This is probably my last post from India. I fly out at 5am tomorrow morning, Trivandrumn to Doha to Heathrow, on Qatar Airways. There's a 6-hour stopover in Doha which will be a bit of a struggle unless I can find somewhere to have a lie down. Already I feel shattered and could do with a good sleep, and I doubt I'll get much of a rest tonight.
Yesterday was an emotional time for me, as you can probably imagine. I've got to know these kids really well over the last 18 months - they're almost like family to me. A few tears were shed - mostly mine.
The lunch was nearly a disaster. When we got to the shop the food wasn't ready. Then we had to return to SISP to get some big pots - the shop hadn't thought to tell us that we needed to supply them. Finally, I was the one in the back of the rickshaw holding onto pots of very hot gravy which spilled over me as we bumped along the roads and rough tracks to SISP. We made it with five minutes to spare. I had to half-wash my shirt because of the gravy splashes over it. But it was all worth it - the food went down a treat! The kids really love their chicken fry, parottas and chappattis. Buying for 120 mouths was not cheap but the pleasure was palpable!
In the afternoon the children put on a delightful show to say farewell to me and to James, a volunteer who'd been with us for a few months. There were several fantastic performances of dance and theatre, then fruit salad from me, a few speeches (including mine), then a birthday cake from/for vol Nathalie. Lots of fond farewells (tears) and then we shot off to the funeral of a teacher's sister. She was a girl of only fifteen and had died of lung cancer that morning. By the time we got there she was already in the ground and the hole had been filled in. What I found awful was that no one had told the girl she was dying. As far as I can tell, everyone was in denial.
I keep getting given gifts! Esther, in the tailoring workshop has given loads - ear rings, a necklace, cushion covers, water bottle cover, and lots of other bits and pieces. Then she gave me packets of nuts, banana chips, and jack-fruit chips - all big and heavy! I had to give them away unfortunately because they were too heavy to pack in my baggage. And today I was given a model of a rowing boat, the type that is raced on the Backwaters. Again, very kind, but I have no spare space or weight allowance - I'm right on the limit. And that's after posting a 4kg parcel of sheets and towels to Sri Lanka!
Well, those are the facts, devoid of too much emotion. I'll write a bit more when time allows. Right now I'm on countdown.