Thursday, January 27, 2011

Monday, 1-17-2011

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting, that is laziness. But to

keep going when the going is hard and slow. That is patience" ~Unknown

It is Pongul; the Celebration of the Feast. Today is a holiday and for

the third day in a row I am not getting my paint. Must remind myself  be patient.

The girls took off for Assisi and I went to the hospital to paint. As it was particularly warm, i found the paint not cooperating the way  I wanted it to. Patience...The wall mural is just about done so i asked  the hospital custodian to get me a ladder. Under the assumption, the  key word being: assumption, that I would get an American-like ladder, imagine my surprise when in comes at least a 15 foot bamboo ladder. I  looked at it and thought...patience. Anyway, with the help of my new friend, I was able to climb the ladder and begin working on the parrot that I am drawing for one of the blank  walls. I held my bady in THE most precarious positions thinking, I wish  Shelly A. could give me a massage! Doing all I could do there, I wrapped it up and headed downstairs to wait for the rest of the group to pick me up. While waiting, I was approached by an elderly nun who proceeded to hold an entire conversation with me in Tamil. I must handle nodded and smiled in all the right places because she continued on not missing a beat. After the crew picked me up I was able to find that Lisa worked this  morning with two of the orphans who were having physical problems. She did what she could do before losing their interest. Carol too to working with the child, using her motherly gifts to calm them down.Julie worked alongside Shellly taking cues from her as to what rhymes  they would be doing. Shelly has endless energy and a voice like an angel. She mesmerizes those kids when she starts to sing.
Lunch followed our arrival home and then Lisa, Shelly, and I headed out to the tailors. Closed.. Then Lisa and I went to Jothi fashions to see if  anything struck Lisa's fancy...which it didn't. At 3:00 we headed to SEAMS. It's always a pleasure to be  there. I got to work with the  boys on Microsoft Word documents and how to save them and attach them into an email.The rest of the girls worked with the kids, reading stores, playing games, and singing songs. After SEAMS, Stephen took us into the city to the GRT Gold & Silver store as well as the Textile store. There I traded in my beloved ankle
bracelets for 2 new ones. Carol bought herself some lovely rings andearrings. She also found chudidar material. Sheeba treated herself to a new sari.As Lisa, Julie, and I sat pie-eyed (we were beyond tired) on the steps waiting for the others, I was struck not only by the fact that we stood out amongst the sea of brown, but by the sad condition of the beggars. It hurts my heart everytime I see one.At long last we headed home falling into our own routines. It's been a really long day. Full of work, lots of love, and plenty of hugs.

January 18, 2011

The day began early for me as I was up before Shelly T and Lisa. Lisa did her usual exercise routine stepping from one side of the common room to the other, Shelley T drank her needed cup of coffee while engaged on the internet waken the others. When I got up, Stephen was at door carrying a sleeping Roshan. I thought, “Oh no. They are taking him to the doctor.” Sheeba said they were on their way to mass.

After breakfast, we got on with our usual schedules. As Lisa and I were in the car for our ride to St. Joseph’s, Shelley T joyously skipped past holding high a quart of paint as though it was an Olympic torch. She WILL finish her murals before leaving India. Julie went off to finish her final tasks for Global Volunteers. Lisa and I were welcomed by our 3 Kindergarten classes, who were glad to see us after a 4 day holiday for Pongal. We have improved our lesson plans based on what we learned about the children in week one. It’s amazing that my lessons complement Lisa’s and vice versa, since we don’t plan together. As we leave the site, I enjoy walking past the classes eating their home-packed lunches just outside their classrooms and seeing the variety of lovingly packed food

Back at the guest house I gave up taking a nap in order to visit the tailor shop with Sheeba and ordering 2 chudodars and one silk sari. From the tailor’s, I rode directly to Grace School to meet with my 8 fourth graders and 4 fifth graders. I dictated sentences to the fourth graders emphasizing correct punctuation and contractions. I began reading Charlotte’s Web to the fourth graders, a book I have read aloud many times before. I dictated sentences with o’clock to the fifth graders, but was interrupted by their eagerness to show me the new earth box just delivered to the classroom. I tried to hold an English conversation with them about who gave them the boxes, how many boxes the school had received, and what would be planted in the boxes, but in spite of their eagerness, I still don’t know the answers to those questions. But they were able to tell me how to initially set up the boxes. After the excitement, we resumed dictation with sentences about earth boxes. Toward the end of class one of the girls repeatedly opens the door to see how much time is left before dismissal. With 5 minutes to go, they wanted to know when I would go back to America we spontaneously did the Hokey Pokey. They do like to wiggle their booties. One of the boys always carries my book bag to the car and one of the girls takes my hand and escorts me out. They check to see whether Stephen is there with the car, and if he is not they make me wait inside the gate. I never saw Lisa this afternoon, as she walked to Grace and back.

After a bit of rest, we all headed to SEAMS for our evening work. Ajit was delighted to finish a beginning sight word workbook, but then he thought his time with me was up. He said the next workbook was for his friend. Mainly he wanted to see what the other children were doing with the earth box just outside. He would not begin a second workbook saying it was for another child. We both were relieved when it was time for Julie’s farewell. Now I understand his impatience. He and his friend preformed an elaborate and somewhat sensual dance in the farewell program. Many handshakes later, we finally headed back to the guest house to get ready for Julie’s farewell dinner in a nice hotel restaurant. Roshan slept through it all in Sheeba’s arms while the rest of us gorged on delicious salads, main dishes, and most important of all-dessert. Back home everyone soon went to bed, except 3 of us. Julie and Stephen had a telephone chat with people in the MPLS office, and I stayed up to type the Journal.

Quote of the day: Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families. If we want to spread joy, we need for every family to have joy.

Mother Teresa

Wed. January 19th 2011

The first time I woke up this morning I was woken up by the super loud banging of Shelly and Lisa from inside their room. Somehow they got locked inside! Why did it have to be the two girls that get up the earliest??? I had to assure Lisa profusely that it was not my fault since after I knocked I didn’t even touch the door after it was opened. Beware of the self locking doors.

Then I got up again a little early than my usual luckily since I have gotten back into my morning grogginess. A shame I was enjoying waking up bright and alert, so once again I am dragging myself out of bed in the morning. We had a slight change of plans this morning since Julie who left today was having a meeting with all the host leaders for the program. Surprisingly it is the first time they have all met. I was nice to meet Julie she was bright, expressive person and I enjoyed her jokes and stories. I hope she has a nice trip to Agra.

I went to Assisi and Shelly T to the hospital to continue working on her mural. I had a wonderful morning with the children teaching them, capital letters. For the first time since I have started this project I actually managed to accomplish to get each child to write the letter they were working on, hallelujah! Working with them one on one is making a difference with the amount of progress they are making and I feel greatly pleased with my decision to insist on it. I went downstairs at 11:30 as requested and sang songs with the rest of the group. Sister Matilda insisted we stand up to sing even though I enjoy keeping them sitting because it keeps them calmer. I believe that the sister really just personally wants to enjoy a good round of the hookie pookie since she always seems to request it. After lunch I was feeling ill and they let me lie down for a short nap, when it passed I got up went downstairs and read to the children and once again sang Christmas songs. Its cute that ever since I sang the full version of Jingle Bells they have started to ask me to sing the song Dashing instead because that is the first word in the song.

At lunch I once again lied down to help myself feel better before going to Seams. When we got there they were cleaning up the days work of making chicken biryani in huge pots because there was a wedding at the church where the pastor works. I started with my second group first since I unfortunately had neglected them the day before because Stephen forgot to let me know when it was time to switch groups. I usually play a game of go fish after our studies but when we had been playing a an extended amount of time and I was becoming weary of the game I went out and asked Stephen what’s up and he said “Opps I forgot, sorry bring everyone down here because we are saying goodbye to Julie”. So today I didn’t play any go fish and just concentrated on our studies of flash cards for English and addition.

