Monday, 11 November 2013

Oh my dear lord…. I’m a terrible blogger! Again, so much time has passes and I didn’t think to share any of it with you! I’m sorry! Let me try to make up for it...

Firstly and most importantly, a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who made a contribution to our excursion to Trichy! It was a big success; the boys had a really good time! Thanks for making it possible, your money was well spent!

We got up at 4(!!!!) o’clock in the morning to leave for Trichy, which is a good 4 hours drive from Pondicherry. The boys dealt with getting up so early much better than we did; in the bus we went with 150 boys and a few adults. By European standards you would say we had to squeeze a little, but this is India, so anything is possible. The music was turned on and the party was started, the boys were dancing all over the gangway and the benches in the bus (video is coming). It is saying something that both Anne and I managed to sleep on the bus in spite of almost continuous honking, blaring Tamil music and 70 boys jumping up and down. I am proud to say that we seem to have completely adapted to Indian culture;)! After having breakfast in Trichy we went to visit Rockfort temple, which is situated on a big rock in the middle of the city. The boys climbed the 200-something stairs at astonishing speed and tried to encourage us to do the same…. Unsuccessfully. When we arrived on top, sweating and panting, we enjoyed the stunning view for a while. Many boys went inside the temple to get blessings, which we, as non-Hindus, are not allowed to do. After going down the stairs again there was only the minor difficulty of finding the right pair of shoes to overcome (they had to be left in big bags at the entrance) and off we went to visit a huge dam, just a few kilometers outside of town. It was beautiful to walk across the dam which is an intersection of three big rivers, and to try and spot some fish in the water. We took some rest there, then went back to have mass in a very nice and big church on the campus of St. Josephs college. We had a really good lunch (big thanks to the sponsors of the meal!). In the afternoon, we went to one of the rivers to laze at the riverbank and play some games. Unfortunately, swimming was not possible due to rainfalls the day before. But the boys thouroughly enjoyed anyways, so no harm done. On the way back the boys had a snack, and then most of them went to sleep. This is really exceptional, believe me, the boys are so energetic that it is a real accomplishment to exhaust them! Also, it is nice to see how they can just sleep anywhere – on the floor of the bus, sitting, lying half-way on top of each other, hanging on the poles in the bus… We really enjoyed seeing how happy the boys were to see and visit these places, how much they enjoyed the food and having time to play. Thanks again to all of you who made this possible!

Before the trip to Trichy, my parents came to visit India in the fall holidays. I really liked having them here! It is nice to be able to introduce them to the project, the fathers and brothers and (most importantly) the boys! I’m glad to know that when I talk to them about my time here, they will really understand and know what I’m going on about. We spent a few days in Pondicherry, after which Anne and me accompanied them to Chidambaram, Thanjavur and Madurai where we visited temples which are impressive and unique in India and maybe even the world. The hotel pool was also a highlight of the trip. We left my parents in Madurai and went back via Kumbakonam. In Kumbakonam we visited our Belgian friends Devi and Evelien who are working in a girl’s home there. It was wonderful to meet them and we found the contrast between the girls and the experience we have with the boys very remarkable.

After the Trichy excursion, life went back to “normal”. We got the chance to give our classes regularly up until now, which is great. In the beginning of October, we also started giving dance classes in the school during lunch time, which is really good fun! In the weekend we managed to organize some activities for the boys, including a careerday, where the boys got some information on professions and life after school. We hope that it inspired them to pursue long term goals and encouraged them to dream of a better life! We got major support in the execution from our friends from Edforall, a really nice initiative (check their facebook for details)! We were also able to provide some creative workshops; the first pictures are already hangingJ…

The last two weeks of my time at the project are filled up with a number of things that we still want to finalize. We want to take some more boys to the beach, finish the art classes, give creative lessons in school, paint a room in the hostel…I hope that there will be enough time! If we’re lucky the school will be closed due to heavy rains, so we’re keeping our fingers crossedJ(so far, however, the monsoon hasn’t exactly been heavy….Nothing to impress people from the Netherlands).

The end of my stay in Pondicherry is approaching fast. Too fast, I feel that these past weeks I have gotten so much closer to the boys and built a life here in Pondicherry which I’m sad to leave behind so soon. Nonetheless, I’m happy and grateful that we were able to do so many things and gain so many new experiences. I always speak of the boys as one group, but to me they are individuals with faces and personalities and histories that I will keep close to my heart. I know that I will probably forget some of the things that I have experienced here, but I will try to remember these boys who manage to be so happy and content and who are hungry for life, knowledge and experiences even though they have already encountered so many difficulties in their past.

Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to traveling in India as well; the Andaman Islands are just waiting to be explored!  I will keep you posted….

Mille bises!

P.S.: Photos are coming! Promise!
P.P.S.: To my dance friends: Congratulations to you all on your results in Assen! I bet you had a wonderful time, i was thinking of you lots this past week!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

This entry was actually written two weeks ago, but I didn’t get the chance to post it on time…. I hope y’all will enjoy reading it, even though it’s a bit out-dated. Love!

Hello again!

