Tuesday, July 26

a day for the books

Although this teaching thing has been far from easy, I have never, in the little over a month that I've been here, had a day like this. In first period, my fifth grade class, a girl projectile vomited in the middle of the vocabulary lesson for the day. I'm actually surprised something like this hasn't happened sooner. Of course this caused an eruption of noise and "ewwws" and after several minutes of this, the class was back on task.

Then, after lunch, I went to my first grade class. I don't know what these nuggets ate for lunch but they were out of control. I started politely and calmly, "Please open your books to page blah-blah-blah." No response. Absolute mayhem. Screaming. Running around. So I raised my voice a little, "Okay... PLEASE be quiet! Open your books and repeat after me." Not even the slightest sign of them paying attention. At this point, I'm getting a little frustrated so I yell, "STOP TALKINGGGGGG!!!!!!" AND STILL NOTHING. The room is in absolute chaos. You'd think it was recess. This went one for about 20 minutes, with me yelling and them not giving me the time of day. Finally, although I almost bursted out in tears and stomped away (almost, key word), I went and got a sister to help me. Of course they immediately listened and quieted down.
I think it's hard because I try to be there friend, playing with them, chatting with them outside of class... and then they get confused in the classroom when I try to be professional and stern. I guess it's just another lesson I'm going to have to learn: the happy medium between friend and superior. But wow, this day, and it's only 2:24 p.m., has been challenging.

And to all of my teacher friends, I commend you; you are truly amazing.

On another note, I have spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen the past few days. As I've mentioned before, the cook, Bakkiam, has become one of my besties here at the orphanage. Although she speaks only a few words of English, between a mix of charades, sign language and running around pointing at things, we seem to be able to communicate (plus I'm learning more words in Telagu and she's learning more in English). If I understood her correctly the other day, she's been feeling a little overwhelmed and overworked in the kitchen lately (which is completely understandable, cooking for 10 people 3-4 meals per day) and after having my "where else can I be helpful" chat with Lilly, we both decided the kitchen would be a good place to start.

So on Sunday, Bakkiam taught me how to make vegetable cutlets, aka veggie burgers. I tried my first one on Saturday and was immediately smitten and needed to know how to create these tasty treats for myself. It was quite the labor intensive process, but they came out fantastic. The ingredients include: banana flower, onion, garlic, chilis, parsley, green grain (which seems quinoa-esque to me), potato, salt and pepper.
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Although I'm not sure where I'll find a banana flower (first photo in the series above) back in the U.S., I'm most definitely going to try to recreate an American version of these.

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Finished product: Indian veggie burger.


Yesterday, Sister Lilly informed me of some pizza crusts she had brought from her last trip to the big city. So Berna (one of the junior sisters, possibly my favorite) and I began the chopping process again, except this time it was tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and parsley in order to make a "sauce" and then assembled the pizzas and cooked them for dinner. It was a fantastic reminder of home and a wonderful change from the constant curry and rice.
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The oven, however, was not the best and some of the crusts' got a little too crispy. Still delicious, though. 

Saturday, July 23

your favorite foodie is back

As a self-proclaimed foodie, you could imagine my surprise when my appetite suddenly vanished from my stomach upon arrival to this great country. It was shocking when dinner quickly became the most dreaded part of my day, when usually it was a time I looked forward to about 24 hours in advance, just after finishing the previous dinner.

Between the insane amount of bugs, the never ending heat and the unidentifiable dishes, food was no longer the primary subject on my mind. But lately, as my avid blog readers may have noticed, I have been more adventurous and am slowly finding new things that I like. From korma and puri to chapati and puttery (mango, chili, mustard seed, garlic, and probably some other things thrown into a food processor) and many more, I have finally discovered some of the dishes that make Southern Indian cuisine truly unique.

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Korma, looking a little like applesauce there, is a type of curry, usually thick, and can be made with potatoes, garbanzos, carrots… pretty much anything. Chapati is a type of Indian flat bread. It reminds me of a wheat tortilla… absolutely amazing when you get it hot off the grill/stove.

