Preparing for the Stage: Third Week of Volunteering in Chengannur

During our third week of volunteering in Chengannur, we shifted into gear with readying the student performances of three folktales that we’ve been working on. These are all stories that we drew from our perennial repertoire as touring entertainers in the States. First we demonstrated them, then we began teaching them to the young thespians.

Each of the three performances presented its challenges. One of which, of course, was just keeping the kiddos focused, which is always a problem at that age. Additionally, we realized that the story we were having the second grade perform — a Russian “noodlehead” story that we were calling The Silly Boy — was perhaps a bit too complicated for that age level.

The first grade was doing “Three Little Pigs”, and the third grade was doing “Red Riding Hood”. There were some talented youngsters in all of the classes, and when they stayed on track they really shone. In the third grade, the girl whom we cast as the wolf was initially pouty because she didn’t get the part of Red. But once she snapped out of it, her talents came through splendidly. (By the way, this might be as good a time as any to work in the non sequitur that Indian girls, even very young ones, often wear eye makeup. In part, it’s a tradition traceable to a folk belief about warding off the evil eye.)

And that was our activity for pretty much the entire week — well, except for the weekend, which we’ll get to in the next post. The only other things that happened of interest were a couple of mishaps.

The first took place in front of the school, where a tuk-tuk collided with a pole. Traffic accidents, from what we’ve seen, are amazingly rare in India despite the heavy and frantic traffic. In fact, this was the only one we saw in all our time there — and it involved only a single vehicle. For reasons not at all clear, the driver swerved onto the shoulder without slowing down, and slammed right into the pole.

We know this because Dennis witnessed it, and ran out to see if he could be of assistance. At this point, the driver was unconscious and slumped over the wheel, but did not seem to have serious injury. Fortunately, neighbors across the street also rushed out, and removed him from the vehicle, putting him in a car to take him where he could be treated. Apparently, many of the communities we’ve been in have very limited ambulance service, if any at all.

The other incident involved our power source. No, no, not the outlet in the kitchen that kept sparking when something was plugged into it; but the adaptor we purchased in the States before leaving. Different countries have different kinds of power outlets; so you need an adaptor in order to use a computer or any other electrical device brought from the U.S. Since we’d be going to many different countries with some half dozen different kinds of outlets, we managed to find an adaptor that has prongs to fit all of them.

Well, once upon a time it was plugged into the wall as usual, when Dennis chose that moment to lose his balance and go crashing into the wall, right against the adaptor, losing control as unexpectedly as the tuk-tuk driver. As a result, the India prongs were bent.

Now this was a matter of some concern, since this device was all but impossible to replace. We’d have to order it from the States, have it shipped at astronomical cost, and even probably have it arrive three months after we’d already left. Without it, we’d be unable to charge the computer, which would leave us really lost in space. Among other things, you would not have been able to read these lovely words you’re now reading.

Fortunately. we were able to borrow a pair of pliers and carefully straighten the prongs. Still, this episode taught us two valuable lessons.

  • First, if at all possible, bring along a spare of any essential and hard to replace item.
  • Second, for heaven’s sake, keep your balance.

Bird of the Week

June 20-24, 2022

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