This is probably not going to be one of my stellar posts (if there are ever any) as I am feeling under the weather with a cold. I am at the office this morning but left right after the training yesterday to get extra rest and will probably take some time today to do the same. This means I won’t go to the KGBV school this afternoon, though I wish I felt up to it. I think an hour with the dust on the bus would probably do me in. This morning I plan to meet with Christa to have a very hard meeting about our project. We both realize after completing three of the five days of training that we are not meeting our initial goals and we need to re-evaluate the project with a more realistic view of the skills we can anticipate the women will bring to the enterprise. This is something very difficult to do as we both recognize we will not be establishing the business we initially envisioned, at least not in the way we had hoped. All I can say is that reality sucks – on top of major nasal congestion, coughing, and losing my voice. Obviously I am having a small pity party and apologize for inviting you ;-) The most amusing part of the training yesterday was mid-morning when the women told me that my nose looked like a rose – because I had been blowing it all morning and it had turned red. Afraid I’m not sure a rose is the image that I would have chosen but I liked the nice spin they put on my condition.
Today is Christa’s birthday and we have several fun activities planned. First, Ramsey drew a fabulous image on the front of a t-shirt of Christa’s traveling companion, Puli Tarron (apologize if misspelled), the stuffed tiger which narrates her blog. He is quite the photogenic stuffed toy and elicits smiles from people everywhere we go as he works his way into photos for her blog. She is considering someday creating a children’s book of his travels, which would be wonderful, and capturing his image on this shirt was inspired. We have all signed the back and Kate is still collecting signatures from folks around the office. There are some very sweet messages on this and I’m sure she will love the gift. This evening from 5:00-8:00 she is inviting folks to come to the ODAM office for snacks and she is purchasing fresh fruit and snack items for the event. It will be interesting tasting some of the local snacks, though to date very few have appealed to me a great deal – they are far more excited by sugary sweets than my palate prefers. Later Stefan, her boyfriend, is preparing a spaghetti dinner for the volunteers. This is as close to “home cooking” as we can manage with our varied backgrounds and the cooking facilities. It’s nice to celebrate – change of pace is good.
I haven’t written much lately about our day-to-day activities, mostly because they’re rather boring. However, I don’t have much to post today while the project is in its state of reconstitution so I’ll share a bit of how we volunteers maintain our sanity. First of all, I should point out how truly inspired I am by the group we have here. The ages vary from early twenties to mid-thirties (with me at 52 as the exception) and everyone seems to be genuinely concerned with making a difference while here in India, both for the local population and as an effort towards personal growth. We have had some incredibly deep philosophical and spiritual discussions, and share a surprising number of personal beliefs – far more than I think you would find in the average group of seven individuals thrown together. I attribute much of the commonalities of our spiritual outlooks to the fact that these viewpoints drive us to share our blessings with others. We also share a curiosity about what goes on around us that I think is somewhat uncommon. While this makes it easier for us to relate together, it probably also makes it a bit harder at times to expand our perspectives to understand some issues – something I would say is happening with Christa and I as we try to relate to the women who are not driven and organized as we are. Some of our rooftop conversations, which may be a bit loosened by sharing a couple drinks, have covered some really personal and deep topics and the sharing is both respectful and comfortable. We also have times where it is apparent we spend altogether too much time together – and it’s still wonderful. A couple weeks ago Ramsey attempted to fix one of the plastic chairs in the mess with duct tape. One evening last week it was apparent the repair was worse than the break so Kate pulled all of the duct tape off and rolled it together, which created a very nice sized duct tape ball. In no time at all the guys figured out it would be fun to throw the ball into the ceiling fan and we all spent time creating rules and a point system for our new game. I think we spent close to an hour taking turns tossing the ball into the fan and cheering each other along. We even had Jayama, our cook, taking turns tossing it up and though it is obvious she enjoys being included, it’s also apparent she thinks we’re pretty crazy. It was great fun and will be a precious memory from my time here. Paul will be leaving at the end of this week and we have a couple temporary folks coming in tomorrow so the composition of the group will be shifting but I believe it will still be an interesting mix of people. I am so grateful for the camaraderie and support.
Sunday evening we were invited to have dinner at the home of Nagalakshmi, the woman who coordinates the SHGs (self-help groups). She lives over on the street where Lalitha the tailor lives and we all sat in the main room on mats on the floor. Nagalakshmi was still preparing the meal when we arrived so we ended up laying a game of carambol, which involves a board and flicking chips around the board. The group divided into teams with Christa, Kitu, and Kate on one team and Paul, Ramsey, and Stefan on the other (I sat out being particularly untalented and to allow more even division). After a short time Kate gave up her spot on the team to Nagalakshmi’s ten year old daughter and she sat at the doorway to the kitchen talking with Nagalakshmi and the smaller son. It was a very pleasant way to spend the evening, though I find it very awkward to be invited for dinner and then not spend time with the hosts, but that is how they entertain here and their joy is to serve the guests. I’m told the limited size of the rooms also makes it difficult for everyone to eat together and that it is typical for families to eat in shifts. The food was all familiar, dosas with sambar, coconut chutney, and tomato chutney. Nagalakshmi’s cooking was more spicy than Jayama’s, though to be fair, she probably makes more mild cooking for the volunteers than she would normally. Everything was very good and it was a pleasant end to the weekend.
Not much more time to post now – I want to get this online before the next power issue ;-)