Update #12 and goodbye India!

Hello readers! It is with very mixed emotions that I am sat in a hotel room near Bangalore airport. My adventure in India is coming to an end! I am so excited to be coming home for Christmas, but sad to be leaving behind the family I have been a part of for the last three months.

I began this week with frantically trying to finish all the work I have had to do here, which I am proud to say I achieved! All 286 children supported by Adventure Ashram now have updated information, photographs and a letter going to each of their sponsors which they have decorated themselves. It really was a huge task so I am delighted I managed to finish it. I have also been working with Solomon and a friend of his to design the new website for Grace Charitable Trust. It is not finished yet but you can take a look at our progress at http://www.gracecharitabletrust.in

It has unfortunately been a week of goodbyes, including all the villages, the school and my wonderful family here in India. The goodbye to the HUGE cockroach I found in my kitchen last Sunday was the least emotional.

On Saturday, I wanted to treat Solomon’s family to one last day out. We went up to Ooty and first visited the chocolate factory. After that, we went to an amazing french-style patisserie that we found when my Dad was here. The children were so excited to choose their cakes, although they weren’t too sure about the taste! (I enjoyed finishing them off). Still, I think it was great to show them something that they are not used to! Next, we went to a toy shop and each of them chose a Christmas present. One of them chose a teddy bear and named it Rebecca! Then we all went out for dinner at a new restaurant near Masinagudi. It was a really lovely, special day.

On Sunday, we had my last time to church and then I visited the lovely children of Chemmanatham and Chokkanally one last time. It was amazing to see the tuition centre at Chemmanathum – when I arrived they were laying the foundations, and now they have taken the scaffolding down and it is looking fantastic! The children of Chemmanatham gave me two beautiful bouquets of flowers they had made! In the evening we went into the jungle to Solomon’s friend’s house for a bonfire and cooked bananas! His friend then invited us for a drive at 6am in his jeep! Although I am not keen on early starts, I wanted to go on one last drive. Unfortunately we didn’t see any tigers, but that just means I have to come back!

Yesterday was my last day so I went to visit the school to say goodbye. It was nice to see the teachers and children one more time, although I actually ended up hiding in the staff room as the reception class decided it was hilarious pinching my bottom and trying to tell them off didn’t work, they all just imitated me! Being strict is not my strong point, so I know I’m not born to teach!

In the evening, we had my leaving party! First I watched the women make the biriyani (again not being allowed to help) and I wrote it all down so I am going to try and make one at home! I then changed into my saree for one last time. The children then suprised me with a show which was so sweet and funny. Jennifer, Solomon’s eldest, said “we should not be sad that you are leaving, because you have made us happy for the last three months,” which was so lovely, and made me decide we had to make that night a happy occasion and not a sad one. After their show, I had a suprise of my own, as I had written a speech that my neighbour had translated into tamil for me! They said my accent was perfect! The biriyani was delicious and we had lots of photos!

This morning I said a last goodbye to the family and Solomon drove me to Bangalore. We stopped off in Mysore for breakfast (£2 for both of us to have dosa, tea and juice – I am going to miss these prices!) We had a really good journey, so it took around 5 1/2 hours. I then said goodbye to Solomon, which was so sad! I wasn’t very hungry after our huge breakfast, but couldn’t resist the big golden M opposite the hotel so had some chips and a Mcflurry for lunch! And here I am in my very clean and comfortable hotel room (heaven!) filling in the time until I leave tomorrow at 4:30 in the morning, eek!

Thank you everybody who has been following my blog, it has been a pleasure writing it! Please visit my fundraising page if you haven’t already – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/rebeccasmith22. I will be fundraising for the next few months and will begin sponsoring a child of my own! £12.50 per month is such a small amount with such a big impact on the lives of the children out here. Now, time to start planning my next trip to Masinagudi!

Love, Rebecca xxx

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The new tuition centre!
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My lovely flowers!
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Cake!
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Family selfie!
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With the children!
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Another selfie!

