Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A lesson in buying garlic

Yesterday I had occasion to run an errand for the farm, Priscilla (wife of Clifton who is the deputy Director) who usually does the cooking for the volunteers was indisposed and Miriam decided to start cooking supper. The cupboard was bare so I was sent off to get a couple of kilos of potatoes and some garlic. Being the savvy, street-smart kind of guy I am, I paused to get the Hindi names for Garlic (I already knew it for potato). You have to be careful who you ask here as the kids have a mish-mash of Hindi and English and speak neither 100% correct so I went straight to the top, asking Ashish, our School Manager who speaks both English and Hindi very well.

Armed with the word “Ardruk” I set off on the motorbike to the nearest Subjee Wallah (vegetable seller). Attempting to use only Hindi in this rare encounter with outside folk I began with “Namaskar, doh kay gee arloo dhanyavad” (Hello, 2 kg potatoes thank you). It worked surprisingly well with the shop assistant diving into a bag and pulling out handfuls of potatoes the size of walnuts. Then I asked for the Garlic “Or cheh piece ardruk” and that’s when things took a turn for the worse – pointing to a large bag near my feet the wallah repeated something or other containing the word “ardruk” which I supposed meant that the garlic was in there, I looked inside to find only ginger. I looked at him and said “nahee, Ardruk” (No..ardruk), he looked at me quizzically and replied “haah…ardruk” (yes…ardruk). To show him he was mistaken I pulled out a piece of ginger and showed it to him triumphantly, expecting him to apologise for his mistake. That was not the case however as by facial expressions, sign language and a barrage of Hindi he let me know in no uncertain terms he thought that I wanted ginger. At this point I gave up on my “Hindi Only” rule and said “Garlic?” He repeated the word but shook his head to indicate he didn’t understand what I meant…this began a long and ultimately fruitless saga where he, the assistant and about 20 others crowded around pointing at different vegetables and saying their name. All the while I kept repeating “Ardruk” which for some reason kept people interested in the ginger. After about 15 minutes I gave up and, after looking at some nearby shops without seeing garlic I scurried home with my tail between my legs…sans garlic.

On arriving back at the ranch I asked Ashish what garlic was called again – “Ardruk” he replied. “I’m sure that’s what I was saying back at the shop” I said ”but they kept pointing me to the ginger!” Ashish’s face dropped and replied “Oh yes, now I remember, ginger is ardruk, garlic is called lesson”.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crouching Tiger

The orphanage is located 1km from a little town called Banbassa. This little place is only 1 of 3 India/Nepal border crossings so there is a lot of freight transport to’ing and fro’ing across the river which separates the two countries. What’s funny about the crossing is that it’s only big enough for cars, so freight has to be unloaded from Nepali trucks and carried by smaller vehicles or by hand for 500 metres over the bridge and then loaded into Indian trucks. Despite the heavy traffic Banbassa itself only has a population of about 7,000. It’s not often it gets thrust in the limelight so it was big news when it rated a mention in the India Times.

The story is not just some dry commentary on export/import routes either, it’s about tigers! A “famous” tiger poacher from a “famous” tiger poaching family was arrested for attempting to do what he does best – poach tigers….right here where we are! Yeah I know most of you are now rolling your eyes and saying “big deal, so what if another tiger poacher got arrested in your town, what about our hot weather here in Adelaide”. Now I think it’s great that Adelaide is on the map for a couple of hot days but I think it’s a little bit cooler (no pun intended) that we have a guy who I imagine looks a little bit like the Indian version of Mick Dundee snooping around these here parts looking for the king of the jungle…

"Jungle” you say, aren’t some of your blogs about going into the jungle? “Yes” I would say enthusiastically “we go there quite regularly – it’s fun, there’s leeches, mud and that’s where we get our lemons from”. “Didn’t Miriam go there with a group of girl’s a while back?” you say? “yes indeed they did, they made lots of noise and cooked a great meal together”. “Isn’t that a bit scary” you might say, “to be into the same jungle as a tiger poacher?” I would reply “not really, the tiger poacher would be unlikely to harm us at all” to which you would reply “You’re missing the point – where the tiger poachers are, the tigers would be also” “Oh” I would say “That would make sense I guess – I hadn’t thought about it that way, I guess the jungle does seem a bit more unsafe now – especially since the tigers only natural enemy, the tiger poacher, has been arrested”. “So I guess then” you will say “that you won’t be going in there again knowing that there’s all those tigers prowling around”. “Of course I’ll go again” I will reply “we’re almost out of lemons….”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The call of India…

We’ve decided to stick around in India a while longer. Miriam and I are quite involved in helping out the orphanage’s first ever Grade 10 class and have decided that to give them the best chance we will continue on here until their exams in April 2010. We’ll need to do a quick visa run to Kathmandu (Nepal) in January to renew our Indian visa – so we’ll have a short break then.

It’s a bit hard writing new & innovative stuff when all you did that day was teach division of surds to a group of class 10’s, text formatting to 12 year olds, and a 2 year old to slap your head. So, if you have any questions or blog ideas we’d love to hear from you…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sports Days....

We are all aware of Fathers and Mothers Day in Australia but India goes one better, having a Childrens day in which children are celebrated as well. At the Farm they have a special day at school similar to our sports days. We were asked to organize the senior school events with kids ranging from 9-17 years. Considering the lack of equipment for events such as high-jump, javelin etc.. we decided to have the following activities – Boot Throwing, Frisbee Bulls-eye, 10-pin bowling, table-tennis, badminton and my favourite – an obstacle course.

