Monday, June 29, 2009

Just a quick update

Sunday night was the first night in a long time that I have been able to enjoy the night sky. Now that moon has finished playing its almost to week long game of hide and seek, and because the current was out for the most part of yesterday, I was able to see the sky lit with stars with a strong light from the crescent moon. The view made me realize how much I will miss the Indian night sky when I depart in less than three weeks.
Friday, I cried for the first time since I left America. Promona left on Saturday, so the hostel students and the teachers presented us with traditional Assamese gifts. I understood that it was not time for me to leave, but I was emotionally reminded that I will be leaving a group of children that I have grown very close to over the past month. The children laughed as my eyes became teary...
Saturday Promona left, while it was sad to see her leave, I know that my journey must continue. It will be a little harder now that I do not have someone to translate for me, or explain things to me, etc. but that is all a part of my experience. I have become comfortable enough here to deal with the hardships on my own, I was just a little spoiled while Promona was here. I am continuing with some of the projects that were put on hold while Promona was here. I wanted to do art in particular with the hostel children, but Promona came to do art in general so I put some of the art related things that I had in mind on hold to allow her to complete her art teachings. The students will be done taking their exams on Tuesday and I am really excited about teaching them again. I am going to make the best out of the last bit of time that I have with them.
I have planned a workshop for the teachers to all learn about the items in the first aid kit so that they can treat the children in case of an emergency. I am anxious to participate in this workshop because so many accidents and mishaps have happened only in my short time being here, and it is crucial that the teachers know how to handle these situations after I leave. After having the workshop with the teachers, I will have the same workshop with the 9th grade students. If there is not an adult present in the case of an emergency, the older children should know what to do as well. The grade 9 students will also design the actual first aid box that will be kept in the office. I am hoping that this will all go well come the middle of the week.
Remember that picture that I put up of me getting the mahendi during the Ambubashi mela...well that very picture is what landed me in the hospital on Saturday. Because I decided to get the henna tattoo done with the stamp, I risked having an allergic/hypersensitive reaction to the combination of the metal/henna powder. My skin burned and became highly irritated, and I was afraid that it had gotten infected. Fortunately, after my trip to the hospital, I was told that it was not an infection, but merely an allergic reaction. I must say that it wasn't the best doctors visit that I have had. The doctor was very rude and did not want to give me any information before he had decided that I needed 2 injections. I had only asked what was the diagnosis and he acted as if he did not have the time to explain it to me, as a matter of fact that is what he said. Needless to say, I waited for an explanation and received the two injections along with a prescription and a " If this doesn't work, then find a dermatologist." Everything is fine now and my arm is healing well.
Yesterday it rained all day, and I woke up this morning with the same scenery. It has not been raining like it should be. I am happy because with the rain comes a nice, and much needed, cool down. I have visitors coming so I don't have time to write, but I will post again tonight!!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Saying goodbye to Shillong :(

The school children in their prep clothes

A market in Shillong City

Elephant falls

More Elephant Falls

Shillong Peak

Promona fighting with her broken umbrella

Gorgeous view of Shillong

Juicy pineapple on our way to Shillong

Sometimes internal memories are much better....

These past few days have been interesting. With nothing to do because the children are testing, my life has become a boring blah. Although I have been slumming around on a daily basis, I have found time to do some projects that I had been meaning to finish for the Academy.
I have had time to think about future projects that I want to do and begin planning them. I shared with Uttam my plan to start an organization and in turn he told me some of his plans to expand the horizon of Parijat Academy. I thought that his idea was great, but when Promona and I began to talk about the financial planning that would be needed to carry out his project, he began to get discouraged and quickly changed his original plan. While I understood the frustration, I quickly explained to him that he can not allow financial burdens demote his dreams. Had I permitted the expenditures that I faced when deciding to come here hinder me, I would not be posting to this blog right now. Instead of becoming discouraged, I applied for a grant and made many fund raising plans just in case that didn't work out. When telling this to Uttam, it made me realize how I want to allow this opportunity to blossom into many others. I have small blueprints now, but whatever the case, because this is my dream I will not allow any burdens act as limitations. This was an eye-opener for me because too many times I have been told that things would not happen for me because of my financial, racial, or social background. But as I look over things now, I know that things are possible with faith and determination.

