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Volunteering in India

Now that I'm here ...

Diary Entries

Monday, 17 December 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

I seem to have lost all enthusiasm for writing my journal since I decided I'm going home! Sorry! X

Wednesday, 05 December 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

Hey guys ...
I have spoken to Christine and Suresh and am afraid I have come to a rather sad decision ... I'm going to be coming home soon. I will have completed three months here by the time I come home. I haven't reached the decision lightly and it is by no means a reflection on the charity, the school, the people or the country. I simply don't feel happy and I feel as though I have now given it a good/long enough 'go' to be sure that I do want to come home.
There have been tears (mine), but my decision is now made!
I do hope to carry on supporting the school in any way I can from home as I really do believe in what it is trying to achieve.
I will keep on updating this journal until I leave which is in around 2 and a half weeks so keep looking (if you want to, that is).
Sorry to be a let down people. Things don't always work out as you imagine ...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

It’s strange the things you miss when you’re away from home and familiarity … as I looked through my cupboard for something, I found my only pair of socks I have with me here in India (the ones I travelled in). I felt a strange little knot of – well, not exactly excitement but something not that far off – I put them on and it was such a nice sensation! Almost like getting a cuddle – for my feet, at least.

I don’t think there’s any secret that I have been struggling out here more than I anticipated I would. Without boring you (I did wonder whether to put this on at all, but then I thought it is a diary of me volunteering in India so it should include both the good and the bad), the main problems have been loneliness and boredom. Being the only person who is not Indian and the issues that brings up, to varying degrees, every single day, eventually gets you down. The language barrier, the cultural differences, the staring etc etc none of it is all that bad, but when you are dealing with it alone and daily it becomes more of a big deal. I miss people, of course, but this was anticipated. However, with feeling a bit low this becomes amplified. And, there’s a lack of independence in the lifestyle I have here – due to where I am based, the fact I am the only volunteer and so on and so on. There are many different issues and factors, none of which are any persons fault, it’s simply that this is completely new to every single person involved and we are all learning from it …
… anyway, I have spoken honestly and openly to the very understanding and kind Christine and Suresh. I think I am going to stay until the end of March, rather than June. This just seems so much closer and easy to deal with. It is also a nice cut off point as that’s when the children I am currently working with will break up for summer. We are also beginning a Conversational English workshop for 6-8 year olds, twice per week, and 9-11 year olds, three times per week. The course will be three months long and will start at the beginning of January at the latest which will mean they will finish at the end of March too. It will hopefully feel like the right time to leave, like I am completing tasks and not leaving unfinished business behind. It also will give me the experiences I want.

For the people that helped me raise the money to come here, I hope this doesn’t make you feel let down in any way. Whilst here I am doing all I can to help the children and the charity. The school/charity itself is well worth every penny it receives as it has genuine, heartfelt aims for the young children of India, and their families. It has very high hopes and big dreams and is working hard to achieve these …

Hope this message finds everyone well

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Location: Keeranur and Trichy, India

Hello everyone
Sorry if you have been coming on here and finding nothing new to look at or read. Despite Suresh’s best efforts … alas the computer is still broken. They have left me their computer for tonight so I get a chance to catch up with people, diary entries, photos etc.
It’s Thursday today which makes it almost three weeks since the computer broke, and now, as I sit in front of a computer, finally, I can’t actually be bothered to type!! I will just aim to get as many photos on as I can and write underneath the photos about what’s going on, where they are taken, and so on.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Location: Trichy, India

Hey guys ... computer's been down for two weeks now. I'm just quickly letting you all know why I haven't been updating. Over the next couple of days I will back at Keeranur and the computer will be fixed so I will be sure to update you all then ... xx

