Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday, June 26

Today we tutored the kids. I think it was the hardest thing we have done here. It took a lot of effort to pick up with a child where the last tutor left off and to keep them totally engaged for 30 minutes, while sitting on the hard ground on mats- our back were killing. Most of the kids I taught could read some words and write most of the words but they didn't understand what the words meant. I spent a lot of my time on comprehension.

We sat on mats under the mango trees just outside the school. The kids would come out to us and sit with us on our mats. We had flash cards and books and word building games that we could do with them. We had each child for 30 minutes before the next child came out. We worked from 9-3:30 and then we had centers- where our group, Berthas and Raffertys, were in charge of keeping 150 kids engaged for 1 1/2 hours. We organized paper airplanes- Kendall, making jump ropes- Syd and Megan, charades- Sandy and Monica and relays- the boys. As the kids will tell you it got a little chaotic. The hit were the jump ropes. We brought thousands of rubber bands and lots of wooden handles that our contractors at home, Jim Preib and Greg Petit, offered their time to cut and drill. The kids sat and learned to make them and were thoroughly engaged. They were loving it and it was fun to see all the kids chatting and making their fun jump ropes- some were really long and some were short. They all were great and to see Syd sitting there surrounded by kids, helping each one of them was terrific.

Kendall was over airplanes, which the kids loved making. Though, the lesson learned was: only bring out one paper for each child and don't offer them colors- everyone wanted a certain color and it was hard to meet the demand, but she was great.

Today I finally met my sponsor child- Divya. I had looked for her all week and then today I finally met her. I picked her group to teach today to make sure I got to be with her before I left. Rising Star only takes a certain number of villagers and she was chosen. She is adorable and sweet and tried so hard. All the kids were excited about Divya meeting me- I had asked about her all week. One adorable girl Kitiyaka (sp?) brought her up to me during lunch, back at the dorm, since I hadn't had her for tutoring yet in the morning. She proudly presented her- "Divya Sponsor" she kept saying. Divya had bright orange flowers in her hair and a sweet crooked smile. She immediately gave me a deep, loving hug. She was beaming ear to ear and immediately took my hand. I realized there would be no eating lunch.

I went to the volunteer room and pulled out the game Chutes and Ladders and took it up to the kids dorm floor. I sat it in the hallway and there was such insane excitement. As I set up the game, no short of 20 kids were hanging over Divya and I . Katiyaka, her sister Moniyka and Divya and I played with the kids hanging on my back, off each side and over my head. It was so fun to see them so excited about playing. Divya won and all the girls were saying "Divya winner!!!"

After school got out I had to ask Divya if it was ok if I came to her home to say hello. She was so excited. When it came time, she could hardly wait to have me come. Nate and I gathered our stuff and we told our kids we would be back. I thought she lived right outside the gates in the small village. I was surprised to see her father who rode up on a bicycle. He collected all the kids backpacks and looped them on his bike. I thought, that was nice for her dad to meet them an d collect their bags for such a short walk home. What I didn't know is that their village was about 5 km away!!

As we walked, we were surrounded by 8 kids and then many more as we passed through one village after another. We were a novelty, people would come out to see us. Many women would want us to take pictures of their babies. It was just like the pied piper. I must have had 10 kids on me the whole walk to Divya's home. They were all so happy to have us come

An hour and a half later we got to the village after taking several "short routes," mind you that it was about 100 degrees with 100% humidity. Good thing Nate was with me because I have no sense of direction and we had taken so many turns through fields and towns. I was amazed that all these children walked so far to school. They told me that they get a ride in the morning. We saw their school bus this morning- 2 motorcycles with at least 4 kids on each bike. They walk home 1 1/2 hours every day after school.

The kids loved Nate too. When he stopped to take pictures of a local temple the kids said, "Nate is slow" and I said, "No, Nate is great, but late." They thought that was so funny and made combinations of Nate, late and great for a while. We would stop in different villages and the kids would drink water from the towns' drinking water. They would offer it to us. Some people would come out and offer us water from their metal containers, we would say thank you in Tamil "Nandri," but we would have to pass.

When we finally got to Divya's town the mom came out in her pretty sari. She welcomed us and invited us in. Divya was so proud to have us at her home. The mom pulled up chairs and there were two coconuts sitting on the floor. The mom picked them up and a minute later we had coconut drinks with a stem for a straw. She lopped off the tops and we drank coconut juice. It was so great and then the kids all wanted to turn on the small tv and have us enjoy ourselves. We told the kids thank you and what a nice home- it was very tidy and was a small 2 room cement house. We thanked the mom and hugged Divya. I gave her the box of Jelly Bellys I had bought her, which she shared with all her friends and gave her my fan/water bottle that she had played with and used for the whole walk home. She was thrilled. Kityaka then wanted us to go to her home and meet her mom- we went a few doors down and she welcomed us and invited us in and offered us coconuts. We realized that we really must go, we didn't want to get back after dark- not great the two of us walking back after dark in India. We hugged everyone- took lots of pictures and headed back on the windy dirt path. There were no cars, just bikes and women and children coming to greet us along the road.

We had women who wanted their pictures taken, jovial and friendly ladies and then right before we would take their pictures they would put a serious face and hide their teeth. The next second we would show them the picture and they would all throw their heads back and laugh at their photo. They thought it was great and so funny.

We had older women express that they didn't know why we were walking and not on a bike and offered to give us a bike ride. We had people walking out and offering us food and drink- these are people mostly living in huts with no more than a bucket worth of possessions, offering to share whatever they had with us. It was touching and generous and just kind- more civilized than the country I live in. It felt like the Samaritans of Bible times, although we were not injured, but those passing by wanted to help- even someone that is often persecuted or misunderstood is willing to help the weary traveler.

We made it back from our adventure having gathered children along the way in each village and colony we passed. No one begged, except to have their photo taken, no child wanted more than to hold hands and be with us.

We returned home to see Syd, Megan, Michelle, Monica and Sandy still doing jump ropes and the kids sitting in groups making them, engaged and having lots of fun. It was a great day! I made lots of new friends.

1 comment:

Alison Strauss said...

Karen, as I read your experiences I am awed and realize as powerfuly moving as your posts are this is truly a life changing experience