Thought for a day - Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can. John Wooden
Robin with team 119 welcomed in Barbara on Friday at 2:00 A.M. Barbara is from
. She traveled from JFK to Connecticut to Chennai and
arrived on December 28th.
Rae traveled from
to Delia to Chennai and arrived Saturday after 5 pm. Margaret traveled from London . OH to Columbus Atlanta,
GA to avoid the bad weather in the East coast
– to Mumbai to Chennai
and arrived on Saturday at 5 am. She was
so happy to find her checked in luggage after waiting an hour the power kept
going out so the turn table did not run.
Rain Rain Go Away
Global Volunteers Want to Play
Electric Electric Please Come Back
Air Conditioning and Charging Our Phone are an American Fact.
Lunch : Chicken and rice, egg plant and yogurt and onions. I had lunch late because getting in at 6:00 A.M. I needed some sleep.
Thought for the day: If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
Orientation: We are Global Volunteers number 120 and our choices are:
SEAM Children Home - 5 to 7 everyday
We did see Seam Childers Home tonight. For 33 years children slept in hall for boys and girls in separate room. Global Volunteer set-up the dormitories. We got in a little bit of shopping Ya Rae was happy to find some new clothes Barbara took the longest, but with all of our expert advice she succeeded finding an outfit. Margaret was also successful.
Dinner was rice, cauliflower with curry and beans.
We walked to Seam Children’s Home and missed all the puddles and holes in the road. We came back in a taxi rickshaw and we ran thru everything that we missed when we were walking. With Rae, Barbara, and Margaret pushed together we laugh all the way home. It was a Hoot!!!!
Quote for the Day: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step.” Gandhi
Our first official day was filled with pink paint and paint brushes and real teamwork. Rae, named in honor of her Grandfather Raymond, and I are the tall and short of it so she did the top and I painted the bottom – with supervision from Barnabus, Barnabus worked especially hard and like so many of his country people openly welcomed us with kindness and patience.
I never thought painting could be so interesting. As Rae and I were waiting for the paint to be mixed – it does not come in pre-mixed cans – we peeked out of the gate to the school to find a whole world busy at work and play. Women were filling large plastic water bottles at the neighborhood watering spout and children greeted us with great joy, smiles and wonder. Pictures were taken including neighborhood families who readily posed for a family portrait.
At the end of the morning session it was great to see the fruits of our labor – one additional classroom finished. Back to the guest house for lunch of traditional Indian food which is so delicious! I then took a shower. If someone had told me on my first day here that I would welcome a cold shower I would never believe it but here I am two days into the journey and that shower was great!
After a much needed rest we returned to the SEAM Children’s Home where we were once again greeted with hugs and noise and laughter. The children came to individual sessions and worked very hard to improve their English skills. It was great to work with them again and this time individually.
New Year’s Eve is a religious event in Chennai. We celebrated by attending a Catholic mass along with the children of the Assisi Children’s Home and Sisters Rose and Metilda, the two sisters in charge of the home. The church had open doors, large fans, hundreds of people and barefoot priests – a new one for both me and Margaret. Everyone was dressed beautifully including Global Volunteers whose hair was adorned with jasmine flowers, thanks to the thoughtfulness of our co-host
the wife of our host Stephen. We were then invited to a New Year’s celebration
including a special cake. We were accompanied by fireworks in every direction
on our ride home. Assisi
Team 120 has traveled far in the hope of being even one small step in this long but not impossible journey.
Thought of the day: (Something I’ve observed both from Barbara and Margaret) : they don’t let language get in the way of communication.
Barbara and I went to the
to work on another
classroom. Instead of immediately painting the room the same pepto-bismo pink,
we had to scrape old paint off the walls--very grueling and less fun but
necessary. The power did not shut off
while we were there. The two hour black out period moved for this and other
Chennai locations. Barbara and I were grateful to have fans going while we
worked. In the last hour we did some painting. We’re going to take a couple
days off from painting because of a change in plan. Barnabas is going to switch
from improving the Grace
School to looking after
Mary in the hospital. Barbara and I have made many friends in the neighborhood
and at the school. People are curious and eager to speak to us. Barbara never
lets language barrier get in the way of communication. Grace
Margaret held down the fort at Assisi Illam while the sisters stepped out to visit with Mary. She and a group of college students played with the kids. They students mostly behaved except one student tried to climb up the window. The college students were very playful with the children offering them piggy back rides.
