Wednesday, January 30, 2008

DECEMBER TEAM JOURNAL : 16 Dec 2007 - 2 Jan 2008

INDO712A – Team

December 16, 2007

“The key to your universe is that you can choose.” Carl Frederick

Eight women have chosen to come to Chennai to become a team of Global Volunteers. Though we chose different flight patterns to get here, today we saw the start of putting our skills and interest together that will be our lasting mosaic here in Chennai.
We had met several of our four legged friends yesterday and today Wendy gave us our science lesson with the question – “Why do they prefer the middle of the road?” Smart cows! The breeze from the traffic helps rid them of flies!
Alana gave us our first creativity project – a Rorsach butterfly that she quietly constructed while listening to the orientation. We are each to add to it. And then we learned from this Irish lass - how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb. I’ll not list the answer so any readers outside of this group can puzzle over that.
Stephen skillfully guided us through the process of writing why we chose to come and then put these into team goals. There was quick consensus on characteristic of an effective team – and Stephen added the important 2 Ps – Punctuality and Patience. Both are to be observed at all times. He also helped us with practice the correct pronunciation of a few key Tamil words. After completing our calendar of assignments we had a break before starting our long anticipated walk through the neighborhood. With a few stops before reaching the children’s home as the gates opened we were greeted with bright eyes, broad smiles and then sat in a circle, a warm welcome from each in English. What a wonderful place this is going to be to finish each day. We had a taxi ride to the restaurant for a meal that was a gourmet’s delight.
Then home to showers, setting alarms and bed, as I bring this to a close, it is only the sounds of the fans and refrigerator that breaks the silence.


December 17, 2007

“The highest of distinctions is service to others.”
King George VI

Our first day of service and our team gathered on time at the gate to go to our various assignments. Like fighter pilots we took flight in our squadrons, braving the unknown, expecting the unexpected and ready for anything. With smiles and handshakes we met our hosts and tried to remember impossible – to pronounce names. Big black eyes and tiny hands clustered around us, and touched our hearts. One of our
groups, expecting to scrape walls and paint found there was no sandpaper for scraping, so were thrust into a sea of eager faces looking up as if for a movie-star performance. Who’d have thought a room full of one to five year-olds would be so intimidating! But with the help of their warm-hearted teacher we soon found our stride and dove in to head-shoulders-knees and toes – knees and toes. In fact, I’m proud to say, we gave an oscar-winning performance. Back at base camp everyone was swapping stories and then, after a brief rest, the team went back to our evening hour at an orphanage with stellar contributions by our talented teachers conducting “Brother John” and “Old MacDonald.” Our first day, and a feeling of “we did it, we came through.” We’re out of the starting gate, we’re off!

Wendy Banks

December 18, 2007

What has 6 heads 8 wings and gold glitter all over? The Chennai angel squad
When I returned from the hospital this evening I found my co-volunteers, Sheeba and even Stephen working under the inspiring direction of Joelle to create the items for a crèche for Assisi Illam children and sisters. Everyone was working, joking, and generally having fun. When asked, individual volunteers reported having a successful day. Nina earned a silver star by teaching everyone how to balance 10 nails on the head of the head of the eleventh. You have to attend her science class to learn her secret. Although it isn’t the rainy season it has certainly been wet the past 24 hours. Stephen assures us that Chennai needs the water so in that respect it is good but at the same time it is a real problem for poorer families who have dirt floors at ground level.
Everyone continues to put great thought and energy into planning activities for the children. The painting at St. Joseph’s is going slowly due to the rain. Of course that means more time directly with the children and no one is complaining.
Working with Sister Rexline at St. Thomas Hospital is a joy and a blessing. They speak truly when they say, working in Chennai gives more to the volunteers than the volunteers gives to others.

Quote for the day: Love cannot be seen or heard. It must be felt by the heart.
Helen Keller

Alana Poage

December 19, 2007

Today is the third day of our program and I feel like we are all starting to settle in and feel much more comfortable in our assignments and getting to know our hosts and co- workers from the community. We started our day with breakfast and conversation and making decision about dinner – restaurant or order in pizza. The restaurant won but we will definitely experience a pizza dinner before our adventure is over. We got to learn more about Alana’s position at the hospital, which was quite interesting, as we don’t get to see as much of her to we would like. The angel wings were successfully completed by Sheeba and Aleatha to be delivered today. They were without a doubt the most beautiful angel wings ever made. It’s still raining quite heavily at times as we were all delivered to our jobs. Patrice and I are getting the hang of painting and have actually elicited a few approving nods and oks. The guys Ravi, Giri and Ajiesh. Are getting use to us and even asked us to sing which Wendy and Patrice do very well. We get a snack at 11 – today was cookies and chai and lunch about 1- when we all watch soap operas. The old nun is totally engrossed in the soaps and they’re fun to watch. Much over acting and lots of sleazy looking guys doing evil deeds. We have got the windows cleaned, scrapped and painted and now on to the doors. Then we were home for a little R & R and shower before heading on to SEAMS. Wendy conducted a great yoga session for the kids and Stephen videotaped it. We all had a fabulous dinner at Kumarakam a Kerala restaurant but we missed Joelle who stayed behind to keep Sheeba company. We finished up with our nightly meeting and planning the shopping trip if the rain lets up.

Quote for the day: When there is no wind – Row

Chinese proverb.


December 20, 2007

Patrice here. When I was a little girl I loved a story that started off with the line “And so they were off on their biggest adventure ever” I was reminded of my story when the team piled into the van and an auto rickshaw on our way to downtown and shopping this evening. Chennai roads teem with motorized life, families on motorbikes, men pushing through on bicycles and carts, rickshaws, small yellow aggressive trucks and the occasional packed bus. all moving literally inches from the next vehicle. So there we were driving, weavings braking and honking with the best of them.
Having enjoyed a strong adrenaline rush, we were in the right condition for downtown Chennai. The shopping centre was livelier and brighter than we imagined -rather like a less sterile Las Vegas. Stephen skillfully guided us to a clothing emporium—brave man! where we enjoyed a fun and frantic 45 minutes of shopping. Wendy we are sorry your outfit did not work! You looked smashing. The ride home was less eventful but at 9:30, it was time for dinner and to check on our comrade Ann who had been left home to sleep.
India is a land of contrast, some of which is difficult to us, some of which is extremely beautiful. It’s all however, right down to the shopping, amazing.

Quote for the day – All things change when we do



December 21, 2007

This morning we were invited to the St. Joseph’s School – the school at which I worked on Monday and Tuesday to see the Christmas pageant. We had no idea what was in store! The Christ Child, a live baby was blessedly quiet throughout a long program that included three performances of traditional Indian dance by some of the students. The correspondent as the director of the school is called, is a priest, and he gave a long sermon. The honored guests sang three Christmas songs to thundering and unwarranted applause. Then Santa appeared bearing his balloon staff, cavorting through the hall and finally taking Aleatha by the hand and dancing her to the stage. The biggest hit, though, was Sister Emily who announced that the tests would be postponed until January 2.
As the children filed out, we found ourselves honored yet again with an invitation to join the school staff at their Christmas party. A pink and white cake stood on the table, and as the staff gathered Christmas presents were exchanged over tea and cake. Stephen surprised everyone by announcing that school staff and volunteers were all to share the Christmas dinner at a restaurant.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joelle and Sheeba had been frantically rushing around shopping, then sorting, bagging and packing the presents for SEAMS. We all have very warm feelings about the friendly and yes, lovable kids of SEAMS, and generous Christmas packages have been assembled for them.
Five o’clock soon came, and we were off to spend our last evening with the children at SEAMS. Two pots were boiling over an open wood fire in the courtyard as we arrived, and as usual we were greeted with friendly cries of anticipation and handshakes all around. The evening began with the arrival of Santa – a tall, slender Santa in traditional red, sporting a tall paper hat, a Santa mask, a cotton beard and – oh yes, a balloon staff. Who was that calling, “Ho, ho, ho….” And wishing one and all a happy Christmas? It was none other than our Aleatha, who remained in good spirits for an hour, sweltering behind the mask and all that cotton and uttering, “Ho-hos” from time to time. The children took turns singing with the volunteer carol chorus, then we all got up to dance, led first by Joelle and then by Wendy. Finally the children sat in rows and were called in turn by Sheeba to receive a package from Santa. “But don’t open it!” – torture, especially for the little ones. Soon the parcels were handed over for temporary safekeeping until the children leave for vacation.

A final farewell, then home for a brief rest before the next act.
While all this activity was taking place, our medical staff was off at the hospital doing what medical personal do. We shall have to check with Alana to hear details on that.
Exhaustion overtook Aleatha and Patrice at this point, so they decided to enjoy a hard earned rest while the rest of us trudged off to our dinner with the teachers. The dinner was held at the same restaurant at which we had eaten earlier in the week, and again the food was excellent. Stephen enjoyed his vanilla ice cream as we all did. We kept conversation flowing as we exchanged information about ourselves and our lives with the teachers. It was a good cross-cultural opportunity for both sides. We returned after nine and by ten it was dead quiet in our digs. Everyone is tired and mindful of our early rising hour tomorrow, but very eager to be under way in the morning.

