Wow, what a day! There are so many things to share that I'm not even sure where to start. We all woke feeling relatively rested and eager to start the day. Sunda picked us up in his jeep and we headed off to the job site with a sense of something comparable to the nerves one would experience on the first day of school.
We were greeted by a group of about 30 villagers and a hoard of children, complete with a full ceremony of drums, and an exchange of bindis, bracelets, and traditional sweets. The respected leaders of the village welcomed us and Heera reiterated the goals of the self-help community; liberty, equality and fraternity. It was interesting to see the stark contrast; here we were sitting in the middle of an open field being formally welcomed through traditional ceremony and from time to time we'd be interrupted by the occasional unique ring tones from cell phones. The modern world rearing it's ugly head. Apparently 10:30am is an auspicious time in India and we marked this moment this morning by laying the foundational stones of our water basin, complete with an Indian rupee, symbolic string, and traditional sugar cane sweets. It was an exciting moment to be a part of.
Without further delay work began in earnest. I have to say, everything was so organized. The systems for mixing mortar, moving rocks, and carrying water were quite impressive. It was very obvious that this was not the first water harvesting project the community has worked on. Despite the fact that our Hindi is a little rusty, we were able to manage with universal hand signals and followed the direction of those in charge. It is difficult work. Lifting heavy stone and mortar under the midday sun proved to be somewhat challenging for us volunteers. Clearly we were no match for the locals. To see women who appeared to be much older than us and much more frail transporting massive rocks or cauldrons of water on their heads was beyond impressive. It felt like it kind of put us to shame.
We worked steadily throughout the day, making sure to take water breaks and pace ourselves. We finished at 2pm after which we were served fire roasted corn and sweet chai tea. It was delicious!
It was very apparent that the villagers wanted us to feel welcomed and sharing food and drink was an important way to express this. We were invited to stay for a dinner celebration, but for those among us with weaker stomachs, we decided it was probably best to skip the meal. However, we did agree to join them after dinner for the party.
We headed back to the village tonight for a cultural celebration of song and dance. Kim and I showed up in sandals; Kim even dressed up for the occasion and was wearing this beautiful dress. Poor decision on both our parts. Who knew the party would be held in the out door temple and we'd be forced to take our shoes off and sit on the ground - duh! There was no specific wrap up time for the festivities, apparently the locals party till they drop. Us foreigners lasted an hour and a half before our bums were numb and our legs fell asleep. Hopefully, we can build up our tolerance for sitting in the lotus position and we're curious to see how many of the villagers show up to work on time tomorrow morning.
As a side note, happy thanksgiving to our Canadian family and friends!! Nothing like a volunteer to a developing country to make you feel beyond grateful. We are truly so richly blessed.
DWC Volunteer Participant
Udaipur, India: October 2014
PS. Sorry for the limited photos. I didn't bring my cell phone to the job site. I will today!
PSS. Kelly, why aren't you here?! The spelling, grammar, and humour in this blog is lacking...