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It’s Been a While

Hello all! Long time, no talk!

So, many of you are probably wondering where the heck I went. Well, to fill you in, I had some unexpected difficulties in my journey. 

On my last couple days in India, I travelled to Kota on an Indian train. What an experience! There were beds in the train, organized in typical bunk-bed fashion. Poorvi and Suhani loved jumping all over the little cabin that we were settled in, separated from the rest of the train only by a thin velcro curtain. At one point, we even met another seven year old boy who sang us Bollywood music, accompanied with shirt-twirling and body-shaking dances. 

After our trip back from Kota, I travelled to the Delhi airport by car, only to be stuck in 2 hours extra worth of traffic jams. After that, everything went smoothly until my Frankfurt flight. Unfortunately, our airplane had malfunctions in the electrical wiring, and there was smoke in the cabin. Not just once, but twice did this happen. We made two emergency landings, one in Nova Scotia and the other in Montreal. At the latter, it took us 8 hours to transfer to the new plane that they had available for us. Finally we took off to Chicago, where I spent the night and finally got off to Boise the next morning. Once in Idaho, I got varying levels of internet service, which is just one more reason why I haven’t updated the blog in a while. But now, I am finally home, sweet home, and I can take time to update my blog! I just started my Senior year in high school, which is quite a surprise.

 

In other words, I will be updating the blog once again in about two days to inform you all about donating to the students. I will be sending out a formal email about inviting people. If you are seriously interested in donating to the school and being added on for information, or possibly one or the other, please email me at molly.r.barnes@gmail.com

Thank you, and check back in a couple days! Thanks again!

Teaching, yet Learning

 Teaching is way harder than I thought it would be. Not knowing a lot of Hindi really hinders my ability. I know a lot of words and a couple sentences, but not nearly enough required to teach something effectively. The kids really don’t know very much English which doesn’t help either. I think that it is really hard for the kids to pick up English, as the teachers speak mostly Hindi to them. In fact, only one Shikha knows English fluently. She is the third, fourth and fifth grade teacher. There is so little space in the building that the school is currently renting, so it is really hard to fit a lot of students in. This is why three grades get grouped together in such a way. That also makes it really hard for the children to learn. This is one reason why it is imperative to raise enough money for the school. One there is enough funds, we can buy a big enough building to fit all the students, get separate classrooms and more teachers. Every dollar helps. 

 

With the older class, it is much easier to communicate. They know the most English and can kind of get what I’m saying if I use drawings and hand movements. Math is really fun with them, because they’re really enthusiastic when I come up with fun games. They get really pushy sometimes, and everyone wants to come with me and answer, and it is really overwhelming. I’ve also been teaching them how to type and use the computer. Today we did self-portraits on the Paint application to get used to using the mouse. They were pretty good for first timers! See the photos below. The problem with the computer is that they are overly pushy than they normally are! Every student wants to do it, and if they’ve already done it they want to watch and it just gets really crazy. Another thing is that it takes absolutely forever to get through one student, because I have to explain what I want them to do the best that I can. Its quite the challenge. 

The middle class, we work a lot on pronunciation. They have a really hard time with W’s (they pronounce them as V’s) and f’s, h’s and x’s. Om Prakash told me that this was due to the way that Rajasthani Hindi is pronounced. They also have a hard time sounding out small words by just seeing the letters. I think they memorize a lot of things rather than learning Phonetics. A lot of them depend on the hindi spelling of english words to sound it out. I think it is hard for these middle kids and older kids because they started school later than most kids normally do. They just learned how to read Hindi, and now they’re learning English at an age past the point where it is easy. A lot of them are behind. 

The youngest class is very cute. They are the pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners. They started school at the right time, so hopefully they’ll be able to pick up English a lot quicker than the other kids. The problem is that the teacher, Punam, doesn’t speak English to the kids. The thing about the little ones is that if they’re forced to hear it in school everyday, they’ll pick it up in a couple weeks. But, there’s always room to grow and change. The school is such a young organization. I’ve been teaching the little ones Baa Baa Black Sheep and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. They have no idea what the heck they’re saying, and a lot of them say the wrong word. But its okay. I always get excited by the one or two students who can actually recite the whole song with the right words. In my eyes, three students out of 15 is quite the accomplishment. And the ones who can’t say it perfectly still know it, with a couple bumps here and there, but still pretty good! 

