Welcome to the official blog for Raleigh India 12I | July - August 2012

Welcome to the Official Blog for Raleigh India 12J September - December 2012.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

...In which the verdict of "venomous" was unanimous.

Today, at about 5pm, we met a hero. His name is M.S. Balasubramaniam, but the world (and I quite literally mean “the world”) knows him better as “Snake Shyam”. Shyam is many things: chiefly a snake catcher; but also a conservationist, a naturalist and, as it transpired, a profoundly philosophical man too.

Born in Karnataka, Shyam began catching snakes at the age of 12 and immediately developed a deep bond with these unpopular animals. In India, you see, the snake is perceived as a hazard - hardly surprising for a country that boasts the four deadliest serpents in the known universe. The shame of it is, however, that people tend to be pretty uncompromising when it comes to dealing with them and would rather remove the snake from its life than go the extra mile and have someone remove it from their garden.

Shyam is changing attitudes though. He sees the snake as a vital part of the broader Indian ecosystem and has sought for long years to increase awareness of the importance of snakes; to capture them without harm; and release them back into the wild, away from humans. In fact, he’s probably the most famous snake catcher in the world, and not without good reason. This is a man who can back up his fearlessness with argument. Without snakes, Shyam says, rats and other prey would proliferate uncontrollably and lead to the spread of disease. His work as a snake catcher is therefore as much about sustaining their population for the benefit of all as it is about protecting a beautiful and mystical part of the natural world. Now I’m no expert, but the last time that rats were implicated in the spread of disease, half of Europe’s family trees alone burnt down, so I’m inclined to agree with Shyam here and take a more holistic view of the situation.

So, on this sunny day at Field Base, we got to meet the man himself. Stepping out of the 4 x 4 in his trademark bandanna, shades and no small amount of bling, Shyam cut a striking appearance. He put his hands together, exchanged bows with us and at once began to tell us all about the biology of snakes with a dazzling yet digestible hurricane of facts that held everyone in rapt interest. Somehow an explanation on the nature of venom and what it can do has never hit home so powerfully before. And that’s just it: it’s not just the case that Shyam knows his stuff; it’s the fact that he’s irrepressibly passionate about his work and that his knowledge is clearly drawn from a mixture of life experience and study. I can now name thirty people at least who will be keeping their boots on at night.

The centrepiece of Shyam’s masterclass was undeniably the opportunity to hold some of the snakes he'd brought along. A few people backed away, understandably, but, since none of the first few snakes were venomous, many seized their chance to feel their scaled skin and aptitude for wriggling free. As occasions go for establishing a respect-based bond with a fearsome animal, this was pretty exceptional.

Shyam then requested that we step back as he brought out a King Cobra from a locked box. But for the swiftest medical treatment, this animal’s bite would be fatal. Naturally the chance to continue holding the snakes had expired by this point. The cobra smelt the air, decided it didn’t like what it tasted and promptly flattened its hood to display its discontent. Shyam, standing in close proximity to the cobra and not taking his eye off of it for a second, explained that snakes bite when they are hunting or when they are threatened. As such, any sudden moves on his part now would provoke it into delivering potentially the last snake bite he’d ever get. The look on the snake’s face at it stared at him, unblinking and hissing, gave us no reason to doubt his word. He calmly edged away and skillfully set the cobra back in its box to the awestruck praise of many and relief of a few.

Monday 30 July 2012

Venturer Messages!

Hello, dear followers. I hope that you’re all well. Here are some messages sent from our venturers to you, their loving public. I’ll be updating this particular post as and when any new messages come in, up until Thursday, when the venturers leave to go out on their project phase; so, if you don’t see a message written to you here, keep tuning in and one may appear.

Camilla Tricker writes...

“To Lisa, Graham and Saskia Tricker,

I’m all good. No slow lorises, but there’s lot of dogs and cats and a cow called Maji. Did some yoga today with Ella; have a trek tomorrow; then find out what phase I’m in. Lots of Love. Camilla.”


