Friday, October 8, 2010

Back home

My plane landed on Monday evening. Things still feel a bit of a blur three days on but I’m starting to find me feet. I was expecting a culture shock, especially moving back to Cambridge so quickly (I had to be back and signed in on Tuesday), and I haven’t really had much time yet to sit and work out my thoughts about the whole experience. Hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things soon.

The last week of work was a bit manic but I managed to get everything finished and tied up on the India side: The next designs have been passed on to the workshops and are currently being made (that is, the second prototype of the de-husker which we showed to the farmers and the fire-feeder); the head of mechanical engineering is in place to continue discussions with the workshops and my desk is clear. I still need to finish the handover document and some other bits and pieces but there’s no rush for those so I’ll do that from here and email them across.

Both of the workshops had promised they would finish making the prototypes of the other de-husker designs by my last morning in Ujire and I had a fantasy that everything would come to a perfect close as I tested them both and got to see my designs in action before disappearing into the sunset. Unfortunately this is India and so neither of workshops had finished. I’m pretty sure by now that neither of these designs would have been as effective as the one which we showed to the farmers, but we decided to carry them to completion just in case and as useful demonstration models for visitors to the lab and future interns.

             Just needed a slot cut in the bottom and some mesh put over it

             So nearly there...

There are still quite a few bits and pieces of work that I can help SELCO with while in the UK so I’m planning to stay in touch and do as much as I have time for. I may try to find some other people to get involved and perhaps set up some kind of society within the engineering department but that will depend on what sort of work there is and how well the link works.

On Thursday I decided to head to Anand’s farm to write the handover document. The site, in the middle of the jungle and over half an hour’s walk from the main road, was the perfect place to get away from distractions and get into nature for one last time. In the evening I ended up going back with one of the farm workers and spending the night with him. Despite having seen so much of the rural lifestyle, it was enlightening to spend a whole evening with a family.

Some of the guys I’ve become friendly with at the hostel are organising an event called ‘joy of giving’, where they encourage people to give things they don’t need and then sell them to raise money for a local ‘orphanage’. I’m not quite sure how much of an orphanage it actually is but as far as I could gather there are at least some orphans there and the rest are from pretty lowly backgrounds. And the hostel guys obviously think it’s a cause worth supporting. We paid them a visit and ended up getting put in front of the kids to lead an impromptu assembly! It was a bit chaotic but we played a few little games and did some dancing and I ended up playing a bit of guitar, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. I was amazed at how well equipped the state-funded institution was considering some of the photos I’ve seen of orphanages in these kind of places. I sort of feel that whatever money the guys manage to raise won’t be much compared with what the government contributes but I hope that the gesture will mean a lot to the kids and show them that there are people on the outside who care.

And for one last time, a few more photos:

             The view from the farm

             One of the leeches I managed to pick up in the jungle

             This woman spent some of the evening making 'beedies', a kind of local
             cigarette. Each one requires her to cut out the rolling paper from a leaf,
             fill it with tobacco and roll it, tie it up with thread and then fold the ends
             in in a funny way to keep the tobacco in. She gets 70 rupees (about a
             pound) for every 1000 of these she makes.

             Guess which one's driving the jeep (clue - he's hanging out the door)

             The sleeper bus on the way to Bangalore

             Rhitu works for the BBC and she's making a radio programme about
             development and particularly SELCO's approach so she wanted to
             interview me while I was in Bangalore

             I arrived in India in the middle of the monsoon while the rice was being
             planted out in the fields. It feels like a nice end to my trip to be leaving
             just as the rice is ready to be harvested.