lalit and Rinku had decided to spend their ground time indoors, drawing and talking with me. Ragu quickly revealed his origami talents and the three of us all attempted to match his skills. I found myself laughing so hard with these boys. Such sweethearts. Lalit had made a baby frog, except it barely resembled a frog at all. When he revealed it with laughter, we all cracked up for a good while, joking that it was a sick baby and fell from the sky.

Laughing is such a blessing

Now because of the new batch times, a break appears between the second and third batch. I was able to pop into Ruchi’s classroom where all the ladies plus Alex were enjoying chai and samosas. Geetaji was joking how she fears that when I work with her class that she will lose her chai break! She joked about this because Priyanka was still upstairs with a classroom full of busy-bee artists!

Art is fun!

All that is left for me to do with the book is take photographs, which I will wait for Veenaji to return home to discuss with her. I imagine that after Suraj, Areeb, Satyam, and Avesh finish their drawings tomorrow we are finished.

What a great accomplishment, I can’t wait to come and see.

Priyanka has planned to start grammar back up once I leave, but she will be easing into it. We decided that she will eventually spend time working on punctuation. Her students understand basic punctuation but marks like “,”’s !, ? , … can be added for style!

For style and meaning, this is what the children need to understand in order to use punctuation correctly. Maybe Alex could join her class?

 

September 21st-

 

Spent the day in Amer. After biking and arriving around 3 to Priyanka and Payals home, we stayed for a few hours had snacks and chai. Priyank and Payal had their uncle in town so they walked us to Ruchi’s home and met up with us again later.  Ruchi was excited to feed us her favorite meal, chaval. And it was delicious. Her younger brother, Adeet, took us on a small adventure to the fort. At the fort we walked and talked of travelling and our mutual love for the vast world. When we returned we met Ruchi’s mother and had a great evening. We decided to head back before it got too dark. However we still ended up biking in the dark.

 

Oh, you guys seem to like living dangerously and make Veenaji and I pray very much for your safety. What else can we do?

 

 

 

September 22nd- Alex’s Birthday!

 

Today was awesome. It started with flowers and sweets, what could be better? Alex was met by each student with hugs and handmade cards. In the beginning of the third batch something amazing happened. Veenaji surprised both of us! We couldn’t have been happier and I think it was the greatest birthday present Alex could have gotten.

Exactly! Everybody needs a mom for his birthday!

After cake at the foundation we all piled into the car and headed to a restaurant in Jaipur. It was amazing, all the teachers crammed into the car, music blasting and happiness in every direction.

The food was delicious and we witnessed an interesting puppet show at the restaurant. I know Alex had a wonderful day and I did as well.

And we are all so happy for him.

 

September 23rd- My first day with Geetaji’s class was spent in Ruchi’s classroom. Ruchi was absent today so Geetaji and I took both batches at a time in one classroom. This was a bit chaotic.

I wasn’t able to observe and get a sense of the students like I planned, more so I helped control and provided help to the various children. I am hoping that tomorrow Ruchi will return so I can devote my whole attention to Geetaji and her batches.

I was able to attend to most of the children and at the end of their testing time we all participated in free draw time.

I noticed a remarkable difference in Geetaji’s students from Ruchi’s students. Geetaji stepped out of the third batch to spend time with Sonam, and I took over to man the ship. Geetaji’s students helped me calm Ruchi’s students. I found this astonishing.  Geetaji does an amazing job providing discipline and love to her students and this shows in how they treated me.

Good observation. I think that Ruchi needs to be talked to and Veenaji will do that perfectly.

I am convinced that she has the potential to do a better job.

Good to hear that Sonam was there yesterday! How is she? And how is Rahila doing?

I can’t wait to come and visit in October.

I don’t know about your visit in Kashmir. I am afraid that the floods have spoiled our plans. Jan will let us know when he arrives there on Thursday, but our house is still under water and I don’t even know where we are going to stay.

My consolation is that I will be coming to Jaipur on the 8th. I am so much looking forward to seeing all of you.

 

September 24th-

 

I got my nose pierced and Alex got his ears pierced! More painful than I was expecting but I am pleased with the results.

Oh, so now India has left a mark on you! I wonder how our diplomat to be is going to go to work with suit and tie and two golden earings…

Working again with Geetaji’s was a lot of fun today. Geetaji is a great conversationalist and we split up the lesson’s work-load evenly; each of us expending roughly the same amount of effort. We worked on was/were in all three batches. Doing this lesson, was very different from the creative project I worked on with the Rose class.

I enjoyed working on a simple task; however I am excited to introduce some color into the curriculum. Hopefully when Veenaji allows it, we will go shopping for supplies. I already have a project idea for the Lotus Class.

I am very curious to hear all about it.

It was good today to get a sense of the class and where the children are at with their English. I noticed that the first and third batch seem to be at the same level, while the second has more trouble reading. I am taking this into account while I scheme.

Overall I am very impressed on how Geetaji controls her classroom.

It is always a pleasure to realize how the volunteers and the teachers learn from each other.

After the foundation today, Alex and I met up with Neil and Michoki Sign. These two had us for dinner at their home. They are friendly and it was nice to change our dinner scene for a night.

Michoki is an artist. She showed me a few of her works. They were all centered on the horse. She explained her fascination with horses and I felt it when I looked at her pastel renderings.

I would love to know more about them. Are they Indian? How did you meet? Can I see any of her work on line? Sorry, I am so curious.

 

 

 

September 25th- holiday

 

September 26th- Fun day Friday,

 

Today Geetaji and I tested the children on was/were for the first half of the time. After they finished we took out the books that Jennie left to help with phonics. It went over very successfully; all the children in every batch were excited and reading rather well. They were so happy to come up and show me the various pictures and speak English.

Isn’t it wonderful?

I spent a lot of extra time with Polomi, who is in the first batch. Polomi is the sister of Gourave in Ruchi’s first batch. Like Gourave she is very bright and beautiful. I found out that the siblings do not attend any school and only come to the foundation. Polomi was struggling to read with me, but after working one on one for extra time she became encouraged.

I have decided that I will be working with Polomi every day for a little bit of extra time. Also I will have a conversation with Veenaji about talking to her parents.

