Get a cup of tea, perhaps a coffee and maybe even a biscuit. Blog followers, this is a long one!
There is some old saying my Grandmother used to trot out about good intentions, or best laid
Fortunately the departing buses carrying the 09C cohort to their final phases did not get waylaid; they have all reached their locations right on schedule.
First up: A bit more Blog Housekeeping. Blog responses are rolling in and will be posted in the comments section of this blog. If you plan to write to a venturer, please post on the most recent blog.
If you’re wondering where everyone is, check out the panel on the right: Phase Three is no longer under construction, it is well and truly underway! The trekkers are en route to their first day on foot, the bashas at Alpha 4’s bamboo city already going up and the new Alpha 3 project is going gangbusters right from the word go. And of course, “Team Toilet” at Kalaianhahalla is back at the Jagankorte school, with two seasoned project managers in Liz and Joey leading the way.
That said, we suspect some of the project managers are feeling a little redundant just now. The Raleigh 09C cohort has become so proficient at project work, whether it is fence-fixing, basha-building, concrete and construction or just whipping up a banoffee pudding over a trangia flame in the middle of remote India, they are experts now and are running as efficient teams.
There are already some rumblings about the “life after Raleigh”, a time which, in the first week of Phase One, seemed so far away it was almost difficult to conceive. Now the Venturers, volunteer managers and Fieldbase team are well aware of just how fast a single phase flies past (it makes a wonderful whooshing sound) and the end of expedition is looming.
But enough waxing lyrical from a sheepish blogger who is trying to make up for the late post… let’s get on with the news!
First up, we waved goodbye to three explorers today.
Tom Mills, Felicity Crabb and Hannah McLaren left Fieldbase to continue their travels. Tom is off to South America to volunteer with a biology centre, while Felicity and Hannah are continuing to tour the rest of this brilliant country with a view to catching up with the rest of the Raleigh rabble after expedition.
All three of these pivotal members will be sorely missed by the 09C cohort.
The good news is, we have some new explorers on Raleigh! Gavin Harrop, Alex Langman, Zahra Hyder, Anuta Pardeshi and Emily O’Connor have joined the fray and have deployed across the expedition.
They had the chance to get to know their fellow Venturers during another whirlwind changeover, which featured a Mexican-themed night complete with a piñata (which looked suspiciously like Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby, complete with Raleigh T-shirt), lots of painting and a screening of the Indian blockbuster, Slumdog Millionaire. (picture: Saturday night's dinner of fajitas and chilli con carne)
Saturday night also featured a spectacular skit performance by each of the Alpha groups. Angel starred in Alpha 1’s skit, with a recount of her efforts to rescue guide Arun from an apparent quagmire, resulting in everyone getting extremely muddy. For Alpha 2, Alli’s dislike of fish featured, along with a few other stories mostly surrounding interactions with the wildlife.
The creativity of alpha 4 was apparent in its skit during which Ed K, Chris and Tom D donned rain jackets for a raucous rendition of – you guessed it – “Mud glorious mud” whilst being drenched in buckets of water by the rest of the team from bamboo city (check out their welcome sign which is out on site!)
But the gold star would have to go to the musical talents of Alpha 3, who performed a pitch-perfect round of frère jaques… with a twist. The team used whistling and (for the want of a more polite way to put it) fart noises to replicate the ditty. The Venturers then had a go with the traditional Indian holi paint... and these were the results... (below: Mani, Rosanna, Tom M and Emily J looking like a packet of M and Ms, and the whole gang getting dirty.)
Speaking of the Kappikadu crowd, on Friday the village was inaugurated with a Pooja ceremony attended by Raleigh Country Director Gavin Shelton and Centre for Tribal and Rural Development founder, Mr Ranganathan. It was a beautiful and culturally rich ceremony which was a highlight for the whole Alpha 3 group and struck home how important the houses are to the people of Kappikadu village.
But rather than hear about it from the Blog Boss (thanks Zoe’s Wrinklies for that name), we have another special guest blogger!
