Anthony, Phelbé and Cléo – Summer 2012
Tushita Foundation India
Summer 2012 – Volunteers’ Journal
Monday, 9th of July
Today, after a morning spent in reading and walking around in the neighborhood of the Tushita house, we had lunch with Veena and Gajju, we welcomed Phelbé and then we went for the first time to the Foundation. We met all the kids and their teachers. We offered them some sweets that Cléo brought from France, and they introduced themselves one by one. After this beautiful moment, we had an enlightening discussion with the teachers so that we can be efficient with the kids as soon as possible.
Tuesday, 10th of July
Today, after doing sports and discussing different things in the morning, we went to the Foundation and attended some classes, to understand better the teachers’ methods. We could see what the kids were able to do according to their age. Eventually we discussed with Veena and the teachers how to set up our future classes (at what time, and with whom). The day after tomorrow we will start teaching.
Today was our “observation” day at the Tushita Foundation. As Gajju suggested it to us yesterday, each of us tried to attend nearly to all the classes so that we could see how teachers interact with the kids. The children are fascinating: they’re smiling, witty and very disciplined. We do not particularly intimidate them and they seemed very open to learn from us.
After a whole afternoon of observation, we met with Veena and the teachers to share our impressions, give them some insights and discuss about the way we should organize our projects together. So far, we have decided that each of us will be in charge of two combined batches of children from 2 to 4pm and then, switch from 4 to 5:30pm. As Anthony mentioned it, we will start teaching tomorrow. Can’t wait!!
Wednesday, 11th of July
Today was very interesting, as usual. After a morning spent mostly in reading, we went to the Foundation after a very good Indian meal. There, we were able to finalise our projects: children were already arranged as one class from 2 to 4pm, so we could observe the groups we will have, and even participate a bit. With the youngest children for example, I told them a story that Veena translated for me, and we both insisted on some key words that the kids remembered very well. Then Phelbé came in and participated in the activities. As for Anthony, he did his first class of geography to the middle-age children, which went on very well: all the children were very enthusiastic and implied in the lesson.
We also finally agreed with the teachers to teach for one hour and help them for one hour, during the 2 to 4 session. Then we will help them with the second batch as well, and surely finish the day with our specific activities. We will start all that tomorrow, and we can still adapt if needs be.
Veena also brought us to a bookstore on our way back, so we could buy books for the Foundation, especially fairy tales with pictures that the kids will be able to read in one hour or two (since we decided we would change of age-group every two days).
And this beautiful day is gradually coming to its end, after shopping and eating some great cakes at a coffee shop above the bookstore.
Thursday, 12th of July
That’s it! We’re teaching!
Cleo was today in charge of the biggest kids while Anthony taught the middle-aged ones some geography. Cleo read some fairy tales to the children, providing them with explanations about the story, letting them participate to the class by making them read some parts of the tale out loud. From 4 to 5:30pm, she also assisted the teachers, giving the kids vocabulary tutorials. Anthony, on the other hand, handed out blank maps to the children that they filled in with the names of tropics, cardinal points, etc. He also showed them some videos he had downloaded at the Tushita office.
As for me, I had the pleasure to take care of the youngest kids. It is a bit hard to make them sing as their level of English is quite low, given their age, but they’re learning, little by little. For example, they seem to have learnt quite well the ABC song. I also played games with them based on English words and inspired by the ones French children play (“le facteur n’est pas passé”). Finally, as I had brought my computer with me at the Foundation, I let the kids play computer games that helped them learn some English vocabulary.
We were also very happy to be accompanied today by Pierre, Veena and Gajju’s son, who brought us to the mall in the evening and to a nice place where we had iced coffee; it was delicious! At the end of the day, we all met in Gajju’s office and he told us something I found beautiful: “we all are the Tushita Foundation”.
Friday, 13th of July
Teaching to these children is really wonderful. Today I’ve been improving my method, asking them to raise their hands to answer my questions with full sentences, and we then wrote a sum up of the story together, which is an activity they definitely seemed to like. I’m so eager to see them all tomorrow for the Saturday activities!
As for Phelbé and Anthony, they continued with respectively the youngest and the middle groups, so the kids of the groups we taught to this week are now used of us. Phelbé had to diversify the activities, since their concentration is not long and their English not very good. Anthony made them test their knowledge on geography, and made them all participate by asking specific questions.
We also know the teachers better now, and I think we are “finding our place”, as Gajju says it.
Finally, on our way back, Gajju and Veena were very nice: we stopped in a tailor’s shop, where we could choose our fabric and model for beautiful indian clothes.
Saturday, 14th of July
Today was “activities day” at the Foundation. Veena and Gajju took us to Amber, and we could watch the kids dance and dance with them for more than two hours.
They danced incredibly well. It is surprising how much they can learn just by watching TV. Ruksar even danced herself; she is an amazing dancer. After the session, Sonam offered the others teachers, Veena, Gajju and us some sweets to celebrate the end of the week. On our way back, we were dropped on a street near the City Palace so that we could have a nice walk in Jaipur. To finish the day, we celebrated the Bastille Day by having a drink at the Café Kooba!
Sunday, 15th of July
Today, we had lunch at Veena and Gajju’s, with their son Pierre. The food was delicious as usual, and Gajju told us everything about Maharajas. Then we visited the City Palace and the Observatory with a guide who spoke French very well. To finish we spent a couple of hours wandering in the streets, in search of clothes mainly. We met a very friendly motorickshaw driver, Ali – who was with his friend Smaïn – with whom we had a good time laughing and then we went home, where we are preparing the classes for tomorrow!
Monday, 16th of July
We began today our second week in Jaipur. It occurred to me that the next coming days will be quite different from what we had experienced last week.
First, we have been introduced to a yoga course (early) this morning. The class has radically changed our routine; we now enjoy the morning sun in India! Although the yoga teacher doesn’t speak English very well, she always takes time to give us basic explanations about the postures she wants us to perform. Also, the exercises she has been suggesting to us so far has induced us to work on stretching and breathing, which is definitely a good way to start a new day.
Then, we went to the Foundation with Pierre in the afternoon. Cleo was in charge of the smaller kids while Anthony taught geography to the elder ones. As for me, I did my first “music class” with the middle-aged children. I was a bit afraid that they would be reluctant to sing but apparently, they seem to have enjoyed the course. At the beginning of the class, I gave them some basic vocabulary about music (stave, scale, arpeggio…). Then, I showed them a video of the “Aristo cats” to get them familiar with the “Scales and Arpeggios” song. Then, I asked them to perform some vocal exercises before we actually started to learn the song together. Although they’re very keen on singing, I think it will take time for them before they know how to sing the entire song. They seem to have difficulties indeed in learning and understanding the lyrics. Yet, I am convinced that little by little, they will make it!
Tuesday, 17th of July
Today was a challenging day for me. I gave a two-hour long music class to the middle-aged kids, as the teacher had to stay in Veena’s office to help the Foundation tailor take the children’s dimensions for new uniforms. However, I quickly realized that the lyrics of the “Scales and Arpeggios” song were way too hard for them. Although I’m sure that they have the motivation and the energy for singing, I also think that I should adjust the degree of complexity of the songs’ lyrics I want them to perform. Another thing caught my attention: as I had to teach them music for two hours, I saw that they could quickly got distracted if I tried to make them sing for a long time. Indeed, I proceeded differently for the second batch: Geeta gave them a 45 minutes class and the kids and I did music for the 45 minutes left, so that the children stayed concentrated. It worked!
Cleo, Anthony and I had a discussion at the end of the day and we all came to the conclusion that the songs should be as easy as possible for them to sing, since their level of English still do not allow them to understand and say entire sentences. I kept that in mind to prepare my next class tomorrow.
Wednesday, 18th of July
Today has been a very interesting day for me. First, it was the first time that I was in charge of the biggest kids. I had the pleasure to meet them all and I realized that some of them were really witty.
As a response of the difficulties I had encountered the previous day, I asked them to perform “Love me do”, the first tune that “The Beatles” released in 1962. The lyrics of this song are particularly simple and so is the melody. Still, another issue arose: some children do not manage to sing at the right pitch. This challenge is definitely more difficult for me to deal with, as I am not a singing teacher. How can I make them sing on the right note? That is definitely a big question I will have to respond to in the next coming days. I must admit though that they’ve all demonstrated a lot of motivation to sing, which is still a good start.
As for my co-workers, Cleo was in charge of the middle-aged kids while Anthony took care of the small ones. Cleo told the famous “Snow White” fairy tale to the middle-aged children. Photocopies of the book from which she had picked the story, which contained beautiful drawings, supported her class. Regarding the small kids class, Anthony had made a great PowerPoint to show to the children oceans, deserts, etc.
