Sunday, February 24, 2013



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hello everyone! I apologize for not keeping up to date with this blog but my macbook broke a couple days after I got here in India. I have finally found a trustworthy place to get it fixed so I should be able to get it working again within the next couple of days. To catch everyone up, my daily job is to teach english, as well as help with math with a selected number of students. I work with kids from Standard 1-4 (1st grade through 4th grade) I have about 4 students in each standard. The school runs on an 8 period a day schedule, and my schedule entails me pulling out the students from certain standards each period working on either English, Spoken English, or Math. A teacher for one class can have up to 40 or so students, which makes learning in the classroom almost impossible. The teachers have no way of giving students any one on one interaction so if a child doesn't understand a concept they are merely left in the dust. The teachers are given curriculum to teach the students by the local government but all that happens is the teachers write the lessons on the chalk board, the students copy it down, and then the EXACT same questions are given on the state exams. So the kids just memorize the answers for the exams learning nothing. That's where the volunteers come in. We pull the students out of class and give them anywhere from 1 on 1 to 1 on 4 teaching. The irony of it all is a teacher will ask me to teach the students a lesson on let's say....adjectives and adverbs in grammar, the kids can hardly read, (if they can read at all) and we are supposed to have them comprehend what an adverb is? So most of the time I have to go back to the basics, teaching them to read through children's books, simplified lessons, and games. The real challenge is holding on to their attention. Many kids have serious concentration and attention problems so learning in classrooms of up to 40 or 50 kids is nearly impossible. These kids are all very talented and bright, its just that they have never been given the tools to acquire real scholarly knowledge. But just in my first short two weeks here I have seen tremendous steps forward in some of the kids. I have a boy in 3rd grade, named Abhil, who cannot read at all, so GVI has given me a list of words to teach him. We go over 5 simple words a week for him to learn. (ex: me, my, make, look) He is very keen to music, so I have started drumming to each letter of a word with him, which has really helped him remember words. I also have a girl in 4th grade named, Drishya, who experienced a severely traumatizing event when she was younger and developing. This has lead her to develop an almost autistic personality. Her parents cannot afford to send her to the school she needs, and because she is not actually diagnosed with any handicap like autism she cannot go to the government funded schools she needs to be in. So poor Drishya sits in class all day hardly understanding anything the teacher is trying to tell the children, and she gets made fun of by the other kids because she is different. I only teach her 1 on 1 so she will focus, and so that I can help her build a higher self esteem and confidence which seems to be bashed daily in her classroom. But the thing about Drishya is that she is actually very smart, when I am able to sit her down without any distractions she reads very well, and comprehends most of her work. Her mental problem causes her to struggle pronouncing words correctly but her reading, comprehension, and memory say a lot. My most proud moment here would have to do with a young boy in 1st grade named Adithan. I have never met a kid with so hyperactive. He is the sweetest kid, and hands down one of my favorites, but it seems to be impossible to get him to sit down, let alone stay still for more than a couple of minutes. He is very smart, and academically he is a lot farther than most of the older kids that I teach, but his attention and hyperactive problems make it really tough for him to be in a learning environment. Last Friday the school got back the state English exams for 1st and 2nd grade. Out of at least 250 students or so, only around 20 kids made A's on their English exams. Adithan was one of them, in morning assembly he got to stand up in front of the entire school with the other 20 or so students and was given an award. Seeing that little guy up there was my proudest moment since I've been here. Again my laptop is broken and the internet cafes here are poor at best, but I do apologize for not keeping this blog updated, and with my laptop getting fixed in the next couple of days I will be able to update it much much more often.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

First Day

So my first day was interesting to say the least! After about 26 hours or so of travel I finally arrived in Kochi at about 4am. After getting through customs I made my way to baggage claim. Unfortunately my phone had died during the flight so I couldn't call my arranged ride yet. I get to baggage claim to find out my luggage had been lost. I spent an hour or two signing paperwork and what not. After accepting I wasn't going to get my bag for a couple days I began looking for a pay phone to call my ride. Again bad luck struck, here in Kochi there are no "pay phones" as we know it. Here there are phone booths that are run by an actual person. These phone booths are only open during normal daytime hours, so I would not be able to use a phone to call my ride for another 3 hours or so. After a bit of freaking out I decided to get a taxi to the address given to me by GVI. My taxi ride was 895 rupees along with two toll booths costing 20 rupees total and a 30 rupee tip for the driver, this cost me about 17 U.S. dollars total. The driving here is absolutely insane. I literally thought I was going to die on the taxi ride to my home. Drivers stop for no one, weave in and out of traffic, and use a simple toot of their horn to warn people out of the way. When I arrived to the homestay address given to me I walk in and find out that the place was GVI's old house. I was at the wrong place!!! Lucky for me the lady running the homestay is a friend of the GVI manager here, and called her. I was picked up within a few minutes and taken to the house. The house has no air conditioning but fans in every room. But the fans don't do a very good job of fighting the absurd heat of southern India. It is almost impossible to sleep due to the heat, and the hundreds of birds that never stop chirping outside my window. At the beginning of my first day I was really not feeling to good about all of this and I was getting really anxious. But soon I met all the other volunteers and everybody living with me. The house consists of 3 GVI directors all in their mid 20's. James from Ireland, Julie from either England or Australia, and Ridhi who is a local who went to college in England. There are several volunteers from age 18 to 55. Two french girls and two Australian girls who left today (my second day) 3 kids my age, Oli a guy from London, Jenni a girl from London, Otto a guy from Sweden (he is very wealthy so everyone jokes that his parents own IKEA). An Indian looking guy in his mid twenties from London named Avi (he is my roommate for the next week) There is an older woman from Oregon, a lady from London who was a successful artist but recently sold all her belongings and decided to travel the world, and a woman from New Zealand. It has really been cool to meet people from so many places already. After all the drama my first day, the rest of the day was pretty relaxing, I slept and just hung out. The kids my age took me to a cafe around dinner time called "Kashi's" where I had the most amazing chocolate cake and iced coffee I've ever had. And later that night we went out to a local bar as it was the two French and two Australian girls last night. My fist day I only exchanged 25 dollars, which came out to be 1,340 rupees. This got me a 30 minute taxi ride with its extra expenses, an iced coffee, a Gatorade, a piece of chocolate cake, and a couple Indian beers. It is insane how cheap everything is here. I have not had time to take many pictures yet, but today I will be getting a little tour around the city and I will post more pictures. Thank you guys for your support and keeping up with me!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I am leaving for India today! I fly out of Dallas at 5 p.m., I will fly through the night and land in Paris in the morning. I will have an hour and a half layover in Paris then I will fly to Abu Dhabi, and then into Cochin India. I will post pictures of the flights.