Thursday, May 26, 2011

Which language do you speak?

It so happened that when Vansh started going to school here, he came across a lot of different children from different cultural backgrounds and speaking many different languages. It was kind of funny, though natural for a 6 year old to ask among one of the first questions he asked his friends or in fact anybody he met, was whether they know Hindi. Hindi, being his preferred and most used language of communication, he felt comfortable if he could express himself naturally to just one friend when the rest of the time he had to talk in English, which he can speak in though not spontaneous. Now the answers of his friends started fascinating him. While someone replied that they knew just a few words of Hindi because they spoke in Telugu at home, another child said she knew Spanish, another one said Tamil and a little boy moved to our complex a few weeks back who speaks Marathi. He told his Telugu friend that he knows two words “Annam tintinawa!” and formed a bond. Similarly he told his Spanish friend “Hola!” and yet another bond was formed. Which is why childhood is considered to be so sweet and innocent. J The fascination kept growing. Since he also displays interests in names of countries, where they are located, which flights operate via them (*rolling eyes*) and so and so forth, I got him a Children’s Atlas from the library.

Now the Atlas is pretty cool for young kids in the sense that it has the very basic starting information which keeps kids occupied with the tidbits it provides and neat pull outs for every continent containing lots of information like the countries in that continent, animals found there, what’s manufactured, their flags and yes the languages spoken in the various countries. Oh my God! It was such a hit with him. Most of all for the languages he got to know people speak in different parts of the world. So many new names he didn’t know exist. His conversations were so animated. He looked like a model child, any mother’s heart would swell with pride at, when she saw her child chatting with his grandfather in India on Skype with an Atlas open in front of him and saying “Nana, do you know they speak French also in Canada, so your so and so friend must also be speaking French, ask her!” I had also told him that my mom and dad were born in Pakistan (pre-partition), so he asked them what language is spoken there and learnt a few phrases in Urdu.

During our conversations, looking at his interest I told him a few phrases of the different languages I knew, thanks to the song Angrezi mein kehte hain ki I love you! I told him I could say that in Bengali, Gujrati, Punjabi and boy was he impressed. (I didn’t tell him about the song though J) I threw in a few more phrases in German – Guten Morgen, Guten Naakht, and the counting eins, zwei, drei till zen. And he was thrilled asking me where I learnt all that from. I milked the opportunity like a true Desi mom and told him how I studied so much when I was a kid and learnt so many languages ;) So now when someone asks him how old he is he answers zecks and then proceeds to say that’s German for six. Showoff!! Ricky Martin came to help with his Un, dos, tres after which Maria has become his favorite song he keeps humming and claims of mastering Spanish.

I got him a book yesterday from the library which has 12 common phrases like Hello, What’s you name, Thank you, Good Bye etc in 12 different languages and he devoured it with much delight remembering his bua from Dubai, checking that Arabic is spokem there and saying next time he meets her, he’ll greet her with a Salam and the friend in class who speaks Spanish with a ¿Cómo Estás? and the Tamil friend with a Vanakkam.

At times, the scene is hilarious when four friends are playing in the park, two good at English, one at Hindi (Vansh) and the fourth one at Marathi. The two recently moved from India (the Hindi and Marathi speaking one), high on cricket take it upon themselves to teach the other two the game who have no clue how its played. So a lot of animated hand gestures, shouting out “no this, no this”, come “ikde”, “tu ye pakad” and everybody just trying to hurriedly tell everybody something in their language, we have a jolly good time, often times literally holding our tummies while laughing.

Edited to add: Thanks to his dada, who is an active member of the Sindhi Panchayat in our locality in Delhi, Vansh participated in a couple of Sindhi programs when we were there. In one of them, he learnt and recited a rhyme in Sindhi. At times, I and Ashwini speak to each other in Sindhi as a spontaneous gesture (and sometimes when we want to communicate something we don't want the kids to understand) and he picks up a few phrases. An oft repeated one is Khile thi (she is laughing) when he sees Jiya laughing and he asks me to then appreciate him for his Sindhi skills. When I tell him thats just one phrase, he recites the Sindhi rhyme that he had learnt :)

So friends, can you please leave us a phrase, any one you like in a language you know and you’ll make a boy who would be hugely interested very very happy J

Friday, May 13, 2011

Garfield Park Conservatory - a true gem!