Thought for the day:

If I am not for myself,
Who will be for me?
And if just for myself,
What am I?
And if not now, when? (also shared in Hebrew)

Hillel, Jewish Scholar, 11th(?) Century


December 22, 2007


I cheat. I do. We were told to write one inspirational quote – I have two. The first, I will keep you guessing at its meaning and for you to find your own:
“In all things – hope and wait.” Alexander Dumas/Count of Monte Christo

And the real quote: “Everyday there is a surprise for you in India.” Who said it?......of course our own Stephen Raja.
My first trip to India was wonderful in the sense of experiencing many beautiful and great things: The Amber Palace, Red Fort, Holy Ganges, and of course the Taj Mahal. Could any thing be quite so glorious? Surprisingly the answer is “yes” and it is found in the REAL – Real streets, real smells, real people. It is a landscape unadorned with shiny western trappings. It is a place set apart from our world – knowing that this is someone else’s REAL.
But I have found the REAL in this amazingly diverse and complimentary group of women volunteers:
Alana has a “glorious” day when visiting the infirmary of elderly sisters – and seeing another’s talents and passions is so different from my own makes me realize once again - we need a team to make a real difference here.
Anne, dear Anne – has quiet endurance to take on a challenging situation when most others would not. The real is understanding each has a purpose even when headaches and health issues disguise the meaning temporarily – or perhaps the real meaning is perseverance.
My housemates, Michele and Patrice - real is their willingness to live “in the cave”, to paint and scrape (a less fun job than playing with the children…) and willingness to wait up for their lost roommate and even fetch her and escort her home safely.
Wendy is the Real Yoga’s version of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan in the eyes of a young boy. In a cramped, confined hall she is the answer to playground mischief, running on an open, grassy ball field, and honoring the body, mind, spirit connection.
Nina, my senior teacher mentor, is a font of knowledge and knows great teaching techniques. I can only begin to imagine what a fantastic teacher she was in her classroom days. She has given us tools and ideas in order to help us with the children. The saying is true: “Once a teacher – always a teacher” applies here. It is clear this is her Real calling.
Aleatha – you are my new role model. Really. About the time I am all pooped out there is Aleatha maneuvering the floor for yet another game, and game too for paper-macheing a crèche with the words, “What can I do to help?” To choose India instead of isolation in sorrow, to navigate crowded Chennai when well worn joints might scream, “Let me stop and rest;” to be a most memorable Santa, to serve with compassion, because this is how she spent her life with Swede and give witness to their Real love is truly admirable.
Brother Stephen, sister Sheeba, young enough to be my children, yet old enough to be wise in guidance are looked upon like mom and pop to our group. It is relative. Real is relative.
Hot is hot. And hot is not. (Sorry Dr. Suess is in my head, I wonder why?) It is knowing our slow dripping shower is better than having to lug water each day from the corner well. It is seeing a good deed done through the kindness of American friends is but a drop in the bucket when compared to the dedication of the Pastor who has parented over 400 children. And, it is knowing that our 2 and 3 weeks of service is but a start when you think of the long term commitment made by Sheeba and Stephen to the education, care, compassion and well-being of these children we’ve grown to love. It is all relative.
For myself, Real is found in small things. The best tangerine I’ve ever eaten, holding a child until sleep comes, making Christmas with beads, glitter and a humble assortment of art supplies, but most of all, seeing a surprisingly wonderful sight. No, this time not the Taj – but a smile forcing through, creeping across, no longer contain on Augustine’s little face. Well, it simply makes my heart melt.
Darn – was that a pool of urine I just walked through in my stocking feet. Yep, this too is REAL.


December 23, 2007

“The world is like a book – if you have not traveled you have read only one page.”

How lucky we are to have an opportunity to take a weekend to experience the sights and sounds of a fascinating part of India.
Today we had a very different type of breakfast – we broke away from our traditional Indian breakfast and had some white and brown toast – French style. An enjoyable change for us all but I did miss the white rice!! What a beautiful, tranquil place – beautiful surroundings at Residence Shalimar. The rooms were of beautiful décor – old wood and beautiful fabric – and dare I say – warm water for a shower!
Now it was time to be off as our trusted leader Stephen signaled to start another fascinating day in our exploration of India. We did so miss Alana as she was not feeling well, but was comforted in the fact she was resting so she could enjoy the rest of the day with us.
So many different sights (I was trying to take notes!) through rural villages to a fascinating meditation Auroville area of tranquil peace. Red soil, which I rarely see, and quietness, which is not typical of fast-paced India were encountered.
After some time shopping with some glorious purchases made (Wendy – that outfit is beautiful!) it was back to the hotel to pick-up Alana.
We were all very happy to see she was feeling better as we took off on our afternoon venture.
What a wonderful peaceful drive with snacks and singing. After lunch at Mamallapuram we took several tours to see fascinating rock carvings while some of us tried the climb around the monkey rock statue (a bit of a dicey trek). Certainly these ventures are popular leisure activities for he Indian people, as I almost got lost once or twice among crowds!
But certainly a highlight was seeing the Bay of Bengal with the strong waves and dynamic shoreline. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the first few days of their holiday.
Now it was back to the bus. As Alana and I found ourselves on our own among the throngs of people, Alana had the idea of standing under a light – we were sure to be seen and she was right. There was Stephen with the group. Thanks Alana – I will remember that trick in the future.
As we all safely loaded the bus, it was back to the guest house. There is not a sound to be heard here. It is 9p.m. and the weary travelers are all in bed – having experienced such a fascinating day. We all have Stephen to thank so much for that. We are all so lucky to have Stephen as our country manager!

“Hatred can be overcome only by love.” - Mohandas Gandhi


Monday, December 24, 2007 - Christmas Eve

Today started out feeling more like a Monday than Christmas Eve. After such a lovely weekend gallivanting around India, paddling in the strong surf of the Bay of Bengal and a climb up a horribly high tower at Mamallapuram, we had to come back to earth and go to work. Monday morning blues, however vanished at the greeting at Assisi Illam – squeals of delight and broad smiles welcomed Joelle, Aleatha and Anne, and Ravi, Giri, and Ajiesh seemed genuinely please to see the painting crew; myself, Michelle and Patrice. In fact, I detected a hint of pride as they showed us the room they’d completed in our absence – after all, we knew what a state it was in before and our admiration of their workmanship seemed to carry the weight of one professional to another. I spent an hour working with the older group of children, out of school for the holiday, feeling inadequate and such a greenhorn, though they didn’t seem to mind and were, as always eager, lively an open-hearted.
Once back home our Monday began feeling more like a holiday as it sunk in that we were done for the day and oodles of free time stretched before us. Everyone disappeared into their favorite activities – reading in peace up in the treetops on the roof, walking the neighborhood, diving into the “300 min” Internet café or visiting the amazing seamstress who makes chudidahs.
Then we all gathered for supper. Stephen gave us his long-awaited history lesson on the caste system – an ancient sociological structure that has degenerated into a form of inherited discrimination and bigotry, the very banning of which has served to perpetrate it. We were spell bound by his erudite lecture; the comprehensive overview with just the right amount of detail to understand its roots and evolution. Imagine parents keeping their children home from school when they discovered the government had employed untouchable to cook the children’s food. He told us how it was, how it is, and why, how it affects people, what it means for Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and how key education is in all this mess of religion and politics. We were deeply moved and I know I speak for all of us, I know we all hope that our work here, our presence, does in some way promote tolerance, peace and love and dissolve barriers to that. Today a little 3-year old kept touching my arm, feeling my skin. Hopefully he’ll now not find me so foreign and know we’re the same, two people, the same.
Patrice asked us to share any happy holiday memories and we heard about touching childhood moments. Some of the group valiantly went to midnight mass while others cherished extra reading time and quiet - both beautiful ways to pass the eve into Christmas.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” - Mother Teresa


December 25, 2007 – Christmas

As we step outside on Christmas Day we see more time and color have been given to the drawings in front of each house. There is peace in the weather and in our hearts. This is a day to be treasured for the sense of tranquility it brings.
We start out together, reluctantly leaving Alana behind to rest her body. As we visit each site we feel the pride or our teammates in what they have accomplished. We find two lovely tables set for us along the way and a variety of creative crèches like we have never seen before. Sisters give us a tour of their rooms. We sing to the three at the hospital who have so touched Alana’s life and now ours.
Aleatha is serenaded twice with Happy Birthday – feeling it has now been well celebrated and she needs no more. Then she is overwhelmed with the gift of the shawl as the sisters at the hospital place it around her shoulders. Flowers and a beautiful scarf are shared with all of us. We wish a safe trip to the three from the U.S. who start home tomorrow.
We close the day with a pizza supper and sharing of thoughts. Each Christmas in our futures will reflect a piece of India that we’ve shared today.
This quotation is from a wall in our site tour today:

Sees the invisible
Believes in the incredible
Retrieves the impossible.”


December 26, 2007 – The day after Christmas

As we start our day we are reminded of the team goals and objectives. Agreement is reached that we are doing well overall (a short, swift discussion).
We went back to our regular routine today after celebrating the joys of Christmas yesterday.
The children at Assisi Illam are as playful and joyful as ever but it seems that Christmas has enlightened their spirit with happiness – how wonderful to see!
As all reach the guesthouse after our work, it does not take much time before everyone is off again doing their various activities – either the tailor, or Internet, or perhaps reading before getting ready to go to Stephen’s parents for dinner.
Watching the children at Assisi Illam enjoy themselves after Christmas with simple pleasures makes us remember the true meaning of Christmas --- simple pleasures, happiness of spirit.
“We treasure what we learn from local people.”
Global Volunteers – Volunteer Manual Guiding Principle #10.