"To Lisa Tricker, Volleyball at the beach sounds good and I found out I'm Foxtrot One - so the community one. We leave tomorrow so am not going to be able to send many blog messages, but will get your messages when they come round. Also, I can't top up from here so I can't send any messages unless you top up my phone online, which apparently you can do. Had a good trek and taken even more photos. Love, Camilla. Xxx P.S. Can you get Sas to tell Flavia that I should be able to eat the food at hers now, not just halloumi chipati :-)"

Nasim Nejabat writes...

“Hi Alex,

Thanks for the message. And yes, you did do it right and sent it twice. We are going trekking today and camping overnight so I won’t get any more messages until Wednesday, I think. Anything interesting on my emails? I am missing you so much too. Can’t wait to hear back from you again. Say hi to everyone from me. Xxx”

And Nasim also writes...

“Hi Dad and Anisa,

I don’t know if you guys got my texts. Do write on the blog for me and let me know what is going on. Could you also open my letters and anything interesting or important and let me know? I hope Ava is ok. I am great and everything is good. Just missing you guys.”

Emma Vos writes...,

“Hey lieve mammie,

Ik was aan het ontbijten toen ik jou bericht kreeg. Ik moest meteen huilen zo verrast was ik. De mensen zijn erg aardig. Ik mis je mammie. Xxx Emma”

Eleanor "Maddy" Aulakh writes...

"Hey ma! Having a lovely time, thanks for the message! Our groups get decided soon, then I won't get to contact you apart from on this blog infrequently. It's not too hot and I'm not too bad at everything! Love you lots. Maddy. xxxxx"

Alex Burgess-Smith writes...

"Dear Mum and Dad and Ben and Mike and perhaps Tony - depending on how lazy he is feeling!,
So, to start, this message is NOT heavily censored by Mitch, a LOVELY man and our communications manager (who writes the blogs). I am enjoying myself IMMENSELY, and have met lots of people who are all very friendly. So far, life has been fairly hectic and devoid of free time, but as of late, I have managed to come into some. Yesterday we saw a snake catcher, which was exciting to watch, and became sponges as we soaked in around 5 hours of lectures on topics ranging from culture to emergency response. Today, we trekked a short 12km (over 4 hours) to a field and tonight are camping under the stars (literally, due to the distinct lack of light pollution. Oh, and I finally saw Orion's belt after years of lying, saying I could see it when I couldn't! Anyway, lots of love to all. Yours, a very happy and very tired Alex."

Patrick Scott writes...

"Nedd, Happy 23 month anniversary my love! I'm missing you already. Hope you're having a good week. Have there been any embarrassing photos of me on the blog yet? ;-P Speak t you soo :-) Patrick xxx <3"

Ella Preece writes...

"Hey (Tom), Glad you're still attending Friday movie nights :-) I'm missing them and a tub of Ben and Jerry's! We have just been put into our project groups, so I'm in Foxtrot 2. You'll see pictures hopefully. Barney's photo has been good company lol! Love you lots. Ella xxxxx"


"To Mum, Roby and Tab, I am losing track of days and time here but it still feels like we have long time here althought its going quickly. Hope Tab and Matt enjoy Spain. Its so far from home life! Would love a bath! Tell Ruby to turn the tap off when doing her teeth since it can be my shower out here! lol! Missing you all. Lots of love. Ella Xxxxx" 

Francesca Barron writes...

"Dear Barrons and Tattie, I'm fine. I was quite lucky for the flight out as I got to go by business class which was exciting in itself. I went trekking the other day and we went through villages and saw loads of different things. We are in rural India, so there are loads of farmers growing crops. Tomorrow the adventure begins as I'm going onto my project of building eco sanitation toilets for 15 families. I'm staying in a school and I might be lucky enough to watch Indian people make the food being prepared for us. I will finish the project on the 18th August and then travel on to Wayanad. I guess that everything's going as usual for you. I can't wait to tell you more. This has been the best trip for me so far. I love you all. Fran xxx"

Sophie Eaton writes...

