Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India Oct 23

It's Thursday and I will continue where I left off, detailing last week.
Friday: First full day at school and I was thrown in to the classroom right away. I think the teachers in this school were under the impression that I was already a seasoned teacher. After the daily assembly (picture below)
I went to a classroom where the teacher said go ahead and left the room. I let her know I was not comfortable with this so she stayed but I still was in front of the class. I had not prepared any lesson so I had to improvise and began to ask students their names and interests. A few students mentioned music and performed for me; one singing and one on a small keyboard. This only took about 10 mnutes of a 30 minute class though, and I was forced to further improvise. Although this was an English class, I gravitated to my comfort and knowledge of music and began to tell them of my various musical endeavours. This entailed talking about the origin and construction of steel drums as well as the origin of jazz which led me to the subject of the blues. I used a student's keyboad to demonstrate a 12-bar blues and the use of improvisation within the genre. I did this both lyrically and melodically then had a few students come up and try their own melodic improvisation. This turned out to work well so I used it in two more classes that I observed/taught. In one of these classes, a student played tabla (drums of North Indian origin) along with the blues. This class also brought in an American style drumset ("jazz drums" as they call it) which allowed me to demonstrate various groove styles. This provided me with a positive feeling after initally being intimidated by being asked to teach right away. The rest of the day was spent observing various classes, which is how I found myself in the presence of a teacher named Poornima. She taught singing to all levels of students in various Indian languages (Hindi, Sanskrit). I felt at ease and as though I had found my place in the school. Initially I was not sure where I should be and what I should do, I was told at first that music only happened on certain days when two male music teachers came to school -one for primary grades one for secondary grades. When I found out Poornima was here everyday I was happy that I could watch a music teacher everyday. I spent the rest of me school day with her and to behonest I don't know what happened the rest of that day. Even though I have been here a little over one week, it seems like a long time - many new experiences to mentally sort through.
Saturday: I decided to go to work this day as many schools in India have a half day of classes on Saturdays. The day was considerably easier for the students and I found myself follwing Poornima around for the day watching, listening, and learning a Sanskrit song which I was able to record :) The afternoon found the group of American students visiting an monument in the old part of the city. This was nice to see, but even better was the bazaar that engulfed the surrounding streets. Below is the momument first (called Charminar) and pictures of the bazaar next.
Mainly clothes and jewelry were sold, not my top interest, but the environment in which this frenzy transpired was an amazing experience of its own. I captured many photos of random people - young childen beggin in the streets, angry looking rickshaw drivers, and street vendors alike. I even managed to find a shop whose sign advertised musical instruments, but when I asked to see them I was told they were for display only. The evening conlcluded with dinner at a local restaurant that we frequented almost every other day in our first week, as it served a variety of cusine that appealed to all members of our group. Food that is recognizeable really helps to feel comfort in a place where so many things are strange. I have to go, but more later.

Friday, October 17, 2008

First days in India

This is my first post sine I have arrived in India so I have a lot to write.
Sunday- Tuesday: The longest day ever. Arriving at the Flint airport at 5:30, I checked in luggage and met with the rest of my group - seven people in all, one professor, two graduate students, and four undergraduate student-teachers. We left Flint late, but made our connection in Detroit. From there it was a six to seven hour flight to Amsterdam where we had a one or two hour layover. Our flight from Amsterdam was delayed due to a problem with the hydraulic fluid in the landing gear. We had to sit on the runway for about two hours before taking off for an eight hour flight. By the time we arrived in Hyderabad India, the total travel time had reached twenty four hours. I felt as though I could do anything after enduring such a journey. From the airport it was another hour by car to our hotel where we would stay for the next two nights. The drive brought many new sights, sounds, and smells even though it was four in the morning local time. Arriving at the hotel, I slept for only an hour and a half before waking up for breakfast - this was to adjust to the local time as quickly as possible. That first day included a trip to a local supermarket to buy water and snacks (the tap water here is not suitable for a westerner to drink as the bateria are quite different.) This trip was made by autorickshaw - a common way to move about the cit, see below.

Navigating the streets is an adventure all its own. Traffic lanes are only suggestions and pedestrians, bikes, cars, autorickshaws, and animals share the streets, although there are also sidewalks in some areas. There are few traffic signals, but they are obeyed. The autorickshaw driver who took us to the market overcharged us for the ride by four times the amount - this came to 80 rupees which is about a $1.50. This angered the professor who is of Indian descent and has visited the country numerous times and knows what a ride should cost. Thus, she got into a bit of a shouting match with the driver. The rest of the day included a nap, a visit from the families in whose houses the student-teachers would be staying, dinner, and a trip to a local shopping mall. I was very surprised at how modern parts of the city appear. I thought India would be very third world, and certain sections still are, but places like this shopping mall rival the nicest areas I have seen anywhere.
Wednesday: This day we travelled to the two schools (Hillside Academy and International School) where the student-teachers would spend the month - two at one school and two at the other. At both schools we were greeted with an assembly of students and an introduction by the school principals. The school where I am spending my time (International School) gave us a welcome that made me feel like a UN delegate or some important political figure. We were greeted by a small brass band (trumpets and drummers) then led into a large room where about 200-300 students sat on the floor. We were lead onto a stage infront of the students where chairs and water awaited us (the temperature being around 80 degrees requires a lot of water.) It was a bit intimidating sitting infront of this large group of wide eyed and eager looking students, especially considering I was still jetlagged and getting used to the different kinds of sensory stimulation all around me. The ceremony concluded and we were given a tour of the school, after which lunch was served (with men and women sitting at different tables.) This conlcluded our school visits and we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel and again visiting a shopping mall (things are considerably cheaper here), although I am yet to buy any clothing items - I am waiting for the outdoor bazaar markets for clothes and also am trying to conserve space to bring home any musical instruments I can find.
Thursday: Our first day at school, we all went to Hillside Academy and observed classes, (International School wanted us to wait one more day before we began there.) The method of teaching seems a bit more authoritative than back home, something like I imagine schools were like in the American past, but this was only one day of observation and I'm sure I will have more insight as I am able to see more. At the school day's end, I and one of the other student-teachers were taken to International School to go home with our respective families. I am at the home of Mr. Joy, the school principal. He lives in a nice three story house in a quieter part of town, with two boys (11 and 4 years old) and his wife. They are very accomodating and I have a room and bathroom to myself. Mrs. Joy cooks all the meals and even offered to prepare lunch for me, in case I didn't like the lunch served at school. I met the boys of the house by playing a bit of music on my melodica, which lured them in like mice to the Pied Piper. I was able to sit dow with the older boy and give him an hour and a half drum lesson - surprising for a boy that age to have that good of focus. The night concluded with dinner and a bit of reading of my part before getting a good night's sleep for my first full day at International School. I have to end my writings here as I am taking up the only computer at the school with Internet access, however there wll be more of the story to come as well as pictures.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trial Run

This is my first blog and it comes after a day of school and practicing, I'm tired and feeling sick. I eagerly await my trip to India which starts next Sunday. I still have a lot of loose ends to tie up before I go so this next week should be a little crazy.