My Diary, India, January, 2006

January 13, 2006

We started our journey this time at 11:00 in the morning. When we arrived at Kennedy Airport, we proceeded to the International terminal. The problem with our progress was that we took a train to get to the next terminal and we spent about half an hour on the train before we finally arrived at the right terminal.

We had lunch at a little place on the lower level of the terminal called Sam Adams.

Then, we met Ann Moideen's representative Kiran who gave us a cell phone and a bag for Dharmapuri. It was another huge bag! I've got to ask Ann to define small again!

Now we have been on this same airplane for hours and hours and I don't quite know what time it is or where we are, we just keep traveling. It is now quarter to 1:00 in the morning we have been on the same plane for a day. We are now waiting for the rest of the Chennnai people to arrive. It's quite bizarre to be still traveling and still a slight bit worried about someone meeting us. We better tip this person. He's coming at 03:15 in the morning.

Interesting conversation between Kevin and saris. Saris is a young Indian man. He is a Brahman. They had quite a philosophical discussion.

Sunday January 15

Today I awakened in my room at the St. Thomas Retreat Center. Nice room marble floors geyser for hot water, shower not too good. Wonderful breakfast. Very nice Mother Superior. Sr. Rose.

Standing In One's Bare Feet Before The Lord

I tried to tell Kevin, but he isn't a spiritual person, so I don't think he understood. I went to church today at St. Thomas Church on St. Thomas Mount. It is the place where St. Thomas The Apostle was martyred. It is an old stone church and the floors are stone. Everyone who came took their shoes off in order to go into the church. It is a humbling experience to stand in one's bare feet before Him, the King of the Universe. It is one thing to stand and pray in one's bedroom, but quite another to stand in the company of strangers, publicly to pray in one's bare feet. I was profoundly moved! I don't think I have ever felt so close to God. Perhaps one of the reasons for this was that the Mass was in Tamil, not English! The only way I knew what was happening was by knowing when we stood and when we sat and so on. I had to concentrate on what was going on. There was no room for extraneous thought. It was a mountain Top experience in more ways than one.

January 16, 2006

Yesterday we arose early and went to meet with N.K... It was a rather productive meeting, but it was short. N.K... is a busy man, and it was difficult to really get a handle on what he had planned.

We came back to the Center for lunch and then we proceeded to the Ceremony at the college. The ceremony was quite impressive. There was a band, a procession and everything. There were a lot of speeches, and a demonstration of the Jaws and Indian Language Software. The language Software is quite impressive for an editor of its kind, for it is able to show the different words and the various languages at one time. It is also able to translate from language to language. We found it quite interesting that although N.K... had made a point of our being present at this ceremony, he didn't recognize us in any way during the ceremony. This was rather puzzling.

After the ceremony, we went with Ann Moideen to dinner. Her friend hosted us at the Gymkhana Club. The food was excellent! The company was extremely interesting. Kevin found the son-in-law fascinating, and they talked together the whole evening.

Tuesday January 17, 2006

Today we met the students for the first time. It was a wonderful day. The students were great! They really wanted to learn. It was hard because we were the only two people of the team available. But we managed. We had a good day. There were three students who stood out of the crowd. First there was Vicas who did a lot of translating for us. Many of the students did not speak English well. Then there was the programmer who wanted to do more complicated things. And finally, there was the guy who wanted to be a journalist. All great kids.

We still do not have Internet access. It is most aggravating. A comment here about Internet access. It is imperative that we have Internet access if we are to conduct these workshops. First, we, the trainers need access because we may need to download files or to communicate with experts online. If we cannot get Internet access, there is no point to doing these workshops.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Today Kevin and I demonstrated some things in Microsoft Word, and also a program called viavoice. The people who can see but who use wheelchairs were really interested in it. The demos went well.

In the afternoon, we attempted to get onto the Internet at the computer lab, and we couldn't. We waited and waited all afternoon for access, but nothing was forthcoming. I felt really badly for the students.

Thursday January 19, 2006

Today we took the train from Chennai to Bangalore. It was a long ride! It was hot. It was crowded and it gave a new meaning to numb butt, As Kevin said. The benches were hard, and apparently, we got the wrong class seat. This was not a good idea. There was only food that Kevin couldn't eat.

When we arrived in Bangalore, we were met by Ann Moideen and Stany at the station. We proceeded to go to Ann's friend's shop where the CASHMERI proprietor served us lunch. It was fun. Kevin did some shopping and so did I! Next we spent time looking for clothes and so on.

On the way in the car, Ann M. told me that my cousin Linda had called. My Aunt Gail has died. It is hard being here in India while the family is going through such pain. The sisters must be devastated. I wonder if my experience on Sunday had anything to do with that?

After we finished our shopping, we arrived at La Providence House. Daisy was so glad to see us. She had waited dinner for us. I felt badly about that.

After dinner, Stany brought the new students from the computer program to see me. They were charming. They sang for me both in Tamil and in English. One of the men played a flute. Pat should have been here.

We still do not have Internet access. The computers here do not work. One has a virus. Kevin fixed one and will fix the other. He will send the parts that are needed to Stany.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Today we attended the wheelchair ceremony in Bangalore. Ann Foundation and New Horizons are collaborating so that they could give out five hundred wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are from China. They are made of plastic, and they are light but durable. New Horizons is setting up a workshop where people can assemble the chairs. The assemblers will be PWD's, thus giving them income as well as a means of getting around. Big doings. We had to dress in Indian costume. We were all presented with plaques because we were part of Ann Foundation.

Then we took the plane to Cochin. Nice rooms, but no air conditioning except for Kevin's room. Kevin needs air conditioning for his health.

Saturday January 21, 2006

We attended the big ceremony here. It was the inauguration of the National Center for the blind and the deaf. There were many speeches. I spoke, and Julia spoke. Ann Presented the Jaws software.

