Monday, September 7, 2015

Teaching at the Rambo Memorial School and Working with the Nursing Students

Mungeli, India update: July 13- July 15
Yesterday was the New Horizons Pluto flyby - SO EXCITING! I told as many folks as I could about it and hope to check into the internet later on to see the news. It's very hard not knowing the play-by-play on this long-awaited and much-anticipated space event, but it'll never lose its cool factor and I'm positive images will be forthcoming from the massive amounts of data for at least one year following the flyby. I wonder if they will choose a Kuiper belt object for after the Pluto adventure!

Monday, I had my first classes at the Rambo Memorial School and things went well! I worked on singing with the 7th graders and we had lots of fun! As it turned out, I ended up teaching third graders through tenth graders in sometimes three and sometimes four classes each day. The littlest ones are SO CUTE and so polite! Each class stands when a teacher enters and except for the "usual suspects", most everyone pays attention and asks questions etc. My classes were offered as an "extra" and mainly for those students interested in learning about music and singing. Each class was absolutely packed. Most of the students liked the singing, but not all of them. This year, I had two classes without a teacher in there with me. I feel like I needed someone in there for the occasional question a child asked, for discipline a few times, and for translation of what I was saying and the instructions bring given to the class!

Everyone wanted to shake my hand and say "Good Morning Ma'am!" :-) A few of them dare each other to come up as I'm walking in the schoolyard and say "Good morning" or "How are you?"...I answer and they smile, giggle, and run.

Each evening, I work with the nursing students on singing technique and the songs they use for daily morning chapel services. I also prayer with them and help them in planning some of the chapels. I was also asked to speak several times which was a huge and wonderful experience for me! Neither the students at the school or the nurses at the hospital are used to singing in their head voices, so that's one of the things I'm re-introducing and trying to get them all to integrate. All of the Hindi folk music that I've heard has been in chest voice with some nasality, but it works well for the language and the songs which may have clapping and instruments going on.
Tuesday I taught three classes at the school. One class of grades 3-5, one of grades 6-7, and one of grades 8-9. The school has almost 200 new students this year, making for a rough total of 950! This is a fantastic trend, but they have almost no room as it is. Some construction is being done, but it appears to be rather slow. It is also very loud and going on all day during classes. They are using both the "new" and the old school buildings. I must add here that the new classrooms are overcrowded, filthy, and without proper ventilation (not to mention air conditioning). The old buildings do not have electricity. The bathrooms are unspeakable and a teacher even recommended that I not go inside. In spite of all these things, they are doing the best they can and providing a much-needed education for hundreds of children! The teachers are good and quite dedicated. It is very clear that they love their kids and get frustrated by the lack of proper facilities as well as the lack of resources in general.
After the school day, I rushed back to take a shower as it was BOILING HOT outside with at least 1,000% humidity and I was a big bowl of sweat. Dr. Anil Henry, the head of the hospital took thus year's group of missionaries to see two temples at the edge of a low mountain range. He had to go to the town of Kawardha first for a court case (a child hurt in a terrible auto accident died after two months in the hospital and he was there with the family to testify against the driver) so we went along for the ride and waited in the ambulance while he was in court. As if an ambulance pulling up to a courthouse wasn't enough, there were nine of us inside and all very different-looking so we periodically drew crowds of folks wanting to have a look at us. I found again this year that we were something of a culture shock to just about everyone. In most cases, people from the surrounding villages of any town or those in small towns seemed to never have seen anyone different from themselves, at least live and in person. After the court case was done, Dr. Henry took us to a very large dam and lake. We got out to stretch our legs a bit and then continued on to the temples (See next blog post).

Mungeli, India 2015

A Visit to Mungeli, India - Mission trip - Summer 2015
I've returned to the Christian Hospital Mungeli  and the Rambo Memorial School
This year, the internet was less consistent than last year so I emailed myself these blog posts and am just now getting around to posting them! 
It's Sunday in Mungeli and I'm back in my room after a trip to the local church down the road followed by a walk into the town. It is SO HOT! I needed a cool down break under some fans and with some water. I arrived in India last Thursday (MSY--AMS--DEL) and spent the night in the boiling hot & stuffy Delhi airport on a reasonably comfy bench until my early AM flight to Raipur. I was so sleepy that I got off the plane in Nagpur and thank goodness they checked my boarding pass and told me I needed to get back on board! Arriving in Raipur, I waited for my friend Kahala and the driver to come and pick me up for the ride to Mungeli. When they came, it was decided to stop at a grocery for some necessities some of the other visitors to the Christian Hospital needed and so picked up some lunch to go while we were there. The drive to Mungeli was full of a million annoying stops and so bumpy I'm surprised all my internal organs made it intact! The driving is actually pretty scary here. One must drive at top speed, dodging cows, dogs, people, motorbikes, cars, and huge trucks. Often, when passing another vehicle, it's an outright game of chicken, seeing who will give in to getting back in his lane. The other consideration in all this is the road quality. New Orleans, I hate to tell you this, but the state of Chhattisgarh has you beat, by a factor of about a million. The craters in the road are sometimes as big as your car and dangerously deep. You can usually dodge them, but if you accidentally go through the wrong one, you may destroy your car or truck. If people slowed down slightly, it would help, but I learned last year that everyone here is used to it all. I gave up worrying about it and just tried to trust that we'd make it. I figured the driver didn't want to die today so would be at least a baseline level of careful. Seatbelts might help. Maybe.
My first day here, I had to rest immediately and I later went to dinner to meet two girls from Denmark and four Americans (from Butler and Eureka colleges). They are a terrific group and we shared dinner in the guest house.
The next day, Friday, I had NO jetlag because I had beena wake for so long and slept like the aforementioned boulder! I attended the chapel at 7:30 AM and I was so surprised to receive such a fantastic welcome! The nursing students were all there and many remembered me from last year's visit!!! They are SO SWEET!!!!! At the end of chapel, I was introduced and one of the girls gave me a beautiful garland of marigolds!!!
Christian Hospital Mungeli
We left chapel all together to go downstairs and see the new medical equipment that had arrived. It's high definition and to be used for their Urology work.

