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. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Great India Blog! - Part VI

The depressing part is over guys, don't worry! The last few weeks in India were the best and most memorable and I had an awful lot to write about. It was a really happy and emotional time for me. Still, the homesickness starts to kick in after 60 days away from the shire. Let's find out what happens in phase 3 shall we?


29/03/2014


  • Rudely awoken to an ICV talking loudly on his phone in bed at 6am. Twatbag. Put Sabbath on full volume and went back to sleep. 
  • We have a trip today, we are visiting an old fort settlement which is meant to be filled with lots of cool stuff, we'll see...
  • I can't remember the name but the fort place was really beautiful. We first started walking towards a temple when we were bombarded head on by a parade of party supporters for the upcoming political elections, one of the candidates, no idea who, was riding on the back of a cow, snapped a picture on my disposable camera, I'm interested to see if any of my photos are actually any good!
  • The temple was just like the temple of doom from Indiana Jones, I kept pushing the stones that were sticking out to see if spikes came down from above, they didn't.
  • We then walked through the heat to the other side of the town and visited a large mosque. I've never been to one before, it was really lovely. I have found myself becoming very open to the religions here, it is a very big part of culture and weirdly seems to make perfect sense. 
  • Once we were back at fieldbase we had the news that our villages were safe to return to and we would be leaving in the morning. Everyone is very happy and excited. 
  • Spent the night exactly how I wanted to, Simone and I lay out watching shooting stars, smoking beedies and discussing our theories on life, evolution and everything. It was really fantastic.
  • We lay out until everyone had gone to bed, it was silent but the conversation kept on flowing, few people have been able to make me talk so much. Saw 3 shooting stars bringing the total to 14. We retired to bed after midnight. I was very happy and peaceful. 
30/03/2014
  • Early start to pack and return to our villages. 
  • Smoked the last of my beedies with Nick, Simone and Kishore, had a sad goodbye then started setting off. I've grown very attached to the Yankee 1 folks, I will really miss how close we have all become through all of this. 
  • Arrived in Beerathamanahalli Hadi, tidied up then I passed out from heat exhaustion. 
  • I slept for 11 hours. 
31/03/2014

  • Happy Ugadi Festival! Today is the Indian New Year, I rose after a quick lie-in to a very relaxed vibe in the village, it turns out that the best way to celebrate this festival is to sit around and be jammy. Or so I thought....
  • Before I had a minute to gather my thoughts, all of the Indian volunteers had stripped to their shorts and began rubbing oils and lotions into each other. For a while I looked on in amusement but it didn't take very long for Mark and I to strip down and join in. We gave massages to each other and oiled our bodies, hair and beards. 
  • Next we were to partake in a traditional Indian game (the name escapes me). It basically involves two teams, a 'rider' from one team has to run over to the other side of the pitch and either touch the line or tag one of your opponents. The only downside is that once you put your foot over the line or tag someone, the whole other team have to grab you, pick you up and then carry you out of the field. I was rubbish, you'd think with how oily I was I would be rather difficult to catch, this is not true, before I had a second, I was hoisted into the air and paraded off the pitch. Great fun. 
  • The ceremonies continued, now we had to wash off the oils, Indian style. We started a fire and heated a huge vat of water. Mark, Kishore and I all showered together, scrubbing each other's backs, washing each other's hair. It was surreal, but a nice moment non the less. 
  • I feel cleaner than ever, my beard and hair are soft and fluffy, can't see it lasting long though. 
  • Evening is upon us, today is the only day in the year where gambling is legal so I watched some of the locals and our Indian Volunteers lose a lot of money playing a type of 3 card poker. 
  • Came back and took some photos with the girls in their Saris, the whole village showed up to hang out for a bit and play games with the kids. 
  • I played some guitar which now has 6 strings! The original 4 are still rusty as hell. Played Blackbird by Paul McCartney until the sun went down. 
  • Kish cracked my back. I lay down and he absolutely hammered me, pulling and pushing at my skin with such force until every joint in my body popped, it absolutely killed but I feel fabulous now!
  • I love having things to write about, I really want to make every last day here count. 
  • I keep thinking about spending summer in Poland. Will probably make it a reality, I've been saying I will for far too long now. 
01/04/2014

