06 October, 2009

Macademia's gone camping

Pecan is, right now, running up and down the passage way at home – his version of “running around in circles”, I guess !!

Why ? Does he not have anything better to do ?

As of now, no – he doesn’t. Life has been quite dull for Pecan since yesterday. Dull because Macademia has gone off to camp. And this time around – it is serious business – camp for a whole week. She’ll be back on Friday evening.

On normal days, Macademia and Pecan start their tiffs and their ritual sparring with each other right from the moment they wake up in the mornings. This goes on until they board their respective school buses which ferry them off to their respective school campuses.

The squabbles then begin once again in the afternoon ….. and of late, Mommy has been divested of the responsibility of going downstairs and getting Pecan back home from the lobby when the school bus drops him back. Macademia has taken over that responsibility. Since her bus gets her home first – she comes home, drops off her school bag and whizzes downstairs to the lobby before Pecan’s bus gets there to drop him off.

And the squabbles start in right earnest right from the moment he steps off the bus. Invariably, as Mommy opens the front door, she is greeted by the sight of the nutty siblings glaring away at each other – hands on hips and what not.

Well, Pecan sure seems to be missing all that action :).

Macademia’s camp this year is different from the camps that she’s attended when she was in Year Three, Four and Five of school. This year, not only is the camp a whole week long, it also stresses a great deal on individual responsibility.

The kids will be housed in dorms this year (unlike last year when they had to pitch their own tents and camp out on the beach). Unlike the past few years where all meals have been the responsibility of the school – this year, the kids have had to carry money.

They would have to use their own money to buy their lunches and drinks and bottled water etc …

While, at the outset, this sounded incredibly exciting to most of the kids, that feeling of responsibility eventually set in when they realized that they would be solely responsible in safeguarding the money they were carrying.

They have to make sure they allocate their financial resources wisely – to provide for their lunches, drinks, water and probably at the end of the week …. if they wished, to buy some small souvenirs from the island they’ve gone to.

There have been instances in the past wherein kids have splurged on souvenirs right at the beginning of camp only to find themselves short of cash towards the last couple of days of camp. That sure would have meant meager drinks and lunches towards the end of camp.

They have to make sure they keep their cash safe and they have to maintain their accounts and make sure that their cash balances at the end of the day tally. Now, the onus is on them to order their lunches in such a manner that they have a balanced diet. There’s no one to guide them – not for this one week.

While breakfast and dinner will be provided to the kids in the dining hall of the dorm, there is something different about these too. The kids have been divided into duty groups. And each duty group has been assigned their duties for each day. It would be the responsibility of the duty groups to set the tables for breakfast and dinner – as has been scheduled. The concerned duty groups would have to go over to the kitchen and carry the breakfast and dinner from there to the dining hall and set it all up – for everybody to have breakfast. All 150 kids plus the school teaching staff who are at camp with them.

The kids have to clean their own dorm rooms and that includes the bathrooms too. They have to sweep the rooms and make sure the bathrooms are spick and span after all four kids in the room are done with their showers. Thus, the school ensures that the kids reach an agreement amongst themselves in setting down their daily “room cleaning” schedules. It would be a Division of Labor – but the kids would have to divide it amongst themselves. No one would be telling them what to do.

One evening out of the five evenings they are at camp, the teachers would divide them into groups and each group would be given a budget. They would be handed that amount of money and each group has to go by themselves to nearby restaurants, look at the menus, decide, order, eat and at the end of it all – pay up the bill by themselves. Again, it would mean staying within the budget and yet making sure there are no major differences in opinion about which restaurant to go over to for dinner and at the end of it all – it would involve checking the tab to make sure they have not been overcharged and also to make sure that they get the right amount of change back from the restaurant.

The best part is – in all of these five days – they are allowed to go over to McDonalds just once. For just one meal. For the rest of their meals, they would have to frequent the local restaurants. And having been to this particular island, we know for a fact that frequenting a local restaurant means the kids will have to speak Cantonese when it comes to ordering their food and for any other requests they may have at the restaurants.

