Monthly Archive for December, 2012

The Sholai School and beyond in Pictures

The Sholai school is nestled within the mountains of the Western Gatz, deep within a valley among jackfruit, banana trees, Silver Oak, coffee, avocado and pepper.

The Sholai school is nestled within the mountains of the Western Gatz, deep within a valley among jackfruit, banana trees, Silver Oak, coffee, avocado and pepper.
A biogas unit located east of the main classrooms.  Sholai is completely independent with their own energy, using a combination of photovoltaic solar, microhydro and biogas.

A biogas unit located east of the main classrooms. Sholai is completely independent with their own energy, using a combination of photovoltaic solar, microhydro and biogas.

Returning from a solo morning, the students make their way across the river which feeds the Sholai school with water for all of its needs.

Returning from a solo morning, the students make their way across the river which feeds the Sholai school with water for all of its needs.

Most of the food eaten at Sholai is produced on their own property.  Sholai employs many people in the local villages to help run the school and support the villages with milk and cheese.

Most of the food eaten at Sholai is produced on their own property. Sholai employs many people in the local villages to help run the school and support the villages with milk and cheese.

During a hike down into the plains, we picked up the tracks of what might have been a  lone Bull Elephant.  The first signs were grapefruit sized droppings.  The area is home to a huge array of wild life, from endangered birds, wild cats, snakes and elephants.

During a hike down into the plains, we picked up the tracks of what might have been a lone Bull Elephant. The first signs were grapefruit sized droppings. The area is home to a huge array of wild life, from endangered birds, wild cats, snakes and elephants.

One of the incomes which supports the school is the exportation of coffee to a small German company.  Students and staff spent the morning picking coffee and preparing it for processing.

One of the incomes which supports the school is the exportation of coffee to a small German company. Students and staff spent the morning picking coffee and preparing it for processing.

After picking the coffee fruits they need to be pulped to remove the skins from the two seeds nestled inside.  After this process the beans are soaked then sun dried, polished and finally roasted.

After picking the coffee fruits they need to be pulped to remove the skins from the two seeds nestled inside. After this process the beans are soaked then sun dried, polished and finally roasted.

 

Among are many tours in the area, we visited a conservation centre located in the semi famous hill town of Kodaikanal.  All of the plants in the conservatory are endangered species, some of the last remaining on the planet.

Among are many tours in the area, we visited a conservation centre located in the semi famous hill town of Kodaikanal. All of the plants in the conservatory are endangered species, some of the last remaining on the planet.

 

After leaving the Sholai School we were in for perhaps our most drastic contrast we were to face.  A gated neighborhood called Brigade Metropolis, located in the middle of Bangalore was our home for one evening.  Witinh the gates was a Western replica of city living; manicured hedges, huge apartment building and cafes selling iced cappuccinos.

After leaving the Sholai School we were in for perhaps our most drastic contrast.  A gated neighborhood called Brigade Metropolis, located in the middle of Bangalore was our home for one evening. Witinh the gates was a Western replica of city living; manicured hedges, huge apartment building and cafes selling iced cappuccinos.

 

 

 

 

Out of the Mountains and in to the Plains

We left the mountains, and have entered the plains once again… Our stay at Sholai School seemed almost like a holiday, in a beautiful quiet and natural setting. The last couple of days at Sholai, Petter and myself were not feeling so well, we caught a bit of a flu virus on the way, which slowly went around. James felt rather unwell for a day or two, then I got it and was sick for three days, then Petter got a mild version for a day or so. Luckily Murali was there to take the boys on walks and they even spend a day learning about the cheese the school makes in it’s own dairy. The last day, just before we left, they climbed up a waterfall nearby the school, which feeds the river going through the Sholai land. And especially for Philip, this was a gratifying experience.

The bus ride back to Bangalore awoke us somewhat cruelly to a completely different reality again. We left at 7 in the evening on an overnight semi-sleeper. The first part, going down the mountains, left half the bus feeling terribly carsick and vomiting. My theory is that they ate too much before getting on the bus. And yet, when we stopped after three hours or so to take a dinner break, most people got of the bus, emptied their bowels once more and then happily went in to the restaurant to fill themselves up again with food before getting on for the next part of the journey. Sorry folks, don’t mean to ruin your appetite or enjoyment of this blog! But I sure felt glad we had decided not to have any dinner before getting on the bus, because a trip like that is much more bearable on an empty stomach. We arrived in Bangalore at 4.30 in the morning, took another bus to the central bus station and then another one from there to our B&B where we would stay for one night. The place was in a gated community on the edge of the centre. We arrived there at 7am and stepped right from one extreme in to another. The streets of Bangalore are hot, full of people, cattle and traffic. There is an overwhelming sense of chaos and pollution and there is garbage everywhere. People are selling their merchandise on any empty spot they can find, it is colourful, full of life and constant activity. The gated community however, was clean, quiet, upper middle class, with it’s own little shopping centre and offices, a bank and post office. There were playgrounds for the children, a gym and several cafe’s and restaurants as well as parks. When you entered through the gates, it was as if the air-conditioning got turned on, there was a constant and refreshing breeze and if you wanted, you could stay within this gated community without ever really having to venture in to the chaos of the city.

