THE INDIA FILES – 6/7/07

So, i guess this email may be interesting when compared to the first update I sent 10 months ago…I LOVE VIJAYAWADA! haha. After everything I felt at the start and during those 1st 3 months of culture shock, I don’t want to leave! I feel like a donkey being dragged by it’s reigns towards its stable again! I went through a stage of feeling ashamed of what I thought at the start, but I also realise that without that low, I couldn’t feel this happy now; so I’d go through it all again if I had to!However, our time is comming to an end and i just can’t hold on to the day for long enough -we are really busy! We have lots more classes in the college and Katie and I are going both separately, and together to SKCV to try and give them every other spare minute! And then theres teaching the staff at Nava Jeevan (a mission on a bus across town) and the office class, and the hostel classes every evening, and the individual classes….its all go. And its GOOD!Vijayawada is a pleasantly wet and windy place at the moment due to a cyclone nearby in Andhra. It is the start of the rainy season, and with it, it has brought floods and destruction. Poorer people experience damage and often destrection of their homes, which have been built either by themselves, by shoddy construction workers (who are in abundance in this ‘democratic’ society) and often with poor materials. The newspapers are full of death and destruction everyday. In addition to this, there is usually a small article about yesterday’s road accidents; death is usually caused by the dangerous driving of wagons and auto-rickshaw drivers, and often theres a motorbike involved too.However, the cooler weather brings relief too, and so we are all happily welcomming this cyclone!In personal news, I have started teaching a wonderfully enthusistic and very intelligent disabled girl from my church 4 times a week. She is an inspiration with her fierce independence and ambition. She has a 16 year old maid, who she is encouraging to study, and who carries her around between the autos. She is studying computing, after practical work in her intial accademic love, science, became too much of an obstacle, and wants to get a job in Bangalore, where she will earn more money. She was told that she needed to improve her fluency, in order to be able to communicate with international clients, and so this is hopefully what I am helping her to do! I don’t think I would have had a clue where to begin if she had come at the start of the year, but now I feel more (but by no means totally!) capable of doing something for her.Before our travels, I did a few classes with another guy from my church and he called me while we were in Mumbai to say that he had finally succeeded in getting a call centre job, a job he had originally been turned down for because of his accent and fluency. His determination saw him through, and it was very exciting to hear of his success!I also taught another girl, who came to me one day after being in tears the previous day and night. She works in Vijaywada’s first and only call centre and had been shouted at by an American client who hadnt been able to understand her and then consequently by her employers. By the sound of it the trianing they are given is minimal and of poor quality. She has now told me that she is happy in her job and feels more capable.So this is a nice time in the year; seeing people’s sucesses and improvements!I cannot believe we go home in a month’s time! It seems like no time at all, and I would be quite happy to stay; I like our life here. Life is simpler, and we have built up friendships and a community where we feel welcome and loved. I am trying to make it widely known when we are leaving so that it does not come as a shock and so that people can come to us for help in good time. I have started thinking about the next 2 volunteers who will follow our work. Then I think of how much this project, like us, has changed over the course of the year. I think it is a great project now with a lot of potential. Our location in the middle of the city means that we can get involved with so many other things; Vijayawada has one of the biggest railway junctions in India, which gives it one of the highest populations of street children in India, and with that, lots of voluntary organisations (NGOs, or charities) that work with street children, orphans, and the children of beggars. Very few foreign volunteers who stumble across Vijayawada are able to work with as many of these organisations as we have been able to, because we are primarily based at the college, rather than one of these organisations. So I feel really lucky in this respect. The main organisations we have worked with are SKCV and Nave Jeevan, and some of our friends are setting up a new organisation. I mentioned this a few months ago and can now reveal more…’GIRL India’ is an organisation set up by some of my friends, who have a lifetime’s experience working with street children and orphans in Vijayawada. They know the problems and they know what is needed in Vijayawada. More importantly, they have developed the most amazing love for these children. There are an estimated 20,000 street children in Vijayawada and only a handful of organisations. Culturally, it is only acceptable for organisations to have separate sex hostels, and because there are, on average, more street boys than girls, there are more organisations catering for the needs of boys. So GIRL India aims to fill the gap left by the other organisations in providing for the many needy girls in and around Vijayawada. If all goes to plan, the first 20 girls will be brought to the home in August, now that it is a registered charity and has some of the funding for the intial costs. If you want to know more, I can put you in touch with one of my friends, part of the organisation, who is based in the NE of England. Larger organisations are able to recieve large ammounts of funding from major trusts, but organsiations that are less than 3years old are not usually eligible for this funding, so it is a really good one to support if you are looking for a charity to support. And I can guarentee that any support will directly benifit the children who need it.On the subject of street children, this week Katie and I had a brilliant opportunity, when Father Koshi, head of Nava Jeevan asked me to read the voiceover for a documentary about Vijayawada’s street kids, which has been sent to the Telugu Association, TADA, in America. So of course I dragged Katie along too! It was a lot of fun, and a fantastic experience as we got to work with a great man who works in Andhra’s thriving movie industry. He also gave his time as a volunteer, because of his love and interest in the work that is going on in Vijayawada.I talked to some ladies today who said that I should not leave, because I have become accustomed to Andhra’s culture and am able to work here effectively, but the 2 new girls who come will have to adjust like we had to. In some ways, it does seem a huge shame to be leaving now that we have become so settled and learnt how to do our work! But next years volunteers, will, I hope, bring something new to the project, that we havent been able to do, and as such, not only carry on our work, but enhance it.In other news, now that I have henna’d my hair black and am wearing saris to teach in everyday (the other lecturers do and so it helps with classroom control!) the Aunties have decided that what I now need is “a nice Andhra boy” and have asked me more than once if I would like them to arrange a marriage for me. “Udu, udu…” (a bit like, ‘I don’t want’) I reply…. haha I take this as a huge compliment, as I have always thought the greatest complimet would be to be accepted as an Andhra girl. Now, not only do they say that I look like and have the manerisms of an “Andhra girl”, but this recent (and slightly scary!) thought shows that they have accepted me into Andhra.

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