Sunday, 4 April 2010

Flavour of the Action ...


Here's a little flavour of the building action from India ...

and some of the craic from the hooley on Saint Patrick's night ...

And that's the end of our adventure in Bangalore.

Thank you for reading the blog. If you've any comments, I'd be delighted to hear at,

God Bless till next time,


Monday, 22 March 2010

Between the Jigs and the Reels

Hi again,
Back to a reasonable connection and I can close out the news on the Habitat Women’s Build in Bangalore. The Saint Patrick’s night party was a very fitting finale to a great adventure.

Everyone from all over (even the few who couldn’t claim Irish connections !) joined in. Huge thanks in particular to Bernie for bringing the music, organizing the dancing and holding practice sessions the previous night so everyone could join in, and to Jenny for printing out song sheets so everyone could sing. It turned out to be a wonderful evening and many of us felt it was the best Paddy’s night we’d had in years.

The top photo shows Bernie treating us to some Sean Nos (old fashioned Irish Dancing), which went down a treat.

I’ve never danced a jig in an Indian outfit before but I decided to mix the cultures and give it a go. Here’s Una teaching me a few steps.

The dancing was brilliant and it was amazing how quickly our American cousins took to The Walls of Limerick and the Peeler and the Goat !. Rachel, our adopted Australian team mate was a natural and she and I were partners for a few dances.

There are not many who can successfully negotiate the Siege of Ennis in a sari, but Nirmala managed beautifully !!

Jenny’s song sheets went down a treat and any and all sorts of accents were soon belting out Molly Malone, The Boys from the County Armagh, The Wild Rover and many more.

I’ve added lots of pics below so you can get a flavor of the evening .. a great close.

So that’s the end of our wonderful adventure.

Thank you so much to Jenny for leading the Northern Irish team with distinction and looking after us all so well. Also to Nirmala, Joseph, Mahesh and all the Habitiat folks from Bangalore and all over India who came to help us.

Bye till next time,


P.S. I’ve now headed off on another little adventure to explore some of India before I come home. I have a separate blog for that trip. It’s at, if you’d like to check it out.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Back Soon ...

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the delay in updating. I've moved on from Bangalore and the internet access is very patchy. I'll do the update for our final evening Irish Party as soon as I can get a good connection,


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

La le Padraig i mBengaluru


Well, Saint Patrick's day got off to a rousing start, with a chorus of 'When Irish Eyes are smiling' before we boarded the bus. Here's Bus 3 on our last day, on the way to the build. Everyone was Irish today and we continued the merriment on the journey to the site. Here's Charley discovering his Irish roots with Jenny.

Back at House 4, we had a busy morning. The wall above the lintel has been built up to full height at the front and the left hand side and today's job was to build up the 4 layers of blocks above the lintel at the back of the house. This involved moving blocks and concrete up the various stairways, barrels etc., to the top of the scaffolding. Fortunately, we had Santosh and Magi and one of his brothers Praveen with us today. Lifting and moving blocks is child's play to them, so we were spared the heavy stuff today.

As well as being Saint Patrick's Day, it was also a festival day here in Bangalore and everyone was on holiday, so we had a full house at the site for the last day. Lots of neighbours and friends dropped in and we had some good fun and exchanges with the family. Amalia came with us today to translate and help with the small blessing of the house and the family before we finished work at about lunch time. It was a very moving and beautiful little ceremony, very informal. We all just said a few words about our experience and what it had meant to us. Amalia translated for us and then the family talked to us about their feelings for the build and the new house. It was indeed a privilege to be part of this intimate gathering. Charley had talked about 'Crying and kissing time'. He wasn't wrong !

After this little gathering we went on a walk about to see some of the other houses. The neighbours on the next street were laying the concrete for the roof .. that looked interesting. It was all hands on deck, as the concrete had to be passed a long way from the front of the house, up the scaffold and across the length of the roof to be layed. We watched for a while them moved along to lunch.

After lunch today we had a few words and a short evaluation exercise of the build with Mahesh and then we headed back to the site. One of the new Habitat homes was having it's Door Ceremony and we were all invited. This ceremony celebrates the new house and invites blessings on the hosue itself and the family. It was great to be a part of it. The yard of the house was decorated and a ribbon had been placed across the door. The 5 Habitat team leaders cut the ribbon and this formally opened the house. The ceremony invloves boiling milk inside the door to bring good fortune and blessings. The ceremony was attended by all the neighbours and friends as well as by the Habitat group. There were lots of cameras and movie cameras too. The tradition is for all the guests to touch the walls of the house and pray for the family.

We then went back to our regular meeting place at Coconut park, for the final get together with the community and the family we'd been building with. This was a great last opportunity to know a little more about how the community and in particular the Women's self help groups work. A few ladies from the various Sanga (the self help group) talked to us (thru Nirmala) and explained how they set up their groups and what they did. One of the groups was a tailoring group, and their sevretary spoke to us. The group has 15 members and each member saves 25 rupees a week. They have had a few smaller bank loans and are delighted to have just had confirmation that their bank has now approved a loan of 1 Lakh (100,000 rupees), for the group's business. All of the families we built with attended this final celebration and we had a chance to see our Shanti and her family from House number 4 again. I also got the cahnce to meet Pauline and the family from House 13 that I'd worked with last week, which was great.

Here's Sorona, Shanti's son whom we've worked with all the time on house 4.

We said our goodbye's and boarded the busses one last time to go back to the hotel and dinner and and Indian Ceili, hosted by the irish team !

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Stairway to Heaven !!


