Saturday, January 21, 2012

Three Weeks Home

I have been three weeks home from India, and I want to share with you how I have fit back into my life here in Maine.
After four weeks of intense involvement with many people in India, I have been spending a lot of my time alone in my home, keeping the wood stove burning, cooking meals for myself, and walking through the snow filled woods on the trails behind my house.
I have continued to support the three young men in the computer center at the school almost daily through email and Skype. They are learning to use Joomla to develop the web site we started while I was there.
I have been meeting with a teacher at the Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham to develop a way of supporting the girls here to write to the 33 girls in the 8th grade at Machani Somappa School in Yemmiganur.
Both of these projects are moving along and are taking much of my time. I like that I can continue to work this way for the school in India.
As I walk through Brunswick in Maine I am aware of how I miss the many greetings I shared walking the streets of Yemmiganur. And I miss the excitement and hand shakes of the children. As much as it felt like it was too much intrusion into my personal space at the time, I can see now how much of that attention and affection I was able to take in, and how much I miss that energy here in Maine.
So, all of this journey is slowly sinking in. I feel much gratitude and love for all the people who have been a part of this time for me.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Safely Home Pictures

The Pictures from the previous post are now available.

Safely Home

After many hours on airplanes and airports, I am happy to be home. My house is safe and sound, and I am beginning to unpack and settle in for the winter. I am feeling emotionally tender and sensitive. I am physically tired but healthy and well. The quiet in my home and in the woods where I walked this morning is such a contrast to the people filled spaces that I have been in for the past four weeks.
The farewells on my last day at school were very moving and caring, and I left feeling a deep connection to the students, teachers and friends that I met during my time in India.
Here are some pictures of the farewell event at school. The principal had a special set of clothes made for me for the event, and the tailor came in the morning and dressed me up in the Juba, Dhoti and cap. I felt very special. The kids loved seeing me all dressed up.
I will write more as I settle in here at home and let you know about how I am processing this wonderful experience for me in India.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Good Byes and Namskaram

This morning I am thinking about what this day will be like for me, my last day at school. There will be many goodbyes. Children are sad that I am leaving. Teachers will miss me. I am blessed by their love for me. I am amazed at the ways I have blessed them just by being who I am, and by talking to them and listening to them.
I will go through this last day opening my heart to taking in their love and blessings.
Namaskaram is the blessing we greet one another with every day: The God in me blesses the God in You.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hampi: The Ruins of a 16th Century Empire

On Monday we drove about 4 hours to Hampi to tour the vast ruins of a 16th century civilization. It was amazing, vast and beautiful.
Here is a link to more information about Hampi. And here are tons of pictures.

I am getting ready to return home on Saturday, and I am beginning to say goodbye to the people I have met and worked with here for the past four weeks. I will be glad to see my friends and family in Maine, and to be back in my quiet home. Eventually, I think, I will miss India.

Christmas Day visits

Divya, Uma, Swati, Keeti and Sushma, girls in the ninth grade, came to my house on Christmas morning to wish me a happy Christmas.  We walked to both of their homes and I had snacks at each home for breakfast. Sushma came later, and we all walked into the shopping area to buy some presents for my family in America. They helped me pick out a dress, and some bracelets. They took me to a temple nearby their homes. I enjoyed their excitement in taking me to their homes to meet their families, and in helping me shop. Here are some pictures from the day.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Car Blessing

Yesterday morning I asked my driver, Sidapa, to take me to school. I was running a little late. He often is polishing the car in the morning and we usually leave promptly. This morning he had just started to do some kind of ritual in front of the car, and he said he would be just five minutes. The ritual took about 20 minutes, and he had no sense of my impatience in waiting. I finally let go of my need to “get to work”. This type of blessing is done on the new moon, and it was apparently very necessary. I accepted it as part of what it takes for me to be safe amidst the wild driving and traffic in Yemmiganur. I cannot begin to describe how skilled the drivers are here at doing “crazy” maneuvering on the streets in their cars, autos (three wheeled taxis), bicycles, ox carts and motorcycles. Recently I started to relax as I am driven through this wildness. Here are some pictures of the car ritual.

