Saturday, August 7, 2010
Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from July 18- July 31
245 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 9 volunteers and 245 Hours of preparation time
60 Hours of childcare by 3 volunteer
95 Hours of labor towards the construction of Stage 2 of the Dormitories at Seams
2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 300 students impacted
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
Well, it’s Sunday, 10:30 p.m. and team 92 is safely back in the guesthouse. Makese, Jen, and Donyale have returned from their weekend on the houseboat in Kerela. Nate, Alexa, Alex, Amanda, Ashley, and I are back from our trip down the coast to Pondicherry, Kanchipurim, and Mamalapurm. We’re all rested, refreshed and ready to begin our second week of service tomorrow. There will be some changes in our routine because Alexa and Amanda will be starting their work At St. Joseph’s, teaching English to a group of young women who plan to become nuns. Past volunteers have reported that this is a fun and rewarding assignment and theyâ€™re looking forward to it.
Reflecting back on our first week, we’ve each face the challenge that is adjusting to life in India. Even though this is my forth trip to India with Global, I’ve experienced my own culture shock. Almost everything about my experience here is different from my life in L.A. Different sounds and smells, the language, the heat, mosquitoes, dust, rain, and cows are all part of my life here in India. My adjustment involves embracing these differences that I have come to love and enjoy. I am so happy to be back here with Stephen and his family and his support staff. I am so grateful to be working with Ester and Elizabeth, the teachers at Grace School, And I am blessed to experience the joy of teaching the wonderful children at Grace and SEAM’s. I look forward to the weeks ahead with the anticipation that new experiences will deepen my understanding and my love of India. I am looking forward to more laughs and good times with team 92.
I lay my head down on Sunday night thinking to myself “What a fun weekend I had” The team split, Donyell, Makese, & Jen spent the weekend on a house boat while I spent the weekend with Alexa, George, Amanda, Nate, Ashley We visited Pondicherry, and a few temples that I will not try and attempt to rename. We went through the temples and just about every carving in every temple a story was explained. I must say if we did have such a knowledgeable guide, I defiantly would not find the temples as interesting. Towards the close of our weekend, We went to a delicious restaurant where I had the best ice cream sundae in my 16 years of dessert eating. A Humpty Dumpty defiantly an appropriate name for an unforgettable dessert. Normally on long car rides, I find myself waking up to my destination, but this time I tried to stay awake. It was very interesting to see how everyday life is so different from what I am used to. I am beginning to realize my mom knows what she is talking about when she says I should be more “grateful.” When we returned to the guesthouse, I went to bed thinking, “Damn tomorrow I have construction.” Only to find that it was actually a very easy day. I realized throughout the day that this would be my last Monday in India. To be honest I will not miss the labor aspect of this trip, but I will miss is the chanting of the kids from S.E.A.M.S “shoulders, please, brotha, one,” and my personal favorite “powda” [which I believe is gum]. I can never see their faces when I lift them on my shoulders, but from the smiles on other people’s faces I can tell that the little boy or girl on my shoulders is laughing or smiling. It feels good to know I am making some sort of difference in a less fortunate child’s life whether it is long term or short term.
There is no exercise better for the heart then reaching down and lifting people up
- John Andrew Holmes Jr.
Team #92 sets off walking to Grace School kissed by the sparse raindrops that welcome our trip to Queens Land. I am feeling a little homesick but, I release the feelings knowing this is going to be an amazing day. Arriving at Grace School, I'm greeted by unfamiliar faces it is my first time here. Then come the children ready and anticipating all that the world can avail today. Before boarding the bright yellow bus that waits, we are blessed with prayers of protection.
9:30 Indian and Bermuda time, spectators watch as the bus backs up to depart. I scan the crowded space listening and observing the familiar sounds of excitement and recognize the birthday tune the children sing. All this reminds me of our field trips at school. Then there’s a change, something different, the music comes on and dancing heightens the party ride. With music there’s rhythm and with rhythm flows dance –I also tap to the memorable song “Meow” we heard on the house boat.
50 minutes later, 10:20 to be exact we pull into the gates of Queens Land – It says, “The great amusement park”. There were buses parked and a few groups stand waiting as we step off the bus. I find out later that many schools had the same great plans.
I don’t hear the usual sounds of a typical theme park and we are greeted by miniature clowns and a raging bull. Since we are some of the first to arrive, I was fond of the idea that there will be no long lines to wait in.
