By the final week, we had become accustomed to what we referred to as “India time”. We had promised Gajapathi, our main contact at the Kunnankulathur Government High School, that we would be to the school by 9:00am on Tuesday morning for the school prayer. We had arranged a vehicle to pick us up for 8:45am, but it didn’t arrive until 9:00am. Worrying we might have missed the prayer, or at a minimum be fashionably late, we pulled up to the school noting the ceremony hadn’t begun yet. We had gotten the chance to watch the school prayer during week three while working on our projects but none of us knew what to expect from being a part of it. Students led us into a classroom as they went through their usual routine. Towards the end, we were called to the front of the stage. Gajapathi took the time to introduce us to all of the students and presented us each with a handmade flower necklace and gift. Seeing how much of an impact our presence at the school left on the students is hard to put into words. More importantly, what we were able to each takeaway from working with the students is truly priceless and indescribable.
On Wednesday, we had the pleasure of being guests at Gajapathi’s home. We were welcomed with bowls of homemade mango ice cream that were to die for. Gajapathi has spent the last two years planning and building his home. In India, celebrating the building of a new home is very important. We were able to look through the album that was created based of the housewarming celebration that was held. All of his wife’s family, his family and co-workers from Kunnankulathur Government High School were part of the event. A tradition in India is to have a cow draped with a saree walk through the home which we found to be super cool. Gajapathti gave us a tour of his new home which is beautiful. There is a guest house on the second level and a rooftop that has a breathtaking view of the hills, a constant breeze and is perfect for star gazing. Every detail from the doors, cabinet handles and light fixtures was planned and hand picked by Gajapathi. Following the tour, Gajapathi served us a homemade Indian dinner. We were able to eat on banana leaves which is one of my favorite parts of India. All the food was delicious from the idly and dosa to the prawn rice. Before departing his home, Gajapathi left us by saying we always have a home in India.
Then came Thursday, our final day in India. It hadn’t sunk in that we were going through the “lasts” of our daily life. Going to the school and seeing the students for the final time brought tears to my eyes. From all the selfies, autographs and kisses on cheeks, pulling into the school and seeing their smiling faces and waving hands is a memory none of us will forget. We had brought stickers to hand out to the students before leaving- and I use the phrase “hand out” loosely. Once one student had a sticker, all the students wanted a sticker and before we knew it, the bag of stickers were out of our hands and enveloped in a crowd of cheering elementary aged students.
On top of saying goodbye to the students at Kunnankulathur, we were left with saying goodbye to the friends we had made at KVCET. My great grandma and her friends used to say “too-da-loo” to each other, which translates to “see you later”. I had told this to Lago, one of our friends, so that we didn’t have to say goodbye. After piling the luggage and ourselves into the vehicle, we waved our final waves and headed to the airport. All of us knew this wasn’t the last time we would cross paths. We know the KVCET students will be coming to Michigan Tech in February of 2018 and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival and counting down the days until they land at CMX. More importantly, we all plan on returning to India to be reunited with the friends we made during our five weeks. Everyone was so open, willing to help us and kindhearted. They showed us what it means to make life long friends.