The ruins of Hampi

Despite being in Bangalore for nearly 2 years, we haven’t really explored the state of Karnataka, so I decided on short notice to take a little weekend trip to the ruins of Hampi. I had heard lots of good things about this place from friends and from Google, of course!

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 6 hours drive north of Bangalore. In around 1500 it was one of the largest cities in India, with approximately 500,000 inhabitants.

We left around 6am on Saturday morning, in a car laden with sweets, cookies and crisps for the road, finally reaching our hotel at 12.30! Seeing as we only had a short weekend we decided to go sightseeing straight away. Just a short drive from our hotel were amazing ruins of temples, baths and military buildings. Some of the temples charge for entry – Rs.30 for a local vs Rs.500 for a foreigner!

We went into the Vittala Temple complex (dedicated to Vishnu), which is probably the most famous in Hampi. The road up to the temple has ruins on both sides, apparently this used to be a famous market where horses were traded. A guide that we had inside the temple complex explained the history and what all the carvings into the walls meant. There are famous musical pillars that produce different sounds and pitches depending on where you hit it. It was pretty cool!

Next on our list was the Virupaksha Temple (dedicated to Shiva), which has a huge 160ft tower at its entrance. Next to the temple was Hampi bazaar….I got really excited as I love markets and bazaars, but I have to say it really was a let down – there were just a few shacks selling hats and sunglasses!

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Virupakha Temple

There were so many ruins, all from around the 16th century, some kept in immaculate condition! We saw the Queen’s baths, the Lotus Mahal, the elephant stables – which were used to house 11 elephants, and a Ganesha  Temple. Unlike in the UK, where you can’t go anywhere near historic ruins (I’m thinking of Stonehenge, where you can’t get anywhere near the stones) you could go right into the temples and touch the walls and monuments. I do hope that changes though, otherwise there won’t be much left of these beautiful ruins soon!

The ruins were amazing, but the food was super spicy, I can’t even explain how spicy it was! Apparently our driver said that as Hampi is near the border with Andhra Pradesh, a lot of people have migrated over and have influenced the cooking and food.i.e. now it’s super super super spicy! We left early morning Sunday for Bangalore, and I do have to admit it wasn’t a particularly comfortable 7 hour drive!

To be continued with more adventures…

“Indianisms!”

So over the past year I have been putting together a collation of “Indianisms” which are essentially words or phrases used only in India, by the locals, when they speak English. None of these made any sense to me when I first arrived here but I think now I’m getting used to the lingo!

*As a disclaimer, I have no idea about how any of the below came about*

“Good name” – when I first got asked what my ‘good name’ is, I stood there puzzled for at least a few minutes. I was debating whether I should explain that most people just have one name and it’s not like a good one, which you would prefer to be addressed by, and a bad one! In the end I had to clarify it and confirm that the person wanted my first name! I’ve been told that this phrase is a direct translation from Hindi…

“Today itself” or “Today only” – this doesn’t only work with the word ‘today’, but most locals finish their sentences with the words ‘itself’ or ‘only’, which they use interchangeably! For example, the electrician said to me that the work will be finished by ‘tomorrow only.’ I’m not sure how it adds to the sentence but I suppose it’s for emphasis…

“Myself…” – when people introduce themselves they say ‘Myself John’ as opposed to ‘My name is John.’ Not what I’m used to but you have to admit, it does make sense!

“Do the needful” – my husband actually gave me this one! If someone writes an email and wants the recipient to perform an action, they write ‘Please do the needful.’ Again, this one is completely new to me but it does totally make sense!

“Out of station” – when I first heard this I did ask ‘have you just got off a train?’ I later came to know that this is the Indian version of saying ‘out of town.’

“Shifting” – this quite literally means shifting position, i.e. if you are moving house, town or country….you are ‘shifting house, town or country’

“Paining” – this is probably my favourite! The locals don’t say something is ‘hurting’, instead it’s ‘paining’ them. Quite an apt description I’d say!

“STD” – this is not what you think it is! It’s the term used for a non-local call within India…I think it stands for ‘Subscriber Trunk Dialling.’ Here is a useful link for more information…what would we do without Wikipedia!

