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Published: September 29th 2007
teacher and class
not as sweet as they look i can assure you....
It's been a long break in blog entries, but I haven't had much time to update recently - been very busy in Himachal and internet in the camp is agonisingly slow.
Arrived in Delhi on September 10th after spending a week in Kuching, KL and Singapore - didn't do much for this week as I was a bit tired of the whole tourist thing, so chilled out in Kuching, escaped the heat of KL by spending most of it in SE Asia's largest shopping mall for some new clothes and books and spent the day in Singapore at the zoo (very cool place with some great orangs, but made me miss the zoo even more).
Got to Delhi quite late so it was straight to the (fairly grim) hotel, where I was in Room 101 again! Next morning met the other volunteers for the Himachal program and our guide Sahil and it was straight off to Japiur by "deluxe bus", perhaps by Indian standards, though compared to some of the ones we've been on recently it probably was.
After a brief introduction at the IDEX office, we went to the host families we were staying with for three
on the mountain top
3000m up in the himalayan foothills near MacLeodGanj
nights. Our family was really nice, great house and some superb food. The three days in Jaipur were spent on orientation to India and the volunteering and in the afternoons we visited the Amber Fort (including elephant ride) and went to the Bollywood film "Chakde India" which was excellent despite the lack of subtitles - the theme song has become the soundtrack to the trip, especially since India's triumph in the Twenty 20.
On the Friday we took the overnight train (suitably delayed) to somewhere in Punjab then a 4 hour jeep ride to Camp Bindraban near Palampur in Himachal where we met the other volunteers (on the 8 week program who were half way through). The camp is really cool, very chilled out with plenty of space and time to relax, the kitchen staff make the most amazing food (despite being vegetarian except on Wednesdays). Also turns out there's two camps - a "grown up" camp and a "youth" camp and I'm in the latter!!
Was my birthday next day so we celebrated the night before during the welcoming party (btw there's some seriously strong beer in India, the Kingfisher has alcohol content "between 5.5 and 8.5%",
but is definitely closer to the latter) and with a cake on Sunday. Also visited a nearby temple on Sunday - lost count of the number of people who wanted photos taken with us, we're a big attraction here, but the people are probably the friendliest I've come across so far.
On Tuesday we visited the various schools and day care centres that the volunteers work at to decide which we wanted to choose - I ended up taking teaching at Bandla School in the mornings and an English after school bridge course for kids in the afternoon. On Wednesday we turned up at the school (there's one teacher for 5 classes so god knows what they do without the volunteers), got assigned a class and were told to go teach - no advice or preparation, just thrown in the deep end. I'm teaching Grade 5, 18 kids aged 10-12, English and Maths.
Takes a few days to get used to, but I'm really enjoying it now. It's very challenging - keeping the kids behaved, teaching through the language barrier (they've got some English but not much, my Hindi is limited to numbers, "Quiet", "Listen" and not much
else) and dealing with the big variety in the kids abilities. Have been teaching them some English vocab and basic verbs and sentences, some maths and will try to broaden their geography knowledge next week. Have made some charts to brighten up their classroom as they're very basic - there's nothing but a blackboard with the kids sitting on an old carpet on the floor. The afternoon classes are much more informal and can be either great fun or a nightmare depending on the kids mood and behaviour. In general, all the kids are great though, very eager to learn and respond very well to the volunteers.
Went trekking in the Himalayan foothills last weekend which was great. Drove to MacLeod Ganj, a very cool town on a hill where the Dalai Lama and a lot of his followers live in exile and headed up the mountain on Saturday where we stayed overnight in a hut. Was cold for the first time in five months. The views up there were stunning, will try to upload pictures when I can. The descent the next day was interrupted by a cow falling about 20 metres down the mountain and landing on
one of the group - amazingly both she and the cow were relatively unhurt! This weekend we've come to Manali, another town in Himachal that took 10 hours on a local Indian bus to reach - not exactly the best day of the trip so far. Seems a nice place though, had a great meal last night and plan on just chilling out for the day before the grim trip back tomorrow.
Only one week of volunteering left - it's been much too short really, 6 or 8 weeks would have been much better but so much to do, so little time......
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