Saturday, 8 June 2013

"Lucy Ma'am", "Lucy Miss"


I hope you are well wherever this finds you!

I have now been in India almost a month and in some respects it has flown by but in some parts it has dragged! I say that because since my arrival here on 13th May, I have been waiting for the School to open and my teaching adventure to begin. Unfortunately the opening was delayed by an additional two days as there was insufficient water to be able to function. Here in India, water generates electricity and in the absence of H2O, Indian normality cannot prevail! We continue to experience several power cuts daily but that is one of the endearing aspects of India! It's not a big problem to overcome unlike the bogs which I continue to struggle with.   (We do not appreciate at times how lucky we are at home!)

Apex Public School, Eranhimavu, finally opened on Wednesday 5th June and my introduction into the Indian education system got underway. It is a fee paying school with approximately 700 students ages ranging from 4 up to 18 years. Amongst students there is a strong display of many different religions with Islam, Hinduism and Christianity being the main denominations. Irrespective of the student's beliefs  they live side by side harmoniously and put the likes of the UK and France to shame where extremists taint the true meanings of their respective religions. Whilst religion for me is not a consideration, I can't help but to respect the people here because they are truly dedicated to their own beliefs and with daily attendance to Mosques, Temples and Churches, their commitment is entirely unfaltering.

The school's opening was an unforgettable and humbling experience which will stay with me for a long time to come. I arrived at the school to be stared at and then greeted by students and parents respectively. One child in particular was so shocked to see me that as he was walked away from me whilst staring, he walked into the wall. I couldn't help but laugh but at that point I began to understand how curious they really are about Westerners! 

My ability to make children cry continued as I ATTEMPTED to sing "twinkle twinkle little star" to a class full of 4year olds, to which one little boy looked disgusted and promptly burst into tears. Needless to say he has avoided me like the plague since then. I have always known that I can't sing - that was evident from a school report " Lucy's tries very hard"  or perhaps it should have read, "the noise she makes is very trying" but never have I honestly caused a child to cry off the  back of my 
screeching! A little later I overheard the same class quite happily singing "tvingle tvingle little star" and realised at that moment that my time here would be a challenge to redress their pronunciation! I've always been up for a challenge!!!

The 4 year olds were experiencing their first day of school and so as you can imagine there were some distraught children. Fully understanding the upset this causes the children, the Principal and staff made every effort to welcome the children. Balloons were put up outside their classrooms and toys and sweets were handed out. Each child of that year group was given a toy car and told that if they return the following day they would be allowed to keep it. Some of the children weren't bought so easily and disregarded the sweets in an attempt to break out and find their parents who were hiding around the corner. I must confess that I found it very difficult not to cry on two levels because it is upsetting for the children seeing them so upset and irrespective of the fact that I am 31 years old, I had a moment, relating to their upset knowing that its 6 months until I see the Wizzbang! Get a grip 

At around 11am, an assembly was held for the majority of the school  where the Principal officially opened the school. There were approximately 500 people present and with military precision, students were told to stand to attention and then at ease! I don't think I was meant to laugh out loud but it did appear pretty amusing. There was a unified recital of the National Prayer and Pledge which demonstrated the patriotism and discipline that had been instilled into one and every student. Aside from the amusement, it was highly impressive to watch. After such a display, INTRO "Lucy Miss" or "Lucy Ma'am" as I am also known as, to introduce myself. I thought that being a Court advocate that I could handle most public speaking scenarios but this task had taken it to a whole new level! In pigeon English, I addressed the school on my new role as a teacher of Apex Public school! How weird that sounds still!  Can't imagine that on reflection it was a particularly inspirational speech but if 50% of the hall understood me I consider this an achievement. After I had finished making an idiot of myself, the Principal announced that I spoke like BBC News English reporters so if students wanted to try and understand me they should follow BBC World news! I'm not sure News presenter Huw Edwards would be too impressed if he knew that we shared the same accent but it would of been rather amusing speaking with the Pompey accent "going round the roundabout" - perhaps they would have understood me more clearly! 

For the remainder of the day, little work was done as students and teachers familiarised themselves with new classrooms, textbooks and timetables. As I drifted around the school, I was followed constantly and children kept asking me to visit them in their classrooms. 