  • Another month in paradise. It feels like so long ago that I was on British soil on that cold February morning in London. This experience has certainly made me appreciate my life at home with all of the usual comforts yet it has also taught me that I have the capacity to spend a lot of time away from home with very little communication. I hope I get some more letters to conclude my trip. I have kept every one that I have received and look forward to showing people back home. 
  • Zofi asked me to get her something from India but I have naff all in terms of money. Might be able to haggle someone for a bracelet for 10 rupees. 
  • Thinking about home too much, wherever that is. It will only make the time go slower. Can't frikkin' wait to eat a gammon steak with a fried egg and extra pineapple. 
  • There are Peer Education and Well-being days planned for pretty much all of the remaining time here. Because we missed out on a whole week there is so much to do. The masons are here finishing construction while we work. 
  • Thejas has come to visit, already he has broken the rules by riding off on a motorbike with Kish. Such children. 
  • So much time spent asleep, the heat is just far too much for me, exhausted.
    Played cricket with some of the youths. I have come to the conclusion that I don't like cricket, I don't love it either. I do love reggae and Jamaica though. 
  • Had a really filling chicken dinner, it is the first day of the new year so we are meant to eat well to bring us good food and health for the time to come. 
02/04/2014

  • Didn't sleep too well, there was a distant thunderstorm so every few minutes through the night the whole room would light up in a brilliant flash. No rain though, it's still dry as hell here. 
  • Did some education with the kids using tippy taps for hand washing and brushing their teeth. Good turnout, quite a success.
  • Time for a quick nap then some preparation for tomorrow's well-being day. 
  • Arun really needs to stop going commando, his crotch has a mind of it's own and it is somewhat off-putting. 
  • Just learned that the son of the sweet old couple that lives at the end of the village killed himself whilst we were at fieldbase. He got drunk one night and tied a sari around his neck and hung himself in their little hut. 
  • I guess some people aren't as happy as initially perceived. I trust that it was a very rare and unfortunate circumstance. His parents are so lovely, just like Tom and Barbara. 
  • Another fairly docile afternoon, word on the street is that we are playing cricket again. Fuck. I don't have the attention span for this throwing and catching shit. 
  • Believe it or not, my cricket skills have considerably worsened in the 24 hour period since the last game. I did manage to hit the ball on two occasions but both had me caught out. 
  • Started thinking back to 2001 when Rick Williamson and I won the North West Kwik Cricket tournament for  Lower Peover Primary School. How brilliant we were then, hitting fours and sixes all over the place. I must have lost that skill somewhere between becoming interested in women and picking up the guitar. There is something about rock n roll which sucks all motivation to do anything else but get jammy. 
  • In all of my international sporting endeavours I've never failed to let the United Kingdom down. 
  • At least it gave the villagers a good laugh. The only skill I have retained from my childhood is playing Pokemon and twiddling a pen around my thumb. I even suck at Guitar Hero now. 
  • Either I'm shit at everything or I'm just too distracted to busy myself with sport or hobbies.
  • Talked with Cait for a good hour about getting drunk, marriage, the future and the past. It was a superb conversation and flowed so freely. I have been invited to stay with her this summer, hopefully I have enough money!
03/04/2014 - 10 Days Left in India!

  • I arose earlier than normal today. Probably because everyone else was up scurrying about and getting things sorted. It is the Beerathamanahalli Hadi well-being day today and a giant colourful tent has been erected in the field where we will conduct the sessions on diet, TB, Scabies, Smoking and dehydration with free tastes of protein salad, ironised lemonade and a rehydration drink. I am very very excited.
  • Managed to colour in different pictures of fruit and veg without screwing up too badly. No purple tomatoes for this badass. 
  • Had a little daydream about action at home and going to schools to do talks. I'm very buzzing for that too. Really hope that Claire lets me do a case study for some groups.
  • My journal has become dog-eared and tattered. Can't wait to read it over in a few years. Perhaps I should write a message to Future Rob to find out what he's up to. 
Dear Future Rob, 
I trust that you are reading this in 2015 or later. By now I hope that you went to Poland for the summer, learned the language as best as you can, hopefully get some work or volunteer somewhere. Don't rush to settle down but keep it in your mind. You should have a wicked India tattoo by now as well, either the Hindu God of Knowledge or some Jungle \Book thing. 
Either way, if you still feel as good as I do at the time of writing this. You are doing something right. 

Yours, 
Past/Present Rob  03/04/2014 08:32am

P.S. Keep growing your hair and get dreads. unless it looks fucking stupid, then cut it. 

