Friday, December 25, 2009

My Last Day

It’s been a long journey and though it’s my time to leave there’s so much to do!
I’ve had internet issues for the last couple of days as some of you already know because of my ill manners I displayed if I chatted with you. I only have it now because I’m stuck in the airport for another 8 hours.

But let’s step back a bit…
My last days in the ashram were difficult, I knew my time was coming so I decided to sit down and talk to the girls about it. They were angry and they have the right to be; it’s unfair to meet someone and then let them go so quickly. On my last day I made them promise me they wouldn’t cry because if they did, I would take them to the dentist again! Well, I guess I have to take them to the dentist now…
I even sweetened the deal, I gave them a little gift so that my departure wouldn’t look so bad (I am so ready to be a parent, just keep buying!) I gave them some of that “cutsie tootsie” makeup little girls love to put on and then eat, some earrings so they don’t hate that pricking day forever and a nice little picture to show their families when they return home for the holidays.
They are amazing girls and I know they know that and they also know that with all their hard work we will all see each other again.
It was hard leaving Raj too (and leaving him in the hands of Mother especially). For a departing gift, he decided to take me to a tourist adventure: a space ball. It was a large plastic ball with two seats inside awaiting screamers, I was one of those screamers and Raj the other. If you can’t guess what happens next…then I will just tell you: Satan pushes the ball down the hill as the screamers roll upside down in a motion that causes sea sickness! Physically, it only lasted 40 seconds, realistically, it lasted 3 eons. And the experience of getting into and out of the ball made me feel born again (seriously, the whole made me feel like I was being pushed out of a birth canal).
Oh and our newest addition to the family, Happy the puppy, ran away. The little bugger had enough cahones to climb out of the bed we made with the umbrella roof and the wall into the wild again. It was a definite bummer, I’m not going to say who cried the most though it was the girl who wanted a puppy the most (alright, me). But, but but but BUT! I think Happy missed us because he scurried his little wild behind back into our ashram, not into his brick house though. Good enough for us, he’s our little Happy once again.
Back to the girls: I love them, I miss them already and I promise them and you that I will return to see them!
Now, I’m off to Mumbai (where it’s hot smelly and traffick-y! With over one million mosquitoes in only one acre!) and I will see you all on my return on January 4th, Happy Holidays to you all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A non-internet life

Hi All,
(The internet has been out for five days so try to imagine the following 5 days ago)

So much has happened that I feel somewhat prepared to go home, somewhat. We got a warden who is amazing with the girls. Her name is Nisha and she is from the local area and she is quite educated. I find her to be the exact in between of Raj and me: she’s fun and corky like me yet strict and hard working like Raj (I’m hard working too). Every night she reads a children’s book to the girls in English and then in Hindi and during the story the girls have to write down ten words in English that are new. There’s a lot of stuff these girls need to learn in and outside the home and Nisha is perfect in teaching them these things. The girls are finally getting a good mix of Hindi and English (Hindish) and learning local customs at the same time. Nisha’s GREAT!

I guess with Nisha in as the warden there’s little for me to do…

Things are winding down and it feels like things are finally set in place. Most of the construction work is finished. The septic tank we are putting in the local school is almost finished too and the dining hall FINALLY has curtains! Life here is a bit slower if you hadn’t guessed!

My biggest job right now is to get things set up for the next round of interns who come here. They’ll have to do some teaching too, especially in the schools, and these schools need help! Next to the lack of classroom necessities, the schools are teaching the wrong stuff! Take the color purple for instance, they teach the students to call it black. Or think about how YOU learned primary and secondary colors (with fun little painting projects of mixing the colors) here it is given in a formula in a book that has to be memorized (red + yellow= orange), no fun at all.

Raj and I have had some “beef” with the principal at the high school here. The principal is just not willing to cooperate with us on some issues. So, Raj and I went to the Deputy Director (DD) of the school board (I’m not sure of the equivalent title in the USA but for now we can say it’s the same as president of the United States). Everyone respects this man, I mean everyone! If he passed gas, people would breathe it in. The DD loves the work we are doing at the ashram so he automatically sided with us and called the principal and put him straight! I think the principal felt like a 10 year old boy after that call. I think I would even be ok with the DD’s gas!