My latest discoveries, “pancakes” and pops, served during our 4 p.m. snack time, definitely surpassed my expectations and the pops even had me Googling (yes this is a [bad] habit) the bakery, Krishna, where they came from.

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Here, “pancakes” are more like crepes. These are filled with warm coconut mixed with sugar!

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Pops are basically the Indian version of an empanada, so obviously I jumped on that bandwagon real fast. These were created with home made puff pastry and stuffed with curried carrots, potatoes and onion.

My trip to Bangkok is coming up (eight more days!) and I have already done a considerable amount of research on the street food scene there (click here and here for some of my favorite articles). I will make sure to report back with my top finds! That’s all for now (I may or may not be considering taking a terrifying rickshaw adventure to that bakery to pick up some more pops)! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 19

high fives for everyone

While Nivedita was here, I was able to learn of all the INCREDIBLY intricate details, time and planning that The Miracle Foundation does to acquire a new orphanage and not only provide the necessities for these children but give them above and beyond care, education and hope for a future. From a perfectly balanced diet (complete with a chart of how many calories each child, depending on their age, needs...I'm telling you... intricate) to educating the children on puberty, peer pressure and body image to discussing how to get the most milk for the children from the cows we have here (AND SO MUCH MORE). It was a very interesting conversation and made me even more proud to be apart of something like this, that is truly life changing for these children. As promised, here are some photos from Nivedita's visit:

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All of us... see if you can spot me (I think I stick out just a tad)


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It was also Mariyani's birthday! She's in my 5th grade class and definitely one of my favorites. She's an excellent reader, always volunteers to help and word on the street, she's interested in becoming a nun! (How GREAT is her outfit by the way?!)


The other day, the convent I'm living in had dinner with the convent next door, so I was able to chat with the other sisters who I don't usually get to hangout with on a daily basis. I met Fatima, my new favorite nun and we spoke in Spanish, since she spent the past seven years in Colombia (although she is Indian). I know this will come as a shock to anyone who studied with me in Spain or who has heard my Spanish, but she complimented me on my accent (I KNOW, RIGHT?!) We bonded over food, obviously, and talked excessively and in detail about empanadas, paella, arroz con pollo... all of our favorites! I told her, in my broken Spanish, that even though I NEVER eat McDonald's in the States, I had been Googling McDonald's locations here, absolutely craving those french fries and dying to try the potato burger that's on the Indian McDonald's menu. She laughed and said she didn't blame me and absolutely LOVED McDonald's and all American food.

Back in class, the children have their exams starting tomorrow! I'm a little nervous because this will kind of test me as well and show if they really are learning the material I'm teaching and just how well I'm doing as a teacher. We have spent the past few days reviewing the lessons and they seem to be doing well, so I'm crossing my fingers! I also received my first "big" compliment and it completely made my day, maybe my week! One of the nuns approached me and asked me to start teaching other classes, which I had planned on anyway, because apparently a lot of the parents had heard about me and they all want their kids in my class! Something small, but it boosted my confidence and really made me feel like I was actually a making a dent in helping them learn.

In addition, I've started rewarding them when they finish their class work with a high five, a notion that is not so popular here. It's really amazing how something as simple as a high five can light up a kids' face. Like I said, most of these children are SO happy, playing and laughing just like any kid would. But there's a handful that I've never seen smile, no matter how many pats on the backs, smiles or 'good jobs' I give them, they haven't cracked. But EVERY SINGLE CHILD in my first grade class couldn't help but giggle and smile after their high five yesterday and today. I'd consider it a successful few days!

That's all for now... but before I depart...

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Someone forgot to rub in all of the lotion on their face... Santhosh. Our favorite game is to make funny faces at each other... he's obviously really good at it.

Thursday, July 14

la la la laaaa

Today, Nivedita, the Executive Director on the "India side" of things for The Miracle Foundation came to visit. After listening in on a great meeting and learning a lot about both the orphanage's and The Miracle Foundation's operations and plans for the future, we gathered all of the children in one place to take some photos (which I'll post later), hang out and listen to the children sing some songs.
                     


I'll write more later! Lots of love from India!

