Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 24, 2008


Team 63

Waking up in the Lotus Hotel looking forward to a hot shower was a wonderful start to a lovely day.
Hearing one of Stephen’s stories about cashews started our day in the bus.
A delightful time was spent at our first stop. Auroville, which is a universal township in the making for a population of up to 50,000 people from around the world there is currently about 2,000 of whom over 40% are Indian. The prime purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity – in diversity. It is recognized as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity. It has a very peaceful and serene atmosphere. Of course, the shopping was enjoyed by all.
Paper necklaces, head bands, shirts, etc.
Jennifer gets her adventuresome spirit from her mother and grandmother, who were also world travelers.
Birgit had an older brother that died when her family lived in Iran. He was 1 year old. Her second brother was born in Iran.
Stephen has the patience of Jobe.
Marjorie is planning a trip to Dissy World ASAP.
Helen’s movie star name is India Moon. She was recognized and asked for pictures by fans.
Rae’s movie star name is Lotus Leaf.
There still seems to be a little girl under the surface in all of us women, which is most fun.
Anne is becoming quite the fashion plate finding beautiful tops wherever she goes.
Larry, when in the service during a dress parade nearly sliced off President Truman’s nose, accidently.
Larry, Anne, Birgit, and Margery soaked their weary feet in the Bay of Bengal and reported it to be as warm as bathwater should be. Lunch was enjoyed by all at a seaside resort. After enjoying the beach it was back to the bus.
We past the salt fields of Chenai, rice fields, police signs mean’t to reduce dangerous areas of the road but actually appear more to be hazardous by being there. We had a Jack fruit stop and Rae gave candy to the delightful children and their mother a pen.
Majestic cave and wall carvings dating back to the 630 AD – 730 AD. The images are like no other in Tamil Nadu. The splendid carvings at Mamallapuram are distinctive for the simplicity of their folk-art origins, showing scenes of everyday life.
There are approximately 200 sculptors that line the streets and chisel their stone from dawn to dusk. The historical reputation for skilled carvers remains intack. The towns craftsmen are frequently commissioned to create sculptures for new temples around the world.
Stephen had us climbing up and down up and down as though we were mountain goats and we finally fizzled out and had to cry Uncle, he won and let us return to the bus.
We soon stopped for refreshments, chai tea, ice cream, sodas, milk shakes, our spirits and energy soon returned.
Back on the bus for the final leg of our adventurous trip.
We ended the evening with pizza and conversation welcoming the return of Peter, who was able to find a little information and possibly a cousin.
Off to bed following a nice cold shower.

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” By Pearl S. Buck

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Team 63 gathered at 7am in the “Upper Room” for a light-hearted breakfast as tourists on a well-earned holiday. Anne and Eula were the “Spice Girls” once again. We alighted our waiting coach at 7:45 heading west on a 60 km adventure past unfamiliar sections of Chennai past a garbage dump haven for water buffalo, oxen, and probably Templeton of Charlotte’s Web fame, a few lakes, a Medical College and the usual ebb and flow of ordinary life with which we had become familiar. We merged onto a Federal tollway with 3 workers per toll booth – one to collect the money, one to count it, and a third to issue the receipt.

Meanwhile, Stephen gave us a running commentary as we shared our personal agendas for our free time. Alone the way, were gleaming new engineering universities which Steven informed us abound in Tamil Nadu so that there’s a surplus of 15000 seats each year. Peter commented that India would need engineers badly in the future for all the infra structure projects needed in India. Other modern sites included the Honeywell and Hundai plants, the latter a pioneering multinational. Trucks idled by the roadside waiting to transport the new cars. But the further from Chennai we traveled, the more rural the landscape with rice paddies and fruit orchards.

We paused to view a memorial park to Raviv Ghandi with a slab indicating the spot where he had been assassinated by a Sri Lanken woman during a speech in 1993.

Our first stop were the temples in Kanchipuram, a capital during the dynastic period, where temples abound as natural havens for the kings as it was taboo to attack them. The first of our four temples for this day was Sri Kamakshi identified as a site for worshipping parvathi by the carved lion, his vehicle. Built in the 16th Century it was in a traditional square with four main entrances facing North, South, East, and West, with the main entrance to the East. Although we are barred from the holiest of areas, the vimana, we could walk around the sacred inner perimeter but without shoes. A calming reflecting pool, the “Holy Tank”, serves as a bathing area for the priests. The decorated elephants with bells were also being bathed. They are treated with reverence as they’re considered gods of good luck. Rae, Brigit, Jennifer, Peter, and Margery volunteered to shimmy up their prickly legs to ride in style as if we’d been doing it for years. It was a strange sensation to look down from such a precarious height.

