'We can do no great things...

Trip Start Feb 24, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Blue Diamond School

Flag of India  , Bengal,
Monday, May 3, 2010

...only small things with great love.' Mother Theresa
We met a boy in a shoe shop with this quote on his t-shirt :-)

Heya everyone, I haven't written for a while so here comes quite a long blog!

I am thrilled to say I found out Friday that I passed the Accelerated LPC so I am all set to train as a Solicitor

I've had a good week, its amazing how much better I am feeling starting each day with a bowl of cereal & fresh mango for breakfast :-) I caught conjunctivitis last week but eye drops seem to be doing the trick. Annoyingly we have been stung by mozzies on our feet where the bars of our flip flops go! Our bedroom is getting very damp because of the monsoon season, (its easily 5x worse than living in the viaduct area in Durham). Wet clothes don't dry and we have to keep shoes in plastic bags or else they go mouldy! We are over half way through our teaching placements and the other volunteers are doing well.

4 ears and 3 noses have been pierced as well as a couple of tattoos done. Don't worry! I don't think I will be adding to the stats....Ed and I are so squeamish about it we couldn't even wait outside the piercing shop while some people were getting theirs done! There are big health warnings about catching Hep C abroad from unsterilised needles which I reckon  totally outweighs the attraction of the cheapness!

Some more random features of Indian life.....
* Money - the currency is the roupe of which there are approx 68 to the pound. Notes are in denominations of 5 upwards so you end up with lots of paper in your hand but 5 roupes is only 7 to 8p! There is a shortage of 1,2&5roupe coins so often if you buy something they give you change in 1 roupe sweets or a 5 roupe chocolate bar!

* A particularly unpleasant thing for us westerners is that it is perfectly acceptable to spit and wretch. As the bathroom is next to our bedroom we are often woken at 5.30am to these disgusting noises! I think it is to do with cleaning their teeth...
* Talking of westerners, I have discovered a new expression - 'the windy!' (its a westerner being a wannabeIndian) lol.
 * Whenever we travel by bus it is often so crowded that all luggage has to be tied to the roof rack. We try to keep our stuff with us if possible amid fears of it getting nicked or falling off the roof! Yet on Sunday on our way back from Siliguri, the bus conductor mentioned a word I have not heard here yet - 'SAFETY!' Fortunately the bus had a lockable boot he put our bag in :-) 

Possessions & the value of...
Before I came to India I (perhaps naively) thought this experience may perhaps dispel me from materialism. I think living a simple rural life has definitely shown me that only a few basic things are needed for good (albeit) basic living :-) Yet Julia & I have found that the few things we do own have taken on huge value, far more than they would ever do at home due to the reason they are few in number, difficult to replace and gathering great sentimental value. I mean things like my scrapbook, travel journal, annotated lonely planet book, adapter, phone & camera. I often lend the later three to the Thapas to use and am quite shocked at myself at how overly-concerned I get about it! (2 volunteers have recently lost ALL their photos by kids accidentally deleting them). I've come to the conclusion that it is silly to have too many unused possessions but I reckon valuing a few precious & highly useful things is just human nature and no bad thing if it means you really look after them. (We've learnt to use the 'protect' function on our cameras to prevent any deleting!) During the week I can go for days without buying anything and reckon us & the kids easily fit in that category of living off under a pound a day.  At the weekend when I have the opportunity to buy things it is difficult to resist such cheap and marvellous! A delicious hot samosa off the street is 5p, beautiful handmade cards are 40-60p and I recently got a wooden carved box for 1.50...I know it sounds bad but after a week of volunteering, the buzz of being able to buy something special is incredible!

I've come to accept that very few of my clothes will last this trip - mrs T's twin tub does a great job at getting them clean but the colours run like mad! (do not bring any light coloured things to India - they are constantly dirty!) As we wear traditional dress I have three outfits I alternate between on the weekdays. We have to handwash our underwear...Cassi & I are already planning on discarding our pants as we go when we are off travelling across India lol.

News from school
'In Dwali we set off bombs mam' ...don't you mean fireworks?! Just one of many funny mis-translations!

* We put up a sign up sheet for the talent show...Kunal wrote 'sign' which we guessed meant sing!
* We got class 2 to draw their perfect place for a picnic...one boy labelled his place 'big bazaar.' That's a shop (like an Indian Woolworths!) - you can't go for a picnic in there, you have to put your bags in a cloakroom for starters. A picnic is supposed to be outside!

Some of the activities we have got the older children to do includes explaining recipes in thier own words, writing articles on festivals and doing poems about animals - encouraging the practical free thinking use of English. I read class 7 William Blake's famous poem 'The Tyger’ for inspiration. A couple of extracts from particularly good poems...

 'Red Panda by Bishek
'they look like a donkey / they jump like a monkey / they are very funny.'

Cheater by Sahil
Cheater cheater running right 
In the jungle of the night.
Running in search of food
to eat and make its body good.
It kills animals and runs very fast
It don't know the meaning of caste.'