Lunch was a traditional South Indian dish served on a banana leaf with okra, potatoes, a banana and two sweet Indian desserts: latu (wheat flour) and cashew and milk kova.
We made sure to fold our remaining food into our banana leaf the proper way so the hosts knew we liked the food and wanted to come again.
The team went to SEAM to do one-on-ones with the children for a couple of hours, helping them with vocabulary and pronunciation. Thankfully we had electricity the whole time, so that meant lights and fans, but the library shelves and books were quite dusty which made me feel allergic, but no one else seemed to notice.
We went to Anjappar, a local restaurant, for a special dinner out. We had tandoori chicken, buttered naan, some mushroom masaala, and buttered chicken masala. Margaret and Barbara ordered a dessert with umbrellas.
We continue to joke about Barbara losing her pocketbook and Margaret not being able to cross the street alone.
Thought for the day: When we face our maker. We will not be asked how many positions did you hold, but how many people you helped.
Esther is principal of
. Barbara, Rae, and Margaret are present at Grace
School . Grace School
We were located in one room and tried to group by age. It was hard because they were at dofferemt levels of learning. With all of us talking at the same time it made it hard to hear the students talk. We were able to exchange students among ourselves.
Last 15 minutes we were with staring and confused kindergarden students. It helped when the teacher appeared back in the room and encouraged students to sing. We sang Itzey Bitzey Spider, Dog named Bingo
We had lunch and then headed to Collage Industries Expo. Barbara and I are proud owners of a Pashmina neck scarf or can be a shawl.
Electric power is off 4 to 6 this week. Somehow we have been able to avoid outages at
and Seams Children Home. Grace School
On the way home from Seams I stared to sing the Witch Doctor song, then finished off with If I Had a Hammer. Steven our driver is probably glad it was a short ride to the guest house.
Dinner, dishes, and shower are our only things left to do.
I’m ready to buy GOLD tomorrow.
Thought for the day: “If you educate a child, you educate the world.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
A cold kept Rae at the guest house and I missed her sounding out cords so carefully to the children whose names she seems to remember but which fail me. Her persistent and often times successful attempts at Tamil are admirable and result in a very positive response from the people she meets especially the children. Equally admirable is Margaret’s energetic way of relating to the boys and girls – whether in song or smiles. Her overall enthusiasm and good nature keeps the experience upbeat and fun.
today the plan to work with one
grade at a time worked well and with our cleaner, larger area the noise was far
more manageable for everyone. Grace School
When we returned from school for lunch the house was surprisingly quiet. It took me awhile to realize it was absent the humming, playing and soft voice of Roshan who returned to school after his holiday break. After an afternoon rest I awoke to a familiar voice – Roshan saying “Daddy” whom he clearly loves and admires. At lunch we had delicious fried bread and also decided who would go to the gold store. Ultimately, Sheeba and Margaret went to the store where Margaret had her very own personal shopper!! She explained in great detail the process whereby her ears were pierced – OMG!!!!!!
Later we again returned to the SEAM Children’s Home where the boys and girls again worked hard to recognize and pronounce words correctly. A, L, M, N, S and W seem to be the most challenging. One of the highlights was when young girls in their school uniforms stopped by the guest house to meet the “white people.” They were so friendly and even gave us kisses when they said good-bye. An elderly woman who accompanied them gave me a big hug which I will remember all of my life.
The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Barbara and I have traded places—I’m feeling much better and she’s gotten sick. Despite her sore throat she braved going to
with the rest of us in the morning. The kids rushed at us giving us hugs and
kisses and sat on our laps. Grace School
It was nice tutoring only one or two students at once and sitting outside near the playground was more ideal than sitting in an echo-y classroom where students end up yelling over each other just to read a text aloud.
