Sunday 20 April 2014

Days 92-95 and conclusion

Day 92:
Caught up on blog in the morning. Had 8th and 9th standard combined. It was a big class but went well! They had some really creative ideas! Wrote notes to the housemothers and watched Anna paint one of the pillars by the greenhouse gate. For LifeDance that evening, the first half of class was just LifeDance. We warmed up and I tried to take some group pics, but that didn't work so well :) Then let them run any dances they wanted to. The second half of class was an open class that anybody could come to. I taught the Bollywood “line dance” I came up with and they really enjoyed it. They just followed and learned. Then we just made a circle and had a free dance where anyone could go into the middle and we would follow them or watch them. I will miss that a lot! I absolutely love just watching them free style. Shows so much about their culture and who they are. Dance tells a lot about people. I gathered LifeDance at the end, said a few final words, and gave them all a treat and note. After dinner, we had the student talent show. It was lots of fun! Gosh I love these kids!! There was lots of singing, dancing, and skits. Went to M. Vignesh's room for storytime again and just made up stories on the spot and about how India was winning the semi-finals for cricket! The power went out for about 20 min. tonight so Jamesen, Kaylee, and I went to the roof and looked at the stars. You can see so many stars here!

Day 93:
Got up at 4:15 and said goodbye to Jamesen who is leaving to go on an adventure to an island on his own. Sad to see one of our foursome go! Got up at 6:15 and left for Chennai at 7 am. Got to hang out with Anna all day, it was fun! We went to a Hindu temple first. It was really cool! There was a lot to see and it was really interesting to see all the different ways people worship in this religion. We went to the Pondi bazaar after and walked around, got some lunch, and then walked down to Mambalum for some shopping. We had fun playing “Frogger” to get across the streets :) Went to the last half of playtime when we got back. These kids make me so happy! Found Vino, my LifeDance president, and she did some henna on my arm for me. She did it free hand in about 8 min. and it was amazing! Did some last min. packing and went to movie night. It was a Tamil movie, it was long, but just so good to be with the kids. I was nervous about having to say goodbye to them. I felt like I couldn't hold them, touch them, look at them enough. Tried to sit with different groups. Went back to the hostel with the kids and had to say goodbye. I was doing okay until my dear Angel, from LifeDance, hugged me. Then I lost it and couldn't stop. I went to the top floor of the girls hostel and hugged them all. They were all so sweet and told me not to cry and to be happy. They have to say so many goodbyes, they are so wise for their ages in this way. Especially hard to say goodbye to my dear Theerthi. Finally pulled myself away. Went to boys hostel and said goodbye to those that were awake. Watched “Recess” and ate chocolate cake with Kaylee to cope :) Hard, but good day.

Day 94-95:
Left by 7:15 am for church with all of my luggage. Fast and testimony meeting was good as usual. Primary lesson was okay. Lots of distractions today. We read lots of stories and gave out treats. The branch president thanked Kaylee and I for teaching primary and we said goodbye to our church friends, Daniel, David, and Vijay. Kaylee and I then went to Vennila Mary's home for the day. Said goodbye to Anna, Lily, and Dale. Vennila was so sweet and welcoming! We spent some time rearranging bags, she fed us lunch and dinner, we chatted, played games, made cookies, and read a book of her life story. She is an incredible woman who has been through so much! Left for the airport at 11 pm. So glad we got to spend the day with her! In the Chennai airport, we ran into a man we had met at the beach one time at Mammallapuram and he recognized us! So we sat and talked with him before our flight and during the layover before our next flight. I was so tired and actually slept a lot on the first flight. It was 10 hours long. Had a 4 hour layover in Frankfurt. The second flight at 8.5 hours. There was a lot of empty seats so got to sit by Kaylee. This flight felt very long though. Made friends with a Norwegian man that we talked to on our next layover. Last flight was 3 hours on a tiny jet. We had beautiful views of the mountains on the way in! Many ups and downs on this long journey home! Glad I had a friend to do it with! Mom and dad greeted me with balloons—they are so cute :) Kaylee's whole family came and surprised her! I showed mom and dad everything I had gotten in India before bed.

It still feels weird to be home at times. There is toilet paper in every bathroom, I can plug things in without an adaptor, I can brush my teeth with sink water and hot water comes right out of the faucet. Sometimes when someone turns out the lights I think the power has gone out. I can walk to church. We are so blessed in America to live in such a land of plenty! Yet, many things are also the same. The Spirit can be felt anywhere and the Gospel is true everywhere. People are people everywhere and children are always children. Everyone is a child of God.

What an incredible journey it was! I learned so much and I became a better and stronger person. I made many weaknesses into strengths and made many strengths even stronger. I learned more about independence, humility, sharing, patience, a greater sense of motherhood, the power of physical touch, dedication to the most important things in life, leaving regrets behind, and a greater passion for humanitarian service. I learned a greater respect for other cultures and religions and can now learn new names much quicker! I learned to become instant friends with everyone I met, how to be more observant, and be happy with who I am. I can now more easily go with the flow, make my situation positive, and be more spontaneous. I now even enjoy spicy food, and will eat tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon by themselves! :) I know my life will forever be different because of this experience.

As my henna is fading and I am almost finished taking my malaria pills, I feel as though the last bits of India are slipping away. However, I know many things will never leave me. I met so many of God's beloved children and created unending friendships. I have a journal, many pictures, and videos. Many things remind me of my time in India and I know that this will continue to happen. And most importantly, I have my memories. And these I am eternally grateful for. I take away with me, overall, a greater and deeper understanding of love and its power. Even as I settle back into daily life, I know that these children and this experience will never leave me because part of my heart was left in Tamilnadu, India.

Friday 4 April 2014

Days 66-91

Day 66:
Church was good. Went to playtime and played some soccer, some cricket, and some volleyball with the boys. Watched “Pocahontas” that night with Jamesen and Kaylee. Good, relaxing day.

Day 67:
This week of classes is my only week to prepare the students for their final performance. Did partner initiation with 8th standard and they did great! I was very impressed. Google+ with the family. Used a cute book called “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle for UKG and 1st standard that they will be doing for the performance. 5th standard also did well. They are making partner shapes on different levels. Went to UKG playtime. Had a small rehearsal for Dr. Susan's birthday dance. Great classes today! LifeDance was a bit chaotic today though. Got two new short term volunteers. Their names are Katherine and Elizabeth. They are sisters and they are great! Went to story time with the new volunteers.

Day 68:
After running, I Google+ with Celsea for a bit. Had 6th standard first. They were pretty crazy as usual. Good kids, but you put them together and they like to goof off. Made lunch and Skyped with Shaun Parry and got some good ideas. Had 3rd standard and they were great! Did a different book lesson with them and they ate it up! 7th standard next. They were hard to get to move! Crazy how I can't get 6th standard to stop moving and can't get 7th standard to move! Good for me to learn to teach all kinds of students. Stayed and stretched after class with my dear Priya :) LifeDance went pretty well. Helped at night school, went to story time.

Day 69:
Had 9th standard first this morning. Worked on choreography and music cutting for LifeDance. 4th standard next went pretty well. The volunteers came and helped out. Had 2nd standard next and all the volunteers came again. The kids were crazy. They recently got a new teacher so they do not listen. Even with all of us volunteers in there it was a struggle. Went to UKG playtime and had a good time with the little critters :) LifeDance went very well today. Hung out with Katherine and Elizabeth. Went to story time. Theerthi taught me how to write my name in Tamil and made me practice it on my hand :) She tried to teach me how to say a few lines from her Tamil storybook as well but then just laughed at me as I tried to pronounce them :) Lots of fun tonight!

Day 70:
Went to medical today. We went to two colonies: Gandhi colony and A.S. Nagar. Only 2 patients at Gandhi colony. I spent most of my time there playing with a darling little 4-year-old girl named Keerthina. She is beautiful! She showed me her umbrella, picked up the stray cats that came by, we blew up a medical latex glove and played with it like a balloon, danced, all sorts of things! Her mother, grandma, and aunt showed Kaylee and I pictures of her family as well. These people are so sweet and so family-oriented! They are so proud of their families. Did oiling at A.S. Nagar. Had an excursion afterwards. We went on a short hike up a hill to a temple over 3,000 years old. Beautiful view from up there!! Had our long-term volunteer meeting at 4 and then had LifeDance. Helped at night school.

