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Landscape of Goa, India

My First Days in India

By Georgia Wilson

Last updated: 20th November 2012

I’ve only been here for three days, but I already feel right at home.

Georgia with people from an Indian village

Arriving into Goa was really simple, the transfer from Mumbai went really smoothly, and when I picked up my bags and went to arrivals there was the project staff there waiting for me. I was handed a folder with different information about the camp, but I was too distracted by everything I saw. My first experience of the roads was… interesting. It’s not like England, it’s very hectic! There are cows, dogs, chickens and people casually wandering into the road with cars calmly weaving through the chaos.

When I got to the camp I immediately loved it. There are palm trees everywhere with hammocks hanging between them. We’ve got a recreation room where there’s a TV for volunteers to watch Hollywood or Bollywood movies, a volley ball net and computers with Internet!  It’s really easy to fit into the camp with all these social amenities, and with 30 volunteers here I was quickly welcomed into the group.

My first full day in India I went to Old Goa, where we visiting some churches and Hindu temples. Goa only gained independence from the Portuguese about 40 years ago, so Christianity has remained as the prominent religion. When I was at one of the churches, an India lady came up to me and asked if I could take a photo, I reached out for the camera, expecting her and  family to crowd in a pose, and then I realised she wanted a picture with me!  I of course said yes, not wanting to be rude, and I was then stuck there taking pictures with the baby, the grandma, the dad, the brother, the uncle….. It was my first demonstration of how curious and fascinated the India people are with tourists.  They all ask you your name, where you’re from, and for a picture!

Today I had my first day of volunteering, and in the morning I went to the Day Care Centre and in the afternoon I went to a Women Empowerment project.  Many of the projects are based in a slum in Goa, where the community have moved there from a neighboring state to get better money. The community are Muslims, and have really segregated themselves from the rest of the city, so the kids don’t go to the local schools and the women are only allowed to leave the slum with a chaperone or written permission from their husbands.

So the childcare care project is with kids aged 2-6 and we’re trying to teach them English, counting, ABCs and basic manners.. They’re very naughty, but SO CUTE! Most of them come to school without shoes and with dirty faces but they’re all happy to see us, and whenever we enter the room they say ‘HELLO TEACHER’. I’ve only been there one day, but I can already see the difference the volunteers have made there.

And the Women Empowerment project is my favourite! The ladies are aged between 20 – 40 and all live in the Slum which they’re very rarely allowed out of. With this 2 hour session every afternoon they can be themselves with their friends and without their husbands and children. They’re all different levels of literacy, so some can speak good English, some are great at maths, and others left school so early to get married that they have little to no education. Today we just watched a Bollywood movie, brought drinks and snacks and gossiped with them in English…a different yet effective way of learning the language!

Tomorrow I’m visiting the orphanage and in the evening going to a big market to start buying all of my standard tourist tat!

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