At the end of the day, Veena brought us to a very nice coffee shop that is located next to the Tushita office. Veena ordered a delicious Irish coffee, Cleo had a great Iced Coffee, Anthony drank a very sweet Iced Tea and I ate a tremendous ice cream! Last but not least: Veena delivered us the “customized” Indian clothes we had ordered few days ago. We’re now dressed like locals!
Thursday, 19th of July
Today was the day of good news. Indeed, we all managed to successfully adapt our teaching methods and have a great day with the kids.
Though I struggled a bit yesterday with the middle-aged ones, who were very distracted, I demanded less of them today and it went all right. We finished to read Snow White, and we worked exclusively on some new words, which they wrote in their notebook, so that they’ll be ready for a test next week.
I take the opportunity to explain how it went with the smallest children (that I had on Monday and Tuesday), since it was a bit challenging to read them a story in English, given their English level. I focused on very easy stories with them, mostly about animals, so that they could use and expand their vocabulary lists, along with a good use of mimes.
Phelbé and Anthony had also a good day. Anthony’s PowerPoint presentations worked well on the smallest kids to make them understand the basics of geography, and he tried to teach them how to say the time (following Veena’s suggestion), with mitigated results. With Phelbé, the oldest children were able to learn the complete lyrics and to sing the whole song.
Finally, we are actively thinking of the show these days, figuring out how to make all the children participate, how many songs should they sing, etc. Anthony, Phelbé and I agreed that these details shall be decided upon by the end of next week, in order for us and the children to have time for rehearsal and to prepare everything.
Friday, 20th of July
It was also a good day for everyone, and it seems the children are enjoying our presence too.
I taught to the older ones with a new method. I gave them photocopies of the story we were going to read, so that we can focus on vocabulary in a mature way: since each has his/her own copy, he/she can write on it the definition of unknown words, and we can also go on with the story quite fast, because if they understand every word, then we continue. I think they liked it that way, and I hope they’ll want to read the story again once being home. I also started with one of the groups to talk about tales in general, thus introducing the idea of a show – and of the story that we’ll have to write for it.
Phelbé had a great time with the younger ones: she used her computer to teach them new songs, including one about music instruments, and for some games that the children liked.
Anthony taught to the middle-aged ones, using videos to help them understand the climates, deserts, etc. and testing them on what they learnt last week.
We then spent our evening baking crepes, to offer them to the teachers after the dance on Saturday.
Saturday, 21st of July
Today was fantastic. Gajju Bana organised for us the visit of the Amber Fort, so we left the office around 10 am and went off there with a guide. As you might all well know, the Fort is magnificent, wonderfully beautiful, absolutely stunning. We spent a long time taking pictures, before going to the other fort nearby, which we also made the tour of. It was so interesting to learn about the maharajas of Jaipur and the history of India and Rajasthan in general, that we were just in time at the Foundation for the activities session!
We thus danced with the children, the smallest ones at first with Phelbé, then we went upstairs to continue our learning of Bollywood dancing. We then tried some music we’d brought, meaning La Macarena (for which they learnt the steps in no time), Waka Waka (of Shakira, which they all already knew), and Cotton Eyed Joe (so that they now know what country music is, and they also know some steps!). That was a great moment!
Unfortunately, we completely forgot many Hindu people don’t eat eggs, so we were very embarrassed about our crepes, which we were almost the only ones to eat. Our mission is now to find out how to cook crepes without eggs!
Sunday, 22nd of July
Today we had a fantastic day again. After a rest this morning, we had lunch at Mr. Beans. We had a good time, especially when the Chef told us he spent two months in Lyon, France, practicing French cuisine with George Blanc: impressive !
Then we took a motor rickshaw to go to the Albert Hall. After an hour visiting this wonderful place, it started raining. It lasted nearly 35 minutes, during which we could sit inside the building and talk with the other visitors, mainly Indians.
At 5 pm, we met Kamal, our guide who speaks French perfectly well. We met in front of the Hawa Mahal, and then we could see the procession celebrating the monsoon. Gajju didn’t lie: the Teej Festival was wonderful! For us, it was a beautiful mix of colors, animals, dresses and musics that we certainly won’t forget very soon!
Thus once again, we had a great time in Jaipur. We are now more than ready to start a new week at the Foundation, with new ideas to share with Veena, Gajju and the teachers!
Monday, 23rd of July
Today was the second session in a row we had with the same kids. I was with the middle aged ones, Cléo was with the eldest ones, and Phelbé with the youngest. It appears that everyone’s day went well, and the kids seemed to be satisfied at the end of the afternoon. Cléo found a way to work efficiently with the kids, and her stories seem to be very popular among them. Phelbé managed to teach some words to the little kids, who were quite excited today.
As for me, after having worked on continents, oceans and directions last week, I decided to do a couple of sessions about climates. Today, the kids wrote a test about deserts and mountains (since last Friday we studied the Thar, the Sahara and the Gobi deserts, as well as the Himalayas, the Alps and the Andes), and most of them succeeded. After the test, we kept on studying rainforests (Amazon, Congolese) and frozen areas (Greenland and Antarctica). I change the structure of my classes from week to week, but I always keep the same basis and material: this week, classes are based on very short videos (1-2 minutes) from which we try to draw information (vocabulary…). Then, we use the map to locate the different places we saw, and eventually we play a little game with a ball : I throw the ball to every kid, who then has to say something learnt during the class.
Cléo and Phelbé are also working on a show that would display the kids singing and acting and that could be presented on September 1st to the parents and “everyone interested in the Foundation’s work”, according to Gajju. We’ll know more about this in the next few days!
Tuesday, 24th of July
Today, the three of us switched from one class to another. Cléo worked with Sonam with the little kids, Phelbé was with the middle-aged ones and I was with Ruskar and Prienka’s groups. Cléo read stories to the little kids and showed them some videos. Sonam helped her out for the translation in Hindi of the most difficult parts of the stories. Phelbé kept on teaching music, and she was so into it that she even forgot to stop her class at 5:30pm!
As for the eldest kids, I noticed a very big gap between Ruskar’s and Prienka’s batches. I had an insight of it last week, but it appears that Prienka’s pupils learn far more quickly than Ruskar’s. Thus I had to adapt my classes. On the one hand, along with Ruskar’s pupils, we finished filling in the world maps I had handed out to each one of them last week (with Directions, Oceans, Continents, Tropics, Equator). On the other hand, I started studying climates with Prienka’s group. They were so eager to learn that they finished in one hour the program that was supposed to last two. Tomorrow, I’ll raise the level up for them, with gaps in a text they will have to fill in for instance, or sentences they will have to put in a given order.
Adaptation is the key word here: I work on the same theme with all the classes (for this week it is “climates” for example), but I adapt the level of difficulty according to their age, their real capacity, according to what the teachers tell me.
Wednesday, 25th of July
After a meditation and stretching session early this morning with our yoga teacher, the three of us went to the Foundation at 2pm. We kept teaching to the children we were in charge of yesterday: the small kids for Cleo, the oldest ones for Anthony and the middle-aged ones for me.
Cleo played games with the small kids and read them two classic fairy tales: “goldy locks and the three bears” and “little red riding hood”. As for Anthony, he handed out a text he had written himself, which summarized the main concepts the children had been learning for the last few classes. The text was made of blanks that the kids had to fill in. The children did really well!
Regarding the middle-age kids, I decided first to evaluate what they had taken in from yesterday class. I asked them to give me the names of some animals living in the ocean, as the latest lesson was about “the little mermaid”. I also checked if they could remember the names of the main characters of the story and the relationships they had with one another. Then, I wrote on the board a part of the lyrics of the “under the sea” song and asked them if they could fill in the blanks. They did really well! Finally, we started singing, beginning with breathing and vocal exercises, going on with elocution practice and finishing with our usual singing time. I did much more with the first batch as I had more than one hour of practice with them. The second batch did also well but we didn’t get as far as with the first one. The children seem to appreciate the “under the sea” song and although they need to learn step by step, there’s definitely room for improvement and achievement.
After the afternoon spent at the Foundation, we went back to the Tushita office, spoke with Gajju about the future projects we had in mind for the kids and about the potential trips we could plan together to visit Rajasthan during the summer. The summer will go so fast!
Thursday, 26th of July
Today was Cleo’s birthday! She’s just turned 23 years old like me. Again, Gajju and Veena have been very kind and have made Cleo’s day very special. To begin with, Gajju bought a cake that we all ate together at the Tushita office after lunch.
Once at the foundation, Cleo went through each class to give candys to the kids. Every time she came in, the children clapped their hands and sang the “happy birthday” song. After this singing celebration time, everything returned to normal: Anthony took care of the small kids and Cleo saw to the middle aged ones.
As for me, I had only one hour and a half to do music with the elders ones, which means half an hour with each of the batches. That was not a lot of time but we managed to sing “love me do” and to start “don’t worry, be happy”. I think they liked this new tune. To me, the music is nice and the song turns out to be quite easy to sing. Let’s hope that tomorrow will leave us some time to do more!
At the end of the day, we had the pleasure to meet together with Veena in the Foundation’s office, who had just gone back to Jaipur after some days spent in New Delhi for Pierre’s move out. Guess what; another cake was waiting for us! Everyone had a piece, except Anthony who wants to eat very healthy to improve his sports performance, that may be the Olympic Games effect!. Kiran, a girl of the Foundation, and Guita’s son, Krishna, joined us too.
Finally, the day was completed with a present that Gajju and Veena offered to Cleo: the “Princess Remembers” book in French !
Once again, sālgirah mubārak ho Cleo!
Friday, 27th of July
On Friday everything was back to normal, and we continued teaching the same kids as on Thursday.
I introduced the middle-aged ones to the Greek mythology, and they seemed very interested. With the second batch, I even had time to make them play some labyrinth games I had printed (because we’d read the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur) and they loved it!
As for Phelbé and Anthony, they also had a good and successful day, with respectively the oldest and the youngest kids.
Veenajee had a busy day, organising the trip to Shekhawati planned for Sunday. We thus stayed at the foundation quite late, waiting for the parents to come and sign the form. It was so nice to see the children with their parents.
Saturday, 28th of July
We went to the foundation with Sarah, who arrived just in time to go and have fun dancing with the kids. They completely adopted her, and tried to learn some Arabic dance moves from her. Some of the kids also played cricket on the side of the terrace.
Again, we took time to finalise the trip, and then we came back to Jaipur, and stopped at the very good Little Italy restaurant on our way. Then we tried to go to bed early to be fresh the next day. With Phelbé, we nevertheless took time to finish writing the story the kids will play on September 1st, because time flies and we’ll have to make them learn their lines as soon as possible.
Sunday, 29th of July
Today, we woke up at 5:30am, we went to the Foundation and left at around 7:30am along with the middle aged and elder kids towards Shekhawati ! The two buses were filled with the kids, the teachers, the Foundation staff, Veenaje and Gajjubana, the volunteers, and Sarah who is in Jaipur at the moment. What an adventure ! It took us five hours to reach Shekhawati, during which we could dance, sing and chat with the kids who were super excited in the buses. We could visit and admire the frescos of two havelis : a very old one (16th-17th century), and the one of the Podar family, which had been restored in the 1990s.
We then had lunch in a magnificent hotel ; the kids were so happy, they could eat as much as they could, and they did ! Even though it was a very hot day, they enjoyed every moment of it. After lunch, they played football for half an hour. Gajjubana then decided to come back to Amber, as we were running out of time. We could have thought that the kids would need some rest on the way back : no way !
We kept on dancing and singing until one of the two buses broke down. Everyone stepped in the other bus, and we could make it to Amber without problems. The kids, the teachers, the volunteers, well, everyone was very happy to share a day travelling around in Rajasthan. What’s more is that Cléo, Phelbé and I could know more about the teachers and the kids by chatting in a different environment than the one of a classroom. In brief, this Sunday has been a wonderful day, and a great experience.
Monday, 30th of July
Today, after a soft yoga class and a few massages by Manisha, we prepared the classes for this afternoon.
I started working on South America with the middle-aged kids, who seemed to be very interested in the new countries they discovered, while Phelbé was taking care of the youngest children, and Cléo was working with the elder ones. Sarah came with us and took some nice pictures and videos of the kids during the classes.
They were all so happy about the trip of yesterday ; Prienka even made some of them write a few sentences about it. Today, we could feel something special in the air of Amber, all the more so as Cléo discussed with some of the kids the script of the show they are going to present on the first of September. According to all the people who read it, this script is awesome! So it is an exciting event coming soon, and it will be interesting to know how the kids will take hold of the play. More on this in the next few days !
Tuesday, 31st of July
Today began on a sad note : Sarah left us to pursue her one-month travel in India (which will be amazing, I’m sure). I’m already excited about seeing the pictures she will take throughout her whole journey !
After our usual yoga class in the morning and a delicious lunch prepared by Maya, we were offered a very tasty lassi on our way to the Foundation by Veena, who definitely knows every good address in Jaipur.
Once arrived in Amber, an electricity breakdown disrupted a little bit the classic organization of the courses. I had to go upstairs with the smaller kids so that they could have light and space to play english games and learn some vocabulary about clothes, shapes and numbers. As for Cleo, she decided to go downstairs with the elder kids to start rehearsing the “summer show” we are now preparing with them. They are getting very excited about it ! Anthony was the only one who managed to give a usual class to the middle-aged children, keeping on with Southern American countries names.
On our way back to the office, Cleo and I stopped at the market to contemplate the façade of the “Hawa Mahal” and… to buy some clothes (let’s admit it !). We stayed there ‘til 9:00 pm, talking and bargaining with local merchants, who constantly use the same arguments when it comes to justifying overpricing to tourists. It was nice, nonetheless, to chat with them and see how good they speak many languages.
As for Anthony, who is not as fond of shopping as Cleo I are (surprisingly), he went to the Statue Circle to discuss with anti-corruption activists, who are now supporting the action of Anna Hazare. Anthony told us that it has been fascinating for him to meet them and he was very glad to have spent the whole evening at the circle. He even had the chance to talk with the organizer of the movement !
Back to the office, we were all delighted to have had the opportunity, in different ways, to get closer to the people of Jaipur today.
Wednesday, 1st of August
Today was such a beautiful day at the Foundation : we all celebrated the Rakhi festival together ! The underlying idea of this celebration symbolizes, in one single bracelet, one of the most beautiful sentiments : the affection and the irreplaceable bound between sisters and brothers.
It seems to me that values are usually tied with ceremony and religion in India. At least, this is what I realized when the kids gave us a beautiful demonstration of the Rakhi ceremony at the Foundation office. First, girls covered their heads, as if they were in a temple, and brought with them a tray that contained a glass of water, a small pot with red powder, a plate full of the sweet khir prepared by Sonam, a rice bowl and, of course, rakhi bracelets. They dipped their finger in the glass of water, put it into the red powder and carefully marked the boys’ forehead. They proceeded with sticking rice on the red dot they had just done and they eventually tied the rakhi bracelet around the boys’ wrist. Finally, they asked the boys to eat a spoon of sweet khir.
It was so beautiful to see that the kids were really dedicating themselves to the ceremony. After all, protection is not an insignificant issue between brothers and sisters.
After a while, since boys had all gone, Mandar and Anthony were both used as a unique brother for all the girls who were still at the Foundation ! They ended up having their arm covered by many rakhi bracelets. Cleo and I enjoyed watching it, while Shireen and Shirat were embellishing our arms with henna…
Thursday, 2nd of August
Today was a holiday, because of the Rakhi festival. We thus used our day preparing our presentation on France that Gajju Bana asked us to offer the guides on Saturday for the annual Round Table.
We then took a rikshaw to go to Jal Mahal, the wonderful palace in the middle of the lake, where we took many pictures. We then went shopping, since even Anthony needed to do some, especially for gifts for his mother and sister.
Even though some shops were closed because of the festival, we managed to have a good time and find some nice clothes (and a bag), before going to the Raj Mandir theatre to watch Coktail, a very nice Bollywood movie (from which we already knew one famous song!).
Finally, we came back to Tushita office, where a good meal was waiting for us, to deliciously end a very good day..
Friday, 3rd of August
Today, after finishing our Slideshow for the presentation, we went to the Foundation.
I was teaching the smallest children, while Phelbé worked on “Under the sea” with the middle-aged ones (to train them for the show), and Anthony was working on South America with the oldest kids.
I think they all had a good day. I could witness the smallest children sing “Row your boat”, the song Phelbé taught them the day before for the show; and as I was talking with some of the oldest kids, they remembered almost all of the South American countries.
Regarding the smallest children, I asked them to draw some of the animals that we encountered in one of the stories I read them, about a dormouse, a rabbit, a duck and a squirrel. They really enjoyed it.