Day 71:
Today was the day for Dr. Susan's special birthday celebration! Got ready and blew up balloons for the event. Practiced with the students for the dance. The decorations they had were very pretty! It is never a “small event” in India. It is always elaborate with all kinds of decorations and accessories. But it is very beautiful and colorful! After much preparation, Dr. Susan came. The choir sang, Vimal played the piano, words were spoken, cards were given, and my dance was done. The kids did a good job! Dr. Susan seemed to like it very much! It was long but good. They handed out sweets as we left. Today was education rotation so I helped Subedha read for library time. After lunch, we helped 1st standard with their math computer games. Then had 9th standard for library time and I read with my sweet Divya. Last was library with 6th standard and I read with Naveen. Went to UKG playtime. LifeDance taught their own class today. It was a bit chaotic, but the younger kids who came loved it! It is good leadership and teaching experience for LifeDance as well. Played games that night after dinner. Went to story time.

Day 72:
Went to Mammallapuram again today. Did some shopping. Helped Katherine and Elizabeth do some bartering. Walked along the beach before we left. Good day! Played more games that night after dinner. Went to movie night. Sat with boys and the UKG boys fell asleep on me. Good day!!

Day 73:
Left for church at 7. Today is the birthday of the Relief Society, so we had a great sacrament meeting about motherhood and women. Stopped at Reliance on the way home and they were still out of peanut butter! Oh dear. Played basketball with some 5th standard boys at playtime and it was a blast! I miss basketball! They asked us volunteers to sing the opening song for prayer time. Another beautiful sunset tonight! Great dinner and watched “Aladdin.” Good day.

Day 74:
This week the students have testing so I don't have any of my regular classes. So today I did the community outreach rotation. We painted the spikes on the wall black. It was kinda hard but we had fun. Did some housekeeping things for school till LifeDance. Went to some of night school and story time.

Day 75:
Corrected LifeDance journals until medical. Went to Polunbakkam colony. This was my first time to this colony. It is large and very nice! It is run by the Damien Organization rather than the government, so it is kept up well and they have more amenities. There are some very nice and happy patients here! I did washing. Many sweet moments at this colony with the patients there. For the excursion after, we went to an old, abandoned hospital that is now open to anyone with leprosy. Right as I stepped off the van I met a sweet lady who hugged me and when I asked her her name, she yelled it out loudly with a big smile :) I just love these people!! The patients were eating lunch, so we went into their dining hall and we sang some hymns to them. The Spirit was very strong and I felt very grateful at that moment. Visited one other abandoned hostel before we left. It was where volunteers used to stay who would help at that hospital. Had LifeDance that evening. Since the kids are having to focus all day, they are having a hard time continuing to focus. They are a bit burned out by the end of the day, but rehearsal went pretty well. Met two people who came to visit Rising Star. One is a woman who taught at RSO a few years ago. She came and made plasters for orthotics for Usha, one of the students here, because her feet are so flat and it is causing her pain. Then I will take them back to Utah with me and this woman's podiatrist will make orthotics for Usha. It's awesome to see so many people help these students! This woman also brought a friend with her. His name is Father Thomas. He runs a hospice just a few miles away with about 125 people who are on their death bed, mentally ill, handicapped, or blind. He is an incredible man! So patient! He is like a modern-day and male Mother Theresa. It was great to talk to him! He brought 3 children with him from the hospice and Kaylee and I went and played with them for a while before dinner. Went to story time. Read Indian Tales to Subha and Mispa. Great day!

Day 76:
Got to FaceTime with Alex this morning! Miss her. Left at 9 am for Vandalur colony. It is a bigger colony, but not many patients today. Played with the cute baby goats for a while before we set up. One of the patients, sweet Abraham, said a prayer before and after the patients came through. Did a lot of hanging out with the patients today. There are some really funny people at this colony! It is a bit more run down and dirty, but the people are so happy and helpful. We went to the Vandalur Zoo for the excursion afterwards. It was fun! We rode a small bus around to see the animals. We were the next attraction after the animals! We saw monkeys, birds, white tigers, giraffes, hippos, and more. Some animals were inside because it was so hot, but we saw a few. Lots of good “India moments” today :) LifeDance went well today. Stopped and talked with Dr. Vigi for a while. She is so great! The president, Sally Read, got here today, so chatted with her. She is so sweet and spoils us! She brought us homemade cookies! We all just sat around and ate them and hung out. Haven't tasted something this good in a long time! Read stories to 2 different rooms at the boys hostel for story time.

Day 77:
Today we went on a micro-grant tour! It was a great day! Anna was a great tour guide telling us about all of the beneficiaries at Bhathalapuram. This is such a big colony! We met a barber, saw lavatories that had been built, ran into an Indian politician, saw 3 small shops that had been created, saw the tailor, met a carpenter who is also a snake catcher, visited 'Pearls with a Purpose', met a woman who makes and sells bathroom cleaners, a woman who has a cable TV business, and spent a few minutes at the cresh/nursery with the little children. We visited the sweet Mooniyama who loves to kiss our hands and offer us juice and biscuits. We went to the Bindu Art School, where I finally chose a painting and took a picture with the artist. I also got to meet Theerthi's mother. Throughout these adventures, we talked to many people and took many pictures. It really is a great community here! It is cool to see all of the good that RSO has done for these people. They are thriving. When we got back I wrote my script to M/C the final performance. Went to play with the UKG kids, but they had to get vaccinations today so we just sat and encouraged them instead. They were all so tough! Only a few tears :) Had volunteer meeting at 4 and then had LifeDance. LifeDance went really well! Love these kids! Ended up teaching many of them how to do “the worm” after class :) Had a nice dinner and hung out with volunteers. It is starting to get really hot here now and I am feeling it! FaceTimed with mom, went to story time at Kala's room. These boys are so funny!

Day 78:
Mogalvadi colony today! It is my favorite :) It is also my last day of medical too. Good to start and finish on Mogalvadi. There are only 7 people at this colony but they are all just so happy! They all have such a light about them. I did washing. We did lots of singing, chatting, and lots of dancing at the end! Jayaraj is one great dancer! I will miss him!! Had an excursion to a temple dedicated to Mary afterward. So many stairs! The temple was cool though and we met lots of funny, sweet girls. Went to UKG playtime when we got back. Made a program/handout for the final performance on Monday. Had LifeDance. Taught some tap today and they loved it! It's a new concept for them, but many of them picked it up quickly. Helped at night school and then had to say goodbye to Tom and Urvasi. I can't believe they are leaving! They have been here 10 months. They are great people! Going to miss them a lot!

Day 79:
Got up at 5 am and said goodbye to Katherine and Elizabeth. I will miss them! Left for Chennai at 8 am with just the 4 of us long-term volunteers: Anna, Kaylee, Jamesen, and I. We decided to go to an amusement park called “Queensland” and we had a blast! Walked around, went on a lot of rides, rode a tram, bumper cars, got food, went to the pool at the end. The rides were probably not US safety approved, but that's what made it more adventuresome :) Reminded me a lot of Lagoon but not as nice. So much was based off of American things and it was really funny to see how they portray Americans. Lots of funny moments throughout the day. For the last hour and a half, we went to the pool. It was segregated boys and girls. I was only planning on wading in but then got splashed so much by a little girl that I just went all the way in in my clothes. I met these hilarious young nursing students who dragged me over to their group of friends. There were about 20 of them. We talked, swam, danced a lot, laughed, splashed, etc. It was so fun!! They were great! Forgot any problems and I was just completely in the moment :) I love to watch them dance! So cool to see where there inner rhythm comes from and what is natural to them. Tells so much about a culture! Went to last few minutes of playtime. We got 4 new volunteers today. They are from the Netherlands and I love hearing them speak Dutch! They are here with another organization called “Kikindia” and they paid for the sickbay/hospital on campus so they came to officially open it. Went to movie night–my favorite! Sat with older girls first, then moved to younger girls, then went over to the boys. Sweet Ranjith came straight to me and sat on my lap when he saw me. I had 5 boys sleeping or leaning on me at the same time. It makes all of my limbs fall asleep but I absolutely love it :)

Day 80:
My new roommate, Natasha, got in early this morning. She is here for 2 weeks. Showed her around. Left for church at 7. Today was branch conference. The sister missionaries grabbed us volunteers and quickly prepared us for a choir number for the special musical number. Always impromptu :) For sharing time in Primary, had a district primary leader teach and she was wonderful! Went to Spencer's mall after church. Did some shopping and had Subway for lunch! Vijay from the branch also joined us. Went to last half of playtime. These kids are what is going to make it so hard to leave.

