On Thursday, June 14th, I'll leave from Duluth, USA and head towards Mumbai, India. I won't arrive until late on the 15th (local time), but on Thursday, my adventure begins! For eight weeks, I'll tutor English to seventh, eighth, and ninth years at the Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan medium school in Phaltan, India.
I can't even begin to explain how awed I am by this remarkable school. In a country where it usually takes money and influence to buy a solid primary education, Maxine Berntsen and Jai Nimbkar make learning available to a student body which actually reflects the local population. Formerly untouchable children work with Brahman children, boys work with girls, and all in an innovative and secular environment. I can not wait to see how this place runs.
For more details, and fawning over the school, check out this online review by Dilip D'Souza. After History Prof. Emeritus Eleanor Zelliot suggested that I apply to volunteer at the Kamala Nimbkar, this is one of the pieces of information that made the decision much easier.
From our e-mails, Maxine seems like a very well-organized person with a dry wit and a lot of experience. For the past several months Maxine, Eleanor, and I have been e-mailing back and forth and around to get me up to speed. The list of "issues" to deal with seems endless: Gifts, food etiquette, bathrooms, phone booths. And I'm pretty sure I'm still clueless on most areas of rural Indian life, but I would like to thank Chapati's (restaurant in Northfield, MN) for providing such a lovely location for my education.
Phaltan is just south of Pune, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. If you want the full background, here's the state's wikipedia page.
By the way, Bombay, home to Bollywood, massive inequality, and official corruption, is gigantic. At over 14 million people, it is the largest city in the world. If, in 2004, it had been its own country, it would have ranked as the 54th largest.
After I arrive and spend a day sleeping, that is where I am buying three months worth of saris.