I was asked to bless the new medical tools so I said a prayer asking for blessing and longevity of use as well as for God to guide the hands of those who use these new tools. 
Dr. Anil Henry, the wonderful head of Christian Hospital Mungeli and a great surgeon, said a few words about the equipment and showed them to everyone. 
This was followed by DELICIOUS jelabies and spicy samosas. Jelabies are soft, honey-filled pretzely swirls of goodness. 
Samosas are little fried pockets of potato and onions and heavy spices. They give me heartburn, as most of the food here does. I also had taken my first Doxycycline pill (for Malaria prevention) and those tend to give me heartburn as well so I stayed with sampling the jelabies :-)
It was time for morning rounds in the hospital. Last year, I did this a few times and would stop back by sometimes in the afternoon to see some of the patients. The morning group consisted of Dr. Henry, one or two other doctors and nurses, and some of the visitors. I noticed there were several malaria patients this year, including one with cerebral malaria who was not doing well. Malaria is endemic to this area and is especially rampant during monsoon season. About halfway through the rounds, I actually began to feel quite ill. I thought I was going to have to throw up so I quickly left ICU and headed outside. The EXACT same thing happened to me last year on my first day. The Doxycycline gave me severe heartburn and some nausea and I did throw up. This time, I didn't throw up, but I realized I needed to eat something quickly or I would. You're supposed to take Doxy with either food or a milky substance and I had simply had a couple of crackers. I think that's why I didn't throw up though - at least it was something. So, I went to the guest house, where I stayed last year and where the Danes and American students are staying. It's also where Tripdte, the cook, makes Masala chai and meals. I ate an egg and felt immensely and immediately better!
After breakfast, I sort of made my own "rounds" and saw lots of familiar faces, visited the nursing students' classrooms, and came back after lunch for a nap, still exhausted from reflux and ok, maybe a tad bit of jetlag. I went in the early evening to work on singing with the nursing students and had great plans. The American students came too and we waited almost an hour, but no one came. We think the message didn't get through and that's my fault because while I made a small announcement, I didn't find the person in charge of their schedule. No matter, we went back to the guest house for dinner and had some fun conversations.
me in the middle w/ Issac and Grace, fellow missionaries
Saturday, I attended morning chapel and had breakfast. I visited various departments until lunchtime and then went back to my room to rest instead of eating. That Doxy is a MEAN and TERRIBLE medicine. In the afternoon, I contacted the school and then did some work for projects at home. Early evening brought a super fun time with the first-year (and four of the second-year) nursing students! We warmed up, something they've never done before! It made them think I am totally crazy, but I could tell from their giggles that some were enjoying being silly with their voices :-) Next, I talked to them about the differences between head voice and chest voice and when to use them. After I demonstrated it a few times, they did it with me. It will be a constant reminder during the next couple of weeks. I introduced two songs that the second-year students learned last year and they did them with pretty good success. Then, I talked to them a little about the functions of music in worship. We sang one of the songs I taught them and since we had reached the end of the hour, called it a night. 
My lovely nursing students!
Today, Sunday, my roommate Kahala and I went to the Mungeli church which is a Disciples of Christ congregation and attended their morning service.
Mungeli Christian Church
It was quite lively and about two and a half hours. I really enjoyed hearing so much of the Hindi language and getting to meet some of the townspeople, but I didn't understand a single word of the sermon and it was difficult to maintain concentration. There was a praise band and while it's not necessarily my preferred style of music, it was very moving to hear everyone singing together and wonderful to see people smiling. Afterwards, we walked the rest of the way into town and did some errands and looked around.

We ended up at a new store to buy laundry detergent and several people wanted to take a picture of me and with me and wanted to hand their babies to me for pictures. I did do some group photos, but handling babies was so not going to happen. I remember this happened at the Taj Mahal last year. I suppose I do look extremely different, being so pale and with a mess of red hair! it was a bit much today though so we left and came back to the hospital. This evening, we attended the hospital chapel and then went for dinner in the guest house. Tonight after dinner, all of the missionaries got together and went through our visit prayerfully and sang a few hymns. That was super nice. This particular group of missionaries is bonding very well.
Monday holds my first visit back at the Rambo Memorial School to see some social studies presentations, meet with some teachers, and to get started teaching some music classes. I think that I may be heading to Bilaspur on Tuesday afternoon  after school to see some temples and then eat at a roadside restaurant on the way back!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Episcopal Prayer at the Close of Day

Look down, Lord, from your heavenly throne. Illuminate the darkness of this night with your celestial brightness, and from us, the children of light, banish for ever the deeds of darkness. God our judge and our teacher, let us not waste time when the day is done in guilt or self-reproach. Give us rather the courage to face whatever has been, accept forgiveness, and move on to something better. Amen.
~ from the New Zealand Prayer Book 
~ (The nebula RCW49, shown in infrared light in this image from the Spitzer Space Telescope, is a nursery for newborn stars)