That’s a must. The policy of the Foundation is that children should go to regular schools to be able to come to us. Hopefully these bright children’s parents will agree to send them to school.

How sad that some families can’t manage to give their children even the basic.

 

September 29th

Monday was a rough day for me. I woke up feeling a bit emotionally exhausted. We were unable to acquire paints and supplies for the project I was planning on starting with Geetaji’s class.

I understand too well how disappointing can be not to be able to go through with one’s program. But India is a specialist in making you feel impotent in front of the reality. I often say: India is a school of patience. However, I feel that one always ends up doing what one wants to do. Learning to accommodate with a taxing situation is an important skill to acquire. It comes handy at times when things don’t go your way.

However, we made the best of it and read and worked on a print out passage with questions. The kids struggled with the passage so it took an extra jolt of energy. With this energy I felt that by the end of each batch the children were interested and comprehending!

I brought in a camera and had seriously so much fun taking pictures of the children. The kids ended up taking a lot of the pictures and some beautiful ones came out.

Also I worked with Polomi for an extra 10 minutes alone on the roof. We read a short story titled: “Mum Bug’s Bag” the pictures interested her. She is a very bright girl and I can see how dearly she wants to read. I worked with her on simple sounds and she picked up quite a few.  I also gave her the book to take home and look over. She had a smile on her face by the end of it and I look forward to seeing and helping her gain confidence.

It is so wonderful what you are doing for this little girl! I am convinced that she will keep you in her heart forever.

 

September 30th

 

Today I took a vote by show of hands in each batch which fairytale to read. Surprisingly in the first two batches the same story was picked: “Jack and the Beanstalk.” I read the story slowly and with a lot of silly voices and faces. The kids seemed to like my acting. After the story was finished Geetaji and I would talk with the kids about the characters and story. It was very satisfying to see that my ridiculousness translated into success for these children. They understood a great deal of the words and meanings!  After we talked and laughed for a while I had the kids draw their favorite characters and parts of the story in their notebook.

Also I am happy to report that Alyina has been successfully  moved to Geetaji’s class! She was nervous today, because it was her first. I sat next to her when we were drawing our favorite parts of the story and during the story I made sure to look at her a number of times. It was sweet to see her classmates help her translate and I can see how eager she is to speak along with them in English. Geetaji and I both agree that with extra attention we will be able to get her to the level of the other third batch children.

I have no doubt about it, she is a delightfully intelligent girl.

I have to mention how much I love that children from various batches and classes pop their heads into wherever I am to show me their drawings from home.

Ah so! They are even drawing at home now! Success!!!

With the holiday weekend coming up I am hoping I can use this time to gather the supplies that I need for the project Geetaji and I have been brainstorming.

Oh and I must mention that this morning I presented an Indian female singer to the teachers and Veenaji in the teachers session. Lata Mangeshakar. What a beautiful inspirational woman. I am glad I was assigned this female to present in the teachers batch.

And did you manage to hear her sing? Magnificent voice!

 

 

October 13th –

 

You left yesterday and already I feel the familiar feeling of missing your presence.  I am glad though we still have our electronic correspondence.

 

Today at the foundation I worked in Geetaji’s class. Veenaji stayed home and Alex and I took the A/C bus to and from the foundation. I enjoyed the ride home more than the crowded ride to the foundation. Alex and I stopped in the old city on the way home and did some window shopping and talking with locals.

Independence is the name of the game. I think it is important for you to come and go according to your schedule.

When we arrived at the foundation the teachers session only consisted of Ruksar and Priyanka. Geetaji came late and I was thrown into taking over the first batch. This was overwhelming to say the least. It seemed that all the children had an extra sweet or two for breakfast, and their energy levels were as high as the ceiling.

Challenge!

I had to work a lot at splitting up the girls and boys and really working with them individually to calm the class down. When Geetaji arrived she had Krishna. From this point on the two worked on creating a puppet for Krishna. He was so happy to be making a puppet and so was Geetaji.

 

I have discovered that each batch differs from the next. The third batch is where I am pushing the most, for conversational English. Whereas the second I focus really on discipline and simple articles. The first batch is the most difficult and this class requires me to be on my feet for lesson changes and approaches.

Those are children who are new at the Foundation.

All the children have finished their puppets and have started working on a script between their puppet and another child’s puppet.  The third batch will be putting on the play of Goldilocks and the Three bears for Veenaji and other students using their puppets.

What a great way for a child to start expressing himself in English!

Prianchu, is a bright child. He craves extra attention and if he doesn’t receive it is quick to lash out and disrupt. He was very self conscious working on his puppet and did most of the work under the table in his lap. I got to spend time with Prianchu during my weekend in Amer, he showed me his school and crackers. He is a lively little boy, and I feel has a large amount of potential, I am afraid he is falling into bad behavior because he finds himself bored and stronger than most children his age. I know his twin has been moved to Ruchi’s class recently and I wonder if it would be possible to ask Prianchu to attend Geetaji’s third batch. I think the children in that batch would challenge Prianchu in great ways, to help build his character and English.

And I think that taking him away from his twin might not have been a good idea. He might be suffering emotionally from it. Please talk to Veenaji about it.

 

October 14th

 

Working again with Geetaji’s class today was miles more efficient than yesterday. Because I work on art projects, where the tasks asked of the children and extremely foreign to them, I need someone who speaks Hindi to translate. When I teach grammar and basic English I am successful only using English; but when I pile glitter, socks, and yarn in front of their faces and start talking with my hands, it becomes necessary I have a bridge of language in some instances of confusion.

 

Geetaji, came on time and I had a conversation with her before the batch started. I explained to her that I, unlike Alex, will need her to participate when I teach. When Alex teaches a class he commands the children in an efficient way, he uses English and his strong voice to captivate and by doing so allows the teacher to sit and take notes. This is a great method and works well for Alex, however I am different and I had to explain this to Geetaji.

And you did well.

After explaining that I will need her participation she was quick to tune in and back me up during my instructions. We worked side by side and were able to have the first and second batches paired up and reciting their short sock puppet conversations in front of the class.

