As our group entered Chuvuru village, we were greeted with the most enthusiastic procession! We were draped in flower garlands and marched down the main road to the music of drummers, the people dancing and laughing. Children grabbed our hands and led us to the work site, where speeches of welcome were offered by the villagers, introductions made by each team member, and a prayer invoked by the village pastor. Tomorrow I should have a video link!
Then came breakfast in Ravi`s sister`s house. She`s married to the pastor, and every day we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner there, and used it as a place to rest. Breakfast usually consisted of Western bread or a light, pancake-like, Indian flat bread (not nan), with butter, jam, honey, vegetarian curry, rice cakes (not sweet; just tightly packed rice), and bananas or oranges. Most people went Indian and ate with their fingers, but I preferred to put my food inside the pancake and eat it like a tortilla, just because I`d been having a little stomach trouble. Every meal was a delicious feast!
Then work began. The first day we finished the roof on a house. We had a cement mixer luckily, but the rest of our equipment was limited. We had to pass bowls of cement up to the roof. My job was to take the empty cement bowls they dropped from the roof onto the haystack and carry them back to the cement mixer so they could be filled and passed up again. It was hard work in the hot sun, but it felt extremely rewarding to see the progress at the end of the day! Wei Yuet cut his leg a little, but he was soon good as new and there were no other injuries.
Lunch always consisted of rice, a vegetarian curry, a meat curry, yogurt, fresh vegetables, nan (Indian flat bread), and crispy tostada-like things. I liked to mix my curry, rice, and yogurt and eat it on the crispy thing. (Note: yogurt helps off-set the spice.) What makes curry “curry” exactly? A mixture of spices including gram marsala, turmerie, cayenne or paprika, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, and mustard seed. So you see, most Japanese and American curry isn`t really curry at all. It`s just sauce over rice. Indian curry is extremely spicy. The Northern curries are creamier, made with milk or even coconut milk, but the southern is water-based, chunkier, and even spicier. Which do I prefer? I don`t know; they`re both really good. But I will tell you, if you`re not used to spicy food, it`s probably not good to eat Indian curry for every meal for eleven days. I`m still feeling the ill effects of the onslaught of spice, even though at the time I felt fine! It would have been smarter of me to just cut out the curry and go with simple fruit, rice cakes, and yogurt for one meal a day.
In the evening we taught and played with the children. In the beginning they were shy, calling me “madam” but after a few laughs and games, they called me “sister!” They were so excited to show us their finished or partially finished houses. Here is Molica, a very energetic, sassy (in a good way) ten-year-old standing beside her nearly-finished house:
They only spoke a few sentences of English, but language can be over-rated. (Don`t tell my Japanese students that!) If people really want to communicate, there are other, just as effective ways. The kids loved my recorder and fife:
The girl in front attempting to play my fife is eleven-year-old Durga. You might be wondering why the little girl smiling at her has a shaved head. Like in Africa, when a Christian child loses a family member, the child shaves their head in mourning. I`m not sure who she lost or how recently, but seeing that there were several little girls with shaved heads, I realized death has a more lurking presence among them than for children in America. Not as strong as in Malawi, where the average life expectancy in thirty-seven and one-third of the children are orphans, but death is still far closer than it should be.
But you`d never be able to tell this harsh reality from their faces. They were always smiling, always laughing. Even the adults; many of us joked that Indian adults wear a “don`t mess with me” look most of the time, but when you smile at them, their faces light up like sunshine. It`s really neat to see.
Besides music, they really REALLY loved dancing. The Africans love singing and the Indians love dancing. Several people had TVs, and the villagers often beckoned us into their houses during the heat of the day to watch Bolliwood films, which of course always include singing and dancing. There was one little boy who knew all the dances. We called him the “dancing king.” In the evening he and some of the other kids entertained us. I lost my video of him, but here`s some other little boys all dancing together. It`s kind of short, but the kids kept snatching my camera, so this was the best I got:
Yeah, speaking of snatching cameras, they loved grabbing it right out of my hand and snapped as many as they could. Here`s a few of those:
I love the goat:
Here`s one of the villagers going about their day:
Here`s me and more kids:
They`d grab the camera back and forth for awhile, Molica usually dominating, but fortunately, they were always good about giving the camera back when I insisted. The kids were always asking, “Sister, one more photo!” “One more song!” “One more dance!” We taught them the chicken dance, the mockerena, the hocki-pokey, head-shoulders-knees-toes, various clap games, and they taught us their “secret handshake.”
So it was that at the end of Monday we arrived back late at the hotel in Eluru about twenty miles away very tired but also very, very happy and satisfied. And that was only the beginning of the trip!