We finished the day by eating delicious Indian meals cooked by Veenajee, with Rosenda and Jan who are spending the week end in Jaipur. Though there was a power breakout, we managed to go on catching up on everything, and it was a beautiful evening.
Saturday, 4th of August
Today was a very special day for all the Tushita people in Jaipur. In the morning, Gajjubana and Jan Sir had organized a meeting with all the guides of Tushita Travels at the Mansingh Hotel, to keep them posted about the Tushita current affairs and improve their skills to make the service to the clients even better. Different professors were invited to talk about economics, politics and history of India, while Cléo, Phelbé and I talked about France. We had prepared a presentation of an hour and a half, but the tight schedule urged us to cut it in half: thus we had to talk about French history, culture, economy and politics in 45 minutes! We hope the guides and all the people who were here were satisfied by the presentation.
After a delicious lunch at the hotel – we could taste Gulab Jamun + vanilla ice cream, wonderful – we headed towards the Foundation. We didn’t know it, but today was not activities day ; all the batches at the same time were here to work. Rosenda Mam could see the kids and offer to each one of Prienka’s pupils a beautiful Moleskine notebook, to take over the last year’s Book of me. The kids were very happy, all the more so as Cléo, Phelbé and I offered to each of them bracelets to celebrate Friendship Day! What’s more is that all the guides came along with Gajjubana and Jan Sir to visit the Foundation, and see it themselves. Two tourists Rosenda Mam had met in the morning also came to the Foundation; they seemed very enthusiastic about it.
In brief, it was a great day for all of us. There was a lot of people at the Foundation, but we could still work with the kids: this is what we can call a good compromise!
Sunday, 5th of August
Today, once again, was awesome. Jan, Rosenda, Veena and Gajju took us to Samode. We could visit the palace and then the gardens – Samode Bagh. I don’t even know what to write about it ; I can’t find anything that would be up the line to the beauty of these places. Cléo, Phelbé and I are just thankful to the Tushita Foundation for all the places we can see, all the dishes we can eat, and all the people we can meet.
After Jan and Rosenda left to the airport in the evening to go back to Delhi, the three of us went to Manisha’s house to have dinner with her family. On our way, we bought some flowers and a fruit basket to offer her. Once there, we witnessed the women of the family praying for their husbands to have a long life. After our dinner (and before theirs) they performed a prayer to the moon. It was intimate as well as impressive. What’s good about this dinner is that I think that Manisha was as happy as we were. This may be what we can learn from our stay in India : try to give as much as you are given.
Monday, 6th of August
Today, I had forgotten that it was the 6th of August. Had I remembered it, I would have come immediately to Rouksar’s class to wish her a happy birthday ! Unfortunately, it seems that I had lost track of the date… Time’s passing so quickly !
Anthony was in charge of the elder kids today. We thought that the tourist Rosenda Ma’am had met last week would join his class but sadly, she didn’t come. Something must have cropped up in her schedule… Anthony made the children understand something important today: never erase a mistake! It took them a little bit of time to understand this point and they appeared to be quite confused at the beginning when Anthony asked them not to use erasers anymore. As for Cleo, she took care of the smaller kids. She helped Sonam teach them some vocabulary but at the end of the day, she lost her voice! This is usually what happens when someone gets a cold (it actually happened to me few weeks ago!).
As for me, I realized that I had few time left to teach all the songs to the kids. Also, given the level of the middle-aged children, I decided it would be better for them to learn only “under the sea” and “don’t worry, be happy”. “Arabian nights” will be skipped and substituted with a dance performed by the People of the Desert. The music the children will dance to is “desert rose” sung by Sting and Cheb Mami. I talked about it with Anthony and Cleo and they both agreed with me on this: it is better for the kids to perform two songs well rather than three badly. Also, it is a good opportunity for us to include dances in the show.
The first batch of the middle aged kids have done good today. They got a bit distracted at some point of the class but they eventually managed to sing the song very well ! The second batch, however, is facing more difficulties in singing the song, which is normal because the class usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes only. Hopefully, they will succeed in singing the song together in the end.
After the class, Rouksar invited us to celebrate her birthday in the office. Sonam had prepared a very tasty fried Indian snack served with some chips while Rouksar had bought a cake. And unexpectedly, we had the pleasure to see all the Tushita teachers singing along with Veenajee the National Anthem of India ! After all, singing India’s national song is just a more original way to celebrate one’s birthday !
Tuesday, 7th of August
Today was Gajju Bana’s birthday (it is definitely the “birthday week”…)! Veenajee and the members of the Tushita team had decorated Gajju Bana’s office for this special occasion. After lunch, we all shared a tasty cake together. Gajju said there was no need to celebrate his birthday, as he was not a child anymore, but Cleo disagreed and pointed out that he was still the child of his mother !
After this celebration time, we all headed off towards the Foundation. Gajju kindly asked us not to say anything about his birthday to the kids. But Veena had discreetely put the teachers in the picture, so the kids all knew about it and sang the “happy birthday” song to Gajju when he came in each class to give them candies.
Anthony reviewed the “boat” song with the small kids that they are supposed to sing for the show. They seemed to know it very well; actually, we are now thinking of teaching them a new one. As for C., she rehearsed the story with the middle-aged ones, who were very enthusiastic.
As for me, I practiced “Love me do” and “don’t worry, be happy” with the elder ones. They all impressed me and I realized I could easily teach them the chorus and one verse of “Here comes the sun”, which is good news for the show ! Tonight, the three of us spoke about the casting selection for the story and we hope to have made the best choice. Tomorrow, Cleo will thus announce to the middle kids the roles that each of them will have to play. Let’s see their reaction !
Wednesday, 8th of August
Today was an amazing day for me ! Now that the middle-aged kids know the story, and that I was able yesterday to measure their capacity, I proposed theatre exercises today. As such, they had to say one sentence in different voices (angry / nicely) and worked on their voice so as to say the sentence from whisper to very loud; they had to do happy and sad faces, etc. In brief, they really enjoyed “acting” in preparation for the show.
Phelbé had a good day with the eldest kids, who now definitely master the “Love me do” song, and are learning “Here comes the sun”.
As for Anthony, he worked on countries with the smallest children, who were today very excited, since the balloons of Gajju’s birthday were brought to the Foundation.
Thursday, 9th of August
Again, that was a wonderful day.
While Phelbé rehearsed Row your boat with Sonam’s class, and made them color different shapes, Anthony was with the middle-aged ones to continue about America. He asked them to write sentences, with this same new policy of never using the eraser, which really seems to help them understand the mistakes.
As for me, I practiced the theatre exercises with the oldest ones (the two classes all together) for one hour, and it was curious to notice that they were overall less confident than the middle-aged ones. But it was a very good session, and they seemed to enjoy it very much. I then took the dozens of them who have the roles, and went to the office to make them rehearse. They were all very proud to tell me that they already knew their lines, but I insisted on reading today, because I want them to correctly pronounce every word; and once they’ll be used of the sentences, they will naturally know them by heart.
Some of those who couldn’t be kept for an active role were quite disappointed, but I insisted on the fact that they would anyway sing or dance, because we really want all the children to feel they have a special role in the play.
As for tonight, we asked Maya (our great cook) not to come because we have a great amount of pastas that we cooked yesterday night, when we invited Gajju Bana, Veenajee and Manisha (our yoga teacher) to share a typically French meal (starter – main course – desert). Although the main course was very Italian, made of pastas with pesto and pastas with tomato sauce, we all had a good time, and finished with a chocolate cake.
Friday, 10th of August
Today, we spent our second day with the batches we had yesterday. Cléo worked with the elder kids, Phelbé with the youngest ones, and I was with the middle-aged ones. Cléo kept on rehearsing for the show, while Phelbé made the small kids sing, among other activities. As for Guita’s pupils, we kept on working on sentences. On Thursday, I introduced them to a “Fill in the blanks” exercise as well as a “put the sentence in the right order” exercice. At first, they were completely lost, because they are not used to make sentences, at all. But after a few explanations from Guita and me, they started to understand the structure of the sentences. So for today I had prepared an exercises sheet for them to do in class. It turned out that even though everything was not right – of course – most of them could do the exercises properly. It will take time, but it is important that the kids of these batches know how to make sentences. What’s more is that the sentences were all about the geography classes we have had so far.
In the end of the afternoon, Ayan and his friend Aurélien joined us, and we had a very good time spending the night together.
