Settling in and risk assessment

The kids are in school and loving it. TRINS is perfect for them. They’ve all made friends and have been keeping busy with homework. We haven’t made it to pick up the uniforms from the tailor yet– it’s a slog into town to get them and we were busy last week getting settled.

uniforms

The kids in their partial uniforms– still waiting to pick the rest up from the tailor

James’ class went outside for Biology this week to perform a quadrat sample, recording every living thing within a meter square. They found ants, worms, mites, scat, and “a bunch of different plants.” He also saw a domesticated water buffalo as they walked. Good times.

Willy is reading The Secret Garden and I can’t wait to talk to him about it! I’ve already asked him lots of questions about where he is in the plot… I love books from the era where children become paralyzed when it serves the plot and then miraculously gain the ability to walk again, usually when their father begins to pay attention to them and/or they get some fresh air (see The Secret Garden, Heidi).

All the kids are taking Malayalam lessons, but Willy is the one who is most excited about it and tells us EVERYTHING he learns every day as well as demonstrating the Malayalam script.  Our neighbors are trying to teach us words and we are all trying to learn the basics.

Alice’s teacher sends home a report each day– there is one section where they select a child to predict the weather. The child inevitably predicts a sunny day– and is of course correct! Her lessons last week included learning about farms– so it was an easy jump for her. She is in the Junior School (KG-5th), which held their annual sports day this Saturday. Her class wasn’t involved in the track and field competition, which was a good call on the part of the organizers, but did perform a song about being happy. The program began with a yoga demonstration from the older kids.

sports day yoga

Yoga at sports day

We moved in Friday night of last week, then on Monday were told by our neighbors about a festival which would include a parade past the gate of our complex. We followed the other families down to the entrance, then waited for about an hour for the festivities to begin. The kids milled about and it was a nice chance to meet several other families. After waiting for what seemed like FOREVER the procession arrived. It was totally worth it, and included three different groups of drummers, this incredible elephant, dancers in costumes, and giant puppets. There were gift bags for all of the children with tiny bananas, a few chocolates, and a fried dough snack.

As this was the night before the festival of Pongal (which the internet says is a kind of New Year’s celebration but everyone here says that’s not the case) we wrongly assumed this had something to do with Pongal. Nope. Not at all. This is the kind of place where you can have a celebratory procession that is absolutely not at all connected to a holiday the next day. Our chief cultural ambassador, a fourth grade neighbor named Shambu, made clear that they don’t even really celebrate Pongal here. I asked him when they celebrate Holi, and he said that’s not really celebrated here either. We’re very curious to see what the next holiday will be.

 

elephantdrummerspuppet

It’s not all parades, playgrounds, and elephants though, of course– we have also been grappling with risk in a place where the equation for what is and what is not risky behavior is so different. It has been tough. I am the mom who ruins pool parties by talking at length about both dry drowning and regular drowning. I see danger around every corner. I still check my kids at night to reassure myself everyone is breathing.

Here, we have to be conscious of things that can trigger short term intestinal illness, parasites, communicable diseases, and of course the snakes. Not to mention that every trip in every vehicle feels like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. It is not uncommon to see a mother with two small children on a motorcycle, not a one wearing a helmet, making their way to school. It is common for cars, trucks, and busses to pass slower vehicles by weaving into oncoming traffic. When I brought out the bug spray the first night at the playground, the kids looked at me like I was crazy. Let’s just say we spend a LOT of time on the CDC website triple checking what is and isn’t safe or advisable.

Our apartment continues to be wonderful. Shambu and Sidat show up daily to lure the boys into a nerf battle down the halls of the building or take them outside to run around with the rest of the kids. Our neighbors– a pair of sisters named Gaurika and Ithal–  appear every few hours looking for Alice.

The kids are having a blast and while they were at school last week Mike and I were even able to attend a PhD defense for the Department of Environmental Sciences. Not exactly a date night, but it was an interesting chance to see how that part of academia works here as well as to learn about the department’s research. An amazing group of first year master students appeared after the defense to chat. I’m hoping we’ll be able to collaborate on research.

master first years

Next week I should finally have a normal week of office work, including a research trip with colleagues and a different group of students to Kollam one of the beaches I’ll be studying.

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