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Melanie Woods from California, USA

As I was boarding the plane in San Fransisco, I really didn’t know what to expect. After more than a day of flying; I found myself sitting in the passenger seat driving to the school with my head practically out the window awed at the beauty of Kerala passing by me. Soaking in the tropic humid air, green palms, golden sandy beaches, placid lakes and rivers, colorful fruit stands, beautiful churches, temples, and mosques as well as the pedestrians going about their business. It would have been a very relaxing ride, but I soon discovered that the rules of the road aren’t as clear as in the U.S. When we finally arrived at the school, I met some of the students and staff and had a tour of the grounds and when I got to my room, the jet lag took hold of me and I passed out.

Since that first day, every time I close my eyes at night, I have the greatest feelings of satisfaction. Days here are filled with fun with the students, meeting wonderful people, as well as witnessing breathtaking sights that are considered normal and everyday life here in Kerala. Learning about Indian culture has been an adventure in itself with not using toilet paper, eating with one hand, putting on a sari properly and adjusting to the propriety that exists here.

My volunteering consists of working with the LKG (kindergarten) class, occasionally substituting for other classes, tutoring some of the older students, help supervise on the school buses, work on the school website, managing the hostel and just spending time chatting and playing with the kids. As well as teaching here in Kumbalam, I occasionally go to teach at the St Joseph Annex which is in the next town over. Teaching usually consists of playing games, teaching English songs and rhymes, helping the students learn to write and pronounce the alphabet and words.

I have also gotten the chance to go on many field trips with the school. To the adventure park here in Kollam; near the lake with fun swings and slides, to Trivanprum where we experienced together; the zoo, planetarium and beach all day, and my favorite trip; a three day tour with the older students to the witness the breathtaking mountain side of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu and see the amazing waterfalls and go to a water park called Silver Storm in Athirappally. Through these trips, I have gotten to know the students better as well as had wonderful experiences that I will never forget.

Being here in Kumbalam has opened my eyes to the Indian way of life which is so different from western society and I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything.


 

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