Monday, October 17, 2011

Settling in

Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last update. –Expect the next one a bit sooner!

I have learnt a lot about Indian bureaucracy since my last post. Despite the many thrills and excitements of being back in India, my first week was largely overshadowed by a gradual realisation that registering with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office isn’t very straightforward. I optimistically turned up for my first visit with each of the 5 articles requested on their website neatly prepared and after 3 hours of waiting in line, I was casually sent away with a much longer and rather different checklist. I didn’t have a clue what most of the things on the list where so it was an absolute miracle (like actually) when I met Nickson, a friend of David’s (the one I miraculously ended up staying with) who works for an organisation which specialises in helping foreigners get through this process. He’s an absolute legend and helped me over the following week or so to put together a 41 page booklet with everything I needed, including one form printed on “non-judicial stamp paper” and another which needed to be taken to a separate department to get officiated. Anyway, everything came together in the end and I managed to officially register on the final day of the two week deadline!

My unexpected stay in Bangalore was frustrating at times but it was really nice to spend time with David and Nickson and get to know a load of their other friends. It feels like I’ve got something of a friendship and fellowship base there which is great to have for when end up visiting in the future. I also got to see a load of the sights, visit some nice bars and restaurants and even got to shop for a new acoustic guitar.

I caught the eight hour night-bus to Ujire as soon as my registration went through and I’ve been really enjoying its relative tranquillity. Ujire is the small town where I spent last summer, set in the middle of the jungle covered Western Ghats and about two hours from the coast. There have actually been quite a few changes since I was last here, the most noteworthy of which are that the college where my office is based now has a canteen which serves good food(!) and there are now two places which serve meat and alcohol (as opposed to one last year) and one of them isn’t dingy and unhygienic. My accommodation is also a big improvement on last year. I’m currently staying in the ‘staff quarters’ in a two bedroom apartment with Tommy. We have a kitchen, dining area, living room, two balconies and two bathrooms (although only one bathroom has hot water and a western style toilet..). I may move out to an actual house at some point but for now this place is ideal and very near to work. I’m gradually trying to build up some kind of routine and settle into things. Haven’t yet managed to join a cricket team but I’ve made it along to the local gym a couple of times (much to the apparent amusement of the others members) and I may try to start up Ujire's first rugby club sometime soon.

On my first morning here I went on a trek with Tommy up Gadaka, a nearby hill with a ruined fort at the top. The views of the surrounding landscape were a spectacular reminder of the beauty and remoteness of this place and an unbeatable introduction to my new home.

I got stuck into work quite quickly and already feel like things are moving. It’s the rice harvest season at the moment and we’re hoping to test out our mechanical thresher (removes the grains of paddy from the grassy stalks) against some of the traditional hand threshing methods and get some ideas for design improvements so we’re planning to visit several farms in the next couple of weeks and have already tried it out at one.

             Enjoying a burger (I was surprised to find a place that served real beef!) with
             David and Jason

             The view from Gadaka

             Trying out the thresher

                            One of the farm workers demonstrating a new harvesting
                            machine that I might be investigating more

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