Shelly T introduced the boys to facebook at their request and loaded up pictures of them with her camera. Welcome to the wonderful and irritating world of silly applications, photo tagging and wall posting. Lisa had a hard time in her room because it was full of smoke and it was bothering her a little unfortunately she is not aware of being able to request the kids to use the fans yet.

After dinner I took Shelly T and Lisa to the textile store, But luckily we finally got Shelly to gave in and she bought a pretty blue sari. YAY! Now next week we can all go out and immerse ourselves in Indian culture draped in the wonderfully colourful fabrics of India. Go Team! For meeting our goal of immersing ourselves in the culture.

“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” Jawaharlal Nehru (Indian Prime minister

Shelly -A

Journal for Saturday, Jan. 22 and Sunday, Jan. 23

"The purpose of life is not to be happy-but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have

lived at all. ~Leo Rosten

On Saturday, was up at the crack of dawn to see Lisa off. Am going to miss my roomie. She was such an asset to the team. Stephen and I left early to go to the hospital to paint I think this elephant is going to be awesome that we got up on the wall today!!
When I returned home, Carol was up in her room getting some much needed  R&R. I headed to the roof with my Kindle to promote skin cancer and work on a tan.
Sheeba, Stephen, and Roshan started planting one of the Earth Gardens.
Tomatoes and other vegetables. These can be purchase for $50.00 in the  U.S. That is all you blog readers, get on it now! The plan is  to have several at SEAMS, Assisi, Grace School, as well as St. Joseph's. What satisfaction the kids will feel knowing they are growing their own food.
Later in the day, Carol and I went to the Government Emporium. We were able to accomplish a great deal of shopping in an hours time. Getting to know Carol's style of shopping, I'd say she did incredibly well. We also picked up our saris and then the fashion show was on. I'd be totally surprised if I can figure out how to put it on once I return to the states. I figure if Shelly and Marie can do it, I can! Carol looked regal in her purple satin sari and I must admit, I cut quite the figure in my own. Sunday was not the best day for me. I woke up feeling sick, having been up all night fighting the bug that somehow managed to invade my body. Despite feeling badly, we all took a rickshaw to church. I lasted about half an hour and told Sheeba I had to go. She took me to their Indian style flusher, no toilet paper, just a beautiful hole in the ground...surrounded by tiles for aesthetic purposes, I'm sure. But listen carefully, when you got to go you got to go. I left church and headed home. While on my walk I was graced by bird poop landing on my head. Pretty much summed up how I was feeling.
Later in the afternoon we went on a tour of the entire city of Chennai. We visited the slums, the middle class areas and then the Brahmin area, where the wealthier people live. We learned a lot (more) about the Cast System and how it works here in India. Upon learning these facts, I would have to categorize myself in the Shatrya's Class...the warrior. Don't know why, but I kind of like the sound of it. I'm definitely not a Brahmin and definitely not a Sudras, but somewhere in between.
We ended up at the Bay of Bengal where Sheeba yearned for some fresh fish. We stopped and she took to the vendors and found several different kinds!
Sunday evening, I discovered that the bug had creeped it's way back in. Foregoing dinner, PIZZA! I went back to bed. Sheeba, Stephen, and Roshan went to a wedding. Shelly came home from an exciting fun-filled weekend.
All in all, it was a perfect, quiet, calm, weekend.

Shelly - T

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from January 09 - January 14

110 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 6 volunteers and 110 Hours

65 Hours of Childcare by 6 volunteer. over 420 students impacted.                      

January 9, 2011

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm
going is what inspires me to travel it"

~Rosalia de Castro

Well, here we are. 6 amazing women, 6 different stories; all converging for a common purpose.

There's Carol, from California, a former teacher; Maria from New York, a pediatric emergency room nurse; Julie from Minnesota, works for Global Volunteers;
Shelly from Toronto, a massage therapist; Lisa from Oregon, a physical therapist; and
Myself from Delaware, a teacher. We sat through a meeting setting goals, being assigned jobs, and learning about what it is we will be doing here in, Chennai. After the meeting, we were all anxious to get out and about so we took the the streets and visited several stores to buy various items for ourselves. As I forgot my pajamas, that was on the top of my to get items. Carol and Shelly each treated themselves to saris. More power to them for purchasing and actually planning to wear them. Myself, I find like I'm too wrapped up and can't find that comfort zone when having one on.
Went to SEAMS and the energy level was palpable The kids entertained us with many songs; all very animated. They are still amazed with my

We finished off our night by going out to eat. My experience has been
 hat whatever Stephen orders, it's going to be fabulous. To finish off our meal, we treated ourselves to butterscotch ice cream. So, here we are. Everyone on a computer touching base with home. I am  looking forward to a fulfilling week and the opportunity to work with some incredible women and kids.

Shelly Talmo

Monday, 01/10/11

As I contemplate on my last week in India, I wonder why I volunteered to write the journal. It’s Monday. No matter where you are in the world or where you are coming from, Monday is still Monday. Although I should be carefree and enjoy my last week in India, I can never help but to feel sad about leaving India. No matter how many weeks I spend here with Stephen and Sheeba, it never feels like enough. Luckily, the excitement of a new team filled the walls of the guesthouse on Saturday and Sunday. As everyone prepared themselves to be “blinded and left in the dark,” Stephen our driver delivered each one of us to our destinations. Julie and I set out first to Grace School. Julie was introduced to the principle Ester and the teachers, and then we giggled as the children adorably said their morning prayers and pledged allegiance to their flag in perfectly straight rows of eight. I was surprised that the children wear a different uniform only for Mondays which is completely white and the teachers teased me for not knowing this. Again the Monday theme reoccurs. My rambunctious kindergarteners were actually very well behaved today and we were able to get through two exercises without someone falling out of their desk, stabbing a classmate with their pencil, or fighting over their erasers. In between the next group and snack time, Julie showed her family album to the teachers and we all “oh’d” and “ah’d” over the pictures of her kids.

Carol and Lisa headed out next to St. Joseph’s School. Lisa initially felt she was thrown to the wolves when she learned of her English-teaching assignments with her strong background of science. Lucky for Lisa, she was paired with Carol and easily acted as her teacher assistant for the morning. They both got their feet wet with upper kindergarten, third, and fourth graders. They sang nursery rhythms, If You’re Happy and You Know It, and then phonic lessons using flashcards. Lisa felt much better after her first dive on the wild side with the children of India. They were asked for their Western movie-star autographs at the end of the day, but kindly declined. They also got to experience a birthday at the school. A girl named Sujita was dressed up with female Indian attire and jewelry, and was going from classroom to classroom handing out candy for her birthday. Later in the morning, Carol and Lisa found her to be in their third grade class, so of course they sang tunes of Happy Birthday to her with the class.

Our twin Shellies had the usual eventful morning at Assisi Illam. Our new rockin’, energetic, charismatic, full of Tazmanian coffee and 2 days into quitting smoking Shelly was super-siked to see the orphans again, as well as play with the children in the daycare. Shelly and Shelly had the usual patience-testing task of teaching the 4 year-olds how to write the alphabet, but luckily for them, apparently D is much easier to write than B or C. Shelly T. also enjoyed being reminded by the daycare kids of one of her favorite games “Juice-Juice-Banana!” Shelly A. raved about having lunch with the sisters and it seemed like a very nice break in the middle of the munchkin mad house.

