Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nov 28: Weekend trip to Udaipur, outreach work, village visits and finishing up our project

Days 8 & 9

The last two days before the weekend were spent mostly at our village construction site, we got most of the brickwork done and began plastering the walls. There was a tour of the village school and lots of Chai:) On Friday afternoon we had lunch with our translators and drivers where we planned out the next week before leaving for Udaipur. When we arrived in Udaipur we checked into the hotel and some of us went to a traditional Indian dance show while others hung out at the hotel and shopped. We all met for dinner on the rooftop patio which was amazing with beautiful views of the lake.

Our weekend in Udaipur

Over the weekend we all split up and did our own things for the most part. Saturday morning a group of us woke up early and went on a tour of the City Palace. It was a huge palace complete with an old elephant fighting arena (pretty much like tug of war only with the elephant's trunks instead of rope) The City Palace can be rented out for weddings for the super rich, the outside courtyard alone is 30,000 CDN for the night before decorations!!
After the City Palace we went to the Jagdish Temple, which was completely packed so we only did a short lap and got some pictures. On our journey back towards the hotel our walk was interrupted by a rude pigeon that decided to crap on my head:( After some wet naps and a hot shower, we hit the market for some shopping! We slowly learned how to haggle and shopped until the stores closed down for the night.
All day Sunday was spent shopping by everyone before a big Muslim festival shut down the city. Then it was time to Journey back to our temporary home in Rajsamand.

Day 11 (Monday)

Monday morning our group went to the Rajsamand Jatan office where we sat in on a Legal Day. They have a program to help laborers with issues such as abuse on the job site, non-payment, or any other workplace related issues. We met some people with issues with non-payment from their employer. One guy was owed 3500 rupees from 1.5 years ago, and and another hadn't been paid in 2 years!
They have 2 Jatan workers and 3 lawyers who meet monthly to address issues employees have. They try to arrange a meeting with the employer and employee together to mediate and try to come up with a solution. Each are given three chances to show up to these meetings before they are issued a notice for court, where the courts will make the final decisions.
After lunch we returned to the job site to do some cement mixing and bricklaying in the last leech pit. After finishing all the bricklaying we returned to our hotel.


Tuesday we were all together as a group to do some touring. We were told we had to be at the jail by 10AM sharp. We arrived at 9:50AM and sat around waiting patiently until 11:15AM when they told us we would not be allowed in for a tour:( Some say it was because something happened inside while others say that they thought we were from the village "Kanaka" and not the country Canada! We were brought to the women's holding cells/resource center instead. Jatan has 2 workers who will work with female offenders or ladies fleeing from or reporting abuse. It was a very cool multipurpose centre that combats violence against women and gives them a safe place to report abuse. Next we were off to the village of Piplantri ( Piplantri is the model village. It has a population of 5000 people and every home has a toilet, electricity and internet access, there are no diseases and no crime.  It's been a long project from a rich marble mine owner who is the village's mayor. They have planted 25 million trees and 250,000 aloe vera plants around the town. It was refreshing to see that a cleaner more disease free India is possible.

Day 13

In the morning we went back to our village and did the finishing touches on our child friendly toilets.We installed the slate roof, covered the leech pits with slate slabs and cement and put the door on:) In the afternoon we went to a village where Jatan is doing a campaign trying to stop violence against women. We got to put up posters and paint slogans on the walls all over the village. We attended the bi-monthly meeting of women and men who wanted to show support for the campaign. Over 100 people showed up and after a short speech in Hindi we grabbed posters and did a march of the village while everyone chanted. It was powerful to see so many women hungry for equality. We said our goodbyes (repeatedly to the children who didn't want us to leave) and made the 2 hour trek back to our hotel. Tomorrow we will be doing a couple more tours in the morning and the afternoon will be sad goodbyes to our villages, and to the Jatan workers who have been so wonderful and welcoming to us.

Talk to you soon!

Kyra Demski
DWC Participant
India, November 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22: First day on the job

Day 6

We all woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel before our work day began. Breakfast usually consists of toasted tomato and cucumber sandwiches or toast with jam. This is because the restaurant at our hotel is all vegetarian, in fact almost the entire region is vegetarian or vegan.

We then broke into our 3 groups and all went to our different villages to begin construction. Our group consists of Josh, Kyra, Edith, Larry and Pam. The village we are working in is Vagdula, we went straight to the preschool and were greeted with chai and got to meet the children. There were 19 girls and boys under the age of 5. At first the children were scared when they saw us, a few even cried and our translator told us we were the first white people they have ever seen!

We had bindi dots placed on our foreheads and had pieces of string tied on our right wrists as a blessing for the work site. We were shown the outlines of where we were to dig and got right to work. The tools we used were a pick axe, bowls for moving sand and 2 shovels (they look like garden hoes but with a bigger base).

After digging for a while we had a break for chai and got to speak to some locals through a translator.They asked us what our occupations were back home and we learned that they were farmers, they grow wheat, peanuts and grains, After that it was back to digging until lunch.

