Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Today was a day of celebrations, heartfelt goodbyes with the hopes for a future return to India. Karen, Ricca and George will be leaving and I will be staying on. Our celebrations are for the honor and joy of serving in this community; for the relationships we have established with the children and our peers; for the unique opportunity we each have had in living with and giving care to those we care so much about; for witnessing how each of us has grown in an awareness of the importance of team cohesiveness. We are thankful especially to the SEAMS children who celebrated our coming and going with festive song and dance. We are thankful to the sisters and novices of St. Josephs who celebrated with our tam our last meal together.

Tearful goodbyes because those leaving will be making their way back to their respective country seemingly leaving the children but knowing that the most important aspect of this relationship will always be within our hearts.

Our hope for the future is to return to India to once again serve in this special community guided by our group leader Stephen, who we all admire and respect for making our experience one ff the most memorable of our lives.

Kathy Dedrick

Thursday August 7, 2008

Everyone had a productive day at work and I had a chance to go to Grace School and meet the junior and senior kindergarten classes. We sang songs, read, worked on the alphabet and of course, recited Five Little Monkeys loudly.

At SEAMs, we gave the children a hygiene lesson in the courtyard. The big boys brought basins of watere and everyone cleaned up with soap and water and brushed their teeth. We distributed new toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, nail brushes, soap and shampoo, and the kids had a good time. Among ourselves, the team later expressed concern about headlice that we hope can be addressed by later teams.

Then a final shopping excursion to the Spencer Mall downtown where we got cookies for Ronnie and her family and other final purchases. We returned for a late dinner at ten.

Quote: There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all. Disney.

Ricca Slone

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This will be my last journal entry as team 68 winds to a close in 3 days. Today, the teachers and I took the children of Grace School on an excursion to Mamallapurum. This was an exceptional day. We left the school at 9:30 in two vans loaded with giddy children. Many of the parents were on hand to see us off. Before we were a few blocks from the school, the children began singing our top 40 hits which of course includes “Five Little Monkeys” and “The Wheels on the Bus”. Along the way we stopped at the Madras Crocodile Park and the Tiger Cave which dates to the 7th century. After a lunch on the vans, we arrived in Mamallapurum and climbed over and through the magnificent carvings. Some of the kids were familiar with the carvings which includes Arjuna’s Penence, the world’s largest known bas relief sculpture, complete with life size elephants. After our climb which included an encounter with some real monkeys, we headed to the beach. The waves on the shore of the Bay of Bengal were very strong and I had my hands full keeping the children from venturing out too far. They were dressed in their plaid uniforms and all were soaked when we retreated to the beach for ice cream then on to the vans. We were tired and wet on the trip home but not too tired to watch a DVD of Tamil music videos. The kids knew most of the words and danced in the aisle along with their favorite singers. The van dropped me off at the guesthouse around eight and I soon fell into bed exhausted and happy. I am so grateful to Stephen and the teachers of Grace school for making this day possible and to the students for their enthusiasm, joy, and open hearts for a day I’ll always remember with love.

Today’s quote:

“There’s far too much to take in here,
more to see than can ever be seen,
but the sun rolling high, on a sapphire sky,
keeps great and small on the endless ride,
In the Circle of Life” from The Lion King