On Wednesday, Promona and I traveled to the state of Meghalaya for a day trip to Shillong. I believe I mentioned before that Shillong is near the place that receives more rainfall than any other place in the world. We set out early for the adventure and reached the trekker that would take us on the 2 1/2 hour journey. I was excited to take the trekker because I figured that i would be much more comfortable than I would have been on a bus. But I was MISTAKEN, I rode for 3 hours with a police officer sitting on my lap, a driver that seemed to be going in reverse, all in a car that smelled of old moth balls. All of this was just a small price to pay to see the beauty of Shillong. Once I reached the heart of the city, I had no idea what was to follow once we made it to the sights. We traveled to Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls, two of the major attractions. The taxi ride up the hills was beautiful, I didn't want to take pictures, it was peaceful....there were fields, with sheep, colorful flowers, and beautiful greenery; all in front of a misty foggy backdrop. I must say that it was a beautiful peaceful ride that even without pictures, I will never forget. Once we reached our destination, the sound of the rain and waterfalls were harmonious. I had never been to a place with large natural waterfalls before coming to Elephant Falls so this was an all new experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, not only because of the sights, but the general ambiance was relaxing. Not only that, but it was also cold enough for me to wear a sweater, I hadn't felt that cool since I left Maine. I had fun and there will be pictures following this post.

Yesterday, there was a statewide bandh (strike) going on in the state of Assam so everything was shut down. Nothing was open or running, not even the public transportation. There was a protest of the radical insurgents that were being killed and placed in jail. Even if I had things to do, nothing could be done. I had never experienced a statewide strike to that extent. I have merely seen workers outside of the skyscrapers in downtown Baltimore with signs in their refusal to work. Something different...

Last night I got to watch American TV!!! I got to see some of my favorite sitcoms and laughed like I had never seen them before. It was the first time in a looonnnggg time that I had been able to just sit and veg out in front of the television. While I felt useless, I enjoyed myself. The women that weave joined me in watching the shows and laughed along with me. It reminded me so much of home, how I would sit and watch TV with my younger sister years back and even when she didn't understand the content of the show, she would laugh hysterically with me. The laughter just felt good, there is no other way of explaining it.

Uttam called a meeting with the KG and Nursery teachers and I. He wanted me to share my opinion on ways that they can enhance learning in the younger classrooms. The meeting was very fruitful and those days I spent chasing two year olds at the Childcare Center really helped me. Besides the KG teacher, the others do not have proper training in childcare or development so they aren't skilled on ways to structure the time periods for ways that are beneficial to four year old children. I was glad to share my experiences as well as the knowledge gained from my developmental psychology classes and the teachers were very receptive. Next week I will spend the day with each of the teachers to see the way things are going, I'm anxious because I do not get to work with the younger bunch of children often. Today, Uttam called a meeting with a small youth society here in Guwahati. He wishes to have a youth leadership conference, which he planned yesterday. I really want to see how this goes, and I will be sure to keep you posted!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The point of the summer festival was to allow the children to participate in different art assignments outside/during school hours to be on display for an art exhibition. A segment of the festival was wall painting where the children were allowed to paint the walls of their classroom to bring color to the class and to give a personal contribution to the aura of the classroom. Parents were invited and were intrigued by the work of their own. The students were given a free day to draw and paint during the festival as sort of a relaxing period before their exams. This festival meant a lot to me because I am not able to have full conversations with the students and art projects are the best way for me to communicate with the students. I had a lot of fun and hopefully there will be another summer festival next year at Parijat Academy.

Promona and I addressing the assembly at the end of the festival, thanking the students for participating.

The finished wall artwork

Nursery and KG teachers

Face Painting

The students painting the wall

The set-up/ morning assembly

Face painting...and NO that is not water on my blouse, it was just THAT hot

The setup

Promona and I in our "lingerie" preparing for the festival

Promona helping children line up for the assembly

Ambubashi Mela

Getting a henna tattoo

Jushi, a neighbor in the village, and I

Red is the color of worship

A devotee "preparing" his bong for worship

Thousands of people filled the Kamakhya

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And the First Month is Now History....

