BB2: Tuneless Von Trapps

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

I must have seen about twenty-five peacocks and pea-hens on the road today. They say that keeping peacock feathers in the house is unlucky (or is it just unhygienic?) but I have to say I felt quite lucky to see so many scuttling across the road as we zoomed past. I had a lot to be nervous about. Mr Farhan, principal of Kakkaiyankulam MMV, wasn’t answering my calls, and I didn’t want Thavaneswari-equivalents frantically calling to see if I had abducted their children (I’m learning that no matter how many times I give a message, or explain what my objectives are for the next workshop, something always gets lost in the relaying). After calling him perhaps seven times, I decided that if no adult appeared, I would ask one of the Kakkaiyankulam kids to ask one of the teachers to come to the school, and I would give them a name list of all the kids I would be taking. Kamal arrived at 7.30am, as requested, but as we rattled along to Kakkaiyankulam, I felt I should have asked everyone to be ready half an hour earlier than I did – the minutes really do add up, and I felt we were behind schedule! I also took several bottles of water and some buns in case some of the children felt ill again.

We got to Kakkaiyankulam without incident, only stopping to drop some army guy from point A to B. Fortunately, yesterday’s teacher was there, and I gave him a list of all the kids coming with me (twenty in all). As soon as we set off, the children broke into song, childishly high-pitched and somewhat tunelessly; I felt vaguely like Maria escorting an extra-large and unmusical Von Trapp family through the jungles instead of to the hills.

Only Nusra felt unwell during the ride, but I’ll definitely bring lime quarters or lemon juice next trip! It was also a much less painful drive – two hours per way is much more bearable than three hours per journey. I wanted to do the workshops so that there would be an equal number of sessions in each village, but I think there are going to be significantly fewer in Kakkaiyankulam. I was just so exhausted yesterday that it doesn’t really seem worth it. I may do three or four altogether, which leaves six or seven for Chiraddikulam, although actually the community centre at Chiraddikulam is way too small and the ‘Chiraddikulam’ workshops are actually held at the nearest big school in Nattankandal, 7km away from the Ch’kulam community centre.

A call to Major Edirisinghe as we drew nearer verified that the army is now used to my workshops and that they can be depended on to get the kids together, and there were even two or three officers at the Nattankandal school when we arrived. The school was actually open, too! I wsa terrified that they would forget and that I’d be waiting for half an hour before they either found someone to open the school or told me it couldn’t be done. But things have an incredible way of coming together on these workshops, and everything was fine.

I got the Kakkaiyankulam kids to play the ball relay while we waited for the Chiraddikulam-ers, and it was clear that after several sessions, they are still easily confused by clockwise and anti-clockwise, and also have no qualms about cheating a little to get ahead. They were also clearly in too much of a rambunctious mood to really get into the game, but fortunately the Chiraddikulam kids arrived before I mock-threatened to wallop all of them.

After dividing them into Red and Blue teams again (and discovering that some either couldn’t remember their teams or wanted to be on a different team) I started off the session with a quick game of Dog and the Bone, before retiring inside for the rest of the session. Today’s session was a little adlibbed, moving away from my scripted activities for them, but I think it was successful. We played the Walk-Stop game (much more successful this time, even amongst the Chiraddikulam kids), giving them the opportunity to remember how to switch commands in their heads before doing one eliminatory round (the kids stayed in the game longer than expected!).

We also played some familiar old games: the Mirror Game, and Colombian Hypnosis, for which everyone had a partner from the other village, if that were possible. They stuck with their partners for both games, because no matter how many times we play games with partners, they take an incredibly long time to spread themselves out in the space, and to figure out that they need to face their partners! All the games were interspersed with water-breaks (there’s an artesian well/water pump at the school – good to know!), and also the long Milo+biscuits break. All the kids also now know how to take one biscuit and pass the packet down now, and I think that even if they take nothing else away from these workshops, at least I have bequeathed them with an effective snack-passing technique.

All these games took a shorter block of time than I’d budgeted – they are really rather quick games, and often half the ‘game’ time is actually explanation time. So while I didn’t think there would be enough time to play charades (next week), I asked them to keep their partners and I introduced them to a new activity, Sculptor + Clay. One person is the sculptor and moulds/melds the other person (aka the clay) into any shape they want. The boys were incredible at this game, clearly having a ton of fun making their partner assume a wide assortment of stances and poses. The girls were much more conservative, despite my exhortations to try to create new and amorphous forms – they stuck to ‘creating’ classical dance poses. I especially enjoyed the Aasir-Ijas partnership, which produced a delightful medley of shapes (they didn’t stop with one and look around or wander off). Next 9and this is where I moved away from my prepared activity-script) I made them get into groups of four (two groups of two) and do the same thing, with one ‘leader’ and three ‘pieces of clay’. This was also quite successful, although the boys were still the clear winners at creating wonderful shapes. Then we repeated with eight to a group, which started getting loud and chaotic, with the ‘clay’ trying to do their own thing, and with shapes tending to look like real things, like the elephants and aeroplane and trees of the day before. Manipulating seven people was too much to handle; I think three or four is the optimum, but I still thought it was an incredibly successful (and fun) exercise.

The children are not particularly good observers – they need to be constantly engaged. If it weren’t for this unfortunate fact, I would have maybe played Tracy’s game where three people make a shape, one gets called out, another one is asked to join, and as people join or depart, the shape mutates. I may play this in the next iteration of the workshops with the older kids if they are more disciplined, though.  I will definitely play charades next week, though, with maybe three kids doing a charade at once (waiting for all 30+ kids to have a turn will be asking too much of these children’s limited patience…they can’t even sit still for five minutes!). I may also ask them to make tableaux of an event, or test their verbal improvisational skills to create quick scenes (even though I may lose some of the gist of the scenes).

The children of Chiraddikulam were then bundled into the van and sent back home while the Kakkaiyankulam children retrieved a bag of unripe wood-apples they had brought with them, and starting eating them as they tried (and failed) to stay put until the van got back. Eventually Kamal returned, and we managed to get the Kakkainkulam-ites back home in 45 minutes!

I got back to the hotel earlier than expected (always nice) and performed my usual shower and lunch ritual. Mr Kamal (hotel manager, not driver) was not available, and he seemed to have charged my Rs. 4,000 more than I’d agreed to pay for the van. I refused to pay (the prices get higher every week) and said I would pay only Rs. 1,000 more than I’d agreed to pay, and I will demand it back next week. I’m also going to demand to pay per km, as opposed to this ridiculous inflating flat rate, or I will threaten to get my vans from elsewhere (I really don’t know from where, though!!) I’m fairly sure that Thai Hotel hasn’t got the monopoly on vans, though, not with Nelly Star and Thampa around, so I’m fairly confident my threats won’t be empty ones. However, I really don’t want to book my own vans, so I’m hoping Mr Kamal will back down (or I may play dirty and whinge to Mr Kanapathy to ask for advice.)

Yesterday’s attempt to write 12-page paper was a bit of a fail (I watched an episode of Psych instead) so I will attempt again after a short commercial break.

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