Thursday, November 17, 2005

India - Day 6

Today we had to get up at 5 am to travel to another more rural village. We had no trouble getting up, as our friend at the mosque was there once again with his prayer call blaring over the loudspeakers. It took us approximately 1 1/2 hours to travel to today's village. The village itself was much different from the one we visited yesterday. It was a bit more quiet, probably because is was still morning when we arrived, and the children were getting ready for school. The lanes were made of dirt, not concrete blocks like yesterday, and the homes were on larger plots of land, separated by flat stones. It was estimated by one of the SKS people that one small home on its piece of property would cost around $200 dollars in this village.

We first attended a meeting where the group ofwomen met with the loan officer to make their weekly payments. The 30 or so women sat in a circle for roll call, then recited the pledge all together. One member of each troup (5 people) then handed the payment to the loan officer as the husbands and children looked on from behind the fence.

Following the meeting, we walked around the village and were able to see where some of the women lived. The homes were also a little different here. Most of them had a clay or plaster type base with a grass roof.

We wandered around the village for a while and of course, we attracted quite a crowd wherever we went. We eventually made our way to "main street", where a number of the borrowers had set up their businesses. Most of the businesses were nothing more than a wooden table or a wooden booth where they would sell their wares to the local villagers and anyone else passing through.

When we would stop at one of the stalls to talk to the women about their business, we were immediately surrounded by a crowd of women, children, and mostly men. It was a bit unnerving at first as I felt a bit like someone who'd stumbled into a group of cannibals that were going to eat us any minute(my overactive imagination at work). It turns out they were just very curious onlookers who wanted to see what we were doing in their village. Many of them would walk up to us, put their hands together and say "Namaste", which is the Hindu word for hello and goodbye, and can also mean welcome. I was particularly touched by an elderly man in a traditional turbin who slowly moved toward us. At first I thought he was a beggar, but it turned out that he was only trying to get close so he could say "Namaste).

It was fascinating to see everyone at work. One of the borrowers and her husband had booth where sold sandals. I bought a pair for roughly $2.10 CD.

Another women's business was selling metal bowls, graters and other utensils.

Another had a store where they sold candy and other small snack food items. She and her family were Christians, which is pretty rare in this part of India.

The children in the village were fascinated with the bubbles we brought. There were two little girls of about 11 yrs old who I thought were really cute. Ond had very light brown eyes, which were quite unusual looking, and very striking. I gave the bottle of bubbles to her when we left.

There were some other interesting buildings in the village. There was a "hospital", a pharmacy, and a small school that was built by the United Nations. The children were pretty excited to show me around the one-room school. They showed me the scale that they were weighed on every day, presumably to make sure they are getting enough nutrition.

Along the road that leads to the village we saw a number of people working in the rice fields and some with very primitive looking ox-drawn plows. Along the main highway there were also many people living in tents along the roadside, and there seemed to be no end to the variety of little booths set up to sell all kinds of little things. One thing we noticed that really struck us was there were very few beggars in the villages and the people generally seemed to be quite industrious and bright.

After touring the village, we made a stop at the SKS branch office where we met a few of the loan officers.

It was here that we had our first experience at a washroom outside the hotel. Thank goodness Jayme gave us a bag with a number of "essential" items, as the bathroom had a toilet, but no toilet paper. We learned that Indian people prefer to use water to clean themselves, so there was a little water jug beside the toilet, and water all around it. It was a bit tricky, but we all managed to take care of business the North American way, thanks to the small roll of toilet paper packed in our bag.

On the way back to Hyderabad I saw one other interesting thing. On the back of two bicycles, two men were delivering the two parts to a queen size bed! One had the mattress and the other had the bed frame (completely put together). It was crazy! How could anyone fit two such awkward and heavy items on the back of a bike through busy highway traffic?

We had out customary late night dinner tonight at 8:30 pm. We ate at a restaurant called
Tabla on the very top floor of a building. It was typical South Indian food, very spicy and very filling. My favourite thing is the India bread, called Naan, which I eat far to much of. The dhala is also very good served with rice. It is made out of legumes, such as lentils, peas and beans and served with a runny pepper sauce.

Two of the people from the group had birthdays that day, so the restaurant played a rather bouncy rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" in English and Hindi over the restaurant loudspeakers. The song seemed to go on and on for at least 5 minutes, and was really quite comical. They love their bouncy music here. If you've ever seen a Bollywood movie you'll know what I mean.

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