Sunday, September 2, 2007

Day 1 - Travelling to 'Ban' town

I arrived in Riverland, and took a bus for 6 hours from the capitol city to 'Chit' city where I met a local Leader. From there, we travelled about 3 more hours by taxi to 'Ban' town.

Police Checkpoint: Of course we had to go through some police checkpoints along the way, since foreigners aren't usually allowed in these areas. At the first one, we got out of car, I signed my name, gave my passport number visa number, date of entry, sponsoring organization on three different sheets. KL (The national worker who was with me) had taken permission previously, but still there seemed to be some hassle. Amazingly, there was actually a paper in that little hut there on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere that had my name and passport number on it that had somehow gotten there prior to us arriving there – impressive!

There were two guards, but quickly there were about 4-5 other men who came for the show. There was a large gun chained to the hut. Many busses passed by and were checked in about 5 minutes. But we waited and waited. Apparently, they (The guards) had to check with someone higher up and wait for his approval for us to continue on. We waited about 45 minutes- in the dark with mosquitoes biting.

The guards asked KL, “what kind of food does she eat? Does she eat rice/daal like we do?” Amazingly, I could actually understand that this is what they were asking- although their language is very different from Kahani/Hindi. The asked what kind of teacher I was, and where.

When I said ‘Delaware’ they were like, “what?” And tried 4-5 times to pronounce the name. Later, I learned Delaware is similar to a Muslim name, so they weren’t sure if my school in America was named after a Mmuslim or not. All in all, they were fairly nice to us. They told us we needed to go to the police station when we got to town. KL said he hadn’t done this before and wanted to know why it was necessary. They said that due to another kidnapping about 20 days earlier in another district, this was the new rule.

Police Station: We went to the police station, and the head guy said, “we need to escort you wherever you want to go.” KL wasn’t so sure about this and said maybe it wasn’t necessary. The man said, in English, “No, this is my district, and if she is in my district, then she is my responsibility, her safety is my responsibility- I will send forces with you.” He then said we needed to hire a van to take the ‘forces’ (police) with us. KL said we would be going by motorbike and we didn’t have money to pay for a van just for the police. The police said that was fine, they would take care of it then. We will see if indeed they do come.

House: The house where I am staying at the moment in Ban town, is concrete with thatched roofs, and then sheet metal on top of that. Their kitchen is are wooden slabs (you can see the ground below it). It is held up with wooden poles, and while I was in it, I felt once in a while like I might just fall right through. The water is held in a blank tank, but also in a concrete water holding thing. There is a ½ foot concrete trench around the house for water to flow through. It’s nice you can brush your teeth anywhere outside the house and at any point you have the sink to spit in (i.e. the trench). They said they boil the water for drinking- so that’s good. But still bathing and brushing teeth with this other rain water or whatever it is makes me wonder just how clean stuff is here. But then again, our tanks in "Kahan" have about 1 inch of mud on the bottom, so how clean is that? At least I can see the bottom of this concrete tank!

Three times Helen (the daughter of the family here who can speak English) has asked if I want to bath. I’ve decided in spite of the sweat, I think I’ll wait one day. However, I think it’s pretty gross to them that I haven’t bathed since I got there last night. All well, we’ll see. Maybe tonight I’ll bathe. Though once in Almora, a phone call came at night, and I missed it. Later, I called the person back, and told them I had been taking a bath. They were like “what? At this time of day?” – in other words, “are you crazy, why in the world would you ever take a bath after 7pm?” Anyway, Helen showed me I can bath inside (which is actually still outside- though surrounded with concrete wall, and some kind of roof), or outside, right next to the house. It think I’ll choose the inside option.

Mosquito net: KL asked if I had malaria medicine. I said I did in India, but it had expired and I never had needed it there. He was like, “you’ll probably be okay.” I said, “do I need it?” He said, “no, probably not…” He said we could get some in Ban town if necessary, but since I’d use a mosquito net at night it should be fine. So, my bed has a mosquito net on it…pretty nice…it’s like a see-through cave. It hinders the air from the fan a bit, but all well.

The bed is somewhat soft. I slept amazingly well…woke up at 5:30, went to the bathroom (which is like a little trek through the jungle- and there is a yellow-stripped spider outside the door ), but otherwise, it is concrete, there is water available, and it doesn’t stink too bad. I then went back to sleep and slept until about 8. I also slept for a few hours on the bus too. I don’t know why, but I feel extremely tired these days. I think it is the heat, and perhaps trying to understand a language, that has about 2 words similar to Hindi/Kahani, but otherwise is completely different. I keep telling myself, “stop straining yourself, you don’t need to understand…” – but it’s hard. I just want to learn it today, so I can communicate and understand. I got some phrases from Helen, so that’s been fun.

Breakfast: omelet and chapatti (moida flour). Their chapattis are made from a different type of flour. It’s more like a flour tortilla than a chapatti. But very good, very soft. I liked it a lot. So far, I’ve not felt sick…occasionally my head hurts, I feel like I’m a bit dehydrated…

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