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What a day! My day began at St. Joseph’s School where I gave out candy to students and teachers as it is traditional to do so on one’s birthday. In India it is customary that on one’s birthday, that person give to others as opposed to the Western custom of the birthday person receiving gifts. It was a welcome and refreshing change. I went around to each of the classes handing out candy and when I did, each student would shake my hand and say something like, “many, many pleasant birthdays to come Miss.” It took me a while to go through the entire school because in each class I entered the class would sing a different version of the Happy Birthday song.
Today my seventh graders really stood out. India’s Independence Day is August 15th and earlier today I watched the students perform marches and dances in preparation for the upcoming celebration. The topic of discussion for seventh grade was therefore how India gained independence from British rule. The students conversed with me about the different leaders of India and their influence on this country. The students also recited the Indian Pledge which is included at the bottom of this entry. The class then sang their national anthem, which was written in, and therefore sang in Bengali. They pressed me to sing America’s national anthem for them in return, luckily there were no windows or video cameras in the room.
Following Stephen’s suggestion, I celebrated my birthday in the evening with the children of Seam’s orphanage. We brought cake, fruits, and their favorite dish (Chicken Briyanni) to share with them. The children performed dances, sang songs, and popped balloons filled with confetti over our heads. It was wonderful. I was deeply touched by the efforts of the children to make this time so special for me and they truly succeeded at doing so. After all of the dancing and celebration we sat down together for a meal. It was fascinating to watch the older children feed the others and a silence came over all of us as we focused on our full plates of food. I am profoundly humbled by the childrens’ generosity and love.
Thank you so much (Nandri!!!) Stephen, George, Kathy, and Rica and I am also especially thankful to the children of Seam’s. I will cherish the memory always.


“Liberty is fantastic.”-Naren Dranath (a 7th grader at St. Joseph’s school)

Indian Pledge:
India is my country, all Indians are brothers and sisters, and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers, and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy. To my country and my people I pledge my devotion, in their well being and prosperity alone lies my happiness.

Monday, August 4, 2008

We arrived back in Chennai at 7 am having taken an overnight train from Mysore. We knew we were home as the temperature was no longer cool but hot and humid. By days end we agreed we all had experienced another good day at our respective work sites – Ricca at Assisi, Karen at St.Josephs, George at Grace School and myself at SEAMS and St.Josephs. George had an eventful moment in one of his classes when he tried to sit in one of the children’s small chairs and accidently fell off the small chair causing the children first concern and then much laughter. I had the joy of accompanying Rebecca from SEAMS to buy an outfit at the dress shop It was fun for her especially because she got to see her best friend who works at the shop. Stephen videotaped my and Karen’s afternoon teaching sessions at St. Josephs. My novices were practicing English tongue twisters so it made for an entertaining movie in which they were attempting to perfect Betty’s Bitter Butter! During our evening dinner we agreed that it was good to be back after a wonderful weekend once again working with the children.

Love is a fruit in season and all times and within the reach of everyone. Mother Teresa

Kathy Dedrick

August 2-3, 2008 - Weekend

Saturday morning, 6:30 a.m., on the Chennai-Mysore train. The countryside is lush with palm trees and rice paddies and dirt roads. Men are out in the fields and villages. Women wash clothes below rocky rapids. An immense granite boulder several stories high rises abruptly from the flat land. Oxen pull a blue cart with murals on the sides, driven by a grey-haired man with a switch. Stephen says they speak Kannada here, a completely different language than Tamil or Hindi. Oxcarts line up at the rail crossings, then kids in school uniforms on bikes, then oxcarts again. We pass agave, fields of sunflowers, pools with egrets and ibis.

We arrived in Mysore, a pretty colonial looking city, met our driver, had breakfast and left town for the uplands. We climbed into the foothills of the Nilgiri mountains to a high plateau and into Bandipur National Park. The park is in Karnataka, while Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is adjacent, but back in Tamil Nadu. We were greeted by monkeys at the entrance bridge and warned to shut the windows. We saw many spotted deer; the stags have huge antlers. We saw langurs, a different species of monkey with black faces. And peacocks!

Our lodgings are called “chalets”, little brick buildings with red tile roofs. Karen’s has solar panels and cisterns on top. We walked to the river, admiring the majestic mountain views and bright green valley. After lunch at the chalet’s outdoor pavilion, we took a Jeep safari and saw bison, sambar and spotted deer, a bear and 2 elephants from a distance. After a rest and dinner we took another Jeep safari in search of elephants. We saw civet cats and several huge buffalo near the road, but no elephants. We ran out of gas in the pitch dark, but our guide managed to coax a few more kilometers from the engine and coast down the last unpaved pot-holed grade to a petrol station far from home. All were ready for bed long before we arrived after 11:30.

