Thursday, April 16, 2009

Week 13 - Sun. 12 April - Sat. 18 April

Well this is officially my last week here in India - as I said in my last post I went to Cochin, which is a coast city in Kerala (about an 8-9 hour drive plus 'tea stops') in the Easter break with five staff members and we had a blast - we ate like 'Kings and Queens', did a bit of shopping, went to a traditional Indian storytelling show and went on a Back Water trip - how that was amazing! We started out on a house boat then after stopping on a remote little island where we ate a traditional Kerala Indian dinner off banana leaves we aboard a small river canoe and went punting through a canal/stream. We stopped off at a little house in a remote area where they grow different spices and then made us all some masala tea - my time learning to cook different curries while I have been here helped me to recognise and name almost all of them! For the rest of the week it's been relaxing and love to sleep in a little - Tuesday we went to school for the kids to ride their bikes and have a swim in the pool. Wednesday I went down town for the last time and visited my favourite spots in Ooty then today Wendy and I and the kids went down to Jungle Retreat for a day's excursion to have lunch down there in the jungle and to have a lovely swim in their pool. Tomorrow it's off for a picnic possibly at Emerald Lake before I pack the last of my gear and head down to Coimbatore to catch my early morning (like 12.25am) flight to Singapore. When I get home I'll update this to give you the run down of my last couple of days of my trip away before it's back to reality! Till then have a good one! Here's a challenge for you - can you guess what spice is in the shell that the man is holding and what are the three parts of the spice are and what are they used for?

Week 12 – Sun. 5 April – Sat. 11 April

This was the last week of the 1st half of the second semester – it’s Parents Week and it’s been chaotic. Monday was Swimming Gala and I had to get three kids up, dressed and ready to go with all their gear for school! That was a new-ish experience, Wendy and Ian returned home later that evening. At the Swimming Gala, Gold House won by a mile! It was great to see the whole school up at the pool watching and cheering on their class and team mates – medals, trophies and cups were all orders of the day. Tuesday night there was the Variety Show and Junior School Concert Wednesday during the school day with a Thanksgiving Service at 4.30pm. Wednesday and Thursday for the first hour of the day I taught in Standard 3/4 class and then for the last hour or so before lunchtime I was down in Reception class. We had a blast – that’s Andrew, Elijah and myself – they had read ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ in class a week or so ago and Andrew piped up “Mitch knows how to make green eggs and ham” so that’s what we made – amazng how a little green food colouring can make eating eggs and ham fun!!! It was a tad crazy for the next hour or so saying bye to staff, parents and students that I have gotten to know while I’ve been here. It’s been great to be back here and to share with everyone life at Hebron – it’s a bit of a unique experience – I’m really going to miss my curries at lunchtime and fresh mangoes for dessert! Tomorrow is Good Friday and I head off first thing in the morning to Cochin with three or four of the single female staff till Monday. Then it’s back up the hill again for a few days till I leave early evening on Friday for my long trip home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Week 11 – Sun.29 Mar – Sat. 4 April

This week is my last week staying at the Isaacs place and I return to Ian and Wendy’s for the last little while before I head home. On Sunday I went to Coonoor on the hill train with Joan and Jennifer (the SV’s – Senior Volunteers) – it was a fantastic day. We had a chance to visit the markets in lower Coonoor and do a bit of shopping before heading up the hill to a lovely tea place called ‘Tranquility’ – it was so relaxing sitting in their garden drinking a Peach and Passionfruit Ice Tea Blend before returning down the hill again to catch a very crowded trip home on the train.
Wendy returns from her three weeks away on Monday so on Friday night Ian headed down the Ghat to Bangalore to pick her up so I’ve got the three kids for the weekend – we had a great weekend with Saturday evening being the Student Council event of ‘Metropolis’ – it was a night of food fairs, games and entertainment from the students, it was a whole school event with a few parents that have arrived early for Parents Week. Then Sunday morning we got up and had pancakes, green eggs and bacon for breakfast, went out for lunch to Garden’s Restaurant for a dosa and then Andrew and I made a Welcome Back banana cake for Wendy while Ashlee made a Playdoh version of it! For dinner we all made our own pizzas with fries and watched ‘Magic in the Water’ – of course we had O’Reos for dessert ‘cus you can’t watch it without eating O’Reos.