Let the fun begin… the children are ready and they take in what they can. Makese and I ride a few of the rides with a little push and pull, but Ashley, Nate, Amanda, Alexa, Alex and George have no problems. I guess to the US this is a breeze. Judging from the smiles, laughter and shouts of joy, everyone is having a splendid time.
Around 1:00 we enjoy Ranie’s packed lunch which is still hot and then head off to the water park. This was a unique experience observed by most of us, but carried out by George and Ashley. You actually swim in your clothes (no choice) and the woman and children are barricaded from the men in the pool by a wire fence. Besides this, the play is the same, splashing, running/walking standing under waterfalls and slides in Queens Water Paradise.
I think the constant drizzling rain has given us reason to go back, with a confirmed two woman vote the group is ready to return home so we trudge through the wet and muddy grounds towards the bus. Last roll call "present miss" at 5 o'clock we press on through traffic and arrive at Grace School about 5:45, say a quick goodbye and jump into auto rickshaws...I swear Buskar made it back in record time about one minute flat weaving through vehicles, animals and people and on a rainy day.
7:00 PM supper is American Style in India. Everyone savored the pizza from Pizza Hot, boy was it delicious!According to Ashley, the best meal she had had since her time in Indian.... Apparently it stood true for many, ALL the boxes were emptied and everyone was stuffed - "food coma" had set in.
Despite the rain, the temperature was manageable and the day was engaging and full of adventure. I can say I experienced entertainment in India, but even more, I was able to connect with the children from Grace School. This was my first time meeting them and although I was not able to bond with any particular child, I was touched by their smiles that grew into laughter and blessed by hearts overflowing with joy. In all the unfamiliar aspects of visiting India, I can say this is a very familiar part of life - the smile, laughter and joy of a child which enriches your life. This trip was for them and about them. I'm thankful for smiles. They take me all the way around the world and back home again. I think of the advert I saw on a bus while on my way to Assisi Illam that said, “When your heart is happy it shows.” Well, today I experience happy hearts in abundance!
My thought for the day is:
S.M.I.L.E. Smile - It's the Silent Melody Influencing Lives Everywhere!
We’re at about our halfway point of this trip. To put it bluntly halfway points suck. Sure, we’vall adjusted to the heat (mostly), the cold showers, and our new favorite pastime, zapping mosquitoes, but the novelty of the first few days has worn off and routine has settled in. By nextweek, it’ll be all tears and cries of “this is our last time doing (fill in the blank with something mundane),” but this week, it’s somehow become the daily grind. This makes tonight’s activity all the more special. Stephen invited us into the home he shares with his wife, son and parents. Sheeba, his wife who we have all grown so fond of, prepared us a special dinner with the help of his mother and please trust me when I say, our autorickshaws went a ot slower on the way home, sagging with our added weight. As delicious as the food was, that wasn’t the best part of the night. Tonight I felt at home in India in a way I haven’t since I arrived here. Being included in Stephen’s family, sharing in their rituals and seeing how they live their lives, it may \sound hyperbolic to say so, but it was an honor. I left with a better understanding of daily
Indian life and fullness in my heart that trumped the one in my belly. I think it’s fair to say that this was the best halfway point I’ve ever experienced and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the next week and a half brings.
"Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing
himself." - Leo Tolstoy
We're here. We're in our groove. We've gotten our routine down and our days just flow. Our day begins as normal with breakfast and morning meeting. Stephen reviews with the team the goals we've set and the characteristics of an effective team and I'm pleased to report that all our goals are being achieved and we indeed have an effective team. We depart for our various duties and return home for lunch.
After lunch we separate again, this time Alex and Nate get some much needed rest from construction, while Donyale pushes on. Amanda and Alexa for St. Joseph's School. Jen and I leave for Grace, while somewhere not too far from here George and Ashley are about to receive their ayurevedic massages.
Jen and I read, sing and Duck, Duck Goose through our time at Grace. The bell rings and we close our day with prayer and a song in Tamil that I don't understand, but love to hear. Jen and I wait in the hot smoldering sun. Completely dehydrated, faint and weak, on our very last leg barely able to continue standing, when finally our van turns the corner 15 minutes past his usual prompt 3:30 pick up. Truthfully, Jen and I were just fine and I doubt that we were waiting even 15 minutes, I just added that part for Amanda and Alexa's benefit, seeing as they were the reason that Stephen wasn't there as we exited the gate. They informed us that they were held back longer than expected because a nun had prepared pizza for them as a surprise to show appreciation for their time with them.
