Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Ghat Another Friend

On Monday we set out to find the Learn for Life School in hopes of volunteering there. It is connected with one of our favorite haunts in the galis so we stopped there first for lunch. Being the slovenly Americans that we are we arrived after school had dismissed for the day, so we wandered down to the ghats instead. We hit Mir Ghat (4 down, 76 to go!) and met Kusbu (left) and Sunita (right). The girls said they both 12, but who knows... We talked for a good long while and Sunita tried to trade me her Canadian dollar for rupees. (As an aside, I think it is hugely awful for tourists to give beggar kids foreign currency. The kids are WORKING, and often for not very nice adults, and they NEED the money. Western pocket change is insulting.) Unfortunately I didn't have the roughly 50 rupees to trade her. We walked a bit together, admired 3 huge buffalo with shiny horns and then said our goodbyes.
We got our act together on Tuesday and turn up at the school around 10, only to discover Sunita! She was all smiles and right away took Caitlin under her wing, sat her down on her bench and introduced her to her friends. The attitude in the picture was nowhere to be seen. Ben was also swept up with the crowd, surrounded by a pack of bigger boys almost always. He and I eventually settled in next to a really little guy named Vishal who was struggling through copying out numbers and fending off pencil thieves. Ben and I defended him from the pencil-nabbers, helped with the writing and then read Cat in the Hat to him and few others.
The school is turning out to be its own adventure. Run by a German fellow it takes in the poor children from the area and teaches them for free, as well as providing 2 meals a day and medical and dental care for the kids and their families. Sounds like a great project and I'm eager to learn and see more of what they do. We were there only for snack and Hindi class so we didn't get a complete picture. As we were leaving elderly women downstairs were cooking lunch for the kids and the music teacher was supervising the delivery of tablas for music class. School begins at 7 with a yoga lesson and then runs from 8-2, covering English, Math, Social Studies, Music and Hindi. The kids want to be there for yoga so we'll get up early tomorrow and head down.
The school encourages tourists to show up and pitch in, but they really prefer folks who will be around longer. We met a German woman who has been there since Sept and will stay through Dec. The kids want to go 3 days a week and that feels about right to me. We have play group on a 4th day and given the trials of going anywhere and doing anything here that seems like plenty for now. If yoga and music at the school don't turn out to be worth much we may seek out our own lessons, but I'm hopeful that 3 days a week with a whole ton of kids will really help my own learn Hindi.

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