So here goes for my first blog entry... from way out in India; in a beautiful town called Ongole. I would say little town but nothing in India is considered little. With its giant population of 1.21 billion people even the smallest towns are huge. For someone from a small town called Potton in Bedfordshire every single thing here is completely alien to me:
For a start it is so hot out here. Unless you have been to India you will never be able to understand the power of Indian heat. Words simply cannot describe it. I will say one thing though, if you do ever dare to venture into this country, with such huge diversity and culture, you should cross deodorant of your kit list. Out here there is little point of wearing it; even the best of antiperspirant cannot hold back the sweat when you walk out of your nice air conditioned room into the scorching heat.
The next things that are so hard to get used to are the pollution and the amount of vehicles on the road. We arrived in India on the 12th of September, and from Hyderabad airport, we drove to our hotel in Secunderadbad. As we drove along, we opened the windows of the minibus to look at everything that we were passing and to get a small breeze. This was our first experience of the India I am gradually becoming used to. The strong smell, which I still cannot describe. I think it is a mixture between raw sewage, car fumes, cow excrement and rotting food. The sights of poor next to rich; the people who sit at the side of the busy road, begging for food because they are crippled and cannot work; and the well off man driving past them in his brand new four by four with blacked out windows. The constant sound of horns... I honestly cannot understand what the point in the horns are, as everyone’s are blaring out at the same time, and they become so common to the ear that you start to ignore them.
After a few days rest in Secunderadbad, me and my partner, Kyekue, left for our project in Ongole. We travelled by train with two other project volunteers, 30 other Indian passengers and a banana loving rat. We are working at U.C.L.I schools. The school is a government funded elementary and high school. The children, boys and girls of all ages, are all orphans and live at the hostel next to the school and the main house. I have to point out that though the children are considered orphans, most of them have family. They just come from broken homes, where their families have been abandoned by their fathers and their mothers can no longer afford to keep them. The school is a Christian school and the church and school are both run by Reverend Joseph. Me and Kyekue are currently staying in his house. I have got to say the best thing about India has got to be the people. Every person that we have met has been so welcoming towards us. Most people seem to think that I am American at first. I suppose this is because the area is prone to having American missionaries coming to visit and these are the only white people that the locals see. We have made friends with all of the children at the hostel but especially the older girls. They cook our food for us every day, they have been teaching us the language (Telegu) – there is a different language for every state, they have taught us some Indian dancing, helped us to fix our saris and talked us through what’s going on when we watched Telegu TV.
The food here is amazing! I have never tasted anything like it before in my life ... at the moment I am hooked on rice, dosa (a lentil curry paste which is absolutely gorgeous) and chapattis (a flat bread/pastry thing which is basically oil, flour and water, made into a pizza dough, and then flattened and fried in more oil). The chapattis have got to be the best food here. They go with absolutely anything, so far I’ve had them with curry and rice, strawberry jam (which is expensive but yummy!) and yesterday Kyekue tried them with orange juice and sugar which she claimed was really nice and tasted like lemon and sugar pancakes. The most important thing out here is to try everything. Unlike in England the colour makes no difference to the spiciness of the curry out here, so even if it looks hot it might just be flavoursome and the one that looks mild might blow your socks off. It’s all about dipping into new things and new ways of thinking. The mushroom curry was particularly yummy!
Another way that both me and Kyekue have embraced the culture here is through our dress. We have brought ourselves some Indian clothing – so I am now the proud owner of 1 sari and 2 Punjabis (trousers and a dress). I love them very much. I wear them every day to the school and every day the kids tell me how super my clothes are and how beautiful I look, even though I was wearing the same outfit the day before. The kids here are so funny and sweet, but they are also very demanding for your attention all of the time. They are always shouting ‘miss’ at me, even though they have nothing to tell or show me and when I turn around they just giggle or wave. They are always whining, grabbing my hand and trying to carry my stuff for me. It is very sweet and I know it is just because most of the time they are happy to see me but sometimes it gets annoying. Despite this I think that every one of the children here already has a small place in my heart and when these 12months are over (which will come all too quickly) I will miss these children very much.
As for the teaching the classrooms here are very basic, blank walls with just a black board and chalk for me to write on. The children sit on the floor, the boys on one side, and the girls the other; they will not sit next to each other as it is part of their culture. They are provided with books and one pen each – a pen which most of the children in my grade 4 class have lost so I end up sharing out mine. Most of the children can write English words really well. The problem is that they have no idea what the words that they are writing down are and how to say them as they have only ever copied the words off the board. It is great to introduce fun and games to the lesson, though the kids do get a bit excited. So far ‘corners’ has been a huge hit and the element of competition makes it a lot more fun.
So by the time this gets posted I will have probably just finished my first bit of travelling round the south of India. I will write all about it in my next update don’t worry!
Lastly I want to say to all the amazing people that have helped me get this far already thank you very very very much. Your kindness and support has helped me to do this for these children and to have this amazing experience, and I and all the children at UCLI are very grateful.
I love you all and miss you! Having the best time ever!
Best wishes from India,
p.s the kids say hello :)
class six boys