India wasn’t even on my travel list… but here I was living with an Indian family in a remote tribal village, no electricity, no running water and sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor! The idea to go India for me was crazy considering I don’t eat rice and I don’t like curry!! I’m more of a glampacker than a backpacker so how did I get here ? I was in NZ at the time, then one thing led to another and here I was volunteering for Yearoutindia at a tribal settlement with a real king in the western ghat mountain of South India....building toilets!
On the first day, the project coordinator gave an induction, handed me a sheet with pictures of dangerous snakes and what to do if you get bitten…. Hello…. Why am I here ? The next few days were great, meeting the king, locals and basically getting stuck in, from buying materials, digging the foundations, sifting sand, carrying bricks and bags of sand on your head to bricklaying and skimming!
It wasn’t long before the mannan gave me my tribal name “Perri chi”, which means chief woman – was this a refection on me?! I guess the cultural difference was the hardest for me to adapt to, I thought these guys were lazy as there was work to be done and whenever I’d mention it, I was told ‘Indian time… Indian time! It was apparent that things happened at their own pace here, if something takes longer the better for them! I guess on reflection, if the most qualified mason is only getting paid £3.50 for a whole day’s back breaking work; it puts things into perspective.
The most memorable experience was probably the only time I’ll wash my hair in the rain! The heavens had opened… everyone was scurrying around placing bowls, pans, bottles; anything that could collect water… rain water was precious, something you take for granted.
Daylight hours were closing in and darkness from the surrounding forest was upon us… still locked out of my room, and the thought of a bucket shower in the dark with just a torch was a no go… suddenly the idea came to me why not utilise the monsoon torrent which was pouring from the roof of the house everywhere… that was it. I borrowed some shampoo and hey presto… just stuck my head over the side.. and proceeded to wash my hair… what a unique experience to be showering in the rain!
I guess most would say I am a world traveler… I’ve been to more than just a few places, but my unique experience of volunteering in a tribal village in the western ghat mountains of India with YearoutIndia on a sanitation project building toilets is one that I will remember and cherish, it’s got to be up there in my top 5 once in a lifetime experiences!! One thing though… with the basic of lifestyles…the mannan people seem happy with true friendship, love and a community spirit. With the west’s focus on materialism and comfort, its refreshing to see happiness without a price tag attached to it...they say the best things in life are free and I have to totally agree!