"Hi Mummy, Phoebe, Will and Daddy,

I am very well and having the best time here in India. We were updated with the Olympics last night, I hope team GB wins a medal. HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY WILLIAM!!! I hope you have a really good day and I’m sorry I can’t be there to celebrate with you; but I am thinking of you on your birthday!:-)

I am glad Phoebe had a brilliant time at Marfest. Yes, I did go on a trek on Monday; had to wake up really early in the morning and camped in the evening. I am in Foxtrot 2 and Fran is in Foxtrot 1. I have been eating too much curry and please don’t feed me curry when I get home. I really miss meat and pizza and pasta, so that would be really good to have when I get back! Also, a Macdonalds – I am in dying need of a burger:-)! Hahah! We had an expedition photo today and all the group photos so they should be up soon, YAY!!! I really want a nice bath as the showers are a little basic here. Be grateful you have lots of water as it ran out yesterday! :-(

I am off on my first phase tomorrow morning, so very excited. It is very strange not seeing you all every day. My PMs for my project are Alice and Katherine and we also have two host country venturers called Pandi and Jay, who are so friendly!:-) The people here are all so nice and friendly and can’t wait to get to know the people that are in my project group.

The trek that we did was a practice one. It was flat all the way to camp. The walk was 12k! We were the first group to arrive at 10.45 having left at 6.10am. Missing you all lots! Love you all lots too!! I will see you in 27 days! Sophs xxxxx"

Right, well that’s all for now. I hope that my Dutch has served me well there. Just kidding, Emma wrote it in Dutch for me! I hope too that you are beginning to see the possibilities of this blog, particularly in an environment in which access to emails is pretty much non-existent. Keep
watching and keep posting! Everyone loves getting a letter.

Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: Snakes on a Plain...until it rained, and then it was more like Snakes Under a Roof.

Saturday 28 July 2012

...In which everyone arrives

They’re finally here! After three weeks of us waiting, ten hours of them flying and an eye opening four hour bus journey from Bangalore Airport, our thirty one venturers have at last arrived at Field Base. Here, they join our contingent of host country venturers for four and a half days of induction training so that they’re ready to head off onto the projects next Thursday. There were smiles and hugs all round as they disembarked to get a first look at their home for the next few days and, behind bleary eyes, a sense of excitement about the coming five weeks was clearly evident.

Being picked up from the airport

The build up before the epic bus ride

If you’d like to leave your loved one or friend a message on the blog, simply type it in the box below and press “Publish”; then I’ll print it off for you and give it to them within hours. It’s a good idea to do this since it helps to demonstrate to our venturers what the blog can do and encourages them to write messages in return which I can then put up for you to see, so post post away.

All aboard! (They were asleep two seconds later)
Our fabulous HCVs - they are also dance geniuses.

Right, well the administrative leviathan has stirred here at Field Base so I’m off to help out with all the form filling. The sooner it’s done, the sooner our venturers can rest after what has admittedly been a rather long day. More photos soon!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

...In which we get our first glimpse of the project sites

What a busy few days it has been here at Field Base. In addition to the usual schedule of training, our VMs have been out in the field, visiting and familiarising themselves with their respective project sites for the first phase. When they finally got back to field base, just a short while ago, they were naturally eager to share their stories, experiences and photos, so here follows a cheeky peek at what you can expect from phase one!

Foxtrot One

Foxtrot One VMs - Steve, Johanna and Jakhya

Foxtrot One’s community phase takes place in the rural village of Bidarahalli. There, our venturers will help to construct fifteen eco sanitation toilets for fifteen of the village’s families. Eco sanitation toilets are incredible inventions and I’ll talk about them a bit more in later blog posts, but basically they work by allowing human waste to degrade in a chamber for six months, by which time it is safely pathogen free and capable of being used or sold as fertiliser. Not a bad step in the direction of sustainability.

