So I had a lovely few days with the boys. There was some time with the French group of tourists we had met in Khajuraho and who also conveniently moved on to Varanasi the same evening as we did, and there was the Ganga bath (for the boys, not me!), and eating in the German Bakery, ha. Vijay left yesterday afternoon, so I have moved back to my homely guesthouse now, where I lived in September 2008. I have a different room on the same rooftop. It is smaller and I don't have a bathroom in it, but for the first time in India I have a room with shelved carved within the stone-walls, those very Indian shelves I love so much. That's why I chose the room, even. The bathroom and toilet are outside a bit like in the Khajuraho house. There are many people in the guesthouse, because it is touristic season. I haven't met them all but there is at least a French man, an American man and an Australian man. Most guests learn Indian music; I've already heard my neighbour practising on the sitar, the American guy downstairs playing the sarangi, and at least two people play the tabla. It makes a nice atmosphere. I haven't practised the violin yet, but I met my teacher again two days ago. It was lovely to see him again, and he was happy that I had remembered to bring him Belgium nut chocolate!
The day after we arrived, we also visited the Bhasha Bharati Hindi centre where I was booked in to start on 16 February for a month. It was a big house owned by the teachers who belong to the Brahmin (highest) caste. But they were not friendly, almost cold, and they wanted a RIDICULOUS amount of money. Even the young woman I met who had almost completed two months was not convinced at all that it had been worth the money. I asked her many questions about how she had found the centre, and she told me that even though she had lived in the teachers' family, outside of the Hindi classes she hadn't mixed with them at all. Which loses the point if you ask me – I wanted to live in a family to be immersed in it. If I won't mix with them there is no point and I might as well return to my cheap, lovely guesthouse, and rent a Hindi teacher. I have met one already, whose mobile phone I found on a forum on the Internet – and from the reference I had read he was a remarkable teacher too. I have met him once with Vijay, we have liked him both, and I will have my first class this afternoon.
I also visited Bal Ashram, again with Vijay who always likes to visit places with me before I commit to them, to make sure that they are safe and reliable. But we always have the same impressions on people, which makes me feel even safer. Bal Ashram is an orphanage located along the Ganges on a Ghat at the other end of Varanasi. I know now that he was established in 2001 by Baba Ji, a disciple of Aghoreshwar Bhagwan Ram, who lives three months there and the rest of the year in his associated orphanage in California. Most volunteers here come from America or Italy. I hadn't initially thought I would work there because of the unbearable heat in Spring season, but I wanted to visit the place for reference. We were showed round the place by a lovely man, and well, apart from the heat problem, I really love the place. It is quiet and beautiful and clean and it looks well-organised. And they “only” have 20 children in because they want to focus on making them good people (after a difficult, rough early life on the streets) which demands to to spend a lot personal time with them. With helping with homework, and caring, and activities and all other needed things, and a lot of love. Normally only volunteers who know Baba Ji can live within the ashram's walls. Otherwise you have to live outside and come in for work. But it seems inconvenient to do so, since the place is remotely located, so I asked whether, should I decide to work there, I could live in the ashram. So we were invited to meet Baba Ji. We sat in front of him on a rug, and started to talk a little. The first thing I said was “Mujhe kaam karna hai” - “I want to work”. We spoke about the skills I have and the work I can do. He offered us to drink chai. He didn't speak much, but he had kindness in his eyes, and soon he said that he would love to have me with “all these skills”. Before we left he offered us prasad (sweet). I will go again tomorrow to meet the people responsible for volunteers, to see in which areas I could work. The first two communities I visited in Rishikesh and Dehradun will not lead me anywhere now, but I have good hope for this one – despite the heat... but perhaps just for one month now I would cope...?
Since Vijay left I spent my time cleaning and setting up my room, which is lovely. And I did some more work on the website, and caught up with journal-writing. Last night I also met a fun English man, who will be here for two weeks. I am happy to be here.
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.