As Anne stayed home to treat a headache, the rest of the team got ready to go to Stephen’s parents house for a much-anticipated dinner. The ride over would have been uneventful if the mosquitoes hadn’t decided to have their own feast with Joelle as the main course. She arrived much bitten but unbowed.
We were greeted warmly by the entire family but Stephen’s mother made everyone feel like the prodigal child returned. We looked at the wedding albums for Stephen and Sheeba and Stephen and Rebecca. Clearly joyous occasions and fun to hear about how the matches came to be.
Dinner was a sumptuous feast with too many courses to count; vegetables, rice, potatoes, fish, chicken, 3 kinds of bread, rice pudding and fruit. The dinner conversation was lively and informative with many pauses for photo ops.
Just when we looked to a quieter time the local girls performed an energetic dance to entertain us; their efforts were so effective that Joelle and Wendy joined in.
Among the family and volunteers were a host of children who came to join the fun. The whole neighborhood rang with music and laughter. After the dancing there was beautiful cake for everyone then off to visit family and friends in the neighborhood. We went to Stephen’s aunt’s house, Sheeba’s sister’s house (where we met Sheeba’s father and siblings and in-laws) and to Rani’s house (our excellent cook).
As we said goodbye and headed home everyone was tired but filled with the milk of human kindness. If the world could learn to welcome its entire people with the love we encountered tonight, surely PEACE would reign for all humankind –


December 27, 2007

The day started with a team discussion as to the evening’s activities. Several options were available but once we determined that attending a traditional dance program was possible Friday evening, the decision was unanimous for shopping. Everyone agreed to be ready to leave by 3:30 and we all headed out for our days activities.
Nina’s class has dropped to 7 members but what is lacking in numbers by all reports is more than made up by enthusiasm.
Wendy, Michele and Patrice report the painting at St. Joseph’s is progressing nicely although Wendy is becoming quite a hit as a teacher thanks to the support of her more experienced team mates.
Anne, Aleatha and Joelle continue to delight and be delighted by the children at Assisi Illam.
And, at St. Thomas the post Christmas rush for outpatient services are keeping sisters/doctors Rosalee and Rexline busy covering for the rest of the medical staff who are on vacation. So, Alana became a Global Go-For. A mundane but much needed service due to the staff shortage.
At 3:30 Stephen and Stephen were ready and waiting for the shopping expedition to begin. The ladies were almost on time, and we were off – first stop was the Central Cottage Industries Emporium where everyone found some treasures although Aleatha and Joelle were the quantity queens hands down.
After the usual invigorating dash through traffic our trusty drivers delivered us to Saravannah then disappeared to await the summons to pick us up. By 6:30 we had taken in two additional shops and the majority were ready to call it a day. Wendy and Patrice showed us what real shoppers are made of and stayed behind with Stephen for “one more store”.
By 8:00p.m. we were all safely back at the guesthouse having dinner and discussing our purchases. Rumor has it that Aleatha and Joelle want a return go at the Emporium. Bed will do for me.

“I know God will never give me more than I can handle but sometimes I wish He wouldn’t trust me so much.” - Mother Teresa


December 28, 2007

Today started on a rather somber note for several reasons. First reason Anne is leaving us tonight to fly back to Toronto. We all hate to say goodbye to her but I’m glad that she can go home and eat something besides rice.
Second reason it is Wendy’s last day at St. Joseph’s. Three painter wallahs will now be one and two. Alana is also leaving us tomorrow night so more goodbyes will have to be said. I hope she really enjoys her Italian beef sandwich when she hits the ground in Chicago.
The third reason is we learned of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan – such a waste. A breakfast of delicious idlis helped cheer us up though.
After discussing the situation we all went to our respective places of employment. Wendy got a lovely letter from the Sisters thanking her and we met some very nice women from the states at lunch. We arrived back home to clean up and head for some classical dancing in downtown Chennai. The dancing was impressive as were the musician and singers. Now, home for dinner as we said goodbye to Anne, which is always bittersweet. Stephen purchased ice cream, which everyone heartily appreciated.
We made plans for the following day and were off to bed.

Quote – “Jumping for joy is the best exercise.” Anonymous


December 29, 2007

We had a long and interesting day which I’ll describe in some detail, but first—as I apply yet another coat of repellent – a short rant about mosquitoes. The mosquitoes in Southern India are numerous, large, arrogant and boy, they really hurt when they bite. These aren’t ordinary wimpy U.S. mosquitoes, no indeed. A determined mosquito here can find the right place for a meal even if the human is protected by a shirt AND undergarments.
But on to happier thoughts (or at least less itchy ones).
Our wonderful leaders, Sheeba and Stephen, shared their wedding anniversary with our team. We were privileged to each offer a special blessing to our friends and to wish Sheeba and Stephen love, happiness, prosperity and children. They are a beautiful couple.
After breakfast we shifted from inspiration to more earthly matters as the team went off for shopping, museum going, painting or in Alan’s case just to the upstairs to spend two hours typing our journal.
Later in the day, we piled back in the van/rickshaw and traveled to Assisi Illam for a few hours of play, dance and feasting. The kids performed their little hearts out for us. We were only lacking Nina, but she wasn’t home slacking off. Nope; she was typing away, finishing the journal entries. Thank-you Nina!
Back at our guesthouse we had to say goodbye to two of our comrades Alana and Wendy. It is amazing how close our team became in just 2 weeks and how difficult it is to see anyone go. Being here in India together has been a blessing for us all.

Quote - Margaret Mead (paraphrased):

“Never doubt that a small group of dedicated individuals can make a change, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


December 30, 2007 – Aleatha’s Birthday!

Aleath’s birthday has been celebrated many times and in many ways in the past week, and we truly hope that all these events have made it memorable. It’s certainly a unique way to celebrate the completion of 80 years. Aleatha, though, is young in thought and deed, spending 3 weeks working with kids and walking over potholes, riding in our bumpy limo and for sure, joining in our laughter and storytelling.
This morning, the absence of our friends Wendy, Anne and Alana was keenly felt. The table had shrunk! Nina taught Rani to make French toast and we all enjoyed the variation in our diet, though the “orange Magic” we all love was also on the table.
Our morning’s activity was a trip to the flower, fruit and vegetable markets. The flowers are truly amazing in their blazing colors, their astounding abundance and variety. People buy them by the basketfuls to celebrate family occasions. Often they are woven together by the stems.
The vendors, like all the Indians we have met so far, clamber to have their pictures taken. At a certain point we just say no, after saying yes so many times. It is as though putting themselves into a picture secures their place in the world.
The fruit is bountiful in its variety, and there are some curious examples both of fruits and vegetables that are unfamiliar to us. Open produce stalls can still be found in the U.S., but they are the exception. What do our Indian friends think to see our produce boxed and wrapped, sterile, odorless, and often without flavor?
The main house has been without power all day. The electrician came, went home for dinner and returned at 4:00. Aleatha and Nina watched, fascinated as he fiddled with loose wires which he finally strung on the light pole as Barnabas handed them up. The electrician stuck his pliers and wire cutters into the back of his shirt neck, climbed the pole bare feet, lashed a wooden stick onto the pole with a length of rope onto which to stand, tied himself to the pole and messed around with an incredible knot of curly, twisted wires for a couple minutes. Then he came halfway down, untied his footrest, came all the way down, and wrapped up stick and rope and stuck them on his bicycle rack. In a minute we had our electricity back!
This evening, the culminating even in the birthday story took place. Aleatha invited the Globals and Stephen’s family out for an elegant and delicious buffet dinner. It was a super meal, enjoyed by all. The final surprise was Aleatha’s birthday cake and presents! Stephen’s parent’s present was a gay dolphin sculpture that lights brightly and turns. Global’s present form the gals – was a framed picture of Aleatha at Assisi Illam surrounded by the children and with a child in her arms. There were other pictures too, and a card signed by everyone. Aleatha now proudly claims the title, “octogenarian.”

Thanksgiving Prayer of a Nonbeliever

Thank you for the gift of time – this one day.
Thank you for the gift of home – warmth, welcome, and food.
Thank you for the gift of family’s love and support.
Thank you for the gift of children and grandchildren.
Thank you for the gift of friendship.
Thank you for the gift of health.
Thank you for the gift of nature.
Thank you for the gift of art – of beauty created by man.
Thank you for the gift of intelligence.
Thank you for the gift of livelihood.
Thank you for the gift of peace.

Nina Salamon

December 31, 2007 – New Year’s Eve

Our work assignments stayed pretty much the same – and today we continued painting, teaching, and playing with the children. At Assisi Aleatha and I met many of their holiday guests and were very impressed by Father V. Ignatius. Perhaps on his next visit to Minnesota Joelle will meet with him again, as there is a Jesuit house in St. Paul. After work we made a trip to the Government Cottage Emporium for our third and final trip of shopping – we think?! Actually, several of the clerks think we will return yet again…
At dinner we sang a rather subdued version of Old Lang Syne…..missing our full team’s chorus….but still we will remember this and our new friends with our old friends, bringing a close to 2007.
Since I’ve come down with a cold I will share a piece I wrote earlier in the week:


“Does anyone have any hand sanitizer?” she asked.
“Yes, you bet – its here somewhere” came her response.

How many hands did we shake today? Home many undiapered babies did we cradle? How many times did we wish for hot running, soapy water – our answer to these is the same…….HAND SANITIZER.
But do you suppose the children in the homes we serve or the neighbors on Stephen’s block rush home to cleanse themselves after having touched the hands of westerners? Do they worry about what dreadful disease they might be stricken? Or do they go home and say – “I’m never going to wash this hand again – I touched a westerner!!”
I am struck by the fact that fear controls so much of our lives – while here it is less of a concern – it has to be – where simply walking to the market you are taking your life in your hands – daily; where refrigeration is an exception and not the norm, and at home I’d be scolded for washing dishes in anything less than hot and soapy.
I once heard it said there are only two authentic emotions – fear and love. Think about it. Peace is the result of loving relationships. Hate is the fear of the unknown. Joy is love uncontained. Anger is fear of losing control. Happiness is love that is shared. Sadness is the fear of loss. Try others and see if the connection cannot be made to fear and love.
So what is it then that moves us from fear to love? For this I do look to the Christ, who feared not to reach out and touch lepers. Why would he do this? Why would he touch the outcasts, diseased, disfigured? Why would it even matter, he might have reasoned? And still beyond reason he stretched from fear to miracle, to healing, to love. It is in that moment of decision where love overcame fear that the true miracle occurred. And what about the leper – fearing, too, their horrible disease might inflect another, worried of unworthiness, humbled enough to realize they needed help, and thus reached out a hand. The only way for these two hands to meet was through the smallness and largeness of true love: smallness, in that it is a quiet thing – largeness, because it is miraculously healing. Love conquers fear.
So is this how I am meant to serve? With love, not fear? And who am I meant to serve? The children back home? My family? My neighbors? The children of India?
Leo Tolstoy helps me out:
“Remember then there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. For these are the answers to what is most important in the world. It is why we are here.”
So does this mean I will abandon the use of Hand Sanitizer for the rest of my stay in India….the hopeless idealist that I am (and I like it that way) says yes! But the true answer is “no” – I’m not stupid!
But it does mean the worries I had before coming are no longer present. Yes, it has been easy to phone home. No, I do not have snakes and rats to contend with…and the greatest fears of getting sick, head lice, scabies, stomach ache, a cold are gone - because if fear would keep me from holding babies it would be a real shame. Love has found its way into my arms. So bring on the hand sanitizer, bring on the babies! For now I will give my best to the children and do what little good for them I can. It is why I am here. It is why I love India. It is here where I will leave a huge part of my heart!