Visiting Homes

I have visited the homes of several 9th grade girls yesterday and today. Their families are so honored that I come into their homes. I can only imagine how much of a blessing it is for them that I do that.
I have been training three teachers to manage the new website that I have set up for them using Joomla. I am aware of how I will need to continue to support them when I am home, and I will be happy to do that.
I haven’t talked about the weather because it is the same everyday. It is sunny and warm, in the 70’s to 90’s , and very comfortable for me.
I am working just three more days at the school next week, and on Friday I will be going to Bangalore to fly home. So my remaining time is filled with the sense that I will be leaving and saying goodbye to all my friends here. I have become adjusted and comfortable here and I am relaxing. I can begin to see the value of all that I have done relating to the computer lab. But the bigger picture is of my connections with all of the children and teachers and others with whom I have been forming relationships.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A New Friend, and The Temple in Mantralya

On Wednesday Sushma, an eighth grade girl, walked me home and we stopped at her home to meet her mother and father. She was very happy to have me come to her home. The next day she brought lunch for me to school. Her mother made vegetable fried rice and a sweet bread. It was a wonderful connection for me and I will treasure our new friendship.
I had fun teaching a Social Studies class that was sitting on the ground outside of the computer lab. I created shapes of spaces with my hands in the air that represented different states, countries, rivers or mountains. I walked around the students in a circle that represented the location of those things on the planet. I named and located those things many times and they repeated my words, shouting them loudly. After a while I could just hold my hands in a shape or gesture and they would shout out the name. The Mississippi River was my fingers wiggling as I moved them through the center of America from top to bottom. Maine was a space in the Northeastern part of America. Bowdoin was a small space in Maine; and my house was a tiny space that I made with my thumbs and index fingers. They loved doing that and it was so affirming for me of my ability to be creative and have fun in teaching children. I am much less creative in the computer lab. There I am mostly supporting the teachers and helping the students.
Here are some pictures of Sushma and of teachers working in the lab. Also a few of VeeJay's house on the way to Mantralaya.
Yesterday evening I went to the Temple and Ashram in Mantralaya, about 20 miles from here. I was blessed by the elephant. I wore a Juba and Dothy. I am realizing in writing this morning that I don’t have a lot of energy or interest in going into detail to describe something like this visit. So I will give you this link to get more information. I also have some pictures that I took there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adoni and the Mosque

I am more than half way through my time here in India. I am missing my friends and family. I am making new friends here in Yemmiganur at the school and at the office of IndiVillage where I spend a lot of my before and after school time. These people take such good care of me, but it is an effort to communicate with them in a relaxed way because of the language differences. My friend Oliver is my best support, and I have gradually become more independent of his guidance and direction.
The visual stimulation I encounter just in walking around town, and being in a large crowded school each day, is so pervasive and dominant that I have little time for reflection and reading and writing. I am taking so much in, and I am not processing it or sharing it, except some with Oliver.
Writing in this blog has been very important for me to do the kind of reflection and sharing that nurtures me. I appreciate all of you who are following me here. I feel your love and support and appreciation for what I am doing.
On Sunday I went to visit the nearby town of Adoni. Riaz, a friend from IndiVillage invited me to go to his Mosque and see some 17th century temple ruins in the mountains. Here are some pictures.

Friday, December 16, 2011

School on Saturday

Saturday is also a school day in India. Yes, six days a week. I have new headsets that I will take in this morning so an English teacher can use a phonetics program on the internet with his classes today.
I was delighted to see the 10th grade girls all dressed up to go on a bus to Adoni, a nearby town, for the state Science Fair. I wish I could have gone with them. Here are some Pictures.

