How Many Roads?

June, 2007

Greetings!  Vannakam!  Namaste!

So much has happened since the last time I wrote.  So much!  I cannot write
about all of it or nearly all of it.  Things were hard at Pannai before I
headed up north to Kalimpong.  The trip north was magical – a homecoming in
many senses of the word.  Leaving and coming back were hard.  And it looks
like the future will bring much change.

Last week was one of the best weeks I have had at Pannai.  Each year during
the summer holidays, the children go away for 5 days or so for a retreat and
tour somewhere different.  This year’s tour was in Yercaud, a hill station
to the south west of Vellore.  Three o’clock in the morning, I rolled out of
bed, bright eyed and bushy tailed as my dad would say.  I tumbled into my
clothes and out into the cool early morning air.  The bus, ready to go,
awaited us in the junior school quadrangle, and we piled in.  When I say
piled, I mean, piled.  There must have been about 80 of us, and I managed to
get a window seat designed for two, that I shared with three little girls.
One got my lap and the other two sat beside me.  After 6 hours of driving as
well as a breakfast stop and a tea/bathroom break, we began the ascent to
Yercaud.  The bus, overloaded as it was, labored up the hill, crawling along
the hairpin turns and honking madly to warn anyone coming down that we were
on our way up.  Several times, we had to stop, reverse and then start
forward again to make the sharp turns.  The line of cars behind us would
lengthen, and the sound of horns pierced the cooling air, telling us to
hurry up, go a little faster.

We stayed in a Catholic guest house run by some nuns – a beautiful place
that’s grown up around a sprawling English looking building with a big
windowed porch and lovely gables looking eastwards over the hills.  The
mornings were beautiful – pink silhoutted clouds and then the sun, bright
and happy.

I hung out with the boys far more than I had before.  They were my guides,
holding my hand, ready to protect me from the stalkerish young men who
wanted to know where I and the other two foreign volunteers (Harriet and
Tessa) were from, if they could take their picture with us, if they could
get our numbers.  Having the little boys with us helped, even though they’re
all very small and anything but intimidating.  One boy, Yuvaraj, who must be
about twelve, has become my little limpet.  He’s very cute and loves to hold
my hand, linking his fingers into mine. It makes me feel matronly and
protective in a wonderful big sister sort of way.

Some highlights of the trip were the flower garden where many of the
children bought peanuts and they all got passed around, and where I went
down the great big slide along with a couple of the little girls.  Then
there was boating, which we waited AGES for and then got a 15 minute
go-about in a little pond.  But it was still wonderful!  One of the older
boys got hold of Tessa’s camera and took some REALLY REALLY good pictures of
the boats on the water – it was a beautiful day, and everything looks bright
and fresh and fun.  Which it was.

The bus ride back was AWESOME!  I sat with some of the boys that I’d gotten
to know during the trip.  First I had a really little boy on my lap, and he
drooled on my arm but was really really cute.  And then I moved seats so
that I could sit by the window and that time I got a bigger boy, Ragavan, on
my lap.  It took longer to return than to go – we stopped for tea and snacks
and then later for dinner.  Sunset was amazing.  As we headed north, the sun
set to our left as an almost-full moon rose to the right.  And we were just
going along in the middle, bouncing our heads to the Tamil pop songs on the
radio.

Life is good today, and I am excited about the beginning of school
tomorrow.

More soon I hope.  The next email may be more short and informative.

Peace and love,
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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