Saturday 1st February 2020
And already the last day is over! Where did the week go to?
It was a fantastic last day – we had a sports day for all of the children from the CRS and CSS slum schools; nearly 500 children! They had breakfast and then lots of crazy games. I was in charge of the sack race and it was quite a challenge explaining how to do it when they children understand no/very little English. Somehow we managed and they had a great time.
After the games there was a magician and a ventriloquist while the children ate their lunch. Many of the children saved their lunch to take it home and share it with their family but they really enjoyed their ice cream (see below!)
It was so sad saying goodbye to the teachers and the children – I have loved my week in India.
Writing this blog is the last thing I will do tonight before we leave in the morning. Our flight is very early. While I’ve been here I have learnt something very interesting; if you turn your watch upside down, it will tell you the time in Kolkata. So if it is 11pm here – it will be half past 4 at home. Try it and see for yourself.
So, it’s over and out from India. I can’t wait to tell you all about my adventures – see you soon!
Friday 31st January 2020
Back in school today and it was good to help the teachers as they taught the children using some of the ideas we had shown them. In India the children are taught in quite a different way; the teacher stands at the front and the children listen so we have tried to explain how they can get the children more involved in their learning.
Anjoli showing us how it is done.
The children are always so proud of their work; they love it when you take a photo of them and then want to see it on your phone.
You may remember a boy called Debro whose photo was on our wall at school for a long time. Well, he was at school again this year and Jayasree wanted to take me to see his house. This picture is of me, Debro and his mum. I’ll tell you about his home when I see you.
As you know, you see all kinds of strange things in India – just look at where this taxi is parked!
One more day in India
Thursday 30th January 2020
I love these days when we get together with the teachers and help them to think of new ways of teaching the children. The teachers at our school are so enthusiastic – they love to sing and have a song about everything! Tomorrow we are back in school with them and they will use teaching methods that they have never tried before. I can’t wait to see how it goes!
You may remember this lady from my last visit – Jayasree. She is the Headteacher at both Cemetery School and Scott Lane. She is 82 and one of the most wonderful people I have ever known. She inspires me – I would love to be like her when I am 82!
In India they love cricket and so does my husband! He supports the cricket team from Kolkata called the Kolkata Nightriders. When I was coming back to India he asked me to buy him one of their shirts. Well, that turned out to be a very tricky job; I went to the market and after about half an hour someone brought the shirt to me and then we had to haggle about the price. He wanted me to pay 4500 rupees but after a lot of discussion I paid 3300 rupees (that’s a lot of money in India!) I hope that Mr Poole will be pleased.
Tonight we are going out for a meal to eat a special Indian meal called dosa; it looks like a kind of savoury pancake with different fillings – probably curry! I’ll let you know what I think.
I’ve heard that it’s been snowing a little bit at home. Today we had the most amazing rain in Kolkata – the sky suddenly went black and it blew a gale. Then, just as quickly as it came, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
Hope that you are all looking after each other.
Wednesday 29th January 2020
Just a short blog tonight as it is already very late!
Today was a festival in this part of India (they have a lot of festivals). Our little school was closed so that the children could celebrate; this festival is to celebrate the Goddess of Education and Learning. Shrines were set up to the Goddess Saraswati on the streets and Indians left gifts of flowers and food. The children receive new clothes and the girls we met were wearing the most beautiful, brand new saris in all the colours of the rainbow – they looked fantastic.
Because it was a festival we did a very Indian thing and went for a picnic! It wasn’t quite like any of the picnics I have been to at home but it was a lot of fun (even though we spent 6 hours travelling on a bus). Our picnic site was right beside the River Ganges and it was lovely to be out of the craziness of Kolkata for a few hours. (I will working on Saturday to make up for the fact that I had a day off on a Wednesday!)
Do you know what this man is growing?
Some of the local girls danced for us in their beautiful saris.
When we got back to Kolkata we went for pizza at Dominoes and afterwards we went for a coffee at Starbucks – very odd in the middle of Kolkata!
Tomorrow it’s back to work and we’ll be doing some more teacher training.