Update #11

Hi everyone!

I can’t believe I’m on update 11 and in just 1 week I will be leaving Masinagudi! My trip has gone so quickly and I will be so sad to leave. I am really beginning to get excited about coming home though! The thought of a comfy bed and a hot shower, and a bathroom that’s not full of cockroaches and a kitchen that’s not full of ants is wonderful!

The past week I have been busy trying to finish off all the work I’m doing. In a couple of days my work will be completely finished which is brilliant, as it leaves me to enjoy spending time with the children for the last few days.

The most interesting thing to happen this week was probably when a lady collapsed in our house – despite being trained in Basic Life Support you never expect to actually need to use it! Luckily she was breathing so I only needed to put her in the recovery position. We took her to the hospital and the doctor said it was down to psychological stress and gave her a sedative. We then took her back to the house and I monitored her for the next 6 hours until she woke up. She was then complaining of a headache which made me worried she could have had a hemorrhagic stroke, so I insisted she went back to hospital. Luckily I was wrong, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! It’s unfortunate that mental health is often not taken as seriously as physical health and I tried to explain to the doctor that she needs some help – they said she was “just attention seeking” which I really don’t agree with!

I have continued to go on drives with Solomon. No cats unfortunately but we had a really fantastic sighting of some elephants! They crossed the road right in front of us, including a baby elephant. They are definitely my favourite thing to see in the jungle and it is amazing to get to see so many! We see them most days but I never stop being excited!

On Sunday I was persuaded to do another song in church. We chose Hark the Herald Angels Sing and I didn’t get round to practicing beforehand. The song was played in an unfortunate key which meant I was trying to sing incredibly high – luckily no windows were broken! I have also been attending a family prayer every evening in December – religion is such a big part of people’s lives over here!

Yesterday I got invited to another wedding. That makes 3 weddings in 3 months (hopefully won’t turn into 4 weddings and a funeral!) However, it was a tribal wedding and we weren’t allowed into the temple which is a shame. Still, we got to go and congratulate the bride and groom, and we had a nice lunch there.

Yesterday evening I went to one of the villages for the last time and so I had to say goodbye to the children – it was so sad! I’m not looking forward to all the goodbyes coming in the next week. Saying goodbye to Solomon’s family is going to be heartbreaking!

I think that’s all my news from this week so thanks again for reading and another quick reminder to please have a look at my fundraising link at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/rebeccasmith22 – thank you so much to all of you who have already donated!

Lots of love xxx

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The Jungle!
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Anaikatty village
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The Bride and Groom!
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Elephants!
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Owl!
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Saying goodbye to Boothanatham!

Update #10

Hello readers! Hope everybody is well at home and starting to get into the Christmas spirit – it seems a world away from here!

This week has yet again been a busy one – I still have quite a lot to do with 2 weeks to go, so I am working hard! I spent most days this week doing admin work at Solomon’s house, which isn’t incredibly exciting but it’s going to be hugely satisfying when it is all finished!

After my last update, we got the permission to go to one of the villages which was great, so I could go and collect information on the children and take photographs of each child. On the way back we saw a huge male elephant on the road and we got so close to him which was amazing! Solomon recognised this elephant as he used to come and eat from a tree belonging to his friend, and he used to like kicking a pile of tyres so they called him Rivaldo!

Earlier this week Solomon was called out to catch a snake (he is a trained snake handler) and it was a cobra! I then went with his brother to release it. It was very exciting but also terrifying – they put it in a black bag in the back seat of the car, so I was being driven in a car with a cobra! His brother then released it (I kept my distance) but then he picked it up! It was not very happy and was spitting! Still, a lot of people out here kill snakes so it was lucky to be released back into the wild – it was found in someone’s roof!