Sunday, July 10

"the way i define happiness is being the creator of your experience, choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be."
          Leo Babauta (via kari-shma) 

Friday, July 8

the week in a nutshell

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(Totally typical. Cows, trucks, rickshaws, people... all battling for some room on the road. Also take note, there is no sign of a lane or any kind of order, but how PRETTY is that truck? :)


Despite what I once thought, Indians do, indeed, listen to 'Jai Ho' from Slumdog Millionaire. This is great news; I always thought I was being a poser Indian-obsessed human being, listening to that soundtrack over and over again but alas I have proved myself wrong again! One of the priests came over the other day with his new iPad from the States (he had been living in Amarillo, Texas for the past four years...random?) and we spent the entire afternoon downloading iTunes (even though you can't purchase songs, shows or movies from India) and setting it up/jammin' to Jai Ho and some of his other Indian songs. I also had my first sample of nannuri (spelling?) juice. At first taste, it reminded me of some kind of gross cough medicine. The rest of it went down well, though, and I think I may have tasted a little vanilla extract flavor in there. Nevertheless, this juice is supposed to cool the body and after all of this heat, I was willing to try just about anything.

Back in my 5th grade class, since I've been writing stories, I challenged them to write their own. The next day, one boy, Rohit, raised his hand eagerly, volunteering to read his story aloud first. Although his grammar was not perfect, I was extraordinarily impressed with his story, super clever! More or less, the story went as followed:

"Once upon a time, there was a chili, a banana and an onion. They were friends. The three of them went to the cinema one day. On the way to the cinema, the banana was hit by a car and died. The chili and onion cried and cried. While they were at the movie, the chili was stomped on and killed. The onion cried and cried. After the movie, a man took the onion and chopped him up in the kitchen and the man cried."
Get it?! (I didn't at first.) Because everyone "cries" or tears up when they chop an onion! I thought it was great. Since then, Rohit has written a couple other stories (and drew illustrations to go along with them). He reminds me of myself as a little nugget, since I was always writing stories and publishing them (aka laminating and stapling them) or writing plays with my friends and trying to get people at recess to try out for them.

In the food area (which is ALWAYS important to note), I have a new favorite! Puri (fried dough) and korma (green curry with potatoes, onion, garbanzos and tomato). HOLY COW! Absolute bliss in your mouth. I am determined to learn how to make both of these before I leave because I don't think it's possible for me to live without them when I return to the U.S. Thanks Bakkiam for the delicious treat (she's on the right, obviously, with her brother, Paoili).


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In other news, the sisters and I went about five minutes from campus to make some "family visits," just to hang out and say hi to the families of some of the kids that go to our school. This was a very eye-opening and emotional experience. At first, I wanted to cry, looking at these peoples' homes (aka one room that seven people live in) and the state of the people. But after wandering around and observing a few different households, I realized that they are really happy, even with so little. This just reinforced the idea that things are just things. They shouldn't make or break your mood or your quality of life. Although this is a concept I'm still learning (and I'm definitely still guilty of checking the lululemon or Nordstrom websites, even in India with the slow internet and impossibility of purchase), I'm hoping after a few more months here, "things" will mean a lot less to me. What really matters, and what I learn everyday here, watching the kids interact and the nuns as they care for each other and the kids too, are the relationships that you build with others and the way that you live your life. Again, this is a work in progress; something I'll work at probably for the rest of my life. And even though a little materialism may always exist within me, I think that's just called being human. But nonetheless, it is important to be aware of it.
Last bit of exciting news: the cow here had a baby!! SHE IS SO CUTE! And huge for being only three days old...take a look (Sister Lilly keeps calling her Allie... haha I'm honored):

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Wobbly Wegs Wittle One... what a beautiful baby!!!


That's all for now! Thanks for reading (speaking of reading, I just finished The Help...SO good, I couldn't put it down)!

Tuesday, July 5

the alphabet according to Santhosh

Sorry you have to tilt your head... I couldn't rotate it on Flickr :) Nonetheless, probably one of the cutest things you'll ever see...ever in your life! I'm so proud of him!
                     
                   

Monday, July 4

and the first getaway is...

