What a day looks like at Shanti Bhavan? Well...something like this!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnH86Z3QQAM Although the older grades don't go to bed at 8:30, they still have study time until 9:30.
Since mid last week life has become pretty for all of us volunteers, because 6 volunteers left and none arrived. So all of their classes were distributed amongst us. I was given 9 extra classes to teach. I now have 25 hours a week of teaching and this excludes grading time, lesson planning time and time to complete my Diploma for Dance teaching and Learning (writing four essays and composing a teaching portfolio) Ahhhhhh!!!! New found respect for language teachers, I can tell you that!! :)
But besides that I'm having a great time. The 5th graders are doing exceptionally well in dance class. They are now preparing creative solos which follow a pathway that they have drawn on paper. They are using the idea of making shapes with their bodies and travelling in different ways across the space. I will hopefully be able to show you a video in the near future. The 4th graders however behaved incredibly badly on Thursday afternoon. I was given 9th grade history to teach, so Austin (one of the under-aged volunteers who helped me teach these classes) took on the entire 4th grade by herself. We usually have half the class at a time in the music room, but once a week we have the entire class and the music room is too small so we go outside. Well....these kids knew how to demand attention. One ran away from the group and starting crying and hitting the floor with her fists for unknown reasons. The boys were pretty much making each other act up and then a small bunch of girls and boys were so hung up on the stickers they did and did not get after the previous class. Poor Austin was struck by lightning....no idea what hit her.
As this is considered unacceptable behaviour at Shanti Bhavan, the 4th graders have had their Dance classes taken away from them this entire week. It's been interesting because I'm now teaching them dance in the classroom at their desks. They are being 'punished' so they have to write rules of dance games we've played, or definitions of dance vocabulary we've used as well as write Miss Austin an apology letter. The day Lizzy and Sachin (the volunteer leaders) came to tell the class, we had kids crying silently throughout most of the class. It was one of the most heart-breaking experiences here yet. But they've proven that they can behave and seem to have learnt from their mistakes....They keep asking whether they are allowed to go back to the dance studio.....Fingers crossed that is soon....I cannot teach dance in the classroom. I want them to experience it not write about it.
Anyways....I also went to Pondicherry for the weekend. One of the 'French' cities on the east coast of Southern India. It is located 300km away from Baliganapalli, where Shanti Bhavan is located. It took us 7-8 hours to get there though....slightly different to a road trip on European or American roads. But until it became dark I was fascinated with the sights and smells we came across. (The kids who I'm watching during study time right now aren't really studying...instead they are writing our current location on the board - 8th grade classroom, School building, Shanti Bhavan, Baliganapalli, Hosur Taluk, Kvishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, India, Asia, the World, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe ;) ) Anyways.....where was I ....Oh yes, There are so many colours in this country: advertisements, the houses, the clothes, the flowers women wear in their hair, etc. And then the smells....I didn't think they were so distinct until I went on this road trip. I think we smelled everything from flowers and food to garbage and rotten stuff. Oh and it finally starting pouring down rain as well. I was told it was monsoon season in India between June and November....well, until now it hadn't rained, but it was definitely pouring down on our way to Pondicherry.
We arrived around 2am...after getting lost whilst trying to find one of the guesthouses some of the girls had looked up.
We ended up at the Raj Lodge....and I do not recommend it! We had a room with six beds and a so-called bathroom. It was horrible....and it smelled sooooo bad. I entered it once, to spit after brushing my teeth, and swore not to enter it again during our entire two night stay. From then on every restaurant or cafe we went to was praised for having a toilet with a sink. Quite funny. And most certainly an experience.
We also visited the sights of Pondicherry; the Gandhi statue by the beach side, the Ashram in the centre of town, the handmade paper factory, the temple, and the centre linked to the Ashram with the Golden Meditation centre you can see on one of the pictures. Everything was linked to the spiritual beliefs of Sri Aurobindo. That evening we had, what I considered, a delicious dinner. We had a mix of French and Indian. Two vegetable curries, two crepes with cheese and spinach, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, baguette and some rice for the table. Very fun mix, but it was all good!!! And because it is a French city they celebrated the 14th of July that Saturday...so we watched the firework show at the beach! There were also lots of market style stands and lots of people coming up to you selling the most unnecessary things. There were kids playing all around us with their families and friends. Two little ones even managed to get our ice cream lollies from us! Sometimes you just can't resist!
We tried to stay out as late as possible, because none of us really wanted to go back to the Raj Lodge. So after a toilet visit each we made our way back and attempted to sleep. I didn't get much sleep at all, but mainly because it was quite cold (we didn't have any blankets, so I slept under my silk scarf).
The next morning we were all up by 6:30 and made our way into town around 7. We managed to find a lovely little French style bakery and had ourselves some good coffee...I even added a croissant to that! Truly enjoyed it!!!
The rest of the morning we tried to do some shopping and then we all had breakfast together at this artistic place, really cute! And then....the return journey back. We weren't really looking forward to it, but our driver, Mr. Raju, made it all the more exciting when he stopped along the way to show us a beautiful Fort on top of a few hills and another Ashram. Also...it only took us 5 hours on the way back. So before we knew it we were already back at Shanti Bhavan, where an entire group of boys spotted us and welcomed us as soon as we jumped out of the car.
I do love these kids, they are so excited about everything! They all had so many questions at once! So throughout the evening we all told different groups of kids our stories!
Study time is over now....Dinner time now!!! :)