Week 4 in Ozhalur – Women’s Tea Afternoon, Sports Day and Film Night

Monday was Holly’s 20th birthday.We woke up early to surprise her by throwing confetti all over her in bed. We also gave her a present that we handily managed to get on Amazon India which was a book on Mahendi (henna) designs which I’m sure will come in useful next time we are practicing! After showering, Abi and Shobana dressed Holly and I in our sarees. We then had a mini photo shoot before Holly’s cake arrived. I have never felt so beautiful as I did when I wore my saree. They are so flattering for everybody and they genuinely make me feel like a princess. Luckily this time there wasn’t much of the traditional cake smearing as we were all dressed so nicely. We changed back into normal clothes before lunch so that we could work on resources in the afternoon. At the end of the day we changed back into our sarees with the help of Ruth and our cook, Manjula. We headed to Ranga Residences looking beautiful and we attracted quite a lot of attention as we walked through the streets of Chengalpattu. Just outside Ranga, I dropped my phone on the ground and much to my horror the screen shattered. The irony was that I had ordered a new phone case that morning and that at lunch time when Jonny admired that I didn’t have a single scratch on my phone I boldly said ‘It’s because I look after my phones.’ I told Fay later on and she just said “India happened to your phone.” And I guess it did. Anyway the food was amazing yet again even if the service was extremely slow. They have so many waiters and yet they all do nothing. It’s the same as so many other jobs in India. They are created purely to give people jobs, not because they are necessary. In most shops when you buy something at the till you get given a receipt by one person, you then take that receipt to someone else where you pay for the items and they stamp the receipt ‘PAID’ and give it back to you, for you then to return with the receipt to the originally person to collect your items. It is painstakingly slow and rather infuriating when you have other places to be!

On Tuesday, Holly and I started making our giant snakes & ladders game where the snakes are either bottles of alcohol, cigarettes or spliffs to teach about the dangers and effects of alcohol and drugs on the body in school on Friday. In the afternoon, Pondi ran in to the YRC bleeding heavily. She had somehow cut her leg and so Jonny and Becky spent the afternoon at the Government vet who was wholly unequipped and didn’t even stock bandages.

On Wednesday, we taught a health/English class on parts of the body to the children at the local primary school. It went rather well and I was amazed by their standing level of English. Holly and I then finished the snakes and ladders board before lunch. After lunch, I discovered something that really upset me. One of our nationals, Ruth, had been asking to see a tampons for a while and when I showed her one she asked me something I couldn’t quite believe. ‘If you use a tampon, how do you wee when you are menstruating?’ This led to a class for all the female nationals on basic female anatomy. I was staggered by how little they knew and realized how much I take my education for granted. I have been taught about female anatomy on so many occasions throughout my life: during biology and when I was taught about sexual and reproductive health on so many occasions throughout my school career. We have decided to teach the nationals as much as we know in the coming weeks. In the afternoon we also held a Tea Afternoon for the women of the surrounding begging and tribal communities. We tried enticing them with tea which did not interest them at all but at the first mention of a Rangoli competition a few women decided to come. Rangoli is a form of artwork created on the floor in living rooms or outside front doors using fine coloured powders. They are meant to be sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu deities generation to the next. The afternoon was a success even if more children turned up than women.

On Thursday we went over plans for teaching in school the next day and gave our lessons to each other. We then went on a mini rally in the afternoon with children after school advertising our sports day on Saturday. On Friday, some Australians who are volunteering with Restless not through ICS but through their universities came to interview Fay, Becky and Jodie and some of the nationals. They are making a video about Restless and the work we are currently doing in each of our placements. I will let you know when the video is ready so you can have a look! We then had to rush to our school session which was an auto ride then a half an hour bus journey away. We had lunch in a classroom and were then taken upstairs to teach. We had expected to have 7th, 8th and 9th standard all in separate classrooms that we could rotate around with 3 different sessions. Instead we had 150 6th-8th standards in one room for one session. We had think on our feet and adapt our plans. We ended up each teaching our session to all of the children but had to adapt games so that everyone could play. Snakes & ladders went down a treat and I later found out that snakes & ladders actually originated in India. Jonny and Leah led a confidence session and Jodie and Becky led a livelihoods session involving a careers ladder. We have since been asked back so I guess the sessions went really well.

Saturday was a really busy day for us. We held a sports day and over 70 children showed up to play volleyball, kabadi (national game of India), lemon and spoon races and three-legged races. The volleyball team’s names were entertaining: Lions, Young Lions, Young Lions 2, Fire Guys and Fire Guys2. Some originality and creativity is clearly lacking. Everybody that came seemed to really enjoy themselves even though the volleyball tournament happened very differently to the round robin we’d envisaged. In the evening we held an open-aired film screening outside our YRC. We had hoped to hold it in a more public space where we could attract more youths but for many reasons we were unable to. For this reason only a few young people showed up and our screening mainly attracted those from the tribal and begging communities. They really appreciated it though and luckily the rain held off for most of it.

Sunday was a quiet day for us all and a chance to catch up on washing and reading. In the afternoon Becky, Jonny and I went on a walk and discovered an abandoned school filled with cow pats and bats. The view from the roof was incredible and Jonny got the chance to climb some trees. In the evening Holly, Jodie and I treated ourselves to a ‘Foot Spa’ which involved soaking our feet in a bucket of soapy water before scrubbing them clean. We also watched ‘Gone Girl’ whilst we still had the projector.

This week has been super busy but very enjoyable and rewarding.

Lots of love,
Em xxx