First experiences volunteering at the street kids school in Jaipur
04.03.2012 - 06.03.2012
NB: This was from Tuesday morning but I haven't posted yet, so here it is a bit late.
Namaste! I've been meaning to write for a few days because there's been so much going on but I've just been too busy with meeting people and doing things that I haven't really had a chance, so here's a quick update.
It's currently Tuesday morning, my third day in the house, and I'm just relaxing after breakfast and waiting to get picked up to go to school. On Sunday morning we woke up quite early at the hostel and got going at about 7, getting into Jaipur around midday. The drive itself was awesome, and although the traffic is just as crazy as other parts of Asia - it's very different. They still use horns musically and don't really stick to designated lanes, but the main difference in India is the types of vehicles used. Less motorbikes in proportion to cars (though there are still plenty), and heaps of trucks! But these aren't regular trucks - everyone seems to brightly decorate their trucks, and they look more like hippy vans than transportation units. There are also lots of auto-rickshaws, which are similar to Thai tuk tuks, and are also often uniquely decorated with paintings and flowers. Then there's the animals. All along the roads are dogs, cows and camels! They are massive! Plus, monkeys! At one point we drove past a group of about 20 just sitting by the highway, eating from one of the various piles of garbage that line the streets.
When we got into Jaipur we went to the volunteer house - which is awesome! It's very big and spacious, with TV, bathrooms, and wifi! I met two of the girls, Sarah and Becca (NYC and San Fran), who are very nice - and then more came from the shops. Everyone here is female which I was surprised about but it's actually kinda fun - sort of sorority-like. Most of the girls here are American, a couple of Canadian, three Dutch and one Australian girl named Sasha. There seems to be a bit of a distinction between the old and the new girls, but that's okay because all of us newbies have been learning it all together (Elsabeth, Sasha's and Catherine). We all just hung out in the afternoon, and at around 5 the three of us (Sasha and Catherine) had orientation with Amita. There seem to be a LOT of rules here, but I think all in all it's okay, and I definitely feel very safe here. She took us for a bit of a walk and we found an ATM and generally it's pretty good. An hour or so later we all had dinner (which are really nice vegetarian meals) and one of the girls, Eve, had bought her favourite Bollywood movie 'I hate luv stories', which was rather entertaining - though the disc scratched and we haven't finished it yet. It's pretty hilarious though. (Aussie) Sasha and I, who are sharing a class, got to have a good chat with Sarah, who's been teaching at the street school for a month or two already. It sounds fun but slightly difficult as the teacher there tries to encourage rote learning.
The next morning I woke up really early and pottered around eating lots of cereal. Eventually it got to 9.30 and we left for the school. As we were driving there we went past the slums which they lived in, which was pretty amazing...they're basically living in cardboard boxes.
As we arrived the kids ran up to us to shake our hands and I pretty much instantly fell in love. In the morning their teacher, Asha, gets them all in three or four lines and they do their prayers, which is amazing. We then go to class. The school is basically a tiny tiny building with two small rooms. There are three classes which depend mainly on age/ability, and Sasha and I are sharing the middle class. Sarah's older class has one room, and our class and the little kids class shares the other room. It's a tight squeeze but quite cosy.
We have seven students - Rahul (8), Arti (8), Mukesh (8), Sangeeta (7), Rahul (6), Laxmi (6) and Manisha (5) - who is the cutest little bubba ever. They're all very lovely and beautiful and I'm so happy that I'm doing this program. In the morning session 10-11.30 we taught English, basically just going through the alphabet and spelling three words from each letter. It was clear that they had rote learnt three specific words for each letter, so Sasha and I decided our focus for the month will be phonetics - how the alphabet sounds as well as sh/th/ch/oo/ee, so that hopefully they can see most words and sound them out to read. We then have a half an hour break til 12, where we played duck duck goose, and from 12-1 did maths, where we faced similar rote learning issues. We split our class of 7 into two groups, and I took the three higher kids, but was told by Asha that 'in India we only learn up to 10 times tables' as opposed to the 12 I was trying to teach them. It's pretty stupid but the teaching methods of Sankalp just have a specific curriculum that focuses on rote learning rather than thinking, but all in all it's not difficult to overcome.
At 1 class is over and we got in the car back home for lunch. I finally met Elena, who is a Spanish girl that I'd connected with on Facebook via the Sankalp page, who seems really cool. At around 3.30 Catherine, Sasha and Elsbeth returned from the government school program and we all decided to have our first 'Hypercity' adventure. It's basically a giant mall - but one of the strangest I've ever been to. It's very big and you need to be security searched to enter, but half of the levels are empty, while the other levels have stores like Esprit, Adidas and United Colours of Benetton - yet very few shoppers to be able to afford items from these places. The food court also has a weird system where you have to go to a desk to put money on a card, purchase your item with it, then go back to the desk to refund your change. Yet the food court is virtually empty so it's not time saving at all!
Downstairs is the Hypercity store, which is kind of like K-mart, but they sell fresh food produce as well. I changed some money and bought some breakfast food and Cadbury (SO relieved they sell it! I've been deprived of good chocolate and ice cream for a month!). We also all had to buy kurta's for work, which is like an Indian tunic that most women wear. I've been obsessed with all the amazing bright colours I see in the streets here and so I opted for a magnificent hot pink kurta - a colour I would rarely wear in Sydney. It's strange but I just can't resist the amazing colours here and it would seem strange to wear anything BUT hot pink.
We got an auto-rickshaw home and had dinner with everyone, meeting a few more people. I've spoken with a few girls about some possible travel plans for after the program as well which could be nice - I'd love to go to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and my flight from Nepal has been cancelled, so maybe that's a possibility. I guess only time will tell!
Later that night Aussie Sasha, Elsbeth and I sat on the roof for a few hours chatting which was really fun - until bed time. They're staying in the house next door so I went to let them out, but the door was locked from the outside. We tried to knock on their back bathroom door but no one would wake up and eventually they resigned themselves to sleeping on our wooden couch. I don't think they were too stoked about that, and didn't have a great sleep - but we felt like true wankers the next day when we learnt the door wasn't even locked but just a bit stiff! Anyway, I'm sure it's just the first to come of many more silly stories in a house full of silly girls.
Anyway, I have to go off to school now so I'll update in the next couple of days. The elephant festival and holi are in the next few days so we have no school, hopefully it'll be very nice and festive!