Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's in a day?

Some have asked what exactly I do here… Let me walk you through a typical day. Actually, to give you a good feel, there may be some explaining to do, so I’ll split this up into 2 parts. Let me start with the first half:

6:00 AM- I get up. This time is an hour to an hour and a half later than anyone else in the house gets up. By house standards, waking up at 6:00 is sleeping in. The sisters are already at mass (which begins at 5:45 AM) when I get up. I usually check my mail or Facebook on my phone (oh, how glad I am that I can access them from my phone!), do some exercises, take my malaria medicine, and get dressed.

6:45 or 7:00- When the sisters return from mass, we have breakfast. There are two women who work in the convent, cleaning the common areas and preparing the food.  Porridge with hot milk and sugar and a yummy chickpea dish served with chapatti (tortilla-like bread, made with wheat flour) are usually served for breakfast. Sometimes there are eggs instead of the chickpeas.  After eating this, we have some sort of fruit. Lately, it’s been apples (about plum-sized and so yummy), guavas or papayas (from trees next to the convent), or bananas.  Orange season is beginning. :) Custard apple season is over. :(

7:15 or 7:30- I continue getting ready for the day. This is usually when I bathe. That may be TMI, but because bathing is done differently than in the U.S., I thought it worth discussing. We recently got the solar water heater fixed, so I no longer have to go ask for "garam pani" (hot water) from the kitchen before bathing; I now have it in my room! The way to bathe here is by filling a bucket (which I'd estimate holds about 5-gallons) with water and then using a small plastic pitcher to pour the water over one’s body, soaping up, and rinsing the soap off, again using the pitcher. There is a showerhead in my bathroom, but being very aware of how scarce water is here, even in a good rainy season, and how much more water I’d use if I showered, I’ve never tried the shower. Let me add that there is no separation between toilet, sink, and bathing area, so whatever water is poured falls on the bathroom floor. Using the shower would just increase the areas where the water would fall. After bathing I have a squeegee to guide the water to the drain in the bathroom floor, so the floor dries more quickly.

Alternately, I may have clothes to wash. I have a separate bucket for bathing water and washing water. The directions on my Tide powder bag are “for bucket wash” and start with something like “Take a ½ handful of powder and dissolve it in water in the bucket.” There are no directions on the package for any other way of washing. I soak the clothes in the bucket of soapy water for a bit and then take them up to the roof where there is a washing area with a ridged surface to scrub the clothes. After scrubbing and rinsing, the clothes go on the clothesline.

8:15 or 8:30- I head over to school. This mean about a 1-minute walk from the convent across the concrete patio area of the school to the school building. In that 1-minute walk, I get greeted with a sing-songy “Good morning, sister” or by those in-the-know, “Good morning, miss” by approximately a jillion kids. It’s pretty sweet when they come running up to greet me. The bell rings (meaning the appointed student or adult strikes a metal disk hanging in the courtyard) for 8:30 assembly. On campus, there are 3 schools: the Hindi medium, the English medium, and the high school. The difference between the English medium and the other schools is that primary language of instruction is in English.

Every school has its own assembly during which each class stands in lines of boys and girls (usually 2 lines of each, since the classes are large). In the English medium school where I teach (and I assume it’s the same at the other schools), a group of 6 to 8 children from a different class each day leads the morning assembly. First, they lead exercises. Then they lead in the recitation of a prayer and the singing of a song.  Then while the rest stand respectfully, the leaders may recite poetry, ask trivia questions, give a “Did you know…?” fact or two and/or give an inspirational thought for the day. That is followed by either the national anthem or a patriotic pledge.  Students in grades 2 to 7 lead this way.  After the students have done their part of the assembly, the principal makes any announcements that need to be made.  LKG (pre-school), UKG (kindergarten), and first grade meet separately and have a similar assembly which teachers primarily lead, but the little ones do lead songs for each other. 

8:30 to 11:30ish- I have 3 classes. When I first arrived, I taught computer- 2 days each with grades 5, 6, and 7.  One day is theory; one day is practical, when we go to the computer lab.  When I began teaching, we were not able to use the lab, because the electricity was not sufficient to support all the computers being on.  Now students go to the high school computer lab, which works very well.  A few weeks after I arrived, a teacher was hired to teach computer, so I started co-teaching first grade. I was very thankful that there were two of us working with this group, as there are 60-ish children in the class. There is a lot of energy in those little ones!! For quite a while we worked on “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly"; they just sang and acted it out during the annual day program on Sunday.  As of yesterday, I am back to teaching computer, since the teacher hired has been let go.  Finding qualified teachers is difficult... 

I have a break after first period. Usually, I get ready for the other two classes then.  After 2nd period, the kids have a break. Here children don’t move from classroom to classroom, teachers do, so the kids have 10ish-minute breaks to stretch their legs, use the bathroom, etc. Third and fourth periods I teach grades 7 and 6. They are a lot of fun and their English is quite good!  One thing I should add: when I (or any other teacher) enter the room, the students stand and greet me with a chorus of “Good morning, miss.” Students who come to the classroom after the teacher is there wait at the door and ask, “Please may I come in.”  At the end of class, students again stand and say, “Thank you, miss.”  This is rather endearing, especially on the days when I lack patience. In the sixth grade there are 50 students and in seventh, 40. That’s a lot more kids than I’m used to having in class, so it has been an adjustment! Thankfully, even when they are a bit naughty, they’re pretty lovely kids!

11:30 to 2:00 I come back to the convent and have tea (the sisters who teach drink tea during the student break), usually with one sister who is still recovering from angioplasty surgery 3 months ago. She is quite lovely, so I enjoy sitting and talking to her. Around noon, everyone comes back for lunch. Lunch is rice, chapatti (people usually take either rice or chapatti, not both), dal (a soupy lentil dish) and various vegetable dishes. These might include cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, squash, green papaya, or whatever else is in the garden or can be bought in the market. After the meal, like at breakfast, fruit is served. Then the sisters go back to school and I get ready for my class at Chetna Bharati.

That sums up the first part of the day.  As I finish up, I realize that I haven't mentioned the lack of electricity, which is the norm rather than the exception.  Maybe I've adjusted to things a little since I arrived.  The above routine all seems pretty ordinary now to me now, but when I think about a typical day in the States, well, there are a few differences!!  I imagine you'd agree!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cory! I read this eagerly, as a novel! Interesting that the rudiments of the day/food and basic needs take up space in time. One can imagine how life altering this will be as the experience becomes your past rather than your present. Loving your neighbors seems to be rather natural for you and I'm fascinated with your ability to convey the picture of this new life in your new world, today.
    I think of you in contrast to the busy daily grind here and feel value in your commitment. Thank you for writing - you have a reader in me!
    Cheers, judy birch, louisville, ky