Monday, August 31, 2009

Driving in India

I am not sure why I am starting this topic now! This deserves a few hours! And now I only have a few minutes. Well, it is actually going to come up often in my talks. Whenever I go anywhere, some incidents on the road will come up driving in India is the perfect application of the saying"La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure!" Now when "le plus fort" is a massive cow or a buffalo, I understand.

When it is a goat or a tiny rickshaw driver or a family - that means, Dad, Mom, and two babies-one on Mom's lap, the other on Dad's, I have some issue with the picture! It is truly mad driving here! No wonder I was so strongly recommended to not attempt driving here. Between cows and buffaloes, trucks, vegetable push carts, mopeds, cycles, the adorable rickshaw (I haven't figured out yet how, but I know I will bring one back with me to the states!) people and more people, goats, dogs, pigs and finally cars it is an absolute mad house on the road! Haiti has not seen the 100th of this maddening crowd in the streets.

OK, so everyone I am sure has an image in their mind of cows and buffaloes and goats walking down the streets, right? Now did anyone think of this picture?

Mind boggling! They are totally oblivious of you and anything around them! These are not just a few isolated incidents! It's all over the place!

Friday, August 28, 2009

More about DC

Last week we had a much more elaborate tea time one day. It was announced that the reason for the party was to celebrate one of the Faculty member who was blessed with a child! Isn't that a lovely idea!! :-)
On Wednesday there was a quiz competition among the different Houses. They had to answer questions form different topics, Current Events, Arts, sports, science and technology, and a few others. At the end of the competition, the Head Teacher in charge of Cultural Affairs commented to the audience how in the past 30 years he's been around the results to the quiz es have lowered. And he was right. I don't know how much they knew before, but I wasn't too impressed by their knowledge. Not worst nor better that I would have expected from our students, I think. Also I say the same about my teaching back home. I am not sure in my case what the issue is. Is it that we are expecting less and therefore they are giving less back? Why the lowered expectation? Questions for me to explore further! Any comments would be appreciated!
Teaching here is not an easy task. So far what I can say is the system is certainly not better than ours in the States. It is very different. I will definitely continue on this topic again and again.
Now I have to go. Tea time soon and I have to meet with a teacher who might be making me some of the beautiful clothes the women wear around here!! Hooray!
After lunch today, the school has arranged a trip for us to Kahajuro, where there are many beautiful temples it appears. We are leaving at 2 to Bhopal to get there around 6-7. Then an overnight train (Slumdog Millionaire here we come! Ever since I've seen that movie I've been fascinated by those trains!) We'll be back on Monday evening. So till then everyone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Daily Schedule

The long silence is due to internet connection issues. First the internet itself has been rather sporadic. Adding electricity interruption, you get a much frustrated person! Lots to tell today.

This post I am hoping my colleagues at CRHS are not reading! I would like to talk about the daily schedule at Daly College, aka "DC" by everyone in Indore. The school day starts at 8 AM with breakfast. Then at 8:30 the "Houses" (Very Harry Potterish, Sam and Paolo! I will talk about them again later) line up and in neat rows they move to the auditorium - 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th graders; to the gym - 11th and 12th graders. I am not sure where the smaller grades go to. This is Assembly time. Starts off with a prayer, meditation time, then a student presentation. I spoke of my awe at their behavior during assembly last week. It hasn't changed. A friend commented that this might be a better use of time than our 1 minute of silence in our American schools. I am not sure that it would be better but what is important is to have this common desire and common respect for the work that is about to start. The Master Teacher then says "May God be with us in work and in play." And the whole student body repeats. So far the student presentation has been a report about a service that a student or group of students have performed in the past month or two. This could have taken them as far as California, South Africa or the Himalayas. They participate in building of schools, hospitals, teaching young children, learning about themselves through workshops, games. You name it, those kids have done it. I am very impressed. Mrs. Badhwar, who has exchanged teaching post with me is mostly responsible for these opportunities the students are given. They always show much appreciation for her and the DC principal, Mr. Singh for having given them such an opportunity.
At the conclusion of the Assembly, the school day starts. 9:10AM. Three classes of 40 minutes each. No time in between. The students stay in their rooms and the teachers go to them. It's difficult for me to give up MY room concept! You also move with your chalk and "duster" (aka "eraser"!) form class to class!! Today first time I actually remembered to take mine. That's progress! Then after those 3 classes is tea time. Their are two staff rooms, one for the women one for the men. We meet there for the most delicious chai (or coffee sometimes) and snacks. (Remember I promised a post on food in India?... still not ready!) The students also take their tea by class level on the school ground. Again boys separate from girls! After tea there are 4 more classes but now 35 minutes long. This takes us to 1:40 PM when we break for lunch. There is one more class after lunch for the upper classes (10 and up). Then they have games until about 4:10 PM.
Now, my schedule! Monday I teach 5 classes, Tuesday and Wednesday ONE class (imagine teaching 35 minutes for the whole day!), Thursday and Friday 2 classes and Saturday 4 classes. ...died and went to heaven? that's what I'd say! It gets better! In the Chemistry lab there are 3 or 4 assistants, which means if you are doing a lab, you give them a copy of the lab, and they have everything, solutions, chemicals, all materials, neatly ready for you and your class! And after the lab, everything gets cleaned and put away by them! I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't complain! Though school is technically over after lunch at about 2:10, we have to stay on campus until about 4:15. To supervise the kids in their games, tutoring or just the presence of a teacher. None of that "out the door before the students" behavior!!!