On Wednesday, we went to another village to visit the children. While we were there, we noticed a little boy was limping. We had a look at his foot and he had a hugely infected cut. It turns out he got a stone in his foot but instead of going to a doctor, they went to an old lady who seems to be a sort of witch doctor, and she cut it out with a knife. We managed to persuade his mother to let us take him to the hospital, and they cleaned it up and bandaged it. He was very distressed and it was so upsetting to see. Thank goodness we went that day – I think if left any longer it would be a lot worse. The villagers seem to really fear hospitals and often prefer to send their children to witch doctors or temples, so Solomon is trying to change that.

On Thursday I was invited to my neighbours house for dinner. As I had some free time, I also decided to visit another neighbour that day (they are always inviting me over and I am always busy!) I went there for a cup of tea and she was asking me which food I was missing here, and I said pizza. Anyway, that evening the doorbell rang and she was there with a pizza she had made! It was so kind of her but also meant I had to eat 2 dinners as I couldn’t possibly refuse it, or cancel the other dinner! It’s a hard life.

I have also met two of Solomon’s friends this week who are visiting from Spain. I have been on lots of safari drives which is always fun, although I still haven’t seen a big cat! My time is running out! We usually see some elephants though which is wonderful, they are such beautiful animals. We also went to Ooty, because Solomon’s friends wanted to go to a british food shop (I have no idea why as Indian food is AMAZING!) but it was so bizarre seeing cans of baked beans, jars of marmalade, etc.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at one of the villages collecting information, and it was so hot! I have to say I am looking forward to being cosy in a jumper with a hot water bottle, rather than being hot and sweaty all the time! Today I had a meeting with the teachers from the tuition centres which was useful and has given me plenty more work to get on with, so no doubt this week will be just as busy!

Once again, if you are enjoying the blog please consider donating to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/rebeccasmith22 – the money raised will all go to Adventure Ashram. It is this money that allows Solomon to take children to hospital when they need it, such as the little boy I mentioned earlier! What Solomon does is so important.

Thank you for reading and goodbye! Xxx

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Cobra!!!
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Rivaldo the Elephant!

 

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The Chokkanally girls!
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Playing in Chemmanatham
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Inside Theppakadu tuition centre!

Update #9

Hello everyone, time for my next update!

I have had another lovely week, mainly because I got to see my Dad! He arrived on Sunday evening in Coimbatore and I decided to go with Solomon to pick him up as a suprise! In true Indian fashion the journey took nearly 6 hours due to stopping off and detouring to various places, picking people up and dropping them off. It was an amazing journey though as you go over the Nilgiri mountains and through all the tea plantations.

We arrived at the hotel and were just off to suprise Dad at the airport, when he strolled into the lobby and suprised us – his flight was early! It was lovely to see him and we went out for a nice dinner before bed. The next day we drove back to Masinagudi, Dad met Solomon’s family and saw my little house! Dad had bought a chelsea shirt and a football for John and he was so thrilled, so Dad ended up playing a lot of football. That evening we went for a drive and saw some elephants. The car got stuck in a ditch right next to them which was scary – luckily none of them charged!

The next day I took Dad to Good Shepherd School to meet all the children and we had lots of fun running around. Then we went to the Jungle Retreat for some much needed rest and relaxation! It was an absolutely beautiful place and was full of Europeans which was strange for me. And they gave you cutlery! Having not used it for 2 months I decided to show off and continue to not use it… eating with your hands seems a lot more efficient to me! Alongside some semi-authentic Indian food they served roast potatoes which I think I ate my body weight in!

After lunch we went for a swim in the pool, which doubles up as a watering hole for animals at night! It was really lovely, if a little bit chilly and a slightly strange colour! We then both had a massage which was wonderful, and Solomon’s family joined us for dinner as they had never eaten there before. I persuaded the children to try apple crumble which they all thought was horrible, I think they were a bit bewildered by the food!

