Tuesday, 6 September 2011

August, where have you gone?

So here I am back in N Ireland living every day life as it should be lived.  :)  Once the novelty of being home wore off, and the repetitive questions on India had stopped, it appeared that not a lot had actually changed here; thank God!

The comforts of being home really are fantastic, even if you are broke and seem to appear that way until the student loan comes in.  Despite this though, no money doesn't mean no fun!
I've been on the ball trying to get as many hours as possible at work, which hasn't been a lot to be honest, despite this I had a fantastic time working at Tenants Vital, for those of you who don't know what this is, it's a large music festival in Bangor.  I had a crackin' time over the 2 days! In brief: the first day I got to meet 'The Script' and 'Ellie Goulding' back stage, and then on an even better second day I got thumped by a rather butch looking chavette!  I suppose I've got to take the good with the bad! haha 

Some other details:
- Rachel's parents and my own parents finally met...I'll quickly move on from this one, but lets just say we're still together and the night wasn't as bad as I personally dreaded!

- I've completely moved into my new house and love it! With a lack of TV I have become partly addicted to Mario Kart Wii; don't criticize, it's just too much fun! 

-I have reclaimed back the fish, and instead of waiting for them to die, I'm actually going to look after them this year and ensure they flourish! (Into slightly fatter, healthy fish).

-This weekend past Rachel and I had a fantastic time at a friend of our's wedding.  It had a bit of a vintage theme to it with the good old VW Camper fan, the old red double decker buses, and of course the sentimental family wedding dress.  All of this I'm told by Rachel as the most important thing for me was the food - both the flavour and the portion sizes!

In finishing I suppose I'll tie it back into India one last time with this: Rachel and I have enrolled for the TEFL 120 hour class...although it may not be as fun as we imagined...it's one more step to travelling again and perhaps even getting paid this time! Whoop Whoop!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Bye Bye Raksha!

Ok, so the past week has been a bit strange, so instead of listing everything out I'll just go over some bits and bobs.

On Wednesday we had to say goodbye to one of the volunteers at Raksha.  She had to leave early as her granny was ill.  The circumstances aren't too good, but Rachel and I knew exactly how she felt as we had similar circumstances before we came out.  We'll miss Laura, but I'm sure from the taster she had, that she'll be back! 

For those of you that donated to us, we just want to say a big thankyou!  We put in a donation to Raksha to complete their own fundraising for the early intervention centre.  I just want to thank whoever helped us as the room will be kitted out with everything they need and will be a great benefit to the young children.  Rachel has mainly worked in there, (I've only poked my head in a number of times), so she can fill you in on what exactly happens.  They were extremely grateful for this gift,  we like to donate in secret; and so were a bit red faced when all of the teachers, chair people and others kept thanking us....so much for anonymous donation! 

On Thursday Rachel and I paid for the all the children in the school to have a 'special' lunch, that we would help make.  Lets just say that the pilau rice over here is nothing like it is at home, and is 100000% better!!  This was the first of the moments where we began to choke up.  Basically, for 30 pounds we were able to see every single child from the primary unit right up to the older vocational ones smile at their dinner and hear a 'thankyou' in their best memorised way.  Even the ones who we didn't see before beamed up at us as Rachel handed out the salad chutney thing and I handed out the poppadoms... 

Friday morning soon flew in and Rachel and I had both already admitted that we would rather skip the day and just go home.  Goodbyes are never fun. :( 

I got dressed up in my long knee length shirt and white baggy trousers, (maybe called a Japur?) and Rachel got dressed up in her saree, which I have to admit she looks fantastic in. 

Rachel went to the early intervention unit and I went downstairs to take the boys to the physio for some excersise; where I witnessed a miracle!

Grendle came in who I have now realised is actually called Clinton.  He quite happily cycled and had no idea I was leaving.  There was a breakthrough with him recently this week when I didn't come down to get him first thing, but he still went in and worked himself!  That was great but I always knew he would be ok.  

