So, we recently bought you the first installment of the tales of young adventurer and wanderer Rosie Leake, who is taking a year out of the everyday. Read here if you want to catch up on the story so far.
We now bring you the next installments! Happy reading. We bloody love you and your writing Rosie!
India – Mumbai & Sonoshi Village – Playground Build #2
G’day G’day, and how ya goin’?
Before I begin to describe the cross over to India, I just want to take a moment to mention how incredible the view of the Himalayas & Mt Everest are from the plane to and from Kathmandu. For those of you who haven’t seen it, chuck it on the bucket list, you absolutely will not regret it (or you know, hike it if you are into that kind of thing).
For those wondering, the culture shock has now hit. While Nepal was a nice transition into rich cultures, starring strangers, different living standards and customs, it was nothing in comparison to Mumbai. Arriving into a new city is always a challenge, so I jumped in the most logical option – a pre-paid taxi. Who coincidentally, had absolutely no idea where to go, the transition to hostel ‘Bollywood B&B’ was not exactly smooth. After driving around in circles a few times, asking no less than 5 strangers on the street, we finally made it.
We jumped on the train the following morning, found our beds in the sleeping carriage and settled in for the four hour adventure (image of train & new team attached). Trains in India are next level with wandering chai and curries, your average chips and chocolate snacks are few and far between. From arrival, we hopped in a car and headed to the village around 45 minutes away. The drive was spectacular with mountains, abundant crop plains (as Mum would say, great dirt) and bulk wandering animals.
This place is so small it is difficult to even get results if you chuck it into google. The village has around 150 households and it is estimated around 5 people live in each home, which accounts to 750 new neighbours and 47 school mates who we hope to create some additional fun for. The village is surrounded by incredible mountains which are home to a large wind-farm, endangered leopards and tigers who roam into the village at night (note: I only learnt of these antics close to the end of the trip, after I had been freely walking the tracks into the mountains in the mornings and evenings). It is an agricultural area with a focus on cropping, goats, cows and ox’s. The scenery is mesmerising and the people are lovely (although they are taking photos of me casually walking by and exploring which is a tad sketchy).
We are staying on site in a makeshift dorm, it has an outdoor room described as bathroom (essentially, you use a heating rod to heat a bucket of water and Wa-lah, bath) and kitchen, but other than that it is pretty cozy. On night one the village was doing some form of ceremony so tunes, chanting, drumming and dancing prevented sleep from occurring – but authentic experience none-the-less. Day two we learnt (after following the music) that the festival is in celebration of the ox, it is to prey for a good agricultural season with offerings of coconut. The music continued all night, but that was okay as we were all mesmerised by the lunar eclipse and what a way to see it over the mountains in the Indian countryside! On second, third and fourth thought, I take back commentary on the ‘on night one there was music’, music is an every-evening thing here. I even asked what it was all about, a local said ‘when you live in India, you get used to this stuff and expect the unexpected for no reason’ – phenomenal.
Three classic India moments with the locals stand out from this stop on the adventure:
- Random drunk man stormed into the house and demanded to talk to me, no real particular reason, it was both bizarre and aggressive (also couldn’t speak English so I am not sure how he thought that one would play out). Unfortunately for me, he also had no shame and watched me paint tyres the following day for 2 hours.
- I made the (very interesting) mistake of asking a group with conflicting views about the caste system and the constitution. For those who don’t know, in the Indian constitution there is a requirement for a certain percentage of the lower caste to have government jobs & higher education. This is very contentious among the population and I can only compare it to those same debates and challenges we have with quotas of women/ diversity in roles & companies. Needless to say it was incredibly informative and it prompted an ask-uncle-google-all-of-the-questions session. I now have another thing to add to the list of what not to talk about over a beer, Religion, Money, Politics and the Caste system.
- I accidentally attended an engagement party, the focus unfortunately changed from the bride & groom to taking selfies with the blonde stranger. No joke I had a photo with every human at the celebration, a woman even force fed me sweets, image attached including laughter tears as added bonus.
The construction process is pretty similar to before, clean, paint, cut, drill and bolt 95 tyres into ripper shapes for activities (pictures attached). This project we have the added bonus of being in the community square so all 750 new neighbours have taken time to stare at the blonde girl equipped with a paint brush and a truck tyre. Might have to start charging – paint 5 tyres and I will let you take the creepy stalker photo you are currently attempting. On the injury front, i managed to get through relatively un-scathed this round, couple of blisters and bruises but maybe this is growth and we will make a tradie of me yet!
Waiting to hear on the next adventure as the project may have been cancelled due to funding and procurement. But in the mean time, I can work on my camouflage among the Indian locals skills.
Hope you are all well
Goa & Barkur Village – Playground Build #3
So, in superb news, a project was re-scheduled and we got the chance to go on holiday to Goa. South Goa was lovely, we stayed in beach huts on the river and wasted the days away reading and eating (tough). We then cruised up to North Goa to see what all the hype was about. Clearly we are rookies with poor judgement calls as North Goa is like Bali on steroids, #peoplepeoplepeople #partiespartiesparties #
We managed to miss our train from Goa as after a two hour delay, 5 minutes before the train arrived the platform number was changed and we didn’t notice, classic India. Replacement train in the non-ac, bulk humans carriage was less than ideal for the 8 hour journey. But at least the scenery was nice as we cruised over rivers and through mountains on our way to Udapi.
With a day to kill by the coast before the start of the project, naturally we hit the beach. Although, I must say I almost regretted the decision as I soon realised this wasn’t a place any tourists go. In attempt to blend, I wore clothes into the water, but unfortunately there was failure on that venture, who knew beach swimming was such a spectator sport hey?
Barkur School –
The school we are working on here is located in a neighbouring village to Udapi. It is surrounded by a beautiful river and a large swamp and there are palm trees everywhere (one morning I watched the process of cutting down coconuts, terrifying). The school itself is a Christian school, after noticing a lot of churches and different architecture, it was mentioned this is another area settled by the Portuguese and even the names of the people in the area are quite European. The project is being funded by retired brothers who attended the school themselves so it has a really lovely, give back to the community, feel about it.
This round I tested out my strength on a digging hoe and I must say, my fierce rejection of attending the gym showed. Multiple blisters followed and at 36 degrees everyday, it is a shame we don’t have a union to call it as too hot for this shit (ha!).
The playground build went relatively smoothly, I chose all the colours possible and the result was as if a clown spewed all over the place – superb. On the last day of the project, we had a handover ceremony with the children, nuns and priest who were all pretty excited to get on the equipment and less than stoked to learn they had to literately watch paint dry.
Following this, we cruised to a local prayer celebration in a neighbouring seaside village. Hosted by one of the volunteers cousins, we missed the three hours of prayers. But got there just in time for food on food on food, lucky for me they managed to locate a spoon for the banana leaf feast of who even knows what and rice. I am quickly learning that any gathering of people often leads to bulk food and bulk selfies so here is to many more appearances of Rosie on strangers camera rolls.
Before departing the coastal zone, we attempted another beach visit. This was more off the beaten track, it was beautiful with a lighthouse, waves, clean sand and water and best of all – minimal people! Swimming around in the waves, there was sudden whistles and waving from the shoreline and it became apparent security wanted us to come in. The inner Australian in me immediately thought SHARK, but was surprised to learn they were actually concerned about how deep we were. The concern about our ability to swim, certainly was a moment of realisation that we take for granted childhood swimming lessons and exposure to beach culture.
Our next project we cruise to a city called Bangalore, I hear it is more westernised, so here is hoping I finally get my hands on a good coffee!
Miss you all, attached are some snaps.