The next morning we left the Jungle Retreat and went with Solomon to a “housewarming”. There was a prayer meeting and then a big lunch, with lots of hanging around in between. It was great for Dad to see a local event like this, as you don’t experience this sort of thing as a tourist! That evening we went to Theppakadu village to see the children, and then for a drive and we saw some bears! There was a baby bear running around on the road looking for its mum. It then found her and they all crossed the road! Really amazing but no pictures unfortunately, we were too entranced!

On Thursday morning I said goodbye to my dad, who was off to Bangalore airport to fly home, and got back to my normal jobs. I am still writing forms about each child on the Adventure Ashram database and updating a spreadsheet. It’s not the most exciting job writing the forms but I love meeting each child individually and finding out all about them, and it should be nice for all the generous sponsors to hear some news of their children!

On Friday I was invited to be “guest of honour” at a school function. This involved sitting on a stage with a lot of eyes staring at me, giving out awards and gifts, and watching some wonderful dancing. I was then called up to give a speech which I was completely unprepared for, and then asked to join in the teachers dance which I was even more unprepared for! They had all rehearsed this dance and they stuck me in the middle! Luckily I didn’t step on anyone’s toes, but I don’t think it was my finest dancing performance… the children seemed to love it though and so did the teachers!

Saturday was a quiet day as we were meant to be going to one of the villages deep inside the jungle, but the forest department wouldn’t let us through! There is no tourism allowed in that part of the jungle and my white skin sort of gives me away as a tourist! Solomon is on the case though, so hopefully I will be allowed in again soon!

Yesterday was church again, and in the evening there was a family party as one of Solomon’s brothers has been promoted. I asked if I could help make biriyani, so I got to sit with all the women and watch them prepare it (they let me cut some coriander, but they didn’t think I was doing it right!) They used this massive pot that was almost like a cauldron, and they all sit around it. It’s so efficient and cooking for 30 people is really not a big deal for them, it all just goes in the biriyani pot and cooks away! It was really delicious, which was almost definitely due to the well cut coriander!

Now we are on to today and not much has happened yet – hopefully we will be allowed to visit one of the villages this evening. I hope everyone is enjoying the blog – if you haven’t already, please read my previous post about adventure ashram and consider donating some money at www.virginmoneygiving.com/rebeccasmith22 . I promise it’s a really good cause – these children rely on our donations to get to school each day!

Thank you and goodbye for now! Xxx

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Playing at the school!
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Swimming at Jungle Retreat!
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John loves his chelsea shirt and football!
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Lighting the candle at the school function
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Stirring the biriyani!

 

 

 

A bit about Adventure Ashram

I have recently realised that I haven’t written much about Adventure Ashram, the charity I am out here with. So here goes!

Adventure Ashram is a charity based in England that supports various charities out in India. One of these charities is Grace Charitable Trust, which is run by Solomon, the man who is looking after me out here. Solomon began this charity in 2007 after noticing that in the remote tribal villages, no children were receiving an education because they had no transport, no money and no motivation. These villages are in the middle of Mudumalai tiger reserve so walking to school was not safe. Solomon now provides school buses to take children safely to and from school and assists them in paying school fees and buying equipment. Each village (there are now seven!) now has a tuition centre where children can go to do their homework, as before this very few children were able to do it at home and were falling behind. In each village, a teacher is employed to help and support these children. As a result, the children love going to school and work really hard, giving them options for the future.

So to summarise, Grace Charitable Trust is AMAZING as it is allowing children to have an education, who previously couldn’t! And this charity receives a large amount of its funding from Adventure Ashram. You can sponsor a child through Adventure Ashram, and for a small amount of money each month know that you are changing their life for the better! A little goes a long way out here and its amazing what difference a few pounds makes to the lives of a whole family.

Another project funded by Adventure Ashram is Odanadi, the home I went to for victims of trafficking. Many of these children and young adults had been exposed to sexual and physical violence, slave labour and kidnapping. They are now being kept safe, receiving counselling and being educated.

