. needless to say it makes me smile!
One of my more traumatic experiences of the last week was a goat sacrifice. I had been invited to attend a local by Paul's family so after a sleepless night I headed up the road to the house where the goat in question was tied to a post. (Do not read next bit if you are squeamish...) To be honest it all happened pretty quickly (and I had fingers jammed in my ears and eyes closed for most of the event) but the goat was blessed and had some flowers placed on its head and it was then doused in water. Some local 'holy man' (who was making very odd noises) proceeded to drink the blood straight from the neck of the goat once the first cut had been made and started convulsing (I later found out this was because he had been possessed by the spirit of the goat) and then the rest of the head got hacked off. I later returned to the house for lunch (but couldn't stomach the little pile of goat that was sitting on the corner of my banana leaf!). All part of the experience I suppose!
On Thursday we took a 6 hour bus journey to Kodaikanal up in the mountains. Kodaikanal sits at an elevation of 2100m and is a small, misty and somewhat hippy cosmopolitan town. The climate is literally amazing. Just like spring in England. It was such a relief after the relentless heat where I am now
. Think I will be planning another little trip there next month for some rest bite! I love travelling by bus now, you see so much and India is the ultimate place for people watching (and it is even better when they don't notice you!). I saw funerals with open coffins, a man with an ironing board running an ironing service outside his little mud and hay shack, two people arguing in a tea shop. I smelt cake, fire, open sewers, tanneries and eucalyptus. All of this makes me fall a little bit more in love with South India. On Friday we went to visit one of the hill tribes. We travelled through the beautiful forest through orange, mango and banana trees and coffee plantations until we reached this little village in the middle of the forest. Ford Trust are organising for the local women and children to take literacy classes so this was the main purpose of the visit but I got mobbed by kids upon my arrival and taken on a tour of the village. Kids were climbing up trees and throwing me jungle tomatoes to eat, we were sliding down the face of a rock on our bums and doing handstands and cartwheels in a grass clearing... it was a lot of fun! The next day over breakfast in Kodai I got mobbed by some Indian boys who all wanted to sit next to me and have their photo taken... the celebrity lifestyle continues...!
In terms of work I have been busy visiting potential sponsorship beneficiaries and their families to get a better understanding of their difficulties and for what purpose they are looking for sponsorship, visiting villages that are looking for bore wells to be installed and assessing their need for water and setting up young womens groups (we now have 8 groups formed with names such as 'new storm' and 'happy flowers')
. I am finding the language barrier a little frustrating but I am trying to pick up more Tamil by the day! I find certain cultural differences challenging as well. Hearing about how the fathers of these young girls drink and then beat their wives and kids and then meeting said family and having to put it out of my mind. It is difficult. Assessing 'need' is a tricky thing to do because all the situations are so complex and so different.
6 hour journeys allow a lot of time for thinking... I really do feel so lucky to be here. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Of course there are a lot of things (and people) I miss from home and some days I think about how I am only 5 weeks into my journey (it feels like a lot longer!) with so much time ahead of me before I make it home but ultimately I have no idea what is around the next corner of this adventure and that can only be exciting...
Anyway, hope everyone is well. Please keep me updated with your news!
When I wake up in the morning (which is about 7.30 every day) I tend to sit at the front of the house and read the Hindu times, eat my apple (avoiding the Indian breakfast) and drink my tea. It is a nice relaxed way to start the day and it is interesting to find out what is happening in India (it seems a day does not go by where there is not some political event or terrorist attack that kills a handful of people). Monday through to Saturday at about 8.15 the school bus goes past from the neighboring village. I know some of the kids as they come here to play on a Saturday when Ford Trust runs a kind of kids club and it seems I have become something of a celebrity in this area... every morning without fail the windows of the bus are jammed with 30 or so smiling faces all shouting 'hello Maria akka' (akka means big sister) and waving frantically. The sound they make is pretty phenomenal! I'm not sure I will ever have a bad day here if that is my wake up call every morning. I will endeavor to record and upload this spectacle one morning this week so you can appreciate the sound..