Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 13, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

The Candidates at Sunset Point. Kanyakumari, India.

Confounding India.

The story that I posted on Saturday elicited a few interesting comments. A few people (?!) are seriously questioning my sanity. If you were too busy shovelling snow back home or removing sand from between your toes in Florida, take a minute and read, “ A Fine Grind,” an account of my first bus trip in India. As I have said countless times in my reporting, over the past 3.5 months, if you are a person who doesn’t like change or uncertainty, India is probably not the place for you. But if you are adaptable and have a very good sense of humour, you will manage very well over here and learn a lot about a fascinating country. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself.

Sitting outside the office at the B@B is like a meeting of the United Nations. We have the opportunity to chat with people from all over the globe. Many of them had travelled to India several times and find something new with every trip. And just about every one of them says the same thing. There are a few times when everyone of them ( myself included )  neared the breaking point. You have one of those days when there are transportation glitches, power outages and poor internet connections… and probably another fistful of irritants. You’re ready to get the next train out of town and head straight for the airport… if the train is on time and hasn’t been suddenly cancelled! You’re standing on a street corner of a busy city, helplessly lost and you get ten different sets of directions to where you’re supposed to be going. Your inner thermostat is nearly off the chart and you’re thinking, “ get me out of here.”

And then something magical happens.

This past Saturday was a busy day and it was filled with some of the aforementioned “irritants.” Sometimes they accumulate over a few days, or a few hours. I wasn’t particularly stressed. The common refrain among foreigners is , “ it’s just India.”

So, I’m sitting on the patio of the B@B and an auto rickshaw pulls up. With considerable difficulty, the driver assists a man out and on to the ground onto a small wooden platform that serves as his mode of getting around, as his legs are atrophied and many of his fingers are missing. I immediately recognize John, one of our neighbors from the leprosy community next door. Now, John has a reason to complain as he didn’t go looking for leprosy in his youth. It found him and changed the course of his life. He is not bitter. Far from it. You’ll read his story this coming Thursday. He has stopped by, not to complain about  the lack of water taps in the colony. He has come by for a few minutes to thank me for listening to his story ( when I did the interview ) and to tell me ( through a translator )  that he loved me. All this, with the biggest smile on his face. You feel a bit ashamed for complaining about poor internet.

I dusted off my BEd. last week and returned to the classroom to teach English as a second language to 14 young women who are in the early stages of preparing for a life of vocations. Prior to their arrival, I had been told that they knew no English and that I would really be starting from ground zero. And so, I planned accordingly and consulted with some ESL instructors who graciously gave me several lesson plans starting with the alphabet, days of the week and numbers.

Anyone who has taught elementary school , especially the kindergartens and grade ones, will totally understand what’s coming next. Eons ago, I remember substitute teaching for a classroom of grade ones, something I had never done before. I prepared a week of lesson plans. Before lunch time on the first day, the children had completed every single task , every handout, every picture to color and were looking for more… by noon… on the first day. I remember going to the staff room at lunch time with a slight look of panic on my face, wondering what in the hell I was going to do for the rest of the day, let alone the rest of the week!

My first clue that the information given to me about the girls’ English proficiency was inaccurate happened at 6:00 a.m. on Day 1. Mass. It was an English mass and they were easily able to read every word of the liturgy. I had a flashback to the grade one class. I thought to myself, “ maybe they just memorized this at the convent and really didn’t understand a word that they were parroting.”  Wrong.

I had an interpreter with me when class began at 10:00 that morning. I started by introducing myself, giving some family and work background. I paused to let the translator explain. She looked at me and said, “They understand every word you’re saying.” I turned on the air conditioning to hide the perspiration forming on my brow. The week of lesson plans sitting on my computer’s desktop waiting to go up on the big screen, were completely useless. As fervently religious as the young charges in front of me appeared to be,  no one prayed harder for divine intervention at that point in time than me.

I dusted off another old skill: stick handling ( from my Junior Bulldogs days ). I stick handled my way through the rest of the day and then spent the evening ( and a restless sleep ) trying to develop a curriculum for “Intermediate ESL students.”

It’s just India!

Have a great week.

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