Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Day 5 - 17Jul2012

Vanakkam!  That means "Hello" in Tamil.

I slept really well the first night.  However, I did wake up super early around 5:30AM.  I didn't want to wake the other girls in my room up so I went to the roof and watched the sunrise.  It was pretty spectacular.  I also got to listen to the sounds of India - birds, insects, and maybe monkeys?  I'm not really sure what animal is making this particular noise.  I'm surrounded by coconut and mango trees.  I spent this time thinking about life, reading my scriptures, and emailing my family.  It was a wonderful way to welcome the day.

I had breakfast - Cinnamon Toast Crunch and boxed milk.  I'm weird about milk, but for some reason everything over here tastes amazing!  Best cereal I've ever had!  And bananas!  I can't get enough of the bananas!  After breakfast it was time to get ready for the day.

All of the volunteers have been broken down into three groups or teams.  I am on team Romba Kaaram which means "very spicy."  My team was assigned to construction for the day.  We left the compound at 8:00AM and drove about an hour to one of the leprosy colonies.  Once there, the guy in charge (I can't remember his name, but he is employed by Rising Star), showed us around to all of the places he wants a septic tank placed.  However, we were not going to be installing the septic tanks that day.  As we were walking by the small houses, or shacks really, I saw several people afflicted with leprosy.  Most of them were missing fingers or toes or both.  The people were amazing though.  An older woman was sitting next to a brick wall.  She had a foot wrapped with gauze with a plastic grocery bag covering it.  It was obvious that she did not have any toes.  When we walked by, I said "Hello" and smiled at her.  She looked up at me and I received the most incredible toothless smile ever.  She placed her fingerless hands together and said "Vanakkam" and bowed her head.  I was speechless and very moved.

Another lady ran out of her house when she saw us coming - "Vanakkam" with fingerless hands together.  The leprosy afflicted are so excited and happy to see us!  It is a great feeling.  While walking through this colony, I was overcome with a wave of emotion.  I am so blessed.  These people have nothing; they are afflicted with a horrible disease; they are banished to colonies - and yet, they are still happy.  I have everything in excess and I can still find myself feeling down sometimes...total wake up call.  I need to change my perspective about life.

Because the guy in charge didn't actually want any septic tanks installed that day, we headed back to the compound.  During the ride back, I learned that I am the oldest girl here.  The other girls were surprised to learn that I'm 26 saying that I do NOT look that old.  Yeah, I get that a lot ;)

When we got back to the compound, we were told to wait until they could think of something productive for us to do.  And shortly after, they did think of something...

There is a separate hostel called "The Green House."  So named for the key lime green paint that adorns it's walls.  Our job was to move bricks from the ground to the roof of the second story.  We formed an assembly line and threw the bricks one by one up and up and up to the roof.  At first, I was the start of the assembly line.  I picked a brick from the starting pile and threw it to Cassie (one of my roommates) and she threw it on.  The assembly line consisted of 10 of us.  We worked like this for an hour and half.  The sun was direct and blazing.  The humidity was stifling.  At one point, one of the Indian workers didn't think we were moving fast enough so he came down and took the starting position.  If we stopped for a water break, he would let 10 seconds pass and say "Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello..." until we started up again.  He would often speak to the lady workers in Tamil and then they would look at us and laugh.  I guess us Americans don't know hard day's labor...which is definitely true for me.  One of the cute Indian ladies gave me some peanuts.  As always, they were delicious.  It was so hot!  I never sweat visibly at home, but I was literally dripping with sweat.  Every layer of clothing was drenched.  My garments, my bra, my shirt and shorts, and my socks.  I have never been so sweaty in my life!  And sweating does not relieve the heat because it is too humid for it to evaporate and cool you down.  No escape!!!  I just kept drinking water.  Later, all of the construction workers realized that we hadn't gone pee all day even though we drank a ton...it all came out through our pores.  Seriously, every pore was sweating.  The pores on my shins and ears even.  This is not an exaggeration.

After an hour and half of this we got to break for lunch.  Normally, we get from lunch until PT time to rest, but for the consruction group, this was not so.  Because we didn't work in the morning, we had to go back after lunch and continue moving bricks.  This time, I was on the roof.  Getting to the roof was a sketchy endeavor.  They had a makeshift ladder up to a makeshift ledge.  Once on the ledge it was easy to get to the roof, but the ledge was made of old wood planks, tree branches, and rope (Mom, I was safe, I promise!).  On the roof, I caught the bricks and threw them to Cassie and she threw them to Abby who placed them in a new pile.  This continued for an hour and half.  This time we didn't have our Indian slave driver though so we weren't as stressed.

When we came back to the Elephant House, the other girls were amazed at our appearance.  We were dripping with sweat and covered in brick dust.  Another volunteer asked me hesitantly, "Do you know if all the construction will be throwing bricks?"  Haha...I don't think they will be.  We just got lucky ;)  I took a shower and felt revived!

My laundry was done while I was throwing bricks so I actually got to put on clean garments for the first time in five days!  Great feeling!  That's right, still no luggage.  Then it was time for PT time with the kids.  Such a fun time!  I've noticed that I always think I'm too tired or too hot to play with the kids, but when I get over there, I just forget all of that and it is so much fun!  My favorite boy so far is M. Vishva.  Such a cute little boy.  He is polite and very smart.  We play hand games together and I quiz him on his math.  I also played tag with two little girls (I can't remember their names).  The thing about tag is that I am always it.  It doesn't matter how many times I tag them, they just turn around and say "Auntie you chase!"  Don't they know I threw bricks all day?  Haha...it doesn't matter, I still chase!  And then a little boy came over and rubbed a stick on my arm.  When I looked down, I had henna all of my forearm.  Sneaky little punk.  I want henna, but I wanted a design.  He sure thought he was funny though.  Oh well, all part of the experience :)

Then it was dinner time.  Dinner consisted of rice and curry.  I have a feeling that will be an every day occurrence ;)  We also had a fruit salad, beets, some kind of boiled egg curry (which I tried, but did not like) and tomatoes and cucumbers.  It was delicious, but I'm sure I'll be sick of curry very soon.  At dinner we go around to tell our highs and lows of the day.  My low of the day was throwing bricks and my high was my shower after throwing bricks.

After dinner it was family time.  During family time I played with Ranjit and S. Kristraj.  We played with the magnedoodle and Ranjit braided my hair.  I also talked with an older boy named Vimal.  He is a very charismatic and handsome boy.  I think he may be about 13.  We practiced some pretty sweet handshakes.  Family time was great tonight :)

After family time it was time for bed.  I wrote some emails and had a hard time keeping my eyes open.  So when my head hit the pillow at 9:30PM, I was out like a light...

Day 5 Complete

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