Next stop, the Sri Ekambaranatha Temple of the Mango had lost its tree four years ago. Helen and Peter speculate as to how they’d repaint the towering main entrance. Helen and Rae, aka the Bindy Sisters, plotted to ditch the spy in the blue shirt shadowing them and taking pictures. Helen’s “Evil Eye” gesture did the trick. The 540 pillars in this temple are elaborately carved. An inverted lotus serves as a sacrificial alter. The carved bull outside the holiest area indicated that Shiva’s idol was within. Waiting pilgrims are encouraged to walk backwards – a yoga practice – for relaxating themselves before worshipping. Brahams or priests sported a string across one shoulder as they strolled about their domain. A Neem tree for offerings was outside laden with carved cradles and figures left by childless couples hoping for fertility.

Varadarajaswami Temple honoring Vishnu featured a wedding hall within 100 pillars carved from single stones carted from 200 km away. A tortoise platform is used for ritual performances of Vishnu’s marriage to Lachsmi. Modern couples hold their nuptials down below.

The oldest temple, Kailashnatha, honoring Shiva dated from the 8th Century and being carved from sandstone were well-weathered. The walls contained 58 panels depicting mythological stories. The vegetable paints which had once been vibrant were worn away.

Templed out at lunch time, we were refreshed by a sumptuous buffet. Peter left to return to Chennai for a meeting to trace his father in the town he’d left as a young man for England after we shopped at a silk weaving shop with exotic cloth scarves, table linens, pillow covers, etc. We were generous in our purchases as who knew when we’d encounter such high quality silks again.

On the 2 ½ hour drive to the Lotus Hotel we began to anticipate warm showers and French cuisine in Pondecherry. We checked into our rooms to refresh then walked to the Ashram – a veritable botanical garden for meditation. Signs cautioned visitors to observe silence for the worshippers. This center had been founded in 1927 by Aurobindo who had received enlightenment there. He and the Mother also founded Auroville, an international meditation community which we will visit tomorrow.

We crossed into Pondecherry after our bus inspection. It is a unique remnant of French culture. The city itself has two parts – Indian and French. We walked into the latter where most of the street noise disappeared, the roads were paved with paving stones, were straight and clean and bore French names like Rue Saint Louis. The trade off was that life was concealed behind closed doors. Helen, aka India Moon, lamented, “We miss the cows.” We walked to the promenade along the Bay of Bengal and were refreshed in the sea air. We visited a tent full of craft stalls then ordered a table for huit with Kingfishers all around at Le Rendezvous Roof Garden. Stephen recalled when he met “god.” He had filled us in with a course on the major Hindu epic sagas of the gods, The Mahabharata on the exploits of Vishnu and The Ramayana on the conflicts between the gods usually resolved with cunning as opposed to strength. He also described the three main deities, Brahma the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer.

“India happens to be a rich country inhabited by very poor people” Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh

Monday, February 25, 2008

February 22, 2008

Larry Bartz

Friday morning started out like all our mornings in India – sunny, hot, and very busy. Although not a good day to be painting a gate, Peter and Helen trooped off only to be mildly surprised. They didn’t start scraping and painting until 10:30 a.m., were served an excellent lunch, and watched a soap opera on TV. Helen insisted Peter took a nap under his hat. I think I’ll change to painting.

Ann was delighted when Larry presented her with a new camera. Keep wearing those smiles because Ann has a lot of picture-taking to catch up on. You never know when you will hear the click of the shutter.

Brigit and Margery both had a “Great Day.” Brigit taught 5 young children and felt very good about her accomplishment. Margery developed an innovative lesson plan and used it with a high degree of success.

Finally, there’s Rae and Larry. Each morning before their classes start they check-in with Sister Imelia and walk out of her office feeling like they just got hit by a truck. With a strong heart and iron will, Rae sings her little heart out “where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin?” Later…., at the evening meal she used her silver tongue to embarrass Larry and his “pink face.” She had limited success however, since Larry is use to being kicked around like a soccer ball without any air. For Larry’s part, he still doesn’t have a clue how to teach lower elementary, but through a stroke of luck, the first grade lesson was a smashing success. At the end of the fifth grade class he was mobbed by 40 autograph seekers and a large number of 9th grade girls insisted he is the most brilliant person on earth. What’s left to say?

Quote of the Day

On life’s road, it’s not where you go, but who’s by your side that makes the difference

February 21, 2008

Birgit Povlsen

Team 63 started off the morning with a delicious breakfast of dosai and eggs. We all seemed to need an extra cup of coffee after the festivities of the night before. As we were getting ready to leave for our various assignments Sheeba
surprised the women with flowers for our hair, and placed on bindi on our foreheads. What a special way to begin our day! We are beginning to feel like real locals!

