Saturday 19 December 2009

Week 2 - part 1

Week 2
Monday 14th December

The SIM hunt proved successful this morning so I now feel better connected to the world again - drop me en email if you want the number.

A “recharge”, as topping up the phone with money is called here, can be done at the local “greasy spoon” breakfast spot. Much amusement this morning as the English Lady, as I hear myself being called, tries to load her newly purchased SIM into her phone with one hand – of course someone helps, everyone is being so nice. Just to give everyone an idea of costs, the SIM cost me 80 rupees, I wonder how long my recharge of 120 rupees will last? - the answer comes back quite quickly – text messages are 5 Rupees each, internatioanl at 15, so the answer is not very long! Looks like the greasy spoon morning pit stop will become a regular haunt. Mr P tells me that once I am registered with the police I can get a proper number in my name rather than this Airtel SIM which is effectively the equivalent of a Pay and You Go number in the UK. Without a bank account paying cash to recharge is the only way to do it for now.

When I got back to the office we are having a all day power cut – my first experience of this regular rural phenomenon in rural India. What does one do? I shall run out of computer battery power in another 30 minutes but have prepared some short emails to tell folks my new telephone number in the hope someone will call to test the connection. Otherwise it will be back to reading Shakti’s annual reports – essential reading, but a bit dry!

Tuesday 15th December

This has been a very long work day. I managed to source some eggs this morning and was really looking forward to omellette for dinner when the day took a completely different turn than I had expected.

The various project teams come into the office once a month for a review of progress and a planning session from the next set of activities. Today I knew that the forest team would be in and I sat in on their review. First they gave me a very full description of the project in English with occassional asides in Oriya, then I sat and listened to my first meeting in Oriya, with a few English side explanations for me. It was totally incomprehensible! But at least I have now heard the song of the language in real use - how can I describe it but a rumbling, rolling cascade of sound full or "r"s, "aw"s, "oochi"s which sounds like one continual sound from which I could only distinguish the occasional "semane"/they, or "apawna"/you. After an afternoon of listening hard and with 6Pm approaching those eggs were very appealing.

But various other folk have now started to arrive, clearly something is happening. It turns out that a second project team has come in as well and we end up in a second project briefing, report and review. This starts at 6PM with nibbles from a local hostelry. This group and very very little English so the meeting is totally in Oriya, with Mr P interspersing some English explanations for me. This project is about livelihood creation in some of the very remotest parts or the district. There is no road access to most of these villages. We finish at 9:30PM, when we adjourn to a local pit stop for dinner- so out with the omelettes and in with chicken and roti. Very nice chicken too!

We pass a stand of water along side the road. The frogs are singing away merrily. Jantu nam ki? I ask. Bengo come the reply - my first new Oriya word not to come from my language book!

But by the time I walk home it is gone 10:30PM and my attempts to unlock the house gates with one hand noisely alerts the landlady who comes to help me in - doesn't one just feel like a helpless invalid when turning a key in a padlock is such a difficult thing to do that continually the landlady or her daughter keep coming to help me get in the gate and into my flat!

Wednesday 16th December

The livelihood meeeting continues, another full day in Oriya. Now don't go thinking I am understanding it ! I fail miserably with everyone's names but they are a great group and are trying to teach me various Oriya phrases. With the invite khana asuchi, I was invited to lunch again at their favorite dinner. They ask me what I eat. It is easiest to say sab (Hindi for all) but the question keeps coming till I recognise one word from a list - machlaw/fish - that will do just nicely thank you. So fish curry for everyone it is. Lovely. By 6PM I'm really tired and excuse myself to go home. The project team is continuing to work on preparing the final draft of their plan for the next month's activities. They have a journey of 3 hrs by bike/6 hours by bus to do, whether tonight or tomorrow morning I do not know. I suspect they stayed last night in the office, probably sleeping on the floor, but I see no signs of bed rolls. I think they will leave very early tomorrow morning.
I take me leave, head home, take a wrong turning in the dark, have to back track so it takes an extra 5-10 minutes to get home. H phones and patiently listens as I rabbit on for about an hour in English, then collapse in to bed.

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