Since this last Saturday was the last Saturday for me with the girls, I invited them all to come and have one massive sleepover! It was a BALL! We watched movies, we danced and I beat the living daylight out of them with pillows! The only problem I had was that after the girls left in the morning, I found all of Sarojani’s “pocket toys” all over the bed; it was a combination of a half eaten carrot, a broken rubrix cube and a neon thingamajig. This girl cracks me up! Poonam also complained of sleeping next to Anju, supposedly Anju sneezes in her sleep and one landed in Poonam’s ear!

Since the girls are doing such a good job of taking care of themselves and others, I found it very necessary to give them more responsibility: a puppy. That’s right, a puppy. We found a puppy in the farm house next door and we somewhat “stole” it, technically it just followed us and then we decided to keep it. The sole purpose of this puppy is for the girls to learn responsibility not because I want a puppy or anything (a common misconception). The girls decided his name too: Happy.

Oh by the way, I caught an amoeba. A living thing is living inside of me, it must have been from that hot spring I went to. So I went to the doctor. The first doctor’s office I went to was closed; ironically he was attending someone’s funeral that day (doesn’t that just send the wrong message: a doctor at a funeral?). The next doctor did a good check up on me and gave me medicine. But the visit was no piece of cake, do you know how embarrassing it is to have your stool action and feminine problems translated to the doctor? I’m sure you don’t know, let me tell you, it is awful! I can’t even look at Raj anymore! It was a very awkward drive home after that…

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why These Girls are Amazing

Hi All,
I just wanted to add what I love about these girls…

Sarojani, she has to be first. I find her to be the funniest kid around. I have an impersonation of her that would crack you up but it’s too much to describe so I will HAVE to do it once I return. Here’s a little fyi: do you ever find yourself walking down the street and you realize you need a yellow balloon? Or a fuzzy rubber ball? How about the remains of a shoelace? Oh, and how about a half eaten newspaper? Well, if you’re with Sarojani, you never have to worry about that, she has all those materials in her pocket. Always. I’m also extremely proud of her “smarts,” she sees problems in a different way: if you ask her what is 7 times 4, she will say “14 times 2, oh! 28!”

Dolma, she’s the only one who likes “Kool Aid,” seriously, the other girls poured it to the dogs while I wasn’t looking (I found out in my own ways). Whenever another girl trips, she’s the first to laugh but when someone leaves their sweater out, she’s the first to raise her voice, she scares me like my father! A real inspiration Dolma is (Yoda talk); she’s someone I really admire.

Anju, she’s shy but she’s adorable. If someone where to even hug her, she would shy away giggling. For all the shyness she has, she has a lot of insight; whenever she opens her mouth (even for the slightest moment) her words are full of wisdom. Ever since she’s warmed up to me, she’s been asking for help in combing her hair, putting oil in her hair or even pouring water. Don’t get me wrong, she’s more independent than any other girl here but once in a while, she likes the touch of an older sister or a mother.

Pooja, Oh Pooja. She’s a feisty little critter. The “gimmies” have hit her hard! Sometimes she just can’t stand if another girl has something she does not have. Especially when it comes to her younger (crazier) sister, Kirna. Oh does Pooja get annoyed with her! Once I made a huge mistake of inviting the girls over for a sleepover and I put Pooja next to Kirna. The whole night was awful! Pooja took all her anger out on Kirna by kicking her all night; imagine sleeping with Elaine (from the show Sienfield) and her dancing with “little kicks.”

Kirna, I might as well go to Kirna now. The best way of describing her is through the song “Jump in the Line” by Harry Belafonte. You know how he sings “Shake, shake shake, Senora, shake your body line…” Well, Kirna is Senora. Even without music she’s dancing, even if there’s broken glass on the ground, she’s dancing. But she’s a hoot, a real hoot. Spending time with her will only prove you to be going insane but honestly, she’s just like any other kid (Beacon Heights kids are a good comparison!)

Poonam loves kisses! Every night, she HAS to give me a kiss goodnight (I rub sugar on my cheeks is really why). What’s funny about Poonam is she has the voice and the habits of an old local village woman. She even laughs from the back of her throat and creates a gurgling sound. She’s one hell of a tough cookie though! If you insult her sister, she will throw you down, and she considers many people her sister!