Day 81:
Performance day! Ran with Kaylee and it was so foggy you could hardly see in front of you. I felt like I was running through a cloud and water droplets kept sticking to my eyelashes. It was cool :) Had a nice chat with Anna and Sally that were some things I needed to hear. Got to Google+ with the fam for a long time. Got costumes and music and such ready for the performance. Called a rehearsal at 1for LifeDance so we could practice. At 2 pm, we had the opening of the hospital. It was, of course, a grand event. All the students sat and watched. There were many flowers and decorations around the area and given to the Kikindia volunteers. I was asked to take pictures so I floated around. I love how embellished and long everything is in India. Really shows a lot about their culture. They lit candles, gave speeches, cut the ribbon, had a dedicatory prayer, Anna's choir sang, and Kiki gave out cookies to the students. It was a good event! Then we all walked over to the dining hall for the dance performances. Went well! Gave some opening remarks, and jumped right into the program. They have a different idea of manners in India at dance events, so it was hard to keep everyone quiet. So I didn't get to announce each number as well as I would have liked to, but the kids did a great job! It's so wonderful to see how much they light up when they are on stage! At the end, Jamesen and Kaylee got everyone to chant my name and they made me dance. I just did some contemporary improv for a minute or two. Then went to a prayer ceremony for 10th standard. It was really beautiful. They have their exams soon that decide which school they will go to for 11th and 12th standard. Had LifeDance for just half an hour. Just did some relaxation with them since they were all so tired and then just turned on music for those who wanted to stay and we just danced and hung out. Went to story time and just chatted that night. A good day of much celebration!

Day 82:
The school is trying a 20-day program for the rest of the school year, so my schedule has now changed. I will only have one class a day for the next two weeks I am here. So had my first class right after lunch with UKG. Did a balancing lesson and they loved it! The volunteers came as well and had a good time. Wrote my LifeDance kids notes. Had LifeDance. Taught an old hip hop combo of mine and they just ate it up and now want to practice it all the time! The kids have free time in the evenings now, so we went over and had the kids write thank you notes to the grocery store that sent the cookies that Kiki gave out. So just walked around the hostels and monitored them. It was fun! Went to girls hostel for story time and chatted with Megala and Jennifer.

Day 83:
Had 1st standard today. They were great and are just absolutely adorable! I will miss teaching them! LifeDance went alright. Had the kids make thank you cards again tonight. Taught sign language to a bunch of girls at story time. They are such quick learners and they love it! And I love teaching it to them too. That night we planned for the talent show tomorrow night that they asked us volunteers to do.

Day 84:
Had 2nd standard today. They were pretty wild. I am grateful to have at least one class a day but I do miss the days where I taught 4 or 5 classes. Makes me grateful that I had so many weeks of that. Just walked around and hung out with the kids for a while. Had some good discussions with Natasha. LifeDance went well. Prepared for the talent show. The show was a big hit! Lily taught some songs, Anna sang, Dale danced, the Kikindia volunteers taught “The Macarena,” I danced, then we did the midget dancing we planned. We had one person be in between two sheets with their arms in pants so it looked like legs and someone else stood behind, unseen, as their arms. It was hilarious and the kids loved it! Then we did getting ready for the day with someone else as their arms. By the end I had shampoo all over my hair, lotion everywhere, toothpaste all over my face, as well as mascara everywhere. It was pretty great :) Laughed a lot that night as we reflected on the talent show and chatted with the Kikindia volunteers who left that night except for Catarina who is here for another week and a half.

Day 85:
Helped Kaylee teach an English class of UKG and 1st standard students that they asked her to teach. They are a bit crazy! We tried to come up with all kinds of creative ways to teach them the concepts. Taught 3rd standard today and they were great as always! They were so focused and loved the balancing lesson. Talked with my dear Mariyam for a good 25 minutes. She was telling me all about her life. Ate lunch, helped Kaylee some more. Wrote in some of the kids' memory books until LifeDance. LifeDance went alright. Another great sunset tonight. Lily brought us jackfruit to try tonight! It's yummy! Went to the boys' hostel for free time and we played board games. One is similar to billiards or pool, and we also played “Snakes and Ladders.” Then just hung out outside with some boys doing yoga and tricks and such. Going to miss these boys! The power went out multiple times tonight so we had lots of fun sneaking around and scaring each other for a while :)

Day 86:

Left for Mammallapuram again at 8 am. Four students have been extra good and they earned a trip with us! So we had Michael, Bala, Vimal, and Divya with us. It was so fun! We went and saw some of the temple ruins first. We did a little shopping, and spent the rest of the time at the beach. Just jumped in in our clothes again. We played on the sand, swam, found treasures, all sorts of stuff. Fun day! The kids fell asleep on my lap on the ride home. Long day for them :) Went to the end of playtime and played some volleyball. Kaylee accidentally kicked it into the well of the sewage treatment plant so then we had an adventure fishing it out with a bucket and rope :) Went to movie night and sat with younger girls who fell asleep on me after they did my hair. Love these kids! These girls are so sweet! The only downside of the day was getting bit by a giant ant thing and my finger became swollen and was sore for a few days.

Day 87:
Church was good. My primary lesson went well. Stopped at Reliance on the way home and got treats for my students. Got stuck in some traffic on the way back but not too long. Played soccer at playtime with the girls. It was fun! Went to Dale and Lily's apartment for dinner. She made pasta, mashed potatoes, salad, and grapes! All things I have not had since I have been here and it was amazing! I forgot how much I missed these foods! We played a game after eating and then we went to free time with the kids. Snuggled with the girls, played, sang, danced, taught some more ASL to the older girls, told stories, etc. Just chatted in girls' hostel for story time.

Day 88:
Good chat with the family in the morning after run. Wrote in more memory books. Taught 4th standard. I did a “Chance Dance” lesson and they loved it! They did so good! Lunch, helped Kaylee with her class for an hour. Helped the nurses with an inventory sheet by checking their English and making it sound official. LifeDance went pretty well. Gave a little speech about motivation after and they listened well. Sat with the girls for free time. We danced and I taught more ASL. Went to story time in Buji's room.

Day 89:
Happy April Fools' Day! :) Had to say goodbye to one of the housemothers who is leaving today. So sad! Listened to the Young Woman's broadcast and wrote in more memory books. Got an exciting email today. I found out that I received the Dee Winterton 'Spirit of Dance' Award and half tuition scholarship! I felt so honored! What a wonderful surprise! The Lord works in mysterious ways, but He really knows what's best. Had 5th standard and they were also very good! They just love to dance and they had great focus. Wrote in more memory books and had a LifeDance presidency meeting. LifeDance was not great today. Went to free time and hung out with the boys. We played lots of Ninja and just goofed around. It's so good for them to have some free time! Usually they are booked 24/7. Went to the boys' hostel in Kala's room for story time. They ended up telling me more stories tonight than me telling them stories :)

Day 90:
Helped Kaylee in her class for an hour. Had 6th standard today. This was the best 6th standard class I have ever had because their teacher was there to monitor. They listened and did a great job! Started typing up some notes for the next dance master and chatted with the Elephant House cleaning ladies–Alamelu and Lakshmi. They are hilairous! LifeDance went well today. They cleaned their own dances and did a good job! I warmed up my voice a bit before dinner. The other volunteers had to go help with something at a colony, so just Catarina and I had good conversation over dinner. Hung out with boys at free time. We did tumbling stuff on the sand. Told stories in M. Vignesh and Nagaraj's room.

Day 91:
Finished typing up the notes for the next dance master and Skyped with Shaun Parry for a bit. Taught 7th standard today and went pretty well. Did some choreographing for LifeDance for a fun dance and a little packing. Had last volunteer meeting, went well! Had LifeDance and it went well. We did a “marathon” and I had them run all of their dances in a row. After dinner, the volunteers and I sat and played “Bananagrams,” had snacks, and chatted. Going to miss this crew so much! I am so glad we are all such good friends! It would not be the same without them. Hung out with boys and girls at free time and told stories to 2 different boys' rooms for story time. Lights went out lots again tonight so had some more fun sneaking around and scaring each other :)

Sunday 9 March 2014

Days 54-65

Day 54:
Got to sleep in till 8 am today! Got to Google+ with Celsea after I got ready. Had 6th standard first and they were crazy as usual. Got to FaceTime with the parents for over an hour and it was nice. After lunch, had 3rd standard and they were very good as usual. Only 3 people showed up for 10th standard dance class. 7th standard after was fairly wild as well. LifeDance went okay. It's hard to have anyone to vent to about what is going on because I am thee only person here doing what I am doing. Got emails from missionary friends that evening and they all said things I needed to hear :) Got to FaceTime with Kami for a bit and see baby Graham. Watched some “Recess” with Kaylee and talked. Love that show! Brings me back to childhood!

