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Excerpts From India..Feb 3rd-Feb 7th

Posted Nov 29 2008 12:19pm

Feb 3

Our hot water thingymabobber is broken. So, it's being shipped back to Jaipur. So, that means for the next 3 days at least, if I want to bucket, I have to boil water on the propane range in the kitchen. And I'd have to boil about 6 pots.

Considering some of you sent packages close to 3 weeks ago that have yet to arrive, I don't anticipate having hot water again, um..ever.

Tonight I washed my hair in the sink and did a washcloth bath with freeeeeezing water in the sink. The water heater thingymabobber broke the day before yesterday, we were thinking it would be fixed today..because in India, the slogan is "Anything is possible". Unless you need hot water or modern plumbing or shampoo or clean laundry or, um, anything, in which case any complaints are met with the other slogan, said to you when someone hands you whatever jerry rigged contraption that's supposed to replace anything modern, which is "Same same but different."

When I get to Goa, I am going to head straight into the ocean and not come back out until I'm convinced my feet are clean.

In other news, I'm having dresses made from old sari silk, and maybe a spring coat, and I made myself the Indian equivilant of a goat burrito last night with goat MJ had cooked, a chapati, and that jacked up cheese I'm so fond of.


Feb 4th

Last day of teaching is Thursday. Friday is a train to Mumbai. From Mumbai we go to Goa, Feb 12th to March 2nd. There is a possibility I'll be in Goa an additional week doing more volunteer work, but I'm going to try and avoid it. In Goa ( a state), if I can avoid volunteering, we will be travelling the coast from beach to beach. March 2nd NA and I start our trip south, officially. We'll be hopping from town to town, state to state, ending up back in Udaipur by March 22. We'll be in Udaipur approx one week, in which I will be mailing home crap and presents and switching out my extreme heat southern India clothes for my Himalaya trekking clothes. Which don't even exist, so that should be something interesting. April 1st, roughly, we will head to Sikkim. We'll be trekking in Sikkim for 1-2 weeks, then we will likely be exploring more of India, including Darjeeling and Calcutta. But I really dunno what's up once we get to Sikkim.

I'll put up an itinerary as soon as I get it nailed down correctly.

Feb 4th

When we arrived at school, it was eerily quiet. When our rickshaw was pulling up, there were actually kids heading the other direction, back towards the village. This was unusual, because usually they chase behind the rickshaw screeching and waving at us.

In the schoolyard we saw all the teachers present, plus the principal..again odd. There are two new teachers who have been hired since we arrived..our presence has increased attendance, and they are now adding 6-8th grade to the school. Fat lot of good it does, though, because the teachers still mostly sit around drinking chai, encouraging us to smack our kids, send them out on errands, and when they do "teach", it isn't unusual to find the teachers sitting playing with mobile phones or reading the paper while the kids simply sit, doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And the principal ither shows up late, or not at all, and just wanders about flirting with us, much of the time. Yes, there is one decent teacher there, and the woman who works in the daycare, but I don't know how these kids are expected to learn. Forget the fact there are no resources ( or electricity or desks), and this is a bare bones government school, but when there isn't even enthusiasm for learning from the people who are responsible for the majority of the curriculum...ARGH.

No, I'm not frusterated at alllllllll.


Today was testing day for the fourth and fifth graders, and most of the other kids simply went home ( they'd return before lunch, lunch in a community where most are underfed is a big'll even see kids with a plate piled high with the basic rice and lentil slop carrying it ontop of their head to bring home to family members, if there is extra..) F helped with the third grade, and I joined NA for second. My former kidlets were thrilled to see me, and I camped out next to Mohanlal and the girls to help them "cheat" at the lessons. Mohanlal had some sort of massive ear infection when I first started teaching, he's a few fries short of a Happy Meal, and a general stinker, but I really really really really have a soft spot for him, and he seems to have one for me, as well. He's now half deaf, and has never had an attention span, so I've been mouthing the answers at him in an attemt to get him to learn a bit more plus read lips. Not standard practice, but hey...

