Friday, October 2, 2009

21st September – 3rd October: Aarohi

Aarohi Aid Work

Our train from Delhi arrived at Kathgodam where we were driven for over 2 hours to our village called Chatola (search Nainital and Almora in google maps, draw a line between the two and we’re in the middle). We were then met by our hosts for the next 2.5 months; Sundar Ram and his son Ravi 7. After a steep 20 minute walk, we were at our new home and what a home! We were blown away by the house they have built for us. It is a 2 storey house. All brick, with proper stone floors, a kitchen and a bathroom with a western toilet! So much for concerns of a mud hut, with dirt floors, no electricity and a squat toilet.

Our Mansion on the right

We met the rest of the family, Asha (Sunders wife) and his 3 other children, all girls, Anita 13, Hema 10, and Cuzbo 5.

The kids seemed quietly excited, until we brought out the bag of presents from Australia (chocolates, pencils, stuffed toys etc. from Paddy’s markets). At this point the excitement bursted and the kids were became excited bubbly and very affectionate. By affectionate we mean exhausting! As tiring as they are, I’m sure from the photographs, you’ll agree they’re adorable J

From left to right: 2 neighbours, Ravi, Hema, Sunder, Anita, Asha, Cuzbo

Cuzbo and Hema enjoying their gifts

Since settling in we have really been getting to know the family and getting used to being ridiculously overfed by Asha. All the food is veg and consists of 1 vegetable dish (usually radish) plus rice and or rotis. We think by the end of this we will turn into a muli (radish)! Although repetitive the food is still tasty and very spicy.

The older girls love to impress Sheena, and Ravi is very attached to me. The youngest Cuzbo doesn’t say much most of the time, but squeaks a lot and is attached to both of us… she is so unbelievably cute, we’re thinking of taking her back to Australia!

Cuzbo looking cute

The family held a puja (blessing ceremony) for the new house and the extended family attended as well as the holy man. Sheena had to wear a sari and all the family were very excited to see her in traditional clothing.

The girls before the Puja, Sheena looking good..... and big!

The family at the first ceremony

Standing on the roof for the 2nd ceremony

Ravi with his uncle after lunch

Everyday we walk almost an hour each way up and down through the jungle and forest to get to the Aarohi headquarters. It’s quite tiring but also extremely beautiful and should get us fighting fit by the end of our stay here. On clear days we can see the peaks of the Himalayas in the distance towering over the valleys. Superb.

The first time we walked home we were shown the way by two local boys who were very friendly. Just before getting home, they decided to strip down naked and go for a swim in a tiny water hole. Something that kids certainly wouldn’t do back home hehe.

Local boys in the water hole

The first time we attempted to walk home from Aaorhi we of course got lost. It was a little unnerving seeing as it got dark (luckily I had packed a torch) not to mention the snake we encountered along the way.

We’ve both been given our assignments, I’ll be looking at devising a manual for locals to build houses out of brick and concrete correctly, recently they have moved away from traditional building methods and they are not constructing their houses safely. Sheena is looking at nutrition of local children as well communication methods to inform the villagers of health related issues. So we’re both quite busy.

Anywhoo… so far so good… not too much to complain about except for the fact I would murder someone for a hamburger and a cold beer and I can’t believe I’m going to miss Muse tour Australia!

Hope everyone is well...

Ravi, now thanks to us affectionately known as Bandar (monkey)

Other locals who stopped us in our tracks thanks to our monkeyphobia

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