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Heather's Global Xchange Adventure!

This is a 6 month youth volunteering placement between India and the UK. There is a team of 18 young folks: 9 from India and 9 of us from the UK. We're staying with families around the Gatwick Airport area for the first three months, then in December we're all off to Rajasthan in India to do more volunteering. We're working in pairs in all manor of places, from a special school, to a homeless centre to a theatre, and they're all fab, except maybe the furniture removal placement...

Diary Entries

Monday, 05 March 2007

Location: Home, UK

Well, I'm back.
Sorry for not updating for so long - it all got a bit hectic in the last few weeks. Here's a run down of some of what happened:

I did the experiment on the solar cooker in proper geek-heather mode. The cookers turned out to be about 33% efficient, which surprised me cos I thought they'd be more efficient. Though they still work very well. It was really sad leaving work. We'd started to really make friends with the women, who were hilarious. I'm so glad Srishti was there to translate for me, otherwise I would've been totally lost and probably a bit scared!

One of the UK volunteers, Gemma-Jane had to go home early cos she was really ill, which really sucked for lots of reasons: she was such a positive-energetic force on the team and always made the boring and often bitchy team meetings bearable, and it also meant that Nivi had to go with her and Ceris to Delhi to put her on the plane home, which meant I was Nivi-less for 3 days, which was really weird. Though Rosa and Srishti were there to keep me company, so it wasn't too bad.

We had a CAD (community action day) in tilonia, which was a sports day for the children at the school in the village. It was really fun and the kids enjoyed it, though everyone was a bit low cos it was the day GJ left.

We had another CAD in Thal Village, which was a big Health fair. We made posters, put on mini-plays, had free check-ups available and ate lots of pakoras and jalabi. Loads of people from the village and from Tilonia came and the show was great. and even if I do say so, my clock acting was amazing.

Nivi and I also held our EAD (education activity day - a workshop day) on Sustainable living, which went down a treat. We had sustainable tea, cooked on the solar coker; sustainable, recycled flip charts, and lots of discussions on what parts of our life we can make sustainable.

Leaving the family was really sad, as the children had pretty much stopped annoying me and got really cute and the women were spending more time with us which was really good. I'm not really that sad to leave the food though...

We left Tilonia on the 26th February to go to Bharatpur for our debrief. There's a lovely bird sanctuary there where I saw a pair of nesting eagle owls and a kingfisher and a massive stork (can't remember what kind though). it was also sad at the sanctuary cos there'd not been a very good monsoon, so the birds hadn't all migrated there, so there weren't so many tourists, which meant the people that worked there didn't get much money. The rest of the debrief was really good, though I've been sick since we left tilonia and was in bed with fever on the first night. And we had a really weird cross dressing party which I think the Indian boys enjoyed far too much...

Anyway... We left Bharatpur on the morning of the 1st March to go to Agra for a flying trip to see the Taj Mahal. On the way we were driving along a canal in Uttar Pradesh and growing all along the canal was cannibis. it was quite a sight and more surprising than the beauty of the Taj Mahal, which was incredible, but busy and stressful to get to. Then we left Agra and went to Delhi, where we all slept early on our 2nd last night together (I was still unwell and very glad of it!). On our last day, Friday, Nivi and I had our Exit Interviews so we stayed in the hostel, spent a very long time getting up and eating lunch while everyone else went shopping. Saturday was Holi - the festival of colour which is celebrated by throwing coloured powder and water at each other. Team 56 celebrated it very quietly (the other guests were complaining) on the balcony in the Hostel at 1am before leaving for the Airport.

We made such a scene at the airport! Singing and crying and laughing. I was so so so so so sad to leave Nivi (and Srishti), and I'm not sure that now I'm back it's sunk in yet...

So I am now home, i'll be in Aberdeen until June working for Dad, gathering money to live on next year, then I'm moving to Newcastle and getting a job, then starting the Renewable Energy Masters in September. Good plan, eh?

Keep in touch, and thanks for reading!

Heather xx

Friday, 26 January 2007

Location: Tilonia, India

Well, what can I say.... I can't remember what I last wrote and the connection is too slow to go back and check...

We went to Mount Abu the other weekend which was lovely. saw a beautiful sunset and had real coffee - amazing! It was the Mid Project Review so we had to do a load of evaluating of how things are going. and I concluded that they're going pretty well.

