Only General Class on the Trains

I’m happy the kids on my block decided that they didn’t want capoeira tonight. I feel like I have so much to say. We’ll see.

This week was super fun. Saturday was the monthly teacher meeting. It was nice because three of the veteran teachers took the meeting and did a really good job. We were in the garden of Pune University, and despite the cold weather at 8am, it was a really great meeting. The University is much bigger than I ever thought, it has a beautiful campus; we sat in the garden. The meeting (for those of you who are interested in what I do) involved different ways to instruct children, different theories including two of my favorites: right is right and no opt out. This involves different techniques to make the kid not say the “kind of” right answer, but the absolute correct answer and getting the kid who might have gotten the answer wrong on the first try to, in the end, be able to say the correct answer. It’s a little more complicated and deeper than that but that’s a little taste. We also discussed sports day – next Sunday where we’ll have almost all of our kids doing different sporty activities. I’m really excited for that! After another small education team meeting, I headed off to Mumbai.
This time I took the legit passage and sat in the general class. I didn’t have a seat for a while. This train was set up differently; I’m not really sure how to describe it except for saying that there was an isle with sets of seats (enough for 3 people) facing each other. Anyway, it became super packed, (see pictures) and I ended up in between the sets of seats facing each other, sitting on my backpack, in between two people’s knees. I was invited to sit there by this older woman with no teeth, who looked like a really awesome lady to start a conversation with. I also realized at this time that my Hindi is much better than my Marathi because when other people spoke slower in Hindi to translate what she said, I could almost understand. I want to blame her lack of teeth and low voice for the fact that I couldn’t understand. She called me her daughter, said she was going to come with me to Mumbai, joked about my inability to speak Marathi and her inability to speak English. She’s the only woman I’ve ever seen here with tobacco (kind of like snuff). The picture of her doesn’t do her justice, but I have a nice video where she’s laughing about our communication skills, but I can’t upload it here. Her husband died a bit ago. She pointed out the monkeys on the side of the tracks as we went by slowly, and spoke about other things that I wish I could have understood. When she left (2 stops before me) she blew kisses at me, and from outside of the train introduced me to her sister who picked her up. She also made me write down her name, which I’m very happy about; Shanta Shelake. I got to Mumbai, went directly to capoeira and spent time with my friends. Mestre Itapoa Bera Mar is here. For all the capoeira readers, he is Nestor Capoeira’s son. He does Angola (a different style) of capoeira. His game is amazing. The class was doing tai chi capoeira, very different, very interesting.
A big reason I went to Mumbai was to see the kids at Dharavi. Again, it was worth the trip. When we arrived they ran along side the car, greeted us with handshakes, capoeira style, and grabbed my jacket, bag and sweater. One boy who I see weekly, his name I later learned is Raju, walked around proudly with my jacket on saying that Ana Didi gave it to him. The kids, even more than last week, were very excited to show me things, to play with me when it came to capoeira (this is a new update); I feel like I’m building a nice relationship with them. It’s very special. (It’s a term I think my mom would use, but I can’t think of anything more appropriate or better than the word special in it’s purest form). After we went to the south Indian restaurant again to eat different subjis and sabars with pohe off of a banana leaf. The food is amazing.
I think I might be one of the biggest fans of facebook right now. Noemi wrote on her wall that she booked her tickets to India. Our friend, Martina, (a friend who I met through her) asked why she was going to India because she herself was in India. I was able to meet Martina on Sunday morning and afternoon. My friend Makako came with us. We had a lovely discussion about politics, India, development, disenchantments of the development field, living different places, etc. It made me miss my friends and appreciate being able to talk to someone who knows you, where you come from. It’s not so much that I can’t talk to people here, it’s just that I don’t know folks that well yet and I think that as much as I don’t want to admit it, there are some cultural differences that exist which make some conversations a little, for lack of a better term, difficult to talk about. We got to hang out for most of the afternoon; she even came with us to the street roda and we took the train back to the station where I would depart for Pune and she for her hostel. It was just really, really nice and it got me even more excited for Deena and then Erin and Noemi’s visits.
I have the biggest worry tendencies. I also really need to figure out how to get on the other train to Pune from Mumbai. After asking approximately 4-8 people about which train and track I needed to get on, I finally got on the Mahalaxmi Express (different trains have different names, the other one that I can never find is the Chennai Express) in the women’s car. This was a tiny, tiny car, with bunks like the first trains that I took. It wasn’t so croweded when I got on, but at the next stop it filled up so much that kids ended up on other’s laps, and women stood folded over each other. I was happy that I got a seat on the upper berth. I held a kid for a little bit, tried to sleep, and met some lovely ladies. I can’t remember her name at all, but there was a mother, daughter, and grandmother who all spoke with me. Her name begins with an R. She likes to dance, she gave me a bindi, smiled at me when some of the women started yelling at each other. She spoke a little English, and my limited Hindi; we had a lovely conversation.
I got back to the cold of Pune and back to my house. It’s nice being here, but after meeting the girls who live it the rented out rooms of my landlady’s house (there’s 5 of them) I feel a little like I need to find a way to live with other people. My friend Urvashi said that I should just move to Mumbai. If I could take my job and the people from my job with me I would. I really love everyone I work with; we make a good team, everyone’s super nice, and everyone works really hard for the kids.
The last and very exciting piece of news is that there is an article about me in a Maharashtran newspaper. My friend Nupur’s dad writes for a few newspapers and apparently decided to write an article about me. Nupur informed me tonight. It’s in Marathi, and he didn’t remember the paper name or what exactly he said about me when he called, but, he will call me later and let me know. As soon as I get someone to translate it for me, I’ll write about it here as well. I’m very intrigued to hear what he wrote, maybe even a little nervous.

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