Travel: Pondicherry, India (Part 2)

It wasn’t all sight-seeing and play in Pondi that summer however.  Another journal entry reads:

Some of the children in the school program, adorable

“Spent the past week going on visits with the staff here at Prime Trust.  Durga is the staffer I spend a lot of time with.  Durga’s children actually attend one of the charity after school programs sponsored by Prime Trust and one of her children is ‘sponsored’ by someone in the Netherlands.  Sponsoring a child obviously involves sending a donation, but Prime Trust has also made sure to specify the amount needed to cover educational costs up to the 12th Standard for the child.  It’s a commitment to the person donating, but one that is ultimately rewarding to everyone.

The home and neighborhood visits to the self-help groups have been an amazing learning experience.  I had the chance to see a group of women getting their first microfinance loan after showing a steady pattern of saving over the past 6 months and demonstrating to the local bank how each member of the group would use the money.  Some were going to start tailoring services, some would open a food stall in a tourist hot spot, some were going to improve the health of their livestock so they could help tend to their fields.  It was inspiring.  And here I am bitching about how my dishwasher was leaking or how my computer was running slow.

I also realized this week that I certainly have such a different perspective than some of the other volunteers.  I actually hear what the women say to me in Tamil.  They have shared their personal stories with me.  I’m also just very used to seeing poverty in India, the grinding and thus, anonymous poverty of the big city.  I was sort of worried when I got here that I wouldn’t have the empathy and sense of urgency I saw in the other volunteers’ faces.  It’s here though, that’s it has gotten a face, a name, a hope.  I’m actually happy to know I’m not completely numb, as selfish as it sounds.”

“Some of the other volunteers work at a school sponsored by the organization.  I visited one of the after school programs today.  The kids are insanely adorable.  Many of their parents are either unemployed or working long hours as house servants or drivers.  They have no where safe to go after school so they come here to the house without a fan, without reliable power supply.  But they do have company and people who will give them homework help and cookies.

I saw my little neighborhood friend there.  He was still giggling.  The first week I was here I decided to rent a moped to go out to Auroville and cruising along the beach.  One of the other volunteers was getting one too.  Bad. Idea.   While testing out said moped on our street I may have, possibly lost control and out of nowhere, seriously appeared out of thin air, came my other nemesis, Goat.  I hate the goat that lives down the street.  He ran right in front of my moped and I had to swerve violently.  It all happend so fast.  I’m convinced Goat was deliberate and malicious.  I fell (not hurt too badly) and the headlight fell off the moped as it fell to the other side.  The cows lounging nearby weren’t bothered at all.  But, this little boy was sitting on the ledge of the neighbor’s garden wall who was witness to all of this.  He was so tiny and munching on a mango, wearing his little blue pants and tiny red shirt.  At first he was just curious about “Amrika Aunty”  After the spill, he quickly turned to hysterical laughter.  He laughed so hard that his tiny little self fell off the ledge and on to the ground.  He kept laughing while rolling around in the dirt.

But at the school program, he was so shy and quiet today, hesitant to recite his alphabet among the very crowded and hot room.  I found out his father had left the family and his mother was a very young house servant in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Pondi.  Tomorrow, I’m going to talk to her about joining one of our microfinance self-help groups”

They love the camera!

Not the Moped Goat, but another one seen in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India

A row boat taken across an inlet to a far-flung beach south of Pondicherry. Time has sort of stood still here and the overpopulation has not reached these parts, but neither have many of the economic and technological opportunities.

Sunset from the row boat on the way back from the beach day.

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