Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Faces, New Friends at NIRMAN.

Hello! Namaste! I am Mary Kate Long, and I think it's about time I introduce myself to the NIRMAN community. As an intern, one of my administrative duties is to keep the blog and Facebook pages updated with upcoming and current events, photos, videos, and entries from people in all kinds of roles at NIRMAN. As an intern, I never seem to be able to find time to accomplish this...

Since New Years is still a ways away, I've made it my Thanksgiving resolution to keep these pages updated so everyone who comes across NIRMAN on the web finds new, interesting, relevant things to read and see during the next few months of my stay here. Things are developing, growing, and changing everyday at the school--some times too fast for us all to keep up! We do our best to keep pace with the curiosity and energy of the students. It's certainly a tough job.

So, with that said, let me introduce myself. I am Mary Kate Long, a 22 year old student and traveler from New Hampshire, on the east coast of the USA. This is my second time in India. Last January, I spent a month studying at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, just outside of Banaras. When I returned to the US after that exchange program, there was one thought on my mind: Get back to Banaras! So, I finished up my last semester at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and graduated in May 2010 with a BA in Religion and Spanish. Having already found NIRMAN and committed my upcoming fall and winter to an internship, I felt free to take the summer “off”, at which point I decided to raise over $4000.00 and ride my bicycle nearly 4000 miles across the USA to raise awareness for affordable housing with a group called Bike & Build. About a month after finishing this journey, I packed my bags and hopped on the plane to India and arrived here at NIRMAN on 1 October. I can hardly believe I’ve already been here for 2 months! Even harder to believe there’s just over 2 months left for me in India (at least until my next return).

Over the past 2 months, I’ve been working hard in my classes—learning just as much as my students, I think. Each day in class, they are teaching me how to be a teacher! I must admit that at first, I was so far our of my comfort zone in the NIRMAN classrooms that it was difficult for me to enjoy the student’s silliness, their energy and individuality. Now however, while there are still discipline problems of course (the bane of the Indian classroom, I believe), I have finally been able to channel some of this energy into the projects we do together, recognizing students’ personalities and trying to make sure they can each achieve success in every project. The classroom is home to my happiest moments and my most defeated. But day by day I learn from mistakes, overcome them, and make it better the next time.

Of course, there are still days when I feel a little beaten… when Class 1 manages to reset my watch with an hourly chime and an alarm for 1:00am, when my lesson plans fall apart because there is another Friday festival or school event I didn’t know about, when the two dogs, Manna and Raffi, make off with my shoes, when the power is out and there’s no water left to take a needed shower. But these are the challenges of living and working in India, challenges I am becoming quite familiar with.

So, with all that said, let me post up some recent and upcoming events along with a few pictures:

October Bhaitak: NIRMAN added another concert to this monthly series featuring young musicians in Banaras.

23-24 November: Classes 7-8 took part in the YOUth LEADing India Congress, an initiative of Sankat Mochan Foundation in Tulsi Ghat and the Australian organization OzGreen. Alongside students from several schools in Banaras, our students participated in workshops on environmental consciousness, cleaning up Banaras (especially river Ganga), and youth leadership. They were even able to link up to similar YOUth LEAD congresses around the world via Skype!

24 November: During their semester of study abroad at NIRMAN, Ben Leventer and Cameron Lang, students from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, organized an after-school basketball program for NIRMAN students. The school hosted a fantastic game to cap off the program. The final score was 22 to 20! Both teams played a great game and showed wonderful sportsmanship. The whole school came out to cheer them on!

We also said farewell on the 24th to all of the six students who were studying abroad here from Kalamazoo College. We had a great evening of performances, music, thank yous, goodbyes, and good food. Good luck to all of them as they head off on more adventures around the world!

1 December: Join us for an afternoon of book browsing at NIRMAN’s public library. This Wednesday, we’ll have tea, snacks, and show a children’s movie starting around 4:30pm. As usual, the library is open Monday through Friday 4:00-6:00pm.

22, 23 December: Musical and theatrical performances in Betawar and Nagwa.

28 December to 2 January: Art Camp at the NIRMAN campus in Betawar

19-29 January: NIRMAN is pleased to announce a ten-day residential, intensive workshop in CORPOREAL MIME by visiting US-based mime artist Thomas Leabhart. More info is on the NIRMAN facebook page.

3, 4 February: Open Houses in Betawar and Nagwa

As always, please find our page on Facebook to see full photo albums, videos, and up-to-date information on events.