Great

In the third batch we worked on creating a simplified script of Goldilocks and the three bears. I am excited to see how much effort each of the children in the third batch devotes to this task of memorization.

 

 

October 15th-

 

Today I spoke to Veenaji about my leaving in November. She was accepting of my news and I am so glad it went well.

 

Today, also, Veenaji informed me that we will be acquiring paints soon. She wants for me to involve the foundation in painting murals for the grounds. Geetaji and I spent the latter part of the first and second batch out in the grounds. We took measurements and started planning.

Please make sure that you will be able to finish this project before leaving. Nothing would look as bad as an unfinished mural. I also want to share important information with you.

Yesterday I found out from Gajju Bana that Veenaji was hesitant about the paints because of the budget. The Tushita Foundation is not very rich and she was unsure if she could afford the paints. A pity she didn’t talk to me about it.

For the first part of each batch we had the children draw in their notebooks what they would want to paint in their section of the wall. This project is a massive one and I plan to start tomorrow. Geetaji and I decided to have two batches of children work at a time, one older batch from upstairs and one younger batch from downstairs. Tomorrow during the teacher session all of us will work to section off and measure more space for the children to paint in. I will take pictures and inform you of how the project goes.

This is indeed a very ambitious project and I beg you to be humble with it.

I know how quickly one month goes by with holidays in between. Will you choose just one wall? How do you plan to go about it?

For the third batch we typed up a simplified script of Goldilocks and printed it off for each child. Then we assigned characters and narrators and all practiced our lines. The children were familiar with the story and to make sure of this we read the book in the beginning of the class.

 

I am happy to be involved in so much at the moment. I like being busy and especially if it involves painting and plays!

You are doing an excellent job at it!

 

 

October 16th-

Hurrah! We have the paint! It took us most of the first two batches to get the paint, but we will start tomorrow! The third batch sketched their drawings in chalk today. I was able to talk and prep all of the teachers for tomorrow. Exciting! Can’t wait to paint with the kids!

 

October 17th-

Today was one of my favorite days at the foundation so far. I was able to continuously work for all three batches with dozens of children! And the best part: we were all painting together! The kids followed directions extremely well and I had so much help from Priyanka, Ruksar, and Geetaji. We accomplished a lot and I am reassured by this that we will finish before I leave.  I have sent you pictures! I cannot wait to go to the foundation tomorrow to work more on the mural.

It is fabulous indeed and it would be a pity not to reflect on the experience and work on more elaborate journal entries. The reader would love to know about the children’s behavior in front and during the task with particular attention to each child; who conceived the content of the mural; how are children like Satyam reacting who are not interested in painting.

Sylvia, the architect volunteer, before you had proposed to make a mural on the walls of our playground and was discouraged. You have been given the opportunity, so please take full advantage of it, not only in doing it, but also in reflecting on it. This will make a rounded professional of you.

 

October 18th

Day three of the mural. Today was activity day which was perfect for working on the mural. I had at least 30 children working on the mural simultaneously. The older students are working beautifully and independently. I can see how my book project helped Priyanka’s class; they are confident and don’t ask for nearly as much permission as Ruksar and Geetaji’s class. The younger students are so sweet and excited to paint. Hashish, I have discovered has a knack for painting and acted as my touchup helper. Even Prianchu was calm and responsive while we worked together on his box.

I was able to have some of Ruchi’s class start. Ashish is a remarkable kid, he stuck by my side, helped mix colors and spoke only in English with me. I love the fascination the kids all have with the concept of mixing colors. When I mixed yellow and red and created orange it was as if I was a magician!

The piece as a whole looks much better with orange, yellow, brown and various other hues. I plan to allow all the children to complete their boxes with freedom and calm guidance. After the majority of the students finish their works I will go in for a few days and touch up and link the whole mural together.  I think I will definitely be able to finish this mural in another week or so. We have made so much progress in only 3 days!

I am amazed by the rapidity of your work! Every day so much is accomplished! The children must enjoy it so much.

 

 

October 27th-

Agra yesterday was absolutely exhausting and equally as much fun. Alex and I got a 4 am sleeper class train into Agra, we arrived at 9 am. The sleeper class train was a lot more roomy than the second unreserved class that we took for our return trip.

When we got to Agra we made our rounds walking for most of the travelling to the Taj and the Fort.  At one point we got a rickshaw walla but Alex ended up cycling the rickshaw for part of our journey!  We spent the expensive amount on the foreigner ticket and then ended up seeing a better more peaceful view of the Taj Mahal from behind for free afterwards.

The Taj Mahal is a magnificent beauty, Alex and I had so much fun taking pictures under it with random people who asked us for photos. I will send you some.

Please do.

Our return train was at 10 pm, and we had already spent 4 hours waiting for various trains. When the train pulled into the station everyone became animals. The men and boys were screaming and rushing to get seats. Alex took my hand and we were right there besides the rush! It was exhilarating. We made it to seats and across from us in the darkness we witnessed a man literally barking and fighting to reserve a row of seats. His aggressive and almost scary show worked, and two minutes later his wife, two sister in-laws, mother in-law, and two babies were piled onto the row he had worked hard to preserve. At first I was put off by his animalistic aggressive behavior, but when I saw the way he held his new baby in his lap and held his wife’s head up for 5 hours my mentality changed. Other than the obvious beauty of the Taj Mahal I think this train ride, the people specifically were a sight I will cherish forever. Five hours packed like a sardine with heads and feet on me, and babies occasionally passed my way I never once regretted sitting beside the real people of India.  The group around us were shocked to see westerners in unreserved, they were polite and welcoming to us and we didn’t feel like westerners by the end of the trip.

When we returned at home it was 3 am. I had dinner and went to sleep around 4.  I woke to thumping on my door and Alex told me it was 12:30pm! We rushed and sloppily got ready to head to the foundation.

At the foundation we both realized how utterly exhausted we were.

I distributed the books to the first and second batch. The children were stunned by the work and I had to repeat multiple times that the books were theirs to keep. A lot of children were absent so I have many books to distribute to the third and remaining children.  I captured pictures of the children and their happiness flipping through their creation.

