Heading back to Vidya Vanam

Nuala and Caitlin are on the move again!  They are now heading back South on an overnight 12 hour train journey to Coimbatore and then on to Vidya Vanam school, where they will finally start their year properly.

Nuala phoned this morning which was lovely and she is really having a good time.  Computer access is much better in Vidya Vanam so she will probably be able to update you all herself in the next few days, but in the meantime here are some photos of her time so far – hopefully she’ll be able to explain them soon herself.


Latest News from Nuala – more travelling

Nuala has limited access to the internet just now, so here’s a brief update.

Because her school in Anaikatty, Vidya Vanam, is currently closed while the teachers are away on training, Nuala and Caitlin returned to Hyderabad.  They stayed here a few days and then travelled on to join some other Project Trust volunteers at their project for a few weeks, before returning to Vidya Vanam.

We haven’t heard much about the other Project they are heading to, other than that it is a school called Sri Chaitanya High School in Tangutur in the Prakasam District of Andhra Pradesh.  It looks like its on the East coast of the Southern part of India. The girls they are joining are Katie and Abi, and you can see a little more about their project on Katie’s blog here http://katiesyearwithprojecttrust.blogspot.co.uk/  It’s worth reading Katie’s description of her train journey from Hyderabad to Tangutur – don’t bring any bananas Nuala!

Hopefully Nuala may get access to the internet sometime in the next few weeks, and we’ll hear more.  I think she’s loving India, but finding the disruption a little frustrating – she’s just keen to start teaching.



Ganesha’s Birthday

An update from Nuala:-

Today is Ganesha’s birthday and for the past few nights and during the day there has been constant drumming in the village. One night we stood at the edge of the school fence and looked and there seemed to be a fire. The noise also sounded like it was moving through the villages as it is not just Annaikatty here but MILLIONS of villages, I cannot remember any of their names. We went to the temple-there are temples everywhere about here-and they had made a massive special Ganesha for her birthday. I really want to learn more about Hinduism, Sarah has a book so I think I’ll read that when we get back. Here’s a photo of the Ganesha outside the temple. There’s millions of statues of other gods inside the temple but you’re not allowed to take photos in there.

Ganesha, Nuala and Sarah

Oh my god just went outside cos it sounded like the drums were getting closer (they started again at midday) and there was a big parade  but by the time we got to the street (the computer lab is the other end of the school) we only saw the tail end. Basically (I think) they are parading the Ganesha through all the different villages, then they go and burn her in the river-or something. Might head into the village but I’m a little nervous to go just Caitlin and I. I’m pretty confident it will be fine though. We can ask Sumi if she wants to come with. 

Sumi is pregnant so she has not left to go on tour with the rest of the teachers. Earlier she was telling me all about how difficult it is to be a wife here and how she must go up north to stay with her in laws for three years in December as she will be 6 months pregnant by then but her husband Asim will not come with her.

Update 2-Hot and Spicy

2 of our staff are from up North, where they eat so much more salt and spices. So often with our meals, they are provided with a few chillies and a dish of salt and some limes (Which they call lemons). So the other night at dinner, I dared Sarah (The American vol) to eat one of their chillies whole. She agreed as long as I did it too, so we each put a teeny green chilli in our mouths. At first it was totally fine and Sarah and I were like ‘yeah this isn’t hot at all, it’s totally fine!’ and then suddenly it hit me. I thought my throat was on fire, my eyes were weeping, I was sweating BUCKETS and could not stop hiccupping. To make matters worse it was absolutely hilarious and everyone was laughing at me-including Sarah who was also gulping down water in order to ease her throat. This made me laugh even more so then my throat was on fire, my eyes were weeping, I was sweating buckets, hiccupping and could NOT STOP LAUGHING! It took about ten minutes and lots of curd (cool yoghurty stuff which you put on your curry and it also helps to fight bad stuff in your food and make your tummy less sore) and water and giggling until finally, my throat felt a little bit back to normal. It was still painful for the rest of the night though.

Something else about this area which is really bizarre and tricky to deal with is that most of the kids get beaten at home and a few of the females definitely do as well. There’s also a few staff members who threaten to beat the children if they misbehave as well. It’s crazy because our school has a no violence policy and is one of the much more esteemed schools than anywhere in the surrounding area. If this is the kinda thing that happens with our kids, then what goes on around the rest of the country? What’s more is that there is a huge alcohol problem with the men in the village and this is clear when we go on walks after school.

Heading to Hyderabad this evening, all we’re sure of is that when we arrive there, there will be a taxi with a driver holding our names. Fingers crossed we get there safely- I still need to buy my sari!

1st Week Here-By Nuala

Hello everyone, great to see Dad has been keeping you informed.

India is crazy, a complete explosion of the senses. It is exactly what you see on the TV, but it is in fact real. I am constantly covered in dust and dirt and there is creepy crawlies everywhere. Cockroaches roam about our room at night as they  come in through the ventilation gap and there is lizards which share our showers (cold water and a jug) with us. We have unpacked and I have stuck millions of photos on the walls.

The food has been amazing, nothing like curry in the UK. We eat with our fingers, but only our right hand as the left hand is toilet hand. Tonight for dinner we had Chappati, Aubergine and veg curry, Onion Pakora and curd. The American vol Sarah, who is here for most of the year also, has advised us that eating bread instead of rice will stop us gaining a bloated rice tummy. The rice here is very bland anyways and I much prefer the bread.

The school and village are amazing. So surreal. The families in the village are all of the lowest caste, which is split into tribal and non tribal untouchables, apart from a teeny minority who are still so low they are called the ‘backward’ class. It is bizarre how important caste and religion and money are, it is even embedded in the minds of the youngest children. They constantly ask how much things we wear are and love to touch you.