I tore a hole in my jeans and decided to buy some Indian clothes that would cover my legs. Maragaret, my shopping buddy came along for the ride. The people who work there recognize us after all our trips to that store—the three of us all bought our New Year’s Eve mass ensembles there.
girls came calling
again and again they had a bag of fish. Little Stephen acted as the translator
between us and the girls. Details I noticed: one of the little girls didn’t
wear shoes because of a religious observance and at least two girls had henna
on their hands. By the end of our visit there was around six girls and one
outspoken girl was clearly the ring leader. The first thing she asked us was:
“Do you remember me?” Government
We went to SEAM without Barbara who needed to rest up. It was business as usual minus our third partner in crime. We helped the children with vocabulary and reading. Margaret was amped up that it was Friday and that we would get to go to
the next day. Pondicherry
Dinner provided us with bonier than usual fish and it was my turn to do the dishes.
Onward to the weekend.
Kanchipuram is one of
seven holy cities. It is the only holy city in the south of India . The
first temple we went to was Kamaskshi Amman temple. The gopuram (the entryway)
was carved in the 16th century, but much of the temple was much
The female pilgrims wore red, orange and yellow. The male pilgrims went bare-chested and wore lungis (black wraps). There were many women making and selling flower leis.
Barbara made friends with some pilgrims in the courtyard as Stephen was giving us a tour. They lined up for pictures with the volunteers and they gave Barbara two lotus blossoms.
There were very aggressive vendors within the temple who followed you around.
We passed by a neem tree where people left their prayer requests, couples asked for children, single women asked for husbands.
There were two big painted elephants who were brought out of their cages so that people could offer them money for blessings. Barbara said the elephant’s trunk felt heavy, but the elephant was trying to be gentle.
Also in Kanchupuram, Margaret and Barbara bought silk scarves at a silk factory. There was a large loom where they did silk weaving demonstrations.
We visited another Hindu temple, Ekambranatha temple, where we saw priests doing arati and Prasad in front of various shrines to hindu Gods. Walking around the uneven stones of the temple was like a foot massage.
The last temple we saw that day was called Kailashnatha temple which was a sandstone temple from the 7th or 8th century. Time had taken its toll on this monument, all the vibrant colors painted onto the deities were almost completely gone.
As Americans, was so amazing to see all these ancient temples and be able to touch them.
We went to Puducherry, a beach town that used to be colonized by
, and was
exited around 1955-ish. This is a big tourist attraction where we encountered
many Americans/Europeans. It was nice to breathe the ocean air after being in
the city so long. France
We walked the boardwalk, but couldn’t go in the water because the
has strong undercurrents. Also the beach is rocky, not sandy which made it seem
a little forbidding, but it was still fun. Bay of Benghal
There were wondering cotton candy salesmen, men selling glow in the dark toys, ice cream salesmen and parrot fortune-tellers.
The card the parrot selected for Barbara was Joseph and the Virgin Mary. The card said that Barbara would take care of herself and her life would be good until age 82. Margaret’s card was the Virgin Mary which meant God would take care of her. She needs to be careful that people would want money from her and she would take care of other people.
We briefly stopped at the Ambedkar Memorial where Rae had a memorable encounter with a young Northern Indian nicknamed “Kindle” because it was embroidered on his shirt. We would see him again the next day in the same shirt at Oroville.
We went to a French restaurant called “Rendez-vous” where a lot of other ex-pats eat and as a rare feature it serves wine.
We laid our heads down at the Lotus Comfort Hotel. We each enjoyed our own rooms, our own TVs and showers with hot water. We also enjoyed a symphony during the nighttime—horns honking, dogs-barking, roosters crowing, cows mooing, goats bleating, etc., etc.
The second day we visited the Auroville and Mamallapuram. Auroville contains a non-religious commune of 2,000 people open to everyone to live at free of charge. Its centerpieces were banyan trees and a large golden sphere housing a crystal ball which the public cannot walk into, although it was allowed at one time. Meditation is supposed to be the center of life there.
We bumped into Kindle who was wearing the same Kindle shirt and said some quick hellos.
We stopped by the town Mamallapuram to look at carvings from the 7th or 8th century. This was a place where carvers practiced their craft before carving “real” temples. Many of the rocks structures were impressive because they carved intricate designs out of one piece of rock where one mistake would mean a completely ruined piece.
