Hello, My name is Ines. I'm about to go to Jaipur in India for 2 months to work with Indian women. I have to wait until I arrive to find out exactly what I'll be doing but possibly teaching English and computer skills. I used to be a high school teacher in Sydney, teaching Japanese and had several trips to Japan, some with my students to visit our sister school. I have three children who are grown up now. They are my proudest achievement and I'll miss them while I'm away. I have lots of hobbies. Travel is one of course and I like to go where there is snow in winter so that I can ski. I learnt at Perisher in NSW. I have lived near the ocean for most of my life and love to swim in ocean rock pools where you often find yourself swimming with the fish. I read a lot and also like to take photos and paint. I'm taking some paints with me to India.

Krishna’s Story

 Posted by Ines at 6:49 pm  India  Comments Off on Krishna’s Story
Feb 122011

A couple of weeks after I started teaching in the slums of Jaipur, a new student turned up in my class. Her name was Krishna and she was eighteen years old. Standing as tall as she could the top of her head reached my shoulder. Her soft loose clothes were red and yellow and her long hair was tied back. When she walked she bent at the waist, and with one hand supporting a leg that stuck out sideways she hobbled across the room to find a place to sit. I asked her some questions and she replied “Yes” in very fluent and convincing English. In fact she could read English and seemed to understand quite well. She was happy to call out when I asked the class a question but if I asked her directly she would smile and shake her head in a paroxysm of shyness. I started her on the computer and she was able to find the letters on the keyboard and copy out a few sentences about herself. We changed to the Paint program and she tried writing her name in free form on the screen. A couple of weeks later I happened to look up and see her using the tools of the program to make a picture. She had learnt to do this herself by watching the younger girls in the class.
Part of my work is to do home visits. In this way Idex can build a profile of the families they are assisting. Soon after her arrival I paid a visit to Krishna’s home. She lives with one of her six brothers and his wife and has done since she was four years old, when her father died. This couple now have three small children, one of whom is Sita, a little girl with short cropped hair who sometimes accompanies Krishna to class and who watches with interest everything that goes on. It turns out that the family only moved to Jaipur six months ago, after the death of Krishna’s mother. The accommodation resembles some sort of bomb shelter, except that it is above ground. There is a large dirt courtyard, surrounded by a low wall, and the building is set back off the lane. I ask what happened to Krishna’s leg and am told that she got polio at the age of ten. Can’t anything be done, I ask. Oh yes they reply. For about 4000 rupees she could have a plastic leg and for the unheard of sum of 20,000 rupees (about $400) she could have an operation to remediate the problem in the leg, without amputation. I make a note on the home visit form to the effect that Krishna is in need of urgent medical attention.
Fifteen years ago when I was in India I stayed at Puttaparthi, in the ashram of one of India’s most famous holy men, Sai Baba. I remembered that the hospital he had established there offered free medical treatment to Indian people so I sent an email enquiring about polio cases. I received a reply directing me to a different specialist hospital. Now I needed someone who could speak Hindi to make a phone call for me. Shuchi from our volunteer organisation (Idex) came to the rescue. She is passionate about the work of helping the largely unrepresented and uneducated women of India. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact this hospital she suggested another that is in Udaipur and closer to where we are in Jaipur. It would provide free treatment, accommodation, food and medicine for Krishna and for one family member to be with her.
Now it was up to me to inform Krishna. Did I really want to get her hopes up? I didn’t know whether she really could be cured. Was I prepared to take her to the hospital myself if need be? Was there a family member who could be spared to stay with her for as long as it would take for her to be cured? The question that most baffled me was why the family hadn’t done something to help her before now,considering that help could be had free of charge. Why had she been left to suffer like this for 8 years?
I visited Krishna’s home and was greeted by her sister in law. She was unable to make this decision. Krishna’s six brothers must be consulted. (Krishna also has three sisters.) By the time a week had passed Krishna’s family had agreed to let her go to hospital and it seemed that there was a young brother that would be able to accompany her. Some of the other volunteers in the house were talking of sightseeing in Udaipur the following weekend. Great! I booked a car to take us to Udaipur. Krishna and her brother would be able to come with us. By Friday things were not so clear. The family was undecided. The brother was not free to go but another sister in law, who had no children to look after may be free. My fellow volunteers had changed their minds about the trip so I went to Udaipur alone. I had the driver find the hospital when we arrived and I visited to make sure it was all as I had been told. I was granted an interview with Doctor P, who manages the hospital. He encouraged me to bring Krishna to the hospital. I could see for myself how busy and well run the hospital was.
