SACCER school in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu
Trip Start Feb 02, 2008
9Trip End Feb 29, 2008
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Some friends in Minneapolis, Ajay and Shiney, introduced us through email to Meera and Udayakumar who run a K-5 school for poor and middle income rural children. We exchanged a few emails before heading to India - just enough to confirm when we'd arrive and that we were interested in visiting with them and their two boys and seeing their school.
Meera, Kumar, Surya and Satiya met us at the train station on Sunday and set us up in a cottage at a wonderful retreat center called Vivekanandra Kendra which faces the Indian ocean on Kanyakumari Beach, Tamil Nadu. We had lunch, made arrangements to be picked up the next morning so we could spend the day at their school - called SACCER (South Asian Community Center for Education and Research).
Our family rested, cleaned up then headed out for some sightseeing in town. We went to the Vivekanandra memorial which is a statue of a Liberty-sized monument to Vivekenandra, social activist and saint of modern India. We watched the sunset from a spot where you can see the Indian ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. It was a sight to behold. In the morning we went back to town for a western breakfast of eggs, toast juice and coffee. We're really loving the Indian food, but sometimes you've just got to have some scrambled eggs and toast! The boys are really enjoying the game of cricket, so we picked up a cricket mallet for Slater on the way back to the retreat center.
The next day we went to SACCER. This was, according to the boys, one of the best days of the trip. Slater gave Meera the school supplies he collected and bought with the money he raised. Meera invited a handful of 4th graders to sit and talk with Harris and Slater - which they did for about an hour while the adults talked and walked around the school. Then came recess and the best playdate in the world ensued.
Harris and Slater played cricket until they were beet-red and looked like they might pass out from heat exhaustion. Robin and Meera talked by the school, and I sat in the dirt with about 15 kids and sang songs, spelled out words by scratching on a rock and drew pictures in each other's books. It was a great time.
Then Kumar came and the kids went back to class while Meera and Kumar took us for a tour of their small banana and coconut plantation they have to help fund the school. They use sustainable agriculture methods which, unfortunately, dont sell at a premium like they do in the States.
That night we went back to their house for dinner. Turns out that we have a lot in common. Their boys were both born in Minneapolis (Abbott and Fairview Riverside - just like Harris and Slater), they lived in St. Anthony Park neighborhood in St. Paul where Meera worked at Children's Home Society with Rick Gibson, a friend of ours. To top it off, Kumar was at Notre Dame for his master's degree and knows Joy, Ian and Doug Meeker. Man, it's a small ball. By the way, Meera and Kumar say hi to all!
In the evening, Kumar's dad took all the boys out for a stroll through the neighborhood for a snack and came back with a traditional wrap for me that many Indian men wear. Needless to say, I put it on and collected may stares and laughs in the village. I guess that's nothing new for me. It was a really fun day and made for the best kind of traveling - one where we and the boys left with good friends and a better understanding of how things tick on this side of the world.
I dont have the camera, so unfortunately I'll have to upload pictures from the last few days when I make the next entry.
I said it would be short - apparently I lied. I Hope this note finds you all well.