It felt like a very hot day for us Americans, but the Indians were out in full-force. We saw our first Indian monkeys running through the crowds, as a family. Most people didn’t bat an eye, some of the children screamed. There were ladies who set up shop selling food to throw to the monkeys.
We witnessed a road block protest as well as Indian police power at work. We took a detour around it and sailed home.
Thought for the day: Margaret is smart to store up multiple thoughts for the day so she’s ready when she does the journal entry.
Margaret and I met the Assisi Ilam children for the first time. I feel like our experience at Grace has prepared us for the short cute children who are puzzled when we start singing “Old MacDonald.” We also broke out Baa, Baa Black Sheep, Are you sleeping Brother John?, Twinkle Twinkle little star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Head, Shoulders, Knees and toes. Mary bought some chocolate gold coins. The children loved and Margaret distributed them.
Sheeba, Margaret and I went to Joyalukkas (not GTR where Margaret had gone) and I bought a pair of earrings for myself and one for my sister’s birthday. Margaret found a necklace with a rooster—her Chinese zodiac sign.
After dinner we watched soap operas and did homework. Roshan, Stephen and Sheeba all have homework.
Mary and Barbara are still on the mend. Now I found out that Rae is also down. Well the survivor is Margaret and she will make it to Assisi Illam kindergarten by herself.
The kindergarden was drinking milk when I arrived. Then it was bathroom time. On the left when you come in the gate is a area to go to the bathroom . They strip their undies pants and skirts, then they come to you to put everything back on.
A new little boy first day cried so hard that he got sick. They had to call someone to pick him up.
I’m losing my voice so trying to not talk. We tried putting book on head and walking. If you can’t read the book try using the book in another way.
Barbara and Margaret made it to Seams with Hershey kisses. We worked with the girls today. I’m trying not to talk so we played a matching game.
Pizza is the order for dinner, make my day. Also we celebrated a belate4 birthday for Mary. The pizza and cake was GREAT.
Quote for the day: “Life’s journey doesn’t need to be unique to be memorable; It becomes memorable through the appreciation of the smallest things.” James Joyce (Irish Author)
The following is a list of the small things of January 8th 2013 which made for a memorable journey:
1. Meeting our Global Volunteer Goals of Team 120…exceeding the “helping the Indian economy.”
2. Margaret’s energy and whose theme song might be “Onward Christian Soldiers” as she alone represented Team 120 at the Assisi Day Care and sang so much she lost her voice.
3. The breeze which cooled the rooftop terrace allowing for a quiet moment to create a lesson plan.
4. Feeling well enough to walk not once but twice with Mary, a veteran of the Global Volunteer India Program and who told me about the significant improvements to the lives of the local children over the years she has volunteered here.
5. Rae, who was in touch with her feelings at a much younger age than I ever was and took care of herself and recharged so she could be more energized and effective, which is especially needed when working in this ancient yet still developing country.
6. The delight on the face of the children when they master a sound…a word…a sentence…a paragraph.
7. Celebrating Mary’s birthday – albeit late yet heartfelt- in celebration of a woman who yearns to return home yet is a great example of someone who is making the best of it.
8. The incredibly gracious and polite manner in which the children of SAME Children’s Home accepted Margaret’s gift of Hershey Kissses.
9. Pizza, birthday cake and a special instrumental Happy Birthday candle which opened into a lotus…and the later dismantling of the God blessed thing!!
