Exam week is upon us. Normal lessons have been replaced with mocks in all subjects for grades 6 and above.
The American volunteers refer to the exam invigilator as the proctor. Somehow proctor better conveys the experience of sitting in a room full of scribbling children for 3 hours. The conversation is limited. More paper please. Can I go to the toilet please? Knowing that all of the those scribbling pens are churning out marking makes it worse. Mile upon mile of wiggly blue lines to be deciphered, corrected and scored.
The kids here all have 'autograph books' which departing volunteers leave notes in. As with everything else, the kids are very competitive with their books, so a quick 'work hard, be good' doesn't cut it. It has to be original and witty. So many children, so many books.
I caught the kids arguing over which magazine cut-out Blackberry had better features. This on has a bigger screen, better for games! Mine has 5 meg camera!
I gave the boys in question a good talking to, pointing out that it was ridiculous and childish to argue over which was better. Everyone knows that the cut-out iPhone beats beats the Blackberry hands down.
I think that these two are on the phone to each other.
Speaking of technology, a friend posted a lovely surprise to the school, a tiny Polaroid printer which prints directly from my digital camera. The kids are love it. I've taken portraits of a number of the younger grades so that they can take them home to show their families. Cheers Ludwig. As you can see, photographing the kids here is easy work; they're a photogenic bunch.
Despite growing up in the smelliest country on earth, the kids have very sensitive noses, sensitive enough to distinguish between volunteers as it turns out. They can identify us by our smell before they can see us. Each of us has a unique pong. Our smells include: like a salty biscuit (no bad), cheesy (not good), like a goat (ouch). I'm delighted with my signature odour - soapy. Or was that soupy?
A surprise screening of the latest Harry Potter movie is planned for Sunday night. The kids are going to go bananas. They shake their heads in disgust when they learn that I haven't read the books, especially as I dressed-up as Harry for Halloween.
When I first arrived I was a bit mystified by the children's requests for me to speak to them - 'just say anything Mr Peter'. Then I twigged. To their ears I sound just like Harry.
Last weekend I escaped to Hampi with my compadre Min-ho. We took the Hampi Express sleeper service from Bangalore. As it was dark during both our outward and return journeys, we didn't see a great deal. I do remember waking as we passed an enormous power station. Alongside was the longest train I've ever seen. In keeping with Indian bureaucracy every wagon was plastered with labels identifying the contents as 'Imported Australian Coking Coal'. Aussie dinosaurs are being dug up, shipped half way around the world and burnt to power India tv's and air conditioners.
Hampi, in the state of Karnataka, was once Vijayanagar, a great 15th century city. At its height the city's 500,000 inhabitants traded gems and spices with merchants from far off lands. The city's enormous wealth was used to build a complex of temples and palaces which cover an enormous area. Deccan sultans sacked the city in 1565, but most of the monuments remain very good condition. If you plan to build a monument to your greatness, I recommend using granite. The landscape is dramatic. Enormous granite boulders are scattered across broad domes of smooth rock. Paddy field and banana plantation bring a bit of green to the red and orange of the granite. We hired a couple of old school Indian bikes; they look great, but as they're built to a 1930's design they're not the best rides. No gears, no brakes, damned heavy.
The experts don't seem to mind.
Mmm...nice hot pouris, "cheap and best!"
We stayed outside the main town in the village of Kamalapuram, a short boatride across the Tungabhandra River. The village is a major stop on the India backpacking circuit. Hundreds of Israeli kids spend their days here, chilling out and playing guitars in cool cafés. Nice.
After a very relaxing weekend we had to haul ourselves back onto the train. Time is running short. Sadly, just a week from now, I'll be leaving the school for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I'm trying not to think about it too much. What will I do without my little friends?