K4: arts and crafts

If you would like to view just the workshop report, click here.

I awoke at 6.30am to the sound of rapping at my door, but pretended I was too soundly asleep to hear it. When it sounded again, a little more insistently, at 6.45, I groaned internally and opened my door to  a cup of incredibly milky tea. I keep forgetting that Vavuniya is not a town for tourists, and those who stay in hotels are there for work purposes only. I’m curious to see how this rather prosaic town develops as access to the north increases.

Tea, if warm, has the remarkable ability to wake one up (even if its invigorating properties are attenuated by large amounts of milk). Having disposed of the tea, I pottered around a bit online (facebook, skype, the usual!) and had breakfast. I’d asked for tea buns, and the bakery that supplies Thai Hotel engages in the curious practice of daubing each item with a bit of lurid pink jam (strawberry-flavoured melon jam, I’m guessing?). The buns themselves were good, and I surreptitiously wiped off the jam.

After breakfast I settled down to blog, and I’m always surprised at how long each post takes. I think I’m not going to caption each and every photo next time, especially since I really don’t pick and choose which ones I insert into the post. By the time I was done it was almost eleven, and I felt the need for a small nap. After lunch, and fixing up all the loose ends in the day’s massive crafts project (the activity being to cut out a stencilled-in head, shirt/shalwar and pants, and glue on bits of lace as decoration), I took another nap, and fortuitously woke up at exactly the time I needed to leave. I then discovered that my precious Just Juice had been put in the ice cream freezer, and while some were still in a liquid state, there were a few that had gone completely hard. I chuckled to myself, thinking that this would probably be the only day I really hoped the juice would warm up by break. And it would be nice and cold.

The more I come to Kakkaiyankulam, with my Magic Orange Suitcase of balls and balloons, stickers and snacks, crafts and crayons, the more I feel like Mary Poppins. Not Julie Andrews’ sweet-faced and silver-tongued songbird, though. More like P. L. Travers original sharp-eyed, acid-tongued dragonlady. I really am rather school-teacherish with them, but I also think it would be hard to be anything else given that there are 25 of them! I confess that I also just don’t know how to be a Julie Andrews. I began the workshop with the usual name toss game, and the keep-the-ball-in-the-air game until all the children were present. I had an additional little boy today, a little boy named Sahir Khan (I don’t know if that’s his name, or whether it’s really first name: Sahir, last name: Khan). His legs weren’t very strong, and I was afraid he might fall over, but he clearly wanted to be outside with the others, so why should I say no? Also, some of the other boys seemed to be keeping an eye on him, so that was all right. But I really do need to keep budgeting for 30 kids (especially since a few younger ones sometimes wander in ten minutes before break!).

Moving indoors to start working on Epic Craft Activity, I noticed that a lot of the older children were hanging around the class – this is the first time I had proper spectators, and as I launched into the crafts, the spectators accumulated. I didn’t want to rudely disperse them, so I just smiled at them and then launched into the programme. I tried to be really organised, and I’m trying to teach the children to do the same. (It’s crazy how hard it is to teach them at break-time to take one biscuit and pass the packet down – they either think they’re required to serve the others or give the packet back to me.) So after distributing files by gender, I took scissors and told them to pass them down the lines, instead of everyone crowding around my table. After the cutting was over, I passed down the glue, and after that the Chemifix. And so on and so forth. It takes a little time, and they do tend to keep running to my table, but I think they’ll get the hang of it really soon. I really do like Systems. I’m also not a fan of crowds of clamouring children.

Any former Guides reading this post will be pleased to know I also taught them the Guide method to shutting up (you know, raising your hands when you see Cappy raise hers) and while they first looked at me blankly when I raised my hand, they – sort of – got the hang of it. The ones who see my signal still yell at those still talking, while raising their hands, (which slightly defeats the purpose) but as lines of communication become clearer, they will realise it’s much more embarrassing for the unobservant talkers to simply stare pointedly at them. Or perhaps it may not occur to them. They pipe down much faster now, though. One interesting thing that happened was that once the Spectators realised I really was serious about being quiet (i:e: that the programme might be fun, but that it was in essence a class), they quietly and respectfully got up and left. Which I think is a good thing. While I don’t mind people looking on, I had about 25 people just Looking and murmuring amongst themselves, and at some moments I really did feel like I was conducting a cooking show (except arts and crafts). I had to fight the urge to say, “If Yan can cook, you can too!” because naturally no one would have understood it.

Given the complexity of the project (clothes to be cut at funny angles, using different kinds of glue, generally adhering to my exacting standards) the kids did pretty well, and you can see pictures of them holding up their files midway through the project (I’ll add photos of the completed project shortly). They also all remembered to bring yesterday’s craft project to class, and the fact that they can be counted on to Bring Things Back is exceedingly useful. I meant to set them some writing exercises in my absence over the next three weeks, but I completely forgot. I think I’ll pass on the message through Mr Farhan.

We broke for biscuits and (extremely and wonderfully cold) juice, whereupon I came upon an interesting problem. Three or four of the girls have been taking their juice home to be consumed by younger siblings. I really don’t know if I should discourage this or not. On the one hand, the juice is bought for them and while I would like to buy more juice for all the young residents of Kakkaiyankulam I can’t, but on the other hand this generosity/scrupulousness is cultural, and I think it’s nice of them to save some of what they get for their younger sisters and brothers. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just called the two girls I caught, and told them nicely that while I didn’t mind them taking the juice home, it’s theirs to drink, and in future I’ll just turn a blind eye. However, given the amount of rubbish we accumulate with 25 tetra packs of juice a week, though, I’m thinking of switching to buying big bottles and using disposable cups that instead of throwing away I will wash each week, which will also make it impossible to take juice home.

I make new mistakes in each workshop, and this week’s mistake was to introduce the walk-stop game (that requires them to listen hard to what I’m saying) right at the end of the three-hour session. The boys started jostling and pushing, and I had to be sharp with them. I can’t measure the success of the game this week (generally a bit of a fail) because I think the kids were just tired, but I’ll see how well it works next session. In future, I will end with writing exercises/crafts activities as usual, and let them expend their unending energies on the game-playing right at the beginning.

Thai Hotel’s cook had gone for a wedding, so I bought dinner from Royal Garden (formerly a film house, now a wedding reception hall in the front and a restaurant at the back) before once more attempting unsuccessfully to watch Sherlock, and retiring to bed.

I’m blogging now in the ExpoRail carriage, and I have a few comments for those wishing to travel. They play films really loud, the air-conditioner drips over the television and I’m really afraid it’s going to short, and an egg bun is apparently a non-vegetarian meal. On the other hand, the wi-fi isn’t dreadful, and they provide multi-plugs. Which is how this post was written.

P.S. I’ve been watching Dialog TV at Thai Hotel (all Tamil films with lots of extremely red blood and badly-choreographed violence, you know the kind). I wondered if I should be so quick to dismiss this particular brand of cinematography as “bad”, but I know nothing about film. Also, I’ve been doing this for a month, and IPL is still airing on tv. Lastly, I discovered there is a kind of biscuit called Milky Bikis, and that Horlicks produces a kind of noodles called Foodles. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to say “Worst!” and “Best!” at the same time.

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