I was behaving like a student today and NA banished me eventually for "cheating" to the tamarind tree, which cracked up the kids. They've come so far!!! The second graders can not only identify colors now, but can spell some of them. But mostly, I was happy to see Mohanlal, because he's been absent for 2 weeks, and I was worried I wouldnt see him again before I left.

We ended the day reading books again, this time I read " Hop on Pop" to the second graders, and they were enraptured, even though Ambalal wouldn't shut up during it, and according to NA, was attempting to translate what I said in English to Hindi..that kid never shuts up, but he was understanding much of what I was saying..yay!

Mohanlal took my hand at the end of class and wouldn't let go, and walked me over to the circe to sing our Goodbye song, and even then, didn't drop my hand. And at this point I could care less if it was his left, and it may have been slightly damp.

I better get my 4th and 5th graders back tomorrow, though.

Feb 4th

My ( Indian) cell phone account has been frozen because here in ( India ) you have to jump through a whole muck of paperwork..apparently, 2 months ago, when I submitted my passport plus photos plus my drivers liscence and filled out reams of paperwork in Hindi and English, well, somehow that just wasn't enough of an ( Indian) pain in the ass for everyone involved. Sooo...I have to likely do this all over again with paperwork and validation and NOW I think an international criminal background check, and I have to do it at the place I purchased my SIM card and phone, and I leave town on Friday...

What's my point, besides bitching about ( India) " Anything is possible" and "same same but different?"

I am likely going to not have a cell phone for the next two months. Keep your fingers crossed, but if past volunteers experiences are any indication, I will not. So me, and for the love of all sacred bovines, answer your phones when you don't recognize the number.

Worse worse but same, I'll also provide you with NA'S mobile number in case of emergencies while traveling.

Funny I can deal with the mass of parasites living in me and everything else, but this little snafu had me totally lose it today. I think I'm projecting the whole "India is out of control and insane and this is the hardest thing I've ever done" crap I have to keep smushed down for sanitys sake and transferred it over onto the phone thing. It's having contact with you all back home that keeps me going, 'cause this shit sure is not fun. Amazing and wierd and rewarding, but fun....not so much, I think.

But..same same but different...

Feb 5th involved baksheesh ( a bribe) and falsification of addresses (don't ask..apparently I'm staying at the hilltop hotel, room 204, for the past two months and ongoing) but my phone is working again.

Really...don't even ask. it's India. Enough said.

It may get frozen again..keep your fingers crossed it doesn't. But at least for now, back on.

Feb 7th

Yesterday we were testing the kids on vocabulary and the syllabus topics, which was made interesting by one of the Hindi teachers wandering by and smacking one of my kidlets upside the head for writing the letter "J" backwards.

I didn't like that much.

The kids knew something was up because F and I were trying to take some photos, and because it causes a massive disruption we avoid taking pics on regular school days..everyone will run up saying " Ek photo, Didi?" and "Mera photo please, Didi?" ( one photo, my photo, big sister?). That's pretty commonplace here..most people are thrilled to have a picture taken, will insist on seeing it afterwards. It's pretty fun in the tribal areas, and even in *****, because you can snap photos of almost anyone obligingly and they usually love the results. Anyway, they kept saying " Jao, Didi, jao...jao America" and pouting. We had to assure them we would be back "kal" ( hindi for tomorrow, and for yesterday..really helps explain the concept of Indian time when the word means both, doesn't it?)

Mohanlal from second grade kept asking me to come sit by him during school, Prakash wouldn't fork over " Ugly Duckling", Kailish was being suprisingly obedient and not at all like his usual arson prone self..and some of the boys even sat on my lap for a few minutes..really unusual, considering they are pre-teens, and as a culture are just not that physically affectionate. Mohanlal and Ambalal from second grade insisted on holding my hands for the last 15 minutes and during our Goodbye songs, and I had to keep on my sunglasses so they wouldn't see my eyes getting all weepy.

