I’ve realized over the last couple weeks, and especially the last three days, just how inadequate the words “thank you” are in expressing the gratitude I feel for the hospitality I’ve been given. I arrived at my site yesterday, with Becca, Lindsey, and Ariel in tow, to find the Principal (think President of a university in the States), my site supervisor, and a close friend of Achen’s ready to greet the four of us with tea and snacks prepared by the Principal’s wife at their house. From that point onward I have been bombarded with undeserved excitement and appreciation for my presence here. I kept saying “thank you” for each expression of hospitality while knowing that it in no way conveyed the depth of my gratitude.
As I was shown around CMS College, I couldn’t help but feel my excitement for being here grow more and more. My supervisor, Gigi Sir, took the entire afternoon to show me around the college and then Kottayam. CMS is an absolutely beautiful, lush campus with old buildings that have so much character. After tea, the first place Gigi Sir escorted us was my room at the Post Graduate (PG) Hostel. As he opened the double doors, I was shocked. My room is at least twice as big as any room I lived in while in college. It comes complete with a separate room for the toilet and shower, shelves galore (including a small, and very much appreciated, library left by the previous volunteer), a couple tables, a bed, and everything else I could ever need. As you can imagine, the other volunteers were a bit envious.
After seeing the other volunteers off as they headed to their sites (one only a few kilometers from me), Gigi Sir took me out to lunch at little hotel (synonymous with restaurant I’ve discovered) that is apparently quite the hit. We then walked around Kottayam for a couple hours buying this and that. Kottayam has everything you could ask for in a small city. It’s not too big and not too small. The college is in the heart of the city (while being remarkably calm and quiet), which has every kind of shop known to man available in walking distance. I was surprised to find that I already feel quite comfortable strolling the streets of this new place.
My day really began after Gigi Sir brought me back to PG Hostel and left me to finish getting situated in my room. After a few minutes, the PG men (studying for their Masters) began dropping by and the laughs haven’t ended since. Because they were so close to the previous volunteer, they’re quite adept in dealing with a spoiled American it seems. After spending a little while getting to know each other, they took me out for coffee at a different hotel. Finally, my first cup of coffee since arriving in India! I don’t know if it was deprivation or that the coffee had a little crack in it, but it may be the best coffee I’ve ever had (and I went back the next day to have more)!
After coffee, we took the long way back to the college, which was a relaxing walk through smaller streets. Back at the hostel, we visited some more and then I went back to the Principal’s house for supper/dinner (depending on what you call it). I was surprised to find that “eating” consisted of driving me over to the Bishop’s house (who wasn’t there unfortunately) and then giving me a night tour of Kottayam. I had a great time and we even picked up some beef curry to add to the meal that his wife was preparing for us back at the house. After picking up the Principal’s daughter from work, we went back and I ate more food that I ever have in one sitting in my entire life.
Since the my first day (I’m on my third as I write this), I’ve enjoyed relaxing, reading, being introduced to the faculty, spending time with the PG guys, eating out, walking here and there, and meeting former students as well. It seems that CMS students feel a real connection to this place even after they’ve graduated; I’ve possibly met as many alum as I have current students. While being away from the volunteers has unveiled a little homesickness, I’m really coming to enjoy my time here and it’s only the beginning!
One last note: I don’t have any pictures yet because the idea of walking around with a camera taking photos of this and that is a little touristy for my liking right now. But don’t worry, you’ll get pictures of this beautiful place soon enough. Also, from here on out updates will probably be less frequent seeing as my priority is to focus on being here, but I'll be sure to update a reasonable amount.