Thursday 28th July 

After a late night bus ride home from Pondicherry energy levels were low. We struggled through yet another egg and sweet toast breakfast. The higher standards had exams which meant that we to cancel and rebook lessons with lower standards which resulted in a lot of last minute planning. Today’s lessons included parachutes, colouring, dice games and music which were all successful.

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thumb_IMG_0247_1024The afternoon continued with lessons after once again a rice and curry themed meal. There was, however, a change in the colour, as we had a pea based curry! Then we practised our dance and singing for the end of trip show. Some of us went to recharge our batteries before another tiring evening of games and photos. On the way to the school one of the younger boys ran up holding something in his hands. This turned out to be a small chipmunk that he had found near the boys room. There was a small moment of panic before the boy reassured us that he was saving it and just moving it to a safer environment. After this dramatic saga playtime was seemingly cut short when the skies turned black and the thunder and lightning came along. Spirits weren’t dampened as we all ended up skipping back to the home.

The children ended up going for an early study which led us on to writing this masterpiece, watching the rain fall, listening to the claps of thunder and watching the big lightening strikes. Ms Johnson took this opportunity to remind us about tomorrow’s lessons that needed to be sorted so we congregated in the dining room to do so, we did however have to wait for the power to come back on. Before our evening meal we were invited into the dining area to watch a video that Raja had produced about the children’s home which included: the day in the life of a child that lives at the home, facts about the primary school and the secondary, the facilities that the children have at the home and the school and also the application process. We were also shown a collection of photos from the children’s home from over the years which was accompanied by a range of interesting music that we assume was chosen by Naveen. Tea was our usual curry dish with an element of surprise which was vegetable patties. We also had a pudding which was very different to our usual mango, we had an Indian style egg custard tart which received mixed reactions. We are now doing our final session of lesson planning for our last day of teaching tomorrow.

Lots of love to all,

Syd and Cara

Wednesday 27th July

Breakfast was different this morning… we wish! Today we took a break from teaching and took an excursion to shop for saris and kurtas in Pondicherry- a French influenced coastal town 2-3 hours drive away. We boarded the bus at 9.30 and as always anticipated a rather bumpy ride. The bumpy bus lived up to its name and we endured the usual high speed overtakes and undertakes; fewer stops to ask for directions today mind.
We knew we were approaching Pondicherry when the sound of horns rose and the traffic certainly got heavier.
thumb_IMG_0610_1024We decided to stop for lunch before exploring the town and Naveen (Raja’s son) stopped the bus at a restaurant he recommended. Before we could enter the restaurant Brett insisted on carrying out his routine inspection to ensure it passed the rigorous selection process consisting of only one question: IS THERE AIR CON? It had passed with flying colours and we entered the cool restaurant and enjoyed a selection of rice and curry dishes.
Following lunch we headed off to shop for our traditional dress and arrived at the 5 floor department store in the centre of Pondicherry. As soon as we stepped through the door, the spectrum of colourful saris captivated our eyes and the air conditioning throughout he store was an added bonus. Aided by Victoria and Amalie (the cook at Amala and Raja’s wife), the girls headed off to get lost in the sea of saris whilst Brett lead the guys to seek out our kurtas’. The 2 experiences could not have been more different; the guys enjoyed watching each other attempt to squeeze in and out of their tunics to decide on the size; meanwhile, the girls were in meltdown mode over choosing the right colour of fabric and navigating their way through the surprisingly complicated payment and collection system.

