Day Twelve - Plus Pods and The Road to Hampi by Benjamin Read

Woke up at 6:50am to the sound of Max’s alarm and I started to get ready for a very big day. Morning meeting was at the usual time of 8:04am, where we discussed what would be happening today as we leave at 12pm sharp to catch the bus to the northern villagers so we can see the last 15 minutes of PLUS.

While we were waiting for Rajath to arrive at 10am, Max did his weekly individual debriefs, while this was happening I was going through the research Rajath and I collected yesterday.

While going through my research, I discovered that in Tibetan culture the mandala is a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion and generally is depicted as a tightly balanced, geometric composition wherein deities reside, the principle deity is housed in the centre. The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment. Monks meditate upon the mandala, imagining it as a three-dimensional palace. The purpose of a mandala is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones.

Where as in Tibetan Buddhist culture and scripture, the sand mandala transmits positive energies to the environment and to the people that view them. While the Buddhist monks construct the mandala they chant and meditate to invoke the energies of the deities that reside in the mandala. After the monks have done this they ask for the deities’ healing blessings. A mandala's healing power extends to the whole world even before it is swept up and dispersed into flowing water—a further expression of sharing the mandala's blessings with all.

After looking through half the research I got yesterday, Rajath arrived for the two hours that we had him for. The reason we only had him for two hours is because we had to be ready at 12pm sharp. As soon as he arrived Jacob, Cal and myself were out the door to make the most of the time we had left.

After one hour and a half had past so we started to head back, so we had enough time to pack our bags for our weekend trip to Hampi. Once we were all packed and ready to go, we got a lift to Bannikuppe, where the charted bus was picking us up. For lunch we had vegetable puffs.

We then had a four-hour bus trip to the northern village of Kannur, to see the PLUS pods. We got there a bit early as we planned to see the last 15 mins of todays program so we didn’t totally distract the kids. PLUS holds two classes everyday, one from 4pm to 5pm and the second is from 5pm to 6pm. Since the first group starts right after school, they have three stages:

First stage is called the take off, where they play games for 10 mins to get the kids energy levels up and to help them get into the mood to learn after having a full day of school.

Second stage is called the flight; this goes for 40 mins (two 15 min sessions followed by a 10 min one), after each session the facilitator rings a bell indicating that it’s time to switch. The kids that were on the tablets move to the floor where they use laminated cards that require the kids to read out which side they want to match and they put them on the board, like you would in dominoes, then for the last 10 mins, as a group they form a circle around the room and they played a game of bang (my friends that were/are theatre students will remember this). Instead of just naming a person, the facilitator says either a month, day or number in Kannada, and the kids have to say the word in English or at least attempt it.

Credit: Max Mikha and Sally Krajačić

Credit: Max Mikha and Sally Krajačić

The third stage is called the land down; in this stage they again play games that reinforce what they learnt that day and it’s also a great way to have fun. Today we helped them do the hokey pokey to finish off todays lesson.

Credit: Max Mikha

Credit: Max Mikha

It was an amazing experience to see Indian children from varying ages taking part in an awesome program. We also got to see some of the exercises they take part in and some of the children wouldn’t let us go, they wanted us to stay but the class that goes from 5pm to 6pm. We also got to see some of the technology they are currently trialling but I’m not going to spoil anything.

We then got the same-charted bus into Bangalore, where Jacob and I walked around town for a bit, while we waited for the 11pm charted bus to Hampi. We got to Cubbon Park at 10:50pm where the bus was already waiting for us. Eight hours from now we will be in Hampi.

Day Eleven - Blog Posts and Planning the short weekend by Benjamin Read

Today I woke up at 7:08am and decided to sleep in for a bit longer. I woke up again at 7:44am and started getting ready for the seventh day on globe.

At our morning meeting at 8:04am it was decided that Larissa, Sally, Jacob and myself would go into Ramanagaram to do extra research and so we could book our buses to Hampi this weekend, where Cal and Max would stay in the village to have a meeting with a villager who can speak fluent English.

Then we started to work on our weekly blog posts again, this time we finished our second one, on the treatment of animals. While Jacob and Larissa were working on the writing, I was going through the photographs and found this one that Cal took a couple of days ago

Credit: Calan Andrews

After we finished our blog posts, we caught a lift with Henry and the water team who is stationed in Ankanahalli to Ramanagaram. Where we ordered lunch at the Ramgam Restaurant, I ordered the vegetable fried rice and an apple juice. After doing a bit of research on the different types of Mandalas and their properties, I updated my website with my first blog post overseas.