Sunday we rose at 6:15 for coffee and a final Jeep safari. Still no wild elephants but we got to ride a tame one through the jungle on a quiet sunny morning. The driver sat on the elephant’s head and used his feet on the ears to direct the elephant’s turns and speed. We sat in a metal frame up top, and the ride was more comfortable than the Jeep on unpaved back roads. After breakfast we trekked through the forest from the lodge for a couple of hours. Following the sounds, our guide almost got within sight of an elephant a couple of times. The first time it was a male in a brushy thicket – hard to see, not safe to go in. The second time we had circled our way around a female and young to their downwind side in a more open area. Suddenly a herd of goats and three goatherds appeared, bawling and hollering and beating the bushes with sticks. So long, elephants. We did see a herd of spotted deer, water buffalo and a rat snake.

After cleaning up and having a great lunch in the outdoor pavilion, we headed back through the park and down into the valley to Mysore. We visited the raja’s palace, a huge late Victorian exuberantly ornate structure set in formal gardens. It replaced one that burned down. Amazing columns, staircases, a whole Moorish palazzo with turquoise arches and columns, a wedding hall with a stained glass ceiling with a peacock feather theme, and silver doors with ten panels depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

We met up with Jim at his hotel and had a group reunion over Stephen’s idea of snacks, courtesy of George. We shopped at the Karnataka government store before going back to the palace for the Sunday evening light show. Despite the packed crowds straining to funnel in to the metal detectors and the aggressive street vendors, it was great. The palace and all the temples on the grounds are covered in golden lights, and the result is breathtaking. With fountains playing, balloon vendors, a live band and the huge crowd of people strolling around, the Disneyland in India effect was complete. Finally, we said our farewells to Jim and headed for our train back home to Chennai.

Quote of the day: Before me peaceful, behind me peaceful. Above me peaceful, below me peaceful. All around me peaceful. Native American song lyric.

Ricca Slone

Friday, August 1,2008

This was the last day for the complete team 68, as the “two weekers” will be leaving tomorrow. Ricca and Phyllis were witness to a display of government pomp on their way to Assisi Illam this morning. The main road was cleared as the motorcade of visiting dignitaries made its way through Porur. Ricca said that the procession contained huge paintings of politicians heads surrounded by stars. Ricca used her artistic skills to make a poster of a bus. Her objective was to teach the Assisi children the words to “The Wheels on the Bus” but the children soon realized they could have much more fun simply destroying the poster. Karen and Deanne were surprised to find out that the first Friday of each month, a high mass is held at Saint Joseph’s School. Both were impressed by the angelic singing of the students. They were asked to be a part of the procession. Karen continues to enjoy her 9th grade class. She was quite impressed with the depth of knowledge of history the students posses. She also remarked that as the students ease with the English language increases, she learns more from them each day. Jim completed his final day of demolition/construction at SEAMS Children’s Home. The new toilets and showers look great and will sure be an improvement for the children. Jim and Kathy’s assignment at SEAM is by far, the most physical of all of all our tasks and they have certainly been up to the challenge. They are an inspiration to the rest of us.
The day ended with a moving farewell to Jim, Deanne, and Phyllis from the Seam’s children. We returned to the guesthouse for a quick shower, dinner, and goodbyes then we headed off into the Porur night to begin our weekend adventures.


Today’s quote:
“Many hands make light work”. Sister Mary Genevive, my 7th grade teacher at St. Monica’s School.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Our day began with breakfast and a review of the days schedule with Stephen. We went to our work sites – Karen & Deanne at St. Josephs, Ricca & Phyliss at Assis; George at Grace and myself & Jim at SEAMS. During my afternoon class with the novices the rest of the team went to the store to purchase fabric for school uniforms for the SEAMS children. The Pastor from SEAMS was part of the entourage & was very pleased and grateful that the children will now have new uniforms needed at school.

