One week of teaching later… And here I’m sitting. It’s a Saturday night again, I’m in a different room again, in a different part of Kerala again, surrounded by different people again, in a different situation, again, starting a different chapter again.
It’s only 6 days since I arrived and it feels like a lifetime. I’m in a tiny little place called Sashtavattom, 30 km north of Keralas’ capital Trivandrum. What can I say so far? If I were to spill all, it would be way too much. So I won’t. I’ll keep it ‘brief’ (sometimes I’m not too sure if I actually know what the meaning of the word ‘brief’ is, when it comes to tapping away on these keys, but that’s beside the point).
Monday morning I was picked up by my ‘saving grace’; Mr Suresh Sir, the manager of the schools of the Art of Living Association in Kerala. He was the one I contacted when I was in China and looking for something to ‘run’ to. When I was still in Jinzhou he offered me several positions in the different schools located around this state. Last year I’d already worked for the school in Kayankulam, teaching ‘Spoken English’. This is term, by the way, a common in India, and it’s used to differentiate between ‘normal’ English lessons and English lessons that are solely focused on speaking. The teaching I started on Monday would also require me to only be giving ‘Spoken English’.
So, what I’d be wishing to happen and been wishing to pursue, when I was China, suddenly became real from Monday onwards. I was picked up by the manager, from Allepey and we headed to the school where I’d be placed for the next 2 months. Meeting him again, was like seeing an old friend. I feel to know this person so well, and for so long. But in reality, I’ve only ever seen him twice. The 3 hour drive to Sasthavattom was strange; sitting in the car with this kind man again, 15 months after I first met him and I realized I was coming ‘full circle’… or maybe I could describe it as to feel as though he’d been ‘following’ me ever since I left India last Summer. First to Ireland (by calling me on several occasions, asking for me to come back to India to teach) and then to China (by me contacting him to see if he still needed/wanted me to teach). And finally it was happening; I was starting again to teach ‘Spoken English’ in an environment that’s warm, open, accepting, homing and more welcoming than any other school environment I’ve been in before.
When I arrived, within 10 minutes, there was a small ceremony being performed to give me a blessing, also called a pooja. As this is a Hindu school, by tradition, they take to practicing certain rituals, by singing and giving offerings of fruits and flowers to the guru, on special occasions. It can be for anniversaries or festivals. However this particular occasion was to bless me during my time at the school. It was so sweet. I couldn’t believe that it was only for me. The kids were giving me giving me flowers and at one stage they were even kissing my feet. Well… this has never happened to me before in all my life. I felt it was way too much. I was almost tempted to tell them to stand up and never ever feel that I was ‘so much more than they were’ just because I’m a teacher, just because I’m not from India. Man oh man… but I couldn’t say that of course, so I instead felt amazed at where I’d landed myself and overwhelmed by the whole thing.
The school itself is quite tiny, with only 240 students. It’s located in the most peaceful area, so rural, so open, so much space. It’s gorgeous. As I mentioned, it’s a school of the Art of Living Association, which means its one of the 14 schools in Kerala that’s been set-up by the Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has his main ashram in Bangalore, but at the same time has many other ashrams and centres throughout the world, where yoga and meditation are being taught.
Because of this, these schools are really quite different. Even though it wasn’t my first time to be at one of these schools, I’d forgotten just how positive the affect of their practises is on the kids and the whole environment. Every morning they (or should I say ‘we’, because I’m apart of the school now too…!!!) do yoga and meditation. The whole school together, at the same time! There’s chanting and singing and the kids are so free, so open and allowed to totally be THEMSELVES, instead of the school trying to control, drill and mould them into being and behaving only in a certain way (which is something that happens in many schools, especially in India: kids aren’t always seen and respected for their individuality). Here the kids are free and accepted and at the same time they have enormous respect for their teachers (hence kissing the feet…). This doesn’t mean to say they’re NOT rowdy or disruptive and full of energy… they’re kids after all, and it’s how they’re meant to be… Actually, the yoga only increases their level of energy, making life on the teacher a little tougher, as the kids are more difficult to control. But because the schools beliefs are focused on their freedom and on the acceptance of others AS THEY ARE, there’s never is a great deal of punishment from the teachers side… The teacher simply has to practise the art of patience. A challenge at the best of times…