A few more weeks went past as I waited to hear when Krishna would be ready to go to hospital. As my time in India was drawing to a close I enlisted the support of more and more of the Idex staff. Krishna’s family were inveigled into freeing up family members and although an Idex member of staff would have come with me if there had been time to organise it, I had the company in the end of a fellow volunteer, a young Canadian girl called Andrea, a fearless mountain climber who at the age of 18 could not only scale mountains in Nepal but was also practised in using trains and buses in India!
Through an interpreter Andrea and I had finally coordinated our movements with Krishna and co. We set off in a tuk tuk to collect them on our way to the train station. It was the first time I had been in the slum at night. It was strange to rattle through the dark, empty streets and stop in front of Krishna’s home. Her slender sari-clad sister in law came out to greet me and I clasped her arms to reassure her. A starless night in a bombed out ghetto, and I was smuggling out one of the battle injured. Krishna smiled happily, the tears and fears of the past week forgotten now that she was actually on her way.
Somehow I survived a night on a bare bench in a compartment of 6 benches that made up a sleeper. On the top bunk I hid my eyes from the lights with my shawl and contemplated the ceiling fans and the discomfort of travelling in the heat instead of this bone numbing cold. The next morning I shuffled down from my bunk and out into the continuing cold blackness. The tuk tuk driver we hired must have been used to the walking wounded arriving in the wee hours as he took us through winding lanes, directly to the hospital, where we sat on the footpath with other supplicants as the sky lightened. By the the time the hospital gates opened we were hemmed in by the lame and crippled and their families.
As the curiosities we no doubt were, the hospital staff came and singled us out with the result that Krishna was first in line to see a doctor. Andrea and I were led to a room with relatively clean plush seats and offered chai and eventually we were interviewed by Dr P who remembered my previous visit and made us a promise to admit Krishna to the hospital today. Only later did we find out that many patients are examined and booked in a year hence for their operations.
The doctor arrives and we are ushered down to his room to hear his verdict. Krishna lifts her pants leg to reveal her thin leg with callouses from the pressure her hand makes as she supports it to walk. “Three operations” he pronounces and the interview is over except that Gokol who is with us looks outraged and says “No”. Andrea and I stare at him in amazement. There is no time to consider his feelings as we make room for the next patient and cross the road with Krishna for an examination by the physiotherapist. This is the blind man in the hospital’s promotion booklet. He was helped to his present position by this hospital. It is fascinating to watch him manipulate Krishna’s legs, all the while pronouncing “Plus 3” o “Minus 2” as his assistant fills in a chart. Krishna, being shy, nods at one of his questions and is rapped on the head by a nurse, to make her speak.
We cross the road again and the first doctor inspects her chart. Perhaps Gokol had thought he must make this epic trip again, from Village to Jaipur, from Jaipur by train with foreigners to Udaipur. He has had to ask for time off work. There are no holidays, sick leave or compassionate leave to fall back on. He has left his wife and one year old daughter for the first time. Anyway he seems to have no objections now to Krishna remaining at the hospital. Andrea and I are offered a tour of the hospital. After seeing where the prostheses are made we put on scrubs and walk into the operating theatre. Unlike hospitals that I have seen before there are no bright ceiling lights and not many shiny stainless steel trays. Patients under general anaesthetic are being operated on. The first patient is a small girl with her leg open at the shin. A doctor has her hands in the incision, gripping the bones as if to break them.
Krishna’s first operation is scheduled for ten days hence. Andrea and I head off for lunch and a spot of sightseeing before we catch the night train back to Jaipur. By the time the train departs I have vomited and have a fever. Delhi belly! It had been going around at the volunteer house. Andrea finds the waiting room and the correct spot on the platform to wait for our sleeper. I huddle with a blanket around me and over my head and wish I could lie on the platform and hide under it as so many of our fellow travellers are doing, oblivious to the feet of other passengers.
The Delhi belly seemed better for my last day in India and I went to a dinner with all the volunteers from the house. We celebrated Andrea’s 19th birthday and I said my farewells. That same night the Delhi belly returned and I began the long haul back home; Jaipur to Delhi on a plane delayed 4 hours; from Delhi to Singapore with an 8 hour stopover and finally, aching all over, from Changi airport back to Sydney where my dear dear partner was waiting for me with a bunch of red roses. The heat wave in Sydney hadn’t broken yet and I hurried to the air conditioned car and the privileged existence that is my everyday life here.

