Also too huge for a number of other things.
Self-conscious blog note: Okay, it’s been a while. This post is a monster.
On a somewhat contradictory note, I’ve been using my cell phone internet like crazy because upon inspecting my Reliance bill, I realized that the cell phone internet is on a fixed monthly rate. Therefore, I am on the internet almost all the time as so I can upload photos to my Flickr account. At a rate of ten photos an hour, you all can now look at pictures of my and Jon’s epic adventure to Nepal up to when we arrived in Darjeeling. I hope you enjoy.
One thing I didn’t mention in my last post was that Sharmila’s final day at Kong Barr School was also Children’s Day! In India, schools celebrate Teachers’ Day, during which the students put on a show and lunch for the teachers, and then two months later celebrate Children’s Day, during which the teachers put on a show and lunch for the students! Jon, Janis, and I were able to watch about half of the Children’s Day variety show, with such highlights as all of the teachers singing the “Happy Children’s Day” song, Nangroi and Sir Maths performing an unchoreographed yet excellent dance, and a skit featuring Sharmila as Mei (mother), Sir Maths as Pa (father), and Nangroi as kyntay (daughter).
But now to the more recent past! In the last couple of weeks, Children’s Village construction has gone very well. We now have completed exterior and interior walls, which will only need to be plastered once the roof has gone up (perhaps by the end of next week!). All of the window grates and door frames are in, and we’ve ordered the doors themselves so that they’ll come in right after we’re finished with the roof. Over this past weekend, the foundation was laid (lain?!) for the outdoor kitchen/bathrooms, and volunteers from the Kharang Unitarian Church (partnered with a UU church in Bellevue, Washington) came on Friday to help with odds and ends like flattening the ground around the Village and breaking up large stones to use in the aforementioned foundation. We’ve also put in a request to the Kharang village to hook up a pump to the main water line so that we have water running to the Village. This is very important, since with so many children, it would be a huge hassle to cart the water from the local spigot every day.
We also currently have two “mother” candidates to send for training at the Shillong S.O.S. Children’s Village. They’re scheduled to live at the Village for two weeks so that they can learn from the current mothers there. I may be joining them, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.
Last week, Jon and I had a couple of exciting days. Last Friday, we went with Dari and Trei to the Smit market. This was my second time to the market, which goes on an 8-day rotation and brings together folks from all over this region of Meghalaya, and this was no less fun than my first trip. We mostly perused, but also stopped for tea and samosas and bought gifts for family abroad and folks here in Meghalaya. Like with the Catholic bus, the only problem with our Smit market day was that the sumo from Kharang to Smit was really packed – I think almost 30 people inside a vehicle a little smaller than a Hummer – and I was crushed in my seat. In fact, there was so little room that Jon had to ride on top of the sumo and Trei didn’t really have a seat. So, Jon had fun, and I had difficulty walking afterwards.
Also on the note of being so huge, Nangroi’s car is pretty small, but I managed to squeeze into the driver’s seat and simultaneously learn to drive on the “wrong” side of the road and learn to drive a stick-shift car. I only stalled out thrice, and in quick succession because I failed to properly navigate a speed bump. I think the experience was only slightly terrifying for my passengers/instructors, Nangroi and Jon, and I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to startup the car on a hill.
This weekend was a particularly busy one for Jon and I, but a particularly fun one as well. On Saturday, we traveled with Cream and Banjop to the village of Padu, which is located in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. They were visiting the lower primary school there – during which time I played soccer in my jainsem with some local kids – and Cream and I met with the grandmother of a family of orphans. The five children lost their mother two years ago, and their father is struggling with alcoholism. The family previously lived together in southern Assam, but after the mother’s passing, the grandmother moved the younger children (ages three-and-a-half to ten) to Padu because she was afraid of Assamese separatist violence. However, in Padu, the family has no land and is struggling very much. These three younger children are on our list of potential Children’s Villagers.
On Sunday, Ms. MD took Jon and I to a traditional Khasi religion procession, which like the Nongkrem Dance featured Kong Barr School teacher Sir Maths! We had a long walk with the procession from the Fire Brigade district, through Police Bazar, and out to the Khasi church and college. There were many floats, dancers, and singing.
On Monday, we visited Cherrapunjee (Sohra) for the second time. Because we didn’t take the long walk to the root bridges when we were on the pilgrimage, Banjop insisted he take us out there again. We went with three of his friends, Yari, Rashan, and Rohan. It took all afternoon to walk down to the root bridges – trees that have trained into natural bridges – and back up to the main part of town. The bridges and pools were really beautiful, and it was a really lovely time. To go back to the overall theme of being too huge, I struggled to climb the 1,800+ steps on the way back up from the root bridges. Clearly carrying stones and bricks is not doing enough for my circulatory system. When I go home, I’m ellipticaling every day as to never be exhausted again.
Lastly, and certainly the most exciting event for me in my history of shopping in India, is that whilst wandering through the markets surrounding Police Bazar in Shillong with Ms. MD and Jon, I came upon none other than a knock-off Carnegie Mellon hooded sweatshirt. Now, finding fake U.S.A. paraphernalia is high on my list of favorite things to do in Shillong. So, as if finding a store that sells flat-brim Red Sox caps and seeing a guy sporting a (here we go!) Steelers cap weren’t enough, there in front of me was my very own alma mater. I was so excited about this discovery that the guy selling it quoted me a 650 Rs price, but through shrewd bargaining skills I obtained it for a mere 300. I am the winner of this weekend.