Oh thank you for taking those pictures! I am afraid I made mistakes in the children’s photographs, hopefully it wasn’t to much trouble to rectify.

Lalit told me he will keep the book forever. Bony smiling ear to ear said he will show his whole family. Abeshik, who had the most reservations for the project out of any students, stayed in the office the longest looking through the book; and on his way out he looked at me smiled, gave the thumbs up and gave me an honest “thank you Rowan ma’m” The children of Priyanka’s room and I have a very honest relationship. I worked my hardest to make them laugh and see me as a friend, and someone who wanted to listen to their ideas. By now I can say I think I achieved this. When I walk up into the room with some ridiculous face or cheesy joke, the children greet me with laughs and smiles.  I can feel that they are comfortable with me and understand that my job with them is to have them have fun, and be expressive.

Alex and I often talk about how wonderful providing a creative outlet for these children has shown itself to be. We have been looking for project ideas for him and came up with a few, I think, brilliant ones. I had the suggestion that he holds debates and discussions with the older children. He can bring in topics that will spark interest and feeling with them and show them that they can use language to fight for their ideals. He was thinking of using current events in India to start and maybe eventually moving to more worldly and timeless topics.  This I think is a fantastic way to get the children interested in using English and showing them the power of language.

Thank you for helping Alex finding exiting ways to teach. Otherwise he spends too much time worrying about what he has to do. How far is the mural by now?

 

October 30st-

Working with Geetaji’s Class after my sick day was blissful. Geeta knew exactly how to talk calmly with me and kept the class peaceful, while I shuck off residual symptoms. The first two batches had memorized their sock puppet scripts and practiced for the first half of the class time. The second half of the batch was so much fun because we became a travelling puppet show. Geetaji and I lined the children up and we paraded from room to room, upstairs and downstairs showing the classes our puppets. The children presented in pairs their short scripts which were adorable. The first presentations were always nervous and rushed but by the time the students got to the last classroom they were smiling ear to ear, pushing to go first and adding funny voices.

This is such an achievement, again! Bravo, Rowan!

Kashish is a girl who shows so much potential with her English and personality, however she is often late and absent. Geetaji and I have warned her today that if she does not come regular she may have to drop her spot at the foundation. This is heartbreaking to me, but Geetaji made the point that many children are waiting for a spot to come into the foundation and for a student to have a spot and never show up is a waist. I guess I can see this. I will keep a close eye on her and make sure she understands that she has to come.

Kashish is the girl who played the Peacock in our first show, I believe, and it would be a real loss for us. However, Geetaji is right. See if you can ask Ruksar to talk to her mother, they are Muslims and a Muslim teacher can be a better bridge. Please try to find out what’s up, before we give up on her.

The school timing has changed again. Now even less students are coming the first batch. I am not sure of the school schedule, but when I will find out I can let you know if you are curious.

Not only I am curious, I am a bit worried too.

October 31st-

Being that today is Halloween, I decided to draw a ton of Halloween drawings on all the boards of the downstairs classrooms. I then explained to each of the teachers the current traditions of Halloween and how I celebrate. The teachers were excited to hear about an American festival. They asked me what costumes I had decided on in the past, and I told them I would come back next week with old photos of previous costumes. I worked in the Rahela’s class with the younger students. I had a lot of fun making scary faces and helping them draw vampires, werewolves, mummies, Jack-O-Lanterns and all sorts of Halloween themed goodies.

Alex worked upstairs in Ruksar’s class, which is where he seems to spend a lot of time. I didn’t get much of a time slot to sneak upstairs and expose the children to Halloween; Alex expressed that they didn’t do anything Halloween related. I think this is a loss. The children that participated in my classes were ecstatic to compare holidays and they were more interested in American culture after learning that we also have festivals. I would say that Halloween, in the foundation, acted as a bridge between the two varying cultures today.

Yes, but you are fine with your culture and you can be a good ambassador for it. While Alex is running away from his roots. I hope this will be a passing phase.

I thought that you were all spending one week in each class, is it so for Alex as well?

I am currently thinking of small project ideas I can do with the sunflower class. It has to be something straightforward and fairly simple. Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking maybe a song.

Yes a song is always a wonderful way to learn a language, accompanied with gestures.

I have also created new signs for each of the classrooms.

We have a Muslim holiday this weekend, so unfortunately we will not be working on the mural. But do not fear I still am confident this mural will be finished before I leave. It is my promise.

I know you won’t be a shoemaker.

 

 

November 5th-

Today, again, I worked in Rahela’s class. 5 students in the first batch: Ankita, Akib, Samniya, Akina, Anil. Ankita is the younger sister of Krishna in Ruchi’s second batch. She is very sweet and kept a good attention level during her whole batch time.  Krishna I noticed, while working with Ruchi’s class a few weeks back, has the same sweetness, but with a touch more restless energy. This I am sure was due to the presence of his friends in his class.

10 students in the second batch; Faizan is the oldest and biggest in this class I think could soon be moved to a more challenging class. I spoke to Geetaji and Rahela about this and they agreed that in December he will be moved.

Nuzat, in the third batch (one of 10 present today) is another student whom I feel should be moved to a more demanding class setting. She is bright and bubbly and reminds me of Kashish. I also spoke to the teachers about Nuzat and she will be moved come December along with Faizan.

The lesson for today was working on names, and hello/goodbye. I have noticed that a few students, especially the new students of the sunflower class are not aware of the spelling of their name. In each batch I had the children start off in a circle, standing one at a time while I asked them, what their name was and how to spell it. I would write their names on the whiteboard and make the class spell and sound it out with me. After collecting all the names on the board I explained “Hello” and “Goodbye” by walking in and out of the classroom waving Hi and Bye. The children enjoyed this and each time I entered the classroom I was greeted by laughter and hello’s. I then had the children open their notebook and write their name at the top of their page. Under their name I had them draw a line and divide the page in half.  In the left column I had them write Hello five times. In the right column I had them write Goodbye five times. Then, I had them choose five different names from the board and told them to write the various names next to the hellos. Now the children each had a list of five greeting statements written in their notebooks.  I then, instructed the students to read their lists and go to the classmates they wrote in their notebooks and say “Hello.” This worked fairly well, it was important to stay on the energy in the class and make sure each student was following their list. In every batch the children seemed to love doing this. Getting up and moving with the younger children I feel is essential to keeping their attention.