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

Today school was cancelled due to heavy rain – which is why I am taking the opportunity to get all this down. No photos of anything at the mo. Once the new kids stop crying and begging to get away from me (ha!) I will get photos. I will get more photos of the food here too so you can see what I’m on about when I talk about dosa and bhajis etc.
Bedtime is an interesting time. Sometimes the near-by church choose to sing – over speakers blasted out for the whole town to hear, at quarter to five in the morning. Roosters start cock-a-doodle-dooing at any time they like. Dogs fight and snarl through the day and through the night. Mosquitoes feast on me. I scratch myself awake. The noise of the fan makes me dream about aeroplanes regularly. The other day a cricket got itself in my room and sang its way through the night – and let me tell you, they are loud and my room is all tile so it seems to echo. I finally found it last night, got it out my room and somehow through the course of the night it got back in. I’m afraid it faces certain death on next capture!!!! And finally, the three little birds on my windowsill. To those of you for whom this conjures up sweet images similar to that in the Bob Marley song – NO. They peck maniacally at my window!!!! They are actually crazy. I go to bed early every night though and my days are rather sedate so I don’t know why I am still tired. I think I am just one of those people. I like my room. Once the door is closed and I have got my coffee and my book open (actually Kindle on, but that sounds much less picturesque) the room feels very safe and comfortable.
Babies don’t wear nappies … I haven’t yet ventured the question, ‘what happens when they wee or poo?’
Little boys have black string tied around their waists – I need to ask why.
Little girls often have short hair and then almost all around 10 and up, including grannies, tend to have long hair. We are more used to little girls always having long hair and hair getting shorter as a lady gets older. Because this is what I’m used to it does look a bit strange to me. The little girls look a bit grown up with their short hair, and a long plait looks like a young girls hairstyle on a woman.
These are generally speaking, obviously everybody is different, but … Social boundaries and ‘niceties’ seem to differ quite a lot, ie. Privacy – people think they can just go in your room and look through your stuff (this has been rectified). It is not meant offensively, it is not done secretly or anything, it is right in front of you. They are curious, so they look. People interrupt each other when they speak, and, the language barrier makes this less clear to me, but, the tone of voice used for speaking to one another appears more abrupt/aggressive. Less emphasis is placed on manners. And, I’m fairly certain they don’t have mystery shoppers in India!! Hahaha Customer service is very, erm, different. Haha All this said though, the minute you are inside someone’s home they are making you sit down, feeding you, offering you coffee asking how you are …
For most Indian people, England is synonymous with London.
Everything (travelling, shops, businesses, police …) appears a bit disorganized, a bit … ‘rough and ready’. Maybe that’s just how it appears, maybe that’s how it is.
Because most businesses open early and close late, it’s not unusual for people to have a late lunch, around 2, and come back to work around 5. Like a Spanish siesta I suppose.
People seem to be scrupulously clean and yet places are not. Women dress up in their sarees, plait their hair, put oil and flowers in it, paint their hands and feet with henna, dress their children up smart, little girls wear bangles and ankle bracelets and pretty clothes. Little boys and men look clean and smart. But, I can’t help but find it strange that it’s to go out shopping, on streets that are filthy, shops that aren’t particularly inviting, restaurants/’hotels’ that are purely functional. People don’t go to bars, or nightclubs, there’s no theatre or even bingo. Socialising here is very different – I realise that I am not in a big city and that I may see something completely different if I were familiar with Chennai (capital of Tamil Nadu), or Delhi or Mumbai. I’m just saying what I see.
A very honest admission … don’t judge me! I know societies – like ours – which take in a lot of alcohol and you see alcohol at every occasion possible – have their problems. And, I know drinking is something normal to me to do, and to see people do. But, life without it feels strange. Like there honestly is something missing. To me, it seems to open up so many doors for socialising more easily. Enjoying a bottle of wine with your meal makes the meal more of an ‘event’, going to the pub or a bar, it is social. It is fun. It is something to do … I don’t know if this sounds ‘sad’, if I’m even getting my point across properly but it honestly feels as though something is lacking and after much consideration I truly believe it is alcohol.
When I’ve taken a closer look, all the dried foods I’ve been eating are stuffed full of E numbers – it’s not like at home where everyone is dying to tell you that their product is free from artificial colours and preservatives. Which, leads me on to my eating habbits. They are not healthy. The reasons for this are: I do not know how to cook!! I know how to feed myself at home, but, I do not know how to cook from scratch. Ingredients are unfamiliar to me. I don’t always feel like going out to buy them as you have to be in the correct frame of mind to face the hussle and bussle, the traffic the litter and the staring!! And, I have two gas hobbs, and I just don’t know where to begin. So, I am going to have someone cook for me. Lunch and dinner on weekdays. Breakfast I am quite happy with my biscuits and coffee and the weekends I can just do whatever, but I need to make sure I eat more veg etc – and Christine and Suresh keep telling me off!!!! Anyway, I fought against the idea for a while – it just feels wrong to have someone cook for me I guess – but I have to concede. I need to eat better and it will also give someone a job, which is a good thing.
For now … That’s all folks