After we had lunch we got to sit in the preschool with the children and sang songs for them (twinkle twinkle little star and itsy bitsy spider) some started to smile and follow our actions but others were still unsure.

We worked until 5 and got almost all of our holes dug, there is a U shaped trench right up against the preschool building where the walls around the squatter toilet will be and 2 round leech pit holes where all of the waste will go.

That evening we were brought to Rajsamand lake, where we were shown an old marble staircase that had to be 400 feet wide and 40 feet tall with amazing marble sculptures and columns placed throughout. We were told it took 3 generations to build! After that it was back to our hotel for dinner and we all packed it in early after our tiring first day.

Day 7 

When we reached the work site in the morning, it was straight to work making cement and soaking bricks. The cement was mixed on the ground with our shovels and consisted of sand, water and a powdered cement mixture. We had a mason working with us who did the measurements and instructed us to make sure everything was square. 

At lunch time, we were invited to a local's house for lunch, we were seated on the floor on straw mats and she served us rice, naan, Dal (kind of like a lentil soup) and a dessert that looked like a timbit but was way sweeter. We have been amazed by how welcomed we are by everyone in the village and everyday new people from the village stop by the work site to watch the process and say hello. We have had lots of laughs and are very humbled by their lifestyle, seeing how people live here and how happy they are with what we would call nothing is so eye opening and we are so grateful for this opportunity.

Tonight we are looking forward to connecting with the other groups here and reflecting on the last couple days.
Talk to you soon!
Josh & Kyra
DWC Participants
India, November 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nov 19: Our arrival in Delhi, the Taj Mahal and our project orientation

Day 1

We arrived at the Vancouver airport and found out that our flight was delayed by two hours which resulted in us missing our British Airways connection in London, so instead they put all of us on an Air India flight to Delhi.

Day 2

We made it to Delhi! After 16 hours in flying time and 6 hours in layovers. Thankfully everyone has a good sense of humor about everything, as it was a marathon of a trip. We all arrived safely in the Delhi Airport minus Larry's bags, after he went to go to find out about his bags there was a miscommunication and we lost Larry! After finding Larry and finally getting to our hotel we were 7 hours behind schedule. Unfortunately this cut into site seeing time in Delhi, so our guide Paul did his best to show us some highlights of the city until we were all so exhausted. Processing this giant city boggled our minds. Some were so tired in fact that they fell asleep at the dinner table in the restaurant!

Driving around in our tour bus in Delhi was an adventure all on it's own. Delhi driving is like being inside a pinball machine that has 100 pinballs going at once and their all honking at each other constantly. The sights we saw that night included going inside a beautiful Sikh temple, checking out the local food bank that feeds 10,000 people daily, driving past the area where all the embassy's are located and seeing Qutub Minar which was a very tall tower built entirely by hand.

Day 3

We woke up bright and early to make a day trip to Agra. First we went to the Taj Mahal, which was an amazing experience and for us personally was the most amazing thing we have ever seen! The sheer size of it and the amount of work it took is unbelievable. All the marble had to come from Rajasthan by elephant and was chiseled by hand.

Next we went to the Red Fort, which was also an amazing site to see. It's an ancient military defense post that has served a number of different functions for many years, including being a King's home and a prison. We were so lucky to have Paul with us over the few days in Delhi, he watched out for our safety and always made sure we were not paying too much for anything. He is very knowledgeable, has a great sense of humor and fit right in with our group:)

Day 4

In the morning our guide Paul took us on a walking tour of a huge Delhi street market. This market included everything from car parts to shoes and everyone was trying to get us to buy something. After the market we had to go straight to the airport to catch our flight to Udaipur. We arrived at the airport and met up with our Team Leader, Tim and his wife Debbie. The flight was on a smaller plane and even though it was only and hour trip we all felt nauseous by the end of it. Our first impression of Udaipur was a good one, we saw a lot less garbage on the main streets than Delhi. We didn't get to see much of Udaipur as we headed straight for our hotel in Rajsamand but we will get to have a better look at Udaipur when we return this weekend. Our drive to Rajsamand revealed a completely different side of India from the big city. We enjoyed passing through villages and seeing some of the rural lifestyle.

Day 5

Our hotel in Rajsamand is cleaner than our stay in Delhi and we finally had time for a good nights sleep. We had our orientation with the Host Partner,  Jatan Sansthan, all day. We learned about their organization and everything they do, and were amazed at the variety of programs they have! The organization has about 60 staff and we met about 12 of them today and they are all very friendly and welcoming. Even the District Leader (Mayor) was there to say a few words, he was followed by camera crews and news stations who also interviewed our Team Leader, Tim. This is the organizations website if you want to read more about them:

We learned about what our first week here will look like. We have been broken into three groups and will be building a children's bathroom and also doing outreach work within some of their programs:) Tomorrow we get to observe a village meeting that will bless the work site before we begin construction. Were not sure what to expect but we are very excited and ready to start! After meeting with the organization, district leader and the planner of the bathroom project, it feels like we are about to be a part of something big for Rajsamand!

Talk to you soon!
Kyra & Josh
DWC Participants
India, November 2012