02 May 2009

I Stand Corrected.

[The tattered Diwali string that has been on my left wrist, has been removed.]


Today marked the return of regular classes at Ao Zora and my last-full day of volunteering.
Immediately entering the school this morning, a different vibe could be felt; there were new curious eyes on me as walked through the curtains and towards the stairs.
The Boys were all upstairs, dressed in light blue button up shirts and royal blue pants, kind of like uniforms, a more formal ‘changed’ look…
Well not all the Boys; lil’ Suraj was still wearing his favorite “New York” t-shirt, the same one he’s been wearing all week.

I saw Nikesh as I went downstairs; he looked exhausted.
I sympathetically laughed as I too felt exhausted; waking up to the local rooster and looking at the alarm clock and realizing that I had over slept by 15min.

I assisted Mukesh in teaching his class, the youngest group of students.
Having no idea how to teach [an official] class, I decided to take it step by step [using what I had learned from the past week], starting by introducing myself, in Hindi.

‘Good Morning… ummm…Namaskar! Mera Naam Victor Hai.’

‘MERA NAAM…!!!!!!’
The rest was flooded by a sea of little children’s names being shouted at me all at once…

Laughing, I turned to the blank white board.
Cold and blank.

I turned back to the class, all the blinking little eyes locked on me, wondering what I was going to say or do, next.
I was wondering, too…
Then, I remembered the songs I loved when I was their age…
[Writing out the lyrics on the whiteboard, we sang] Twinkle, Twinkle; Mary Had A Little Lamb; and the Alphabet Song.
I think it went over pretty well. I wrapped things up with basic rhyming lessons, [which got all the little girls and boys laughing].

Handing the marker back to Mukesh, I said goodbye to his class and decided to check out Vinod’s class; he was teaching math to a much smaller audience in the highest/most advanced class. Observing the way he was teaching, the way all of the [teachers] taught and spoke to the students, there is much more of a sincere caring and respectful mannerism, present.
[Vinod asked if I would like to have a go at teaching the math class, and while a part of me now wishes that I had, I opted to not interrupt the lesson plan and just observed how quickly each student was able to solve for “x”, hidden within the long division problems written on the whiteboard.]

Nikesh popped his head and asked me come with him.
We walked outside and he told me that he wanted to bring me to another school [located] near the Sujata Village. [We hopped on the motorcycle and off we went.]
The school had a much noticeably different atmosphere. It was quieter and felt less welcoming, compared to Ao Zora. We went into one class and Nikesh ‘handed me the mic’.
I reenacted the first part of my routine from Mukesh’s class.

The next class we went into was a bit more chaotic. I tried repeating my routine but was cut-off by the teacher and Nikesh [when the small crowded classroom gradually became full of soft whispers and side conversations.]
The students were asked to read their work books out loud, [as the two teachers stepped out of the class, leaving me to the chorus of piercing loud, high pitched, inaudible voices.] The problem at hand was due to the fact that the students were not on the same page… literally. Each child was reading [as loud as possible] something completely different.

Nikesh explained to me how Ao Zora has been trying to help this school out, by providing them with spare work books and supplies. His plan is to develop a partnership of sorts, for the future, which lead to his concern of Ao Zora’s current rented location; while being ideally situated near the bridge, the fact that they have to pay a monthly rent does not allow for much growth.
I’ll admit two things:
  1. I did not like how the teachers handled the school, especially when compared to how Ao Zora is run. I understand his desire to want to offer guidance and support to them.
  2. I have not told Nikesh about Engineers Without Borders, yet. He has expressed interest in building a school and re-locating Ao Zora, but without the assistance of a local NGO assisting them, I’m not sure how they would be able to organize both the planning and the teaching at the same time. When I do let him know about EWB, I will need to approach him with Right Speech and Right Action; keeping the intention of helping through the EWB guidelines.
I guess the first part is also contributing to part two. It’s not that I don’t want to encourage Ao Zora to help the other school, rather the opposite.
My concern is more of the feeling that if Ao Zora tries [to assist] too much and the other school isn’t ready for the changes, or worse, that after all the invested effort that the school does not progress or move forward, it could hold Ao Zora back or prevent Nikesh from focusing on his plans for the possible relocation.

Jeeze my thoughts are full of judgment.
Just the thing I need to think about before entering 10 ½ days of silent meditation.
I know it's not my decision; Nikesh is a very bright and compassionate person. He is so great for hearing me out, and I'm so very grateful for him sharing with me his heart's desires.
I will talk to him tomorrow about EWB...

I was very happy when I returned to Ao Zora; I helped out with the last 10minutes of class before school was officially released for the day.

Having lunch with the boys for the last time today was a bit sad. They’re so incredible, all of them; each with so much spirit and personality.
We spent the late afternoon playing cricket, followed by a brief demonstration of Baseball for Tinku.

Nikesh and I went to Amid’s home, next door to the school, to visit his daughter; her condition is definitely related to a dysfunction in the brain, possibly impacted by the seizures she has suffered, as noted on the medical reports.
[The little girl was lying on the family bed, starring up at the ceiling. She was conscious and present, but as I leaned over to make eye contact, she looked through me as if I were not there. Squirming, ever so slightly, Amid’s Wife lifted her daughter’s head up to feed her crackers.
Amid looked at me and explained how he has brought her to every big city hospital through out India, looking for answers as to what happened to his daughter.]
He does not know what else to do.
I asked Amid to make copies of his daughter’s medical report, explaining that the only thing I can do is to pass it around to generate awareness, perhaps someone else may be able to offer advice.

[I have scanned the report: http://www.slideshare.net/rotciv97/med-report-scan
it is a bit difficult to understand, but if you can offer any advice, please contact me. Thank you.]

I have packed up most of my things and as I look around at my empty room, I can’t help but express how grateful I am to be on this trip.
The fear and concern of the Vipassana Meditation retreat has not really been present, until now. I know it will be full of challenges and I will try to meet each challenge that arises, with a humble compassionate approach, much like I have with every experience I’ve encountered so far on this trip.

The next time I write in here, we will have a new elected President.

Happy Halloween.

(I Stand Corrected - Vampire Weekend)

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