Back at house 4 today, the first job was to build a stairway from the blocks so we could use it to pass the blocks up over the lintel for the next row of blocks. (I know it's a day too early, but the St. Patrick's Day shirt is just the build up to tomorrow !). We built a lovely silver stairway ! and used it to pass the blocks up overhead (definitely a tricky proposition). Again, we were left in the half-penny place by one of the local lads, Maggi, who could lift and carry them over his head one handed ! I think he enjoyed impresing us ! but we didn't care. We were delighted to have him. He doesn't live at the house. He's a friend of Santosh, Sonara's son and he's definitely in demand along the street as an extra builder. So today, too, involved a lot of lifting blocks and pans of concrete - but this time they had to be lifted higher and higher each time as the rows of blocks increased. So we had some creative solutions, like extending our stairway and building a new one .. on top of a barrell ! All good fun, and we did eventually get the blocks up and in place. Here's Sonara collecting some mangoes for our break. I have to admit, they weren't a lot better than the one I had in the restaurant last week ! but nevertheless we enjoyed them. And here's Cathy working as builder's mate for Sonara on the roof. We had a mad rush at about 4 o'clock today as we tried to get the top row of blocks in place before we had to leave for the bus back. We were a few minutes late, but we got there.

Tonight we had our Closing Ceremony, which was really touching .. just a few simple words from Joseph and Mahesh and some of the other leading Habitat personnel. We saw the professional photos that had been taken during the build and footage that had been broadcast on TV. The build attracted a lot of attention and there were a number of items. Well done to American Cathy from our House for an excellent TV interview .. and wait till you see Liz hurtling a pan of sand through the air .. priceless ! I think we will get copies.

We then had a very nice meal in the garden and took the opportunity to take some photos of our new friends. Here I am with Lynn and Hugh, whom I worked with on House 13. They had lived in India for 2 years when they were in the Peace corps and they definitely look the part. And here's two of our wonderful bus leaders who looked after us so well .. Diana and Amalia.

It's really hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day building. The time has gone so quickly and I'm sure we will all be very sad to finish up tomorrow. But we've had a wonderful time building alongside the families and the Habitat staff in Bangalore and at the end of the day, some very lovely families will have a new house .. and that's what it's all about ..

More tomorrow (probably with a few shamrocks involved ..)

Jenny's Singing and Dancing Class ...

Hi again,

One of the great things about Habitiat builds is the opportunity to get to know and to get involved with the whole community and not just the one family we build with. No one embodies this better than Jenny .. here she is with her new friends. She taught the children some singing and dancing and they performed for us by the busses today, where they had an audience. They absolutely loved it and so did we !

Today I was back at house 4 with my original team, as we were ready to build the rows of bricks above the lintel. We had a new team member today, Harry, the Finance Director from Habitiat in Chennai. Harry is from Bangalore and his family still live here, but for the past 5 years he's been in Chennai helping to organise Habitat's response to the tsumani. Habitat, along with their partner organisation have done remarkable work and built 14,000 new homes. Harry told us that for many familes, it was in fact a blessing in disguise, as their new Habitat homes are far better than their previous accomodation .. so there is a small silver lining in the whole affair !

The work today was all heavy lifting and there was an endless pile of concrete blocks on the street outside that had to be brought into the yard. We got our chain gang going and by lunch time we managed to complete the pile .. we were very happy to see the back of them ! After lunch there was a lot of carrying sand, cement and mortar and mixing. We carried and Sonara, our home owner mixed. I've never seen anyone work so hard. He's a real power house. The concrete mix then had to be passed up to fill and seal the lintel ready for laying blocks on top tomorrow. It was fun to watch the local lads shifting the pans and basins of mix .. like it was a feather .... whereas we were struggling .. a really good fun day, where we had great craic with the family and the other local helpers, but still worked hard and managed to achieve what we needed to.
After work today, there was a visit to a local orphanage, which was wonderful but heartbreaking at the same time. The children were delighted to see us and we talked and played with them for a while. Some of the older ones were coming back from school in their immaculate uniforms. And here's Emily having fun with some of the youngsters.

It was a great opportunity to meet the children but left us quite subdued and a bit sad.

Another great day and more to come tomorrow !

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Relaxing Sunday ..

Hi again,

Following our very long and busy day yesterday, we had a nice relaxing day today. A late start about 12 and the highlight for me today was our lunch .. a wonderful meal in a very authentic South Indian restaurant in town. That's my meal above, served up on a huge bananna leaf ! Thankfully, we had Stalin with us to explain what everything was and how to eat it ! For me this was the best meal yet. It was definitely very local. We were the only tourists in the restaurant. There's no menu. You get served rice, dal and some vegetables automatically, with lots of additional dressings and flavourings. I couldn't begin to describe them .. there seemed to be hundreds of them, (see all the little pots) and they were all fantastic. Here's Stalin showing Liz how it's done and don't Una and Bernie really look the part, eating from the bananna leaf, with their beautifully decorated hands !! I think we'll leave them behind ! One of the chefs continuously circles the restaurant with a huge pot of rice and delivers big spatulas full onto your leaf .. unless you object, when he looks at you as if you're mad. We had a fantastic meal and the sheer entertainment of sitting in the middle of this drama was brilliant. We left some carnage behind us .. but not too bad ! Here's Emily reviewing the damage !

After lunch, we hit the shops .. enough said ! and then back to the hotel to relax before dinner. Tonight, there was a sepcial celebration for all the Birthday Girls .. anyone who has a birthday during the build .. including our Liz .. Happy Birthday Liz (it's actually on Wednesday 17th March .. as if we needed another excuse to party on 17th March !! but we'll take it !).

That's it for tonight - I'm off to bed, to be ready for another busy day on site tomorrow. Only 2 and a half days left and tons to do ..

Bye for now.