The staff here are wonderful, they have some really innovative opinions, especially for India. The two main ladies who work here and have started the school are Brahmins, the highest caste, and they try to disintegrate the idea of caste, they have also both had love marriages, which is almost unheard of. When we are walking in the city we get called ‘Madam, Madam’ as we are white, western and seen to be really wealthy. It is frustrating, as the Indians we are with get completely ignored. Being given special treatment is not so enjoyable when you know it is only due to the colour of your skin.

There have been a few issues with our project initially. It is a new project so there has been lots of misunderstandings, but it is nobody’s fault. So we shall be heading back to Hyderabad briefly. This is not a problem though.

Overall I’m loving my time here and I know I’ll have a fantastic year, I cannot believe everything that I see and hear. This country is crazy and I am sure I will continue to enjoy myself.

Hope you are all well.

1st Email from Nuala in Vidya Vanam

Hello everyone,

Hope you are all well.

My USB does not fit into this computer, so no photos yet I’m afraid. If I can work out what I need I’ll try and get that sorted.  Apparently the post is really reliable, Sarah got a huge package sent to her.

Tonight driving home we saw elephants, 2 big ones and one baby. We are so lucky but didn’t take any photos as my camera battery was dead and I didn’t bring it. One teacher has been here 4 years and never seen one. But some people say they see them all the time. One of the children lives in a place where elephants walk past every day at 5.30pm.

Currently sitting in the computer lab, internet is very slow and I’m surprised I’ve been able to write this without electricity cutting out. Dinner is at 8-which is now, but we are slowly adjusting to India time, and turning up at 9 would be more expected. Sometimes India time can get frustrating, we made two trips into Coimbatore for our police registration and it is not even complete yet (between 45mins-1.5hrs) and stopped a lot along the way – because it is so far away they do every single errand they possibly can. This morning we were meant to leave at 8.30am as the station only stayed open until 11. We didn’t leave til 9.30 and when we got there the man who had the forms we needed was at a meeting, we called him and were told to come back at 11.30, when we came back he was still not there and we went all the way back to Anaikatty just for lunch and then back to Coimbatore an hour later. We then had to go to 2 police stations and again tomorrow and on Monday.

Wore a bindi today and hoping to get a sari/salweer tomorrow. The dye on the womens foreheads is meant to be a good luck potion, kind of thing. There is a market in Coimbatore which is open on Monday so we may go then.

The village is wonderfully interesting and the politics surrounding everything are so intriguing. I’m staying very far away though, much too scary for me!

Adjusting to Indian life as well as possible, the stafff are all incredibly friendly and helpful and clever characters.

Will write more soon.


Arrival at Vidya Vanam

So we have had a few texts from Nuala and all is well.  Her and Caitlin have travelled South to Coimbatore, and from there to the village of Anaikatty and Vidya Vanam school.  This is a picture of the girls’ room – part way through unpacking.  Nuala says its great with a bathroom right outside – so all sorted on that front! 

They’ve had some initial discussions with the Head Teacher about what they’ll be doing and so far they are looking to be involved in updating the school website, running the library, teaching ceilidh dancing, and organising the computer room.  

Nuala is hoping to run a “Reading Challenge” in the library – so thanks to the inspiration of Balfron Library where she spent many summers desperately trying to read enough books to collect the stamps for a free swim!  She spent also 6 months in Balfron Library doing work experience for her DofE Silver Award, so everything she learnt there will be put to good use.

The school does have computers and some level of internet connection, but the problem seems to be the reliability of the electricity supply.  So hopefully soon you will be able to get updates direct from Nuala herself, and maybe some more pictures too.

Keep checking back!


First Impressions of Hyderabad

Text from Nuala today – her first day in India.  It sounds a far cry from sleepy Balfron!  She’ll be staying in Hyderabad the capital of Andhra Pradesh – for a few days with the other volunteers to get sorted before heading off with her partner Caitlin to their project in Tamil Nadu, which is much more rural – and will probably be a shock in many different ways.

Literally just slept from 6.30am -3pm our time with a short break at 1 when we somehow woke up on time for food.  Really strange but tasty pancakes with chutney and spicy pastes.  Roads are wild – I don’t even think there’s a specific side to drive on or I cant work it out .  Cars beep their horns as they go past other cars which happens a lot even if they don’t know each other. One car even sang as it reversed. 

 Buildings all seem unfinished, cables and rubble and litter EVERYWHERE, people just lie in big lines in the street under blankets to sleep.  Still quite surreal and we are not even allowed to leave the building today!  Not allowed outside incase we get lost but will be allowed out tomorrow.  A man called Suuchi runs the guest house, doesn’t seem to be anyone else staying here except us – we’ve taken over.  Quite warm but not unbearable.  We have just put the air con on.


The Eagle Has Landed

We’ve just had a text from Nuala to say she has landed in Hyderabad, purchased some Rupees, collected her luggage and made it through immigration. 

She says “Met Abhilash (their host in Hyderabad) in airport. Now on bus – luggage on top.  Heading straight to guest house.  Exhausted but running on adrenaline.  Hungry, thirsty, sweaty and sticky but totally buzzing.”

It’s the early hours of the morning there, so I guess she’s off to spend her first night in India!

Sleep well.


I’m on my Way!

Leaving Balfron

Cheerio everyone – that’s it, I’m finally off.  I’m now leaving Balfron, train from Glasgow to London, then fly from London to Abu Dhabi, then on to Hyderabad – a few days there and then on to my Project.

11:40 to Euston


The Long Walk 1


The Long Walk 2


I’ll keep you updated with all my news – whenever I can get to some technology!


Last night was great – a constant stream of well wishers on the phone and at the door – thanks so much to everyone for all your good wishes and support.

Lots of Love