Yesterday morning, I boarded the train to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) at 10:30 am.. About an hour ride.. and I just did not want to get off.. I love train rides, rickshaw rides… You get to see everything!!! The ticket was about $1.50.. when I got off..
I took a rickshaw to Mitraniketan.org (check it out!) … a secret society in the city of Vellanad.. I got this contact from Servas organization. K.Viswanathan actually started this school in 1950s.. It is a whole campus.. including a People’s college.. an elementary school.. a girls hostel.. a dormitory for international volunteers.. as big as a college campus!!! I really did not know much prior to contacting Mr. Reghu for homestay.. And although I had the bad experience first day, I wasn’t going to let it stop me from many other potentially fantastic experiences.. I soon learned that the elementary/junior high school was provided for children of tribal villages.. and any children are welcome regardless of religion, caste.. without cost.. And there are homes built for them to stay at… one volunteer visited a child’s home and said that the homes did not even have a roof on it..
I arrived at 1 when lunch was served.. in this dingy little room with 8 other travelers, all from denmark.. 6 of which are in teaching programs and were there to teach kids to gain experience.. Shortly after lunch, I was going to do a campus tour with the office lady.. but the ‘just 5 more minutes’ turned to an hour waiting.. so i decided to tour myself.. and to go find a store for a bottle of cold water (it’s scorching hot and humid!!!! pounds of sweat… very sexy).. I asked around for the nearest town and they said it’d be about a 20 minute walk.. I followed the back trails through very green grass lands, goats, cows, stray dogs.. schoolkids walking home.. and alas found myself in town, just as school was getting off for the local village children.. all incredibly curious and interested in who i was, waving.. and the usual, yes.. ‘whats ur name?’ “where are u going?” .. I found a shop, bought my 1 liter bottle of water (30 cents.. Im drinking about 1 1/2 every day).. and sat in front to observe this small town.. No outsiders except the 10 western volunteers on the campus, in the whole city.. i Loved it.. Kids ran up and away from me asking me questions.. just staring at me.. shaking my hand.
On my walk back, I fell in true love with 2 school children around 5 and 6…. their homes were in the area where the campus was.. They barely knew English.. but the smiles, gestures were more than enough for an adequate conversation.. I truly think the kids in India are among the cutest in the world.. their spirit and energy is like none other.. they held hands, shared secrets, giggled, chased each other.. I couldn’t stop taking photos and videos of em.. even if it was just them walking.. it was the way they walked, the way the talked, the way their backpacks weren’t fully zipped.. AM I OBSESSED??
When I got back around 4 pm, the Danish girls invited me to a dance performance on campus.. I said sure, there was nothing else to do.. Little did I know,… it became the experience I had hoped to see in India.. It was a school performance put on by the kids that only occurs once a year!!! How lucky I was !!! There were maybe about 7 performances.. a few were put on by a group of girls around 10 performing classical traditional Indian dances.. a few performances put on by school children around 5-7, holding hands, swaying, singing some folk songs.. OH it melted my heart.. there were about 200 kids/teachers/volunteers (everyone from school) in the audience cheering on.. Im so glad I was able to be a part of it, as I would have never found out about that school in any guide book, etc..
After the performance, the wife of the founder approached me and had heard all about me already, “you are from california!! Why you only stay 1 night??? Come.. I want to speak to u in my house..” We strolled along, saying hello to the kids .. and entered her house.. I felt so honored to be able to!! She introduced me to her husband, the founder, and I sat in their living room and introduced myself and talked for about half an hour.. They were so hospitable and welcoming.. I will be sure to go back for longer, the next time I come!!
The Danish girls and I hung out upstairs on the rooftop during sunset (theres nothing else to do).. chitchatting.. they had been here about 2 weeks teaching kids P.E., arts, English and loved the place. we all plan to meet in Goa to party!! Dinner served at 8 (vegetarian).. All were free of charge..
I woke up at 5:30 am , and got in the scheduled rickshaw to catch my 8 am flight.. it was about an hour ride to airport.. and I loved the naturale feeling of being in that rickshaw as most of the town were still asleep.. very few getting up and starting their day, riding through this quiet undisturbed town..