I’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve had at the Sarang Center. Each of us takes Hindi class, cross-cultural psychology, and a third class each day. I, along with Kerm, Ryan, Laura, Carmen, Tessa, and Rachel, take cooking class from our Hindi teachers, Anu and Gautham, every day. I’ve really enjoyed class as we’ve learned how to make deep-fried bananas, parathas (like a tortilla), assorted teas, vegetable curry, and many other amazing dishes. Gautham is web-designer, web-developer, Hindi teacher, cooking instructor, and in his free time learns about agriculture and health, sings, and is learning Spanish, and still has time to raise his adorable bacchi (baby) Herahnya, who is less than a year old.
Aside from classes, power-outages have occupied quite a bit of time during our stay here. At first they were really awful, especially at night when the fans weren’t on and it was extremely hot with 11 guys in the same room. As the days have gone on though, most of us have grown to accept the blackouts; a process made easier by the wonderful rain we’ve had the past few days. The air cools off significantly after the downpours, and it’s nice to see precipitation after such dry weather.
Narrow streets, barely wide enough for two people to pass. Houses the size of a master bathroom (and some of those would be much bigger, still). Clean areas to walk. Occasional bad smells. Smiling faces. Rubble. Stacked bricks and tarp.
Yesterday we had the privilege to visit two slums: one thriving and one that had just been demolished. I’ve always heard stories about people who live in extreme poverty: extreme generosity and joy amidst the struggles of life, but until one actually experiences it, it’s never a reality. While at the demolished slum, I was picked out by a girl who wanted to introduce me to her family and show me where she lived. I went to a relative’s ‘house’ first, then her own ‘house’ (stacked bricks from the rubble for walls, and tarp for a ceiling). At both places, I was given chai – her mother actually sent her son to buy chai for both myself and herself. This girl showed me her life, talked of her dreams, gave me gifts – both material and spiritual. What more could one ask for on one’s birthday, especially when the bestower of the gifts is unaware of this fact?
On Thursday, February 10, 2011, it finally happened. We arrived at the long awaited Sarang Center. Only it wasn’t exactly the Sarang Center and it wasn’t exactly what most of the group had been looking forward to for several weeks.
During the first part of the trip when we were hopping from town to town every few days even the most spontaneous among us realized a deep desire for routine and habit. We took trains, rode rickshaws, and drove in buses from place to place finding hope in the promise of continuity offered by our two and a half week stay in the south of India. We waited for classes at the Sarang Center like we waited for Christmas break at the end of fall semester.
Several days ago after a bus trip of considerable length which included exactly one bus breakdown, we arrived at the Sarang Center. Rumors had been circulating that we weren’t actually staying at the Sarang Center and those proved true. After a brief introduction to our teachers for the various subjects we are studying including Hindi language, Yoga, and cooking among others, we climbed back into our bus for the final leg of our journey to a nearby Hotel Management College where we are staying.
I may have been the only one who was surprised by our accommodations but I don’t think that was the case as I heard several of my fellow travels exclaiming over the cold bucket showers, firm to rock solid mattresses, and cabin camp room set up.
Since the initial surprise I would say we have settled in well and are for the most part enjoying our classes and our teachers. This group of people has so far demonstrated a remarkable capacity to adjust and adapt so we have quickly made the dorm building a lively place where we all crowd into the bathroom to look at all the funny bugs we find and songs can be heard echoing through our hallway.
Despite our mildly touristy beginnings the (not) Sarang Center is providing us with many experiences that could definitely be termed “cross cultural” and I’m sure will quickly become group jokes and good stories we’ll tell all of you. So when you’re in your steaming hot shower, think of us with our buckets and laugh because that’s what we hope to be doing here.