India – Week One

October 13, 2008

Holy Cow! (Figuratively speaking, not literally) -This place is cool….India is by far the most fascinating place I have ever seen.  It could be the unrelenting heat, the spicy foods, the incessant sound of car horns, the cow cruising in the back of a rickshaw taxi, or maybe, just the mere fact that today I saw two people and two goats all riding on the same motorcycle; whatever it is, it’s difficult to articulate. In short, I can say that there hasn’t been a dull moment.     


Last week Pranjal, one of our partners, and I flew to Vishakaputnam and from here we hired a driver to take us to the Koraput District of Orissa.  After five hours of what I consider to be, undoubtedly, the scariest car ride of my life, we finally made it to Koraput. Once we arrived in the small dusty little town, we picked up three other people and suddenly Pranjal, without explanation, stepped out of the car and said “I’ll see you there”.  Nobody spoke English, and at this point I still wasn’t sure where exactly “there” was.…needless to say, it made for quite an awkward car ride.


After driving for about 15 minutes on a dirt road the car pulled over and we hopped out in the middle of what looked to be nowhere.  The three guys picked up the luggage and we proceeded to quietly hike for about one mile to the water where a boat was waiting to take us to the village. 




 Finally after ten hours of travel we had arrived. The place was absolutely breathtaking. The only building in site was the volunteer housing, which sits on a 30 acre organic farm in the middle of the Indian “tribal” land. 



The accommodations were simple, yet much more than I was expecting. There was running water, solar electricity for lighting, a bed and fresh hot food.  Overall, the only difficult adjustments for me were the organic vegetarian diet and the absence of toilette paper. I knew the place was just fine, but it wasn’t until the next morning, during my first visit to the villages, that I fully understood how good I had it. The next few days would be eye opening.




Walking into the village for the first time was similar to arriving at a party where nobody knows who you are.  At first the villagers stared with curiosity, then gathered with interest and finally, once we explained our intent, offered a much warmer reception. 




I spent most of the first day going from village to village, speaking with the people, observing the local dynamics and playing with the kids.  






From my short visits with the villagers, I was reassured that we are truly filling a gap in these people’s lives and that they are extremely grateful for the support. So thus far, I think it’s fair to give the project two thumbs up!




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