Buses, Gift Catalogue...& Tamil Music

2nd Update from Ron, volunteer at Madurai Sponsor Site (India)

Just FYI, here everyone works 6 days a week. Sunday is off. So my second week started off with a visit to a big dam on the Vaigai River on January 25th. 

Nesprus, Chalice Accountant, offered to take me to this site and I was told it would take 45 minutes to get there. Great! So off we go catching the bus at about 10.00 in front of the hospital. We then change buses twice and 2 and half hours later we are at the Dam. So, I reminded Nesprus about the 45 minutes and then he tells me that every time he went to this Dam, he traveled by 2 wheelers (motor cycle or scooter).

It had been a long time (at least 40 years) since I traveled on an over-crowded (Asian standard) bus. Totally cramped up, standing all the way, holding on with both hands and swinging. Children crying; women swearing at the men, body odor that I can't start to describe. Felt sorry for the short people standing at armpit height. After about 1 1/2 hours I get a seat but a bent- over old women appears, so I give her my seat and I am sure everyone thought I was nuts, including Nesprus. We start moving towards the door about 5 minutes before we reach our stop, only to change buses.

The Dam is really big and the lake is just beautiful. It supplies drinking water to the greater Madurai area and also water for irrigation.  The negative is that what was once a beautiful wide river flowing through the city of Madurai is now cesspools of stagnant, dirty water breeding mosquitoes and slums.  When the dam was originally built about 60 years ago it must have been a gorgeous picnic destination with a huge park, beautiful gardens, a cascading water fountain. The operative words "must have been" because one can only imagine what once was.  Saw some people fishing outside the dam gates; so I will be back there one day with my rod & real but by a two-wheeler.  No buses next time, not even to go fishing.

On Feb 1st we (Chalice Staff & I) visited Karasilpatti (patti =village) where we have a sub-site run under the supervision of the nuns. They run a boarding centre for children, most of whom are orphans and sponsored by Chalice donors. Of the 80 residents, only 12 are Catholic and the rest are Hindu. 26 are tribal from the Western Ghat Hills. This village is mostly catholic and the parish has been in existence for a long time but the boarding house was only started in the mid 90s.

I was told that this site was holding a food festival and a visiting doctor was going to talk to the parents of these children about "Nutritious Eating Habits" and all the families were  going to have, we call a pot-luck, meal together. We did have the pot-luck meal of about 50 different dishes, great food; and the doctor did talk for 20 minutes; but this set-up was also used to stage a huge welcome for me. It did feel good to be fussed over. One of the sisters then had us driven to a small man-made lake for fishing. Unfortunately, we did not get to this lake till about 1.00 pm and it was really hot, mid 30s. We fished for a while but did not catch any fish. The fish smartly moved into deeper waters where it is cooler.

This site had just completed a project where they had given each of the sponsored children's families 200 cows and 20 female goats. The families were allowed to choose a cow or 3 goats. The expectation is that the family will then have fresh milk for the family and also some  to sell. Also the calves and kids can then be sold or kept. Just giving them a new source of income and better nutrition.

We, as sponsors, just donate the money monthly (which is very important) but these nuns and their Chalice staff do all the heavy lifting to make a difference in these families' & children's lives. The success stories are so up-lifting. One child at a time; one family at a time.

I never expected that I would ever like power failures but I do now. I have gotten used to saving my data every 5 minutes. So, when the power fails the hospital generator kicks in about 2 minutes but the surrounding area is out of power and all the loud Tamil music from across the street is silent. They play this loud thumping, heavy drum music from about 5.00 am to about mid-night every day.

I have been eating some nice (straight from the tree) fresh fruits.

God bless.