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!!!

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