Saturday, 11th of August
Today was a leisure day. Cléo, Phelbé, Ayan, Aurélien and I spent the morning at the Tushita house, reading, chilling and sharing a good breakfast. In the afternoon, we split up : Ayan and Aurélien went to visit the City Palace and the Observatory, while Cléo, Phelbé and I went out to draw money and do some shopping. What’s more is that in the morning, the three of us planned a visit to Udaipur for tomorrow ! Thanks to the awesome Tushita staff, we could book quickly three night-bus tickets to go there tonight, and three night-train tickets to come back to Jaipur on Monday morning. We leave the pink city at 11pm tonight, and we will be back on Monday, at 6am. I am sure this trip will be hectic ! Before leaving, we will join Ayan and Aurélien for dinner at Samode Haveli.
In brief, this leisure day was very good : it gave us a break, and the opportunity to plan a trip to Udaipur for tomorrow. Plus I am sure that the night trains are so comfortable that we will still be full of energy to work with the kids on Monday!
Sunday, 12th of August
Today we had an amazing tour of Udaipur. The trip started in the night bus, at 11:00 pm on Saturday. It was the first time that I had to travel in a bus during the night and surprisingly, the three of us managed to get some sleep.
We arrived around 6:00am in Udaipur on Sunday. Our driver was waiting for us in front of the bus station. He brought us to a place where we contemplated the three lakes of the city : Pichola, Fateh Sagar et Swaroop Sagar. Then, we had an amazing American breakfast in a nice hotel, where we had time to relax and plan our day in the city. We wish we could have had breakfast in the lake palace hotel but unfortunately, one needs to book a room to have the chance to eat there (given the setting, the price of one room might be quite expensive !).
After breakfast, we decided to go to Sajjan Garh, a palace located on the Mount Bansdara, in the Aravalli mountains. As the palace is 944m high, we had an amazing view of the whole city, of the lakes and of the mountains. It was outstanding!
The driver brouhgt us back to Udaipur so that we can visit the Jagdish Temple. We have been very lucky to get there at the celebration time. It was beautiful to see how the prayers were using music to worship their gods.
We went then to the city palace and realized we hadn’t been the only ones to have had the same idea ! A lot of tourists were there, and most of them seemed to be from France. After an hour and a half spent in the palace and after being taken in pictures a dozen of times by Indian tourists, we had lunch in a nice restaurant that gave us a great view on the lake and that Gajju (our “godfather”) had booked for us.
We drove 45 minutes away from Udaipur after lunch to see the 11th century Nagda temple, well preserved and characterized by the multitude of statues it has on all its facades. It was worth the ride !
We finished the day relaxing in Gangaur ghat (to me, the most beautiful place in Udaipur) and watching a show of traditional dance in the Haveli museum (colorful and impressive !). We got back to Jaipur by the night train, which was itself a special experience !
I particularly enjoyed Udaipur and cannot wait now to visit a next city soon !
Monday, 13th of August
Today, we had the pleasure to have Soumal with us! She came to Jaipur for the week-end and decided to stay here until tomorrow.
She came to the Foundation with us and I was surprised to see that she remembered the names of many kids. She stayed mostly in Prienka’s class this afternoon, which gave her the opportunity to see the beginning of the “Book of me” project that Anthony started with the kids.
On the ground floor, Cleo gave class to the kidoos and made drawings with them. Some of them came to my class to show me what they have done; their drawings were beautiful! We thought that we could use some of the kidoos’ drawings for the setting of the play.
As for me, I felt a bit concerned with my class today. The middle-aged kids seem to have difficulties in learning the “under the sea” song. As the play is coming soon, I am afraid that they won’t be prepared. Every time I come to their class, I always think of new methods to help them learn the song but they have difficulties understanding the exercises I would like them to practice. I guess I just have to be patient and trust them. After all, if they don’t manage to learn the first verse and the chorus of the song, I’ll find an arrangement.
When our day at the Foundation was over, we went to Anokhi with Soumal and Veenajee. It was funny to see that the daughter and the mother definitely have the same tastes when it comes to buying clothes! Finally, we bought delicious cakes at the Anokhi Café that we shared at the office with Gajju Bana. It is always good to finish the day with something sweet!
Tuesday, 14th of August
Today was a very nice activities day, for celebrating the independence day. Most of the boys went with Anthony to play football in the field nearby, while I was surrounded by girls on the roof to play skipping rope (only two boys dared to join us!). As for Phelbé, she was in Prianka’s classroom with Ruksar and ten children we’d sorted out to be dancers in the summer show.
It went very well for everyone, the kids enjoyed it very much. Then we all gathered in Prianka’s classroom and they sang the national anthem. Very moving !
At night, Phelbé and I took a night bus to Jodhpur, but Anthony was unfortunately too sick to accompany us.
Wednesday, 15th of August
The independence day has been quite an experience!
While Anthony was recovering safely at Tushita house, Phelbé got very sick, and had to stay in a hotel for most of the day. She managed to visit the fort though, given her fever!
As for I, I managed to keep the sickness at bay for the day, trying to enjoy Jodhpur as much as possible. I could admire the houses’ nice shade of blue, the old city, the Clock Tower, and even went to Mandore gardens. But then,, as soon as we were on the train back to Jaipur, I got fever.
Thursday, 16th of August
Today, the three of us had very different feelings. As I was sick and I could not go to Jodhpur on Wednesday, I could rest and felt great today. But Cléo and Phelbé did not feel that good, because both of them were sick. But still, they came to the Foundation. Cléo took care of the smallest kids and made them draw some fishes to put on the stage for the show, while Phelbé made the middle-aged ones study the text of the song they had been trying to sing. It was difficult for her because due to the death of a neighbour of the Foundation, nobody was – of course – allowed to sing or put music in the building.
As for me, it was a great day. Ruksar told me that she thought my way of teaching was very good, and it filled me with joy, because I believe we are on the right track. What’s more is that the results go with it : the rate of success in the different exercises I give to the kids rises, little by little.
Concerning the Book of Me, I decided to divide it into chapters. The first chapter, called “Where I come from”, is about family and home. The family part is developed through a family tree and a few sentences the kids wrote about their family. I was surprised how careful the kids were when they drew the family tree ; the result is very good. Some of them even asked their parents to know the name of their grandparents, and wrote it on the tree when they came back to the Foundation a few days later. As for the sentences, I was expecting that they repeat what they had learnt in class. But most of them wrote different and original sentences, and added a personal touch to the base they had already learnt.
For next week, I plan on making them write / draw about “their” neighborhood, “their” city, “their” Rajasthan, and “their” India. The place they live in is also an important part of where they come from. To finish, I started discussing with Prienka of how she could keep on working on the Book of Me after we leave India….
Friday, 17th of August
Today, our crew was reduced to two members, since it was Cléo’s turn to be sick. She did not come to Amber because she was very sick and wanted to be up the line for tomorrow (we will take the smallest kids to the Jaipur zoo in the morning, and we will do the first rehearsal of the show in the afternoon at the Foundation).
Phelbé worked with the oldest kids, teaching them music history and grammar. She realized that on the contrary to the French situation, grammar is not the first thing the kids learn in school. Thus she spent the afternoon telling them about verbs, adjectives and pronouns.
Along with Sonam, I worked with the smallest kids today. It was “drawing day”, so we made them work a little and then they could draw. On Cléo’s advice, I had brought shapes of desert animals so that they could draw something useful for the show. We now have tens of foxes and snakes that we will be able to include to the setting on the first of September !
Saturday, 18th of August
Today was a thrilling busy day at the Foundation : we had to bring the kidoos to the zoo in the morning and come back in the afternoon to have our first rehearsal with the middle-aged and oldest kids.
The kidoos were so excited to go out for the first time with the Foundation. Except one or two children, most of them came with us to discover the animals of the zoo of Jaipur. We got there around 10:30am and walked together in the two “animal gardens”. The first one was dedicated to all kind of animals whereas the second one was only for birds. When the children saw the peacock, they all gave a cheer ! We were besides very lucky to see the peacocks spreading their splendid tails just in front of us (I’m sure it’s a sign for the show…).
After the visit of the zoo, we all had lunch in the park adjoining the gardens. Again, Gajju and Veena had prepared everything : everyone was given a small box with snacks before going back to the Foundation.
In the afternoon, the other kids joined us for the first rehearsal. The most difficult thing for us was to make the kids “in the mood for the show”. We had to make them understand where the audience will be and that they should try not to have their back to the public and speak up as most as they could. Cleo showed them how to show their emotions and how to get as much as they could into their roles. Of course, they still have some work to do to get perfectly familiar with their lines but that is definitely part of the preparation of the show. As for the songs, they sang all of them pretty well, although “under the sea” is definitely the one that needs more preparation. At the end of the rehearsal, Rukhsar and I also worked on the “People of the Desert” choreography with the kids, with Cleo giving us suggestions. I think the dance will be great !
