Two days ago I went to my first girls’ school:  Kavaspur.  Kavaspur is located about 30 minutes by motorbike from Forbesgunge, and it is an entirely different world.  Fields of rice and jute as far as the eye can see, small settlements of mostly thatched-roofed and -sided huts, small naked children running around with livestock.  Women, knee deep in water, bend over and harvest or plant for 12 hours a day in the heat, in addition to taking care of the house.  I will never complain about work again.  It has been one thing for me to see this on TV or in National Geographic; it is totally different to see it face to face.  Such an impact seeing backbreaking work like that.

The school is a cluster of one and two room buildings with no electricity, so not even a fan to help eleviate heat.  I arrived with Dheeraj, my driver/escort/translator-cum-bad guy late; the monsoon rain which had cancelled class the day before washed out part of the one lane dirt road that is one of the only access points to this village.  I had to get off the motorbike, roll up my pants, take off my shoes, and wade through a calf deep muddy river for about 30 feet.  I got pics.  Anyway, all the girls had gone home by the time we arrived at the school.  So, we sat around and waited for them to be rounded up and sent back.  While I was waiting, I surveyed the area to see where I would be teaching class.  The estwhile schoolyard was under water; even without water, it was unsuitable, which says a lot since my standards of ‘unsuitable’ have come down several pegs here in Bihar.  The classroom was too small and cramped with desks.  I settled on the three and a half foot wide gangway that ran the length of the classroom building.  I then waited.

Seventeen girls showed…and about half of all the boys in the village along with some adults.  Time for class.  But there was a problem.  I started doing some drills on the gangway (concrete) and about half the girls did not want to participate all of sudden.  ?????  Dheeraj quietly and meekly came to me and said that the girls would like to do karate in their cramped classroom (apparently, they did not want to do karate in front of the boys who were looking on).   Okay, fine.  Move the desks and benchseats, sweep the floor.  Ready?  Not quite.  The few windows and doors available allowed pesky boys to watch and catcall.  Okay, close metal shutters over the windows and the metal doors, so no light or breeze.  Fine, can we begin now?  Well, yes and no.  The boys outside took it into their minds to pound on the metal shutters.  Oh, how pleasant.  And now I know what it is like to teach karate from inside of a tin can that is being used in a kickball game on a hot summer day.  Oy.

I say this now, but at the time, I was swept up in trying to teach, so just rolled with it.  And the girls’ enthusiasm was terrific.  I had them doing jumping jacks and changing directions on them, had them doing push ups, stretching.  We went over basic karate punches, and I had them hit me in the stomach.  Let me tell you, these girls really wanted to hit something.  They all had strong punches, if not particularly good technique wise.  Not much of a surprise given the type of work that they have probably been doing since they could stand.  After learning some basic wrist grab escapes, it was time to go.  Tin Can Class had finally ended.

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