An ordinary day in the life of an RCDP volunteer means getting up around 7am for tea and cookies. It is still foggy outside, and consequently cold. It is December, winter is a-coming. Since the workday doesn’t start until 10, there is a whole lot of hanging around to be done. Although it must be mentioned that each host family of course reacts different to a volunteer sleeping late. In our case, we are always being called to get up: Seeta! Raju! Chyaa. Shuva bi honi.
By this time most of the family has been up for atleast an hour. Before the day starts the wash their clothes so they can dry in the sun for the day. Or they was themselves at the waterpomp without someone spying (we do this in the afternoon, when it’s nice and warm even though the water is cold). The women wrap a long, thin piece of fabric around them and wash without every showing any skin. The men put on swimsuits and wash showing everything but. Oh, double standards.
After tea, the family have their chorse to do. Didi prepares dal bhat. Aama feeds the goats and buffalo, she sometimes prepares her own food, and walks back and forth to who knows where to do who knows what. Sometimes she paints the little temple in the garden red. Other times she makes what look like lontjes for candles, but is actually something for the house altar (although no-one is able to tell me what it is used for). On yet another ocassion she is busy sowing a ‘buffalo sleeping bag’ (her words!) from cement bags. Nani needs to get ready to go to work, so she washes her face and feet under the waterpump, and combs her hair. She often leaves before dal bhat, because it takes her an hour by bike to get to work.
The case of Raju and Babu is a completely different one. Every morning before tea, they get dressed and go to the gym in Rampur. This means they walk for half an hour, work out and walk a half an hour back. Just in time for Babu to eat dal bhat and get to town for his cooking course. Raju is so enthousiastic about being able to work out that he even desinged a piece of equipment used to train your underarms, since that was missing in the gym.
After dal bhat, we hang out on the front porch a little more playing Angry Bird on my tablet until we see Bairab, our project’s leader, pass by our house. Time to brush our teeth and get to work! It’s a ten minute walk to the nursery, which is what they call the orphanage’s vegetable garden, where we do the weeding. That’s what we do, we weed. It must be mentioned that we also planted potatoes, garlic and radish, but that is at most an hour’s work, whereas we weed weed weed all day. This week however we put all the weeds on fire to furtilize the earth.
Around 1pm, we get back to our house for more tea and cookies, or roti, and for the past eight days both macaroni and naan bread. As you can imagine, seven hours of weeding could be come slightly dull. That’s why, after one week, we decided to change our program and now we help out at the orphanage in the afternoon. And since the children go to school till 4pm, we have the afternoon off. So we sit at the porch once more, enjoying the sun this time. Sometimes we hang out with Ram and Kamala, the German volunteers, and we walk to the internet café in Rampur or go for some food in the Bakery.Life is quiet here in Rampur West.
We make sure that we are at the orphanage 4.30pm to help the kids with their homework. This sometimes proofs to be a big challenge as they have the attention span of a two-year-old. On top of that their exercises are mostly quite vague and no-one seem to have explained them what to do; it often comes down to us giving them the correct answers – which is a perfectly acceptable practice over here. At 5, it’s playtime! We play badminton or football or some selfinvented game. The girls jump rope. The boys kick each other black and blue. Raju is being attacked with questions about working out by the eldest boys. How do I get muscles like that, brother?
Dal bhat is served again at 6pm and we now sit inside to eat at the table. It gets cool much quicker now. The fog even comes in as soon as it is getting dark whereas when we first got here it was only foggy in the morning. Most of the time there is no electricity since there are powercuts twice daily, meaning dark really is dark. There is nothing else to do. Rule is that everybody is inside the house after 7. So we crawl into our sleeping bags and read for a while in the light of our torches. Then we sleep for about ten hours and everything starts over again.
However, today it all ends. Today was the last day of the volunteering chapter of our trip. In the morning we will treat Vishnu and Bairab of the nursery to cookies and coke. Tonight we will bring candy and toys to the orphanage as a treat to the children. After that we will give our host family some presents as a thank you. And tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our life…!