  • That should do it, no doubt I'll forget about this and find it in years to come. Then I'll facepalm about how ridiculously foolish I am.
  • But that's just life, isn't it?
  • Just completed the wellbeing day, had a huge turnout to all of our different stalls. Even people just driving past stopped to check out what was going on. The kids went mental for the balloons and 'worm game'. Yet again I found myself feeling like a clown, blowing up and tying what felt like at least several thousand balloons. Hoping that I don't get ill from all of the slime and spit covered games we played. 
  • These children have really perfected the art of dribbling. 
  • I can tell by the amount of mistakes I'm making that I'm exhausted. Going to shut my eyes for a little while. 
  • One has quite a serious craving for a bowl of Rice Krispies. 
  • Another evening spent talking with Cait, then, bed. 




Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Great India Blog! - Part V - When Things Went Down The Pan

23/03/2014

24/03/2014

25/03/2014

26/03/2014

I arise on my 22nd birthday to the fourth day of what has been quite a hellish series of events. It is largely negative so I will try to keep the melancholy to a minimum. 
After visiting Mysore on Saturday were bought together by Dr. Ronx in the middle of watching the Jungle Book. 

We were told in great detail that no member of the medical staff was made aware that we were working with asbestos. It was also claimed that because Raleigh International and ICS are UK based organisations (and part-funded by the British Taxpayer) having asbestos used as a building material is against all EU protocol and is breaking the law. We were given no training on the handling or risks of asbestos apart from simply being told to 'stand a bit away from it'. This information made a lot of people very upset and before we knew it we were marching down to the fieldbase office and demanded and explanation.

We didn't get one, we were assured of a meeting with Jagan and Paul the following morning to go over any concerns. 

-I appear to have my dates muddled here and it has led to me missing out a key piece of information. I will explain below:
One day, whilst this issue was still in the process of being raised, both groups took a trip to the golden temple. This was a beautiful settlement of Tibetan descendants who had migrated to India during the conflicts of Tibet (I made a note to do some research into that because I know very little about Tibet). The Buddhist temple was hugely impressive and peaceful. A really wonderful experience. The issue with this trip was when we stopped for lunch on the way back. It made me feel sick, really sick. So would follow 5 days of the worst shits of my life... more of that to come. 
We were left behind for another day in fieldbase before being sent to a hotel whilst group 2 used the area for their phase review. 

The hotel was alright, I arrived later than everyone else because I had the shits so bad that myself and a few others went to hospital. That's right. Hospitalised because of the shits. Thanks India. 

I was put on an IV drip to help get some fluid back into my body and I was given pro-biotics to help ease the explosive activity. 5 hours later we were heading to the hotel minus one volunteer who had to stay overnight because they had it really bad. They've been there for 3 days at the time of writing this, poor thing. I love them to bits, as I do all of my team-mates, it makes me sad to know they're having an awful time. 

The rest of the day was a blur of meetings, exhaustion and the shits. The situation got no further and people are still upset demanding answers. 

This is the 2nd day of me not eating any food.
Did not sleep, was shitting every hour. 

Now we are back to my birthday, 26th March 2014. I haven't eaten, I'm shitting like mad and I have no idea what is happening to my team or Raleigh. 

I go back to Columbia Asia Hospital for a check up and to get prescribed some anti-biotics. The evening was much more productive, even though I slept through it because I was too ill. We were given the choice, if it was safe to return to our villages or go back to the UK. I was greeted with the heartbreaking news that Collie would be going home in the next few days, this well and truly breaks my heart. 
I was greeted by some ICVs who brought me bottles of cold mango juice and sprite as well as a birthday present. They got a tee shirt for everyone to sign. It was such a sweet gesture I almost cried. I could tell that things were getting better. 

I made a point to thank Paul and Jagan for their hard work in getting this resolved, I refuse to jump on the bandwagon of personally attacking them. 
The following morning Mark and I watched Saving Me Banks before returning to Fieldbase. Amazing film: really makes me want to watch Mary Poppins though. 

Spent all night at the smoking table with Simone and Nick. We laughed so hard for hours and hours, it was something we really needed and I absolutely loved an evening of proper conversation. 
I retired to bed and put my MP3 player on shuffle. Started to have lucid dreams, it must be all the medication I'm on. I'm getting better at control without shocking myself into waking up. 

