Exotic Tales from Afar

Hey all,

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been in India for almost a week, and yet at the same time it feels like I’ve know the rest of the team for much longer than that! It’s been a crazy week with many high points and one particularly low point, and I hardly know where to start with telling you everything. Some of this post will be quite confronting to some people and I’ve debated whether to include it at all, but after talking to the girls in my house I’ve decided that it’s a crucial part of our experiences in India and I can’t properly convey our experiences if I don’t include it. The post finishes on a happy note if you want to skip the upsetting part.

Most of us coming on the trip (there are 17 Globers altogether) organised to stay in the same hotel for the first two nights. Our flights went well, and our Team Leader, Chita, was on the same flight as most of us, and it was really lovely to meet her. She was born in India (Mumbai or Bombay) but grew up in Australia. We got into Bangalore at 12:30am and Clary, the 40K CEO, met us at the airport and made sure we got safely into reputable taxis. It was so strange driving along the line in the road and swerving trucks and motorbikes, and a little scary at times.

The next morning we all went out in groups to explore the city. We drank coconuts, practiced crossing the road and visited some shops and managed to get Indian sim cards, which are supposed to be quite difficult to obtain if you’re a foreigner. In the afternoon we decided to head to the markets, and so we experienced our first rickshaw ride. We have decided that rickshaws are a lot of fun except for those brief moments when you think you are about to die – we were sitting there holding hands at one point because it all seemed so crazy. The roads here are hectic but there is definitely a system, and it does somehow work. Generally the rule is to give way (yield) to anything bigger than you. The drivers ended up taking us to a heap of different stores and we ended up drinking tea while buying perfume. We saw our first cows roaming the city streets, which was quite surreal. That evening we all got dinner together as a big group then headed to bed.

The next morning two of the girls accompanied me to St. Mary’s Basilica to go to Mass. It was strange going to Mass in Kannada (the main language here) but I was able to follow where it was at. Afterwards I met a Missionary of Charity, a Sister from the order founded by Mother Theresa, and we headed to a cafe for brunch.

At midday Clary met us at the hotel with a 4WD to take all our bags. It was quite a team building exercise getting all the luggage for 14 people for a whole month into one 4WD. We then all got rickshaws to our meeting point before making our way to the 40K head office in Bangalore (Basically an apartment that combines office and living space for the 40K staff that are here). After a few introduction-type activities and briefings it was time to head off to the villages we’re staying in.

My village is called Kannur, and it’s about an hour north of Bangalore by bus. Our apartment is simple but comfortable, with 6 of us plus Rachel, one of the staffers. A restaurant next door brings us dinner each night and one of the village ladies comes to clean in the evenings. It sounds like we’re spoilt having a cleaner, but our days are so packed we’re spent by the evenings. We have cold showers and the toilets are western-style, but we have to be careful not to let them get clogged. Our appliances consist of a small fridge, a toaster, a kettle and a small stove that connects to a gas bottle. We have two bedrooms, each with two bunks, and a small living space.

On Monday we visited the school 40K established, the Banyan School, and the kids were just gorgeous! It was great to hear more of the 40K story and so exciting to be there. Afterwards we headed out to the quarries where the parents of the school children work. The granite quarry would just blow your mind – think of an area the dimensions of a football stadium carved out of the ground with these sheer white walls. The men and women there spend hours a day breaking up rocks and loading trucks, eking out a living, and yet they were so hospitable and friendly to us all.

On Tuesday we visited the government school in Kannur and started working on our impact projects, and then in the afternoon we met the kids we’re going to be working with. They are so adorable, but we were a bit taken aback to realise just how much work we have cut out for us as far as teaching them goes. We expected them to be at a much more advanced stage, but we really need to take them back to square one with a lot of stuff, so it’s going to be quite a challenge. It’s very exhausting but so rewarding. They all call us Maam and want to shake our hands and play clapping games, and yesterday they even made us pinky promise that we’d be coming back!

So far everything has been going well, and we work together as a great team. The six of us in our village are getting really close, and the same goes for the four boys in their village, Dodda-Gubbi, and the other 7 girls in theirs, Maranahalli. It’s just as well because yesterday everything went very badly wrong all of a sudden. A group of girls from the other village were walking to centre where they work with their kids. Theirs is a really small village with very little traffic, so what happened was a really freak accident. A man drove past on a motorbike and managed to crash into the line of girls. A few were sideswiped but got out unscathed but one of the girls, Maddy, copped the brunt of it and ended up unconscious in a ditch on the side of the road. The girls who were with her reacted amazingly, and their actions probably saved Maddy’s life. They straight away followed the 40K protocol and contacted Clary, who arranged for Maddy to be taken to one of the best hospitals. One of the girls went into crowd-control mode while two of them had to perform CPR until Maddy regained consciousness. She had hit her head, amongst other things, but when Clary arrived, he had Eve with him (one of the girls in my house who is studying medicine) and she determined that it was safe to move Maddy and so they got her to the hospital. The rest of us all headed to the Maranahalli house to stay updated and to rally around the girls who were there during the accident, who were understandably very shaken up.

Maddy got excellent treatment at the hospital, and the CT scans came back clear. She had a gash on her face which needed stitches, and a gash on her leg that was too deep for stitches so she underwent a two-hour surgery last night, which was a success. She also has a small fracture on her foot, but worst of all, she lost 4 teeth in the accident. As bad as all that sounds she’s going to be okay, and arrangements are being made to get her back to Australia as soon as possible. Please pray for Maddy and her family, for the girls who were with her at the time, and for all of us here. We are all quite shaken up, but we are all being so supportive of each other, and this has brought us closer than ever. We are all so proud of the girls who handled the situation, and how everyone else jumped into action as soon as we found out what had happened. We took the day off today and we’re pretty tired but in pretty good spirits, all things considered. They can do amazing things with dental work these days and Maddy is getting the absolute best medical treatment. Please don’t worry about any of our safety – it really was the kind of freak 1 in a million accident that could have happened anywhere, including Australia or America.

On a happier note, we had a bit of a surprise at our apartment this morning. One of my roomies, Casey, suddenly walked into our living room and announced “Guys, there’s a monkey in our kitchen…” We all got up to investigate thinking there couldn’t possibly be a monkey in the kitchen – we haven’t seen one the whole trip, and they are supposed to be in the other village, not ours. Sure enough though, there was the monkey, sitting on the shelf trying to eat our tomatoes! The other girls screamed and ran while I dived for my camera! There were a few running around outside, and the villagers were throwing water at them to scare them off! It was great timing because we really needed a lift and a laugh. We’re still shocked that it got in, since all our windows are barred, but 20 minutes later we caught another one about to climb in!

Thank you so much for everyone’s prayers and donations so far! I am so amazed and humbled by your incredible generosity. If anyone else is interested, please check out my fundraising page at http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/NGrove Just a reminder that all donations go directly to 40K NOT to any of my travel expenses.

Please keep us all in your prayers, especially as we come to terms with what happened to Maddy, and for Maddy’s speedy recovery! I will keep you updated as I can, but we have no internet in our village (which you probably guessed based on our lack of even hot water. The electricity comes and goes, too).

Blessing to you all, and more to come later!

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