I’m still hearing various “Indianisms” so hopefully I’ll have a part 2 to this post very shortly!

To be continued….

 

At the PGA Tournament in Abu Dhabi

I know I have been slightly off the radar recently, but have just started studying (a distance learning course) – it’s been keeping me quite busy and it really is an adjustment having never undertaken any education on a distance learning basis before!

I wanted to write a post about my trip to Abu Dhabi last month, particularly the PGA tournament at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club and leading on from this, my new found likeness (I wouldn’t say loveIMG_0185!) for golf! I went with Ash and my father-in-law, who is a golf fanatic, a brilliant player and who clearly had so much patience for me as I was asking him a million questions a second about the game!

The tournament was catered to people of all ages (which surprised me as I thought it would only appeal to the keen golfers) with crèches, camel rides, falcon feeding, a huge number of food stalls…and of course the golf. The tee-off time was delayed by 2 hours due to the fog, so I spent that time exploring, snacking and swatting up on my golf knowledge and trivia! The players were in groups of 3, each with their own caddie. We saw the 1st group tee-off from the 1st hole…they hit the ball so far I could never catch where it landed, especially with the sun in my eyes (that was always my excuse). As each group of 3 players moved to the next hole, there was always a crowd following them; basically the spectators would walk the 18 holes with the players and watch the same players at each hole. We did this for a few holes, I was getting more and more involved – cheering when the players hit a good shot and hissing when they narrowly missed the cup on the green!

The biggest crowd (and security team) was following Rory Mcilroy, Jordon Spieth and Rickie Fowler – the best players in the game at the moment. I was so close I could almost touch them, although the big bouncers following them around did put me off trying to do that!

It was a really fun day – beautiful weather, stunning golf course and of course a new found understanding and likeness for the game, I now know what a “birdie”, “bogey” and an “eagle” mean! However, I do think that the main reason why I enjoyed myself because I was there in the middle of the tournament and the action. The next day, we watched part 2 on TV and I was bored stiff after 5 minutes!

To be continued…

Round up of 2015

It’s 31st December and I wanted to write a short blog post summing up my year, but so much has happened I honestly don’t know where to start or how to summarise it so it doesn’t go on for pages!

I suppose the first big event of the year was getting married in April! I met Ash at University in Bristol and we’ve been together since. I suppose we really do know eachother inside out…it’s funny how we can predict the person’s next sentences! We’re always saying “I knew you were going to say that!” We had a big Indian wedding, in London, which took over a year’s planning!

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Soon after our wedding I moved to Bangalore, which was the scariest thing I have ever had to do – leave my family, my lovely friends, my job and move to a developing country that I’d never even been to! The first few months were the hardest, to be honest there were a lot of tears…Ash would go to work every day and I would be pondering over the sudden and huge change in my life and what to do next! Unfortunately I can’t work in India, due to the Department of Labour regulations, and the potential costs involved for the hiring company. This made it a million times harder for me, I think, as I’m the sort of person who needs a purpose and to keep myself occupied and growing!

Unpacking kept me busy and when that finished I dived into charity work for the OWC (Overseas Women’s Club) – I made a lot of friends through the club, of all ages and from all around the world. The President of the club soon discovered my marketing background and decided to approach me to become the new VP of advertising & communications for the OWC – a position which I gladly accepted knowing it would keep me even more busy and also provide me the means to meet more people outside my friendship circle. By this time I had also joined the expat committee from Ash’s company, so got to know even more people through that. I think if someone were in my position, the best advice I would give them is to keep busy and meet as many people as possible…even if you only keep contact with a handful!

Experienced trailing spouses kept telling me it would take around 6 months to feel settled and I kept dismissing it as an arbitrary number…but it’s crazy how true it actually is! As soon as I hit that mark, I suddenly felt much happier and established! I started to think of Bangalore as my home and actually looked forward to coming back whenever we would go on holiday. I have a lovely group of friends and have also decided to pursue a CIM marketing certificate through distance learning!

