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Right. First entry. I’m on the plane about an hour or so away from Chennai now. Have slept most of the flight as had no sleep last night because of packing – planning for 8months out the country always calls for every last minute to be spent checking you’ve forgotten nothing! I am very excited about getting there, but I think for the first time in my life I’m actually quite apprehensive about going somewhere new too. You see it just dawned on me: I have never been to India. I don’t really know many Indians in London very well. I have no real idea what I’m going to be doing for the next 4 months. Now I really wanna get there!! I’m going to miss Matt most at first because he’s become a best friend as well as a boyfriend. I’ll miss Alex my little bro too – his hugs and general just being around. Friends like Cams & Megs will probs come next, but after Louisa being out of the country for 2 months already I’m used to missing a best buddy. I guess finally it will only be in the really tough times that I will suddenly want my Mummy and Daddy! I am not on my way to India to find myself as so many people say. I already know myself. But I am sure I will develop and I am excited to see what I will learn. OK, enough monolog. In reality I have no idea what to expect and I can’t wait to write some real thoughts down. Thumbs up and here we go!
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Tues 6th Jan - first contact home with my family. Hey guys,
I’ve arrived in India safely! It’s quite surreal really – hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m really here. Got to sleep so late last night. We went to bed but I just couldn’t close my eyes being in such a strange place: dead cockroaches on the floor (don’t worry Mum there is a guy, Mark, who has been here for over a month and he seems to have killed most of them), the dilapidated bathroom, the very hard bed and rock solid cushion, the mosquito net so close to my face and the electricity going on and off for varying periods each time. Have to say I was glad when I woke up and it was the morning - a place always seems less friendly at night. Alex you'll be please to hear that 'The Final Countdown' is a very popular song here and is in fact playing now, so I think your music would go down very well here too! We start lessons tomorrow afternoon at the Christian College after the other volunteers arrive, so today we're just relaxing and sorting ourselves out. Everyone so far has been very chilled - the other two volunteers (Madeleine from Barcelona and Skye from Australia) and I keep wondering what we're supposed to be doing, but I think the point is we're just supposed to be doing nothing. Obviously it is very hot and humid - but not too hot, just comfortable. Its cloudy you see, so no direct sunlight. I have to find somewhere to buy water as I am sooooo thirsty, but we are going to a shop after this so I’ll stock up then. The family whose basement we are staying in are nice. The man who owns it is a professor at the college (maybe 55yrs old I’m guessing) and his wife made us tea, toast n samosas for breaky (whilst they ate rice). His grand-daughter must be about 5yrs old and she is very cute. Dad, we played walking on my feet this morning (remember, when a little girl stands on your feet and then you walk around?)! Okay, enough rambling, I’ll write again when I actually have something to write about. Love you all loads - missing all my fave boys especially of course - hope England isn’t too cold (sorry but I just couldn’t resist!). Sophia xx * * * * *
8th Jan Getting the feel of India now I think. We take walks into the local area with Mark who has been here 2 months. He took us to a juice bar where all the locals go to hang out. It’s crazy. So noisy, with so many people and dust everywhere. Kind of what I expected though, so I’m not feeling particularly cultured shocked as I am supposed to be. Lots of talking and getting to know people. Even ended up giving
Madeleine and Maria a short genetics talk the other night because they were interested – poor things, but it seems I am quite passionate about it! Gotta go now, I’m so so tired. Night!
