Thursday 26 February 2009
So we here at field base know that to date, there haven't been many photos from Alpha 2 on the blog. So today we have a surprise for all the A2 family and friends: A special guest blogger!
Chris Ashford (pictured, below) put pen to paper and sent this thoughts about working on the eco-sanitation project with project managers Joey and Caroline back to Fieldbase.
Since he wrote his blog entry, we have had word that the Alpha 2 gang have actually completed the brick work for 10 eco-sanitation units, well ahead of schedule!
The editor would like to thank Chris for taking the time to write a blog entry, and to Doctor Andy for acting as proxy photographer during his loop visit to the A2 site.
A day in the life of Alpha 2 – the story so far
The cool morning air caresses my face as I awaken. I look to the left ot see the early sun peak over the surrounding hills, reflecting its beauty off the vast reservoir. As the warmth slowly moves in we prepare a traditional Raleigh breakfast. It’s porridge.
A bucket of murky water to wash in prepares us for a hard but rewarding days’ work mixing cement, laying bricks and trading witty banter with the masons which all adds up to a fantastic day at the work site.
The local community forever stands in front of our cameras and the children longingly want for a game of international cricket. The work day ends with a cool refreshing dip in the reservoir. Some of us sunbathe and others write in their journals. As the shadows lengthen and the breeze settles, the twinkling stars emerge after a well-deserved rest. The sky is lit up with a bounty of brilliance and even though the sun has disappeared over a far hill, we are warmer than ever. The sheer charisma of nature itself is enough to release all the worries and negative emotions we may have. We slowly all fall asleep and wait for the cool morning air to greet us once more. (picture: PM Caroline with Country Director Gav and fellow PM Joey Maloney at the Kalainhnahalla school where Alpha 2 is currently staying.)
(Above: That's not a chimney! That's Claire, Hannah and Chris in an eco-sanitation unit!)
So far at Alpha two (the Reservoir boys) we have completely constructed all bases for the units. We are now building up to the top of each unit. Besides building, we have also been embracing the local culture. Learning Kannada (the local language) has been a top priority of many of the Venturers here. However, we have only got as far as: Chinagiday – Super!Nero – waterand Binky – Fire!We at Alpha 2 believe in full food preparation and why waste our vast culinary skills? Tom D and I acquired three chickens and killed, plucked and gutted them for our Alpha 2 dinner party last Saturday night. Leanne – acting as head chef – promised and delivered a gastronomically pleasing affair. In the mean time, we will be visiting local temples on the weekend and above all, will be ploughing on with our primary project. And forever not understanding the Kannada language.
To all in the other Alpha groups and at home: we’re experiencing more than promised and all is well.
So now, for a quite whip-around the other projects:
Fieldbase is humming along with a facelift for the office which has involved Country Programme Manager Mark wearing his medical scrubs as a painting outfit.
Alpha 1 is marching along well, they have picked up their next food drop and will have the loop visiting them on monday.
Alpha 3 baked PM Caz a couple of cakes after a few tough days of work on site as a thank-you at the tribal housing project.
And at Alpha 4, they came to work today to discover some of the fence they had repaired had been damaged by elephants so they've had to get stuck into that. Forutnatley they're working efficiently and it won't affect scheduling at all. Tonight they're going to a local village to check out some traditional dancing.
That's the latest from Raleigh India 09C, our next blog is scheduled for Monday.
Both Loop vehicles will be out with the PRO and photographer so there will probably not be much in the way of new photographs but there will be another special-guest bloggger and all the latest news!
Monday 23 February 2009
Through the sweat and strain of working on volunteer projects in the southern States of India, the 53 Venturers of Raleigh 09C are beginning to discover the rewards and trials of simple living and hard work.
Alpha 1 has climbed the highest peak in India outside the Himalayas and been served tea at the world’s highest tea estate. Alpha 2 has whitewashed the village of Kalainahnahalla and almost completed 10 (seriously, 10!) eco-sanitation toilets. Alpha 3 has been moving a veritable mountain of granite for housing and for Alpha 4, they’ve built their bamboo city of basha beds and started learning the technical art of repairing solar-powered elephant proof fencing…
Last night was the first edition of Radio Raleigh, a weekly slot at 7pm produced by the PRO Peta to send news, gossip and the all important sports results to the various sites. The programme is sent through Skype to the communications devices (mostly mobile telephones) on the sites.
It is a crucial tool for the Venturers who have formed close friendships between the Alpha groups and are keen to hear how the other groups are going.
So, for our readers, here is the news as the Venturers heard it last night through Radio Raleigh.
Out at Alpha 1, the trek has been described as a “rollercoaster” both in altitude and emotion. Today is day seven of the trek and the group has settled in after celebrating Ella’s 19th birthday at Lakeside camp on Thursday night. The trekkers made her a crown of grass and local flowers, managed to procure a cake from a nearby village, made her a card and wrote a poem.