After lunch, Carol, Lisa, and I went to Grace School. I wish I could say we all took the car over together and arrived securely to meet our characteristic of an effective team of punctuality. But no, Lisa wanted to have a nice healthy walk to Grace school, and I made the mistake of taking directions from Stephen with a tiny glistening fraction of hope that we would actually find our way there. We did not. If there is one thing I have learned over my three trips to the guesthouse is how to perfectly retrace my steps. As this wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten lost in our familiar neighborhood, Sheeba simply laughed and walked us to Grace, where Stephen and I argued over whose directions, or sense of direction, was worse. Lisa was then introduced to her classrooms and of course Carol was already hard at work, introducing herself and getting to know the children. I had an absolutely wonderful time with the teachers. We couldn’t believe that one and a half hours had flown by with what seemed like minutes. The teachers enjoyed my structured workbook activities, and I enjoyed the way they scolded each other if someone else answered their problem during their turn. They told me they would wear uniforms tomorrow since they were now the students, and I said I would wear my sari since now I was their headmaster.

As always, the evening to SEAMs turned into everyone’s favorite event. The children continuously run up to each volunteer for love and attention, and ask the new volunteers all kinds of silly questions. Julie performed word matching games with the fifth and sixth graders and Shelly A. eased the kids into their activities with a word search before starting their phonic exercises. Carol played Old Maid with each group, patiently teaching the younger ones the concept of the game, while older kids continuously interrupted and ran up to play as well. Lisa introduced herself and got to know her groups in depth, and then sang songs with her groups. We were all excited to hear that her luggage had arrived, and she had hopped out quickly to sign for them, and then got right back into the game like a true Global Volunteer. Shelly T. took on the amazing task of not only teaching Vinayagam one-on-one, but also teaching the older boys computer skills. She said it was great fun as they emailed, did activities on google, and created emoticons together. Apparently even with her triple-layered shirt, she still needs to de-Westernize even more around the rowdy teenagers. I took on the task of weighing and taking the heights of all the children. Oh how simple it sounds, why can’t it be true! No matter how many times Stephen kicks out the girls and boys from running into my room, there always seems to be that slippery skinny snake that sneaks its way in. This time it was Suranya. She would take each child by the shoulder, slam them against the wall, put their ankles together, make them stand up straight, look straight ahead, and keep their arms down at their sides. She would be the perfect drill sergeant for the Indian army. But then almost every child’s eyes filled with joy as I told them how much they had grown from just this past March, and I was glad to almost complete the entire orphanage.

We then all headed back to the guesthouse, and yes, I made my way back safely and it was actually Shelly T. who almost made the wrong turn and I safely guided her home. You’re welcome Stephen. We all discussed the pros and cons of the day, our own challenges and favorite events, and our hopes for tomorrow. My only hope for tomorrow is that I can get rid of this overwhelming feeling of hatred for Friday. Although Mondays are Mondays everywhere you go, I would rather it stay Monday forever this week in India. I love the culture, the people, the smells, the sights, the colors, the jewelry, the sounds, the food, the prices, the music, the diversity, the spirituality, and most importantly and above all else, the beautiful children. Although it is only Monday, I already miss you India.

“A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”– Mohandas Gandhi


Tuesday January 11, 2011

It is obvious the team is getting to know each other. This morning there was a lot of laughing as we shared conversation over breakfast. In the evening we were again sharing --- this time it was pictures off our cameras that allowed us to tell our stories.

In the morning Maria started our day with a recap of yesterday. Her journal was very beautifully told. How was I going to follow that? Well, here’s a try. It is day 3 of our volunteer stint. Shelly from Delaware is day 2 on her stop smoking campaign. Go Shelly. We all applaud her. ‘

Breakfast was soon over and we were soon off to our respective spots. Carol and I were off to St Joseph’s school and as always Carol’s teaching experience showed. Her stint with the book I LIKE BUGS got K-gardeners to think about things like top and bottom and right and left as they tried to fold a paper top to bottom and left to right. Once we passed that challenging task they were on counting numbers and drawing bugs on their paper. A couple of kids had no pencil. Simon Says was also a hit at the school but the kids didn’t quite get the concept of NOT doing the task when Simon “didn’t say”. The kids were especially cute shouting “Hail Mary full of grace” at the top of their lungs.

While Carol and I were teaching away at Grace School the others were quite busy also. Julie was quite smart to initially set her older kids down and let them know kindly that they must behave while she was teaching so she could actually teach. Then she was off on a run with teaching them sequencing. Maria, who is often challenged by kids who try to hurt themselves or other classmates in class started out with one girl falling on her bench and scraping her knee. That attended to, she moved on to teaching her kids about weather using a weather chart and even incorporating a Dr. Seuss book into her weather lesson.

Before we knew it lunch was over for most of us and it was off to the afternoon classes --- only poor Shelly and Shelly had to wait until after 230 pm to get lunch as there were not enough workers around to share the workload today among the employees and volunteers.

In the afternoon I was amazed that I was able to get past “greater than”, “less than” and equal to. I accomplished that by taking out those #@$!% meters and centimeters and breaking it down to just the number comparison task as I did math with the kids. Later, I thought it was cute the kids didn’t want to do social studies. They just wanted to practice reading aloud. I found out the one girl in my group who was a less proficient reader than the others was actually younger so that comforted me.

Julie and Carol were busy again in the afternoon. Carol was happy to see her kids were much better behaved today (the lecture by Julie worked). Julie found that in the midst of her lesson she needed to backtrack and explain the concept of “why”. Poor Shelly and Shelly came home tired and a bit frustrated by their long day at Assisi Orphanage but they rejuvenated when the word shopping was mentioned. I went along with them, only to get quickly bored shopping. I had to say though, that I found this store today less interesting in terms of offerings than the stores of Sunday afternoon. But then again, I have never been much of a shopper. Get in, get the stuf,f and get out. Well, the 2 Shelly’s both found treasures. Shelly was especially pleased with her new sandals.

Before we knew it was time for SEAMS school and more conversational English and lessons. The time flew although I must admit I began to fade at the end. Maybe I needed food. A quick walk back to the home and we were soon making Poori. Poori turns out to be a deep fried delicacy that is nothing more than wheat flour, salt and water. Shelly and Shelly were most impressive with their embellishing of their poori. Shelly T made hers into an elephant ear, adding a good dose of sugar to it and Shelly A would only have needed some ice cream to make hers an Indian Banana split. The rest of our dinner included a wonderful potato and chickpea curry and chicken curry ( aka beef curry as beef is not be mentioned).

As dinner drew to a close we were sharing our pictures --- Carol mentioning her young grandson in the photo who was able to go to Hong Kong with her for a pose in front of one of the decorative Christmas trees there.

The night is drawing to a close as we laugh at the fact that Carol will not be drinking the WHOLE bottle of Indian wine that Stephen just opened for her as he rescued the cork out of the garbage and washed it off for her. She was glad she didn’t have to drink the whole bottle in one sitting.

The quote of the day was taken from my school class where I stole it off the chalk board.

ALL THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT. ---- Carol got her wine, I got my baggage, Shelly and Shelly got their lunch (finally) and I finally got my kids to learn less than, more than and equal to as I persevered despite doubting my skills.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today was another full day from beginning to end, filled with fun, comradery, and lots and lots of food. I had the pleasure of going to Assisi Children's Home for the first time. I am amazed at how are all the places, in which we serve, are so well maintained. The day care kids are precious. I worked alongside Shelly and does she have a way with the little ones. She's so spirited and engaging and seems to have an innate ability to know how long to stay on any given task.