The Family I'm staying with are nice, and I don't have to eat roti everyday now (cos I found I couldn't actually swallow them anymore and I lost my appetite cos they're so boring - weird - I've never been bored by eating before...). My work is great - I'm going to do a wee experiment to measure the efficiency of the solar cookers as soon as I can lay my hands on a thermometer. It's all quite exciting :D. We've been going to visit the other villages where the other volunteers are staying, which is quite fun as the centres where they work have lovely food!

My tummy is better for the minute, which is good, but I got a thorn in my knee the other day which gave me a limp for a day. That's better too now. My cold's also gone, so I'm pretty healthy currently, which is good, and more than can be said for some of the other UK volunteers....

We had to figure out when and how we are getting back from london when we arrive back, which was weird cos it involved talking about leaving in really concrete ways... I'll be getting back to aberdeen some time in the afternoon or evening of the 3rd March though. right now it feels very strange that this programme will end.

Anyhoo, I best be off now. Hope your all well and keep messaging me! xxx

Friday, 12 January 2007

Location: Tilonia, India

Hey folks,

HAPPY NEW YEAR! hope you all had a great time and didn't get too drunk... I had a drink-free hogmanay in Pushkar (it's a dry city because it very holy - it has the only Brahma temple in the world, Brahma being the Creator in the Hindu faith) The place was full of real hippy tourists - the kind I expected to find in india, but discovered I don't really like. It's such a demanding place, with the streets full of people selling you things and trying to rip you off. even the preists are at it... Anyhoo, I had a lovely time.

Living with my host family is good. I get on quite well with the children, all 8 of them, with my limited hindi vocabulary. The food's really boring though. Just roti and daal or vegetable dish, 3 times a day... I'm currently ill which is cool cos I get kedgeree (rice and lentils) and to stay at home a read my book. Not cool though cos I'm tired, dehydrated and have a 10 hour journey tomorrow to Mount Abu!

Tiny Team Tilonia has been organising a weekend of workshops for the group in the only hill station in Rajasthan, starting tomorrow. It should be really fun because the place sounds amazing, but really really cold. like minus something or other... It's ok though cos I've got my thermals!

Right, Nivi's crying for a cup of tea (with sugar, yuk!), so I've got to go, take care!

xxxxxxxxx

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Location: Tilonia, Rajasthan, India

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Sorry it's been such a long time... So much has happened that I don't know where to start...

I arrived in delhi on the 9th of December, spent the day in Delhi, saw dad, went to Nivi's home in Chandigarh on the 10th and came back to delhi on Monday. We had some training and shopping in delhi until tuesday night when we tavelled to tilonia overnight on a bus. Delhi was smelly and busy and all i saw was shop keepers, auto-drivers and traffic, and everyone was trying to get money off me. of which I gave plenty!

Since being in tilona, we got split up into 3 groups and sent to different villages, so there's 6 of us Tilonia, 6 in Kotri and 5 in Singla, both north of Tilonia. Tiny team tilonia is getting on pretty well, and have lovely, if slightly slow work placements and nice host families. In my new family there are 2 grandparents, 3 mothers, 3 husbands, one more younger wife and 8 children, from 5 months to 14 years old. I'm working with the women solar cooker engineers of the BArefoot college, who are pretty cool. THe cookers are quite amazing, and I'm sure I'll write more about that later.

I've got to go now, as the 2 hour lunch break is over...

Have a great new year - we're off to Pushkar and Ajmer for NEw Year, woop woop!

later xxx

Sunday, 03 December 2006

Location: Salfords, for the last time, UK

I'm just one hour away from leaving leafy Surrey for the Ol' Smoke, and I can't decide if I'm sad, excited, scared, or just worried about my luggage... I've chucked a few things out of my bag and I have to post them home, and I have no idea how much my bag weighs. On the plus side, though, I have managed to take my pillow, and all my lovely new smellies are in the bag :)

talking of lovely smellies, my birthday was full of them - just perfect! It was also full of not-quite-surprises... Rosa, Srishti and Nivi got lots of balloons, wine, HAPPY BIRTHDAY banners and sweets for a midnight party, except I was so lame that I was too tired to have the party! I really am quite useless sometimes...

What else have we done? We said goodbye to the "community" last night with a party, which was quite fun. But also maybe a little sad... I don't know, I can't decide...

