Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Three in One

With so many things to do here in India, it has been pretty difficult staying up to date in my blogging.  As such, today will be a special three days in one post blog.  Hopefully I'll still be able to touch on some key points I want to bring up.  With that said, I'm excited that after today I will be all caught up.  Especially because I feel a cold coming on and I will be wanting to spend my free time sleeping to recover.

I'll start of with:

Construction Day #2:

After arriving at around midnight from the trip to Delhi, I hit the sack fast.  I had a promise to keep with Joseph Stalin, one of the kids here, to train him in the art of everything.  At 5:30, my alarm went off, waking me up.  I sat and stared at the bottom of the top bunk for a few minutes, trying to muster up the courage to get up.  I said to myself "David, you are going to make this kids day by showing up and training him.  He probably couldn't even sleep tonight because he was so excited for the morning.  You will be a schmuck if you blow him off".  With those words silently playing in my head, I jumped out of bed and made my way outside to the track.

The shoes were tied, the water was brought, the track was open, and there was no Joseph Stalin.  Thanks Joseph!  Looks like I don't even need the children in my presence to humble me!  Later that day I found him and started to give him a hard time.  I asked him what happened and he said "I woke up at 5.  I was tired and went back to sleep".  Well hey, thanks for at least not trying to spice up your excuse to make me feel important!

After starting the day on such a uplifting note, my group departed to do construction in a nearby colony.  Our job for the day was the building of 6 different septic tanks.  This required us to lift some hefty concrete circular donuts and place them on top of each other in a pre dug hole.  We then needed to fill in the holes with dirt.  It's too bad Mike Rowe wasn't contacted about this job, I bet he would have taken it on.  What with the great crowd of leprosy afflicted individuals, local wildlife, snake charmers, and the miserable and relentless humid heat mixed with lots and lots of dirt.... It was a dirty job.

Here is a picture of some of the slabs and team member Kyle incredulously pointing about fifty yards away saying "wait... we have to move these there?!?"  Yes Kyle, we move them there.  One by one.  Four boys to a slab.  Watch your step.  Watch for snakes.

Step one complete, now time to lower in the slabs with rope.

With that done, time to fill it in.

One down, 5 more to go.

We eventually were given a break, took a group picture, then had around 15 minutes or so to mingle with the locals.

This woman was extremely ravaged by the leprosy bacteria.  However, her face lit up and a smile managed to break out upon her face when I asked to take a picture.  Afterwords I came and gave her a hug and she had a smile the rest of the day.  After the lesson Joseph Stalin gave me that morning, I knew her smile wasn't because she thought I was a dashing young man, but rather, because she has been so deprived of human touch throughout her life that receiving it was like an anti depressant.  Her need was met.

One of the kind elders of the village.  I still get a kick out of the laughing they have when they see their own photo.

We spent another couple hours hard at work and then prepared to head back to Rising Star.  Before we left, we visited the local snake charmer.  Here is a quick video:

That about wraps up the construction day.  A few side notes:  

While women are treated fairly well in India (husbands still are legally allowed to beat wives unfortunately), the Indian men do not like women doing heavy lifting.  They got mad at Kim our coordinator when she was trying to assist in the dropping of the concrete slabs by holding onto the rope.

Human touch and interaction is as much a necessity to happiness as any other necessity such as having enough food, water, shelter, etc...  I recommend watching this link to observe a very interesting experiment regarding the necessity of human touch and interaction.  Note that the experiment is done to a baby, specifically an individual whom has yet been socialized into society and hasn't yet been taught the needs our culture demands that you have.

Maybe this video will dissuade you (especially you younger ones whom may be reading this like my sister Carli!) from giving out the silent treatment to someone.

End of Day 1 of cycle

Medical Day #2:

Medical day seems to be the Rising Star Volunteers favorite day in the cycle.  Most medical days you go into the colony and re bandage wounds, administer medical supplies, and wash feet.  My first medical day was pretty boring however, being used as fast pass.  My second medical day continued the pattern of getting a tedious job.  The volunteers are split into three groups, each one assigned to one of the three program rotations.  On this medical day however, my individual group was split into three smaller ones.  The majority went into the colonies to do the above mentioned activities.  My small group... meaning me and Nelson... were assigned to go with three of the students to the dentist to get some teeth extracted.  While I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bummed out about being assigned to do something that is often done in America, I was glad to get a chance to again connect better with the two students on a personal and individual level.

Basha walking with me towards the dentist office.

The kids were so brave.  I could tell they were nervous by the way they would cling to me a little longer than normal and because their eyes were so wide.  However, besides these two barely noticeable things, they showed no signs of being scared.  I felt bad for the girl in our group.  She had a pre dentist student working on her and the woman just could not extract the tooth.  Too much digging around.  She was really tough though.

As we were waiting in the lobby for one of the kids to finish their extraction, the other two kids asked for me to play some music on my ipod.  Unsure what they would like, I picked the rendition of "Only Hope" by my cousin Paul Garns for some sentimental value.  I told them he was my cousin and they got so excited!  They said "He SO good!"  "Does he know David Archileda?" (David Archileda came down to Rising Star once and performed for them so he is now infamous down here).  Paul, even the Indian children thing you are an amazing artist!

