Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hokey-Pokey in the lepresy colony

FRIDAY, June 6
Today we are going to the leprosy colony to teach the children English. We are the very first volunteers here. I'm definitely nervous on the way- I have no idea what to expect, but the whole idea of lepresy really freaks me out, even if Bandhu's convinced me I won't catch anything. The man who greets us has mangled hands and feet, but super-kind. He introduces his daughter Priya, who is wonderful and beyond her years (only 13!). She tells us firsthand that she wants to become a doctor. She goes to boarding school in Gurgaon and is her father's shining star, the apple of her eye. The colony has different stations that were donated by several people, including a Christian school donated by a couple in Georgia! There are bathroom stations, a binding/medical station and a workshop with hand looms. Since the people here have mangled limbs, they cannot work and depend on donations. The looms are great because it allows them to make textiles and sell for $. They become completely dependant on their children to take care of them and help with work. I think growing up in such a village really teaches the children humility, responsibility and certainly acceptance- of all people. The be honest, I was terrified to go to a LEPER colony- sounds straight out of a horror film! When we enter the school, I peer in looking for lepers, but there are none. Lepresy is now a cured disease but these people still have the marred and disfigured body parts...some are missing fingers, toes, noses and many are on crutches. But you also get an incredible sense of community around here. I think this is also why Priya acts so much older than 13- she has the responsibility of taking care of others and other children. She's clearly born to be a leader. I ask her how many siblings she has, but she calls all the children her brothers and sisters.
A couple of guys set up the room for us with fans and rugs. Slowly the kids trickle in, some with notebooks and pens, others not. Some are very dark-skinned; I learn later that they come from all over India, esp the state of Tamil Nadu, to live in this colony.
Annie and I split up the group into 2: big girls and little girls. Ohmigod they are so adorable the little ones, but I take on the big girls. Of course, I have NO idea what I'm doing, with no teaching tricks up my sleeve. We start with me asking: "What is your name?" How old are you?" They are so shy to respond and make fun of each other in Hindi, giggling all the time. We continue with writing sentences, like "What is your favorite color/movie/actor/animal?" - Priya is a big help in translating for me and helping me to understand what level of English these girls are at. There is one girl- Chantra- who is absolutely beautiful...She's only 15 years old but looks 20! She has a bone structure, kinda like Linda Weisz weird enough, and a beautiful smile. All the children have great smiles with contrast beautifully with their dark skin. We write sentences for over 2 hours and finish the day with two rounds of the HOKEY-POKEY! Man, did they laugh at this game!!! Especially the "shake it all around!" part.... I'm sure they like I'm half-crazy the way I dance around!
We shoo shoo the kids out the door who don't really understand that school is over! They are just so excited to be learning English. Priya shows me and Annie around her village- it's super poor, with trash, stray dogs and cows everywhere. But there's also a certain charm to it, neighbors are practically family and you can feel the sense of community. People on crutches walk around, old men with stick thin legs and a knob for a foot...Priya also shows us her school- the one donated by the Georgians. The windows are broken and the place is run down, but she is so so proud. The look on her face when she says, "This...is my school," is unmistakable. She also keeps telling us how much she loves Jesus (her school in Gurgaon is Christian). The center of the village has a bunch of different little shrines, respecting all the religions of the families who emigrated there.We sat for two whole hours waiting for Bandhu to pick us up.
When we get home, I immediately take a nap and then go to teach the streetchildren. Jyoti and I do some subtraction problems. Afterwards, while Bandhu heads to the pub, Annie and I head to the market to buy some junk food and stop in at the tailor's for alterations. I have been sick, you know, all day- the opposite of what was happening before. Something is off- the water maybe? It seems like it's inevitable though that you are going to get sick. Reena cooks us supper and we play with ViDit! Little monster....

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