January 1, 2008 – New Year’s Day

A day of new beginnings for all of us – but not quiet the way Joelle, Patrice and Michele had planned when they wakened early to a flood that necessitated a phone call to Stephen (canceling our plans to give him a chance to start the day later) and packing for a move to join Nina and Aleatha (who were delighted to have them, but sorry for the circumstances that necessitated the move.)
Off to our sites – Patrice and Michele with a new challenge – painting the kitchen. We could see their weariness in the afternoon.
Joelle and Aleatha enjoyed another day of visitors at Assisi – Sisters first, and then we heard the Doctor was coming. Actually two doctors, a married couple – so handsome and beautiful – her father and a sister. They bought new mats for the children and other items. Also the wife gave a lovely bouquet of yellow flowers to our Sisters Matilda and Rose. And of course, the usual cake was served.
Later whispering and secret maneuvers ensued with the passing a special card around for the evening’s big event. Nina looked stunning in her new chudidah finished in time for our last special evening together.
The meal was delightful. Stephen’s skill in ordering has given us the opportunity to try many new dishes – taking into account our different tastes and heat level of spices.
Joelle had a difficult time persuading Patrice to accompany her to the toilet to give Nina and Michele time to place the candle on the fudge. This resulted in many giggles and the other guests in the dining room seeing what fun we have. Laughter and stories continued in the van on the way home.
Quote for the day and thought for the year:
“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” - Thomas Edison

Kollams in the neighborhood for the New Year – like a walking art gallery…..

Finally, as we leave Chennai - the children –

“Gone from our sight
But never our memories –
Gone from our touch
But never our hearts – “

January 2, 2008 – Our last journal entry (for those who left us early, you’ll have to ask Patrice and Michele what happened to “their” entry – I think I was set-up! – So, I hope this makes a satisfying conclusion for our weeks of Global Service.

As the work of the team comes to a close I am reminded of a song:

Step by step the longest march can be won – can be won,
Many Stones to form an arch, singly none – singly none –
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still,
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none – singly none –

(P.S. Nina – this can be sung as a round)

I am immensely grateful for this team in which I have been privileged to serve.

Anne – perhaps the most gentle of hearts – your leaving was bittersweet. I know it was hard for you to say “Good-bye” to the children at Assisi…..a pro with the flash cards and working with the little girls…..what you offered was your heart.
Wendy – The next to say good-bye is missed by the workers at St. Joseph – as well as the children. It seems you escaped from the dreadful kitchen clean-up just in the nick of time…..just ask Michele and Patrice for the details. You showed all the right moves in dance and yoga and through this lifted our spirits.
Alana – LOVE that red hair! It was the silhouette of your hair, returning from the beach that I knew I was no longer lost. You are a character – from that ear-piercing whistle to get our attention to knowing ALL the words to songs! It was so fun singing with you on our outings. Keep your lively spirit – and compassionate heart. I truly admire people who love their work as much as you love yours – thanks for that inspiration.
Nina – You are so much fun! I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the science experiments. You made it so fun to work with you! I like that you are straightforward and honest – you know your mind and you act with conviction. The compliments you give are appreciated because we know they are spoken with all honesty – so thank-you. It has meant so much.
Aleatha – My colleague at Assisi – I am so glad we were teamed together. What a life you have led. If I can only accomplish 1/10 of what you have accomplished in your life it would be a fulfilling life in deed. I love your commitment to “giving back” – and the example of how this must continue while there is energy to do so. I want to be just like you. What an amazing spirit!
Michele – You crack me up! I just love people who know how to turn a phrase, and can be sassy. And your laugh – I love how understated it is – you are so considerate of everyone – always ready to help…..always inquiring if someone is doing OK. You lady, are one cool chick! You live an interesting life – filled with books, and films and travel adventures – You have guts! Thank-you for your thoughtful ways.
Patrice – I’m going to miss you so much…. You are so supportive and are a person of deep feeling. You are so bright, clever and have such good instincts. I am blessed to know you. You provided the single best-uncontrolled laugh of the trip – which I shall never forget. Guess you had to be there to fully appreciate it….sorry more of you couldn’t fit in the bathroom – but what a birthday memory it made.
“I’ll be seeing you….” ----------- “If only in my dreams….” Get prepared – I am going to hug you!
Sheeba – You are to me like a sister I never had. I just can’t get enough of you! I loved our couple times alone together for “girl talk” – and our times when we ganged up on Stephen to give him a hard time. He’s a big boy – he can take it! I love how much fun the two of you have together and I am so glad that I got to be part of it. You do seem like my friends across town – not half-way round the world. I feel like saying,
“I’ll see you on Friday night,” – and there you will be. I am going to miss Sheeba’s “specialty” – laughter that shakes her shoulders – I will definitely need to see that another time!
Stephen….you are a “Prince among men” – no….Raja means “King” – so a “King among men”! I don’t know where you get so much energy to do all you do – to keep everything straight – to keep the team all happy by taking care of so many individual needs. And not once did I ever sense resentment, but instead pure generosity of heart and will. God knows I have so much to learn from you – and so much I already have. You are truly a good man through and through. My life is richer having known you.
And so team, this is my fond good-bye to each of you. By our union we have accomplished so much, where singly none…..singly none….
Good-bye then – But is it really good that we are having to part? Or are we recounting all the memories we share in the GOOD-bye….Are we speaking of all the “Good BUY” purchases made at the Government Emporium? Why is it “good” when it makes us so sad? I guess it goes back to fear of what we will lose – and you can only fear the loss of something you’ve truly loved.
Here is what I have loved:
Jasmine flowers in our hair, trying new foods, the crowded streets with so much to see – never boring, smiles on children’s faces, Santa at SEAMS, dancing on the patio at Stephen’s parents, Stephen’s mom, The dinner at their home, A Christmas Mass I’ll never forget and colder than the ones in Minnesota, Sr. Rose and Sr. Matilda, The Pastor at SEAMS, auto-rickshaw rides, THIS JOURNAL, All of you!, Telling stories – Goals achieved, generosity of all beyond compare, The children at Assisi and most especially my little buddy Augustine…..These I hold fondly in my heart.
So, I will say Good-bye to the mosquitoes the only thing here I am not going to miss!


*Reference to the “favorite” volunteer’s journal entry.

This Journal was written by:
Wendy Banks
Michele Butler
Anne Hardacre
Joelle Imholte
Alana Poage
Nina Salamon
Aleatha Scholer
Patrice Tardif

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Rick’s Goodbye Letter

Good morning everyone,
This past week has been an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Having the opportunity to get to know such a wonderful group of caring, smart, and fun people as yourselves made it extra special. I will miss you all!

Roma and Ruth – True inspirations are you both! I hope to follow your example on how to really live ones life to the fullest.

Ginny – Never a dull moment. “Have fun”. You set the tone for this project and I most certainly did! Obama for president!

Lucy – Best of luck in the new job. You and Elyse are going to have a blast at St. Joseph’s. The kids are going to love their new “Aunties”!

Elyse – You should be so proud of yourself. Not many people of any age could do something like this. I can only imagine the great adventures that lie ahead of you as you journey through life. You rock!

Jan – I wish I had you as a principal when I was in school. I know you must have made a difference in so many children’s lives.

Anne – I’ll miss our daily commute to work. I know you have many more travel adventures ahead of you. Consider Easter Island, a very special place.

Christine – You have more immediate travel adventures in your future. I am jealous. Have an excellent journey. I hope your driver ends up being as good as the real Stephen. Please email when you can with updates.

Joanne – I had such a great time working with you this week. I think we had a pretty good team. I am sad I won’t be able to share the Assissi experience but I’ll be living it through the blog.

George – My roomie. I great guy and a fantastic teacher. Remember to open the door for Ginny at 6:30am every morning.

And to our team leader, Stephen. Thank you for making this experience so meaningful. Your warm and caring demeanor made everyone comfortable from the start. Always smiling, never stressing, you take care of us all so well. You have the knack to answer all of our questions as if it is the first, not the 60th time you have been asked the same thing. Congratulations to you and Sheeba on the pending arrival.

Have a great weekend! Bye!

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Day 21. Jan.25 Ginny Ryan

The brave souls eager to absorb every bit of India awoke early this morning for a quick breakfast at 7:15 AM. Jan, Anne, and Christine joined Stephen on an early morning visit to the flower and vegetable market purchasing staples for their cooking lesson which began at 4 PM. Chefs Sheba and Rani did all the work and the above joined by Roma took notes standing around the kitchen while the chefs prepared all the food. Chicken curry, beet root poriyal, sambar, coconut chutney, Maggi noodles, and kasari (sweet cous cous) were prepared and served for dinner tonight. Everyone went to their respective sites this morning. George left early as Grace school was going on a field trip to the Chennai zoo. When George hadn’t returned by 5:20 PM no one was excited and I for one thought someone might have put him in a monkey cage.

