Hello again, friends and family. As we all know, I have been behind on this blog since the beginning. Much has happened in the past month, but I won’t bore you with minute details. Instead, I will tell about the most significant event, one that has taken up most of my time and energy, but has also provided me with what I already know will be some of my favorite memories of this incredible year.
Some time around the beginning of November, I was standing in the courtyard of Navyug School, Laxmi Bai Nagar, watching assembly as usual. Then the gym teacher came up to give an announcement. I expected it to be one of the usual kinds of announcements: our boys had won the inter-Navyug football match; only the volleyball team was allowed onto the field during zero period, etc. But that day, the announcement was something different. The gym teacher explained to the students that the annual inter-Navyug sports day was coming up. On this day, selected students from all of the Navyug schools would come together, and perform for one another. A number of important people would be in attendance, including the chairperson of the Navyug Educational Society, and some New Delhi Municipal Corporation Officials. We, Navyug School Laxmi Bai Nagar, had been selected to perform an aerobics dance routine. All 8th, 9th, and 10th, graders would participate.
When I heard this news, I was quite excited. Maybe I’d get to watch some rehearsals, or even learn the dance! Before I’d even fully understood what was going on though, the gym teacher run up to me and grabbed my arm. “Abby, you are a dancer,” she said. “I am no dancer, and will need help. You and I will teach this dance together.” After spluttering something incomprehensible about how I wasn’t really a REAL dancer, but I would do what I could, and would be happy to help, we got down to work.
The month that followed provided some of my most favorite moments of my time at the school. It was not always easy: school organized aerobics routines tend to feel dorky to most adolescents, and getting cool teenagers to be enthusiastic about dorky school activities can be quite a challenge. To begin with, the gym teacher and I taught the basic steps to all two hundred of our dancers. We soon realized that it was impossible to teach two hundred restless teenagers at once, especially in a courtyard that could barely hold them. We were also having problems with music: The teacher picked a song with a good beat called “Miami Beach.” Unfortunately, closer listening revealed that the singer was in fact not saying “Miami Beach” but rather “Miami something-else-that sounds-a-lot-like-beach-but-is-actually-far-less-appropriate-for-a-school-function.”
To combat the first problem, we elected a “core group” of dancers: nine enthusiastic, gifted 8th grade girls who would learn the dance first, then help us to teach the others. In answer to the second problem, we picked a new song: Shakira’s “Waka waka.” The first few rehearsals with my dance captains were some of the best times I have had in the school. We quickly worked out a routine that the girls were happy with, and were soon ready to teach the other students. To make things easier, we called them to us in “small” groups of forty. As you might imagine though, it takes time to move large groups of adolescents around a school. This meant that my dancers and I usually had a good amount of waiting time between rehearsals. We had the school’s yoga studio, a boom box, and a Shakira CD all to ourselves. So, during our breaks, we did what any sane group of people would do: we had dance parties. These were a source of great fun for us, and great confusion for all passersby.
Slowly slowly, all of the students learned the routine, and everything began to fall into place. Some children had to be eliminated (sad but necessary) but still remained involved as music system caretakers, audience members, or general rehearsal disrupters. I was excited and proud of my kids. Then, the news came: the sports day was to be held on Monday, the 12th of December. I would be in Sri Lanka for a Fulbright Conference, and therefore unable to come. I was extremely disappointed, but continued to work hard on the dance’s finishing touches. As a kind of consolation, I was told that I would still be able (and required) to attend two dress rehearsals at the performance venue: Navyug School, Sarojini Nagar. Sarojini Nagar was actually the first Navyug School, so it is highly regarded within the Navyug community. Another interesting fact: this happens to be where my roommate, Joanna, teaches. I was excited, not only to be a chaperone and to see my kids rehearse in a more official setting, but also to see this other Navyug School that I had heard so much about through Jo’s stories.
The first thing I noticed about Navyug School Sarojini Nagar was its size. It is noticeably bigger than my school, with a full football (soccer) field, and a basketball court. The building itself is three stories (or perhaps more?) high, and there seem to be many more students than at my school. The day that I went it was even busier than it normally would have been, as groups of children and teachers from nearly all of the other Navyug schools were also in attendance. As I had come with the P.E. teacher, in her car, none of my students had arrived yet. She took my arm and led me around the school, introducing me to her friends. It was very nice to meet the other Navyug school teachers, all of whom were very friendly.
|Some of the lovely ladies of class 8b|
|Navyug School, Sarojini Nagar|
When the Laxmi Bai Nagar students arrived, we quickly got to work setting them up in their formations. Fortunately, there were lines drawn on the ground to help us in this task. Our dress rehearsal was one of the first, and it went quite well. This allowed us to sit back for the rest of the day, and just watch the other routines. These were quite entertaining. There was a militaristic march, an adorable Rajasthani folkdance, a judo routine, a dumbbell workout set to music, a yoga demonstration, a bhangra dance, and various calisthenics performances. All were quite impressive, but many of the teachers there were talking about our aerobics routine, and about how well done it was! I was so proud of my kids.
|A yoga demonstration|
|Adorable Rajasthani dancers|
Several days later, we had another dress rehearsal, so we all packed off to Sarojini Nagar once more. The rehearsals went pretty much as they had the last time. What was new was that many of the kids from the other Navyug schools recognized me. They waved, and shouted “MA’AM!! WAKA WAKA MA’AM!! WAKA WAKA!!!!” Funnily enough, this is exactly what my students have been shouting at me ever since I began teaching the dance. This isn’t too much of a problem on the sports field, but it can be a bit trying during English class. Oh well, now I have not only my own students, but an entire school system singing Shakira at me. I’m okay with that. After all, far worse things could happen to a person.
Fortunately, Joanna was able to come out, watch some of the goings-on, and chat a little. I even got to meet some of her students, who call her “Johana ma’am.” They were all very cute, and very eager to show off their knowledge of my roommate: (“Do you know where Johana ma’am is from, ma’am? CHICAGO!!!!” etc.)
I also had a great time just hanging out with my kids. The best times were when the Bhangra school were having their rehearsals. As soon as the music came on, my 8th grade dance captains were up and dancing, and pulling me into their group. I wouldn’t say that I am the best bhangra dancer yet, but I had a great time, and hope to get many more opportunities to dance!
And then, just as school spirit was at its highest, and I was most excited and proud of my babies, I packed up and flew to Sri Lanka (this trip merits its own post, which is coming soon, I promise!). I was sad to miss the big day, but shook off my disappointment, in order to make the most of the jam-packed week Fulbright was providing for me.
My first day back in school, all of the teachers and students rushed to me, asking how my trip was. They exclaimed that the dance had gone so well; the Navyug Association Chairperson had been so impressed; we had received so many compliments. Nicest of all, both students and teachers told me how much they had missed me on the big day. In assembly that morning, the P.E. teacher called me up to the front, and all the students applauded. She also had me make a short, impromptu speech, which was a little embarrassing, but I was glad to be able to tell my kids how proud I was of them. Most of all, it was really nice to feel appreciated and a part of the school, and I hope to be able to help out with more functions like this in the future. This insane yet wonderful experience reminded me that, as crazy and chaotic as life as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in India can be, I truly do love my kids, my fellow teachers, my school, and most of all, this amazing country in which I feel so lucky to be living right now.