Monday, February 28, 2011

Little visitors

Boaz and I are sitting on the couch eating dinner or something.  He's looking at me, talking, then shouts "OH MY GOD!" mid-sentence.  Obviously there is a giant, rabid, spider lunging at me from behind with its deadly poisonous fangs.  Or there was just a lizard in the entry way.

I've seen a little cat in the courtyard a few times and found paw prints across our table on the veranda.  Today I caught him lounging on my chair.  I can't tell if he's a stray.  He's friendly, but not very clean.  He seems to like cheese.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our stuff has arrived


It is ludicrous how visibly happy I am to be sitting on a couch right now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mornings in India

Things in India get started a little later.  Boaz's office sends a shuttle for him and other expats in the morning that doesn't even arrive until 9:20 and he's the first pickup.  Some shops are open about 9 on weekdays, but most things don't open until about 10.  Malls, restaurants, etc. never open before 11.

I like to sleep in, so this seemed totally awesome for a while.  It's almost eerie, like waking from a coma in a zombie apocalypse, if you go out at 9am on a Sunday.  (I've been watching a lot of zombie movies while I've been sick.  Maybe too many.)  Those rare days that I want to get an early start become a waiting game, assuming I remember that nothing is really open.  A few times I've headed out early, but only been able to do 1/2 my errands because everything else was still closed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sick again!

I don't usually get sick this often, so I'm pretty grumpy about it.  Probably I can look forward to getting sick a lot more here.  Not only are the viruses foreign, but now I'm doing volunteer work in a building that sees 250+ kids, from who knows how many schools.  Dengue fever hasn't been ruled out yet either.  Our stuff has been processed by customs and will hopefully be delivered soon.  Being stuck in an uncomfortable bed all the time doesn't help with the grumpiness. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First class?

I did my first classes today.  They went really well, I think.  I hadn't actually prepared enough material for them.  The other volunteers had emphasized not expecting too much from the classes.  It makes sense.  This is an extracurricular for them and they only see us twice a week for an hour at time.  But all of my classes were pros at reading as a group, at least phonetically.

Housie was big hit.  I caught myself doing a lot of India no-no's.  I pointed at children to call on them, I patted a kids head.  Nobody called me out, but even I know that these are rude behavior here.  There's a lot of learning to go around on both sides I think and we're getting to where we can share that with each other.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Prepping for class

One of the more obvious challenges I saw in the session I sat in on Monday is keeping the whole class engaged.  The volunteer started the class with some conversation.  "How old are you?  What is your favorite color?  Can you ask Didi some questions."  Then she wrote the alphabet on the board and had each of the students come up to name all the letters.  This is where the other kids started fidgeting and chatting with each other.

One-on-one time is important, but how do you find the time in just 2 hours a week and review past material and continue to cover new stuff?  I am thinking once a week I'll have the kids do a written worksheet while I read with each of them individually.  Otherwise, I want to focus on group activities as much as possible.   Maybe start each class with a short review game:  pass around a bag full of flashcards that the drawer can identify and then the group has a chance to do a follow-up, like spell the word or use it in a sentence.

For the first class I think we'll just do some introductions and questions followed by a game.  I'm hoping they like Housie (Bingo) and prizes.  I'm really hoping they'll even help come up with the clues/words/pictures for future game boards.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Volunteer work at AIC

I started talking to AIC before leaving the States and submitted my formal application shortly after arriving, but hadn't heard anything for a while.  I was beginning to worry that Grampa gave me a bad reference and this whole thing wasn't going to work out.  Turns out the HR-and-everything-else guy I've been talking with, Eric, had been back Stateside.  So he e-mailed me Saturday.  We met at the education center on Sunday.  And today I got a glimpse of the work I'll be doing with the Ashraya Initiative for Children.  You can read about all of their programs on their website.

I'll be starting with the education outreach program.  AIC arranges enrollment; pays tuition; provides supplies, uniforms, and a place to bathe and study for about 250 slum children.  The kids in the program return to the education center before or after school for additional instruction, help with homework, etc.  I was lucky enough to catch the weekly dance class yesterday.

All of the new students are enrolled in English medium schools, but originally many of the students were sent to Marathi medium schools.  (Marathi is the regional language in Maharashtra.)   Volunteers like me work with these students for two 1-hr sessions each week to teach them basic English.  I'll start Thursday with 3 groups of about 10 kids from the 3rd to the 9th standard.

I'm excited.  The kids are all delightfully friendly.  Even on the street near the center they run up to shake my hand, yelling "Didi! Didi!"  But I'll admit I'm a little intimidated too.  I sat in on one session with a 2nd standard group today, but I'll be leading my own classes already next time.  There are some obvious challenges and I'm sure more subtle ones as well.  The volunteer that is leaving is preparing some detailed reports on each of the groups for me.  I'll be talking more this week about how I'm trying to prepare too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Census of India 2011

Yesterday afternoon one of the security guards knocked on our door and handed me this form to fill out.

India's 2011 census began in earnest yesterday.  I'm a little perplexed that one of the 2.7 million census employees didn't deliver the poorly xeroxed form.  It's also full of spelling errors, even headed "Censes of India 2011."  Is it possible this isn't really part of the official census?

Another phase in April/May will apparently include coming round to fingerprint, iris scan, and assign an identity number to everybody in India.  All 1.2 billion?  A massive undertaking indeed.  The FAQ on the official government census site is kind of interesting, but doesn't include any of the questions I had.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Boaz has recovered.  I thought I had escaped the infection and celebrated appropriately with a bottle of wine on Sunday.  Now I'm starting to feel crappy.  I've also been terrible about remembering to take pictures while wandering Pune, but I'll throw a few out to you while I spend some time resting.

Indian wine Zinzi

Speaking of wine:  Alcohol is pretty expensive here.  The cheapest wines I can find are still over $5.  I've found a couple in that range that I like.  You can easily spend $30 on a domestic bottle of wine that is about on par with a $5 bottle at home.  I haven't found any reds I really like yet.  That's always a little trickier.  This system won't scale, but for the moment I take pictures of bottles I like or hate.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Boaz is sick

He's got some sort of head/chest cold with a fever.  So unfortunately, we had to back out of the Goa trip.  Bo is determined to plan another shortly.

The grocery stores here don't seem to stock first aid stuff.  It's a little like the East Coast; there are few supermarkets and most things are bought at dedicated shops.  I also stand out, so the pharmacy shop already recognizes me from getting bandaids and heartburn medicine.  I don't know if this contributed to how easy it was to just walk in and ask for codeine syrup.  But they sold it to me, despite the label stating it is only available by prescription, which was very convenient.   So Boaz is coughing less and a little high - not a bad place to be with a flu in warm weather.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

General update

Our shipment from the States was estimated to arrive on the 27th of last month.  Now they are saying the 5th of February.  Cross all your fingers y'all.  We won't miss our stuff this week though.  We are heading to Goa for some kind of company retreat thing.  Yay!