Our evening meal was hosted by the sisters at Assisi Illam. Sisters Rose & Carolyn graciously served us and then joined us for delicious food and conversation. We were humbled by the care and attention they gave to us as a thank you for the service provided by Global Volunteers and Stephen.

The highlight of the evening was playing many games and singing songs with the children, full of smiles and laughter. For me it was a time to see the children who I came to know last year…babies were now toddlers and the older children were taller. All have grown in beauty under the care and guidance of the sisters.

Kathy Dedrick

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A day or two ago Steven reminded us of the objectives we had developed at the outset and queried how we were doing. We were all agreed that we were directing our efforts toward achieving set goals and were working as a team.

This review and recap, I believe, served to refocus, perhaps re-invigorate us all because today all members of the team report their day in sterling terms.

George’s students, after a reading of Cat In The Hat, drew magical Cats; also George is assisting in planning a student’s field trip to Mahabalipuram.

Karen had a great day with her charges as did Deanne with her kindergarteners. Deanne’s drawings of clouds sun, trees, depicting elements in a Cloud story she read to class, was a big hit.

Kathie and Jim had a very productive day at Seams construction site. The pile of bricks they have removed and which will be re-used grows ever larger. Tonight the children were measured for uniforms and we agreed that new pillows were an essential purchase, very much needed. Kathie sees continuous improvement in the novices’ English comprehension and expression.

Ricca and I were determined to achieve a more structured learning session in addition to regular playing time. We had some success with this by dividing the little ones into two groups of six and alternating instruction and play. I was puzzled that one of my little charges, the most adept at puzzles, was completely unable or unwilling to repeat English words. Jessie, the teacher, enlightened me as to why. Turns out that for this little girl English is a third language, her first Megalese, second Tamil. Proving again one cannot assume anything.

A satisfying work day having ended at Seams, we set off from there by van and rickshaw to Chennai Silks and the jewellery store where we were bowled over by the amount of merchandise on display. Plastic was liberally swiped. A nice buffet followed at Quality Inn.

Quotation: from a poster at Assis Illam – “ Give the world the best that you have, and the best will come back to you”.

Phyllis Donnelly

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today was Indian business lesson day for me. First I tried to buy postage stamps to send postcards home. I followed someone up to the second floor through the round door and stood in line for awhile. When I finally reached the front, and said “stamps”, the woman pursed her lips disapprovingly and waved me away in Tamil. Finally someone directed me downstairs to an open doorway. Inside were 15 people sorting mail. Eventually one of them looked up and pointed next door to the postage window hidden behind the stairs. The lady took out a sheet of exactly the right stamps, but her supervisor refused to let her sell them to me without “the article”. Since I didn’t bring along a postcard, I left empty-handed.

Next I tried the ATM. Another long line and another tussle, this time with a machine. At least I finally got some money.

Everyone had a productive day at work. All the kids are eager to learn. Deanne taught three children to write their names. Karen got a gift from her students and a compliment from the staff. At SEAMs the children greeted us with their usual enthusiasm, and visible progress had been made on the construction. Yay, Kathy & Jim. Phyllis and I discovered that timing the SEAMs kids’ lessons increases their competitive edge.

After a brief stop at home to change and a stop at St. Joseph to pick up the sisters, we headed off to the highlight of the day: dinner with Steven’s parents and a chance to meet his wife Sheba, their new baby son and also his brother Steven’s wife and baby Robinson. Sheba is lovely. The baby slept contentedly in her arms as we stood around admiring him and taking photos with no flash. Sister Bala offered a prayer and a blessing for his well being. Then we left for Steven’s parents’ house. They are as warm and welcoming as he is. Cousin Robinson, 3 months old, is very cute. The dinner was amazing – wonderful south Indian cuisine, all lovingly home made and spiced for Western palates. Delicious biryani, fish, vegetable dishes including a great cabbage and coconut one, yogurt, breads, mango, and a fabulous rice pudding for dessert. Pleasantly full and very grateful for the delightful hospitality, we headed home through the warm night.


