Saturday, 7 September 2013

The pink whale

The latest update is focused around my schooling life and my continued attempt to adapt to my new found career - well all be it on a temporary basis!!! I'm sure the UK education system would not allow Miss Linington the opportunity to educate the students in the UK. Dear old India is that desperate!!!

There have been a flurry of events within the school diary which has  kept me out of mischief or better still has enabled me to create it! 

First in time, was the celebration of Independence Day on the August 15th which was incredible to be a part of. The day started with great anticipation and excitement but this was partly down to the fact that Naomi and I had subjected ourselves to the humiliation of wearing a saree. Frankly speaking I looked like a pink whale walking around the school but the students and fellow teachers very much approved and appreciated the gesture. I had no idea how hot a saree can be and at times it was a little uncomfortable in the soaring heat but nothing could compare to the agony of trying to spend a penny dressed in such garb, especially in their customary squat bogs! So much to consider, like the metres of material (or so it felt) to gather up without accidentally dunking it in the "hole", whilst trying to maintain my balance in a squat position that was reminiscent of a hunched old drunk about to topple over and of course trying to aiming for the jackpot. Women are considered to be the best at multitasking - this is most certainly a worthy example. 

An assembly was held at the front of the school where all students lined up ceremoniously to hear the words of wisdom from the patriotic Principal and thereafter to stand to "attention" to salute the Indian flag. India does "pomp" well but not in my view as spectacular as us Brits. The sun was as intense as the atmosphere and unfortunately it was too much for 3 or 4 students who simply keeled over in the heat. One student unintentionally took refuge on the pink whale as I was thrust forward by their body weight but fortunately I regained balance before looking like a complete tit. 

Due to the sun we all gravitated to the auditorium which is no more than a dust pit furnace! There I was invited to say a few words to mark an occasion fraught with controversy over the once claimed "British India". For a speech that could have gone disastrously wrong, given the amount of blunders I make here on a regular basis, it passed without incident and I am still here to tell the tale. The students and teachers alike enjoyed particular reference to my Grandpa's time here in India, having served with the British Army between 1943 - 1945 and during which time completed various projects. Given that Independence Day was some 6 days after Grandpa's 95th birthday, his fame reached South India and a loud cheer was given from approximately 700 people at Apex Public School.

Two days later marked the first "parent and teacher interaction" session of the academic year. I was supported by two other members of staff who were able to act as a translator for myself and parents, however it wasn't the most comfortable of experiences during my time here. On a daily basis it is a near on impossible task trying to remember the names of approximately 60 students (that is just one year group!) but when we are talking about Ajas, Neha, Nihala, Afnaz, Nijam as opposed to Stephen, Katie, Elizabeth, Tom, I cannot remember for toffee. This was fairly evident when I was asked to comment on the progress of one student and was banging on about how obedient he was, showed great potential and was a fast learner only to be met with utter bewilderment when the mother confirmed she only had the one daughter! Disaster had struck but there was at least a wry smile from the parent and once she was satisfied I was talking about her child, there were several wobbles of the head so I think she may have forgiven me in the end!

Since my last blog entry, I have once again been on my travels around this vast country. The same kind parent who took me to Manjeri Magistrates Court indulged both Naomi and I on a two day trip to Mysore. Amazingly we drove nine hours and only reached the neighbouring state of Karnataka and yet, nine hours from Portsmouth would see you comfortably near the top of the British Isles! Madness I say! The poor condition of the roads and standards of driving undoubtedly prolongs the agony of travelling on the road particularly when there were 2 small cars (the size of a ford fiesta!) carrying 11 passengers during our brief visit! The potholes are not so much potholes but trenches and cars almost appear to tip over with the difference in road levels. It is no wonder that two weeks prior to our trip, a young Indian girl threw up all over Naomi's feet on a crazy bus journey, where we had no less than seven close encounters with near death.  Of course, being just as fortunate as Naomi, I received the splash back effect all up my trousers which looked remarkably like our school lunch - a yellowy vegetable curry accompanied with rice! Delicious! 

Moving swiftly on to more pleasant topics, Mysore was absolutely fantastic. The city oozes history and in particular hosts the Palace which is quite simply stunning. Taking 101 years to build, it is an incredible work of art and this is just one of the many amazing things about India. We were able to visit a beautiful Hindu Temple surrounded in peace and tranquility, only to be rudely interrupted by monkeys who sat outside waiting for poor unsuspecting visitors! One of our group members was approached by a monkey who stole both bottles of 7up and fanta. There was no mistaking the perpetrator as the said monkey was boasting a rather dashing orange moustache similar to the look of too much red wine!!!! 

Indian hospitality was once again extended to Naomi and I after we were invited to another school for a "function". This was through a friend of a friend of a friend which is most definitely typically Indian! Word has got round that there are two English teachers in the area and we have had no end of offers to give talks and seminars to neighbouring schools and colleges! This school is in my view superior to Apex in that the facilities are more extensive, for example there are indoor sports halls, air conditioned classrooms, overhead projectors and a lick of paint has been applied everywhere. Unfortunately Apex cannot boast such comfortable surroundings! Certainly no magnolia has seen the light of day here, blackboards are order of the day and some newer classrooms have not yet been given the privilege of a fan! The fees at the visiting day school are approximately 45,000 rupees per year which is approximately £450, contrast that to Apex where fees are pitched at around 18,000 rupees - around £180! 