A couple of weeks back, when the weather was still not good enough to plan an outing outdoors, what with the spring being hugely late this time (or so I hear :), we went to the Garfield Park Conservatory. It was a wonderful place and we had a day well spent. Its such a huge conservatory with 8 indoor display gardens and 3 outdoor gardens. The indoor display gardens where such an amazing variety of flora thrives under huge glass vaulted ceiling makes you wonder what would it be like if they were out in the open. I was especially impressed by the Palm Room designed as an idealized tropical landscape, it's where graceful palms, interspersed with a variety of other tropicals, soar up to the ceiling as also the Fern Room where lush ferns, rocky outcroppings and an indoor lagoon evoke a swampy landscape, complete with the wet mud smell which I love.

The sights would have been enough to make the place worthwhile but the icing on the cake is there's so much to do as well, especially for the kids.

There are Scavenger Hunt sheets in the lobby itself where you enter on which there are about 10-12 different plants that you have to find throughout the Conservatory in different rooms. The kids loved it. Once they spotted some plant, they were so excited to take off the sticker from the back and stick it next to the picture of the plant on the sheet.

The Children's room is absolutely awesome. There's a big slide amidst all the plants and greenery.

When they climb up the stairs to get to the slide, there's a mezzanine where there's a sensitive plant which cringes when touched. My kids, esp the younger one adored it.

There's a book nook with books to be enjoyed in the great surroundings, a giant bee to be manoeuvred to pollinate a giant flower.

There's a discovery area where they have a sand box with toy bugs, tools to remove them, flowers, pots, and a lot more.

And plus they do a new hands on activity every Saturday and Sunday. The day we went, the kids planted their own pizza garden where they planted seeds of tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and oregano and are now proudly watching them grow at home everyday.

And the best part of all, ,its all free. Even the parking!! One of the greatest and most incredible places we have visited.

A few handy tips before you go -

- The only restrooms that are there are the ones located in the lobby as soon as you enter. Try to have the kids go their before you enter the Display Rooms rather than coming all the way back for them.

- We spent almost 3-4 hours over there because the kids were having so much fun. There's no place to order eatables inside. I had carried fruits and snacks in ziploc bags and they came in really handy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dear Kids

A few days back I was going through my archives and came across this post and this. My God! Yes, those were tough times, really tough and I blogged about them to let it out of my system, to look for support from fellow bloggers and friends and it helped. Now, when the times are GOOD, in all fairness to both of you, I should and I am going to blog about it too :)

- Knock on wood! But the way both of you have been behaving is nothing short of awesome! Great job V and J. I mean I can actually take 45 minute long showers in contrast to the 1 minute loo break that I dreaded taking at times. You work silently on worksheets, talk to each other about the colors that will look good on whatever it is you are coloring, Vansh, you help Jiya with writing letters and when I come out from the shower, you are playing nicely and talking to each other even more nicely. And today you actually told me, "Mom, we are kind of fighting but just with words and not with our hands!" How cool is that! And then after a few more minutes, "Even the word fight is over!" *Phew* I wonder you are the same children from the posts above. Yes you have your moments of getting on each others' nerves and mine but then phrases like the ones I just mentioned so make up for it.

- The way you stand up for each other melts my heart so many times in a day. Like the other day, when I took off a 'quarter' sticker from Jiya's reward chart because she had hit you, Vansh you told me that its okay, I should give it back to her because she is little and doesn't understand the right thing at times but will not hit you again. I mean you guaranteed that for her on her behalf when you yourself were the victim just moments ago. I wish I had words to describe that feeling and more than that I wish I had a sibling who would do that for me. *Sigh*

- And Jiya, how is it that when I tell you to clean up, there is a possibility that it might fall on deaf ears (sometimes, I have to admit :) but when your hero, your older brother tells you that, I can be certain that the job will be done :) And yes, I am talking about cleaning up here, can you believe it!!

- And again, you gave me another of those I don't believe it! moments when the other day Vansh was singing his oft repeated "Bad girl Jiya" song which is more like to tease you when things don't go his way, for instance, when he is losing in a board game, I know not a very nice thing to say but then you don't seem to really mind it most of the times. But the other day, you actually laughed and told him "You are so funny! I didn't even do anything now!" , you know like its a ha-ha thing between you two and he did in the wrong context. I found it rather amazing for a 3 year old to react that way :)

So well, atta boy and atta girl! I am so loving this gig of being your mom at this phase - laughing, playing, clowning around! Amen to more such times!

Love you forever,