Monday, April 12, 2010

My Spectacular Trip to India V

Tuesday was just as wonderful as Monday, working on the houses in the morning and playing with the kids in the evening. I think that was the day I carried the heavy cement bricks from an old work site to the new and also went back and forth fetching the cement to fill in the gaps. From now on when I see a construction crew along the side of the road just sitting there, I`ll never fault them again! In heat like that, you have to rest often and drink lots of water or you pass out. I got stung by fire ants that day and had a bit of heat stoke, so I had to lay down inside the pastor`s house for about an hour.(By the way, coconut oil does wonders for bites and stings!)

It`s really wonderful to see how efficiently the whole village works together; everyone has a task, even the children when they aren`t in school. The women mostly carry water and supplies, the young, skilled men lay the bricks and make constant measurements to be sure everything`s straight and up to specifications, and the older men pass bricks and cement. Everyone working together could build a house from foundation to ceiling in about a week!

They`re pretty small; maybe big enough for four twin-sized beds, but that`s enough, since the villagers prefer to spend most of their time outside. They even cook outside using rice straw or coconut tree brush and small, open fires. The main purpose of the houses is to keep the wind and rain of the mighty monsoons out during the night. (So the houses mostly serve as a safe place to sleep.

Here`s some before and after pictures.

A grass hut:

Us working on a house together (actually from Thursday):

A new cement house! Notice the stairs going up so they can utilize roof space too.

Most people don`t have running water or gas, in fact I don`t think anyone does, but many have electricity. They have a small light, a fan, and a TV. Why no running water? Because even if they got it piped, it wouldn`t be safe, so what`s the point? Those who can afford it drink bottled water, and wash in the water from the rice fields and nearby water holes. You want to know what cooking looks like? Here`s a video of a woman grinding rice grain:

It`s long-grain rice, different from Japan (of course, Japan gets most of its rice from South Carolina in America, so what is “Japanese rice” anyway? The kanji or characters for America is actually “rice country,” believe it or not). Long-grain requires a lot more water, so the rice field is on a lower plain than the village, and rain water runs off into it. (Whenever I talk about my first volunteer trip abroad in Mexico and mention all the rice, my father always asks me how they can possibly grow rice there. Some people forget there are many different varieties and each requires a different amount of water depending on the length of the grain. Besides, not all of Mexico is a desert. Seriously, Dad, tease, tease.) Anyway, if you were to step down into an Indian rice field, the water would come up to your calves. Lately they`ve been having a drought, so they need a lot more. Here`s a picture of the rice field about mid-way through season. Those are coconut palms in the distance. Many men make their living by climbing up the branchless trees like monkeys and cutting down the coconuts to sell on the street:

After work around 5:00, the kids took us down to the water hole. The little boys up to about ten-years-old swim naked, but the girls don`t swim at all. The water was very brown and dirty, but some of them have to drink that stuff! ARV is working on improving the water supply, but it`s a very long and difficult process.

We also learned some other sad facts that day. Because the houses must be built in stages partly with government funding and approval, some houses receive money before others. One man has everything but the roof on his house, but for reasons I don`t understand, the government refuses to allow the continued construction. “The money is pending.” That man has been waiting for the funds and approval for a year and a half, just to finish his roof. I asked if there was anything we volunteers or ARV could do and Ravi said no; they`d already tried everything.

That evening I bought some Punjabis, or pant-suits worn by women when working. I can`t really explain what they look like; I`ll just have to show you a picture:

The little girl on the right is wearing a Punjabi almost identical to one I bought. The mother is wearing a traditional sari worn when there is no heavy labor/play that day. The little boy is wearing western clothes. Most girls wear Punjabis or saris and most boys/men wear Western clothes. A few older men wear the traditional turbans, shirts, and skirt-like bottoms. For formal occasions men wear suits similar to Punjabi, but you`ll get to see that later. ^_^

It`s my habit whenever I go on a volunteer trip to buy the local clothes. This has, hopefully, several good effects:

1.) I`m ensured of being culturally appropriate; I won`t make anyone uncomfortable.
2.) Local clothes are more comfortable and easy to work in for that particular climate.
3.) Purchasing from a family-owned clothes shop helps the local economy.
4.) I can donate the clothes at the end of the trip knowing they will actually be appropriate for the receiver to wear.
5.) It`s fun “going native!” Dressing like the locals is part of the cultural experience.

Next time, I`ll talk about our visit to Gummallapadu village, where ARV has been working for a year and a half. Such progress!

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