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: