Friday, 8 August 2014

Sailing


I’ve been on a boat for nearly two weeks. It’s an 18ft sailing yacht. Allegedly it has enough room to accommodate 8 people but there’s five people here with me writing this and I’ve already inhaled enough farts for a lifetime. Still, I like sailing, especially here in the Polish Mazury. Beautiful big lake, never ending forests and a kind of fresh air you can’t get anywhere else (when you’re not breathing in arse fumes, anyway).

It’s close to nature enough to appreciate the peace but the sailing community are a friendly bunch and there’s always a chance for a good conversation no matter how little of the language you speak. I even managed to try a bit of freshly caught and fried fish from a grey haired, bearded sailor wearing red speedos that were far too tight for his elderly figure.

I am very ready to be back on dry land though, I don’t think I could do this for much longer. Being cooped up on a boat with people is not the best place for introverts. Free time is hard to come by, along with a decent night of sleep. I am still enjoying it though. I’ve even been swimming at least once every day. I’ve done more intentional exercise in these two weeks than probably ever in my life. I feel fresh and free. I also feel clean, surprising since I haven’t showered at all in my time here. The lake water is naturally cleaning and my skin is smooth and tanned. I’m even getting good at shitting in the woods with great ease.

Some key observations from using the toilet in the woods:

  1.  The most effective method is the ‘tree leaning squat’: Find a thin tree, small enough in diameter to hang on to with one arm. Hold on to the tree and lean back and let rip. The angle created in this leaning squat allows for easy pooing with minimal risk of any trouser/flip flop contact.
  2. Scan the area for ants before lowering your rear-end to the ground. The last thing you need is a nip on your tree gripping hand.
  3. Be considerate, take a trowel or small shovel and bury your poo. This also reduces the spread of disease by flies.
  4. Wash hands. I like to push my immune system so I don’t go mad with the antibacterial gel and all that. I only do a deep clean if I get piss/poo on my hands.
  5. Walk back triumphantly and make a brief statement on the location and quality of your poo.

Some other things to note in my two weeks on the water. Being hungover on a boat in 30 celsius is one of the least enjoyable things I have ever done. It is too hot in the boat with all these people so one night after a few beers I slept out on the deck. It was beautiful, clear skies, stars and the Milky Way were looking perfect and I drifted off staring to the cosmos. I was awoken to blistering heat soaking in a rag of my own sweat. I was dehydrated, there wasn’t much water to drink on the boat, my head was pounding and aside from my spinning head I had to deal with the boat swaying left… right… left… right. It’s a recipe for vomit. Thankfully I held it down and got some food in me.

The swaying feeling still hasn’t left me though. I’ve got sea legs. Now, whenever I’m on the boat I am fine and I don’t notice much rocking at all however as soon as I set foot on firm ground my brain is wobbling all over the place as though I’m walking on a bouncy castle. When I sat down in the pub it felt like the bench was constantly moving backwards but moving no further. It messes with your head. I hope it goes away soon. I don’t know how I’ll handle sitting in a car for an hour on the way back in a couple of days.

It has been an adventure. Adventure is what this summer is all about. I’m pushing myself physically and mentally: Working in a school and a summer camp, exercising every day, seeing how long I can sit on a boat with a bunch of other blokes as equally sweaty and smelly as me, bonding with my father and getting to know my half-sisters who are growing up at a scarily rapid rate. It makes me feel rather old indeed.
Things are coming together though. I now have a semi-plan of action for when I return to the UK in September. I get to spend 10 beautiful days with Simone in Poland next week and I’ve ticked all of the boxes of what I wanted to accomplish this summer.

I’ve already achieved more in this year than I ever anticipated. I’ve been abroad for longer than I have been on home turf, I had the time of my life working for a charity in India, I fell in love, I’ve spent important time with my family and I have a taste for what I want to do for a living. What happens in the rest of the year is entirely at my disposal. It'll just as much of an adventure finding out what happens next...

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Death.

I haven’t had much experience with death. Some people seem to have plenty yet me and a lot of my family seem to be avoiding it. Except for my grandfather, Michael, he died last week after a 2 month battle with various problems and infections. I knew he was going to die a long time ago, I was very emotionally prepared for it and when I finally got the news, I wasn’t as sad as I expected myself to be. 

My first encounter with death was when my rabbit, Freckles, died when I was at primary school. I cried and cried and couldn’t get over it. Which interestingly connects straight to my Grandfather. I was visiting my grandparents not long after it happened and when they asked me how the rabbit was doing. I burst into tears and ran upstairs to hide. My granddad came up and comforted me. He thought that I was upset that my Father was late to get his flight from Poland. I didn’t correct him, I felt a bit silly crying over a rabbit when there are other things which I should be getting upset about. After that I quickly moved on and just accepted the inevitability.

Since that, death of people who I had physical contact with didn’t really affect me much. A couple of my neighbours died, one of old age and the other of cancer leaving two young children to be raised without a mother. I felt sympathetic, yet not sad. I had never experienced what it was like to lose somebody close so was unable to empathise with the situation. I still can’t completely understand what it is like.

