Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Mission Done

Mission Done

We’ve been to India – that’s what I said
All the way to India the choir was led.

At first it seemed an impossible task
The amount of money for which to ask
But the funds came in, we got the lot
With God’s help and yours, we filled our pot.

And now we’re back from our India mission
With memories galore of our fulfilled vision.
The wonderful welcome we received and more
With garlands, gifts and food galore.

We sang in churches, inside and out
The people loved us without a doubt.
The sights we saw, the sounds, the smells –
Not all of them good – I have to tell!

The concert held on that balmy night,
The people who came – oh what a sight!
When we joined the choirs of other nations,
And dancers, the children – our Christian relations.

The “Jailbreak” shows where we gave so much
And the people knew they’d received God’s touch.
The girls school where we were all endeared –
To those lovely youngsters who clapped and cheered.

The memories are real, mostly good not bad,
That the trip is over, it makes us sad.
But the one to thank is our God and King –
Who led us to India, His praise to sing.

We welcome you now to our celebration
Of our God sent trip to the Indian nation.

By Jane Broome.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Day Eight - Bishop Cotton Girl's School

We say goodbye to the Hari International as we begin our long journey home. Our luggage goes with us to Bishop Cotton Girls School so tha we can get changed after our performance.

What a treat, the girls sing for us.

And then we sing to them.

What an appreciative audience they were, and so well behaved.
They knew all the songs before we sang them and would clap and cheer when the music began for such songs as 'My heart will go on' and 'You raise me up'.

They were ready to chat to us after the performance.

We had a wonderful lunch at the school and got changed ready to hit the shops in Bangalore. All the girls came to say goodbye and shake hands.

The shops in Bangalore were a grand experience where we could buy absolutely anything.

There were shops everywhere to suit the most discerning shopper.

There were still street beggars, this little girl must have been about eleven, carrying a little boy.

It was a tiring experience so we found a wall to sit on.

Day Seven - Jailbreak at St Mark's Cathedral

We set off from the Hari International.

The street outside the Hotel.

We arrive at St Mark's Cathedral.

Our personal time as we share Communion.

The Reverend Graham Osborne, our Choir Chaplain for the visit.

Morning Tea and coffee.
Time to relax.
And so to our rehearsal.

The soloists strut their stuff.
Another packed house, even seated outside.
And so back to the Hotel.
A final celebration for tomorrow we leave for home.

Margaret and Mike celebrate their birthdays.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Day Six - Off to Bangalore.

We leave the Comfort Inn Marina Towers, Chennai at 5-45am to the Central Railway Station to board the Brindavan Express bound for Bangalore with our packed breakfast.

Reserved seats and air conditioned carriages, not what we had been led to expect.
Every kind of food was offered to us as we travelled on a train journey of over 5 hours.

There were stations along the way giving opportunity for folk to stretch their legs.

From the train we had a look at the real India away from the Cities.

There were lots of photographic opportunities.

Mike photographs Bob,

As Bob photographs everyone else.

Workers in the fields.

More Station buildings.

Karen enjoys the view.

Hasn't Health and Safety spoiled everything. Where else could you dangle your legs out of the train?

What scenery.

We arrive on time at Bangalore Station 13-30.

What a sight to welcome us to our hotel.

Time to relax after our arrival at the Hari International Hotel.

Dinner at the hotel, and so to bed

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Marie's Story.

Marie Muggleton’s Story

We started our trip at 3am when we got up. I had not slept very well that night. We had packed up the night before so all we had to do was have coffee before we started. Our friend picked us up at 3.45am and we made our way over to Christchurch Abbeydale. We arrived at 4am and just sat in the car, talking. Then taxi’s started to turn up and we all got together. The bus turned up a bit lit. On the way, we called in at Membury Services.