Since Wednesday I have been observing lessons and it is hoped that I will begin teaching week commencing 17th June, once I feel suitably confident. I have been given ages 7, 11, 13 and 15  year olds to teach the main syllabus but in addition I am also taking "communicative English" where I chat to the students. 
The communicative English applies to students ages 5 - 10 years old which in some respects will be more challenging because the younger students have very little understanding. I fear that my 'stunning' singing voice may have to be used to develop the vocabulary! If nothing else I will spend my time cuddling the younger children who are utterly divine. Their smiles light up like Christmas trees and some of them are definitely coming home with me in my backpack and suitcase. 

(Bella, you are still CiCi's favourite and always will be. I treasure and carry the little heart you gave me EVERYWHERE I go! Xx)

My colleagues are delightful and always keen to help even if it does take three times to understand me or vice versa! The students are all very polite, courteous and incredibly respectful.  The smaller children are incredibly sweet and very giggly! However little do the students know what will descend upon them week commencing 17 June!

I am still staying with the Principal and his family. They are very kind and hospitable and their home is positively palatial by anyone's standards!! Despite this, the washing facilities are basic and resemble something out of the Water Aid advert with one tap and a bucket! My clothes are soaked in a bucket, washed with soap and repeatedly slapped against a large concrete block, soaked once more and then hung on a washing line. No ariel stain removing gel liquid tabs, colour catchers or lenor lurking around here!

I am experiencing some amazing food and continue to eat using my RIGHT hand only! I dropped my game a couple of days ago when I was caught out drinking with my left hand but I don't think it's a hanging offence - I'm still here! I am told that my ability in this department is similar to that of a young child learning for the first time. I tell them that I am embracing their culture and there is a lot of laughter on the back of this!!   Only a few days ago I was given biriyani biscuits with my afternoon cup of chai! They were absolutely delicious! I was also very pleasantly surprised to be given an omelette for breakfast - it contained coconut, fresh chilies and other un identifiable ingredients but delicious nevertheless! 

Fortunately the lavatorial facilities here at the house are Westernised and so I am able to sit on a throne (not that regal as there's no bog roll!) as opposed to using the Indian lav - renamed by me as a "squat bog"! Their loo is a hole in the ground accompanied by two foot plates just in case you need guidance as to where to stand. In my case, the one and only time I used the squat bog was at school when I was, to put it simply, desperate. It is arguably the most unpleasant feature of the Indian culture. It certainly doesn't lend itself to those who struggle with dodgy limbs and although I ski every year with my troublesome knee, lowering yourself those extra degrees is near on impossible for me! Coupled with that, the stench is putrid and with no flushing facilities the odour becomes positively unbearable as the day progresses. I am working the pelvic floor muscles extremely well and waiting until I literally run back to the Principal's home to spend all the pennies in the world! 

Lowering the tone further,  I have been asked by a number of people whether I've had an attack of the Delhi belly but so far (fingers and toes crossed) my constitution has coped very well with just a couple of controlled explosions!!! (Sorry Gran probably too much information!) Moving on.......

I was very amused to be shown video clips of Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean by the Principal's children. Of course it shows that facial expressions and actions alone can communicate perfectly well without the power of speech but what amazes me is how far and wide this material travels! Hopefully I won't become the equivalent to Mr Bean or that of Charlie Chaplin in trying to interact with students when overcoming the language barrier! I would at least make the students laugh if that was the case - time till tell!!

In my assessment, almost month after my arrival, it may be that India has  a population of over a billion people, be categorised as a developing country but they are most certainly a developed country in many other ways. For one, they are a smiling, happy, kind and mostly peaceful nation. Of course there are a number of people who I'm sure can dispel my observations but for the most part I have been enthralled by their ability to laugh, care and demonstrate such genuine respect. Already I have had invitations from parents to visit and stay with them and colleagues are keen for me to visit their homes, 3 days after the start of term! 

India, you've got my vote!

As Huw Edwards and his  BBC colleagues would say "thank you for 'in this case reading' and good night"!

Miss you all and lots of love to you all

Luce (CiCi) xxxxx


  1. Hi,
    For the avoidance of doubt as I'm having difficulty labelling photos - the second photos is the library and the 5th photo is the canteen! X

  2. What a wonderfully funny and interesting blog Lucy. I envy you so much but know I would certainly not have had the courage to do what you are doing. I can understand how you feel about the Indian people, I think they are delightful polite and hard working. The children are of course delicious with their big brown eyes and their smiles. Good luck on the 17 June, will have my fingers crossed for you. They will all love you as long as there are no swear words taught!!! Lots of love and keep blogging, its fabulous to read, you should have been a writer!