Start of the project

Trip Start Jan 06, 2006
Trip End Mar 28, 2006

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

I have been in India for five days and have done so much - maybe too much to write in detail!
We finally made it to the SCAD campus just outside of Cherunmahadevi after a 7 hour train ride on two trains. Although the journey was long and at times very uncomfortable, the scenery was spectacular and like nothing i have ever seen. We travelled from Kerala which was all waterways and palm trees, then on through the Western Ghats which is a mountainous region where the temperature was much cooler and a welcome relief. From there we reached Tamil Nadu where there are alot of rice fields and the land is very flat with the hills in the distance. Everything is very lush still after the monsoon. All the school boys hang off the handles of the open train door which is terriying to see! On our arrival we were given a very warm welcome with garlands and bindis and singing from the children from the Mentally and Physically Challenged School. It was very overwhelming.

Our first day here was spent having a tour around area and campus. We started off by visiting the Gypsy settlement where the project is which is a 30 minute bus ride away. Again we were warmly welcomed with garlands and bindis. We were completely mobbed for the entire time we were there by the children who love having their photo taken! Especially with digital cameras as they could then see themselves. We also visited a snake catchers village and a Leprosy colony. The latter was built by SCAD which is the indian charity we are working with over here. I was particulary moved by the Leprosy colony. The disease is still very much stigmatised here so families have to live miles away from anyone else. The majority of the people there are educated people who obviously didn't choose to live this way but have no choice. We then had a tour of the campus. In all there are about 2000 students who come here everyday to the Engineering college, Polytechnic, Nursing College and then the disabled schools.

We normally get up around 7am for breakfast at 7.30. We have a rota for meal times to help the kitchen staff. If it is your turn you also have to wake everyone up at 7am. We usually leave for the project site in Pettai at 8.30 and work until 12. The first day of work was spent sifting sand to mix cement. It was quite a difficult task as all the children wanted to help too! After lunch we either have free or go and visit the surrounding area. Yesterday we went to Tirunelveli, a 45 minute bus ride away. It is home to a 14 acre Temple built around 1300. It had very beautiful stone carved pillars everywhere and a temple elephant that would bless you if you put a few ruppees in her trunk. We also visited a sari department store which was an experience! Four floors of fabric and tons of people. Managed to buy a tunic and trousers which at first seemed massive on me but after wearing them for a day i now know why as they are very cool. It is very humid here and has showered a few times but when the sun comes out it's boiling!

Today is Pongal and a holiday in Tamil Nadu. It is New Year and their Havest Festival. The whole campus is decked out with bunting and all the walk ways have been decorated with intricate patterns made with food dye by the children. There was a competition for this and lots of games, singing and dancing. Traditionally you are meant to burn all your old clothes and wear new ones today. Which explains why the sari shop yesterday was manic. I was on breakfast this morning and witnessed a goat being chopped up for today's lunch. It had been slaughtered especailly for the celebrations. That's what you call fresh produce! All the same, a bit of a shock first thing in the morning!

All the poeple i am here with are lovely. Quite a mixed bunch but we all seem to get on so far. The main topic of conversation has been about sleep deprivation and how good/bad we are feeling because of this! ALthough today everyone is getting back to normal i think. We are staying in a house with four to room with a shower.
On saturday we are going to a Tiger park for 3 days which should be amazing. Although it is a 7 hour bus ride away!

The power here keeps on cutting out so will say bye for now. Hoping to upload some photos soon. I've heard the weather in England has been typically dreadful. I hope that everyone is well and happy.
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