We decided to explore the world of malls for the day. If only to do something completely different form what we had done so far on this trip. Our first stop was Phoenix mall, supposedly the biggest, newest and most westernised mall of Bangalore currently available. It happened to be right around the corner of the gated community we were staying in. We had high expectations of the place but it was exhausting more than anything… But we were still ready for more and decided to go to the Hobbit in 3D in another mall that evening, and before that have dinner in an organic restaurant near by. So, in to the auto-riksha and off we went again. It was the first time we went to a restaurant since arriving in India and there was so much choice on the menu we were completely overwhelmed. But how exciting it was to have salads! And big ones at that too. The movie was good but rather painful to watch. I would definitely not recommend you watching any low quality 3D shows. We all ended up with red eyes and sore nose bridges. But hey, we went to the movie theatre in India!

The next day we had to part with Alby. His family had planned a trip to Kenia, so he has flown straight from Bangalore there. It was lovely to have him with us for two and a half weeks!

And no we are at the Valley School. It is tranquil again. About 17km outside of the city in a huge forested area. Rupert, a former Brockwood staff is now a teacher here and he has taken us on for the 4 days that we are here. Great!

And the guys say: Hello! We are sunburned in December, and itchy from mosquito bites! Also they hope there is fruit for supper.

Will write more soon!

A week at Sholai School

It has been a while since I wrote anything on the blog, there are just so many other things that keep us occupied here! Right now the boys are on a solo by the river for the morning and this gives Petter and myself some time to put things online.

We arrived at the Sholai School in the Palani Hills, a mountain range in the Western Ghats on Wednesday morning. We took an overnight train from Bangalore, which was an experience in itself! When we got to Kodai Road train station early on Wednesday morning Murali, a former Brockwood mature student was waiting for us. We had another 2 hour drive to go to get up in to the mountains. The school is tucked away in a quiet valley and it is absolutely beautiful here. Straight after our arrival Murali took us for a walk around the campus and showed us the micro-hydro pump, solar panels and biogas which provide Sholai with all its energy needs. The different buildings on the campus are surrounded by the vegetable gardens and the coffee and pepper plantations. There are plenty of monkeys, wild boar and even elephants and leopards in the mountains here.

The next day Murali took us for a walk up into the mountains, where we saw lots of elephant dung, but unfortunately no elephants. We did see many beautiful birds and black faced monkeys, as well as a huge Rat snake swimming at the bottom of a waterfall.

On Friday we went higher up in to the mountains, to the rain forest. We spent the morning there, also visiting a nursery with all endangered or almost extinct plant species that are being reintroduced. James and Alby had their fill of climbing trees and after we went to Kodai Kanal, which is the biggest town around here, to have lunch and do some shopping. There are quite a few tourists around here, and it was the first time since our arrival in India that we saw so many white faces!

Yesterday we helped on the farm, picking coffee and separating the beans and the pulp. None of us had ever seen a coffee tree before, let alone the whole process of preparing the beans for consumption. First the beans need to be picked, then the pulp and the beans are separated. After, the beans are soaked in water for a few days and then they are laid out to dry in the sun. Then they need to be polished, and finally roasted. Here at Sholai this process is all done by hand.

At the moment it is holiday time here at Sholai, so there are only a few students around. This means the electricity supply is limited. We won’t be able to use the computer again before we go to our next destination, the Valley School in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Happy holidays everyone and have a wonderful Christmas time!

A Week at Rishi Vally in Pictures

We arrived to Rishi Valley on the afternoon of Tuesday the 11th.  Signs provided the way to the offices, but still the campus kept us busy, wandering and exploring for several days.

We arrived to Rishi Valley on the afternoon of Tuesday the 11th. Signs provided the way to the offices, but still the campus kept us busy, wandering and exploring for several days.

The early morning mist provided beautiful light around Rishi valley.  The best times of day to go for a walk was the early mornings and evenings, coincidentally the best time to make photos.

The early morning mist provided beautiful light around Rishi valley. The best times of day to go for a walk was the early mornings and evenings, coincidentally the best time to make photos.