There are some other amazing projects that are run by Adventure Ashram that you can read about on their website – http://www.adventureashram.org/
One of the big bonuses for me about this charity is that because it is small, there is not much money spent on administration. They have an amazing group of trustees and those that work for the charity do it out of love and compassion, not for the money! I love donating to a cause knowing that the money will actually reach those that need it.

So that is my brief summary of the amazing work done by Adventure Ashram. I am hoping to raise some money for them while I am out here, as after seeing all this work I really do believe its the most wonderful charity in the world. And it really is making a difference. Please please consider sponsoring me through this link – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/RebeccaSmith22 – I know I’m not doing an official task or event, but the last two months has been full of challenges as well as amazing experiences. So if you have been enjoying my blog, please consider donating. It would mean the world to me and all the wonderful children out here. Thank you! Xxx

Update #8

Hi readers! I absolutely can’t believe I’m already on my 8th update and that in a months time I will be leaving this incredible place! I have had another lovely week and have been joined by the three volunteers, Roy, Udesh and Charlie. It has been so nice getting to know them all and spending some time with a different group of people!

Unfortunately, on Tuesday I was out of action as we all got food poisoning! I have now experienced the infamous “Delhi Belly” and I have no intention of repeating the experience so need to be more careful when I go to restaurants.

By Thursday I was feeling fine again and we spent a lovely day at Good Shepherd School, where I have been teaching previously. I was greeted with a chorus of “Rebecca Ma’am!” which was lovely, and it was great seeing all the children again! Charlie brought a parachute which was an absolute hit with the reception class and we sang lots of new songs.

On Friday, we went on a trip to Ooty with chilren from two of the tribal villages. This was all funded by Adventure Ashram and it included a train ride and a visit to the botanical gardens. Things didn’t always go to plan (do they ever in India!?) but the children had a really lovely time – most of them had never been on a train before and the beautiful green lawn at the gardens was a lovely change of scenery for them to play. We also once again were inundated with requests for photographs (or not-so-subtle photographs from passers by) – I definitely don’t want to be famous as it gets so annoying when you are trying do things and people are constantly stopping you for photos! In the evening we were all feeling well enough for a drink, so we had a nice evening drinking warm kingfisher from the Masinagudi “wine shop” – the only place to buy booze and it’s a bit shady!

Yesterday we had a nice lie-in and then went back to the school (yes, school on a Saturday, I was horrified too!) We had a lovely time with the children and then we went back to Solomon’s house to prepare for the Adventure Ashram awards ceremony and Children’s Day celebrations. I wore my sari that was given to me by Solomon’s family as I have been saving it for a special occasion! When we arrived in the village I couldn’t believe how much effort had gone into decorations and the children were all dressed up and looking so beautiful! We were “guests of honour” so we got to give out the awards, and Solomon made a lovely speech thanking me for my work here (at least I think it was lovely, it was in Tamil so he could have been saying anything!)The girls from each village performed a dance and they were absolutely amazing! They had all rehearsed so well and looked like they really enjoyed it. We then had a lovely biriyani for dinner – as I’ve seen before, preparing food for 500 people is just one of those things Indian women do without batting an eyelid!

This morning, we said goodbye to the volunteers which was sad but I am looking forward to seeing them again when I get home. My Dad arrives in Coimbatore this evening so he will be coming to Masinagudi tomorrow –  the children and I are really excited!

As always, love to all at home xxx

In the classroom!
In the classroom!
Parachute!
Parachute!
Train selfie!
Train selfie!
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Botanical Gardens
Guests of Honour!
Guests of Honour!

Update #7

Hello everyone! I have had such a busy but fantastic week and have a lot to write about!

Last Monday I travelled to Mysore early in the morning and went straight to Odanadi Girls House. This is one of the projects supported by Adventure Ashram and was started by two amazing men called Stanly and Parashu, who are rescuing children who have been trafficked. This is either for sexual purposes or slavery and some of the stories are truly horrific but the work they do is really incredible.

