Another one of those writing days. Sitting at my computer in the family room, I can see fluffy white flakes gently wafting to the ground. Yes, I know it should be Spring, but with this falling snow comes lovely silence and so much typing. During my afternoon break, I decided to crack open some boxes of mementos in the storage room. Hoping to dig up memories and inspiration. I found so many wonderful half-forgotten things and I drifted back in time to the summers I spent as a teacher in India.
Back in the summer of 2004 and again in the summer of 2007, I travelled to Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu to work in a lovely school – Brindavan Vidyalaya. At the time, I was still working on my Bachelor of Education degree, so it was a wonderful experience for me to be in the classroom honing my skills and learning from the other teachers. I lived with the School Principals (a wonderful married couple) and another international Teacher (Ms. Ingreed from France) just down the street from the school. I experienced the language, the culture, and the monsoons… and I came back changed.
After I had completed my teaching, I travelled across this fantastic country with a couple of friends. Being of Indian descent, they opened secret and unknowable doors for me. They guided me through parts of this land that I never would have ventured to without them. Sadly, time passed (as it does) and we are no longer friends, but I have such vivid memories of our travels that time stands still for us in India.
It is so lovely to sit here in these thoughts. I forgot how passionately I loved that school. I forgot how seminal this grand adventure was. So in honor of memories and inspiration on this snowy afternoon, I share it with you…
Below is a short piece I wrote as my time at the school was coming to an end.
thank you india
My favorite time is dusk. I emerge from the shade of the neem tree and the school balcony to feel the dust baked into my virgin white skin. My face shiny from sweat, but no one even bats an eye – that is life here. When the school day is done and the teachers are nattering in the library – slipping effortlessly between Tamil and English – I can breathe in the life of this place. The colors brighter, the smells stronger, everything so foreign and fascinating. From the moment I landed, it felt like home. The people here… their eyes and teeth are yellowed with sun and hardship, such a contrast to their black hands and faces. Kids sing and shout in the garbage strewn streets. Practicing carom and cricket. I lay under a fan, red ants biting my arms and back – planning their attack as a I plan tomorrow’s lessons. No one quite knows how to look at me here – should they address me as they would a man (to practice their English of course)? Or should they look away in deference and respect… maybe call to me – the snow white lady in the kurti – from safely across the road… Any way. I don’t mind. Teach me your words, teach me your ways. I cannot soak it in fast enough. It was love at first sight on the noisy, crowded, dirty, welcoming, ancient streets of Ambikapuram and the school that stole my heart.
Below is a zine I made for an undergraduate art class the Fall after I returned from India.