(A very snoozy) Mrs Poole
Tuesday 28th January 2020
Today was the day I have really been looking forward to – going back to school. We arrived and were welcomed with songs and showered with flower petals! It was wonderful to see children’s faces that I remembered from 2 years ago – and I think that they remembered us. First of all we taught the younger children; my group were learning how to say ‘My name is ….’ and to tell me the name of their favourite fruit. We read Handa’s Surprise together but the teachers couldn’t think of the right Hindi word for an antelope and weren’t entirely sure what an avocado was. We still had lots of fun. The older children were learning about opposites: tall/short, hot/cold, fast/slow, loud/quiet – but they found quiet very difficult to say. I’ve lots of new stories to tell you about the children there.
After that we went to visit another school which is in a slum called Brace Bridge. I was shocked by the poverty that I saw. I was most upset when I watched a family sorting through the rubbish to find things that they could sell. It is very hard to see that and not really know how you can help.
The day ended with a special meal in the Bishop of Kolkata’s garden. It was lovely but I couldn’t help thinking of all the children I have seen and worked with today and felt very guilty to have so much food when they have so little. India is a very complicated country – lots of people are wealthy and lots of people are very poor. But the money that you have raised will help the children of Cemetery School and that has made a difference.
Finally – you do see some funny things in India – this picture is of a goat in a coat (well a football T shirt). Hope it makes you laugh as much as I did!
Monday 27th January
Today our job in India really started. We met with the teachers from all of the slum schools to give them ideas as to how they can teach the children to improve their spoken English. It was wonderful to see the teachers from Cemetery School again and we had a lot of fun during the training. We finished the day by planning what we need to teach the children tomorrow – and that’s what I’ve been really looking forward to; seeing the children again!
These are some of the teachers: Rita, Sipra, Indirana, Jayasree and Anjali
After the training we visited the Mother House (which was where Mother Teresa lived and worked). I’d been here before but am always moved by the amazing love she showed to those who lived in the slums of Kolkata. She really is an inspiration to me!
You may remember that there are thousands of stray dogs who live on the streets in Kolkata. They live in packs and lie in the middle of the pavement fast asleep – you just have to walk round them or step over them. Today I whistled at a pack of dogs and this one came and sat in front of me; I think that he knew I had a ‘soft spot’ for dogs (even slightly smelly and grubby ones) and thought that I might take him home with me. Not sure what Boris and Dougal would think about that!
A challenge for you all before I head off to bed – can you work out what this man is doing on his bicycle? Let me know your ideas when I am back in school.
Keep working hard!
Sunday 26th January 2020
Coming back to Kolkata has been like meeting an old friend! It hasn’t changed in 2 years and I love it just as much as ever! We’ve only been here for about 36 hours but we have already squeezed so much in. These first hours are about getting used to life in India – and that we’ve travelled over 5000 miles! It is a little bit tricky remembering that there is a time difference between home and Kolkata (it is 5 and a half hours ahead here – this means as that as I am going to bed, you are probably getting back from school) and it is a little odd wearing your sandals and summer clothes in January!
Today is a very important holiday in India. It is called Republic Day and marks the date in 1949 when India officially became a country that could be governed by an Indian government. Before this India had been a part of the British Empire for almost 200 years – which means that the British were in charge! It is a holiday here in India and everyone was out and about: going to the park, having parties, eating lots of food, singing and dancing and just having great fun. It feels a bit like a Bank Holiday in England (without the rain)!
So far …
We have been to church this morning in St Paul’s Cathedral – the service was 2 hours long!
After lunch we visited the Victoria Memorial and had lunch with everyone from the Cathedral Relief Service (this is the organisation who support the schools we work with when we come to Kolkata).
At the end of the day we went on a Ganges river cruise. It was an enormous boat with hundreds of people all celebrating Republic Day. There was a band playing and there was lots of dancing. The day ended with the most beautiful sunset over the Hooghly Bridge (a famous bridge over the river which, I am told, is 823 metres long making it the longest cable-stayed bridge in India – so now you know!)
Tomorrow we start our work with the schools so our days will be work days and really busy.
Finally, one of the many interesting things about India is how people move things around! I’ve seen whole families on motorbikes and bicycles with little trailers that are full to the brim – and then there is someone sitting on top of that! This man was carrying his ‘shop’ on his head. He was setting up his stall to sell snacks and fruit to the visitors to the Victoria Memorial. I’ll try to take some more photos of the creative and crazy ways people get around, or get their belongings around, in Kolkata.
Behave yourselves this week!