Looks like I finally managed to post some pictures. Sorry it took so long but I can only experiment with the process when the internet is available and often we’re busy with other research or emails at that time. Head to http://picasaweb.google.com/108782933834954699673/BretinindiaPhotos# for a small sampling of what I've been up to. They take a lot of internet time to upload and my access isn't as frequent as I'd like to post more. Hope you enjoy.
Tuesday we worked out of the office and had a meeting with ODAM staff mid-morning. Once again I learned valuable information which helped guide the project. All of the twists and turns have been somewhat disconcerting but I decided to liken it to my thesis where I had a wide subject area and had to keep narrowing the focus of the research to something which could be accomplished. Hopefully we’ve finetuned this pretty well now, though I cannot imagine we can be fully aware yet of what we will really accomplish until we leave. The most interesting shift was that the ODAM vision for this project is to provide full-time work for women outside the home – creating small work sites in Tiruchuli to begin with and hopefully growing them into what I envision as small factories. I thought we were working toward something more like cottage industries where women with family responsibilities could still earn some income – but was told that is not practical in India. Somewhere in my gut I fear that I’m creating sweat shops – but it is employment for women who otherwise would have none. Dilemma, dilemma. Apparently there is a program which has been operating for about thirty years somewhere in the area which has women producing soft goods and this is more ODAM’s dream. At first I was rather wishing I’d had this information from the beginning, but have been told I was lucky to hear it in my first week (Christa has been here two months and was unaware that was how they hoped to build our project). We meet with the shopkeeper in Madurai tomorrow morning (hopefully) to get her full input, which I think will be the real catalyst to how we proceed. That has meant that I feel somewhat directionless on the project until then. Christa wanted to continue creating prototypes of some items for the shopkeepers further review – and lacking any better suggestions, that is what we’ve been doing. Sitting around sewing usually keeps me pretty satisfied. Yesterday, however, I started feeling a bit pointless here and experienced my first bout of “what-the-heck-do-I-think-I-can-do-here-anyway” syndrome. I’m told it happens often so guess I need to learn to cope with it – but the shaking of my sense of purpose is disconcerting for me. Guess that’s why I never pulled together a blog – though being pretty tired and having an exceedingly long power outage didn’t help either. Thank goodness the sewing machines are treadles or we’d never accomplish anything.
The other cool thing I did on Tuesday afternoon was go for the first time to teach my English class at the KGBV girl’s school. After the two previous visits with large groups of the unruly younger girls, I wasn’t sure what I was in for – and Sophia told me that the 8th level standard girls weren’t much better. However, the teachers had somehow determined which girls would be involved in my class and told me only ten were selected. I could never get from them whether these were the better English students or the remedial ones ;-) I ended up with only nine in the group and it was quite pleasant. They were very well behaved, seemed reasonably interested, generally responded well (a couple pulled the “too shy Indian girl” routine), and I enjoyed myself. Basically I started out to assess their present knowledge. It was minimal in the way of comprehension – more strong on rote learning (like days of the week and month names they could recite). I decided that I’m not really there to supplement their class learning (which seems meaningless – what they have to prepare for exams is pointless and something even English speakers wouldn’t understand how to answer). I think the most likely use of English by these girls is if they marry into a larger area where they work with foreigners (say in a shop, though even that’s a high aim) or to speak with the occasional English speaker who passes through (rather like me). Therefore I am going to concentrate on simple conversational responses and see how it goes – basically things I wish I could say in Tamil or things I would ask that I wish someone could answer ;-) At lest the girls seemed willing to attend – since it’s at the end of their school day and I know they must be tired and it ought to be their free time, this is a lot to ask. With that in mind, and my own schedule on the project, I have told them I will come on Tuesdays and Thursdays – twice a week seeming a reasonable commitment for them and for me.
I as pretty tired returning after the hectic afternoon getting to the school (on the bus) and returning (Jayaraj happened to be at the hostel with a car so we rode back with him – probably took longer than the bus as he had many stops to make). I was trying to figure out how to convince the others that it might be a good night for a drink on the porch when Kate politely asked at dinner if it would be possible to use my deck for socializing – how perfect is that? I actually had a bit of alcohol in this drink but even just the cold citrus was refreshing. The moon was one day from full and absolutely beautiful over the village. It was an incredibly pleasant evening with the four other volunteers – Paul fits in very nicely.
I guess that’s about all for now – have to prepare to head for breakfast and the office. Hopefully I’ll continue to post more pictures today so by the time you see it, there will be more available. Not sure if I’ll continue with different albums or what (I appear particularly photo challenged) but think posting on Picasa is easier than on my blog at this point.