Tomorrow I will go to Adoni to attend a mosque. Riyaz has invited me and I will be driven there by the IndiVillage driver to meet him. Riyaz works at IndiVillage, the small business process outsourcing company (BPO) where I spend much of my time in the mornings before school and after school. I do my writing here and I have breakfast here every morning. Here are some Pictures of IndiVillage.
It is owned by the Machani family who are sponsoring my trip and stay here in Yemmiganur.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Growing Calmness

This morning I am aware of a growing sense of calmness inside of me. I am feeling more relaxed and trusting and open to the care that people are showing towards me. I am more patient and accepting of the limits of what I am able to at the school. When I walk around the school grounds, students crowd around me and want to say hello and shake my hand. At first I felt overwhelmed by this attention, and was not able to feel comfortable with it. But now I think that the time I take to greet them may be the most important thing I do here.
Yesterday I walked home for the first time from Machani Somappa School to the Machani house, where I am living. It was a 30 minute walk through the busy center of the town. I usually have a driver take me wherever I go. I think this walk helped to ground me and relax me and affirm the confidence that I can bring to being in this space.
Here are some pictures of the school grounds.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Long Day in the Lab

I work in the computer lab everyday with Veeresh, the system administrator, Pawan, the computer teacher, and Ganga, an English teacher who has been able to spend all his time with me while I am here at School this month. He has been doing the actual teaching of students because we have been doing activities related to curriculum. I would have a hard time being understood by the students. And I think I would be totally exhausted by 5:00 if I had to do that myself. As it is, I am just very tired. Ganga has been able to work with the groups of 7th, 8th and 9th grade students that are being rotated through the lab in groups of 14. There are two classes of 40 students in each grade. I am confident that after I leave he will be able to continue to integrate internet activities for other teachers.
Today students were searching for information using Google, and copying and pasting it into a Word document.

Here are some pictures of the monkeys that come and go from the yard outside Ravi's house, where I am living.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What to Do?

Each Day I have to figure out what to have students do in the computer lab, using the internet.
We have been doing some simple educational interactive programs in science. Yesterday I tried to use Google Maps to do some things, but the network was very slow. But kids were still amazed.
This morning I went in with not a clue what to do. Because the power was out for the first hour, I was able to work out a good activity with Ganga, the English teacher who is with me every day in the lab.
We had the kids use Wikipedia to look up some specific facts about India and cut and paste that into a Word document. We did that with four classes, and it went very well. A couple of administrators stopped by and they were impressed.
Ganga asked me if there was something we could do using Phonetics later this week. I was doubtful, but we did a Google search and found just what he was looking for, an interactive game using Phonetics.
Things seem to just come together, as I stand amazed.
I had a bit of a watery eye as I stood in the middle of the lab, passively watching the teacher and students all working productively together.
After school, Pawan, the computer teacher, invited Oliver an me to go to his house for some tea.
Here are some pictures of his house.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Before and After School Learning

On Monday night I was invited to the home of Ganga, one of the teachers at the school.
He has students come to his front porch for classes every morning for two hours before school, and every evening from 7:00 to 8:30. This is beyond the school’s program for students, but many of them do this. It is a way for teachers to earn extra money on their own and for students to learn more. This seems to be a very common practice in Yemmiganur. Here are some pictures.
His home is very simple, and you can see some pictures of the rooms in his house.
All of the students either walk or ride their bicycles to school. The streets are busy with people even to late in the night.
I am starting to feel relaxed and confident in being here. My work in the computer lab has been limited by frequent power outages, and by the slow Internet speed (512K). But we have been able to do some good things in the lab with the students and a few teachers. I have been gradually learning the names of many people and that helps me to feel more connected. Everyone I meet is so happy to see me and talk with me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