Day 55:
Classes went well today. Went to UKG playtime and helped the cleaning ladies of the Elephant House open some coconuts we gathered that had fallen off the trees. After dinner that night, watched part of “New in Town” with volunteers. Feeling a bit overwhelmed about having to put together a final performance for all the standards by myself.

Day 56:
After a good run this morning and making a yummy breakfast, went to medical. I was the only volunteer who went today because the others are still working on their manuals. It was just me and the medical squad. On the way to colony we stopped and visited Udhayabalan, who has leprosy, and received a micro-grant from RSO and has a little shop where he sells items by the train station to make money for his family. He is so nice and really funny! Next we stopped at the nursery and visited all of the little kids again. They warmed up to me much faster this time and we had a blast dancing and playing ball and such :) Lastly, we stopped at a sweet elderly lady's house and brought her medicine and bandages for her leprosy. Then got to the A.S. Nagar colony. There were only 2 patients. Since I was the only volunteer, I got to help the head nurse do the dressing and wrapping of the ulcers, so that was really cool! Fun to have some new adventures today! Lunch and played Bananagrams with volunteers. Started on making new medical training videos for future volunteers. Went alright. Filming always takes longer than people think. LifeDance went pretty well. Helped at night school, Skyped friends, went to story time, had a long discussion with my roommate Urvasi.

Day 57:
All of us met at the school at 9 am for more filming. We set up all the stations and filmed each one and it went well! Sad I didn't get to go to medical today but we had fun. Played Bananagrams till lunch. I am helping put together a short dance for a small event for the birthday of Dr. Susan, the managing director of the school. I had it choreographed and had my dancers chosen but hadn't found a time that I could teach it to them yet. On this day, there was 6 teachers out today because of a cricket tournament happening (like the Superbowl in the US) so I was able to go around with the principal and pull those students out that I needed. I took an hour and a half and taught them the choreography. Since it's a secret, they were so confused why they were learning this dance. I just told them it was for someone special. LifeDance went well today. I am having them teach each other across-the-floor combos and they came up with some great choreography!

Day 58:
Left for Mammallapuram at 8 am. Had a really good time! Walked around with Anna, Jamesen, and Kaylee and did some shopping, found a cute restaurant for lunch, and spent the last 2 hours at the beach. I love the ocean! Since I did not grow up around it, it is a bit intimidating, but I also love it! So beautiful and the water was so warm! We swam, played on the beach, met some nice people. Right before we left, took a dip in the giant pool they have there at the resort as well. Went to movie night with the kids. It was a Tamil movie so didn't stay for long. Came back to Elephant House and watched “Sixth Sense” and got to FaceTime with a friend. What a great day!!

Day 59:
Left at 7 am for church. Fast and testimony meeting was very good. Such dedicated members here! The primary teacher was absent today, so Kaylee and I took over all of primary for both hours. Went pretty well. Stopped at two grocery stores on the way back. Went to play time and hung out with different groups of kids. Watched “The Little Princess” that night since it is partly in India. Got to FaceTime with the parents. Good day!

Day 60:
Classes went fairly well. Teaching some technique this week and discussing the Body, Energy, Space, Time (BEST) method I have been teaching them. Skyped with Shaun Parry for an hour and discussed future plans. LifeDance was fine. We had 4 short-term volunteers come today. They are here with “Reading Horizons” and gave presentations to the teachers about how to better help the students learn to read. They are really great people and really enjoyed talking to them! All of us played “Scum” that night till story time and had a blast! Went to boys' hostel, got talking to some of the kids, and accidentally stayed 15 minutes later than I was supposed to so got locked in and had to ask the main housemother to let me out. Oops!

Day 61:
Ran with both Kaylee and Heidi from “Reading Horizons” this morning. Had 6th standard and then got a bunch of logistical stuff done. Met with Dr. Susan and found out that the final testing time has been changed, so there is only one date for me to do the final performance, and since there are no dance classes during testing, there is only one week for me to prepare them for this performance! So now my ideas have changed. It will have to be much simpler than planned. You just have to roll with the punches here in India. Nothing is planned ahead. I am definitely learning to “go with the flow” here! Had a few more classes that went okay. Stayed and stretched with two of the students, Mispa and Priya, till LifeDance. LifeDance went really well today. Played more “Scum” with the short-term volunteers and chatted with them. Story time at the girls' hostel with an Indian folk tale book I picked up at the library.

Day 62:
Said goodbye to the short-term volunteers from “Reading Horizons.” Wish they could stay longer. All of my classes were really rough today. Not much focus from anyone. Went to UKG playtime, then rode to the junction with Anna, Kaylee, Marissa, and Jamesen right before LifeDance. Rough evening, feeling overwhelmed, but got to FaceTime with the parents, so that was good. Helped at night school and went to story time.

Day 63:
Didn't get to go to medical this weekend either. We did a community service project of painting fences that go around plants. We listened to music and talked while we painted. Got splattered green everywhere! It was fun :) Lunch and UKG playtime. Had lots of fun with the little munchkins :) Had the long-term volunteer meeting till LifeDance. Played “Nertz” that night till Marissa had to leave. She was here for 5 weeks, weird to have her gone. Skyped with friends, story time, watched some “Recess” with Kaylee.

Day 64:
More painting today. Got even more splattered with green today :) Kaylee and I made delicious salads for lunch. Had a rehearsal for Dr. Susan's birthday dance that went pretty well. Dr. Vigi came and watched it. LifeDance afterwards went well! Dinner, “Recess,” helped at night school. Talked with volunteers.

Day 65:
Happy International Women's Day! The ladies here at RSO are so sweet and they gave all of us girls flowers and told us all happy women's day. They are so amazing! Left for Chennai at 8 am. Decided to go to a new shopping area this weekend. We stopped and saw the place where St. Thomas was martyred and walked around the church and statues dedicated to him. It was beautiful there! It was on top of a hill and you could see the whole city! Then went to Mabalam to shop. One of the guys from the ward who just got baptized, named Vijay, met us there and helped show us around. So nice to have a native who could show us around. He is so sweet! It was really cool to shop more with the locals. It was crazy busy with people and tons of little shops. I love that busyness for a few hours! It was exciting and fun :) After, Vijay took us to his apartment and his sweet mother made us lunch! We ate and talked for a while. Such a great afternoon! When we got back, Jamesen, Kaylee, and I made no bake cookies–so good! Went to movie night with the kids. It was an English movie and not so violent, so stayed for almost the whole time. Good thing I am flexible, because the girls I was sitting with split my legs apart and 4 of them sat and snuggled there. They are so sweet :) Got to hear about their parents' day today that they had. Chatted with Kaylee.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Days 40-53

Day 40:
Rough classes today. Not a lot of focus. Had a meeting about scheduling for the dance master next year. After dinner, helped tutor at night school. Went to story time and read some Tamil classics and folk tales that teach morals. It is really interesting to see what life lessons are valued in other cultures. It helps me understand the students better. Had a fun talk with Kaylee and Marissa, the short-term volunteer who has extended her stay for two weeks.

Day 41:
Slept in till 7:30 and it was great! Classes went well today! Did some choreographing for a surprise birthday dance for the school director for next month. Read some information about my LifeDance kids when they first got to Rising Star. Fun to see old pictures of them and read some of their life stories! These are amazing kids. Went to UKG playtime–such cuties! So interesting to watch their habits and instincts and how they are similar and different than ours. Behavior was still not great at LifeDance. Took pictures of their piques today to show them what they look like and it actually helped them improve a lot. A success moment that made me happy to find something that worked. Dinner, and Kaylee and I made a silly video for my friend's birthday. Storytime.

Day 42:
Went to colony with Anna, Marissa, and Jamesen. Went to two very small colonies today. First was Gandhi colony. My first time to this colony. Met one of the UKG kids' grandma. Only 3 patients. Kept thinking about how crazy it is that the stigma of leprosy during Jesus' time is still around. No wonder the people thought it was so amazing that Christ would actually come up to them, touch them, and heal them. He truly loves everyone, no exceptions. Next, we went to A.S. Nagar. There was an adorable tiny kitten walking around that I couldn't help but pick up. Did washing at both colonies. Got ice cream at the junction on the way home. Lunch, UKG playtime. Long-term volunteers meeting until LifeDance. LifeDance went better today. It is all about finding a balance of being more enthusiastic and lax while also having control of the class. Volunteers and I watched some episodes of the old TV show “Recess.” Helped Anna make a Valentine's Day video that night.

