Well, we all graduated from CCOORR, and travelled successfully and independently to our respective sites. Sara, Ann, and Lisa to RUHSA; Dianna and Bryan to Karigiri (both these sites near Vellore); and Susan, Erin, and John to Kodai Kanal. From what's been passed on between us, the accommodations are great, the food is great, and the people are great at all our sites! Out from under mother CCOORR's wing, we are finally independent birds flying free around India, but we had a great week at CCOORR to lead up to it.
We went to a random temple cave that was a very rocky drive and 3-5km hike away, and it was beautiful. Apparently Aman, the wife of Sheva, lives in the mountain, and there are many stories/superstitions about the cave. It is rarely visited and almost never by tourists, so it was very nice to see. There were also huge honeycombs all over the mountainside. It was amazing to see all the bees work.
One day, as said previously, we visited the brick industry, flower industry, and rice patty fields. We actually got to jump into the mud/water up to our knees and stand beside the women planting the fields, and plant half a field of rice with them. It was surprisingly difficult work, and the women were unbelievably fast and fantastic at it. We tried to keep up getting much smaller plots to plant, and it was a very rewarding experience getting to feel what the manual labor is like. Our backs were a little sore afterward due to the bending over and planting rice. And walking through the mud was quite fun :) It was overall a fantastic experience! The brick industry was very fun to learn about. Sadly, they were not in the brick making process at the moment, they were baking the bricks, so we were unable to help with any of the work. But the brick industry workers were such wonderful people. They were all very nice, and were all very happy to be out there doing work each and every day! The people have so little, and work so hard, but they are so proud of what they have! They are more than willing to welcome us, and share what little they have with us. It has really been humbling to see how giving and friendly these people are.
Later this same day, in the afternoon, we played volleyball with the villagers. Four of us on each side, and three village boys on each side. Naturally, Bryan's team (with Sara, Ann and Dianna) beat John's team (with Erin, Lisa, and Susan) :) It was great to play though. They all really enjoyed watching us play because we all have a height unmatched by most Indians. So, they enjoyed watching us spike it over the net. All the village yougsters came up to us afterward and shook our hands and said "super!" "super!" We've come to learn that that is a favorite English phrase for Indian children when complimenting us.
ECO FEAST! -- This was the bizarre name of the day we went out to hang out on an island near a huge backwaters area near the Bay of Bengal. We were the first tourists to ever visit this fishing village and we got to hear all about their industry, and moreso how the tsunami affected their industry. It was all very interesting and very fun to hear, and then they took us out to a "virgin" beach. Our guide, Amalan, called it this because tourists almost never visit this beach. Naturally, me and Ann played frisbee. Also, we were able to find beautiful untouched seashells washed up on the beach! It was fantastic. It was quite a day where we all got significantly sunburned being in the sun from like 10AM until 5PM...we also got to ride on a sweet fishing vessel :)
Visiting the village in general was a fantastic and fun experience. So many of the children remembered our names, and latched on to us like we were the heroes of the hour! They gave us a cultural/dance performance that lasted multiple hours. We sang for them, and it was a very mutualistic relationship :) Then, we went to a house, and jammed some music with them all. Sara played her guitar, they had cymbals/drums for us to play, a harpsichord, and we made fun music, and it seemed like the whole village would just follow us around. Later in the visit we had a meeting with the women's self-help group, and they asked us to stay in the village and to never leave! They said that they would provide us with rice :) So giving, and so caring; it has been so wonderful to meet all these fantastic people, and be introduced to what India is like beyond the tourism. We were no longer tourists this week, we were intitiated into real Indian people! It was warm, welcoming and wonderful, and we are all very excited for the coming months! We all will miss one another while apart, but I'm sure the Indian people will keep us feeling at home no matter where we are!
Hope all is well in the U.S.!!!
(We heard all about the swine flu spreading around campus...luckily we are in India picking up much better diseases than that ;)...)