We were treated like royalty being collected from the house, taken for a delicious lunch and welcomed personally by the Principal and his vice. As we arrived in the auditorium where the whole school of approximately 500  students had congregated, we were met with warmth but the inevitable staring! Immediately we were presented with a small posy of flowers from a couple of very young students who had to be almost pushed on to the stage. (My experience so far has been that Indian people will either go to great lengths to meet you and in some cases invade your personal space or alternatively stare at you with such disgust that the Pompey stare seems entirely meaningless now.)

We were then invited to give a brief introduction on our background and thereafter a question and answer session began. It was quite a strange feeling knowing that there were roughly 500 children sitting there genuinely interested about our English lives and yet I felt like a celebrity being asked  
"what's my favourite food" or a more challenging question posed was "why did I choose to become a criminal lawyer?" 

A short while later, a prize giving ceremony took place for those students who had recently participated in a drama and arts festival. My highlight of the day was undoubtedly being asked to hand out those trophies. This to me was a great honour. At the end of the prize giving ceremony, to our great surprise, we were each presented with a painting by the arts co-ordinator himself and a small trophy also. Once again a great deal of effort and thought had gone into making it a very special day. For only about the fifth time in my life I was absolutely speechless! It was an experience that I will remember with great fondness, given the kindness shown by such a caring school and most definitely reminded me of my Ditcham Park days. 

I have now been away for 4 months and am halfway through my "Indian madness" sabbatical. It really is daily madness and it has become a running joke with students, colleagues and the family that everything is Indian madness. They are quick to tell me its Lucy madness but I strongly refute that suggestion. One thing I would say is that I am beginning to lose the ability to identify what is normality and what is simply India. That said, earlier this week when out for a walk, I actually became paralysed with fear and it wasn't because I had just seen a spider, but far worse. As I walked on the roadside, I was aware of an oncoming vehicle which could quite possibly have aroused suspicions of kerb crawling, however, to my horror, the driver was an 8 year old student of the school. Of course I was not worried because there was a responsible father supervising and there were only 5 young children in the back without a seat belt so no need to be alarmed!!!!!!!!! So only 7 months until Bella will be on the roads then!

Although it was shocking to see, it didn't take long for me to erupt into a fit of the Linington giggles - as the Indians say "What to do?"

This week continued on in the same vain with the celebration of "Teachers Day" on Thursday 5th September. I was given a very sweet card from a deluded student who thanked me for setting him on the right path in life - as far 
as I was aware I was only teaching him English twice a week? Students brought in sweets, chocolates and cakes which were handed round to us all.  The school "treated" all teachers to beef biriyani in the delightful surroundings of a cat infested (literally) canteen. It was fun to be able to share a meal with my friends (not considered to be my colleagues) as they mostly bring their own food to school, quite sensibly. The beef is actually buffalo but isn't fit for human consumption. The chunks of a fatty, tasteless meat are given to us several times a week. I am sad to say that I am living an almost vegetarian existence because I cannot simply stomach meat that is more appropriately found in a can of Whiskers! How I yearn a rare beef sandwich with lashings of horseradish on granary bread! 

The afternoon was highly amusing as students put on programmes for all teachers. These were, in effect, party games for 7 year olds! There was musical chairs, running races and popping balloons but to name a few! I gather my face was a picture when events unfolded and women of 40 plus were running around a circle of chairs, fighting furiously for victory! 
Do you understand now why I continue to describe the events of my daily life as Indian madness?! I'm sure that some reading these blogs think I have the most vivid imagination but I can assure you these incidents really do happen although fortunately no one was harmed in the making!

My final update for you is the hairdressing debacle which hit an all time low last weekend! As the roots and general state of my hair began to look like those delightful specimens off the Jeremy Kyle show, I thought positive action must be taken. Taking life into my own hands I visited another salon which looked pretty respectable. After a brief consultation I was advised that there was only one shade of blonde that would be suitable against my existing colour! So after using a modern technique of applying foils I was somewhat encouraged. An hour later I had turned into Garfield the cat with chunks, not streaks as previously discussed, of bright orange rampaging through my hair. 
I completely spat the dummy and immediately another solution was then reapplied to the worse affected areas! This then generated yet another colour of brown so currently I have three delightful colours flowing through my hair - custard yellow (fortunately the gingerness has subsided!) my natural brown and a sort of turd colour brown. I left in absolute disgust and fearful of the school's reaction, given that any change no matter how big or small is commented on "ma'am is wearing new earrings today?", dress, shoes etc. To my complete surprise the reaction has been entirely positive - I still fail to see how that can be the case but madness prevails and I will happily settle for that any day of the week!   (Photos have been prohibited at this time!)
How Jemma has her work cut out for her on January 3rd! (excuse the pun!)

So as always a roller coaster but I continue to be happy and healthy! Everyone should experience this weird, wacky and wonderful country at some stage in their lives!

Sending you all lots of love and hope you are well wherever this finds you

Luce (Ci Ci) xx