Published: July 3rd 2010June 29th 2010
After breakfast at MUWCI, we loaded vehicles to travel to our homestays in 3 different villages. On the way we all met at the Saddna Village, which is an NGO started to help the mentally challenged adults that live in several surrounding villages. The organization also runs a women’s self-help group for micro-lending, community medicine, and general women’s empowerment. The directors had gathered 20 or so of the adults they work with to greet us. We also met two volunteers from Germany and one from upstate New York. These young people have spent almost 1 gap year between high school and college living and working in Saddna Village. In speaking with one, Jerichmo, he said he learned much more about himself than he planned. He said he came wanting to learn about India: culture, food, and languages, etc. But he really learned about the many gifts he has for the world, patience, persistence, and a love of helping others. He will attend university next year in Bologna, Italy. For me, chance encounters like this are one of the most wonderful things about GYLI. When we open ourselves to the possibility of our own gifts and those of others, many good things
From Saddna Village, we went to our homestay families. I was paired with Amit, and we were staying in a house near Lane, Emily, Nata and Surbi. So we dropped the girls off first, then went to out homestay location.
We knew this was going to be a very different homestay experience as compared with Costa Rica because the families have less means, and are not as used to hosting as the families in Costa Rica. The house we stayed had 4 rooms: one for the buffalo (what we would call cows) which they keep for milk; one with two wooden beds, two dressers, and a tv; one kitchen; and one small storage room. There as also a little entry way for shoes. The roof was straw with plastic woven in for good measure of keeping the heavy rains out. The walls were mud and the floor dirt. There was almost no odor from the cows or in general from the house. The smell that hits you upon entry is the wood from the fire for cooking in the kitchen. There are 3 light bulbs, but they lose power every day from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
The women in this house are lucky compared to some. There water supply is about 20 yards from the front door, so they don’t have to spend too much time going for water, and they also cook with wood instead of dried cow dung, which causes lots of lung and respiration problems. In storage above the ceiling, they have an ample supply of cooking wood as well as straw for the cows.
Our hosts Turaliba and Marudi. Turabliba is an older lady with one lazy eye that drifts up in its socket—she is tough as leather, and has a wonderful laugh. Her husband passed away 12 years ago. She lives with her son and his wife Marudi, who is in the twenties. She has completed a 7th grade education. When we arrived Marudi was cooking, and Turbalia was sweeping the floor. After brief introductions, it was time to head out to the farm for some field work. First she gathered her own tools, we walked the narrow lane of the village, then she stopped to borrow another long handled hoe in case we needed a second one. Turabilba carried the tools and her rain gear—a green plastic tarp--in a
orange plastic bowl that she carried on her head as we snaked through many rice paddies and sugar cane fields until we came to her field.
“Meen Kaate,” she said, and gestured first to herself, then to the entire field of sugar cane before us, meaing “My farm.”
She explained that our task would be to weed a large section at the edge of the field so they could plant more sugar cane. We took our short, curved blades and went to work. As Amit are more used to working in an office than a field of sugar cane, it took a bit to find our rhythm. But soon we found it and completed the first section she had show us. Then we moved to a larger row on the other boarder of her field. These sections had much larger weeds to attack. Soon Marudi came to join us, and we introduced ourselves and began to ask simple questions. Amit kept up a regular flow of conversation in Hindi, while I whacked and hacked at the weeds. When we got to the largest of our weed-enemies, Amit and I had to pull together to get the out. I
enjoyed the time outside with the mist and cloud above the mountains. We were surrounded on all sides by lovely green mountains.
Finally it was time to take a break for some water. Then quickly back to work for about another hour. Then we realized that Madui had brought our lunch out to the field. So the four of us sat down to lunch of bread, rice, vegetables, raw onions, and a mango pickle for spice. As we ate Amit mentioned that my daughter was staying at another homestay in the same village, and that we would like to walk there after lunch. Our host mother was very interested to meet my daughter, so she offered to lead us to the house. Just as we began this walk the mist turned into pouring. By the time we had crossed the second field, I was drenched with water. Turaliba, found a roof with a bit of an overhang on the fouth field, and we took refuge under that. As we stood there, she asked Amit more about my wife and family.
After about 10 minutes, the rain let up and we are on our way again. When we reached the house where Emily and Lane were staying, I had only dried just a bit. The mother of the house invited us to stay for Chi, so soon we were seated in worn plastic chairs drinking very sweet chi, and learning about this family. As everyone here seemed to be doing fine, it was back to the fields.
On the way back to the fields, Amit pointed to the high mountain ahead of us and asked me “do I want to go there.” Thinking he meant the top of the mountain, I said no. But then he said, not the top—see in the middle it is a temple. Sure I said, lets go. But as it looked about to rain heavily again, I suggested we go back to the house for more water, and so I could leave my backpack so it did not take on further water. Having done that, we set out on the 45 minute uphill walk. It was quite pleasant to walk and learn more about Amit’s family, his college studies, and the nature of law practice in India. The view of the valley below were spectacular—every outline of every field, and each little pocket of houses so idyllic from this height.
When we reached the temple, we found it empty, and Amit instructed me where to put my shoes, and how to pay the proper respects to the local deity form the temple was built. Just as we entered, the ran picked up again. So sat on the temple steps and discussed our dreams, how would like to build our careers and families. On the way down, Amit asked me a great deal about the business side of GYLI. It is a side that is hidden from most participants, but Amit has a particularly sharp business mind, so he wanted to know every aspect of our funding sources, our marketing, and our plans for the future.
When we returned to the house, Maduri’s brother in law was there watching TV with his two boys. We sat and chatted a bit, and I watched the light change outside. I wondered where anyone could read in such low light—where I might read. Homestays involve lots of waiting. Family life in general is about the group—meals, going places, coming home—we wait for others so the group can move. A book is one of the best devices invented to fill these hours of family business. Yet in this house with such low light, this was not really an option.
After another walk to the other part of the village to deliver water, we returned to pass another hour before dinner. As the electricity is off between 5:30 and 9:30 pm, we sat in the near dark, and Amit encouraged me to try to interact as best I could with limited language. I asked about singing and dancing, and all the things I could gesture. Turns out Maduri really like art, and used to teach it to very young children before she was married. I took out my phone and showed many pictures if my family and my house.
Amit attached his flashlight to the ceiling in the kitchen to light our dinner the four of us sat again on the kitchen floor to a wonderful meal of bread, rice, potatoes, and spices, and pappas—crunchy bread-like crispy guys that are just wonderful.
After dinner we were quite tired from all the walking and we laid down to rest. We were just falling asleep when the electricity came back on, and our host mother wanted to watch her India soap operas. We were in no position to argue, and dozed until in became more quite, the buffalo settling down, the tv off, and all of us in various beds.
It wasn’t a perfect night sleep, but it was sleep, with a few times waking up, which is better than the reverse.