Report Cards – January 2008

The State of our Education at Shishur Sevay:  Well, six girls came home with the Bengali equivalent of "A" for their January round of examinations.  One girl came home with "C" but it’s not a real C because someone else did her exam for her.  What that means is that one of our girls (I know which one) did her exam and then did the second exam for our "C" student — so I guess she should really have an A+.

But truly this is so exciting!  It’s validation for them and for us… for the intensity of the teaching, for their work and self-discipline.

So, here is the breakdown of our teaching right now….

There are three groups:  One group (6 girls) goes to school at the government school and comes home for six more hours of school.

One group (3 girls) is being educated entirely at Shishur Sevay.  There are multiple reasons for this… but they have classes beginning at 8 am, and then at 11 am join the others for another six hours of class.

One group (4 girls with handicaps) has classes four hours in the morning. Part of that time is spent in the regular classroom with the other girls.  In the late afternoon another teacher comes, from 4-8, and works with them again, everything from cognitive development to feeding and potty training.  If Ganga and Bornali are awake after lunch, they also join the English class from 2-4.

The schedule will be changing for the handicapped girls.  Their  morning teacher is leaving for another position, but will continue to come in the afternoon for a while to continue working with them.  The four children will begin attending classes at Indian Institute for Cerebral Palsy on a daily basis from 9am to 1:30 pm.  Tomorrow morning we will take them there for one of several evaluations for class placement.  The children are known to the staff there as we have attended the outpatient department there, and each was thoroughly evaluated there in May 2007.

The handicapped children receive physiotherapy almost every day.  Next week they will be evaluated for speech and language and we will start treatment as recommended.  I tried to get the speech therapist to start this week but he was getting married yesterday….

Ganga is most aware of school, wants to be with the older didis all the time, and wants to stay at school when we go there in the morning.  She seems to understand that she will be starting school, and that she will have a uniform and school bag.  She squeals when we tell her.  Ganga is also the one who knows she is different, knows the others are doing things she can’t do.

The IICP is not trained for the blind, but Sonali is not yet three and they will work with her in several modalities.  We will see how it works out.  Bornali loves action and will be thrilled to be moving about.  Rani (Poomina), well we never really know…  Speaking of her though, yesterday she actually sang a line of Baa Baa Black Sheep… then wouldn’t repeat it, but she has the rhythm!!!!!!!!.  Little bits open up… make it through the slow brain waves to join us in music and rhythm.  The sounds are beginnings, moments to build on, circuits to build on.  Rani loves music, waves her arms, sways, joins us, soul to souls…..

I do feel a sense of wonder at having the children.   All the usual words seem sappy.  I was telling Cici it’s like first seeing the Earth from the sky, and looking at masses of people, and then coming closer and closer, and the masses become individuals, and then the individuals become a small group of very special people in my life, children I love, children who look the same from afar, but each so different, so special, so unique, so much my children, all of them.  And having said that, a part of me is already missing the handicapped children who will be gone at school most of the day come April.  I’m hopeless.  I laugh at myself.

Ganga tried to talk to Cici Didi on the phone today.  Ganga was in her standing frame when Cici called.  Ganga hates the frame because it is hard, so hard for her to hold herself up even with the frame and leg braces for support.  But she also loves praise and responds, so when we tell her how good she is standing, she grins and tries even harder.  Remember, less than a year ago she could not hold her head up.  Cici called while this was going on, and I asked Ganga if she wanted to talk to her…. I’m not sure what she understood but she knows Cici’s picture and knows "Didi" means big sister…. so I held the phone to her and she grinned and tried so hard to speak.  She mouthed words, but no sound came out.  She has listened on the phone before, but this was the most excited she has been.  She was so happy.  And Cici didi was so happy that she had made a difference.

Small things in our lives… islands of peace away from the turmoil.  I know people have all sorts of wonderful descriptive words for what I’m doing… but frankly from inside, I’m just hiding out from the big bad world with my little family of orphan children. The sun shines a lot here, even through the inevitable monsoons of life.

Pictures of a Sunday in Januay, Part II — KABADI

KABADI, KABADI, KABADI, KABADI, KABADI, KABADI… and so on, until you are out of breath!!!!  Gibi, our co-founder, aka Mrs. Jasvinder Kaur, is the clear champion of this game!

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Well, this was the morning, the Sunday morning in January, that happened also to be the birthday of my mother… a day I thought about her, what she might be thinking if she were alive and knew about my life now.   Part III to follow… the afternoon with our visitors.

