Day 9 - First Day of School

After a fairly late night last night, we woke up “late” (10 AM), and bussed the three kilometers to Mutu’s crib. Mutu is a generous host who seemed to genuinely enjoy having us as company. He kept the food rolling out of his kitchen, and when he wasn’t making sure that our plates were full, he was teaching us how the food was made and what ingredients it was made up of. Nobody left his house unsatisfied (with the exception maybe of those who were sick). Then we bussed to the new school to begin setting up the second computer lab. On the bus ride over, Colin noticed that many flat, rectangular plots of land, areas where there would logically be a house, were just patches of weeds and grass. He hypothesized that maybe it was the work of the 2005 tsunami. Sure enough, when we looked out on the horizon, we could barely see the Indian Ocean a half mile away. It was scary to imagine the destructive force that the wave must have had to destroy houses so far inland. About two-thirds of the spaces that should have contained houses were empty. Mutu later explained that many of the children who attended the school had lost a parent, or even been orphaned by the tsunami.

When we arrived at the school, we found that a lot of work had been done in anticipation of our arrival: the computers and monitors were unpacked, a rest area had been set up for us, and many of the kids had prepared performances. After getting settled, we were greeted by the entire school (50-75 people) save the kindergartners, who were busy with their early afternoon nap. We sat opposite them on wooden benches. Mutu began by introducing the teachers individually, and then he called students up to perform speeches and songs. Like in the first school, children’s songs such as Old MacDonalds, London Bridge, and the Hokie Pokie were fan favorites. One boy had an incredible speech memorized, and although I couldn’t understand the Tamil that he was reciting it in, his body movement and voice was really something. Probably the thing that struck me the most in all of the introductions was the cultural difference between Americans and Indians regarding school, work, and education. While Mutu was introducing his staff and students, it seemed that the highest possible praise was “he is a good worker,” or “he works very hard in his studies.” A heavy emphasis and value was placed on effort and work ethic. In my experience, this runs counter to values in America and at Garfield, where respect goes to the one who can do the best with the least amount of effort. This person has a natural talent or understanding, which means that he or she doesn’t need to work hard to succeed. If nothing else, it’s an interesting difference, and the experience will make me more conscious of this when I’m back at school.

After we were introduced to Mutu’s staff, the spotlight turned on us. We went around and gave our names, grades (called standards in India), and what we wanted to be when we grow up. Like many of the Indian kids had stated before us, many of the members of the TSC Team want to be doctors and engineers. There is also a significant contingent that has not decided yet. Before I shared, I noticed a backpack that said Ben 10 on it. I had seen a lot of Ben 10 action figures being sold at toy vendors everywhere we had been, so I figured that the kids might be familiar. To demonstrate my name, I held up the backpack as I said my name and was surprised by the reaction. Everybody cheered when Ben 10 was mentioned, and many even started to clap. Ben Huppe and I are now addressed as Ben 10, and we have made many new friends as a result. One boy told me as we said goodbye that he was going home to watch Ben 10 on T.V. The introductions then gave way to a question and answer session where the students of the school asked our students questions about us. One boy basically asked all of the questions, grilling us about our school, government, climate, and more. Lena, Ryan, Devon, and a few others did a good job answering them. At this point, the kids were excused for lunch, and we began modifying the operating systems. It was the same process used in the first school. At the end of the day, Jenny and Ben Huppe had a race for the title of “fastest TSC operating system setter-upper.” Ben won, clocking in at something in the absurd realm of fifteen minutes. As a point for comparison, I finished in just under two hours. Jenny’s speed was stymied by debilitating sickness, but this certainly won’t be the last that Ben hears of her. She should be back after a year of drinking raw eggs, throwing punches, and running up hills.

With the day’s tasks completed, many people lounged around or participated in a game of volleyball. We should learn cricket tomorrow. Then we went to Mutu’s house for another delicious dinner. After dinner, we went out for ice cream, and then we came back here, where we’ve been ever since. With so much to do tomorrow, it’s time to say good night. Good night.

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