I have two more days at school. I’m going to have such a hard time saying goodbye!

Medical Camp

Yesterday, we went to the medical camp at Sanjeevani Hospital. Dr. Gupta is a doctor that lives in Boston that comes every year to India, both to work at this hospital and with the students of Pratham Shiksha. Because it is the rainy season, Sumeeti decided to hold the medical camp now, even though Dr. Gupta isn’t here. Diseases, including Malaria, Dengue, and common colds and influenza, are more easily spread with the water and the influx of mosquitoes during the months of the rainy season.

As the hospital is small and so are the buses, we could only take 15 to 20 kids at a time, making our medical camp three days long to accommodate the 60 students. I must say, I was expecting a relatively large sized bus. But no, it was, as every car in India, a very small “Ambulance” which would have maybe fit 6 people respectively. I have never seen so many kids packed to a van before. It was quite amazing. And I and another teacher had to fit in too! (See the picture below). 

We saw three doctors in total: one optometrist, one dentist and one pediatrician. One thing I would have never even thought about was the trouble of testing your eyes when you can’t read. Even when I was little, I never remember having any problem reading the letters on the Eye Chart. The kids here had an extremely hard time reading the letters, especially when they were tiny. So, we changed it to the chart where you point which way the letter is going. It was hard to explain, but the kids eventually got it. Three out of the fifteen children had problems, all requiring glasses. 

Almost all the kids had teeth problems. Ranging from 7 to 14 years old, it was either eruption with too little calcium, so the child’s teeth were having trouble coming in, or cavaties. Some were serious and had to be removed because the tooth was so bad, and others just required fillings. 

In the general checkup, every single child had early vitamin A deficiency. Many had Anemia and a couple had advanced, stage two Anemia. All the children were underweight and under height. One girl had advancing Hepatitis, soon to become Jaundice. That was pretty scary. And the thing was, she is one of the kids that is always happy and excited. It was very surprising to me that she was seriously ill. These kids have to cope with things, by themselves, at such a young age. I was so fortunate to be a healthy child, with parents that care so much about me, with regular doctor’s and dentist’s appointments. What a news flash! And that was only 15 of the kids!

The pediatrician was telling me that there is a law in India that says that every child under 6 has to take pills twice annually against stomach worms. And these are the kids that can’t afford it. I just can’t imagine having to go to school, hungry, tired and sick every day. These kids are troopers.   I think my going away present to them all is going to be toothbrushes and vitamin A pills!

We’re going to the hospital again tomorrow. Today there was a strike because of conflicts in Kashmir. The police weren’t allowing vehicles on the roads from 9:00 to 11:00, so we couldn’t access the bus. And by the time the strike was over, the driver and all of the doctors either had gone home or were unavailable. Hopefully we can get through all the kids, because we don’t have Friday as an option. It is the 15th, India’s Independence Day, and most work places get the day off. Schools have a one hour celebration where the students sing songs and hoist the Flag, which we will be doing for my last day at the school. I can’t believe I only have two more days. My trip went by so fast!

 As you have read from the title, I am back from Bharatpur, which I have thus dubbed “The Land of Grasshoppers.” If you look up Bharatpur on Google, you will get stunning images of the beautiful bird sanctuary and castle that it is known for. But I think that a picture of a hundred grasshoppers would be a much more suitable image. Because that is how I will remember it. There is an unnatural amount of grasshoppers in the little town. The first night I stayed there, there were two in the house. I think it was the only time I screamed on the entire trip. That, along with the huge lizard sitting near the clock on the wall. I must say, it was quite dream like. 

However, grasshoppers and all, it was still an enjoyable “Vacation within a vacation.” I met all of Puneet’s family, including father, mother, sister, aunt, nieces, and cousins. India is the land of people. There is always someone in and out of every house, whether its inhabitants want it or not. I must say, when I go back to the US, my house will feel very big and empty without an influx of people. 

I also got to go to an Indian birthday party. Something that I find very striking: cake is served BEFORE dinner! It makes sense, seeing as then, the cliche “Save room for cake” will never, ever have to be used. And, the cake is the most important part, right? The party was of Puneet’s cousin’s daughter, who turned five. Her name is Divya and she just moved to India after living her whole life in the UK. She is having a hard time adjusting to India’s lifestyle. I can honestly say “I know how she feels!” 