Fledgling journo, (who also just happens to be an expert concrete-carter and awesome trekker and is pictured left at the Kappikadu inauguration) Becca Musgrave took the time to put pen-to-paper about her experience at Kappikadu with the Alpha 3 group. Becca is now out at the new Alpha 3 environmental project building an anti-poaching camp at Bandipur National Park.
Alpha 3: A tale of porridge politics, getting lost in translation and the real Raleigh story
When a group of Raleigh venturers come together from the realms of various Alpha groups to form a new team, differences in opinion are perhaps a given. In the case of Alpha 3 at the tribal village of Kappikadu, the transition was unexpectedly smooth save for the major issue surrounding Quakers’ finest product: Porridge.
It wasn’t tent politics, or difficulties on the work site, but it was an ongoing and heated debate about breakfast food which created a massive divide in the group. The root cause of the problem: PM Dr Andy. It was he who put forward the revolutionary idea of making porridge in one’s own mess tin. Far from the thick, creamy bowl of oaty goodness that we’d all come to know, we were now faced with an almost muesli-like dish to begin the day. For many of us, the simplicity and retained yumminess of the new way of cooking breakfast was enough to convince us, but for the remainder of the group they suffered with the memory of sweeter past porridge days.
However, after carting 2000 concrete blocks up and down hills, digging foundations and laying bricks, Alpha 3 discovered we were so much stronger than a mere battle of porridge politics and were able to overcome such trivialities to battle bigger problems, like thunderstorms. For much of the first week we came face-to-face with some of the most torrential storms that Tamil Nadu had to offer. This didn’t disrupt our fantastic progress on the houses, but did leave us stranded in our tents one night contemplating a supper of Kit Kat and Mentos. Usually, the local people of Kappikadu catered for us and the idea of a night without the local’s fab curry due to torrential bad weather was too much to handle. As a result, we decided if the food couldn’t come to our drenched campsite, we would go to the food and thus a line of Venturers sporting such unusual outfits as pyjama bottoms teamed with walking boots and waterproof rucksack covers trekked up the hill for dinner. The rather damp walk was well worth it and we were welcomed with typically open arms by the villagers for traditional Tamil fare by candlelight.
By far the highlight of this eventful evening however was Andy’s dance. Having been pronounced ‘the world’s strongest man’ and greatly thanked for all his hard work by our field coordinator, he preceded to crouch below the low thatched roof and crack out his finest dance moves. This confused the Venturers just as much as it confused the local people and we eventually discovered that Dr Andy thought the words “thank you” sounded like “dance.”
(Above: Frankie Chivers and PM Jenny Shotton paint the windows of a newly-constructed Kappikadu home)
Although the tribal accommodation appears to blend romantically into the lush plantations, the reality of the locals’ way of life is far harsher as they struggled through monsoon season with snakes in their roofs. Their homes were at constant risk of destruction by elephants and flooding. Initially we believed we were providing these people with a simple, more secure alternative to their one room huts but as the local governor said, we were helping provide the people of Kappikadu ‘the basic human right to shelter’
After lengthy days of brick lugging and foundation digging the team were known to become slightly delirious, resorting to such simple yet effective forms of entertainment as farting. When gathered around the lantern, stomachs full of Emma’s trademark custard and the girls homemade banoffee pie, a sure fire way to make us all giggle was to make fart noises on our arms, in a round, to the tune of frère jaques. Let it not be said that Raleigh hasn’t taught us all the art of resourcefulness and the all important personal growth.
Before we knew it, our time in the village was drawing to a close and the inauguration of the new houses was upon us. This final day spent in the community was by far the most memorable as we thanked our project partners, the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development, and the awesome masons who we’d become so close to over the previous three weeks of hard work. In return we were generously thanked with shawls and garlands of fresh flowers.
As the governor handed over the keys to the new owners of the homes we had helped build, the extent of our work became clear. We were all overwhelmed by the massive sense of achievement. No sooner had the ceremony finished but the villagers were moving in and cooking, a testament to the real difference that these houses Raleigh helped build will make to the lives of those in Kappikadu.
So there you have it, for those of you out in blogosphere, we sincerely apologise for the delay in posting of this blog and hope it as just the right length to let you finish your cup of tea. The good news is, this isn't all... we have another special guest blogger in the next couple of days, so stay tuned.