In the Classroom

 Posted by Ines at 9:07 pm  India  Comments Off on In the Classroom
Jan 252011

It’s India’s National Day today. I have a holiday from work and time to reflect on what I have achieved with my students. It’s not as if they are speaking fluent English now,or even attending our little classroom regularly. The programme I am enrolled in is called ‘Women’s Empowerment’ but it is difficult to empower women to whom I cannot speak in their native Hindi and who are still struggling to recognise the letters of the English alphabet. Sometimes my ‘women’s’ class is half full of boys and the girls are only aged from eleven to fourteen!
At the request of our Idex supervisor I have introduced a few ‘discussions’ based on articles that I find in the daily newspaper. We talked about the rising cost of certain food items. At the moment the soaring price of onions has been in the news. The newspaper article mentioned that some women, forced to make do with fewer ingredients, are likely to continue to feed their husbands and menfolk a hearty meal while having less for themselves. This should incite a little resentment methinks but no, the response of the women was to murmur their approval of these self sacrificing women. These were obviously women of good character! What, I ask, if they are pregnant and need the food for the unborn child? Oh, in that case they would take the food for themselves, I am told and the men would not object. It is good to realise that India is peopled with men and women of such outstanding character!
The next newspaper I pick up has three articles about mistreatment of women in India. This is just on the front page! One low caste married woman who resisted rape was burnt to death by her outraged attacker. The Indian consul in London has bashed his wife, who ran bleeding into the street. He claimed diplomatic immunity with no sign of remorse. The third story was about a seventeen year old girl who had been raped by a prominent politician and was then jailed by him for alleged theft. Now an attempt to bribe her female prison guard to suppress the story, has failed, because the guard refused the bribe. The heading I wrote on the board was ‘Respect for Women’. My married ladies nod knowingly. What should women do to help themselves, I ask and they agree that women should speak up. At this point one of the women becomes quite agitated and has a lot to say. Often when I think they are arguing and interrupt to ask what is going on they will giggle and say “No, no just talking.” My class supervisor tells her “No, no Aunty, be quiet.” It is not till later that I discover what the problem was. Rambai-devi’s husband has an alcohol problem. He drinks every night. Later still I am told “Yes, yes, this is a very common problem in the slums.”
So what difference does it make that I and so many others come to India to volunteer our services? Are we just a passing parade for the underpriveleged to practise a little English with before we move on?
The fact that there is a Volunteer Centre is a positive thing in itself. Even when there are no volunteers it remains open, being run by Idex staff. The women can meet each other outside of their home environment. Although they live day in, day out, in close proximity they did not know each other when they first came to the Centre. Whether they learn English, maths or computer is of secondary concern. For some it requires breath taking nerve to venture into their first educational environment. On my first day there was a lot of giggling and mirth at the expense of one of the women who told us at the end of the class that she had decided she would come to class but fearing that at the last moment her courage might fail, she would then spend the time in the toilet.
We volunteers come from different countries and cultures, all of which have greater regard for womens’ rights than does India. Perhaps we can be an example to them of emancipated womanhood, even if to them it appears that we have come from other planets, not just other countries?
Another contribution that I feel we make is to take our students on outings. These excursions are a very big deal for them. Mothers’ faces appear in the schoolroom to check out who is taking their children away for the day. The girls arrive dressed in outfits that I haven’t seen before, clean and smart with their hair freshly braided. A few older girls turn up as well. They are too busy with chores to come to school often and I don’t begrudge them a day off. It saddens me to think that in my short time in Jaipur I have seen more of their city than they even know about. I pay for the tuk tuk rides, the entrance fees at the Science Park, for road side lunches and ice creams. They squeal and tell me what a good teacher I am. Of all the exhibits the true to scale dinosaur is by far the most popular. There are playground rides in the park (with scientific explanations about displaced mass, potential and kinetic energy etc. — not interesting!) and I enjoy seeing 18 year olds play like little children after watching them at home, squatting to sift sacks of grain or do their stitching. There were fifteen of us and the entire outing cost me about $20.00. Two of the married women accompanied us on our last excursion, to the Planetarium. Sita-devi looked superb in her yellow sari with loads of heavy jewels round her neck, dangling from her ears, her arms covered in bangles and wearing lipstick and nail polish! Gora-devi giggled throughout our lunch. It was the first time she had been to a ‘restaurant’, in truth a little cafeteria but in lovely garden surrounds. The girls must have got their heads together as they all turned up in jeans and none had head scarves this time!
My personal ambition was to feel that I had made a connection with the people I would meet. What a very successful trip this has been.

