Monday, 11 January 2016

India Week One – An Explosion of the Senses

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: James Rosengren

Spicy curries, colourful fabrics and blaring horns. These are the multitude of elements that bombarded our foreign senses as we entered the culturally rich India.

Jumping off planes and trains, we all arrived in this foreign continent to the smiling face of our friend Mr Pancake – the happy but serious Pankaj. Scooting through the bustling streets of India, the truck weaved between the busy traffic as Tuk Tuks, cars and bikes careened dangerously around us. Making it to our outer Udaipur residence, we were greeted warmly by Pankaj's family and whichever volunteers had already arrived.

Walks around the local area, opening visits to the school and boys home followed – in between exhaustion-fuelled sleep and the ravenous consumption of our superb Indian food. During the influx of volunteers on Tuesday, a number of those already arrived journeyed into the center of Udaipur. Hit by waves of sounds, smells and sights – our senses struggled against being completely overwhelmed. The joys of our trip are truly revealed in these chaotic moments. The tumultuous journey of our own lives seems to ebb and flow inconsequentially when compared to the abject poverty that we witness here daily.

However, for these native Indian people life is full – good friends, close family and warm smiles are all that is required for the purity of happiness that we can often lose sight of in our busy Western lives.

We are all loving our time here, and constant excitement is ever ready –India always waiting to throw at us new and interesting experiences. Our first day united, Wednesday, saw all eighteen of the volunteers brought together as one large group. We journeyed to the school, passing through the small community in which it is situated. Moving through these mud and brick homes, we had kids jumping in and on us for a lift to the school. Smiles were large as we all cramped into the back of the van, the kids settling easily into the small places we didn't know were there.

Arriving at the school, we were met by a crowd of laughing young children, swarming us with their giggles and cheeky grins. Settling them down, they were left happily drawing with their paper and pencils as Pankaj commenced our tour of the little community. Life is indeed of the simplest kind in communities such as these, all life itself rotating around water. Whether it be women spending hours a day carrying buckets of this life sustaining liquid to their homes, or farmers breathing life into their crops through their watery fuel - water is the staple upon which their life revolves. In these locations, nothing can go to waste, and even cows’ feces get used as a fuel for cooking fires. It was indeed an interesting experience as Pankaj explained how they live their daily lives and the channels through which the government aid those living in absolute poverty, as per the UN's millennium goals outlined in 1998.

As we walked through their narrow street we were greeted warmly with many children circling us in excitement and even a baby goat saying hello for the first time. Gorgeous valley views concluded our short tour, and we returned to the school to play some games with the kids, and of course take some photos.

We said out goodbyes for the morning, returning home for lunch and orientation. Did you know that 36% of NASA's scientists are Indians? No? Well we all learnt something new today. Pankaj the wonder man led us through India's history and culture, before moving on to explaining an overview of the trips that would be available to us on the weekends. Then, after enjoying another afternoon of Chai we made our way to the Boy's home. It is here that we will teach and play with boys of varying ages. Due to the holiday period, there were a reduced number of boys – only 30 rather than the usual 100. Playing a variety of different games, we were all transported back to our own days as children while attempting to recollect activities such as “Duck, Duck, Goose”, “Simon Says” and “What's the time Mr Woolf?” Some volleyball, a tour of the boys’ home itself and dancing followed before we all returned home for lunch and Pankaj's City Tour.

Everyone loves their time in this exciting new place with only more adventures to come.

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