A stay by the sea-side

Day 7 – 5 March 2009

South India here we come – A stay by the sea-side

I was up really early today – I had to pack my baggage, have breakfast, pay my bill, say goodbye to some hotel staff that had been really nice to me and leave Chennai for our next destination. We have a seven hour drive – and we will be stopping en route at a project mid distance. I paid my bill to the hotel – which is higher than most people’s in our group – but then I started two days earlier and spent more money on entertaining and leisure pursuits. Every penny / rupee has been well spent and I am grateful to settle my account.

We left in a small coach – with good air conditioning – even if the suspension was hard and the seats lumpy. Two hours later we stopped at the Grassroots Project in Kancheepuram District. This is a post Tsunami Project aimed at the Fisher Folk that was badly affected by the disaster. The aims of the Project were to form a Labour Union / Trade body in this un-organised community; to offer awareness training, form co-op societies, form a Development Council for the village(s), Establish trading and marketing programmes – including pickle making, Developing children’s rights and activity centres, and to establish educational learning centres. There are now 21 staff members with 80 volunteers. Nearly 3000 beneficiaries have received help through the project’s programmes.

In a question and answer questions most of the questions to us from the local groups were about alcohol abuse and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Simply speaking this group were desperate for help and assistance in organising treatment and support systems. I am certain that BB will speak with their leaders and hopefully something positive can arise from our meeting.

We were back on the coach after about three hours – having had a thoroughly good lunch. The hospitality we have received at every project has been quite out of this world. People who have so little have given us so much. The journey to our next destination will take another three to four hours – a little longer than I had anticipated. But en route I saw my first Indian elephant. It seems it was a working animal – and it was bathing in a river – the driver did not stop – bit I was really grateful for this siting.

We stopped again two hours later to look at a small temple and a cuppa coffee (or in my case diet coke). Back on the bus for another two hours … Then our next hotel – The Bungalow on the Beach 31 Km from Nagapattinam.

This hotel was just full of style – quite opposite to the traditional business hotel we had occupied in Chennai. The influence of the Danes – who landed here in 1706 was apparent. The street in which we are located has about five churches and three teacher training colleges and one convent in addition to a couple of local schools.

I went for a quick walk prior to our late evening meal. The weather is still very hot – and I am so glad that my bedroom has air conditioning. Most of the public areas of the hotel do not have this amenity. There are regular power cuts (three times an hour – but they only last a few seconds. There is no Internet in the bedrooms – which means my ability to Skype has ceased. Thank heavens I can enjoy the independence of using my own mobile telephone. If I had been using my own UK phone I would probably have needed to take out another mortgage to meet the roaming charges. I was in bed by 11.00 pm and off to sleep – with the noisy air conditioning working all night – and I didn’t even notice it!

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