07.08.2010 to 07.13.2010

Bangalore, India

The past few days in India have been kind of a blur.  I arrived on a Wednesday, taught English on Thursday and Friday, then had the weekend to explore.   Instead of giving you the play-by-play, I thought I would give some of the highlights.  So, let’s start from the beginning.

I’m Teaching English
I don’t know how to teach ENGLISH!!!  Yes, I teach CPR back home and I have taught catechism classes in the past, but English is sooooo different.  The vocational school I am at has very little in the way of resources, so handouts are not an option as there is no copy machine.  I just discovered the library the other day and have started using it to find reading materials.  I am using my laptop in the afternoons to get online and do as much research as I can to find information and activities for my classes.  I have three classes.  Two have pretty good English skills and the third class needs a lot of work.

This past weekend I was able to make it to a bookstore and bought some books to use with my students.  I bought two vocabulary books and a grammar book, plus some “Scooby Doo” reading phonetic books.  I am focusing on talking and pronunciation, so we are doing a lot of reading out loud in class and in small groups, plus homework assignments that don’t allow for cheating.  I’ve noticed that all of the girls copy off each other RELENTLESSLY, so I have made it quite clear this is not okay and make sure I give them clear, concise instructions for homework so they understand they need to do their own work.  This is a part of Indian culture, I think.  I was having a conversation with a priest the other day about corruption in India vs. the U.S.  He said that in India, corruption is at a much lower level.  It’s not uncommon to have to bribe low-level officials to get what you need.  In the U.S., our corruption is at a much higher level in the government with lobbyists and the big-wigs.  I have to agree with him.

The girls in my classes range in age to late teens and to early twenties, all of them have completed high school (I believe) and are continuing their education at this vocational school.  They offer training in secretarial skills, tailoring and electrical technology.  For many of these girls, it’s the stepping stone they need to get a shot at a better life. Bangalore is the “Tech Capital” of India and there    are lots of opportunities for jobs if you have the right training and the English skills.  Many of the companies are U.S.-based and good English skills are very important.  The sisters drill this in and only allow English to be spoken on the campus.

Scooter Heaven
Indeed, I am in heaven here with all the scooters I have seen.  There are lots of small cc motorcycles too.  I have seen lots of Bajaj scooters, saw my first LML-badged Vespa the other day, and I’ve even seen a few Piaggio Apes running around.  The three-wheeled Bajaj auto-rickshaws are also everywhere and I am hoping to take a ride in one in the next day or so.

Food
The sister’s are feeding me very well.  I am eating three square meals a day and not really finding a need to snack.  Rice is served at all three meals, usually, along with two vegetable dishes and a meat dish, sometimes a soup, too.  There are also homemade tortillas (I don’t know what they call them) plus fresh fruit, much of it from their very own backyard.  I have become a fan of the fresh mangoes, even though one of the sisters keeps telling me it’s the end of the season.  Sr. Lily has taught me the best way to eat them since I’ve never really been able to figure it out back home.  They are the sweetest I have ever had!  I have been introduced to fruits such as the sweet lime, the custard apple and the jack fruit.  I also enjoy the plantains and bananas at each meal.

Every day at 4p, we have afternoon tea, which I look forward to.  The tea is really good.  I am hoping to find out how they make it before I leave so I can make it at home.

I have ventured out and found an Italian coffee shop serving Lavazza coffee (yeah, it’s not Illy, but it will do!) and had a nice coffee drink from there over the weekend.  I really want to try the street food, but fear for my stomach, so I will wait until the right opportunity arises.

Animals
Okay, yes, there are cows EVERYWHERE!  They wander freely along the street and I am surprised more of them are not hit by cars.  On Sunday, I was invited along to go visit a priest in a local hospital.  On the way, we stopped at a produce market.  I was sitting in the front seat of the car and watched a cow walking down the street, and as it was walking by a pile of mangoes, it grabbed one!  I just about died when I saw it!  The woman who was running the produce booth chased after the cow with a stick.  It walked right by my open window and I gave it a smack too.

The sisters have three cows in the front yard of the compound.  I am guessing they use them for milk, but I haven’t really asked about that yet.  They also have two dogs and a cat.  The cat is hilarious.  He will sit outside the back door while we are eating and howl like mad until we bring him some table scraps!  I haven’t really played with the dogs, though one of them has kept me up late at night due to his incessant yapping.  He wants to be with people, not in his dog house and he lets the whole neighborhood know about it!

On Saturday, I was out on the porch area outside my room and I startled a rather large lizard (about 8 inches, including tail).  He went to the other side of the porch, I sat down and started working on my lesson plans for the week, occasionally glancing over at the lizard.  He was eyeing a cricket.  Very slowly, he made his way to within 4 inches of the cricket…..then he moved so fast before I knew it he had the cricket in his mouth.  He sat there for quite a while working on getting it in his mouth.  It was the most fascinating thing I have ever seen!

I haven’t seen anything too exotic, but I do have goal of seeing a monkey in India before I leave.  Sr. Lily said they might be able to take me to this nature reserve just outside of town on Sunday.  I hope so!