I cried when Michael Jackson died. Which seems like an odd thing to get upset about but it is all relevant. I had not lost a close member of my family, music has as much of an emotional attachment than anything else. So when an inspirational figure to me dies, whatever the circumstance it makes me sad. Perhaps it is people who influence so many others that make it feel like a greater loss. Upon reflection, this seems like a backwards concept to me now. It should not be how much love people give to an individual. It should be the amount of love that the individual gives out. I know for sure that my rabbit gave many years of enjoyment as a child and Michael Jackson helped influence my musical tastes thus making me who I am today.

If my grandfather didn’t exist, then I would not be alive today. He was the one who brought my father into the world. Now my father has lost his father, I am unable to process what this must feel like. I just can’t get my head around it. To me it is like a blind person describing colours. It is a pain that I am unable to describe as I haven’t felt it. One day I will, then I will know. I never want to feel this pain however I believe it to be necessary to my progression through life. Death is life and life is death. An inevitable pain that would either ruin you or make you stronger.

At the moment, upon the passing of my first grandparent (I had all of my grandparents up until last week), I feel strong. I don’t feel any different really, it has just made me reflect a bit further on the whole concept of death and what we should do with it.

Due to commitments here in Poland I am unable to attend the funeral. This also doesn’t bother me so much. Not to be too blunt of course. I understand that it means a lot to my father and the rest of the Steers who knew Michael but there’s no way of making it work to get me back to the UK without stranding Simone in Poland. To me, I would much rather reflect personally and privately on the life of my grandfather. I believe that my last memories of my grandfather should be the letters that he wrote to me in India, having Christmas dinner, seeing several generations of my family all in the same room. I don’t want to tie the memory to a funeral. People deal with death differently. It seems, that this is how I deal with it. It’s all very new to me. Regardless of my predicament or not, I’d be hesitant of attending the funeral anyway.

I have only been to one funeral. One of the older supervisors at the supermarket I worked at died of cancer. Again, it was a very slow and expected death. We weren’t particularly close but I felt like I should attend the funeral. Perhaps out of curiosity or maybe I was just too young to think about why I was attending the funeral. Just because everyone else was going? I’d feel guilty for not going? I don’t know. Though I can gladly say that it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was sad. Really sad. I’m not too into that. I wasn’t sad that my supervisor passed away when I heard the news, I just got on with my life, reflected on a few memories and that was that. When the funeral came around it was as though it was forcing to be upset about something I wasn’t. Like watching a sad film or listening to music that is so helplessly sad. Why do you watch it? Why do you want to invoke these emotions that are largely negative?

Perhaps we need these emotions to provide perspective to the happier times in life. This is going to sound like something from Spinal Tap… Why don’t you just make the sad times a bit happier, then all of the other times are just a notch happier than before. Everyone is happier, less people are sad. I’m all about positivity. All about celebrating things. If I die, I’d be more than happy if everybody just popped down the pub and went “yeah, he was an alright bloke” and got on with their lives. Don’t kick up too much of a fuss. Just tell a goofy story about me, have a laugh, then move swiftly along. Don’t go being all depressed just because I've snuffed it. There’s more to life than me so just sod off. Don’t even think about putting a suit on and sitting in a church for an hour being sad. Would I want you to do that? No, of course not. Pub, scruffy clothes, pint and a few laughs. That’ll do me.

I am not ignoring my family, I will write letters, look at photographs and stay well in touch with them. Just because I’m not in one room on one day doesn’t mean I won’t miss the guy. It doesn’t mean that I’m being selfish or rude. I’m just being my usual introverted way and I’m dealing with something very new and this is how it’ll go.

So this will do for my thoughts on death. I won’t mull it over much longer. I'm going to toast a beer to my old man’s old man and see what happens next.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Love Poem

I wrote this poem for Simone yesterday but I just got the news that one of my best friends who I have known for nearly 20 years is getting married. So this is for them, for us, and quite simply, for everybody. 

I love you,
Like an alcoholic loves special brew lager,
Like a stoner loves crunchy snacks,
Like a tsunami loves destruction

A cloud that loves to burst
An umbrella loves the rain.
I love the rain, it makes flowers grow

I love you like a bee loves dangling it’s feet in sweet appetising nectar
I love you like Whinnie the Poo loves honey
Christopher Robin loves adventures
I love you like Batman loves Robin in the 60s.