In the afternoon, we met the students for the first time. There are so many students! There are kids as well as adults. I was not expecting so many and so varied a turn-out.

The computers have to have the software loaded on them. Kevin is doing that. He has some help, but he is virtually doing the work himself. He has examined eighteen computers to determine if they are all running properly. Then, he has placed three separate pieces of software onto eighteen computers. Thirteen of them are rented for the workshop, five of them are to be permanent additions to the Center. Three of these five computers did not have Cd-ROM drives in them. This necessitated a full day's work in which Kevin, with the help of the volunteer, extracted one Cd-ROM drive from one computer and placed it successively in the three computers which did not have Cd-ROM drives so that the three pieces of software could be loaded. This is not the usual for computer technitions who are hired to load software onto computers and to keep them working during a workshop.

I must confess that I was thrown for a loop by the complete change in the way we had to teach, and by the increased responsibility I felt for the workshop. I was completely at sea, not knowing how to change my curriculum to encompass the actual needs of the students. I had to rely on the teachers to have something for the kids to do. I was totally swamped, and I couldn't seem to think clearly about what had to be done. Eventually, we asked that the group be divided so that by Sunday morning, we could have the students in the lab in groups of about 20. This left two thirds of the group in the main auditorium/lecture room. We couldn't train many of the teachers because they had to watch the kids. .

Sunday January 22, 2006

Today we started out late. They didn't understand that I wanted my laptop connected to the LCD so that I could show the students the desktop. This method of teaching did not work at all well. First, there is the language barrier. Next, it was on the screen, and those who are blind couldn't understand what I was talking about. So we changed our method, and we are now working with the kids in the lab. I am going to take some of the students aside and teach them to use more complicated things. The rest of the students need to practice keyboarding.

I am happy to say that our fix worked. I trained a few of the advanced people, answered their questions, and the kids started out with keyboarding skills. The teachers taught the kids and the older kids taught the younger and less experienced ones. It was a trickle-down effect. It was not as good as I wanted, however. I think that if there is a next time, I will have specific tasks for them to do. That way they can work toward a goal. There is no sense in teaching concepts here. They do not understand, or at least most of them do not. Computers must be taught from a specific and literal format.

This evening we went to see the synagogue. It was closed, but Kevin got a couple of pictures. Also we did some more shopping. We had a good time.

Monday January 23, 2006

Today we continued our policy of having the groups exchanging in the computer room. It is an interesting way to teach. It is rather unusual to not be in control, but it seems to be working. They are all helping each other to learn the keyboard and to type words.

We went after the sessions to a school for the blind. It is the Kerala Blind School, run by the Kerala Blind Association. The children have been attending the sessions. Ann M. donated a copy of Jaws to them. The kids all came and they sang for us. Interesting that they sang for us. I kept thinking back to my experiences at Camp Wapanaki all those years ago. The same attitude prevails. It's a Blind School, therefore, the kids must sing. It is expected. The adults get the candy and the children sing.

Tuesday January 24, 2006

Today we continued to run the groups as we have before. I showed some of the people the Zoomtext software. They seemed to enjoy it. I was happy to show it to them. Then, I talked to two people about Excel and also html. We had a great time.

After lunch, the Principal of the local School for the blind came and we talked together for quite a while. He wanted to see my BrailleNote. I showed it to him, and he was most impressed.

I found it very interesting that the principal didn't have any means of writing anything down for himself. He expected others to do it for him. I think this is terribly dependent. I found the the students were the same. They had no slates, no styli to take notes, no way of preserving what they had learned. After all, this was a school experience. Didn't they take notes in school? Don't they use slates? I don't understand this at all.

After the principal left, Kevin and I were invited on a boat ride. It was a wonderful experience. We went all over the harbor, and while we rode, we sang and we danced and we had such a good time. The music that the kids sang was totally a Capella. The melodies reminded me of the kind of music which was played and sung by the Lebanese orchestras at the picnics held at the Maronite church in Olean. I don't think the language is related, though it might be. They asked me to sing. I sang all the lively songs I knew. Kevin even sang havanagila with me. We had such a good time!

Wednesday January 25, 2006

Today we had half a day with the students, and then there was a closing ceremony for the workshop. I presented a handful of CD's so that they could start a library at the Center.

We rested in the afternoon, and then we went to dinner and began packing to leave. I will miss this place. The nuns here in Cochin and in Chennai couldn't have been nicer! The food was great, the people friendly. All in all a good experience.

Thursday January 26, 2006

We have been up all night. We left Ashir Bavan at 22:45 on the 25th, and We went to the airport. We wanted to arrive early because the 26th is a holiday, and the security was tight. Instead of taking an hour, it took much less time. Therefore, we arrived way early. The terminal wasn't even open yet! So we sat outside and waited for two and a half hours.

Then, we entered the terminal and started getting checked in. It took a long, long time. We are now on the second leg of our journey home. We progress. We progress.

Kevin keeps reassuring me that I did well by the kids, but I am not at all sure. He says the kids idolized me! Well that isn't going to get them any jobs. No Internet access is not going to teach them. Not knowing how to teach large groups and especially in a foreign language is not going to help. I need to plan some other way to teach, and I just don't know what it would be. Well, it is a beginning. I think Ann Moideen was happy. I hope Ann Moideen was happy. I guess, now that I think about it, that when I taught the six people last year, we did essentially the same thing, let them explore. Let them type, though we had more formalized classes, drills, etc. It was easy with six students.

Well it was a great experience. I learned how much I do not know. I learned how much I need to improve. I think we accomplished something. It might not have been exactly what we were looking for, but if people learned, that is good. Back to homepage

Ann K. Parsons