The one that really shocked me was Steniel.  For those of you have read before you'll know that I'm having some problems with him and he is really testing my patience.  Yesterday I went in with him and after about 5 min the physio's (Grace, Mercy and Yassir) called me over and treated me to a nice breakfast of Grace's homemade tapioca and Yassir had gotten some nice banana wheat ball things which went down a treat.  Grace had even gotten Rachel a pair of ear rings!  I was enjoying the food so much that I forgot about Steniel, 20 min into the session I looked round; there he was, sitting in silence, cycling away without any problems!  Hurrah!!  Warren 1- Stenial 0 

Anyway, after this we went and spent the rest of the morning in the vocational unit trying to get as much time with them as we could as it was a half day.  It was strange.  They all knew we were leaving, although some found it harder to comprehend than others.  Most of the guys at the sanding bench just wanted to get their last photos with us, and fought to be the only one in the photo; others like Manu were mature about it and had conversations about it and said our fairwells, (more like a see you later!); then there were the types like Afsal.  He's the 30 year old who is more like 15.  He had been told that we were leaving, but seemed not to want to believe it.  He just sat in silence like a child who wanted to pretend that everything was normal, but still couldn't.  Well Rachel teared up again and I began to choke up a bit as well.  We finished off our goodbyes to the children by waving them off on the bus!  Then we had to say goodbye to the adults..

This was exceptionally hard, so many of them were like one big Indian family for us!!  We worked our way around the school saying goodbye to the teachers, both those that we had met and those that we had just seen.  All the ones who were close to us seemed to have gathered in one room to say goodbye together - that was tough.  

Rachel and Jessie saying goodbye was noticably difficult, with Minel and Arsha and all kitchen ladies it was not pleasant at all.  We spent a good 30 min saying goodbye and hugs and photos and then Rachel and I left the room.  

My final image of the school is one that will last in my mind for a long time.  As Rachel and I left and were walking down the corridor, we looked behind us.  There, following behind us was all the people we had said goodbye to, walking behind us down the corridor waving and shouting their goodbyes...more teachers began to follow us from their class rooms and as Rachel and I left, the teachers were all waving at us from the from gate.....what a send off!

Well that was the big goodbye and definatley a difficult one.  So today we are learning how to cook at our homestay, due to the rain we are not going to Vypin Island.  

To be honest we are just waiting ot go home now.  I could quite happpily hop on a flight tonight.  Instead we are having a kind of going away party with Herman and his brother and sister in law.  Should be fun! With Sunday being a day of rest here as well we have time to relax :) .

This will probably be my last blog post from India so I will look forward to seeing you all later!  


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Houseboat, at last!

So far this weekend has been pretty good.  On Friday, after my stomach had returned to functioning normally, we got a traditional Kerelan dinner in Rakshaw.  It was served on a large banana leaf and had about 6/7 curries on it, rice with 2 different sauces, a banana and some sort of pudding.  It tasted really good although had a strange mix of tanginess, spice and bitter.  

We then spent the rest of that afternoon out in the yard playing games and just having fun with the kids.  

The fellas I take for excersise in the morning are progressing in a couple of different ways.  The first guy I have is doing really well and has gotten to the stage where he doesn't need me to ask him to do anything, and he works happily himself.  Yje second one is really testing my patience though.  I had found out on Thursday that he had quite badly hit another girl, I was very aware of this during the session and very stern with him.  Within 10 minutes he had hit another young child walking with a zimmerframe, had toppled the excersise bike twice and had tried to get into the drivers seat of the school bus; the whole time he was treating it like a game.  I'd be lying if I said he wasn't pissing me off, I could feel my blood pressure rocketing.  
Thankfully the next day I had a translator with me in the form of one of the older students who now works for the school.  Surprise surprise, he didn't misbehave once and did everything he was meant to, all playing up to the teachers.  Needless to say I'll be doing this every day from now on.