Like Sonny and Cher
Like William and Kate
Like Tom and Barbra
Like Del Boy and Raquel
Like Sharon and Ozzy
Like Kermit and Miss Piggy
Like every couple destined to be together no matter what happens

We might be far apart but I know we both share the same cloudless blue skies
As sweet as apple pies
Even though apple crumble is way better, ‘skies’ rhymes with pies and is much more fitting as a rhyming couplet perfectly representing our love in rhythm and song.
Disjointed lines in poems are also romantic

Like a tick on a dick
A rag on a stick
Soap on a rope
Hat for a pope
A laugh for a joke
A poke for a poke

A hope

Shared by both of us that one day we will be close and not go a day without waking up next to each other
Our love is a long, cool drag from a cigarette after a long day at work

Kicking off your shoes and wiggling your toes free of any stress or worry
Our love is missing a train to spend an extra night together
Or climbing a mountain and not being able to walk the next day
But you don’t need to use your legs to cuddle in bed so everything is okay

Love is writing letters
Or emails or texts
Love is compatible for all versions of Microsoft Word and is even viewable on an Android Phone.
Love has full signal wherever you are in the world
Love never runs out of battery but is always on charge.
You inspire me to create, to write and to live
Any adventure we embark on is driven by you.

I would do anything for you.
If the sun refused to shine
I would still be loving you
If mountains crumbled to the sea
There would still be you and me
See, told you I would do anything for you. I would even steal for you. To be fair I only stole Led Zeppelin lyrics and that’s probably the biggest thing I’d ever steal but I like to think we are nice, morally grounded people and would not resort to theft to express love for one-another.

Having two disjointed lines in a poem makes it look like it’s meant to be there. See, everything comes around.

Believe it or not but this is still the poem
It does get a little abstract at parts
But I am usually a little abstract at life anyway
It is essential to find positivity and happiness in everything
I don’t need to try when I am around you because everything, whatever the situation, is always right.

Right as rain.
Write as reign.

With you I can express, extend, exfoliate and exercise: all with extreme exuberance.
I can even sing, jump, backflip, break legs and breakdance
Okay, so I can’t backflip or breakdance: being with you at least makes me want to try.
Not to impress but to express.
I love how you say expresso instead of espresso.
Not to impresso but to expresso.

I waited so long just to find you but I wasn’t looking for anything
I stumbled upon you like the Millennium Falcon stumbled upon the Death Star.
Like stubbing your toe, tripping over and falling into a giant pool of strawberry jelly.
Like finding a tenner on the pavement
Like free pizza
Like free anything
Free love.

Foreverly.

I will be there when you are old and grey.
I will be there when I am old, grey, crippled, hunchbacked, deaf, blind, clinically insane…
I will be there. Whatever the weather.

But preferably in the rain.

So our flowers can grow. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Next Chapter

Here I am. Sitting in the sunshine on a terrace in Poland. A black tea to my left and my e-pipe to my right. Yeah I've stopped smoking (for about the 10th time). We all have our habits, some people are slaves to Apple products or McDonalds. I simply enjoy a cigarette every once in a while. I go through phases of smoking abstinence not for my own personal health but more not to be a bad influence on my family particularly my younger sisters. I don't fancy having that guilt, even if I am the 'cool' older brother. So, I'm having a week or two off. Still drinking too much beer though.

I trust you have read the story of my Indian adventure, if not, read the previous 9 blog posts. Or just skim over the last one. I know you can't be arsed really.

The hardest part is going to be when I return to the UK. I have very little money to get a place of my own so it looks like I'm going to be sofa surfing again. I haven't been settled down since pre-India January. I've relied on crashing with friends. I am so thankful to everyone who has offered to put me up. I'd be up shit-creek if it wasn't for you guys.

My provisional plan is to get into live-in care work of some sorts. There's no way I'll be able to afford a place to stay of my own. I'm hoping to get closer to London so I can be near Simone and all of my new friends who live down that way. So yeah, I'd like to work in a foster home, or be a full time carer for somebody. I've got a bit of a plan of how to get into it. We'll see I want to do something honest to earn a living, I don't just want the only reward I get to be a paycheck at the end of the month. I want something to show that my living is worth while. So helping others is the best way I think and after my experience in India and also here in Poland working in schools I think I'd be pretty good at it.

The only thing I've got set in stone when I return to the UK is that I'm off to see Dragonforce play at The Deaf Institute in September which should be superb. The band was my first ever gig back in 2006 and The Deaf Institute was one of the first bars I went to when I was 18 to see the great Skinless Finger. I can't remember when that was but it was just after Toy Story 3 came out. I remember seeing it before the gig and being all depressed and close to tears at the ending, thankfully I had just turned 18 and could drink as many vodka lemon's as my wallet would allow.

I remember when you could go to an Academy 1 venue, smoke inside and pay a mere £12 to get in. Granted I was not old enough to smoke but coming out of the gig stinking of tabs and spilled beer is something I remember vividly. My mother hated that. Great fun though.
Then I saw Ozzy Osbourne in 2007 just after the ban came in to place. It kinda made the venue seem empty, as though a whole atmosphere was taken out of the place. It made venues seem clinical and clean. It's a metal gig not a dentist's. Smoky or not, that hasn't stopped me from enjoying hundreds of gigs and festivals since then.

The most recent of which have been out here in Poland. I saw Iron Maiden in Poznan and Metallica at Sonisphere Poland in Warsaw. Both gigs at which were excellent but for different reasons. At Iron Maiden the sound was so difficult due to it being in a massive football stadium every not was heard three times in different corners of the arena. Slayer, who were main support absolutely nailed the sound and were the best act of the night in my opinion. Maiden were excellent as always and the set list was superb... there was something missing though and I can't quite put my finger on it. Still as awesome as it was the sound did let the gig down a bit. Maiden was made excellent by a group of friends who I made both on the train and in the stadium. They spoke quite good English, we danced, we moshed, we drank, it was brilliant and made the whole experience so fantastic. I hope to see them again one day.

Next up was Metallica at the National Stadium in Warsaw. I was very excited for this line-up. Kvelertak and Anthrax are absolutely superb live bands and both of which nailed it completely. Alice in Chains were certainly good but there was definitely something lacking from the set that made it fall behind in comparison. I guess Anthrax are a difficult act to follow.

For whatever fucking ridiculous reason. The National Stadium had a an Alcohol-Free rule so once I was through the gate the only drink you could get was either Red Bull or a non-alcoholic Carlsberg. I have to say this did put a downer on the whole experience, you know how metal heads are. It's easier to sing and dance with a beer in hand. Still, this didn't deter Poland's Metallica family from being the loudest and craziest I have ever seen. Even an hour before Metallica came on there was a steady stream of Mexican waves, chants and clapping which erupted into a great cheer when we saw that The Call Of Ktulu was number one on the votes for the set list.
Metallica were superb, this was the fourth time seeing the band and definitely the best I have ever seen them play. They were tight, they were fun and opening with Battery was the heaviest thing ever. Absolutely superb. I don't need to say anything else really. I don't see where all this hate towards Metallica is coming from. They are a fantastic band and they sell out arenas all over the world so they must be doing something right. The Glasto performance definitely pulled them out of a dry spell. The positivity from this tour is hopefully going to lead into a very promising album. We'll see.

So that was my Polish metal experience. I'm now spending time in the lakes sailing, blogging, drinking tea and just putting my feet up. Should probably figure out what to do with my life somewhere in all of this free time too.

Films watched recently: The Lego Movie, Moon.
Books reading: The Time Traveller's Wife
Record: War Eternal - Arch Enemy

I'll leave it there until I think of another story to tell.
Follow me on the twitters @robsteer. Adios.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Great India Blog! - Part IX - The End

And so this is the end of 9 chapters of journal entries. This last chapter begins on the final day in our village and promptly tails off due to exhaustion and a days worth of tears, travel and smiles. 

10/04/2014
  • Thia is the last day in Beerathamanahalli Hadi. So much happened in the day that I did not have the time nor the energy to write in the evening. Instead I am sat at fieldbase waiting for the other teams to unload. I shall try to recall the events to best of my ability...
  • We rose at 6:30am well, I say rose, I was awoken by Kishore jumping on me shouting Catine! which translates loosely as FUCK YOU. I returned the gesture in it's English form and crawled out of bed. So began the monstrous task of cleaning 3 months of shit from our accommodation. It was an arduous task and I really could not be arsed. I managed to doss about for most of it by doing one of my favourite activities. Burning rubbish. Thankfully there was a lot of waste to get rid of so a large proportion of the morning was spent smoking and setting fire to plastic bags, two things that have done my lungs absolutely no good whatsoever for the past 3 months. But hey, when in Karnataka. 
  • We had a little opening ceremony for the toilets, to be honest around 90% of them weren't fully painted and looked a bit shit. We draped them in mango leaves and balloons and had a little ribbon to cut. "I now declare this shit-hole.... open!" The hard work of construction came to a wonderful little cadence. 
  • Afterwards, we gathered all of the villagers together and had a little tea party in the shade of the big tree by the school. Everyone was so happy, they told us that the village will be a quiet and lonely place without us. It doesn't feel real that we are leaving in the morning. It is time for our last ever sunset in the village. The whole team walked together to the sunset rocks (24/02/2014).
  • We danced, ate cake and simply, 100% enjoyed ourselves. Everyone in the team is closer than ever. 
  • We loaded the bus after nightfall to a swarm of kids hugging us again and again and again. They really didn't want us to go and were asking us to stay and to live in their houses with them. They even managed to drag Mark and I to one of their houses for Chai. We sat under the stars with a good 15 kids and relished every moment. 
  • Binky garda!
  • Yasin came to visit for the last time, he is Muslim so brought us a beef curry to try. As always, it was minging. The chicken was superb though.
  • Late night beedies with Kishore then sleep. 



11/04/2014 and beyond!

