Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bloody rickshaw drivers!

An interesting end to the day! The neighbour's lad and I had been in to Trivandrum to buy a few things. As they were bulky I decided to take a "rickshaw" home and, as luck would have it we found one immediately. He quoted 200 Rupees for the trip from the centre of TRV to Muttacadu which I thought was fair enough so didn't haggle. Once in the rickshaw he confirmed the price, which was reassuring. The ride was exciting to say the least! He drove like a madman - typical of rickshaw drivers. All over the road, overtaking everything possible, even cars indicating right! Just as we reached Kovalam the rickshaw hiccuped a few times but we kept going. The engine was probably red hot as we'd been driving flat-out all the way. Anyway, the driver started heading towards Kovalam Beach and I had to redirect him the 2km or so to my house. Not a big issue, so I thought, until it came to paying him. He switched off the engine, in anticipation of a bit of trouble I now realise. "400 Rupees" he demanded! Double! No Way!! In his broken English he tried to say that he had expected to go to the tourist area, not Muttacadu, and could therefore get a fare back again. No way was I having any of it. Even if he had genuinely made a mistake the tourist area is less than 4km from here, and is already over-supplied with taxis. I have heard of rickshaw drivers trying it on but this was the first time I'd encountered it. It took a full ten minutes, if not more, of him haranguing me first for the extra 200 Rs, then 40Rs, then 20Rs... although this is nothing really, to a Westerner, (20Rs = £0.25) it's the principle of it. And if I give in he's more likely to try it again withe next Gora he encounters. In the end, even with the support of the woman next door and her mother, with everyone at him, he would not be persuaded to go away, so I just told the others to go indoors, and I went inside myself and shut the door on him. Apparently he hung about for a few minutes and then sloped off. It's quite intimidating.

We'd gone to Trivandrum to get some bits and bobs - curtains, a curtain pole, fixings, pillows, bed sheet, pillow covers etc. We were successful with it all! Biggest bargain was the pole which we hunted high and low for, and then ended up on Bazaar Road, East Fort. It is long, narrow, with vehicles fighting pedestrians for space, has loads of shops and has just about everything imaginable - you just have to find it! There are no pavements, the roofs are gutterless, and it was chucking it down! Eventually we stumbled upon a little hardware store and could buy the pipe by the inch, individual screws, individual wall plugs, and the brackets. It all came to 66Rs - about £0.83! Pretty amazing I think, and a genuine, older, guy selling it. I'll use him again.

As Tuesday had been a day of strikes in Kerala, and school was closed, today (Saturday) was a school day to make up for it. I can't imagine that happening in the UK! For two hours this morning I worked with a 15 year-old girl. I think I mentioned her before - she's the one who can't do basic arithmetic. Not only that, but she struggles with Roman numerals as number representation. After two hours it was me who was struggling, I can tell you. Nearly tearing my hair out, in fact! I suppose 2hrs is too long a lesson, for both of us. We were trying to do simple subtraction - three digit numbers where each digit of the numerator was larger than the denominator, so they should have been easy. She started off using marks to represent the digits, and then crossed off the number of marks to be subtracted. Many times she put down too many or too few marks, crossed off too many or too few, miscounted the remainder, and then wrote down something completely different! I tried simplifying it to single digit subtraction, and then resorted to using counters (something tangible), and then tried getting her to write down rows of 1's, 2's 3's... even with that she made mistakes. I haven't given up but God, it's hard. I think I'll try money next - playing at buying things from a shop for instance.

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