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November 15th 2018
Published: December 12th 2018
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There is a cyclone boiling in this part of the world, but so far we have escaped its ravages and rains. This morning here in Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram we heard that it had moved further south, and would reach landfall later on this afternoon. Here the weather is beautiful, not too hot yet, and with specks of blue sky scattered here and there. Early this morning four of us walked to the beach in hopes of seeing sunrise, but the clouds disrupted our viewing. But walking barefoot along the sand was gorgeous nonetheless! I love to swim in the ocean and lakes, but here, with the cyclone's being so near, our ocean is a hungry and angry one, a beast that would easily capture a swimmer and never let her go. Today we had to be content with wading in the shallows, and that was exhiliarating enough.

My room here at Temple Bay is interesting and quite nice, once I found out how to turn off the AC. There are sliding doors to the large bathroom, and another set opening onto a good-sized patio overlooking part of the enormous, blocks-long winding pool. Even though there is a sign on these doors telling occupants to keep them closed to keep out humidity and insects, whenever I am in this room both sliders are pushed open as wide as possible to let the lovely warm air blow in. We are in south India; let's feel the heat! A crow did come sit on the balcony's railing, but I told him he was not welcome to fly into my room. That could have been a bit awkward to explain to the management.

As we set out for the bus this morning apparently the rain either hadn't heard or ignored the forecast and suddenly a tropical sideways downpour surprised us all. Luckily most of the group had just climbed into the bus, so only a few got soaked. The storm was powerful, but short-lived as the sun quickly reappeared, somehow increasing the humidity. But we were off to visit the local primary school, no matter what the weather. OAT tours always include a visit to a school or community center or somewhere that needs financial help; the Grand Circle Foundation, with donations from its travellers, supports the school we visited today, the Bharath Madha Nursery School. To date GCF has supplied chairs for the children, plus two reverse osmosis systems to purify their drinking water. In northern India I had seen several classrooms with fifty or more children in each class, all sitting on the dirt ground, not a most conducive nor comfortable way to learn. Here each child has his/her own small plastic chair, a simple solution for keeping young children contained (a bit) in his/her own space. Next on the school's wish list comes a library and a computer lab. Modest improvements add up and make a difference over time, and, of course, help to increase the learning potential for each child.

Visiting this school made me miss teaching, not so much as it is in schools in the US today, but as it was when I first started out and had the freedom to really teach what young children still need to learn, basically the classic three Rs. This class in south India had children ranging in age from five to ten years old, similar to my first class of twelve little boys who had special needs, ages seven to eleven, at the Dudley School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and yet all seemed to be learning, all spoke English, and most seemed happy to be there. Four children surrounded me, one little boy and three girls. Asking and telling our names, siblings' names and ages (each of these four had only one sibling apiece), reciting the months of the year and days of the week, identifying shapes and colors (all things I worked on with my little preschoolers later on in my teaching career), all in English, was fun for all of us. They are so proud of their vocabularies, as they should be. I was not the only one reluctant to leave our little group.

The wind and rains didn't begin again until we were sitting down for lunch, on wooden benches and long trestle tables placed under an enormous Banyan tree. We ate foods prepared by the local community, on large banana leaf plates, eating with our right hands and holding umbrellas with our lefts. Such a humorous, pleasant, delicious - and only slightly damp - lunch shared with locals and the dog who kindly came to clean up after the wind blew one woman's banana leaf plate and her lunch onto the ground. These unique and extraordinary experiences are wonderful examples of reasons I love to travel. Life isn't anything like this at home.


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