Jan and I got a real treat today as St. Joseph’s school had sports day. We watched as every class performed some type of fun activity from tying balloon on each foot and then trying to punch out every balloon to be the winner. A series of empty coke bottles was set up with pails of water approximately 4 feet away. The contestants had to scoop up the water with their bare hands and the winner was the first to fill their coke bottle. Walking on bricks and moving them without losing their balance was fun to watch. I think only three boys finished as most stumbled and were disqualified. My favorite games were the ones played by the yellow and green shirted girls. They had to tag out all three girls from one color and did it in sort of a relay style. Blindfolded girls were left in a circle with paper plates that they must find with their feet. Very funny to watch and one girl picked up all 10 plates in the allotted time. She did a nice scientific job with her feet. She was also the one in my class yesterday that showed a lot of interest in the May 1, Electricity shut off from 7-8 PM to make people aware of Global warming. I was looking forward to giving the same lesson as I did to the older classes yesterday as they will make the difference. I did however give the article to Sister Emily and hopefully she will do something with the older children educating the younger ones. Any US teacher that goes to teach at St. Joseph’s will know it is heaven to teach there.

Thought for the day: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” JFK

To future Chennai volunteers: Book titled The Best of Success located in the bookcase downstairs contains thousands of thought for the day. Don’t tax your brain.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Day 20, Jan 24th – George

This was last full day for our team in Porur. Around 4 Pm when most of our assignments were completed, several of us made a pilgrimage to Kumar Sweets, on the circle, to buy many kilos of sweets to share with those at our sites. We had a good trip to Assisi and Seam’s then boarded car and auto rickshaw for one last trip to a great restaurant in Chennai. The food was wonderful and we agreed that the restaurant was another great choice of Stephen. We look forward to our final day with mild emotions as we face good byes and flights to new adventures

Thought for the day : I took the road less traveled by and it has made all the difference

Friday, January 25, 2008

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Jan. 23 Elyse Landolfi

Just a typical morning I woke up and showered, then napped until breakfast for what seemed like hours.
A breakfast of idly with sauce, fruit and some eggs, but I opted for toast to start off my day.
Christine and I sat awaiting the start of the day, and listened to a beggar’s cries while wishing she would go away.
Then into the car we all piled in, on our way to our sights everyone forcing a grin.
We lost Roma to the hospital (to volunteer)so it was just Anne and I, to Assisi Illam but we will keep our usual stride.
We all stopped at the hospital to pay Sister Rexilan a visit, she is truly amazing nothing short of exquisite.
Tea and coffee were had and I tried to pay my bill, but it was just too busy so that is a task I have to do still.
Anne and I then reached Assisi Illam, where we kept them all busy with books and our songs.
Then we taught letters on the chalkboard outside, most were cooperative but some kids just cried.
While we did all this George and Ruth taught at Grace, it seemed to go well judging from the look on their face.
Ginny and Jan attended a field trip, with 85 kindergardeners which made Ginny want to split.
But thankfully for them there is no SEAM tonight, we are shopping and out to dinner instead, which suits us just right.
Reports have shown that the field trip was a success, they both came home smiling and Ginny didn’t even have to rest.
Shopping was a success, no one left empty handed, but I did get very lost in the mall and feared I’d be stranded.
New toys and books were bought by Anne, Jan, and George, so now we can help teach the children even better than before.
After the mall we had dinner at a hotel, a buffet style meal preceeded by a bar stop as well.
Dinner was wonderful and we all overate, but that’s common for this group for good food is something we all appreciate.
Then we weaved our way home all full and content, but quickly retired for the night because we all were spent.
And so ends another great day, our third to last one at that, and India has become a place to which we all want to come back.

Thought of the Day: Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is a progress; working together is success.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 22nd, 2008 Roma A. Wilson

In transit from Mysore to Chennai commencing around 8.05 p.m. on the 21st, Stephenraj had a busy time rearranging our bunks to make us comfortable. During the early hours I was awakened by the conductor pushing my back several times to question my right to the bottom bunk. I kept muttering “Stephenraj” and “No. 55”. He eventually gave up and I returned to a sound sleep till 6.30 a.m. My five Indian male compartment companions were still sleeping and no-one snored!.
As the train reached Chennai, an 11 &1/2 hours journey, Stephenraj came to collect and direct us to our trusty van driver Stephen at 7.35 am. Jan, with wide eyes and compelling gestures related the breathtaking tale of the train stop at Bangalore for the collection of her lost digital camera around 11.30 pm. Stephenraj had commandeered the air conditioning engineer to prevent the train from leaving befor they had completed all the significant papers to be signed . The carbonless paper trail was an adventure in itself. The morale of the story was never leave home without carbon paper and always attach your camera firmly to your clothing.
The joy of fresh cool air relaxations, hot showers and the sound of silence rapidly disappeared. The missing key for the No. 2 guest house was finally located by Stephenraj from brother Stephen. Ann and I made a quick dash under the cold water and a change of clothes returning to breakfast by 9.10 am.
3 journals were read to cover Saturday, Sunday and Monday ny Christine, Jan and Ruth respectively. Ruth expanded on her joyful attendance at the Monday wedding of Stephenraj’ s cousin. Another cultural experience beside her visit to the museum.
By 10 am we were at Grace Primary school. George introduced us to Esther, the school principal before going to his class for the day. Then Christine was deposited at St. Thomas hospital to check on the results of non-examination of her student nurses. They evidently evaded the exam by pounding her with questions re nursing training in U.S.A. Smart girls!
Ann, Elyse and I continued on to Assisi Illam where the youngsters kept us busy with their inattention, desire to do their “own thing” with vivid determination, and enjoyment of songs and actions. The alphabet chalked on the outside board with individual assistance was a winner. Elyse had been seconded with 12 children marching upstairs for peace and quiet!
There was a surprise arrival of a woman fish vendor with 3 different containers of fish and tiny prawns. She sat inside the gate until a selection was made. The prawns were spiced up and added to our lunch menu.
Another surprise was the toilet and tap repair for our use. Now we have a green tap and no further waste of water.
By 3.15 we were on our way home again. Stephenraj suggested helping our the tired group by showing his photos on the computer at SEAM time this evening. It was received with great enthusiasm by George and others.

Thought for the day

Good ends can never be attained by evil methods; the end itself is distorted if the method pursued in bad. – Mahatma Gandhi

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today has been a great day. In the morning Stephan 2 took Ginny and I to the museume There are 6 lovely buildings to the museum. We split up and went our own way.
Stephan 2 said it was his first visit to the museum. It was well worth the trip.

Then came the highlight of the day. Stephan 2 fetched Ginny and I for the wedding – a – a cousin of Stephan’s. First we went to his home where we had flowers put in our hair
A bindi on our foreheads, and lots of colourful bracelets to make us look more festive. Then there was a minute’s walk to the brides’s house, where we met the bride and her family. They all looked great in their finery. The bride had a lovely green sari, flowers in her hair and a long white veil held in place by a coronet of flowers. Then a drive to the church where we waited for the groom. He arrived looking very splendid in a smart white suit complete with buttonhole flower.

The couple walked down the centre of the church through 3 differently coloured archways to their chairs at the altar steps with a kneeler in front of them covered with a gold cloth. During Mass there was the wedding ceremony. Stephan’s mother had made sure Ginny and I had front row seats so we saw everything, including the putting of the thread round the bride’s neck. At the end of the wedding ceremony the congregation threw flower petals at the couple. They were also both adorned with long flower garlands and each got a bouquet to hold. During Mass there was a lot of cheerful music with a mixed choir of young people.

And then to the banquet. They had catered for 1,000 people, so it was in different sittings. A great feast on banana leaves and using our fingers of rice, chicken, onion
with yogurt and some other tasty things. All rounded off with ice cream. Delicious.

The bridal couple were in a different section where everyone went to give their presents (at Sheba’s suggestion money from Ginny and I) and and to pay our respects.

Home and the end of a lovely day.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 20, 2008 Jan Webster

The seven of us heading for Mysore had stacked into our respective train compartments last evening not really knowing what the night might bring. Ten hours later, Christine sounded the wake-up call. Most of us slept well but none was eager to use the facilities. As we gathered our things, Christine and Elyse mentioned that a porter had found a camera during the night. It was mine. Finding Stephen I explained the situation and he went into full-support-mode to track down the camera. Unfortunately, the porter had taken it with him when he got off the train at Bangalore.

We stopped in Mysore for breakfast. Elyse was in heaven finding all you can eat corn flakes and COLD milk. A hot masala omelet hit the spot for Anne. After breakfast and a few more camera related phone calls we piled back in the car for a 2 & 1/2 hour ride to Mudumalai Park. Sugar cane fields and rice paddies dotted the landscape as we moved beneath overhanging banyan and eucalyptus trees. Traffic slowed a bit as we drove over what looked like layers of long grass spread across the road. Stephen explained that rice farmers lay the stalks out so that cars will run over them. This process separates the rice from the stalks and is a much quicker method than beating the stalks by hand.

A narrow road took us into Mudumalai Park a national forest and tiger reserve. Spotted deer crossed the road in front of us. Stephen said he was missing Sheeba because she has a special knack for seeing animals hidden in the brush. Soon we arrived at our destination the Chalets Farm and Guest House. The guest house consists of six individual cabins made of brick or concrete block, brightly painted and brand new. January 1st was the opening date.