We are still greatly enjoying our evening walks with the kids. If we didn't take the kids out they would literally be confined to the school grounds for the whole weeks. They love to run and race, though Mr T once told us off for 'not walking in an orderly fashion' so we try to save the running for when we are away from the vicinity of the school!
Some particularly fun things happened this week at school...
* It was Prankaj's 15th birthday so we all made him cards and had a party in the nursery room. I was able to play some of my Cds (i don't have an mp3 here so getting to listen to music is so good)! Julia & I were quite humbled at the small cake which was chopped into over 20 crumbling pieces of barely an 1cm square each. On being given the first piece of cake, Prankaj gave the first bite to Mrs T, upon which lots of the kids kindly shared their tiny pieces with the birthday boy. In Calcutta when we had meals out we would often get those syrupy balls I mentioned earlier, having 3-4 and ice cream for under 50p. Here the balls were cut in half to make sure everyone got some...it was now 8.30pm and we hadn't eaten since 1pm - it is amazing how late people eat here! Julia & I reminisced about the various birthday cakes we'd had...it was so gracious that Prankaj barely even got a whole piece of his cake. Things like this make me feel so unbelievably grateful for all I received from my family. Manic dancing from the boys ensued...I wasn't sure what to do... Julia said 'kick each other' which was a pretty accurate description!

* This week there has been a transport strike over the price of oil so there have been no buses back from Regal Academy in Tindharia to Blue Diamond in Ghayabari. With our new found energy we have been walking the 6km back uphill in the hot midday sun :-) I must look quite a sight in my sowar chemise, purple converse trainers and spotty blue parasol (we are not allowed to walk in the sun without one!). It is a lovely walk of just over an hour past monkeys in the tree tops, though you have to be careful of the wild dogs! There are lots of dogs here, most look pretty manky and they often fight with each other. The kids warned us - 'if that bites you, you are dead!' I now think getting the 140 rabies injection (although expensive), was a very good precaution :-)

* An entertaining edition to my day is that series 5 of Indian Idol has started!

* Saturday evening was definitely one of our best nights here yet. Due to the May Day holiday the kids didn't have their usual 6-8pm homework session so we put on a party and talent show for them. As it was a holiday about half the children had gone home which if I am honest, made it a lot easier to do games with about 12 people rather than over 22! We played pass the parcel with challenges under each layer, hidden treasure map, musical chairs/bumps/statues, charades, the picture memory game, bang and wink murder. It was so much fun! :-D the talent show included dancing, nepali songs and jokes. We lost the power half way through a very competitive game of musical chairs but Mr T managed to hook us up to the generator so all was good!

Hope you are enjoying the bank holiday - there is no such thing here!

Love Kate xxx

P.S. I've always tried to make this blog an 100% truthful account of my life in India - the good, the bad and the ugly. The next section is quite disturbing so feel free to skip it....

On Friday I was walking up the road back to Blue Diamond, worrying about the release of my exam results later that day and singing out loud to calm myself down (there was no one around!). There were quite a few dogs about which I gave a wide berth...I had been walking a few miles between villages when I approached a big bend in the road. In the distance I saw a boy in a bright yellow top holding down a dog.

I froze in fear, I thought that perhaps the dog had just bitten him (we've seen men aggressively manhandling wild dogs before ). The boy saw me and got up...'oh no no no' I thought to myself, this cant be happening. The dog yelped and ran away...the boy then pulled up his trousers. I suddenly processed what i had just seen - he had been straddling the dog, holding it down by its front legs.  He was young, I reckon not more than 13. I slowly walked towards him, quickly realising he had some sort of disability, I think downs syndrome. I looked around but there was nothing, no houses or people. As I walked by he talked slurring his speech heavily. I kept walking and had just past him when I heard a crying sound, it naturally made me turn around...the boy was staring at me and lets just say 'finishing himself off.' I had to keep walking, I didn't actually feel threatened by the incident, more deeply saddened that in a place such as this with virtually no welfare state, who will help this poor child? I felt helpless and was so glad to be able to talk to Julia about it, i don't know who (if anyone) to tell here...I don't know who he is or where he is from :-(
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Mark Wager on

Oi Kate,
I am finally on my way on Saturday, I was delayed because of that volcanoe....really excited.

Hows things with you and how is your progress? Obviously I have been reading this blog and i agree the end of your last entry sounded awful, but apart from that the experience that you have had sounds amazing. (Durham Law Society's mention in the blog also didnt get missed!) I was going to record my observations in a simillar way, but there is no way that I am going to be able to match this wonderful piece of travel writing.

SO yeah I get to Candigarh on Sunday, which if you remember is North of N Delhi and on the scale of everything not far that far from Agra. Obviously would be lovely for you (and Julia...i feel i know her) to stay with me for a couple of days. When i get there i will check if the place i am staying is happy for me to have guests.

I ALSO really fancy going white water rafting....so lets look into it, a few gins will also be a must.

Take care and look after yourself.

Mark x x

AND FINALLY, WELL DONE ON PASSING THE LPC, I bet you are so happy and I am sure that now you have the marks it all seems worth it.

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