Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Weeks at Woodstock, INDIA

I have just completed my second week here in Mussoorie, India where I am student teaching at Woodstock International School for four months. I have been placed with the high school art teacher who is from Manitoba and is in her second year of teaching at Woodstock. The program has five art classes, three of which I have started to teach: Design, Drawing and Painting, and Sculpture. This is my first week taking over these classes and it is going well! I am teaching figure drawing, some color theory, and today my sculpture class started abstract plaster sculptures. I also am taking responsibility for the Clay Center which is a 20 min walk downhill from the school. I make the clay (both stoneware and terracotta) and open it up for various staff members and groups who want to use it. It has been a great way to get to know people.

The campus here is incredible. Mussoorie is a small hill station town in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is not too far north from Delhi, but takes a good 8 or 9 hours to drive due to bad roads and crazy traffic. Woodstock is about a mile from town and occupies the side of a hill (more like a mountain, if you ask me!). To walk from the bottom (where the student dorms are) to the top (where many staff live) takes a good 45 minutes of difficult walking (PHOTO: taken from near the top of the hill, looking over campus and into the valley). Luckily, the school buildings are in the middle. Unluckily, I live at the very bottom of campus and my classroom is the highest in the school. I will definitely be in shape living here! Thankfully, the natural setting is gorgeous. The hills are covered in forest. I see lots of cool birds and hundreds of monkeys. The monkeys can be violent, so most people carry rocks in their pockets. I mostly find them entertaining (when they leap from tree to tree and eat all the food the kids have dropped) but also quite annoying (like when they decide to jump around on our tin roof at 5:30am). My host teacher says she learned her lesson about closing the windows last year when she was having her classes draw a still life and a monkey came in through the window and stole the apple!

I'm living in a duplex with another student teacher from St. Olaf and the new PE teacher. We live on dorm level (close to the kids, but far from other staff). The apartment is quite large. I was surprised to have a water filter in our kitchen and hot water in the showers. We eat in the cafeterias on campus, which has been fine. It is a good way to try new Indian food. We just hired an ayah to clean our apt twice a month. We also have sort of hired a dobhi to wash our clothes. Just about everyday for the first week we had locals stopping by asking if we would hire them for various jobs. People are very persistant!

Right now, we are nearing the end of monsoon season (PHOTO: taken on my walk home from school). A typical day during monsoon includes very dense fog and heavy downpouring. Living on the side of a mountain, it feels like we inhabit the edge of the world when the fog rolls in. The hillside is a beautiful green though. Everything is covered in gorgeous ferns. The downfall of monsoon is that nothing ever dries out. This can be advantageous when working on a clay or painting project, but everything starts growing mold (clothes, backpacks, food, etc). The days are slowly getting sunnier. September and October are some of the most beautiful months here, so they say. Mostly because of the clear skies that lend way for great views of the distant Himalayas. I hope to get out and do some hiking soon.

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