As we waited for our rooms to be readied, we sat on the open air, thatched covered veranda. A cool breeze, clean air, wide open space and the shadow of Mt. Ooty created a sense of serenity. We pooled our resources for an appetizer course of masala Cheetos, orange cream cookies, salted crackers and Anne’s Dogaba chocolate with chiles and nibs. Roma presented each of us with an individual packet of toilet from Australia – 3 ply with tulips. Continuing the spirit of generosity, George offered me the use of his extra camera. I gratefully accepted.

After a delicious lunch and a short rest we jumped in a jeep and headed out for a safari. Spotted deer started our list which soon included brown monkeys, grey langur monkeys, wild boar and Sambar deer. Alas, no tigers or elephants were seen. Searching further a field, we did a bit of offroading and ended up at a river where our guide had previously seen a herd of elephants crossing. No such luck for us, though the scenery being sunset was gorgeous. After a delicious dinner, we tried a night safari. Wild boar, monkeys, and deer again made the list joined by a bison and a couple of rabbits. Tigers and elephants continued to elude us. Our guide was diligent and eager to find large animals for us but after a couple of hours we returned home. Some hit their beds and fell asleep immediately. I enjoyed a hot shower, yes I did say HOT and crawled happy, clean and relaxed into bed.

Meanwhile, back in Porur, Ruth and Ginny relished a day of leisure. Ruth spent the day in Chennai where she attended mass and then relaxed and got a hair cut at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel. Ginny joined a friend of hers who lives in Chennai and his family for lunch at the Ambassador Hotel. Back together Sunday evening, the two adventurers decided to head for the nearby Residence Hotel where the team had previously enjoyed having dinner. After walking for quite a long time in what turned out to be the wrong direction on the wrong road, they hailed an auto-rickshaw and made their way to the Meridian Hotel. It turned out to be a great evening, good food and good company as they enjoyed comparing impressions of India with a couple of American managers of the Caterpillar Corporation.

Thought for the day: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal

January 19, 2008 Day 14 by Christine Hodson

Today is a workday for us and we are heading out to our regular assignments except for Jan, Ginny, and Lucy who will spend the morning at SEAM. The children are in for a treat!
We are excited about our trip for the weekend and received tips on do’s and don’ts for our train ride to Mysore during breakfast.
Everybody had a good day and Anne got some rest. My nursing students today were very lively. They had many, many questions about nursing in the USA and did not want the class to end. I felt flattered at first until one of their teachers came and explained that they are supposed to have a test after my class. Guess, students are the same everywhere! I spent the rest of my day in the emergency room which was relatively quiet. It gave me a chance to discuss emergency care of the psychiatric patients with Sister/Dr. Roslyn. She also wanted and welcomed suggestions for some other psychiatric patients under her care in the hospital at this time.
Joann gave a yoga class at SEAM which was met with great enthusiasm and we treated the children to cotton candy afterwards. While they were performing for us the wonderful aroma of curry cooking in the courtyard under the big tree filled the air.
After dinner we were on our way to the train station. The car ride was adventuresome with Chinese crackers going off for a political rally. We thought we were being shot at. The crowds at the train station were overwhelming. Our names were posted on the outside of our wagon. The train was filling up quickly and a couple with their small child joined our compartment. George escaped up to his cubbyhole while the family was getting situated. He looked so lost up there. We soon were singing nursery rhymes with the little boy as we certainly have enough practice by now. The train started rolling out of the station and the little boy started to vomit. Soon everybody made up their beds; it became quieter, the lights were shut off, and everybody went to sleep with the gentle rocking of the train including the family with the sick child.

Be thankful for each challenge because it will build your strength and character.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 18, 2008. Day 13 by Anne Littrell

It was a good day!

Pongal is over – the schedule is normal but smaller classes as some children are still on vacation. Roma and I have only 21 children at Assisi Illam Daycare – makes for an easier day. It is Lucy’s last day at St. Joseph’s and she finishes the day covered in dust from sanding the walls of the chapel. Joann and Lucy leave on Sunday. We will miss their enthusiasm. Joann was great with the kids at Assisi. Her fresh young approach was good for the kids. She was even able to bring giggles and laughter from Augustine.

George, Ruth, Jan and Ginny had smaller classes which enabled projects with more individual instruction. Ruth’s class had yoga instruction. From her description, sounds like a good idea for the Assisi children. Ginny’s children learned the words to “New York, New York” – with a Boston accent!

The nursing student nuns made a presentation with much detail all in English which Christine judged. She felt they did a very good job.

The SEAM children presented a song and dance program. Milka sang two songs and Rebecca danced with a candle. Afterwards candy was passed around.

We are so fortunate to have Stephen and Sheeba as our leaders. Their care, concern and thoughtfulness seems to be without limit. Thank you Stephen and Sheeba.

Thought for the day: Be the change you want for the world. Gandhi

Friday, January 18, 2008

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 17, 2008 Ginny

The day started with a great breakfast as usual. All of us went to our separate assignments. Jan and George are the best prepared of all of us and I just follow their lead. Jan and George had every one of the 35 SEAMS youngsters brushing their teeth ( 2 happy birthday versus), washing their hair, their faces, and scrubbing their fingernails followed by cleaning their nails then each was given a nail clipping. Jan and George did a superb job teaching them about personal hygiene. Ginny conducted a math/science class with the older boys which went better than usual. They begin exams next week. Stephen bought all the children treats (oranges and candy) which was followed by their lunch. Forgot to mention that breakfast was at 10 am for the children so everyone slept in. I left a copy of the song Ruby for Ruby to memorize. She is doing well on her time nine tables which I have been hounding her everyday to memorize. We returned for lunch and Lucy and Elyse were given an early day at it showed on their faces. They were like little kids getting a snow day in Worcestor (of course I would feel the same way). After lunch a dash for the internet to let our friends and family know every detail of our day. At 2:45 we headed for Assisi Illam to pick up Roma, Anne, and Joanne. From the look on Anne’s face I can with certainty attest to the fact that she would like to have at least ten more small children in her care everyday. In fact I would suggest that she start a day care center at her house. In actuality, Anne has expressed concern about Augustine. We all could see what a bond she has formed with him in a couple of weeks. We visited three sites relating to St. Thomas who came to India in the first century bringing teachings of Christianity. The first site, St. Thomas mount, included vantage panoramic view of Chennai. Little Mount, a cave where the second bleeding cross was located and the well. The third site was the National Shrine of St. Thomas Basilica where he is buried below a church. Only three saints are buried below churches including St. Peter in Rome. Then the beach where people assembled on the last day of Pongal with family, friends and to make new friends. Our group became the new friends as we headed for the water and shook so many hands. I had read in the morning paper that 5,000 more police were to be assigned there today. And there they were, every so many feet preventing people from going into the water. Soon we saw at least 3 mounted police and as anywhere in the world they did a marvelous job pushing the crowd away from the beach. Our last stop of the day made late by the traffic wich was horrendous coming back from the beach (hats off to the real Stephen of the family for a job well done) was to Assisi Illam. Sister Rose had prepared a huge banquet meal for us, as she does for every volunteer group. The little ones were fun to watch and we played with them. You can tell they have formed attachments with Elyse, Anne, and Jan. I was jealous because I usually can get any child into my arms soon after meeting them. I think I’ve lost my touch.

Thought for the day: “Travel is fatal to prejudice” –Mark Twain

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 16, 2008 George Hayes

Day 12 for Team 60 and Day 2 for Pongal. The day began with another great Indian bread which Rani had deep fried for breakfast. They were Indian bread balloons. Some of us topped them with sugar and we all enjoyed the treat. Following breakfast we went to our assignments. Jan and George joined Stephen at SEAMS for class work, sugar cane and, of course, a rousing rendition of “Five Little Monkeys”. Lucy primed and painted at St. Joseph’s. Ruth returned to the good sisters for another round of Freud. Christine to St. Thomas hospital where she visited the wards. Anne, Joanne, and Roma to Assisi to nurture the children.
In the late afternoon, we went into Chennai where we parted with some rupees. We bought art work, souveniers, silk, silver, and a backscratcher. We returned home, but before we began dinner, Sheeba helped us cut into the jackfruit that we had purchased between Ponducherry and Mamallapurum. Cutting the fruit was tricky but Sheeba is quite skilled, having sliced her first jackfruit and age seven. Mmmmm – delicious. The fruit has a unique taste that none of us had experienced before. Truly and Indian treat. As day two of Pongal draws to a close, I am left with some regret. I did not pay homage to the cow. I had every intention of making a floral garland and tossing it over the horns of a local bovine but alas, shopping took precident. Oh well, I guess this means I’ll have to come back.

Thought for the day: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish”

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 15, 2008 – Joann Klimkiewicz

With Pongal now in full swing, it was as if all of Chennai let out a collective holiday sigh today.

Streets normally filled with the frenzy of motorbikes and autos mellowed (by Indian standards) to only a dull buzz. Even the cows seemed to be on holiday, curled lazily along dusty roadsides, managing to be even less interested in the day’s comings and goings than usual. As I passed them on my morning run, their droopy eyes barely took notice, as if to say, “Whatever, Lady. It’s Pongal. I don’t really care about you today.”

And so, we began our day with a virtual Pongal feast. Rani spoiled us with a breakfast of fluffy dosas and peanut chutney, savory egg omelets and a heaping plate of tender papaya. We also had our long-awaited taste of the red banana – sweet and thick and very filling.

With many schools out for the holidays, we set off for our days with some minor adjustments. Ginny, Jan and George headed to SEAM for the morning, where they treated the children to sugar cane; watched them play a competitive game Jan likened to Capture the Flag, minus the flag; and where Ginny dispensed all her Kleenex to the children – not because they had the sniffles, but because they were curious about tiny, rectangular tissues they saw her pulling from her bag.