At the end of the day, Anthony, who had watched the whole rehearsal, told us that, so far, the play seemed on track to him and that we will certainly make it on the 1st of September !
Sunday, 19th of August
We had a very relaxing day today at the office. As it was the end of a gruelling week, during which all of us had been ill, we decided to take a rest all day to make sure we’ll start the next weeks coming up with renewed vigour.
Our program was pretty simple : sleeping, reading, talking with friends on the phone (I’m glad to know that Sarah hasn’t been kidnapped…), responding to e-mails and debating about the economy and an intervention in Syria (let’s not forget we are Sciences-Po students). Cleo and I also ate rice and bananas as much as possible to relieve our stomach problems. We both hope that we will be fine soon to fully enjoy the visit of Pushkar and Ajmer tomorrow with Pierre !
Monday, 20th of August
We celebrated Id el-fitr today, so the Foundation was closed. Veena took the occasion to bring us to Ajmer and Pushkar.
First we stopped in a good restaurant, before going to visit Sumal, Veena’s daughter, in Mayo College. We spent some time admiring the huge and countless fields, as well as the big houses boys live in.
Then we went to Pushkar, had a lemon iced tea over the beautiful lake, and walked in this very nice city, crowded by tourists. We had an amazing dinner, as usual, before going back to our wonderful hotel for a good night of rest.
Tuesday, 21st of August
We had to wake up very early (6 am !) because Pierre advised us to go and see the temples at that time, not later. But the beds were so comfortable, we slept well and it was almost easy to get up. So we went off to the center of the city and to Brahma temple. That was amazing ! Veena explained us we were on some kind of a holy month for Pushkar, which explains the big crowd of Indians going to the lake to bath, before going to the different temples. It was such an experience ! We even had the opportunity to pray all the gods for prosperity and long life using the holy water of the lake. Something quite repulsive, we saw a cow with a fifth leg, that everyone was touching in what seemed to be a blessing. Finally, we went to visit the huge sikh temple, and Veena and Pierre explained us more about this religion.
Then we went back to the hotel, had a delicious breakfast, and off the road again, back to Jaipur.
There, we went to the Foundation in the afternoon. I had the middle-aged ones, with whom I worked on Greek mythology again (for the last time). After showing them a short video on Dedalus, Theseus and the Minotaur, they wrote very good sentences about it. The only problem was, only two or three write their own sentences, and the others copy. I also took two of the students individually to work on their expression and text for the show, and being alone with me, they improved a lot, and understood what feeling their character has to show. Unfortunately, the two other middle-aged kids who will play an active role in the show were not here, because of the Id-el-fitr, which had to be postponed to today because of the rain of yesterday.
Anthony made the smallest children draw again, this time we have many birds and monkeys, for the forest! And he also continued with his geography lesson on flags.
As for Phelbé, she continued working on the grammar with the oldest ones, and saw some genuine improvement. They really start to pick it up !
Wednesday, 22nd of August
Today was an unusual day because it had been raining a lot on Jaipur and Amber since yesterday night, and many parts of the cities were completely flooded. As a result, there were not many kids at the Foundation, since many houses were damaged and all the schools were closed.
Cléo worked on the play with the eldest kids, while Phelbé tried to teach the smallest ones about elementary grammar. As for me, I was with the middle aged ones ; we worked on Oceania and Asia, and finished coloring and writing on the map I had given them a month and a half ago. It’s good to achieve something with them, to reach the end of a little cycle. Tomorrow, we will focus on India and its surroundings. The only thing is that, as it is already the last week before the show’s week, I had to rethink my classes a little bit for the kids to have all the material I wanted them to have before the end of our stay.
This is why, at this stage – less than two weeks before the end – I would like to point out two things, two ideas to improve the volunteering for Tushita in the next few years :
- the volunteers could stay longer than two months ; I discussed it with Gajjubana today, and a six-months stay would be perfect. Two months is just enough to complete a small platform. Six months would be enough to actually achieve something very sound with the kids.
- the volunteers could stay in Amber, rather than in Jaipur. It would reduce the risk to be late everyday (because of different reasons, the traffic being one of them).
I know that these ideas are difficult to implement, but they are – among a few others – the reflexions I’ve had lately (and particularly today), while we were working at the Foundation.
In the evening, Marion, a friend of Cléo’s, joined us for dinner after visiting us at the Foundation. We had a good night.
Thursday, 23rd of August
Like yesterday, today was an unusual day, but not for good reasons. We could not go to the Foundation, not because of the rain, but because of security reasons. Tensions between muslims and hindus got suddenly more intense in Amber, and some fights were reported yesterday night and this morning, so the police took over the whole city. The schools were closed, and Veena told us around noon that she had decided to close the Foundation for the day.
Beyond the surprise and the sadness we felt, we were – and still are – worried about the consequences these events could have on the kids.
So as the schedule was unfortunately cleared for the day, Veena took us to the costumes shop so that we could have an idea of what to rent for the show. And it was a success ! We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping with Veena in different parts of the city. In the evening, Ayan arrived in Jaipur, and we discussed about the show for a while, before going to bed, hoping that tomorrow we will be able to go to the Foundation.
Friday, 24th of August
Today, we were happy to learn that the conflicting situation in Amber had smoothed out and that we could go to the Foundation again. It was good news because we had lots of things to do with the kids.
Cleo used this Friday to tell two new stories to the kids. It was the last time she could read fairy tales to the children; she was happy to introduce them with Gulliver’s travel story. She also got to realize today that Nishat had too many difficulties in saying her lines for the show. She decided then to ask Anjli to play the role of the princess instead of Nishat. As for Anthony, he finished his geography program with the middle-aged kids.
I was in charge of the small ones. We did drawings together for the show, mathematics and clock time reading. I also asked each of them to perform “row your boat” and “there’s a big ship sailing” in front of me so that I could make singing groups for the show. As they have started learning the second song recently, I noticed that they had more difficulties singing this one. I will then figure out whether or not it should be better for them to sing “row your boat” only. We’ll see !
Saturday, 25th of August
Today was a very important day for us as we had to start rehearsing “heavily” with the kids. We tried to organize the day as most efficiently as possible.
Cleo went on the roof to rehearse with the main characters of the play. They still have difficulties with expressions and diction but at least, she was happy to see that the kids knew their lines by heart at the end of the day.
I took all the singers with me in Prienka’s class. In two hours, I could only prepare the “under the sea” and “here comes the sun” songs. I got a bit worried because the middle-aged kids have lots of difficulties singing the “under the sea” tune. I hope that they will manage to perform it in a week…
As for Anthony, he brought all the other kids to the field to play soccer with them. As usual, they enjoyed it very much !
At the end of the day, Rukhsar, Cleo and I worked on the “desert song” choreography. We managed to finish it but still have to teach the remaining steps to the kids. Finally, we had the pleasure to welcome Tushar, our “design expert”, at the Foundation. All of us went to the “show place” to meet with the people who will be in charge of the music material. It was very good for us to talk with them and tell them what we will need. Besides, being on the set helped us come up with new ideas.
After this productive meeting, Gajju decided that we should celebrate Tushar’s coming with a delicious dinner at the Dhaba we went last time with Sarah. I guess we’ll never be bored of going there… It was so good !
Sunday, 26th of August
Today was a very relaxing day. Around 1pm, after eating a delicious omelet, we went to Gajju Bana and Veenajee`s place for an afternoon intended to improve our knowledge of Bollywood movies. And so we did. First we watched Lagaan, since Ayan said it was a very good movie. Indeed, we all liked it very much, and have been humming the songs ever since (chele chelo). But since the film was quite long, we made a lunch pause, and ate delicious food. After the movie, Ayan went to find a tripod for his camera. Meanwhile, Phelbe worked on her interview, Anthony read his book, and I was with Veenajee preparing ice tea and discussing many things. Then we went on with a second movie: Zubeida. IT was a good movie, but there were lots of talking and we needed Veenajee, Gajju Bana, Tushar or Ayan to translate for us quite often. At the end of it, we again went to eat the delicious meals Veenajee prepared, before leaving them having a good night of sleep to get prepared for the busy week coming.
Monday, 27th of August
Today was the first day we rehearsed on the stage. All the kids were very excited.
