For christmas, four of us (katie and I and the girls from the Scrikakalum project, Hannah and Katy) went to our representative Bharavis house. The jouney to Secunderabad was an interesting one… we missed the train becuase we were directed to the wrong platform, I suprised myself by how calm and practical I became when Katy really freaked out that Christmas was ruined, so in the end we went to the bus station and managed to get a state bus, miraculously, since I had been told there were no spare seats on any bus until 4 in the morning (it was around 11pm at that point) I couldn’t sleep so watched the traffic instead, whichreafirmed my original impression that Indians drive like complete lunatics!! i thought it was organised chaos but actually theres nothing really organised about it…they all overtake on single carriagaeways even when there are cars comming, regardless of it being a blind bend, it means that the headlights are constantly comming towards u and often they all have to brake at the last minute when they can’t get back in…i saw 2 major crashes – one was an upside down wagon, and they are massive, heavy wagons and the drivers cab was completely crushed.. – in 15mins and then i stopped looking! Something that surprised me was that people were just carrying on with their business around the crashes, for instance, in the other crash i think there was someone inside the car, and there were people just walking about and a woman casually sitting at her fire about 3 meters away, thats the thing with indian though, you dont interfere, as long as its not your problem u stay out of it…We were however, always perfectly safe, despite my english perception, and my christmas was suprisingly really good! i knew not to try to expect it to be like the christmas I’ve aways known and i think because of that it was just a really nice day. I remember being shocked by Bharavi’s house, which i saw as utter squallor when we first got here but 4 months on it was completely luxury! It was amazing to see how much my perspectives have changed. Bharavi has such a nice little house, with four rooms – a kitchen, living room and 2 bedrooms. we couldnt find a church service to go to on Christmas Day, so we had the most lovely little service with christmas candles that my mum had sent, and we sang christmas carols (the bits we could remember!) and i picked out readings from The Message, and even Bharavi, an atheist read some. At the end i got the shock when Bharavi said, “i’d just like to take this opportunity to say that iv discovered…” and told us all about his discovery that the Hindu religion has 10 reincarnations of god on earth, but he comes to kill all the bad people, and something he’s noticed about the christian faith is that God came to earth, in the form of Jesus, not to kill, but to save the sinners. Religion is such a large part of Indian culture, and it was really interesting to hear his comparison of those two religions. It was the most unexpected thing and made christmas really lovely! we went to a great, crowded bazar in hyderabad on christmas eve and bought each other some really nice presents and wrapped them up in newspaper, so we all had loads of presents to open on christmas day even though two of the girls presents from england had got lost. My parents sent a shoebox full of little things and it got here unopened as it was scanned at Chennai cutoms innstead. When I recieved this a few weeks before christmas i was very excited – a parcel that hadn’t been tampered with!Christmas day was mainly just relaxing; we watched love actually on HBO and Bharavi had a DVD of King Arthur. we had pasta for lunch(!) and pancakes for dinner (english dosa…), but what really made my christmas was being able to wash with hot water! AMAZING!For New Year Katie and I met the Tamil Nadu girls (Tasha and Rosie) in Goa, and spent a few days at benaulim beach, which isnt so touristy, for a lovely break. Select beaches in Goa are about the only place in India where foreigners can go in the sea in swimsuits/bikins (or as my Indian friends say with disgust ‘go and be naked’). For me, this part of India still felt like india, but people have a much more cosmopolitian way of thinking, which made me feel more relaxed to be there, knowing that I wasn’t going to accidentally offend someone. It was a refreshing change! We stayed in a little beach hut, with paper-thin walls, and just a bed, and shared bathrooms. It was really sweet – basic and 4months ago i would have thought it horribly dirty but i loved it… and it was right by the beach. On New Years Eve we headed for Palolem beach, where there was a lot more going on. Palolem beach is beautiful, despite the sea of beach shack restaurants and people. The back of the beach is lined with palm trees and its just so beautiful! We managed to find a beach hut for the night, thankfully, since it was the busiest night of the year and most people in Goa had done the same as us and headed for Palolem for new year’s eve. We went to a lovely restaurant for dinner and sat on cushions around a low table, and then we welcommed in the new year on the beach with loads of people and lots of fireworks. We met lots of interesting people and spent most of the night/morning around a bonfire on the beach chatting with other travellers and people on holiday. Like Christmas, it was different but very special and we had a brilliant time!After a 21hour train journey, which went suprisingly quickly, we arrived back in Vijayawada at around 6 in the morning and went straight back to the college and started teaching the same day. I love long indian train journeys. In contrast to the bus jouneys, the trains move very slowly and appear to have a mind of their own. They saunter through the beautiful countryside and when they leave a station the start gliding very slowly, as if the train itself has decided its time to go so starts moving all of its own accord. My parents are comming in just 3 weeks time so I am really looking forward to that – I wonder how they will find India? I love teaching now too. I’m very busy and feel like I am able to do it all. I was enjoying it before we left, but had been so busy that i felt i needed a break. Now I am refreshed and ready for the next 2 and a half months till the summer! Its all going so quickly now and I really love India! (My new years resolution is to love India more..)It’s the opening of the SKCV girls village today (although it won’t actually be fully finnished until April) so that should be great to see; all the children are going to see their new home!