Today's post was very facts oriented. I wanted to give a view of our day at DC. I have all 3 meals in the mess hall. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 1:40 and Kahlil and I walk back to school at 8PM for dinner.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


This post is going to go straight to the hearts of those of you who have been to Europe lately... travelling in a foreign country you are expecting to exchange money, right?... Well, like everyone else, I did just that upon arriving in Frankfurt for our 6 hour lay-over. We exchanged $40.00, Kahlil and I had breakfast, consisting of a coffee and a croissant for me, and soup and an apple juice for Kap! We left Frankfurt 6 hours later with 3 Euros! Oops, I forgot, I also got a huge chocolate bar upon landing! Now arriving in India I changed $200.00. Six days later I have about 60 Rs. what have we done? Lunch in Delhi, 2 days. Visit in a Rickshaw (Pictures will be posted shortly!) to the India Gate and the Red Fort. Taxi to the Airport in Delhi. Settling in Indore (though most everything was already set for us when we arrived), little house knic knack that we still needed. A beautiful Kamaaz (picture will follow!) for me - haven't dared the Saree yet! Nice dinner Kahlil and I after our shopping spree last night. Think I am done?... nope! Cell phone and syms (?) card with 500 Rs balance on the card!!! Dannie, Pantal, don't you wish your seminar this summer was in India?! Even Haiti can not compare!!

There are two topics that I havent touched upon yet. Foods and the Slumdogs. Both deserve a session all to themselves. The first one I am getting it slowly and I am almost ready to discuss this issue! The second one needs a bit more thoughts and understanding on my part. Not ready!

OK, till another day. I will post the pictures in a little while.

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Year Veteran.

How can a 22-year veteran feel like a brand new teacher in the classroom?! Send him/her half way around the world and it will happen! This is exactly how I felt yesterday and today. Wonderful experience. Nothing better to force you to evaluate what you are doing and put your teaching in perspective.
I wish I had Mildred's verve or Jean-Claude's commands of words who can tell you a precise thought or idea in just one line. I, on the other hand, will have to go around and around to explain to you my total awe at the Daly College! Morning Assembly, mind boggling! A huge auditorium of 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th graders and you could hear a pin drop. First the prayer, then yoga meditation. Words fail me to report the reverence in those young persons! Without any more prompting than the "bell" ringer, everyone's eyes closed canting, ummmmmmm! ummmmm!! I could only stare at the audience tears streaming down my face! Then students presentation (today two students presented their experience in an exchange program that they had participated in.) At the conclusion of their talk, the principal had a few announcements. Tomorrow is casual dress day. Anyone who wishes can dress casually for the wooping cost of 60Rs. (that's about $1.3) Fundraising for an organization of which I am forgetting the name now, but they purchase material for school and hospital construction. I was right back at CRHS then, hearing Mrs. Leal giving parameters for the "casual dress idea"! Plus ca change, plus ca demeure pareil!! Incredible. Then the vice-principal simply had to announce the order in which they will be leaving the auditorium and it happened. 10A boys, then 10A girls, 10B boys... Nothing had to be repeated because you could hear him wisper the number!
Had two classes today. All went well.
Got to go! Meeting with my colleagues.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Impression

OK, first India impression?  The plane was highjacked and we landed in Jamaica instead!!  How did Roma and Xavier not tell me this?!  Could be the driving on the WRONG side of the road! but that was definitely both Kahlil's and my impression!  The recommendation of reading "The White Tiger was incredibly appropriate... the street book venders! the drivers!  the hotels... you name it it was there.  Delhi is a city to behold.  Couldn't live there, though.  Too busy and noisy!  It is judt busting with life everywhere, all the time! Today and yesterday were a little more quiet, though... why?  The Rickshaw drivers were on strike!  and those, my friends are to be reckoned with around here.  So France doesn't have the corner on strikers, as I thought!  
We had some interesting guess speakers these past two days, preparing us for the next few months.  The Fulbright staff, USIEF (United States India Educational Foundation), the US Embassy put out their best foot forward to prepare us for all eventualities.  Hopefully all will go well.  One thing is for sure, every one we met was very welcoming and the foreigners (Americans or ...) wouldn't give their spot for nothing in the world, was the impression we got.  So, looking forward to a wonderful experience.  
At the airport now, waiting for our flight to Indore... and life in India will really start! 
Kahlil is sure is a positive addition to my trip.  Nothing puts him off!  "Kahlil, it's going to be very hot."  "Yeah, I can't wait!"  "Kahlil, security is a great concern." "Yeah, I can't wait!"  "Don't eat any fresh fruit and vegetables" "Yeah, I can't wait"  Life is really just a bowl of pitted cherries for him.  :-)
OK, I have to stop.  Will continue when I get HOME!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pantal. August 14th, about 9AM - went to a serious meltdown!! If Rachel was not there, I would not be here!! I guess it was a combination of seeing her beautiful familiar face, Nael being his usual "I am your man" attitude, Sole (I won't go there!) and the realization that I wasn't going to see them for a while AND the fact that I was still not done with packing that just made me lose it completely. So Rachel took over and by the time Muriel came into the picture, between Rachel offering to give me a Xanax and Muriel suggesting that a good shot of Barbancourt would be quicker and more efficient :-) I was almost my old self again!
We are off. Good bye, everyone, we'll continue our dialogue from India!