start of week 2!

where to begin….this week has felt like 20. I am learning so much by the minute. There are still so many new experiences daily. I really should be writing things down constantly but it’s just been so busy!

Teaching was a lot of fun this week, and I learned a ton. My brain was a bit tongue-tied to start with remembering all the steps, methodology, verbalizing all of the lesson plans in a way that made sense to the kids, and considering cultural differences. Simple things like touch is not used here in an open way, so unlike most dance teachers you can’t move kids and poke muscles on a regular basis. Also while communicating all of the life lessons and terminology we want to teach them in a class and remembering the dance steps which were still pretty new. Thank goodness I have had a few runs of it and had my co-pilot to switch off with or help fill in sentences etc. I feel like the groove is coming…but Thursday will be my first total day on my own, so that will be the true test. Guess if it isn’t ideal I still get to go to Delhi and Agra for the weekend. It’s a holiday here and my one chance to go travel so I am planning a power weekend of temples and forts and craziness of the holiday….and oh yeah, the Taj. Unfortunately I have to go by myself and be fully guided and ensure I am staying in safe places so it’s not gonna be cheap…but its the Taj Mahal, so I gotta go lol. If only I had enough time to trek through the mountains like the boys got to do over the holiday right before I came. ah well….next time….I am here for a very specific (and exciting) cause =).

There is a lot to do for the classes here. Biggest thing right now is trying to plan out the Christmas Program and have it agreeable to all parties. Hopefully all will be settled tomorrow so that Jamie and I can finalize music and I can start choreographing to even start teaching this week! we only have like 6 more weeks to get it together and most of the kids I can only get for 40 minutes a week. Honestly, if I can pull this off….I will be pretty darn happy with myself lol. Not to mention the kids. It will take a lot of discipline and understanding of our lessons for them to get through the material and the show effectively.

mmm another power shortage….its thunderstorming again. So on and off here. Yesterday was actually the coldest day for anyone since they’ve gotten here. Including the people who have been here a year. But it was still in the 70s so I guess I can’t complain too much….back to the important things lol….

Friday we went to Walajabad (another new colony for dance). most of you have probably seen the pics by now, but it was an excellent first day. The people in the village were so receptive. It’s a smaller village, and we randomly had a ton of volunteers that day. So Jamie and I got to focus on interacting with patients and seeing if they would dance a bit with us to the music. The older woman in the photos, Charama, was wonderful. Wanted us to sit with her and dance around. And was so sincerely grateful for everything. I know Jamie definitely had a special connection with her and they sat together for quite a while just doing small motions that lit Charama’s face up. And she was so pleased to see her picture. So sweet. There were only about 5 patients getting treatments that day and each of them responded on some level with movement. Good news. However, the highlight of the trip for me, were definitely the kids. Absolutely adorable. They decided that they were going to play mega shy for the longest time, until the mother invited me in to look at some of their family photos. I felt privileged to be invited into their home. The little baby slept in  a saree fabric hammock, and the little girl in the red dress finally came up to me and held my hand as she excitedly flipped through the photos for me. I never got the little girls name because she kept running away for the first part, but I will have to get it next time. I really want to print off some of the pictures for the mother too since she seemed to be so thrilled to show off the ones she had. I had to go back over to where the patients were being treated and eventually the little girl came over to dance with me. once she got hold of my hands, that was it. I could barely pry one hand free to take a picture for Jamie lol. So we danced and we danced, she loved it. And soon the other little baby who was around the clinic let Jamie hold her to join us in a waltz haha. The older patients loved it too. So all in all I think we had a good day breaking ground and this will be a good sized colony to start a more formal program in with time.

getting home took forever! well it’s India. These things happen. Often. We were stuck at the railway tracks for at least a half hour, tho it felt longer. Luckily we had stopped at the More store to stock up and had various snacks, but still. we waited and waited….no train. Then out of the corner of everyone’s eye, we saw this little car run down the tracks (the little kind that is open on top with a see saw type handle that people push back and forth) like legit. It was about the size of our van’s hood. we were like….are you serious….apparently that is the rail inspector and they have to shut things down for half an hour for a little thing we could have smooshed if it had crossed our path…? there has got to be a better system.

Eventually we did get home and after some “real” food, and changing, Jamie and I got to work to choose the new Life Dance Members. Thursday was the audition which, all in all, I think went well. Unfortunately 2 past members chose not to re-audition, but it went pretty smoothly and it showed us some things about current members that need to be addressed as well. There were some truly big-hearted auditionees who gave it there all but just need so much more work that we can’t take them right now. Very sad. But I think we will be starting one day a week as an open class after school for them to come get more practice. ugh so hard to say no to these kids. So Friday we reviewed all the video and decided who to keep. And also realized that on camera, Jamie and I sound almost like the same person when we speak in our teaching voices haha. We break the news tomorrow, so hopefully the kids will understand. Unfortunately, we need to keep things at a certain level for LDT if they are going to start touring. And it stinks too because we were hoping to double their weekly classes in regular school time but then they don’t get enough science to be competitive with other Indian schools. same types of battles apply here. But I have to say these kids do get a generous share of physical activity compared to any school I know of. So I guuuueeessss it can’t always be just dance. Even though they love it! haha.

Oh Friday was also the first day we started our weekly award for the “best” class of the week. Best meaning, best to learn all of our lessons for the week and remain well behaved. We are going to continue to present this weekly at morning assembly, which even after witnessing it once all the way through, still gives me goosebumps. I tried to video some, but have to see how it worked. These kids just inspire me so much everyday.

