I have been in India for just over two weeks. The time has flown by and I am thrilled to report that my homesickness has (for the most part) subsided. I teared up a little when some of the grads came back to campus and were telling us about their experiences in college and I would kill for a raspberry. But overall, I am finding so much joy in every exhausting day and am far too busy to be homesick. When I first arrived, I was placed in a temporary room until a volunteer left. Knowing I would soon be moving, I didn’t unpack anything except for some of my clothing. The room was fine–comfortable enough–but it was far away from my co-workers and something about it didn’t feel quite like home. This past weekend, though, I switched rooms, unpacked and organized all of my belongings, and finally started to feel settled. Plus…my room has hot water. Not just warm water–HOT water. I am still showering out of a bucket, but at least bathing doesn’t feel like the ice-bucket challenge every single time. Little things.
With exams, lesson planning, and a drastic shortage of teachers, I have only left the school once (and only for a few hours to the nearby city Hosur to get some clothes and snacks). While I certainly don’t feel rushed to travel and I value every moment spent getting to know these kids, I am itching to see more of this country (hopefully I will be able to take a trip up to Bangalore in about a week and a half). Here is what my experience in India looks like so far:
- A class full of 8th graders asking me to play a mixture of Tamil songs, One Direction, and Frozen during prep time.
- Eating spaghetti for breakfast (sometimes it’s dosas, today we had pancakes, but most often its rice) with instant coffee in my chai.
- Rice and curry, rice and curry, rice and curry. Oh…and rice and curry.
- Watching She’s The Man in the school courtyard for movie night, using recycled pieces of paper to make cones for popcorn and putting my hand in front of the projector every time there is a kissing scene.
- A cow outside my window, a frog friend on my door, and a gecko in my shower. If these are my only critter friends (the neighbor on my left found a scorpion the size of her hand in her bathroom and the neighbor on my right has a mouse roommate), I’ll be a happy camper.
- Staying up late into the night trying to figure out how to explain William Blake and make grammar interesting. Any thoughts?
- Handing out a million band-aids every day. The little kids come in with bloodless scrapes and demand a bandage, while the older boys come in with gaping gashes and nonchalantly refuse antiseptic cream. Kids.
- A piano 20 feet from my office that the (amazingly talented) kids are always playing. They also somehow happen to know all of my favorite songs and have started teaching me to play River Flows in You.
- Explaining the components of an argument to 12th graders and getting giddy when they started debating amongst themselves, delving into complex arguments after an initial spark from me. I physically couldn’t contain my excitement. I think they were endeared.
- Grading stories for the school-wide writing competition while eating oreos and peanut butter. We didn’t have spoons, so we used highlighters as peanut-butter scooping devices. Who says college habits die after graduation?
- A million different colors of kurtas with matching leggings (that was an exaggeration…I only have a few, but I plan on buying handfuls more). I feel like I get to wear jammies every day and feel beautiful while I’m at it.
- Crisp mornings that feel like fall if I close my eyes, sunsets that are orange and purple, and the kind of stars you only see when the nearest urban center is two hours away.
So many teachers have come here before me and so many will come after me, so I feel no unique claim to this school. But–just like them–I already feel the imprint of Shanti Bhavan engraving itself on my heart.