Anyhoo, I got to go do a few last minute preparations before we leave. Hopefully I 'll get a chance to update soon, but we're busy in london all week at the GX event, which should be so very cool, then I've got the debrief to help facilitate which is going to be ace cos I've just made the bestest pass the parcel ever, then we're flying on Friday - eek!

later xxx

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Location: Aberdeen airport, ba lounge, Scotland

long time, no write...
so much has happened, I think...
Poor Edd had to leave, which was rubbish. we chopped some rhododendrons, which was fun. We had a large interfaith day called "global peace - faith matters", which was very interesting. We went for a lovely walk, which was nice. We had a big lamb curry evening at our host home, which was a little drunken. We all went out to support the Brambles night at Liquid, which was really really good. We went to a talk from the "Jeruselam Peacemakers" in Crawley, which was fascinating. It was a Muslim Sheik and an Orthodox Jewish guy who had this organisation which tries to bring together all the people of different religions of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, to try to stop them fighting. Very inspirational folks. It was good cos in the "circle of prayer" at the end, they kept talking about how they had The Three Religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) together, forgetting that they had a few Hindus, Sikhs and non-religious people in the room, so Pratishtha piped up and we did an Om, which was great :)

Nivi and I have been home for the weekend, and now we're just at the airport ready to go back down south. We've mostly been shopping, eating and drinking and generally consuming. We went out to town on Saturday night, but we were a little lame. We went to the international market and art gallery on saturday, then stayed in with the girls that night, which was lovely. then today we went out to Crathes to see a castle and some woods, and to Stonehaven to see the ruins at Dunottar which was stunning today - as it always is... If I knew could get my photos up, this may be a little more interesting... I also got lots of lovely birthday presents this weekend, lots of useful things for india: ipod speakers, wind up mobile charger, two more travel journals, and a "safe travel" bracelet - I think I'm all set now!!

So we got to the airport super early and dad got us into the ba lounge, which is very comfortable... We can eat and drink and use the internet and printer and everything :) awesome...

Righty, my flight's fairly soon, so I best be off, hopefully I'll be able to update soonish.

later xxx

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Location: Horely library, UK

Well hello... what's been going on here? Oh yes, lots....
On Saturday our team was part of the VSO float in the Lord Mayor's procession in London. It's a parade to mark the new mayor and there's floats from businesses all over london. it was such good fun. we were all wearing red, yellow or blue ponchos and we had nurses hats, bowler hats or mortar boards on our heads (I presume it was to symbolise the professions that vso needs and uses). we walked all round north east london dancing and cheering with some Ghanian drummers at the front - it was so much fun! Also, John Snow was in our float which was really cool!

Saturday evening, the "family" went to someone's house for dinner, which was nice for a change, though we were all fully knackered...

On Sunday we got up super early again and went to Crawley to paint the day centre of Crawley Open House. This place is a place for homeless folk to go and get support, food, practical help and there's also a hostel attached. It was an amazing place and itwas so great to be able to do something that would really benefit the place. Srishti is lucky enough to work there as her placement... It was also really fun painting :D

I've just been at school today and yesterday, in with the 4 and 5 year olds and they are just so cute. we went to the early learning centre to play with their toys today, which was fun, though the children didn't really enjoy leaving...

Tomorrow we're going to Gemma-Jane's work placement for some of the day. She works at an MS respite centre, so it should be really interesting. tomorrow afternoon, however, we've got a team meeting, which won't be fun. something bad's happened and we're going to find out what global xchange are doing about i, and it may involve losing one of the team members. but I won't say anymore so i don't tempt fate... eek...

I'm going to go now and get my tea. then I'm going to write a report that I should've written 3 weeks ago, then I'm going to write a paragraph about my work placement that I should've written 4 weeks ago, then I might learn some hindi... or I might just chat to my counterparts all evening...

later xxx

Tuesday, 07 November 2006

Location: Horley library, as usual, UK

hello again. get the feeling this will be a famine/feast type blog? me too. What's happened in the last 3 days? We've got new house mates. Rosa and Srishti have come to stay with us, which means we all have 3 counterparts now, sort of... Poor Lyne and Stephen now have 4 girls in the house to look after and feed and do laundry for... (that's not because we don't offer to do it, mum) It's good fun so far, and cos I get up so bloomin' early I don't compete in the shower run. good job really cos my back's still being funny....

