Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Quote of the day - “Beware of monkeys seeking water “  ...  Anonymous


Early morning walks started the day for most. The Lotus Hotel is a pleasant walk from the beach and today the group went to the pier and back.  Our last stop in Puducherry was the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where beautiful gardens surround the burial plot of Aurobindo and the Mother.

Driving through the villages to Auroville we were treated to the sight of colorful statues of the local deities and a lovely lotus pond.  The Auroville grounds were extensive and the path to the visitors centre was a delightful walk through greenery and pergolas and offered the wisdom of the Mother along the way.  Lunch at the site was a welcome treat and some of the group were pleased that salads there were deemed safe to eat for western stomachs.

The final destination before heading home was Mamallapuram and in case that name is not long enough for us to pronounce it is also called Mahabalipuram. It is a world heritage site of 7th and 8th century carvings in granite – practice grounds for the stone temples that followed in the holy city of Kanchipuram.  In addition to the physical wonder of the place.  We were provided a treasure trove of stories about the Hindu gods and goddesses, their vehicles, their guards and their battles.

Peripheral activities included monkeys trying to free us of our water and vendors trying to free us of our rupees. Both were partially successful.

After that it was back to the bus for the two hour trip back to our Chennai family where another tasty meal awaited us. 




Saturday, November 9, 2013

QUOTE OF THE DAY: If you are good the whole world will be good for you. - Swami Sivananda


While we were asleep Friday night another team member arrived. So a big welcome goes out to Maria from New York City.

We are off this weekend for a little bit of sightseeing. We will be visiting temples in the town of Kanchipuram and then head south to visit the former French colony town of Punducherry. Where we will be staying overnight in a simple hotel. We are promised our own bathrooms and hot water, what a treat !!

Eight of us piled into our very clean and comfortable air conditioned mini bus. Our driver a good looking Hindu gentleman introduced himself as Madhu. And we were off on our adventure. as we blended into the morning traffic i was as usual amazed how it just works. From my western mentality there should be more accidents and stressed out drivers. But it is not like that. It just works.

Along the way to our first stop we were pointed out points of interest; marriage palaces and numerous engineering colleges.

Our first stop was at a memorial for Rajiv Gandhi. A very simple and solemn memorial to honour this man.

The next stop was in the town of Kanchipuram. Here we visited the Kailasanatha, Ekambareshwara,and the Kamakshi Amman Temples. I will not go into too much detail about these temples as you can look them up in your guide books. But we very much appreciated the depth of knowledge about the Hindu religion. We learned so many details about the customs, beliefs and myths of the Hindu religion.

Lunchtime!! And a great lunch was had by all. Most of us experienced for the first time a south Indian thali. A varied assortment in small quantities of delicious foods ranging in taste from sour to sweet to mild and spicy.

After lunch we stopped at a silk emporium and the ladies purchased some beautiful silk sarees and scarves.

We arrived in Punducherry after a 2 1/2 hour drive during which most of the people reclined the seats in the bus and had a good nap. As we neared Punducherry we narrowly missed hitting a cow which brought some shrieks from the passengers. Our hotel was great. Clean comfortable.

After settling in we went for a walk along the beach bordering on the Bay of Bengal. Had supper on the second floor of a palm thatched roof restaurant with the ceiling fans giving us a very pleasant breeze. Over conversation during dinner we continued to get to know each other a little better, and shared a bit about our experiences with the kids that we had met and how we are becoming attached to them. We skipped dessert but then on the walk back to the hotel we dropped into a Baskins Robins ice cream store and treated our selves to some delicious ice cream.

Then it was off to bed and a well deserved rest as some of us planned to get up early and watch the sunrise  over the ocean early next morning.




Friday, November 8, 2013


Quote of the Day;

"Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment."

- Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth


 "Ah... I hear noises downstairs:  "Dah-deeee!"  This means Roshan is up and getting ready to leave for school.  Our hosts Stephen and Sheeba have a delightful 5-year-old boy who lights up the house with chatter, offering his innocent form of comic relief which is so welcomed as we come and go to our work assignments each day."

Today's assignment:  Four of us again went to the day care center to sit with the 35+ children, most of whom would rather be with their mothers, so there are always many tears to chase away.  We do our best to keep their minds occupied and their hands busy, and I can see that we're successful some of the time in making them feel comforted, happy and, most of all,  loved. 

I know that the time we spend with them is useful, and deeply appreciated, yet it is also obvious that the kids are not getting the full benefit of that time.  They have so few toys or learning materials and what they do have is pitifully inadequate.  With the tools necessary to stimulate their minds and hold their attention, I think our efforts could be greatly enhanced.  These kids are so eager to learn, and they deserve a chance to show us how bright they are!

I mentioned this to the group a couple of nights ago at the table after dinner when we were sharing issues we saw as challenges.  Well, "Ask and ye shall receive!" And guess what?  Today, when we arrived home for lunch Sheeba  greeted us with smiles, said she'd been out shopping, and then brought out bags and bags full of puzzles, books, cars and trucks, building blocks, toys for learning stacking and sorting, bouncy balls with flashing lights, and lots and lots of Duplos!  Duplos are like Legos only with larger parts.  The handful of Legos the children now have are so few that the kids often fight over them, hiding them in pockets, tightly closed fists, and quite often their mouths, which can be extremely dangerous. 

