the performance at the village campus

On Sunday  I’m sitting in the Bread of Life Bakery with a group of friends trying to decide which of their delicious but too expensive entrees I want to order when I get the text. “Hi  we’ll leave for Betaver at 1.” This evening is the performance at the Nirman school in Betaver village, where I work. Teachers and students have been working extra for the past two weeks to make costumes, set up classrooms for a mini open house, and teach and learn multiple plays and speeches in Hindi and English. I  spent the day yesterday at the city campus helping run the event there,  which went really well, and tonight is even more important for me as my classes will be performing. The teachers who work at the  village campus had originally been planning to take a car there from the city campus at 2:30. I still need to eat, go home, shower, collect some final supplies, and take a cycle rickshaw to school; it’s 12:15 now.

“Oh man,” I tell my friends, “What do I do? We really don’t need to be there that early—why are we leaving so early? What do I do?”

Actually it’s kind of a stupid question, because I do exactly what I’d been planning and need to do, just much more quickly. I eat fast, spend 15 minutes getting  ready at home, and argue with a rickshaw driver who is convinced he knows better than I do where I actually want to go. I finally get to the city school at 1:20.

No one is ready yet, so I sit and discuss The Lord of the Rings with the other intern working at Nirman. We finally pile into the car at just about 2:30.

When we arrive at the village school I hop out ready to go. While I’ve always liked this place—from the view of the river to the smiles of the kids, it’s a welcoming environment—I feel the most confident I’ve ever been here, really thinking of the campus as my school, the 1st to 4th grade room as my classroom. I put the finishing touches on my classroom displays and help cut out letters for a sign we’re making.

More teachers, who work at the city campus, arrive on the bus, and my students start coming one by one. After a while, we start the process of getting them all dressed and ready for the show. These girls need help putting their saris on, those boys need to be given something to do, one kid is ready for makeup, the preschoolers need to be taken to the library, and two students need somewhere to change. I flow from one group of students to the next, never without some task. Show prep is a familiar scene for me, but for the first time I am the one directing this pre-performance drama. It’s crazy but I really enjoy creating order out of the chaos. My students trust me—I can tell them the order of the shows, find a way to get them whatever they need, bring them where they should be. For about an hour I am constantly moving from one side of the school to the other, upstairs and down. These girls need help putting their saris on, those boys need to be given something to do, one kid is ready for makeup, the preschoolers need to be taken to the library, and two students need somewhere to change. I flow from one group of students to the next, never without some task, and the whole time I try to exude the calm confidence I’m feeling.

After everyone is dressed and ready I go backstage, where I help keep children quiet, calm nerves, put on costumes, and watch my students perform. One at a time each group goes out and does a wonderful job, speaking clearly in Hindi or English and remembering everything we’ve practiced. I can’t stop beaming, and I tell each student just how proud I am.

“You are amazing!” I say over and over. “You did such a good job!”

“And me?” some ask. “Was my job good?”

“So so so good!” I tell them, spreading my arms wide to illustrate, and they smile back at me.

My pride in their hard work and successes is still filling me with joy almost a week later. I am so thankful to have had the chance to do this work, to help children perform on stage and share with them the energy and joy big events like this bring, and also to teach them every day and be even a small part of their lives.

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