Stephen introduced us to Sisters Rose and Matilda. Both women are extremely poised and from all indications are really committed to their young charges. I am looking forward to helping them with their fundraising and development materials next week.
Lovey was overjoyed to be asked to create a mural at Saint Thomas Hospital. She skipped to that work site and was equally enthused upon her return.
With the help of Stephen, Lisa was able to have her inflamed (or as she puts it "fat and angry") thumb checked out by an area doctor. Our on-call nurse and teammate Marie agreed with the MD's diagnoses which was reassuring.

Saint Joseph's little loves were in the capable hands of Carole who went it alone today while her team teacher Lisa was tending to her before mentioned digit.

In the afternoon, Sheeba and Stephen searched the highways and byways for a vendor who carried just the right undies and t-shirts to buy for the kiddos at SEAMS. We didn't leave there until every child had two sets of new under garments.
In the evening, we made our usual 5-7pm trek to SEAMs and we now have a rhythm going with our two sets of small groups. The Toy Story 3 puzzle was a big hit as was Maria's gift of Twizzlers candy for all the kids who endured having their ears dewaxed tonight.

 we all rumbled through town to the home of Stephen's parents, where he resides with wife Sheeba and their adorable son. We were all revived by his mother's amazing dinner which was served to us on plates the size of platters, heaping with varied and delicious homemade Indian fare.

We returned to the guesthouse fors group photos and quickly made our way to bed, tummys filled with food and the rest of us filled with tremendous memories.

Julie Costa

Thought for the Day: "Don't worry be happy.

January 15-16, 2011

The driver was knocking at the door at 7 am. Noting that our team leader Stephen was not even awake I pushed him off politely stating we weren’t to leave til 730 am. Stephen appeared to awaken slowly at the breakfast table and I kidded him about it. But later he asked me or so I thought “ Can you walk backwards?” To which I thought, of course, I make many of my patients do that frequently --- but what I realized he stated was” can you walk barefoot?” This was because today was going to involve lots of Hindu temples.

We eventually shoved of about 745 am --- Stephen, Carole, Julie and I while the others were going to enjoy time at home in Chennai. Our first stop was at a memorial to Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi, and one of the country’s prime ministers. He was unfortunately killed by a suicide bomber in the late 1940’s when he was campaigning for re-election. There were several pillars at the memorial signifying things related to India such as science and technology and agriculture, the lotus flower and the banyon tree.

Then it was off to the temples in Kancheepurum. We eventually saw 4 temples. One was devoted to the God Vishnu’s who had 10 incarnations. 3 of the temples were made of granite and one was made of sandstone. I found the sandstone one the most interesting and appealing to me. The others were very interesting in their own right. All had a water catchment tanks so that people coming from afar could refresh and clean themselves before going into the temple. One temple had a very beautiful neem tree where people would attach handcrafted items to symbolizing their wishes --- such as wanting to have a child or get married. One of the temples was painted white at the top. Stephen explained that they have a festival and paint some of the temples white every 12 years. Stephen reported another temple had 540 hand built pillars in it. Many of the pillars were etched with decorative lines, no two alike. Stephen is a wealth of knowledge with respect to all of these temples but in our minds it all became jumbled --- the overwhelming notation by all was they were each interesting in their own unique way.

After the temples it was on to a buffet lunch in Kancheepurum at one of the hotels. It was hard to describe all the items on the buffet table but it was easy to find more than enough to eat. This included finishing with a dash of ice cream.

From there it was on to the silk shop. We were treated to a display of the loom work done to make a saree which was about what I expected. I did find it amazing that the gold in the sarees is gold plated thread. The sarees are made of about 6 meters of cloth with the edge of the piece being slightly different in pattern to the rest as that is the portion that the saree top is made of. I knew there wasn’t any reason I would wear a saree so I just enjoyed all the fabrics as Julie and I helped Carole pick out a beautiful saree for a few quid as the Brits would say (or should I say rupees?). Stephen, not to be bored by the shopping had stepped out for a breath of fresh air and was back in time to send us off to then next adventure.

Then it was on the Pondicherry, a long ride where we were content to snooze in the vehicle or look out the window. I enjoyed the few rice paddies I saw, the roadside shops that reminded me a bit of Mexico and also all the greenery and ocean or backwater views here and there.

Once in Pondicherry we settled into our hotel which reminded me a bit of Las Vegas as the inside of the hotel was painted with murals, not unlike those at the Venetian in Las Vegas. I was sure there would be something more classy to find in Pondicherry and we were not to be disappointed. Julie stayed behind to rest up at the hotel while Stephen, Carole and I ventured into the French section of town, which is separated from the Indian Section by a canal. We walked along the beach promenade and I enjoyed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi with all the children running up and down the base of it in the darkness. I also enjoyed stopping at the memorial to B.R. Ambedkar, one of the fighters for equality for all Indians who helped set up the Indian constitution.

Dinner was at a multi cuisine restaurant in a local hotel as the locals call it. I had some sort of Indian delight which seemed like an offshoot of an eggroll --- held together by mashed potatoes and veggies and baked with a curry dipping sauce --- it was hot! Carole’s soup was so hot that she couldn’t eat it but she enjoyed an unusual salad made of cantelope, cherries and tomatoes and yoghurt. Not my cup of tea but possibly the cherries had to do with Pondicherry I thought.

After a good sleep or a mediocre one it was off again in the morning to go to Catholic church with Stephen. Julie commented on how the inside of the church was a bit overstimulating and I would certainly say it was well adorned. Settling in though, we soon realized the components of the mass were about the same in Indian so we could follow right along although we didn’t understand a word. One thing that we all enjoyed were the little girls all dressed up in their best. Later Stephen told us the sermon was about being a good servant to God, not cheating or lying and also setting a good example for others as then they will see you are a good Christian.

We zipped back to the hotel to get some complimentary breakfast where for some of us it was nice to enjoy something that was a little less Indian. My French croissant could hardly have been called something truely French but I did enjoy the lime juice.

After checking out, it was off to the highlight of my day which was the ashram honoring Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. It was a place of silence as it was meant to be a place of meditation. I found all the cacti and floral displays to be stunningly beautiful and was saddened I couldn’t take photos. However, it will be a memory to store away of all my travels.

Then it was on to Auroville ---- possibly one of the biggest surprises to me in India so far. This sight was the concept and vision of The Mother and was to be a place where people would live if they were choosing to seek enlightment, live in the way of the people there and also hoping to live among people of all walks of life and experience to so as to live in human unity. This place is pretty amazing but a bit hard to describe. I suggest Wikipedia here for further study.

We had a delightful lunch at Auroville --- the gals enjoyed quiche and I loved my raw salad --- cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, garbanzo beans etc, never looked so good. Stephen had dhali which I had recognized to some degree from Indian restaurants stateside.

Then it was off to Mamallapuram and the 5 Rathas. These were interesting shrines carved from stone, an experiment done in the 7th century to see if these stones were sturdy and durable enough to build temples of. The detail in some was amazing and again I liked the animal structures, but there were plenty of stories carved in the rocks also. We went on to some other rock structures and while Carole shopped there, Julie and I took lessons on what all these rocks depicted. Eventually in the heat, this traipsing around became an endurance event and I must admit it was good to get to the top of the light house for a view of the sea.

Good thing we got to go DOWN to the car. Then it was a saunter home to Chennai with the traffic coming back into the city. I chuckled as we went by Dizzie Land, a take off on Disney, but an Indian amusement park that looked very busy with locals. Finally it was home sweet home and home looked quite good. On arrival we were told that Shelly had enjoyed 2 days of painting at the hospital and Shelly A had enjoyed a relaxing weekend of reading, cooking with Sheeba and shopping --- of course, shopping!