28/03/2014

  • Did some productive work on well-being in our villages and started planning some sessions for when we get back. FINALLY, some productivity!!
  • Feels like things are getting back to normal. I've even started bullet pointing again. 
  • Collie left us for the UK this afternoon. I feel empty and lost, she has become on of my closest friends in this whole experience and I will miss her so much I didn't want to talk to anyone after that so I got into my mosquito net bubble and had some Rob-time to reflect. I'm determined to see her again, maybe even start that ska band we always talked about. 
  • We've been told that there is an independent surveyor checking out the villages for safety. The asbestos sheets have been removed and will be replaced with either plastic or sheet metal. I'm happy with the way Raleigh are handling things, though there is a lot a still don't know about the process that is taking place. I just want to go back to Beerathamanahalli Hadi.
  • Still, the worst is over now. It's onwards and upwards for this society dwelling mother fucker. 
  • Stayed up until 1am with Simone talking about well, everything. I am growing awfully fond of this girl, no-one has ever made me laugh so hard in a single evening. feeling alive. 

The Great India Blog: Part IV - A New Hope

It's that time again where I sit down and dig out some memories from my Indian adventure from my journal. I'll try to get as much out in this one as I can. I'm running out of photographs as well so I'll let the words do most of the talking on this one but if I find any good snaps I'll certainly include them. Enjoy!

17/03/2014

  • Today was an early start with lots of work, little to write about.
  • Finished 3 toilets with the roof on and all. Sweetly satisfying day of hard graft and I'm not that sleepy!
  • Finished 50 Shades of Grey. No comment. 
18/03/2014
  • More work again. Collie, Ragu and I are in a team with the grumpy mason who made team members cry. No tears yet. 
  • Our delivery man just showed up with so much food, Chicken Biryani. Beautiful.
  • They kept piling it on to our plates when we weren't looking. I am well fed and incredibly grateful. Yasin is a top bloke!
  • Nap time, listening to In Sorte Diaboli by Dimmu Borgir. Cracking album. 
  • I'm more exhausted than usual today, my joints are stiff and beaten.
    Pretty chilled afternoon, some of the locals offered to help the mason so me and collie sat in our shower cubicle and smoked. 
19/03/2014
  • Another early start for hard work but we discovered that the asbestos sheets had not been scrubbed so we couldn't work until the afternoon. Our masons started to get competitive to see who could finish first, it was hilarious, our team finished minutes ahead.
  • A grand day, relading evening until some older kids started hasling me, they taught me a kannada song and I tried to teach them the theme tune to the Fresh Prince. 
  • They couldn't pronounce 'Philadelphia' so I gave up and went to bed. 
  • Oh and I learned a swearword today, it means shut your anus. 
20/03/2014
  • Last day of work and they gave me a day off! SWEEET!
  • Baked a cake to celebrate the end of phase 2. Not much is happening, just packing and then bed. 
21/03/2014
  • Early start to return to Fieldbase. It was another joyous bus journey with loud kannada music and dancing.... and me daydreaming out of the window. 
  • Back at fieldbase we met a guy who had been talked about by some of the other teams. I had heard many stories and wished to never meet him but I did. The stories were true, never have I met someone so ill fitting for this project. The reason he was at fieldbase was that he was being sent home for breaking the code of conduct. He threatened one of the senior staff with a knife. Good move. Good riddance.
  • That aside, it is fantastic to see everyone together again. 
  • Had a letter from my mum today. It was an absolute delight to read, got a little emotional but I will be home soon. I really can't wait to see everyone again, perhaps I'm thinking about it a little too much. 
  • Today is mainly training and tomorrow we return to Mysore for the day, really can't wait to try out the rooftop restaurant that Ben talked about. I quite fancy an ice cold Pepsi.
22/03/2014
  • Today was one of the best days so far, normally I'm not that phased by going to Mysore but I really felt like I was a part of this crazy city and I was/am happy. 
  • We took a rickshaw to a supermarket to stock up on essentials. It was terrifying. No doors, close to the ground and practically going the wrong way around a roundabout. I survived though. We walked up to the legendary rooftop restaurant that I had been raving on about for 2 months. Thank you, Ben. The food was incredible. We all toasted our chilled pepsis to Ben and ate and talked for a good hour. 
  • Next was the market. I was overwhelmed by how crazy it was, people everywhere down these little streets with so many colours and smells with every step you take. I was taken to an oil and incense shop and show behind the scenes by a sweet old man, he even let me try to roll my own incense. I was dreadful and made a complete mess.
    Bought some fragrance called poison. It didn't smell that great but I like the name. He threw in some free incense sticks. What a guy.  
For the first time, this is where I miss a few days in my journal. My next entry is very important which was 4 days later on the 26th. I will enter this into an entirely new blog post as it is quite lengthy and there's a lot going on. So I'll leave this one here for now. Check the next post to follow on the story!