Good morning all the way from ‘my hometown’ Pondicherry again! In 2 days, Karlijn and I are halfway our adventure. What?! Halfway?! 2 months has almost passed and time is going so so quickly. However, we still have 2 more months, in which we will explore Sri Lanka, North India, meet up with my parents and enjoy spending life with the boys.
However, let’s not get ahead of myself, I still have plenty of stuff to talk about from last week. I don’t wanna bore you with a long introduction, so let’s hop on and pick up where we left off in my last blog post. (I’m the rambling type, so this is a long one. You might want to get yourself a snack and a cup of tea…)
I explained in my last blog post how Karlijn and I were sometimes getting bored. Something which sucks, especially because we WANT to do things, but arranging things in India seems sometimes impossible. However, we decided to keep ourselves busy. We spent some mornings booking train tickets for our trip up north, this again showed India’s amazing bureaucracy. It took us 5 hours to create an account on the National Indian railway website, we had to fill in about a million things. Where we’d be going, where we’d be staying, why we’d be going there etc. The first two hours I was simply annoyed, however the last 3 hours I was just over it, done with it and almost ready to smash my laptop out the window. After 5 hours of registering, we only had to pay 200 roepies with my international card and then the account would be confirmed. Great. I payed 200 roepies with my card and got ready to book my first Indian train ticket. Took another 30 minutes to fill in the right dates and then… It said they couldn’t accept my card. Well, didn’t you just accept my card for the 200 roepies?! 6 hours, 200 roepies and many calls later, they told us we simply had to make an appointment and visit the station to book the tickets there. To be continued…
We spent other mornings booking a safari tour in Sri Lanka, booking ‘hippy dreadlock backpackers hostels’ in North India and searching for the best tattoo shop in New Delhi. Our mornings were filled and we would spend all the afternoons and evenings with the boys.
It was the evening of the 13th of October when Chinna came up to us and asked if we were aware that Father Felix’ Birthday would be celebrated tomorrow and whether we prepared a cake, some crafts and a dance performance. NO? STRESS! We raced to the nearest cake shop with our rickshaw driver, made colorful crafts and hung balloons everywhere until mid night. Luckily, some of the older boys helped us, we still had the corny party hats from Chinna’s birthday and we quickly came up with a ‘Waka Waka’ Shakira dance about an hour before we had to perform it. It ended up being a fun party day with lots of cake, dances and songs.
The days after was the Diwali holiday. All kids were free from school, 13 Hindu boys were allowed to go home to celebrate, but the 84 Christian boys had to stay in. It was up to us to organize something fun for these 2 free days. Song and dance competition it isssss! Karlijn and I did some beautiful acting as 2 very serious judges, holding up grades and giving advice on dance moves. The boys were divided into teams and would all do groups songs, group dances and solo performances. They took it all very seriously. The finals were on the second day, and seeing the competitive 15 year old Sundar and Ajay skipping movie night and games morning to practice for the finals was amazing. Let me tell you, holding up a 10 and seeing their response, jumping, screaming, skipping, high fiving is the most fun thing ever to see. So much happiness.
We didn’t get to experience much of Diwali itself, since it’s a Hindu celebration and we’re on a Christian project. However, we absolutely loved seeing all the fireworks (especially the neighbors who fired till 2 am an
d started again at 5 am… ;).) We also had a special Diwali mass with candle light and mostly enjoyed having 2 full days with the boys. Dancing, singing, playing sports, running around and watching movies while cuddling.
Thursday was quite a perfect day, as we went to Paradise Beach. The ocean air managed to seep its way into everything, my towel, my hair (which became totally unruly) and my skin felt dewy. We drank fresh coconut water to celebrate every sunrise and sunset we get to have here in India, we tiptoed to the water and dipped our toes, for the first time ever, in the Indian ocean. We talked about life with a local woman that we met on the beach and snacked on delicious veg spring rolls all day. The day ended with a smile on my face and my wild, wet and salty hair drying in the wind during a rickshaw ride.
Friday was another ‘work’ day. We went to get 30 eggs, 3.5 kilos of flour, 7 liters of milk and 7 fruit jams to bake Dutch pancakes for about a 110 people. First, we simply had to make a mixture, which ended up not being so simple. We used a bucket which could fit 2 human beings in there and stirred with our 4 hands, trying to get all the clogged up clumps out. We ended up taking one full hour to make this enormous egg, milk soup bowl and took another 3 hours to bake all the pancakes. After 4 hours of hard work in a hot sauna kitchen, we gave each other a high five and looked proudly at our huge pile of Dutch delicacy. It was quite some heavy, sweaty work, but seeing everyone stuff their faces with our pancakes made it absolutely worth it.
The weekend was mainly play time, which is something we absolutely love. Basketball and volleyball just never gets old. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed doing sports this much, 1 hour on each week day and 2 hours each weekend day… You’d almost say I’m getting fit here. I’d love to update you all on my basketball winning sets and horrible soccer techniques, but that would probably bore all of you guys. However, there is something else interesting to mention. Our first English class happened.
We’re still not teaching in school. Currently, we are allowed to teach English to a group of children every evening. Normally, they have 2 hours of study time in death silence. Most 13 year old boys have the concentration of a gold fish and will be doing anything but reading their text books. We decided that one hour of ‘active learning’ would be a lot more helpful than one hour of ‘learning in silence’, so we wanted to give them an active learning class. We were told it was mainly spelling and vocab that the boys had to improve on, however the boys English is very limited and our Tamil is apart from some sentences basically non-existent. This means that we mainly need to teach them new words by showing them an object and writing it down on the chalkboard. I prepared a small class, showing body parts, hoping the boys would be interested. However, once we got in class, ready to teach a bunch of hyper, jumpy 8th-graders, who were ready to test us, plans quickly changed.
Felix wanted us to read the children in English and work with them on reading out loud while improving their pronunciation, I canceled my ‘these-are-your-thighs-body-part-English-class’ and tried my best to have the children listen. This was quite a challenge, honestly. Asking for silence many times, looking very strict and even sending a kid out back to the ‘death silence’ classroom was exhausting to both of us. I have to admit, it wasn’t the most successful hour. However, I’m not giving up. One kid reading, and the others listening, must have been boring to them, so next time I definitely want an active class with a smaller group of children. This were 13 year old boys, the 10 year olds might have more respect and listen more, but at the same time I feel like the 16 year olds might be the most motivated since they have to pass their exams. We are definitely going to try with different ages, different sorts of classes and maybe some sort of bonus system, instead of punishing them and sending them out.
As stubborn as I am, I went to Pushpa and Ashwin, a 16 and 13 year old and gave them the ‘bodypart class’ in 30 minutes. And guess what? Within 30 minutes, they knew many body parts, even the hard ones like calves, thighs and nostrils. I told them to remember, since I would test them tomorrow and they were beyond excited. Repeating all the words over and over again. You see, English can be interesting. If anyone has any more tips to make learning a new language more fun, lemme knowwww.
Oops, this is my longest blog post so far, there is just too much to talk about. I’ll have to post another update soon! I hope you enjoyed so far…
PS. In case you’re still reading… Spoilers for the next blog: We finally have a big idea on what to do with the sponsor money and I just got an email I’ll be featured in the local newspaper ( The Heusdense Courant) about me doing volunteerwork here in India. Aaah exciting stuff!! You guys will hear from me soon.