Saturday was tourist/shopping day. We were off to mamallapurum. The car ride to and from was yet another epic treat. Vel was our driver who is quite funny and much more liberal than the average person here. He totally lifts weights  in the volunteer hostel, daydreams of a six pack, and wants a love marriage. He enjoys asking us many questions about the dating cultures of America and all around is just fun. He also has excellent English which makes him easier to communicate with. We also had the jeep and 7 of us going. We were packed in and almost questioned if it would be illegal until we realized a native would have fit 10 more people in the car. We had to make several pit stops including dropping of the keys to get copies made which proves to be an ongoing issue to have done correctly. We at long last made it to the beach town as the rain started to pour! Luckily us ladies were in it for the shopping and we let the boys head down to get soaked in the sand. I was not paying 600 rupees for it to rain on me lol. I should go back and introduce…..Cameron and Todd are two 19 year old boys who have also been volunteering here the past two months. They were travelling when I got here so they were not in the initial stories. We get a great kick out of Cameron since he’s already gotten the bobble head and mmmm down and does it without realizing. Although I’m not far behind. Instead of shaking their heads they sort of do this free moving head motion that we call the bobble head combined with a firm mmm when they are agreeing with you. Apparently this is very specific to Southern India, and it’s their way of saying yes or nodding in agreement when someone is speaking. Glad I had someone to tell me that, because I was seriously confused at first.

So basically we shopped a bunch….unfortunately clothing was a flop for everyone. The people who the school deals with regularly were really trying to rip us off on prices which was a bummer. But the rest of the time, negotiating prices went really well, and we also had Vel to go in for the kill when necessary. He likes to point to our skin and say…US color-high price….then point to himself and say Indian color-low price. so true tho. Apparently at the Taj Mahal, Indians can get in for 25 rupees and we have to pay 750! But I guess they do probably make all their money from tourism there. I did at least find this awesome store that had a ton of stuff I was looking for  and called the girls over. The guy was awesome, didn’t hassle us one bit, just pulled out everything we wanted until we made a total mess haha. but we were there for like an hour and a half and bought a ton. We definitely made his day since it is the off season and his store neighbors prob didn’t sell anything all day. He even gave us bananas that he had in the shop because we told him we spent all of our money and couldn’t buy lunch haha. We did in fact finally make it to lunch around 3 ish and were absolutely starving. It is a large tourist area so the restaurants cater to western palates. They had some random things like crepes and sandwiches, but a bunch of us just stuck with Indian since its cheaper and we know they’ll make it right. And it was tasty, we could actually get some variety and protein so money in the bank on that one. Our tourist-ness kicked in as we made our way to butter ball…this giant rock balancing on a rockwall. As you will see in the pics, this pretty much entailed all of us taking a picture “pushing” the rock. It was pretty fun tho. And then we got to walk around this whole set of ruins where we found some inappropriate monkeys. let’s just say I was completely scarred by their sexual nature, one started pulling on Jamie’s chideedar for food, and the other leapt at Todd for his camera. It was intense. We finished our trek through the rocks at the famous wall of carvings. I guess not much is known about it or why it’s there, but it is. and we took pictures with it.

A ton more stops on the way home, including a debacle at the More store. They tried to charge Celina (the principal) 9000 rupees! it was actually less than a thousand. And she had to wait in line for a half hour. nuts. The keys also were not done…they were sent to Chennai which is 2 hours away. Thanks for the heads up guys. And then we sang musicals and Disney songs the rest of the way home. I don’t think Vel was very pleased haha, especially since we forgot the portable speakers for him to use in the car for his music. sorry =/

The delays on the way home left us rushing because we had to get to the Halloween party. The Hendershots are the directors of the program and have 5 kids here who love that the volunteers know where they are coming from. Unfortunately, the dance closet key was in Chennai so we couldn’t raid it for costumes. And then due to limited resources…both Rebekah and I found out we planned to be bees. The genius recovery was that Jamie was going to be a bear and if we gave her the honey jar, we could be the bees she stole it from lol. We were entertaining 5 kids, we figured it’d work out. Cameron we decided should be a bobble head….not a stretch there. Todd was blackmail-dressed in black and put a stamp on his chest. And Chris was dressed in blue with white tissue puffs and a spray bottle-partially cloudy with a chance of showers. We made due and the kids were thrilled. After trick or treating at our doors, we went over to the Hendershot house for freeze dance and scary stories.

Today was just a work day for me. Catching up, getting things organized…..

There, done! at last I am caught up on the bloggage. I apologize if it is the least cohesive thing you’ve ever read and I will really try to write more frequently so it is less chaotic. But hey, chaotic is definitely a word I’d use to describe India so maybe it’s rubbing off. Toodles!

oh, in other news….I’m trying to avoid getting lice since I guess it’s been pretty bad all summer and been going around. And lunch today was literally 2 kinds of rice and potatoes. I totally jinxed it because I was telling Erica this morning that is all we eat here, and that was legit all there was today lol. Just sharing that so I can apologize in advance for the amount that food comes up and in case my fantasy for a roasted squash and anything pumpkin gets ridiculously out of control. Cole, the oldest of the Hendershot kids, shared that he used to have dreams of American food, but now he’s forgotten what it tastes like so he doesn’t dream about it any more. how sad.

thanks for reading! and if you’re on facebook, please say hello!

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