On Saturday, we went to Mahabulipuram, a day trip destination, about 2 hours from Chennai. On the way we stopped at an amazingly beautiful beach with soft sand littered with thousands of seashells. There were a couple families that lived right off the beach and were extremely awestruck and curious when they saw us on the beach. Many of the children slowly and slyly approached us, smiling shyly. I waved to them and their faces lit up with such big smiles. I was so amazed at what a wave could do. We all kind of smiled and giggled with each other awkwardly. I felt like a kid, myself really. It was crazy to see how a simple wave changed the tone between us. I’ve adopted that for a lot of interactions I’ve come to. Any time someone stared at me curiously and/or apprehensively in passing (which is quite often) I either smiled, waved, bobbed my head (as we do here in India) or a combination of the three. Almost every time, I get such a warm smile, or a wave back. It’s a nice feeling.
The next night, we had our farewell dinner. Everyone definitely dressed to impress in their best (or borrowed) Indian wear. It was such a beautiful array of colors. Most of us ladies were in brilliantly colored sarees that hung and flowed so elegantly. The men wore either pants and a collared shirt or their traditional (doti) (kind of like a long men’s tunic) with pants. Each of the families performed either a dance, song, or skit and later spoke about their experiences either as homestay families or students in the homestays. We performed a dance with almost our entire family. We’d been practicing for the past four days and were so excited to perform it. The dinner was bittersweet: I knew it meant the end of our homestays, but it also meant the beginning of our India vacations and the soon approach of China!
On Tuesday, we escaped the city of Chennai and made our way to Thiruchchirappalli aka “Trichy” for our rural visit. I am actually writing this as we make our way back on this six hour train ride. Trichy and its neighboring villages were so beautiful. We talked to college students at two nearby schools about a plethora of issues, visited a poultry farm and learned how bricks were made, we hiked across rocks and boulders between small streams, and visited ancient temples and forts that were hundreds of years old. The scenery was amazing, so many pictures I took looked like paintings. The mood was so opposite the hustle and bustle of Chennai, and was so relaxing and peaceful. Often times I found myself sitting on a huge rock or cliff just looking into the distance at acres of grasses and palm trees, banana trees, huge mountains and rocks, against the bluest skies, feeling so peaceful and at ease. I’m actually kind of sad to be going back but very excited to start our vacation tomorrow morning! Some friends and I are traveling to north India to Delhi and Agra for a couple days to see the Taj Mahal, along with some famous ancient palaces and forts. After that, we’ll head back south to Kerala, which is famous for its scenery, backwaters, tea plantations, elephant and wildlife sanctuary, and Ayurvedic treatments. Looking forward to a great vacation. Til’ next time!