Quote of the day: What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest? Aeschylus.
The bonus quote is an Indian proverb: The first day a guest, the second day a guest, the third day a calamity.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Exhaustion has made me terse, so here goes:

Kathy and I (Jim, here) began our construction work at SEAMS this morning, helping to build the temporary toilets that will be necessary once the old ones are demolished (there’s a new dormitory in the offing, with new toilets). We both were humbled by the strength and economy of motion our Indian co-workers displayed, and they were intrigued by our cumbersome work clothes. They suggested, through Stephen, that I consider wearing a lungi for greater flexibility, but I don’t think India (or I, for that matter) is ready for the inevitable unraveling that would occur. Kathy and I laughed and sweated and were pleased with our progress.

Deanne joined Karen over at St. Joseph’s, taking Jim’s place in the lower kindergarten. She reports that the children loved making crowns and writing their names on them; she was beaming at lunch and says that this is a perfect fit. Karen, too, had a great day and continues to come up with innovative ways to teach English. She prefers the new orange syrup at break-time, but I think she says this just to make me envious. I am.

I got the chance, again, to watch George at Grace School. We dropped George off on our way to SEAMS and got to see all the children march by and greet us to the tune “Bridge over the River Kwai.” I’ve said it before: George is much loved by the students and staff. Ricca and Phyllis taught the kids to race around the room on their plastic chairs at Assisi Illam. They are full of good stories.

Stephen arranged for all of us to go to Spencer Mall after SEAMS. He is the best. Books, balls, cookies, and silks were purchased. Dinner can only be described using every positive adjective we can find.

(Ricca bought a mask that looked nothing like the heavy bronze one she liked, but it was cheaper and intriguing nonetheless).

And now for the quote, and it’s one that challenges the false dichotomy between the spiritual and the practical. I invite each of you to find spiritual significance in this simple advice: Lift with your knees, not with your back.

Jim Robinson

Sunday, July 28, 2008

Today we awoke in Pondicherry and enjoyed a walk on the beach and some chai. We then took the bus to the burial site of Aurobindo. A devotee of Aurobindo, called “The Mother,” fulfilled his dream of creating a place where people could live together in a utopian society as equals, regardless of their race, class, color, or creed. The realized vision is called Auroville, our next destination. Auroville had a peaceful and green vibration. (Please see brochure for more information). While there we did some shopping and had a delicious lunch of foods farmed on the grounds. Kathy befriended a handsome group of Keralans who were studying English in Chennai. They were interested in who we supported for the next US president and why.

Next, it was a fun bus ride to the rock carvings. Once again, Stephen explained with detail the symbolism behind the Hindu reliefs, and in doing so, gave the experience a depth and perspective that made the artwork come to life for us.

Side Note: Monkeys LOVE orange soda.

The sky opened up and a heavy rain fell. As fortune would have it the humidity greatly increased after the rainfall. The day ended over diner which was ample in both food and laughter.

“Go ahead, see the world, you will never regret it.”- from the Namesake


Monday, August 4, 2008

Saturday - July 26, 2008.

At 7:30 a.m., the team eagerly set off for our much looked-forward-to weekend down the coast. Destination: Pondicherry and several ancient temples along the way.

It was soon discovered that we had an uninvited passenger along and a first stop was made to evict the small green lizard. Shortly thereafter a major traffic jam was encountered caused by a jack knifed jackknifed tractor trailer completely blocking two lanes. Traffic diverted well of the highway in to and through an adjacent field to bypass the scene. On the outskirts of Chennai we passed an impressive number of institutes of engineering.

Everyone was grateful that the day was sufficiently cool that socks were not necessary and we could walk barefoot, shoes being forbidden on temple grounds. We did, however, have to step gingerly around sharp pebbles and some cow patties at the first temple, Kamakshi. This temple, dedicated to the warrior goddess Parvati, wife of Shiva, covered a large site where many pilgrims were in attendance seeking blessings of the goddess. At this temple the adventurers among us: Ricca, Karen, Deeanne and Jim, hoisted themselves onto the back of a ceremonial elephant. All agreed that their elephant ride would rank as a major highlight of time spent in India.