Camel Safari

 Posted by Ines at 1:33 am  India  Comments Off on Camel Safari
Jan 092011

Last weekend I went on a camel safari. What an extraordinary thing to do! Along with four other volunteers from my Jaipur house, I was driven to Pushkar in a comfortable four wheel drive and at about three in the afternoon, we found ourselves being fitted with camels for a three hour trek to a camp in the desert. I have ridden a camel before in Alice Springs, Australia and remembered it as an uncomfortable ride where I lurched along on a camel that had very bad breath, so although I was keen to do the ride I anticipated having a sore backside by the time I reached my destination. Once astride a seated beast, it was encouraged to its feet by vigorous tugging on the rope attached to the post through its nose and up onto its front legs as we lurched backwards then further up we went as it managed to stand on all four feet. Suddenly we were high above the crowd. Each camel had its assigned camelteer who led the camel for us for the first hour of our trip. I had not believed that the dust in the street of Jaipur was blowing from the desert and to prove me right the air in the desert was quite a bit cleaner. In Jaipur the roads are not curbed and the dust of the streets is constantly being churned up. I was surprised to find that I was very comfortably perched on my camel, whose name was Mr. John. We rode through fields of roses,marigolds, crops and fruit trees. What sort of desert is this? The fields are irrigated from an underground water supply and the watered earth is fertile. We stopped in some sandhills for the camels to rest and when we resumed our trek the camelteers leaped up to sit behind us. At times they gee’d them up into a lolloping trot. Viewed from behind the camel appeared to sway as though being tossed by waves. Is that why they are called ships of the desert? As night drew on it started to get colder. Our camp accomodation was small tents with camp stretchers. No zippers to keep out the chill night air! We watched our camelteers mount their camels and whip them into a gallop. It was quite something to see them race off home. We gathered in the dining tent over hot cups of sweet ginger flavoured chai and chatted to the other campers from a different volunteer house. There were ten of us, nine women and one man. The Indian guides, driver and cooks were all men. We were served dahl, rice, curried vegetables and hot chappatis. The latter were brought in as they were cooked and handed to us by the chef, a tall desert man in turban and dusty lungi. If you remember the TV series, The Adams Family, you might recall the man servant called Lurch, an unsmiling giant lacking social graces. We looked from one to another as we reached out our hands to accept our chappatis from his hand and to assure him that no, we didn’t need any more, thankyou. Dessert was a desert specialty of a sort of sugar sweetened pancake. These had been made earlier and we had to put our hands into the plastic jar to try and loosen one from the top of the pile. After dinner we took our chairs out to sit around a log fire. Toilet facilities were bushes beyond the fence in the darkness. Those of us who had bought beer earlier in the heat of the afternoon almost thought better of drinking it in the cold night air with the prospect of an extra excursion with the kerosene lamp. I stayed by the fire toasting my toes for as long as I could then crept fully clothed onto my bunk and pulled the quilt over my scarf covered head. We were woken by the sound of music at 5am, not a welcome sound! We thought our guides and cooks had turned the radio on but it turned out to be the huts further along the road. Farmers rise early to start work and before the day begins they sing and pray. Used to the noises of the street in Jaipur I mentally blocked out the sound and stayed still so that no cold air would creep under my covers. I was prepared to miss the sunrise and wait for a little warmth from the sun, as long as my bladder would hold out! It was only a short drive back to the sights of Pushkar, the temples and bazaars. A luxury trip it was not but the exhilaration of that desert trek is still with me.