Lata is the most advanced in English of the bunch but she stills says “I am so scary-ied.” Lata is picky at times! She won’t eat school lunch because she hates the cook, she only loves to wear pink and she gets easily annoyed by misbehavior. For how bright and open Lata is, she’s oddly enough the most afraid of adventure! She threw a fit when piercing her nose and she hung outside of the hot spring forever before she got inside. But you got to love her!

There. There are all the bios of the girls so far. Thinking about it, I really hate knowing so much about them because it makes it harder to leave them. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had with these girls and how excited I become to see them waking up in the morning. Ok, I can tell you: A LOT!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bathing at its finest hour

I had to take one day’s rest before I could write a description of what I went through yesterday. It was an experience that opened my eyes, not to the world, but to women. Yes, to women. This might become a little too much for some, so here’s my warning: the latter of this is going be x-rated (well, on Utah standards).

I took the girls to a natural hot spring. Supposedly, this place is full of them and they are beyond hot (something I call “chai hot”). Well, whatever you are thinking of as a hot spring, FORGET IT! This was an unbelievable experience. There were two concrete tubs (outside) with walls surrounding to separate the girls from the boys. And of course, pure naked-ness, absolute and complete NAKED-NESS! I told the girls to keep their undergarments on but imagine how scared you would be if you were 10 and saw a pool of green water with oversized naked women bathing. And here’s the cruel part: I told the girls to get in! I’m horrible at this job! The girls were a bit fearful so I had to get in first to prove the “safety” of this place, then one by one, the girls swung around my neck and finally settled in. Well, all except Poonam. Now, this girl is tough, really tough, and she will beat the daylight out of you if you offend someone she loves. But the girl was shaking she was so scared to get in (it must have been this Tibetan woman who looked like a boy that scared her so much, I mean, she REALLY looked like a boy!) And when I finally got her in, she jumped back out. The other girls had a good time, such a good time that the older women were annoyed of them splashing water (I was too, I think it got into my mouth!) By the way, why is it that people think using soap in these tubs makes the water clean? It doesn’t! Neither does toothpaste, feet scrubbers and toenail clippers. All of these items were present in the tub. I am just praying that the smell was from sulphur and not the underarms of a 60 year old woman. And as we all tried to get to the spout that was throwing in new “chai” hot water, so was everyone else. That’s when I was not just nudged, but slammed into the wall by 5 pairs of women breasts, I didn’t even see it coming. I totally understand why guys are so shy of hugging each other. I also tripped and a naked woman caught me in her naked bosom, lovely feeling to be so cared for. I’m sure it’s obvious that once we got home, we all took a bath.

Oh, and a good friend of mine came to visit, Anurag. He claims he needed to do some work here, I claim he just can’t live without me. Anurag only came for two days but the girls fell in love with him (and his amazing Hindi speaking ability). Every night he acted out a new story and told it to the girls. The first night was Tarzan and the next night was the Lion King. I don’t know exactly what he was saying but I think he named the funky baboon in the Lion King after me. The girls really admired Anurag, one girl even said “Anurag is good to look at.”

The girls are doing great, it’s getting harder and harder to think I have to leave. Sarojani is getting so smart; I have the girls practice multiplication with flash cards and Sarojani’s always the first to answer. She also enjoys showimg me her pride in all the food she eats by opening her mouth and throwing out her tongue. Anju is coming out of her shyness, she just cut herself some bangs (I wonder after who?). Dolma is becoming the mother of the group more and more every day, I think she likes the role. She also started rolling her pant legs up, (I wonder after who again?). Running is all I see Pooja doing, I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up in the Olympics one day. All the girls are great and I hate this feeling of leaving them…

