We made our way through the snow covered mountains to Chushul, and reached a government guesthouse which was our home for the rest of the trip. However, since it wasn’t a home stay, we had to do the cooking, washing and cleaning on our own. While Palmo and Rigzin did the cooking, I ended up soaking my pants in freezing water while doing the washing in the stream, and well, let’s just say I wasn’t much of a help at all.
We split into separate groups to cover the two schools in the area. Massi1, Galdan and I went to Middle School, Tialing. This school was a very small school with only twenty one students. The Principal asked us to teach the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, with a combined strength of only nine children, eight girls and one boy.
Even when we first reached the school, and I tried to chat with the children before the staff arrived and the morning assembly began, I was surprised to find that the children here were much shyer than those at the other two schools where I had taught. In spite of being given chocolates, they were hesitant to answer even the most basic questions such as what their names were. I was determined to draw them out of their shells.
We began our classes with the children and without losing a moment, I went down on my hands and knees with them, enthusiastically explaining the solar system and gently prompting them to answer simple questions.
A helping hand here and there, and we had got them to write out sentences on each planet, which went on to grow into a Knowledge Tree.
I wasn’t able to break the ice completely on my own, and found help from an unexpected source. A girl in our class was the daughter of a teacher, and was babysitting her little sister, who I had given paper and crayons to keep her occupied.
In the middle of her colouring activity, she fell asleep, and small snores escaped her lips, throwing the entire classroom into a fit of laughter – that is when our friendship really began.
We then made our very own Solar System jigsaw puzzle, which I’ll admit was quite a task to cut out. Seeing the children crowd around the pieces, before putting them back together with uninhibited glee, was so touching. After completing the Solar System module, we read a story about the ‘Lion’s Howdah’, and had the children first read out sentences one by one, and then create their own story through a ‘Spin a Yarn’ activity.
Giggles now flooded the room which was already cramped for space. The younger children, who’s classroom was in the corridor, were constantly peeping in and opening the door ever so slightly just to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside.
One look outside the tinted classroom windows would reveal pink faces peering in, their hands shielding their eyes from the light, with only the cold barren land of Chushul, bounded by looming mountains, visible beyond them.
- Massi – Aunt in Hindi.