We have survived the first week of school in Chennai! By all accounts, it was a huge adjustment – probably the biggest so far of this whole adventure. But we are able to relax this weekend, knowing we have put one of the toughest weeks behind us.
School started on Monday, August 24. Mike and the kids – in their new school uniforms – took an auto-rickshaw to Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School. I accompanied them as well, hoping desperately that I would not cry when I dropped them off. The first day of school is always hard on a mom, and even harder when it’s in a foreign country!
That morning, there was a general assembly at which Mike and the kids were introduced. Mike had to give an impromptu speech, which he handled quite well! At the end of the assembly, the students sang a prayer in Sanskrit and then sang the national anthem (I think). In case I have not mentioned before, Tamil is the local language here in the province of Tamil Nadu, and spoken more commonly than Hindi. All the kids at the school speak both Tamil and English.
Our kids were pretty overwhelmed on the first school day, especially James, as he was swarmed with students asking him a myriad of questions. Unlike our school back home, here the students stay in one classroom and teachers move from class to class. So for the five or so minutes when there is no teacher in the room, there is the potential for a lot of chaos, especially in 3rd grade! The 7th Graders in Tasmine’s class are a little more relaxed around her. They are very friendly, especially during snack time and lunch, when they play games like charades and “name that tune.” During one of the snack breaks, Taz shared some M & Ms that we had brought from the U.S. They were a big hit. Taz is not able to participate in all the classes yet, since the 7th Grade is doing a lot of tests based on first semester material. However, she is learning Sanskrit, which she likes. When second semester starts in October, she can participate more fully.
We are slowly adjusting to our day-to-day life here. We bought a cricket bat and now Mike and the kids practice cricket in the street outside our apartment. We also bought some badminton rackets (called “shuttle” here) so that we can play on our roof. The roofs here are flat and are used for relaxing and hanging out laundry. I have attempted a couple of the less spicy Indian dishes from my South Indian cookbook, with decent results. One of the teachers from the school is also going to teach me how to cook a few things; on Friday night she taught me how to make a dessert called pasayam.
I am hoping that we can get rested up this weekend, and perhaps see a few sights in and around Chennai.