Day 18, March 3
Today was Friday and a sleep in day. Breakfast began at 8:30 -10:30 eat when you wish. After 10:30 we climbed up into the bus armed with all the supplies we would need for the day plus a packed lunch. The last time I was at Anandgram I was affected by the visual remnants of leprosy, stubs for hands, scarring on faces plus other physical disabilities. The children of the lepers were completely fine and attended a school here. Since leprosy has been pretty much eradicated, those people have since passed with only a handful remaining here with no visible physical signs.
This community is now decaying, the buildings shut with branches strewn and grasses growing through former pathways. There are plans for the future but money has run dry for new projects. Now the local children attend school here.
We visited several classrooms first where the children practiced their English, reciting songs and words of welcome. Then we set out to find areas to set up. It’s winter here and trees were lacking leaves in most varieties but we did the best we could. Some women had less active activities and were inside the 4 story school building.
Myself and the Mexico Our Cabana Manager ( she was experiencing a session here with us) chose to do wide games. The simpler the better. She has a wealth of experience with kids and the “marecatec” ( spelling) active song was a hit.
We also had them carry a somewhat deflated beach ball and small pool ring between the knees, hopping in order to touch the tree and back to the beginning, then pass off the inflatables to the next person in line. They love to cheat! We adapted other games and the 2 hrs or so of round robin went by. One thing I learned from them was to hold out your pointer and pinky finger, connect with theirs, touch thumbs, twist, then pump your arm in a handshake. Wow! Some boys sure made a point of shaking wildly!
I made the mistake of taking out my trader badges. I was mobbed and with hands thrust towards me saying “please, ma’am” I kind of got overwhelmed! I gave out almost all of them and had to twist myself out and away from the group! Some children asked for Canadian pins which another set of colleagues were giving away but I was out.
The heat was horrendous. Even with drinking water my cheeks were burning yet sweat seemed to evaporate quickly. Our Sangam Volunteer was red faced as she was the one who was trying to keep order, moving children from one station to the next. A very hard job!
Two p.m. And it was lunchtime. A small truck pulled up unloaded large 5 gallon sized stainless steel containers which probably was their meal. We adults went upstairs to the 2nd or 3 rd floor office, I can’t remember, laid out some mats and unpacked the picnic lunch. Rice, fried potato patties ( someone said they were chicken?) bean salad, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and bread. There are many carbohydrates per meal in India. Being so hot I didn’t have much appetite.
We packed up and it was time to go. The children gathered around us again as we approached the bus to load up. We had gathered a donation from our group to the school and waited for the headmaster to come out. Pictures were taken and we set out for our peaceful sanctuary, Sangam.
We later had a debriefing and it was good. Everyone got out of this event what they needed to and it’s always interesting to see where people absorb the same things and where they are different. All for personal growth. We all agreed on the fact that we had fun!
I had been wanting to get a nose ring made by a jewellery maker who lived close by. Nancy had introduced me to him in 2002 and a few people then had rings made. I found his contact info on Facebook messenger when he commented on Nancys post of her painting tour happening now in Northern India.
He gave me his cell number, I had one of the staff call and he came over to pick me up on his bike. OMG! Riding a motor bike with no helmet through heavy traffic in India! He expertly maneuvered the bike slowly diagonally through an intersection to reach another street. I just don’t understand how it works, but it does. The neighbourhood looked different from 15 yrs ago but I recognized the parking area where several bikes where parked. We walked up several floors and entered the apartment where his wife gave me a warm welcome. Beautiful people!
They offered me a beer and we went upstairs to the open air terrace. The hazy moon was smiling and stars were visible. It’s difficult to hear how they never know when water will be shut off, internet connectivity is erratic. Things that we take for granted. As we were sitting there you could hear water trickle in the pipes. Yay, water came back on, it had been off since 11:00 a.m. that day. It was not possible to have a custom made nose ring done, I should have contacted him last Tuesday. He said Nancy may be able to direct me to a good Jeweller in Jaipur.
A visitor came up, she was from the UK staying in the building for a time, as she belongs to a Buddhist organization and was leaving the next day for another city.
After some time I was taken home on the same bike, less scared this time.