Internet access has been wonky, so I'm posting this two days after it was written...
We ended our stay at the resort near Mamallapuram yesterday and drove 45 minutes south to our home for the next two weeks. Fortunately, this drive was not as harrowing as the drive from the airport, but only relatively. There were still some moments of panic, but fortunately I was with two other faculty members. Somehow fear that's shared is easy to deal with. Also, as we were driving during the day I was able to see the surrounding landscape for the first time. It became quite beautiful the further south we went. There were fields dotted with cows, goats and wild dogs that were lined with coconut and mango trees. And so many people driving, walking, standing by the roadside, going about their daily lives. I saw a woman herding along some goats and also a woman carrying a huge basket on her head as they walked along the roadside. The women performed these tasks with so much grace and elegance! Their clothing is just gorgeous- traditional Indian saris and scarves woven with rich colours and textures. We passed many small, colourful villages along the way, each with housing ranging from thatched huts to two storey houses with satellite dishes. People congregated on the streets of these villages at shops and houses. Always, crowds of people gathered along the roadside along with many goats, cows, and dogs. Not many people were alone unless they were travelling along the road. It's such a communal way of living! I can't imagine one being lonely while living in those villages.
SAM's permanent campus is still under construction but should be ready in another couple of weeks. In the meantime, we're at a place called Tapovan, a retreat centre in the middle of the countryside (and by countryside, I mean crop fields and coconut trees). At the moment there's no internet here but hopefully they'll have some wi-fi for us soon. It's a beautiful place. We're a bit further away from the coast and are seeing some interesting wildlife. Lizards are bigger here at the villa. There are still cute geckos all over the place, doing their job of eating the bugs around the lights. Not sure what the bigger lizards jobs are. There are some beautiful birds that serenade us day and night. Almost all the faculty, including myself, have found frogs in our rooms (mine was tiny enough to be cute and not scary). I did see a pretty big spider today at lunch- its legs were about two inches long. I'm gaining notoriety as being squeamish about bugs, but I know the guys are creeped out too!
The people here are so warm and friendly. It's really nice talking with the other women or at least exchanging a smile when language is an issue. The hospitality at the villa has been wonderful, especially considering that we're going to them with problems all the time. There are frequent power surges that sometimes cause blackouts. There was a 45 minute blackout during the last night at the resort and another two hour one the next morning during breakfast before we checked out. Blackouts in the villa mean a plunge into pitch darkness, which is slightly unnerving what with all the suddenly invisible insects and reptiles. And some of the rooms have had problems with running water, including mine this morning when all I wanted was a cold shower! India is full of surprises. But the country's power grid is groaning under all the air conditioners constantly running on top of the electric lights being used. We're out in the middle of nowhere here and it's even harder to power the villa. The weather is hot and humid so the AC is a necessity. Otherwise, your body becomes one with the humidity.
Up until last night, I hadn't been sleeping very well. I was concerned that my malaria pills were making me crazy but really I think it was just my usual craziness combined with sleep deprivation and strange insects and reptiles everywhere! Managed to get a good eight hours in last night and feel much more sane!
So, we had our first day at SAM yesterday and met the students. There are 13 students in total, including two vocalists. Both the faculty and students discussed all our stories and backgrounds. The students are so pumped about the program- it's fantastic. Oh, and there are no female students, which means I'm the only girl on faculty and the only girl whatsoever at SAM for the next couple months! We ended the day with a jam in a beautiful outdoor pavillion with a thatched roof where we eat as well. It's a great interactive hang. We faculty got the chance to play with each other for the first time- they all sound great. So did the students. This is going to be fun.