Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm Backkkk!

Finally I have returned to India. Due to VISA problems I wasn't able to return in March like I had planned. But, I'll take what I can get. And as Sister Gloria says I shall now do in concentration what I am not able to do in duration. All my tangaches (little sisters in Tamil) were screaming and basically jumping in the car as I pulled up. What an amazing feeling that was. I was so worried they would be upset with me since I had told them I would be back in 2 weeks. However, the sisters explained the situation, so all was good. We picked up right where we left off.

From the moment I heard that the monkeys ran off the peacocks, I had a feeling things would be slightly different at Marialaya and it is- new faces, chores and challenges. I have been here two weeks and everyday seems to bring a new set of challenges. 1. The majority of the staff has returned home for the summer, and so have two of the sisters. However there are four new trainees- 3 are bubbly girls who are my age and 1 is a brilliant Cricket-playing guy who shocked me by volunteering to teach dance and music which is hilarious to watch and a great deal of fun. Their English is good, so it is awesome having them around to talk and hang with. 2. There are a few new faces with unfortunately the same sad situations as many others- father killed mother, beggars, parents died, sold into prostitution, etc. You would think it would get easier to hear these stories and meet the chidlren, but it sure doesn't. 3. I have a new task of writing Marialaya's annual report magazine which is time consuming and frustrating because of the power outages, but turning out to be fun for I love helping Marialaya brag about the wonderful things it has done and is continually doing for literally thousands of people in the state of Tamil Nadu. 4. I wake up 2-4 times a night and deliriously throw buckets of water on myself then return to bed. 5. The power seems to be off more than it is on (thus killing the precious fans) which is part of the reason why this blog is taking forever to finish.

School is out for a month and Marialaya holds camp for over 100 kids living here and in surrounding villages. It took place everyday from 9-4. There were workshops, games, dance and singing classes. Needless to say dance was my favorite and I am pretty sure it wasthe girls also. I am still completely amazed at how these tiny girls with no hips can move. They could put Shakira to shame, seriously. Camp ended with a day trip to a dam, park and river. The girls had the time of their lives. I could not take my eyes off of their gigantic smiles as they ate popcorn, played on swings and slides and waited for the wind to blow water from the fountain to cool them down and gaze at the rainbow created- activities most 7-15 year olds would be like, "I'm boredddd. I'm hotttt. This place suckssss." There is so much beauty in a simple life. The day ended with a trip to a river I saw naked old men urinating in, dirty diapers, and women doing their laundry in. The river also had jagged rocks and soooo much trash. The girls stripped down and jumped in and my heart raced as they ran barefoot in it. I just kept waiting for someone to get hurt and sure enough one of the girls split her foot wide open on a broken glass bottle- a gash literally five inches long. Maybe simple isn't always the way to roll. I wish these girls had a nice swimming pool, or if that is too much a pair of flip flops.

Camp ended last week and about fifty girls minus the toddlers and babies went to parents, relatives or friends. The selfish side of me desperately wanted them to stay not so we could keep hanging out, but so I would know for sure they were safe. Anu and Richa were literally dropped at Marialaya when they were babies by their homeless father. He came to get the girls and from the sound of it is still living under a roof that is potato sacks. Towards the end, I had to say goodbye and go inside because seeing who they were leaving with was too horrifying for me. All I could do was hug them, give out a few smiley stickers to remind them to stay positive and now pray that they are staying safe. It's probably a really good thing non-Indians can't adopt otherwise I'd be leaving Marialaya with forty new Indian children ... you think I'm joking...

There have been only 30 children at Marialaya, including the babies. Everyday the sisters and I kinda look at each other and think what to do with them today. Sister Sudjtha suggested I conduct a Spoken English class for 2.5 hours everyday and give them quizzes, homework and such. The first day she told me, "I want each child to memorize five sentences in English and recite them to me. You have 2.5 hours to teach them. If they don't do well, we don't go to the picnic later." We did get to go to the picnic, but the poor children were almost in tears from stress, as was I, watching them work so hard so they could picnic. I cautiously discussed with her that these girls are feeling lonely without their friends and maybe since it is summer break, perhaps we could have a little fun. Thank God she felt the same way. (Indians are EXTREMELY hard-working not to mention hard on themselves. They do not stop and most do not understand the concept of fun. It really is a society built on determination and perseverance. Any fun is seen as distracting.) Anyway, she agreed to let me show English movies, so I have shown "Yours, Mine and Ours" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." We have also spent our time gardening and I have taught them baseball and they taught me cricket, playing Tamil dirt games (like board games but played in the dirt with rocks,) - anything to divert their feelings from loneliness to happiness and distract them from their situation at home, works for me.