Some of the village's younger folk

And a project meeting with some of the elders

Steve planning the future
By all accounts a thoroughly charming place, our VMs enjoyed an appetising lunch of curried fish and chapattis by Bidarahalli’s local reservoir one day – nom nom nom! In fact – local history alert – the construction of the reservoir fifty years previously is the thing that caused the village to have to up sticks and move to its current location. The friendliness of the community; the headmaster (in whose school we’ll be sleeping); the masons (with whom we’ll be collaborating); and the very grateful beneficiaries of our hard work, mean that this is sure to be a very rewarding three weeks. Oh, and it’s also likely that we’ll do some teaching in the local school and discuss development issues with the village’s women’s self help group during the phase. Let the hard work and games begin!

Foxtrot 2

Meanwhile, over in Hagaranahalli, Foxtrot Two will be getting down to business with their own eco sanitation projects. In 2010, Raleigh worked to install twenty four eco sanitation toilets in the village, increasing the tally at a stroke to thirty nine. Now we’ve returned to continue our great collaborative tradition.

VM Lizzie with some of her fans...

Hagranahalli is located approximately 35km from Raleigh Field Base and is surrounded by a sea of tobacco plantations. Interestingly, the national government is currently aiming to cease tobacco production in India by 2020, leading to questions over how villages like Hagranahalli will continue to prosper in the future. The village itself comprises roughly 700 people and 196 families, all of whom are Hindu.

and VM Alice with hers!

Ranks of tobacco plants

If lots of opportunities for social interaction floats your boat, this has to be the phase for you. The local children provide ever inquisitive company and have relentless enthusiasm for games, dancing, clapping and learning. Meanwhile, the elder folk of Hagaranahalli will no doubt challenge you to a game of cricket and, after thrashing you, will console your loss with truly authentic South Indian cuisine. Not so bad!

Foxtrot 3

Environmental conservation is the name of the game with Foxtrot 3 as they spend their first phase in the rural village of Manalvayal. Here, the Raleigh group will construct two biogas units, allowing the local Panya community to convert cow manure into natural methane gas for cooking and heating purposes. Did I mention that it gives them a stock of good fertiliser too?

VMs Laura and Dan with members of the Panya community
Some of the children of Manalvayal

Manalvayal, which is situated on the lower plateau of the Nilgiri Mountains in the Panadanlur Taluk district, is a small village indeed with only 11 families, but thanks to the sustained efforts of our project partner, the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development (CTRD), each family now has a new house in which to live. Raleigh’s presence is therefore part of an ongoing plan for sustainably developing the village and enabling them to take the reins of their own prosperity.

The majesty of the mountains

Venturers can expect miles of stunning scenery, a warm community reception, verdant vistas of tea plantations, the freshest, tastiest chai you’ve ever sipped and maybe.....just maybe....elephants!

ATTENTION ALL: This is the blog for the Raleigh 12I  5 week expedition. Any messages for the Raleigh 12N ICS volunteers should be posted on the separate ICS blog - http://www.raleighindiaics.blogspot.in/ Thanks!

Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: The Host Country Venturers Arrive!

Saturday 21 July 2012

...In which the going gets tough

Almost at once, our pre-expedition training period jumped on us, a bit like an impatient but friendly family pet. These two weeks are designed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on our ability to handle anything that the next two months can throw at us. From dealing with medical emergencies, setting up a camp and making radio communications to soft skills training and cultural awareness, much of our VM training programme is based on military protocols meaning that it is well established, trusted and, above all, safe.

The VMs - a picture of concentration during our first aid classes

Brace yourself...
The first day of VM School refreshed our knowledge of first aid courtesy of some admirably digestible classes from our medics, so, if the worst should happen, the worst shouldn’t happen. These lessons gave way to a chance to put all of that knowledge into practice, and boy were we raring to go... which was handy given the kick off time.

At the unnaturally early and unnervingly humid hour of 6.30am the very next morning, we shouldered our packs and went trekking the red-soiled back roads of rural Karnataka to a mystery destination roughly eight hours away. An admittedly rather sweaty experience all round, the trek simulated an average day on the adventure phase, thus exposing us to the world of Raleigh as it would seem through the eyes of a venturer. See? We are so empathetic when it comes to you guys!