In the back ground Rishi Valley can be seen.  We went for a walk nearly every day during our stay.  Several of the hiking points were named by the students: Windmill Rock, Lion Rock, 360 point and the Three Sisters to name a few.

In the back ground Rishi Valley can be seen. We went for a walk nearly every day during our stay. Several of the hiking points were named by the students: Windmill Rock, Lion Rock, 360 point and the Three Sisters to name a few.

Brockwood students and staff sitting upon Windmill rock on a hike led by Ramola (upper right) a staff member at The Rish Valley School.  The rocks are some of the oldest on the Earth, dating back at least 3 million years, making Rishi Valley one of the oldest areas on Earth.

Brockwood students and staff sitting upon Windmill rock on a hike led by Ramola (upper right) a staff member at The Rish Valley School. The rocks are some of the oldest on the Earth, dating back at least 3 million years, making Rishi Valley one of the oldest areas on Earth.

 

We rose just before the break of dawn to head out with Shantaram for a birdwatching walk.  The area is home to over 220 species.  This time of year is particularly exciting for birdwatching because of the migratory birds from the Himalayas.

We rose just before the break of dawn to head out with Shantaram for a birdwatching walk. The area is home to over 220 species. This time of year is particularly exciting for birdwatching because of the migratory birds from the Himalayas.

 

We visited the Rural Education Centre, an outreach program initiated by the Rishi Vally Educational Centre.  The class room consists of four main areas demarcated with four tables in this classroom.  The tables counter clockwise from lower left are set up as follows; Teacher assisted learning, partially teacher assisted learning, peer assisted learning and independent study.  In this way the students are taught to help themselves and one another, as well as allowing them to learn at their own pace.

We visited the Rural Education Centre, an outreach program initiated by the Rishi Vally Educational Centre. The class room consists of four main areas demarcated with four tables in this classroom. The tables counter clockwise from lower left are set up as follows; Teacher assisted learning, partially teacher assisted learning, peer assisted learning and independent study. In this way the students are taught to help themselves and one another, as well as allowing them to learn at their own pace.

The Rural Education Centre  is a flagship school for several hundred rural schools around the world.  During our visit the children asked the teacher if they could put on a shadow puppet performance.  Although the play was in Telugu, we understood that it had something to do with a monkey and several crocodiles in a forest.

The Rural Education Centre is a flagship school for several hundred rural schools around the world. During our visit the children asked the teacher if they could put on a shadow puppet performance. Although the play was in Telugu, we understood that it had something to do with a monkey and several crocodiles in a forest.

Beside the several educational projects at Rishi Valley, there is also an effort to care for the environment.  The reintroduction of the local livestock, Ongole cattle, is of significant importance.  The Ongole faces extinction due to government pressure to increase milk yields.

Beside the several educational projects at Rishi Valley, there is also an effort to care for the environment. The reintroduction of the local livestock, Ongole cattle, is of significant importance. The Ongole faces extinction due to government pressure to increase milk yields.

 

Sunclipse behind the hills which watch over Rishi Valley; Rishikonda, Middle Peak and Bodikonda.

Sunclipse behind the hills which watch over Rishi Valley; Rishikonda, Middle Peak and Bodikonda.

 

 

 

Drangonflys and Inequality

HI everyone!

There are dragonflies in the air. That’s supposed to mean the rain is coming, but we haven’t seen any yet… They are beautiful though!

Tomorrow we are leaving Rishi Valley. It has been a lovely week full of impressions. Today for example, we visited one of the rural schools and the rural health care center. The contrasts are so big here. When we entered the tiny class room of the rural school, The teacher had the children stand up and salute us. To us this seems strange but here it is a show of respect for visitors. At the health care center, there was a huge line of people waiting to be seen. As soon as we arrived though, we were invited into the doctor’s office, while the patient he was seeing at that moment was not even dismissed yet. We were sat down and some of the patients waiting outside were made to sit on the floor so we could sit on a chair. For us this is uncomfortable and completely unnecessary, wrong even, but here inequality is the norm and equality is uncomfortable. So how do you respond in a situation like that? It is a constant challenge to try and find a balance between what is socially acceptable here and what feels right for us.

In Rishi Valley itself the students and staff are very much on an equal level and it gives a completely different feeling. It has been lovely to spend some time here and get to know the people and the place. It feels like we finally know our way around here and now we are leaving. On to our next adventure in the Sholai School! We have a long train journey ahead of us tomorrow.

Ah and the pictures are proving to be a bit of a problem to upload, but when they do come there will be all the more of them and all the more to enjoy!

Adventures on the Rishi Valley Campus

We have arrived… And what a beautiful place this is!

