Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20: Settled into a daily routine.


This week in Bhinder the temperature has been around 40-43 degrees during the day! We generally get up for a 6 am breakfast so we can work during the morning and leave during the heat of the day for a siesta. People have really settled in here and on any given day someone is out and around town playing cricket, or watching cricket, exchanging foreign tongues or chasing children.

Despite the temperature being so hot, the work has been surprisingly productive and already quite a large amount of walls have been built. On the larger site where there are 6 of our team working they have almost completed a wall around the edge of a farm plot of about 100 or more meters. We still spend out days moving rocks and soil but I think everyone is enjoying the work. Always surrounded by children and various farm animals, the work sites are very social places and lasting relationships are being formed between many. People communicate with bright eyes, excited hand gestures and the occasional Hindi which everyone is picking up.

On Monday, there was a death of an elder at the village so we did not go to work. Instead we visited some of the successful projects of our host partner and learnt about the improvements they have made in the farmland and lives of the villages. We were also able to visit the completed water harvesting structure of the last DWC team, although there is no running water to see it at full capacity. Some of our team members are planning to return to the site after the monsoons in August to see the project in action. It was very encouraging to see the vast differences that projects similar to our own have made while also seeing the plans in place to tackle climate change in the area. When we returned to work we payed our respect the family which was a very important experience.

Lunch is ready, curry potatoes and lady fingers!

With love from the palace,
Ciara and Stuart

May 17: City of Udaipur - the dry Venice of India


The team spent the weekend in Udaipur exploring the city and taking some much needed relaxation. We sat on the rooftop restaurant enjoying some cold beer and watching the evening colours transpire bringing choruses of bats and a cool breeze. The city at night is all lit up, illuminating the white washed buildings and carefully carved marble temples. Everyone spent time in the busy tourist and local markets and visiting the city palace. People are attracted to this beautiful sight because it is surrounded by a large lake, unfortunately summer time in Rajasthan brings drought and the lake is currently dried up, enabling you to walk right up to the palace doors!

On the drive to Udaipur we took a detour and visited Jaisamand lake. Built in 1685 it is the second largest artificial lake in Asia covering 36 sqkm. Even though we are coming from a background with large pristine alpine lakes we were all surprised and taken aback by the vast beauty. On top of two hills lay old palaces adorned with carved elephants. The lake provides a large part of irrigation and life style for a magnitude of villages that live around the outskirts and surrounding land.

Over the course of the last week about half of our team got sick at different times because of the constant sun or perhaps the food ( some call it Dehli Belly....!). Needless to say there have been some sore tummies but everyone is in full recovery and ready to go back to work for the coming week. After the busy city and sweaty jeep ride back to Bhinder, everyone was relieved to be back 'home', we really do love it here at the palace.

With love from two very sweaty team leaders,
Ciara and Stuart

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blessed and welcomed: Meeting the Villagers on the Project

May 13, 2009

Today was the first work day on the project site. The village we are working in is about a 15 minute drive outside the town of Bhinder. There are three sites that we are split up working at, all reasonably close and are various sizes. We are currently working on the first stage of building a retaining wall surrounding the edges of fields which will prevent soil erosion. This erosion is causing the water to run through the ditches causes the well water to become filled with silt.

When we arrived we were greeted with a welcome meeting where all members involved, DWC volunteers and villagers alike, were given red Bindis and chai to bless the new beginning. I think that everyone is overwhelmed by the kindness of the villagers and the shy smiles of all the beautiful children. Today, we were moving rocks and sand from various areas while a local mason built the walls around the fields. The females of our group all learnt to carry rocks on their heads with the guidance of the local women and the help of an Indoni ( a pillow - ring wrapped in fabric placed on top of the head). We have two more days of work left this week before we spend an entire weekend in Udaipur.

With love from a palace in the desert,
Team Leaders
Ciara and Stuart

Arrival in India: Delhi, Mt. Abu and Bhinder

May 12, 2009

We arrived safe here to the Rajmahal Bhinder Palace two nights ago and completed our first on the project today. After a long couple of flights we arrived in Delhi at 12.30 am with no problems or hassles with customs or our luggage. We spent the next day exploring the hectic city of Dehli with the help of Developing World Connections friend Paul Singh, who showed us the Red Fort and some of the local markets. We then took an 12 hour overnight train to Udaipur, which turned out to be such a fantastic experience. It was so refreshing to watch the lights and villages fly by from the open doors of the train with the cool night air helping us forget the heat and the grime of a day navigating Dehli.

Awoken to the sounds and smells of fresh chai we then met Heera ( the project supervisor) for a quick visit before we boarded another cramped public bus to Mt. Abu. Situated in the middle of a desert, the town of Mt. Abu attracts many international and domestic tourists for the cooler climate and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. The group spend the few days here riding horses and motorcycles, seeing the various viewpoints, sunsets and magnificent Jain temples in the area. The ride back to Udaipur was interesting to say the least: a bus full of overexcited families all talking in animated voices pummeling down mountain roads with a cascading horn that was blown at every turn. The outcome was complete chaos, people getting sick out windows and crawling all over the floor, some of our very own joined in but everyone lived to tell the tale. We then travelled to the town of Bhinder by bus where we met all the project coordinators and settled into our new home at the palace.

Erected 500 years ago, the palace has been passed down through the generations and is in beautiful condition complete with colourful murals, steep staircases and resident bats! It is safe to say that everyone is in love with this place and feel at home amoung the spicy food, sweaty foreheads and stunning terraces.