February 03, 2007

In my last life, I was....


Otherwise, be patient and hear about my field trips to North and West Bengal from these last two weeks...

For West Bengal pics click here.
For North Bengal pics, click here.

The whole thing was an ordeal to be honest. It started on Sunday - my colleague (let's call her June) and my 2 local counterparts (let's call them Bob and Patel) drove to the Kolkatta airport to catch our flight to the Bagdrogra air base.

Of course, nothing ever is THAT simple. So it started off with us having to wait an extra hour, with me undergoing a particularly thorough security check (oh boy do I hate those). We finally got on the plane, which took off. Everything seemed to be going well (at least this time I had made the flight) - but my proverbial bad karma caught up with us.

The poor landing conditions in Bagdogra - apparently there was too much fog - scared the pilot. He turned the plane around after having hovered over the base for 2 hours (it's typically a one-hour flight) and took us back to KOL. By the time we deplaned, found a car, underwent the long drive back with the mandatory 5 long stops in traffic, I got back to the hotel, disgruntled and disgusted that I had lost a sunday afternoon in KOL for no good reason.

Anyway, the next day we tried again and succeeded. I count myself lucky because some people had been trying to get to Bagdogra since Saturday!

Upon arrival, we greeted the staff of the office and even had a long sit-down with the local Bishop. That man made a memorable impression on me. Such a lovely person, well spoken, invested in his diocese, and so very aware of the local issues. I will remember our conversations very fondly. Some topics that were touched on:
- Elephants are a nuisance in North Bengal. One even disturbed an outside service, sending the priest to run for his life !
- The main livelyhood in the area is the famous tea gardens which produce the well known Darjeeling tea. Most of these tea gardens are owned by private owners and the conditions of the workers (most of which are form the Ranshi area) are not in conformity with international labor standards. Additionnaly, their income is directly tied to the productivity of the garden - so they are the first to suffer from the weather's inconsistencies.

Tea Garden

Basically, I was going there to meet with our local counterparts and evaluate their systems. As part of my work, a whole day was spent out in the field visiting the small local organizations who actually channel the ressources (in this case, the food) to the people it is destined to (in this case, children from the tea garden families.) The first place I went to was Julilee Memorial School - the children were, of course, absolutely beautiful. They also were very shy since they had never met a foreigner before. After a shortwhile, they loosened up though, as you can see here :

Saint Francis' School 2

The children also presented their Indendence Day program which I filmed... so here it is !

The second school I went to was actually an orphanage. I visited the facilities and met the children. They were also very shy, but the group picture I took seemed to really have made their day :

Don Bosco School 12

It was very touching - but also saddening because the public agency that is currently feeding these kids is ending the program in four years. And when you see the children and their caregivers, you do understand that the need is not going to go away in only 4 years.

Thankfully, there was, again, a beautiful sunset to soothe my soul on the way back:

Crematorium at Sunset

At the hotel, an alternate reality was waiting for me. The Sao Paolo soccer team was staying on my floor ! It was like living in a Brazilian dorm !
Soccer Giants

I got back to Kolkata just on time to go out with June for dinner - but not before i got the famous Mohindi tatoo done !

India 044

That feeling was intensified this week after I visited two other schools in the Baruipur region (in West Bengal). They were much poorer than those I visited in the North. Both schools were in fact nurseries, and again I had a chance to meet the beautiful children who attend at the first one:
Children at lunch - Kearakali Jana Sevashram

Because it took us too long to reach the second school, the survey team actually got there after the children went home, but the teachers were waiting for us and gave me a presentation of their teaching techniques. All the teachers are mothers who have children in school and reconverted to teaching.
Teacher Demo - Nimpith Tulshighata Netaji Sangha

Although the schools were very poor, it was so touching to see how the teachers had really invested in creating activities and materials to really engage the children in their learning process. It was also very appeasing to to see the Bengali countryside and village scenes.

Now I'm back in Kolkata and slowly coming back to my normal state. The daily drives to Baruipur have, I must admit, really taken their toll on me....


Now for the big reveal :

In my last life, I was...........

A Friendly Alien

You scored 36 alien-ness, 28 mythical-ness, 52 angelic-ness, and 16 regal-ness!

Have you ever seen the Steven Speilburg film E.T? You also are a gentle being from another planet, where you have spent most of your previous incarnations. The strife and violence on earth hurts you. Your only wish is goodwill and kindness to mankind. You have a talent for healing - both plants and animals - and should consider some study in this area.

At best you were gentle, gracious and radient.

At worst you were indescive, aloof and clumsy.

In this lifetime you have gifts of diplomacy you should put into use! You'd be wonderful at running a country but are too gentle to promote yourself in election. Be assertive. You're a lovely human being.

This test tracked 4 variables. How the score compared to the other people's:
Link: The PREVIOUS INCARNATION Test written by Fyrdancer on Ok Cupid

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !


strudel said...

DA BEAV gets married in INDIA !!




don't miss Strudel

Elizabeth said...

How I wish I could see that video. Speed too slow here... but I did enjoy the story about the priest and the elephant. Cheers.

Salt Water said...

Showed the video to the wife. The contrast between your world and our nightly news is embarrassing. Big news over here is the cowardous of our congress and the death of a pretty women with big boobs. I hope you are saving your blogs for your future family to see. Thanks.