Their days are full of activities. They have long walks scheduled, they have hikes up hills, visits to the Pagoda, a trip to a rather wonderful sounding “Pirates Cove”, lunches at the beach, campfires, a whole plethora of games like badminton, table tennis, swimming, basketball ....

It is indeed a wonderful week for the kids to learn “responsibility” – not just the dictionary meaning of the term – but in their own many little ways – they are responsible for themselves and their close circle of friends around them – for the whole week.

It sounds like a wonderful journey – one that would probably make them more “grown up” in their approach to so many things – most of which have, until this one week of camp, been taken for granted.

Like Abigail Van Buren so rightfully said once

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”

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05 October, 2009

Is Planet Earth a living thing ?

The Abhayisms have all but stopped, have they not ?

It’s not as if Pecan has stopped dishing out wisecracks. Oh no ! He has not. It’s just that there is something different about the “Abhayisms” now.

Situations do bring about witty ripostes and retorts do fly quite often. But they are somehow different in composition. There are times when the quips and questions seem quite “grown up”.

That babyness, that innocence that one associates with a wide eyed wonder that only little children are capable of – it is that gullibility that makes all the difference.

There is an element of assurance about Pecan nowadays. Something that was not so evident even last year – but something that is so markedly present this year. There is an air of confidence and even when he retorts with a quip – he does so in a rather measured manner.

The thoughts which seemed rather scattered before – so scattered that they used to fly in from all directions – are now focused.

Where there used to be high pitched giggles hitherto, now there is a knowing smile. Where there used to be that slight element of uncertainty while putting forth facts in his statements, now there is a stillness, a certain element of poise.

Where there used to be an element of “oh I need to check on that before I say it out aloud”, now there seems to be a distinct sense of assurance, one of self-belief and self-reliance.

So where Pecan used to dole out Abhayisms that used to have people rolling on the floor, uncontrollably laughing – he now dishes out what we’ve termed “gyaan”.

The questions and queries have an element of seriousness about them and at times – are quite profound. Wherefrom do such thought processes originate – he does make us ponder over that question many a times, nowadays.

“Sometimes he seems way beyond 6 ½ years of age” was what Vic said the other day.

The queries, yet again, seem to originate after a lot of thought having been attributed to them. It is not a “flash in the pan” kind. He’s thought about it and when he puts forth his queries, it is almost as if he is asking for inputs, different angles to the query – rather than the solution as a whole. Some more angles, so that he can ponder over it some more and come up with more complex questions.

“Would you say that Planet Earth is a living thing ?” was one such query.

To be honest, it threw me. How does one respond to something like that ? It cannot be responded to immediately – just some answer just to stop the questions from flying across. It was a question that deserved more respect, it was not a query that could be answered with just a Yes or a No.

“What would you say ? Is Planet Earth a living thing according to you ?” I asked him.

“See – Planet Earth has things on it that helps people, animals and insects to live. It has grass for animals to eat, it has water for people and animals to drink, it has oxygen for all living beings to breathe. But all these things are there ON Planet Earth. So Planet Earth helps living things to live. No other planet in the solar system can have any living thing living on them. They’re too cold or they’re too hot or they don’t have air that people can breathe or they don’t have water. Seeds are put in the soil and they grow. Clouds give us rains. Oceans have coral reefs – and coral reefs which look like stones or hard sponges – are actually living things …..”

“So God made only Planet Earth the place where living beings can live. That is why I’m confused. That is why I asked if Planet Earth is a living thing ?”

I think the point he was and is trying to make is that only something living can sustain another life. That is what I’ve managed to gather from his thought processes.

So, I now pose this question to you who is reading this at this very moment –

In your opinion, is Planet Earth a living thing ?”


Dr. Ralph Gerrard once said

"Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them."

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