We arrived at Heathrow before 7am. I felt so rushed there, where there many people. The group helped me through as I went through the checks. We had breakfast at Heathrow and John took a picture of the aircraft there. The airport staff asked me where I wished to sit and I said by the window. I enjoyed my first ever air flight. We departed from Heathrow at 10.20am and arrived at Helsinki at 3.20pm (Helsinki time – 2 hours in front of BST). We had to wait for our connecting flight so we all put our bags in a pile and stayed together. I was cold. Helsinki was flat and very impersonal although it was clean and tidy. We stayed in Helsinki airport until 8pm, when we boarded the plane to Mumbai. John and I were right at the back of the plane. I was still cold although the staff did provide a blanket and pillow. This was an 8-hour trip. All I wanted to do was sleep and I believe we dozed until about 3am when the staff came round with hot towels, which woke us up. We had curry for breakfast and arrived at Mumbai at 6.10am.

Friday 3rd – Transferred from Mumbai International to Internal airport by coach at 9.40am. Our internal flight from Mumbai arrived in Chennai at 11.25am, a flight time of 1hour 45 minutes. At this airport, there were people to meet us – they gave us quite a welcome. We made our way to the coaches, which took us to a beach resort at Mahabalapuram. We all went to rest after lunch and then dinner was served later. The hotel was beautiful and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Saturday 4th – After breakfast we went sightseeing around Mahabalapuram. We went to a place where there are stone carvings to a great King in India. It was very hot outside the coach and there were stalls that sold coconuts and vegetables. We were told not to buy from the beggars and vendors there. Even when you said no, these people would not let you go. I made my way back to the coach where it was cool and I felt safe. After lunch at one of the temple sites, we went to the Marina Tower Hotel in Chennai. In the evening (5pm) we went to the rehearsal at St Georges School. We sat on the stage and were plagued with flies. We seemed to be waiting ages before the rehearsal began. Our seats were on the back row. All the other choirs rehearsed before we got the chance. We were able to practise some of our songs before we left at 9.30pm to return to our hotel and bed.

Sunday 5th – had breakfast about 7 am and left for church around 7.30am. At approximately 8.30am, we sang 2 songs at a church service attended by 5000 Tamil people. The church staff gave us refreshments in the Church Office – this office is home to 70 pastors. We then went to another service, an English one. It was so free and it was just wonderful to just sing and not worry about your voice. We had lunch and afternoon tea at the hotel and left the hotel to go to the concert at 4.45pm. We assembled at the Venue at 5pm. The One World One Voice programme started about 6pm. The expected audience was 6,000 and in fact there were well over that number and it was quite wonderful. We sang at the end of the programme. They made a great fuss of us. We all had dinner in a separate area to the audience. We were all tired.

Monday 6th – we went shopping to a silk shop. We wanted to get to a big market but could not get the coach near so we went to the Silk shop. The shop was on 3 floors and it was beautiful. I was so confused by the different colours and so many things, scarves, dresses and tops. There was so much and so many people talking at the same time. We did a practice at St Andrews. There seemed to be a problem with the sound system but it did go right on the night. There was a wall surrounding the grounds in which we sang and people looked over the wall and stayed and listened to us singing. We were fed again before we went back to the hotel.

Tuesday 7th – We were woken at 6am, as we were to leave for Bangalore by coach to the train station. The train left at 7.15am and arrived at Bangalore at 1.15pm.

Wednesday 8th – Free day. We went to St Marks Cathedral for a small service for the choir followed by a rehearsal of Jailbreak. As we rehearsed, people came in and listened. Then we broke up and some went back to the hotel and some went shopping, trying to get a CD player. We met again later in the day for the main performance of Jailbreak. The cathedral was full and people were stood outside listening.

Thursday 9th – in the morning we went to Bishop Cotton School for girls to sing to them. They sang to us first and then we sang to them. The girls were so well behaved and they did enjoy us singing. We were given lunch and then we went shopping in Bangalore. I thought we would be going in a group but the group broke up so we went on our own. I bought a top costing about £5 but did not have a lot of money. We walked so far but John was hot and worried about the sun. We met Frank who told us about a wall we could sit on where we sheltered under the trees until the coach came. We returned to the girls school, where we were given tea before we made our way to the airport to get our 8pm flight to Mumbai. We arrived at Mumbai only to find the departure lounge was closed so we had to wait in a waiting area until about 5am. We left Mumbai at 8.15am and arrived in Helsinki at 1.45pm. We then left Helsinki at 4pm and arrived in Heathrow at 5.10pm. We finally arrived back in Gloucester at approximately 9pm.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Frank, Eve and Susan's Story.