Friday, 26 October 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

Vanakkam (hello/welcome)
Since we last spoke I am pleased to say that the class size at the school has more than doubled ... we now have 8 students! Everyone is 2 and a half apart from one child who's 3 and a half. There are two girls and the rest boys. Three of the little boys absolutely refuse to be left at the moment, but hopefully that will come. One of them actually did cry himself sick. A while ago I think I told you about a festival that was coming up where we hoped to get more pupils. It is thanks to that, the Ayudha Pooja festival, that we have these new students. Indian people seem to be rather superstitious. We had a lovely couple of days where the pupils came and joined and we just played with balloons and things as they were holiday days.
Also, Subash was over from the UK (he and his wife Ruth were the original people I dealt with re this volunteering trip). He did very well in a sponsored chilli eating competition and it also gave us all the opportunity to sit down and discuss the school, how it has been going and the plans for the future.
So far the main changes are the number of pupils increasing, at the moment it is a little unsettled but once they calm down this will make for a much better school. Also, another important change is that there is no more smacking in the school. Some of you grew concerned when I wrote in my journal about the Aya (I think I referred to her as Ira as I still wasn’t quite au fait with the language and new words … what am I on about? I’m still not!!!!) smacking the children . This no longer goes on. She is from a completely different culture and this is how they bring up their children. Not only this, but the parents ask you to smack their children!! It’s just so different to what we know in the UK. Anyhow, rest easy folks with concerns, it was a problem, it has been corrected. (Not that this makes smacking right as I’m sure you all know it something I don’t agree with and refused to partake in, but, for anyone who knows me, they would know that if I had any serious concerns this would have been immediately brought up with urgency.)
On a lighter note, I have two new favourite foods here: Ghee Roast (Dosa) and Puli (Tamarind) curry. Eating out here is just so different to home. It’s difficult to explain just how different. As soon as you sit down you get tap water in front of you – I just take my own water. There’s no drinking so that’s all people have. I asked for a coke and they had to go to the shop next door to get it for me. You go and wash your hands. Then they instantly ask you what you want. No menu. Because, I think, everyone eats the same things. So for example, you choose from Chapatti , Dosa, Ickley, and they bring it out almost immediately, on a banana leaf with a selection of dips. Always Samba, and then depending what you’ve ordered other ones too. And you just ask for more if you want more as you go along. They bring it out on a tray and put it on your plate (with their fingers), and that’s pretty much how it works. Then you go.
I didn’t get to the engagement at the weekend as the weather was so bad. So nothing to report there I’m afraid.
There is general agreement that at least two volunteers would be better here – for a number of reasons. I think there is an aim to try and get another one by the beginning of next year. It’s quite short notice for people to gather together the amount of money they need though so I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t come off. For future volunteers though it will be a help. We are aiming to get the conversational English classes up and going as soon as possible, and, I am going to think of some kind of activity to do with the children that live on the street that the school is on. It is a very poor street so hopefully they will enjoy some activities.
That’s about it for now … I wrote all this last night and then when I came to save it it disappeared. I was mad! I’m so sure the version I wrote last night was much more insightful and humorous too!! Haha
Nandre (thank you – because I can’t remember ‘bye’!)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

it's been 4 weeks ...

since i was in the air flying to india,
since i ate my ultimate favourite food -cheese - or indeed anything other than indian food or dry foods such as noodles, biscuits, crackers etc.,
since i drank alcohol (i mean, for 4 weeks!!!! unheard of!),
since i saw any friends, family or boyfy, and hence, four weeks since i've had a cuddle,
since i was last cold,
now that i've had my new friends - suresh and family,
of experiencing a completely different country and culture (in almost every way i can think of) - some good, some bad, all interesting,
since i wore makeup, did my hair or wore anything on my feet other than flip flops - ok ok, so the first two points here weren't exactly prevalent to my lifestyle - but you know ...
since i took a big gulp of air and smelled nothing ... there's always something in the air here - good or bad: food, flowers, animals ...
since i was around any kind of transport that doesn't make a honk, beep or a ring on it's bell at least every minute!!
since i watched any csi!!
since i spoke to anybody british (although i sometimes forget christine is indian!), or anyone with white skin,
since i could walk down the street without being oggled,
now i have been unable to imagine life without a fan,
since i used a kettle, toaster, washing machine, hand dryer, hair dryer, microwave, oven, grill ...


