Monday, July 5, 2010

To the School

Okay, I'm going to start posting what I've been doing for the last two weeks. Since I haven't posted much detail yet, what I'm going to do is to pretend that today is the first day, and schedule a post every day in that way. So let's step in the time machine (oh, you don't have one handy? That's okay, I have an extra you can borrow) and journey back two weeks to our arrival at the school.

We rent a car and leave Secunderabad Sunday while the sun is just past the midway mark. A couple hours later, we arrive in Siddipet, the nearest big town to Matendla. Here, we stop for some chai or coffee and end up eating Gobi 65 and Veg Manchuria in a restaurant that, curiously, serves neither chai nor coffee. Then we meet up with Vishnu, the headmaster of the school, who joins us in the car and directs the driver (renting a car here means renting a driver as well) to the village. He also explains a little about the geography, history, and politics of the area, pointing out villages and landmarks on the way.

My first impression of Matendla is that I am very impressed. The school building is large and modern in style, painted a warm, welcoming (but not gaudy) orange. Since the whole landscape is greens, reds, browns, and oranges (hurray for the iron-rich soil of Andhra!), it fits right in. The courtyard is pretty, there are farms on all sides, and unlike any city school, there is space for the children to play.

Upon reaching our home for the next two weeks, we spend some time talking about how the school works, the guiding principles of the Rural Development Foundation, and the students. At the RDF School Matendla, they teach not only the subjects needed to pass the 10th class (grade) exams, but good values and life skills as well. They have little Aesop's Fable-like sayings painted on all the walls:

It's getting dark, and the others have arrived. There's a high school senior named Nikolaus from Austria who will be spending a week here helping out with English classes, and the volunteer coordinator Elizabeth has brought him up from Hyderabad. I show my plant pigment chromatography and DNA extraction lessons/protocols to the science teachers, and they decide that the material is 10th-grade level.

Soon afterward, we eat dinner and retire to our guest rooms. Unfortunately, the rains a few days past combined with the fluorescent lighting have brought in a storm of flying insects. Now is probably the time to mention that I really don't like bugs. Still, once I've climbed into the mosquito net and tucked it in securely, all is well. I feel safe enough inside to get a good 8 hours of sleep. In the morning, the students will come, so a little rest should be good.

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