Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31st: It's coming to an end

Namaste! Today was so hot! One of the record temps. Work was legit! Pretty much the whole family was there. Two men from Banjara Basti dug the last trench today. Shreya, Alex, and I went on a walk and of course, we hit the stall.

Arun left today after lunch. Sad times! He had an interesting sendoff.. :)

Niraj taught us how to make gulgule! It's made of flour, water, and sugar, and is fried in oil. Everyone went nuts for the mangoes.

Now we are just hanging out, using the Internet while the power is working, and henna-ing each other. It's Vic's, Jess's, Elma's, and Rebecca's last night here. I'm so sad that our time here at Youth Touch is ending. It's gone by so fast and I've learned so much. Eight more days in India; we leave for Pushkar on Sunday (and then off to Ranthambore and Delhi). 

Thanks for reading!

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30th: Last time in Banjara Basti

Work was canceled because the mason's wife has something wrong with her appendix. We hope she gets well soon!

We went to Banjara Basti this morning. It's the last time we'll go this trip. I was stoked to see the kids! We washed their hands and passed out food and then started a lesson. We brought chalk for them. Poonam gave me her earrings. I tried really hard to give them back, but she wouldn't take them!

I didn't see Meher and Bapisha so the teacher took me to go find them. They weren't in their home, but in a new by shop surrounded by garbage. They were with their dad. We took them and gave them food. They were so dirty so Mel, Shreya, and I washed their faces with sanitary wipes. They got more comfortable with us so once they were done eating I gave them capsules of my water. They were still so dirty so we got permission and washed their hands, faces, arms, legs, and Bapisha's hair with the soap and water. Aida joined in. They both knew how to wash their own hands.

Their faces are always expressionless and they don't talk. They can follow simple commands like "close your eyes." Meher let me hold her and kiss her little cheeks; it was so lovely.

We learned how to make pakora tonight. You take onions, green chili peppers, potatoes, chili powder, salt, cumin seed, flour, and water to make a paste. And then you drop small balls in boiling oil to fry them. So good! I love Niraj's cooking lessons!

It's Arun's last night! He leaves for home Dharamshala (Meclod Ganj). Sad times. I'll miss his phone blowing up twenty-four/seven and him yelling "yes, please!" and "I don't have time!" Youth Touch is lucky to have someone like him!

Work is back in full swing tomorrow. Alvida friends! Thanks for reading :).

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29th: Raita

Hey everyone! Work was great today. We also learned how to make raita! It's made with yogurt that the women make, mint powder, salt, and chili powder. We went on a walk down to Madan's fields after tea. We saw his crops like eggplants, green chili peppers, and onions. There were two cows, two goats, and this four-day-old lamb! We named it Lady Gaga because of it's black booties and eye spots. The family that lives there and farms thought we were weird because we're so affectionate to the livestock haha.

We came back for dinner, hit the local stall for candy, and we are all just hanging out before bed. Tomorrow we go to Banjara Basti for the last time! Talk soon!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28th: Back to work

What's shakin'! Today was the usual: a little CTL (Construction, Tanning, Laundry). The mason went to a fair and was not coming to work so we had the whole site to ourselves! They work Saturday and Sunday, so it's a lot different than in Canada. We also went on a walk after work! Twice around the neighbourhood.

After our second shift at work we walked again and had our usual following of boys. We tried to ask them if they wanted to play soccer tomorrow, but they couldn't understand our Hindi. They speak Rajasthani. A couple of the words we could pick out; one of the boys was introducing his friend as "Stupid." Boys will be boys.

We're just winding down before bed now. Night!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27th: Taj Mahal

We were up at 5 and left the hotel at 5:45 before the heat and the other tourists would get to the mausoleum. There was no one in line so we went straight in. We're so lucky to have Madan and Arun and their inside scoop.

I can't even begin to describe how crazy the Taj is. It's as exquisite as all the pictures. It was so surreal. You walk through the Royal Gate (one of four). It frames the main attraction like a pretty postcard. There are twenty two ornaments on the top of it for every year it took to make the Taj.

The emperor Shah Jahan decided to create the Taj Mahal (in 1632) for one of his four wives (Mumtaz Mahal) a year after she died. She was the only one to birth him sons (fourteen!). It holds two tombs; one for her and one for him. It has marble screens around the tombs. The marble is from Jaipur. There is an Arabic prayer around the outside of the archway in calligraphy.

All of the detailing is done by hand and made of precious stones and marble. It's all symmetrical (even the placement of the buildings). It cost him millions of rupees which would be worth billions nowadays. The tour guide told us gardens were built by the British; it was just mud before that. They also have the original ten meter pure gold tower on the top; it sits in a museum there. They have a brass one on it currently. I thought that was interesting. There are two buildings on either side. One was a guesthouse for the royal family and one was built just for symmetry!

Ooh! I saw the girl from the bus yesterday in the gardens. We smiled at each other, but I should have got a picture! We always cause the biggest scene everywhere we go. People will take pictures of us all the time. Men were taking pictures of us with the Taj instead of their families. So weird.

A legend is that Shah started to build a second Taj Mahal in more expensive black marble, but his son took over the throne and put him in jail before the project got off the ground. His son said that the emperor was spending too much money on architecture and that the wealth of the kingdom should be for the people. We could see piles of marble from across the river so maybe it's true! We toured the Taj for about an hour. We had to put little hospital booties on before touching the marble. The whole thing houses the tombs; it's crazy big. There were twenty thousand workers. There's another legend that once it was completed, their hands were cut off so they could never build anything as beautiful and magnificent again.The whole thing is gated, except the back where the river is.

We ate breakfast and shopped the stalls before we had to leave for our bus. When we got to the stall our bus was broken down. It was fixed and we left about an hour late at 12:15. Roni drank like ten Slices (bottles of mango juice) while waiting. We met three men from England and talked to them a bit about their travels. They have been here for nine days and are traveling north. We like to tell everyone who wants to know about our project :). I love hearing other stories and opinions of other travelers on what they've seen.

We took the bus from Jaipur at 5 and got home around 9 PM. On the bus the girls in the window kept getting like a fine mist in their face. Me included. We were puzzled cause it was clearly not raining. One of the other passengers told us it was people spitting out the window on the front of the bus. Lovely.

Anyway, the Taj Mahal was one of the coolest places I've ever seen and I am so grateful that I got to see it. I'll keep you posted.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

May 26th: To Agra, and the Taj Mahal

We left Sikar at 7:30 and tuk tuked into town. We hopped a bus at 8:30! Arun came with us this weekend as well as Madan! It was Arun's first time to the Taj Mahal. So cool that we got to share this experience with him.