After we all said our Hello’s, I practiced goodbye with them and we wrote it and spelt it out a few times on the board. And following the “goodbye” lesson I conducted the same activity with the children. Having them again select five classmates to write next to goodbye, and then going and saying goodbye to the children they decided on.

I think this activity is successful in many ways. I took something that the children are fairly confident in saying, and I thoroughly explained each word and the spelling, phonetically. I was able to spell out Hello and Goodbye in the same manor that I started the class with, spelling out and breaking down the children’s’ names. Showing them words they are confident saying in written form on the board, helps solidify the connections between what they read/see and what they are say.

I wanted to keep the vocabulary simple in this lesson to ensure the children would be confident. Not only did I want to spark confidence in reading from the board and breaking down simple sounds, I wanted to give them confidence in speaking. Having the children decide which names to write, in any order they prefer, gave them freedom in the activity but not too much where they became lost. Breaking the lesson away from just writing and spelling out loud, and having the children go to one and other with smiles on their faces and notebook in hand, made this day exciting and interesting for each student.

I enjoyed today, and felt like a lot of progress was made with the newest students.

The teacher session did not take place because Alex and I arrived a bit late after traffic with the AC bus.

Oh, oh, even you can be late! This is India!

The above lesson is very well thought out and has brought the desired results. It is quite difficult to start new children to English, but you have been doing a very good job.

We should look into the reason why so few children come to class these days.

 

November 7, 2014

 

Today was drawing day at the foundation (at least on the lower floor), which I was informed is toy day for the sunflower class.  I thought it would be better to go over some phonetics, vocabulary and then allow drawing and toy time for the second half of the batches.

This worked well in all three batches. I was able to go over simple words, reading them phonetically and review sounds of letters, getting a lot of work done, and still allow for drawing and toy time.

Ruchi was absent from the foundation due to the fact that she had spent the morning at the train station waiting for family and was exhausted.  Geetaji had few students and combined her classes with Ruchi’s classes.

Geetaji came after Payal had finished her presentation on Aurangzeb which was a shame because we had a fairly involved discussion. I was able to push the questions while the teachers, Ruksar in particular shared her feelings on such a bad man. She even provided us with how embarrassed she first felt when she learned of Aurangzeb and his crimes that he proclaimed under her faith. I thought this was extremely interesting and I enjoyed listening to Ruksar as she spoke with emotion.

Please tell Ruksar on my behalf that rulers often use religion to keep a hold on their subjects.  There were many Rajput princes fighting for Aurangzb as well. Faith and power don’t go well together.

Today in the third batch I witnessed something very touching. The children whom share a class with Anubhav have shown their depth as human beings when they treat him with equal respect and attentive care. Yusar, a new girl was beyond amazing with Anubhav today. Normally Anubhav attends the second batch and stays for a few extra minutes. Today he stayed well into the third batch, which I am not sure why. However he blended well with the classes and during the drawing/toy time of the third batch when he started to become a little restless, Yusar engaged with him. She spoke clearly in Hindi and showed him a book where she read and acted out a few English words, which he then copied and pronounced with such clarity and happiness I couldn’t help but smile a ridiculous smile. Truly beautiful to watch children treat one and other with love and kindness.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful episode. I remember Sonam mentioning how well other children treat our Anubhav.

While the toy/drawing time ensued downstairs I took a few minutes to run up to Pryianka’s class. Rinku and Shalu had popped their heads in the first batch to talk with me.  I miss them, so I decided to devote some time in my day for teaching them my promised art lessons.  So here I was running all over the foundation with pencils and dry erase markers flying out of my hair and pockets. I love days like these.

Also during our tea break we celebrated Payal’s birthday, which was nice and filled with many snacks.  Tomorrow we will be working on the mural.

I can’t wait to see the changes. Please take pictures if you can.

 

 

November 8, 2014

 

Today’s activity day was the first in a few weeks. It was filled with energy, and in some ways overwhelmingly so.

I worked on the mural with the children and teachers and struggled to keep the situation under control. All of the children seemed to be on a mission to exert the most amount of energy possible.

Just like you, but a bit more chaotic, maybe.

Nonetheless we were still able to make progress and I will be finishing the mural on Monday and Tuesday this up coming week.

I do not have pictures for you; the camera was left at the office. I will take pictures on Monday and send them, so that you can see the progress.

I was alarmed by the behavior of Fardeen today. I had spent time helping Kashish with her flowers, and they had formed beautifully.  But when I went to inspect how the flowers dried today I saw that the letters “Fard” had been painted right over them. This I take was his way of showing that he liked the flowers and in a way wanted possession and recognition for their effort.

When a child misbehaves there is always a reason and it is important to fins out which one in order to help him. What is Fardeen’s relation to you and to Kashish? Was he trying to make himself noticed? I would suggest that you talk to Geeyaji and tell her that instead of scolding the child she tries to find out what happened and explains to him what was wrong in his action. You are right, these children are not taught this kind of respect at home. They don’t even know what painting is, not to speak of painting together.

Let’s go gentle on Fardeen.

I spent a few minutes showing him how displeased I was, but I am afraid I could not fully get through to him. His English is not at the level where I could really explain the wrong doings of his actions. I went to Geetaji to ask her assistance in disciplining Fardeen, however she was pre occupied in the energies of the other children. I soon had to relinquish the attention of Fardeen due to the fact I had a dozen other little people demanding my assistance simultaneously.

It is interesting to see the difficulties that can arise from a global project like the mural. How about taking only few children at a time?

Alex and I had a conversation after this, discussing how we should go about disciplining the children in cases such as these. I am at a bit of a loss, because the action of Fardeen today, goes beyond my reach of a volunteer at the foundation. I am afraid that the only way to improve his behavior would have to take place in the household, where he would be taught the importance of respect for others, in his language. I am by no means giving up on instilling this in the children, but I feel lessons like respect should be initially hardwired into people from the moment they can speak.