Monday morning was originally scheduled as a free morning and having met the children from the Alpha India orphanage the day before, Frank, Eve and Susan planned to visit them. In fact, we were invited to lunch. The first problem was how to get there so Frank asked at the travel desk. Should we take a taxi? Oh no, we can take the hotel limousine and their chauffeur for only 2,000 rupees for the day, that's about £25.
The journey was a surprise, our driver was so attentive and every time you raised a camera he would slow down and open the window. Somehow it seemed the highlight of the trip.

The traffic in India is something to behold. They might drive on the right side of the road, that is the left, but other rules seem few and far between. They travel only inches from one another and just weave in and out of lanes as they please. Everyone sounds their horns. In India it is just a warning to say I'm here. Most of the public transport in the City is by Auto-Rickshaw and it seems everyone has a motorbike.

Traffic appears from any direction and no one wears a crash helmet. Apparently there was a law but local politics decrees that it is not enforced.

It is an anomaly that there are so many billboards advertising things that very few can buy.

Not a very good photograph, but everywhere you look there are people living under shelters on the street.

On our way to the orphanage we wanted to buy the children some sweets. Our driver took us out of the City before stopping at roadside shops. Here you could buy anything.

Pamela sent us on a mission to buy some poles for the flags Sally uses in jailbreak. We couldn't take them on the plane. So our driver called in at various hardware shops on the way. When he explained what we wanted, the shop keepers would dive into piles of junk to try and find us what we wanted. After several stops it seemed we weren't going to be able to get anything until at last under a pile we found one that would do. Immediately the town stopped and we were asked to wait 5 minutes and sure enough after 5 minutes we could see a motorbike making its way down the road with every size and length of pole imaginable.
After all our adventures we were quite late arriving at the orphanage in Salamangam village and it took a while to find the right place, but when we arrived we found ourselves in an oasis of peace in the countryside of India. All the squallor of the City was left behind. Suresh came out to greet us and after giving our driver some money for his lunch, (the custom apparently), he promised to return at 2 O'clock. We were introduced to the children and I suggested they take us on a tour of their home. They divided into three groups and one of us went with each.

My group wanted to show me a tank where they were breeding fish.

And then to show me their play equipment. How many children can you get on one swing?

They showed us their rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. They just sleep on mats on the floor.
This little girl is the latest arrival. She has only been there eight weeks and when they showed us a photograph of when she arrived, the difference was remarkable. There was a quote in the paper whilst we were there, that India will never be independant until it eradicates its poverty. I see places like this as the only hope for India. These children are not all orphans but they have been rescued off the street. Some still visit their parents in the holidays. They are being educated and learning a different way of life. The Alpha India Foundation will care for them for life and find them work and a home. They are being given a great start in life.

This is the story hut and we were the first to use it. It was a bit of a shock to realise that we were expected to tell a story and lead the children in devotions. They sang to us and we sang to them.

Isn't their house fantastic amidst all that poverty. We enjoyed our trip to India and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but this is the only place in India I have a desire to go back to.

Eve's group saying their goodbyes. We had a wonderful lunch. After all the curry for breakfast dinner and tea, they cared for us by making us chips with our chicken.

The journey back was just as eventful. We had to get back for our rehearsal or else we would have stayed longer. Here is a mother with a baby on the back of a motorbike. I think six was the most we saw on one bike. Our driver didn't know where St Andrews Kirk was but Suresh explained to him before we left and we arrived just before the rest of the choir. It was hard to make him understand that he could go because we didn't need him any more. we gave him 1.000 rupees tip for giving us the most wonderful day.
Frank, Eve and Susan.