Saturday, 31 December 2011

Rules of the Road

The realities of this trip came upon me rather suddenly over the Christmas weekend. Only 3 more days left till I boarded a plane to India. Despite my careful planning, it still seemed like I had so much left to do, never mind all that Christmas stuff. I'm pretty sure I covered all the important things, but only time will tell.... aack.
Flash forward a few days and here I am sitting in the courtyard garden at Sangam World Centre. It is certainly an oasis in the bustling Pune city. All around me is the caucophony of new sounds...strange birds, voices of the local staff going about their dailie duties, bollywood music in the background, and the chaotic honking on the streets outside.
I knew to expect all the horn honking, but it really is quite something. It seems that this is how they communicate with each other, as there are no apparent rules of the road. I also haven't seen very many traffic lights. My first introduction to Indian driving came with the ride from the Mumbai airport a few days ago where I discovered that seat belts are merely for decorative purposes. Cars have belts only there is nowhere to buckle them in. Then there was the drive itself. Unlike at home where we have lanes we stay in, here they are merely guidelines of where to drive but everyone just weaves in an out of each other, always honking, sometimes signaling. This would not work in Canada but it sure seems to work here.
I tried to capture that first ride with a video, but it doesn't really do the trip justice. Just try to imagine moderate speeds with lots of weaving, honking, and sudden braking. There were many times where I could have stuck my arm out the window and shaken hands with someone in the vehicle beside us.

Last night we all piled into a few rickshaws to go out and celebrate the birthday of another Tare on the team. Another adventure of road travel in Pune.

One day soon I also hope to be able to cross the street without my blood pressure rising quite so much. Huge adventures are just around the corner on this Indian journey and I can't wait!

Monday, 12 December 2011

17 Days and Counting

The last few weeks for me have been insanely busy, so it came as a bit of a shock when I consulted my calendar and realized that I will be heading to India in less than 3 weeks! This realization fills me with equal parts excitement and anxiety. I know that I am going to have an amazing time and my life will be changed forever, but this is unlike any travelling I have done before...

Since I am entering the almost final countdown it’s time to make a list of what I still need to do. I’m finished being jabbed in the arm (opted against the rabies immunizations, if anyone was wondering...) and my fees have all been paid. Those are the big ticket items; now it’s on to the little things like figuring out what to pack. I don’t even know where to begin!!

I have also just found out the Community Partner I’ll be working with, which I’m super excited about. I’ve been placed at Anand Gram, which means ‘village of joy’. This institution started in 1964 by Dr. Indutai Patwardhan to reach out to the victims of leprosy. As I’m sure we all can imagine, leprosy has a huge social stigma and those affected often are feared and ostracised by their own family members. According to the information I’ve been given, all of Anand Gram’s residents are healthy and those that were affected have been cured. As leprosy declines, Anand Gram’s focus is shifting to the support of children who have been stigmatized unfairly for having a family member with the disease. Anand Gram runs a school and home for about 300 of these children, none of whom have leprosy.

Along with another participant, I will be working at the school teaching English classes and other things. I’m looking forward to putting my teaching qualifications to good use in a new situation.

If you want to find out more about Anand Gram, check out their website: http://www.anandgram.org/

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Be Prepared...

Most people recognize these two words of the Girl Guide Motto. I have known them since I was nine years old and whether you are a Girl Guide or not, those two words just make good sense -- especially when you are planning a trip.
It is just over a month now until I leave for India and I am in the midst of my preparations. I don’t think I realized how much prepping I would have to do! Not that I’m complaining, of course, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit overwhelmed. This is particularly true with regards to immunizations (refer to an earlier post to see my initial thoughts on this process). In the last four weeks I have been jabbed more times than in the rest of my whole life. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but I’ve lost count of the different vaccines I’ve needed in order to travel safely in India for 3 months; and I’m not even done yet. It looks like I’m also going to need shots for Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis A (which both come at a very significant cost!) – just to be safe, you see.
This is where I start to wonder if I’ve taken our lovely Girl Guide Motto and twisted it into something much less wholesome. When does “Be Prepared” go too far and become “Be Paranoid”? Is it when I’m considering the likelihood of encountering a rabid dog or monkey? Or perhaps the odds that I will be bitten by mosquitoes carrying horrible diseases? I generally do well in mosquito season out here, with only a token number of bites, but perhaps my foreign blood will be more appealing to the mozzies over there.
So, I have one week to do some reconnaissance regarding these final jabs in my arms to see if I can justify the costs. (Can I put a price on my life? I think I hear a MasterCard commercial playing in the background of my brain...) If I end up going ahead with these shots I may have to seek out a rabid monkey just to even things out. Just kidding.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Travel Bug

