Sorry, I have no creative names!
I'm going to go day by day again, because we still had orientation this week until Wednesday. We start our internships on Tuesday, and then our schedules will be more regular.
This week we also started yoga. Our teacher is this crazy French man named Shambo. He doesn't really understand that most of us are new to this, and we've been doing a lot of really difficult poses, and think yoga can solve everything. One girl told him her back hurt, and he told her it was because we are so used to having our backs supported when we sit. Then he said, "give it 30 years and everything will be ok." We start yoga at 6:15am, then finish with about 20 minutes of meditation before we eat breakfast and go on with our day.
We went to Evergreen Community, where a couple of families are reforesting the area with the indigenous forest, the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF). We heard a lot about this over the week. Dave, the man who was in charge, was very knowledgeable. He runs all kinds of workshops on different environmental subjects, and is especially interested in Deep Ecology, which is basically environmental philosophy.
We rode our cycles to the Center for Scientific Research, and got to see different living machines. There was one waste water management system, where the water goes through a series of containers underground, and then goes through a type of fountain that contains algae, and naturally cleans the water. Connected to that was the place where they make earth blocks for building. They don't have to be baked, like bricks, so they save energy. And they use local resources. They had a little display, and included in that were shelves containing jars of dirt from all around the world. There were 3 from Texas, but none from Austin.
After that, we went to the Life Education Center. It's a school for adolescent girls, because most families only send their boys to school after a certain age. They receive counseling as well as normal school, and they also learn practical skills, such as sewing and cooking. Most of the girls end up passing the exams to graduate high school. They can go to college and get a degree, but the problem is they cannot find jobs afterwards. They are able to empower the women, even if they will never be able to get the same jobs as men. They also get a stipend every month so their parents will let them stay in school.
Our next stop was WELL paper products. This is also a women's empowerment group. They employ village women to make beautiful products from wasted newspaper. Next door was Kottakarai Organic Food Processing Unit, or KOFPU, where we had lunch. The woman who owns it, Anandi, has the kindest soul. She was so happy to see us and share her knowledge. They make mostly raw food, so everything we ate was raw except for a raggi (local grain) dose (pancake type bread). We started with kombucha, and then a green smoothie. We had wonderful salads and sauces, and finished with chocolate mousse made from cashews. Everything was served on a banana leaf, and we ate with our hands. It was one of my favorite places!
Our first stop was Thamarai Educational Center. It's a preschool in the morning, and we walked past sleeping 2 and 3 year olds. They were so adorable! It's also an afterschool program, because many parents, especially mothers, do not have the skills to help children with their homework. On weekends they take trips with the kids. They also opened a health center, and teach children about nutrition and their bodies through yoga and other methods. They also have women's groups and youth groups.
We then went to the botanical garden, and learned more about reforestation. It was nice to walk through the grounds, and see so many native species!\
We only had one stop today. We went to Pitchandikulam, where we once again learned about reforestation of the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest. We also learned a little about Siddha medicine, which is basically plant medicine. We walked around and saw all the different medicinal plants labelled, but we didn't know what they were for. Apparently, some of them only work on people who were born here, because the people and the plants have evolved together. It was also our first day where lunch was on our own, which was nice. It's hard to go everywhere as a group of 12!
We had the afternoon off to work on homework and explore more options for our internship, which starts Tuesday.
We had class in the morning, and then the afternoon free. Orientation is over!
We had class, and learned more about our service learning projects (internships) and how they relate to our experience and all our other classes.
In the afternoon, we took a van to a community fight outside of Auroville called Sadhana Forest. They are also working on reforestation, but they were intentionally working slowly. It was very focused on the community aspect as well. Every Friday they give a tour of the place, then show a movie and serve dinner afterwards. We watched the first episode of the BBC Life series, which was amazing. At the end of the semester, we do a community stay for 10 days somewhere in Auroville. This is one of the places we can stay, and I a lot of us wanted to!
We went to an all day seminar that was also open to the public, called Renewing the Dream Awakening the Dreamer. It was a combination of videos and activities designed to inspire or re-inspire people to make a difference in a community and the world.
And Sunday was our first real day off! It was a relaxing but productive day.