Yesterday after school I went into Udaipur for my third time solo..not quite the mindblowing experience I described before with the palm readings and such, but it was a very interesting tuk tuk ride, and again, my IPod was the center of attention. Or rather, my western self with an Ipod. I was on round 2 with the merchant making my coat and dresses from old saris..I'd been bargaining hard and was not satisfied with the first go-round, and after some initial fang baring we've now become chai drinking buddies, though he's trying to con me into starting a antique sari import business stateside. I can tell I'm becoming..what am I becoming? I'm not sure, but I can recognize many of the stray street cows in Old Udaipur now..especially the big white one with painted red horns who likes to avoid all eye contact with me, seemingly content to chew on his garbage cud, before swinging his head to the side out of nowhere and sending me crashing. I hate that cow. I hate that cow even more than I am annoyed by the leather diary dude up by City Palace who always screams into my left ear " Just look free, no charge look!" even though I never go in and he knows I'm a cheap volunteer teacher from Bedla..and I hate that cow more than I am creeped out by the rickshaw guy up the Jagdish Temple who won't stop offering me marijuana.

I spoke to SH from England last night for close to an hour on the phone..she's the journalist who's writing an article on her, and our, experience here. I miss her. I miss MS. I miss being alone, too. Every night around 7 pm I start pacing, trying to find something to keep my mind occupied in a different sort of way, trying to avoid all the other volunteers, trying to find something comfortable, or quiet, or just my own. I never meshed with this group, nor them with me, and with all that had been going on lately, my urge to pull into myself and find my own..inner time out..has been really unavailable. And we still have no hot water.

I want a 15 minute hot shower so badly if I really really think about it I do actually cry.

Today at school the boys were rotten to the core and Prakash kept threatening to punch or slap I had to go all melodramatic on him and pretend I was devestated and about to cry, and when he saw that his Didi was sad he held his hands very high to hisforehead ( higher the hands, greater the respect) and said " I'm sorry, Didi. Sataani no. Prakash saitaani no." Of course, then I really did get emotional. Argh. I realized though that why they were being so shitty and backtalking and testing limits is because we ARE leaving, and they are not happy about it. So we couldn't get mad..that wouldn't help. We chastised when we could but really, just stayed as patient and understanding as possible. It was draining..god was it draining, but it did work, and you could tell they were not just being shits for shits sake. Lalit, one of our brightest boys, said " Kal, Didi, I sad" and mimed crying. Then he pointed to me and said " Kal, Didi, you sad." I nodded. He nodded. I mimed crying. He mimed crying.

And then he tried to steal "Jao, Dog, Jao", called me a "big monkey", and decided he wanted to take home all the colored pencils. Mohanlal came to me and kept speaking to me shyly in Hindi, hands in his torn pockets, and I held out my arms to him and he willingly let me pick him up and hug him. And then I waited to hear the Twilight Zone theme music..but it gets more maudlin..Lalit pointed to Mohanlal and said " Mohanlal Mata-Ji.." and pointed to the sky..Mohanlals mother died last year..then he pointed to me " Mara, Mohanlal Mata-Ji."


I officially lost my cool then and had to go start picking up books and such while I was trying to stop myself from bawling like a fruit and keep the snot in my nose. Mohanlal held my hand till the end of the day and walked me to the rickshaw and I can't stop thinking about his smelly, obstinate, deaf little self, or Prakash and his books or Mohinder and his word games or Kailish and his lighters.

I'm cranky and stressd and worried about overpacking or underpacking for the South, thinking about how I was supposed to be home in a week and am not, thinking about travelling in a country I don't know with a language I don't speak, getting away from everyone and missing the kids, worried because they won't have teachers for the next 2 months for english, dealing with wierd culture shock already because I went to town wearing 3/4 length pants and felt like a slut for having my ankles exposed, wondering how the hell I'll feel on the beaches of Goa wearing short silk dresses after two months of long scarfs and tunics and full pants..excited but anxious and really really really wanting that bath.

Tomorrow we get to visit our kids houses and play cricket. I'm going to be a full on basket case.

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