Friday, April 22, 2011

student exhibitions and goodbyes

the last few days were incredibly rushed and frantic.  nevertheless, it certainly paid off and i was so proud of my students.  the photography class had a rough start.  i had brought six plastic cameras with me and a bunch of black+white and color film.  the students didn't start shooting with  the cameras until almost a month into the class since a thorough introduction was needed. we looked at a variety of photographs, learned how to tell stories with images and focused on their writing in preparation for shooting. i started them off with the black+white.. only after i waited (and lost) a week did the lab inform me that they only develop color.  this really set the project back and we lost precious time when they could have been shooting more film.  setbacks aside, the class produced some amazing photographs and each photograph was accompanied by short essays or poems.

my 5th grade photographers not only exhibited their work, but were interviewed by me individually.  i asked them a few questions, all pertaining to their experience throughout the project.  what was their favorite part? why? what did they learn? and why is it important to them? what did the project make them question?
the photos were exhibited in basic wooden frames without glass (made by the school carpenter) in the entrance hall of the school, and hung along some rope.  the students chose up to four photographs to exhibit.  the writings were displayed on the back of the frames, allowing the viewer to interact with each piece and move around them.

i worked the most with the 5th grade. as part of my art class with them, we completed a mural in the entrance of the school, which was also part of the exhibit.  the mural was a collaboration between the art teacher, myself, the 3rd and 5th graders.  the mural's theme was an underwater imaginary world.  we had the 3rd grade come up with drawings that the 5th graders then transferred to the walls.  of course, with our help, they also made several additions on their own and it turned out great!

the other exhibit also being showcased at the same time but on a back wall of the school, was the 7th grade waste project.  this project was inspired by brazilian artist vik muniz's documentary wasteland.  this project also took several months of preparation. we called on all of the students and teachers in the school to bring waste from home (mainly plastics, metals, aluminum).  we received so much, we didn't even have to go to the landfills.  for weeks we had students create mini waste projects at home and work on creating various different designs during class.  once we had the massive 4x6 meter frame prepared (also by the carpenter)and laid out on the floor, the students drew their final design on the canvas with chalk.  they filled in the design with the waste, organizing by color.  you could see it well from above and because of its size, we had to keep going upstairs to overlook the process, making adjustments and whatnot.  finally after days, we started gluing.  at the last minute on the day of the exhibition, 4 men had to lift this thing and hang it.. this was the most crucial and unnerving part.  fortunately, nothing collapsed and it was a success.  the work really came to life on the blue wall (that we had painted) and all of the hard work paid off!

the exhibit, due to lack of time, was also my last day at the school.  we had a wonderful party.  the 5th graders made cucumber/tomato sandwiches and lemonade for their parents and teachers, and the 7th grade brought soda and junk food.  they were really excited about their art show, as was i.  i couldn't believe we were able to somehow make the impossible possible in that last week!  i left the cameras at the school, so hopefully they'll keep taking photos.  this project was such a great experience for me and i learned a lot from them.  i will miss all of them so much. 

photo exhibit

                                                                waste project

                                                  class 5 group picture in front of mural

                                               one last photo with a few more from class 5


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

pushpendra's village

pushpendra is the school's music teacher.  he's only around 20 years old and seems to have it going on.  he's handsome, a talented musician and singer, and very nice guy.  i think there's at least one female teacher visiting his classroom an hour with any excuse just to see him.  i may not be around to witness it (unfortunately), but i'm sure one of the girls here will break a nail or have some hair ripped out fighting over him.

he had mentioned to melanie that we should all visit his village, about 15 mins by motorbike and 45 mins by bicycle from here.  so we went one day by bike.  gautam (who knew the way), a boy named mori that lived nearby the school, anna, melanie and i left on a sunday morning together.  it was a nice stretch of road once we went outside the town a bit.  the best part was when we turned off the main road onto a smaller dirt road that bends and curves round the vast fields that surround the village.  my favorite part of course.