My quote of the day comes from some suggested for us as the kids will be waiting for us tomorrow……………

Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him. (Albert Schweitzer)

I have to add a 2nd quote though, also as this was a 2 day stint ----

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks. ---- A huge thank you to Stephen for his patient and knowledgeable 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from January 2 - January 7

130 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 5 volunteers and 130 Hours of preparation time

60 Hours of Childcare by 3 volunteer. over 35 students impacted

2 Children's Homes, 1 School and over 140 students impacted

Friday, January 7th 2011 Team #96

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind” Mason Cooley

We started off our day quietly but not for long soon Maria had us laughing as usually with her witty journal entry; and quickly told me to lower my glass of water since I am sure she didn’t want to wear what was inside of it if I were to express my enjoyment of her humor suddenly. Off to Assisi to teach the children to write and what a task this is. Not enjoyable for any involved, the children lose interest quickly and I patience, so Maria and I switch children. We congregate in the front yard for our usual singing of nursery rhymes except Sister Matilda joined us and who knew, she is a big fan of the hookie pokie and instead of the children with their usual cry of ‘one more time’ it was sister Matilda asking us! We tried to head over to the tailor to pick up our saris but when we got there yet again they were not ready. We told them he couldn’t procrastinate any longer with Asha’s and we managed to get hers done in time for her departure.

Maria, Jon and I were off to Grace School to teach English and I was not prepared since I had tried to finish the evaluation we were given by Stephen to help Global Volunteers assess the work we and they do. So I didn’t prepare for my class, so I threw a couple books and flash cards into my bag and ran out the door. It was a challenging day since I was boring the kids with nothing really and honestly I felt sorry for them. They did enjoy my expressive reading of Curious George though at least they would rather listen to me read than play hang man.

We spent a good part of this week sorting through bags of hand me downs and recording exactly how much clothes the children at Seam’’s have or I guess I should say don’t have. It broke all of our hearts because what little they did have was ruined, too big or too small. After tallying it all up and realizing that we simply didn’t have enough hand me downs for all the children, Asha in her usual generous spirit stated firmly they needed clothing and she was going out to get it. Instead of telling children we bought them new cloths we let them believe they were also hand me downs for another children homes so as not to make the other kids feel hurt they were into given new clothes.

Once again we got to enjoy the children’s voices in unison and a few smaller groups of song and dance. I truly enjoy watching Mukesh, Ajith Kumar and Paul do their intense circle dance and Ajith’s focus is quite apparently as his tongue sticks out of his mouth while try to stay coordinated with the drum and the others. Then for the formal goodbyes, I whispered to Jon to pull out the tissue because this was Asha’s cue to start weeping, although she held it together surprisingly well and when I told her such she laughed and informed that the inside of her cheek is probably tore and bloody from biting so hard to stop from crying. At the end of the goodbyes she looks at me and said, why do they put the volunteers through this its torture. One day a long time from now you will remember the look in those children’s eyes when they tried to comfort you with pleas to stop crying. Nor will you forget the way Suresh looked in awe at you and exclaimed “Beautiful, ahhhh, beautiful.” That is why, so you are left with those last precious moments that hopefully resonate with you forever.

After Seams we went to back to the Restaurant I waited till almost the end to get my dinner and by that time I had filled up on bread, rice and an little bit of everyone else’s meal.

I sit here at the end of our day at the end of team 96’s program with the task of writing down our daily activities and summing it all up. I had to use two different quotes to really express the theme of my journal. How to describe the experience and how to express the passion we all felt in really making a difference in these children’s lives. For all of us it was different we all shared our unique talents and skills. We all came here and were forced to make and share our goals and I feel we fulfilled them. Jon has surely left his comfort zone on the infamous train, Asha has more than interacted with children she has shared part of her generous spirit, Maria’s passion for extermination discomfort will be felt on every child’s head for a long time to come, not to mention her skill in nursing to help any child whether it be for a band aid or for diagnosing Arun’s mysterious skin ailment that was causing him much pain. I feel my goal of connecting with like minded people is fulfilled as I am about to share my last breakfast with team 96 and onto team 97 with even more like minded people I look forward to the experience.

As it turns out our goals were not all that different, in the end we all came here to share our fortune and help enrich a child’s life. For Jon it wasn’t just computer skills and handshakes it was inspiring people to aspire to more, to strengthen people’s sombri spirit and show them the value of a good education. In Maria’s case she is an inspiration to me with her humor, good nature and formidable strength to make a difference in the world and rise above what she was given and learning to let go of her unhealthy anger. Asha’s kind spirit and creative expression did not go un-used, I will never forget the way her eyes would water every time a child’s eyes filled with tears. Or the pain she felt at the site of the watching the children treasure the few meager belongings they have, how do you tell a child they cannot keep the gifts their parents gave them not matter how old, stained and tattered it may be? You don’t. Then there is me, what do I feel I have given with the little education and experience I may have. I would say it’ my smile, my laugh, my easy attitude about life but let’s not forget my time and energy since I have decided to stay on for another 3 weeks. I came here to do whatever was asked of me regardless of how hard or incompetent I may feel about it. I came here to let these children know that they have hope and that there is a world out there where people care.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011.

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

The definition of experience is the effect on a person of anything or everything that has happened to that person; individual reaction to events, feelings. Today was a day full of new experiences for Team 96.

After once again stuffing ourselves with Rani’s wonderful breakfast of cheesy eggs and coffee the team packed up and was out the door for another day. The girls off to Assisi and Jon off to Grace School. We arrived at Assisi, with silk saris in hand, and were greeted by the melancholy daycare children; that mood wouldn’t last. After a brief trip to Sister Rose’s tailor we walked backed to the daycare stunned and amazed at the interaction of Sister and Sheba with the burly man at the counter. Animatedly speaking and gesturing, with more than one snicker behind their backs, we were able to secure our saris manufacturing for the next day. We all strolled back, opened mouthed, and laughing at the show they put on. What an interesting start to the day, to say the least. Ok… back to work.

The children were still somewhat subdued when we returned so we broke off into groups and started the fun. Nursery Rhymes ensued as we twirled in a circle, stomped our feet and sang yet again… “The Wheels on the Bus”. Will I ever get that song out of my head??? After a few groups we collected in the courtyard for a little play time. Shelly’s beach balls were a hit and once again the glorious pandemonium of children’s laughter, with a mixture of crying, and don’t forget the insistent “Auntie, Auntie ball…” was heard at Assisi. The neighbors were probably wondering where we’ve been.

Jon’s day was as usual… “ASDF space JKL; space”, basic typing at Grace School.

We congregated back at the guest house for lunch and prep before off to Grace. We walked in greeted by the well disciplined children of the school and were off to our respective classes. Bingo was a huge hit for my 2nd and 3rd graders and they enjoyed looking at the magazine I brought to play our “what am I?” game. Shelly and Maria’s classes were equally successful with Maria a bit more challenged with her 16 upper kindergarteners; that’ll teach her to choose the younger ones…

SEAMS was our next stop of experiences for the day. Jon continued his computer/internet teaching and was able to motivate his older students by having them search a website for jobs in their respective fields. They were able to see in the job postings that many of the skills that he has introduced to them are required by the companies that they will one day work for. His ability to motivate these kids to continue their studies is astonishing and I know they all appreciate what he has helped them with.