These Last Few Days

Much has happened these last few days.
We were able to successfully install the software that allows a teacher to control all of the displays of the students' computers in order to demonstrate an activity on the internet. Three ninth grade classes have used the lab to work on an interactive biology program that lets them place different bones and muscles and organs in their correct body positions. Teachers and students were very excited to experience this type of activity in the lab. It is a great step forward in integrating the newly networked computer lab into their curriculum, and I think they see the possibilities. One teacher, Ganga, was able to teach a couple of the classes without my support. I am excited about the possibility that they will be able to make this technology serve them after I leave in three weeks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

First Day at School

I was very tired and dejected last night, and I thought I wouldn't be able to stay in India.
But after spending my first day working in the computer lab today, and teaching three classes, I am still very tired, but I feel a new energy and confidence in being able to continue this project. I was able to set some boundaries on what I will do. And I really liked spending time with the students. Many of my fears about the demands that would be put on my time went away when I finally said no to some of things that Oliver had suggested that I would do. I now think that I can do this, and that I will enjoy it.
Here are some pictures of the Machani Somappa School.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Walk Around Town

Today, Tuesday, is a Muslim holiday, and the schools are closed. Oliver and I walked through the streets of Yemmiganur. The people in the town are all happy to shake hands. The children especially are excited to hear me say, "Hello, my name is Martin. What is your name?" They have all learned how to respond to that in English. Oliver keeps telliing me that my white face is only the second one to come to this town.
Here are some pictures of our walk.

Drive to Yemmiganur

On Monday we left the hotel In Bangalore and drove five hours to Yemmiganur. On the way we stopped at a spring fabrication factory in Anantapur, owned by the Machani family. They have supported my trip and stay, and are benefactors of the school. The pictures show a town we passed through and a temple we stopped at.
In Yemmiganur I got settled into my room. I slept about 12 hours last night.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Two Days in Bangalore

I have spent the last two days in Bangalore, and we are driving tomorrow to the town where I will be for the rest of the month, Yemmiganur.
Oliver and I have been driven around by our driver, Siddapa, and our translator, Urukundu, both of whom are from Yemmiganur and will be with us while we are there.
Bangalore is so big and crowded, the traffic is fast and wild, the streets are very rough, the sidewalks are often full of trash or holes. There are cows in busy city streets. It is different than any thing I have ever seen. We went to a Krishna ceremony last night that was very large and energetic.
It has been exhausting for me to make the time adjustment, have my day filled with site seeing, and not having much time alone. But I am doing well, and once I am settled into my room in Yemmiganur I will be able to rest and carve out for myself the time and space I need to relax.
See some Pictures

Friday, December 02, 2011

I am in India

My flights from Portland to Bangalore, through Washington and Frankfort, Germany, were long but smooth, and I am safely and excitedly in India.
This is amazing. I am looking forward to my first day, in about two hours.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Testing our connection

I will be flying from Portland, Maine, to Bangalore, India, on Thursday afternoon.
These last few days before I leave are filled with excitement and wonder for me.

Packing my bag.
I want to check with you to be sure you are able to receive this post, and to make sure you understand how this will work for you to follow what I am doing in India.
If you get a message in your email, would you let me know by contacting me through the "contact" tab in my blog.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

While I am in India

I have begun to send Email messages to some good friends, inviting you to follow me while I am in India. I will be writing "posts" on this "blog", Indian Odyssey, as often as I can.

If you sign up in the right hand column  through "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" then whenever I put a post on Indian Odyssey you will receive an Email notifying you, with a link to that post.

See if you can send a comment to this post by clicking comments at the bottom of this message block. This will be a public message to all who are following this blog. You can "comment as" anonymous if you don't have any of the other accounts.

If you want to send me a private message go to the Contact tab and open the link to my e-mail address.

This is how I will keep in touch with friends while I am in India. Join me.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Speaking English

I will be spending some time working with an English teacher in the classroom, interacting with the teacher and students in their learning of the English language.
This will connect me in a more direct and dynamic way with the students than if I were just busy fussing with computers and software and problem solving.