we arrived in his small village and to his house ringing our bike bells, a few kids running behind us of course, to pushpendra standing outside with a big smile on his face.  we received a warm welcome from him and his mother who was there making us some snacks and pakora (fried vegetable balls), followed by some sweets and coca-cola.  he showed us around after we ate and rested.  he took us to see his grandmother.. probably his great-grandmother since he said she was over a 100 yrs old.  we entered her house, she sat on a khat (indian cot made of wood and handwoven rope), fanning away futilely at the thousands of relentless flies.  he took us to his barn where we met his cows and ox.  we walked around, looked at the view from his roof.  a nice village with really welcoming and sweet people.  it was great for us all to really spend time together and see where he grew up.

heading back, the trip seemed shorter.  i think we all left really happy about the experience, and maybe even pleased with ourselves that we managed to have another one of those good sundays.

view from his roof

                                                    his grandmother
                                                  kids watching us on the roof
                                                all of us (minus gautam) on his roof
                                                                   his barn

                                                      heading back

Sunday, March 27, 2011

sympathy for the rickshaw man

i was feeling that itch to go somewhere.  it was an early day at school and i had the whole afternoon off.  the sun was beating down but i was welcoming the heat after string of cold and wet days.  i hopped on the bike, went down my usual path, camera on my back, and an orange in the bike basket.  as i passed the usual cows, goats, and blank stares of locals, i ventured down a narrow pathway heading straight into knitted jungle of sugar cane. it was my attempt to go a different route, but it seemed to go nowhere, dead-ending into tangles of cane.  so i turned around.  tired of biking nowhere, i anchored myself under a tree for a bit to eat my orange.  i loved watching all the people go by on various modes of transport, watching me as i watched them.  i took photos of people as they went by my tree.

i left to see what else i could find.  i crossed the river and headed towards a village that i'd always seen from afar but never felt it was the right time to venture in.  since that time was as good as any, i took my chances.  on the way, i met this woman who clearly saw my camera and wanted me to take her picture.  after a few awkward exchanges, mostly me gesturing and displaying no grasp of anything she was saying in hindi, i realized she was headed to the same village.  arriving in any village around here (as a foreigner) feels like you've just walked into another time period, only your still wearing the same clothes.  they looked on with big eyes in wonderment as if i had magic powers.  luckily, the woman i had met on the way invited me to her house, so i was safe.  i followed her as the entire village followed me.  she was changing clothes, getting ready to leave again, so in the meantime i was given a chair, some tea and biscuits, as the crowd surrounded me.  you would've thought that i had five heads the way they were all examining me, making comments to each other in whispers and giggles.  like melanie put it once, we are the tourists and the attractions all at the same time.  they were a harmless bunch, really sweet and just as curious of me of course as i was of them.  they spoke to me in hindi which i either said one of three words i knew.  Rajiala, my new friend, was ready to go, and so was i.  the village followed us out to the road.  just as i was getting on my bike, rajiala sits on the back of my bike with a big smile on her face.  ok, i thought, this should be interesting.  as i nearly threw her off the bike three times trying to get going, everyone including me, laughed.  i had never pulled someone else's weight on a bike before.  finally i got going, the village cheered and waved goodbye.  it was funny to see all of the confused glances as we cycled down the road.  who was this white lady and why was there an indian woman on the back of her bike?  the sun seemed to have gotten hotter, and suddenly unwelcome.  i was sweating profusely at this point and on the vegetarian diet i've been on here, it was not easy.  fortunately, i was going in a different direction than she planned and decided to get off and get a ride from another biker passing by.  i honestly don't know if i could have made it much longer.  i have a new found sympathy for the rickshaw man. i never had the chance to go back and visit her but i know that if i did, hopefully she won't need a ride anywhere.

under my tree:

bike ride and village:

                                                       sugar cane path

                                                first time i'd seen sheep here
                                                     Rajiala in her home

                                                             my bicycle