We got to Jaipur and waited for our bus that left at 1 PM for Agra. We got some drinks in a restaurant, basically using it as an excuse for the Air Con and a cleanish bathroom. A cockroach was just hanging out under one of the tables so decided to peace that scene!

People always ask us if we are from the French part of Canada. And I always get England. This man who called himself "Mr. India" and wore a very inappropriate shirt chatted us up outside the restaurant. It was hilarious. Then we left for Agra! The bus ride went by fast; it was about six hours. The girl sitting behind me started talking to me about our travels. She spoke English well. She was with her family visiting the mausoleum like us. The scenery driving to Agra was very desert-y. There were some small villages too.

The first thing I noticed about Agra was the heat (about 47 degrees) and the smog. We took a tuk tuk into town (it's three people to a rickshaw). They gave us adorable flower necklaces welcoming us to Agra :).
Our hotel was legit two minutes away from the Taj. We ate dinner and went to bed because it was too dark to walk safely outside. Our bathrooms had TP! So sad that that excites us here. There were a lot of monkeys on the roof so we weren't allowed up there. There were babies too!

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25th: Happy 21st Birthday Jerry!

Hey everyone! Tomorrow is Jerry's twenty-first birthday. We decided to celebrate tonight because we will be traveling all day tomorrow.

We couldn't go to work today because there was only skilled work to do. Not that we are not skilled or anything.. :) We did laundry, chilled, and packed for Agra! Jess did laundry for the first time! At 10 AM, Shreya, Arun, Quinn, Roni, Alex, and myself went into town to hit the bank and run some other errands. We also bought some new headphones for Jer, as a b-day gift, because he lost his last weekend in Udaipur. Madan's brother, Har Lal, ordered a cake from a bakery and picked it up for us, with candles saying twenty-one. It was super nice of him!

After dinner, Alex and I brought out the cake and we all sung Happy Birthday! He was so surprised! I am so happy that it all worked out :)! It's been such a great night. We're so lucky to have Jerry on this trip. He's the only boy and has to put up with all eleven girls. He kills a lot of bugs for us, let me tell you. He's such a hard worker and we love hearing about his life in Singapore. 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

May 24th: Always learning about the culture

Since it is summer, the power has been going in and out. We slept on the roof last night because it's too hot when the fans don't work. Looking up at the stars and the expansive sky, I feel so small and insignificant.

But then I go to Banjara Basti and I feel like I can make a difference, a little blip on the timeline of some importance. I know Youth Touch, including the boarding house, will change the course of many kids' lives. We went to the village at 7:30 AM and brought spiced rice with veggies. Madan and some others have to go into the children's houses because they aren't self motivated to go to school on their own. They don't know discipline because their parents haven't taught them. Youth Touch wants to teach them hygiene (like washing hands) so they can be integrated into society.

Mission accomplished: we got invited to a wedding! I didn't catch her name, but she's twenty and her fiance is from Delhi. She said she chose him. I asked if she was nervous and she said no. I asked if she was happy and she said very. So I told her I was happy for her too. She introduced me to her other two friends; one who was already married. They were having the women's ceremony (kinda like the idea of a bachelorette party, but not at all). They all put creams on the bride. One has turmeric in it and it stains their skin yellow. Madan said we couldn't go for safety reasons because there could be up to two thousand people there and most would be drinking heavily. Madan is bringing a gift over tomorrow for her.

After some play time, the kids washed their hands and then we handed out the food. I found the girl who I helped write last time we were in Banjara. I'm so embarrassed that I don't remember/can't spell any of the children's names. I was so good at that in Guatemala. Anyway, she was with her little brother today and was fiercely protective of him. She gave him her food and would tell off the other kids who would take his chalk.

This little boy that I hung out with last time we were in the village would run off the edge of the school into my arms and then I would spin him around. Once other kids saw, I was doing it for everyone. Even bigger boys, maybe age eight or nine. So much fun.

I got to meet the two girls (Meher and Bapisha) whose parents wouldn't take care of them, so Youth Touch nursed them to health. I talked about them in previous posts. They can sit and feed themselves now! The two girls that Quinn and I helped write sought us out when school started. We were stoked that they not only remembered us, but wanted to hang out again. We copied some Hindi words, then numbers, and I got to teach the English alphabet!

The students do everything on small chalkboards. They don't get to keep notebooks overnight because they don't take care of them at home. Again, going back to the discipline and responsibility they haven't had the opportunity to learn as well as lacking a productive learning environment. We had to leave and all the kids follow us out to the tuk tuks and then chase us down the street waving.

We went to the supermarket and I finally got the hang of things. You pick out what you want and bring it to one counter and they give you a receipt and then go to the front to pay and then go outside to pick up your package.

I also learned about widowed women. If your husband ever was to die, you aren't allowed to make yourself beautiful (use henna, wear bangles, or colourful saris) because the purpose of this is to attract a man. Women are not allowed to have other relations with men after their husband passes away. It used to be that you had to dress in all white, but now pale colours are acceptable. It shows that the woman is still sad and grieving. I'm still trying to sort this out; it's so different from what I am used to. Wearing white would be a constant reminder of the one who passed away and everyone would treat you differently. Also, what if you find a second love? Or a companion that happens to be of the other sex? I obviously respect different cultures, but this tradition is hard for me to understand.

We came back for lunch, then tea. This happens everyday: not all people come for tea, it's now down to the usual seven (Quinn, Melissa, Shreya, me, Jerry, Jess, and Roni) so there are always a couple extras from the people who do not come. When everyone has had one, we all fight to the death, Hunger Games-style, for the last couple chais. It's embarrassing to hear us all bickering, but it's totally necessary. The tea is that delicious.

After that, we went to work! It goes by so fast. We came home and ate, showered, hung out then went to bed :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23rd: Update on the real work

Here's a little update on the progress made on the boarding house. We made a well (see photos). The foundation trenches were dug up except for one row because it was too sandy there. That's when we came in! We added gravel evenly to the floor of the trenches. While this happened, the masons made posts for the corners and outside walls out of metal rods. The men added water on top and packed down the rock to make a solid surface on which the foundation will be built. The masons secured the mental poles in the ground by a grid. It is also made out of metal rods and made sturdy with cement. They do measurements with string. We carried many rocks to the sides of the trenches for the mason and his workers to build the foundation out of rock and cement until it reached the ground level. The sand that was dug up was leveled out around the foundation in the ground. Currently, we are continuing to move rocks from large piles that have been brought by trucks to the edge where the foundation is being built. I hope that paints a nice picture of the work we've been doing :).