Once we were finished doing all our research we got a lift back to the village with Kate. Once we got back to the village we started to get ready to go back into Ramanagaram, but this time we caught a government rickshaw, which only cost us ₹10 each.

Once we got into Ramanagaram we walked to the Taj Restaurant where we had dinner. Once all six groups (Two from Anjanapura, Two from Bannikuppe and the two groups from Ankanahalli) had finished their food we took the Omni’s where 13 people tried to cram into one, but they realised that this was not viable so they did the smart thing and split us into the two vehicles.

We arrived at the Sri Rama theatre where we watched a Bollywood film called Tamasha (English: Spectacle). The theatre tickets costed us ₹80 each. Tamasha tells the story of the main character “Ved”, who loses himself by living according to the social conventions expected of him. This causes him to have a mental breakdown because he is sick of working in IT / Engineering. Throughout the film he slowly finds himself again and becomes a comedian.

All Bollywood films have an interval so you can get snacks or go to the bathroom half way through the film and not miss anything. After the film we had a giant group photo, which included all members of the South villages. Then we headed home for a very big day as we are going to see the PLUS Pods tomorrow.

Day Ten - An In-depth analysis of a Religious Practice by Benjamin Read

This morning I woke up at 7:47am feeling a lot better than I did last night. Got ready for our morning meeting at 8:04am. Where Max decided who would be going to Bannikuppe with the intern and who would be going to Anjanapura with the other group. It was decided that Cal and Larissa would go into Anjanapura, and Jacob, Sally and Myself would go into the Bannikuppe with Rajath.

While we were waiting for the intern to arrive, Jacob, Larissa and Myself worked on our blog posts, this time we were talking about the juxtaposition of the treatment of animals, especially since in India they treat the animals particularly dogs and goats with little to no respect and they don’t eat them, unless it’s a cow, whereas in Australia we seem to take a lot more care with our animals, but we eat most of them. We did find out that ~45-50% of Indians are vegetarian.

While we were writing our blog posts, Rashmitha and a couple of her friends visited us, while they were waiting for the bus to take them to school in Ramangaram.

Sally, Jacob and I went to Bannikuppe with Rajath where we had an interesting passenger in our rickshaw. 

In Bannikuppe I got told some very interesting information about Mandalas. The locals that live in this village told me that some of them use Rangoli to decorate their old houses; that some people use them as good luck charms so when the men of the household walk over them it gives them good luck in the work place, and the last thing I found out today is that they are used to keep bad spirits out of the houses.

Jacob got some useful information out of Rajath in regards to his opinion piece which is on the transport in India. In India if you are caught drink driving you lose your licence permanently, meaning you can never drive again.

Sally got a lot of general information about the different types of religions that are practised in the villages. She found out that there can sometimes be non violent fighting, mostly verbal and a lot of the people that live in the small villages don’t care what religion you practise, as long as you don’t force yours onto them. Ankanahalli and the surrounding villages have temples for Hindus, Muslims and Buddists.

As we were walking back to Ankanahalli it was raining so we stopped by Gita’s house and found out that her cousin and her cousins daughter were staying as their family is going through a rough time. Gita’s cousins father has stage two cancer, they didn’t tell us what type, but the doctors are hopeful he will recover. As the intern was translating for us, we got offered chai and Ragi Mudde for lunch. Raggi Mudde is pretty much a ball of raw dough and you dip it into samba or gravy and you have to swallow it whole, meaning no chewing as it tastes pretty bad, unless you love the taste or rare dough.

Three hours have passed and we decide to leave, as we felt we weren’t able to get anymore information at this time. As we started walking it poured down with rain. Just as we got back to the house, our cooked arrived and it was time for Henry to drive Rajath back to Bangalore until tomorrow.

About 25 mins after they left, Max had to go to a town meeting, to keep rapport and to explain to the villagers what the media team is actually doing as a lot of the locals have been asking, why are there five white people wearing 40K shirts that are here just looking around and taking photographs.

Just after Max left, a couple of the local kids came up and asked Jacob and I to play cricket, unfortunately I couldn’t play for a while as I had to stay in the house to make sure the cook didn’t need anything, because apparently I’m the best interpreter they have after hours haha.

Approximately ten minutes later Kate came back and I was able to play with the locals for a bit until they hit the ball into the drain and it went that far that they couldn’t see it. So the game was called early. After this Cal came home from being in Anjanapura, but when I asked if he wanted to go to Rashmitha’s house, he told me that he was tired and would like a lie down. So Jacob and I went up to her house and we played a couple games of Carrom, and then we played a new game.

