Wednesday, 6 July 2011

"This is India!"

This morning, as if the god's had read my blog, I had an egg sandwich for breakfast. I was in heaven and used my imagination to pretend it was complimented with some bacon. The day ahead was planned with more visits with David, and as he was only here for a week every visit was prompt.
As we approach the first village the road either deteriorated too much or had just simply ran out, either way we had to walk the final half mile. It was hot but my clothes were fresh and a breeze kept away the sweat, for now at least. I realise I have already talked about why I am here and I do not want to harp on about why charities need money and why the world is such a bad place, and so on.. but I was moved by what I saw today. I often find if you try and bother people with this type of stuff you are either preaching to the converted or to those few who simply don't care. I hope you just find it interesting.
For water this village had dug them selves a hole, deep enough so that there was water at the bottom and then... and then that was it. That was all they had. The water was beyond undrinkable but they had no other option. The color of the water was a muddy light brown and was full of all types of bacteria. Boiling it would do little to purified it enough to warrant even doing it. They used a flannel whilst pouring it into pots but I doubt this made an significant benefit apart from sieving away small bugs and sticks, the color certainly remained. I learnt something interesting today. This village was below the poverty line, far below it in my opinion, and therefore qualified for relief from the government. However it was a christian village and the ministers, Hindu ministers that have the power, believe that this brings you above the poverty line, hence destroying your chances of getting any funding. What ridiculous and illogical thinking. This village was left alone to cope, something that they didn't seem to be doing very well. There was a small meeting, common when David is around as he tries to sort out what are there most urgent needs and finds solutions to fix them. He does not hesitate when something needs doing, something that I very much admire in him. David suggested that I go have a wonder as the village will be near empty, due to most wanting to have their say, especially the women. It was nice and I was glad I did it, one family quickly started talking to me, despite the obvious communication problem. I ate with them trying some of their peanuts that they grow. My mouth was dry and the peanuts took away any sign of moisture but I carried on gratefully. Despite having nothing in the world, these people are always happy and always so generous. They insist on you having little presents, eating their food and sharing anything they have with you. I am always honored but angered by the fact that many back home have so much more and are reluctant to share. Before we left we had some coconut water which was very refreshing but I wasn't all that sure that I wanted my second. "No I am fine thank you" is not a phrase they know here, in English or Tamil. As we left the village AntonySammy (My adopted Indian father here) said "This is India", not quite in the same way as King Leonidas did, but in a sad and disappointed manner. He was right.
Due to the long car journey this was our only visit in the morning and lunch was the next port of call, we went to a neighboring city. As we walked in there were 4 white people sitting at a table. The first I had seen in just over a week. I understand why the locals do it now and I caught myself starring too for some unknown reason. You do seem very out of place. I don't think they helped themselves by dressing 'exactly' as they Indians do, with sarees and a shirt and dress for the man. I later eavesdropped enough to hear an American accent and I understood a little better. I am getting much more accustomed to the eating, got the whole hand movements worked out a treat, minimal spillages. It does make me wonder why a country with such concerns about hygiene don't believe something as simple as a folk would help. I am yet to get to grips with the drinking however. They pour away from their mouths and gulp as they pour, mouths wide open. I am too much of a coward to try, believing one of two outcomes will occur; I will either choke to death or splutter everywhere, either way I don't come out of the situation well. I am not missing a particular food or flavor very much but I do miss a 'crunch'. Everything is very soft and liquidity, almost like a rice pudding and I am longing for something to actually bite rather than just swallow.
After lunch we visited some schools that were build by WTN. I was greeted every time with the mandatory lemon present (I am building up quite a collection of them now and have considered starting some sort of farm). I was very impressed with the Maths at the school and the younger children were competent in most areas. However I did not like the way English was taught at the school. The children learn from repetition and although they may know sayings, I had the feeling they just learnt from heart and have little understanding of what they are actually saying. A teacher recited the alphabet and some of the letters were unrecognisable, although the children shouted happily along with her in the same manner and pronunciation. I had to hand out some, (I say some, I mean all), the school uniforms that had recently been donated. A child was called up, I handed one over, a quick "thank you sir" from the child and staged photo was taken. It got very repetitive and I kept swapping from "No problem" and "it's OK", and  wasn't too sure what else I could say, I wasn't really the one they should be thanking, (I took the credit nonetheless). I felt a bit like I was signing autographs, it was a strange experience. The children so desperately wanted their photo taken with me, but after the 50th child, my cheek muscles were dying.

I am trying to grown my own "Peter Garrod" beard, but all attempts have ended in a poorly groomed chin strap. I think a shave tonight and a rethink is in order. I have never been in a country where the moustache has been so popular and I am starting to feel the pressure. Might come across as a pretty boy, defiantly not the look you want here.Some strategy on the face is needed, just haven't got the right combination yet.

Have a look at the photos:

Tomorrow the Oliver Riley English school opens BTW. 7.30

Little comment needed

Very sweet girl I met

The ground nuts (peanuts)

David, (Loves the camera)

I'm here all month

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