Journey to Asia – Part 3

One of the most amazing things I have seen so far here was when we were getting ready to disembark from the train at the station. In this densely overcrowded carriage, kind strangers removed our heavy luggage from the overhead racks. The funny thing was watching the vendors with their containers of coffee or ‘SOUP! SOUP! SOUP!’ climb over our luggage that was stacked in the aisles. Having been overcharged by train attendants to ferry our gear to the train we decided to roll our own bags to the taxi area. Seriously it cost more money to move our bags 200 metres than ferry four people hundreds of miles by train.

Everything, especially conversations about nothing seem to take forever.  On the train, the ticket collector interviewed Sreekanth, our interpreter and guide who travels with us everywhere. The interrogation seemed to be endless, finally it concluded and the collector moved on not asking for anyone else’s ticket. When Kate asked what went on, Sreekanth’s reply was nothing. It’s all very perplexing and just one of many ‘nothing’ conversations we observe but do not understand.

Waiting for our taxis, took forever and lots of conversations ensued by all the men surrounding us. Once the taxi arrived and the boot was unlocked, a nest of huge ants scurried in circles.  I voted for another taxi but was over-rided. I did manage to get the bag I borrowed from a friend to not go in the boot, this was a small win.

In a big city, on the outskirts of town where plantations of palm trees grow, interspersed with wooden huts, bullocks and free roaming pigs, goats and chickens  there is a section where the rich people have built their multi-storey palatial coloured mansions. Here in this safer section of town, Kate has rented a place.

On arrival at Kate’s place we ventured onto the third floor of an apartment house. Kate leases a two room, two bathroom unit. It’s painted white with cream vitrified tile floors. There is no air-conditioning but the fans sound like turbines and create whirlpools of air.  The kitchen could do with more benches as there is hardly any work surfaces. There is lots of shelving and very high ceilings. The bathrooms have squat toilets which builds strong legs, my personal trainer would be pleased.  The beds are nearly nine centimetre high mattresses on the floor that double as our lounge during the day. 

The first night had lots of insects swarming around the room. Karen had bought us ‘parakito’ wrist bands. Essentially they are bands made out of wetsuits which have a pocket for a citronella patch. This is suppose to repel insects when worn on your body 24/7.  Someone forgot to tell the insects. My legs were covered in red lumpy welts that caused me to constantly scratch. I immediately covered myself in chemical insect repellant and decided the only way I would be able to sleep was to swallow two VALIUMS! Needless to say I had the best sleep ever. 

I have turned into a domestic goddess, in my house dress, Sudheer’s wife kindly made me. It looks more like a muumuu dress that originated from Hawaii. I don’t think I will be bringing it home. I have swept our lounge/ bedroom area using those weird half size brooms with the light feathery straw ends that you could use to tickle someone. To my horror, the sweepings consisted of mainly insects.  Who knows how many crawled into our human orifaces (sorry Kate and Karen, just keeping it real).  Then try using that soft broom to sweep the said tiny carcasses onto a dustpan.  

As part of my cleaning regime, I decided to do some clothes washing, this consists of soaking said clothes in a bucket overnight. No rolling, scraping and bashing material onto a rock like I see the women do. All I could do was a couple of multiple rinsings and squeezing. This is then hung up on a line strung across the roof top. I don’t know what the neighbours think of our delicates!

The girls at this workshop come from the poorer communities. There are only two as Meena is in hospital because her three year old son has jaundice and the time before she had heart issues. Darla, has been working for Kate since the business’ inception and Senna for only four months. They both have children and were allowed to bring them out with them. Darla has since married and has a very fun loving personality. Senna can be a bit more serious but enjoys a laugh. (Names have been changed).

We had to alter a few dozen pants today. I didn’t mind sitting on the floor and cutting material. The girls do everything on the floor except sew on the treadle machines. Here they don’t use electric machines as they are very expensive to buy. We have had offers of machines but the freight to get them here is quite expensive. We brought over an Aussie iron which cost $15 at Big W. Here an iron costs $120. Kate is organising for a cutting table to be built which will cost approximately $100. This will be fantastic once the girls realise it will be more practical for them to stand.  Each pair of pants is hand cut and then hand sewn. It is not a production line and each pair is made with love. Any flaw found in the pants only add to its originality. Another $100 would pay for the installation of a toilet and wash bowl for the girls.

We visited the local shops for some supplies today. Vendors display their wares in shops, stalls or blankets on the streets. Every vegetable is neatly piled and organised. I wanted some herbal tea and ventured into the local supermarket where a girl followed me around thinking I might shoplift as the place was full of close circuit cameras and TV screens. It was quite invasive but I was quite polite and friendly, I don’t think she smiled once. 

We took a tour of the city today in an auto or ‘tuck tuck’. The streets are full of crowded shops and the beautifully presented houses look no different to the streets anywhere else I have observed here. This place is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and I’m loving my adventure here and the many colours, tastes and sights I am seeing. 

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