The local mentality here was, and still is, challenging to deal with….but you have to accept and stop trying to fight it; otherwise you’ll end up with crazily high blood pressure and probably a heart attack! At first I was comparing things a lot with the UK, but that’s like comparing chalk with cheese! Things really do move at a different pace here and this country is at a completely different level in terms of its development than the UK. I’m unbelievably glad to be here with Ash and with his company – people that move here by themselves are brave to say the least!

There are so many positives about living in Bangalore though – the climate is probably the best in India! This country has everything in it – from deserts to mountain ranges. The temperature between the north and south can vary between -3 and +33 degrees Celsius on the same day! The accessibility to the Far East is a fantastic perk as well! We have been on some fantastic holidays and have some more trips planned in 2016!

So I’ve been blabbering but I wanted to finish by saying “Happy new year! I hope that 2016 brings you everything you hope for…and more! And thank you for reading my blog, hope you have enjoyed it!”

To be continued…

 

Diwali in Goa

Just the most stunningly beautiful place!

Early last week there was a small cyclone near Chennai (India’s East Coast) and we were feeling the effects in Bangalore – it suddenly got cold, I was wearing a hoodie for the first time in India! And the rain…I mean torrential rainfall for more than a week! Let’s not even talk about the patches of dampness in our house!! Unlucky for us the horrible weather fell over the Diwali break, during which Ash and I had decided to go to Goa for a few days. However, when we landed, the weather was lovely! Hot and sunny!

At first I thought Goa was quite like Kerala, very lush and green! But I realised that it’s much better…in my opinion! Perhaps it was also because I was with a seasoned Goan traveller! The drive from the airport to our apartment was full of narrow windy roads with beautiful Goan villas built on either side, in the typical old-fashioned Portuguese style. For the first night we decided to go for dinner in a shack on our local beach. These shacks are erected from the start of November to about April/May, when they are taken down due to the monsoons, the tide comes right up covering the whole beach. That night I didn’t really see much of the beach because, a) I was making sure I didn’t tread on any small crabs and b) it was too dark and c) it’s harder than it looks walking on sand and I was trying not to fall over onto the small crabs! Our local shack was called Bolton’s, I ate the most amazing tandoori chicken tikka with garlic naan bread! There are a lot of Russian tourists in Goa (which surprised me as I honestly thought it wasn’t that close!), so many actually that all the restaurants provide menus in Russian as well!

Now Ash’s aunt, who lives in Goa and who we were there to see, looks after 6 dogs on the beach. She brings them food and water and has taken them to the vets for their shots. Everytime she steps onto the beach and the dogs hear her voice they come bounding towards her barking! Pretty scary if you weren’t aware that was going to happen!

The 2nd and 3rd days were just spent lounging on the beach near Bolton’s. They have 10 of their own sun loungers and can bring you food/drink right to your seat! We stayed on the beach from morning till sunset, which has to be 1 of the most spectacular I have ever seen…

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Sunset in Goa
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Fishing boat in the Arabian sea

On the 4th day, we decided to do something different and go for a river cruise. We were on a boat with about 30 other people meandering down the river, which reminded me slightly of the backwaters in Kerala but just much wider, into the Arabian sea where we were dolphin spotting! Having seen quite a few of them, we went back up the river to have lunch which consisted of fresh king prawns for starters, fresh fish, rice and vegetables for the main course and fruit salad for dessert! The food was amazing!

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Fresh prawns and the fish for our lunch!

Stopping near an island in the river, I said to Ash that I thought I saw a bat – all of a sudden the guys on the boat started clapping their hands/whistling and what seemed like 100s of bats flew out of the trees! It was incredible, these bats were humongous!

Unfortunately we had to leave early on the last day, but I’m definitely looking forward to my next trip, over Christmas. As Goa is a Christian state, I’ve been told the Christmas celebrations are much better than the Diwali ones!

To be continued…

Mini break in Singapore and Bali

I’ve always been a city girl, so when the opportunity arose for a mini break in Singapore, which incidentally is only a 4 hour flight from Bangalore, I jumped at it! Ash then proposed adding on 3 days in Bali…I was obviously not going to say no!