Week 10 – Sun. 22 Mar – Sat. 28 Mar

Wow, two weeks have gone by and I can’t really remember what’s been happening – nothing too exciting I know. I’m currently staying at one of the parent’s from school’s guest house while Wendy is in the US and NZ. It’s been very quiet I must say, though on Tuesday evenings I’ve been going to Wendy and Ian’s to have my Indian cooking lessons and to stay for dinner and home group. On Saturday 28 March I joined in with the ‘Selbourne In Day’ (Girl’s Campus). The girls had decorated the dining room and the kitchen staff put on a superb feast for dinner and then we watched ‘Bride and Prejudice’ out on the lawn in the evening the caught an auto rickshaw home. It was a great evening out joining in with the girls activities.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week 9 - Sun. 15 March - Sat. 21 March

Well this week has been a little different - while Wendy is back in New Zealand I'm staying at a day student's parents' guest house, so it's really quite! Have had to run another Thinking Skills workshop with another group of Hebron Staff on Thursday with the possibility of another session in the next two or three weeks - there's only two more weeks of official classes then it's parents week where the boarding students parents come and visit school then on the Thursday school is out for about ten days - by the time all the students have returned to Hebron I'll be back almost back in New Zealand. Sorry there isn't much to write home about this week but will keep you posted.

Week 8 – Sun.8 March to Sat. 14 March

As Monday was all the IGs day off and it had been Lucy’s birthday on Saturday we had a bit of a party for her – we had dinner at Selbourne (Girls Dorm Campus) then we watched ‘The Sound Of Music’ – Lucy’s choice. Had all the trimmings with birthday cake, slice, sweets and popcorn with the odd person bursting out in song – was a great laugh!
This week I’ve run another Thinking Skills workshop for the Junior School Staff Meeting on the ‘Habits of the Mind’ – didn’t realize that I would be doing PD for the teaching staff here but it’s great to be able to share some of my own knowledge and training with others that rarely receive any professional development in the area of where teaching is in the 21st Century.
Junior School Sports Day was on Friday, unfortunately I only got to see 40 minutes when I wasn’t working with Middle School students – here Sports Day and Swimming Gala are big events in this term’s calendar. Saturday it was Sports Day for the whole school, which is held at the local sports stadium/arena just down the road from school. I didn’t actually attend this event as I ran away to Mysore for 24 hours with Jennifer (Senior Volunteer). We hired a taxi and drove 3 hours down the Ghat (actually 36 hairpins) through the National Parks to Mysore – had an eventful trip down and saw heaps of wildlife. As we were driving along saw 5 elephants that were only about 150-200 metres from the road grazing, also saw two or three different kinds of monkeys, three mongoose (first time I’ve seen them this trip!), wild boar and several spotted deer. Also saw the tame elephants from the elephant camp being washed in the river which we’d missed out seeing when we went to Jungle Retreat. Once we’d arrived in Mysore and booked into our hotel we went to the local market and learnt how they make incense sticks and how they make the expensive fragrances that some of us like to dab on ourselves to smell nice! Got ripped off and highly frustrated by the first auto rickshaw driver that we went in but the next two or three restored our faith in tutt-tutt drivers. In the evening we went to Maharaja’s Palace to see the palace be illuminated by 97000 light bulbs – it’s an amazing sight! It usually is only on a Sunday night but they have just started putting them on a Saturday for half an hour also so we just managed to see them. Afterwards had a wander around Mysore by night as we walked back to the hotel, stopping of at a rooftop restaurant for dinner. The next day we meet Wendy, Andrew (Ian’s Dad) and Prakash for lunch at the Regaalis then dropped Wendy and Andrew off at the railway station headed for Bangalore and then the rest of us headed back up the Ghat. It was a great 24 hour trip to one of my favourite Indian cities.