Day 43:
Happy Valentine's Day! :) They don't celebrate it here but since the kids are around the volunteers so much, they know what it is. Went to Walajabad colony today. Only 3 patients so very short. Played with a little boy there and tried to keep him out of trouble :) He was a bit of a rascal but very cute. I did bandage removal and water changing. Had lunch and then helped with the education rotation. Helped 1st standard in computers with a math program. Then helped with P.E. with 2nd standard and learned some Indian games. Played with 5th standard P.E. next. They were playing a form of volleyball so it was really fun. Anna and I made a 'Happy Valentine's Day' sign for the short-term volunteer that is coming today to put on their door and we had a good discussion. UKG playtime, had LifeDance and just let them make up dances in groups for fun. They had some good choreography :) The short-term family, the Johns, got here today and they were great! The parents are so nice and fun. They have 4 girls: Kristin is 17, Brianna is 16, Elizabeth is 10, and Lydia is 7. They are all very sweet girls! Got to know them at dinner on the Green House roof. Got to FaceTime with mom for a long time and it was great! Hung out with Kaylee that night. We were each other's valentine for the day :) Felt useful all day, it was good!

Day 44:
Left for Pondicherry/Puducherry with everyone, including the Johns family at 8 am. We walked through Auroville again and then went to Pondicherry. The vendors overwhelmed the Johns a bit but we did some shopping, walked through the markets, and had a good time! I helped block some of them off :) Long ride home. Tried to do some lesson planning. Dinner, went to movie night. It was split with younger and older kids so spent some time in both places. The little ones just love snuggling and it just makes everything better :) Talked with Tom and Urvasi that night. They are great!

Day 45:
Left for church at 7 am. The Johns girls and Kaylee and I played church games on Kaylee's iPad on the way up. About halfway there, there was a really loud noise and the back tire popped. Good thing we weren't on a freeway in the US or it could have been disastrous. But being on a highway in India, it wasn't too bad because everyone just goes around :) Our driver, Rogendren, is super awesome and he put on the spare and we were only 15 minutes late for church! Good sacrament meeting, primary was a bit more crazy today. We went to Spencer's mall afterwards. The youngest of the Johns, Lydia, held my hand the whole time. She is adorable and reminds me of myself when I was little. Makes me excited and nervous to be a mom. Helped barter for stuff for the Johns. Stopped at Reliance grocery store and picked up some things. Had dinner and then swung on the swing by the Green House with Lydia and chatted. The students here are very overwhelming when you first get here because they have no personal space bubbles and love physical touch so poor Lydia has been a bit overwhelmed because the kids are so excited to see young volunteers, but she is doing better. Shower, talked with Marissa.

Day 46:
Went running in the rain with Kaylee. First time it has rained since I have been here and it was so fun! Super humid and rainy all day. Gave out the dance award for the most focused class at morning assembly. I love watching them recite their school songs and India anthems and stuff. Internet down today so didn't get to talk to the family. The Johns came and helped with UKG dance class today and it was great! Ate lunch with the kids. During teaching 5th standard, I had a coughing fit. Been starting to get a cough. Came back and took a nap before LifeDance. Dinner, helped with night school, story time.

Day 47:
Good classes today! Went to story time and the girls braided my hair like how all of the school girls here do. It was pretty funny! Good times :) Goofed off with volunteers and then got to Google+ with Kami for a long time and it was great!

Day 48:
Skyped with Shaun Parry about how classes are going. Got to Skype with the parents for an hour and it was really nice. The Johns family came to 4th standard dance class and it was good. Got to help serve rice to the girls at lunch because a lot of the house mothers were gone at medical–it was fun :) Helped with P.E. class but it was raining so we went in and played chess and a cool Indian board game similar to pool/billiards. It is so funny that when it started raining, all of the American volunteers ran outside to play in it and all of the Indians ran inside to get covered. They all worry about getting sick and stuff. I tried to do some choreographing during my break but got easily distracted :) I use PhotoBooth sometimes to record my choreography so I remember it. I was watching it when the cleaning ladies of the Elephant House saw it and came in. I showed them how you can take pictures with it and they were so surprised,intrigued, and thought it was amazing! We had fun taking pictures :) LifeDance was rough. Met with Dr. Vigi after about the secret dance for Dr. Susan. Dinner and then we found “Frozen” on YouTube and watched it with the Johns girls. Helped Urvasi get the ants out of her bed that had decided to take over. Pretty good day.

Day 49:
The sun was huge, bright red, and beautiful while I ran this morning and it helped me keep going. Went to medical today with the Johns family to Bhatalapuram. This was my 2nd time at this colony and I love it! It is a bigger colony and they just have the sweetest people! Did some washing and oiling and got to have good conversation with the parents of the Johns family, Charity and Brian. Marissa asked to have her blood sugar taken just to see, so Jamesen took it and she passed out. She hasn't been feeling well and was dehydrated. A bit startling but she is doing fine now. Did lots of dancing at the end. It was mostly the ladies just watching Kaylee and I. I also brought my drum and many of them loved using it. I just love the people here! They have so much love. Before we left, we went on a mini micro-grant tour that Anna took us on. We stopped at the Community Hall and saw the 'Pearls for a Purpose' organization that teaches women how to bead and then sell the jewelry to help support their families. We also stopped at the Bindi Art School where a couple from Europe live and teach the patients how to paint. Even if they don't have many fingers, they find a way–even if it means using their toes. They have been doing it for a few years now and the patients have become quite incredible! Both the organizations are really cool and doing a lot of good. Amazing how they are helping people pull themselves out of poverty. Lunch, UKG playtime, took silly pictures with Elizabeth and Lydia Johns. LifeDance went a bit better, had dinner, exchanged emails and such with the Johns as it was their last night. Sad to see them go! They are such a great family and are going to do such great things! So glad I got to meet them! Kaylee and I had a sleepover tonight because my roommate Urvasi, left for the weekend for a meeting with the organization she is here with: World Teach. Kaylee and I had some great, deep conversations and then went to bed late.

Day 50:
Anna, Jamesen, Kaylee, and I got up at 2:30 to say goodbye to the Johns. But when we got up, they hadn't woken up yet! So we had to wake them up and we helped get them on their way. Went back to bed and got up at 7:30 and Anna and I made a nice breakfast for Jamesen for his birthday. We all ate together. Went to medical alone today as the only volunteer. Just me and the medical team. The other volunteers have to work on manuals for the next set of volunteers that are coming after they leave. I went to Mogalvadi colony, one of my favorites. I got to take blood pressure today so that was cool. I danced at least 5 songs after with our dear Jayraj. Lunch, answered emails, UKG playtime. Today for LifeDance, it was the Friday once a month where they teach a class. Two LifeDance girls, Tamilselvi and Savita, taught a girls class in the dining hall and two LifeDance boys, Mohanraj and M. Vignesh, taught the boys class on some cement outside the medical station. They both taught during playtime and I walked back and forth between the two to monitor. The girls had tons of attendees! The boys had a harder time convincing other boys to give up their playtime. It was a bit chaotic but both boys and girls did a good job and it is so good for them to have to teach! That night, gave Jamesen his birthday present. Took Urvasi's night school class since she is gone. Since it was Friday, after they finished their homework, we let them watch a movie. Kaylee and I made a bunch of microwaveable cakes that the women from the 'Women to Women' conference left for Jamesen's birthday dessert. It was quite hilarious but tasted good! The volunteers and I played card games for a while and then went to bed.

Day 51:
No Saturday day trip today because all of the other long-term volunteers have to write manuals for the volunteers coming after them. But Anna, Jamesen, Marissa, and I all rode to the junction on bikes. It was a fun ride except for the fact that I got stung by a hornet twice on the way and got pretty sunburned because I completely spaced putting on sunscreen. We walked around the little shops for a while. On our ride back, we did a little off roading and went on the trails on the side of the road into the fields with the cows and had some adventures roaming around :) Worked on choreography and lesson plans. Kaylee and I jumped rope with the cleaning ladies of the Elephant House for a while :) Feeling a bit low that night but then went to the movie night with the kids. They are like medicine when they snuggle up with you, it's impossible to be sad. Love 'em!