The girls house was really amazing and alongside accommodation there is a beauty school and bakery school for the girls that do not go on to university after school. This gives them training so they are able to have a career. This meant I spent a lot of this week having various beauty treatments and eating lots of cake and biscuits! I also did a massage and injury management class with the beauty therapy girls and saw a little boy with cerebral palsy for some physiotherapy. It is an amazing place and although the girls have been through such terrible things, most of them are still smiling and laughing. They have a fantastic team of social workers and councillors to give them support.

From Monday-Thursday I was staying with Stanly and he had two little girls who I had a lovely time playing with! Him and his wife were very interesting people and I really enjoyed talking to them and learning more about Odanadi. I also went to another wedding reception! I thought the last one was big but this was a whole new level – Stanly estimated the number of guests at 3000!!!!

On Thursday night after spending the morning at the girls house, I went to a very posh hotel to meet my Dad and all the other bikers passing through Mysore. The hotel had a swimming pool so I had a wonderful time relaxing and swimming before they arrived. It felt so strange seeing my Dad on the other side of the world but it was really lovely. I had my first beer in 6 weeks, a nice meal,  an air conditioned room and a fantastic shower!

The next morning I went to Odanadi boys house with all the bikers. They were all so excited to meet us and see the motorbikes! The bikers all then set off for their next destination and I had a lovely day getting to know the boys. I taught them to play musical bumps, which they loved! That evening I went to another hotel (much less posh but still nice!) and met three volunteers from Adventure Ashram who had just arrived to spend 10 days in India. It was absolutely lovely to meet them and we had a nice dinner and more beer! The next morning we went back to the boys house. They have just built a new kitchen and dining hall and it was the official opening! We were made a fantastic lunch and had a great time playing with the children. In the evening, we got to explore Mysore and I got to practice some bartering skills in the shops (I’m not very good!)

Yesterday, we went back to the girls house and it was lovely seeing them all again. We played lots of games and had some more nice food there. After that, we went to a temple on Charmundi Hill. It was a great experience – we climbed 300 steps, made an offering and walked around the temple. We then saw the sunset from the top of the hill which was beautiful. After that, we visited Mysore Palace as they turn on the lights on Sundays – apparently there are one million! It was absolutely stunning and the pictures do not do it justice. We were also stopped for photographs with so many people and I made another poor baby cry with my scary white face!

Today we have all travelled to Masinagudi – it’s so nice to be “home” after a week away! The children all ran down the road to meet me and we had some big hugs. I really missed them! The three volunteers (Roy, Udesh and Charlie) will be staying in Masinagudi for the next week and it’s really wonderful for me to have some company – especially with such lovely people!

So, that is my week in a few paragraphs. More to come soon!

Xxx

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Odanadi Girls House
The wedding!
The wedding!
The wedding meal
The wedding meal
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I found Dad!
The boys house
The boys house
Dinner with the volunteers!
Dinner with the volunteers!
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Selfie!
The temple
The temple
Sunset over Mysore
Sunset over Mysore
Mysore Palace!
Mysore Palace!

Update #6

Hi everyone! Time for the next update…

This week has been a little bit more quiet, although still busy of course! One of my big jobs while I am out here is to meet all the children that have sponsors or need sponsoring, and get some information about them to send back to Adventure Ashram. There are rather a lot of children and I decided to hand write the forms! I thought this would make them a bit more personal, however nearly 100 forms down my hand is close to dropping off! Makes me realise how little handwriting I do any more… Its all typing!

After gathering the information and writing the forms, I am getting the children to decorate them and they look really amazing! To all of you lovely people that sponsor a child, be very excited as some lovely drawings are coming your way!

Speaking to the children, it’s so touching how much they appreciate what they have and makes me realise how much we take for granted! Most of the children really love school and one of them said to me this week “I like school because there is enough water to drink there.” The children also love to play outside, climb trees and swim in the river – it’s nice to not hear the words “ipad” or “xbox” for once!