Today we were split into two groups cause there wasn't much work to do. Work started at 7 as per usual; I decided I might as well go to both sessions. Madan's sister hooked us up with watermelons. So freaking good. We had a lesson on Vastu Shastru (or Hindu feng shui) today at 11 AM. We also learned that Dadaji (Grandfather) is one of the oldest in the village. If someone looks at you with bad intentions, and you need to get rid of that presence, you come over and Dadaji will spit on your face. This is supposed to cleanse the evil. So that's cool.

We had tea at 4 then went to work again. Arun, Elma, Melissa, Jerry, and I went on a walk afterward. By the end of it, we had like fifteen kids following us, saying hi and laughing with us (or more likely at us...). We pet some goats as well. We had the bombest dinner - gulgule and the yummiest mangoes I have ever tasted.

Anyway, we visit Banjara Basti tomorrow and see the Taj Mahal in three days! Alvida, friends :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22nd: Back to work

I cannot believe I left for India nineteen days ago. It's crazy.

We worked this morning at 7 AM. Some American visitors are checking out the camp as well as the work site to see if their organization should send volunteers here (which they totally should)! They were super cool and nice to talk to.

After work, we learned how to make dal. You soak the lentils and then boil them with onions, tomatoes, and garlic. The spices include coriander, cumin seeds, garam masala, salt, and chili pepper. I call the chapati "chapats" and all the women laugh :).

I'm having the best time and don't want to leave! I know tomorrow will be just as sweet. I'll keep you posted. Alvida!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21st: Return to Sikar

We got back to camp at about 7:30 AM. Just exhausted. We ate breakfast, did laundry, showered, and unpacked. Then we all just chilled and slept before lunch.

It thunder stormed so hard this afternoon. Must be gearing up for monsoon season!

We had tea at four and went to work at 5:30 PM. After that, we all hung out, watched Twilight, and then went to bed at around 9:30!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20th: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

We left the hotel at 8:30 AM. There are two workers in the hotel, a man and his son. They sleep on mattresses in front of the front desk. The boy is around sixteen and the cutest thing. Him working legitimately the whole Saturday night and still being the biggest bro? Pretty cool.

We drove to the outskirts of the city and went for breakfast. We then went to a mock village that was set up to look like it did back in the day.

The houses were made of animal dung and were very small for a family to live in. People there make clay for a living. Mel and I helped this man make a clay pot on the turning wheel! It was super cool. We also saw musicians and watched them play a few songs. In the museum parts, there were old machines that make wool thread and yogurt and butter. Madan said his family used things like these when he was a child. I learned something interesting: a married couple don't sleep in the same room. Usually the women sleeps inside the house with the kids and the man sleeps outside of the house, in his own room. Again, no cameras were allowed at this place. We then went back into town and cruised around the streets. At one stall, this family handed me their baby so they could take a photo of me with her. Then the dad wanted one and then the daughter wanted one. I think it's because of my skin colour. A shop keeper was chatting us up and said since it is summer here, there are a lot of Indian tourists, but hardly any crazy Westerners like us. Which makes sense, cause it's the hottest time of the year here.

We see many stray animals here. I found out how cows become stray: if they don't produce milk, no one needs them or keeps them (they don't eat the meat). When we saw a pregnant, blind dog come up to us, we had to give it water. Jess gave her water bottle and Jerry used a knife to cut it up a to make a dish.

We went for dinner and hopped the overnight bus at 7 PM. The streets are windy and the stretch of land is all desert leading out of the city. There was a lot of traffic! The title of this post refers to the Kelly Clarkson song, naturally. Whenever we are doing anything a out of our comfort zone, the girls and I sing it. If I can go to the bathroom in a Indian toilet on the side of the road, I can do anything. You should have seen this one. Picture the grossest bathroom you have ever seen and then times that by a hundred. I had to sing pretty much the entire Kelly song to get through that one. You've got to just chalk it up to an experience :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19th: Udaipur

We got to Udaipur about ten hours later, at 9 AM. We went to our hotel to freshen up. It's lakeside! The city is old and the streets are narrow.

My roomie was Shreya. There was a cockroach just chilling in our bathroom. Just really nonchalant. We went for breakfast. I got a Nutella crepe and fruit salad. It was the bomb deeze. We then went to the City Palace. Everything is so beautiful. All the marble and ivory is super cool and really detailed. The windows have screens made of marble and it filters the wind to make an A/C type thing. Elma, Quinn, and Aida all knew the physics behind this because of studying for the MCATs. Hilarious. We saw the room that Queen Victoria stayed in in 1942. Apparently she loved it. As a gift in return for her stay, she gave them a fan and electric lights. I found that pretty interesting. The palace is huge and in addition they have two summer palaces on the lake and one in the mountains for the monsoon season. There were no cameras allowed.

We walked down the street to see the temple. We walked up this huge flight of stairs and took our shoes off before entering. It's incredible. There were pictures of gods and kings on the wall. We paid a donation and got Holy water poured into our hands and then put on our foreheads. We sat on the mats and some ladies sang some religious chants and prayed. A man walked around and gave us presad (or blessed food) to eat. It was a sweet dough. I have never attended any type of religious ceremony (except my christening which I don't remember) so I really enjoyed this.

Some of the ladies wanted to shop, but Quinn, Jerry, Madan, and I went on a boat ride around the lake. It was fun and refreshing! Because Madan is from a place where it's mostly desert, he doesn't know how to swim. We assured him it would be alright because Quinn is a certified lifeguard. Holla! The boat ride showed off the backside of the City Palace as well as the palace in the lake and apparently the most expensive hotel in the world.

We got fresh coconuts off a street vendor and drank the juice and ate the flesh. It was delicious! We returned to the markets and drank chai! Quinn and I bought some spices at a shop next door. It was a family business passed down from male to male and they supplied to lots of restaurants in the area. Everything smelled so good.

We met up with the rest of the group and went for dinner. I had masala dosa! Yum. We watched the sun set over the lake. After that we returned to the museum part of the Palace and watched a series of Rajasthani folk dances! They were insane. There were puppets which were hilarious. A lady did a dance with ten pots on her head, representing how in the desert where there is not a lot of water, women would carry nine or ten buckets of water to their homes.