  • The following two days were filled with goodbyes, tears, smiles and happiness. I will not indulge, it was hard enough the first time.
  • The whole team was in tears for hours. That more or less sums it up. 
  • In other news, my Yankee 1 girl is really helping this trip end on a high. Not just because we were high. We are closer than ever in the early hours of Sunday the 13th April we shared a Kiss. I am in a state of bliss. It is 4:45am, I haven't gone to sleep yet and our bus arrives in 15 minutes to take us to the airport, I couldn't care less. My last night in India has been perfect When I'm feeling less soppy I'll reflect on everything that these past 3 months have brought me. Could be a while though, I can't wipe this smile off my face.
  • Time for one hell of a long journey to begin. The past few days have been all over the place so I shall simply jump to the end and empty my brain onto paper....
  • I am sat on a strangely familiar train slowly rolling out of London Euston taking me back home to Cheshire. I lugged my baggage through Heathrow arrivals to be greeted by the smile of my sister Becky who got my letter asking to come meet me. So begin a few more goodbyes, everyone was so keen to see their families most of the group just disappeared. Thankfully my friends can always be found smoking fistfuls of cigarettes in every smoking bunker in every airport terminal. Simone, Mark Nick and I all shared a final beedie together and parted ways to return to our respectful homes. Simone go the tube with us, she met her sister too but our conversation remained separate as we caught up on 3 months of Cheshire life. Simone and I had our last goodbye, a kiss and talk of how we can make something work. At the moment I have no idea how but I like to think that there's a way, we have both really fallen for each other, I suppose it is just something that will figure itself out. 
  • After 3 months of travelling and living with so many of my now closest friends, I am in a strange position to be sat alone on a train. The few people around me are all glued to their phones or laptops. I still have not turned my phone on, partly because I don't want to and partly because the battery is dead. Tomorrow, I will call Cait and Sophia as I never got the chance to say goodbye to them.
  • Standing out all night with Simone was incredibly perfect but my arms have been absolutely raped by mosquitoes. At risk of malaria in the name of romance. I'm sat on the train itching like a crack head. 
  • It hasn't sunk in that I'm home yet, my brain is still on India Time, I definitely have become OCD with washing my hands, my immune system definitely deserves a break.
    I am going to give it a week to rest my body and mind, without getting too drunk, I need to figure out a decent way of responding when people ask "So, how was India?" I could talk about it for hours, the pages in this journal show that completely, I just feel that when people ask it they don't really want an answer any deeper than "Yeah, it was great". If they really want to know then I may tell stories but my trust blog and journal has a much better memory span than my worn out old brain. I am not ashamed or embarrassed of anything that I have written here, they are usual just my pure thoughts that fall out on to the page, others are just simple descriptions of events, either way, they are mine and I am very proud. 
  • Just had to layer up with the spare shirt that was in my bag, it's ruddy freezing here... Bex said the weather was glorious but I think that was a lie. I miss the 38 degree heat in the shade already.
    I am so close to passing out, no sleep since the night of the 11th and I hardly slept on the plane. All of that whiskey surely didn't help. 
  • Exhaustion has set in and I am delirious. Struggling to focus on the words I am writing. I really can't afford to pass out again... 

Well guys, that's it. Shortly after falling asleep I woke up in Crewe station greeted by my mother's warming smile ready to take me home. Boy, was I ready to be home. Looking back on this whole adventure and reading my own thoughts has been an interesting experience. It made me appreciate the bonds I had made on that trip. 

I am typing this blog up in Poland. That's right, I stuck to my word and I am spending the summer with my father here. I've also completed my Action at Home volunteering in a primary school spawning a brand new passion for teaching. I know what I want to be when I grow up and that is all thanks to the people in India. 

From the Eye Camp to the First Kiss, I am still with my Yankee 1 girl, Simone. Well, we did say we'd figure out a way to make it work. 2 days after returning to the United Kingdom she hopped on a train and we climbed Snowdon together. Inseparable.  She's been to visit me in Poland twice now and I can proudly say that I love her with all of my heart. 

I quickly adjusted back to 'normal' life, only now I wash my tee shirts whilst wearing them in the shower, I wash my hair with a bar of soap once a week and I'm almost always barefoot. I appreciate the little things and I love everyone who I am lucky enough to have met and become friends with. 

Thank you to everyone that donated and supported me in my adventure and the great work that Raleigh International in not only changing the lives of those living in poverty sustainably. But for also changing my life for the better. 

I am happy. I am free. 

Thank you for reading. 

Rob

P.S. I know I speak badly of Tree Destroyer - Arun but you have no idea how much I cried when he came to me to say goodbye, I held him and just bawled out. I miss that clumsy bastard so much. See, I told you everything would work out in the end. 


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Great India Blog! - Part VIII

07/04/2014


  • Woke up first thing to do the sit-rep this morning. You guessed it, day leader again. POWERR!!!
  • We have to do an instructional session with each of our beneficiaries showing them how to have a shit in the toilets we have constructed. Sadly we have gone from 24 toilets to 23. The other night a tractor was ploughing the field behind the village and and managed to completely destroy one of the toilets because the guy wasn't looking where he was going. Idiot. 
  • There are also talks of doing home stays tonight. Where we spend the night with the villagers in their homes, it's optional but I think I'll go for it, should give me something to write about. 
  • We also have to make a music video type thing for the end of the project but because of 'asbestos saga' we've had no time at all to plan it. Today we will blag it by dancing goofily for a couple of minutes and put some music to it. I have a strong feeling that it's going to be.... shit. 
  • Cigarette conversations are beginning to wear thin, the past few times have either been relatively silent or just talk of how ready we are to go home. 
  • Starting to think about what to do with my time when I get back. Poland sounds very appealing but so does Sonisphere Festival The provisional plan in my head at the moment is to go from Action at Home to Sonisphere to Poland. Then depending on my prospects when out there I'll think of whether to return or not. Will continue to mull it over but that is the best I can think of. Hmm. 
  • Tonight I am staying in a house with Arun and Sanjeeva. I don't know if I'm excited or not. At the moment I would be happy just going to sleep and not talking to anyone but I'll have to force my way through a conversation with at least 4 people who speak little or no English. I think I'll be calling kishore for numerous Beedie breaks tonight. I wont take my journal to their house, fairly sure I wont have much to say apart from that I ate some manky food and slept on the floor. We'll see, I may surprise myself. 
08/04/2014 - 5 days remain