* Sun 11th Jan * * * *
Hey guys, This is just a short note to say I have arrived in Chennai, India, safe and sound. I only have about 5mins to write so here are the highlights: -Arrived last Monday night to a warm and humid environment and a dingy room with dead cockroaches on the floor. -Things always seem much better in the day light (roaches were DEAD after all) and the basement we live in is actually staring to feel like home! I say ‘we’ meaning myself and Madeleine (Spanish volunteer) and Skye (Australian volunteer) and Mark (random guy also in house). All very lovely. -Indian food so far very good - no stomach problems and all spicy without being OTT. Eating with hands is great - would highly recommend it! -All the 15 other volunteers are wicked. Having so much fun getting to know everyone. -Been having loads of introductory lectures on Indian culture / politics / language / religion / history ... very interesting although is annoyingly like school again and the lecture hall makes you feel like your back in the 50s (the speakers are quite boring - almost fell asleep in classes three times, oops!). -Went to the beach today, YEY, and temples yesterday. Sunshine is lovely, and the culture… well you can imagine. The streets are dusty, dirty, noisy, and cows walk freely down the middle: just the most amazing atmosphere. And no one is ever in a hurry - even if you're late you just meander! -Yesterday went to an orphanage for disabled children. It was incredible. All the little boys were so happy, and they were so keen to play and jump around and meet you. An exhilarating afternoon, though tiring obviously. Earlier we went to a Dalit village. This is where 'untouchables' live. It is crazy to think that these people accept that they are not acknowledged by society, and so live in their own villages far away from the main towns with houses made out of mud and cow dung. They know how other people live and yet accept their lot. Again the children are so wonderfully happy.
Okay. So that’s enough now. I’d better leave you in peace. We leave Chennai tomorrow for Vellore where we will meet the Indian volunteers and go to the villages where we will be working for the first time. Very exciting! Love you all, stay well, Sophia xx * * * * *
12th jan So I’ve been here a week and it seems like forever yet it’s gone so quickly. We arrived… 13th jan …oh dear! I didn’t get very far last night did I?! Us girls (me, Maddy & Hannah) started chit-chatting and so I stopped! Well today was amazing – will explain later. But now am feeling a bit tearful as have just read about 5 emails from mum saying how much she misses me, and … okay now I’m actually crying… got an email from Matt you see. My heart physically aches when I think of him…
* Date: 13th Jan Hey guys, I know I sent you an email just the other day, but today has been such a crazy mix of everything that I had to send another! My emotions are all over the place (got woken very early you see, ha) but averaging very happy (had some super bubbly moments too!). The following is a bit of a ramble so feel free to skim read… We arrived in Vellore yesterday and I am staying in the SPW Office here which is such luxury after the last place – it even has a proper shower! Today we met all the Indian volunteers on the programme. Was very tiring as most speak very konjam (little) English, but good for my Tamil which is fast improving. Saw the three villages today, any of which I could be working in for the next three and a half months, which was very exciting. They are properly tiny villages – I think I am going to be in the third one (hopefully) with Madeleine my Spanish girly – she’s wicked. It’s quite amusing actually, but as a result of her having an accent and the fact I have been speaking very slowly all day to Indians, on top of which I * * * *
was staying in a house with an Ausi and a Dutch guy until yesterday, my accent is totally screwed up! Most of the Indian volunteers are really nice – the guys are jokers and the girls are sweet, but my god do they stink of B.O.!! This internet place smells so bad I can barely breathe. They don’t wear deodorant, you see. Anyway, the Indian volunteers are from the villages and there is only one who is a complete pain. She followed me here in fact. She is insistent on testing you on Tamil ALL the time and won’t bloody leave any of us alone (she is a human glue stick) yet she can barely speak English and doesn’t seem like a barrel of laughs in any way. Okay, rant over, had to get it out my system! We got back from our day trip around 4:30pm, then I went with Suze (sweety) to Miss Emma’s house (she is the lady who runs SPW India) coz Suze wanted to phone home as she was a bit upset coz it was her birthday. Whilst I was waiting in another room in her lovely CLEAN house she served me bread with freshly made peanut butter and guava jam made that day – amazing mmmm. I walked back from one house to another on my own and was struck by how lovely it is here. The colours and sounds are gorgeous, the heat perfect and the atmosphere relaxed. I am looking forward to next week when we go to our village (in groups of 5 westerns and 5 Indians). I am only upset because I can’t share this with all of you properly, and it’s still a bit strange. This weekend is the festival of ‘Pongal’ so everyone is on holiday as of tomorrow. Will tell you about it afterwards. Keep well, sorry about the length of the email, I have verbal diarrhoea rather than the real thing… yet ;) * * * * *
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