Yesterday we helped our Youth Empowerment students write their first post on the Bridges to Understanding website. Bridges not only provides a curriculum for making digital stories with students but also has a protected online forum in which students from Bridges classes across the world can converse with each other. There are bridges classes in seven countries: India, Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Peru, Guatemala, South Africa, and the USA. Our students read a discussion started by students in Azerbaijan discussing how they celebrate the holiday Gurban. Fortuitously we had just celebrated a Hindu holiday in Kalleda so our first post was in reply to this discussion.
Liza and I tested out a method that worked very well and that we will use, at least for now, to get things rolling and work around the language barrier. First we asked the students to write five sentences in English describing Shivarathri, the holiday, as their homework. We then spent the first half of class yesterday discussing their answers. They all had very nearly the same sentences, describing the most obvious aspects of the festival: they don't sleep, don't eat, and they go to temple to pray to Shiva and watch a program. It was lucky that Liza and I had also participated in the festival and were able to ask leading questions that brought out a lengthy discussion into the details and history of the holiday. Then, while Liza read through the Azerbaijani post with the students, I typed up what the students had said about Shivarathri, trying to maintain their vocabulary and style of speech while organizing the thoughts. We then read through the typed up post with the students and asked them to fill in some details. Here is the result!:
Thank you for your holiday post. We liked reading about Gurban and we learned about the Quran and that the holiday is new for you in Azerbaijan.
In India we celebrate a Hindu holiday called Shivarathri on February 12th every year. It has been a holiday for so many years here. Shivarathri means the night of Lord Shiva. Shiva has three eyes, wears a tiger skin, holds a trident, and has a blue neck. People sometimes pray to him for rain. Shiva has two wives. One wife is named Ganga. She was turned into water and sent down to earth through Shiva’s long hair. Ganga became the Ganges River. Shiva’s other wife is Parvati. In Hindu history is a story where Shiva drinks poison from a giant snake to save the people on earth. This is why his neck is blue. When he drank the poison his wife Parvati was scared. She did not sleep all night and did not eat food and prayed to the gods to save Shiva. This is why on Shivarathri we do not eat food and we do not sleep.
On Shivarathri we go to two temples in our village. We pray to Shiva and the pujari (priest) blesses us. We break coconuts and pour out the water at the shrine. There are incense and candles at the temple. We hang strings of flowers and mango leaves at the top of doorways. Before we go to temple we put tumeric powder (a yellow spice) on our feet. It feels cool and is an antiseptic. We also wear nice clothes. The women wear saris and put flowers in their hair. At the temple there is a program with dances, drums, drama, and songs. Shivarathri is a great festival and we are all very happy on this day.