India – Day 16 – Week Gone Already!

Sunday 18th August

Oh what a treat to wake up at 8am today! I even felt a little bad but only until I went out to the loo and Raquel was also still in her room.  This morning was a very relaxed one thankfully and we pretty much spent most of it trying to construct something to stop Tara climbing through the bars of the gate up to the terrace.  The two rescue dogs have completely different personalities; Momo, the 18month old male, who Raquel rescued at about 3-4weeks old, is very independent and prefers to sleep out in the open with the guard down by the main gate.  He likes human affection but also likes to mouth you a lot and you can see he is very dominant, although he’s been castrated not too long ago.  Tara is an absolute wuss.  She is about one year old but is totally stuck to Raquel’s side at all times, if she can be, and really hates the gate to her terrace being closed at night.  They have the whole premises to run around which is huge and great for a couple of dogs, but she needs to be near Raquel.  She’s very insecure too; she’s still barking at Javi now after a whole week and if he makes any sudden movements she’s off.  Silly doggy.  So she has found she can squeeze her lean body through the bars on the gate and sleep on the terrace.  Funny thing is when Javi comes out in the morning she totally freaks because she’s trapped herself upstairs and is scared of him.  Morning routine, haha.  Anyway so we spent a good couple of hours attempting to block her path.  We tried a tangled web of rope – she got through that.  We tried a thick bungee type cord – got through that too, easy.  Then Raquel and I planted some spikey aloe vera branches into two clay pots and put them on the ledge she uses to stand on to get through the bars.  After a few more minutes she got through that, breaking the plants.  Oh we tried a chain too, thinking the noise of it when she touched it would put her off.  Nope, she got through that.  Well, she got through and then got herself stuck and nearly fell off the ledge to the ground floor 12 feet below (ironic as it was Javi that spotted her struggling and so went and grabbed her and she was so terrified of him coming towards her but luckily chose to cower rather than jump!  Tense moment, I can tell you).  So back to the drawing board.  Suitcases were the trick! Two suitcases piled up on the ledge so she had nowhere to put her paws and also couldn’t see the path through – I think that was the trick.  Woohoo, success!  She has now accepted her place is the top step, on the dog side of the gate.

Raquel had arranged to meet an Aussie friend in town for lunch so off we went in a rickshaw (weather didn’t look too great and we didn’t feel like getting stuck in the mud today).  This lady is managing a project in Bodhgaya for schools and clinics with the same general idea and philosophy as Raquel – providing education to very poor, low-caste children.  She’s only been here three months and will be here for two or three years so the two have become firm friends.   Before we met her we bought some fruit from the market – this is an experience in itself as they have these fruit wasp things here that are about 3cm long, bright yellow, and frickin scary looking.  We’re told they don’t sting but whatever, they’re still frightening and there were MILLIONS of them in the market today.  Obviously they were tucking into the fruit but me being me I always wear bright colours so they all came to check me out before diving into the apples and mangoes.  Shudder.  For the first time in my life I actually stayed still when they came near, rather than screaming and flailing my arms around like people (me) generally do.  We then met the Aussie, Sally, and popped into a paint workshop whose owner Raquel knows (she knows everyone here, it’s great).  There were four men painting exquisite works of art of Buddhism related pics, guided by their teacher who was about 20 years old!  These pictures were absolutely amazing – the detail and time that goes into them (about four months to complete one) is so impressive.  I could have stared at all the intricate shapes and lines and colours for hours.  And they were about 3 foot by 2 foot big!  Finally we went to lunch and had these rice-based crispy crepe things that come with three dips – yummy.  After filling our stomachs and being entertained by Raquel and Sally’s stories we said our goodbyes and went and bought lots of big bottles of Sprite for the hostel boys – this is going to be a surprise as they LOVE the stuff and here of course it’s a big treat.

By the time we got home it was about 40 degrees and we were, as usual, wet with sweat.  Nevertheless, this was the turn of Upendra (pronounced Oo-pen-der), one of the smallest hostel boys, to show us his family’s house in the village.  We took our box of sweets we’d bought earlier and off we went down the track.  There we met his older brother and younger sister and gave them the sweets to share with everyone.  He was so cute translating for us, very good for his English.  Upendra’s house is actually one of the better mud huts in Amwan village, having an open courtyard type space in the middle where the food is cooked and clothes are washed, and three doorways going off into bedrooms.  All the neighbours came to see what was going on (this is normal and I love it, obviously white people in the village is weird and always will be, but now they’re accustomed to Raquel bringing sponsors to various houses) and suddenly a beautiful young girl pushed her way through and practically jumped into Raquel’s lap.  This was such a lovely moment and we were told this is the girl, who was a student at the school and now goes to a private school for her age, who had recently had an appendicitis operation, all paid for by Akshay (Raquel’s charity) of course, and is in recovery.  She looked great and Raquel told her she must go back to school tomorrow as every day she misses is like a week.  Her mother was there and showed no enthusiasm for her daughter to return to school – of course she wouldn’t, she’s another pair of hands at home to cook, work, clean, look after her siblings etc.  That’s the way they think here.  They don’t understand education is the only way these youngsters are going to get themselves out of poverty.

On the walk back to the school we were jumped on by a few little kids outside the gate, one being my little favourite boy Manosh! (I know, I’m fully aware there’s about five kids I call my favourite).  I picked him up and gave him a big squeeze and lots of kisses (see Facebook for his little face!).  It’s so different seeing the kids out of their uniform and in their rags from home, filthy dirty and ripped – reminds you the little clean kids you spend the days with are from the mud huts across the field.  Weird for our brains to get around.

Back in the oasis of the school Raquel decided to give the dogs a shower so she held their heads (they’re not too keen on the giant hose, especially Princess Tara) while I scrubbed soap into them.  It must have been lovely to be doused in cold water in this heat, I was enjoying it all over my feet and legs!  While we had the hose on Javi and I gave the tyres on the 4×4 a little wash too, until you could see the black rubber under the mud again, and get the tread back.  Think we took a bit too long just to have the cold water on our feet and hands and wherever else it ‘splashed.’

We’ve just had dinner and Raquel has just finished a wonderful henna on my other hand – she’s got a book and wants to practice so is enjoying having me here ready and willing for her to doodle all over me! It’s come out brilliant, I just have to sit here now for an hour and a half (longer the better) and then I can go to bed! So tired!

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