I am not at all sure that the child meant to be disrespectful. He probably doesn’t understand what it means to own and sign a work of art. This is something we can teach him, but which is very far from the oriental mentality. To sign once work is a concept that came with the English. Traditionally the artist was very wary of the ego that could inflate I front of one’s own good work. The legend says that the artist who is too proud of his accomplishments become blind. You should read the beautiful book “Red” by Oran Pamuk, it describes very well the differences between the Western and Eastern artists. I know I am going to far here, but it is always important for us to realize that our way of looking at things might not be the only one.

 

I will try to convey my feelings on the situation to Geetaji properly on Monday so that she can speak to him and take him aside.

I will let you know how this goes.

Yes, please, this is very important for me and how about discussing the event with all the teachers and see what they feel about it?

 

November 10, 2014

The mural will be finished soon. Half of it is completely finished. Geetaji is amazing. She has been by my side through the whole process and every turn and bump in the road she has listened and helped problem solve.

I spent all three batches out in the ground and children came in waves and helped me work. Because of the time change Ruksar and Priyanka had few children in their first batches. This worked out well because it allowed me to start the day with the two teachers and their few children. The older children are working marvelously with me on this mural and are putting a lot of care into their strokes. Shalu stayed first and second batch and stuck by my side watching and helping in any way she could. By the end of her time I saw a confidence ignite in her position as she stood with bucket and brush in hand and a look of deep trance as she brushed the wall.

She has discovered something precious, thanks to you!

I want to have Payal and the rest of the teachers paint more with me today. Ruchi, Geetaji and Ruksar have each made a few boxes of their own; however Payal, Priyanka and Rahela have not made anything their own yet. This I will make sure is accomplished.

Geetaji and I spoke about Fardeen and how we should explain to him what he has done. We agreed to explain that it was nice of him to appreciate the painting and great of him to express himself; however we also explained that Kashish had worked very hard and maybe it would be saddening for her to see her flowers changed. Fardeen listened quietly and had an inquisitive look in his eyes; he wasn’t sad or upset, more curious as to our thinking. He nodded and was off after Geetaji dismissed him. I am glad we got him thinking.

This is what counts, much more than scolding a child.

Geetaji was beaming today and informed me that she heard the school next door was inspired by our mural.

I am so happy when I hear and see Geetaji smiling.

I agree, she deserves to be happy.

 

November 11, 2014

 

Completely finished the mural today, and proud of it. I spent the 1 to 5:30 standing out in the ground with Payal, Geetaji and various children. We accomplished it. The last box was filled by all of us, it reads:  “Love and be Loved.”

Hats off.

I love the hours I spent painting with my friends today; joking, sharing and encouraging one another.

My time here is coming to an end, I am glad the mural is over so I can return to the inside of the foundation for my final days.

Veenaji spent the day traveling, coming home; it will be lovely seeing her tomorrow. It has been so long since I last saw her.

The teachers session went very well today. Priyanka presented Andrew Jackson. We all talked and everyone was interested and involved. I am curious to see how the teachers act when Veenaji returns to the foundation. I know I promised a teacher session in which we addressed their behavior around Veenaji. I want to see how tomorrow plays out before I bite into this conversation with all the teachers. I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea to speak with Veenaji first and hear what she has to say. Do you think this is a good idea?

Yes, I think it is a good idea. I also think it might be difficult to bring up th subject before Veenaji, the teachers will be very imbarassed.

***I do not have pictures of the mural from today, you will get them tomorrow**** I will take close ups***

Thanks

 

 

November 12, 2014

 

I decided to split up my day like I did when I first arrived. I want to spend my last days with as many children as possible. So with that idea in mind I spent the first batch downstairs, and the second and third upstairs. The first batch I started off with Rahela’s class, greeting the children and doing a little phonetics.  After finishing that I moved to Geetaji’s class engaging with each child and asking questions, getting them to joke with me. Finally for the last part of the first batch I went into Ruchi’s room. Ruchi had a lot of energy today, I think it was a result of the successful teacher session. It was her day to present on Joseph Stalin. She was nervous and made many mistakes when speaking which alarms me because she is one of the oldest employees of the Tushita Foundation.

Ruchi has a problem with English and we know that. Still we think that she has improved a lot from her first days. I believe that we must be indulgent in a setting like the Foundation.

But regardless of her errors, the teachers were engaged and Priyanka was awesome, she kept questioning and pushing Alex to answer her political questions.

Priyanka, how are we going to replace her?

 

The second and third batch I spent 2/3 of the time In the Rose class. The children in those classes are wonderful. Priyanka lead a grammar lesson with silly sentences and for the second half of her batches she pulled out the magazines.   It was great to see that she took inspiration from our teacher sessions in asking the children to each study a person in the magazine and then come up and present.

Though cumbersome at times for both the teachers and the volunteers, the teachers’ sessions are a powerful tool for improvement of the teachers’ abilities.

This went very well; at this point the children are comfortable with each other, because they have grown up together.  Using their levels of comfort Priyanka was able to ask more of them and question the children as they spoke, which they responded to excellently.

The last third of the batch I spoke with Ruksar and her class. Ruksar approached me with a project idea. Her idea is to have her children write short stories and then present them. I told her that this idea is a marvelous one and she was excited to start it. She plans to start later next week when she is done with the unit she is working through at the moment.

This is an excellent idea, just make sure that one step is not missed. After writing the story, the children should submit their work to you or Alex for correction. Only after can they present their story free of mistakes.

I stayed away from Payal’s class, Alex has been working with that class the past few days.

In Priyanka’s second batch I spoke a lot with Sagar. He taught me how to make a paper heart bookmark and we spoke about my family life in America. He was very interested in the fact that I can swim and live so close to water. He is a wonderful young boy; he is creative, curious, confident and respectful.  I will miss him dearly.

And he will miss you too, but you will carry each other in your hearts as a beautiful reminder of a fruitful time for both of you.

 

 

November 13, 2014

 

I had drawing class with the Rose children today. I gave a lesson on abstract drawings, explaining the term abstract. I had the children relax take a few ridiculous breaths and draw shapes and for lack of a better term – scribbles, as well. The children drew the lines in pencil and then I asked them to fill the shapes they created however they wish with color.