My Daily Routine

 Posted by Ines at 6:01 pm  India  Comments Off on My Daily Routine
Jan 032011

I have been here three weeks now and my weekday life has settled into a routine. Because my room is dark I seem to sleep in until I hear people moving about at 8am when breakfast is ready for us. A few times I got up early and led a yoga class. I have said I will do it again but we have all been a bit lazy. Our Indian house “mother” is a young Indian girl called Priya. Her English is improving quickly but when she gets stuck she giggles and smiles. We all call on her for help with the tuk tuk drivers, making phone calls etc. Today as usual after breakfast, my tiffin in sitting on the table ready for me to take to work. Tiffin is my lunchbox and it consists of 3 round tins, one on top of the other that fit into a metal clasp with a handle. One will contain rice or chappatis, another dahl and the third some curried vegetables. I don’t have to leave for work until 11.30 so I have time in the morning to go online and answer emails, write this journal and do my washing. I usually write a review of the lessons I did the day before and think about what I will do in my classes today.
It was an ordeal to begin with to go into the streets alone and bargain over the fare with the tuk tuk driver but I’m used to it now. I am probably paying too much but only by a little and the denominations from the ATM make it hard to continuously have small notes ready for the many rides I have to do. The fare should be 40 rupees but I usually pay 50 and once when I only had a 100 rupee note I had to give it all as the driver smiled happily and told me he had no change. What can you do? After all, 100 rupees is about $US2.20. Once the bargaining is over I point the way to my workplace, using the Hindi words for left and right. There is so much life on the streets that the 10 minute journey is always interesting. There may be a shrine on a cart being pulled by a cow, then at the railway crossing there are bicycles, motor cycles, trucks and pedestrians all pushing and shoving to cross after the train goes through; hawkers, beggars, businessmen and shopkeepers, dusty ragged children and colourful sari clad women. Once there was a funeral procession with the body lifted above the heads of the bearers and covered by a sheet.
When I arrive in Ambedkanagar slum I walk past cows and the pats of dung drying in the sun, goats and street dogs, little children who cheerfully call out to me, “Hello”, “What is your name?”, “How are you?”, “I am fine”. They often want to shake hands. I tread carefully round the rubbish and piles of dust. They have toilets in their homes but the men still urinate in the streets and a child may lower his pants to defecate over a hole in the pavement. I am glad to walk into the little courtyard, where my classroom is and greet the Indian ladies who manage the Idex Centre in my slum.
My first class is the married women. Their knowledge of the alphabet and some basic English phrases is improving. They love to repeat everything I say at the top of their voices and I clown for them as everything I do seems to be funny to them anyway. Yesterday a new lady joined the class. I felt like a deity when she touched my cheek with the palm of her hand at the end of the class and then bent to touch my feet! I let the ladies do some colouring in yesterday to improve their fine motor coordination skills. They are writing for the first time in their lives and concentrate like small children as they copy the letters I put on the board.
When they leave I have my tiffin with the Indian teachers and stand in the sun in the courtyard. It really is cold in Rajasthan in the winter. There are homes in doorways off the courtyard and women will be scrubbing their pots and pans or their children, hanging out the bedding to air, chatting and smacking the toddlers or cuddling them, whilst any men at home will stretch out for a nap in the sun.
After lunch I have my ‘young women’s class’. They are mostly children, aged from 10 to 18 but the older girls’ time is often taken up with household chores or stitching. The younger girls go to school in the morning and can already speak some English. A couple of them, Shivani and Payal, are particularly intelligent and when the rest stare blankly at me I let them model the sentences for the class to repeat. Shivani does this with much gesturing and expression so we copy that as well and soon they are all laughing. When I see that they have had enough of drilling, I get them to write in their books or do some drawing. They love to use the coloured felt pens and make brightly coloured pictures of houses and flowers. Then their regular class teacher Sonu entreats me to play games like Hokey Pokey and Ring a Rosy, which she truly enjoys as much as the girls.
When the teaching day is over and we have sung the Goodbye song I accompany Sonu and any other trainee teachers who have joined us, to do a house visit. Sonu has made me understand that the women are very happy to have me in their home. With the help of my translators I fill in a form about their everyday life. The new ladies in the class are not receiving help from Idex and want to apply so that their children can have tuition fees paid at a private school. I hope that my home visit report will assist them in this.
Now it is time for the tuk tuk ride home. Dinner is at 7.00. I can sit and talk to the other members of the household, make teaching aids from magazine pictures or watch television. Sometimes we walk to the sweet shop nearby and have lassi to drink. There is a bottle shop but on the only occasion that I thought I would buy some wine it was closed. I always had a glass of wine in the evening when I was at home in Sydney but I find I don’t miss it here. I can’t remember a time when I slept with other girls in a room but it is cosy to talk together until we fall asleep. Most of the other volunteers are younger than my own children but that doesn’t matter at all. They are fine young people and we are all here in India together.