The children at Asissi greeted us happily, and even little George was not about to be left out when it was time for blocks.

Jennifer had the opportunity to continue learning about healthcare in India, and felt extremely fortunate to have been invited to 0bserve in the ultra sound department.

Over at Seams Peter and Helen had a tough day painting in the hot sun, but soldiered on and completed the children’s bathroom building. Tomorrow it’s over to St. Joseph for more scrubbing and sanding.

Larry and Rae both had a good day at St. Joseph. No more discipline problems for Larry, and Rae said she was getting Hoarse from yelling---no lack of discipline there either I guess.

Margery encountered a bit of problem when a birthday child brought candy to school for all the children, and they became far more interested in eating candy than spelling candy.

Since Sheeba and Stephen were showing a video at Seams tonight only Peter, Rae and Birgit decided to go along,Rae helped a couple of the older kids with the computer while the rest of us enjoyed watching Charlottes Web with the kids.

We ended the evening with Indian ice cream, and Stephen gave a fascinating explanation of the Indian caste system.

Quote: Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good is that you don’t know how great you can be. How much you can love. What you can accomplish, and what you potential is.

Anne Frank

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wednesday Feb. 20. 2008

Peter Rient

Quote for the Day:

A jug fills drop by drop

Gautama Buddha

Much the same is true of the walls at the SEAM Children’s Home. As Helen and Peter found, they are scraped, scrubbed and painted one stroke at a time. After their second day, the team earned the coveted accolade of “very super” from Ravi the foreman. Nevertheless, a higher authority found their work a trifle fast for his taste, and decreed that they should be summarily removed from the job site after only one more day, albeit with vague promises that similar positions would be found for them elsewhere.

The rest of Team 63 seems to have found its stride and fared considerably better on day three.

Jenifer continued her rotation through the departments at St. Thomas Hospital by attending one of the physicians on her general clinical practice, and reported that she actually experienced a sense of accomplishment.

The report by Anne, Birgit and Eula from Assisi Day Care Centre was even more upbeat – “Our babies were all over us today, we kept them entertained the whole time, and Jasmine almost walked!”

At Grace School, the picture was not so rosy, however. At the beginning of the day Margery found herself unable to be heard, on account of the tumult of parading students outside in the street; and later on, when she gave her children their first ever markers, they hadn’t the faintest idea what to do with them.

Meanwhile, Larry continued his heroic efforts at St. Joseph’s School. Although still intimidated by the younger children, he was able to carry the day with the older students by making an example of one of them to illustrate a quaint concept he refers to as “respect”.

Not to be outdone, the irrepressible Rae, having been charged with teaching the tiresome subject of ‘spoken English’ to kindergarteners at St. Joseph’s, opted to subvert the work of the nuns by teaching the little dears to do the “Hoochie Koochie” instead.

All of this earned the team a special treat following the late afternoon visit to SEAM a trip into Chennai for a bit of shopping and dinner. As an added bonus, and an extra reward for our patience and flexibility, Stephen treated us to a couple of hair raising auto-rickshaw rides that left us feeling that we had really experienced India, and grateful to have reached our beds in one piece.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tuesday Feb. 19.2008

Helen Mulcrow

I wonder are we in an alien country or are we all aliens? No matter which way you look at it, this is a tough experience, but as each day draws to a close the culture shock lessens and we are all finding our way together.

Today, I managed to squat for hours whilst painting, I hope it will stand me in good stead for my first encounter with a true Indian toilet. Margery saw monkeys when she was hanging out her washing but thankfully it wasn’t a sign of things to come, her class this afternoon behaved like angels. The babies love Birgit now, maybe because she mopped the floor. Peter sustained serious blood loss after a mosquito attack in the bushes but he survived and came back armed with repellant in the afternoon. Larry taught us a magic trick with a mop. Little George walked for Anne but she thought she might die when she had to eat ‘wood’ for lunch. Jennifer is finding little to do at the hospital but managed not to infect the patients with her cold. Rae felt great when her kindergarteners read from the book and learned what a groundnut is. And Eula just knows she’s going to get peed on one of these days!

The perceived challenges we have formed over months of anticipation are becoming a reality, however, as we face each one comes a great sense of achievement. Team 63 made it through another day and who knows what joys the next will bring us.

Quote for the Day:

India is no place to say “I know exactly what I want to do” – something always intervenes and mocks that resolution. I traveled light, but still the greater part of my baggage was mental – my mind brought England along with me, and saw it shattered, sometimes in awe and sometimes with dismay!

Brian Thompson from Great Train Journeys of the World

Monday, Feb.18, 2008

Rae Clauser

The definition of fear isn’t just limited to the feeling you get if you turn around and find yourself standing 5 feet from a saber tooth tiger----which is not behind iron bars.