Ruth went off to her usual day with the nuns, At St. Joseph’s Social Services Center, Elyse and Lucy had a productive day ripping the crumbly, yellowed wallpaper from the small chapel – next up for a facelift in the yearlong overhaul there.

And then there was Roma, Anne and me. With the daycare children still away for the holiday, we had a sluggish day at Assisi Illam. It was a challenge to find creative ways to keep the 8 children who live there, all of wide-ranging ages, engaged and active. But I think we were successful. I’m pretty sure we’ve played every conceivable game you can play with a tiny tossing ball. And we went over addition and subtraction with the older ones, read and sang with the smaller ones, and sat on the ground to colored with the whole sweet bunch of them.

When we first arrived at Assisi, the children raised their tiny palms to show off the burnt orange swirls of henna paint decorating them. A young woman assisting there offered to paint the Mendhi designs on our three Auntie’s palms. Anne and Roma wisely declined. (Have you tried chasing after children with one useless hand, caked thick with paint?) But I offered up my right palm, and when I did the woman gave a tentative glance to another assistant there. I asked if it was still okay. The two exchanged a few fast words in Tamil, gave me the old head nod and an “It’s okay, it’s okay.” And then, the woman set to squirting a tube of brownish paint onto my skin. The children stood on tip-toes to see the curls and loops and dots filling my palm. And when the woman finished, I was left to write awkwardly with my left hand on the chalkboard, working on math equations with Lakshmannen, right palm outstretched and flat to dry. Right about then is when another woman came out to see the finished design on my hand. When I raised up my right palm, she giggled. “It should be left,” she said.


Wait – but I thought the left hand was virtually shunned here, used to assist with just one singular chore. Exchange money, shake hands, even paint – we had been told none of these things should ever be done with the left hand. So why would you want to decorate the taboo hand in henna paint? The woman explained that since the right hand is used for eating, you wouldn’t want to have it painted. “You using fork?” she asked me. I said yes. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” she said.

In the evening, we were treated to a fabulous folk dance performance, held in a dusty lot on a large main stage some minutes from our guesthouse. We came early and nabbed the front row of plastic lawn chairs, getting a great view of the performers and their colorful costumes. As they drummed and danced and enchanted, families nibbled on fried sweets and popsicles, as their children ran and tossed about Frisbees. It felt not unlike a late summer town fair back home in the states.

The performance’s crescendo was a brilliant fire balancing and breathing act. But it was cut short when an organizer deemed it unsafe and too close to the children clustered up front. The decision left the star performer – a short, cartoonish man with a pencil thin mustache – to stomp off in a huff. George and I, standing near the back stage, got a great view of the tantrum.

After a brief hunting for our dear Roma, who went missing in the thick crowd, we wrapped up our evening with yet another feast, at the same hotel restaurant we first dined at last week.

One last thing, I promise, in this decidedly long entry. I’ve been thinking a lot these past two days about Pongal, about its rituals and its intention toward celebration and gratitude. In particular, I’m taken with the concept of Bogi – discarding and burning off what is old to start anew. And my wish is for all of us, in our own little way, to take part in that ritual. Because I suspect all of us have old things we’ve been carrying around with us for too long, old habits or hurts that we’d like to unload and burn off here in India, so that we might make room for new and better things when we return home.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Elliot.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 14, 2008

Pongal O Pongal!

The Pongal festival began last night with the first celebration – Bhogi. Pongal is the harvest festival and bhogi is the occasion for discarding old clothes, brooms, and other house wares. A couple of team members awoke in the middle of the night to drumming. Brave Roma ventured out in her night gown to see a group of children sitting around a fire in the street burning old garments and drumming. In the morning the air was heavy with smoke and little smoldering piles of ash dotted the streets around the guest house.
To celebrate Pongal, St. Joseph’s school invited team 60 to attend a Pongal performance. So, after breakfast of noodles and hard boiled eggs, the team (all but George who headed for Grace School) drove and walked over to St. Joseph’s. The celebration was very exciting, including the cooking of the pongal in a clay pot over a fire on the cement porch, two beautiful dances performed by students, a great description of the festival by father Chinnappa, and songs and prayers. Of course the event ended with all the volunteers being served warm pongal – a delicious mix of rice, coconut, ghee, raisins, and cardamom. All the volunteers agreed it was a real treat to attend the performance, and we all left with flowers in our hair.
As today is Monday, it is the beginning of a new week, and there are some changes to job assignments. While Elyse and Lucy moved from Assisi to St. Joseph’s Social Center for painting, Joann went to Assisi to take care of the children. Because of Pongal the daycare at Assisi is closed, so Anne, Roma, and Joann worked and played with the regular crew of small children, as well as some older children that live there. At St. Joseph’s Social Center, Lucy and Elyse were introduced to the painters and nuns. They painted a window in the morning, and after a break for lunch, some Indian soap operas and some time outside, they began stripping the wallpaper in the chapel. George’s schedule was also disrupted by Pongal. Grace School usually has around 80 students, and today only had about 20 with the addition of a few neighborhood kids. After seeing a few kids eating sugar cane George asked if it would be ok if he bought some for all the kids. So, after a trip around the corner with all the students, they sat in a circle in the sand and ate sugarcane together. After the Pongal celebration in the morning at St. Joseph’s School, lessons continued as usual. Jan reported that her kids were all in their best “colorful” clothes and rather proud of themselves. Ginny reported success with the 2nd graders with an activity about favorites.
As usual we visited SEAMS and Assisi in the evening. After a half hour of educational time, we all got together and tried to learn the devotional song we all had been humming over the weekend. Joann had sat with a group of girls to transcribe the words in Tamil and English for the song. We all had a great time and promised to practice.
Dinner was back at the guest house complete with sweets Stephen had brought from Kumar Sweets.

Thought of the Day
If you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

Sunday January 13, 2008 – Elyse Landolfi

Down to the beach to enjoy the fresh air, we were met with great colors and to our health it took care.
A grand kollum contest was much to our surprise, with bright powders and flowers it pleased both of our eyes.
Then on to big Ghandi, such meat on his bones! Standing tall and so proud he looked down from his thrown.
After a breakfast where a snail’s pace was kept, we were off to Sri Aurobindo Ashram where our mouths shut silent were set.
Then back on the bus on our journey until, we reached another ashram by the name of Oroville.
So peacefull and calm and also so green, the landscape at this spot was a sight to be seen.
A big golden ball marked a shrine to the Mother, it was a sight to behold unlike any other.
Inside it was a place that we could no go, what lies inside our eyes will never know.
Once again on our bus towards our destination we’ve become, so excited to see the stone carvings at Namallaporum.
A lunch was then had by the side of a pool, where a breeze from the ocean kept us all nice and cool.
Many carvings from stone we had all then seen, along with some monkeys who made us all scream.
It would not be our style to lack in some spice, and losing Ginny and Roma fulfilled that just right.
But all was reclaimed and order restored, and we all said goodbye with a slam of the car door.
And finally our weekend had come to an end, if placed on a scale it would sure be a ten.

Thought of the day: A little bit goes a long way.

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 12, 2008 – Roma Wilson

Our first working week is now blending into our weekend off. A change of time to 7 a.m. for breakfast, in order to initiate an early departure time, was greeted by the sleepy 10.

Rick’s farewell letter created a tender moment as it was passed around and we wish him a safe journey to his interesting destinations.

7:53 a.m., and we were meeting Madu, our driver, in his AC bus, ready for departure to Pondicherry, now Puducherry, 175 km distance. From the observation post on the left side of the bus, we viewed the never ending construction, seldom appearing footpaths/sidewalks, ravens balancing on the overhead electric wires, and billboards in Tamil and English. In particular, one sign touched the funny bone. It read: “Drench Your Life With Fun,” suggesting a monsoon mood enlightenment. Ginny would probably appreciate that. National Highway #45 was an excellent road.

A large lake, Chembrabakkam, from which water is pumped to Chennai, was dry 3 years ago, causing a severe problem. A short stop was made to gate view a memorial to Rajiv Ghandi, at the site of his assassination (1991).

By 9:10 a.m., we changed directions to Kancheepuram. After a stop, waiting for a stationary train to move along, we arrived at #1 site of Dravidian architecture, Kamakshi Amman Temple. Shoes off, socks permitted, but no entry into the inner sanctorium for non-Hindu visitors. Stephen explained the many facets of the granite sculptures to this temple dedicated to the goddess Parvati. It was all very mysterious and an opening into this aspect of Indian culture and religion.

For a change of pace we viewed the three brave souls, Jan, Joann and George, who clambered up the huge elephant’s trunk to gain a rajah’s view of the temple complex, before departing for the next three Hindu temples.

10:30 – 10:55 a.m. at Ekambrarnatha Tempe, the mango tree – Shiva complex.

Onto Kailashnatha, the sandstone Shiva complex which was closed as someone had died here. By 11:35 am, we were viewing #4 complex.

Varadarajasamy Temple dedicated to Vishnu. This was an amazing 100 pillar hall with figures sculptured from a single solid block of granite. Some antics of naughty Vishnu captured Ginny’s sharp eyes – no further description.

By 12:15 p.m., we were at the Hotel Regency for lunch, departing 1:40 p.m. for the Sri Ganapathi Silk House. The shoppers were in 7th Heaven in a room stacked with gorgeous colours and designs of silk scarves, table centres and cloths, saris and other wares. Selection was difficult and time consuming. So it was 3:05 p.m. before our patient manager, Stephen, could extract us intact.

En route from Porur, we were amazed to view the excessive number of engineering colleges. They have approximately 300 students in each college and the full range of engineering divisions with no specialization in any one subject. Most of them were located some distance from the main road.