On Friday night Daniel, Laura, Lauren Rachel and I went to Rakhi's house for dinner.  It was great fun!  We met her family who were extremely welcoming and very friendly; then there was the food.  If there is anything I have found in India which I will be bringing home with me, it is masala.  It's completely different from how everything tastes in the UK!   Fish masala by far beats the rest, fried in a pan and set in front of you, the smell is just as good as taste.  

On Saturday morning Rachel and I got up to set foot on the house boat, finally!  Now it's important to point out that the majority of the houseboats all go to the same direction and do the same thing and all have engines etc.  Ours however doesn't.  We decided to go for the more authentic houseboat which was propelled by a man with a big bamboo pole, and was the only boat which travelled this particular route, away from all the over tourists.  Peace at last. 

It was fantastic, there was wildlife everywhere, Kites, crows, jumping spiders (creepy), and the beautiful Kingfisher to name a few.  Rachel and I simply lay on the front of the boat all day reading our books and enjoying the scenary while having food and drinks brought to us throughout the day.  It was the one place we could get away from all the fuss and noise which there is around India.

It was also the one place we could truely discover Rachel's hate for creepy crawlys! haha.  From having these creepy spiders come down from a web on top of her, to the standard mosquito and ant attacking her and not forgetting the long legged spiders which climb over her feet; she was a bag of nerves throughout the day.  

My favourite happened just before we went to bed though:  

We were sitting on the deck chairs, drinking our Kingfisher beer and watching the fireflies dancing on top of the lake surrounding us.  It was pitch black and the only noise was the jungle humming around us.  It was complete tranquility until someone starting screaming and shouting, 'WARREN!! THERE'S A #$@$% LIZARD ON ME!'  haahahah, I've never seen anything as funny in my life.  The lights were turned on and the boatmen ran in thinking something terrible had happened.  Turned out it was a big green bug which had flew in from the lake and crashed into Rachel.  She had no idea what had happened. haha  
What she had thought had happened was that the lizard sitting above us (nicknamed Licky; it was eating all the mosquitoes), had somehow gotten excited and fell off the ceiling of the boat right onto her.  

After that we sat in darkness and continued to watch the fireflies dance, occasionally there would be a streak of lightening silently shoot through the sky.  No sound of thunder or rain.

We have now returned to Fort Kochin for what is to be our final week here.  We'll both be sad to leave but will be looking forward to getting home.  

That's it from us today!

Warren and Rachel

P.S.  We got refused entry to a Hindu Temple today as we weren't 'pure'.  Nothing makes you feel more Western than being branded as a rejected tourist.  It looked pretty cool as well, it had explosions and everything happening inside it! Explosions that would put Northern Ireland to shame!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The start of the Goodbyes and piss taking shops

Well, this Friday we said goodbye to our friends Mary and Sarah.  Mary had been there for about 10 months, so naturally it was an emotional fairwell for her.  It's was nice though, because you could see just how much of a positive impact she had on the entire school, staff and children alike.

Sarah was a great laugh too, you know you've clicked with someone when you can quite happily take the mickey out of them and you both laugh it off! haha Although sad to see her go, she'll be in Belfast in September for a few vodkas so we knew we would see her again :) 

The 2 of them were fantastic in helping Rachel and I settle in, and made the whole experience a lot less frightening than it initially seemed.  I guess now they are gone we'll just have to do the same for the newbies!

Well, as you may have read, we were meant to be on a houseboat this weekend.  As it turns out it was double booked so we had the weekend free.  On the Saturday we travelled to Ernakulum which is the city not far from here.  I've had better days.  The heavens had opened, it was pissing down and the city was crowded, noisy, dirty and put everyone in a bad mood.  