I am thankful to my mom and for passing The Travel Bug on to me. When she was in Grade 8, my mom, uncle and grandparents took a year-long sojourn to Europe. Starting near the Crystal Palace in London, they travelled around Western Europe in a mini-van, spending time in places such as France, Italy and (most memorably) Spain. I have countless childhood memories of Mom and Grandpa retelling the highlights of that year abroad – some of them awe-inspiring, others downright hilarious.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to explore the world and see firsthand some of these places I’d heard about as a kid. When I graduated from University I took a leap of faith and moved across the pond to the Motherland to spend a year or so teaching (and travelling).
While living in England I was fortunate enough to stay at two World Centres and tick those off my bucket list of places to see. Pax Lodge became my home-away-from-home- away-from-home. Whenever we came down to London from the north where we lived, my friends and I stayed there. In the world of London’s Budget Accommodation, it’s the jewel in the crown. But, it being a Girl Guide Centre, was there ever any doubt?




Pax Lodge has this great map in the dining room where you can stick a pin in where you are from and add a crest to the mix. This is my friend Jess and I several years ago.


During the summer I lived in the UK, my roommate and I decided to do the Canadian thing and backpack through Europe. (Please note: I did not sew a Canadian flag to my pack Рthat was taking the clich̩ too far).
On that trip we spent a couple nights at Our Chalet in Adelboden. How we actually made it to the chalet, I will never forget. Since we were doing things on the cheap, we passed on the idea of taking a taxi and decided to walk up, up, up, up from the main road in the valley to Our Chalet. Oh yes, and in the pouring rain. With heavy backpacks. Upon arriving at the door soaking wet and just a bit tired, we were welcomed there in true Girl Guide fashion – just in time for a warm supper.



Almost there! Will this rain stop?




I love Our Chalet.

I’m looking forward to ticking a third World Centre off my bucket list in just a few weeks’ time.
I wonder what adventures I might have while travelling to Sangam Centre...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Immunizations, Round One

One of the things to consider when travelling to a developing country are the SHOTS you will need in advance. For the record, I really don't care for doctors offices. I find the vibe in them to be disconcerting. That being said, I'm willing to put my aversion to the side knowing that preventative medicine is the better option.

So, determinedly I head off to the Travel Medical Clinic on Monday afternoon. I'm sure the doctor thinks I'm crazy because of the questions I'm asking and the speed at which they are being asked. (I talk fast when I'm nervous).

Here is what I learned:
1.The typhoid vaccine is not actually live stuff. I don't know where I got the idea that they actually injected you with typhoid to keep you from catching it later...
2. Malaria pills can be crushed up and taken in yogurt. This made me feel much more relaxed. I have difficulties swallowing pills, you see. I realize this is likely a psychological issue because I probably swallow pieces of food that are bigger than a Tylenol on a regular basis.
3. My non-dominant arm is actually used more than I thought. When I sleep on my side, for example. It is very hard to sleep when my right arm is throbbing from that Typhoid shot. I think I may switch up arms next week when I head back to the clinic for Round Two of my immunizations.
4. And lastly, the Travel Medical Clinic looks less like a doctor's office and more like a travel agency. There are cool maps and magazines to look at while you wait!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A somewhat brief introduction

Okay, here it goes...this is my first foray into the world of blogging. “Why?” you might ask (especially those of you who know me well and know that I am NOT the most technically savvy person out there...) Well, the answer is more or less simple. I am about to head off on perhaps the biggest journey of my life and I thought it might be a good idea to keep a record of the adventures (good and bad) that will unfold over the next few months.

From January to March 2012, I will be heading to Sangam World Centre in Pune, India to participate in their Community Program. Sangam is one of the four world centres within the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and it is a true honour to represent Girl Guides of Canada there. I am a Girl Guide to the very core and have been a member of this movement for 26 years – basically my whole life. I have to thank my mom for signing me up for Brownies all those years ago. As a Brownie I remember learning about the World Centres and wondering if I’d ever get to visit one of them. And now, in less than two months I will be boarding a plane in Vancouver and heading half way around the world to a place I never really thought I’d ever be able to visit.

I’ve done a lot of travelling before and have been blessed to be able to explore parts of this amazing earth we live on. But, travelling to India is going to be a completely different experience. There is no question that it will be life changing to live, work, and contribute to a culture so different from mine. There are bound to be bumps along the way, but I know that the memories I’ll take home with me will be SO worth it.

I invite you to join me on this journey...