The journey begins at fieldbase....and the map's out already

 Amongst our twelve strong company were: an elected day leader, the unanimously acclaimed Steve; a birds-eye navigator in Katherine; and experienced medical support from Lizzie, Dan, Fiona and Johanna. I flatter myself that my gamely attempts to crack jokes were as crucial to our group’s success as the sterling work of those previously mentioned. Yet, when a mock medical emergency (“CASEVAC”) was suddenly sprung on us, it was actually the synergy of the whole group, not just those in specific roles, which facilitated our efficient rescue of the casualty in question – the talented Alex Templeton, with what critics are already calling an “Oscar-worthy performance”.

Some moral support and no small amount of
intrigue at one of our refreshment stops 

The lessons from the day were clear: a good team looks out for each other, but, when emergencies arise, a good team also knows its individual roles and trusts each other to fulfil them. These wise teachings, along with the raft of hard skills we’re picking up, are going to be great tools to carry forward with us when we take the venturers out on phase.

Still photogenic...at half an hour in

Arriving at our destination in a somewhat more pained state than I can recommend, we found that a number of ants (generally those whose biting parts constitute 90% or more of their body) had laid claim to the same grassy field and were refusing to move; that’s if you’re not counting their repeated attempts to climb on us and commit common assault. So much for a warm welcome! Perhaps they were giving us their own unscheduled seminar on team work. We made camp, nonetheless and erected an architecturally adventurous toilet facility that could vie with anything on Grand Designs – well, until you went inside and saw that the designer had replaced the living room with an uncompromisingly functional trench and the kitchen with a shovel. Actually, it was sort of crushing the first time you went in.

Meanwhile in the Jenga championships...a.k.a. campfire construction

As the drizzly darkness of evening began to descend, the group enjoyed mouthfuls of well earned boil in the bag curry around the campfire. A delicious end to a day on one’s feet! We reviewed progress; praise and constructive criticism were handed out in equal measure for the benefit of all; and Steve came back from the toilet with a curious scratch on his ear. It did seem an unlikely time to get a piercing, we initially thought. Apparently some winged insect had seized our newly built edifice, moved in and was now taking offence at the queue of people waiting to use his living room for doing their business. Steve thought that this was fair enough – admirably understanding of the old chap. We patched him up with a plaster and retired to our tents, despairing at how fast-moving the property market has become nowadays.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

...In which the VMs arrive at last

They are here at last! It has been a weekend of staggered arrival times for our volunteer managers (VMs): some were already in India; some were flying from the UK on the recommended flight; others (namely Steve) found their flight overbooked on arrival at the airport and got an upgrade to business class, the lucky cove! But, whatever their previous roads, they have all made it here safely, if a little jet lagged. Multiple arrival times simply meant more chances for the rest of us, who were already here, to jump around madly in wild welcome of the newcomers. No issues there, then

Many meetings

Off to the VM dorms to dump heavy luggage

Hugs, tea and catch ups were naturally out in force, as this was our first time together since the development weekend in May and there was a considerable amount of news to be caught up on. For example, one of our PMs, Alice, had already been working for an NGO this summer; Dan had been trotting around India for the past few weeks; and Jakhya had just come from finishing her role at Raleigh’s head office in London, to name but a few of our team’s enviable recent histories. While our happy camaraderie will certainly continue, our room for relaxed reminiscence will not. We’re straight into a fortnight of intense training, designed to finish the moulding process begun many months ago at our selection weekend. Expect camping, rescue drills and all manner of hard and soft skills training as we ready ourselves for the arrival of the venturers themselves...
The VMs and permanent staff:
Back row (l to r): Katherine, Steve, Lisa, Alice.
Middle row (l to r): Dan, Johanna, Laura, Lizzie,
Mark (Country Director), Simon (Country Programme Manager).
Front row: Mitch (left), Jakhya (right).

Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: The tough training begins!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

...In which the advanced party get their first taste of Mysore

Sunshine in the morning, rain in the afternoon –that seems to be the standard rhythm of the weather in the hotter parts of the world. Today is different though. We called up the weather gods, you see – lovely people – and asked them to switch it around a bit for us. That meant that, after some morning drizzle, we got warm rays of sunshine for virtually the whole afternoon – cue poncholess bliss! And what better way to pass the time on such a beautiful day than to be treated to a trip to one of the real jewels of Karnataka? I speak, of course, of the city of Mysore.