I’m back! Sorry you didn’t hear from me these past two weeks. Internet is sometimes a bit of a problem here…;).
I wish i had written earlier so that I could tell you about all the things that have happened in smaller portions. As it is, I will probably forget to write about half of it. But I promise I will do my best to give you most of the highlights!
After having had many exams for one whole week, the boys were set free to have 10 days of holidays last week. They were so happy to not have to study for more than a week! Most of the boys go home to their villages and stay with their family. Since most of the boys are orphans or half-orphans, they stay with aunts and uncles, grandparents or other extended family. Some boys, however, remain at the Transit Home.
For this group, there was a folk dance workshop for four days. Anne and me were feeling adventurous, so we joined. It was interesting to get to know the traditional styles of dancing in this region, which include different types of dances with sticks, flags and vases which are carried on the head while dancing. The boys enjoy dancing a lot, so they were very interested and enthusiastic during the workshop. I was also happy to be able to dance, I must admit that I do miss it A LOT. The workshop was ended with a performance for the older boys and staff at the Boy’s Home.
After those physically challenging days, w settled ourselves comfortably in the car and took off in direction of the mountains. Since the boys were still on holidays we were left with 4 more free days. On the way to Ooty, which is at the western boarder of Tamil Nadu, we visited Salem. We went there mainly to visit three more Don Bosco projects, one of which is a home for HIV infected children.
A few hours after leaving Salem, we started going uphill and so the first of many breath-taking panoramas. The mountains are a bit different here from what we are used to In Europe, there is no gradual build-up, where you have some hills first, then some bigger hills, and the n even bigger hills before you reach the actual mountains. Here it is flat, flat, flat and the suddenly there are mountains. It is impossible for me to capture the beauty of the landscape in words or even in photographs. Everywhere you turn it is green, but not just that, it is so green that the greenness of it all almost blinds you. It’s a bit like being snow-blind, but then with green. In this region, there are many tea plantations, which provide work and income to the villagers. Again, we stayed at a Don Bosco project, which is also surrounded by many rows of tea trees. Although we knew that it was going to be colder in the mountains, the temperature hit us like a shock. It was still around 15°C, but after having gotten used to 35°C every day, it felt like it was closer to zero! Oh oh oh, I’m already scared of coming back to Northern Europe in December!
Close to Ooty, there is a national park, which we went to visit. Mudumali/Bandipur National Park is home to wild elephants, antilopes and deer varieties, bisons, wild boar, different kinds of monkeys and even about thirty tigers. Altough there are many animals living there, being able too actually see them is a matter of luck. So we entered the Park with all our fingers crossed and the camera at the ready, and…. We got lucky!!! We saw five wild elephants, 2 singles and one family with a little one and big hoards of spotted deer. We also saw many monkeys, but only one kind and groups of bisons (Those fellows are big! Our driver, Akash, got very nervous when one bison seemed to take some interest in us…). We were also lucky enough to spot a few peacocks and wild boar.
After seeing the national park we proceeded to Mysore, where we visited the Maharaja’s Palace. It was very impressive, only a pity that tourists can only see a small portion of the building complex. The inside of the palace is decorated with a love of detail that is astonishing and hints at the wealth that the royal families must once have possessed.
We spent the next day visiting the sights in Ooty, which includes a Tea Museum, where we got to know about the process of making tea, the rose garden, a beautiful lake and the botanical garden. I was especially impressed with the rose garden where we found endless varieties of rose in well-maintained flowerbeds. If you’re ever in the region, it’s worth a visit;)!!
We travelled back to Pondicherry yesterday, since the boys are starting school again today.

On a more serious note, i have a question to those of you who managed to read to the end of this enormous entry;). I’m trying to find funding for an excursion that Anne and me would like to organize for the boys. Our plan is to take them to Trichy, which is a city located south of Pondicherry with rich cultural heritage. It would be something really special for the boys, most of whom have never been outside of Pondicherry and their native villages. In Trichy we would like to have mass at a big and beautiful church for those boys who are Christian (which is the majority). After that we would like to visit Rockfort Temple which is a historical as well as a spiritual place. In the afternoon we would like to visit the Kallanai /Grand Anicut Dam, which was built during the Chola empire in the 2nd century AD. After that we will go for a swimJ… So we hope to have an educational program as well as a good time for the boys! As we will take all of the boys (150), you can imagine that some cost is involved. The total cost will come to approximately 500€. We have been able to raise 300€ up until now, so if there is anyone among you who thinks he or she would like to donate a few euros, it would be a great help! Any amount will make a difference.

You can transfer donations into my german or my dutch account:
Inhaber: Kristin Anett Wiskemann
Kontonr.: 3017195824
BLZ: 20110022
IBAN: DE98201100223017195824

753981661 - Mw A K Wiskemann
IBAN: NL56INGB0753981661

Many, many thanks in advance to all of you who pitch in! I personally guarantee that your money will be used to put a smile on the boy’s faces!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hi everybody!

Puuuhh, where to begin... So much has happened in the meantime, it is hard to decide which things i should write about. Well then, let me try to do it more or less chronologically. 

