india :: days six and seven

By day six I had started settling into a routine, and the teaching got easier. The 4 year olds stayed in their seats, enjoyed their lessons and started working their way into my hearts. The 5 year olds loved doing shape and color flash cards, and we quickly fell into a rhythm for class: conversation, flash card games, and drawing. Yes, it's true that kids all over the world love a good set of crayons and coloring sheets.

In the streets of Chennai, dogs run wild, along with cows, chickens and the occasional goat. Most of them are very thin, and spend their time either sleeping or rummaging through the trash scattered over the streets, looking for scraps. Kristen befriended one little puppy near our guesthouse and dubbed him "Flipper" - he had a gash on one of his little paws, and flipped it when he walked. Daily walks to pet Flipper and his momma became giggle-inducing bright spots in our afternoons.


And more from the streets of Chennai, both day and night.

Chennai India letter box woman balancing load on head

Chennai India shopping at night

The road construction in our neighborhood...

Everywhere we went, we were met with stares, giggles, and shouts of "Hello! What's your name? How are you?" Many times we were asked if we would pose for a photo with them. These two schoolboys here asked me for my autograph... just random kids on the street, feeling giddy about the color of my skin. Such warm, friendly people here in India.

india :: day four and five

We lost our internet connection 4 days into our trip, so I wasn't able to post photos from India. I am home safely now, have hugged, kissed and snuggled my kids (ok, maybe over-snuggled) and am so happy to be home. I have so many photos to share with you all now... I had written this post while there, but never posted, so I'll start here... Monday was our first day in the schools. We spent the day getting acquainted with the children, and taught our first lessons. I have been assigned to the lower kindergarten and upper kindergarten classes, so I am teaching primarily 4 and 5 year olds, with a sprinkling of 2 and 3 year olds in the lower K class. The first day teaching was pure mayhem. The teacher turned the classroom over to me and then left me to my defenses. Like any typical 4 year old American classroom given a free pass with a substitute teacher, the orderly children quickly devolved into a state of pure chaos. Climbing on the tables, yelling, biting each other, not listening... it was clear that I had no authority in the classroom. The next day the teacher scolded the kids for their misbehavior, made them say sorry, stayed in the classroom with me, and we had a productive day of learning letters, numbers and singing songs. Tuesday the kids started creeping into my heart.

A few days ago we had purchased some material to be made into a salwar kameez, and Monday we took it to a tailor to be made. We all had our measurements taken, and chose necklines and pant styles from pattern books. It was clear that I was one of the tallest clients they had ever had, because there was some concern about having enough fabric to make the pants long enough. I pick up the outfits tonight, I'm so excited to see how they turned out!

My students at Grace School...

Two teachers at the school...

Our trip to the tailor...

The streets of Chennai...

Our Global Volunteers host's little son, Roshan, "making soup" in the kitchen.

Banana peppers from our backyard. Delicious fried.

india :: day 3

On Monday we spent much of our day getting acquainted with the volunteer team, and finding out where we would be working. I was assigned to teach the Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten classes at Grace Nursery and Primary School, in Porur, Chennai. The children from Grace School come from all walks of life. Some of them are too poor to be able to pay the school fees, but not all of them. There is a shortage of teachers at Grace, so they depend on the volunteers to be able to teach all the classes. I'll share some photos of my students at Grace tomorrow. For today, here are more photos from the neighborhood surrounding the guesthouse where I am staying. Litter fills the streets, and the stench fills the air, mixed with incense, curry, smoke from burning trash, and exhaust. Cows roam the streets, rummaging around in the trash looking for edible scraps.

In the evening we went to SEAM, the SouthEast Asia Mission, the orphanage our team is working with. The children sang and danced for us, and we spent some time getting to know them. They proudly showed off their rooms, showed us their future library and led us around their home. They were so excited to see us, so eager for our attention, so wanting and needing our affection. Beautiful, beautiful children. I don't want to even think about how hard it is going to be to leave them in two weeks...

india :: day 2

Day two in India. We hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the beach, for when in a city on the coast of India, it only seems proper to make a visit to the beach. But the tuk-tuk drivers (yes, two drivers - a father and son team) seemed intent on showing us the scenic route, and took us to visit a few temples along the way. At that point, we were having so much fun we had no interest in seeing the beach, so we let our driver show us the city. Here are some of the sights we visited on Saturday. These next few were taken at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Chennai. We didn't have time to go inside, but walked around the grounds outside.

Then our host from Global Volunteers picked us up from our hotel and drove us to the guesthouse, where we will be staying for the next two weeks. Here is my room - charming, comfortable, and cheerily bright. We have our own private bathroom, one room with a shower, sink, and toilet. I have yet to master the Indian-style shower, which involves two buckets and very little water. And none of it hot. However, given that we are blessed with a western-style toilet, I'm not one to complain.

Ok, signing off for the night, in hopes of a semi-complete night of sleep. Goodnight, all.

india :: day 1

As I write now, I am getting settled in my room in the guesthouse in Porur, India. Yes, what everyone says about India is true. It's overwhelming, in an absolutely magical and endlessly beautiful way. But there's also devastation, filth and extreme poverty, existing side by side in a world that is fast-moving, loud, and intent. We spent the first couple days in India trekking around Chennai in a tuk-tuk, or motorized rickshaw. We found ourselves in T. Nagar, a shopping district filled with sarees, books, jewelry, food, and textiles. Too overwhelmed to write more... tomorrow we will officially begin our volunteer program. Tonight, sleep!