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

My new little nephew has been born today/last night ... welcome to the world Kian. Can't wait to meet you ... if you're anything like your big brother Karl then you're gonna be corker!! XX

Friday, 19 October 2012

Location: Keeranur, India

I've been stood on the balcony for a while looking out over Keeranur, waiting for the children to arrive. It's five past ten and so far there is no sign of any. I think it's probably because of the weather. It is absolutely pouring down.
From my balcony I look down onto lots of people's homes and watching them have to carry on exactly as normal despite the weather is a bit sad. Women in sodden sarees going to the street tap to collect water, washing dishes outside, clothes that had been hung out to dry hanging limp all around ... I'm sure it's difficult to do all the work they do in the heat and that the coolness brings some respite, but it does look very difficult, and frankly, rather depressing to be doing all this in the heavy rain. And everywhere looks so brown. Drains flood easily as they are full of litter - icky smells seem more so in the rain too.
We would be at work, somewhere dry and comfortable and then home to a cosy house with plenty of food - or maybe we'd get ourselves a takeaway. Nothing much really to worry about. Clothes in the washing machine and then the dryer, dishwasher on ... beer in hand (mmmmmm beer!!)
Anyway, just a moment to be thankful ... X

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Recent Messages

From Mom
Don't have to write anything here...just want to say I can't wait to get you back. So, so proud of what you've done. Love you loads xx
Response: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx thank you my mummy! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From vicky blackwood
hi jodie just read your diary i am sure u have done your best so proud of u carnt wait to see u missed u lots see u soon x x
Response: thanks vic xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From Shazza
Awh jodie podie , i am feeling sad for you missy!!! on the other hand I can't wait to see you !!!!!!! HOoooooo you give it your all , I know you did !!!:) it's well ok with me your coming home it's a bit bloody freezing you will need your one pair of socks on !!! Sending lol can you feeeeeeeeeeeel it !!!!! Till we meet again my friend xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:0) I am so happy your coming home xxx
Response: heeheee well, you've made me feel nice shazza :0) thanks! obviously a couple of little drinky poos will be in order when i get back :0) xxx p.s we are old because lol means lots of love rather than laugh out loud. xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
From Fayesy
Still proud of you no matter what my lovely friend. :-) Xx
Response: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From Julia
Hi Jodie x just wanted to say what a good job your doing xx great diary and photos xx your so brave and such an inspiration...really well done x
Response: thanks ju xx
From April
Hi Joey....I know you have problems with the computer you have access to but was wondering you have Skype would love to chat face to face ! If not would you email me and will email you back xx love u long time!! Lol xxxaprilxxx
Response: it'll have to be email my friend - it'll make it all the nicer when we see each other again!!! xxxxxx
From Sally
Hey chickadee, I'm coming out to India in Feb so thought I'd come & visit you & maybe bring you some more socks...hehe! Hope you're ok - I know it's hard going but you're doing an incredible thing & soon the time wilk start flying by.

Take care & big hugs, my friend

Sal xx
Response: OH MY GOD SAL - YEY! ooooooo we can't behave anything like we did in NZ!!!!! haha why are you coming to india?? my email is
From Emma
Hey Joey, just been catching up with your diary - love reading it. Hopefully once the computer is fixed you can let us know what you're up to and keep the photo's coming! Miss you lots and take care x x x
Response: thanks em xx
From Shazza
Hiya,haha xx
Response: HYIA ... haha xx
From Bex
Hey love
Bonfire night here - made me think about where I was in NZ this time three years ago. I was on a beach somewhere and it all felt a bit crazy and dangerous - people setting fire to anything they could find and setting fireworks off from the sand inches away from you! Need to find my diary again and remind myself where exactly it was - it makes me sad that the memories are fading....
Interesting to hear about getting a cook - you know me...I need full details of what you're feasting on please! Maybe a better diet will help with the tiredness?
Went to Pauley Herons wedding at the weekend, it was really lovely, he looked so handsome in his kilt! His bride looked stunning and much fun was had - my views on alcohol on Sunday morning were definitely not as fond as yours sound in your diary!!
Much love xx
Response: Hey my lovely ... Diwali here - people set fire to things, kids set off rather unpredictable fire crackers etc ... bit nerve wrecking!!
full page of pics on food bex!
much love right back at ya! xx
From Karl
Response: :0) xx
From Del
Nooo I read it all! I was impressed by your writing, very creative, almost as if you'd studied it in some sort of course.... Well done on passing your maths too, fab!

