Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crashes, Rubbish Tips and Yummy Food

Last night I got back from another field trip. It was a pretty interesting experience for a number of reasons - 1) it's always good to see the villages where the work we do actually happens and to meet some of the people impacted 2) I got to have a bit of time off and visit some tourist attractions 3) some pretty random stuff happened!

Ok, first of all - the touristy stuff. There's not much reference to it here....mainly because I didn't realise it would be happening and didn't have my camera. That, as far as I'm concerned, means it didn't happen, so I'm going to have to go back there at some point! Therefore, you can hear about Rajgir another time....

So, Sunday morning (yes, I was working all weekend again!) we set off. I was with Rajiv and Swapan, two of the founders of Srijan Foundation. We'd hired a car for the trip and off we went. Our driver was pleasantly non-suicidal, which makes a change for India. Normally, overtaking is a matter of pulling out, beeping the horn lots and praying that nothing is coming in the other direction. If there is something coming, a game of chicken ensues to see who pulls off the road to avoid the collision.

Anyway, I thought this guy seemed to value his life a little bit more than normal, so I felt good about that. We'd been driving for about 20mins, and then it happened.... In India, lots of people ride motorbikes and mopeds. They have different rules here - you can easily get three people on one, I've seen as many as four or five. It's madness. Women sit side-saddle on the back, no hands, no fear - lunacy. We overtook one such couple on this journey, flying along at what I would guess was 40mph, no helmets. About 5 seconds after overtaking, our driver slams on the breaks - one of the multitude of potholes in the road. Said motorbike comes flying up alongside me on the left, bumps through the pothole AND THE WOMAN FALLS OFF! No lie, this woman, probably 40 years old, rolls about 3 times before coming to a stop in the dirt. She got up and seemed ok, but it could have been really bad.

Wear a helmet kids!

The rest of the journey was thankfully uneventful. We were travelling to the state of Bihar, which is north of Jharkhand. The town was Nawada. All I can really say about Nawada is that it is dirty and has more flies than I have ever seen in my life. Apparently it is 100 times better than 5 years ago. This concerns me...

We were staying in a hotel, which was actually quite ok. I got my own room, which was a pleasant surprise. On the last field trip I had to share a bed with my boss - not something many people have to put up with! This was also a good thing as my stomach was again playing up. Not to Nepal levels, but not ideal. I have now left Jharkhand three times since arriving - on each occasion I've had a bad stomach....coincidence? I hope so!

The work we were doing was actually to assess a project being run by another NGO. It was into the second year of 4 and Srijan had been asked to come in and give our opinion on it, so we headed to the office and met with them for the afternoon. On the way back from the hotel, we got a bit lost. I know this, mainly because at one point we took a "short cut" across the Nawada rubbish tip. I'm not joking. The dumping ground for this city, which was already the dirtiest place I'd seen in India, and we're driving straight across it!

Monday was a trip out to the villages. We saw the midday-meals program for the schools (ensuring children get varied and proper meals in school, hopefully encouraging their attendance!), vegetable gardens and met with a number of local people. The vegetable garden was really pleasing to see - one small family in particular. There was a woman, partially disabled, probably about 40, living with her mother. No males in the family, two children. They had a tiny little plot where they'd started growing veg as part of the scheme. The size of the plot was tiny by any standard, but the benefit was huge. The family were actually eating vegetables - improving their health, while saving money (she estimated Rs 50 in 3 months - just under a pound, but significant for them) at the same time.

From there, we'd completed our work and it was on to Rajgir. Now, I said I wouldn't talk too much about this, and I won't. But I did want to talk about one thing. Rajgir is an important holy site for Buddhists. As such, it attracts a lot of tourists - including the Japanese. This has led to a number of Japanese infrastructure projects in the area - road improvements, etc. So, we're driving from our hotel to get some food, it's after 6 so it's dark. We pull out onto one of these Japanese roads and what do we see? It's like I'm on an airport runway - the cats-eyes are blinking on and off like LEDs, flying off into the distance. It's the most bizarre thing I've seen in a while. Why they couldn't make do with normal cats-eyes wasn't apparent!

Another thing I should mention is the food in Bihar. Litti is awesome! It's little balls of dough - imagine a kind of naan dough-ball with filling....yummy! There's a pic on the left (I have to say that the presentation of the ones I had wasn't quite to this standard!) Check here for a recipe.

We also had aloo parantha

Rajgir is awesome by the way - I'm definitely going back, and a full report will be coming then (with pictures)!

Only back in Hazaribag for one day - I'm heading back to Gumla and Khelari again. This time I'm setting them up with Internet access and email addresses, plus doing some initial IT training. It's all about starting to improve their communications and processes. Hopefully!

Saturday I'm hoping to catch some of the Jharkhand Games, I'm sure you've read all about them in your papers so I won't go into detail here ;-)

By for now!

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