We went into one of the better known shops to get Rachel a Sairi  (?).  It was huge, 4 floors of colourful female clothing, silks, cottons; bright colours everywhere!!  Despite being in India, the novelty soon wore off, and it just became another girly shopping trip, bore.  Everywhere we went we had a male member of staff following us to help our every need, who was in turn followed by 4 female staff.  It was annoying though as at one point they had Rachel up on a cat walk like thing with at least 12 staff pulling and tugging at her trying on different silks costing more than $100.  I could see she was beginning to panic,  It was like being in a zoo!! They were taking the piss to be frank, and I ended up having to take the male member off staff aside and (in a pissed off Northern Irish way) told him we did not want to see one more member of staff for the rest of our visit or else.. etc etc etc 

It worked! :)  They ended up giving us a few extra souvenirs, nice bags and free cups of tea.  We had  gotten Rachel a nice Indian dress, shawl and trouser combo thing which actually looks very good; and soon after headed home. 

On Sunday we got a gooooooood long lie in which was much needed.  There is a new girl staying with us now for a month, who also happens to be in Raksha, Laura.  We gave her a brief tour yesterday of Fort Kochin and unsurprisingly got caught in a monsoon.  Joy.  We spent the remainder of the night relaxing.  It was counteracted by our  6:30 am start, ouch, to do some traditional India Yoga.  I must say, I never though yoga was much of a workout, in fact I didn't even think it required much work at all. Wow, I couldn't be more wrong.  It was bloody tough!  The teacher, Joseph, is probably made of plasticine, he can bend in ways which we probably aren't even meant to!! 

Everything at the school is going well.  Jessie, one of the tailoring teachers, is making great progress on the bedsheet shes making for us.  It is bright and colourful and all things Indian.  The autistic kids that I'm taking for excersise are also progressing, although there is one particular one who is really testing my patience.  Needless to say, I will take this challenge and by the time I leave he will finally be co operating; hopefully.   I must be doing something right though, I've gotten 2 more kids with Down's for some excersise - I must be the biggest hypocrite at the minute.  lol 

The ones in carpentry are doing really well, and the older ones are still working away at the chair for the kids with CP, it's coming on well.  

Well, I shall love you and leave you, time is running up,

Warren and Rachel

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Finally found the hotel....and a strange green dancing man...

Last night Rachel and I were invited by Mary again to her hotel for a few drinks.  We were concerned as last week we attempted to get there and spent 2 hours in an auto/tuk tuk and ended up having to turn around and come home.  We seem to have a problem over here where every form of transport we take has a problem.  

We finally got there, and yes; the accelerator cable snapped on the bus, surprise surprise!

We met some other people who were from from the UK and the states.   These men were engineers etc over working for the Indian Navy and things like that.  Very nice indeed.  
 We went to another bar called the Drunken Coconut which had 4 Philippine girls there who didn't wear a lot of clothes and sang there hearts out.  It was a very good night and the drink was flowing.  Funnily enough one of the girls gave us her Facebook and email; all in the Irish charm. :) 

I have just come out of a session of traditional Kerelan dance; Kathakali.  Here's some info on this link: http://www.bharatonline.com/kerala/culture/dances/kathakali.html 
It was interesting at first but kinda long winded if I'm honest.  The make up was amazing and they spent the first hour lying on the stage applying it.  It all seemed very tribal, traditional and in a weird way spiritual.  The incense was lit and the beating of the drums and chimes nearly set you into a trance.  

This week there was a terrorist attack in Mumbai, but that's ages away.  There was also an outbreak of bird flu which unfortunately was closer.  It's not so good as it means we have to avoid 99% of the back water tours.  (This is something we decided, the local tour offices don't have much care for us) . 

We did find a tour office though that goes to a completely different area, it is one of 2 boats which take this route up through the villages.  So this weekend Rachel and I are hoping to travel on the houseboat in luxury.  This of course will mean that there will be no blog updates and no internet; probably a good thing.  

In the school things are going well.  The autistic kids that I am getting to excersise are coming round to me, although one is being exceptionally challenging and the teacher and I have come up with a 'discipline' method so that bit by bit he will begin to work with me.  I have also started taking 3 of the guys with Down's Syndrome out of the carpentry unit and we are sanding down the banisters of the stairs and will hopefully begin polishing next week.  

