It amazes me that in 2 short weeks I feel like my family has grown by approximately 300 people. I have talked about how openly these children love and I feel like they are part of me. All the new ones and even more so with the ones I already love and care about so much. And as for the other volunteers, nothing quite brings people together like being squashed into cars and discussing food fantasies while experiencing the true meaning of T.I.I. together (This Is India). As much as I try to share this experience, it is indescribable and it is so special to have met people who are getting a taste of it as well. Plus, I don’t think there are many people who would find our new idea of Pintrest India as hilarious as we do -especially when it comes to what things would be on it. Just in case you were wondering though some ideas involved sparkly fabrics (or sparkly anything for that matter), healthier rice options a.k.a red rice, most efficient squatting techniques, best ways to eat a mango, 20 tips on crossing the road without dying, x number of ways to use a water bottle (including as a gas tank…true story) and most importantly DIY ideas for re-purposing garbage. The list goes on but I think you get the idea and I have totally strayed from the nice sentiment of my growing family.
Today is my catch up day so I have been busy trying to get sorted for next week. I have made the dance award, working on my notes for PSI’s records, dealing with gathering some assignments from students and trying to have some interviews with various students about why they like dance and what they have learned. I was so shocked to hear some of the answers compared to 2010. The teaching style in India as a country is not heavy on the creativity component, so before I was getting a lot of the same bullet point answers. Some students branched out, but a lot said the same thing their friend said and didn’t elaborate too much. This weekend though, I have gotten some amazing answers! Everything ranging from loving to dance, what kinds of steps are their favorite, learning to focus, to have a strong core, making our bodies strong and healthy, learning to concentrate in school, to be kind and respect each other, how to be leaders, that we are examples for others, that dance can help change the image of leprosy in India, to become a dance master, that we can make other people happy with our dancing…. WOW! I think we take for granted the way our schooling is designed at home. Yes we have to memorize answers but we are also asked open ended questions encouraging creativity and analytical detail. Here there is often a focus on one correct answer. RSO has made a lot of progress in trying to divert from pure memorization as does Promethean Spark in its dance classes. It is really hard to break out of a mold that an entire country has shaped but today I really felt like these students were making great strides. I know I have said it several times, but I am so happy they have been given this opportunity and that these programs exist for these students. Not only because it is somewhere to go, but that it is working and making a difference. It is so amazing to see the changes over time and glad I did make it back with more space in between because I get to see the growth first hand.
This week’s classes went well. We spent some time re-establishing the rules and I was asking them what they remembered. It was good to hear the things that have stuck with them through the break and they did a pretty good job remembering the material we had covered. I could tell some of the classes were hyper from the first couple of days of school and perhaps were too young to remember me as dance master last time, but we made it through. I think one of my favorite things ever is doing stretches with the younger standards. They are so funny because they all love it but can’t quite get into the right position (if I move to correct too many of them, the rest stop doing their stretches) and I am pretty sure it doesn’t hurt that much, but just for effect they all have to wince and complain. I had one boy actually just screaming “NO…NO…NO….” during a simple lunge stretch haha. Kids are so funny sometimes. I do my best to keep a straight face and remind them that if we practice every day then little by little it will get better and we can stretch farther with less pain.
Stretches with the kids – Thanks Emily for sharing the pictures!!!
Even though you have already heard how much I love UKG, I think my “best” class this week was with 9th Standard. They were so with it for the entire class. Everyone had so much energy, gave really thoughtful answers, and was well focused throughout the entire class. That is why this week they will be receiving the dance award out of all the other classes.
Thursday and Friday this week I also had the opportunity to go to the colonies again for the first time this trip. On Thursday, I accompanied the nursing students to Bharathapurum. This is one of the more developed colonies and it was incredible to see. This colony is complete with a home for the elderly (possibly the first of its kind in any leprosy colony), a day care, community center, and multiple micro-financed businesses. It was so amazing to see how the work of an organization had made such a difference in making this colony so much more self sustained and successful. There is a carpenter that has actually become so successful through a micro-loan that he has actually started hiring workers from the village. That is basically unheard of. To see stigmas and barriers coming down little by little was amazing. There is also an art school and pearl product making in the colony. I never got to go to Bharathapurum last time, so I was really excited to go to the art school and get a painting from one of the elderly members of the colony. They all seemed so proud of their work, happy to have that outlet and to share it with us. This might be one of the colonies I return to next week because of a scheduling change and I hope I can do some more music and dancing with the patients and/or the day care center. We tried briefly but since it wasn’t planned I think we may have been interrupting their morning a bit and the children were mostly in awe of these strange pale people 🙂
Friday, I was in Walajabad and have already described some of my experience. The nurses left early that morning so we had a smaller team and I was able to be more hands on with the patients. There was also less interference for me to play a bit of music and try to engage the kids a bit. We danced and played – they were so excited! This is one of the colonies that had their well fixed while People Water was here. The individuals in the colony seemed very grateful and it was pretty neat to see how ‘well’ the well worked while we were visiting. It was a really fun day even though it was not the largest colony.
One of the most touching stories I have from this weekend which relates to Walajabad is Shalini. I wrote about here in the post linked above, and I had a chance to tell her that day that I remembered her from the colony. She just grinned and grinned as I told her I would try to show her some photos of us dancing together from 2.5 years ago. I was trying to get them printed but it didn’t work out so I just loaded them on my phone to share with her (as well as some other old pictures I had for the other students). First she saw my camera and was flipping through the pictures from Friday’s trip and her face lit up – “You know Marice! You go Walajabad?!” Then I showed her a few that I had on my camera from 2010. She was soooo excited and then she saw one of her and her brother and father. Some of the other girls would come and try to flip the picture, but she would flip it back right away and keep re-zooming in on her dad. I didn’t see him on Friday so I am not sure if he has passed away or not, but it was obvious she was missing him no matter what… I really have to try to get those pictures printed for the kids. It was really moving to see the longing and love she had for her family but to also see and have her tell me that she was happy at RSO.