Last week we went to Bangalore to buy some music instruments. Anne will need them in order to give music therapy for some of the boys and new instruments for the band were also needed. 
What a contrast that city is to Pondicherry! Much bigger of course, Bangalore has almost 10.000.000 inhabitants. Also, it is cold there! Since the city lies about a 1000 meters above sea level, temperatures are much milder - somewhere between 23-30° Celsius. I was actually cold there. Bangalore has a huge IT industry, which is also responsible that Bangalore is still one of the fastest growing cities in India. When passing Electronic City on the highway, the view will resemble that of any European commercial center or tech park. New, tall buildings and lots of glass and steel, something you won't be able to find in Pondicherry, where 99% of the buildings looks at least 30 years old. With the IT companies, some western influences have also taken root. Women in jeans are a more common view in Bangalore and i also spotted some boys with longish hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Obviously there is no way to escape hipsters anywhere;)! Just a few kilometers outside Bangalore though, you are back to good old India - roads which are bumpy at the best, and nonexistent at the worst times, women in colorful Saris and luscious green landscape. 
It was great to see a different facet of India, but we were all glad to go back home to "Pondy" after successfully shopping for a truckload of instruments. 

Finally, i also managed to give my first English lesson! Since the level of English is quite poor, i decided to start from the beginning: the alphabet. I stood in front of the boys nervously wondering if they would like the lesson that i took quite some time to prepare. They did - although i think the ABC was too easy for some of the boys after all. Everything was going well actually; the boys were enthusiastic (bordering on chaotic sometimes) when all of the sudden the lights went out. Blackout. It happens frequently here, most of the time they only last for few minutes. Not this one, unfortunately, so i had to say bye bye to the boys and the rest of my well-planned lesson.....Well, if all goes well i will get another chance tonight. Maybe a little less preparation and a little more mental flexibility will be more use in the future;)!

Yesterday, we took the youngest of the boys to go to the beach. Some of them had never before seen the sea, so it was very exciting! They absolutely loved it. After walking to the cast (about 4km) we played some games in the park, then went to the beach and had an ice cream. We put our toes in the water, which is forbidden, and had to bolt when the police came. It was really good to spend time with a smaller group of boys, we could get to know them a little better. Usually, with ninety boys jumping all around you, it is hard to give attention to all of them. It was also very rewarding to see how much they enjoyed the little trip. Would you believe it, not a single boy was complaining about having to walk there, although sweat was dripping from many foreheads. Amazing!

As for Anne and me, we are both doing well. Pondicherry starts to feel more and more like home, and we are starting to get into a rhythm. We still get the occasional cultural shock, e.g. when asking what to do with our waste, we were told we could just throw it out the window. Or when you just walk innocently on the street and suddenly a chicken is brutally murdered in front of you (i swear i'm going to be vegetarian, i had to re-digest my breakfast after seeing that...). Still, i can't believe that already three weeks have passed since i left Holland! Time needs to stop flying, because otherwise i won't have enough of it....!

Lots of love and kisses!

Anne in her element: the music shop in Bangalore
(The gentle man on the right is father Lawrence, who is in charge of the Transit home)

Anne & me wearing our brandnew Saris...

The boys enjoying their time at the beach!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Just a few pictures...

Don Bosco Transit Home - main building


Anne and me at the beach in Pondicherry

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Hi everyone!

Thanks for visiting my blog! First of all, i hope you don't mind that i will be writing in English. Since some of my friends and loved ones are German, some are Dutch, i found it hard to decide in which language to write, and i hope that this will do all of you justice. 

When Anne & me arrived in India a week ago, we were received at the airport by the director of the Pondicherry project, Rasa. He has been taking perfect care of us from this moment on, as well as the other fathers who are running the Boy's Home here. Thankfully, this has made it very easy to feel at home here in India. 

Still, India is very new, different and exciting territory for me. Life here is colorful, crowded and very noisy. And very warm! I am slowly getting used to being covered in sweat most of the time... I have noticed that even the Indians sweat, so at least i'm not the only one;). So far the south Indian people have been extremely friendly and welcoming. Although Pondicherry is supposedly one of the more touristic towns, you encounter few white people on the streets. Europeans are still an attraction here and are greeted with big smiles and a lot of curiosity. 

There are two Don Bosco Boys Homes here in Pondicherry: One for the older boys, aged 14-23 and one for the younger boys who are between the ages of 7 and 13. We are staying at the younger boy's home, the "Transit Home". Getting to know the boys was really exciting, when we arrived for the morning they greeted us with a song and gave us a scarf, which is a typical Indian welcoming gift. The boys are unbelievable.  Curious, enthusiastic, active, playful, noisy, friendly, smiley. Very different from the average northern European teenager...;). Even though i never gotten along especially well with children, i can not resist the charm of the "pondyboys". 

Coming Monday, i will start giving some English lessons in the evenings. It is something completely new to me, so i'm excited curious and a little nervous. Wish me luck!

Big hugs from Pondicherry!

P.S.: Photos will follow!