After we returned to our hotel where I am currently furiously typing this on my iPhone. It's bed time - night all!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18th: On the way to Udaipur

Woke up and went to work! The power is still is not on.

A truck last night dropped off water for the reserve for showers and for laundry. So we all did laundry for this weekend. We had a cooking lessons with the ladies to make chapati! They laughed because mine was not round. I don't even think you would call mine oval.

After dinner we left for Udaipur. Driving through Sikar, there was a group of maybe more than a hundred boys, around my age, dancing in the street to music from a truck! They went ape when they saw us. It looked like so much fun! We think they were celebrating graduation. They were pulling on the tuk tuks and blowing kisses and singing and dancing toward us. It was a party; I wish I could have attended. Roni says it has been her favourite sight yet haha.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

May 17th: No Electricity

Last night I saw a praying mantis. It was life changing-ly gross.

There was the hugest storm last night. Quinn and I woke up because the lightening was lighting up our room. It rained so hard and was so windy. I have never seen anything like it. My flip flops ended up in the backyard with the cows and Buffy the Buffalo. Crazy town. While Quinn was looking for her flip flops, she found a bird hatching out of its egg! It was under some bamboo. We found the nest and Pankaj put the bird back in it.

We went to work at seven. It was my group and we had fun. Because of the storm, the camp's power has been out since this morning. There are no showers or laundry or Internet. There are no fans, which is the big killer. It's forty plus degrees. We're slowly dying - not actually.

The birds in the dining room are these grey fluff balls! They hop around! Eek! We saw one of them fly for the first time! I am so at one with nature.

Madan gave us a lesson on Hinduism. Hindus believe in a supreme soul, karma, gods and goddesses, and rebirth. People who currently have a poor life, Hindus believe it is because they did something bad in their past life (and vice versa with doing something good). I like when Madan says that you can still be a devoted Hindu even if you do not go to temple everyday. There are eighty four thousand rebirths before you become a human again. So if you are, you're lucky.

I forgot to mention some things about our trip to Banjara Basti yesterday. The little girl with the broken arm got her cast off! Also we learned that the boys who have yellow and brown teeth are because they chew tobacco. They're kids. That shouldn't happen.

We played cards this afternoon. The aces are e's and the jacks are d's, representing their Hindi names. I won, obviously. I painted Vic's nails. Immediately regretted that one (my nail polish melted). I tried to get people to play Big Booty. To no avail :(. Roni and I went on a walk waiting for dinner. We saw lots of children that came and talked to us. We peaced the scene when a huge buffalo came walking down the street toward us.

The women cooked dinner by candle light! We had to sleep on the roof because of the heat due to not having fans. We hauled all the mats up from the common room. The stars were beautiful; we found the big and little dipper.

We DEETed it up (insect repellant with strong deet). Hard. The Youth Touch fam slept outside too. They actually do it a lot in the summer months.

After about four hours (two AM) Vic woke up to thunder. Ten minutes later, the storm rolled in, just like the night previous. The family helped us move into the basement, where it is coolest.

The power is still not on.

Tomorrow we leave for Udaipur on a night train! It's dubbed the Venice of India. 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16th: Banjara Basti children

Today was the funnest morning yet. I know "funnest" is not a word, but just roll with me people. We left for Banjara Basti at 7:30. It takes about twenty minutes to drive across the village. The kids were in class when we got there. We were all so excited! We got them in a line and the teacher washed their hands. This is why we brought donated soaps and shampoos etc over!

We then handed out chapati and some curried peppers.
After that, they washed their own dishes from a tap and class resumed. Quinn and I sat in the back and helped two girls copy the English and Hindi alphabet as well as numbers, one to fifty, out. We clap and smile and give them hugs when they get them right. I could seriously do this forever. While this was happening, a boy that was sitting in front of me reached back and wiped the sweat off my forehead. It was the grossest and most precious thing I have ever witnessed. My heart swells every time I think about it.

After the lesson we sang Head and Shoulders and then they sang us a song saying bye. It was adorable. We got to play a little more. I have never given so many airplane rides in my life.  I read an English book out to a couple of students and chatted with the teacher. They walked us out to the tuk tuks. They give us loads of hugs and kisses. I didn't take a lot of photos cause I was having too much fun. We stopped at the store on the way home and got some things and then came home! This guy, probably around my age, was talking to us on his bike while we were sitting on the back of the tuk tuk. He asked me where we were from and if he spoke English well. He did! He said he goes to school and he wanted to become a doctor when he is older. Adorable. We're just waiting on lunch now. Work starts at five tonight.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15th: Chai Tea

Today work started at 7. The first group moved gravel to make cement and are filling in the foundation of the bottom floor. Today has been super hot! After lunch, the women dressed us up in saris and Jerry was all done up by Madan's dad. It was so much fun!

We also learnt how to make the chai we drink everyday, it's easy to make and I plan on making it all the time at home :). It's made of black tea, milk, water, cardamon seeds, black pepper, and ginger.

Afterwards the second group (myself included!) go back to work at 5. Tomorrow we are visiting Banjara! So we get to sleep in till 6! I'm really excited!

Night all :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14th: Henna


Today we started work at 7 AM. There isn't much for us to do because the masons are doing work that actually needs skills haha. Not that we aren't skillful, but we're more like labour. Right now they are taking rocks we have collected and using cement to create a wall and then covering the top in more cement. It's crazy how they do it; it's like a puzzle. Then the sand that creates the trenches are pulled down to fill in either sides of the wall. So we split into halves and one group worked in the morning and one in the evening. Hopefully this won't persist; I really enjoy working. I have acquired my fifth bruise. I am pretty positive that this is the hardest I have ever worked in my life ha!

Things I like about India: I like how women ride sidesaddle on the motorcycles in their saris. I like how men hold hands when they're friends! It's adorable. They also sling their arms around each other. I like how Arun, Jerry, and Ronak hang out all the time. I like how the crew gets along so well. We have the same taste in music and clothes and boys and it's like a slumber party every night. I like how they use bamboo to hold things in place while working construction. I like how chapati is served with every meal and tea is served at four. I don't know how I will go without haha..

Things I don't like: Jerry is so the favourite of the ladies at Youth Touch. I'm jealous. And that's about it.