We were thrilled to see all this, but not at all surprised at Stephen and Sheeba's compassionate response to our request.  They are truly dedicated to their work and have committed themselves to the goal of making the lives of these children and their families happier and more functional.

After lunch Stephen took a number of the group on a shopping trip to the government center where he said we would be able to find a wide selection of reasonably priced merchandise if we wanted to buy any souvenirs, etc.

Since my cash was running low, I decided not to go shopping and instead used the time for a personal outing to find a local ATM.  Sheeba wanted to come with me to ensure I made it home safely, but I told her it wasn't necessary -- I'd be fine.  I'd be careful.  She told me exactly how to get there:  "Down the street and around the corner."  Simple, no problem.  What she didn't explain was that the ATM sign was printed in Tamil, not English, and I ended up walking much further until I found an ATM which did display a sign in English.   However, that particular ATM would not work with my card!  Somewhat frustrated, I started back to the house empty-handed. 

Long story just to say...  well, I got lost!  Luckily, Barnabus, the go-to man who works at the house, saw me walk by twice and came out to reel me in!  I made him swear not to tell Sheeba and he laughingly said the secret would be safe with him.  At least that's what I think he said.  Barnabus' English is a bit spotty!

After the group of shoppers returned, we all set out on the walk to SEAMS for our nightly work reading with some of the older children.  But instead of reading with the kids tonight, Tey, Jenny and I offered to help Marjorie and John with the heavy labor project they've been working on outside.  They have been working so very hard each day and said they could really use some extra hands to get it finished.  The hard work was just what I needed!  It felt great to be doing something physical for a change.  We made a fun time of it, forming a sort of relay line and passing "baskets" of gravel, rock and cement chunks from hand to hand to be dumped onto the ground inside a structure which never had a true foundation before being built.  Even some of the kids got involved, bless their hearts!   

Overall, I have to say it was a good day's work.  And now I can hardly wait until Monday to see the little ones' faces when they see their new toys!





Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quote: Miguel Ruiz

What you will see is Love coming out the tree’s, Love coming out the sky, Love coming out of the Light. Your will perceive Love from every thing around you. This is the state of Bliss.

Day Five began with a most delicious breakfast. We then all went off to our assignments for the morning, and returned home by midday for a wonderful lunch, This is also the time we usually set aside for our daily discussions of how our morning, and night before assignments went, but today was a very exciting day.

This afternoon we went to visit several St Thomas sites here in Chennai. St. Thomas was one of the disciples of Jesus. We started at the place where it is said that he initially lived - here we were shown a cross embedded in a big red rock that is said to be a cross that St. Thomas made himself. For years it was said to have blead until a nun wiped the blood off, and it stopped bleeding.


Steven told us a story of Saint Alphonsa whose statue was at this church that she came from a wealthy family here in kerala that had a beautiful daughter, that the parents planned to marry her off, and upon hearing of this, she set herself on fire. She was disfigured and scarred so badly, she was then free to become a nun - her true calling. And now she is the first Saint from India.

Next to this site was the rock St. Thomas struck with his staff causing water to run from it for drinking purposes. No water had been available in that part of Chennai in those days. This well holds water to the present day and is said to heal when drank. Next, we entered a cave where St. Thomas first lived and we saw a window where a hand print impression believed to be from St. Thomas remains visible when he was escaping from assailants. We moved to another site - I had lingered on longer with my camera, so I missed this next site - however it was a place where you can see the imprints of two forearms in a stone which St. Thomas is said to have used continuously in prayer. We move on to the site of the Stations of the Cross. This took us each a longer period of time to view, and of course we had wonderful photo opportunities. We cannot express our gratitude enough for having the time to spend here, it simply was a treat that we did not expect to be included as part of our service to Global Volunteers.

Then we went to a chapel where St Thomas was entombed, and we each sat, or knelt in silence and quietly prayed. Another unexpected treat to top off our already wonderful experience was a stop at the beach of the Bengal Sea where we walked out to huge surf crashing onto the sand. We really enjoyed this even though it was brief - Elisabeth’s picture that I took could best describe our heartfelt expressions. I will try my best to post these immediately. In traffic once more we thought we were headed home, but instead we went to the Mount of St. Thomas for the incredible view where I took lots of pictures which will be included in the post. Thank You Steven you are just the most wonderful host - above and beyond the call of service

Each of us has come here to India for reasons beyond our understandings - we thought we came here for the children, but it was them that pulls our hearts together and gives us the gift that we see to chatter about on a regular base. We try to help them, but it seems instead they help us with our fears. Something greater inside is Mighty, Loving, and Whole, and this is the way it seems to express. Have you noticed that there seems to be a going on in the background but we have not been involved in the hard beautiful complications of it? Global Volunteers is a name that springs to mind, yet Stephen seems to be the backbone of putting this beautiful basket of offspring in place just for us. His family is now ours, his home has become ours, the food planned has become exquisite; everything is in perfect order. Yes, this morning I woke up in gratitude and I knew that this came from a bigger part of who I thought I am. It came tumbling and fighting out of me initially, then into a fresh new stream of understanding, and this my friends is my heart that gets put back together, and it is India and it’s people, and their love that my Heart seems to have uncovered those bubbles from within/without. This is the feast of Life only the Mystics have spoken about - I am likened to the prodigal son, bruised, whipped, humble coming into my Own. So Miguel Ruiz’s pointer is alive for our taking. We have discovered the Mystery that had lain dormant within us. It had been growing in us all along. Have a wonderful day and let the magic do its Thing. For me, India is where Life is a spring of magnetic energy. Thank you All - we are truly our one dance - constantly becoming.





