We caught the bus at 8:30 pm at night, and unlike the buses we have in Canada, this bus is a ‘sleeper’ bus. There are seats down below and then upper beds. On one side of the aisle is a bed for two people and on the other side is a single bed. Jamie and I had the first top double and the staff member who came to join us from Maduari for the week, took the first single top bed. The temperature was SO hot and the only bus that goes all the whole journey without changing buses is a non A/C bus. They assured us that we would not need the A/C later in the night – we were hoping!
We lay watching (and sweating profusely) the city go by as we made our way out of Chennai. We made a 20 minute dinner and toilet stop after travelling for two hours…. Only 12 more hours!
The bus stopped only a few times – mainly for anyone who needed a quick toilet stop.
Jamie and I only dozed on and off the whole night. At about 6 am the bus stopped for a toilet break, and we saw that we were in the mountains. I got busy watching the monkey who began to migrate around the bus. I kept my eye on one who was looking intently at the bus. I snapped my few pictures and then I had the fright of my life when a monkey poked his head inside my window – right beside my head. I let out a scream and gave the military guys a good laugh. Apparently the monkeys actually ascend on the bus and try and grab things from those who are on the bus. The monkey I was taking pictures was doing his job – distracting us all! They are smart! The bus soon started again and we saw a sign that said we were entering a tiger reserve We were interested now!
For the next two hours we zigzagged through the reserve and half way changed from one state into another. The scenery was breathtaking and the only wildlife we saw was a wild bison with huge horns.
We arrived to our destination by 8 am and found out we are actually 30 km from Munnar – an hours drive away we are told. Munnar is world famous for TEA PLANTATIONS!!!! So can you guess what I’ll be doing while I’m here?!
So this will be ‘home’ for the next week. We are staying with YWAM who has a small work here. Most of the people here are tribal with tourism being the main industry. Although the humidity is still higher, the temperature is much cooler. We are also in the middle of monsoon, so we have daily rain (not like the monsoons of Lonavala though!). The sun comes and goes through the day – being joined by a cloud burst of liquid at times.
We went to a small village last night to see some families and let them know that we will be doing a foot care clinic and diabetes check later in the week. We will be going to more villages the next few days to let other villages know about the clinic we will be having as there is little medical care here.
Although the weather has been very hot for us, (daytime 40C in the shade + rain = high humidity = sticky skin), we have been busy each day. Mid afternoons are reserved for times to ‘take rest’ as is the culture here, and we are thankful for it! The power is on and off at times and during a rest time you might just find one of us laying on the marble tile floor which seems to be the coolest place – not the softest.
Here are some of what we’ve been doing this week:
*Spoke in a church, a ladies group and to students at a Bible school.
*Visited a man who has set up a free education center in a village where most have no power. He provides a place with light for children to come and do their studies in the evening as well as schedules sports games on the weekends. This man is about 55 years old and grew up in this same village and wants these children to succeed. Thirty children came the evening we went to spend time with them and to share stories with them – Jamie’s fishing stories and pictures are always a hit with men and boys of all ages.
*Foot care clinic – a friend of the family is a doctor with a private clinic, so he made space available that Jamie could come and offer free foot care service to whoever wanted.
*Visited a pre-school set up in a tribal area – a lady is taking care of the children so that the parents can go to work. The little kids were so cute…although it was the first time I was so sad that this little 2 year old saw my white face and began to scream! It created a good laugh for all of us.
*A visit to a leper and AIDS colony. Visiting with a man who has lived as a leper for 20 years at this colony. These people are cast aside with no hope for a job and survival is very tough. The colony was started may years ago by a catholic priest and since each family has a little house to live in. The dream of those in the colony is that a school could be built so that their children have a future to look forward to.
*School for Mentally challenged – a compassionate man quit his government job as a special educator and started a school for those who are dear to his heart. Family members often see their special needs child as a punishment from a sin in the past, thus the child is often neglected and set aside. This man has built a school with his own money and unfortunately there are no toilet facilities due to the lack of funds. Children must go in the field. There is a team of teachers as well as an Occupational Therapist who comes in to work with the students who attend each day. Special programs are created for each child and education is also given to the parent on how to help their own daughter or son.
The week had more outings and opportunities but these were the highlights and we felt privileged to participate at each place.
Today we speak at a church in a village and then this afternoon we will catch an overnight bus for the 16 hour trip to Munnar in the state of Kerala. We don’t know what next week will look like, but trust it will be filled with more lessons in culture as well as opportunities to serve these wonderful people.