Wednesday, 20 March 2013

the wait is finally over

I have awaited the taste of an Indian mango ever since I arrive here in India. I heard they were amazing and I couldn’t wait to have one. On arrival in India and during our first meeting with our host one of the first questions we ask was when mango season is. Mango season is now! We have waited half our year for this pleasure and now the time has come.

Today I had my first Indian mango! And I can honestly say it was delicious!

Its Kyekue’s birthday tomorrow and we were out buying everything we needed for the party we are having with the girls; face paint, flowers, jewellery. We had to go to Gandhi road to buy the flowers. If you want Indian road then Gandhi road is the definition of that. It’s a tight squeeze of cows, motorbikes, autos and tons of people. The streets are lined with shops selling saris, fabrics, flowers, fruits, spices, bangles, jewels. It just beautiful and is by far my most favourite road in the whole of Ongole. The road just has an organised chaos and untidy perfection feel about it that I love.

Today we went to Gandhi road to buy flowers. As I wrote in my last post no Indian outfit is complete without flowers. A bit of jasmine in your hair makes you look beautiful as well as making you smell nice. The problem with shopping in India is that you go out with the intention of buying one thing and come back with huge amounts of other things. A good example of this is our shopping trip today we went to Gandhi road with the intention of buying flowers and we left with flowers and 4 mangoes.

They were so delicious and if you like mango you get in the average British supermarket then think again. You have tasted nothing! We gave one to our host and he said that these weren’t even the best mangos and we should wait for two more weeks. I can’t wait to taste the best because these were absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

the true colours of india

nissi in her very pretty dress and
her aunty (the headmistress)
 in her beautiful sari
Sitting in the 3 hours of Telegu church today, I was in wonder at all the amazing clothes that everyone was wearing. It’s something that still gets me about being in India. Kyekue and I don’t go a day without saying ‘oh my goodness I love her sari’ or ‘that Punjab is really nice’. In church today there was every colour under the rainbow. Deep red, dark purples, sky blues, cool greens, warm yellows, bright oranges, luscious pinks, midnight blacks, pure white, flowers, crazy patterns, print, gold, peacocks, sequins, embroidery, and all completely unique. I have no idea how every sari is made so different and so beautiful. But the way that Indian women dress has always awed me whether it is at how the Muslim community can wear their long black burkas with every inch of their body covered in the 40 degree heat, to how women can learn to wrap a piece of 9m long fabric around themselves so perfectly and put it all in place with no pins and it will still stay there all day, to why they insist that you cover both your arms in bangles so you can barely even move your arm without it being uncomfortable and finally why from the youngest of ages, girls are encouraged to take so much pride and vanity into the way they look, to the point where you see a 5year old, prancing round in her big jewelled dress, with big dangling earrings, necklace, bangles, anklets, head jewels and even makeup.

The rows and rows of bangles in a Mysore market
Walking down an Indian street is like walking through a beautiful, if hot, overcrowded and polluted rainbow. Shop after shop selling saris and dress material. Anything you want you will be able to find it. Then shop after shop of bright and shining bangles. You can get bangles in any size or style, the pure gold ones, the everyday colourful glass ones, the bright coloured metal ones, the ones plastered in glitter and the ones with jewels. In every fancy store you are exposed to a massive range of earrings, bangles, nose rings, rings and necklaces. And on top of all this don’t forget the most important thing in the whole of your outfit. For this you need the small old lady crouched on the side of the road weaving flowers together because no Indian women would be complete without her flowers in her hair.

me with the girls in my room - they have such amazing dresses!

Vikranth and Rebecca - her Sari is stunning
and like the perfect couple it matches his tie
Shopping in India is nothing like shopping in the UK. You pick your sari shop that you want to go in – you don’t really know that this shop will have you perfect sari and you have to pick one shop from about fifty so you just go with this one because the sari in the window looks cute. You don’t really know what you’re looking for but you are whisked away by some very helpful Indian men, who either show you to some comfy plush seats or a big cushion on the floor. Then you are asked what you want so you say ‘sari’ and they say ‘yes mam, what style?’ so you go for it and say cotton and a random colour you haven’t got yet. Then from nowhere your being shown sari after sari in that colour, different shades, flying of the shelves in front of you, all these perfectly folded gorgeous saris. You have to be in the mood to sari shop because it’s very overwhelming. So then with a giant pile of sari fabric in front of you, you begin to sort through them deciding what ones you don’t like. You like one! Great! You tell the man and he opens the whole 9m of fabric out in front of you so you can inspect every inch of it. You like the palu (the bit that goes over your shoulder) but you don’t really like the detail on the body (main bit) so you decide it’s gotta go in the no pile. But that’s no problem, you can do this with as many saris until you finally find your perfect one.

You finally leave the shop with the most amazing sari. Why can’t finding men be like this!?!?!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

My on-the-spot math lesson

Last week was exams week, which for me and Kyekue usually means a week off of teaching but instead we were asked by the head teacher of elementary to come into school and monitor the exams. This was completely fine, I was only going to be bored sitting in our room anyway.

So my first exam to monitor was class 4 English. No problem, I just had to get them all to sit in quiet and do there test then once they had settled down I could read my book. I got them all to sit away from each other making sure that they weren’t going to cheat or talk and then gave them their English papers. We went through the usual “no pen miss” and then they settled down and started the exam.

Except they didn’t start, they just sat there. Staring at the paper and then staring back at me as if I was supposed to be doing something. I was completely confused, but not one of them spoke up as to if there was a problem or not. So half an hour past and the exam finished. They were still sitting there with blank papers and even blanker expressions on their faces. I had no idea what to do because they hadn’t written anything and I felt like it was my fault. But I collected in their papers and sent them to the headmistress then I went to class 3.

Class 3 had just had a maths test and I was about to take their English lesson. I walked into the classroom and the emotion I felt can only be described as utter disbelief. All of class 3 were sitting completing their maths papers, but they were reading the answers off of the board. Sir had written all the answers to the test out and now they were just writing them down. It was then that I realised this happens in every exam ... that’s why class 4 just sat there waiting for me. They wanted me to give them the answers and that’s all they have ever known. I was appalled. How are these children learning? Are they even being taught any of this?

I’ve always knew that they learn the answers off by heart but copying them is a completely different story. So I decided to quiz class 3 to see if they actually knew the answers. I put some basic division questions on the board and asked them to answer in their books. Over half the class got them wrong and the others couldn’t explain what division meant, they had just memorised 12 ÷ 4 = 3. So I taught them division that lesson. I taught them how to use circles and dots to divide up the different amounts and I taught them the difference between a divide sign and a minus.

The next day they were doing the sums perfectly, and we were playing game where the kids had to divide themselves by a number. It felt very successful. I know I can’t change the way the school system works but I can teach class 3 so they know how to divide.