So I have now had close to 20 daal bhat's (morning and evening) and I'm still enjoying it. You will always have rice and lentil soup (used as a sauce over the rice) and there's usually a little variation when it comes to the tarkaari (curry-like side dish) -sometimes it is potato and spinach, and I have had fried dried milk cubes?!, and this morning I don't know what it was - but there were little round balls which were sort of fluffy and tasteless. Occasionally, you will get atjaar with your meal - pickle. This can also vary and I have so far tried radish with spices and lemon and a paste consisting of tomato,onion and chili - it's a bit like a mexican salsa. Anyway, I still have not grown tired of it (which is a good thing seeing that I have about 50 to go!)
Yesterday was my first day at school. I arrived just before 10 and almost felt like a kid again going to school for the first time. I couldn't see the kindergarten teacher so I stood in the school yard (a dusty playing field with a water pipeline running across it which the children bend open and drink from) waiting for her. Shortly after 10, the bell rang and they all lined up in rows. Then they did 2 min of morning gymnastics and finished by singing a song - I think it might have been the Nepalese national anthem, but I'm not sure.
After that all the kids ran into the various class rooms and started their day of school. Due to the recent Dasain and Diwali festivals and the holiday on Friday, not all kids have returned to school, so only half of the pupils showed up which is about 15. The ages range from 3 to 10 and makes is quite difficult to teach as they are on so many different levels, both "academically" and maturity wise.
As it was my first day, I had agreed to just follow Sarita to get an idea of how she deals with the kids and what she teaches them. The day wasn't really structured and we did some drawing and playing and the older kids wrote English words in their notebooks (of course the 'analogue' - 'not-electronic' ones :)
Then there was a little break and we continued after that with some more writing (English and Nepali numbers). After the lunch break, Sarita said that she had to go teach math to the 2nd graders and that I would have the children on my own. Horror! I had not prepared anything. The kids were impossible - most of them do not understand English and they went crazy. Jumping on the tables, pushing each other, fighting, throwing stuff around the room! I looked at the clock and hoped that I would soon be saved by the bell...but only 15 min had passed. Luckily, Sarita came to check on me and made them settle somewhat.
Today was slightly better; I was better prepared (and Sarita was in the class room entertaining the small children). We learned and practiced shapes; triangle, square, circle. I drew the shapes on the whiteboard and wrote the words underneath and we practiced over and over. I would say the shape and they would repeat. When I thought that we had done it enough times and wanted to let them say they shape I was pointing to, but that didn't work at all! All the children had a blank stare on their faces - they had no clue! So we practiced again - saying the names of the shapes over and over and I tried again: " Rupak, what is this shape?" pointing to the circle. No answer. Again and again I tried. No success.
They are simply not taught to think independently - they are taught to repeat what the teacher says but the majority have no clue what they are saying. The other exercise is to copy what the teacher has written on the board, but they don't necessarily know what they are writing.
I made them take turns writing numbers on the whiteboard: Pradip, write 9; Samjhana, write 4, etc. Luckily, they got it.
But then I asked a girl called Sumitha (10yrs) to write 3 on the board and she wrote 1, 2, 3 - she only knew 3 if she wrote 1 and 2 before it. Wow...I'm speechless. It's such a different way of teaching and learning here.
But I'm off to Chitwan tomorrow. VIN has organized a trip to the Chitwan National Park where you can see one-horned rhinos, tigers, elephants and lots of birds. Apparently, there are 850 different species recorded there...hmmm...I'm not really into ornitology, though... However, after only 2 days at the school, I welcome a break! So I'm looking forward to that.