Last night, I went to another birthday party. The most notable thing was that the party was of an eight year- old boy. But, as I walked into the party, there was a spider man cake sitting on the table. Most of you are probably thinking, “Oh, that makes sense, 8 year-old boy, Spiderman, alright.” But, the cake was the brightest pink you could possibly order. In fact, I even asked Sumeeti if it was actually a party for a boy. She said “People don’t give much care to the color of the cake. They just get a cake!” It was quite a party.

Away for the Weekend

Hello again all,

I just wanted to write a short hello since I haven’t been able to update the blog in a couple days. Our internet has not been working, and I am now at the office quickly using a free computer.

This weekend we are taking a trip to Paradpur, and I won’t be near a computer to update the blog. I will get straight to it when I return on Monday. I hope you all have a great weekend and are enjoying the blog!

Thanks for reading!

~Molly

Disha

After visiting India the first time, I noticed that I saw very little children, let alone anyone, with disabilities.  At home in California, I work with a Jewish organization called “The Friendship Circle” that works with children with special needs. It is not a school, but almost like a “play group” where normally-abled teens from around the Bay Area get together and create a new community with the children and teens with disabilities. Through my work with the Friendship Circle, I feel a huge connection to children with disabilities. So, after working with the poor children in India, I only could wonder “Where are the disabled?” 

Yet I could find none. But now I have, in a school named Disha. 

 

Today I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Disha, a school that teaches academics and basic life skills to children and young adults with disabilities.  At first, it seemed like a flash-forward to where I hope Pratham Shiksha will be in a few years: a beautiful building, the students hand made gifts displayed in the waiting area, and a gorgeous grass area in front. But, upon looking inside the classrooms, I found the difference. The students wore uniforms, yet they were messily put together. Wheelchairs were littered in front of the classroom doors, and inside, the students sat in specially made wooden desks that were similar to high chairs: The student would sit, and then the desk would be strapped in front. The desks were complete with special padded holes to put a student’s feet in. 

It was lunch time and many of the students had food set in front of them on their desks. The food was scattered around the desk, and covered the area around their mouths. Yet, these students looked to be 13 or 14. To me, this was not shocking, because I have worked with disabled children before. But I’m sure, to any person who is unaccustomed, this would be a huge surprise. 

Every classroom looked more or less the same. Same desks, same black board, but with different pictures on the walls. The students were different too. Most were excited to see me and stuck out their hands, similar to Pratham Shiksha children, yet few smiled. Their eyes were glossy and they appeared to be thinking very hard about something.

I eventually made my way to the top floor and visited the cooking and handicraft classrooms. There were the older students, most of whom were adults older than me. They were excited to meet me, one even kissed my hand. Another asked to take a picture with me and for me to sit on the floor. When I did and Om Prakash was about to take the picture, she tilted her head down and started crying, because she was very self conscious in front of the camera. But, when we stopped taking pictures, she tilted her head back up, smiled, and shook my hand again. They also showed me how to make block print paper and how to glue on sequins. 

 

On my way out, I realized that some people are not very intelligent. They think, “Oh, I should help these disabled children, because it is not fair. It is not fair that they are born that way. They cannot help it!” Yet, they do not think to help the poor children, even though they are in a similar situation. They can’t help being poor, and they were also born into it. Granted, there is a difference, but people do not even think about the beggars, the homeless. They only see them and think, “wow that’s disgusting.”

What I don’t understand is how one person can help one type and ignore the other.

Molly with Molly

My name has a meaning at least one place in the world! 

On Monday, I discovered that my name is a holy word. When Hindus worship, they have a red and yellow piece of string tied to their wrists, called “molly” (forgive if I spelled it wrong, but it is pronounced the same as my name). They also have a paint put on their foreheads in the spot that a woman’s bindi would go, called “Rolly” (once again, forgive my spelling). And this is why no one has trouble pronouncing my name! In fact, I met another woman today named Molly. 

Sumeeti told me that if I was born in India, along with Erica (my twin sister, for those of you who do not know), our names would be Molly and Rolly. Haha!

At the School Teej festival, I had a molly tied to my wrist. I now have my very own molly!