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A very small selection of the animals in Singapore zoo

We had heard so much about Singapore zoo, which we visited on our first day. It literally was the best zoo I’ve ever been too! It is set in 28 hectares of heavy, dense forest and it’s not very easy to get it – we had to take 3 trains on Singapore’s metro and a 15min taxi ride! The diversity and amount of animals were amazing and we saw a couple of the animal feedings. The highlight for me had to be the white tiger and the orangutans,
which were literally swinging freely in the trees above our heads! However, after walking around for about 4 hours in the mid-30 degree heat we were ready to sit in a taxi all the way home!

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Singaporean spicy crab. Mini bread rolls are used to scoop up and eat the sauce

For dinner we fancied a true hawker experience, basically local Singaporean street food. My cousins, who have lived in Singapore for about 9 years, took us out for dinner at a small Chinese place. The food was delicious and very authentic
– we tried spicy crab and black pepper langoustine, both typical Singaporean dishes! Tasted amazing, especially washed down with a cool Tiger beer!

The next day we went to Universal studios with my cousins and their 2 kids, who were both incredibly excited! As was I to be honest! I don’t even remember the last time I went on a rollercoaster… Going with some locals was brilliant as they knew exactly which rides were worth going on. My cousin also had a couple of express passes, for which Ash and I were so grateful for, as the queue on some of the rides was about 90min long…and we just walked right to the front!  In the evening we were planning a night out, however the haze in Singapore reached hazardous levels, so we opted for a cheese and wine night-in! Usually the PSI (pollutions standard index) in Singapore is around 50, however, that night it was closer is 300 – which is very unhealthy and the government advised residents to stay indoors. The reason for such a high PSI value was the wind was blowing smoke from the forest fires in Indonesia across to Singapore.

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I really wanted to try the cheese flavoured KitKat (bottom of the picture)!

Shopping was on the agenda for the next day! We took the metro to Orchard Road, which is basically a 2km stretch of road with about 22 malls just on this little stretch! And to make it even better most of the malls are connected underground so you don’t even need to go outside in the humidity and the excessive heat!

We visited the famous Raffles hotel, but unfortunately didn’t have time to try a Singapore Sling! We met my cousins in the evening and went to Level 33 – a microbrewery with the most fantastic view of Singapore marina.

The next morning Ash and I were up at 4am (!) for our flight to Bali. So thankful that my cousins dropped us to the airport, it was too early to deal with taxis and public transport! Slight annoyance though, as we went through security we realised that most of our liquids were over 100ml (we had checked them into our luggage when we left India and totally forgot that our trip to Bali was hand luggage only!) Basically we lost everything from deodorant, toothpaste, insect repellent, sunscreen to my precious contact lens solution! As soon as we reached Bali we spent the first half day trying to find a supermarket to re-stock our toiletries!

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The front of Ubud palace
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Nasi Goreng

Bali was beautiful! We stayed in Nusa Dua with stunning beaches – it was so sunny and the temperature was burning hot. We hired a driver and went to Ubud, which is more inland, to see the famous Ubud markets, a palace and the monkey sanctuary. We had Nasi Goreng for lunch which was a typical Indonesian rice dish, followed by coconut ice-cream to cool us down! Then we travelled back down to the south of the island, about 30min past Nusa Dua to see the Uluwatu temple. This is a beautiful temple, thousands of years old, situated literally on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. We saw the most stunning sunset! I was slightly on edge however, as there were tons of cheeky monkeys about stealing people’s phones and other belongings! I heard some screaming behind me and it turns out a monkey had taken a tourist’s Chanel sunglasses and run off with them!

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Uluwatu temple

I wished we had had a few more days in Bali to visit more of the beautiful island but unfortunately we had to leave the next afternoon, after a final few hours on the beach! We spent a last day in Singapore strolling around before heading back to Bangalore.

Usually I’d leave it there but I just had to mention that our electricity was completely turned off when we got back (at 1am!) – the supplier hadn’t received our payment and because we weren’t around to show them the receipt they just switched off the supply!! So I spent a few hours in the early morning cleaning out the smelly food from our fridge/freezer! It turned out that the ice-cream had melted and trickled underneath the freezer so I was on my hands and knees in the dark without a fan or AC scrubbing the floor to make sure we weren’t invaded by ants!

Luckily, after a bit of shouting, we were connected again in the morning!

