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Trip to Slum pt.1


Lately at work, I’ve felt as if my supervisors might be doing more work trying to find me tasks than I was actually accomplishing. I don’t know how true this is as I have actually been getting some good work done in overhauling the various libraries that they maintain there. I truly do get into my work there and am enjoying the projects once I get into them. And, I’m thinking that if Kumar and Aldam accept the proposed changes, then they will see fruit from these labors. None the less, when I was asked if I would like to accompany Dr. Rajish and Vivian for a quick visit to the slums to see a medical camp in progress, I was very excited to do so and accepted without hesitation.
It was a long drive, through crowded streets on this hot summer day but powerful, military-like, white SUV had A/C and provided relief from the steamy sun overhead. When we turned off the main road, onto a road with large smooth mounds and pits that turned our tough jeep into a little dinghy on the high seas, I was informed that we were nearing the elementary school that was being turned into the medical camp. As we stepped out of the vehicle at the end of this road, it wasn’t as terribly hot as I might have suspected due to a cool breeze that descended on this place. The breeze was refreshing yet, it seemed to alternate in fragrance: one gust would be as you’d expect in the city, only the lightest remnants of exhaust and dust which would surely go unnoticed unless you were thinking about it; the next gust would demand your attention, as it contained an air of foulness, a remnant of refuse. The odor was quickly over looked though as the other senses quickly perked up to try and catch up with the overload of sensory stimuli.
The off-white two story buildings looked semi-similar to something one might have seen in U.S’s wild west, yet with their Asian flare. They were definitely probably as old as many of the buildings in the oldest U.S. cities, and most likely, not in a better condition on the inside or the out. My gaze was quickly diverted from the architecture of the place to the people that lined the streets. They sat in doorways, stood on crooked little wood porches and slabs of concrete which served as front steps, walked busily about, and carried on conversations, which our arrival most abruptly interrupted. Most everyone seemed to at least slow down to see this group of gentlemen arriving. Surely, many of them would have known that there was a medical camp being conducted by the colorfully designed cloth tent set up by the CBN team to provide shelter for those who’ve come.
My eyes met with person after person, as if to wordlessly greet each as best as I could. More often than not, the other person looked at me incredulously, with a bit of confusion and surprise on their face as to what I could possibly be doing there. My Chaco sandals, less than dignified dress, and hair most likely betrayed the fact that I was neither a doctor or anyone of great importance, but my skin certainly let them know that I wasn’t a local, so I can understand their puzzled expression. Some smiled, some didn’t, a couple of mothers brought a smile to my face as they leaned down, pointing me out with cheer to their toddlers and surely saying something to the effect of, “Look honey! You see the foreigner? Look!”
Though my instantaneous celebrity status surely made this arrival all the more interesting, I would have gladly given it up to be invisible so that I could just stand there and absorb the fullness of the surroundings of this new place. But, invisible I was not; nor was I alone, and I hurried to catch up with the three other men who were quickly moving down the dirt road and underneath the colored tent. I followed them under the shelter but as I left the road, my eyes met with a middle-aged man with dark, weathered skin, strong features and very light blue eyes. I have seen Indians here and there with light brown, green, or blue eyes and it’s definitely haunting. I would have loved to chat with this man for a while if I could have but, we pressed on.
Once inside, I was still in sensory overload mode. My hosts made several introductions and I shook many hands, trying to get each name right upon hearing it. As hard as I tried, each many-syllabled name would flee from my memory as soon as I heard the next one. This has been a constant issue for me since my arrival, as the names are so different from what I’m used to. And, with so many syllables it’s really hard to know where to put the emphasis. Take my landlord’s name for example Subramanim Reddy—O.K., only four syllables right? But, how do you pronounce that? Actually the emphasis is on the second syllable. Sub-BRA-ma-neem. Anyway, my point is: it’s tough!
One of the men that I had just met began explaining what was going on here (some of which had heard on the ride in). It was a partnership with an organization called World Vision. They do relief and development work that is focused on children in the poorest of the poor regions, and they do their projects through the family unit mostly. They didn’t have the medical facilities to do the check-ups that they wanted to do, so they partnered with CBN to get this accomplished. It was nice to see that these different arms of the Body of Christ could function together this way.
So, after meeting some of the doctors (everyone was Indian), I stepped outside to take in some more of what was going on. Enjoying being alone for a moment, I leaned against the property’s cement wall and surveyed some commotion taking place on the street. The source of the noise came from a small, silver commercial tanker truck that had pulled into the neighbor hood to deliver water. There was every color of the rainbow and more represented there in the women’s vividly bright Saris (traditional women’s wear in India). There was probably about thirty to forty people gathered around the rear of the tanker and many large containers for water of copper, steel and plastic were constantly filled, guarded and transported out. From the center of the cluster of people rose the voices of people trying to get their water, sick of waiting, and the sound of their arguing shot tension in the air. As, I was watching old men carry away their pots in their hands, women on their heads, and young men on their shoulders, Dr. Rajish approached. . “It’s a crazy scene eh?” he said. I agreed. “Sometimes it even gets quite violent.” he said, and the World Vision guy approached to tell us more. He said that World vision put in two bored wells recently in other areas, but that water isn’t exactly fit for drinking. This water that gets trucked in is specifically for drinking and when it comes, it’s important to get it. The government pays for the water to be shipped in, but it doesn’t always come. This is where CBN is able to help. I think they drilled like 60 wells last month. There are always teams out in different places drilling wells deep enough to provide safe water. But, this was not why we were there.
“So, do you want to see the rest of the slum?” asked the World Vision guy (sorry, I can’t remember his name.) and, with a warning from the Dr. to watch my footing for fear of stepping in waste, we were off. …
I broke the story into two parts and the second part is coming very soon…

One Response to “Trip to Slum pt.1”

  1. FIXEDEYES; John Clancy and Rachel Clancy » Journal Archive » Trip to Slum pt2
    March 25th, 2006 02:35

    […] Trip to Slum pt2by:John This is the second part of a story about my first trip to the slums. If you haven’t read the first part, you may do so here. […]

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