Continuing with our routine we returned back home to the guest house and relaxed while waiting to return to our afternoon session at Seams. George and Ashley returned from their massage completely satisfied. At SEAMS Ashley connected two skipping ropes and we turned the ropes and had a blast watching the kids light up to go next. Watching them try to find the rhythm of the rope reminded me all too well of my first awkward skipping experiences. I think of George asking "Why did we ever stop skipping?"
6:30 rolls around all too soon and the team returns home for dinner and a restful night.
The thought for the day is : What you do speaks so loud that I can't hear what you are saying. Ralph Emerson
It's almost the end of the second week, and what a week it's been! Shopping on Monday, pizza on Thursday, dinner at Stephen's on Wednesday, relaxing evening on Thursday, and a wonderful dinner out on Friday. Alexa and I also began teaching the soon-to-be nuns at St. Joesph's this week and we love it! While our mornings at St. Joseph's are challenging with the elementary kids, we enjoy our afternoons with the young ladies and feel that we are actually teaching them and they are learning. We also said goodbye to Alex last night and while the team and children will surely miss him, we know we must carry on with another week of work without him. While I'm sure we are all at least a little anxious to get home to the comforts and family we left behind, I can't help but think about how much I don't want to say my own goodbyes this time next week.
On Saturday afternoon just after lunch, a group of boys from the neighborhood stopped by simply because they wanted to meet us and shake our hands. I have never felt so special in my entire life. These kids actually made a plan to come over just to meet me? That can't be right.
They were so excited and a little shy about meeting us and when George brought out his camera, it was adorable;. the boys started smoothing their hair out and posing for photos. It still amazes me how excited the kids get to see themselves in a photo when we show them the picture on the digital camera screen. Because it is so common for us, we take things like this for granted. We can just pop our iPod in our ears, throw in an episode of Dora for our babysitting charges, or take 1000 pictures a day if we want to. But for these kids, these simple pleasures might as well be Disney World. That is how excited they get about them.
We worked Saturday at various assignments so we could have Monday off (as many of our group went on a trip/safari in a forest). Amanda and I elected to stay home and enjoy a lazy weekend like we would if we were home. As I worked at SEAM's in the morning yesterday I looked around and it truly sunk in how much I am going to miss these kids. And I honestly believe they will miss us. They are still excited every time we arrive and always eager for attention, playing, and learning. (And Dora of course when George brings along his lap top.) For these three weeks we have been important to them and they have been important to us. We have touched their lives and they have touched ours. My work here has made me feel like I have made an important difference in the lives of the children with whom I have worked. I cannot help but wonder what would happen to these kids if Global Volunteers had to stop sending volunteers to Chennai for some reason. What would become of them if SEAMs had to close? Would they wind up begging on the streets? Would they wind up as child laborers? It breaks my heart to even think about it.
Saying goodbye on Friday is going to be a very teary event (for me at least.) I hate goodbyes. A part of me is homesick for my home and family but another, larger part of me will miss being here and volunteering, watching the kids learn and grow.
For me at least, this experience was better than Disney World.
Makese, Donyale, George, Ashley, Stephen, Sheeba, Roshin, and I arrived at Chennai Central Train Station in Chennai, India around 7:30 am from our weekend trip at the palace in Mysore and the forest safari in Mudumali.
When we arrived at the guesthouse, Jen, Amanda, and Alexa greeted us. Then, wediscussedour adventures to the team at breakfast. After breakfast, Makese and Jen went to Asisi, and Alexaand Amanda went to St. Joseph’s. George, Ashley, Donyale, and I were feeling a little under the weather, so we stayed behind to get some much-needed rest. The same occurred in the afternoon except for Jen and Makese went to Grace School instead of Asisi.
For the evening, we all had enough rest to go to SEAMS Children home. At SEAMS,Ashley and I felt we made a lot of progress with the small group of kids we had today. At the end of the visit, we gave the kids in our group their own pencils for doing such a great job. After SEAMS, Ashleyand I realized how much progress we are making with the children, and it makes the 3 weeks well worththe stay.
Sadly, this is our last week of stay in Chennai, India. Although we all love working with the children and teaching them English, I believe most of us are feeling a little homesick, at least I am. This stay in India has opened my eyes and mind to a whole new perspective of the world.
Message of the Day: “People have different ambitions for their fulfillment of
happiness. For most it’s money, for some it’s cars, but for few it’s as simple
as improving another’s life.” –Nathan Najdek