Being at home a bit more this week, I have got to spend more time with the children which is lovely. The board games I brought when I arrived 5 weeks ago are still just as popular and I have also been helping them with homework and school projects. I like being a big sister! They call me “Aka” which means big sister in tamil, and I call them “Tambi” and “Tangachi” which means little brother and little sister!

Just thought I would write a bit about the food here, as I don’t think I have praised Vidhya, the mother of my “indian family” enough! She really is a fantastic cook and works so hard in the kitchen. In India, eating rice three times a day is meant to be a sign of wealth but luckily she only cooks rice once or maybe twice a day. I am so glad about that as I like a bit of variety! We also have chapatti (flat bread), dosa (pancakes) and iddly (rice cakes) quite a lot. My favourite breakfast is coconut dosa – I’m still not totally converted to curry for breakfast! I love biriyani, which they have for special occasions here, and egg chutney with chapatti which is like an Indian version of scrambled eggs on toast! A couple of days ago she made pasta which was so exciting! I think the food I am missing most is cheese (they don’t have it here) and cake (I shouldn’t have watched the bake off out here!)

This morning I went to church again which was as lively as ever. It went on for an extra hour which was a bit much for my joints and I got some of the worst pins and needles I’ve ever had! Hopefully wiggling my feet in the air passed as a worship dance! I also sang another song, this time accompanied by a keyboard – I wasn’t expecting “seek ye first the kingdom of god” to have such a techno-style accompaniment but it definitely livened up the song a bit!

One of Solomon’s brothers and his wife have been expecting a baby and last night it was born by emergency caesarian six weeks early. The baby is on NICU and she is having some breathing problems. Today I went to the hospital (I didn’t think they would want me there but I was pulled along with 20+ family members – they don’t have the same visitor rules as England!) and I got to see the baby. She is so sweet but I was shocked at the state of the NICU. If only she could be treated in England, we are so lucky despite all our moaning about the NHS! I have all my fingers crossed that she will be okay.

Tomorrow morning I am off to Mysore for a week and the exciting news is my Dad will be there on Thursday! He is doing a motorbike trip from Chennai to Goa and is coming to stay with me for 3 nights afterwards but he is passing through Mysore and it’s lovely I will get to see him early! Also I’ve been promised a beer which, after 6 weeks with no alcohol, I am really looking forward to! I will also be meeting some other Adventure Ashram volunteers who are in India for 2 weeks next Friday – it will be lovely to have some English company!

I am off now as I really need to pack for my week away! Goodbye everyone xxx

Selfie with two of my
Selfie with two of my “tangachi’s”
New friend at the hospital!
New friend at the hospital!

Update #5

Hello readers!

It has been another busy week of course, but a really great one! On Monday and Tuesday of last week, I was teaching at the school again. It was my last day at that school on Tuesday but I have promised to go back! My highlight of teaching last week was a lesson with the young children I taught on “transport” – one of the questions was pictures of different vehicles and asking how many people can travel on it. I got some interesting answers for motorbike and car – apparently five people on a motorbike and eight people in a car is the acceptable number! I see this frequently so it shouldn’t come as a suprise, but it still made me laugh!

On Wednesday, I travelled to a place called Kannur with Solomon’s family. This is by the sea in Kerala, a state in south western India. The journey took around six hours so we were very glad to arrive. As soon as we got close, the humidity hit us – I thought Masinagudi was hot but this was something else! Our apartment was very nice though, and overlooked the sea which was fabulous! Soon after we arrived we walked down to the beach and I played in the sea with the children – everybody goes in the sea in their clothes as shoulders and legs must be covered! Seems very impractical to me! The beach and sea was not too clean, much like everything in India, which is a shame. There is litter everywhere!

On Thursday we had a full day in Kannur so we went to a snake park, which had some other animals too so was really like a small zoo. It made me sad to see animals in such small cages. We then went to a waterpark/theme park close by which was really fun, although again of questionable cleanliness. It was nice to go for a swim though, and there were some fun slides and rides. The children absolutely loved it so I was so happy to have given them that experience. On the way back, we drove past a big circus tent and a show was about to start so we managed to squeeze that in too! Some of the acts were really impressive, although I do find clowns a bit creepy!