Week 7 – Sun. 1 March to Sat. 7 March

This week has been kinda of uneventful apart but we’ve had a couple of comical events at home – one of the kids cats Maddie has a habit of climbing up the chimneys and making a mess everywhere – she’s white so you can imagine the state of her – there’s a bucket of water outside the back door and if Wendy manages to catch her she’s often dumped in the bucket so that she goes off and cleans herself. Anyways the other day Wendy was at the line hanging out washing and Maddie was at the bucket having a drink, it was funny watching her as she was carefully keeping an eye on Wendy and where she was, when she was sure it was safe to take a big drink only then did she relax and continue to drink. Then on Saturday we had the Sunshine Girls dorm over for a BBQ lunch then we went out for dinner to Sidewalk CafĂ© – on the way home Andrew and Lauren had Wendy and I in stitches. Andrew had seen the nude statutes that are apart of the fountain display down at Charring Cross and being 5 years old saw them as being gross – this lead Lauren to give a great big run down on the Greeks and the first Olympics (she’s studying them at school) and how the first Olympics were just for the men as they ran in the nude, Andrew pipes up ‘Why did the Greeks run naked in the Olympics?’ Lauren responds ‘Well cos they didn’t have PE kits back then did they!’ – that reponse just topped the whole conversation and had Wendy and I in stitches!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sun.22 Feb to Sat.28 Feb – Week 6

This week has been a week of socializing at my place – Sunday after church we had Glen and Bek and their kids over for lunch and then in the evening I went out to King’s Cliff Restaurant for a staff members birthday dinner with about 14 others – had a bit of an off road drive getting there. The road that Ian thought would be a good shortcut was a bit of a goat track by New Zealand standards and Ian doesn’t drive slow no matter what state the road is – did manage to spot a deer darting across the road. Had an amazing Palak Kofta for dinner! Then Tuesday evening had HG here after dinner. Had a go at making Gumboot Cake (Marshmallow Slice) for supper, it was a bit of a disaster, forgot that egg whites and high altitude don’t mix – it was fine on Monday night but by Tuesday night when I needed it, it had gone kinda of flat! Still tasted good though!
Wednesday evening we had a Staff family here for dinner and then first thing Friday morning all the IGs headed down the Ghat, includes 32 hairpin corners to Jungle Retreat, Mudamalai Wildlife Sanctuary for a four day weekend. It was awesome – the weather, accommodation, food and company was great. It was lovely to be able to relax by the pool, read a book and explore a bit of the local wildlife! On Sunday morning we all headed out on a Flat Walk Trek into the Wildlife Park and found a small herd of elephants (6 or 7 plus a baby elephant) grazing in amongst the trees. Then a little later on we saw a mother elephant and her baby. It was amazing to see them in the wild! Also saw some Common Langurs (monkeys), spotted deer and buffalo roaming out on the range! Then later on in the late afternoon we set off to watch elephants been washed in the local river – unfortunately due to a festival that held up traffic we didn’t manage to see it and because of the dry season the place for elephant rides was closed, but we did see the elephant at the Elephant Camp being feed and got to pat a baby elephant that’s about two years old that was orphaned! She was so cute! It was an amazing place to go and stay with superb sunsets and sunrises – I’d recommend the place to anyone who wants to get anyone from it all! Hope to go back there before I leave.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Week 5 : Sun.15 Feb – Sat.21 Feb