Wednesday, November 6, 2013



"The one playing as many." ~ Unknown

This was our third day of work projects. Everyone went to the same locations as before. At our meeting after lunch, Stephen asked us to share our challenges.

One challenge that came up was keeping the children's interest. At first, the children are engaged in books and learning, but then they seem to lose interest. As we discussed this together we realized that being with the children, showing them love and just speaking conversationally with them as we play is also very helpful. Stephen shared a couple stories about how the children improve over time as they work with the volunteers. He told us about one girl who was scared of the volunteers because of their white skin; she thought they were ghosts and would run and hide from them. But one day volunteers brought balloons. She saw the balloons, got excited about them, and forgot all about her fear. Now, she sees the volunteers as her best friends and loves working with them. So loving play is just as important as teaching the children.

Another challenge was not enough tools (books, toys and games). Some money was given to Stephen by an anonymous donor. He said the team will discuss which tools are needed, and he will use that money to buy them for SEAMs and Assisi Illam.

This afternoon, the ladies went shopping. Most of them bought some to a lot of Indian clothes.





Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Quote of the Day –

You must release your fear of death. Nothing happens. Sometimes you have a body, Sometimes you don’t.


By Jesus, as received by Nouk Sanchez

Days begin well before dawn for some volunteers who value the stillness of a resting family house for centering, before the sounds of awakening begins Eventually the host matron enters the lower dining/kitchen level and begins preparations for the day.

The nine volunteer team members have experienced their first morning and evening assignments with daycare, school age children, and construction, and have learned that possibly their greatest gifts to the children were not detailed lesson plans, but simply their presence as they practiced presence, patience, flexibility, loving kindness, and attention to children with such a deep hunger from caring adults.

The volunteers, who may have felt some initial anxiety, were definitely placed at ease by the enthusiasm and eagerness of the children who were so eager to learn and participate. We were welcomed warmly by the children and lead by the hand when it was time to depart. As we have attempted to give of ourselves to the children, we have all realized that we have received far more. We are humbled and grateful for this opportunity to be of service in this place for children in need.





Monday, November 4, 2013

The day started with 8AM breakfast, followed by daily group meeting at 8:30 in which the quote for the day and the journal entry for the prior day was read.

After breakfast the group split to go to different project sites. The first group of three was detailed to work  construction at SEAMS (Southeast Asia Missionary School). They repaired a leak in the roof; cleaned up and organized a library; and scraped slimy green mold from the terrace outside the library so the space could be useable.

A second team of four people parted for Assisi Illum which is an Orphanage for children 6 to 18 years, but is used as a daycare center during the days when the Assisi Illum resident population goes out to school. This team worked with the 24 or so young ones, playing games, reading books, cuddling and just generally showering attention in English to these little ones.

The last team of two departed for Christ King Nursery and Primary School. This school educates 250 students, boys and a girls, from K to 5th grade. There they had the privilege of teaching English to a combined class of 2nd and 5th graders - 50 students in all. The students were enthusiastic, eager, learners, and the teachers, wonderfully supported by the Christ KIng School teacher, responded in kind. Using a world map, the teachers taught language skills, and during a lively question and answer session the students enjoyed learning  comparative adjectives and possessive pronouns while increasing their vocabulary and enhancing listening and speaking skills. They also particularly enjoyed singing a rousing version of My Darling Clementine.

A delicious lunch back at Global Volunteers House, where the team gathered, was followed by a short group meeting at which Stephen asked each individual to report on what had most impressed them their first day of work on the projects.

While some expressed their surprise and pleasure at Overcoming personal fears, such as fear of working with small children, or uncertainty about teaching after so many years, all agreed that the warmth of the welcome by the host community, and the charm and robust enthusiasm, and sheer beauty of the children were unforgetable. There was also the feeling on the part of this writer at having been very well prepared by our Group Leader and his wife.

After the discussion meeting there was time to rest, or shop (Sheeba lead a shopping expedition to Ngirli), or prepare for the next day's classes.

At 5 PM the team separated into two groups. One group returned to SEAMS and the other to Assisi Illum, where both held one on one conversations with the children and helped them with their homework assignments.

At 7PM the groups returned to the house, where another great meal was waiting for them. Salutations to Rani, a fine cook.

After dinner Stephen furthered our appreciation of indian culture by impressing us with the amazing skills of Indian a alternative healers. He also introduced us to the Indian martial art of Kalari.

Respectfully submitted,



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