After a long journey with hardly any sleep, we arrived to the airport of Bangalore yesterday around 10am. There was a driver waiting to take us to Rishi Valley and he looked rather surprised at the prospect of having to fit 5 such tall people and their backpacks in his car. Luckily it was not a problem and of we went through the outskirts of Bangalore and in to the countryside of South India. From our air-conditioned taxi, we were slowly introduced to the sights of this area. Huge termite hills, monkeys, markets, stalls with young coconut, rice fields, motorbikes and three-wheelers , brightly painted gods and goddesses in shrines by the side of the road, flower garlands, women in saris carrying their load on their heads and men herding their cows.

We are still slowly adjusting to the temperature, the food and the rhythm here, but there is plenty to do! Yesterday we ran in to a dance class, rehearsing for a big performance this weekend. We sat there mesmerized for quite some time and learned some things about the meaning of the facial expressions and hand movements in Indian dance. We had a meeting with the coordinator of the rural outreach program, who explained about the community work that Rishi Valley is doing in the area. The school is in the middle of a watershed and the area is classified as a special development zone, which means it has some environmental protection by law. The campus is beautiful, lots of trees, greenery and flowers around. There are parakeets, monkeys, lots of big butterflies and huge bats!

Last night we hung out with the local cow herd, there was a calf of only 5 days old, so sweet and sooo soft! Then we had dinner with the director and some other Brockwood people that are here at the moment; Derrek and Wendy, both trustees, Steve, a former teacher and Gopal. After dinner we went back to the dance class to see one more rehearsel. After this… we were super tired and went to bed straight away.

This morning we went to visit the rural school, where the children from the surrounding village go to school. They have developed a special learning model, where each child learns at their own level, in teacher supported, peer supported or individual groups. The classroom was open, with all the children working on the floor, surrounded by their maths and artwork on the walls and ceiling. We played games with them and sang songs. Both the kids and we got super excited and had lots of fun.

Now we are just about to start a yoga class with the Rishi Valley staff.

I will try to put op posts a bit more regularly, but the power cuts out quite often, and so does the internet…

Petter will put up some photo’s of our adventures later today!

 

 

We are going to India!

Tomorrow a group of 3 students and 2 staff will be leaving Brockwood to go to the South of India for a month. We will be visiting several of Brockwood’s sister schools in Bangalore and Chennai, participate in the daily running of the places we visit, explore the culture in the cities and countryside, learn about self sufficiency and alternative education in India, hang out with monkeys, and hopefully eat really good food and have lots of fun!

Here is a short introduction of the group:

Petter organises the  Care for the Earth Programme at Brockwood and teaches Outdoor Education and Photography. He is originally from the United States and Norway.

Sarai manages the kitchen and cooks at Brockwood she is from the Netherlands and loves baking bread.

Petter & Sarai have both been at Brockwood for almost 3 years now.

Philip is from Germany, 17 years old and interested in any adventure. He particularly likes to hang out with his friends and eat, a lot! This is his second year at Brockwood.

James from England, 18 years old. He loves to sing and plant things, grow things, be outside and play the piano. And yoga too!  James is in his third year at Brockwood.

Alby from England, 16 years old and very interested in the natural world, hands on activities, yoga, photography and playing the guitar. This is Alby’s third year at Brockwood.

The pictures for our visa applications, charming no?

 

We will try to post regularly on the blog and tell you all about our adventures!

PRESENT TENSE – A Talk by Moa Silén entitled: “The modern-day reality of getting into drama and making a living through acting.”

Update: Available now on our YouTube channel.

A Present Tense Lecture by Moa Silén on Friday 26th October 2012, 11:30am.

Moa will share how she came to decide to go to Drama School and what training to become an actor/actress involves – the highs and the lows. She will talk about her school experiences and about what it is like to make a living through drama, and what everyday life can be like for an actress in Sweden.

Present Tense – A talk by Mukti K. Mitchell

Update: Available now on our YouTube channel.

A Present Tense Lecture by Mukti K. Mitchell on Sunday 7th October 2012.

“What it was like sailing around Britain in a 15ft boat; how low carbon living improves your quality of life; and why insulation saves money and the planet, as well as making you cosy.”

Mukti will share how he came to design and build a zero-emission microyacht and sail around Britain, endorsed by the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister. He will describe how eco-living choices improved his quality of life. And he will explain how to save energy in old houses, and cut the national carbon footprint.

Mukti is director of CosyHome Company and lives by the sea in North Devon. He attended the Small School, an alternative secondary school with 35 pupils. He is author of The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles, five on-line carbon calculators and articles in numerous magazines from Architectural Design to Resurgence. He has crewed sailing boats across the Atlantic and hitch-hiked across South America.