Our host had arranged for Kevin to speak with a children’s school about American and Tamil culture. We pulled up to the school in our auto-rickshaw. A row of children lined the path on each side, all of them waving bright orange steamers. Someone immediately presented Kevin and I with a necklace of flowers. We walked down the center of the line as the children fluttered their streamers: me, in a bit of shock, Kevin smiling and waving to the children. I self-consciously tugged at my hair, trying to pull a piece of it down over the bloated side of my face, while everyone waved and smiled. A swollen face and teeth pain had recently lead me to the oral surgeon’s office where it was determined my tooth was infected. We were waiting for the swelling to go down before taking an x-ray. I had entertained visions of sneaking in, watching quietly from the back as our host and Kevin did their thing, and then we would be on our way. I must have forgotten where we were.
We reached the end of the line, where more children stood with flowers and trays of powder. A red and white dot was then placed on our foreheads. A flower mandala had been painted out front of the steps to the school. We were ushered into a room filled with waiting children, boys on one side, girls on the other. The black board had been painted with pretty pastel chalk, and the words read, “Welcome Mr. Hansen and Mrs. Krista.”
Kevin spoke and then a few of the girls from the school, dressed in long green dresses and made-up faces, put on a performance of Tamil Nadu classical style of dance.