At stake were a swathe of prizes, purchased in the nearby town of Khatima, using some money given to me by my uncle for the orphanage – this took almost an entire day to organize (nothing ever is easy over here). The kids were very excited at the prospect of so many prizes and equally in awe of these strange new games they had never heard of. All the staff reported back at the end of the day how much fun they and the children had and almost all of the kids got involved, having 2 or even 3 goes at each event!

Memories of my sports days came flooding back – whilst being a fairly ambitious and coordinated kid, throwing myself at almost every event, being half the size of almost every other competitor really made it tough. This desire to get a ribbon was nearly the end of me in year 9 when I jubilantly realized only 2 others had volunteered for the 50m butterfly event – my cherished ribbon a certainty…until I was disqualified for incorrect technique and a subsequent near-drowning. Miriam on the other hand has fond memories of sports days, every time we move house it bugs me that we have to lug such a large box full of her childhood trophies, plaques and ribbons around with us. I really think it’s high time she let go of such unimportant things……

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dental work anyone?

I’m glad we had our dental checkups before we headed off overseas. I’ve heard the local dentists are not known for using anesthetic, and will possibly pull out teeth just because they feel like it! Every time I have a sore tooth, I get a little nervous…

We went to have a quick look at the schools dental clinic the other day, not quite the same as the ones we attended growing up? But I think these kids are pretty lucky to be getting such good dental care. I’ve been told the clinic was worth going to just for the free packets of Colgate handed out – probably a bit better quality than the cheaper Babool brand toothpaste used here…

One of the boys was given some mouth wash as he had especially bad breath. This was not something he was embarrassed about however, he was proud to show off his mouth wash, and I expect he’s probably finished his bottle already at the rate he was drinking it...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christmas is approaching…

We’re actually looking forward to Christmas this year. Usually the lead up to Christmas is filled with frustration. The Christmas period in Australia feels like a huge commercialised thing, that doesn’t really relate to the whole reason for the day. Having to buy gifts (although we’ve given up on this over the last few years), dealing with the shopping crowds Urrgh…. I preferred the buying of a goat for a family in Africa etc. Or this year, buying gifts for orphans in India J

All the children and even the teens and adults are getting excited in the lead up. We started hearing about Christmas back when we arrived here in August, but the frequency of these conversations are rising now that there is under 2 months to go.

Over here I’ve been told that November is the month of purchasing all the Christmas presents, and December is the month of wrapping them (it takes a whole month as there are so many pressies). I intend to be as involved in this process as I can…that should keep me pretty busy.

Even though stuff in India is pretty cheap compared to Australia, Christmas day does cost a fair amount. Each of the kids are given 2 gifts, and a surprise bag, along with special meals on the day. But also somewhere around 70 former Orphanage kids who have grown up and moved on come back to celebrate the day here, so the Orphanage numbers will be high for a week or so over Christmas. I can’t even imagine where everyone is going to fit over this period (we might have to pitch a tent?).

If you’d like to buy some gifts for the kids or staff, this can be done online by clicking here , or we can provide you with bank account details for the orphanage if you’d like to send a dollar amount through specifically for Christmas presents or something else in particular.

Best wishes from us in the lead up to Christmas – don’t get too frazzled huh….

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The kidlets

There’s four pre-schoolers here at the orphanage and they provide many laughs and quite a few scares as well with the occasional illness.
Probably my favourite kid on the farm – this little girl was brought to the orphanage as a baby by her grandmother after she was left to die in a gutter by her mentally ill mother. She was very malnourished and weak. Due to this her legs were not very well developed and even up to a few weeks ago there were fears she might not walk. Due to special attention from the staff slowly her legs have strengthened and last week she began walking – this has made many of us very happy. She’s such a cute kid that can make even the hardest of heart melt with her facial expressions and
propensity for talking in part Hindi, part English and part babble. The photo is of her taking a bath – this is quite the normal procedure I assure you!
Raymond is a bit of a bloke – his favourite word is “NO” that starts with his head high in the air and dropping it suddenly throughout its utterance. He likes bashing things together like the tricycles, toy cows and pretty much anything else. Whilst a bit of a loner - he has a soft spot for “Grandma” (Maxine Shipway) and without fail every morning toddles over to our breakfast table for a hug from her. He recently caused a commotion when at breakfast the girls in charge of him declared him missing and there was a scramble from all of us to find him. After a few minutes of frantic worry he was found playing contentedly in the small girls garden, unaware of all the fuss
he had caused. This photo of him was of when he found a new thing he could crash – the chairs in the computer room…..
I like Kevin – he’s older, but a bit more low profile than his younger brother Raymond. When they came to the farm he was so malnourished and starved that he almost didn’t make it. After lots of care and special attention he has recovered well and now tries to emulate everything the oldest pre-schooler, Danny, does. This of course gets him in lots of trouble but when he smiles at you it’s hard to stay angry for too long. Due to his initial condition it is felt that it has put his mental and physical development back a year or so but he should turn out just fine.
This little terror is one of the cutest but most annoying kids I’ve ever met. Mollycoddled by the nursery staff, he is spoilt to the point where he thinks he can get away with anything – and usually does. He is very well developed for his age (which we are guessing is around 3), he can speak very clearly and articulately. He is openly defiant to anyone who dares to tell him what to do, I find him very frustrating and hope that he gets taught some of life’s lessons early on before he turns into a bigger monster than he already is.