Don't kill Jiminy, he just likes to come in and sing to you! xXx
Response: Jiminey is dead Del, he went too far. I woke up in a murderous rage to his singing and had hunted him out and stood on him before my brain was even in gear!!! If it makes you feel any better it has kind of haunted me ever since. I have now also killed a caterpillar that I can't stop thinking about :0( What kind of person am I these days .... arrrgh??!!
From Adele
And also, I've just been looking at your photos and the meaty ones made me feel ill! The kitty looks more appealing than the goats stomach! xXx
Response: i know, it was vile, not an ideal place for a vegetarian, but probably a good place for reminding yourself why you're a veggie!!! xxxxxxxxxx
From Adele Freestone
Hey Jodie P!

I've been having a nose through your diary after you posted something on facebook. It's amazing all the things that you're up to, sounds like a fantastic experience. I hope you're well, just thought I'd send a little hello! xXx
Response: hi del ... it's so nice to hear from you. you forget that i know you - i bet you just looked at the pictures! hahahaaa xxxxxxxxxxxxx
From vicky blackwood
hi jodie just a little message to say we are all thinking of u and i am drinking plenty for both of us .keep smiling x x
Response: hiya vicky :0) xx haha, i have no doubt you are doing my drinking for me!!! thank you - i will join you for a great big one when i get home xx hope all is well with you guys x
From Fayesy
Hi my lovely, soooo love reading your diary....very entertaining and a very good read. You definitely should write a book you know....then we can review it at book club ;-) Just about to view the pics now...wondering what the mossie bites are gonna look like after reading other people's comments about goes! Love ya and miss ya. XxxxxxxxxX
From Mom
Oh Joey........XxXxXxXxXxXxX
From Tony
Yeah still working too, been doing my maths at work so I don't forget all it's just a lot of stuff to remember. How are you finding it then, are u enjoying it? Xx
Response: it's taking me longer than i thought to settle in. There are parts i am enjoying more than others :0)
From Tony
Hi Jodie, just Tony, howz things are u having fun?? I'm enjoying my access course but absolutely hate maths it makes me feel sad ha, just hope I get the C I need. Hope your well, Xx
Response: Hi there tonester ... of course you hate maths, there is no other way to feel about that goddamn subject!!!! I hope you get a C too but you have to put a bit of work in outside the class. Pleased you're enjoying the access course. Are you still working too? x
From Mom
Jodie, it does make you think darling doesn't it? Perhaps redundancy and mossy bites are not too bad. As far as the beer is concerned...could Subash not get some 'wine' in for you? xx
Response: I think he could if I asked, but, maybe a bit of a detox isn't such a bad thing!!!!!!! Let's face it, I haven't gone this long without drinking since I was about ... hmmmmm ... too young probs!!!! A lot of years anyway!!
From Edna
Hi Jodie, have been reading your Diary. A lot of what you are experiencing so far sounds familiar. The mosquitoes didnt like me, they didnt bother me.
Enjoy everything andtake care

Edna x
Response: thanks ed xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From Mom
Bet you're loving the rain Joey, it must be so nice to cool down a bit. Nearly cried when I saw you bites and bruises...poor you :0(
Love you XX
Response: it's a mixed bag mum - the feeling when you're scratching is just so nice - and then the burning pain sets in hahaaaa. love you too x
From Deb
Aww jo had quite a bit of reading to do but enjoyed it, really glad this page is here so u can keep us updated, os and I just looked at the pics whilst sat outside the chinese waiting for our food :) great pics my flower. Your doing good my friend Miss you xxxx
Response: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From Bex
love, love, LOVE reading your diary, definitely do not love the mosquito bite photos! Hope they settle down, I feel itchy just looking. Is there anything you can do to make yourself less tasty?! xx
Response: heeeehheehe nope - i'm just a tasty treat for the little bleeders bex! xx
From April
Hey Jodie going home next week ....cant believe i am not going to see you!! :( will update u on my wedding plans.. !!when i have some lol well its def May 2014 take care my friend xx
Response: A beautiful spring wedding apes - that'll be lovely. And of course it's you so it'll be ace!!!!! Have fun when you're home. Miss me please xxx