I don’t know if I heard correctly but I think the game is called Call the Police, it’s a game where you have four pieces of paper, they consist of the words Police, Thief, King and Rani. Police is worth 500 points, but there is a catch if you have this piece of paper, you need to successfully pick the thief to receive the 500 points.

If you have the piece of paper that says thief you get zero points, King is worth 9000 and Rani is worth 8000. The player with the most points after 10 rounds wins.

To start off with you fold all four pieces of paper into half then half again, once this is done you shuffle all four pieces in your hands, then throw them into the air (like you just don’t care) and people have to grab the pieces of paper as fast as possible. You are allowed to look at your piece of paper, but if you are the thief you need to keep a poker face, in order to not give yourself away.

We only got to play one game of this, before Jacob and I had to return to the house for dinner, which we had White Rice, Samba, a potato dish and a type of traditional Indian bread. After dinner we went over to the other house in Ankanahalli to watch Superbad. We got back home around 10:50pm and everyone got ready to sleep.

Day Nine - To Start Exploring a Religious Practice by Benjamin Read

Woke up at 7:44am and got ready for the morning meeting at 8:04am. This time no one was late.

Our morning meeting consisted of talking about who needed to go into Ramangaram for research and who is going to stay in the village with Rajath our intern.

We decided that Cal and Jacob would stay in the village with Rajath where Sally would go to the monthly village meeting and Larissa and I would go into Ramangaram to do some external research.

While we were waiting for 11:30am to come around a bird flew into our house, and a Indian boy came chasing after it and trying to catch it as it flew around the house.

At 11:30am we met the other team in Ankanahalli and we went to Ramangaram to start our research. Unfortunately I didn’t get much done as my laptop died and I got a really bad headache, which didn’t disappear until I slept for four hours. So I’m guessing it was just from fatigue.

The research that I did get done was helpful because it explained in more detail what a Mandala is in religious circles and why some people use colours in their morning designs.

© Benjamin Read Design 2016

On the way back to the house I came across some school children who had just finished school. They asked what my name was and they started to follow me until they reached their houses and while they were following me they would say my name and laugh at me when I turned around.

I reached the house and went straight to sleep to try and get rid of this headache. I apparently slept for four hours and when I woke up, I had some rice and vegetables for dinner and Nutella on traditional indian bread for desert. Then Cal, Sally, Kate, Max and myself played three games of hearts before people headed to bed.

Day Eight - The beginning of the second week and my Opinion Piece by Benjamin Read

Woke up at 4:30am after having the dogs bark all night. They bark at other dogs to mark their territory during the night, but never at humans which is strange.

Team Meeting at 8:04am. Jacob was late again so he got another strike and has to wash the dishes. One more strike and he has to eat a chili pepper.

Jacob, Larissa and Myself were tasked to explore the town and ask questions about our opinion pieces. I didn’t have much luck as the women who draw the mandalas were unreluctant to talk about their stories at this time. I’m hoping that they will open up when we have built up a more solid relationship with them.

One lady called Radha did talk to me about her design, the information that I received was helpful, she told me that she starts drawing her Rangoli at 9 in the morning, it takes two to three minutes everyday and her designs are Illustrations of India.

One of Radha's many designs

After walking around for a hour with the Intern who is acting as an interperator. We decided to come back to the house and do some research, except I didn’t get much done as Rashmitha was at school today, and as I started she came off the bus from school and she asked us to come over.

After walking around for a hour with the Intern who is acting as an interperator. We decided to come back to the house and do some research, except I didn’t get much done as Rashmitha was at school today, and as I started she came off the bus from school and she asked us to come over.

So Larissa and I went over to her house and Rashmitha invited us onto her balcony, where she taught Larissa some words in Kannada and we drank chai. After we talked for a bit and looked at each others photographs. Rashmitha and her sister Sashmita invited us to play the Indian version of snooker.

The game is called Carrom and to start the game you are required to have six white/orange Carrom Men surround the Queen (Red) then you have all the black Carrom Men standing on top of the queen.

You have a big white/blue disc that you flick around the board, you can only go to the sides and right in front (you can’t flick the disc towards you).

To win you need to pocket all as many of the white/orange and black ones as possible. You pocket Carrom Men by shooting them with the blue disc into one of the four holes on the outside of the board.

The Queen can be pocketed on any shot, but to keep it you need to pocket another Carrom Man on the entitlement shot (meaning the shot after you pocket the queen). If this is unsuccessful the Queen goes back into the centre.