All in all life here is amazing.  I feel a real bond here with the culture, life and the people.  I know that sounds stupid, but it really is true.  

I shall head on here and get a bite to eat, so see ya!

Warren and Rachel

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Munnar, wow!

Haven't had the internet the past couple of days so I'll put up what I can now.  

On Friday night Rhaki (our co-ordinator) took us out to the Yacht Club for the most amazing dinner!!  It was a fantastic night, to start it off she had bought Daniel and I a dhoti or munde (?) which is basically a long piece of fabric which the men wrap around themselves like a skirt.  (I'm wearing mine now).  She is getting Rachel a Sairi, but as they have to be fitted, she brought Rachel down one of her own for the dinner.  She looked fabulous in it!  

I had a bit of an awkward moment in trying to get mine on properly..... Rhaki thought she would help.  Now, the best way to describe wearing this, is like wrapping yourself in a bath towel.  While helping Rhaki proceeded to take this off me.  I knew I was wearing underwear but wasn't over concerned until a very embarassing moment where I ended up flashing her!!!  I need say no more.  Let's just saw for the remainder of the night I was red faced.  

Nothing that happened though could put a dampner on this weekend.  We travelled up to Munnar which is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! 

On our way up to this we stopped off at the river to wash the elephants which were getting bathed which was a great experience.  Rachel, being with elephants, had a fantastic time; it was like looking after a small child at Christmas!  Other stops on our journey also included stopping at rubber tree tap points, feeding the monkeys that conveniently  happened to be on the side of the road and taking a tour around a spice farm; learning about the different medicinal and food uses that they had.  I have to admit, I was a tad sceptical about the medicinal purposes, although apparently if I eat enough nutmeg it will have the same affect as a few whiskys! 

Munnar itself is a huge mountainous area with spectacular views!  It is covered in tea plantations set up mainly by the British.  The twisty winding roads caused the heartbeat to increase a bit though, as at times there was less than a foot between me and a sheer cliff face.  Like all beautiful scenes though, only the photos will do justice, and just about.  It was like travelling up to a sacred area in the heavens as you passed up through the clouds, looking at the smaller mountains below you, covered in tea plants like an green carpet!

We visted a beautiful damn there and many other viewpoints.  My only problem with it is that despite it being ruined by the locals setting up stalls, none of them had any panoramic posters of the views.  The only souveniers you could get where mass produced chinese 'Hello Kitties' ?!?!

We spent the night there last night in a beautiful homestay with spectacular views from the balcony, although they were ruined the fact that we were in a huge cloud and could barely see our own hands.  

This morning (Sunday), we travelled up to Kolukkumalai.  The highest tea plantation in the world.  It's impressive to think that we started at sea level, and today we were looking over India at 8000 feet!  The roads were absolute chaos though and even in a 4x4 it was a challenge.  The one going down in front of us broke it's main axle!!! 

Well, thats some of it.  Not all though, that would spoilt the fun.  We are back in the school tomorrow so I may put in an update then.  

All the best, 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Jewtown...and the creepy shop...

So, last night we took an autorickshaw into Jewtown, yes, there is a town called Jewtown and it also has Jewcemetary, Jewstreet and Jewroad.  We found it very amusing.  The group consisted of the three of us from our homestay and then 4 other girls who are volunteering in the same school as Daniel.  

While walking around Jewtown we walked past shop after shop of 100% pashminas, friendly locals offering the best price possible (who conveniently also happened to have friends in Europe, e.g. Someone by the name of Ronan Keating?) and of course 100% pure silver....with a copper tinge..

There was one particular shop we found in between the clones though that will stick in my mind for a long time.  It was an export shop which can only be described as something from the start of an adventure movie where the 2 people walking round end up finding a genie, or more likely, getting cursed.  

The shop consisted of large wooden decorated elephants outside and large green statues of naked women with fangs which looked like they once had a lead role in the original 'Clash of the Titans'.  We decided to delve into the many curiosities which could only be found in a place like this.  There was also present:  A lifesize statue of Christ on the cross, several Gheshas(?elephant god?), tables with wooden limbs lying across them, ceremonal daggers and old cages with strange bones in them. 

