Greetings from Madurai
by Mika Oriendo
July 5th, 2005
Today we split up into three groups to travel separately around the area visiting different organizations. I chose to get a tour of a rural school about an hour away from the city and was blown away once again by the friendliness displayed by the staff and students. We visited classrooms from standard 1 (first grade) through 12th. The school serves many square miles of area and was actually two schools within a school area.
One school was taught in the Tamil medium (the language of the state we are in…each state has a different languge, with Hindi being the official country language and english also spoken widely especially for business) and the other in english. If you learn english we are told that you have more opportunities as you grow older. If you speak only Tamil (I have found very few Indians that only speak one language…I continue to wonder why we americans must be so rigid when it comes to languages) you can still find good work, but chances are it will only be within the state (which is huge by the way).
We were walked around by the principal and his assistants who answered any and all questions we had. With the amount of schools and classrooms we have visited, I have dubbed a new term… (the uncle affect): this is when you come into a classroom and all the kids are super excited about strangers being there, much like when your favorite uncle visits you, spoils you, riles you up and then leaves you for your parents. Every room we enter we seem to rile up and then duck out. Fortunately, disicpline here is quite impressive and no matter how many good byes I chant out kids quiet down relatively quickly.
So how did you all spend the fourth? We are staying at a place about 20 kms outside of the city with the acronym of CESCI. It is a non-governmental organization with an agenda of making helpful relationships between the people of India and other countries to help improve lives of the Indian people. It is a rather beautiful complex with nice rooms (mosquito netting included) and reminds me of a communal complex that hippies would live in in the 60’s (we are cooked for but wash our own dishes and sweep up the complex etc…) It is awesome. Anyhoo, last night, our group coordinator Rachel somehow appropriated some fireworks (including sparklers). The climax of the 5 minute show were several really nice looking (albeit low level) fireworks shooting off up into the sky and a huge boom of confetti exploding about 10 meters in the air. Yup it looked pretty cool until we realized that it was everywhere. Several of us spent time before and after lunch cleaning it up and we are not done yet!
Well, the time has come to meet up with the van. The next couple of days will be spent in a classroom of a school near by. And here I thought I was on summer break.