This was a revealing process. The children’s personalities came out in this exercise.

And this must have been the most exiting time for both the children and the teachers!

In the first batch I had Shalu, Chavi, Lalit, Rinku and Abishiek. Abishek was late and when he walked in, I asked if he wanted to draw today. He said no and Priyanka was quick to give him work.

A serious boy like Abishek must have thought that drawing didn’t mean much for a future scientist, he is not a child anymore!

However as the drawings came to life and he watched his classmates, I could see his body language and facial expression became regretful, so I asked again, “do you want to draw?” and he looked me in the eyes and nodded.  I gave him the tools he needed, briefed him on abstract drawings and he got to work; intensely and neatly mixing pencil and color more so than any of the other children.

 

Good for him!

 

 

Shalu and Chavi sat close together and you can see similarities in their general shapes, however the color palettes differ and Chavi’s piece contains more detail.  Chavi’s piece has sharpness within it apart from the shape which is similar to Shalu’s work. Chavi is quick to follow Shalu and often times quiet; however when you get her speaking you find a sharp sassy woman!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shalu’s work

 

Rinku worked the most with blending and incorporated tips from my previous drawing classes with his work. It was so sweet that he saw and appreciated one of Shalu’s shapes and its shading so much so, that he asked her to teach him. And she did.

 

 

 

Shalu teaching Rinku:

 

 

 

Cooperation and collaboration, this is a precious learning process. I love the fact that a boy has the humility to ask a girl to teach him something.

 

Lalit worked quickly and rapidly, his piece was the most layered and intense of the five students. Lalit is a young man whom I feel is going to grow into a lovely man. He is respectful, engaging, and thoughtful and much like his piece, he is comfortable thinking fast and challenging himself intellectually.

 

 

 

I totally agree, his face radiates kindness and intelligence.

 

 

After all the children finished their drawings I took their notebooks and engaged the them in a discussion/critique where we turned the page and looked for images in the scribbling.  They loved this. So many images were seen and the children loved hearing what their friends saw in their work.

 

This is a typical “art therapy” process; it is extremely useful to bring up one’s emotions.

This must have been a very bonding experience for our children.

 

After the discussion of the work, I had the child think of a name for their piece. It was interesting to see that ideas from my previous project had carried over into this one. I saw the children naming their drawings in the same way I asked and taught them how to name their creatures.

They are quick learners!

Second batch was larger. I had Putul, Shalu, Rahul, Rajani, Areeb, Sagar, and Neha. At first I was disappointed by Sagar because he initially dismissed the project idea, in efforts, I think to impress Mini whom was sitting beside him.

Who wouldn’t want to impress the lovely Mini?

He laughed and put little exertion into his first scribble and I looked at him without saying a word. He understood, I could see he was disappointed in himself as well, he refreshed took a breath and started again.  The result of his new found effort was remarkable, I was very happy with his drawing.  Especially the name, “Rainbow Run” which was pulled from the rainbow penguin with red feet whom the children saw in his image.

So much creativity! Those were children who only wanted to copy a drawing from the blackboard!

 

(The camera battery died, unfortunately so I resorted to my poor quality cell phone camera).

Still, I would love to post these images on Facebook, please send them to me separately.

 

Priyanka and I participated in this project also. During the last batch we both took part drawing and coloring with the children.  Priyanka was very nostalgic today and frequently came to me with stories about each of the children. I think seeing them so happy and at peace in their personalities made her really reveal how much she loves them. She told me today that they are a part of her life and when she said it she had a tear in her eye.

I also feel like crying when I think that she will get married and will leave the Tushita Foundation!

 

 

I really enjoyed seeing how each child approached this task differently. Putul was the only person to outline her shapes with various colors. She told me today that when she grows up she wants to be a painter.

The day ended and Alex and I went for chai to Sana’s (a new student) house. I had promised Sana a week ago I would see her home and meet her mother. Veenaji allowed for us to go and she Payal, Priyanka and Ruchi waited for us to return at the foundation. We didn’t stay for long knowing our friends were waiting. I had a great time with Sana and her family and was able to spend time with her one year old baby cousin. There is nothing comparable to the feeling of holding a baby in your arms.  I really had a wonderful day today and having Veenaji back made it that much better.

What a lovely way to end a fruitful day!

 

Rowan, this is by far the best entry in your journal!

The work you have accomplished with our children today is remarkable, the coordination between the hand, the eye and the brain brings about concentration and self confidence. The sharing among children allows for insight and cooperation.

I knew that the most successful time for you would be just before leaving. It is the time in which we let go of our fears and dive into the moment.

Enjoy it all at the fullest.

 

 

 

November 15, 2014-

My last activity day. Today I spent as much time as I could talking and engaging with everyone.  I started in the Sunflower class, drawing and reading to the younger children. Geetaji delivered to me a set of pastels and picture books that someone had dropped off. I don’t know who the donor was and Geetaji was unable to describe him to me.

Avesh is a boy who acts out frequently. I have noticed his insecurity when speaking in English and his desire to always change the topic. Alex has spent a lot of time getting to know Avesh and has had situations where he must provide discipline.

I found myself speaking with Bony, Areeb and Avesh. Avesh was saying something inappropriate and children around were laughing. I turned to Bony and Areeb, boys whom I know very well, and asked them to translate. They refused. I looked towards Avesh and smiled asking why he says things like this?  If they are funny I want to hear them also! Avesh fluttered off and I was left feeling sadden by Avesh and his cries for attention. He is a sweetheart and I have had very sincere moments working with him in Priyanka’s classroom.

 

This is quite an important question. Not only Avesh’s problem, but the fact that someone can say something that a foreigner cannot understand. Maybe Priyanka can talk to all the children in their own language explaining that the volunteers are a generous guests that has come to share their knowledge. Talking about them in a language they don’t understand is rude. Would they want this to happen to them if they were to travel abroad one day?

 

He proves difficult to rally in a group situation, but I feel with Alex’s help he can gain maturity and confidence.

Obviously this boy has some issue to tackle and I hope that Alex will be able to help him.

