1st week in the orphanage, Part 3

Monday 3rd September 2007

Priya and I have decided to start a ‘school’ here at the orphanage, as the kids not only desperately need an education, but also something organised to fill the days!
I divided the kids into 4 groups based on age and ability (for example, Mina is 13 but has never been to school before). I made a timetable that includes English, Nepali, Maths, Science, Geography, History, Music and Art.
However, as there are 4 groups, instead of planning 6 lessons a day, it’s more like 24!
A tad daunting!
Luckily there are two very sweet 17-year olds, at college studying teacher training, who come in most days to help teach, so between them, me and Priya, we should be ok! (Fingers crossed).

I must also take a minute to thank my partner teacher in Kuwait. She helped me so much with lesson plans and ideas, and without all her help last year I definitely wouldn’t be able to take on a project like this. I’ve been desperately jotting down everything I can remember and hope I don’t run out of lesson ideas!
I know this email is ridiculously long, as they usually are, but there just seems to be so much to write about it’s hard to know what to put in and what to leave out. However, I must tell you about something which happened on Saturday night, as it really shook me to the core and made me realise that this isn’t always going to be a picnic.
During evening prayers, one of the boys, Omar (he’s about 8, and a ‘lost’ boy) fell asleep.
Everyone was hooting with laughter and Anil, being a bit juvenile for 21, started putting silly things on his head and on his mouth, and then drew a moustache on his face in black marker.They all begged me to take pictures, which I duly did, but after a while they tried to wake him up.
It was immediately clear that he was actually unconcious, propped up against the wall, and I felt really terrified.
Anil picked him up and shook him about, and then they propped him up in the bathroom and splashed water in his face. He seemed to come around, and I thought he must have just fainted, but when we lay him down he slipped under again.
I suggested some sugar-water, in case he had low blood sugar, which we tried, but he wasn’t really conscious enough to swallow and dribbled most of it down his shirt.
He was breathing fast, but steadily, and I checked his pulse (130 bpm, but I have no idea if that’s good or bad for an 8-yerar old). He sometimes groaned a bit and seemed to be waking up and moving around, and then went floppy again. I kept saying we should really call a doctor/take him to hospital, but they stalled, clearly thinking he’d be ok soon.
I raised his eyelids and his eyes didn’t move, just stared up at me blankly, although his eyes were too dark for me to see if his pupils dilated or not (again I have no idea what it means if they are or aren’t dilated, only that you’re supposed to check – I think I’ve watched too much ER).
I pinched his feet and dug my nails into his heels, but he didn’t respond at all, and I was totally gripped with terror.
Aamaa was hugging him, rocking him, fanning him, slapping his face, throwing water on him and yelling instructions. She scrubbed desperately at his face while yelling at Anil, as she clearly didn’t want Omar going to hospital with a drawn-on moustache. She barked instructions to one kid, and I thought he’d gone to get a taxi, but he came rushing back with tikka powder, putting dots on his forehead, cheeks and neck, and blessing him.
I don’t mean to be cynical, but this was a semi-conscious unresponsive eight-year old. There’s a time and a place for religion, and as far as I’m concerned, this was not it.
Aamaa asked for chocolate, and I raced upstairs, glad to finally ber able to help, thanking my chocolate addiction, and returned with my last mini-snickers. She put it in his hand and he clutched it.
It was weird that even though he kept slipping between apparent unconciousness and groaning semi-consciousness, he managed to cling onto the chocolate the whole time!
Anil started poking him and shaking him until he started groaning and crying, and they said “Oh, he’s crying, he’s ok, we don’t need the doctor”.
I wanted to scream at them. I don’t care if he got up and danced the fucking Macarena, he’s 8 years old and was semi-conscious for about 20 minutes, and god knows how long he was out before that – OF COURSE HE NEEDS A BLOODY DOCTOR!!!!!
Eventually they carried him out to a taxi and to hospital, and Priya came back later to say that he was fine, he got up to pee once at the hospital and the doctor apparently said it was caused by depression because he wants to go home.
I find that hard to believe – I know trauma can do strange things to you, but no one can fake that kind of unconsciousness, especially not an 8-year old. When people are literally pulling your eyelids up and your eyes don’t move, something is very wrong.
He stayed overnight in the hospital, and everyone ate dinner very subdued.
I wanted to burst into tears and crawl into lovely Aamaa’s lap for a cuddle, but knew I had to keep it together in front of the other kids.
Aamaa must have realised, as she kept us all busy making cleaning and lesson rotas all night, and after the kids went to bed she took my hand and explained in her sweet broken English that she has two faces, one for the kids that must never cry, and one for her room that does.
I knew exactly what she meant, and she gave me a big hug and I told her how brave she is to care for all these children.
I can’t help but feel a bit fearful of the next ten months. I was mildly shocked by the scabies and lice, but it never occured to me that any of the kids could get really sick or hurt while I’m here.
I think I may have to get a credit card after all, as while I don’t really need one for me, if anything like this happens again I want to be able to whisk them off to hospital immediately.
I couldn’t help but feel that part of the hesitation to take him in was due to lack of money, and I felt completely helpless, as I had run out of cash.
An incredibly dramatic end to my first week, but no time to dwell on it, as it’s the first day of “school” tomorrow….
tons of love

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