Well another week has gone flying by! Two more months and I’ll be on a plane home again!! Andrew’s response to that would probably be ‘too bad, so sad!’ – it will be sad though I’m enjoying been back in India and spending time with Wendy and Ian and the kids and meeting lots of great people from around the globe here in Ooty! Started doing a little bit of painting this week – think I need a lot more practice!! Have also had to do a Junior School Staff Development session on ‘De Bono’s Thinking Hats’ and been working with DEL (Department of Enhanced Learning) sharing ideas on how to help students in their learning. Friday afternoon went off for a wander down to the market and managed to pick up my supply of fresh peas (that’s me shelling some) I love fresh peas, hate frozen peas! There was so much hustle and bustle down there! I haven’t managed to get lost in the market yet, thankfully, I just stick to my landmarks and I seem to do okay!!
On Saturday evening we had the Standard 9 boys dorm (19 boys plus the Dorm Parents and helpers – about 26 in total) arrive for a BBQ – with BBQ Chicken in a yummy orange, soya sauce and ginger marinade and huge burger patties. Then once it grew dark we all watched a movie on the front lawn. They set up the big screen, and the boys brought their sleeping bags to keep warm while they watched the original ‘Dad’s Army’ movie – it was a great evening with a few of the boys learning the art of BBQ-ing on a wood-burning BBQ from ‘Mrs McCabe’!

Week 4 : Sun.8 Feb – Sat. 14 Feb

Sunday evening we had the ‘Commencement Service’ for school – this service is to official start the new term and everyone is required to dress in their formal school uniform, hence I had to get dressed up so here’s a shot of me in my ‘salwar kameez’ that I had made – bit posh really!! It’s been a bit of a busy week really with people arriving back and visitors coming and going for dinner to add to all of the that are the little incidents like the lovely treats that the cats bring in to share with us – the other night Maddie decided she’d like to show us her prize for the evening – I forgot how much Wendy hates rats!! She was just heading off to bed when I heard this yelp! On going out to check I discover Wendy in the lounge and the cat on the stairwell with a tail hanging out her mouth, Maddie then processed to drop the rat and start playing with it like a ball, pounce on it then set about to chomp down on it – poor Wendy was forced to witness and hear the crunching sounds of rat bones been squashed in the cat’s vice of a mouth! Not a pleasant sound! We finally got the cat out with a tail hanging out its mouth, I have too say I even felt a little queasy after the whole incident!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Week 3

Had Bible Club for Staff Children on Monday and then had Tuesday and Wednesday off getting ready to start the new school term. On Tuesday Wendyand I and the kids went to Kluny Manor for lunch - it's an old manor that has been done up and is now a restaurant and accomodation. It's a lovely place with an awesome view of Ooty - it's the kind of place you go to when you want to get away from the hustle of bustle, fro a bit of escapism without leaving Ooty itself!

Then on Thursday school began and it's really just been a couple of days getting used to how the school does things and assessing where the children I'll be working with are at!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Week 2

This week has been rather busy with one thing or another - orientation, Bible Club and life at home! On Monday 26th was India's Independence Day so they had an official flag raising ceremony at Hebron School, which I didn't go to instead Wendy,
Lauren, Ashlee, Andrew and I went for a drive out to Emerald Lake. We got misdirected a few times and had to do a little backtracking! Here if you ask someone how do you get to say 'Emerald Lake' and they don't know instead of saying 'NO' which is considered harsh and you don't do, people try and please you and say "Yes ma'm, this straight way" even if they have absolutely no idea! What to do!! Anyway we finally made it and went to Red Hill Tea Plantation for lunch - it has some of the most amazing views of the Niligiris. On Tuesday we went to Coonor as part of our Orientation - we took the old steam train from Ooty to Coonor, then went from there to CMS which is an orphanage where we had a look around - bought some crafts from there and then left for Brooklands Quest House for lunch and a wander through the shops in the afternoon even though a good deal were shut! People seem to think that I come from a different planet and speak a foreign language - they keep asking me to repeat myself! What's with that! When we were at Brooklands one of the school staff children, he's about 2 or 3 years old and said to me in his Northern Ireland accent, 'I'm a dog!' I asked him to repeat what he said as I thought he said 'I'm a dork!" And they think I speak with a weird and uncomprehensible accent!
Later on in the week we began Bible Club for all the staff children while their parents were at the Staff Retreat. The topic was 'Junior Heroes' and had a great time doing craft, playing games, singing, reading bible stories etc. The children then presented for a few minutes on Monday morning to their parents.