As we walked down the the aisle surrounded by the spider web covered artefacts we began to hear crying from the back of the shop.  There is only one way to describe its effect:  It scared the shit out of us.....I can't emphasise enough how strange this room was, low lit, spider webs everywhere covering the curious antiques; and then crying from the back of the shop.  We quickly cut across the shop and out the entrance with an increased heartrate.  I have to say though, that shop is somewhere I will definitlley have to visit before I leave.

Today was another school day and I took a severely autistic child Gryndyl for an excersise session.  Apparently the teachers can't handle him and I wondered why.  When I met him I discovered a 15 year old boy with possibly the worst autism I've seen, who was the same hight as me; at least a foot taller than most teachers.  Too cut a long story short, things went smoothly and after a while he began to work with me in a way he apparently has never done before.  I'm putting this down to the fact I can't speak Malayalam, and he can't speak English, so we both communicated via grunts and taps.  

I then went back to the vocational unit, but the power went out (just as I was about to learn how to turn wood!), so we just had to supervise everyone until the end of class. 

Tonight we are going to the bar with some of the other volunteers so we should have a good night.  I'll try to get some photos up soon but I don't know if the computer is capable.  Ah well,

(I'll also see if Rachel wants to put up a bit from her)


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Finally got it up!

So, what can I say?  India is fantastic!! 

I had been meaning to put stuff up here but didn't as the internet was down.  There is already so much to say but I won't right it all so here is a snippet.  

Having arrived here we were tired.  Tired out by lonely old english men, english racists, and a german tranny who claims to be from London.  Fed up, we were welcomed with open arms and told to get to bed as we were obviously tired from our 2 day journey. (In case you are looking, I think there is a video of me on youtube doing the 'Turkey Dance' in Muscat  airport.  While trying not to sleep, I noticed some burkha wearing girls recording me on their phones!)

Anyway, our hosts Herman and Norma are fantastic!! They are very friendly and go out of their way to look after us.  They cook us food every night, and let me say, the food here is AMAZING!! It tastes nothing like it does at home which was expected.  From fish curries, to chick pea curries to funny tasting chicken curries (which turned out to be blue cheese).  

There is another volunteer staying here as well called Daniel.  He is working at a school here, 'Cottelengo'.  He has been travelling around the world for the past 6 months and has some very cool stories.

We started working in Raksha school yesterday, starting off in the vocational unit with people ranging from ages 18 - 22.  They do different carpentary, bag making, candle making and sowing.  The kids are amazing and some can speak good english.  They have taught us some Malayalam in return which should prove valuable.  

The disabilities there range from autism and Down's Syndrome, to those who are wheelchair bound and have Cerebal Palsy.  There are also a few kids there with severe problems which I have never seen before.  

There has been loads of things to talk about at the school, but maybe I will say more tomorrow when I have the time.  Tomorrow I start looking after a severely autistic child one on one.  I'll fill you in on that later.  Rachel is lucky, she has already started teaching some of the more capable guys English .  She seems to be really enjoying herself. 

I'll finish off here and leave you with one random sight we saw today. 

The goats in India walk around and then, (to put it nicely), orally pleasure themselves....yes,... weird....

All the best from India,
Warren and Rachel

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Moving out today

Okay, so today is my last day in this flat and ,(although having not packed or moved out yet), I will be heading away to India tomorrow.  

There's no doubt about it that this feels strange.  No preparation, no organisation, and not even a great excitement to a build up!! In my head it seems that I'll still be sitting on this sofa for the rest of the month...but alas no.    

Kerela here I come, I'll be using this to keep everyone up to date, but more importantly, I'll be using it as an online reminder for me in the future, of Rachel and I's travel to India.  

You may read it, you may not, but it's mine, so welcome and let's hope it doesn't bore!