One last bit of exciting news... my parents are coming to this side of the globe the first week of August and we are going to... BANGKOK! We planned on making it a simple trip back to Chennai since it's close but it turns out this trip to Bangkok will be much easier, much more exciting and even cheaper! So we're assuming the trip is meant to be and I am absolutely thrilled! Especially since I'm semi obsessed with buddhas and Thai food. Even though the nuns eat rice like its water (even though technically you don't eat water... you know what I mean), I'm looking forward to this...
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...and hopefully this "little" guy...
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Photo Credit: sagababy.tumblr.com
...and DEFINITELY many of these!
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If anyone has any suggestions on where to go or what to see/eat, leave me a comment!

Saturday, July 2

can't... stop... thinking... about... bagels...

Don't ask me why. The cravings just keep coming.

I don't even eat bagels that frequently in the U.S. but there's something about an "everything" bagel, not toasted with cream cheese (real cream cheese not that low fat crap) that sounds absolutely to. die. for. right about now. Ok, I'm salivating, I really need to stop it... just thought I'd share!

ANYWAYS, the past few days have been good and pretty busy as well. I'm getting in the swing of the teaching, but throughout the past week, I have noticed that their "English" books are actually written in...well...very poor English. For a person who happens to be a grammar nut and spent the past year-ish editing things at The Vista and San Diego Magazine, this is a huge nightmare. It makes me cringe every time. For example, "all the animals were very happy and made celebrations" and " so the number of animals in the forest was getting reduced day by day" and "while the lion got ready to kill it, it requested him to wait." Trust me, it gets worse, but I'll spare you the pain. Unfortunately, there's no getting around this material in the book, because the government issues a test, evaluating the children on the material they learned in these books. Talk about a pickle! I spent days and nights thinking about how the heck to improve this (mind you without access to other books, a copy machine etc etc).

Finally, I came up with a solution: I will teach from the books (ONLY so that they can do well on these tests) but in addition, I will make up my own stories and teach them, in order to teach new vocabulary and correct grammar. Win! This has been my method for the past two days and both the kids and teachers are loving it (and it's pretty fun getting to come up with ridiculous stories geared towards children). I'll post a good one on here soon. The important thing is that I think they are really learning!

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Kindergarten class


And speaking of learning, I've been doing some of that myself. Every morning, before class, the children line up by grade and pray, the older kids do a skit and then they sing this fun song (that even has some background music)! I have really come to like this jam, it's totally catchy and I find myself humming/singing the [completely wrong] words, since it's in Telagu and boppin' my head to the beatzzz. So finally, I asked one of the nuns, Berna, what the heck this song was? I thought it was a Bible song or something. She had no idea what I was talking about, so I gave her a little preview in my tone deaf voice and she started cracking up. Apparently, it's the national anthem. Oops. And apparently, you're supposed to stand with your feet in a certain way (first position, ballet anyone?) and your hands by your sides in fists. Double oops. Basically, the moral of this story, is that I've been completely disrespectful to India for two weeks now. Good thing no one noticed. Still, I have to commend this country, quite the tune for a national anthem, I love it... think I can download it on iTunes?

On the food front, things have improved! I discovered a cheese called Happy Cow (basically Laughing Cow) and between that, some good bread Sister Lilly brought back from Hyderabad and their panini press, I have been treating myself to some nice little sandos. Also, CUCUMBERS! Who'd have thought? They never tasted better. And finally my last new favorite, custard apples. It's a fruit that looks similar to an artichoke from the outside but inside are tons of seeds covered in a custard-like gel, totally delicious (though a little time consuming to eat with all of the seeds).

So many people are asking about my buddy Santhosh! He is doing well, although I walked by his classroom the other day and he was totally passed out on his desk. It's funny, he can't seem to stay awake and I can't seem to fall asleep. But nonetheless, that little nugget makes me smile so big! He giggles a lot and it is probably the cutest thing ever. Perhaps I'll make some videos soon!
'Tis all for now. But I'll leave you with this...
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Sister Alfi... no big deal, just ridin' her motorcycle around. She promised she'd teach me how to drive it (though I don't think we'll be making it to those crazy and terrifying public streets).


Love from INDIA <3