(Above: the Alpha 1 trekkers group on top of the world of India)
(above left: Frankie nears the summit. Right: Shinola, Jo D and PM Liz)
We reckon Ella will probably remember her 19th birthday as a special one for the rest of her life.
(Above, big picture: Alpha 1 celebrates Ella's 19th birthday around a campfire. Above left: PM Andrew and Mubarak hold Ella's birthday cake. Above right: James and Frankie take a well-earned break. The editor gratefully acknowledges Larry for the above photographs.)
For the gang at Alpha 2…
They have the loop vehicle complete with Doctor Andy (who will run a medical clinic to treat blisters, sunburn and other ailments on site) and Paul on board. The group is geared up for their arrival and have reported they’ve already written their own blog post so stand by for that soon!
In other news, the team visited the Golden Palace yesterday (unfortunately we can’t write the name in Kannada as I don’t have a capable keyboard!) to catch up with the monks and take a well-deserved break from building.
They also had a fancy-dress night on Saturday and cooked up some chickens they bought from local villagers.
We’ll have new pictures from Alpha 2 soon once the loop returns.
For Alpha 3, yesterday was their first day off hard labor building tribal housing and they spent it going to a waterfall. Alpha 3 has been busily adding bling to their camp with signs for everything including the long-drop and slops pit. Matt (PM) is living large in a bright pink tent (to match the slippers) which he hopes will not attract the wrath of elephants and the boys are complaining a bit of insomnia thanks to Will’s snoring and Seb’s constant sleep talking. Felicity has become a favorite with the locals thanks to her dancing whilst carding granite and Guna and Sreejith have been giving lessons in their local languages (Malayalam and Tamil)
(Below: Felicity and PM Lucy collect small stones for the masons on site. Below left: A chain gang moving granite. Below right: The A3 troops take a lunch break. Pix by PRO Peta)
It was a special night for Alpha 3 as language and cultural barriers were broken down to unite the town and Raleigh volunteers in a common goal to improve the lives of the village residents.
(Above left: Rosanna and Emily J work out how to cart water to the fencing site. Above right: PM Neil among the bamboo city of Anaikatty campsite. Pix: PRO Peta)
Since then, they’ve had classes in fence fixing and have started work in earnest, threading, pulling and tying wire on to the elephant-proof solar-powered fence that circled the village.
The fences have six bits of wire: The top two are to keep out elephants, the centre two are designed to repel deer and the bottom two are aimed at keeping wild boar away from crops.
Whilst on the loop visit, Host Country Venturer coordinator Vijay (who speaks all three of the languages common in Southern India, as well as Hindi, English and a good spattering of French!) asked the locals how they were faring with the fence currently in disrepair. The answer was one which highlighted the importance of the work of Raleigh: The villagers told Vijay they had lost many crops to trampling by wild animals, which had jeopardized their livelihood in their tribal homes.
(Above: The loop gang of Vijay (HCV coordinator) PRO Peta and Julia with the Raleigh 09C shop)
From those of us who went on the loop trip out to the sites (Peta, Dani, Anni, Julia, Vijay, Girish and 60/60), we'd like to say well done to all the Venturers and PMs who are doing an amazing job. It is a great privilege to be able to assist them in any way.
Our next blog is scheduled for Thursday, please keep the comments coming.
Sunday 22 February 2009
This is just a brief note to let our readers know: The loop vehicles have returned and all is well out at Alphas 1, 3 and 4.
Doctor Andy (Friday's guest blogger) and Paul the Builder will head out to Alpha 2 tomorrow to take much-needed supplies, so expect an update soon.
Photographer Anni Taylor and I (Peta the public relations officer) are madly sorting through about 600 photographs (I so wish that was an exaggeration, but it is not) so we can post some tomorrow and provide a more detailed update on the blog.
In the mean time, some of our Venturers have responded to comments posted on the blog earlier in the week. The comments were printed off and taken to Alpha 3 and 4, so check out the comments on the previous blogs if you're keen to hear from your friends and family who are out with Raleigh India 09C.
Wednesday 18 February 2009
Hello everybody. Field base is very quiet today with most of our team out on loop visits - that is, visiting our projects. I'm filling in for the PRO Peta while she's out checking on how Alpha 3 and 4 are doing. The loops have taken out much needed supplies and also a tuck shop to allow our venturers to stock up on snacks and goodies. (pictured: Dr. Andy taking some time to relax at field base)
Unfortunately that means there are no new photographs from the project sites at the moment. However, we have plenty of news to bring you from each of the four groups. We should hopefully have some great pictures by the time the next blog goes up.