It includes being afraid of a situation that puts you outside your comfort zone, or the discomfort felt when trying something new, or simply thinking about something in a whole new light.

Some of us may have had uncomfortable feelings about coming to India on our first volunteer project. Wasn’t there some kind of fear that made many of us shy away from being the first person on the team to make the journal entry? With today being the first day on our job assignments, I’m sure we all experienced apprehension as we thought about what our day would be like, what challenges would be presented to us, or some degree of fear about performing as well as we’d like.

On our first day our duties were varied. We tended to the sick in a hospital, we scrapped and scrubbed a wall for painting in the Children’s Home or we taught nursery rhymes to 3 year olds. We taught English grammar to 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders, or we held and nurtured babies. And at the end of the day we all played and shared time with the kids at the orphanage.

Whatever fear or apprehension or uncomfortable feelings we may have had was put aside and replaced with a joy that comes from seeing the bright smiles on the faces of children as they anxiously await our arrival.

How many opportunities do we get to make 40+ new friends, experience a whole new culture, have a huge personal growth experience and help other people? This doesn’t come up everyday in our normal everyday life, but we have this opportunity everyday for the next 14 or 21 days.

Did we have a good day? NO….we had a GREAT day!

Quote for the Day

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008

Anne Daftary

After a good night of sleep, Jenifer and I set out to the Global Volunteers main house for breakfast and orientation. Our trek started with hellos and handshaking with the three boys who live across the street and a good morning to the local cows.

After breakfast, Stephen (not his real name), began our great new adventure with recognizing team goals: to have fun and make friends, experience Indian culture, help others and personal growth. Next came assignments which I think we all faced with some anxiety at being assigned a task too intimidating or for which we felt beyond our capabilities. But as it always seems to happen, each of us found tasks that might be somewhat unfamiliar, but doable.

Our purpose here is to give our help and love, to promote understanding among people and though lacking in professional skills may find a feeling of accomplishment.

After a wonderful lunch and short siesta for some in need, it was off to the local market and ATM. We then continued on the SEAMS to meet the children with whom we will be visiting in the early evenings. They are completely charming and greeted us with great enthusiasm, introductions and songs. We understand from Stephen that the good English spoken by these children is the result of interaction with Global Volunteers. I hope we can continue the good work of our predecessors.

After a wonderful restaurant dinner of items selected by our fearless leader, it was a nice walk home and to bed.

Quote of the Day: “Give rise to your mind of love and in the months and years left to you, do the work of helping children.” Thich Nhat Hahn

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, 14th February, 2008

Roma Wilson

Sorry to report on this St.Valentine’s Day, I’m finding out that there is very little to relay.

Linda’s mini peds keep her on her toes. Now she really finds that NO, NO, NO in ascending voice is the effective way to go.
Margaret, teacher, maintains that order has to obtained both north and south of the border in a polite and succinct way.
Ruth continues to carry on, as though life was partly work and mostly non-SEAM song.
Rosana full of joie de vive spent special time with M.O. Sophie. The unseen world of MEDISCAN revealed an amazing spread of Indian advances and the need for her to journal report when she returns to Fla. full of research thought.
Roma at the hospital spent more time with Dr. Sister R whose amazing stamina, purpose and deeds, left her feeling quite bizarre.
Stephen pleased to see our evaluations completed, shed no tears of sorrow when he knew we had to leave his refrigerator depleted.
No. 62 Team will keep him as busy as the bees making honey in the neem trees that keep his teeth so clean.
Our Sheeba continues to coach us on how to wear our sarees. Now we feel more culturally at ease when mixing with the far east.
Memories of the kind hospitality of Stephen’s parents, sharing home and dinner, will remain with us forever as it really was a winner.
Now “Goodbye” with many a sigh on what has expanded in the past three weeks. Our minds, our bodies, our cultural appreciation, and so we shall not weep.


Have you had a kindness shown?
Pass it on:
“Twas not given for thee alone,
Pass it on.
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another’s tears
Till in Heaven the deed appears,
Pass it on…….
Henry Burton

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Margaret Andrews

Today was hectic, but exciting for me. At St. Josephs the UKG teacher was absent, and the “substitute” teacher was the 7th standard teacher (her students were still writing exams). She knew nothing of kindergarten routines, the closet with homework books and crayons was locked, and I had at least observed the routine for two days. So we agreed that I would teach and she would maintain order. I simply reviewed work they had done and the two and a half hours did pass. We were both relieved to be released at lunch time.

In the afternoon I continued at my new alternative placement at Grace School. (It has gotten easier each day.)

