Damn now I have to work!
Trip Start Apr 28, 2006
31Trip End Oct 21, 2006
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Anyway after all that trauma, the train journey was luxurious! I'd paid a bit extra to go on a posh 'Rajdhani Express' train, which we hadnt tried before, and it was so worth it! All food was included - food entailing not only dinner and breakfast, but snacks like samosas, soup, tea/coffee and even chocolate eclairs - served practicaly every couple of hours! But what was most amazing was the toilet... It flushed! And eeeven had toilet paper! swoon... Too good to be true. And, also quite comforting for my first trip alone, there was a white guy next to me - he was American, and a bit of a freak, and talked about missionaries... A lot... But it was still nice having someone to talk to!
We arrived at New Delhi station, almost on time, and I decided as I'd splashed out a bit on the train ticket, I should probably go budget for the rest of the journey to Dehradun, which meant getting a good old shitty public bus! After a bumpy seven hours, I arrived at Dehradun bus terminal and was eventually picked up by four teenage boys and taken to Raphael Ryder Cheshire International Centre, where I will spend the next two months. As it was late and most of the staff had left, there wasnt really anyone to properly greet me; so I was dropped off at the Volunteers' Mess, cooked a quick dinner by some dude, then left on my own
Next morning I met my cook Dhan (my very own personal cook - how weird!) who made me tea and toast (simple the best!) Then I trotted off to the office and waited apprehensively for the ominously-named 'Director' to see me. After meeting all the official-type people (most with military backgrounds and therefore titles like 'General', 'Air-Marshal' and 'Brigadier') I was given a tour of the compound. Raphael run a number of different projects; there is Ava Vihar (where I'm working) which houses about 70 disabled and mentally handicapped adults and children; during the day the children are joined by about 50 day-students and they have classes in maths, communication, reading, domestic and self-help skills, music and art. There is also 'Shiv Sadan', a colony where a number of cured lepers live relatively self-sufficiently, as they cant be integrated back into society because of all the stigma associated with leprosy. The 'Little White House' (recently painted red!) houses many of their children (who are also ostracised from society just because their parents had the disease) along with other orphans and children from disadvantaged backgrounds
On my first day of work, I went round observing whichever classes I liked; all the children I met were so sweet and funny - one severely disabled boy told me off for chewing gum in class, which was quite amusing! I was also taken to meet the residents of the leper colony, which was a bit bewildering - I found the best thing was to paste a huge grin on my face and put my hands together in a 'Namaste' greeting to everyone I clapped eyes on! Ther were very friendly anyway, although I did have a huge crowd of people with no fingers around me at one point - bit intimidating! That evening the Liaison Officer (think her name's Rishi or something!) kindly took me to her house for a while so I wouldnt get lonely - she wants me to do yoga with her hahaha! Her house was huuuuuge - there was even a gate-opening man who stood to attention and saluted as we drove in! Craziness!
I spent all of the next day with one class - moving round with them to their different lessons
Yesterday I went round with a different class to try it out - unfortunately there was only one child as the others were absent - a quiet, serious little boy with Downs' Syndrome and an unpronounceable name. But a gorgeous smile when I was lucky enough to get one! In the evening I took Bhola, one of the old men from the chronic ward, for a walk to the chai shop. He gets really bored lying in a darkened room all day so he loves it when people visit and take him out - nevertheless I'm glad I took two boys with me to help with the wheelchair - as well as not being able to get him up the hill, I would never have understood his requests for beedies (cigarettes) and stopping for wheelchair-fixing from a guy in the street! I'm having to learn Hindi fast - I've learnt more in the past three days than I had in the three months before! A lot of the children, but particularly the adults, dont speak any English, so I've been forced to crash-learn some basic words and phrases
So I'll update you all again soon, probably next weekend - there is internet at Raphael but its so slow I dont think I can be arsed! Keep texting me so I dont get too lonely :o) God I'm such a sad-case at the moment, if I get through the next two moths I'll be very impressed with myself!
Miss you all loads and loads! Til next time,
Han/Moses xxxx :oP