Sunday, September 19, 2010

penpals, anyone? And a way you can help!

This post was written on September 10 and I am just now getting time to put it up. Hope all is well back home! :D

I now have a mailing address and would LOVE for you to write to me. I promise to write you back!

Madison Munoz
BIGHS Pallom
Pallom PO Kottayam
Kerala 686007 India

But keep reading--you’re going to need the above address for something else later in this post :)

Things at Buchanan are coming along well. There was no school today due to the end of Ramadan, so a couple of girls accompanied me into town to buy some miscellaneous things, including jewelry. It seems that in India, no matter how simple or fancy one’s outfit is, regardless of one’s socio-economic status, one is ‘naked’ without jewelry (earrings, necklace, and a bracelet, whether real or fake). Incidentally, I brought ZERO jewelry with me in my whole quest to live-simply-wear-no-makeup-care-not-about-what-I-look-like-because-that’s-not-why-I’m-here for a year. Not that my lack of jewelry turned into some horrible, immediate problem, but I can’t tell you how many times girls and women of all ages would be talking to me, stop mid-sentence, and with bewilderment and concern ask me, “Don’t you wear jewelry?” So I finally bought some.

Other than shopping, I have spent today brainstorming and thinking about lesson plans and the like. As I mentioned in a previous post, the most obvious thing I’ll be doing here at Buchanan is teaching English classes during the week. A more subtle part of my service, however, that will take place at both scheduled and unscheduled times, comes from where I live—the BI boarding hostel.

Some of you might be thinking, like I originally thought, “wait…I thought a hostel was a cheap place where travelers stay a few nights and then go on their way?” While this is a correct assumption, here, in Kerala, the word “hostel” is used to denote a residential boarding establishment away from one’s home, in the same way we would refer to a college dorm or residence hall. So, I’m basically living in a dorm with young women, ages 18-20, who are students at the Teacher Training Institute (TTI).  (“Buchanan,” as you have heard me refer to it, is technically an institute comprised of several smaller institutions, including TTI).  That being said, surrounded by these outgoing girls who are all basically my peers, the hostel is a pretty lively place to call home.

While many of the girls have had English instruction throughout their years of schooling, they really struggle with conversation and comprehension. So in addition to teaching actual classes at the High School, part of my time at Buchanan will be spent helping the TTI girls at the hostel with their English. I can also organize “for fun” activities. Last year’s volunteer, Sarah, for example, started an exercise class that the girls are asking me to bring back. Last night I taught them how to play Uno.

All of that is to say that the great part of living and working with these girls, in particular, is that I get to be creative with how we work on their English skills. Given all of the requests I have had from them to sing English songs, and given how much listening to Spanish music helped me with my Spanish fluidity and pronunciation, I think music might be one of the ways to do it. Being that I have no music on my computer, and no access to internet…I need your help!

If you are interested in helping these young women improve their English skills, as well as broaden their musical horizons beyond Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On”…make a CD and mail it to me! It can be any kind of music. Currently popular, your old favorites, pop, country, classics from movies or musicals…you name it. Just try to make sure the songs are appropriate, keeping in mind that it’s best to air on the side of prudence, as India’s culture is more conservative than that of the United States. So no, Lil’ Wayne won’t make the cut. That’s really the only prerequisite or “rule”. If you REALLY want to go above and beyond, you can print out the lyrics, so that the girls can simultaneously read and sing along…but worst-case scenario, I can write the lyrics out myself or perhaps type them and find a printer.

In case you have forgotten in the time it has taken you to read this ridiculously long post, my address is at the top.

This is a great, easy way for you to enrich the lives of these girls, allowing them to improve their English in an unconventional way.  Let me know if you have any questions, and most of all, on behalf of Haripriya, Serene, Sruthy, Anu, Saumya, and Renju (those are the only names I know right now)…THANKS!


  1. So no, Lil' Wayne won't make the cut....HAHAHAHAHAHHA! I can SO picture you saying that! Ehehehehehe!

  2. Madison,
    Hello from Riverside Presbyterian in Jacksonville, FL. We have an interim youth director, Marc van Bulck. I'm giving him your info in case we can help spread the word about YAV to our youth.
    We're praying for you and it sounds like a great adventure.