Stephen’s parents kindly invited us for dinner (which was excellent.) To mark the day Sheeba gave us each jasmine flowers for our hair – a sensory reminder of her thoughtfulness throughout the day.

Thought for the day: “All things are difficult before they are easy.”
Thomas Fuller

Tuesday February 12

Linda Shepard

The morning began with the now familiar wake-up sounds of the anil, crows, and motorcycles. Then it was upstairs to read The Hindu and to eat breakfast with the team.
Every day it gets hotter. Today may reach up to 89 F. Also, it is very humid.
School at St Josephs is more fun and interesting every day as I become used to and enjoy the constant chirping, laughing, and reciting of 40 plus little 3 year old voices. The children have become individuals to me now. Today I wrote in their English workbooks and helped many of them write their letters. The delight they show when they accomplish writing the alphabet goes straight to my heart.
One older 5th standard boy came in at lunch to visit his little brother and asked me a different question: “Miss, how do you like this India?” I answered very positively, and he beamed. These children all know how to beam, to glow with joy.
SEAMS was particularly poignant this evening because one boy asked me where we were on Monday, as yesterday we went instead to the Bharatanatyam (classical dance) instead. His question and his look made me think again that we will have to leave them very soon.
Finally, Rosanna and I have realized that we have begun, in the Indian way, to bobble our heads back and forth, up and down, while we listen to people speaking.

Thought for the Day: When in India, do as the Indians do.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rosanna Garrish

After an awesome weekend away to the forest with Stephen, our team leader, and India tour guide extraordinaire, I arrived back in Chennai early today by train. It was so wonderful to be in the mountainous forest with fresh air, cooler temperatures, less humans, but most especially being one with nature. We really enjoyed our long walkabouts in the bush; our guide sighted various wild animals living in their natural environment, as well as non-living ones that had contributed to the circle of life! It was an experience I will always treasure.

Overnight train trips are certainly the way to go!!! I slept almost the entire eleven hours there and back. After a quick shower and breakfast I resumed my assignment at Assisi.

It was great to see the kids after a three day break, as I skipped Friday to spend some time at St. Thomas Hospital volunteering. They all seemed happy to see me as well. The weekend was a bit eventful for the children who live at Assisi full-time. Apparently, John sustained burns from scalding hot water he reached up and spilled on a large portion of his right torso yesterday. Ouch! He was rushed to the hospital for treatment. The wound looks pretty bad today but he is carrying on completely unfazed and up to his usual happy mischievous little self.

We went to a dance festival and dinner at Kumarkom in the evening. The cultural style of dance and music was beautifully performed and very entertaining. It started over an hour later than it was supposed to and although we were all becoming a bit antsy, it was well worth the wait. We then made our way to dinner and enjoyed another wonderful Indian Cuisine that included soup, chicken, prawns, noodles, rice, vegetables and lots and lots of spice!!

Quote for the day: As with everything in life, (and life itself), it is a circle-----Anonymous

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saturday February 9, 2008

Margaret Andrews

This weekend we went our separate ways, Stephen and Roseanna to the forest, Ruth and Linda to the cultural centres of Chennai, and I to Kanchipuram to visit the RIDE projects there.

The visit was a great success. Jeyeraj (the founder and director) saw to it that I had a full agenda. I attended a morning meeting of RIDE coordinators and visited the RIDE training centre, with its gardens and many treadle sewing machines. I met in their homes a silk weaver, a sari embroiderer, a paper mache maker and a member of a women’s micro-loan group. In the afternoon we drove to a brick works that used bonded labour.

On the way back, we stopped at a shrine belonging to the driver’s family for a taste of a rural religious festival and at a silk shop that sold no goods made with child labour. Throughout the day I was introduced to members of RIDE’s staff and board of directors.

An added pleasure was socializing with volunteers working at RIDE (an American couple and two Dutch students) and with a young Australian student visiting from a semester-at-sea ship.

Thought for the day: Travel is broadening.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ruth Ibler

After breakfast, Roma and today, Rosanna, as a visitor, left for the hospital. The rest of us went to our usual placements. Rosanna went looking very elegant and reported having a wonderful time. She said she took lots of photos.

The novices had an exciting Thursday night. One of them woke at 2 a.m. in their dormitory to see something sitting on a cabinet. A bat, she thought, but then it flew round and she realized it was an owl---about 12 to 14 inches high. Anyway, it took over half an hour of all 12 novices trying to take and all 12 of them were very “giggly” about chasing an owl away!

A normal day was had by all. We had ice cream after dinner in the nice little pots. Most of us tried an Indian flavored one called Kulfi, recommended by Stephan and most delicious. After that Rosanna and Stephen left for the Safari and the rest of us retired.

Though Linda repotred that a handsome young SEAM’s boy is teaching her Tamil. We shall wait to hear more on her progress.