  • The homestays were actually quite good for the most part. I was given a whole ragi ball to eat. I'm certainly getting better at it but I'm still deterred from eating anything that has the same consistency as Play-doh. 
  • The evening was even more exciting with more breaking of Raleigh Rule! I mustn't disclose what was done in case someone gets their sweaty mitts on my journal. I will say that I had quite a delicious sandwich with a few friends.
  • Arun dry humped me in his sleep all night it was distracting but I got used to it.
  • We slept under the stars and I drowned out the dog fights and tractors with Enslaved.
  • I got up with the sunrise to do the sit-rep, it went well and then I dossed about at the school for a while.
  • Thejas came to visit and brought a huge packet of mail. I had 3 really nice letters. The first of which was my lovely housemates on Simonside Terrace. I do miss that lot, they had stories of the house and Heaton. I would really love to be back there.
  • The second came from Emma Frith dated the 7th February, it took it's time getting here! The last piece of mail was a largish package from Grandma and Granddad in Leek, it contained a birthday card and a clean tee-shirt!! They said that they knew I wouldn't wash my clothes very often so I got a nice clean new blue shirt. Bliss, I'm wearing it now, doesn't really go with my dirty shorts which haven't been washed since the beginning of phase 1. Ironically, the letter from Simonside Terrace wished me a happy birthday and hoped that I stay out of hospital and are healthy. Oh how little do they know. Well, that was nice, I'm now chilling on my patch of concrete avoiding how crazy everyone gets when Thejas comes to visit. 
  • There is heartbreak in camp. 
  • We all came together and sorted out the jobs for the day, a few of us would be painting and the rest walking around doing advertising.
  • Naturally I opted myself for painting with Kish and everyone else set out to visit distant villages. Had a sandwich with an elderly villager who was having a nap under a massive tree. It certainly made painting 24 toilet doors a more interesting task however it took us ages with the zombie like posture we had adopted. It took us 2 hours to paint 7 toilet doors. Mmeh, we'll finish it later. It's a relatively chilled afternoon for us, well, the people who have finished their reports, which is just me. Might just plod on with some painting. 
  • Okay, so I've been roped into helping Sanjeeva on the construction report. Collue was his partner and she left with all the info and didn't write much, should be interesting.
  • Just stepped outside for two seconds, kids swarmed around me and started climbing all over before I had the chance to sit down and light a beedie. Gave up and wandered back inside, I'll try again in 10 minutes. 
  • I wish I could plonk these kids in front of a few Disney films so I could get a moment of peace. Gone are the days of actually giving children attention, fuck that for a laugh. Some of these kids are definitely not given enough love judging by how much they crave your attention. 
  • Time to try again for a smoke.
  • The night has grown exciting and very heavy metal. Storm clouds gathered as darkness fell above the village, at first there was no rain, only a very static air and forks of lightning shooting right above us growing more and more frequent. All of a sudden a monstrous crash of thunder opened the skies for a torrential downpour of rain. Thunder and lightning is all there is for two hours. Even though the power is gone, the village is illuminated in a brilliant white flash every few seconds.  
  • The air is now cool, I write wearing more layers than ever. We eat by the light of the storm. 
  • Cait hugged me and thanked me for being me. It's moments like that which give a sense of appreciation and friendship so strong it makes everything worthwhile. 
  • Today I had probably my last cold bucket shower. It was 9 days ago when I last showered. I could probably count the number of showers I had in the village on one hand. Excluding when I had the shits, then I had to shower every hour just to cool my arsehole down. 
09/04/2014

  • Today was rather incredible. It was made special by a moment, I will try to do it justice in words and it shall be the only thing I will write about today.
  • In the afternoon, around half an hour after the dental camp, Sophie and I along with a couple of kids were burning the rubbish from the day. Without any warning, seemingly from nowhere, giant black shapes began floating through the sky. At first we thought we were burning something we shouldn't be and massive flakes of ash were being shot into the atmosphere. We were wrong. They were coming from somewhere else. 
  • We turned out of the sun and looked towards the forest where hundreds of thousands of butterflies were flocking out of the trees towards us. Each one had black and white speckled wings and fluttered with such convincing direction. The storm last night was the first rain of the new season and it must have triggered the hatchings of ever cocoon in the forest, literally down to the minute they were all freed. The sky was filled with a black snow that never fell, merely floated from one place to another. The village was swarming. This continued for an hour and a half. I sat by the wall overlooking the fields and forest and simply watched in awe. I simply cannot describe the scale and intensity of the event but it was something I never even dreamed of witnessing. I went into the field with the children who were all climbing haystacks to try to catch them. I had reached a new level of euphoria and without thinking who was watching I ran, jumped and skipped through the swarms of butterflies. I felt free. I was free. 
  • It was a moment where no camera could capture, no words could describe. It was simply a moment of sheer natural beauty and perfection and although the moment passed, the memory will stay with me for the rest of my life. 
  • And that's all I've got to say about that.  

