Christmas in the Park

 
Our Christmas here is a secular one, and it is a lot of fun because the girls have no expectations.   It's just a chance to celebrate, and to take part in another part of Indian culture.  (As I write this afternoon, our dog Jelly has slipped into my office, head bowed because she is an outside dog.  I alerted the girls in the next room and they have invited her to snuggle under blankets with them.  I can see her tail wagging from here.)  She senses it is a special day and her presence IN the house won't be noticed for a while.

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This morning we went to the park.  Shanti Devi had been feeding Ganga at six am and told her if she ate all her breakfast, then Shanti would take her to the park.  But Ganga doesn't forget.  She somehow got the girls to take her outside and then refused to come back in for her massage until promised that they would go to the park.  It was on my mind for today anyway, as I have a lot of help today.  Going to the park is not a simple matter.  In fact right now, there don't seem to be any "simple matters."

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The park close to us used to be a good place for us to go when the girls were younger.  I've written before about the boys leering at the girls, saying things, making it "not pleasant" to go there.  Then, moving around with the disabled children gets harder as they get older.  Prior to this recent time, I didn't really have teachers who wanted to go to the park with them.  As a result, going to the park meant that they  just sat under a tree and watched the others.  The weather also makes it difficult.  In the summer it is only cool enough until about 8 am, but the children are in school from 6:30 am.  By the time they get home at 11 it is too hot.  In the evening the park is full of boys.  The few girls who are seen there are often wearing jewelry and make-up and tight minimalist clothing.  Yes, I admit to working hard to change the girls' self perception, manners, way of talking, all of it.  To honor your roots does not require that you stay mired in the style or habits of poverty.  Where you come from does not have to define what you look like or how you act.  My views, of course. 

 

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I am under attack once again, this time for not having sufficient recreation and sports for the girls.  It's quite amazing the given the achievements of the girls, and our commitment to giving them a good life, that people don't understand that if I could do better, I would!  The parks are not safe here.  There is a lot of "interest" in them as orphan girls.  I've noted in several situations an attitude that because they are orphans, "everyone" had equal rights to them  — equal standing in deciding how they are to be raised.  In those situations it's even more disturbing to others that I am a white foreign lady making decisions about Indian orphan girls. Local men continue to complain that I don't let the girls "mingle."   Of course I don't!!!!

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There are no sports programs for girls in our area, or anywhere I know of.  We no longer all fit in our car so car trips require at least one extra vehicle.  If we take the children with disabilities, it's yet another vehicle as we have to bring wheelchairs and attendants. That's another issue, taking the children with disabilities.  I think this must happen in every home with abled and dis-abled children.  How do you decide when everyone goes?  It takes more time; it means in the end we go less often; it's also hard to leave them behind when you know it's only because of the disabilities and they would love the experience.  And of course there is always the matter of study, of losing an afternoon, losing momentum, losing the effect of repitition.

There are days when we just relax, hang out, go for ice cream at South City Mall.  Actually that's one of my favorite places to take the girls.  It's safe, and it's fun.  To the girls, the escalator is easily equivalent to an amusement park ride.  The same is true of the elevator.  Free rides!  Bono really loves the elevator.  She squeals and kicks her feet.  They all love it, another free ride.  The food court is fairly enclosed, so I don't worry about anyone wandering off.  The girls love looking in windows.  We have shopped for books at Crossword's, similar but smaller than Borders or Barnes & Noble in the US.  These are familiar places to me.  The staff loves going there too.  It's relaxing, hanging out in the food court, eating ice cream.  I think we will go there tomorrow.  I've just talked myself into it.

Last night one of the local "leaders" was drunk and talking loudly and nastily about me to our guard.  It was along the lines of my keeping the girls inside and not letting them out to play. I've been hearing this a lot.  It was also about my not hiring locals (translate political appointments).  He was saying he wasn't afraid of police if I called them.  In the past this man has made big trouble, enough so I did have to call police.  The night staff were frightened by what he was saying, but they couldn't explain it to me.  I needed the girls to translate what the staff were trying to tell me.  Then I said, "Girls, watch this!  I'm going out to see him."  I cut a piece of the cake that Chris Futia had given us, and took it to him, my hands cupped, holding it as an "offering."  He melted.  He smiled, "Thank you Mummy."  Then the lady standing next to him asked about her piece.  She is the local person who wanted a job and when I didn't hire her she started throwing garbage over our wall.  She half likes us because we took Jelly, rescued her after she was hit by a car.  She feeds all the local dogs.  Well, she wanted cake too, so I yelled for the girls to cut another piece.  Then the man wanted some for his family, and the woman for hers.  I passed cake through the gate and made them very happy.  The man touched my feet.  I just kept thinking, "diffuse, diffuse, diffuse…"  The girls loved the experience and wanted to tell each person who came today.

I do actually hire local people but only if they have strong credentials.  I don't hire anyone I can't fire, so that rules out political appointments, and people who try to use threats to get a job.  I am very difficult to work for.  I have very high standards, especially for care of the children.  I pay well, but I don't work by local custom.  For instance I penalize staff for lateness.  I found teachers and massis coming later and later.  The kids weren't ready because the massis didn't get them ready on time.  Then the teachers came later and it got worse and worse.  So finally I made a penalty for lateness and it worked.

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This morning I watched The boys play cricket in the park.  The park has two sections.  In the larger one, the big boys and young men were having a serious game.  In our section the younger ones were playing, learning, PREPARING for their lives across the fence.  We were on the side, on swings, having a good time, but this was not "sports."    I wish my mind wasn't going so much.  I wish I could have just enjoyed a sunny Christmas Day in the park.  I've written before that I do understand I will always face opposition to what I am doing.  I'm breaking the rules, educating the girls.  And that reminds me that I haven't blogged in a while.  Sometimes with confronted with what Shishur Sevay doesn't provide I want to ask the inquisitor, "And what have you done for orphans lately?"  I don't say that though.  I'm good, very good.  I save those words for afterwards when I go over and over what happened… like when I'm standing in the park…

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In the realm of Academics, the girls did incredibly well in this exam cycle.  They now have choices in what school to attend.  They have tasted the excitement of achievement and it feels good.  In many ways the battle is over.  They are all on the side of doing well, trying their best.  The girls have choices, and that's what education is about, having choices in your life, whether to do this or that…..

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December 2010
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