P1050604After we had all purchased our clothing, we split up into groups to explore Pondicherry for a couple of hours. After an hour and a half of looking for the seafront, a blessing on the head by Lakshmi the elephant and a wander through a lovely French garden, we finally reached the Bay of Bengal where we were met by a 4 metre statue of Ghandi and the rest of the group. We all enjoyed sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash heavily until the photo shoots with the locals began. We posed with babies and men by the dozen until we left to grab a cold drink at a restaurant down the promenade.
After our drink we walked to the meeting point to get on the bus; however the bus was not there due to a mix up and the prospect of walking any further did not go down so well. The bus would be ready at 8pm, meaning we had 2 hours to spare to explore more of the town. “Pondicherry by night” sounded like another one of Dutton’s tours – luckily this time there were no cows or lions to cause confusion. Brett ensured morale was kept high by stating that Pondicherry is “just like Scarborough” and that we should just “go with the flow.”
We decided to fill time with a trip to the bazaar and it is exactly what it says on the tin! Before even reaching the market we managed to become split up from Brett and 6 other students due to heaving streets and chaos in every direction. We carried on towards the market and on multiple occasions turned into chickens making mad dashes across 4 way junctions dodging tuk tuks and mopeds.
thumb_IMG_0615_1024After walking through an unassuming entrance we came across the bazaar. From bangles and bananas to spices and scarves, it was not for the claustrophobic. We finally escaped the market and made our way back to the meeting point just after 8. We were reunited with Brett and the others and boarded the bus back to Amala. During the journey we stopped off for a light supper in Cuddalore  – most of us favouring masala dhosa or garlic naan.
After a 3 hour bumpy ride, we arrived back at the home, looking forward to a great nights sleep.

– Elliot and Sophie

Tuesday 26th July

We started the day with, can you guess?

We then departed for lessons after breakfast in the blazing heat of yet another glorious day in India. Some of the more popular lessons of today included Mairi and Syd’s Beetle Drive which we were assured counted as a maths lesson. Benji and I delivered another fantastic photosynthesis lesson, of course. Cara, Sandra, Fiona, Tom and Benji had a difficult lesson sewing with standard 7 due to their lively personalities.

thumb_IMG_0590_1024After teaching the first steps were taken towards practice for our leaving show with dance rehearsals to Uptown Funk… let’s just say some of us need more work!

thumb_IMG_0607_1024We then returned to the rooms for a short rest before playtime. This was meant to be a time of ‘relaxation’, however, it did not turn out as such. Evidently, Jay and Tom’s rice servings had been too large as they went crashing to the floor, the frame of the bed splitting in two.

Playtime soon came around the corner after the bed fiasco. Many new games such as French skipping, badminton and bubbles featured in the playground today. As well as this, the first ever England VS India Cabada games were played. We will win next time, that’s a promise.

After playtime, Alice, Issi and myself (Jay) went on an impromptu errand running trip with The Big Boss himself. We were taken in his lovely 4X4 (with air con!!!) around Vriddhachallam performing some mysterious fruit deals. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the rest of the group were tirelessly sat waiting for our return in order to start their evening meal. There were less smiles than anticipated upon our return… Thankfully to soften the wait, the meal included our favourite chicken dish once again.

The day again ends sat outside sharing stories of the day, before a (hopefully good) nights sleep before our excursion to Pondicherry tomorrow.
Jay and Benji

Apologies for the lack of photos. We have no internet here and so are texting the blogs to Laura’s grandad Jef, who is very kindly posting them for us. We shall add photos as soon as we can.
Sandra, Fiona and Brett

Monday 25th July

thumb_IMG_0589_1024Monday we woke up after a decent night’s sleep even with the storm raging and frequent power cuts. (The day started with our usual breakfast of eggs and sweet toast). There was a wide variety of lessons taught during the day from dancing and music to the “24” challenge. For lunch we had a curry and an especially tasty potato dish, we also hit some of the highest temperatures of the trip so far with blue skies and a beating sun all day long.
Issi used her skills to spot another snake which was significantly bigger than the one in the shed yesterday. Thankfully it escaped  down a hole so we were spared it being mercilessly beaten to death by the children. We were taught the Tamil word for snake which is “bambu”.
Later a few of us decided to walk into the local village and visit the small shops selling essential groceries and out of date biscuits and drinks. After we had bought several bottles of Sprite, some chocolate bars and a number of other sweets for the equivalent of £3.50, we walked back to the home whilst being stared at in amazement by the locals.
After school finished, we walked with the children to play time and all of a sudden there was a loud squeal and a huge commotion kicked up. We were told that there had been a accident and so thought something serious, but apparently It was only the puppy and it was fine even after it had been hit by a car.
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During playtime we tried out some new equipment including badminton and French skipping, both of which went down well. We also resumed the “deathball ” matches and even the girls joined in. The children constantly ask us to take photos and selfies, especially with the presents we gave them.
Laura E, Jay,Benji and Laura S experienced the bus journey from school to the children’s homes in the surrounding villages; it was  interesting to see their very different  lifestyles.
After planning tomorrow’s lessons, the day ended with us all sitting outside, socialising and playing with the children in their evening free time.