Learning about India

 Posted by Ines at 5:38 pm  India  Comments Off on Learning about India
Dec 262010

Hello everyone, I’ve finished my first full week in Ambedkanagar slum. My life here is not all about the work I am doing. I have met young people from around the world, Finland, Denmark, Japan,Italy and America. I have also bee sight seeing and shopping. The main focus of my visit though is to work with the under privileged and learn more about how they can move forward in this fast changing society. For one hour a day I teach basic English to a group of married ladies. These women have not had any opportunity to have an education in the past and have an extraordinary curiosity and desire to learn. One of the highlights of my week was the morning that Sitadevi came to class and recited the entire English alphabet after only a couple of days exposure to it. We all clapped. At the end of each day I go to the house of one of my pupils. The women in my class are being assisted by the Idex group. Their children are likely to be getting funding for their education and I am helping to profile the lives of these families. On Friday, Christmas Eve, I went to the house of an eighteen year old girl, Tulsa, who is to be married in a couple of months time. She is the oldest of four children. Her younger sister, Maya, who is sixteen was to be married at the same time to the brother of Tulsa’s future husband but she decided she was not ready for marriage yet and the contract was broken. Tulsa and Maya have two younger brothers and it has been Tulsa’s job to manage the household for the past ten years since their father died. Their mother works in the public gardens and is gone for ten hours of the day, seven days a week earning 1300 rupees a month, which is approximately $US26.00. This family has been classified as living below the poverty line and so is able to have food subsidised by the government. The family of five sleep in one small room, which is where I sat and chatted to them. The room is swept clean and their meagre belongings are packed on a couple of shelves on the wall. A cow tethered outside mooed during the interview and the sound echoed loudly through the concrete building. I asked Tulsa, through my interpreter, whether she was happy to be getting married. She says that her husband is reputed to be a good man and handsome, although there is some concern about his drinking and gambling habits. As is customary for a new bride,Tulsa will leave her home and move in with her parents in law and their family. She would prefer this to living exclusively with her new husband. On the down side she will live in a village away from the city and she does not think she will like village living. On the plus side they have a nice house. I asked if she wanted children straight away and she answers in the negative. She wants to work and to become an English language teacher. She feels that her future mother in law is of the opinion that a new wife should limit her skills to making chapattis for the family. I discover that Tulsa has no understanding of what happens between husband and wife and wonder how she will prevent babies. I am told that the pill is readily available. Tulsa herself becomes uncomfortable with this line of questioning and is able to say in English that this in not polite. I insist for a while thinking that it is more important to discuss these matters than to be polite but my next question is obviously not translated as the subject has changed. What will she do if she is not happy in her marriage, I ask. She replies that she would want to kill herself. I tell her that she appears to have great strength of character and wish her a happy future life. I wonder how Maya will fare when her sister leaves. She is an exceptionally pretty girl and it will fall on her shoulders to look after her younger brothers when Tulsa leaves. Maya smiles and says she wants to be with Tulsa but she is very happy that she doesn’t have to get married now. The day before this interview I had news of an attempted suicide in another slum in Jaipur. An unhappily married woman set fire to herself and is now in hospital. A volunteer in my lodgings, who had been teaching this woman was told to stay home on Friday because of the unrest this incident caused. I have been hearing other stories of the caste system and the rules that are still adhered to, all of which seem to be detrimental to women. The young teacher that I work with, who speaks some English and has a little daughter was apparently sold by her first husband for 80000 rupees. Fortunately the story has a happy ending as she much prefers her second husband. She appears embarrassed that I have been told her story and whilst she says it is all right for me to know it is not something that she wants to discuss openly, and especially not with the women in our class. This dark undercurrent to the lives of poor Indian women needs to be publicised but the women themselves do not want to talk of it.