The Queen if pocketed is worth 25 points, each orange one is 10 points and the black ones are worth 5. The flick motion requires some getting used to, but I was lucky even with all the cheating haha, to still win a game by 5 points.

We played two games then sadly had to go because our dinner was ready. While we were waiting for dinner, we had a very good and long discussion about movies. For dinner we had Rice (anna in Kannada), Samba, Roti (a type of South Indian bread) and a potato dish mixed with other vegetables.

Around 7:30pm (Indian Time GMT+5:30) Sally, Larissa, Cal and myself started to walk over to the other 40K Globe house in Ankanahalli, while we waited for Jacob who was washing the dishes and Max who had to lock up the house. Once they arrived we started watching Eurotrip and around 9:30pm, Henry the 2IC (2nd in Charge) drove us home in the Omni.

Once we got home we talked for a bit, then headed to bed for another big day tomorrow.


Day Seven - Bangalore and the conclusion of the first weekend by Benjamin Read

Today started as a lazy day, I didn't wake up until after 10 in the morning. Which was a nice change since it would be one of the few days that I would have to be up and ready to start the day at 8:04am.

To start the day Cal and I went to buy my Indian sim card, while Jacob still slept in the hotel room. As this was my first day in Bangalore outside of the first day in India, it was imperative that I got one right away. This was a requirement so I could maintain contact with the people in my group as well as any 40K staff such as my team leader, the region's group leader and second in charge, in case of any emergency that might arise.

After I got my sim card we explored Bangalore and had another look at some of the shops in Commercial Street and confirmed what we wanted to buy closer to the end of our one month stay in India.

After we finished exploring Bangalore, we had the experience of catching one of the Indian trains back to Ramanagara which only cost us ₹10 each. The following picture shows you what a train ticket looks like in India.

On the trains locals will walk up and down the carriages trying to see you food or tea/coffee, the picture below shows one of the locals trying to sell us food. 

When we got back to Ramanagara we caught rickshaws back to our villages. To start the second week of our 40K Globe adventure.

Day Six - The Big Scavenger Hunt through Bangalore by Benjamin Read

This morning involved us meeting as one big group at Cubbon Park at exactly five minutes to nine in the morning, where we were told what exactly we were doing today. We went around the circle and told everyone one thing that we have experienced or achieved so far. My achievement was learning some words in Kannada and being able to write a few words in Kannada script.

After we had all done that, we got our first clue, which was "A city within a city, where a local can get you into a particular cafe". This led us to a shopping complex called UB city, where we had to befriend a local and tell the Team Leaders (TL's) something about them. Then we had to do a challenge, ours was to give a hypothetical prior call, which goes like this:

  • What is the prior level - Green (Sickness), Orange (loss of life or limb in six hours) or Red (loss of life or limb in one hour)
  • Who is injured?
  • At what time?
  • At what place?
  • What happened? 
  • What is happening now?
  • What are you doing now to help?

Once our team had completed this challenge we were given the next clue, which was to find an egg and to bring it to the Empire Hotel on Church Street. Once we arrived the TL's that were outside wrote the word Bangerz on our egg then they told us to find an apple in the "City within a City".

Which led us to the Apple Store, where we were shown a text message that told us to find a coconut that had been opened and bring it back to this particular Team Leader. So the team I was apart of spent a good twenty minutes trying to find a local that was selling coconuts, we managed to find one and when we got back to UB city was told by the first TL's we met that people change locations and we would have to find them. After exploring the entire shopping complex with an open coconut and talking to teams that were ahead of us we got the next clue before we found them, after this we saw the two TL's traveling up the elevator to the third level.

After we gave the coconut to the TL that showed us the text message, we got told to head back to Cubbon Park which we already knew and when we got there we had to sing a song together and the TL's that were still in the park got to choose the song. This was interesting considering my lack of knowledge in "contemporary" music, but we got past it and the second last task we had to do before we got the checklist was that we had to reenact a scene from The Lion King that wasn't hakuna matata or the scene when Scar kills Mufasa. Since it was to long since any of us had actually seen The Lion King we unfortunately had to do the scene where Mufasa dies, but we did it in our own way which was completely wrong haha, but we still passed the challenge.  

We were then told we could smash other peoples eggs for bonus points at end of the scavenger hunt as long as we had pictures to prove this and we also got told to head back to the Empire Hotel on Church Street to pick up the list of extra challenges we could do to get points to win the Scavenger Hunt Trophy which was previously held by the south.

The team I was apart of decided that we should try some of the challenges that were worth big points, but first we went to the liquor store which is next to one of the most popular venues in Bangalore called The Social where we got the photo of an Australian Bottle of Wine. After this we decided to find a rickshaw and try and crash an Indian wedding unfortunately the driver thought we were asking him to take us to clothing shops for a wedding.