Matt and Zak

Sunday 24th July

Today has been one of the hottest days so far, it has been less muggy and sunnier, a perfect day for washing clothes! We started the day with yoga with the local yoga teacher who has a degree in it (how strange)! We were told that it was meant to be relaxing, however we all thought it was more painful (not looking forward to the pain of getting up in the morning!) thumb_IMG_0469_1024After a bit of time out we gave the presents that we had brought to the children, who all sat in neat rows to receive them . Once they had all been opened, we showed them how to use their toys  if they didn’t understand.
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Once again a lovely curry for lunch….

After lunch the girls did T-shirt decorating with all of the girls from the home on the floor of their bedroom! We started off by fitting a t-shirt to each girl which proved harder than we thought as they were quite ‘fashion conscious!’ After that we handed out small bottles of fabric paint so that they could decorate them with flowers, hearts, dots and even having us sign their tops. They were very creative and came up with some fantastic designs. Now we’re just waiting over night for them to dry so they can wear them tomorrow.
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The boys played sports outside with the other children along with their new toys! These included different types of balls, throwing games, wearing ‘ice blocks’ (otherwise known as sunglasses) and lots of photos!

The loom bands came out during the afternoon, with lots of children wanting bracelets! It involved a lot of rubber bands, smiles and shouts of ‘auntie rubber bands!!’ We all made numerous amounts of bracelets, sharing them with everyone.

Later we gathered and began a giant game of keepy up. This included the bus driver and a member of the Amala warden team who also wanted to play. Meanwhile, a snake was discovered  in the building where some of the boys were playing so the bus driver and the boys’ warden tried to wrangle the snake, much to the amusement of the others. They managed to kill it with stones and a stick.

During tea there was a big storm which resulted in a power cut. With the lights out we sat under cover and  watched the storm progress, including incredible lightning strikes and frightening  thunder. The evening ended with a mad dash to rooms through the heavy rain.
Cara and Sophie

Saturday 23rd July

The Temples  By Tim and Jack
Today was the day of the temples, but first breakfast. We had fried egg and toast with sweet jam as well as some nice tea, who’d have guessed it? After our nutritional meal we embarked on the bone shaking, hour and a half long bus journey, after having a wee. Brett forgot his money belt so we had to stop for him, typical. Even though we all did have a wee before we left, someone who shall remain nameless managed to be bursting by the 30 minute mark.

thumb_IMG_0357_1024At the first destination, the tourist hot-spot of Pichavaram, we enjoyed a well deserved ice-cream, or two, or three. To our surprise we also witnessed a breathtaking view over the mangrove forest, holes in the ground for toilets and two other white people. We also experienced the first Indian paparazzi moment of the day; we were asked for pictures by random people, we’re pretty sure it was because we’re white.  

After another hour or so on the bus we arrived at the first temple in Chidambaram. We went through the east entrance, after handing in our footwear, and were blown away by the beautiful architecture. Tour guide Dutton took the lead but was soon replaced by a professional named Sarasavan, he could have been anywhere between the ages of 15 and 20. Sarasavan was very good and explained to us about the 108 dance moves which symbolise how often we breathe. We were listening intently but our feet were burning on the tiles of fire which paved the temple. After being ambushed some more by the famed paps, taking more pictures, selfies and following us around the temple, an old, angry man with a whistle encouraged us to leave, so we went to collect our shoes.

