So.... nearly two weeks in and I've finally managed to a) set up a blog, b) work up the motivation to write it and c) do so at a time the internet is up and running.
But to start from the beginning- for those of you who don't know- I decided to volunteer in India this summer for 4 weeks teaching English. The organisation me and my sister went through gave two options for where we could be placed- Delhi and Dharamsala- and as neither of us was overly keen on boiling in Delhi in August we decided for Dharamsala. The organisation did say from the outset that it couldn't provide us with specifics regarding our exact placement and tasks but it was strongly implied that we would be teaching Indian children from less privileged backgrounds. So although we knew that Dharamsala is the home of the Dalai Lama in exile you can imagine we were a little surprised that when we got out of the taxi (after over 50h of travelling) we were greeted by three Tibetan guys. They led us over the road and into a building where they told us the "daughter in law" would show us to our room in a moment. Only after we'd settled in there and had started chatting to Megan and Amalie, the two other volunteers living in the room next door, we realised we were staying in a Buddhist monastery, run and inhabited by Tibetans in exile. Also, although the monks in our monastery are mostly children from 4 to maybe 15 years old, our students are grown-ups, aged anywhere between 20 and 60.
All this might sound a little negative- but actually the whole thing is absolutely AMAZING!!!! The students are incredibly motivated ('teacher,teacher!') and friendly so that although the facilities are far from what we are used to (one room with barely enough chairs for everyone, no tables, and the white-board came crashing down during one lesson last week) teaching is extremely fun and rewarding. It also turns out that teaching is one of the best ways of getting to know most of the population of Dharamsala. After a couple of days we couldn't make it five minutes up the road without bumping into some of our students- in most cases enthusiastically waving out of some shop (and calling: "teacher, teacher!". Yesterday I even met two of them in a cafe I had sat down in to do some reading for my dissertation (haha- I've reached p.3 of the one book I brought so far...). They insisted on buying me tea and cake and invited me back to Myanmar where they originally are from. (These particular two aren't Tibetan but are staying in India at the moment to study Buddhist philosophy- maybe to become monks). Just unfortunately most of our students still have so limited English that it is very hard to find out more about them. It also doesn't make the teaching any easier not having any common language one can fall back to to explain grammar or more abstract terms. As it is we're doing our best explaining as simply as possible and gesticulating A LOT...
More soon... (oh- btw: I'm using an Indian mobile here (+919736540711) which I don't think it is horrifically expensive to call from skype\ with cheap pre-dials)