As Jon “inspired” his group in a quiet room, the ladies of 96 continued to sort through and distribute “new” clothing to the children. It was the boys turn and to my surprise they were much more difficult than the girls. “Sister too big”, “Sister, not my color” was repeated over and over again to Maria and I. We explained that this is what we were working with and they had to make do… and make do they did. When the boys found an outfit that was close enough to their liking, they strutted around campus like peacocks displaying their colors. Most of the clothing was, as they pointed out, the incorrect size or stained in some way but they still were so thankful for the 2 outfits they received and continually thanked us for our help. Shelly was braving the girls trunks full of their possessions, sorting and re-distributing items that may not fit any longer to younger girls, while keeping a smile on all of their faces the entire time.

We departed SEAMS and were back at the guest house inhaling our dinner because… it was shopping night!!! Team 96, less the shopped out token male of the bunch, Sheba, Stephan and a sleeping Roshan ventured to the shopping district for silk saris and jewelry. It was an overwhelming site of people, lights and noises that enticed our senses and excited our minds and checkbooks. What an experience!!!

Finally back at the guest house, shopping bags in hand, we displayed our newly purchased items to Jon who missed all of the action. I think he was pleased with what we all acquired but even more pleased that he got a quiet night to himself!

Our day ended as it began with stories of all of the wonderful experiences we had today and excitement of what we will have tomorrow. This country and its people have been an experience in itself. One that I know we are all so thankful for.

Monday, January 3, 2011

So after a wonderful sleep in our tree house Maria and I woke up at 5:00am. We were told that we only needed 20 minutes to heat up the water for the showers. I waited for Maria to finish her shower since I had a feeling they were being optimistic regarding the time it took. I was right because Maria came out of the bathroom shivering and cursing about the lukewarm water. Needless to say I decided not to take a shower.

I almost didn’t go on the trek for fear of getting my only sweater wet and I desperately wanted it for the train ride home. Luckily for me Steven was not attending because Sheeba had a splitting headache and he wanted to stay with her. The idea of sleeping in was highly tempting but I am glad I didn’t because it was worth it.

We left at 6:00am with one of the best trackers in the area. We took the jeep deep into the forest to a bird research facility. We picked up the trackers friend who in just a pair of flip flops headed into the jungle, knife in hand.

We spotted deer and some monkeys which are fairly common place so we headed deeper in hopes of getting a rarer sighting. While we walked I thought to myself ‘even if we don’t see much thios exercise is great’ I haven’t worked out in a few weeks. It was really neat watching and learning about different tracking methods. We could see the different animal tracks in the wet mud, easily telling which were new or old. He pointed out the smaller hoof prints of the bison and the much larger one of the elephants. We then saw a peacock briefly in the distance much to Asha’s delight. We watched our guide inspecting different types of animal feces but we didn’t need to be told which was the elephant’s having had a firsthand experience while we rode one of it reliving itself. I was a little grossed out but not surprised when our tracker bent down and with the backs of his fingers felt the warmth of a fresh pile of elephant waste…. We were close!

Just as things were getting boring we all stopped in our tracks as we heard the loud sound of an elephant blowing its trunk. We all looked at each other gleefully excited to be so close. We start moving off the path toward the sound. Then we heard a different sound the loud pop of what we all silently wonder could be the sound of a poacher’s gun! Feeling angry about the people in the world that rob us of our beautifully diverse species we continue walking. We finally come to a clearing and our hosts stop, point and said “See the elephant?” Slowly my eyes adjust and locate what he’s pointing at, a large, round, grey hump above the bushes – WE DID IT! We found them all of us stand and stare silently, I was hoped to get closer but our guide noticed five others close by and knows it is too dangerous for us with a young one in their midst.On our way back we see some more deer and a rocket tail bird. I collect some quartz for my collection and I find the bottom jaw of an animal which I guessed correctly to be a wild boar.

We get back to the resort to have a very yummy late breakfast. I am glad I left the water heater on since Maria and I had wonderfully hot showers. We packed and left for the palace in Mysore. Even though it was a short stay it was highly rewarding and memorable. How many people do I know can say they tracked wild elephants in the jungle, had a hot shower and used a toilet in a tree?

The palace was beautifully constructed with its silver plated doors, ornate wood carvings, ivory inlaid doors, gold leaf paint and stain glass windows. It is a shame we couldn’t take pictures as it was truly lovely. We then went to the market place which was a wonderfully cultural experience with lots of smells, color and textures to experience. I got every color bangle I wanted and a collection of oils.We went to order pizza before our long train ride home and I dumped Roshan into the ball pit to his delight. I wasn’t allowed in but in my usual Shelly style in I went and gleefully played amongst the balls with for a brief minute.


Saturday,  1st, January 2011

Both energy and persistence are attributes that we must attain from the deepest part of ourselves. On this New Year’s Day 2011, neither of them was coming to Team 96 easily. But we would soon find out what the ideals of those attributes really meant.

Our day started slowly as we were out on the town to ring in the New Year the previous night. Breakfast and our brains all started much later than normal. After Ronnie’s life-saving coffee and stories about our night to Stephan and Sheba we were off to visit St. Joseph’s Hospital to meet Sister Dr. Rexline.

To say Sister Rexline is a good woman would be like saying the Hope Diamond is “just a diamond”. Standing no more than 5’ tall, Sister Rexline is a mountain of a human being. Starting in the mid 70’s, in a one room dispensary, she managed to nurse the cities lowest social classes in all of their ailments focusing on woman and children. Not only did she service the in town patients, she rode her bicycle to travel to out- lying villages to treat patients in some of the most remote locals. Today her one room dispensary has turned into a 200 bed hospital facility and is home to state of the art surgical rooms and equipment. She is also responsible for several businesses and schools including our morning location Assisi Illam.

After spending a few meaningful minutes with Sister it was impossible not to be moved by her warmth and overwhelming spirit. Her generosity was displayed as she fed us snacks, over, and over, and over again and took time out of our meeting to bless different people as they wondered into her office. The children of Assisi Illam came to the hospital to “make their rounds” and were staying for a longer period of time at St. Joseph’s so our morning focus was shifted to SEAMS.

After a short break at the guest house we collected our supplies and we were off to SEAMS to celebrate New Year’s Day. We were greeted by the children all giving their ritual handshakes and broad smiles wishing us, “Sister, Happy New Year.” They were excited to show us what they learned in the hygiene class with Maria on the previous day and proudly displayed their clean finger nails, teeth and rooms. We finished with the dormitory cleaning and inspection and it was time to celebrate.

The children were divided into the appropriate age groups and as some volunteers got light headed blowing up balloons others tied them on the kid’s ankles. Let the noise begin. Laughter filled the complex as they tried to pop one another’s balloons. After all age groups were finished, the winners came forward and had to compete against each other. Ramesh was victorious and won the competition.

On to the tug-of-war. Our make shift rope, which consisted of 2 small ropes knotted together to make a large one, held throughout the competition of rooms but it hadn’t seen anything yet!!! It was the volunteers turn to take on the older kids and that rope had seen better days. After 2 failed attempts and 2 episodes of rolling in the dirt as the rope gave way we called it a draw and moved to the next event. After a rambunctious game of dodge ball and more subdued game of ball toss we called it a night at SEAMS.

The group packed up and made our way to the train station for our next weekendadventure in the jungle with hopes of wild tigers, monkeys and elephants. It will be a long night ahead on the train but we are all optimistic about what is to come on our next excursion.

At the end of the day, our energy levels depleted and being persistent only to find sleep, we once again went to bed satiated by our day. To begin the day with Sister Rexline, a soldier for the poor people of India, and end the day with the joy and laughter of the children at SEAMS is hopefully an indicator of the wonderful, fulfilling year to come.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”-Benjamin Franklin


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from December 26 to January 1

130 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 5 volunteers and 130 Hours of preparation time

36 Hours of Childcare by 2 volunteer. over 35 students impacted

2 Children's Homes, 1 School and over 140 students impacted
Friday, December 31st, 2010

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end”
 1st century Roman Philosopher; Seneca

As we close out 2010 it is a time of refection of the past 12 months and anticipation of the next. 2011 is sure to be a prosperous and generous year and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d like to welcome it than right here with Team 96.

