Kodaikanal International School was established in 1901 as an American residential school for the children of missionaries. It was in Tamil Nadu State at the southern tip of India. Located high in the mountains, the weather could be very cool. On a clear day you could see across to Celyon (Sri Lanka). Lake Kodaikanal covered 60 acres and was good for boating while the surrounding areas were good hiking territory.
In 1957 my two brothers went there for boarding school. By that time there were more than missionaries in the region. My father was working in Burma establishing an agricultural school funded by the Ford Foundation.
My brothers traveled about 2,000 miles. There was no flight from Kodai at that time so they took the bus to the train station, a train to Madras, a flight to Calcutta where they boarded another plane for Rangoon, and then went by either train or car to Pyinmana where we lived. They were 9 and 11 years old. There were several other children who went there from Pyinmana so they usually had people to travel with.
One year only one of my brothers showed up in Rangoon. My other brother had the mumps and had to stay behind along with a friend of his who also had the mumps. As soon as he was well enough to travel, his housemother took him to her home in Madras. Once he was fully recovered he flew to Calcutta where some friends of the family met him and saw him off on the plane to Rangoon.
My mother was to meet him and take the train home but the train was cancelled that day and she and my other brother went by car. This meant they had to stay the night in Rangoon. They all finally made it home okay. A few days later my other brother complained of a sore jaw. Now he had the mumps!
Getting sick in Pyinmana could be a problem. There was a good hospital and doctors in Rangoon but it was 250 miles away and was about a 10 hour trip by road. There was a good Indian doctor in Toungoo which was about 75 miles away. He could easily make it to us in a day but the problem was getting a hold of him. There were 3 or 4 telephones in Pyinmana and we had access to one of them but it almost never worked. There were times when we had to send somebody to ask him to come.
Otherwise my parents relied on Dr Spock’s book: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. Also referred to as their medical bible. When I moved to Russia many many years later, it was one of the books I took with me.
“Change is the essential process of all existence.”
–SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
This certainly beats out my most of our parents stories, ‘of walking a mile to school in the snow!’
2,000 miles to school, 250 miles to the hospital and 75 miles to the nearest doctor… Sounds like expat life without perks to me!
Or… living in the sticks…