I'm going to go ahead and hit publish before the power goes out again ;) Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Day :)

Every morning I awake at 6:30 to bells ringing, children doing yoga and listening to Indian music, and women sweeping the grounds. I am thinking of recording it because it is quite pleasant to wake to this. I then dress, put my bindi and bangles on and join the sisters for breakfast which is normally an egg and atta- like a wheat tortilla. I then go and visit the school children before they leave for school. We play in the garden, chase the peacocks and hunt for iguanas which horrify me and I normally love reptiles. I prepare my lesson plans for the day, visit with the staff who are all my age and a lot of fun then head to class at 9.

There are three classes from 9-12:30 that I attend. Two I help with by writing study guides and helping with homework and one, a college course I teach. Yes, I am an actual professor! In addition to rehabilitation shelter and orphanage Marialaya is also an actual Community College. There are twelve girls in attendance. And I am constantly shocked at how respectful, hard working and loving they are. I teach them a course called "Spoken English." I teach conversation skills, vocabulary, grammar, etc and give homework! I also conduct discussions on the girls' past, their goals, and many other life topics. It is interesting to hear about all of this even though it can be disheartening at times. For example, we were discussing goals and I realized all of them were listing job success, making money, providing for their parents, never mentioning marriage, so I brought this up. Marriage is not a goal, it is a priority and a MAJOR stress they discussed. The girls and their parents must pay for the wedding which is very expensive, since it is three days and must be very flashy. Plus, in most cases the girls do not have a say in who they marry.

From 12-2 the power goes out in Tirupur to preserve power for the rest of the country. The government chose Tirupur and other poor cities to take from, which has caused many loud protests a few nights a week. Coincidentally, the power has been going out during these protests as well. There has also been water shortages which can be frustrating when you want to shower or need to wash your hands. We are good on drinking water though, so no complaints from me.

Lunch is dosais- (like a rice pancake) soup, or rice and potatos. Twice, we have had goat liver, which would not have been so bad if I wouldn't have seen it raw haha! Then, I get to play with the little kids! There are about thirty 1-4 year olds. We swing, play with rocks and sticks, slide, take pictures (they are obsessed with taking pictures which makes for some pretty cute shots), throw leaves at each other, see-saw (it is so painful see-sawing with three year olds but my gosh they love it) and just run around. It doesn't take much to entertain them. There are two girls- Nevenah and Anu who are about three or four and are attached to me, after classes. They are so mature for their age. I am starting to think they are just tiny 12 year olds. When the school children get back, I help them with their English homework and we sing and DANCE! They love teaching me Tamil dance moves, but love learning "how to dance American" even more. Their favorite is "The Mosquite Dance," a dance I am proud to say I choreographed. Every evening there are swarms of mosquitos that come, annoy and feast. It is impossible to not get bit. I have never seen anything like at least 100 mosquitos surrounding a person... like a scene from a Hitchcock movie.

At 4:45 the gardening adventure begins. At first gardening involved me watching, in the shade (so my skin doesn't blister and become ugly, as the girls say) as each of about 40 girls carry water to and from the watering hole, with a large jug on their hip. There is also weeding, spading and planting going on. The first day I felt like Paris Hilton just standing and watching, so I began pulling weeds. About four girls came running over, brushing dirt off my pants and cleaning my hands. They cringe seeing my jeans get some dirt on them. However I cry seeing their beautiful saris get dirty. It took about four days of pleading, but I now carry jugs and help with the other gardening chores. I don't know how these skinny girls can carry about fifteen jugs daily with no shoes! No one wears shoes! My hip is in so much pain after about the sixth one. The past two days, there has been a little three year old girl who holds my hand and walks with me back and forth as I carry my jug. Even though I can't understand a word she says- her presence is all the motivation I need to keep me going.

I hang with the staff until dinner. They are hilarious trying to speak English to me. I am so relieved two of them are pretty fluent in English and can translate. Mina who teaches the computer course teaches me five or six Tamil letters every day (there are 217 and they look like different varieties of scribble..... it might take me awhile) and flour lines of a Tamil song. She tests me every day and I have yet to receive an A.