The First Week

 Posted by Ines at 3:25 am  India  Comments Off on The First Week
Dec 192010

This first week has flown by. I gave myself two nights and a day in New Delhi to get acclimatised before I flew on to Jaipur. I had heard of all the construction and the new airport at Delhi that was finished just in time for the Commonwealth Games but was still surprised to find a city of such wide streets with such a modern feel to it. It is fourteen years since was last in India. In Delhi at least the the old Ambassador cars are almost gone, replaced by Japanese brands. There wasn’t a cow, monkey, goat or donkey to be seen until you got well away towards Old Delhi. I had booked a tour and expected to go on a bus and be anonymous but I was the only one on the tour, in a modern four wheel drive Mahinda with a chauffeur who jumped out to open the door for me every time I got in and out, and my own female guide who took me to the most famous tourist sights in Delhi. Early on Tuesday morning I left for Jaipur. At the airport pickup I met Ricki, a young American vounteer who has just done two months volunteering in China. We waited for the next plane to come in so that Melissa from New Zealand could join us. We were taken to our accomodation in a house in a good part of town and met Gayatri, our house coordinator. After a couple of hours we had chosen our bunks and tried on saris and worked out a plan to explore the nearby shops. In the evening we were visited by our Idex (Indian Development Exchange) representative and told about our orientation which would take place on Wednesday at the Idex office. After our orientation we three left by tuk tuk, one of the three wheeler motorised cars that serve as taxis, so that we could go sightseeing. We were a little quieter at first as we realised that our volunteering was about to begin and that we had taken on a responsibility that would demand we give our best in circumstances that were still largely unknown to us. On Thursday we were taken to the slum area of Amedkanagar where we would be working. Melissa and Ricki would be going to the learning centre in the mornings to teach children. I would be going in the afternoons to work with women in the Women’s Empowerment program. I spent a short while with those women who had come to welcome me. There would a class for married women who had little or no English and then a class for younger women and girls and I would be teaching English and computer skills. In spite of the tiny room where the women were huddled cross legged on the floor I felt their goodwill and enthusiasm. I knew that I would enjoy working here and went home to plan my first classes.

Prior to Departure

 Posted by Ines at 2:26 pm  India  Comments Off on Prior to Departure
Dec 082010

8-12-2101. This is my first journal entry. I leave for India on Sunday, the twelfth of the twelfth 2010. I have enrolled for a two month program working with Indian women in Jaipur.
The lead up to my departure has been very hectic. I sold my house in Sydney recently and had to move out and put all my stuff in storage. I drove for a day to Glen Innes in the country to drop off my dog, a Jackoodle called Kalki, with a carer who I trust to love him while I’m away. I finished all the assignments for the art course I’ve been doing for the past two years and had everything ready for assessment week and exhibition week.
Now I’m staying with my older son Tim, and his wife Zara, in Turramurra in Sydney. In my suitcase is everything on the check list and I start taking malaria tablets on Saturday. I have listened to some Hindi tapes but not much has sunk in. Until now I’ve been too busy to be excited or fearful but on Sunday I will be on that plane. Let the adventure begin!

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