After work, Madan gave us a lesson on women and girls in India. It was really sad. The system of the dowry is still in place. It depends on the economic status of the family, but the dowry can include money, jewels, clothes, and even electronics. Rich families can spend millions. Families can save for ten years for the wedding. It's legitimately trying to buy a good life. If there are three girls or more, the family will end up really poor. Having a son is very important. If they have an ultrasound to check the sex of the baby, and find out it is a girl, they'll try to get an abortion. If it's too late, they may kill the child after birth. The parents give the best care to the boys. If a woman is widowed, she isn't allowed to wear henna or bangles or a bindhi; they aren't allowed to wear anything that make women beautiful here. Obviously, this doesn't begin to cover it, but these are just some things that stood out to me.

Priyanka (Madan's niece) and one of the wives (I will get her name!) did henna for us. We're so lucky.
We're all just chillaxing before tea and round two of work.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13th: Elephants, Birds, and Snakes

A very Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there. Especially my mama - I love you to the moon and back. I can't wait to see you in twenty-seven days. I was missing my family hard this weekend, let me tell you that.

We left our hotel at 7 AM. We walked a little bit to the highway to hail a tuk tuk. We got one and six more followed right away. Madan got us a deal and off we went to the Amber Palace! It was the most beautiful drive, past a huge lake and through mountains of red and yellow sands. About fifteen minutes in, we started seeing elephants walking up the street! We also saw a parade; it was people protesting having more girls attend school! So awesome.

The Amber Palace is incredible. It's huge. I'm embarrassed because my description is going to be lame and will never do it justice. It was built by six thousand workers in one hundred and thirty-seven years. Crazy.

I am just quickly going to say my piece on the elephant rides. I don't want to offend anyone who chose to go on one, but I had to refuse. All day the animals just climb up to the palace in the heat carrying tourists. Men sit on their heads and beat them with bull hooks. The conditions were disgusting. I know what you are probably thinking: so what if you didn't go on one? If there was no demand for elephant rides, there would be no such thing. Which should be the case. While Roni, Jerry, Melissa, and I were climbing up to the palace, in place of getting taken by an elephant, we noticed we were the only white people. What I am saying is that the only people who take elephant rides are Westerners. Just something to think about :). Anyway, the elephants were very, very beautiful and it's the closest I have ever been to one. They fling snot at the tourists. Hilarious.

When we were waiting for the elephant riders in the courtyard, I got some henna on my hands.

All my friends know how scared I am of birds. Especially the ones at UVic because they are massive. Anyway, right before this picture was taken a bird crapped on me and I was so hot and sweaty and tired I didn't even care. No one else cared either haha... Just a day in the life.

There was no room for Jaipur to expand so the king created New Jaipur (where we were visiting yesterday) on the right of the palace. There were these secret passageways that the king used to visit certain wives, so the others would not get jealous. One king had twelve wives... Since the royal women were under strict observation, they would have to use a small window in a darkened room to watch everything going on in the courtyard. They had the most beautiful mirror rooms. Dancers in colourful saris would put on performances for the royal families and it would create a disco ball effect. Too cool. The Queen also had these sun rooms where she would get massages or have company over. Everything is made of sandstone and marble. All the paint is, again, made of different vegetables and gets a coat of oil every couple years.

We saw snake charmers. Classic.

We drove back into town for lunch. After, we went to Hawa Mahal, the Wind Palace. It is part of the City Palace we visited yesterday. It was built in 1799. It has almost a thousand windows. The royal family would go here "to get wind" when it was really hot out. Also, the women would watch the proceedings of the market from above because they weren't allowed to go outside.

After we saw the Wind Palace we did a little more shopping in the markets. There was a monkey sitting there, just chillin'.

We took the 3:30 bus home and got to Sikar at about 6:45. We took a tuk tuk from town and got to Youth Touch at about 7. We saw a wild peacock on the way home :). We ate dinner at 7:30 and had chai. Obsessed. We then all went to bed!

Hope you had a fab Mother's Day! :) 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12th: Branching out - to Jaipur

I woke up at 5 AM like it was no big deal. The moon was still up! We left for Jaipur at 6. We then took a tuk tuk to the bus station in Sikar. Jaipur is the first planned city of India. It is surrounded by walls, just like Sikar is. The bus was crazytown. It was seriously like a roller coaster; we would be going over the uneven gravel of the road at top speed. We even did a little off roading haha. All the cities and villages we passed were really impoverished. I was pretty shocked; Banjara Basti is definitely not the only place that needs volunteer aid. I totally understand the statistics now (ie. around half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day). Most buildings are falling apart. I have to say, one huge change I would want to create is a recycling program. Is that ethnocentric of me? There is just garbage and plastic everywhere - all of the cities and on the side of the roads. The cows and stray dogs eat it.

The bus doesn't stop to pick anyone up or drop anyone off; it slows slightly and people jump on and off. I like when we drive and see all these older men hanging out on the side of the road. I've seen multiple of what I think are "gentleman's clubs." It looks like they are gossiping like teenage girls :). I also like the camel carts. Everyone here is so nonchalant about it. But come on, you've got this massive camel pulling your cart! It's the coolest thing.

We went through the beautiful gates of Jaipur; they are huge and pink with white detail. (Hence the nickname the Pink City.) The driving is of course nuts; I will never ever be scared to drive in any country again. I rocked the money belt all day! The first place we visited was the City Palace. Part of it is a museum, but the royal family still lives there. It was built from 1729-1732. We first took a tour through the Mubarak Mahal which had linens and costumes of the old royal families. They were beautiful. The most interesting one was of Sawai Madhosing I; his inseam of his pants were four feet. Like the space between his legs was over a meter wide... it was unbelievable. This was also the first day we saw other travelers.

All the paints on the buildings are made from vegetables and is the original paint.
They use oil every couple years to keep the rich colour.

The second place we went to in the City Palace was Chandra Mahal where most rulers lived. It has four gates representing the four seasons. It also has the tower where the current royal family lives.

We then went to Bhadra Chowk that houses the largest silver urns in the world.

We then went to Diwan-I-Aam which was a meeting place for the king and the public.There were really cool paintings of all the previous kings. We climbed the stairs to the Queen's chambers (Maharani Palace) which is now a museum for old firearms and other weaponry. We saw Bhaggi Khana which housed old carriages that the Indians adopted from the Europeans.

We then went to the observatory across the street, Jantar Mantar. It was absolutely incredible. It is the largest in the world. Maharaja Jai Singh II had it built for him when he ruled. It has fourteen structures that measure time, astrology, and astronomy.

Samrat Yantra is the largest sundial in the observatory. It measures the time with the accuracy of two seconds. It was so crazy. The shadow moves six centimeters a minute.