Dinner is usually very light- rice or a type of rice tortilla and jam or chapate- fluffy rice biscuits. The sisters and I watch the Indian form of American Idol or an Indian movie. I LOVE Indian movies. They are all musicals. People will be walking down the street or even in a gang fight and just stop and dance! It is hilarious. The four sisters' English is pretty good plus they are 24-35 year olds so we have a lot in common and talk about many things. We have grown very close and they now call me "changate: which means little sister. It is refreshing to talk at a normal speed with actual sentences after having talked in broken sentences and smaller words with the kids. Since Marialaya is a Salesian establishment, there is a "Good Night" every night. This comes from Don Bosco observing the fact that his boys would go to sleep crying, angry, etc. He believed that kids who end their day on a positive note wake on a positive note, thus he formed the "Good Night." The girls love this, and even though it is in Tamil, I love watching them enjoy it.

Then repeat.

I am exhausted but the best kind of exhausted.

Thanks for reading :D

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Marialaya- "Mother finds her child"

What a whirlwind these five?(I have lost count already) days have been. It took me 26 hours to arrive to India, but honestly it felt like four. Time passed quickly as I explored airports and talked to many people, some from Qatar and others from India. Also I had a little party (by myself) when I discovered a Dominos Pizza in the airport. Anyway, during the flight to Bombay I sat next to a very nice man named Atul who gave me much needed advice on the culture and people of India. When we arrived to Bombay it was comlpete chaos. He must have seen my look of horror because he simply said, "Don't worry. I will show you. Stay with me." He knew exactly where to go, what bus to take to what terminal and what forms to fill out. PTL because I would have beem SOTL. I experienced the infamous hole for a toilet in the Coimbatore airport, my final destination. That was fun. Sister Sufjad and a beautiful little girl found me very quickly which was a relief. We began the ~two hour trek to Tirupur. I came to the realization quickly that in India there are pretty much no traffic laws and by pretty much I mean ABSOLUTELY no traffic laws. There are two lanes shared by cars and motorcycles coming and going. There are no passing rules either, so if you want to pass you pass, while ignoring the 18 wheeler that is coming at you. You honk and scream very loudly to the 18 wheeler to slow down so you can pass the car in front of you that is going 65mph which is way too slow. 

Marialaya is a Salesian rehabilitation center, school, orphanage, convent, day care and more. It is a beautiful place, gated and in the heart of Tiruppur. There are four groups of people living and attending Marialaya. First, children who are orphaned, destitute or at risk. Second, young girls and teenagers who have been kicked out of their homes because they are not married, quit school or are simply homeless or abandoned. The third group is women who are unwed mothers or homeless. Today, I was teaching English to some of the girls and a VERY pregnant woman dropped down and started puking, shouting and grabbing at her stomach. I jumped out of my chair and the girls told me it is normal, do not worry for her. Ummmmm, okkk. Finally, there are girls who have left their families to go to community college and Marialaya to learn English and other subjects.

Marialaya offers nursing, baking, stitching and software/computer classes. There are gardens full of flowers and fruits, a gym, cafeteria, computer lab, language center, bakery, "stitching department" and rooms for those, such as myself, living at Marialaya. It is bigger, nicer, and cleaner than what I had envisioned. There are about 4738927842 mosquitos though. I feel right at home with the mosquitos and 90 degree weather. My room is actually fairly large and has two windows looking out to the courtyard. My bathroom is a sink, toilet (an actualy toilet) and a faucet with a bucket and drain underneath- my shower. Taking a shower is suprisingly difficult despite the simplicity of it. It actually isn't so bad though and the pond in my bathroom after the shower goes away by morning!

Sister Isablella has many hopes and responsibilities for me which makes me unbelievably happy. My biggest worry was that I would be useless and in the way of things. Some of my responsibilities: I will teach "Spoken English," grammar, and conversation skills. I am also going to write a counseling manual for the sisters and counselor to use as a guide. I am also asked to observe each of the children individually and take notes paying special attention to their interactions with others. I will participate and come up with games, sports and dances (yeah!) So far I have gardened, played with the toddlers and pre-schoolers, written out study guides, and conducted a few group conversations in English. Has been a blastastic time.

Anyway, I apologize for awkward wording, incorrect spelling and bad punctuation. This keyboard is different and I am attempting to be quick on the computer. Also many, many thanks for reading. :)