On Friday, we drove to a different beach on our way home. This was an amazing beach that was almost deserted, so was actually clean! You could drive the car along the sand which was fun, and we got out and played on the beach. It was lovely being somewhere so calm and peaceful – a rare experience around here!

We arrived back on Friday evening and on Saturday I went to a wedding with my neighbour! This was up in the mountains in a place called Ooty. The ceremony took place in the church (we were late so missed most of it, thankfully!) and the reception was held next door. There were around five hundred guests so it was heaving! They served a delicious biriyani though, and afterwards there was some traditional music and dancing. I sat and watched and was eventually persuaded to join in, much to the delight/amusement of all the locals. I saw a lot of people not-so-discreetly filming me so I imagine I’m all over Indian social media by now as “the white woman who can’t dance”.

On Sunday it was back to work following another eventful church service – this time a woman started jumping up and down and screaming, and I’m not sure why. They also asked me to come up to the front and sing a song which I wasn’t too happy about, but it was hard to say no and so the church goers were treated to a shaky rendition of “amazing grace”. They have now asked me to sing something next week so I don’t like the trend that has started! After church we went to a local village, as I am gathering information about the children to send to their sponsors. The children had made an amazing pattern out of flowers on the floor and it must have taken hours! I also got told by someone yesterday that I am “much fatter than before” – so that was nice! I think it was meant as a compliment, strangely, but I am now feeling a bit paranoid and have decided I need to start turning down seconds even if it is considered rude – otherwise I’ll be needing to buy an extra seat for the plane home!

Today has been a bit of an admin day, I’m not working at the school this week as there is just too much else that needs doing! Next Monday I will be going to Mysore for a week, to spend time in a hostel for children rescued from human trafficking. It sounds like a challenging experience but also an amazing one and I am looking forward to meeting all the children. I will also be meeting three other Adventure Ashram volunteers, who are here for two weeks – it is very exciting!  But I will do another update before I go!

Love to everyone at home – can’t believe I’ve been away for a month now! Time flies.

Xxx

At the water park!
At the water park!
The beach!
The beach!
New outfit for the wedding!
New outfit for the wedding!
Dancing! (The bride is in blue)
Dancing! (The bride is in blue)

Being the English Woman of Masinagudi!

Staying in a small village in the middle of a tiger reserve means that tourism is pretty rare. I’ve been told that Indians from other states are almost looked on as foreign, so I get some pretty interesting reactions!

Most of the people I meet are so incredibly friendly! The women invite me into their houses for tea or food, and the children all want to shake my hand and chat to me. Lots of them will squeal with excitement when they see me and laugh hysterically at whatever I say. Although they learn english at school, they think my accent is hilarious!

Some of the less confident children are a bit more dubious and will just stare at me looking a bit worried. A few children from the tribal villages have even cried when they saw me! I guess it’s a bit scary seeing a person with a different colour skin if you didn’t even know it existed!

I recently found out that some of the more “old fashioned” tribal men are very suspicious of white women – they believe we are unholy and touching us will spread it! So every now and then I am met with somewhat hostile glances. I am making sure I am respectful of the culture here, always covering my shoulders, chest and ankles (leading to horrible tan lines!) but I don’t think there is much I can do to change this opinion. Luckily it is not held by many as the vast majority of people here are so very friendly.

It is definitely safe to say I stick out like a sore thumb here! The teachers at school have told me I am like a “little white doll” and the children all like to hold their skin next to mine, or prod my arms and face. They are also intrigued by my eyes, as many of them didn’t know blue eyes existed! I am getting used to people’s eyes following me wherever I go, and occasionally people getting out their phones and taking a photo of me when they think no one is looking! I have to say, I am looking forward to being “normal” again when I return to England!