THE INDIA FILES – 04/10/06

well iv just had the most incredible and bizarre week! our holidays which were changed, canceled at the last minute and then given back to us did eventually happen so we got on an overnight bus to Chennai on wednesday. we stayed in a beautiful little travelers lodge (for less than a fiver a night, but we were really splashing out) in a large room with a private bathroom(!), a western loo and a shower!! a month ago i would have thought it was shabby, but it was pure luxury! we could open the shutters on 2sides and look out at a wonderful view of chennai! we only had 3 nights in Chennai but we seem to have done quite a bit! we went to a hindu festival, where they dance around in a circle and we joined in! katie and i were pretty appauling, trying to copy the people in front but they thought it was amusing and we had a good laugh! we also went to a temple and had big red dots put on our forehead (unfortunately we couldnt get out of a lot of tourist traps, even when we knew exactly what was happening, like being completely ripped off in autos!). AND…..we are now stars!! well we managed to get ourselves a day on the set of a Tamil movie called ‘Vattram’, working as extras (being white will get you everywhere in india). it was a great experience and i actually have a tan now, which is nice! we spent the day on Golden Beach outside chennai dancing (and swimming in the sea in the most hideous sparkly green swimming costume! but the alternative was swimming in my clothes and i tired this and discovered it to be a very unpleasant experience!). it was a great opportunity to talk to lots of different people, from the indian crew and actors/dancers (who kept us very well entertained!) to the other ‘western extras’ from Russia, Brazil, Holland, Denmark, Israel….We met a really interesting Shaman monk in the travelers lodge and, having known him for about 24hours, traveled to Pondicherry (or Poondicherry as its now called) with him on sunday! hes had a really interesting life, in many different countires (thats the beauty of travelers lodges, u meet loads of people like that!) we talked for ages, including one great night which i will remember forever, sitting on the roof of the lodge looking out at beautiful chennai at night. he read my palm, which goes against what i believe and dont think he told me anything he couldnt have predicted from talking to me for as long as he had, but its all an experience! we went to the theosophy society on his recomendation, which had beautiful old grounds. so im learning a lot about other faiths/beliefs (but am glad to be back in the Catholic college cos i think i was starting to become a little wierded out by it all!)Pondicherry was a great tourist indulgence! its a strange place to be in because it looks like a french town, but will all the atmosphere, scooters, autos, indians and chaos of India! we found a Pizza Hut! which we both feel guilty for having done, (bt we discovered that the other PT girls, who nwere in Chennai and Pondy around the same time also went to Pizza Hut!) cos its not the indian experience but after 5weeks of curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner this was absolute heaven! And it was my first chicken for 5weeks! we also went to a little french cafe for breakfast and had crepes (!) and museli. unfortunately we coldnt eat the absolutely gorgeous bananna poridge cos like everything in india the ants had got in…Pondicherry beach was completely changed in the Tsunami and lots of it are still sort of blocked off but its a fairly rich area so a lot of work has been done. its actually its own little statem, and theress still a lot of french influence, so its exempt from Tamil Nadu’s high taxes, meaning theres lots of drunked fishermen attermpting to swim. very dangerous and severely looked down upon but this is india and there are lots of laws, but nothings enforced! We also went to Auroville, a hippy place, built in the 60s in the shape of a gallaxy to be a lace where people could live in equality, with no nationality and spend a lot of time meditating! an interesting place though (and we had a lovely tofu lasangne!) you can probs google it if your interested…i had my first unpleasant backpackers experience in Pondicherry; a male asian youth put his camera phone through the grate while i was showering and took pictures of me…could be worse and i guess it could happen anywhere in the world. the thought that the pictures could be sent anywhere was pretty horrible but the Ashram guest house staff were really good and put us in a new (cheaper ) room and got quite angry with the boys…getting home was another intereting experience! Trying to get a bus from Pondicherry to Chennai turned out to be very difficult. the whole word wanted a ticket and we had to wait in queues with lots of sweaty people pressed up against each other in the heat, everyone pushing to get a token so we could get on a bus. i dont think we would ever have got out of Chennai if it wasnt for an incredible kind man who by the grace of God bought us 2 tokens, as he was further up the queue. i dont know why he picked us out of the huge crowd and did this but i was praying the whole tiem and really think God must have prompted him to do it. So that was my nice backpackers experience of the good people in the world and a random act of kindness. so we got out of Pondy, but we missed our bus to Vijayawada by about 15mins, but since they refund most of your ticket up to half an hour after the bus leaves we didnt have to pay more to get home. the next bus was about 24hours later, but we were told very casually that there was abus going to Nellore and from there there were busses to Vijayawada. Without knowing if this was true or where Nellore was, or even what state it was in, we got on this bus (another governemnt bus, these are an interesting experience; u’ve gt to do india the cheap way if u want the full experience!) and luckily with the hep of a few english speakers (they tend to help out the lost-looking westerners) we got to Vijayawada ysterday morning!so we’re back teaching today after a well-needed rest! we are going to be teaching at SKCV girls home for street children on tues, wed and thurs afternoons from 2-4pm, which will be hard work, but i love working with them! we’ll also be teaching their staff from 4-5pm, who are very keen to learn english. a lot of the kids have come from differnt states and dont speak telugu, but some speak english, depending on which states they’ve been in, since english and hindi are national languages. We’ve been invited to go to the boys village tomorrow evening, where they are having a celebration with dance performances by the children, so we’re really looking forward to this! last week there was an NGO exhibition at the college (our Principal stood up and talked about the importance of child rights, and not allowing child labour, while the hostel kitchen girls worked as they do everyday from 5.30am to 9pm…and on the ame day the Warden told me they couldnt wear gloves while working with dangerous chemicals because it would be change…interesting…perhaps im getting cynical?) and lots of the street kids did dances. they put so much energy into it! they were fantastic! the girls did a classical indian dnace, and 2 groups of boys (some really little ones) did westernised indian dances in silver bomber jackets. you had to be there but they were just so enthusiatic that even though the movements were cheesy to our western eyes, they were so good!

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