Madan dropped Victoria, Melissa, Alex, and I off at McDonald's for lunch while the rest went to another more traditional restaurant. I am embarrassed at how happy we were.
And there goes my vegetarian diet. Everyone wanted to take our pictures. Like people would come up to us and just want to pose with us. So funny, but kind of weird haha. What are you gonna do with that photo?!

Most of us cautiously walked to the market by ourselves. One of the tuk tuks was blasting "Barbie Girl" and we all sung along. It earned us a lot of staring. At one point we had to cross the street. Legitimately it was the funniest thing of my life. All of us were huddled in a group, scared for our lives. It was like out of movie; all of us clutching each other like the biggest tourists. Obviously we made across safely. After that one time, we walk around like locals :)...almost.

Everything is so busy all the time. Some participants in the group were trying out haggling for the first time. People laugh at us everywhere we go haha. After we shopped for awhile we went back to our hotel. While on the tuk tuk, Madan pointed out the temples in the middle of the road. There were lots of them. Very cool. We all showered up and then went for dinner down the street. It was on top of a roof and we saw the fireworks of a wedding. It was yummy. I had paneer dosa.
We were all so tired; we just went straight to bed! We all were homesick for Sikar.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11th: Cooking Lessons

Today we finished our first week of work. It feels good! There are more iron poles up, placed on the borders of the foundation creating the framework. There was no work for us to do this evening, but the women are going to give us a cooking lesson! We came home from work, showered and ate lunch and now are just hanging out. Some girls have tanned and done laundry. I fell asleep for like three hours. Whoops! I woke up just in time for tea.

Tomorrow morning we leave for the weekend to go to Jaipur. It is the capital (and the largest!) city of beautiful Rajasthan. We'll be going on elephant rides, shopping in markets as well as visiting monuments and temples. Madan is accompanying us.

I'm really digging the vegetarian diet here. I am going to see how long I can keep it up :)

Learning how to cook was so much fun! I loved it. First we took cut potatoes, chives, salt, and chili powder and mixed them together. Then we took bread and dipped it in water and pressed it down in our palms. We put the potato mixture in the middle of the bread and folded it up to make a ball. We then cooked those in boiling oil. They were so yum.
We also watched how chapati was made. They don't have an oven, but use like stove top burners that we would take camping and just toss it on the fire!

After Madan sat us down and told us about our weekend. He says we can wear our "funny clothes." We stay pretty covered up here at camp and in the small village of Sikar.

Update on the baby birds: the mom feels comfortable enough to feed them even when we are sitting in the dining room! 

Thanks for reading :).

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10th: Jatiya Bazaar in the rain

What a day! I got a private yoga lesson from Shreya this morning because all the other girls were tired! I'm such a lucky girl.

We went to work a little late because the contractor was checking our progress out. The construction workers have been making fourteen iron pillars that are the framework for the boarding house. It's so funny because they are all in flip flops, flared pants, and dress shirts. It's a lot different than Canada. It was super hot today. We sung so many songs :).

Everyone showered up and Quinn and I did laundry. We had a Hindi lesson from Arun. We learned the names of fruits and vegetables as well as animals.

We ate lunch and then took tuk tuks into town! Indian markets are chaos! Everyone is moving everywhere and honking to pass other vehicles. People are trying to buy things and there are cows roaming around. Everyone stares at us like celebrities! The locals love seeing blonde hair/blue eyes and always try to talk to us while driving by on their motorcycles. We went shopping and bought cookies that looked like oreos and lots of other various junk food. We're working girls :).

We went into Jatiya Bazaar. It's mainly Islamic. Sikar is surrounded by walls with seven gates leading in and out of the city. It rained and hailed so hard. The biggest raindrops I have ever seen for sure. The drainage system is rough and the streets aren't paved so there were huge puddles. Everything is located in a stall including their gas stations and pharmacies! Madan pointed out this stall and told us that in Rajasthan the more wealthy people fill clay pots with water and keep them in train stations, markets, and other common places so people who are less fortunate can come to drink it because they can't afford it themselves.


In the afternoon we drank tea and went back to work! We moved rock again and three more pillars were put up. We came back and all the showers were infested with the most ants I have ever seen in all my days of living. Ronak and Pankaj (Madan's son) used a hose to clean them out. Thank gosh. A couple of us played dodge ball.

Apparently the children we met in Banjara Basti are asking where we have been! They think we're their new teachers because that is what volunteers that visit here do. Hopefully we will get to go back and play sometime soon. Tomorrow we get lessons, in between work, from the women at Youth Touch on how to cook, Indian-style. I'm pumped! Off to bed! Night all!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9th: Construction, more Hindi, and Sports

Today we made a lot of progress on the boarding house! We all work well as a team. The second water tank had not been filled yet when we got to the work site at 7 so we had a slow start, just moving bricks. Once the foundation was covered in more water we moved bowls of the special sand conveyer belt-style and layered it on top of the smashed rock. I am pretty sure the sand with the water makes cement. Sorry I am not versed in construction know-how :).

We all CTLed - did construction, tanned and did laundry and now we are just hanging out before we go back to work when it's cooler out. We also got a lesson on the Caste System from Madan. It was really interesting and a subject I knew nothing about. There are four different castes and no matter how your life changes (you become wealthy etc.), you will always belong to the caste you were born into. The people of Banjara Basti would be considered Untouchables - people with a very uncleanly lifestyle who get their name because they cannot even make physical contact with anyone who is in a higher caste.

Arun taught us another Hindi lesson this afternoon! We learned numbers, relationships, weekdays, and colours. We were all the biggest giggle-pusses from lack of sleep! We couldn't help it! We laughed so hard at the pronunciation of numbers thirty-three and thirty-five. So immature. We drank tea at four and then went back to work! It rained for like five minutes, but it was so hot out the rain felt really cold. We finished laying all of the sand for the whole building! We'll see what tomorrow brings.

We came home and showered and then played volleyball as well as badminton in the courtyard! The weather is really pleasant around seven. Not too hot and not dark yet. The weather has been unreal - my freckles are out of control.

After another delicious dinner Shreya told us how to say "I really liked the food" and Jessica, Elma, and I said it (in chorus) to the ladies. They loved it... or were laughing and smiling at how bad our Hindi is!

Arun took us to a stall down the street from Youth Touch and everyone got pop and candies!

