We’ve had a couple of days now to settle into the school, and tomorrow will be the proper start of teaching, having had a couple of days to observe classes and introduce ourselves to the kids.
It’s been strange adjusting to having a new group of people: as well as Cat and Matt who’ve joined us from Durham, there’s Nathan from Churchill college Cambridge, and Georgina from Clare college, both of whom arrived after us. Matt and Nathan have taken on the Social Studies classes, whilst the rest of us favoured English, and the next volunteer to arrive (on Saturday) will probably even out the numbers by joining the boys in teaching Social Studies.
The others made it to Dang safely, maybe a little worse for wear, after a very long and tiring bus journey. Tyler’s grumpiness was reportedly only narrowly avoided by Kate feeding him Pringles until he stopped complaining. It’s already strange without them: running jokes aren’t nearly as funny when only two of the current group understand them.
Cat and I have been paired up to teach together, and we’ve had a very mixed bag of classes, from tiny little Class 1 kids who are around 6 or 7, to a slightly rowdy Class 6, aged about 12. We’ve spent our first few lessons either being completely thrown in at the deep end, or if we were lucky getting the chance just to observe the teacher, trying to get a feel for what sort of level the class was at, and what sort of style of teaching they are used to. From now on, at least most of the lessons will be split into two halves, with one of us teaching each half. I’m definitely excited to start properly, though I’m sure all of our current excitement about star charts and lesson planning and long-term ideas will wane by the end of the six weeks. Right now, though, it all feels shiny and new, and we’re having great fun playing at being teacher.
Some of our introduction classes have been quite successful so far: we’ve mostly spent the first lesson encouraging them to think up some class rules, getting them to make name placards, and playing games. There have been some frustrations – they always almost immediately forget the ‘please raise your hand’ rule, or at least accompany the raised hand with gentle but insistent cries of ‘miss, miss’, and particularly when we’re playing games they have a habit of standing up and gradually edging forwards – but mostly they are really sweet. There seems to have been a lot of learning by rote in their education so far, which can be in equal parts amusing and annoying. Every time we enter a classroom and say hello we are greeted with chants of ‘gooooodmoooorningmeeeeeeeeeeesshowaaaaarrrreyoooooooooooouuu’ (amusing), but every time we write anything on the board even as a prompt it gets copied down almost instantly in its entirety (annoying).
In a few of the initial lessons we spent the whole 40 minutes talking and answering questions about ourselves; anything from ‘what is your favourite colour?’ to ‘what is your aim?’ – a question that always leaves me floundering. My aim in life? Ummm? Another favourite is ‘what is your favourite footballer’, to which the correct answer is invariably ‘Messi’. It’s easy to make yourself popular here. Fake an interest in football, play football with them at break time and after school, and pick a popular favourite footballer like Messi or Neymar. It’s great for me, because I actually like football, but slightly more of a drag for Daniel, though he’s happy to get stuck in.
Another part of our job that we have now been introduced to is helping out at the Ashram down the road, which has various roles including a Children’s Study Centre and a Women’s Education Centre, and which we will be helping out with at least once a week. After visiting for the first time yesterday, I’m very keen to go as often as possible: it seemed to be a really positive place (of course it is, it’s where Chintamani Yogi lives), and also up on the top floor there was a roof garden – by which I mean there is an actual lawn on the roof. It is awesome. Also the staff at the ashram were all incredibly enthusiastic and just happy in general; the volunteer who showed us around had the biggest grin on her face that did not waver once during the entire time we were there. We ended up arriving just as it was shutting because they wanted us either to wait for the rain to stop before walking, or for the school bus to get back before driving. However, this is Kathmandu in monsoon season: the rain doesn’t stop, and the bus doesn’t get back according to any schedule but its own. In the end we decided to walk, so just asked Yuvraj the yoga teacher to show us the way through the mud. I found the whole thing hilarious, what with everyone walking stiff-legged so as not to get mud splattered on their trousers, and trying to keep up but not wanting to slip over and embarrass themselves (and have to buy a round of drinks, which was a punishment we decided on halfway there). It took probably a good 20 minutes to get there in the end, for what is normally about a 10 minute walk.
After the Ashram we went for our first trip to the big supermarket, which was the most exciting place we’ve been all trip. We wandered round for ages, and picked up a few essentials (peanut butter, industrial-sized hand sanitiser etc), and then made the treacherous journey back. It was touch-and-go, and we almost lost Dan to the mud (all of us were laughing too much at his being stuck to help him), but we made it back in the end. It’s always quite stressful going anywhere as a group, what with Daniel insisting that every animal we pass has rabies and Georgina constantly intoning ‘watch out for snakes, watch out for snakes’, but we normally do make it back in one piece once we’ve fought off the hundreds of rabid dogs and dodged the many snakes lying in wait.
That evening we had our first go at prayer time, which is held every morning and evening. They sang us some welcome songs which was nice, and then asked us to sing a song for them, which was slightly less nice. We went for the theme tune from Arthur, but I think next time we attend we’ll know to be better prepared. I was also made a very happy girl when it turned out that Vivek had a guitar (albeit a child sized one), so I’ve tuned it up in preparation for the next time when we’re called upon to do any songs.
We haven’t yet got a chance to do the yoga we’d been promised would be on offer: the one day when we tried to get up to go the morning session (and by morning, I mean 5.30am) it didn’t seem to be on – though the extra time in bed was much appreciated. Hopefully we’ll figure out a way to amend this situation.
Anyway, we’re all settling into our new roles quite well I feel, and looking forward to getting into the swing of things more. The kids are very sweet, and everyone very keen to make us feel welcome and at home. It already seems like we’ve been here for years, I can’t imagine what we’ll feel like by the time we have to go home. There’s definitely a general feeling that we will have to come back one day.