I took Bony and Areeb aside, and thanked them for remaining neutral when Avesh was acting out. I explained to them that they are fine young men and it is important to be respectful. I also asked for them to help Avesh and include him more in their activities. We then followed the conversation with a lengthy one about recent films and my experiences with Salman Khan.  The conversation was casual and I could tell we all enjoyed it immensely.

Wonderful.

The children of the foundation know my soft spot. Ask me to draw and of course Ill (in most cases) stop what I’m doing and draw with you.  Well this is what happened today. My plans to make it upstairs to the dance class were intercepted by dozens of bright faces asking me to draw. So, I eventually had the whole downstairs drawing. Using, Ruchi, Geetaji, and Rahela’s rooms for space. The older children wanted tips for portraits so I assigned them to draw each other. Rinku made a marvelous drawing of Aayesha. Which she colored and asked me to bring home. The younger children worked in groups drawing from the new books and improvising when they could fully see the page.

I had a perfect day today. I was able to do what I love with lovely people.

You are centered and confident now, so your days resemble your inner world.

 

November 17, 2014

You were right in saying that my last days at the foundation would be very productive. I worked in Ralhela’s classroom today and it was wonderful.

I started the class having the children stand up; I then proceeded to go around the room and point to various things asking “what color is this?” After 5-10 minutes of this I continued by then calling out a color and having the children run to a corresponding color in the room. The children loved this. They ran and laughed and giggled as they looked all around for the different colors. Ankita was the first to run up to my leggings and scream “Black!” and after all the kids joined in looking for colors in their own clothing and the details of the fabrics around them.

After about 20-30 minutes of this game once the energies started to get tired I commenced the yoga portion of the class. I wanted to break up the learning and calm the motion of the room. So I placed the children in lines and we all giggled and did our deep breathing exercises. I was surprised to see how well the children listened and repeated my directions: “In/out” I made sure to keep the mood refreshing and silly and we all practiced phonetic noises with our exhales. During the stretching I repeated simple sentences like “one leg up/down, one arm in/out, up/down, etc…”  I had so much fun doing yoga with the batches today and everyone even Rahela was participating. Anubhau, came in during the second batch and he easily followed the yoga. Still, even after yoga, he maintained a great level of concentration and happiness.

To transition from the yoga to the cementing of the colors I had the children sit in their lines and do butterfly stretching and breathing. This was a good way to get them sitting and attentive. At this point in each batch the children were fairly tired, and very interested in what I had to say.

With full attention, I now chose three colors to solidify with the children. My method: I would ask a child “what’s your favorite color?” and then when given the answer ask a different child “what’s the spelling?” then I would write out the color and take an object of that color and place it a top the whiteboard. I did this with three colors. Having the color written out and seen simultaneously is a more productive way for the child to associate.

I had the children write the three colors in pencil 10 times in their notebooks. After they wrote in pencil I had them come up to my one by one and pick the three colors out of the box. The instructions now were to trace the color with the corresponding colored pencil. Once this was finished I allowed the children to choose either two or three new colors to write in their notebooks.

Even with this much work, the children keep coming to me for more, they were focused and excited. When the work in the notebook was finished I allowed phonetic reading for the last 5 minutes of each batch. Today was successful and I feel great.

Excellent work, dear Rowan.

 

 

 

 

November 18, 2014

 

Last Tuesday with the foundation:

I worked in the Sunflower class; I have been spending my last few days with this age group.

Today we did yoga again for the first half of the class, which went very well. Koomal, a little lady with a sharp personality was very serious about her yoga time. She kept her eyes concentrated and her breathing was loud and steady. I love watching the children sit in their spots and breathe with soothed expressions on their faces.

For the end of the yoga portion I had the students lay on the floor with their eyes closed and the lights off; maintaining a steady breathing pattern in the room. After I heard they had stopped laughing and were calmed down I would tell them to keep their eyes closed and sit up. After sitting up I would then instruct them to open their eyes and at the same time I would switch on the light. All of the children loved this effect and had the biggest smiles.  We concluded our yoga section of the class with a sitting posture giving Namaste to those around us.

Next time, please add to the Namaste the gesture for Salam, placing your right hand on the heart. This is the way the Muslims greet each other. It is important for the children and for Rahila in this case to feel that their identity is also taken in consideration. Otherwise, yoga becomes a Hindu practice and we don’t want to convey that message.

Following yoga we worked on our rainbow and the colors again. I spoke for a few minutes about the sky, the sun, and asked if any of them had ever seen a rainbow. Few students had, but the ones who did were excited to share. I drew a picture of a rainbow on the board and labeled each band with the colors name. I then had the children draw and write what I had in their notebooks. Once they had finished this I had them come up one by one and read each color and then take the correct color from the box.

This was an exercise in patience, and combined what we had been working on the previous days.

Another lovely day with the little children.

During the teacher session we read from the newspaper and the song book that Deeraj has lent Alex. We read the song “One Trick Pony” which produced a nice dialogue with the teachers.  We were able discuss the importance of change and balance in life.

Interesting.

 

November 19, 2014

My last full day at the foundation:

I spent the first half of the first batch doing yoga with the children. They request it! After we did some phonetic sounds and then reviewed our colors.

I drew a picture on the board and wrote in the shapes different colors names for the children to read and fill properly. They have made so much progress with their colors in my time working with them.

The second batch was spent like the first except the last ten minutes were spent dancing to American Disco music! This was an absolute blast.

The third batch started with the dancing and then went into yoga and after we did the color work.

The children have started coming up to me saying sweet things and expressing their sadness for my departure. I am holding myself together but I feel that my final day will be an emotional one.

Satyam came to me today and we exchanged our goodbyes because he will be absent the day I leave. Our conversation was mainly through our eyes and left both of us in tears. He is a beautiful young man who has a lot to give to this world.

After the foundation Alex and I went for Chai to Taranum’s home and met her family and sat with a handful of foundation children. We only stayed for a brief time because a feast was waiting at Veenaji’s home!

When we arrived at Veenaji’s we all started dancing and didn’t stop… Haha! It was a dance party that lasted hours and it couldn’t have been more fun.  Truly a perfect way to spend my last night in India.

I love this place

I love these people.

And we all love you!