Saturday, 19 February 2011

We're here!

It's strange to be back.  It's been three years since I was last here, and there is so much familiar to me, the noises, crazy chaos and the smells! Yet so much has changed.  The airport is unrecognizable! To be fair both previous arrivals were at night and my last trip here I arrived at 2am, so a noon arrival was a change. There is a strangeness to arriving in any new city late at night, and I have recollections of being hit by the air pollution and swirling dust as it was bounced off the car headlights. Even so, the airport could now be any airport I fly into on a regular basis. (Not so previously) Wide open (carpeted) corridors and a large and organized customs halls.  So tales of the chaos that met me the last time were no longer true. Also the area outside the airport is now a tar road and there are good parking spots, so much change from the outset. Even the journey in to the city shows signs of change, with lots of construction on either side of a wide and open highway.  A lot of the work was done for the Commonwealth Games and I'm sure the difference to the arriving teams and spectators must have been really good.  There are still signs advertizing the games, so it must have been very bright and festive at the time.

The YWCA, where we're staying is just the same, and I'm transported back to my first trip.  The risk of course is to be too familiar with  the area and not to be as alert, but it's great to be with the team. Aah, and there is the same dodgy looking internet cafe, but I'm using the computer in the little lobby, which does not seem to have the same traffic, and appears to be a little more reliable.  Time will tell.

Today, our first full day here had two goals, one to meet the team leaders we'll be working with next week and the second was to get a few outfits for the week.  We wear the traditional Salwaar Kameeze when we visit the amilies in the slums, so spent the afternoon in a local market shopping. I must say to the horror of the guys with us, who managed to get their shopping done in moments and then were ready to find a telly to watch the cricket.  Instead had to hang about watching the street dogs and fending off hawkers.

We spent this morning at the main Asha polyclinic hearing about all they do and the programs they run. The biggest impact on me is the amazing progress they're making with the education programs.  So Asha's initial goal is the medical program and the clinics, which grew to the women's programs and the children's programs.  They work with the men and the elderly, and have financial schemes.  All these to continue to work with improving the conditions and lives of the urban poor. Yet the biggest impact to the slum dwellers is the education program. They were just starting this three years ago when I came out to teach here, but this has grown and the now have the goal of getting 5000 slum children through college education in the next 5 years!  An enormous challenge, but hearing the progress they have made to date, I'm certain they'll reach this goal. It's amazing.

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