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Everyday Blog

Can I just take a minute to tell you what awful cooking is like? Well, it’s Mother. She is an awful cook. I don’t understand why she thinks she NEEDS to cook, we already HAVE a cook, Maneesha who does a pretty good job at cooking, hence she is the cook. Mother made soup for the three of us (me, Maneesha and Birsingh, the groundsman) and I swear it tasted like cow spit (you live here long enough and you’ll know what that tastes like too)! The aroma wasn’t bad and the look of it was on the herbal side but the taste just made you want to jump in a frozen lake. The soup tasted like hot water (cow’s spit) and there was no taste or even love. Here’s what I don’t understand: if Mother cooks like this, so badly and water-y, why is she some massive walking Hungarian? She should be a stick figure, not an overbearing (I mean overbearing in all its definitions) COW!
Onto other, more important and tasteful matters. I skyped my mom today and guess who she saw? The girls! They were so excited to meet my mother and for once I allowed them to speak Hindi. They asked her what she was doing, where she lived and even told her she’s pretty (a compliment not to be taken lightly since these girls are picky with tossing out a “pretty”). I loved watching the girls interact with my mom, I think it was good for them too. Some of these girls have had such a hard parenting experience that showing them the components of a strong family helps them realize that not all the world is bad.
Other than that the girls are doing great. I have been trying to ask them whether or not they want to go visit their families for the winter break and not one of them really cares to go home. It’s a compliment in a way that they enjoy life here so much and feel so safe and secure but…it’s also upsetting to think they would prefer anything over their family and homes.
Oh, and I started teaching the older girls computer skills! It’s something I didn’t even realize to teach them until they asked me. In the US it’s so common for a girl who is 12 or 14 years old to already know the computer but not here! So, I just spend sometime with the older girls teaching the older girls how to type and most importantly, how to play games. The only negative side is the girls just realized they have to cut their nails to play on the computer, something I’m excited for actually. The girls love to play games, even the most simple of games. I can make them play duck duck goose for a century and they would probably never get bored with it. Yet, they hate the game twister for some reason!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Girls go to the Snow

I tried to do a field trip but I realized that the Gods of India are against me. I thought it would be a good idea to take the girls up to the snow before it gets too cold to go up there and if there was enough time, we would go tubing (yes, they do have tubing here, the Indian version of tubing which is a REAL tire the size of an alien mothercraft) First, Mother was against me taking the kids. Her prediction for my trip: Reshma will not only kill all the children but she will prevent them from ever entering the heavenly gates, I’m not kidding that’s what she thinks I will do by taking the girls to the snow; I’m a real monster. Later on we all snuck out and finally left despite her. Then, the crafty money hungry car driver lied to us! He told us there was enough snow to go tubing (Indian version tubing, which I was even excited for) but of course, there wasn’t. There was barely enough for the girls to make a snowball the size of a baseball. Here’s where I was dumbfounded: the car driver had the audacity to say all the other tourists in this area are fools because the ski rental shops tricked them into going skiing with no snow present; if they’re fools, what does that make us sitting in his car looking for the snow?
Oh well, the girls still had a good time in the barely there snow. They actually enjoyed the view and the scenery more. I’ve worked with kids back in the US, I don’t think one of them would even consider looking at the scenery and saying it’s beautiful if they were just told that tubing has been cancelled, I would be hearing a lot of complaints and whining.
All the girls are doing well, no one is sick thank you GOD! I always get more and more surprised with what these girls find amusing. I gave them all a piece of bubble-icious gum and they went nuts! I thought I could impress them by blowing bubbles that would blow their minds but they already knew how to blow bubbles the size that blew my mind! And that is how we spent one afternoon…
Teaching at the school is also going well, the teachers are still snickering but at least at a distance. Now, I can amuse myself by filling in their words when I see their mouths moving, if they think I sound funny in English, wait till they find out what I’m saying for them (it has a lot to do with donkeys). I really enjoy teaching at the school. I go everyday at 11am and I have two classes. I make simple games like memory games or I time them on spelling and these kids have a ball. I also make them interact with each other instead of talking to me all the time; this surprised the teachers! Who would have thought that kids come to school interact? Oh boy, I’m corrupting the system. I reward them for their efforts with treats and overconfident phrases, something totally new and innovative to their system. The only problem is that they stopped calling me “Ma’am” but now they call me “Madam Ji.”
This is getting long isn’t it? Well, I just have one more thought to share: If you haven’t been thankful for the following things, you should be:
Car shocks. If you don’t know the feeling, just take your car shocks out and drive through a river. And PHYSICS. Somehow, I don’t know how, but physics does not exist here. I don’t think Newton could even explain how a car that is half on the road and half off does not land on the bottom of the mountain in a ditch. And somehow cows here can stretch their heads all the way back, they think they’re owls!