|(Me and Anne, Thiruvalangadu)|
One of the greatest benefits of volunteering abroad is being able to spend an extended period of time in a new country. It's a truly unique learning experience that will see you interacting with new cultures, trying out loads of awesome new food, speaking new languages and meeting new people. As a volunteer you will get a glimpse of the local culture, allowing you to become a traveller, rather than a tourist. (Love it)
Staying in a small village in Tamil Nadu made me realise that, I am not a tourist. Generally, the typical tourist will be too busy visiting all the popular destinations and having the photos to prove it. Thus far, I am experiencing another culture; intentionally avoiding popular spots as much as possible and enjoying the food.
|(A Hindu temple, Chennai)|
(A Hindu temple, Chennai)
I was tremendously concerned about the food situation in India since I only eat ‘Halal’ meat. Fortunately, Tamil Nadu’s favourite foods are overwhelmingly vegetarian, with lots of coconut and chilli. No matter where you go you will find ‘Dosas’, Coconut Chutney and sambar. Tourists coming from every part of the globe want to experience the exquisite taste of the various dishes of Tamil Nadu that are available in numerous eateries and restaurants of the place. I was lucky enough to find a local vegetarian restaurant called ‘Hotel Saravana’ in the village that I am staying. (Dosa’s for Ladan) Surprisingly, for a state that grows a lot of tea, Tamil Nadu really loves its coffee. Among the special drinks of the place, the filter coffee of Tamil Nadu is one of the widely tasted exclusive drinks. Made of coffee powder, milk, sugar and boiling water, the coffee has a distinct taste altogether due to the special mixing and filtration process.
Although I personally aspire to challenge myself, I am apprehensive about celebrating ‘Eid al-Adha’ without my family and friends, we all know that, Eid is mainly about being around family. For ‘Eid al Adha’ we (Muslims) commemorate Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice to god by slaughtering a goat or sheep and sharing with family, community and the poor. I have a huge family in the UK/London and we typically all come together and have a big meal and spend time together. Conversely, this Eid was an interesting one since I was far away from my loved ones. To be fair, the people I’m volunteering with were beyond thoughtful and that made my tricky situation easier. Despite, being the only Muslim person in the group, I have managed to fully celebrate Eid with my new friends and they were too considerate; we had a talent show/Eid Party, I even got an Indian henna done.(Happy Ladan)
|(Eid Henna, Chennai city )|
|(Roberta, Jay, Danielle, Mabel, Natalie. Chennai)|
|(Mabel, Anne and me, Eid Party, Chennai city)|
|(My Eid outfit, Chennai city. 2014)|
The overriding feeling I get from volunteering is that it's just great fun. I never feel like I'm working because I'm doing something I really enjoy and I know that I end up benefiting from volunteering just as much as the people I'm supposed to be helping. I've gained so much -