Quote for the day: “Help thy brothers boat across, and lo! Thine own has reached the shore.----Hindu Proverb

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thursday Feb 7, 2008

Linda Shepard

Breakfast this morning was enlivened when Stephen conducted his review at the half-way mark of our volunteer period. There was an energetic discussion of team spirit or lack thereof. It is apparent to me that we are indeed a team of free spirits, a caring bunch over all, and that we have much more in common than not.
The day at St Josephs began with a serious talk with Sister Imelda about the deaths of children of the past years. It is clear that she is devoted to the well-being of each child. Then it was off to the lower kindergarten for me, where in 4 hours I wrote in exercise books. I drew 900 little trees, 500 stars, and more than that of apples, balls, and so on. The teacher must construct her own maths workbook. It was laborious being a human Xerox machine, but the task was relieved by the constant little voices of the children calling “Miss! Miss!” I must tie 30 shoes every day. Sometimes I have seen them untie their shoes and then call out “Miss!” They make me laugh.
SEAMS was as sweet and touching as ever, even more so because I danced with several little ones, and sat with
Ruby, Svati, and Venita when Stephen passed out their favorite pastries, egg puffs.

Thought for the day: “One for all, all for one.” -- Cyrano de Bergerac

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Rosanna Garrish

My day at Assisi Illam involved the usual energy exhausting activities. It was a holiday for the local public school and we had a bit of older children here today.

In the afternoon, we switched gears a little and went to downtown Chennai for a bit of shopping and some Pizza. The roads were so busy; I shall never complain about rush hour traffic back home ever again! We passed the time in the car trying to get Linda to show us her gold teeth. They seem to have gained quite a bit of popularity here in India. Thank God she decided to leave her gold “Grills” at home!

Sister Rose is in for a treat of leftover Pizza at lunch today!

Quote for the day: “We are all one. There is enough.” ----Neal Walsch, Conversations with God

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Last night Stephen’s excellent lecture on the caste system gave us a deeper insight to the problems and injustices arising from its complex way of life. We are indeed fortunate in our way of survival.

The daily routines continued on a fairly even keel. Suggestions for noise reduction in Grace School and dust removal in St. Joseph’s School were made by Ruth and Linda respectively. Rosanna returned smiling as usual from her Assisi Illam Children.

My time at St. Thomas Hospital was not very productive with laryngitis still causing a problem. Dr. Sr. Rexline preferred that no cross infections would occur. She is an extremely busy person and her office is seldom free of visitors. The nursing staff appear to be well trained and conscientious. It takes a little time to overcome the communication barrier and find the answers to the medical questions.

Sheeba led Rosanna and I to the female tailor for saree and churidan measurements around 4 p.m.

Thought for the day: “He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Roma Wilson

February 4, 2008

After a great weekend we all returned to work. Monday was uneventful. St. Joseph’s were at their annual “picnic”. Half today, half tomorrow. The novices went to help, six today, six tomorrow. Sister said to let them do an essay. However, it somehow it became just talking and then singing hymns in English. They have loud voices. Everyone else reported a normal day.

We celebrated Sheeba’s birthday. She has not got a sweet tooth so clever Roma arranged for a fruit salad complete with grapes, cherries, etc, etc. and ice cream. Very Delicious. She insited she was 17. Should we believe her???

Thought for the day: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, again.” You’ll get your V’s, W’s et al correct eventually. Included specially for non-native English learner’s.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Margaret Andrews

We started the day at the Lotus Hotel in Pondicherry. About 8:00, Rosanna and I walked along the waterfront to Le Café for coffee and croissants. She told the others of the sea breezes and good coffee available there, so we all ended up having our breakfast there, rather than at the hotel.

After breakfast, we went our separate ways – they to complete their tour, I to find an internet centre that was open on Sunday. (It took much walking and many inquiries to locate one.)

I asked the hotel to fix a packed lunch for me, checked out, and caught a bus to Chennai.(The fare was half what it had been going, but the bus arrived in less time – just one of those Indian mysteries.)

As I watched the rural scenery stream by – thatched huts nestled amongst palm, banana and casuarinas trees – I wondered if people there, in what seemed to me a peaceful world, were happier than those in the frenetic city. Was poverty the over-riding reality? I shifted mental gears to the more mundane – would role playing work at St Joseph’s? for what standards? Perhaps we should work on pronouncing “Ws”.

After an auto rickshaw ride with many stops for directions, I arrived “home”. Now after a shower and part of the last bottle of beer, I am feeling content.