On Saturday afternoon all of the staff, staff children, IGs and Standard 11 students went out to Glenmorgan Tea Plantation for the afternoon - it's absolute gorgeous out there! Hasn't changed much in the last 15 years but it was lovely to visit the Vidaras again! Then in the evening we had some of the Freedom Firm staff and children over for dinner at the McCabes. It's been a busy week!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Week 1

Sunday 18 January
Today I spent the morning exploring Singapore on a ‘City Orientation Tour’ before boarding my flight to India. The tour took us to Little India, Chinatown, and the Colonial District – even watched a Singaporean band filming a music video down by the waterfront. The final stop of the tour was at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the National Orchid Garden – the orchids in this garden were amazing I have never seen such a range of gorgeous orchids together in one place! The tour also took us to the ‘Qualitas Jewellery Factory’ – I saw an amazing Dragonfly Pendant for you Misty! It was set in White gold with hundreds of minute diamonds on the body and wings with rubies for eyes, the asking price was $19,206 Singapore Dollars, hence it stayed in the display cabinet for others to marvel at it! Spent the rest of day relaxing before leaving for the airport to catch my evening flight to Comibatore. Before arriving in India I was quickly reminded as I boarded my plane of three distinct things I remember about India from my last trip : no personal space, prying eyes, and a distinct body odour! After eventually finding my bag, the second to last bag to emerge after millions of HUGE suitcases went before it! And pass through Customs and finding Prakesh, Wendy and Ian’s Driver we made the long and winding drive up into the Niligris – I’d forgotten all about the hairpin bends and how high up Ooty was! Finally arrived at Wendy and Ian’s about 2.30am Monday morning.

Monday 19 January
After sleeping in till about 9.30-10am I had a relaxing day unpacking, playing games and chilling out with Lauren, Ashlee and Andrew. Then in the evening Alastair and Ros Reid, the Principal of Hebron School and his wife came for dinner. Tomorrow Wendy and I have a girls day out at Hebron with some of the ladies from Hebron – doing Card Making and Scrapbooking – for me it’s more a time to get to know a few people.

Friday 22 January & Saturday 23 January
Today was the first day of Orientation for the IG’s (International Guests and Senior Volunteers) - I’m kinda in the middle of the two! Today was all about meeting each other and finding out about Hebron and explore the Lushington grounds – this is the main grounds for the school. It houses the school classrooms (Preschool – Year 13(A Levels) and the dorms for the boys. Then on Saturday we spent the day at Selbourne – where the girls dorms are – about 10-15 minute walk away from school. We were then taken on a short tiki tour of Ooty (Ootacumund).

Later on in the afternoon Wendy took we on a brief whirlwind trip of the market – it’s such an amazing place, it’s one of my favourite places in Ooty! The senses almost go into overdrive to accommodate all the wonderful and not so wonderful smells that you are faced with as you walk through the market – first past the beef, then the chickens, some already dead, plucked and ready for your choosing or those not yet dead and still with feathers, with axe at hand waiting for the deed to be done! In the evening Wendy and I went to Hebron to watch the movie “Bride and Prejudice” – the staffroom was packed and lots of laughs had!

Sunday 25 January

Went to church at Union Church then had lunch at home, with Chris and Karyn Ellwood and family (Hebron staff from Auckland) joining us for a Kiwi BBQ – it was a gorgeous day for it! The skies here are so blue and clear – the colour here is quite different to that in NZ! Then in the late afternoon we went to Mipzah Orphanage for supper and to spend time playing games for with the children. Afterwards Wendy, Ian and I along with some others were taken out to dinner by Dennis Fountain and his sons who were visiting Ooty briefly. It was a lovely evening out!