If you’re wearing a neck brace then Mysore simply isn’t for you. There are just too many awe inspiring sights vying for your attention to make keeping your head still a certainty, foremost amongst these being the palace, of course – more on that in later blogs! As our thirty minute drive from Field Base nears the city, we begin to get swept up in the atmosphere of the place, pressing our faces against the windows to take it all in as though we’d wondered into an urban version of Jurassic Park. “Little” Manju drops us off amidst the hustle and bustle of the tuk tuks and Simon, our programme manager, ushers us into an upstairs restaurant called Shilpashri. Here, next to an balcony view of the streets below , we are treated to the most revelatory lunch of lamb masala, chilli-fried cashews, butter naans, chicken “lolypops” and vegetable koftas: a truly jaw dropping menu by any standards and all here, in the city’s heart. It’s all so exquisite that we take some hours to snap out of our happy trance.

The group tuck in
Whilst the trance holds, however, we decide to go for a trot around town and soon find ourselves in the cool, shaded environs of Devaraja Market: a respite from the traffic noise as much as from the sun. No sooner had we entered, than an animated young gentleman named Khan came and said hello to us all and, before we knew it, he had swept us into his shop and proceeded to show us, with great enthusiasm, the art of making joss sticks. Khan’s shop is but one branch in the tree of his family’s commercial affairs. For the last seventy years, his relations have been successfully selling scented oils and now market their wares to such luminaries of the perfume industry as Calvin Klein, no less!

The visual feast of Devaraja Market
Surely the most eye catching aspects of the market are the mounds of kumkum – heaped bowls of vibrantly coloured powders made from turmeric or saffron used for markings in Hinduism. If I’ve seen such hues before in my life, I can’t for the life of me remember where. It’s like being given eyes again having never been able to see. Meanwhile, in front of us men empty sacks of grain and spices throwing intoxicating scents into the air. Our cameras are clicking out photographs so regularly by now that we must have sounded like human pocket watches.

Stallholders hard at work


As we emerge back into the sweltering heat of Mysore, we can’t help noticing that for one four-legged local, the task of staying awake has become too much like hard work. Perhaps he should have indulged in a cool sip of coconut water from the nearby street vendor’s stall. Still, he’s clearly not too bothered! It’s a sign though that perhaps we too should be winding down and head back to the relaxed surroundings of Field Base to take stock of what has been a truly mesmerising excursion. Through the armada of traffic comes “Little” Manju – punctual as always – and we set sail for home.

Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: The remaining avengers assemble!

Thursday 12 July 2012

...In Which the First of the Raleighvengers Assemble.

One of the many happy duties that fall to me as Comms Officer is to bring you news of each new, grinning arrival to fieldbase, not least my own! After stepping off of our respective planes in a considerably more stiff and bleary-eyed state than we had entered them, Katherine Lees our administrator, Lizzie Bichard our advanced team medic, and little old me found ourselves at Bangalore International Airport.

No time, however, to stop and savour the fact that this, our very first time on Indian soil, was less than one hour old! Our driver, a thoroughly affable chap affectionately known here as “Little” Manju (there is a “Big” Manju at Raleigh too, you see!), is ready and waiting for us at the Arrivals gate with a handshake and a warm smile and proceeds to whisk us off to Field Base in Jayapura in one of Raleigh’s three rather impressive 4 x 4s. Just as Bangalore is opening its eyes to the new day, so do we feel quite ready to close ours for the “night”, but the visual splendour on offer during our four hour journey quickens the pulse right from curtain-up with its dazzling flashes of colour, heady scents and cacophony of unexpectedly musical car horns. “Sleep can wait”, I think to myself. Another beast of a lorry then bellows its presence next to my ear. “Hmm. Sleep will have to wait”.