Thought for the day: Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Howard Thurman

Saturday, Feb 2 2008

Entry by Linda Shepard

Roma and Margaret set off on Friday afternoon to visit friends outside Chennai. The rest of us (Rosanna, Ruth and I were off at 7:30 am on our first excursion, accompanied and guided by Stephen.
Our first stop was the magnificent piles of carved stone, the temples of Kanchipuram, that date from the 8th century. Stephen was able to help us appreciate the beauty and symbolism of these still vibrant places of devotion.
Kanchipuram is famous also as a silk-weaving center. We stopped at one of the scores of silk shops to admire and pick up a few small things.
After several hours of driving through sometimes too exciting traffic, we arrived in Pondicherry. Stephen and the others went for a walk through the French colonial town and along the beachfront of the Bay of Bengal, then had dinner at a French restaurant. I stayed in the hotel room with a mangled toe and watched a melodramatic Tamil TV soap opera, in which the actors yelled, cried, and smacked each other around something fierce.

Thought for the day: Where is Ganesh when you need him?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008

Rosanna Garrish

“TGIF” were the first letters Linda said while we were still lying in bed. I laughed and repeated them louder. It’s been a busy and memorable week for all of us. Not to mention exhausting!

As much as I have enjoyed working with the little ones at Assisi all week, I must admit I am rady for a little rest and recreation.

Our morning began a bit earlier than usual for Linda and I as we forgot to tend to our laundry duties last nigh. After a delicious breakfast of omelet with tomato chutney and noodles we all set off as usual to our designated assignments.

My day begins with about fifty cute little smiling faces that yell “Aunty, Aunty, Aunty” while extending their tiny hands for a morning handshake. It’s a great way to start my day! The next two to three hours are filled with one activity after another. We usually begin with lessons that include a review of the alphabet, numbers, days of the week and months of the year. I keep things interesting by playing games like duck, duck, goose (their favorite), ring around the rosie and ofcourse, my favorite, BALL!

We then sit in a circle and sing nursery rhymes. This week they have mastered “itsy bitsy spider” and “little bunny foo foo”. After nursery rhymes we do exercises. Jumping jacks are their favority. Today we formed a conga line and circled the room about ten times as they kept shouting “one more”! Just before they wash up for lunch I exhaust the last of my morning energy sitting on the floor rough housing, tickling, and playing patty cake with them. I love to make them giggle.

This particular day was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Sophia was back at Assisi after a night’s stay in the hospital. It was wonderful to see her living, energetic little self back in full form. The evening visit to SEAM, however, was dreadfully awful. Apparently, Ruby had not returned from school and everyone was gravely concerned about her whereabouts and well-being. She is an extremely bright and beautiful young lady who has been at the orphanage for two and a half years. Needless to say, everyone was profoundly concerned about her disappearance. Fortunately, Stephen, our team leader AND Super Sleuth finally tracked her down about 8:30 p.m. much to the relief of all of us! The roller coaster had made an upward turn and we were able to get some rest.

Quote for the day: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!-------Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Roma A. Wilson

Here we are closing in on the end of the first week for our team . Some nights it is easy to sleep soundly. Sleep time in the early hours of this morning, however, was disrupted by a prolonged dog fight. Then, outside my window, a weird, high pitched yowling commenced which had the quality of blood curdling. Maybe the “hound of the Baskervilles” had returned on the reincarnation route! Not to be outdone, I banged on the window bars and yelled several Aussie expletives! Obviously the miscreant was not a racist and understood the language perfectly by giving a grunt and lapsing into silence after the third yowl.

The 8:30 a.m. breakfast treat was Dose (nice and black, gram) resembling a French crepe expertly rolled into submission by Stephen and flavored by coconut chutney. My second one tasted quite different by the addition of strawberry jam. Variety is the spice of life!

Our expert driver Stephen delivered us on time to our respective work locations. Margaret and Linda enjoy discussing their daily efforts assisting the students at St. Joseph’s School. They are obviously gaining ground and feeling more at ease with their respective roles.

Ruth continues to lead her religious students along the road to a better understanding of their vocation and reactions in general. Rosanna looked very chic in her daughter’s Kappa Delta sorority t-shirt and cap. Her day at Assisi Illam went with a swing and a song, the main exception being an ailing Sophia.

My day at St. Thomas Hospital was full of interest, and hopefully of benefit to those with whom I spent time. Dr. Sr. Rexline requests my assistance talking to the relatives about their in-patient and helping reassure them. This can be a little difficult with the language barrier, but nursing staff are very helpful. I am revising a lot of nursing procedures. However, the nurses are disappointed if I do not remember their names. Heaven help my shrinking neurons!

On visiting the Child Care Center I was surprised to see Sister Matilda carrying Sophia up the stairs. This quiet, feverish child was in marked contrast to the energetic bundle of mischief seen at Assisi. She was happy to be carried around and wave goodbye to people in an auto rickshaw. Then Sister Matilda waited for her to be admitted.

