Adele kept a blog during her trip to AGN School. Here is a post written during one of her first days at AGN! You can read her entire blog at deldogwithablog.wordpress.com.
We arrived in Salem yesterday around noon. The train ride from Chennai to Salem was so great. We got rice cakes, dosas, chai tea, and mango juice, and we got to watch the bustling city of Chennai transform into the mountainous, palm-tree filled countryside of India. Shoutout to our helper sent by the AGN school, Rajendran, for picking us up at the hotel at 6:00 am, taking us to the train station, finding our platform and our seats, and lifting our 50lb suitcases onto the luggage rack. We literally wouldn’t have been able to do that last part without him.
In Salem, we were met by one of the teachers at the school with a sign that said AGN School and a tiny yellow school bus. It took about 30 minutes to get to the small village of Konganapuram. We were told that the children were waiting for us to arrive, but we had no idea how amazing the welcome ceremony would be.
Walking in between rows of children clapping, we were greeted by the teachers and leaders of the school with palm syrup candy and beautiful red-powder bindis. Some of the kids handed us handmade flower pots with flowers picked at the school and welcomed us with rehearsed speeches. I couldn’t help but smile. It was an overwhelming moment of joy for me. I was so nervous to come here, so worried that I would not feel at home or at ease in this place. The moment I stepped off of the bus and was greeted by so many smiling faces, I felt completely welcomed.
We met with the head of the school, Ayee Goundan, and then proceeded to eat lunch. We learned about the foundation of the school, how Ayee had grown up in Konganapuram and after working in the United States for years, he decided to move back to open a school that could provide opportunities for the children of his hometown. Lunch was rice with vegetables and a bean curry sauce, served on banana leaves. We were instructed how to eat with our fingers. Later, when I Skyped with my little sister Julia and told her that it is actually polite to eat with our hands, she said, “Cool! I want to go to India!!”
Our guest house is so nice! We have a kitchen, common area, and our own beds in one room. It’s like a sleepover! But it lasts for 8 weeks (lol). There’s no AC, but the fans are powerful. The only difficult thing I’ve really had to do here in terms of the living situation is take a cold shower, and that honestly wasn’t too bad, I just closed my eyes and pretended like I was under one of my favorite North Carolina waterfalls (Yeah for real, this was the only way I could trick myself into taking a cold shower).
After our first night’s sleep, we went to the morning assembly where we got to listen to a beautiful rendition of “Who Says” by Selena Gomez, performed by a 13-year-old boy who wanted to sing an American song to make us feel welcomed, and then go on stage in front of the 2,000+ students at the school to introduce ourselves. We learned about the history of this Stanford/AGN connection, and I found out that this is the 10th year that Stanford students have come to this school to help teach classes, explore southern India, and participate in cultural exchange. The whole assembly made me feel like I was already a part of the “AGN family” that the warm atmosphere of the school creates.
Proud to have taught them the meaning of the phrase “silly picture”
The storm brought cool breezes, a huge relief from the normal heat and humidity.