Our day started as it has for the past 2 weeks, breakfast, discussions of previous day’s events and packing and preparing for our upcoming locations. Jon, once again, lugged his 40lb bag of computers to SEAMS to enlighten the kids on the importance of the internet, but was greeted with some of SEAMS youngest kids. “OK” he thought, “back to basic typing class.” As he showed the new students proper hand placement and technique he dazzled them at his ability to type without looking. Settling down for the hour long session he noticed young Ajith continually turning around and flashing Jon his Bollywood smile for several seconds at a time. Jon finally got up to see if he had a question but was pleased to see that Ajith was typing as he turned to look at Jon showing off his newly acquired skill of not looking as he went through his typing exercises. Pride undoubtedly welled up in Jon’s heart as he realised what he was teaching was actually working!

The girls and I were off to Assisi to work with the children. As we prepared for our day we attempted to be creative in our schedule with them as to not seem redundant day after day. I mean, how many times can you sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and do the “Hokey Pokey” before you get bored? Apparently a lot!!! These children are so grateful that we are there spending time with them that the only response we receive is “ONE MORE TIME!!!” We performed our ritual nursery rhythms and sang our favourite songs and then continued on with puzzles, games and chalk drawings.

The afternoon was spent doing several different activities. Maria prepared for our upcoming hygiene seminar with the SEAMS children, Jon spent the afternoon reading and Shelly and I took advantage of the wonderful offerings of the local artisans at the Government Emporium.

We reconvened and prepared for our evening’s adventure at SEAMS…hygiene!!! We are not only trying to instil in these children the importance of conversational English, writing and computer skills but real life instructions for their success in the future. Maria meticulously put together an informative and entertaining presentation on the importance of personal daily hygiene. Shelly and Jon animatedly acted out how to brush your teeth and wash your face while I took the children out for a review of what they learned and a word find of related terms. It still amazes me at the willingness these children have to learn a new skill like read a new word or write a new letter. The smiles on their faces at their accomplishments will resonate with all of us for a long time to come.
We all retreated back to the guest house to get ready for our New Year’s Eve dinner. The spent the evening being greeted by handshakes and “Happy New Year’s” and several request for pictures with other patrons of the restaurant.

Again Team 96 went to bed content and completely satisfied with our time we spent with not only the children, but all of the warm hearted people of India. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The future depends on what we do in the present.- Mahatma Gandhi-

Another incredible day! We started out with the usual scrumptious breakfast, dosa covered in coconut chutney; simply delicious. Asha and Shelly were off to Assisi’s playing games, singing and dancing. Maria and Kathy joined me at SEAMS, where I continued computer training. After three calm, productive and structured hours of training in the pastor’s quiet office, I finished up and joined the others. Chaos ensued. I was asked to help in the process of washing the kid’s beds and mattresses of room 5. Apparently all of the other rooms were completed at this point, so I assumed this would be a simple task: a few barks of delegation to the kids, and we should be done; nice and easy. WRONG! After dousing the beds in as much soap and water as the kids could find, Maria shouted from below, “Make sure they don’t use soap or much water at all!” I suddenly missed teaching Excel. “Thanks Maria, great timing!” I replied. Ok, off to find something to wipe all of this water and soap off. But first I need to explain to the kids that we were not supposed to use soap, and now we need to wipe it all off. Just then, a girl appeared offering an old blouse to Kathy for drying; problem solved.

I now understand how much patience the other volunteers have, as they deal with larger groups of younger kids than I am used to. So much so, that I am quite thankful that I am merely a computer geek.

During our walk home with Maria and Kathy, we encountered glass scattered in the road. My natural response was, “Maria, glass, no!” “Glass, no!” I shouted. It became suddenly clear to me that I am not used to conversational English, but had adhered to the SEAMS standard of simple direct statements, usually made to those with limited English skills.

In the evening we all returned to SEAMS for our respective training. Again, I was off to the makeshift computer lab, Maria was dousing the kid’s heads with shampoo, while Shelly, Asha and Kathy had their groups of kids that they thoroughly enjoy. The younger boys in my class have now advanced to creating charts in Excel with two sets of values: their age and the number of years at SEAMS. They were quite impressed with their own ability to make colorful and meaningful charts, filled with information.

At the end of the evening the kids honored Kathy with song and dance. She has contributed immensely to these kids, as we could all tell. She will be missed not only by the children, but also by her team, number 96. As we continue through this journey, Asha and I both realize that our days are numbered as well. We have only one hope: that we helped enrich the lives of these wonderful children.


Wednesday, December 29th 2010

Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember. ~Seneca

Today has been a great day! Breakfast as usual with those yummy rice cakes (I would like to call them puffs but you’d get the wrong idea) and my favorite so far tomato chutney. I just wish they would make more so I wouldn’t feel bad about wanting to eat it all.

Our usual day with the children of Assisi Illam started off calmly to progress into some laughing, crying, screaming and just plain fun. We read to the children to start, put together puzzles, I taught some more children Go Fish. Little Sylvia is such a doll and so smart it is such a joy to work with, after having played cards yesterday she could see I was struggling to explain to the others the rules of the game so she explained in tamil for me. Hearing her little scream of joy after every pair she gets brightens my heart and reminds me of why I am here: to bring joy and laughter to the children. Maria sat with the older children and unlike the girls at Seam’s they were very interested in studying their work and getting it done

I went downstairs to see what Asha was up too and she had her hands full playing jump the snake with the skipping rope. If they weren’t whipping it around they were trying to choke each other with it. I then learned a new use for frisbee’s as Augustine sat inside it and I pushed him around in it, unfortunately the bigger kids couldn’t fit. It makes me feel good that the children enjoyed my song so much since George comes up to me everyday more than once and asks for music. When I stated sing some Jazz he then requested I sing the song I sang for Christmas again and started to hum along. It’s so wonderful how the children soak everything up and really appreciate it. Having had enough I am sure Asha wanted to get the chaotic children under control and I flatly said to her that it was unlikely. So we attempted to put the kids into a circle and play ring around the rosie. It didn’t work, control with these kids is an illusion as within minutes they were running around screaming and playing again.

I don’t exactly know how to describe the emporium except that I was in shopping bliss I thought I would explode from excitement. I have to say when I was told I only had an hour to shop I was pretty upset when we got there Maria was like “we have an hour and a half”. I was thinking to myself ‘what can I do in an hour and half, that is simply not enough time for me’. Everywhere I looked there are things I want to buy, presents I want to get and too much stuff to take home with me and its all at a reasonable price. Painting, jewelry, handmade crafts, sculptures, sari’s, carpets it just goes on and on. Too be honest I didn’t even make it to the back of the store and I had to push myself hard to get where I was. I ended up only getting some more cotton shirts, a skirt, a pashmina scarf for my boyfriend and two pieces of jewelry. I was being good! I have to go back to that store but next time I need a whole day and not just an hour and a half. Maria bought some jewelry for her wedding and some cloths, I am not sure what Kathy bought but John disappointing bought nothing in that amazing store.