Lama in Town
For us at field base, it was a big day yesterday when the Dalai Lama himself arrived in Mysore to open the JSS Centre for Management Studies. Country Director Gavin Shelton and myself headed up to see the 14th Tenzin Gyatso of Tibet in the flesh. We enjoyed his stimulating talk on world religions and were lucky enough to get within just a few metres of his holiness.
(pictured: The Dalai Lama waving to Gavin in recognition of all the good work that he is doing for Raleigh)
Back at field base we have been struggling a bit with our skeleton staff. Several of the team have had to take on two or even three roles to keep things ticking over. Country programme manager Mark was drafted in at the last minute to fill in for one of the security guards.
(pictured: Mark Ashby prevents another vagabond from entering field base)
Meanwhile, our accountant Paul Billett has been getting to grips with some new building skills. He was called upon to rebuild one of the field base walls after an incident involving an elephant and a mouse. The mouse has a black eye but you should see the state of the elephant (and the wall).
(Pictured: Paul the builder - can he fix it?)
To add to the pressures at field base, country director Gavin Shelton has been recruited to umpire a one day cricket match in Mysore today. He has sadly been unable to fulfil his usual role of toilet cleaning. We wish him a speedy return. (pictured: Gavin - Raleigh's answer to Tendulkar)
Well that's all for now from field base, here's the latest news from the alpha groups:
Alpha 1 Misappuli Mala trek group: Alpha one have now completed three full days of trekking and despite their fatigue are having a really great time. Yesterday they reached Lakeside camp where they had the opportunity to relax for a few hours and wash their socks. Trek medic Andrew Cox had been impressed with his newly acquired sun tan from the last few days. He was horrified to see it disappear after a dip in the lake when he realised it was just dirt.
Alpha 2 Kalainhnahalla eco-sanitation project: Alpha two have been making superb progress with their eco-friendly toilets (this group are now nicknamed 'number two'). They have made a good start with the initial ten units and are looking to have the first few completed soon. Project manager Joey Maloney has also recruited the whole group into whitewashing the local school. Several of the venturers have reported it is so dazzling that they need to wear their sunglasses within a twenty metre radius of the building.
Alpha 3 Kappikadu tribal housing project: Alpha three have been working exceptionally hard digging foundations for their houses. They have now successfully dug four sets and filled them with boulders. They will be adding the cement soon. Overnight temperatures have been on the chilly side up in Kappikadu and several requests have been made for extra clothes and blankets. Unfortunately we were able to locate project manager Matt Sales' pink fluffy slippers to send out on the loop.
Alpha 4 Anaikatti elephant-proof fencing project: Alpha four have constructed their camp and erected bashas for the group to sleep in. Their entire campsite now has its own mini elephant proof fence powered by a car battery. They have also started replacing the full size elephant fencing. Early problems with the water tank have been resolved - special recognition goes to project manager Ivan Philips who was dunked head first into the tank. Venturers have since reported that this was nothing to do with trying to fix the tank however!
Well that's all the news from me. Hope you enjoyed the guest blog. Next week our friendly PRO Peta will be back with your next update and hopefully some great photos as well.
Bye for now!
Tuesday 17 February 2009
So let's start with the latest news first! The sorting hat has spoken - rather literally - and our venturer group has been re-arranged and despatched in their new Alpha groups.
(pictured: Frankie finds out she's joining the Alpha 1 trekking group during the Raleigh Potter sorting ceremony. The three wicked witches of Amanda, Julia and Peta lead the sorting ceremony... funny hats all-round)
They are as follows:
Alpha 1 Misappuli Mala trek group with Liz, Peter and Andrew the medic: Alexandra, Edmund M, Fiona, Frankie, Hamish, James W, Ella D, Joanna D, Mubarak, Parthi, Rebecca, Roo Glatman, Sarah K, Shenola, Sophia, Tjebbe and Larry. The trek group is larger than the other Alpha group as all Venturers are scheduled to participate in the trek. The trek travels through some of the most scenic and remote parts of southern India and includes two days of rafting. The trekkers left before sun-up yesterday. Expect some good pix in the next few blogs as our photographer Ann has joined the first four days of the trek.
