Sunday, 23 March 2014

Our time in Nandyal- By Imogen and Abigail

Our 5 weeks in Nandyal have come to an end. We have have such a rollercoaster ride whilst being here; homesickness, culture shock and having to adapt to such heat and such volatile food but in the end every tear and every sleepless night was worth it when we arrived at school each morning and saw the children waiting for us.

Teaching has been a new experience for us both but one that we took to with enthusiasm and determination. To begin with it was really challenging, I think teaching is a hard profession anyway without such a big language barrier! However, as the weeks went on and our relationships with the children and staff developed it got a whole lot easier. Most days were spent with Nursery or Kindergarten as the older children were preparing for exams. We played games, taught the alphabet, numbers, songs and read stories. Although the majority of the time the children couldn't understand us and vice versa, the introduction to a new language at a young age is vital for the development of the child's understanding and future. Therefore, although it was mostly fun and games with the little ones we take great satisfaction in knowing that they understand how to count to twenty  and how to sing 'A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea' in English because of us.

At break times we would see the older children and talk to them. As the weeks went on we were able to spend more time with the older classes. Especially when Abi taught the 9th class girls a dance for the 10th class leaving function. We also spent time with 5th and 4th class playing bingo (a great game that enabled them to use numbers in their head and in english). We also made paper aeroplanes with 3rd class and played 'Heads Down, Thumbs Up' with 6th class. Every Saturday at 3pm the children went outside for games, we played parachutes with them and were taught by some of the older girls how to play 'Throwball' which is literally just throwing a ball at opposite teams. We also learnt some indian dance moves though we're not sure how well they'll go down back in the clubs in England.

Every day we would play with some of the children after school. We played cricket (Imogen awful at) and badminton, skipping, UNO and we even taught them how to limbo! Playing with them after school was so much fun, time really flew by each day and we became such good friends with the children on the compound. For the 10th class leaving function, we bought ourselves some saris (Imogen green and Abi purple) and wore them that day. It is amazing how the women here wear them everyday especially in this heat, we only managed to suffer until around noon!

We would just like to thank everyone involved who made this life experience such an unforgettable one, we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Nandyal working with the children at the Oxford School. We are now moving onto the second part of our journey and we are both hoping that the experiences will continue getting better and better.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Teaching in the Oxford School - By Abigail Smith

When I first started teaching at the Oxford school I was very apprehensive as to what to expect; it was such an overwhelming feeling walking over the field to the first assembly. However, I was welcomed with massive smiles and open arms by the pupils and teachers, it was such a lovely opening to my teaching weeks at the school. Almost everyday the children come up with new drawings and flowers for me, it's always such a nice way to start my day.

During my time so far I have mainly taught the youngest students consisting of lower kindergarten (LKG), upper kindergarten (UKG) and nursery school children.  They are all full of energy and come to school with massive smiles on there faces which really makes teaching them and being around them such a joy.

The main issue in the school is pronunciation of English letters and words, this is more of an problem with the teachers who then, therefore, influence the students with their speech. I estimate around 95% of the nursery rhymes have been changed which is strange when we start to sing one tune and they are all singing another.  Sometimes it's difficult to assign yourself to an individual child that may be struggling when the classes don't speak your language, especially as they are so young some can be shy and just stare at you (which doesn't help when you want them to try and work out a word or what a certain animal is).

I have also been teaching the girls from 8th and 9th class a dance ready for their leaving assembly on Saturday 14th.  The girls since the start were fully engaged in what they were doing and giving everything that I gave them a go.  We started off with some simple stretches to warm themselves up then got straight into learning the routine.   Going through the steps slowly count by count and breaking it down has really helped them understand the moves and what I am asking them to do.  Using spoken English to communicate with the girls has also brought some laughs to the sessions and improved their conversation skills greatly, they have all seemed to be enjoying the dance so far.

Today I taught one of our neighbours a few dance moves from the piece I have been teaching the girls in school, he then showed me a break-dancing move on the floor where I then proceed to have a go.  In England this is very acceptable and all styles of dance are welcomed to be learnt by boys and girls, but here it was clearly shown to me that this wasn't the case in Nandyal.  One of the women on the compound commented that the styles of dancing isn't made for women and that I shouldn't be trying it.  It really shocked me as in England this is something that I do regularly and I have learnt many styles over the years of learning to dance. It also made me think how shocked they would be if they came in England and saw some of the dance styles and groups that I see all the time, as women and men dance together and all they both take part in the lessons whatever style it may be.

Overall, my experience here has been incredibly valuable. I've learnt so much about this strange place and about myself. I'm not sure that I'm ready to go home just yet but with three more weeks left I'm dedicated to making every second count with these amazing people.  

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Imogen's First Impressions of Nandyal

Abi and I began our Indian adventure very differently from one another. It is my second go at travelling to India alone and if I'm honest I felt more nervous this time around. Homesickness is something that has always been a struggle for me but I was determined not to let it take over my experience here. Nandyal is a strange place; you walk down a road and see stalls filled with fruits and spices and bullock carts with crops from the fields and then suddenly there is a supermarket or I suppose what you can only assume is a supermarket (maybe super is a slight over exaggeration). There is a new road in progress
 however I am yet to see anyone working on it. People walk down the railway line like there is no danger in doing so, animals such as pigs, monkeys and cows walk aimlessly in the middle of a traffic filled road. Women carry heavy loads of crops and fruits on their heads, children run bare foot over piles of rubbish and men stand around in groups staring as I walk by. The heat is something else. When I arrived it was beginning to get hot but it was bearable; however in a week it seems to have risen quite significantly, 36 degrees is now the norm until it goes up again next week. 

Once I had arrived, one thing that kept me going were the children of the Oxford School. They have this amazing ability to cheer anyone up, their smiles are infectious and the fact that they were so happy to see me made any doubt in my mind disappear. It is amazing to see children who don't even have half of what I do at home come to school so happy and willing to learn - something that is possibly never seen in England! My first day at the school began with a welcome assembly, I had flowers put in my hair and the children all sang for me. I mainly spend my days with the Kindergarten class, who are constantly full of energy and laughter. They all love to have their photos taken and giggle hysterically when I show them the pictures that I have taken of them. The children began by calling me 'Angel' as a result of my incredibly fair skin, I expect for them it is something of a rarity to see someone as white as I - even at home I am the subject of many jokes due to my paleness. The older girls seem fascinated by my auburn hair and don't hesitate to stroke and pull at it whenever they pass me in the playground. Each morning I am greeted by shouts of 'morning ma'am!' and at the end of each day I leave to many handshakes and goodbyes. I am not sure they understand that I will still be here tomorrow but it is great to be around people who value my presence so much. 

After almost two weeks here it is safe to say that I am already wishing that I could stay longer. The teaching is challenging, I did not realise that I could so patient! I enjoy it so much and am so happy that I came back and worked through my homesickness issues, it really is all worth it!