To be continued…

There’s a mouse in the house!

So I’ve blogged about my experience with the bat in my villa, and I have also had a fleeting moment with a baby snake – which looked more like a worm – so I didn’t think it was worth blogging about!

Yesterday I found a mouse in my house! Actually it was my maid who spotted it…she walked into the spare room and immediately said “Mam, you have a mouse!” Once she showed me the signs it was pretty obvious, it had chewed the rubber next to the sliding balcony doors, the rubber on the edge of the shower door and the cord for the blinds. Then we saw it run from behind the bed into the ensuite and behind the toilet! Luckily, she said we had caught it early before it did any serious damage! So before it chewed through anything else, we moved ALL the furniture out of the room whilst I called the maintenance team.

They arrived and were dubious about where it came from (my suspicions were that it had chewed its way through the AC unit). All of sudden the mouse jumped down from on top of the blinds onto the bedside table and again into the ensuite. The maintenance man rushed in but it was too late – the mouse had literally disappeared!

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Sorry about the blurry image…this was me peeking my head around the door and using a crazy amount of zoom on my iphone camera!

They bought a couple of traps (the ones with the sticky glue that the mouse is supposed to stick to) which we laid on the floor around the entrance to the ensuite. An hour later and still no luck….then I remembered (from Tom & Jerry!!) about the cheese so I cut off a little piece and laid it on each of the traps. That did the trick!! 30min later I heard some rustling, so I peeked my head around and saw the mouse eating the cheese, obviously my presence scared it so it tried to run behind the toilet but got stuck as its tail was stuck to the sticky glue. It kept trying to pull itself off the trap by writhing around and banging the trap up and down (it was a big, strong mouse!); meanwhile I called the maintenance team again – the supervisor informed me that his team were eating lunch and would not be able to come for 20-30min!!! Then I lost my cool….shouting at them that there was a mouse in my house and did they not understand the seriousness of the situation! About 10min later a man showed up and he just picked up the trap, with the mouse hanging from the tail and took it outside. At this point I was seriously sweaty and felt quick sick! That was my first…and hopefully last experience with a mouse!

I now feel I’m constantly on edge, even as I’m typing this up the fan rustled the blinds behind me and I literally froze thinking there was another mouse!

To be continued….

Trip to Kabini

Sorry for the lack of communication recently – I’ve been keeping pretty busy with my sister’s big fat Indian wedding, which was at the beginning of September, followed by a 10 day relaxing break with my in-laws in Abu Dhabi!

So it’s been nearly 1 year into my stint in Bangalore (wow – time flies!) and I would say that I’ve travelled a fair bit. However, both my husband and I* feel that we haven’t really seen much of India, except for our mini break in Kerala.

*Just reviewing my previous posts, I keep saying “my husband and I” or “my husband did this….my husband did that” Moving forward I’ll just stick to using his name – Ash!*

So anyway, when a friend of ours told us she was planning a mini break to the Kabini Backwaters, and asked whether we wanted to join her and her husband, we jumped at the opportunity. The Kabini River which originates in Kerala and empties across India in the Bay of Bengal, separates the Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks. The Kabini Dam, built in 1974 over a part of this river, stores water coming from the Western Ghats and releases it to the surrounding 22 villages and farms in Karnataka and also in Tamil Nadu. It forms a huge reservoir, which is where you find the Kabini Backwaters – home to a plethora of different and exotic wildlife.

We started our journey at 6am on Friday morning (WAY too early for my liking!) and drove for about 6 hours, stopping half way for a typical South Indian Masala Dosa breakfast! The distance from Bangalore to Kabini is only about 150miles but due to the massive potholes and just generally terrible road condition it took us much longer. Our resort was called “Red Earth”, a name which stemmed from the colour of the local soil. The 20 cottages in the resort were also made from the soil but were definitely more luxurious than I’m probably making them sound – each cottage had a huge walk-in shower, a beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the lazy river and their own private jacuzzi! The only negative was the lack of wifi – but it gave me a chance to unstick my iphone from my hand (!) and reflect on life/the surrounding beauty!

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The beautiful Kabini river – this was the view from the back of our cottage!

