Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Story So Far... CODAS Chronicle

This is a short report I wrote last Friday for the CODAS Chronicle - my old department's electronic newsletter at JET

I've been in India for six weeks and there hasn't been a single dull moment. There's a constant assault on your senses - the temple "music" at 5am, the stinging mosquito bites, the smell of the burning refuse, the jaw numbing curries, the exotic flowers, and much, much more. Right now, in the middle of one of the regular evening power cuts, I hear conversations from neighbours, shrieks from the children down the road, raised voices in the street, the occasional lorry and motorbike passing, the cockerel crowing and tropical birdsong. There's a noise in my kitchen which turns out to be my saucepan of water, about to boil dry for the umpteenth time!

I spent the first few days in a cheap hotel acclimatising. I found rental accommodation fairly quickly afterwards and, in spite of warnings from the hotel owner, it's working out well. I'm in the ground floor of a house, the upper storey of which has yet to be built. It's an extension of the original building where the owners, their two kids, and the grandmother live. Despite my protestations the grandmother insists on looking after me with morning and evening cuppas, spicy breakfasts and sweet things with the evening tea.

On my walk to work I get greeted by at least ten people. On a good day, as today was, a rickshaw will stop briefly beside me and the six or eight giggling schoolchildren squeezed inside will all shake my hand. The work itself can be very trying and frustrating at times. For those who don't know, I'm volunteering at a "poor school" for 5-18 year olds as a support teacher for English, Maths and IT (SISP). There are only seven teaching staff so when one is ill there's a significant knock-on effect. Today two staff were off and I had to teach for three periods entirely on my own. Keeping control in a classroom of kids who pretend not to understand me, tell me incorrect names and constantly try to run circles around me can be so exhausting. Added to that, the classes have a wide range of abilities and I've had no time to prepare lessons.... I end up just trying to survive with my sanity intact. But then, on the other hand, when one of the little ones comes up to me and gives me a hug, my heart melts and I'll forgive them anything!

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