Day 52:
Church was good. I was asked to lead music but there was no pianist so that was interesting... I just sang loud and tried to follow their pace :) After, we stayed for the baptism of one of Kaylee and I's primary students–it was great! On the way into the baptism, I saw two men signing. I watched for a while, expecting it to be Tamil Sign Language, but was surprised when I was understanding it! They were signing American Sign Language! I went up to them and introduced myself and started signing with them. They are both deaf. One of the sister missionaries in that branch is teaching them ASL. So great to sign again! Gosh I miss it! Made me so happy! I have been trying to learn the letters of Tamil Sign Language, but it's hard! Stopped at grocery store on the way back. Played soccer with the older girls. It was really fun! Really enjoyed just being with them–it was a good time where I was completely in the moment. I love those times. Did some Zumba and 'Just Dance' with Kaylee and Anna, Jamesen joined us. So fun! Dinner and we all played card games and Skyped with Shynee (the girl who taught with me for the first month) and got to chat with her.

Day 53:
Teaching music, rhythm, and time this week. Went well! Gave out the dance award for this week at morning assembly. Internet down again so didn't get to talk to family. Did some choreography and chatted with volunteers. More classes. They all went well today! Had lunch and it was raining really hard so danced in the rain with Kaylee and Anna till we were all basically soaked and it was great :) Went to UKG playtime. Tried to teach the kids how to say, “Brown chicken, brown cow!” and it was hilarious hearing them try to say it :) LifeDance went better today. Taught them a combo across the floor. Dinner and helped tutor at night school. These kids need so much help. They are so used to just being fed answers and copying that they have a hard time thinking on their own. Tried my best to explain the concepts to them. Went to story time at the girls' hostel and they just asked me questions about dance. Talked with Kaylee till bed.

Monday 10 February 2014

Days 26-39

Day 26:
Classes went well. LifeDance even came 20 minutes early so Shynee and I stretched with them before class because they all want to be more flexible. They were a bit crazy so did a relaxation thing with them at the end and it worked! They were all very quiet. Dinner, small presentation of pictures from the photographer who is here right now, story time.

Day 27:
Got up and almost fell over because my calves and ankles so sore! Shaun had warned me about this. I am jumping up and down so much on a cement floor that I am not used to dancing on. I spent any downtime rubbing out my legs on a tennis ball. Had a reluctant 9th standard class. Then was able to relax and read a book about Indian culture which was really nice. Don't get to do that very often! The ladies came and helped with 4th standard. Went with the ladies to present a shawl to Dr. Susan and all the faculty and staff for their hard work while the “Women to Women” session was here. The faculty and staff also passed around treats and flowers to all of the women as well. It was really nice. Did lots of stretching in LifeDance. Had dinner. Each of the women stood and told what they had learned from their session. Went to story time. Hung out with long-term volunteers as well as the younger volunteers that are here.

Day 28:
Got up at 3:30 am and said goodbye to some of the ladies as they all left. Sad to say goodbye to the few that I got to know well. Got to go to medical today. Went to the A.S. Nagar colony. On the way up we stopped at a nursery. It was wonderful! At first the kids were very reluctant and just stared at us. We weren't sure what we were going to do with them for a half an hour. Then they started to warm up to us after about 15 minutes and then they were climbing all over us! We danced, they played my drum I brought, took pictures, played with a ball, and slid down their slide. It was a blast! Such darling kids that need so much love! It was a little bit of heaven to forget about everything else except for these children for a little bit. Sad to leave. Went to colony. I asked to do washings. I really enjoyed this station. Got to work directly with the ulcers and the patients were so sweet! It's amazing how much these people have been through and yet so many can keep smiles on their faces. When I got home, Shynee and I met with Dr. Vigi about choreographing a small dance for a secret birthday celebration for Dr. Susan so I am excited about getting to do this! Got to take a nap for the first time since I have been here and it was pretty great :) Supposed to have a LifeDance presidency meeting but there was miscommunication so just had LifeDance rehearsal like normal. Went back to basics with teaching technique. It was hard for me to go back 10-11 years and remember how I was taught the basics of technique. After dinner, watched “Gravity” with the long-term volunteers. What a great movie! It feels very empty in the Elephant House now with all of the women gone. Story time, FaceTime with the parents and a friend. Had a sleepover with Kaylee tonight :)
Day 29:
Went with the medical team again today. I asked to do the oiling station today since I haven't done that one yet. It was the same colony as I went to two weeks ago since they are on a two week rotation. I think oiling is my favorite. You really get to know the patients with this station. Shynee and I did inventory of the Promethean Spark costumes when we got back. Shynee had decided she wanted to teach a dance class to the faculty and staff so we did that class today. Went pretty well. We warmed up, taught an easy dance, and I did some relaxation stuff with them after. Some were pretty tentative, some gave up, but some did a good job! It was fun! Not sure if they liked it enough to do it again, but I guess we will see :) LifeDance went pretty well after. It was Shynee's last day so they paid attention more. I had all of the LifeDance kids sign a card for her so we presented that to her. We had a dance jam after for Shynee's last day. Afterwards, Kaylee, Jamesen, and I tried to teach Shynee how to ride a bike. She did pretty well for her first try! Dinner, watched a movie with volunteers, story time.

Day 30:
Went to see a golden Hindu temple today. Took us about 3 hours to get there. Lesson planning, sleeping, talking on the way. When we got to the temple, we had to follow what the natives around us did because none of us knew how this place worked. It was an adventure and I couldn't help but smile at how much we looked like tourists other than our skin color :) Left our shoes and bags in the van and walked down a long path to the temple. It is completely made of gold and it was beautiful! We threw coins in the fountain, stayed for a small procession, and looked around. It was cool! We weren't allowed to take pictures. After, we went to ruins of another old temple. Went through one of them and they give you water that you drink and throw over your head, they touch a silver cap to your head, and then they put a dot of white chalk on your forehead. It was a really cool cultural experience! Walked around some vendors, got a bracelet for free. Went and got our shoes back (though I loved not wearing shoes all afternoon!) Went and saw ruins of an old fort. Jamesen and Anna had their fortunes told by a man who has a bird who chooses taro cards. Lots of stares–we were the next attraction to see after the temple :) That night watched the live-action “The Jungle Book” with volunteers (Jamesen, Kaylee, Anna, Urvasi, and Tom) while writing a blog post for work.

Day 31:
Left for church at 7 am. Went over my primary lesson on the way. Church was good and got to stay for a baptism of a man in the branch, which was really cool! Shynee asked us all kinds of church questions on the way home and enjoyed answering and explaining them. At 4, had a LifeDance presidency meeting that went pretty well. Right after, Shynee and I taught a dance class to the house mothers. They are the women who are with the children all day, everyday and are pretty darn incredible! Almost all of them are my age. The few hours they are not in charge of the students (when the students are at school) they go with the medical team to the colonies. So we wanted them to have a break. We did the same class and afterwards, they just kept wanting to dance so we did! Many of them are great dancers! Watched “Aladdin” with Jamesen and Anna while I finished up lesson plans.

Day 32:
Got up at 3:30 am and said goodbye to Shynee. I will miss her! I did a shape lesson this week. It really is much easier to have another person to help in a dance class. But classes went okay. Went to part of UKG playtime. Played volleyball with 10th standard for a little bit. Had LifeDance. Talkative but okay. Ran around the track for a bit. A new volunteer came today. Her name is Marissa. She is the only short-term volunteer here. She is 17 and very nice! Got to FaceTime with a friend and went to part of story time. A kitten ran into the Mango Room (common room of the Elephant House) so the volunteers and I tried to coax it out for a while but didn't work so had to scare it out.

Day 33:
A great conversation with Celsea after a run. Taught 6th standard and had a meeting with Dr. Susan after with exciting possibilities for some of the LifeDance students in the future :) Had a lot of dance classes today. Some better than others. Story time that night. Went to the girls' hostel and started reading a book to them.

Day 34:
Did some organizing and cleaning in the morning. Classes went well today. Ate lunch with the kids and went to UKG playtime with Jamesen and Kaylee. So fun to play with the little ones! It is just so hot outside!! Skyped with Shaun Parry for a little bit to discuss concerns. LifeDance was a bit crazy. Wish they would respect me more. I try all kinds of methods and nothing works great. Sat on the roof of the Elephant House after and just pondered on ideas on how to help them while I watched the sunset. Did a yoga session with Anna, Marissa, and Jamesen. After dinner I worked on finding more English music for my classes. I was told I am not allowed to use Tamil music anymore since I don't know what it is saying. I'm not too happy about that but that's the way it goes.