We had lunch when we arrived and booked a safari for Saturday morning – again at 6am! Ash and I looked at eachother – we desperately needed sleep! Following lunch we had a long nap, and then went down for a walk by the river. In the evening we viewed a nature documentary about the local reserves, stumbled across and participated in a kids’ magic show (funnily enough the magician was also the resort’s head of security!) and saw a tribal dance performance, which was fun!

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Tribal dance performance (sorry for the blurry photo!)

The safari on Saturday morning was well worth the early start – despite us not seeing any tigers! We all piled into a 4×4 and set off into Nagarhole national park. We saw elephants, wild dogs, spotted deer, sambar deer and indian gaur (which are very similar to bison).

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A bull elephant
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2 male spotted deer fighting!

After the safari, and obviously after another long nap, Ash and I decided to go for a swim in the resort pool – which was fun until we realised the resort switch off their hot water during the day to conserve energy (it’s only on for a few hours in the morning and evening), so we ended up having ice cold showers after the swim!!

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Krait snake!

For those of you who know me, know that I’m more of a city girl and not really in touch with nature! I was quite proud of myself this weekend; I felt I coped well with the creepy crawlies, wasps, dragonflies, frogs, cockroaches, crickets and snakes. We saw a Krait snake which had just gotten its head chopped off in a sugarcane field during our village walk – apparently our guide told us that this was one of the most dangerous snakes in South India, more dangerous than a Cobra! I was, and still am, shocked – there were women working in the field without shoes and kids running around, again without shoes!

In the evening, we saw a Kalaripayattu performance. This is one of the oldest forms of martial arts, and it’s said that Karate, Kung Fu and other Far Eastern forms of martial arts originated from this. Please don’t quote me – this is what the resort owner told me!

We set off home, at a more reasonable time on Sunday, stopping for a KFC for lunch! After a weekend of nothing but Indian food we all needed a change!

I had an amazing weekend, and it was so nice to explore what was local to Bangalore. It was very peaceful and calm and I feel like I’ve come back home feeling very refreshed, after a hectic month travelling!

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To be continued….

Reading with the local kids…

So last Wednesday was an eye-opener…I, along with my neighbour Jackie, went to a primary school to help some local young kids with their reading.

To give you a bit of background, this school was founded by a lady from Kerala (called “Sister”) who discovered that many of the building site workers, who are from out of state and basically travel across India following the work, had no where to leave their young kids while they were working, so you’d see many children tied to posts playing in the rubble in the building sites! Sister opened this school and funds it herself and through company donations.

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The primary school is at the bottom of this street

You really have to see the area to get a feeling of how impoverished it is but hopefully I’ve captured it in the photos. It’s located in a small, village-like area about an hour from Whitefield down lots of small narrow streets. There are lots of tarpaulin tents nearby which I recently discovered were family residences!
As soon as we approached the main gate of the school the children ran up shouting “Good morning mam!” You’re basically mauled by kids! We take one class at a time, from 2nd Standard (around 7 years old) to 5th Standard (around 10 years old) – the number in each class changes literally week to week as families leave Bangalore and travel to other parts of India for work, or new children join.

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The front of the school – opposite the main entrance there is a ditch full of rubbish! (you can just see the corner on the bottom left of the photo)

In India children are taught parrot fashion (i.e. h-o-u-s-e spells “house”). They are not taught phonics which is basically how to use the sounds of different letters in order to recognise the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns that represent them. So for example, I was reading with a pupil from 2nd standard who spelt out the word “storm” – “s-t-o-r-m” but then looked at the picture and said “rain!” I then had to go through each letter and the sound it makes and how to put those sounds together to pronounce the word “storm.” It was taxing but rewarding – they are all such happy children despite their background and the fact that they have so little in life!

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This is one of the most advanced books which I was reading with the pupils from 5th standard. Most struggle even with 3-letter words…

I was reading with 1 girl who was literally doubled over to read the book on the table, I asked her if she could read the words from further back and she said no…clearly she needed glasses but her parents couldn’t afford an eye test or the glasses. Some stories you hear about the children are so sad but it does make me even more grateful for what I have…

To be continued….

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Beautiful temple at the top of the street!