The Kuderu girls welcomed us to their village.
And the sunset wished us a good night.
Working with children should be fun.
The classic village meal of flat bread ("chapati"), yellow rice,
egg and chicken curry makes our mouth water...
though it may not appear tasty to your eyes.
Sounds of children scurrying for dinner, goats being herded into their makeshift pen for the evening, roosters and chickens roaming freely before returning to their coops, a motorbike off in the distance, horns from the local bus leaving town.
Dusk brings a sense of calm and cool, though still in the high 80s. Weather is relative as the temperatures decrease from the low hundreds during the height of day.
Men sit on front porches talking. Women continue their domestic obligations cleaning after the day and preparing for the evening meal. Cinder block walls or simple shrubbery laced with recent scraps of trash serve as loose boundaries between barely distinguishable properties. Always in sight are goats, oxen, chicken, roosters, a dog named "Sweetie,” a pet goat named "Puppy," a few bugs and some geckos grace the scene. Surprisingly few mosquitos so far.
These dirt roads rarely entertain vehicles. On the horizon are rock formations famously known in the Deccan Plateau region of Andhra Pradesh. In view from the front porch of this church home are other homes of all kinds: thatched roofs, tin roofs, two-story compounds surrounded by a wall that still doesn't keep out the "guineas", borwells always wet with the latest remnants of an overflowed bucket, satellite dishes on every other roof, trees and shrubbery in the corners, but with summer approaching, the aridity is inescapable as it hasn't rained in months.
Time is slow. We look at our watches to see how much time has progressed rather than slipped away from us. Tonight we will sleep at 9:00 p.m. and be awakened at 5:30 a.m., even though we have no particular agenda for the morning. Village time is "sun" time.
Children are everywhere. All children. All the time. This home doubles as a church each week and serves the needs of the community every night in the form of a community center and multi-purpose room for villagers who want or need what it has to offer.
Inside the home, ceiling fans whir and light flickers when there is electricity available, normally less than 14 hours-per-day. We see half-hearted paint jobs that need a re-do, dirt on the walls at the hand level of young children, partitioned walls that separate people but not sounds of a 40 x 20 space, clean floors swept four times daily (especially when foreigners are expected). Present are villagers, children, staff from our program, all of us together in an unexpected collection of urban/rural, Indian/American, village/wanna-be simpletons who, at least for one night, appreciate the pace, lack of digital connection, time-neutral, reflective and low-demand way of enjoying an evening.
Also found in the village homes: Telugu and broken English, squatty potties, which are not that awkward once you get some practice (but the taller you are the more of a leg workout it becomes), a more flavorful dinner than any of you reading this have had in months, windows with protective grills, windows with wooden shutters, colorful poster decorations saluting everything from India's great leaders to inspirational sayings that belong alongside Thomas Kincade paintings. My favorite is one picture with the Eiffel Tower in the foreground and Mt. Everest in the background with a cheesy saying. We will be sleeping on wooden cots with thick cloth mesh, surprisingly comfortable, rooms separated by curtains and rods, no doors.
Just another night in a typical children’s home in an Indian village.
Come for a visit, but remember to bring your repellant, toilet paper, some puzzles and games, and an appetite.