(written June 4) and FINALLY PICTURES!!!! at the bottom of this post
My clothes smell like curry (I’m still trying to perfect the art of washing my clothes in a plastic bucket with a bar of soap and drying them over my bed) and I’m sweating like a pig every day, but apparently I’m not repulsive enough yet to ward off the local insects (or the local village girls, for that matter). Last night, while I was on the phone with Leo and Andrew (the two boxers in Mariamnagor, Bangladesh), an enormous bug found its way into my shirt. It must have been hanging on the inside of my shirt (the new Bengali, hand-stitched shirt I bought for the equivalent of eight dollars) because I could only feel it when it jumped inside my shirt. After six or eight jumps (if you count both mine and the bug’s) I was able to locate it, put the phone down, trap it, and extract it.
When I put the bug on the ground I was amazed by its size, so I took a picture. Father Dominic came out of his office and slapped a sandal on it alarmingly quickly, but even this was not as alarming as the words that came out of his mouth as he looked down at it over his spectacles. “Wow! This is a special bug. This is a very tasty bug. This bug will go for two takha (the Bangla currency; 72 takha=1 dollar) in the market.” Needless to say I was stirred to a spirited, exclamatory response, which is not uncommon during a day in the life of a boxer in Bangladesh.
This journey has been more difficult since we got to Srimangal. After a beautiful night at Longlia Punji and an afternoon at Korma Punji, two Khasi mountain villages where we were wined, dined, serenaded, and adored, we came back to the Srimangal parish center and began teaching a four-day intensive English course to the catechist masters and school teachers of the entire district. We have had class every day for 6 hours between 9:00am and 6:30pm, excluding English movie hour every night at 9:00pm.
Tomorrow (Sunday) will finally be the last day of the course. It has been fun and even rewarding, but quite exhausting as well. I ended class 25 minutes early this afternoon and am skipping afternoon tea to write this. Teaching English as a second or, for most of these people, third language, when you do not their first, is a valuable experience. It reminds one how casual and sloppy we are with our words. I have had to be very concise, simple, and crisp in my speech and writing. It’s odd that even outside of class when I’m talking to Kevin (co-president of Bengal Bouts next year) or the priests (who are pretty proficient at English) I find myself using short, easy sentences, pronounced clearly. Even writing this I can feel myself wanting to be choppy with my words and sentences, as if I were writing so that a Bengali person could understand.
We learned two English nursery rhymes in each class today. It’s entertaining and very rewarding to see a group of 20-25 adults learn two songs in an hour and then perform them for the other 20-25 teachers in the adjacent room. Fortunately I videotaped this so it will be part of the endless list of great videos and pictures that I will post eventually. One group decided that dogs make the sound “boo boo” in Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
Life here has been reasonable on stress and emotion, but still a roller coaster. I notice the following in normal life (back in the states) too, but it is highlighted here because every experience is a novelty: there is a direct correspondence between the success of a teaching endeavor and my mood. I have also noticed a decline in my mood as each class falls further into the past and the next one appears on the horizon. The pressure to be frequently and consistently creative is daunting. I thoroughly enjoy it and am fully satisfied when the plan works out, but it is something I am not used to.
P.S. Since I am actually posting this to the blog a day later, the teaching clinic/course just ended- we will have a closing ceremony in a little while (they seem to have ceremonies and speeches for everything- and people always “request the Americans to share with us their feelings” even though most won’t understand a word we say) and the normal hostel students will come back tonight from a one-week vacation (we have only met one boy so far). Oh and finally these are some pictures!
Longli Punji; the ride to this village was off-roading like I have never experienced
Singing "Aint No Mountain High Enough" with hand motions (Longlia Punji)
Singing "Bengal Bouts Shuffle" without Andrew and Leo; this guy just felt inspired. I love Punjis!