Actually, not rural ready…
As we boarded the plane to leave Delhi behind, I couldn’t help feel a spark. For so many years I had been behind a desk doing work that I knew was not where I should be, and here I was about to fly to rural India to work with tribal people who are tremendously removed from what my life has been so far. Being in Delhi had afforded us a good transition phase as we had access to anything we needed, from food to internet to air-conditioning. I have no doubt in my mind that Orissa is going to be much, much different.
We still have no real understanding of our project’s aim and I worry about how much time will pass before that becomes clearer. We need to be sure of what we’re doing if we are going to pull the right information in the field and not having a focused agenda may lead to unnecessary inquiries. Are we looking at Gram Vikas’s efficiency? Are we going to assess the impact of the water and sanitation on factors that may not be obvious or at least less well understood (of course, improved water and sanitation would promote a more healthy environment, but how does it directly contribute to pushing folks out of poverty, create gender and caste equality, etc)? Are we here to document successes of the Gram Vikas model, look for holes that could be filled, and then relate these practices to India’s national plan?
We’re going to make a play for leaving on the 29th so that we can have a day or so to meet with folks in Bhubaneswar. I hope we make the most of the short time we have here.
We spent about 2 hours or more after landing trying to get cell phones. After that, we had a great meal that only cost us about $4 including tip…total. The same meal in Delhi would have probably been at least $4 each if not more. Amazing what a 2 hour trip can lead you to. Then we began our 4 hour journey to the Gram Vikas headquarters. I was floored by the differences between here and Delhi. You can see the lack of development all around and while the view was amazing and the air the freshest I’ve ever smelt in India, it was hard to feel comfortable. Maybe that feeling will change over the next few weeks.
We got to the Gram Vikas headquarters and it seemed like a very large compound (200 acres we were later told). All along, the four of us had thought we would be staying in their dorms, but when our driver pulled up to a small house, we all got pretty excited. Yes…we have our own house here: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a common area, and even a terrace! The three girls are in one room and it’s me by my lonesome in the other. The area is beautiful and we are surrounded by trees, it sort of feels like summer camp. The mess hall takes a few minutes to walk to and dinner was good. Mr. Jacob is the first person we have met here, and I am not sure of his responsibility. I think he is in charge of taking care of guests.
Tomorrow should be interested. We are supposed to meet our contact, Chitra, and hopefully get started. It’s been a long day…