The Ekambranatha temple dedicated to the destroyer god Shiva was our next stop. Here, Steven told us, there had been a mango tree which grew for 3500 years, dying only 2 or 3 years ago. A beautiful wall painting in the entryway depicted the many myths related to this tree. Seedlings from the tree have given rise to its replacement.

The next temple, Kailashnatha, also dedicated to Shiva, is constructed of sandstone and dates from the eighth century.

The last temple, Varadarajasavry, dedicated to Vishnu, featured two massive linked chains one on each side of the temple entrance. Remarkably, each chain was carved from a single piece of granite.

An amazing luncheon buffet at the GRT Regency Hotel in Kanchipuram followed the temple visits, then a stop at the Silk House where the shoppers among us found lovely saris and scarves we just had to have.

Approximately one hour south of Kanchipuram we began to make better time on a 4-lane highway, the median of which was beautified by red flowers, yellow flowering bushes, and every so often a contented cow. Here, due to slipstreams of wind created by passing traffic in opposite directions, flies cannot pursue and harass the cows.

Indian cows, goats and dogs are much smarter than their North American counterparts. Without fencing, cows and goats graze alongside the roads, never darting out into traffic and the wonder is whether it is DNA embedded or learned behavior.

Along the way were statues of Ambedkar and we learned that in
India there are more status of him than of any other man including Gandhi. This remarkable man spent his entire life fighting the caste system and is revered. After check-in at our hotel in Pondicherry we enjoyed a stroll along the waterfront on the way to dinner at the Rendezvous Restaurant. This wrapped up a very full day, on emphasizing again that India is truly a feast for all the senses.

Phyllis Donnelly

Friday - July 25, 2008

As the first week comes to an end there’s a feeling within us all of how much we truly appreciate and cherish working with the children, young adults and the elderly here in Porur. At the beginning off the week we wondered how we’d be able to contribute and as each journal entry captured our daily reflections throughout the week we began to see the tangible contributions we’ve made in the lives of those we have been privileged to work, teach, and play with.

Capturing seven tales of celebrations begins with what was a highlight of the day and week…watching our team give each of the SEAMS boys shirts brought from the U.S by all of us. The boys lined up in order of size – short to tallest, to receive their new shirt. This kind and generous act reflects our Teams guiding spirit and deep feeling for these children. Ricca and Phylis enjoyed their day at Assisi blowing bubbles and making necklaces with the children out of fruit loops. Once the children discovered that eating the fruit loops was more fun than making necklaces the activity became truly a ‘treat.’ Thy had a surprise vist from Stephen, our group leader, whose devotion to the children is so admirable.

Karen and Jim had another good day at St. Joseph’s this being Jim’s last day with the kindergartners he received a special card and gift of thanks… we’re not sure if this gift was a book of rhymes as the children taught Jim many rhymes throughout the week.. Karen got her 4th and 5th classes mixed up but easily navigated her way to the children who always eagerly await her presence in the classroom. Both Karen and Jim had a tour of the convent where the sisters and novices live in a privacy surrounded by the beauty of trees, flowers, and love birds.

As for my own experience today was a continuation of my love affair with India and the children and adults…the magic never ends. The morning at St.Thomas hospital was filled with conversations visiting patients, discussing medical resources for the nursing library, and meeting with some doctors. Near the end of the shift during lunch Dr. Sister Rexiline took me to another school to hear Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s speech to the students at Montfort Matriculation School. Dr. Kalam is one of the most admired leaders in India, having served as President of India. His speech to the children was about courage to learn and to help the country. I was able to share some of his thoughts with the young adults in my next class in which we discussed how he ignites the minds of students across the country. This was also one of the student’s birthdays so we had chocolate cake and sang happy birthday in English.

There is so much we each experience every moment here that we would need several lifetimes to capture it all. Thank you Stephen for your guidance, patience and friendship to our Team .


Rabindranath Tagore, one of India’s great modern writers said: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.” .