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We went to the ‘Ritz hotel’ for lunch. It was nice because there was air-con and one flushing toilet – the food was nice too. On top of this we were laughed at for eating with forks by the restaurant staff who then invited all their friends to watch as well; there’s nothing better than being watched while you eat.

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Back on the bus, half of the group disappeared behind seats for sleeps and were then woken by the beauty of the second temple. It is about 2000 years old and has an even longer name than the first. Shoes were taken again and we walked in, cameras blazing. We were greeted instantly by a giant golden cow’s bottom and the grand structure that was the temple. Tour guide Dutton was convinced the cow was a lion, it was not, it was a cow. The main temple was a kind of pyramid which included a corridor laced with statutes and a candlelit room with a larger statue inside. There were many outbuildings with more statues; Jack, issi and Laura S somehow managed to get involved with some sort of ceremony – Jack was convinced it was because he thanked a guy for turning on some lights, Issi wasn’t so sure. We then relaxed on the grass and listened to some traditional Indian music with a large sort of oboe, a drum and  a shrunti box (Zak was very excited). After taking a few more pictures with strangers and watching some parrots we headed back to Amala.

After tea, we did some study time with the children and ended the night with the Lord’s Prayer (‘the primary school prayer’) led by Zak. We then wrote this beautiful blog and went to bed.

Friday 22nd July

Breakfast was once again sweet toast and fried egg, everyone was too tired to speak after another hot and sticky night.

On the way to our first lessons, after breakfast, I noticed a small duckling which was happily following a chicken. This led me to think about the vast array of wildlife we have seen over the past few days. Today for example I have seen humming birds, lizards , chipmunks, goats and don’t mention the emu… which somehow managed to escape from its pen in the primary school playground!  I can tell you for certain emu wrangling wasn’t in the trip itinerary.  It seems that one of the students had let it out just so that they could chase it again. However it got a little out of hand… Ms Johnson approached a group of students and tried to calmly explain that they needed to help put it back in the pen. They were greeted by a sea of children all grabbing and pushing the poor bird until Elliot got it corned and it finally was pushed into its home. All before lunch.
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In the early evening we had a very interesting meeting with Raja A.K.A  Big Sir A.K.A The head of the orphanage. We were told the history of the orphanage and the struggle for funding and the heart wrenching stories of some of the children who live at Amala children’s home. We had a short break to have a kind of spicy bean pasty.

At play time there were many games being played including, skipping, rounders and frisbee, which might not have been the best game to play near trees, we thought,  just as we saw a very small child scrambling up a tree to collect it!

At the end of play time we returned to the home for the students daily study session. All was as usual until I saw Ms Johnson pacing out of one of the dorms yelling “WHERE ARE THE MOPS!!  WE NEED SERIOUS MOPS!!” My confusion was put to rest when I opened the door to the dorm and I was greeted by 2 inches of water spreading from our room into the corridor and the other rooms. “Flood! Flood!” The distant cry of Ms Johnson was followed by the other boys to clear the floor of our bags. Zak then arrived to ensure his favourite socks were not drenched. The girls and boys from the home ran in with dry grass brushes and pushed the water out of the door in record time. Luckily our bags were waterproof (thanks to Mountain Warehouse and The North Face) and the room had only light water damage to the walls. We live to see another day! – Elliot

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While the flooding was taking place Laura and I (Issi) went to join the girls for their evening study session. Expecting to be helping the little girls with their homework, however, we were sat down to have our hair plaited and given bindis. Laura was less lucky as a very old looking children’s make up kit was brought out much to the children’s excitement and Laura’s dismay. It was applied heavily on her – pink lipstick, eye shadow and purple blusher!

We are all looking forward to our trip ‪tomorrow‬ to see some temples.
Issi.