Day 35:
Went to a big colony with the medical team today. There is over 300 people and over 100 with leprosy. Had about 25 people come through our line. The people here are so sweet! Some of the sweetest I have ever met! Especially the older ladies are just the cutest! They are like the ideal grandma. They pinch your cheeks and just love that you are willing to help them. Indians use a lot of physical contact in friendships, so to be banished like that and have people scared to touch you is so hard on them. They are just so grateful for us to be there and not be scared to hold their hands and pat them on the back. Though most have no fingers, no toes, or are blind, I still got a few of the sweet ladies to dance. There were lots of smiles and laughs. It was wonderful :) You smile and say hello to them and they just light up. Had a long-term volunteer meeting and then a frustrating LifeDance class. Skyped with friends and story time at the boys' hostel. Read some “Hardy Boys” to them. Good day today.

Day 36:
Went to Mogalvadi colony again today. That was the colony I went to the very first time I went to medical. It is the colony with our dear Jayraj who is such a character! He has so much life and light in him and loves to dance! Small colony so only helped about 3 patients and then had lots of dancing! They made me improv for them :) Got some of the nurses to dance as well. Nice discussion with the main nurse on the way back. Had a long Skype session with Shaun Parry that was really good. Made me feel better with what I am doing here in India. Another frustrating LifeDance class. Helped out at night school tonight. Mostly tutoring kind of stuff. I like doing it! Story time that night.

Day 37:
Today was Parents Day! They bus in the parents and families of the students from the leprosy colonies and villages. I went to the school with my camera and just took pictures of the kids with their families. It was so cute and so great to see them so excited and happy to be with their families! Left for a day trip to Mamallapuram. Did lots of shopping and lunch. Found some good stuff! Dinner and played games with volunteers. Lots of fun, India moments today. I love experiencing other cultures! Google + with friends before bed.

Day 38:
Church at 9 am. Taught the primary lesson alone today because Kaylee was asked to help clean the font. Went fine. Stopped at grocery store on the way home. Told bad date stories on the way home :) Lunch, emailed missionary friends, planned lessons for this next week, went to playtime and played soccer with some of the older girls for a little bit. Watched “The Croods” that night while eating dinner and doing last minute lesson planning. Got ready for bed and then watched the first hour of “Slumdog Millionaire” with Kaylee. I have never seen it before and it's really interesting to watch while I am in India! Such an incredible movie!

Day 39:
Classes very up and down today. Went back and forth from a good class to bad class. Google + with the whole family was really great! Went to UKG playtime. Those kids crack me up! LifeDance went better today. Dinner, watched some episodes of the old TV show “Recess.” Really brought me back to childhood! Watched “Thor 2” with volunteers while writing this blog :) Good day.

Friday 31 January 2014

The Next 15 Days...

Day 10:
Had church at 9 am in Chennai. It was good! My primary lesson went very well! I had the older kids. There were only 4 of them but they were pretty attentive and were very smart! Stopped at grocery store on the way home. Bought more guavas—so yummy! Went to playtime that night and helped students write sponsor letters. The students write notes back to the emails they receive from the people who sponsor them so they can go to school. It was really fun to see them answer the questions of their sponsors and to see what is important to them that they want their sponsors to know. When we got back, the long-term volunteers and I tried to make peanut butter cookies in the microwave. Didn't work so well... we ate the dough :) The volunteers and I went to Dale and Lily's apartment. Shynee and Lily made us dinner! It was delicious! Since this next week is Pongal and the students don't have school, Shynee and I don't have our normal dance classes. Instead, we had 6 hour rehearsals everyday with LifeDance so they would be ready for the talent show. So that night Shynee and I made plans for those rehearsals for the rest of the week. Watched a cartoon with Kaylee and Shynee before bed.

Day 11:
Up at 6:15 and went running with Kaylee. Then got to Google+ with the family! So wonderful! Got to see baby Graham and he is adorable! Had LifeDance rehearsal from 9:30 am-12 pm. Had a lunch break from 12-2 where we had leftovers for lunch at Dale and Lily's and then we Skyped with Shaun to let him know how classes were going. We started again with rehearsal from 2-5 pm. We ended with having them all improv to a Tamil song to see if we could get some ideas for their Bollywood number we are choreographing. They have a hard time with improv so that is something I want to work on with them. Dinner and Shynee and I did some choreographing.

Day 12:
Got to Google+ with my best friend Celsea for a few minutes! Had LifeDance from 9:30-12. Back to rehearsal from 2-5. Everyone was tired and a bit frustrated so we sat down and talked for about 35 minutes at the end about how to take advantage of dance classes. I just wish these kids could see the potential they have if they just had the motivation to get there! Got to eat sugar cane that the cook, Padmini, gave us. Fun to learn how to eat it! Dinner and more choreographing.

Day 13:
Lots of people out today because of the Pongal holiday. It is a holiday of the harvest and one of the days is dedicated to the cow, an animal that they revere. Many people were pulling cows along with them and had painted their horns to celebrate them. Delicious breakfast of dosa (kind of like a crepe) with curry for Pongal. Rehearsal from 9:30-12 with LifeDance went well. Had one student not show up because he feels he does not belong on the team. I went and found him and talked to him and coaxed him into coming back to rehearsal. More choreographing in between and then rehearsal 2-5. Discussed why we dance at the end of the rehearsal. After, the kids turned on some Tamil music and got in a circle and just danced! I have never seen them move like this! It was incredible! Someone would go in the middle and everyone would follow them. I am definitely learning some moves from them! Forgot all my troubles and just enjoyed watching them move. Feeling really good afterwards! Had dinner and had some cake and ice cream for Anna, one of the long-term volunteers, because it was her birthday. Both of the desserts were very... interesting :) Watched part of “The Amazing Spider-Man” before bed with other volunteers.

Day 14:
Rehearsal from 9:30-12 went very well! We started with some good, long stretching and showed them how to correctly stretch and it gave them a lot of energy. From 2-5 pm we finished cleaning all of the dances! So happy!! Had a little meeting from a visiting couple who were just traveling through and they taught us about how to help children with reading. It was interesting! Ate dinner on the roof of the hostel next to ours (the green house they call it because it's, well... green) :). Beautiful view up there! The moon was huge and bright orange! I love the sunrises and sunsets here. They are incredible! They are a little bit different each day but always just as spectacular! This is such a beautiful country. The Rising Star president got here tonight, Sally Read, so got to meet her. She is a remarkable lady! Skyped with friends before bed.

Day 15:
Went to my second leprosy colony today. Again, it was a smaller colony. There are 52 people living there but only 12 have leprosy and only 4 of those 12 have ulcers that we needed to wash. The rest of the people living there are their families. Families are very close-knit here and because of the stigma of leprosy, the families of leprosy-affected are also often seen as untouchable so they go to the colonies together. I was in charge of changing the wash water. I also just played with the kids a lot. They are absolutely adorable and just need so much love! As part of Promethean Spark, Shynee and I tried to get members of the colony to dance after as some physical therapy, but didn't have many who wanted to other than the children. When we got back I responded to journal entries that I had had LifeDance write. Felt like a real teacher having to read through and comment on an assignment I had given :) Had LifeDance at our regular 4:45-5:45 pm. We ran through their numbers and had a little audition so we can choose people to be in one of their pieces called “Black or White.” At the end of rehearsal, we had them sit in a circle and visualize how they want their dances to look. We gave them time to go through each dance in their head and they were completely silent the entire time! It was amazing! Helped with delousing again tonight after dinner. I actually don't mind doing it at all. The kids sit in front of you and you just massage the shampoo onto their hair. One sweet little girl came up to me and told me I was beautiful and it made my whole night! Shynee and I showed each other dance videos of ours that night to see the differences between dance classes in the US vs. India.

