Monday, February 28, 2011

Minister's Visit

Today was a special day for the workshop participants at ODAM – the Minister of Education for Tamil Nadu came to give them certificates and small gifts for completing the month long program.  We had met this Minister for the opening ceremony for the new KGBV girls school building and we had word before he came that he had expressed interest in having us (the foreign volunteers) come to his home for dinner (the more local one, not in Chennai, though I don’t know the name of the village/city for this other home).  He arrived on time (this is supposed to be rather unusual for most ministers but he was prompt for the last ceremony as well), gave a brief speech, oversaw the certificate granting and then came over to talk with the volunteers to say that he hoped we would all be able to visit his home and that he would be arranging it with Jeyaraj.  We were very flattered and expressed gratitude and hope this can be arranged.  Apparently he had a very important meeting this afternoon or he would have had us there today – and with Kate and Ramsey about to leave for a ten day vacation, we are not certain when this visit can be arranged.  Obviously Christa and Stephan will already be gone but if it cannot be scheduled until Ramsey and Kate return (March 16), there will be only four of us able to attend which may allow a very interesting opportunity to visit with this very important gentleman.  I was very pleased that he made a point of extending the invitation to Kate and me – but this was likely because the other volunteers close to us were the newly arrived folks here for the week to work with the KGBV school’s medical needs and he wouldn’t have recognized them.  I feel very self-important.  My YouTube debut and an invitation from a Minister all in one week – pretty big time in India for me!

I had a very relaxing day on Sunday (yesterday as I write this) visiting the ashram for almost two hours.  It was cool and pleasant and I had the opportunity to meet the pet deer.  I was picturing a small, young deer when I was told that the couple managing the ashram had raised a deer – but she’s quite large and has already had several fawns over the years.  Interestingly she has white spots on her coat – which I thought was usual only for the very young fawns, at least in Texas.  I have posted photos of her on the Picasa site.  She was willing to allow me to approach but did not appear that she would allow me to touch her so I didn’t push my luck.  I believe if I were to bring her a snack and give her some time to be near me without pushing that she would allow this – something to work toward in the future.  I also posted photos of the peacocks, who make no pretense of becoming friendly toward us, and also of one of the owls that Christa saw (there were two but one flew off before the photo).  Even in the photo it is difficult to distinguish this big owl in the tree and I couldn’t see either of them even with Christa pointing at them until they flew.  It is so pleasant, cool, and relaxing at the ashram and I enjoyed the quiet time immensely.  I had decided not to go into the ODAM office on Sunday as I had been there every day for a couple weeks and needed a break.  It was pleasant to take a day off but also rather difficult for me not to feel “productive” – something I need even when I’m trying to relax.  In the afternoon (after a NAP of all things) I sat and watched an American movie on my computer in my room – feeling very decadent indeed.  You know how sometimes when you leave the theater after a movie and have to sort of transition back into your own life after being involved in the movie?   (At least this happens to me.)  Well I have to admit that it was rather disconcerting trying to come back to my Indian life after the movie… and I realize that every day I sort of “transition” into my life here reminding myself that I’m doing something different.   It was an interesting realization and is an indication to me that I’m not as acclimated to this lifestyle as I thought I was.  I was under the impression that I had adopted the rhythm and pace of the community quite well but I think somewhere in the back of my mind I’m always aware it’s just a temporary adjustment.  I wonder how long it takes to really make the transition to another culture.

Saturday both Muthu and Sathya spent the morning with me (and Christa when she came for part of the day) to finish up the cell phone bags and talk.  I am not certain if they really thought this was a day they were supposed to come in or if they just wanted to.  Sathya stayed until after 5:00 p.m., the usual time she leaves when she is working for the day.  They seem confused when I tell them that training is finished and that I am not certain when we will start working on making more toy elephants because we need to wait until a firm order has been placed.  Hopefully this won’t be a long delay getting an order so that I don’t have to continue trying to make sense of it for them.  I had the opportunity to discuss the cell phone bag construction with them and they really didn’t enjoy the process very much.  I think they liked having a nicely finished bag so showing them proper lining techniques they found useful, but they found piecing the outer bag tedious.  Since these aren’t looking like a popular item with Ponchulli in the shop either, I think this version of the product will die, though perhaps there could be future interest in the stamped or screened bags.  I feel rather disappointed at this since this was a project I came up with to use the disparate fabric scraps we have available.  I think this is a good lesson to let go of my ego on this one and go with what will work, not what I wish would work.  I keep having to remind myself to roll with the punches and stay flexible – gifts I haven’t always demonstrated in the past but which I am practicing a great deal these days.

As Christa has been going around the community saying goodbye to individuals she has connected with, she stopped by the carpenter shop to take some additional photos of the workmen holding items with their feet.  This is the same carpenter who built my table.  He invited her to his upcoming wedding sometime in mid-March.  Obviously she couldn’t come but she promised him she would print up some photos of him and I will deliver them when I come back from Madurai.  With any luck he’ll invite me (and Kitu) to the wedding.  This would give me a great chance to see a local wedding and I think it would offer him some prestige to have foreigners attend his wedding – a win-win situation for all.  I’ll keep you posted on how this devious little scheme works out ;-)

Because I’m heading in to Madurai tomorrow, which is one of my usual days to go to KGBV girls school, I won’t be going for the lesson.  I didn’t realize that I had double booked until this morning and it made me rather sad.  I feel I am missing more lessons lately than I am going to and recognize that this break in my routine has been very healthy for me.  Going out on the bus and through the fields to the school by myself is very relaxing and is a poignant reminder that I am leading a blessed and special life right now.  I feel this is my best chance to connect with people on the bus and at the school and reminds me to be grateful for the gifts I am being given during this special time of my life.  It is good to be reminded how fortunate I am.

There is not much more to post right now but I imagine that my upcoming trip to Madurai ought to give me a bit to write about.  I am becoming excited about the imminent trip to Verkala and feel a bit up in the air as I transition from one part of my project to another with this vacation scheduled as well.  I imagine it will show in my posts that I am rather ungrounded at the moment but I hope this is a positive thing as I move to the next phase of my time here.  All is good.

Take care.

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