Hope you're all recovering from your turkey and chocolate overdoses? I'm not even going to pretend that I didn't have a slight pining (sp?) for some traditional English Christmas food, but I figure that some of you might be interested in how I spent the Christmas period over here! Plus a couple of examples of random conversations I'm having here....
The week leading up to Christmas was pretty quiet with most of my colleagues out of the office and off around the country on other business. I'll write a bit more about my role and the organisation themselves in the new year – my week was mainly spent with getting more stuff for the flat, sorting out Internet access.
Which brings us to Random Conversation Number 1.... I'll set the scene – I'm walking home, I think I'd just bought some groceries or something and I'm about 500m from my flat. I'm walking past a parked car when the driver leans over his friend in the passenger seat and shouts “Hello” at me. Now, this isn't uncommon – lots of people want to talk to me as the resident white-person, so I decided to stop and be polite like a good English boy. The conversation below is as accurate as I can remember...
Him: “You from which country?”
Me: “UK, from London”
Him: “Ah, London, ok. You have a gift for me?”
Him: “A gift? A present?”
Me: “Um....no. Why?”
Him: “Nothing? Anything you can give me?”
Him: “Why not?”
Me: “Why would I?”
Honestly not making it up. I should point out that it wasn't threatening or rude. He actually seemed confused that I wouldn't walk around town with gifts to give to the locals!
Ok, so Christmas.....
There are a few other volunteers in the area. Efren lives in Hazaribag too and has been an absolute legend showing me around. Mabel lives just outside of town. Mani and Mila live in Ranchi which is a couple of hours away. All of them are Philippino – not sure why it's worked out like that, but there you go! Anyway, we all went to Efren's place for Christmas eve and had a big Christmas meal there. It was awesome, although there was definitely a lack of turkey, stuffing and Christmas pudding....We stayed up talking and drinking (they like a bit of a party!) until 2am, before I had to head back to my flat for an early start the next day. Unfortunately, I'd been locked out of my building, meaning the children downstairs possibly believe that Santa Claus has an English accent and cannot negotiate padlocked doors without banging the front door for assistance....
Check out Flickr for more pics (more links and pics on the right)
Which brings us to Christmas day itself....and what better way to celebrate the pagan festival, appropriated by Christianity than by going to the birthplace of Buddhism! Yep, at 8am on Christmas day I was sat in a mini-bus with five Philippinos (one in the boot!) on a 140km drive (3hrs on Indian roads) to Bodhgaya!
Basically this place is the equivalent of Mecca to Buddhists. It has a temple on the site where Gautama Buddha attained unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. The temple itself is very impressive, and the meditation gardens were (unsurprisingly!) extremely relaxing. Dotted around the main temple are various other temples, built by some of the countries where Buddhism is popular. For example, we visited the Thai, Bhutan and Japanese temples. I've got some video of some pretty cool show from the Bhutan court, which I'm going to try and upload here!
Update: Here's a link to the video
On the journey back, I got the short straw and was sat in the boot. It would have been more comfortable if they hadn't decided to put a small plastic chair in there too, which was too tall to sit on, meaning the spare tyre was the only seating option. For those considering it, I recommend against 3hr journeys sat on a spare tyre...
After finally getting back home I managed to talk to Suzie and the family, which was awesome. I particularly liked my Grandad's comment of “I wish you were here....but I have to be honest Tim, I don't wish I was there!” - what a legend!
Boxing Day was very quiet – I hadn't had a good night's sleep....possibly self-inflicted from eating an entire bar of Toblerone! But the day did bring Random Conversation Number 2. This time I'm in my flat, about to cook dinner, when I get a knock at the door. I open it to see a young guy, probably about 22, who I don't know. Again, the conversation is as best as I can remember it....
Him: “Hello – you have datacid?”- Now, I know I'm new in this country, but normally in England we introduce ourselves after knocking on someone's door, but I let it go...
Me: “Data card?”
Him: “For internet”
Me: “Um, kind of. I have Internet on my phone....” - this is true....the Internet dongle I have needs me to take the SIM out of my phone and plug it in to use it.
Him: “Data card?”
Me: “Sort of...yes...”
Him: “You give me” - unlike the last guy, this was definitely a statement, not a request....
Me: “Um, no”
Him: “I want to use Internet on my laptop”
Me: “Yes, I realise that. But it's my mobile phone SIM card – I'm not giving you my SIM card!”
Him: “No data card”
Turns out he's from one of the flats downstairs – not sure how he knew I had Internet up here, or why he thought he could just come and ask for it off of me, but there you go! The trouble with being a minor celebrity I guess! (I'm only partially joking on that front – someone I'd never met before knew my name today. Well, kind of, he thought it was Sim, but lots of people have problems with my name, I have to pronounce it “Teem”!)
Anyway, that's enough for today – tune in soon for my New Year's report!