Stephenraj discussed the evening plans after lunch. So we went to spend an hour with the children at SEAM orphanage at 5:30 p.m. The highlight was the distribution of toothbrushes by Stephen after the lessons. Hopefully this will keep the dentist at bay.

By 6:30 p.m. we were on our way into Chennai at a great rate. The Chennai Silks store captured our sari longings with an incredible range of textiles under high security. Sheeba guided Ruth along the decision trail and Stephenraj helped me on Floor 3.

Late dinner, 9 p.m. gave us strength to survive till morning.

Thought for the day: “Sail through calm or storms with a fearless heart”----anonymous

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In the morning we all went off to our placements. Linda’s teacher had returned, which, I’m sure made her happy! No one reported anything untoward till we got back in the afternoon and found Rosanna feeling a little delicate. However, she treated herself, rested and we were glad she felt up to joining us for a great dinner out. Stephen chose dinner and, as always, chose well. I must add that Rosanna ate only bread, while the rest of us fared very well indeed.

I now have to send George a letter from his friends. Since he left three days ago, so many of the kids have come and asked me where he is and when he will be back. Quite a few of them refer to him as “The George”; they really do miss him.

Quote for the day: “Much good work is lost for the lack of a little more”-----anonymous

Tuesday January 29, 2008 – Stephen’s Birthday

Margaret Andrews

Our breakfast meeting topics ranged from domestic hygiene matters tour individual part in a global effort to promote peace and understanding.

In general, the rest of the day followed what is likely to be its usual course – teaching at St Joseph’s School, socializing at the main volunteer house, and conversation and games with the children at SEAM.

Particular parts of the day stand out: A quiet hour on the house roof with a glass of beer, a book and the wind rustling in the palm trees – peace. A child pronouncing perfectly a difficult tongue-twister – satisfaction.

Thought for the day: “The best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, January 28, 2008

During a good breakfast with an omelet and a cup of milk-tea, the group had a discussion about questions the children at school might ask us. Stephen cautioned against conducting conversation with children about dating, sex, or divorce. The point is that Indian parents would not approve of these topics nor want their children emulating the “American” behavior.

Accompanied by Sheeba, Stephen’s truly beautiful and serene wife, Margaret, Ruth, and I set off for our first day’s work at St. Joseph’s school. We rode in an auto rickshaw through wild and heavy traffic.

At St. Joseph’s we were introduced by Sheeba to Sister Imelda the head of the school. She is brisk, direct, and seemed in total command. Margaret went to the upper grades, I was assigned to the lower kindergarten, and Ruth who has already been here three weeks, went off to teach English to young nuns.

I met the kindergarten teacher who had the whole class of 42 three year olds stand, salute, and say “good morning” in unison. The children all wore uniforms of white shirts or pants, white shirts, and black and white striped neckties. The little girls all had very short cropped hair, and some wore gold earrings and crowns of flowers.

In unison, the children recited rhymes and sang memorized songs. They seemed much more disciplined than children of the same age in the U.S. I wrote homework assignments in the children’s diaries and worked with two students who were having trouble with numbers. I learned far more than the students. It was a strenuous experience for me, and I hope I can become more useful to the teacher.

The brief evening hour at SEAMS orphanage was much fun. The children there greeted us so enthusiastically shouting our names, jumping up and down, taking us by the hand and making places for us to sit. We read and played for a while. It was a sweet and rewarding end to the first work day.

Linda S.

Quote for the day: “Things will get better”-----Stephen Raja

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Orientation Day

Journal Entry by Rosanna Garrish

Most people who live in the modern “western” world, namely the United States, Canada, Australia, etc, most likely have an ethnic heritage rooted somewhere else in the world. Mine, in particular, are in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Personally, I believe that those who travel abroad frequently do so to learn about cultures rich in history, customs, and traditions that date back thousands of years. People who volunteer abroad are special, kind souls who desire to learn through first hand experience and simultaneously make a difference in the lives of others.

Today, our special group of six learned a little about one another. Most are veteran world travelers, a few veteran volunteers. As volunteers in a foreign country we must all understand what I have found to be THE most important principle: WE ARE GUESTS---------Act Accordingly.

We have each been assigned very important tasks and responsibilities that should be considered a tremendous opportunity to grow------spiritually and otherwise. Stephen did a wonderful job articulating these points to all of us today. We look forward to the next three weeks with a lot of enthusiasm in the hopes that we will return to our “western” lives with a priceless experience that far exceeded our expectations. And……hopefully we will have made a tiny bit of difference in the lives of many or even just a few.

Quote for the day: “Use for yourselves little…..but give to others much”----Albert Einstein