Wednesday, 9 January 2013

"Sainji Welcomes You Whole Heartedly"

The main 'point' of my time in India is to volunteer in a school with Flo in a tiny village nestled beautifully in the foothills of the Himalayas called "Sainji" - and we arrived this morning. This village could not have been further away from home, and truth be told I could not have fallen any more in love with it than I did. The houses were all painted a wide array of colours that shined in the sunshine, and irrigation ditches from the fields ran parallel to the cupboard like streets between the houses and rooms. The terraced fields carved their way into the mountainside and walking into the village, complete with corn hanging from every veranda and the friendliest villagers you've ever met, it felt almost unreal.

That there could be such a pocket of time and Garwahli culture in such a fantastic place. Flo and I have a lovely room to share with intermittent electricity and heating which we adored, provided by Lori and Kunwar - our contact in the village through a teacher at our high school. Their hospitality cannot be praised enough and I am still so thankful that we are having such a 'real' experience - complete with 3 day long powercuts and Himalayan storms. The weather is surprisingly cold (I say surprisingly only because I stupidly bypassed the fact that we were going to, you know, the Himalayas, and packed mostly summer clothes...) but with beautiful sunshine, and every morning waking up to this view is just such a tragedy...

The view from our veranda. I couldn't relish the fact that this is where we brush our teeth more.
Point proven.
Sainji has a population of 400, with almost half of the village living under the poverty line. Despite all the fantastic work that has been poured into the village, a few of the houses still don't have adequate sanitation. Our time in the village has already been a real eye-opener, especially as we were working so closely with the kids of Sainji and the surrounding villages at the GEMs school where we taught.

It wasn't experiencing India and retreating into luxury or our western lives, for me it was living and working in Sainji as I would have liked. And the experience has been just invaluable, I wish my words could do it justice. Farming was the main income of the village, and the hand-to-mouth existence of growing and consuming your own crops, I found particularly interesting and contrasting to home as it's not something I experience. You need flour? Go to Tescos and buy it, of course! But in Sainji, if you needed flour then grow corn, dry it out for a long period of time, grind it, and then you have flour! (And yummy flour at that...)

Our room, complete with books and biscuits galore! The combination of these and my headtorch meant that even the longest powercut could still be enjoyable.
The village temples (2/3 of them)

Cricket was a huge huge huge hit among the kids at GEMs and the villagers themselves, and shamefully, I came back from India still not understanding the rules, and still not being able to play...

Whilst in Sainji, Flo and I both have taken full advantage of the inexpense of tailoring and material, and while I got a simple Kurta suit tailored, Flo chose to have the Garwahli traditional dress tailored, which she looked beautiful in! Having babysat her Gargara for a few weeks I am very the older women of the village loved it! Sainji is already an excellent experience, I cannot do it justice - it was just perfect. Fun. Relaxing. And beautiful.

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