Day 16:
Left for our day trip at 8 am. It was me, Kaylee, Jamesen, Shynee, Anna, Dale and Lily. We went first to a gated city called Auroville that is trying to be a Utopian society. It is based on meditation and finding one-self. There is no politics or religion and no one owns the city, it belongs to humanity. We walked through the visitors center and watched a movie about it. They have some really cool and interesting ideas! Saw some of the monuments there. There were so many tourists there from all over the world, I hardly felt like I was in India anymore! Walked through the gift shops and then drove to Punducherry. Walked on the coast right by the ocean, felt really nice! Dealt with some very pushy vendors. Went to a delicious Italian restaurant for lunch. It was up really high and there were absolutely beautiful views! Then did some shopping through the busy streets. Had some fun bargaining for items :) Went first to the bazaar markets that had produce and flowers. Saw the Gandhi statue and took lots of pictures. The volunteers and I asked each other silly questions and had a blast in the back of the van on the way home. Went to part of movie night that the kids have on Saturday nights. They had one for the younger kids and one for the older. Went to the one with the younger kids. Had 3 little boys sitting on my lap. I stayed till my whole body was asleep and then I went and visited the older kids :) Sat with some of my LifeDance girls. They all told me they were so “cold” because it is winter here. I told them where I am from is covered in snow! The weather felt perfect to me. Great day!

Day 17:
Church was good! Kaylee and I combined our primary lessons since hardly any kids. Relief Society was very good. There is a group of 35 women coming tomorrow and staying at the Elephant House for the short-term volunteer session called “Women to Women” so some of the women were already here and got to meet them at church. They made the branch much bigger! Stopped for groceries on the way home and Sally then treated us to Domino's pizza! They are all over in India. It was great! Some of the female students here are learning to play soccer, so Shynee and I went and joined them after church. I had a great time, but should probably just stick with dance as I am very out of practice :) Shynee came to church with us today and asked me a lot of questions about the church so we had a long Gospel discussion. Loved it! Dinner and planning for the next week.

Day 18:
Taught 8th standard in the morning and they were very focused. Skyped Shaun for an hour for some tips and then got to Google+ with the whole family again. Really made my day today to get to talk with all of them! Went to teach UKG (kindergarten) but they are having a “Sports Day” on the same day as the talent show this week so they had practice for that. Had a talent show rehearsal (that I had not been informed about because nothing is done in advanced in India) that went fine. Had LifeDance rehearsal at 4:45 and the principal and school director came and watched the dances. The director asked for another old dance of theirs to be performed as well as another one we have to clean before we put it on stage so felt a bit overwhelmed. Had dinner and got to meet the 35 ladies who are here. We have a full house! They range from age 17-60 and are all very nice. Fun to meet them and hear some of their stories. Had a presentation after dinner about Rising Star Outreach, it's history, and how it got started. What an incredible story! Went to story time at the students' hostels and talked with some of the girls.

Day 19:
After running, got to Skype with Celsea again and it was so great! Had an extra rehearsal to clean an Indian dance number some students are doing. Shynee had to do most of the cleaning since she knows what it's supposed to look like, but I helped where I could and definitely learned the choreography because I love Indian dance and want to be better at it. Had 6th standard class, went well. Had LifeDance for an hour in the morning because we couldn't have it later due to sports day practice. Had some tears at the end because not everyone was chosen for “Black or White,” but we had been asked to only put in 12 out of the 20 so had to sit them down and talk to them about how hard things make us stronger and how they are all incredible dancers. Had 3rd standard after lunch, went pretty well. Worked on cutting music for the talent show and Shynee and I watched some Bollywood YouTube videos :) Went to story time that night and just sat with the younger girls while one of the short-term volunteers told them a story. Tucked them in and kept thinking about how lucky I am to have a loving mother who did this for me and how they don't get that. Talked with Kaylee, Shynee, and Jamesen to unwind from the day.

Day 20:
First class was 9th standard today and it was wonderful! The boys especially were so attentive and loving it! 4th standard was next and they were crazy! Didn't get through much. Ate lunch with the kids and taught some 1st standard girls “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” and they thought it was the best thing ever :) Next had 2nd standard and they also were a bit wild. Shynee and I went through costumes and created an inventory list and figured out what we wanted to wear for each dance for the talent show. Just passed out costumes for LifeDance rehearsal and it was a bit crazy. That night went to a presentation about micro-grants. Micro-grants are money given to people affected by leprosy so they can purchase something that can help them work and provide for their families such as a cow to sell milk, a bike to ride and sell trinkets, a loom to make clothes, or beads to make jewelry. Then went to story time at the boys' hostel and got to know them better. This is my favorite time with the kids, when I just get to talk to them and get to know them individually.

Day 21:
De-stressed with a long stretching session and some “Mumford and Sons” after running. Had rehearsal at 9:15 for the Indian “welcome dance” piece and then had a 2 hour rehearsal with LifeDance that went really well. We ran through the numbers, talked about performance, and ended with another dance jam to their favorite Tamil song. It was a blast! So much energy! Lunch and did more costume organizing and music cutting for talent show. Had LifeDance again at 4:45 and passed out costumes but it was a bit of a disaster trying to figure it all out and the students were wild. After dinner I skyped with friends and went and said goodnight to the kids. Got to FaceTime with both the parents. Excited and stressed for talent show tomorrow!

Day 22:
Today was “Sports Day” and talent show! The sports day was from 9 am-12:30 pm. The field was decorated beautifully! India is all about decorations and bright colors! They greeted us as all of us and the women volunteers came in. They had an opening ceremonies and then a bunch of events such as running races, relay race games, balancing acts, marching drills, a dance, sack race, and more. So fun to watch them perform and compete and encourage each other! They did a great job! They gave out awards and had a closing ceremony. I took lots of pictures and videos. The Marriott provided lunch for everyone and then had a 2 hour break before talent show. Met 45 minutes early with LifeDance to finish last minute costume stuff. They did each of their dances well and had only a minute to change in between each one but they did it! It was so great to see all their hard work and see their faces light up when they danced. It was another reminder to me the power that dance has. The audience were both touched as well as had a party :) The women just loved it! I was very proud of the students. For LifeDance rehearsal that evening we just had a dance jam. Turned on Tamil music and just had a party! Some were very tired from the long day and others still wanted to dance! Trying to learn their moves as I teach them some of mine. Went to the last 30 minutes of playtime with the kids. Tried cricket for the first time. It's fun but hard! They are obsessed with it here in India. Had dinner and downloaded pictures that night.

Day 23:
Day trip to today! Went for a run and then we all piled into the 3 big 12-seater medical vans and drove to a resort town called Mamallapuram. Talked with the ladies in my van on the way up. When we got there, 4 of us rented a tuk tuk (like a rickshaw), and went to the ancient temple ruins they had there. There are a lot of them! They were so cool! I had 5 people ask to take pictures with me while we were there. Guess it's the hair! Saw the beautiful beach as well. Had lunch and did some shopping. A bit overwhelming with the vendors constantly following and trying to sell you things. Good thing I have experienced this before in China! Found a beautiful elephant tapestry as well as a shell from the beach that was hand-carved. On the way home, we saw one of the men from one of the leprosy colonies who had been given a micro-grant. He was on his bike selling small items so we stopped to say hi. Such a sweet man! Dinner and went to movie night with the kids for about 35 minutes. Fun day!

Day 24:
Church was great! Wonderful sacrament meeting and primary class went well. They love to sing! On the way home, I got to hear the conversion story as well as how Rising Star Outreach got started from one of the founders who is here for the session. It was incredible! Amazing where this organization is now! Kaylee also fell asleep in my lap :) Played soccer with the girls and Kaylee, Jamesen, Shynee, and two women volunteers when we got home. Did better this week! It was fun! I miss sports. Practiced for a bit after the girls had to go to prayer time. Dinner and Shynee and I choreographed a fun Bollywood dance to teach the kids this next week. Want to do Indian dance with them while Shynee is still here. So many power outages lately! About 4-7 a day. They make for some excitement :)

Day 25:
Had 8th standard first this morning—went well! Tried to Google+ with the family but the internet is not working on my computer so had to do it on my phone and it was very hard to hear. But good to at least see their faces and catch little bits of the conversations! Next class was UKG. The women from the session who were on the education rotation came and helped by my request. It was great! The students loved it as did the ladies and they did great! Had lunch and then 1st standard. They were a bit crazy but not really bad. Had 5th right after and it was great! They were so focused and had so much focused energy—it was awesome! Afterwards, Shynee and I were so tired and sweaty from teaching the Bollywood dance so I turned on some chill music and we stretched and just did some improv and relaxation for a full hour and it was wonderful! It was an answer to my prayers. I was able to clear my mind and had a feeling of peace that things will be alright. Shynee fell asleep on the floor for 45 minutes and I kept the children who were coming in to get their snack from waking her up :) Had LifeDance next and they were not focused at all. Had dinner and then a great presentation about how volunteers help at Rising Star and about the beginnings of Rising Star. Went to story time and got to know some of the boys better. Tonight I was feeling very happy and grateful to be having this opportunity.