Day in the life.
I recently sent the kids’ “schedule of activities” over to Dee, and she had some questions, like, why the kids don’t eat anything from 10 a.m. until teatime in the afternoon. So, I felt like it’d probably be a good idea to write an entry about what the kids do every day. (I’ve thought about doing this for my daily activities, but my schedule is so weird it’s impossible to say what I do “every day.”) They follow a very typical village Khasi schedule, which is…
Way early in the morning, the kids get up. The younger children who go to Mawsynjri LP (basically elementary school) have to leave for school around 6:30 a.m., so before then, they have to get dressed, wash their face and hands, and eat a small breakfast (usually just some plain rice). Before every meal, one of the children is called upon to say grace. Then, the little kids go off to school, while our four big kids (who are in grade five and above and enrolled at Kong Barr School) help with chores and get themselves cleaned up. They depart for school around 8:30 after having a large breakfast.
Like all small children in these Meghalayan villages, ours only have school in the morning, so they’re back by 10 a.m., if not earlier. Then, they have their proper lunch. If it’s nice outside, they take their stools outside for a picnic. If not, they’ll eat in the kitchen or the Lennox Room (our main hall). On the subject of food, every day the kids are given as many vegetables that can be found (this time of year, there are no fruits and few vegetables available) and one source of protein. This means meat once or twice a week, and otherwise eggs and Nutrella, a delicious soy-based product, not the delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread. And, of course, always rice.
If the mothers – or our construction workers – have some small chores that they need help with, our little kids help them out. For example, recently no water came to our nearby tap for over a week (this is not uncommon; we’re lucky even to have multiple taps in the Mawsynjri/Kharang area!), so our kids spent good chunks of their day helping Birialna and the mothers carry water from a local pond for drinking, cleaning, and mixing with cement.
If there are no chores in particular to help with, the kids have time to play. Nangroi and I also just spent some of our construction budget (we have some extra because of the donation from the British Unitarian General Assembly) buying toys, so now they have a local game called carmon (it’s like pool, only you use your fingers to hit discs instead of a cue to hit balls), snakes & ladders, a jump rope, a Hindi dance cassette tape (complete with a handheld cassette player/recorder left here by Jon), and a proper cricket set. Pynkhraw and the workers also built a couple of swings, and the boys enjoy playing soccer with the balls donated from First Church of Pittsburgh (though one ball has already been completely destroyed from the near constant use).
The mothers and Birialna have also been good about taking the small children out into Kharang. This past week was “School Week” at Kong Barr School, which, ironically, involved no school at all, only sporting events. All of our small kids got to go over to watch our big children compete in soccer, races, and more. Evan, Birialna, and I also went with a bunch of the small kids to a wild raspberry field last week. Delicious.
In the early afternoon, Birialna and the mothers lead the kids in study time. The children in nursery don’t have too much to study, so often they practice songs. The children in first grade copy words and are given simple math problems to solve. We also plan to institute a “story time,” once we have a good place to store our books. (Right now, our bookshelves are being used as general storage, as our workers haven’t had time yet to construct shelves in the bedrooms.) Then, the kids have tea with rice, biscuits, or subjee (sorry, don’t know the English!).
The big children arrive home at approximately four – but really just whenever school lets out that particular day – and have their tea then. They help out with some of the tougher chores, like carrying firewood and cleaning the house. They also, of course, are made to study. The small children like to go on walks, including taking their bath in one of the local ponds.
At around six, all of the children sit down for dinner. As after every meal, they clean their own plates and cups and help their mothers with the rest of the dishes. Then they have more time to play and study, and before nine o’clock are all asleep in bed.
On the weekends, they have a different schedule. On Saturdays, they have much more free time to play, though studying is still a must. On Sunday, they go to two services at the Mawsynjri Unitarian Church: first, the children’s service at 7 a.m. (often led in part by Trei); second, the regular service at 2:30 p.m. And that is the day in the life of our children.
As a more general update, construction is going along nicely. The main house has been fitted with all of its doors and windowpanes, so now every room can be put to use. We’re waiting on doors and glass to come in for our separate kitchen and bathrooms, but those are otherwise finished as well. Part of our construction has been stalled because there’s suddenly a cement shortage, and the price of a bag has double or tripled in the past couple of weeks. Nangroi is going to cave a buy an emergency 10 bags on Friday even if the price hasn’t dropped, because until we get more cement, we can’t finish our moat or the septic system (which is so close to being done, the pipes have even been installed!). In the meantime, the workers are building drainage lines in our (mud pit of a) road to stop so many pools of water forming. They’ve also put more primer paint up inside, and I’m hoping at least some of the colored paint can go up before the rains really start next month.
The kids are all doing very well. It seems all of them have settled into their new home quite comfortably. I’m very sorry to be leaving them in less than a week’s time.