From what I have witnessed of the way of life here in India: the living is simple, yet so fulfilling. Thanks again for reading. I can't express how much I enjoy blogging about this volunteer project (and our other fun adventures) and it means a lot to me that you're reading it. 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8th: Working and Learning

Namaste friends! I woke up at 5:30 and did yoga before breakfast. It was incredible. We went to work at 7 AM and worked until it got hot. Everyone is working so hard. Madan said progress was really good. We sung "Boyfriend" by Justin Bieber and like every Michael Jackson song. I feel like the men working with us think we are all crazy! Work is so much fun; we all love it!

About half the team went into town on tuk tuks to exchange money for our first weekend excursion coming up! I stayed at camp with the others and did some laundry. We have detergent and buckets with a tap outside. We hang it on a line in the courtyard.
We also tanned on the roof! This trip I am getting tanned for sure ;).

After lunch I was standing in the courtyard and could see all these animal feet through the gate so I ran outside to the street and it was like a hundred sheep being herded to the farms that are just past Youth Touch. Madan's dad who was sitting there laughed so hard at me. Embarrassing.

This is a bird's nest that is built on one of the shelves in our open air dining room. I'm so in love. The mom and dad hang around while we eat, protecting their babies.

At four we had tea and Madan gave us a lesson about India. I learned a lot of cool things like the king who had the Taj Mahal built cut the workers' hands off so they would not build anything as magnificent again. He talked about how people tour to the tip of India to visit the meeting of three oceans (the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea), but if you look on map they're really all the same body of water just with different names. He gave some background information about each state. I thought it was really interesting that the northern states will give up a lot of things for traditions and customs and he thinks that the southern states have a better life because they don't do that as much. He's so soft spoken and can tell a great story so we all loved the lesson.

After that we went back to work. We are now finished laying the rocks of the whole foundation. The next step is for the construction workers and contractor to smash the rocks to smaller pieces and put water on them. Then cement and this special sand is laid. One water tank is full and delivered to the work site, as well as the cement, but the electricity went out last night and the second water tank could not be filled. Ideally it will be filled tomorrow morning and delivered before we get there at 7. Then tomorrow cement will be laid! It has to be really strong to hold the three floors.

For dinner we had dal and rice, fruit salad (bananas, papaya, and grapes), chapati, lentils, and french fries! We all freaked out. They were so spicy and delicious, and gone in like .2 seconds.

Big day tomorrow :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7th: Yoga and Hindi

Hi friends! Today Shreya, Roni, Alex, and I woke up at 5:30 and did yoga on the roof. It was incredible! Shreya led the sun salutations because she is training to become a yoga instructor. We practiced for about half an hour then got ready for breakfast. Standing in tree pose and looking out to the rising Indian sun was surreal. We plan on doing yoga every morning :).

Breakfast was oatmeal, yogurt, corn flakes, toast, and chapati. We left for the work site at 7 AM. Madan cracked a coconut and we all ate a piece. It was dry; there was no juice and it was delicious.This is part of the ritual when starting a new stage when constructing a building. We then put five pieces of it in this small temple constructed in the corner of the work site. A priest had blessed the temple previous, when they started the foundation. They burn something in the temple each night. It's cool learning about Indian culture!

We started laying rock by making a chain, conveyer belt-style. A couple people would pick rocks from the rock pile and place them in these large, silver bowls. The bowl would get passed down a chain of about five girls and Shreya would pass them to Arun who was inside the "trench" who would pass it to three more workers who would then pass the bowl to Madan. He would throw the rocks on the floor, the foundation. He would then pass the bowls back through the workers in the trench and then up to the pile of rocks, completing the circle. We'll be doing this until the whole floor is covered.

We're taking a break now (it's around 9:30 AM) because of the immense heat. They served us tea and we're chilling in the cool common room. We have a Hindi lesson at 11. We'll then eat lunch and return to the work site until dinner!

Arun was kind enough to teach us for an hour and a half! Are we good at it? Questionable :). We learned basic words (alphabet, greetings etc). It was hilarious. We're all pretty embarrassing! The locals love it when we say "namaste" and stuff. The women of Youth Touch do not speak any English so they love it as well! Kay, I'm gonna get super cheesy right now, but I totally understand the saying, "Smiling is the universal language." Things like waving aren't always appropriate, but everyone responds to a smile. Madan's wives as well as his parents do not speak any English, but smiling works as well as any language when praising their beautiful home and delicious food.

This afternoon it rained. It was super cool. There was a lot of thunder and lightning and it was really humid. We went back to work after tea and worked until dinner. It was a lot cooler so we got a lot done. All of the construction workers wear flip-flops which I find really funny. We then came home and cleaned ourselves up. Dinner was of course unreal. We also saw a gecko! We obviously all freaked out. Which reminds me, Vic and Alex saw a scorpion! Thank God Madan was there to kill it.

We’re all just chilling now in the common room before bed! I love the DWC crew so much; loving on how we are all besties!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6th: Meeting some of the locals

We woke up at 6:30 AM and ate breakfast. There were corn flakes, pancakes, yogurt, and toast with apricot jam. Then we took tuk tuks into town to see the children and their homes that we would be building the boarding house for. Travelling through Sikar was so cool. On the way there, we passed lots of farms (wheat and vegetables like pumpkins and onions etc). Everything is so chaotic. There are cows and motorcycles and people everywhere. It took about fifteen minutes, travelling through the bumpy roads of the market. Vendors sell fruit and goods and pigs, goats, and bulls just casually stroll by. As soon as we stepped off the auto rickshaw, children swarmed us! They spoke decent English (they could sing the alphabet and count and introduce themselves). They wore worn clothes and were pretty dirty. They don't wear shoes and there is sharp things like discarded glass all over the ground. Usually when volunteers work at Youth Touch, they teach English here. We're the first group to do construction (starting tomorrow!).

When we visited the school I met a girl wearing a makeshift cast because she was pushed into a wall that was falling down. Anyways, I'm obsessed with these children. I could play with them forever. They called us madam; it was so cute. Just like in Guatemala, they wanted to play that KitKat bar hand game. This boy I was carrying would point to the words on my shirt and I would spell them out for him. They wanted to take pictures and show us around. In all of their friendliness and happiness, the environment was quite startling. They live in tents surrounded by garbage and the hugest pile of water bottles and rubber shoes I have ever seen. Women and children collect the bottles and people come and take them for very few rupees. The men don't work. They take the money that the women and children make and buy alcohol and cigarettes. Three thousand families live here. They don't have a doctor and rely on Youth Touch to send them to the hospital if they are sick. The women there wanted us to take pictures of them with their kids. One family had a pet monkey! I feel like my words are not enough to explain this morning.

