So today, Thursday 15th August, is the official annual celebrations of the day India got their independence from the English, and we’re up bright and early (even earlier than the usual early start) for Guryia, the lovely office lady, to do our sarees correctly. These women are amazing how they wrap themselves in the 6m log fabric every single day, I could so not be bothered and especially in this heat! First we had to drive to another village called Jaeiya – this was another entertaining journey of course, and again I can’t praise Raquel’s driving enough! Poor Guryia did get a wallop on the head though as us three were sitting in the back with the Principal in the front seat and every bump sent all three of us flying, like a roller coaster seriously, it was fun! Well not her bashing her head on a hard section of the soft top roof but you know, the whole bouncy ridiculous journey. We eventually arrived at this remote little village in the fields and started to decorate this tiny cement building – just four walls and a roof with steps leading up to it (the classroom) – with colours flags and steamers and balloons. We got the little kids to dip the flags in glue and the mothers even ended up helping which we didn’t expect. One by one the whole village came to see what we were doing – this is the first time this village has seen anything like this and every face was watching all our movements intently. Funny though, it was all the female and children around us, the men hung back in groups a bit further into the village. There were a few teenage boys but everyone else female. These village people also took a long whole to smile at us, they just stare with such serious faces, not having a clue what is three white people in Indian attire are doing. I of course, between putting up flags and getting everything and everyone sticky with glue, was trying to capture it all on camera. At one point a tiny lady in a pink saree (well they’re all tiny but she was particularly small) came and grabbed my camera (my proper one aargh!) and was shouting and laughing and I figured wanted a picture. She also grabbed my face and I thought she was going to kiss my cheeks but she started rubbing her whole face all over mine – a very strange thing to go through! Another bewildering thing here is EVERYONE smiles and laughs in the weirdest moments – I think you can relate it slightly to chimps (not being racist) and the evolutionary habit of smiling in primates where it shows nervousness but seeking acceptance and reassurance. I kind of thought that’s hat this was with these people – they didn’t understand what was happening but would laugh if you spoke to them, no matter what you said or gestured. Infancy, the other day Javi was telling the hostel boys about someone he knew that was killed by ETA in Pais Vasco and they all laughed. A very shocking reaction the first time you see it, let me tell you! Anyway turns out this woman was the village drunk and also genuinely mental, so from then on she gave us the creeps a little, Raquel and me, as she would always be somewhere near us just watching us. But at any moment she would have an angry outburst and hit or shout at the nearest person to her. I held tight to my camera.
The Principal and teacher and Javi all raised the huge pole with the flag on top, while Guryia decorated the floor around the base of the pole with coloured chalk powder, creating a very pretty flower. The 30ish students were positioned in a circle around the pole and Chandan gave a speech about Independence Day and what it means and they sang the National Anthem. Well, the teacher and Chandan sang it – the people of this village don’t know any of these thing – the kids didn’t even know the name of their country let alone the anthem. But it was amazing to see their little dirty faces gazing at everything and soaking it all up, and they’d all put on their best clothes too, consisting of dirty but once pretty sparkly dresses, torn dirty shirts – but they’d all put oil in their hair to try and look smart – was so cute! Then came the dishing out of the sweets, basically fried sugar twisted into what look like onion rings/pretzels. It was literally just sugar so everyone absolutely loved them – thankfully we had enough for pretty much the whole village as they were all queuing up for a portion! They all started floated away back to their houses and work and we walked back to the car – I can’t explain how hot it was, and in our sarees? Jeeesus. Well, both of our crop top things you wear underneath were a much darker version of un we first out then on in the house! Sweeeeaty. But hey, you get used to it out here, constantly sweating. Luckily either me or Javi stink when we sweat!
So we returned back to the oasis of the school covered in dust and dripping with sweat and rushed up to the house to have a little refresh. Then quick back downstairs for the speeches and anthem with our kids. The teachers had decorated the whole school while we were away so we joined in the crowd (parents too – it’s supposed to be one person per child allowed but honestly there were at least 3 people for each of the 145 kids!) It was so so hot all standing together, I’m surprised no one passed out today from it all. We then all squished into the assembly hall under the fans and the dance groups proceeded to entertain us – they were brilliant! A group from each class performed and again, my cheeks were getting a workout from grinning so much. Then, in honor of us and the family of sponsors being there, they suddenly cracked out Yo Te Esperaré (like one of the most popular pop song in Spain this year) and made us all get up and dance! It was pretty funny to be in front of the whole village and all our kids and the hostel boys and the teachers! Javi was the best dancer, naturally. I’m not even being sarcastic. Then came more sweet giving (phwoar we were so sugared out) and everyone left for home. Wow how knackering but what an amazing experience to be here for this day, seeing all the little ones enjoy it all. And of course the kids that started that year have never had a party so they were loving it that little bit extra.
Then, no rest for us, as it was the family’s last day here we quickly showered and went into town for lunch with them. We ate in a posh hotel which was nice but I was really trying not to fall asleep! When we got home Javi was roped into playing football with the hostel boys in one of the fields and he came back with an injured leg, bless him. Also the very chatty policeman from the homeopathic college actually left his post and went and spoke to Javi today haha – he wanted his number to talk to him in Spain and was freaking him out a little. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, I think he literally wants to just have a conversation with someone – plus with the Indians that don’t speak English the language barrier is huge and meanings and gestures are nothing like our western ones so often there’s severe miscommunication.
Later that evening we went up and chatted with the hostel boys on the roof, about many things, and eventually succumbed to bed about half 8. This is very normal here! Up at 5 everyday, sweltering heat, pitch dark by 6.30pm anyway and mosquitos galore if you dare leave the house – yep bedtime at 8 is absolutely sweet by me!