Activity Week: Day 3

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Today was a (relatively) relaxing day. We let the kids sleep late and had the chai delivered to the campground instead of sleeping to the eating area. So a late(er) morning, then breakfast. Chipati and potato masala. Dear lord, it was phenomenal. Plus, I finally found out that naan = baked flat bread, roti = grilled flat bread, chipati = fried flat bread. All the same basic recipe. All yummy.

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After breakfast, we climbed up to the road to spend three hours weeding the “carrot-grass” plant, a non-native, highly poisonous plant that is poisonous to cows. It was a stupid assignment, meant to teach the kids about invasive plants but really teaching them the futility of fighting weeds and the importance of wearing gloves (I wore no gloves, as India does not make gloves for the monstrously large-handed.).

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After that, we headed for the village’s primary school, a one-room school house teaching the 40 village locals. It was an incredible experience. My students wrote lesson plans and five groups of three students each taught English, Math, Science, Health and Art to the school. My students were excited, the village children were excited. It was fabulous for all. I spoke, through translator, with the headmaster. He is paid by the government and is given food by the villagers. He lives in the school, and has been teaching there for eight years.

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As we arrived, the village children were gorging themselves on lunch, also government-subsidized.

My students really out did themselves.

The math group taught addition and subtraction using brightly-colored candy gems.

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The English group taught The Cat In The Hat.

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The health group had the students design posters on the importance of hand-washing.

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The art group taught origami.

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The science group played tag as a way to teach about infection.

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It was rad.

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We reluctantly left the school for lunch, an unsuccessful mix of rice and spiced curd, and then we had the lunch off.

Later,

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I just played cricket. As we laid around resting, I joked that I wanted to learn cricket and a few of the Indian students, obsessed with the game, took me seriously and started instructing me in all the rules. An American student joined us to learn as well. We covered the rules, then the variations used to let only a small number of people play. As we were learning the rules, a group of the village children gathered to watch (and mock) us. We only had a baseball and bat on very uneven ground, but we figured it out. I soon found myself in a village vs. students game. One boy, a four, maybe five, year old, played on our side. I got a few runs, but did not bowl a wicked googlie.

Later,

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More weight crap. After our afternoon of relaxation, we spent another evening speaking to the villagers. We went to the house of a very old man. After ducking to get through his entry way (the ceilings of the houses are only four feet high or so), I squeezed my way through an even smaller door into his living room and crawled to a place to sit. I was with five students. One Indian, one Russian, one Korean, one French and one Bhutanese. Our sole Indian student was forced to do all the Hindi translation of our questions, but the old man had a different idea. He told us we were rich, didn’t speak Hindi, and were taking advantage of the village. As I tried to keep myself and my translating student calm, I tried to explain our intentions of learning about a lifestyle different from ours so we could better understand the life of the rural Indian, but he would have none of it. He just railed against us and our evil ways until we were forced to call it a day. I resisted the urge to mention that having 17 kids (17!!) was no way to ensure his financial stability.

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The leader of the village who organized the expedition was horrified and took us to his house to continue our questions. It turns out he is a teacher at a neighboring village school and is a big-wig in the political party of the state, especially active with the teacher’s union. He showed me pictures of rioting teachers turning over cars during a rally that turned violent, and I was envious and relieved I did not have to rally for my paycheck. So, my kind of guy. At least until he asked me in his very broken English “Why are your weight so heavy? Do you want to lose weight?” My sarcastic side flared for a moment, but i reined it in and explained that losing weight was harder than one might think. I also tried to explain that my eating was a psychological expression of my insecurity, but that was too much for him. He suggested yoga, and I said that was a great idea, though I have very little free time to devout to such things, what with family and grading and lesson planning. He looked at me confused because, as a teacher, he sees 35 students (grades 1-6) four hours a day, and the rest of the day is his. Granted, i get paid a hell of a lot more than he does, but it was not worth explaining my busy life schedule. Easier to remain the crazy, overweight foreigner.

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About the Author

I moved to India. I mean, why the hell not, right?