Day seven began at 6:30am - a quick breakfast before setting off to visit one of the CRS school in the Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. It spans from the Hooghly River in India's state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh. See if you can find it on the map.
To get there we took a 4 hour bus drive before boarding a boat which took us through the mangroves for about an hour until we arrived at our destination.
Once we got off our boat we kept our eyes peeled and listened out for Bengal tigers (they roam freely and live amongst the mangroves). It was slightly scary and very exciting at the same time.
I’ll tell you if I saw one or not once I’m back in school!
We walked for about 20 minutes before we came to a small community. Mud huts, straw roofs - it was like stepping back in time - but it was the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
Unfortunately the locals told me it didn’t always look as idyllic - during the rainy season the waters rise, the crops are covered and the snakes (there are thousands!) all move to higher ground. Not only that - the waters are so high that the local people cannot leave their little island for around 5 months of the year, meaning that they are isolated from the rest of the world.
The school we visited there was great. All the children welcomed us and then we sat with their teachers and discussed ways we could help them.
It was important we left before the sun went down as it would be hard to navigate our way through the mangroves. We arrived back in Kolkata at 10:30pm. A long day, but 100% worth it!
On day six we headed back to the cathedral for more training with the teachers from the slum schools. We worked in small groups and taught them lots of new things - lots of phonics games, story ideas and we also helped to improve their English language. I taught them how to ask for the time and how to say the time in English. I also showed them some games they could play with their children once they were back in their schools.
At the end of the day, they were all presented with a certificate and given 5 bags full of resources, including books, puppets, games, chalk and counters etc. The teachers now had many ways to teach English to their classes.
Day five presented another chance to go into Bhowanipur school and work with the children. There were children as young as 3 in there, so whilst they were ordering numbers 1,2,3,4,5, I was working with the older children adding, subtracting and multiplying numbers. They were quick to learn our methods for column addition and subtraction - perhaps that was down to Mrs Poole’s brilliant teaching last year?
I wanted to buy the children in the school a present and because I had previously taught them how to tell the time, last night I went to the street markets and managed to buy 40 (yes forty!) watches for 2000 rupees (which is about £25). Buying things is a little different over here. At first the man working at the stall wanted 450 rupees for just 1 watch! Maths homework: workout what discount I managed to get.
Before I left, I took the class outside for a few more games. They reminded me a lot of you all at home.
In the evening, the group of teachers I am with were all invited to a traditional Bengali meal hosted by four of the private schools in Kolkata. It consisted of 7 small courses and we all sat in two long rows. The school children had each made us a gift - I will show you once I’m back in school. It will look nice on our worship table.
Day four was spent in a building behind the cathedral, training the teachers from India - showing them all the things we do in England. They were all brilliant and I could tell they were looking forward to going back into their own schools and using their new ideas.
In the afternoon I visited a large secondary school (similar to Lady Manners). On Saturday I have organised a huge sports day. All of the slum schools in the area are attending and we are hoping to work with 500 children. The secondary school has kindly allowed us to use their sports field, so I popped over to check it was suitable and to see what equipment was available for us to use.
Before dinner we visited ‘The Mother House’ - the house that Mother Teresa lived, worked and died in. Her tomb was in the middle of the house and many people were there showing their respects. This was a very special place to visit. Your homework is to find out all you can about the work she did. I will be talking a lot about her when I return.
Day three has definitely been my favourite so far. I was picked up early and taken to Bhowanipur school where I met all of the children and teachers. I had no idea what to expect before I arrived. The younger children (same as our infants) attend school in the mornings. I read ‘Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ to them and taught them how to say different animals and different colours in English.
After that, we practiced introducing ourselves - I showed them the cards that the year 5s and 6s made for them. They loved them and they certainly made it easier for them to understand what I was trying to teach them. Thank you for making them.
At 12 o’clock the older children arrived (their Juniors) and the younger children went home. We practiced counting in English and after learning the numbers I took them outside and we played ‘What Time is it Mr Wolf?’
Their school is right next to a cemetery, so we played on the path. They loved playing ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’ and I am sure they will continue to play it once I have gone.
I showed them the video of you performing ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ and they promised to learn it and then send us a video of their performance (some of the teachers have phones).
Everybody is so friendly - I am sure you would all love it out here!
I hope you are all behaving back at school.
Day two started very early (for me). I was woken at 5am by the Adhan being called from the mosque, signalling time for prayer.
After breakfast (I had a freshly made omelette), we visited the cathedral and attended the service which started at 8:30am. It was delivered in English and we sung hymns similar to the ones we sing at home. This seemed strange as we were in the middle of Kolkata, but there were a lot of people attending.
The service finished at 10am and then we were offered tea and biscuits whilst we had chance to meet some of the ladies who work in the schools we will be working in. They were all lovely and I cannot wait to visit their schools tomorrow!
Members of the CRS (Cathedral Relief Service - the charity that has organised our visit), then invited us into their Friendship Centre where we had lunch (curry again).
In the afternoon we sailed down the Ganges river and visited a temple. I saw DOLPHINS in the river (amazing!!!). There were hundreds and hundreds of people at the temple, but the only sound that could be heard was that of birds singing as they circled the trees above.
Tomorrow I visit the school in Bhowanipur. I will show them the clip of you performing ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.’
Day one has been an extremely long one. The time in India is 5 and a half hours ahead of England which meant that our plane took off from Birmingham at 1:30pm on Saturday, touched down in Dubai in the middle of the night and then finally arrived in Kolkata at 7:30am on Sunday.
The moment I stepped out of Kolkata airport I was hit with sounds, smells and scenery that were completely different to home.
We got a bus to our hotel - I would not liked to have been the driver! The roads are crazy! Everybody is beeping their horns and nobody takes any notice of the lane markings. I’m pretty sure they just make it up as they go along. It’s great fun being in the bus though (very exciting), and even though it seems chaotic to us, the drivers seem to know exactly what they are doing.
In the afternoon we visited a nearby temple. Despite being in the middle of Kolkata (which is very noisy and extremely busy!), once you stepped through the gates and walked around its garden, everywhere felt calm and relaxed. I’d like to go back there if we get chance.
After the temple we went out for dinner - on a rooftop looking out over the city. I had a curry (surprise surprise!).
I am now back at the hotel, feeling tired but also excited for tomorrow! I’ll try and get a video of the roads. Unless you see them, you probably won’t believe how crazy they are!