Quote for the day: “To those he gives great gifts, he gives great responsibility” (author unknown)
OMG! Margaret and Rae took
by storm with Rae’s drawings of
flowers, seahorses, fish and lions and a bag of crayons the room full of little
ones fell quiet while they each colored. It was the only quiet time I can
recall of the morning session and unlike my time at SEAM the morning at Assisi went on and on and
on and on and on. At one point exhausted and overwhelmed I looked at the clock
which indicated that only an hour had passed since our arrival and I thought I
would join the poor little fellow who endlessly cried for his mother. I was so
thankful for my teammates and there unwavering ability to entertain and
interact with these very little people. I think I may have stepped on one or
perhaps two. Either way despite their size they had boundless energy and seemed
nearly indestructible. Stephen and Sheeba’s presence was enormously helpful as
was the fact that Assisi
is absolutely spotless and the children clearly cared for. I had never been so
happy to see the clock strike 12:30 pm and to have a sighting of Stephen’s car
which transported me to safety! How on God’s earth did Margaret do this
solo????? She really is a Christian soldier…I would have hid! All of this is an
exaggeration - a good time was held by all especially the children who each had
two Hershey kisses – after they finished their lunch of course. Assisi
Team 120 then had the immense pleasure of meeting all of Stephen’s family who graciously invited us to their home and prepared a traditional Indian meal for us. It was truly an honor to meet this special and loving family. We were fortunate enough to have the meet his sister and her family (Prema, Thiyagu and Akash) who only visit once a year because they live so far away – nearly three day train ride from
Northern India. Stephen’s parents, Jothi and Chinnappan,
were so nice. His mother reminded me of my own sweet mother and meeting her
caused me to yearn for home and my own mother. It is easy to see where Stephen
gets his great humanity and patience from. After looking at photo albums I
concluded it was truly divine intervention that Stephen ended up with Sheeba
for his “would you like to be my wife” picture was totally absent his warm
smile. Wisely Sheeba’s mother suggested she meet him in person and they have
been together ever since – a union of
two truly gifted and remarkable individuals.
We then returned home for some much needed rest. Later in the afternoon we went to SEAM for the evening hours. Mary, who appears to be gaining strength daily, was warmly greeted by all of the children.
At home it was clear Rae’s creative juices were running and she, along with Margaret, her partner in crime, were cooking something up. With Rae’s drawings and Margaret’s singing it is bound to go to Broadway! I can’t wait to see what it is and learn my lines. A grand day was had by all!!
Thought of Day: Singing has become the universal language of our group. We use it to teach children, keep our spirits up and to have fun on long car rides. Younger Stephen calls us the laughing group, but we consider ourselves the singing group.
This is our second to last day. Barbara, Margaret and I all went to Assissi Ilam for the second time as a complete trio. We made 40 copies of one of my flower picture drawings for the kids to color, which we distributed before we did our epic retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. We used cut-out drawings from a former volunteer, Joelle, who was an art teacher. Sangeeta, the teacher, was a very helpful ally in translating the story into Tamil as we acted it out—it was one she had never heard of before and even asked us if we made it up, but she was a really got ally in story-telling once we got going. We assigned Barbara the role of the ogre since she did such a great job of doing the Big Bad Wolf. The kids were entranced by Barbara’s delivery of the line: “Fee fi fo fum. I smell the blood of an Englishmen. Whether he’s alive or whether he’s dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
They watched that tape of sing songs nursery rhymes which are very catchy and get stuck in everyone’s head. The children got up on their feet and were dancing.
After lunch we went to the second largest beach in the world, which is in Chennai. It’s a sandy beach with countless venders of all sorts and men on horses riding up and down soliciting customers for their horse rental business. Margaret and I attracted the eye of a wandering beggar women with two monkeys on a leash. Margaret snapped a good picture of her. We watched families on the beach frolic in the waves wearing all their clothes and then we headed back. As usual Barbara made so many friends. Even on the way back she was determined to make as many people smile as possible. She cracked a few hard nuts on the bus and in nearby shops.
The SEAM children were in rare form—extremely energetic, but also extremely focused on reading.
Tomorrow is our last day.
The last day but a good day.
Thought of the day ; We have flown the air like birds and swim the sea like fish. But have yet to learn the simple act of working the earth like brothers - Dr. Martin Luther King.
How can you be sad and happy at the same time? But leaving
out all emotions. God bless everyone
that I have been able to embrace. India
Team Leaders Raja Stephens and Sheeba and the whole family have been wonderful.
Barbara, Margaret, and Sheeba with Baby Stephens as driver went SHOPPING.. We purchased 100 pairs of underwear for the Seams Children Home also 3 boxes for their clothing. Thanks to Barbara.
We enjoyed Seams as usual then we had a thank you from the students. Barbara, Rae, and Margaret presented Jack and the beanstalk story and sang Bingo, If I have a hammer, and good bye song.
The students danced for us and sang several songs. We received a thank you card signed by the students and a yellow flower. How much we appreciated this ceremony that will stay with us for ever.
Good Night but never Good Bye