Though it had been raining for the last 48 hours, we got extremely lucky and the whole afternoon was particularly sunny and hot. While I was working on the stage with the children playing the Amazon part, Phelbe stayed with me to teach the few dance moves we have included to the kids, and to manage the Love me Do song. Meanwhile, Anthony was playing football with most of the boys who would rehearse later. The teachers were helping us, translating some things to be sure the kids would understand how to act.
The most difficult was to make them understand that once they are on stage, everyone sees them, so they need to stay focused. In the car while coming back home, we thus discussed of a better way to organise tomorrow`s rehearsal. We will give one group to each teacher, who will make them rehearse in a part of the garden, before bringing them on the stage to play. We hope the rehearsal will be more effective this way. Nonetheless, the kids are doing great, they all know their lines (even though I had to distribute some roles at the last moment, because some girls have not shown up for the last couple of days), and sing better. The thing we really need to focus now is transitions, as well between the scenes as within each scene for the singing parts.
But we are all very motivated and confident, and it feels so good to see everyone so excited about the play. Besides, we had a very productive meeting in the morning regarding the settings and costumes; we now have a programme of stops to make everyday on the way to the foundation and back to the office to buy cardboards, paintings, sarees, etc.
Tuesday, 28th of August
Today was all about the show again. But our organisation was far better than yesterday. Tushar stayed at the office to start drawing the castle that will be on the stage during the first part of the show. It will be done by Thursday, and the boat – which is the second thing he will draw – will be done on Friday.
As for the rest of us, we went to the Foundation and split the work among ourselves. Ayan, the teachers and I were given one group of pupils each to rehearse a given scene and song. Then, once in the afternoon, each group went on the real stage where Phelbé and Cléo put the final touch to their performance. To my mind, it went pretty well, and we could finish the rehearsal in time. Three French tourists also came to the field where we were rehearsing to visit us and give the kids some footballs. Everybody was very happy : the kids because of the balls, and us because the rehearsal had gone well.
Tomorrow, we will try to improve our method again, by improving the transitions between each scene. What’s more is that we now have a more precise idea of the costumes we need, since some kids brought some of the clothes they intend to wear on Saturday at the Foundation today. To sum up, the show is now definitely on track !
Wednesday, 29th of August
Today, we improved our method of rehearsal again. In the morning, Cléo and Phelbé went to the city with Veena in order to buy some accessories that are necessary for the play and some of the dances. They were successful in finding most of them.
In the afternoon, in spite of the heat, we went to the field to rehearse. Even though some of the kids felt quite weak, it went very well, since we were finished by 4pm. Phelbé took advantage of the last period to rehearse a dance with some of the kids, while Prienka and I took her pupils back to the Foundation so that we could keep on working on the Book of Me. Today, the kids finished drawing their vision of their neighborhood, and started drawing their vision of Amer and Jaipur.
At the end of the day, we took the measurements of some kids for them to have nice costumes on saturday.
As for Tushar, he almost finished to draw the castle that will be on the stage, and tomorrow he will paint it. It is huge, and already looks beautiful. I’m excited to see it on stage!
Thursday, 30th of August
Today has been very encouraging for all of us. Hopefully, it seems that everything will be ready for the show on Saturday.
We began the day stopping to the market to book all the costumes of the children and give their dimensions to the retailer. As the merchant was showing us each costume, we were getting more and more exciting, imagining each of the children wearing these fancy clothes on the D-Day ! We spent a good time there, making sure we didn’t forget anything. Eventually, there are only two costumes missing that we will have to book tomorrow and some accessories we will have to look for tomorrow as well (among which the music instruments).
We then went to the garden. Some rain fell at the beginning of the afternoon, which scared us a little bit as we really needed to rehearse today. Luckily for all of us, the rain stopped and we were able to rehearse the whole play with the kids and the kiddos who had joined us.
The audio assistants were here today, giving us the opportunity to make the kids sing with the music background and enabling them to speak with mics for the first time. It was quite funny to see that, as soon as the children started using microphones, the other kids got closer to the stage to watch the whole show (which they had never done so far !). They looked captivated !
Today has also helped us make adjustments (e.g. the iceberg won’t be done with a box but only with a sheet, the kids who sing in groups won’t need a microphone to sing, etc.).
At the end, we took some time to rehearse all the dances. It was amazing to see that the Foundation is full of talented dancers ! At some point, some kids, who were not part of the Foundation and who had heard the music from afar, got on the top of a roof nearby to watch the dance performances.
At 6:00pm, everyone went back home and Ayan, Anthony, Cleo and I stopped by the Cafe Kooba to celebrate this very productive day.
Friday, 31st of August
That’s it, the show is now coming tomorrow… Today was our last day of preparation. Hereafter was the syllabus of this last day of rehearsal:
– Tushar stayed at the office to finish the painting of the castle (it will look awesome !)
– Veena, Anthony, Ayan, Cleo and I went to the costume shop before getting to the Foundation. We booked the last clothes and rented the music instruments.
– Once at the Foundation, Anthony finished his geography program with Rukhsar’s class and the book of me project with all the biggest kids.
– Cleo checked all the costumes with the teachers, she worked on the Amazon dance with the big kids and read a last story to them. At the end of the day, she talked about the library project to the kids and put some polish on the girls’ nails.
– I stayed on the ground floor to rehearse the “under the sea” song with the middle-aged kids and played the piano with Pradeep. I then rehearsed “Here comes the sun” and “Love me do” with the older kids. At the end of the day, I got back to Guita’s class to practice the “desert dance” with the middle-aged kids. As the costumes had been delivered today, they were able to dance with their clothes on and with the stoles. The result is really pretty.
We ended the day putting heena on our hands and arms. It was beautiful to see all the girls gathering around, singing and getting pretty together…
Hopefully, everything will go well tomorrow ! Let’s hope especially that the weather will be nice but as Rosenda Ma’am said it today, after getting to the Foundation with Jan Sir in the afternoon: “it’s not under our control”!
After two months spent working at the Foundation, here are the impressions that I would like to share about my experience.
Concerning the work at the Foundation :
- The volunteers could stay longer than two months; a six months stay for example would be perfect. Two months is just enough to complete a small platform. Six months would be enough to actually achieve something very sound with the kids.
- The volunteers could stay in Amber, rather than in Jaipur. It would reduce the risk of being late everyday (because of different reasons, the traffic being the most important of them).
- As for the number of volunteers – either two or three – the decision could be taken according to the personality of the candidates. Indeed, two volunteers would be the ideal solution, since it gives them more time to work on the same platform with the kids. However, the three volunteers-solution is very good as far as the relations between volunteers are concerned. It is easier to live with two other people than to live with only one other person, and the relations between the volunteers are crucial for the well being of everyone, since it can have an impact on their relation to the kids.
- Last but not least, I would like to point out the fact that I felt less efficient and useful with the smallest kids than with the middle-aged and the eldest ones ; maybe in the future the volunteers could spend more time with the middle-aged and eldest kids than with the smallest ones. For example, for two hours/days spent with the eldest kids, two hours/days spent with the middle-aged ones, one hour/day could be spent with the smallest kids. It is just an idea to maximise the usefulness of the volunteers in the future, but I am not sure that everyone shares my point of view on this one !
Concerning my stay in Jaipur, I would like to thank all of you once again for allowing us to live such an amazing experience. At the Foundation, it was a useful experience for me to work in group and a pleasure to do it with Phelbé and Cléo. What’s more is that I really appreciated the professionalism of Veenajee and Gajjubana in the daily life. Beyond work, I want to thank you for making us visiting the wonders of Rajasthan and India. You did not have to do it, but still you did. And I do not know how to thank you for this. To finish, I personaly loved India. I had heard that either you love it or you hate it, and for sure, I loved it ! Of course I lack perspective right now, but what I enjoyed the most is what I was looking for, in India just like in Africa : cultural, religious and political diversity.
So here it is for my feelings about these two months in Jaipur. I hope it will be useful, and of course I am at your disposal for anything.
Best regards to all of you,
First, I want to talk about yesterday, as I would have done on the G document I was supposed to write upon. I had a very good day, and I think everybody else did too. Though at first we were quite stressed out because we arrived late in Amber, and thus the rehearsal took place very late in the day, it ended up perfectly. In my mind, the rehearsal with the costumes was useful because the kids discovered themselves with these beautiful costumes, and that added to their excitement – and we could not have afforded this kind of excitement just before the show. So in a way, we lost time at first to spare some at another time. Lunch was then very good, and helped us to go on with the busy day.
After that, I put some khajal to the kids, but girls had actually brought all their make up and did not need me at all – though they were all asking for khajal. Then came the hardest step of the day: wearing our sarees. Veena had asked her niece to lend me one, a very beautiful pink one, while Phelbé was wearing hers. It seemed it took ages to have it all well adjusted, but the result was worthy. We had numerous compliments, and it seemed the kids also were very glad to see us dressed like Indian women.