We met a family with four daughters. The two youngest daughters (ages two and three) were very malnourished as well as mentally challenged. Youth Touch volunteers have been feeding them everyday and nursing them back to health for the past year. There bellies were distended and they had weak, skinny legs. They couldn't walk before, but now they can! The parents had no interest in feeding and taking care of them (because they were mentally/physically challenged, but also because they were female).

Unfortunately we had to leave. I really hope we have the opportunity to come back. We then stopped at a store in the village to look at some work clothes. I bought some beautiful bindis that I am going to rock. Quinn and I also bought detergent for the crew! The ladies of Youth Touch are going to show us how to wash clothes here soon.

Right now, it's hot and sweaty and sunny. I have drank almost two liters of water and it is not even 12:30 yet! I'm having the best time.
This afternoon was super chill. We watched How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Sometimes I feel bad Jerry is the only boy participant! He's a trooper though. Madan got the chance to talk more about Banjara Basti - most people are or were nomadic, but have settled around the town of Sikar. They don't value education because they see no need for it. The children do not go to private or public school because their peers and teachers treat them differently (because of their class). A lot of work Youth Touch does with the children is with personal hygiene; they'll be more accepted if they do not look like they are from Banjara Basti. Their only priority in life is finding food. They will go around the town of Sikar and beg. Over the last four years, Youth Touch has taken thirty children from Banjara Basti and have taught them social skills so they would be able to attend school. Other volunteers in countries like Sweden and Germany sponsor kids. Youth Touch will provide a family with a goat if they send their child to school (with Youth Touch's program) as incentive to participate. They have built three schools for Banjara Basti so far.

The foundation has already been laid and tomorrow we start making the walls for the ground-level floor. We'll be making the foundation stronger with rock and water so in the next couple of years it will be able to manage three floors. The building will house around twenty kids as well as a single mother (either widowed or divorced) from Banjara Basti to take care of the children as well as get a salary.

A kind of sad thing is that this project will probably not be completed until 2014. Because of funds and a lack of volunteers, it's hard to finish the project this summer. Hopefully another group like ours will come next summer and finish it the first two floors (the third floor is a long-term project). Maybe I'll come back next year? :)

We got a tour of our camp. All of the food we eat (dairy, grains, protein) all come from the backyard! The women make yogurt, bread, and butter daily. We're so lucky!

Things I like about India: I like how we have tea time each day. I like how there is only one tap for the showers and sinks. You never know if the water is going to be hot or cold. I like how all the women wear these crazy bright and beautiful saris every day. I like how we were all chilling and heard this amazing Indian music and when we looked, it was a wedding party! All the groomsmen were dancing toward the woman's house to pick her up for the wedding! I like how everyone works so hard, but relaxes hard too. I like how when I am chilling in my room and I can hear a cow moo because there are actually some outside my window.

Anyways, off to bed because breakfast is at 6:30 AM and work starts at 7! Miss y'all. 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 5th: First Impressions of Sikar

I haven't slept in thirty-two hours.

But I seriously could not care less. India is absolutely incredible, and I am trying not to brag, but I can't handle it. Here's the story so far:

All of us (the dozen!) met at YVR and took off at about 1:30 PM on May 3rd.
We got to Shanghai and the airport was so cray. Water bottles were $7 US dollars whereas a Pepsi cost $1. There was no Wi-fi so naturally, we were all dying.

We had a four hour layover and then hopped the next plane to Delhi. It was super weird eating breakfast at 1 AM in the morning (our time). When we were still in the air the temperature was in the thirties! We were all freaking out.

We arrived in Delhi at 1:30 AM and Jerry met up with us from Singapore at 2:30. Madan was there with two vans; we strapped our luggage to the top :). We then drove six hours to Sikar stopping for tea, water and our first Indian bathroom experience.

India is unreal. It's hot and smoggy and has a beautiful desert landscape. There are all of these restaurants and stands on the side of the highway that stay open all night. Lots of Western billboards. We all noticed the poverty right away. There are many buildings on the side of the highway that are rubble and made of corrugated tin etc. The crazy driving in India is so true. There is no such thing as a shoulder check here! They honk at each other all the time to indicate when they want the other vehicle to get out of the way. They also flash their "dippers." There were so many vans moving goods that were all hand-painted and beautiful. They drive on the right side opposed to our left and the lanes on the road mean nothing. Lots of people ride on the top, sides and in the beds of trucks. Babies ride on motorcycles without any helmets or anything!

It was light by 6 AM. We stopped for breakfast along the side of the road. So good! I also got some bomb pants. While driving we saw camels, pigs, cows, baby bison, monkeys, horses, goats, and roosters. We drove through Jaipur which we visit next weekend. It's so cool; I can't even begin to describe it. There's a lot of litter on the side of the roads and in the streets which makes me sad :(. So many people with big stands of bananas and mangoes and ginger. We saw lots of tiny villages and places where people make bricks. We witnessed two couples getting married. Most people waved and smiled and stared at us.

We arrived in Sikar at noon and got a tour around camp. It's so cool! Madan's whole family works and lives here. We are in rooms of two's and three's. There are like five bulls in the backyard. There are bathrooms (Western and Indian-style) and showers with the sinks on the outside of the buildings. There is this huge rec room in the basement and a roof we can hang out on. We share chores, doing dishes and cleaning toilets in pairs each day.

We're all just relaxing (suntanning, setting up our rooms, reading mags) until it's time for tea which is served everyday at four and then is followed by dinner. We have big plans for tomorrow (getting Indian clothes, visiting children and giving them our gifts as well as visiting our work site) and then start work on Monday. I can't wait to begin the project.

I took a shower in the Indian-style shower. I can totally handle bucket style, but Indian-style toilet. Into it? Hard to say. The sinks are outside. So cool!

We drank tea, ate dinner (rice, dal, chapati, pakora, and salad which consists of cucumber and onion). Aron (Project Manager of Youth Touch) introduced us to all of Madan's family. He has three wives! We then had a welcome meeting. Madan is really happy that we are here. It's been three years that DWC Trip Leaders have tried to bring groups over here and Quinn and I are the first to be successful. It's also been a couple of years that Youth Touch has tried to buy land that we will be building on. We were in bed by 9:30 PM.

Alvida, friends! Thanks for reading :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012