Looking Back

I thought that the way to start this blog would be as a way of looking back. I have been sending out mass emails about my life and travels since my study abroad experience in Kalimpong, India in the spring of 2005.  I currently do not have access to those earliest of emails.  If any of you readers do have them, please pass them on to me so that I can post them.  As it is, here are a couple of the earliest emails that I have from my arrival at MBKG Pannai (also known as Family Village Farm http://www.mbkgpkasam.org/) in September, 2006.  They are as I wrote them, me, myself, unedited by my self from 4 1/2 years later.

My very first email upon arrival, 26 September:

To some near and dear ones,
I just wanted to let you all know that I have arrived safely.  Today is my first full day here at MBKG Pannai.  And it’s overwhelming.  On so many different levels.  It will take a lot of time to adjust and find my place.  And in the meantime there will be many moments of loneliness and frustration.  But I am keeping my sense of humor, protecting my private space, smile, and trying to make something of a routine for myself in my own private time.  Reena, a young woman working on the sponsorship program has taken me under her wing, and I am working on this email in her office.  She just complimented my typing speed.  Smile.  So things are settling.  Well, not really, they are happening and I am trying to be here and keep a sense of humor before anything can settle.  Grin.
So, this is short, because I really have lots of other things I should be doing to engage.  I am taking time to reflect and trying to take it all in.  There is a pink frangipani tree next to one of the cottages that is beautiful.  Smile.  Thanks to each of you for your emails and letters – mum and dad, there are letters from you here to greet me, Jesse – your card means so much, it’s strenghtening even to think about it.  Smile.  Colin, thanks for your email.  please write letters.  Grin.  I’ll be in touch.  And Ashley, thanks for your beautiful note.
OH, on the funny side, one of my bags is still in London.  So hopefully that will work itself out without having the bag disappear, but we’ll see.
I love each of you so much!  And I’ll be in touch.
Shalom,
Thandiwe
 

9 October, 2006

Hello everyone!  Today dawned bright and sunny, but the clouds have rolled in since this morning, and I wonder if we shall get some rain today.   It rained all last night, and the electricity was out for most of the night, so I went to bed early after reading by flashlight.  After breakfast this morning, I rode my newly acquired bicycle (it was given to me yesterday) to the senior section of Kings Matriculation School (standards 4-10), which is about 1/2 km from the main campus where the main office, cottages, nursery, guest house and junior school are.  After participating in the morning faculty devotions (a reading and prayer), the director of the whole thing (the Homes and the School) took me aside and told me he wanted to bring me to the junior school to introduce me to the students there during their assembly.   When we got back to the junior school, all the kids were lined up and waiting.  I was asked to unfurl the flag and was shown how to salute and such.   Quite a to-do.  I felt much more comfortable doing it for the Indian flag than for the US flag, which is sort of ironic.

In any case, after that I went back to the senior school where I taught a couple of English classes.   I really struggle with the standard 8 kids. I’m not sure what it is.  I just don’t find them very responsive.   I had a lot of fun with the standard 7 kids.  We’re working on adjectives.  It’s strange, though.  They’re very used to rote memorization and not so much to listening and thinking critically about a question.  They can answer questions if the question with its answer is in a passage, but when it comes to answering questions that take a little critically thinking, first they don’t understand the question, then they have no sense at all about how to begin answering it.   I wonder if this is more demonstrative of their English skills (or lack there-of) or if this is the case for their Tamil as well.

Something that’s a challenge is the mentality of the children and the teachers.  KMS is a village school, meaning it’s out in the rural areas and the students are from the rural areas.   Furthermore, a lot of the children being educated at KMS are the first generation of their families to have any education.  So there’s no expectation of them and there’s not really any support from home in terms of help with homework or practice speaking English or doing maths or anything.  

Something that I’m finding personally very challenging is that I have been feeling very inadequate.   I know this is mostly just me and the jitters, but I sometimes really don’t feel like I have skills to offer here.  I know it takes time to figure out how to use the skills I do have, but I’m not trained as a teacher.   I watch some of the teachers struggling to control, engage and teach 35 six-year olds.  Sure I can critique it, but I’m not sure I could do any better.   Being here really makes me wish I had some more training in education or health care or something.  I guess I also don’t feel like much of a leader, so I wait to follow someone else’s lead.   And if I keep doing this, I won’t ever do ANYTHING.  Wry smile.  So this is hard.   I guess part of it is I’m not sure where to start.  I knew this would be a challenge.  That I was coming into a job that didn’t really have a description and that I would have to figure it out, but gosh, it’s HARD.   Another smile.Anyway, yesterday as I was walking back onto the Pannai campus, I noticed two white butterflies dancing in the trees.   So I am finding beauty as always.  And I continue to put myself out there even when I just want to go into my room and shut my door (although I do this too sometimes).

I would love to hear from all of you.  Be well wherever you are, and I know you’re all all over, and whatever you’re doing.

Much love and peace,

Thandiwe

 

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About Thandiwe

Hopeful cynic, creative, seriously silly, lover of people and places, hypocrite, third-culture kid, queer, life-long learner, white woman, Christ follower, outdoor enthusiast: I am a seeker of justice and truth who has re-found my spiritual home in progressive Christianity. I serve as the Associate Pastor at a small Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation near the mountains of Colorado where I live with my beloved.
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One Response to Looking Back

  1. thandiwe says:

    Kassam, where MBKG Pannai is located, lies about 12 km outside of the town of Vellore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vellore). I remember, when first going to Vellore, being disappointed by my Lonely Planet guide which described it as a “dusty market town.” This it was, but also so much more. With a population of almost a million people, Vellore is home to an old colonial fort, the Christian Medical College and Hospital (one of the best hospitals and teaching colleges in India), and home to many people with whom I became friends. The city is dotted with beautiful Hindu temples, with churches and with mosques, and although the Hindu population certainly makes up the majority, the Muslim and Christian populations also have a visible presence. It has a hot and dry climate with temperatures reaching well into the hundreds (up to 110, 115 in the summer months). While Vellore is not among the normal tourist destinations (and perhaps for good reason), I very much enjoyed living close by for ten months!

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