Then after we got back with ten minutes to kill, I wrote a bit down in my journal and quickly got things ready for my girls at Seams. When we got there all the kids showed us their beautiful masks that Kathy had spent the morning with them doing. The only thing I remember John mentioning about the day is going downstairs to the 37 children Kathy was overseeing and being terrified at the wonderful chaos making masks created. Colorful with stickers and feathers on them I took a picture while they proudly showed them off.
Today was an amazing day I have to say again and very emotionally satisfying fulfilling because before we started working, Sneha one of the girls that got mad at me on a previous day and was the one girl who gave me the cold shoulder came over and apologized before we started our lesson. Happy and surprised I still wonder if Stephen had said anything to them regardless it was nice. I instantly forgave her cause in my mind there was nothing to forgive these misunderstandings happen. They brought out the words the song I wrote for them and started to show me what they learned. With just a few corrections they are ready to become the next Spice Girls

After we started to do our lesson they were once again up and about but this time they brought something over to me and made clear that they were thankful for everything and gave me a couple gifts: A pair of earrings and a very pretty necklace. I almost started to cry. These girls have almost nothing except a trunk full of belongings and here they are giving me what little they have, it makes me want to cry now as I write this. I feel so special and grateful to be appreciated. So we finished our lesson and played some card games. My second group of girls found out about the gifts I was given and they also gave me a plastic dog and flower, which they in turn handed to me and looked at me longingly telling me how much they jokingly told me they loved me. I bashfully accepted, fluttered my eyelashes and giggled which got a great laugh out of them. The rest of the day went off without a hitch and I said my usual farewell in tamil “nalika bakalam”(see you tomorrow) and was on my way to a wonderful dinner at Stephen’s home.

It was quite a special surprise and a wonderful feast we were treated too by Stephen and his family who invited us into his home. Their accommodations were simple but his mother had made a delicious feast for us and it was well received by all of us. Kathy being the sweet woman she is felt terrible for not finishing her plate and Asha being sick did a fairly good job at hers but I think John and Maria made up for it with their healthy appetites. John eating two servings of rice and five pieces of bread and Maria with two servings of rice and six pieces of bread! It was a good thing Maria remembered not to tighten the underskirt on her sari this time.

His mother is a wonderfully welcoming woman with a big bright beautiful smile and his father quite stately man. They thoroughly enjoyed it when I used the little tamil I know for them laughing every time I used it. We were taken over to his brother’s house and then our cooks Rani’s house since they were both right next door. I was taken aback when I saw they small child sleeping on a hard tile floor with just a thin matt under her. Although these are the experiences that I came for that will change me and the way I look at the world. I am sure I will be eternally grateful to Stephen for having shared it with us. I have decided to stay longer as I would rather spend my time with them the travelling around being a tourist since I know my time and effort here are appreciated and needed. Thank-you Stephen.
“Every day I wake up and every day I sleep, I hope everyday for the rest of my life these memories stay with me.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Quote: Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of opression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy

Team 96 while only here for a short while, commits themselves each day to trying to improve the lives of the wonderful children at SEAMS and Assisi orphanages. While we go about preparing for each days activities, we never forget that beyond the alarming numbers of those in the world who are in need, there are individuals with personalities and intricate lives that each day great us with their hearts, minds, smiles and embraces. Some of us who are returning volunteers from previous Global teams are witnessing how the children are thriving, be it a new child settling into life in an orphanage or the teenagers who are completing the 12 standard or attending technical college. We'd like to think that in some small way we have been a part of their lives. But in a big way, much credit goes to Stephen, the Team Coordinator in India, whose relentless love and commitment to these children enables us to come and offer some hope.

John worked with the older kids on computers and immersed them for the first time in discovering the Internet, Google maps, email and how their exploration on the web can expand their knowledge of the world and their place in it. Maria and Shelly were at Assisi playing Go Fish, singing popular songs such as I'm a Little Teapot and the favorite, Wheels on the Bus Go Round. Even though Maria taught the kids the 'swing dance' some were more interested in Shelly's retainer.
I continued to work at SEAMS with the children, helping them with words, spelling,reading,coloring and puzzles. All the kids love to play Word Bingo. Ten children ranging in all age groups challenged themselves to play multiple bingo cards. I am always amazed at them but never surprised at home much I learn from them.

Kathy D.

Sunday, 27th December 2010

The theme for today was rocks. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Jon and Asha started the day off early by taking a walk down the calm and peaceful beach which just last night was bustling with people and loud with music, cheering, and dance. We had a mixed breakfast of Indian delights and westernized omelets and then headed out for our next adventure. Our first task was to learn about and question the curiosities of the Auroville commune. We first visited the shrine of the founder of Auroville, which was a beautiful garden in the middle of Pondicherry, before going to the main location of the commune. Our driver acted like a 14 year-old girl by changing his mind three times whether to join us or not in our visit. He finally decided to join us but then got disappointed when he discovered that we are not allowed in the golden golf-ball/ Epcot center/ giant toy suction ball to view the crystal ball inside. Asha and I teased Shelly about joining the commune but Shelly made it quite clear that she wasn’t about to give up her treasured vintage clothes to join a bunch of hippies in a quest to free humanity of all sin and evil. All of us quivered inside at the thought of worshiping a divine mother while drinking the Kool-Aid juice and being cut off from the whole world as we perform our cult practices. However, we all marveled at the Banyan tree and then thanked Shelly for not climbing up into it.

The traditional Indian meal of Thali was served and admired by all of us. I of course still had to order ice cream with my coffee and force everyone to share it with me. If there’s one thing Italians will do to fix a germaphobe, it’s to force meal sharing upon them. Not to mention what we would do if you visited our house, but let’s just say you wouldn’t survive. We also had an adorable waiter who offered to refill any of our smaller dishes that we preferred, and he joyfully smiled at us through our entire meal, thus receiving a well-deserved tip. We then set course for the rock carvings.

The famous rock carvings of Mamallapuram cannot be described in words. You must see the beauty and hear the stories of each unfinished temple for yourself. In the mean time, I will discuss the events that took place in the vicinity of the rock carvings. You would think I would leave Shelly for last, but I’m sitting here struggling to figure out how to summarize her behavior, and it’s impossible. Every time we turned around, someone said “where’s Shelly?” Just as Stephen described how he looked away for not even a nano-second and a monkey jumped into his car, grabbed a plastic bag, and jumped back out again on one of the safari trips, it seemed as if we would turn our heads not even 15 degrees and Shelly would disappear. At the one carving location, we found her inside the bottom of an old bathing area in which NO visitor was allowed, and she jumped 2 feet in the air and screamed so loud that everyone turned to look at her because she had seen a frog jump out of the water. Two more times Shelly was seen taking pictures and skipping about on grassy areas that were completely fenced off from the carvings. No fence, rope, or Hindu guardians were going to keep Shelly from going where she wanted to go. We tried to give her the critical task of moving Krishna’s butterball, but Shelly was more interested in the goats and monkeys. We were fortunate enough to have many larger, more touristy-looking groups that day so barely any toy, food, or random-object sellers bugged us along our route. Asha came across a fortune teller with his cute parrot and she couldn’t resist. She immediately became the center of attention and was surrounded by 10 Indians, all curious about her future. She was given a very prosperous prediction, and she was told to buy more property and a new car, much to Jon’s disapproval. We had an amazing finish on the top of the lighthouse after being asked several times for our picture to be taken with random strangers.

Before shopping, Asha, and Shelly enjoyed the sweet taste of fresh coconut milk, cut open by a street vendor, and then torn apart more to enjoy the soft coconut. I found the turtle necklace that I was hoping to find, reminding me of my brother and bringing me closer to him. Jon found a snake statue for his brother. During the drive home, we laughed about funny websites and videos making fun of odd people, but deep down we know that we are all odd in our own special way. Overall, even though Auroville was definitely not the community for us, we all agreed that the concept and theory behind the community was deep, powerful, and true to its meaning, which brings me to my quote by John Lennon – “Imagine all the people, living life in peace … Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”