 It is mid morning by the time we come to a halt at the gates of Field Base and, as the red dust settles around the tyres, we find ourselves in an altogether more peaceful environment. Inside, we are greeted with a warm welcome from our friends and fellow colleagues as well as an unexpected sense of relief about just how homely and serene a place this is. Peruse the photos below to get a first look at where our venturers will soon be living during the induction and changeover phases.

The hub of operations a.k.a field base itself!

The dining room / presentation room / occasional nightclub

Venturers' dorms (ladies left, gents right)

The picturesque path through field base
A picture of the coolest thing in field base...and some other guy.
Tea is drunk (nay, downed!), heavy packs unshouldered, and life for the next eight weeks quickly settled into through a series of briefings... but not before some more tea of course...oh, and did I mention the curry? I think it may need its own post to do it justice. Watch this space.

I can’t help but notice, as I sit on the veranda of the main house, sipping yet more tea, that there seems to be some sort of movement at the other end of the Field Base compound. As it transpires, we are far from being its only occupants. This year, and for the very first time, Raleigh is operating an ICS (International Citizen Service) expedition alongside its regular five week one. Whereas regular expeditions can comprise adventure, environmental and community phases, the ICS offers its participants the chance to engage solely with community projects over a much longer period than is otherwise possible, and places an extra emphasis on delivering positive social action once they return to native soil.

About twenty of these ICS venturers can be seen hurriedly scurrying to and fro at the other end of Field Base, carrying out last minute preparations, practising emergency drills and, in short, making sure that everything is tuned up properly for the off, all under the direction of their project managers Katie, Nathalie and Manju (a third chap on Raleigh named Manju, no less!). Our first full day at Field Base, so I learn, will also be their last - at least for some time; so lunch provides an ideal opportunity to quiz them about how they are and learn about all things Indian, but mainly about the knack of eating with one hand, how long our jet lag will last for and joking about what I should do in the unlikely event that I can’t handle the heat of the mild curry in front of me. Two minutes later, and in a state of some discomfort, I positively inhale the sweet curds on offer and spend the rest of the afternoon resembling a smouldering campfire every time I talk, which, by design, is not often.

Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: Lunch on a Rooftop in Mysore - Market Research and a Very Sleepy Dog.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

...In Which the Raleigh India 12I Blog Bursts into Life

Good day, guten tag, namaskaara and a very warm welcome to this, the inaugural post of the Raleigh India 12I expedition blog. Please take a seat, make yourself a cup of tea, perhaps even avail yourself right now of those macaroons you’ve been resisting so admirably, and prepare yourself for reports from the frontline of high adventure and great deeds over the coming months.
My name’s Mitch, I’m the expedition’s Communications Officer and, as such, it’s my great privilege to be the one who updates you on all the happenings both here at Field Base and out on the project sites. Expect thrills, expect laughs, expect curry, dancing and possibly infrequent showering (particularly on the adventure phase), but mostly expect fun by the bucket load, and all conveniently situated here for your viewing pleasure.
But, of course, the blog serves other purposes besides giving me a licence to talk. As well as being a source of information on all the latest expedition news, it is also a brilliant and easy to use communication tool. You can leave messages of encouragement and solidarity or playful but profound jealousy to your loved ones as you witness them having the summer of their lives.
To send a message, simply type it in the box below including the full name of the person you’re sending it to and their group name as appropriate, and click ‘Publish’. We’ll then print it off and deliver it for you to the farthest flung corners of Karnataka and beyond. Just a few points of caution though – any messages that you post will be displayed publicly on this blog for all to see, so:
·         In the interests of taste, please keep your messages respectable, or we’ll have no choice but to rub our long, bushy moustaches in disapproval, tut loudly, murmur something about how “standards are slipping” and take them down;
·         Please bear in mind that this would be a badly judged moment to discuss delicate private issues with your little darlings, since we’d all be able to see it.
Otherwise, send send send away! And if you'd prefer to use the good old fashioned snail mail route, you can find our address in the side bar. Letters typically take around 3 weeks to get here.
Next time on the Raleigh India 12I Blog: New Arrivals - Our First Day in India and Photos of Field Base!