I’m sure it hasn’t been this busy…..

Sorry about how long it has been since the last post- we’ve been so very busy that I have chosen the highlights.

On Wednesday 14th six of us were guests of honour at the main YMCA Branch called Esplanade for an Independence Eve Dinner, which also included a prize draw. We were dressed up in our smart Indian clothes, which does look amusing! The speeches were short, and included several references to us- we were sitting at the front in special chairs. We were then presented with gifts and many photos were taken. The meal was a meat Biryani, which was delicious!

Independence Day was very strange and exciting. Liv and I were honoured guests at the Tondiarpet Community Centre (which Chennai Challenge has funded an extention and new roof). After having the (many!) kids sing the national anthem I was invited to open the flag of India on the flagpole. Afterwards Liv and I gave ‘thanks and greetings from the UK’, received a pashmina scarf each, and handed out sweets to the children. In a country that Britain was the ruler for so many years, it is a strange concept to be the honoured guests at their Independence celebrations. They would not have it any other way it seems!

Next highlight was the visit to the temples in Mahabalipuram. It rained all day! Was unfortunate, as we have been very blessed with the weather this trip. The first Temple we visited we got ‘stung’ by a ‘guide’ and had to pay to ‘get rid of him’. After this, we learnt not to get a guide for any of the other temples. Because they are a place of worship, you can only see the outer area- the inner parts are only for Hindus.
In the next temple we each got ‘blessed’ by an elephant, which was being touched on the head with its trunk. Many others were lifted onto the shoulders of a big elephant and had their photos taken. Photos will be provided to show this, although I didn’t get up there personally. The next good one was a World Heritage Site, which we could climb on. Much fun occurred, including ‘photo shoot’ pictures- very amusing!

On Wednesday 21st we traveled to Yellagiri Hills with the Boys. It was such good fun traveling with them, as we were singing and dancing for most of the five hour journey.
After a large and very full programme lasting until Saturday 24th, the boys left in the buses leaving us behind for a couple of days ‘holiday’. Peter, one of boys, gave a speech in Tamil of Thanks to the team, translated by Edwin. It was a very emotional moment, as even the hardest of men had some tears in their eyes (yes, me included).

Once they left, it was very strange being in the hills without the noise of the boys- even long attending members like Rob, Cathy and Isaac said how strange it was without them. It was so good to have time to relax- we have had a very busy programme for the whole trip this year.

The only bit that was not enjoyed by the team was the journey back. We were in a 11 seater van, with 12 of us. The smaller members of the team were wedged on the floor, but decided that the pile of bags were better to sleep on- not! It was hot, humid, sweaty and generally awful.

Yesterday, we went to paint a Community Centre run by Oasis, another Christian Charity doing work in the slums. Once we got there, it became clear just how much work needed doing. When we got all the preparations done, bought the paint and started, it was nearly 3pm. By the end of the day, only a third had been completed, so we decided that nearly everyone would go back today and finish it off.
The rest of us sorted out the gift packs for the boys (containing toothbrush, paste, soap, powder, toy and sweet). Although these are normal bits for each of us in the UK, the boys totally loved the packs given in previous years. We will update you on the reaction this year.

That’s all for now folks! We shall see you back in Blighty in a few days!
Best wishes,
Nick

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