Picture the scene… Half six on a balmy Monday morning, 22 bleary eyed, incoherent and slightly shiny whiteys gathered in a pair of clammy, rusty, falling to pieces maxicabs ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime! That is an adventure of a lifetime after stopping to pick up 130+small, veeerrrrrrry excited boys.
So we stopped, and waited, and played, and waited, and took pictures, and waited and used the squatty potty, and waited until, eventually, a loud cry went up and two dubious looking bright orange buses were seen speeding (ha!) along the road. After some confusion and much squeezing of large items into small spaces (luggage and humans) we were off! Well we say off, first we had to actually leave Chennai, no mean feat. The SIX HOUR journey was filled with excitement, Rachel and Shauni, quite possibly mad with delirium, saw an entire building upside down. The two buses were locked in an epic race down the NEW motorway. And then came the bends, 14 of them, all hairpin, all on a mahusive hill, all taken with a reverse manoeuvre toward the edge of death. Highlights of the hill included the feeding of psycho monkeys and the near decapitation of Emma and Shauni (Poor Shauni, not having a good journey really!)
Finally, only three hours behind schedule, we pulled up to the welcome sight of YMCA Yellegiri. After a quick dumping of bags and some food we kicked of the programme by dividing up the boys into their nine teams (Blues were awesome can I just point out) (NO! Yellows were SUPER!! Manja Velu!) and got straight on with some fish flapping, or fish blowing for some. Then more food!
Evening devotions were captivating, with a hilarious Puppet race ending in a bust up thanks to the skills of Steve and Alex W (there was a serious message as well, its not all fun and games you know:) )
Day two began far too early with morning jerks (minus bed coffee), skillfully led by Isaac and company, followed by yet more food. The morning devotions was dominated by Isaac stood behind a sheet in his boxers with the eventual message of God breathing life into us. To overcome our shock we launched straight into the days activities of paper craft, scoobie, musical instruments and mural painting (otherwise known as aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) Mini Olympics kicked off the afternoon, after some food of course, with Red team (boo) as the winners. A short break for food was followed by a chance for the leaders to break out their competitive side in a competition of paper towers. Shauni and Ross took the prize ( technically black team I suppose) despite not having a paper cup (blatant disregard for the rules). Then we had a little something to eat, yum.
Day three, bed coffee arrived and Shauni was taught the fine art of making the perfect cup (By Emma, so doubtful that she actually learnt anything) (Oi!) Barney and Steve were conspicuously absent from morning jerks but all were present for some food. Morning devotions had Isaac, now fully clothed, (thank goodness) being tempted by other team members (most notably Emma and Alex W). Then onto the days activities with a slight adjustment due to the inclement weather. We all thought we were back in England! Balloon modelling, Poi, puppet making and face making kept us all occupied, with some getting more involved than others (Fraser ended up as a Lego villain and Emma as a Simpson’s character, or, to the boys, Indian gangsters manja velu). Much fun was had with afternoon’s wide game, resulting in Alex W having to remove many small ants from his pants, no joke!
Next up was rehearsal for the evening camp fire. As is customary the team did a ‘dance’, skillfully choreographed by Liv and then just as skillfully destroyed by the rest of the team. YMCA proved to be too much of a challenge for some (Emma, Shauni, Rachel, Lynn, Fraser, Barney…) The lifts at the end had Shauni flat on her face twice (thanks Fraser) and Flo nearly squashing Barney when his knees gave way (he may be tall but he needs to work on those knee muscles). Campfire was dark due to the lack of fire, but with added camp. Eventually thanks to copious amounts of petrol there were flames, just as we went to bed.
Day four Barney made up for his absence of the previous day by leading a ‘proper warmup‘ (in Emma’s professional opinion) after which we enjoyed a spot of food, sadly lacking in eggy bread. It’s a knockout dominated the morning with good results all round. (except blue team who came second to last due to the team leader!!! Who always seems to have a bad team!!) (We were robbed!) Free time on the field finished of the event brilliantly with Emma being promoted to super goalie and Rachel ending up with questionable photos on her camera!! (Let’s just hope it was accidental zoomage)
So then we had prize giving which was totally unimportant and need not be discussed. And onto lunch. WAIT….. Yellow team came a very respectable 2nd place with cheating boys in Red team coming 1st!!! (no cheating boys!!!)
The SIX HOUR journey back was quite eventful. As Rob and Rachel were discussing the sad lack of catching of air on the bus, the entire back end flew 5 whole metres in the air and a piercing scream was heard from Shauni and she narrowly escaped being thrown out of the bus as the door she was leaning on flew open. Her very concerned and considerate team members, Emma and Rachel, provided good advice (SHUT THE DOOR) and distraction from the shock (by rolling around in fits of laughter). Our wise team leader Rob promptly tied Shauni on using some rope to prevent further screaming (we wouldn’t have minded if she had fallen out, as long as she was quiet about it). The journey continued with a Tamil/English sing off in one bus. Over two hours of constant singing left the team with no voice and no more English songs left unsung.
On arrival back at Kottivakum you couldn’t see Shauni for dust as she raced to the ladies of the working women’s hostel Kottivakum (they were just passing by) to use the facilities. As we got off the bus we noticed the site was completely underwater, a sombre reminder of the work that we are hoping to get done. The large amount of rain in the city over the past few day meant that all digging had to stop and the boys had to wade back to their cottages through dirty water with no knowledge of what their bare feet were walking on.
Now there is time for two days of r and r, exploring Chennai and trekking it up to Maharbalipurum (the other end of the second longest beach in the world!!!)
Lots of love and warm sweaty hugs
Rachel and Emma (with ‘helpful’ input from Shauni and welcome comments from Kate)