Here is a picture of Basha's swollen cheeks after his extraction:

We waited in the lobby for a few hours for everything to get finished up.  It sucked.  We literally got swarmed by mosquitoes.  At first I tried to slap at them and try to deter them to suck the man next to me. They liked white man blood though, and after some strange looks the local Indians gave me, I gave in and resignedly let them feast.

Here is a video I took on the ride home.  They got ahold of my Ipod and scrolled through the album pictures and saw the artistic drawing of the 'Gorillaz' and wanted to listen to them.  THey loved it.  Notice their cheeks.

Once we got home, we had an hour of free time, then left to go play with the kids.  Randy Rigsby (the Jazz man) brought everyone basketballs and a couple hoops, so the kids were ecstatic.  Most of my playtime was spent trying to dribble all around the kids who were assaulting me trying to steal the basketball.  They thought I was the next Allen Iverson.  Hopefully when they get older they don't watch to much basketball and realize I was a bench warmer for my high school team.

Me with the Protege Sonjey

End of Day 2

Education Day #2

After a terrible night sleep, accompanied by a runny nose and a sore throat, I have deduced by sheer logic and reasoning that I have a cold.  I mean, I don't wanna brag, but people call me Sherlock.

At around 6 am, Nelson and I with some other volunteers played some 3 on 3 volleyball in the sand pit.  Being surrounded by a train of army ants, a cloud of mosquitoes, and hearing mysterious jungle noises set the ambience perfectly.

I've decided the quality of the education day is dependent upon the quality of student I receive.  Yes, I know that I should be super excited to assist the struggling individuals with their illiterate problems.  Unfortunately, the language barrier and the sincere inattention possessed by some of the students is enough to dissuade me from attempting to obtain a job in the foreign kindergarten teaching occupation.  It takes a better man or woman than I.  The way I see it, I need some type of foundation or baseline to jump off from and teach.  Maybe a language similarity.  Is that too much to ask?  Obviously, my health/lack of sleep/weather made me in a lesson patient frame of mind today.

Alright, I'm done venting!  I had some amazingly bright students today who must have had IQ's in the genius range.  They picked things up fast and quickly assimilated new knowledge to their world view.  I also had some kids who, putting it bluntly, should have been in a special education program in India.  And I say India because they didn't know almost any English.  Very happy kids though!

The intelligence gap found in India is similar to the one found in America and just goes to show that one country's kids aren't necessarily born smarter than another country's kids.  Each have their genius's and their dummies.  What's important is the quality of education received to help develop each child to their maximum intelligence level so they might reach their potential.

A couple of pictures of my happy illiterate friend.

Nelson smiling with the next Ramanujan, Sonjey

I also had the same girl for math as last time.  This time, it was long division I was supposed to teach her. HOLY COW it was hard.  How do you teach someone long division who believes 5 divided by 2 is 48?  Either she has a crazy way of dividing in her mind or she is just throwing out numbers.

During intermission (recess) I took a video of some of the kids.  You'll notice Goku, the neighborhood crazy, in a starring role.  They are all Cana Puna's. (first lesson in Tamil in the video).

After education, I went back to the Hostel and chilled for a bit.  Being sick blows.  We had another play time and then dinner.  After dinner, we went back over to the children's house for family time.

Family time consists on helping the kids finish their homework, playing odd games like marbles and rock paper scissors, and then some pillow fights.  I wish everyone could have seen the massive pillow fight that five of the ten year olds had with the bear killer.  Ever heard of the facebook quiz 'how many 10 year olds could you take in a fight'?  The answers you may choose from are typically 20, 50, 100, and 1000.  Let me tell you, maybe they breed these Indians to be fighters, but I see no way I could take on fifty of these kids with pillows.  Goku just drops the pillow and goes straight for the crotch so you have to watch yourself.  I felt like a boss though.  I was dealing out some serious damage to these guys and they would just keep bouncing up and taking more.  It was the older brother to younger brother beat down I never was able to have growing up.  They loved it though.

Some pictures of family time.

This is the bed that the kids sleep on.  Not one complaint.  Sleeping on a rough rug on some hard concrete... And here I am waking up in the morning and complaining to my roommates about how my back hurts because our beds are so hard.

The kids cubbies where they store all their possessions.  One cubby per kid.  Most of the cubbies aren't even stuffed.  I don't think many people back home can really put themselves in the other kids shoes... or rather should I say one pair of sandals... on this one.

Alright guys, no musings really in this one.  This blog is long enough as it is.  I am now officially caught up again though!  I hope I feel better soon because I feel I might have short changed some of these kids today in education.  Tomorrow, the rotations for the programs have reversed so I will have medical.  FINALLY, my group will be going into the colonies and I am excited for that.

Thanks to those who have been texting me while over here- I don't text back because it costs lots of money but I read them!  And mom, the meds I brought, alas, only cover leprosy, typhoid fever, malaria, and bacteria infections.  The common cold has defeated us again!

Till then!

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