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Great India Blog! - Part VII

The saga continues. As we grow nearer to the end of the story I found myself having more and more to say, especially as I was falling in love. I'll hopefully get it finished in another 3 parts maximum then I'll return to my usual ramblings. Enjoy!


04/04/2014


  • 5:30am, wake up and trudge to beerkaval to prepare the vet camp. It is cloudy but the sunrise is beautiful. 
  • A vet camp is basically 200 cows shitting and pissing all over the place. It was, don't get me wrong, for the most part quite exciting. 
  • Cows and goats from miles around flocked to our little patch of driveway where a vet determined the health of the animals... usually by shoving a gloved fist up their arses. 
  • Sometimes he actually had to scoop the shit out of the poor cow's aresehole to cop a better feel. He was still impeccably dressed and somehow managed to not get a single ounce of cowshit on him. Respect. India never ceases to amaze me, even if now I had to stoop to a cows anus to find that fresh, stinky awe. 
  • A child, when visiting a house to promote an upcoming eye camp, stopped playing in the yard, pointed at me an immediately started crying. I guess I've not looked in a mirror for a while and forgot what a hairy oaf I actually look like. Part-troll. 
  • Upon returning home, I cleaned the toilet to an audience of around 1,200 children, all judging me and laughing. I'm not sure if they were amazed that a man was doing cleaning or that I was doing such a bad job they felt it necessary to stare at me for the entire duration of the task. At least they stood mostly in silence, definitely the kind of company I prefer. 
  • We only have 7 days remaining in Beerathamanahalli Hadi and just 9 in India. I'm not entirely sure where the last 61 days have gone, this journal doesn't help me much; all I've talked about is shit, getting up early and going back to sleep... with occasional references to culture and development. But that is what travel is all about, if you are not shitting yourself either literally or metaphorically, then your adventure is wasted. 
  • Finally some adrenaline! Cait and I took a walk to the next village to watch the boys play cricket (I managed to talk my way out of this one!) unfortunately, just when we arrived we could see them in the distance about to walk back through the forest, seeing our disappointment, some locals sat outside their house invited us over for a cup of chai. It was delicious and we spent 15 minutes or so talking about cricket in a very broken English. When it got later on, one man offered us a ride home on his motorbike, we declined because it was against the rules however after a telepathic conversation involving eye movements and grinning, we agreed. We thanked the family for their hospitality and jumped on the back of the motorbike.
  • At first in this journal, exactly 2 months ago on this date I wrote of how ridiculous it was to have 3 people riding on a single motorbike. I am definitely accustomed to India now because I didn't think twice about how many people were going to be riding it. 
  • The ride was euphoric, a cool breeze flowing through my hair and clothes, villagers running out of their houses to wave us along and a ridiculous smile on my face the whole time. Even though Cait was sat in front of me, I cold feel the energy of her smile and happiness too. It was just what both of us needed after what was becoming a stale few days doing the same old stuff. 
  • When we neared the village, we hopped off the bike, thanked the gentleman and both jumped and did a little squee in excitement. 
  • You have to enjoy the little things and a small portion of rule breaking certainly spices things up a bit. Feel alive happy and free. 