The show could start, and it went on perfectly well. The Rajasthani dances were so beautiful. All the children understood they had to be professional, and they were ! It was amazing to see them playing their roles so well, all very concentrated and focused on their part. As their theatre teacher for the last month, I felt very proud of them, and could not help grinning all the time. We had help from Pierre and three men from the garden, who put the bed on stage when it was needed in a very efficient way. And it was very good to have Tushar’s castle for the background. I can’t wait to see the video and pictures!
When the show was over, we danced for many hours (I have actually no idea of how long it was), with many friends and families of the children. There was a very friendly atmosphere; it was nice to meet the children’s families, and to see in their eyes (because understanding Hindi is still quite difficult, even after two months in India) how proud they were of their child.
Finally, we all had dinner together, and it was, again, delicious food. That’s when we noticed also that even after two months of eating Indian food, we could still discover Indian specialties (I’m thinking of the sweets).
Leaving the garden was difficult, Mehzabi and Kashish (Amazon n°3 and the peacock) keeping begging us to stay in India. We could also feel some sadness in the teachers’ smiles and looks; we will prepare tons of tissues for tomorrow and the “good bye” hour we will spend at the Foundation.
Now, regarding my Indian adventure.
That was amazing !! I had a wonderful time discovering the city of Jaipur, and some other places in Rajasthan. Many times, I thought I was very lucky to be where I was, seeing beautiful places, with very interesting people. And I thank you very much for that. Also, I want to thank Gajju Bana for teaching us some parts of the Indian history, and for organizing a guide tour of Jaipur, because that was very rewarding.
Regarding the Foundation, it was also a very nice experience. I learned a lot, especially about teaching and its needed adaptations, but also about myself (it gave me confidence to talk in front of people).
- I would like to share with Anthony the feeling about not being able to teach the smallest kids much. Sonam’s translation was absolutely necessary for them to understand the stories, whatever the material (illustrated book or video). And though they then remembered many things about the stories (for example, I made them draw animals we saw in previous stories), we could not talk about the stories and learn much from them. Nonetheless, I spent very good times among these little kiddos, who have so much love to give. Although I also thought of having only one day with them and two days with the other groups, I am not sure it is technically feasable.
- I think the idea of studying stories with the children overall was complicated, regarding their level of English. In Gita’s class for example, I could barely make the kids understand the story if she was not here to explain them. I think using games to understand a story (as I did with the Minotaur’s story) would have been more useful.
- But here, I have to point out the same obstacles as Anthony: two months is too short. When we were about to teach the play and songs to the kids, I and Phelbé counted the actual number of hours we would have been teaching the kids, and we realised two months meant 16 hours ! In our artistic courses (literature and music), where we need introductory sessions, it is definitely not enough. At one point for example, I thought I would work on the Greek mythology with the middle-aged kids, but that meant giving them some notions on the Greek gods and goddesses, before reading stories about the different heroes to know more and more about them. Unfortunately, I only had time to do two stories (Minotaur, and Icarus), because I started after studying Snow White with them, meaning we were already in August, and I also had to teach them some theater moves. I am sure volunteers for six months would be easy to find, since the experience is like none other.
On a more personal aspect, I thought I would talk English more. I am definitely unsure my English has improved during these last two months, because I only speak English at the Foundation and with Veenajee and Gajju Bana. As much as I had a very good time with Anthony and Phelbé as my co-volunteers and roommates, I think it would have been even better to live with international volunteers, so that I would have felt completely immersed in a different country. And it would also have been a discovery of one or two other cultures. But that would only be a plus, being among French was already a very good experience. Finally, like Anthony, I think three volunteers is the perfect number of volunteers.
Last but not least, I want to thank you again for this wonderful adventure, and for allowing us to discover the country as well as its people in a very close way.
It is hard for me to think that this message is the conclusion of this two-month Indian journey. Although every single experience has an end, it would be hard tomorrow to say goodbye to the Foundation, its kids, teachers and founders. Today, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to devote myself to this project for two months and to have participated to its promising development, which all of you had been taking on for a good time.
As I wish for the Foundation to keep growing in the near future and help more and more children get education and be happy, here are the recommendations I’d like to share with you, based on my experience as “music teacher”:
- Number of volunteers – to me, three volunteers is the ideal number. Four would be too much and two, too less. In my opinion, Anthony, Cleo and I have benefitted a lot from this configuration, especially when a situation got blocked. For example, when the two of us couldn’t a find solution to any problem or an idea to move on with our projects, we usually got it from the third one.
- Time spent at the foundation – I have to agree with Cleo and Anthony: two months are quite short. However, the purpose of this adventure was to work for the Foundation as volunteers, not as teachers and it is difficult for me to imagine that a volunteer project could last six months. Maybe, the stay of the next-year volunteers could be extended to three months maximum, which would definitely give them more time to make adjustments in their programs if need be and prepare their final project.
- Week Schedule – if three volunteers come to the Foundation next year, I can’t think of another way to optimize the time they will spend with each class during the week. On this matter, I disagree with Cleo and Anthony: I believe it would be a shame that volunteers spend less time with the kiddos. Despite of their very young age, I was surprised by their potential (in mathematics notably!) and I felt that they were more receptive to a way of teaching based on visuals, actions and games. Thus, next-year volunteers should be aware that teaching to the kiddos is very different to the rest of the kids at the foundation.
- Music class – It would be hard for me to draw a simple and single conclusion about the music class I gave to the kids. Overall, I felt that all of them were happy to sing and learn English songs. I also felt that they were easily getting curious about music instruments, their sound and western music in general. On a personal note, it also revealed to me how much I wanted to improve my skills in music to be able to share many more musical moments with people! To give tips to the next year volunteers, I should nonetheless focus on the difficulties I was confronted with during the two months. The first one was the choice of the song. The Foundation kids are used to working on English vocabulary, not so much on grammar. As a consequence, they don’t know how to make sentences and read a full text in English (which is a different alphabet than their own besides). Because of that, the songs that the next year volunteer should suggest to them must be very easy. The point of making them sing is to make them have fun, improve their diction and get them more familiar with the western music. I felt at some point that I was wasting the time I had at my disposal with the middle-aged children by teaching them a song that was too difficult for them. The solution I found was to make them sing the chorus only and simplify the lyrics. They eventually did it very well! Also, I would recommend the Foundation to find a volunteer that has a real music background. I’m not sure for example that I managed to help the children sing on the right pitch. I worked with them on rhythm and English but not so much on “singing skills”. That’s why it would definitely be a plus for them if they had someone specialized in music to give them insights about it. Finally, whatever the program of the next-year volunteer will be, I feel that he should always link the activities he will do with the kids with grammar practice. For example, during the first half-hour of the class, he could teach the children about a famous singer/band and then, make them write some sentences about what they have learned together. The last half-hour should be dedicated to songs practice. It’s more or less what I have done with the old kids and it worked well.
- Teachers: All of them have something special and I was very glad to have them all by my side during these two months. Their level of dedication is huge and their eagerness to teach and give to the children is really strong. Given their potential, I felt that it would be awesome for them to follow training formation in teaching and in English so that they could move on with new ideas, new methods of teaching and a better comprehension of the English language and culture. Saying that, I don’t mean that their level of English and teaching revealed some room for improvement. I’m saying it rather because they expressed these concerns to me (e.g. Guita and Rukhsar). Helping the teachers have more confidence in themselves and feeding them with new ideas throughout the year is a very effective way to invest in the Foundation.
- Foundation development: I am convinced that all of you are concerned about this point and I know you already have plans on this issue. I just wanted to let you know, from an “observer’s” point of view, that the main steps I would see important to make for the Foundation future would be the following: space, Internet and a pharmacy.
I’m sorry for not being very synthetic but there was so much to say and I could say even more about the amazing moments I had with these breathtaking kids, these talented teachers and all of you being so committed to the Foundation. I wish it will keep growing and amaze lucky strangers like us who will have the chance in the near future to know you and this wonderful project.
Rosenda, Jan, thank you for convincing me two months ago that it was not unreasonable to go to India at this period of my life.
Veenajee, Gajju Bana, thank you for making the time I had at the Foundation and in India one of the most enriching and pleasant journey I ever had in my life.
Cleo, Anthony, thank you for your support and everything you bring to this project. I learnt a lot with you.
May this foundation have a future as beautiful as the one it will surely give to the kids.
Kind regards to all of you,