Pictures of a Sunday in January – Part I

Img_3431 Mime Sir setting up the scene center stage while others wait in the wings.  He is explaining that the girl is pregnant, which brings giggles.  Actually it led later to the question of whether a girl can have a baby without being married… a discussion for another time.  Our girls have a combination of innocence, or rather ignorance, while also having knowledge of sexuality that children of any age should not have.  It’s a real knowledge split… the reality of their lives, and their childness.  I want them to feel safe as children first… a first step in strength and understanding.

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OH NO!

IT’S A GIRL!!!!!!

Gibi’s daughter Preety (Harpreet), fifteen years old, wrote an email to me a few months ago:

Dear Mummy,

How are you?  This is for you and the girls.

Love, Preety

I am a girl.
   Who am I?
I am a girl,
    Born in this world.
>
Am I a mistake?
   Yes they say so,
   They call me a mistake.
>
What is my future?
    Not the future,
      Which they see for me,
But what I see for myself.

**********************************

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Grandmother tells her son-in-law that he is wrong.                                                                                                                            

Stressed out, he goes to sleep.

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                                                                                  The Fairy comes to him in his sleep.  She scolds him,     Img_3470 and enlightens him…. girls and boys, all of us, the same, the same worth, the same to love.

(From the Author — I give up… this is taking hours.  I’ll just post some pics….)

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The audience

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Mother and Child

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.

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END OF THE FIRST PART…. KABADI… KABADI… KABADI…TO FOLLOW

Technical Difficulties

I have been trying to post for a week!!!  I am serious.  Last Sunday, 20 January 2008, I decided to document a day, especially since it was a really fun day. So I kept the camera close and took many pictures.  In the morning Mime Sir came, and we had the little ones playing the part of babies in a mime about a woman who is pregnant, and her husband wants a son, and then she has a daughter.  He is upset, very upset, enough to fall asleep so a Fairy comes and tells him that girls are good.  He wakes up and tells the story of his dream, and filled with remorse, he goes to his wife and embraces her and his daughter (well, after she at first doesn’t trust him and shields the baby from him).  We did it several times with different girls, and babies, playing the parts.  Then, since we had all had so much fun, we danced, all of us.

Next, and still before lunch, Gibi  and the girls played a game similar to tag.  The difference was that you had to take a deep breath and could only tag as long as you had the breath to keep saying kabadi, kabadi, kabadi…..  Once you ran out of breath you could be tagged.  Gibi was fierce!!!!!  It was wild and fun.  I took pictures.

Lunch was uneventful.

In the early afternoon a group of five volunteers came from AID-Kolkata to spend time with the kids. (more pictures).  The girls wanted to go to the classroom first with the visitors.  They have been learning rhymes in English and Bengali, and enjoy reciting.  Two of the girls (weak on rhyme) danced instead.  Then the visitors did some recitation too.  Oh, and then they wanted me to.  I led us in "If you’re happy and you know it clap you hands."  Next we headed for the roof.  This time it was skits, mime, running around, sitting around, and then the volunteers (with some urging) did a skit too.

Finally, as promised, we all went to the park!  We all went, handicapped children too.  The kids (our girls and the volunteers — not so far from being kids themselves) played on the playground equipment, wandered around, sat on the swinging seats, and kept the little ones in their arms.  We were a wonderful procession there and back. 

The playground is a real treat.  We only go when there are enough of us to keep an eye on the girls.  Girls don’t play outside much here.  And without a lot of us around, teenage boys will start hanging around and making us uncomfortable about staying there with the girls.  Girls don’t do much by way of sports for the same reasons.  In the US I’m used to girls’ soccer, baseball, volleyball….  Actually, women don’t even go out as much, even to markets — I know it’s changed in many places, but not here.  Actually, even the fish market in the morning is all men out shopping.

But, back to the technical difficulties.  I started that evening to put the pictures up on the blog album pages.  Then my broadband quit for a day and my dial up is too slow for pictures.  Then the broadband was fixed, but the typepad album kept dropping the pictures.  And then broadband quit again.  I have to remind myself this is Kolkata and everything that works is exported.  Well it was like that, and then I had to travel to Bangkok for three days and came back yesterday.  I started again last evening to try to put up pictures.  Today I spent about five hours… I’m not exaggerating… but the pictures that are listed are not the same as the ones that show up and the captions got lost on some….. So, I will try to put some pictures into the blog itself and see how it works.  But I won’t try to do much by way of captions, you will have to guess… 

It’s a rainy day today.  Some staff didn’t show.  We sent the big kids to Seema’s to see the Republic Day Parade on her TV, and to spend the day, which they and she treasure.  So, I’m at the computer… and happy to be home.  I’ll post this so if anything gets lost in trying to put up pics, at least this is posted… with the reason for my silence… Technical Difficulties.

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