Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Monsoon Musings from Mussoorie

We've been back in Mussoorie for about a month now, living through the Monsoon season when it rains pretty much incessantly for about three months. It's dark, damp and dingy inside for most of the time, although when the mist clears it reveals some magnificent crisp views of the surrounding mountains. The trees and hills are a verdant green and there are ferns and flowers everywhere.

Although it's not that easy living here during Monsoon, we really have nothing to complain about compared to so many people in this region. You may have seen on the news how bad the Monsoon was here in June, when heavy rain caused flooding which killed thousands of people in places very close to Mussoorie. More than 5,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives, with some pilgrimage areas such as Kedarnath badly affected.

The school is responding by getting involved in long term aid projects in some of the nearby villages which were affected. We are also contributing to a fund to buy emergency bags of basic provisions for those affected. E mail me if  you would like to know how to donate to this fund.

Photo: Silver Linings - monsoon view from our house
Silver linings: The view from our window when the Monsoon mist clears PHOTO: KIRSTEN BEAVAN
Parlez-vous francais? Tu veux etre professeur?

For the first three weeks of term I have been spending most of my time in the classroom teaching French. The new French teacher at Woodstock had problems getting her visa, so I was drafted in at the eleventh hour to cover her lessons.

It's been a great experience and has made me have a new-found respect for teachers. This won't be news to those of you who are teachers, but teaching is HARD WORK! It takes a lot of preparation, patience, strength of character, and the classes themselves are draining, as you need to be up front and on your game. Kids will pick up on any inconsistencies, and at times try and take a mile if you give them an inch. One negative incident can derail a whole lesson, and when it goes badly it can be pretty demoralising, but when it goes well it's very satisfying!

Nothing new to all of you who are teachers, but an insight for me. Perhaps something for the future?

Fog blog: Away day blues

Back in the UK it's around about this time I'm dusting down my road atlas or booking trains for away day trips to Morecambe or Mansfield, or some such similar beautiful English towns, as I follow the mighty Southend United Football Club.

It's fair to say that following Southend United is one of the things I miss most (after family) about being away from the UK. The closest I got to a game when we were back in the summer was visiting the ground (see pic below).

Visiting the home of football: Chessy and Ed at Roots Hall PHOTO: SELF TAKE

So it was with great anticipation that I set off a few Saturdays ago to watch the first away match of the season, following the Woodstock senior boys team in the renowned Jackie tournament (no I'm not sure who Jackie is either), at the nearby St George's College.

This was different from an English league football match in just about every way. To start with, my method of transport to the trip was by scooter, and I weaved my way down through the steep roads of Mussoorie to the venue, avoiding cows, goats and the plethora of people always walking on the roads in India.

When I arrived it was not a surprise to hear the match was not kicking off at the scheduled time. This is India and things often run late. Koi baht nehi (no worries), it meant I could go and look round the school for a while.

The stony pitch at St George's ED BEAVAN

When we did get going about an hour later the most obvious difference was the pitch. Football is a game which should be played on grass. The pitch at St George's is gravel. Actually, that's an insult to gravel. The surface was in fact small stones, with huge puddles along the sidelines. Even Barcelona would struggle to play football on this surface, and although our boys tried, a passing game was never going to reap dividends here.

The other factor at play here was fog. I've been to games with fog back home, but this was swirling Monsoon mist, at times so thick you could not see the far goal from the halfway line. The picture below shows our coach Tim desperately trying to locate the players.

Our boys did well, but they were up against the St George's alumni team, so it was literally men against boys. We lost 2-0, although we didn't see the second goal because of the mist.

One of the most extraordinary sights of the day was the end of the preceding match to ours, when the coach of a boys team forced his players to do roly polys across the gravel pitch, because they had lost their game. In any other country this would be seen as a mild form of child abuse, here, it was shrugged off with the odd puzzled stare but nothing more.

So, like so many away trips with the Shrimpers, it was defeat and little to cheer about. But on the plus side it was only a half hour scooter trip home, and later on I managed to locate Accrington Stanley v Portsmouth on TV, which was a cracking game.

Spot the ball...players...anything? Coach Tim struggles to see ED BEAVAN

Anyone for Pembs?

We spent ten days of our summer holiday in Pembrokeshire, an area of South Wales which is without doubt one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.

We were truly blessed with the weather and enjoyed a heatwave as we basked in the sun on beautiful beaches and walked along the rugged coastline with its towering cliffs.

The holiday also coincided with an unprecedented summer of British sporting success, with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, the British and Irish Lions winning the rugby series down under, and the first test being clinched in dramatic fashion.

I would strongly recommend a trip to this part of the world if you ever get the chance (although I can't guarantee it will improve the sporting success of your nation!).

The stunning coastline in Pembrokeshire ED BEAVAN
Flagging up political tensions in Mussoorie

Last Thursday were the celebrations for Indian independence day, with flagraising ceremonies at Woodstock and across the country. Unfortunately, Mussoorie hit the headlines for the wrong reasons on this day, as the leaders of the two main parties, the BJP and Congress, squabbled like children over who should raise the flag. Watch all the gory details on the video below. As the article says, it would have been comic if it wasn't so sad and immature.


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