A comfort stop at a motel, with a large play ground, had us wondering how much the SEAM children would enjoy these facilities for play exercise. 5:40 p.m., we waited patiently for Madu, to obtain a permit required to enter the union state of Puducherry. A complete change of venue, orderly and clean streets, policemen in white uniform with gloves and red pillbox style cap. There was a slow down of traffic and from a side entrance, a ministerial entourage was given precedence. A funeral has to be conducted before sunset and this was the reason for the procession. However, we were not quite sure why we followed immediately behind it but we certainly arrived sooner than expected.

6:30 p.m. we arrived at the Lotus Hotel with passports at the ready and a longing for a hot shower. some made for the dining room and others enjoyed an early night . Deo gratias!

Thought for the Day:
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others, remains, and is immortal.”

Global Volunteers India Team Journal - IND0801a1

January 11, 2008 – Ruth

It is hard to realize this is the end of week one, a great week, with one sad thing. Rick has left us. He was a wonderful and valuable member and will be sorely missed. I am sure his farewell drink went well, which thanks to you “Dear Journal,” I missed.

As always, my time with the nuns was a pleasure. I hope I am giving them something useful in psychology. However, it is surely helping their English as the material is challenging. After a 5-minute break they can relax for the conversational English time.

Grade 5th at Grace School surprised me with their ability to sort random letters into words. They got the words “copy cats” from the jumbled letters with no clues. During the Grade 2nd period, there was a parents’ meeting to which George and I were bidden. The director spoke and when George was gone for a minute, asked me to talk to them. I felt inadequate, but on George’s return, he carried the honour for Global Volunteers. His address was excellent. I always felt he’d done a public speaking course.

And now, Dear Journal, “That’s All.”

“Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you a valuable lesson.”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Global Volunteers India - IND0801a1

Day 5 January 10, 2008 by Jan Webster

The six of us on the first floor of the Guest House begin our morning “dance” between 6:30 and 7:30. Things run smoothly and efficiently. No one seems to linger in the washroom facilities. Cool, some say cold, water makes for a quick in-and-out.

After a great breakfast, Ruth, Ginny and I headed for St. Joseph’s School. It was our first morning walking alone but Stephen had coached us well. We dodged the ubiquitous motorcycles, bikes and cars, nodded to the neighborhood cows, shook hands with passing students and still made it to school with time to spare. Forty three smiling four year olds greet me each day with a chorus of “Good morning, Miss” as soon as I cross the threshold of the Lower Kindergarten classroom. Their teacher is young, well-trained and dedicated to providing the very best education possible to these youngsters. Teaching materials are more easily made than bought in this part of the world. My trusty teammates worked assembly-line fashion to help finish some supplies today.

Evening brought the highlight of our day. Stephen’s parents had invited us to their home for dinner. As we arrived in the car, we were greeted warmly by each member of the family. We gathered around the family table looking at wedding pictures of Stephen and Sheeba, as well as Stephen’s brother (the REAL Stephen) and his wife. Laughter, stories, oohs and ahhhs filled the room. There is a warmth, pride and closeness that permeates this family. They genuinely care for one another and welcomed us to share this bond.

Dinner was as beautiful as it was bountiful and delicious. The mixtures of flavors, textures and color treated our eyes as well as our palettes. Sheeba graciously offered to hold a cooking class next week so we can learn to make some of our favorite dishes. After dinner, Stephen’s sister-in-law drew a gorgeous kollum on the back porch. With just a bit of encouragement, Anne, George, Elyse, Joann and Lucy provided some beautiful additions. When Stephen brings the stone powder, a kollum will decorate the Guest house path, for sure. As we left Stephen’s home it became clear that, in the wonder that is India, we have, in this short time, moved from acquaintances to friends to family.
Thought for the day: If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Global Volunteers India - IND0801a1

Day 4 January 9th, 2008 by Christine Hodson

Started the day with a delicious breakfast of ricecakes and peanut sauce, hard-boiled eggs, toast and various fruits. Rick’s journal entry and thought for the day was well done. Elyse is feeling better. Ruth is so so but she is a trooper and is continuing with her assignment. She is very dedicated.
Our morning routine is well established by now and going off to our assignments is smooth.
I am at St. Thomas Hospital where I am able to share my experience in psychiatric nursing with their nursing students. They are also encouraged to practice English and medical technology. We meet for approximately 1 – 11/2 hours daily after which I seek out my own experiences in the hospital.
The supplies for the hospital donated by the volunteers were much appreciated by Sister Rexelin when I brought them to her today. She is a wonderful and terrific person who started the hospital and still runs it. Despite being very busy, she makes time for everybody and everything.
My time with the students today went well. They participated and had many questions which is a good sign – or so I think. Then I spent time with a patient who I met the day before in the intensive care unit. He was so pleased to talk to me that he wanted to invite me for lunch today. It was a good visit with him and his family – sharing of one’s culture. While I was waiting for my pick-up a father with his small daughter approached me to let me know she has a fever and needed a “shot”. He also introduced his wife to me. They all call me “sister” although I do not wear a uniform. Do I look that nun-like?
Our daily visit at SEAM was very lively but also rewarding to interact with the children.
For our dinner Sheeba and Stephen took us to Kumarakom – a restaurant that specializes in Kerala style food which was delicious. A very pleasant evening.
Thought for the day: Remember even the small things we do can make a difference in somebody’s life.

Global Volunteers India - IND0801a1

Day 3 January 8th, 2008 by Richard Burgio

Second day on the job painting at St. Joseph’s starts out on s high note. Joann and I are greeted like rock stars by the children when we pop in to visit before heading to work. As we enter the room, a loud roar builds to a deafening pitch as the kids shout greetings and rush to shake hands with us. Not wanting to wear out our welcome or incur the wrath of the sister in the corner waving the ruler we head up to the dining room to continue our painting. After completing a section of the room, I ask Ravi, one of our local painters if my work is okay. After inspecting it, he gives us the Indian head wag, which could mean “Good Job” or “I will repaint it after you leave”. On our lunch break Joann and I walk around the area and meet a worker digging a water tank who gestures to us to take his photo. After posing for shots with each of us, he pulls out pictures that had been taken on the site previously and with a series of hand gestures between all three of us, it is communicated that he would like to be sent prints for his collection. We promise to do our best.
Our evening visit to SEAM starts out a bit rocky when the unfamiliar concept of 3 legged races results in some scraped knees and crying children. Stephen quickly gets things back on track by suggesting games the children know such as hop scotch Indian style, and dodge ball. George had everyone in a game of “Simon Says”, which might still be going this morning if we did not call it, as there were some very sharp players in the group. Stephen has a treat of ice cream for us at dinner. Ginny asks personal questions of Stephen and Sheeba.
Excuse me I have to answer the doorbell. Joann’s lost bag has finally arrived. Please compliment her on her new attire.
“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Global Volunteers India - IND0801a1

January 7th, 2008 by Anne Littrell

Our day starts with an excellent breakfast including fresh small bananas, tangerines, hard boiled eggs and “spaghetti” (delicious noodles mildly spiced). It is our first day to “work” – interact with the children. We approach the day with various degrees of excitement, apprehension and fear. George and Ruth are going to Grace School where they will assist teaching 1st to 5th grades. Grace School serves the children of the local community. Additionally Ruth will work with the Bethlamite Sisters helping them with conversational English and psychology. Jan and Ginny are going to St. Joseph’s School. Jan will teach Kindergarten and Ginny 1st thru 9th grade. Those kids are in for a treat! Roma, Lucy, Elyse and Anne are going to Assisi Illam, an orphanage and day care center. They will help care for the one to five year olds. Rick and Joanne are our work crew this week as they head off to St. Joseph’s Social Service Center to paint – the 23 year old building is in need of a facelift. Christine has a most interesting assignment for as a nurse she will work with the staff at the St. Thomas Hospital.
By 3:30pm we return to the guest house. Rick and Joann had a productive day. With many gestures and few words they were shown the painting procedure. They commented on the amount of work that has been accomplished by Global Volunteers at St. Joseph’s. They were entertained by the children of the center with a rendition of the Hoky Pokey.
Roma, Lucy, Elyse and Anne played with, sang to, and helped feed the children of Assisi Illam. There was laughter, many hugs and a few tears. The children are friendly and eager for attention.
George had a great day. He says this is the perfect assignment for him. He did sound a little unsure of what to do with those tiny first graders. They will instruct him as the week goes on.
Ruth met with the nuns at Bethlamite and feels their time together will be productive. Unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well and came back to the Guest House to rest.
Jan and Ginny were pleased with their school and the students. We all feel we need to prepare for each day’s activity.
At 5:15 we wnet to SEAM. Such friendly and energetic children! They were happy to see us. They sang a song for us and we sang for them.
It was a good day. As Stephen had told us would happen, the blindfolds are now off. We have a better understanding of what we need to do and what the procedures are.
Thought for the day: “One Day At A Time!”

Global Volunteers India - IND0801a1

Sunday morning was spent with orientation coming up with team goals and characteristics of a good team. Our team consists of 11 volunteers, most of them from the USA but also Ruth, a Canadian and Roma from Australia. I could tell it is a great group of volunteers after the initial orientation. We started the day with a great Indian breakfast of rice dumplings covered with a spicy sauce, Lunch was extremely delicious consisting of rice, chicken, eggplant, a vegetable mix, all nicely spiced.

Before and after lunch, Stephen (AKA Raja) conducted orientation which was speedy and precise, All volunteers are very friendly and appear to be a very cohesive group ranging in age from 20 to 80. Roma, the oldest volunteer is delightful. This is her ninth GV. I think everyone in this group thinks she is a marvel.

Assignments were give, goals and characteristics of a team were determined. A walk around the neighborhood stopping at a supermarket to pick up a few things and a stop at the Internet café,

Dinner at the Grand Residence Hotel was marvelous. Mancrow soup, a silent, spicy ysoup was excellent. A wonderful way to end the day.
Thought of the day: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Everything is small stuff.”