Have you ever been on a bus with the proper seating capacity of 40 people...but actually stuffed with probably 150 anxious individuals?? Well I have, thank God I am tall so I actually had air to breathe. Yesterday I went to the Kamakhya temple yet again for the Ambubashi Mela. The mela is a celebration for the menstrual cycle of the Mother Goddess in the Hindu religion. Thousands of devotees travel from all over the world and pack the Temple as well as the surrounding area in order to participate in the week long pooja. The experience was incredible to say in the least. I really enjoyed myself there. I got to see Sadhus some with extremely long locks that were wrapped in an upward bun, others with make-up performing and dancing. It was astonishing to see the devotion that these people have for faith, I witnessed prayers, the giving of money to give to the goddess, as well as open marijuana smoking as a part of the pooja. Even in the midst of this worshipping ceremony I was stopped to take photographs and constantly asked where I was from. I got my first henna tattoo yesterday which was pretty cool too.
The art festival was held on Saturday and it was beyond what we had all expected. I woke at 5 in the morning in order to prepare. Even at five in the morning, the heat seemed to be giving me a personal visit. I had to paint the walls that I had primed the night before so that it could be ready for the children to paint by eleven. Promona had begun to set-up the front of the academy with the children's artwork by 7. We were semi under pressure because of the time constraint. But everything worked itself out. The children really enjoyed the wall painting and were very artistic in their contributions to the mural. It was so heart-warming to see the smiles on their faces when they got to choose their color and began to paint. They all were eager to add their own personal form of artwork. I even did face painting with the nursery and KG students so that they too could actively participate in the festival. Most of them had never had it done before so they were very shy, but once they saw the outcome....they all ran at once to be next. It was extremely hot on that day, thank God the afternoon computer students (Joon, Rupam, and Kankun) started to help me out. The blouse piece of my sari was soaked, as you will see in the pictures, but I had the time of my life. Reporters had come to "shoot the festival" but when they actually arrived they wanted to shoot Promona and I teaching the children on their day of fun. The point of the festival was to allow the students to exhibit the artwork that they had been working on since Promona and I came to the Academy. I wanted to make sure the children knew that art is expressive, fun, and also a great educational experience. The children were allowed to paint the walls of the classroom to bring color to concrete walls that normally surround them. Also this Saturday was the Saturday before the children began their half-yearly exams, and the festival also served as an enjoyable break before the stress of tests for the children. The reporter was let down when I quickly told him that I would not disrupt the childrens leisure time and force them to sit and "learn" math and english texts. The festival was great, and I have told Uttam that he should make it an annual celebration for the students right before their half-yearly exams.
It is beginning to sadden me that my time here is coming to an end. Today I had a water balloon fight with the children of the hostel and it reminded me of the water balloon fight that I had with my fellow cheerleaders before coming here. I was having a great time and the children obviously enjoyed soaking their "teacher". Uttam's father is back home but he is still feeling very ill. It is really sad to see the usually live man of the house quiet and still. We are all hoping that he feels better soon.
I traveled to a nearby village a few days back to plant trees to help with the landowner's iniatives to make the land much more green. Uttam, Promona, and I all planted different types of trees to mark the beginning of the cause. We were given gamochas as the guests of honor. It was very nice to take part and contribute. That same day, we all traveled to Deepor Beel, a large bird sanctuary and wetland where migratory birds come during the the different seasons. It was a BEAUTIFUL place and I enjoyed snapping the pictures that I did. From the watchtower I was able to see the entire stretch of the wetland. There were wild buffalo, which I didn't know were present here, beautiful birds, and gorgeous butterflies. Unfortunately, because the moonson is taking longer than usual to settle in, the birds have not begun to come in large flocks, but the elephants are nearby and I should be able to see them anytime soon!!!
Spending so much time with other children makes me miss my younger brothers and sister. I watched Finding Nemo yesterday and it made me think back to when my two younger brothers, my sister, and I would all cramp into my twin sized day bed and watch it together, it was soothing to have the memory, but it mad me realizze how much I miss them. There are students here that constantly remind me of them. I miss being home and hugging them and playing with them one minute, but then fighting with them the next. I'm sure my mother will laugh when she reads this, but positive that my siblings will understand how I feel.
I am not only missing my brothers and sister, but I am also missing the school children. They are taking their half-yearly exams this week so there is no teaching, not even an after school computer class a.k.a. a fun visit from Joon, Rupam, and Kankun. I feel semi-useless...especially after spending this entire day lounging around the house with my college sweatpants and t-shirt. Next week will be better and more eventful!!! Tomorrow we are supposed to be travelling to Shillong in the state of Meghalaya. I am anxious to see the contrast in the life of these people because the state is greatly influenced by the British. I am sure I will have a remarkable time and i will be sure to let everyone know how it went!!!

Deepor Beel

We took a trip to the Deepor Beel bird sanctuary. It was an amazingly beautiful experience. Because this is elephant season, the elephants frequently come to the wetland to take mud baths. I did not get to experience that this time but hopefully I will be able to see them!

Wild Buffalo

Huge lily pad type things lol.