05/04/2014

  • One of the first to get up this morning which was a little odd. The misty view which was haunting yet beautiful, palm trees slowly growing into view with cows and villagers drifting in and out of visibility.
  • Cup of tea and a beedie. 
  • This morning was spent walking to a couple of villages to promote tomorrows eye camp. 
  • We visited some nice little places and hung out at a few schools while some kids tugged and scratched my tattoos to see if they would come off. They didn't. 
  • A strange man invited us into his house for some chai, we had to decline because we still had a lot of houses to visit. He caught up with me a little later on with his daughter at his side, probably about 11 years old. She asked me if I had eaten and after I said yes, he pushed her towards me and said I should marry her and taker her back to England. As flattered as I was, 11 year old who hardly speak English aren't really my type. I said no politely and went to find the rest of the team. I'm sure it's for the best. 
  • We've been back at the school for 3 hours now and the second group (who were promoting at another village) still haven't returned after 6 hours of walking. We aren't that worried it seems. Most of the team are napping or reading. Go team!
  • Think I'll join my friends in a snooze, it is far too hot to function like a normal human being. 
  • I put a menthol filter in a beedie. It didn't make the slightest bit of difference apart from slightly reducing the burning sensation you get in all of your internal organs. 
  • Really into clutch at the moment, so glad I put The Elephant Riders as one of the few albums that I can squeeze onto my MP3 player. Green Buckets is such a fantastic song. 
  • Cait and I discussed yesterday whether we could spend the rest of our lives living the life of one of the villagers and leave behind western ways and just living to provide the essentials to your family. When I first arrived at the village I would have been all for the idea, I was ready to rip up my visa and set up camp but after such a long time here, there are so many things that I miss and long for, the only thing vaguely consumerist of those is music, new music, old music, records and mp3s. I love having access to so much sound. I Miss my family, my mother, friends and familiar faces. I couldn't live without it. Yet in writing this, spending a week camping in Scotland is so very, very appealing. I may still do it for a while when I get back before leaving for Poland. 
  • I have been acclimatising to the weather here. When it was high 20s or low 30s I could be quite content and not dying. It has not rained in weeks, I did see a cloud yesterday but sadly it did not burst. The temperature is pushing 40 degrees  and it is killer. Too hot to sleep, eat, drink, or even just sit in the shade. We are all dying, I am longing to be cold. 
  • Only 8 days until I am back in nice wet shitty cold Britain and I can't fucking wait. 
  • I realised just now by looking in the mirror (a rare occasion in Beerathamanahalli Hadi) that my left eyelashes are quite obviously singed. The only culprit can be Kishore's cigarette lighter, now, this bad boy has caused a certain amount of moustache related devastation in the second phase on project. The power of Kishore's lighter varies greatly, regardless of the setting you have it on. My moustache suffered from a blowtorch level of flame, thrusting a stench of burned hair and upper lip sweat straight up my nose. My eyelash suffered from a flame so intense it almost sent my eyeball into a low orbit around the planet. All plant life within a 30m radius instantly expired and dried up. I'm fairly sure that I saw a nearby goat spontaneously combust too. Smoking not only is a cause for cancer but before the cigarette is even lit it is an effective cause for vision loss, eye damage, hair loss and hemispheric devastation with similar magnitude of the krakatoa eruption of the 1800s. Dammit Kish. 
  • Lay on the porch and listened to Alter Bridge with Cait, we were so chilled out we near enough fell asleep. 
  • When walking back today Mark picked up some fresh tobacco from a farm. We made some rollies in the evening and enjoyed them greatly although the tobacco was really dry and we couldn't remember how to roll. It was still delicious. 
06/04/2014 - 7 days left in India

  • Today we rose and set off for the eye camp. I was much more excited about seeing Yankee 1. Particularly my beedie buddy Simone. 
  • She arrived around 2 hours later than us, the eye camp was already set up and running so as soon as she came over to our station I immediately abandoned my duties and we snuck behind the school for a smoke. The next 2 hours were spent together just talking away about our villages and what had been happening the past week or so since we last saw each other. We played with the kids and they all clawed at my tattoos like normal. Neither of us moved for ages, the morning was spent just embracing each other's company we both seemed to be happy in doing so. 
  • The camp came to a close, I would assume that it was a success but I didn't really see a lot of it from the shady smoking spot we had coined as our own. 
  • We said goodbye, had a long hug and parted ways. I could have run home with glee. Dammit Rob, the moment you remotely start to fall for a girl your thoughts suddenly sound like something from The Sound Of Music. Man up!
  • I'm quite happy not manning up because I simply am happy. If nothing comes of it then so be it, I've still spent so many evenings laughing and smiling myself to slumber. 
  • Oh! I forgot to write yesterday about the forest fire! Last night when we were relaxing on the porch the kids suddenly jumped up and ran off, we looked over the wall to see the forest, not more than 100m away, engulfed in smoke with large orange flames surrounding the base, it was quite impressive and for the apocalyptic cynic that I am. it was all very exciting. 
  • I did the most British thing in my life and took my cup of tea, disposable camera and slipped my flip flops on and wandered over for a closer look, unfortunately the locals were very efficient at putting the fire out so I only managed to snap a picture of a few villagers throwing a bucket of water on a smouldering bush. More supreme English disappointment. Hurrah! We're rubbish!
  • Throughout my time here in India I have been handed strange looking fruit with the assurance of "good taste, very good taste, you try, yes!". 100% of the times that this has happened the fruit is as far as a distant planet in terms of good taste. It usually results in me pulling a very obvious face which is a combination of disgust and pretending to like it. Mmmm good taste... please excuse me whilst I discretely do a little vomit in my mouth. 
  • I know the rule is to never take sweets from strangers but in India I have established the 'never take fruit from anyone' rule. 
  • This rule is probably caused by my increased paranoia of getting the bowel devastating shits again. 
  • I tell a lie, the watermelon with salt and pepper was actually really tasty. Okay 99%.
  • Watched the stars and listened to Alter Bridge. Particularly the song Coming Home:
"Now I'm coming home
Lost on a road I don't belong
I rest my song I'm so alone
Far from the streets I call my own
I'm coming home..."

  • goodnight.