Thursday, November 5, 2009

Part 5: In Which I Break The Rhythm With Some Brief Observations Of India

I see more vehicles coming at me on the wrong side of the road than I do using their turn signals. The huge dump trucks hogging all the road around here often have car hubcaps hanging from the tailgate. I think it's a trophy of some kind, but I don't get too close to find out.

Of the 10 teachers who eat their lunch in the staff room of my school, all are vegetarian. But they all eat eggs and dairy (originating from buffalo milk, of course), which technically makes them Lacto-ovo vegetarian. I had to look that up.

The food here is really good, especially if you like vegetarian and flat breads. My hosts keep telling me they will not make it too hot for me and it never is. But I have still never tasted anything as hot as the Thai food we eat at Pok Pok.

They don’t hire substitute teachers when you are absent at my school; they simply assign a teacher on a free period to babysit your students. It’s called an Arrangement. I think that makes it sound much more innocuous and productive than it actually is.

I’ve heard they worship snakes in India. But whenever one slithers into the schoolyard or our apartment complex, the locals practically fall over themselves trying to kill it. When I raised the question of worshiping snakes with one of my colleagues, he replied, “not in this region”.

They cut the grass in the small field outside our apartment recently. They mowed it with an electric mower instead of sending a flock of 20 women out there to hand trim it with little sickles like they did last time. It looks lovely, lush and thick. But we can’t play on it, so the kids and I play soccer in the parking lot. Why can’t we play on the grass? I don’t know. Maybe there are snakes in it.

For Diwali, the festival of light, they prefer crackers (fireworks) that go Bang really loudly. Apparently, the light is optional; but the Bang is obligatory. And they don’t fire them all off on the night itself, so we get loud Bangs for days afterward. Weeks, now.

The really big, room-shuddering Bang I heard just now outside our apartment is from the local quarry, so that doesn’t count.

Today there were a number of teachers out, or “on leave”, as it’s called here. So instead of having my 9th graders for two 35-minute periods, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, I had them for four periods. And they combined my 9th grade section with the other 9th grade section for all four periods. So I had 75 9th graders in one room for four periods. How’s that for teaching efficiency!

What do you teach 75 9th graders for 140 minutes? Why, I lectured on the elements of fiction, of course. And I mentioned a lot of stories. But of course they hadn’t heard, seen, or read many of them, so I had to summarize such things as the entire Star Wars saga, The Wizard of Oz, Oedipus Rex and Hamlet. That’s how you fill 140 minutes.

I don’t think it’s particularly safe driving in Hyderabad, but I had not seen a serious traffic accident since I’d arrived. Until this weekend. I saw two victims of traffic fatalities in one day. Thankfully, one was covered with a blanket and had been moved to the back of an open truck by the time our portion of the traffic jam inched by. The other, we weren’t so lucky. Of course, we were still a lot luckier than he was. I’d insert a link here to some local news article about traffic fatalities, but they don’t seem to think it rates a column inch. So there ya go.


nvbourgo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nvbourgo said...

I realize that I'm joining this program already in progress, and at first I wasn't going to leave any comments, but now I read that you had to "summarize such things as the entire Star Wars saga..."
Those poor kids.
Star Wars in summary - that should be illegal.
That just breaks a my heart :)