This week I got to experience some pretty amazing things. Last weekend we spent a few days in Tirupati, a major pilgrimage site for Hindus in the state north of Tamil Nadu. We went up to the temple where I got blessed by an elephant, saw the most beautiful mountain views, and bought some ridiculously tacky souvenirs. It was fun to visit such a loud and busy city but definitely made me appreciate our cozy little village so much more. I spoke with some volunteers from the U.K that were doing a gap year in the city and found out that the caste system is still extremely prevalent there. At the school that they teach at the children are publicly listed on the wall by which caste they belong to, even though it has been outlawed for decades. Girls also are not permitted to read for enjoyment or continue on with their schooling past a bachelor’s degree in something acceptable like engineering. This is such a drastic change from what’s encouraged at Sevalaya, which is equal opportunity for all regardless of caste, gender, and religion. Speaking with them made me realize just how lucky I am to be a part of an organization that it so revolutionary.
Last night I had one of the best experiences I’ve had while in India. A few of the kids in the 7a class we teach everyday (10 and 11 year olds) were performing a drama that they had been working on in a neighboring village and invited us to go. We loaded on to the back of an open jeep with the kids and a few staff members and took off on our ten minute drive. We had so much fun dodging tree branches, laughing with the kids, and watching the sun set over the palm trees. As we drove through the village they were performing in kids playing outside starting waving and running after the bus. We then got out and started marching through the streets singing and playing the drums and tambourine to get more people to come watch. So many of the kids we taught lived there and they were so happy to see us there. As we walked the kids would point out where their uncles, grandparents, and parents lived and would take us right up to them to be introduced even though most spoke no English at all. We got more invitations to eat and have tea with people than we could ever possible accept but we appreciated each one so greatly. Most of the houses were pretty small and some had no electricity but they still wanted to share what little they had with us. The drama was held in the middle of the street in front of a little Hindu temple by the light of a street lamp. By the time it was over it had attracted a crowd of at least 50 people. It was acted out in Tamil so we have no idea that it was about but everyone was smiling and laughing. We had time to have tea with one boy’s family before we had to load back on to the bus to go home for dinner. When we first sat down his mother gave us cold ice water (such a rarity here) and then gave us a mango and biscuits to eat while she made us the most delicious tea I’ve ever had. I had so much fun running around with the kids as they showed me such a major part of their lives.
Unfortunately the fun stopped once we returned home and found that all the power was out in our room. It was so hot that we decided to sleep outside, which was surprisingly uneventful apart from an attack by a massive flying cockroach. Tomorrow we’re going to Chennai to celebrate Hilary’s birthday weekend and hopefully I’ll have enough internet connection to be able to upload some pictures finally!