What else... I went for a big walk. all round our little bit of leafy surrey. it's lovely, though it will soon be leafless. I went for a day trip to Southall, west london yesterday. we had an organised trip to see "a real live asian community in the uk". I was dreading it cos I thought it sounded a little too much like a trip to the zoo... but it was actually fun *and* educational and didn't feel too voyeuristic. The youth worker guy, Raj, who took us (he used to live there) had organised it so we could all visit the Hindu Mandir (temple) and the mahoosive Sikh Gurdwara (largest outside India).

I was back at school today for the first time in ages. I was in a class of 4 and 5 year olds who are really cute, but i'm not convinced it was the best thing for my back... but it was really fun playing all day :D

Righty, I'm off, but I'm sure I'll write again in like, a week or six...

xxxx

Saturday, 04 November 2006

Location: Horley, UK

Alrighty, I have 11 minutes to fill y'all in on 6 1/2 weeks of stuff...

I'm living in a wee place called Salfords. it's really small. I have a bus pass that will get me out of there. The family are really nice, though mum's food is better... I'm working in a special primary school - who'd've thought it?! it's really cool, though I haven't been in for ages cos it was half term then I put my back out then we had to do some gardening for an old people's home (though I just watched cos my back's still not right)...

The team is starting to work really well. we went away last weekend and really bonded. which is good cos it has been really hard talking about anything at all with 18 different opinions and everyone coming from such diverse backgrounds...

Another pair of girls (Rosa and Srishti) is coming to stay at out house for the remainder of the uk bit, which should be fun and crazy and interesting. not sure how we're all going to fit showers in on a morning... anyhoo....

We all have counterparts that we live with, mine is called Nivi. She's really cool and we get on really well (thank god!). Anyone who's in Aberdeen on the 24th-26th of November will get to meet her cos she's coming up with me when we come back for the weekend - how exciting!

Everyone is working on differents projects, again in cross cultural pairs. Nivi's working for an environmental conservation project based around gatwick airport. Srishti is working at an open house project for homeless folks in Crawley. Rosa is working at a special pre-school and doing some research for Crawley police with the youfs of the town - scary stuff! Other folks are doing Charity PR, working for Age Concern and the Local town council, so everyone's getting a really different experience.

We have educational activity days every wednesday where we learn about different global issues. Nivi and I did ours on Diversity, and focussed on sexuality and gender issues, unsurprisingly. it was amazing. everyone took something good away from it, the feedback was great and it really made some people question their own beliefs. It was really hard approaching it, because even with the group of young, aware and not very prejudiced people there are some quite strong beliefs about the roles of men and women and their sexualities... anyhoo, it was really interesting.

I'll start updating properly from now on - promise!

miss yous

xxxxx


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Recent Messages

From Clare R
Happy New Year to you back.

Sounds like you are having a very interesting time. Isnt the rest of the world so much fun! I miss putting up dates on my planetranger page. Guess that means i need to get travelling again!

Hope you are feeling better. Its not good to have a bad tummy if you have to sit on a bus for ages!

take care lots of love C x
Response: Hello! hopefully you'll receive a letter in the next 6 weeks (I don't know how quick the post is here), is your address the same as before? what are you up to these days? take care xxx
From Tom
Happy New Year mate!
Response: Thank you! hope yr keeping well, where are you now? xx
From Mum
Hi Heather
Are you settled in yet? Can we contact you? We are now on skype and our user id is :bilberry7734. The email address is the other way of getting in.
Dad has brought back some great pics from India, the photo of you and Nivi is super. How did you get on at Nivi's house?
Look forward to hearing from you, lots of love, Mum
Response: Hi folks, hope yr all well. Just a message to say I'm still alive and nearly well. Off to the mountains tomorrow where it's minus something horrible - hope I don't get a cold to go with my bad tummy! take care love heather xxx
From Milly
hey heather

just heard the new gwen stefani song and it made me think of you - don't know why, except that I bet you love it and I can really see you having a little dance to it! Anyway its lovely to read how you're getting on - sounds fun. When are you off to india? we need to have a good catch up soon....
love
Milly xx
Response: will you get this? who knows! I haven't heard the gwen song, but I'll listen out :) I'm off in 3 weeks, so I'll probably call you soon! listen out for fergielicious - it's hilarious! speak soon xxx
From Zaza Underground
Orite then, looking forward to your updates! Any chance in you doing your projects on this side of the world?
Response: I don't think so, but maybe one day... you ok? xx
From Milly
sounds good! x