Yesterday was Martin’s last day at R.O.S.E. Martin is a fourth-time volunteer and a British army veteran who is travelling around India for two months. Each time he visits India he makes it a point to stop by here for at least a couple of weeks. The family affectionately calls him “Uncle” and it’s obvious how much they love him. Being the only other volunteer on the farm, I’ve also grown quite fond him; the way I imagine new prison inmates become good friends quickly.
Martin is a self-proclaimed “Crazy Irish”. And I believe him (kidding). He’s travelling in India carrying an electric kettle and an iron in his bag. He’s addicted to tea. The iron also has an explanation. He says he likes to be presentable in case someone invites him to tea. Anyway, now he’s on his way to Sri Lanka now to enjoy the “beaches and beers” 🙂
Jokes aside, Martin has been of tremendous help to R.O.S.E. Last year, Jeevan had an unfortunate experience with a UK based volunteer placement company. The company sent several dozen students and volunteers to Kanda but withheld funds from R.O.S.E. Jeevan went into debt by taking out loans to host and feed the volunteers, and also pay for projects so that the volunteers leave with a meaningful experience. Donations and part of the hosting-fees are what’s used to buy material for construction projects to benefit the community – which also provides travelers a learning opportunity.
Martin, a UK customs officer, used his clout and knowledge of UK exploitation laws to raise a complaint against the company. Although it’s still in process, it looks like he will be able to get Jeevan his money back. Martin’s also generously donated used computers, used electronics and school supplies over the years. To me, he’s been a wonderful guide because he knows the history here he has a solid understanding of what’s been going on and what are gaps need to be filled. Most importantly, he’s able to articulate it in a way that can easily be lost in translation in India.
For example, the trademark Indian head wobble has multiple meanings causing much confusion to innocent foreigners. A wobble of the head can mean many things, including the following:
- thank you
- you’re welcome
- I acknowledge your presence
- yes of course, you can sit in the empty seat next to me
- I don’t understand what you’re saying but I will silently bob my head until you leave me in peace
You can play a game of “price is right” and take a guess at the closet answer, but only the said head-wobbler has the key. And to make things worse, it is highly contagious! The longer I stay here the more in danger I am of contracting the ambiguous Indian-head-wobbeling-virus. But this isn’t the only cultural quirk. Other common responses to a question can be: “yes, it’s same, same but different” and, “okay, okay, no problem”…but…but, I was asking a question!
Anyway, I digress. Martin’s been helpful by providing me with answers that would have taken me weeks to arrive at. So thanks to him, my work’s cut out for me and I can focus on being productive (unlike the day when I tried to teach a class of three to seven year olds).
Today, I went to the town of Bageshwar to see Jeevan receive an award for ‘Progressive Livestock Farmer’ (Kishan Bhushan) in the district. Jeevan’s been proactively implementing improvements to micro-dairy (milk production), poultry, goat-rearing, caring for pets, and grass production. He’s also successfully adopted a new technology to artificial inseminate new and improved breeds of dairy cows. He also provides a balanced feed to animals, and uses improved medical technologies to maintain a healthy livestock. He’s also constructed a separate area for the cattle to ensure safe and sanitary drinking water is available, and an environment that is clean and peaceful (i.e. no noise and good flooring that doesn’t flood during monsoon season). With this award he is “officially” able to conduct workshops to teach and educate the locals by example.
And here are some examples of super cuteness!