Before leaving for India, many of the people I talked to assured me that the first two weeks would be the hardest but then I would adjust and become more comfortable with the people and culture. In many aspects, this is very true. As week three is coming to an end, I like to think I have adjusted quite well to Indian ways of living. However, the struggles are still present. I thought I had doing my laundry down to a science, until I dropped my packet of Tide for Bucket Washing into the well and spend a hot minute fishing it out. I also found my sports bra in a bush three days later. I was proud of myself for being promoted to Head Stirrer after peeling vegetables for three hours in preparation for the last day of a week-long village festival. However, after setting my skirt on fire, I was quickly demoted back to my original position. I am surrounded by many people who laugh at me though and try to help me when they can (“Alice, stop eating that mango, it’s for the gods!!, etc.), which makes me happy.
I arrived in the middle of summer vacation, so even though the girls and children still come to school, it has been sporadic due to religious holidays. This has been nice because I have enjoyed going to festivals and trying to cook and meeting many new people, however I was eager for school to start back up again regularly this week. I was told I will be moved to a different campus a few towns away starting June 10 and working at the school for mentally handicapped children as well as an evening school. I am very excited for this because I know that the need a lot of help with these projects, and I never turn down the chance to play with tiny humans. I have enjoyed getting to know the girls here and will be sad to leave them, however I understand that there is only so much I can teach them due to my lack of Tamil knowledge. Since their nursing exams are all in Tamil, it is hard for me to teach them any more than English. It will be hard for me to leave the children here as well. They actually like the games we play, we have mastered opposites in English, and I now know a song in Tamil that I am required to sing at least ten times each class. Dhundaponi is one of the kids I will miss the most. He has been making me work on my hand-eye coordination by making me play “ball catch” until my hands turn red with a tennis ball we purchased for 30 rupees last week. (I supplied the rupees, he bargained until we got the bounciest ball the shop was selling). We still don’t understand each other, and everything either one of us asks is answered with “Sure!!”, but he has agreed that we are best friends.
One of the coolest things so far has been observing all the religious practices in the village. The village I am in is predominantly Hindu, and the past week has been a huge celebration for a goddess. A few nights ago, they dug a huge ditch in front of a temple and filled it with hot coals and hundreds of people walked over them on the way to the temple as a symbol of their faith in the goddess. It was terrifying and great and I debated on whether or not I should join in, but then realized I had no way to explain it to my father if something bad happened (“Well, Thomas, I was willingly walking over 10 yards of hot coals, because India….”). Today I went with my friend Mathi to Trichy, the nearest town, and we climbed up a rock tower to a temple. Mathi keeps introducing me to people by saying, “I am Allison, my village is America.” It was about 105 degrees outside and we, along with hundreds of other people, were doing this barefoot because shoes cannot be worn in temples. The view was beautiful. All my love!!