Wednesday 23 January 2013
During the last three weeks, all of us at some point have had to face challenges, cope with difficult situations and become very adaptable to a very different way of life. I think we are all coping remarkably well and we will be sad to leave here in ten days time.
Today started with a ride on an elephant. I also had my first experience of an elephant dribbling down my back and hitting me over the head with its ear at Sakraibail camp. One of the young elephants was showing off and it almost looked like it was dancing for us! This was followed by a Lion and Tiger safari. Although these ones were not completely wild at Bandipur, it was great to see such beautiful animals up close and personal. We also get a chance to visit Shivappanayaka Palace where there are some beautiful wood carvings. I would like to take one of these pieces home for my fireplace!
Back to the more serious stuff, we visited a number of projects supported by the seven Rotary clubs in the Shimoga area. First was some low cost housing in Lakshmipura village on the
outskirts of the city. The houses were built to support families working in agriculture. I’m pretty sure that the whole village turned out to see us here and they all walk in and out of each other’s homes. This seems to happen a lot in the smaller towns and cities in a way that I don’t think it would in the UK. The houses are small but ideal for the needs of the families and cost just £750 to build.
We also visit a local school supported by Rotary. The kids here also have a Rotaract club which they tell us about. Although they are not quite as confident as the children in the private school we visited earlier this week, Rotaract is helping them to progress. We all present to them and explain our jobs and a bit about life in the UK. Opening the floor for questions was interesting when they asked me about sex education. This isn’t something they will have come across here and I have already had an interesting chat with my host family about a very similar subject.
At the blood and eye clinic we learn about how Rotary are supporting blood
collection and distribution in the area. The Government are keen to support blood donation here. Finally, we head to Asha Kirana, a school for children with severe learning disabilities. This school has 48 pupils who board here and it is quite different from the other special schools we have visited in India, much noisier and uncontrolled. We are told that the children are particularly distressed as most were tied up all day when they were living at home. Their parents had to go out to work so the children were left outside, soiled and hungry. The school has taken them in and they live here for 11 months of the year. The parents visit for two weeks and are taught how to care for the children and given targets to meet while they take their child home for the twelfth month of the year. If the child meets those targets, they can return the following year.
We meet a 32 year old woman who was a resident here and now helps the younger children. When the school opened 26 years ago, she was a six year old girl, dumped by her parents who gave a false address and could
not be traced. She was supported by the school and the Rotarians and she has even managed to overcome some of her medical conditions. The school aims to get all of these children back into mainstream education to prevent the stigma placed upon them and their parents.
At home with my hosts, Vidya tells me all about the meals she prepares, the ingredients and preparation. Many of my hosts have been homemakers so they spend a lot of time and effort cooking. And they have staff to help with the cleaning too. Our hosts live by the mantra that ‘the guest is God’ and are keen to feed you lots of food. They can’t understand that we don’t eat so much at home, particularly at breakfast time. Although I was a bit worried that Indian food would be too spicy for me, it has been really nice to try out lots of different things, with and without spice and pepper. South Indian food has so much taste and variety and I will come away with lots of ideas. I have already bought one cook book and been given another as a gift. Just hope I can find a shop
at home that sells some of the things I need!
All in all, it’s been a very thoughtful day. We are seeing things here that we would probably never get the chance to see in the UK and it makes you realise and appreciate what you have.
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