After 45 mins we gave up on that and decided to try and get into Chinnaswamy Stadium unfortunately there was actually a cricket game on and security wouldn't let us in because you have to be a member of the stadium to gain entry and you can only be a member if your an Indian national. After asking for the stadiums manager for 20 mins we gave up and went to Plan B where you could do the Ass Burning Spicy Challenge. This involves the person eating 12 chicken wings that are not just spicy hot, but temperature wise as well in the time frame of 4 minutes.

If your ever in Bangalore and want to try this here is some advice.

I didn't attempt this challenge as I'm smart and actually wanted to feel my mouth and hands for the rest of the day. Some people that attempted that challenge had to soak their hands in water and some people even got blisters that lasted for a least a week after they attempted this challenge, but to look at the positives multiple people that attempted it completed it and they got t-shirts to prove it and they got their pictures put up on the Hall of Fame.

I had lunch at Plan B but I had a Prawn Roll which was nice, the food there is really good, just stay away from the ABS Challenge if you don't like your spice. After an hour of catching up and seeing what everyone else had done, I decided to try the stadium again, where I managed to befriend one of the people that was playing in the cricket match, so after he talked to security I managed to get in and take the selfie with myself on the edge of the field as I wasn't allowed to go into the centre of the cricket pitch. I unfortunately lost the selfie when I returned to the hotel and started to transfer todays photos onto my laptop, as my iPhone cable decided it wanted to stop working halfway through the transfer. So after this fiasco I went to the big dinner and Scavenger Hunt Awards Presentation. 😢😞

The big dinner was at the Eden Park Restaurant in Bangalore, that's right my New Zealander friends there is a restaurant with the same name as the largest stadium in Auckland, but back to India we go. Food was supplied but the cost of drinks was on us, which was expected haha. There was a mixture of Indian food which I couldn't tell you the names of the dishes to save my life, but before we started there was the matter of who got onto the cricket stadium, fortunate for myself one of my fellow team members for the day managed to get onto the pitch as well and he told our entire team to come up and sign the cricket bat. People were genuinely surprised that we managed to get onto the pitch especially since there was a cricket match being played.

Sadly to say that the South didn't get the most points this time around as one team from Central Bangalore scored a total of 3500 points, they had three of their five members complete the ABS Challenge and got 1000 points per person. The South came second with 2800 points so at least we were runners up.

Even though I was exhausted and almost fell asleep at the restaurant from what I'm told. I still managed to talk to a lot of people from the North and South groups and got to see where their projects were headed, I also talked to some of the TL's and the head of the leadership program as even on the sixth day of being there I already wanted to return to India to see how all these programs would develop after the January and July 2016 cohorts had taken over and added their insights into areas that will benefit the locals immensely.

To finish off this is for the locals of Wollongong, even in India I still managed to prove that there is a very small world in our regional commercial hub where somebody knows somebody you know.

Day Five - PLUS Pods and Commercial Street, Bangalore by Benjamin Read

Woke up at 6:50 in the morning, to the sound of birds chirping and kids playing in the street. I'm getting better at only using a couple of scoops of water for the shower, as being in a rural village the water only comes through every 3-4 days and our electricity and internet is spotty.

Some days it’s on all night and non existent in the morning or it comes on during the day and we don’t have it during the night, because of this we all have our laptops and phones on charge unless we are out in the field, sometimes I feel that we might blow a fuse because we have so many items plugged in.

Day three team meeting starts again at four past 8 in the morning. Today we discussed what we would be doing, which was to finish the blog posts we started yesterday and to cull the 1000+ photographs we have all taken in the first three days of being in India and pick the best ones.

Unfortunately didn't get to visit the northern villages today to visit the Plus Pods, the bus got delayed behind a funeral ceremony and the traffic didn't help when we got into Bangalore. We have rescheduled our trip up north for next week.

Instead we went to commercial street in Bangalore where we did some shopping, Cal, Jacob and myself brought Lungis.

A lungi is a traditional garment worn around the waist in countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, India,Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Brunei, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, the Horn of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula.

We then headed to the Arbor Brewing Company where I had the Surfer Dude, which is a pizza that has bacon, pineapple, ham, red onion and a spicy tomato paste. I had two vodkas mixed with coke to drink.

We somehow managed to lose our hotel key while at the Arbor. So we had to go back to the hotel to get a replacement and they were not impressed. After we got the key replaced we stayed in the hotel and went to sleep.