Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas dear readers!  This will be a short post, but I wanted to write it, as I will be leaving for South India dark and early tomorrow morning, and will be unable to post for a while.  As I am short on time, I will be unable to post pictures yet, as they take a great deal of time to upload.  There are some good ones though, and I promise to post them once I return!

So.  My first Christmas away from home.  Here goes.

I always knew that the percentage of Christians in India was low, and that I should not expect to have a particularly grand Christmas.  Diwali is the "Christmas of India," therefore, that is the most festive time.  For this reason, I almost forgot Christmas was coming until we reached Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has a relatively active Christian population, and also plays host to a great deal of European tourists during the holiday season.  Therefore, there were all sorts of Christmas decorations hanging, and music playing.

The Christmas tree in the lobby of the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo Sri Lanka


Upon getting back to Delhi, I was too busy to think all that much about Christmas.  I was forced to think about it however, when I walked into my Principal's office on Tuesday, December 20th to ask her a simple scheduling question.  All I wanted to know was whether Friday December 23rd would be a half day.  I had planned a Christmas activity for my students, I explained, and I wanted all of them, even my Friday afternoon classes, to be able to partake.  Immediately, the Principal said, "Ah, yes, Christmas!  Last year, when I was at the Lodhi Road Navyug School, we had such a beautiful Christmas assembly!  The children sang Silent Night and it was as though we were in a church.  You must teach the children Silent Night and organize a performance.  It will be beautiful.  It is my favorite Christmas song."  I was quite taken aback; after all, I only had two days, and had no idea which students to select, or when and where we would rehearse!  The Principal would not take no for an answer however, so, with the music teacher's help, I taught "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells" to a select group of singers.  As with Waka waka, I ended up having a lot of fun.  When the big day arrived, I was a little nervous.  I had no cause to be however; my students performed very well, and the Principal was pleased.  Though it was incredibly short notice, I was grateful to again have the opportunity to engage with my students outside of class.

Santa came to Navyug Laxmi Bai Nagar!


Also as part of the Christmas assembly, Rupal, an 8th grade girl with an exceptional voice, sang a beautiful Hindi Christmas song called "Mariam ka beta" (Mary's son).  After this, there were many speeches. Both the Principal and some students made speeches about the origin and meaning of Christmas.  I made an impromptu speech about the origin and meaning of "Silent Night" and Jingle Bells."  The most important speeches of all came after the Christmasy part of the assembly however.  It was at this point that a whole slew of awards was given out.  The prizes ranged from 2nd place in the inter-Navyug volleyball championships, to runners up in the inter-Navyug track and field events, to debate competition winners, to science fair winners, to art contest winners.  The kids clapped and cheered for their friends, and the mood was quite raucous!  After all the awards had been given out, the students clapped in unison and cheered: "L.B.N!!!! L.B.N!!!! L.B.N.!!!!!!"  (L.B.N. stands for Laxmi Bai Nagar.)  It was a lot of fun, both for students and teachers.

Tanya and Dhruv: a brother and sister pair both of whom took home prizes

Cheering students

The girls' volleyball team

The trophies


For this reason, the kids became quite riled up, and teaching classes became near impossible.  When I went to my first class, only about eight kids were in the classroom, as the others had bunked (in Indian-English, "bunking class" means "skipping class").  This was class 8A, my most difficult class.  And the kids who had decided to show up were the most difficult kids.  I saw no point in trying to teach.  As I had my computer with me, I offered to play them some music and show them my pictures, most of which had been taken in India, but some of which had been taken at Haverford, and at Hawthorne Valley Farm Camp.  They loved seeing the pictures, especially the ones taken in America.  They were particularly interested in looking at my Hawthorne Valley pictures, and were very curious about my campers, most of whom were about their age.  The best part of the class however, was when they discovered that I had brought my camera.  Immediately, a photo shoot ensued.  I have to say, I ended up having as much fun as they did.

It's comforting to know that 8th Grade boys are the same all over the world

I want to be in the picture too!

Looking at pictures


During the next class that I tried to go to, I was pulled out by Sonia, one of the primary school teachers who has always been very friendly and helpful to me.  She brought me to her class 5 classroom, where the children were preparing to have a Christmas party.  They gave me a plate of snacks and we chatted while we waited for the Principal to arrive.  Some of these tiny children actually spoke very good English!  I was very impressed, and charmed, as they were very cute.

Some adorable 5th graders

 When the Principal did arrive, she and I cut the big chocolate cake that Sonia had brought for her class.  Then, the delightful Indian tradition of force-feeding ensued as both the Principal and Sonia pushed cake into my mouth.  Things got a little messy when some of the kids started to smear cake onto my face, but it was all in good fun.

Principal Ma'am and Sonia


The Principal and I cutting the cake

After the Principal stuffed cake into my mouth

During the last two classes I went to, I attempted to do the Christmas activity that I had planned.  My plan had been to give my students copies of the lyrics to "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" with some of the words blanked out.  I would then play the song on my laptop, then have the students listen, and fill in the blanks.  Unfortunately, the speakers were broken.  So I ended up just singing the song, and completing the activity this way.  I got some smirks, and comments ranging from "such a sweet song ma'am!" to "you sing beautifully ma'am," to a slightly snarky "um...interesting sound ma'am..."  All in all though I think that the activity worked out just fine.  As the day ended, I got so many "Merry Christmas ma'am!!"s, so many hugs and handshakes, and just general good wishes.  It was a nice way to end for the holidays.

Now, free of responsibilities, I was able to notice what was going on around me.  When I went to the market the next day, I saw that there were all kinds of santa hats and costumes on sale, complete with really creepy masks.  Also on sale were an assortment of shamelessly tacky plastic ornaments, very fake looking trees, and, perhaps most odd to me, fruitcakes.  I never thought of fruitcake as being something that anyone enjoys, but I suppose that there must be some level of demand...

A typical Indian creepy Santa mask
I woke up early on Christmas morning so I could skype in for the annual Wacker family Christmas Eve Carol Sing.  There were some technical difficulties (apparently the time lag meant that my singing was a couple of seconds behind everyone else's).  It was frustrating at times, and I was a little bit sad not to be squished onto the couch along with my parents and sister.  Still, it was a lot of fun, and it was so nice to still be included.  Thank you technology.

"The twelve days of Christmas:" Four calling birds
Later in the day, my roommates Joanna, Jessica, and I joined Stephanie, another ETA, and went over to the house of Ashley, a fellow ETA, and her husband Gautam.  Gautam's brother, sister, brother in law, and adorable baby nephew were also there.  All were very nice, and I enjoyed being able to practice Hindi with them.  We shared a wonderful Indian Christmas lunch together, then played Taboo and Bananagrams.  Relaxing, yet fun at the same time.

Our delicious lunch

The group

Ashley and her adorable nephew Jitu, who refused to look at the camera
So now, here I am at 10:42 pm on Christmas night.  I am still not sure how I feel.  I miss my home and family, and our Christmas traditions.  I miss going outside and feeling the wintry chill and breathing CLEAN air.  I miss seeing nature.  Still though, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be here in India, and to have met such wonderful interesting people.  I am thankful also for the support and love of those back home.  And to all my readers (I have been told that it's not only my parents who read this!) I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas!










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