Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 6 - Arrival at Sooch Village

Today we checked out of the hotel in Rourkela and took the train to the Haiti station (Ranchi) on our way to Sooch Village in Hatia. At the Rourkela station, we again saw men, women and children living on the rail platform. A boy, probably 8, was begging for money. Both of his feet were turned upside down and inward and he was walking on the outside tops of his feet. Although there is no way of knowing for sure, many children seen begging that have physical deformities (burned, missing limbs, missing eyes, badly scarred) have been purposely injured in order to garner more sympathy from passer bys and thus generate more money for those who they report to and pass along their collections. It’ hard to imagine and even harder to look at.

The train system in India is extensive, connecting nearly every part of India. The view from the train is beautiful. Plush green rolling hills, rice patties, people working in the fields and kids playing. We pass villagers walking on small foot trails that meander seemingly aimlessly. A woman rides her bike through a field wearing her bright orange sari with a bail of hay strapped to her back. People are on the banks of the rivers, bathing, washing their clothes and their pots and pans. Our driver picked us up at the train station in Hatia for one of the more uncomfortable drives we have had. 45 minutes of dodging the now expected (cars, bikes, walkers, buses, trucks, motorcycles, goats, chickens, cows, water buffalo and children walking home from school). There were many near misses, which to the driver were most definitely just part of the drive. No wonder he makes the sign of the cross and blesses himself before he begins driving.

We stopped in Ranchi for a little shopping and lunch. I continued to be impressed that for the most part, those selling their wares on the streets do not bother us when we walk buy, even knowing that we likely have Western money, and a lot of it in comparison to them. Out of nowhere, we stumbled upon a Baskin Robbins. Throughout the trip, I have rarely seen Western influence whatsoever except for the occasional McDonald's in Delhi. Ice cream sure tasted good at that point. A scoop of Oreo and another of caramel cashew with hot fudge. Thanks for asking.

As we headed back to the car, a woman approached me with her wrapped infant in her hands and begged for money, saying she needed to feed her child. It’s another one of those situations that is very hard to look at.  It's hard to know for sure, but many woman like this are sent out to beg by someone else, possibly someone for whom she owes a debt. By offering her money, we are only feeding into the problem. This sort of site has been common throughout our travels.

As we headed out of town,we made another stop the to buy Dewali (pronounced deep-wali) lights and fireworks for tomorrow’s celebrations. We walked up to a stand selling fireworks. The boy, probably 12, was intrigued and probably a little confused by our presence. I started picking out the things we wanted to buy. The look on his face when he realized how much stuff we were going to buy was priceless: a grin from ear to ear. The dozen of other smaller children who had gathered looked on in amusement. We were again the center of attention as people gazed from across the street.

As we left the town of Hatia and Ranchi, we began to see the beautiful countryside we had seen from the train. The last 10-15 minutes of the drive was on dirt road, even further into the country. Finally, Sooch Village was upon us. Sooch is the model Miracle Foundation home. There are 20 separate homes. Eleven are currently being used with each housing no more than 10 children and a housemother. Each home has it’s own kitchen, bathrooms and dining/common area. The model is set up to resemble the way a family would typically live. There is an area for prayers and activities, cricket/futbol field, playground and several gardens including a vegetable garden. The Miracle Foundation hopes to build and modify each of their homes into this model and eventually, after any modifications or tweaks are made to the orphanage design, TMF will make the model available throughout the world as the standard orphanage model for others to emulate.

Sooch had to wire electricity from the main road into the countryside where the home is. There are electric poles running along the rough road about 2 kilometers to the home marked with “Sooch Village”. As is typical in India, the poles have been tapped/spliced into by the local villagers. Each pole has smaller runner wires running off of them where a local has climbed up the telephone pole and rigged a spliced wired running down to their home. Although not in the original plan I am sure, Sooch is helping bring electricity to the enitire village!

When we arrived, we introduced ourselves and gave Tootsie Rolls to the children, played futball (soccer to you) with the ball I brought them and taught them how to play Simon Says which they had never played. They never quite got the part about not doing what I say when I didn’t say “Simon Says”, they just imitated my every move (see the video link at the top right of the page "India Trip - Part 3"). We ran around until our sandals fell off playing “Bulldog”…a game the kids love where they all line up on one side of the huge field. A couple of us on the other side call out “Bulldog” and they all come racing to our side of the field. Or job is to run after them and catch them before they reach the other side. Those caught are now on our team. The last one that goes uncaught wins. The toe I likely broke our first day at Rourkela is still swollen and the top of my foot bruised. I’m limping around and can’t run as fast as I would like but it’s not going to slow me down. I’ll deal with it when I get back to states. The opportunity to run around with these kids won’t come again soon and the look on their faces when you chase after them is more than worth it.

It was then time for snack and evening prayers. Tonight was movie night. The Little Mermaid had 150 children entranced. The lights would sometimes turn off for several minutes, as is common here, before the generator was cranked up. As the movie started over at the beginning, you would have never known that the children had not just watched the same first 15 minutes.

8pm was dinner then time to retire.

It’s very peaceful here. I could see the belt of the Milky Way through the thousands of stars last night as I tried to keep my eyes open.

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