Alpha 2 Kalainhnahalla eco-sanitation project with Joey and Caroline Savage: Chris, Claire, Esmee, Hannah, Joanna M, Leanne, Lucy, Murgesh, Nadine, Ricardo, Sumith, and Tom D. Kalainhnahalla is a remote village on the banks of a huge expanse of still fresh river. It is probably one of most picturesque projects and the venturers will be sleeping in the local school. (pictured: Chris, Jo M and Lucy I board the bus to Kalainhnahalla. Ricardo and Leanne gear up for their first expedition with Raleigh India 09C)
Alpha 3 Kapikadu tribal housing project with Caz, Matt and Lucy: Annabel, Edward K, Eveline, Felicity, Guna, Tilly Wallis, Petrina, Sebastian, Sreejith, William and Zoe. Alpha 3 is a new project for Raleigh India 09C and will take the Venturer group to some of the most remote and remarkable communtiy villages in India. (pictured: Tilly, Zoe, Seb, William and Guna board the bus)
Alpha 4 Anaikatti elephant-proof fencing project with Neil, Ivan and Jenny: Akhil, Angel, Charlie, Edmee, Emily J, Emily W, Emma, Hobby, Holly, Mani, Remi, Rosanna and Tom M. The gang heading to Anaikatti will be sleeping in basha beds and spent much of their preparation time yesterday loading and unloading bamboo. Last night they slept in the Anaikatti community centre and today will build the campsite that will be home for the next three weeks while they repair 5km of elephant-proof solar-powered fencing. (pictured: PMs Neil, Jenny and Ivan in front of the bus with their Alpha group. The gang loads a proverbial tonne of bamboo to build their campsite
So that's the latest news but we know you're probably keen to hear about everything else...
First up: The expedition cook-off was won by the culinary genius of Alpha 3 lead by Murgesh and his exceptional hat (see, told you it was all about funny hats at field base) who came up with a stunning mushroom risotto, trifle with creme brulee -style crackle and tuna pasta. The whole thing was cooked on a trangia stove using ingredients dished out of the logistics store which the groups have taken to their project sites. (pictured: Murgesh in his hat, Julie and DPM Dani in the logistics storeroom sorting three weeks of food for almost 70 Raleigh 09C expedition members)
Logistics food guru and cook-off judge, Julia (who has two Phds and is quite sure it takes both of them to calculate the food required for Raleigh India!), said the main aim of the cook-off was to encourage the groups to get excited about their food and not fall into the trap of two-minute noodles every night.
"It's really amazing what you can cook with not much, and the quality of food in India is actually pretty good," she said.
It was also Valentine's Day on the weekend and Saturday night Fieldbase was decorated up in paperchains and hearts for a party. Hobby, James, Sreejith, Petrina and PM Neil carved up the dancefloor to the cheers of everyone.
Venturers were invited to write notes of appreciation to their newfound friends on expedition, which were distributed on their return from trek training. The game gave a very tired, hot and dusty group of venturers a much-needed emotional lift.
And then there was trek-training on Friday and Saturday..
After their first day of trek, Mysore's famous Snake Sham brought six snakes - including two cobras - to the campsite to show the group and many had a go at holding some of the non-venemous snakes. Sham told the group snakes were crucial to keeping rodent numbers under control in India and said he was called out almost every day by residents in the area to retrieve snakes which had slithered indoors to escape India's scorching heat.
Pictured: Emily J and Tom D, at campsite, One of the trek groups takes a break en route to the summit of Chamundi hill, and (from left) Guna, PM Caz, Hannah, Holly, Jo D and Streejith walk through the village at the top of Chamundi hill .
And that's the latest news.
And finally, here's the answer to a few more Blog FAQs:
Reader Q: In some blogs, when I click the picture, it doesn't go big which makes it hard to see my friends. What's going on?
Editor A: Sorry, that was my bad. I made some of the photographs smaller as my laptop was struggling a bit working with the large images sizes. The pictures on this blog are bigger than last time, so when you click on them, they will enlarge so you can see everyone.
Reader Q: Can my friends/family respond to blog comments I've posted?
Editor A: Yes they can, and some already have responded to comments! The Venturers can read the blog comments, as they get printed out and put on a pinboard near the dining room. During changeover (so in three weeks) everyone can then write their response message in a book, which will then get posted to the blog by the editor.
So most of the blog comments from "Raleigh India", come from a Venturer. It should be pretty clear who has responded to what.
Reader Q: My comment hasn't appeared, what's going on?
Editor A: Yesterday we had a power failure of epic proportions and about 20 or so blog comments (to the editor's absolute horror) disappeared into the abyss of cyberspace. If your blog comments haven't appeared... please comment again and accept my apologies. I have learnt my lesson and will work to minimise the impact of India's fluctuating power supply on the blog. Anything comments posted on or after February 16 will probably need to be sent again.
And from the editor... To everyone who has posted to a blog for the first time: Congratulations! There are quite a few of you!
Dealing with the blog comments is the most rewarding part of my job as PRO, seeing the faces on the Venturers when they read a comment addressed to them is just brilliant and their responses have been heartfelt. Please keep it up!
Next blog is scheduled for about Friday. We will have the next batch of pictures from the static sites and the trek early next week, as the photographer and PRO will be visiting the Venturers from Thursday until Sunday.