So what have we been up to... Well I expected that now that our long distance travels are over that things would quieten down a bit but it seems that one meeting leads to the next and when I think we finally have a quiet day at home inevitably we end up with an appointment to visit another organisation.
So the day after we arrived back in Delhi we went and visited an organisation called Prayas. This is an organisation which originated in the north of Delhi after a slum fire which left many children orphaned and many others homeless. The organisation was started by an Indian police officer who was overwhelmed by the need. Since then the organisation has grown and has many facilities throughout India. The beauty of this organisation is the education and training opportunities it offers, with a vast array of vocations from baking, teaching, nursing, sewing and even beauty therapies. I have to say the baked goods were delicious. The particular place we visited was a boys home thus Sam was quite popular and regularly engaged in conversation with the boys. The Prayas website is www.prayasonline.org/ and is well worth a look. We hope to make the time to see some of their other facilities outside of Delhi as we think there is much that we can learn from them in terms of equipping people with vocational skills once they have regained their health. As with all our visits, be it quick or extended, this one to Prayas was not without incident. Of course we got lost in the way as there is no such thing as a street directory in India so unlike Australian males, Indians rely on stopping and asking for directions. Then when it was time to go home our driver had some how managed to lose the car keys; so being India there is no roadside service as such but within minutes a guy showed up who was apparently a locksmith. So with nothing more than a blank key and a file he made a new key for the car. It was a very interesting process. In a nut shell he broke into the car popped the boot and removed its locking mechanism and then by feel he spent about half an hour shaping a new key according to the boot lock. After he had it working in the boot and doors he then made the final adjustments to the key for the ignition. In all it took nearly an hour and cost the driver about $6. I cant imagine what you would pay for a service like that in Australia.
The next day Harry arrived from Australia. Harry was the one who originally introduced us to Sewa Ashram and Opportunity International and has a real passion for the Ashram and the project that we are here to support. The next morning we headed to the Ashram so we could meet with the Ashram international board members who were visiting from Germany. We spent 3 days at the ashram. Ray and Harry spent most of the time in some very fruitful meetings with the German Board Members and Ashram Team whilst the kids and I interacted with the patients. Ray built some great relationships with the German board members during their time together, and I believe that Ray and Harry were excited about the direction the meetings took. Sam once again had a great time hanging out with Renford installing a new toilet in the kids house, building a fence to divide the rabbit pens, collecting manure for the compost and replanting the lettuce. The rabbit breeding program is well underway now and they are breeding like rabbits do. Only two have been utilised for food at this stage, though I have to say there cant have been much meat on them.
Hunter and I spent quite a bit of time at the kids house. Hunter would play with the kids while I would try to communicate with Roxhanna, who is one of the more chatty patients though she doesn't speak a word of English. I have learnt quite a few new words through hanging out with her. I should mention that the kids and I are working our way through the Hindi alphabet and are able to read a few signs here, especially when they are English words spelled out in the Devanagari script. The beauty of Hindi is that it is a truly phonetic language. Unlike English where spelling a word out phonetically only works some of the time.
One dampener on this time at the ashram was the noise pollution produced by the nearby Sikh Gudwara (temple). They had some kind of month long festival going on which meant that they had a speaker blaring out their chanting for around 20 hours a day, apparently last year it was 24 hours per day, at least this year there was a few hours reprieve. The thing that seems a bit silly though is that they are speaking Punjabi, but the language spoken in the surrounding neighbourhood is Hindi... so really its just noise that nobody understands. Unfortunately there does seem to be some correlation between the chanting and the number of seizures in the kids house.
As we were preparing to leave the ashram on Saturday afternoon, Lenka- one of the German volunteers- asked me into the clinic to check if I knew if a medication was suitable for one of the patients whose condition was suddenly declining with breathing difficulties. Ramesh was about 21 years old and had suffered TB which had severely compromised his lungs. He had finished his TB medication and had some periods of improved health but he would never make a full recovery. The doctor had checked Ramesh the day before and had changed his medications but in the meantime he must have picked up a virus because during Saturday his condition was deteriorating. The nurse had gone home so it was up to the volunteers. I had identified the medication as ventolin and atrovent which was given. Ramesh was very sweaty and congested and his heart was racing. He seemed afraid and he did not want to take all the ventolin, though it was enough to boost his oxygen saturation a little and help his breathing but the mucous congestion was still a problem. I had seen Sam in a similar position many times before so I really thought Ramesh would be OK especially if it was managed. I said to Lenka before we left watch him tonight as that is the time that it is likely to get worse. That is exactly what happened. Apparently Ramesh died during the night. I really thought he would be OK. I had seen Sam pull through a similar situation many times, but what I failed to realise was that Sam has a stronger constitution and greater vitality, whereas Ramesh was weak and seemed to have lost his will to live. It was a sobering realisation and reality.
After we left the ashram we took Harry to Dilli Haat which is a lovely outdoor market that sells handicrafts from all over India. Harry was looking for a gift for his wife Zelda so we had a look at all the different stoles and pashminas available. I had never really looked into pashminas before in terms of quality, but I was aware that a real 100% pashmina was very expensive. It was really interesting to compare the differing qualities and mixes available. Of course the prices varied immensely. At one market stall the proprietor said to us in very hushed tones that a particular pashmina he was showing us was called a shahtoosh. We were a bit confused by his hushed tones but he explained that is was an illegal product. Even before he quoted a price of $600 we thought we would give it a miss. When we got home we looked up what a Shahtoosh was, apparently it is a pashmina made from the down fur of a Chiru which is an endangered Tibetan wild antelope. The only way to sheer the fur is to first kill the antelope.
Other fun purchases from the markets that night included a henna tattoo for Hunter, some $6 shoes made from camel leather and some colourful Indian bangles.
The next morning Harry was due to return to Sydney. Before he left we stopped at a coffee shop on the way to the airport and told the driver to be back at 11.30am. By 11.50 he still hadn't showed up so we made a few frantic calls. Eventually at noon he showed up looking very bleary eyed as though he had just woken up... Ray blasted him.
We spent the rest of the day at the shopping mall. The kids did the trampoline bungee thingy, we hung out in the bookstore and had a cheap buffet lunch. We had planned to watch Australia at the cinema but as I was in line to buy tickets it sold out! I was a little surprised as Indian entertainment programs called it a box office flop. As it was earlier in the day we were approached by an Australian woman who introduced herself as a woman from the church we had attended once before... she had never met us before but there are not many white families wandering about so she guessed it was us. Jackie and her family have lived in India for several years. They have 3 kids around the same age as ours. She was most welcoming and suggested we meet up so we can have a chat about living in India and let the kids have a play. So seeing as the movie was sold out we decided to go to church. The evening service is a vibrant bilingual service. I have to say I really enjoyed it, the music was great and the kids had a great time playing with the other kids. Once again we were reminded of what a small world it is with Jackie and Craig knowing many people in Australia we also know and moving in similar circles.
I still have so much to catch up on...especially about our time in Agra but I will save that for tomorrow!