Considering it was my first week on the job I was surprised that the OAB actually had something for me to do. We are told in ICO that building relationships with our work colleagues is of the utmost importance... and to focus on this rather than on specific tasks or even trying to imagine how you are going to complete your placement objectives. All week I was working with the computer instructor, Samad. He had a free week because his students were all writing exams. I was teaching him how to perform some tasks in Microsoft Excel and Access. He is a very polite man and a very keen learner. It is his job at the OAB to teach basic computing to the blind... some of which have had absolutely no experience with a computer. I felt the work I was doing in week one had a direct impact on the capacity of the organization to better train it's associates for potential job placement. I left the office everyday last week with a big smile on my face knowing that I have already positively influenced someone in the organization.
The gates of the OAB.
This cow is always around work.
Training Week (Week Two)
On Monday I arrived at the office not knowing that this was the starting day of a seven day computer training program for blind school teachers. This is the first time that the program has been done. The program starts the training at a very novice level and will eventually result (after many 7 day sessions) in the blind teachers imparting this knowledge to their students. (The ones lucky enough to have a computer in their schools.) There was an introduction ceremony that they included me to be a part of as I will be hanging around the lab and helping with instruction. I got to help light incense for a puja for the god Jagganath. Putting it in Judeo-Christian terms, a puja is a ritual like a blessing or praying. Jagganath is a deity who is well known in Orissa. He is known as the principle god of Orissa and is thought to be a re-incarnation of Vishnu. Vishnu is the head of the Gods in Hinduism. This puja is done whenever a new thing is started. At least this is what I understand. So, this is how we began the training week. Starting the program with this puja is like praying to bring good luck to the program and they believe that it will help make it successful.
Participating in the puja. Although you can't see, my shoes are off as part of the ritual.
Learning the basics of computer hardware.
Democratic Elections at the OAB
I found out that the OAB is a democratic NGO. This means that every three years there is a vote for those holding membership cards of the OAB. There are some 800 people across the province that participate in this. Only vision impaired people can be members of the OAB and so from this pool the candidates are nominated. I am lucky enough (perhaps unlucky if it really affects my role!) to be here through the election process which happens in June. I am happy to work for an NGO that operates in this way.
Statue of Lewis Braille at the OAB. I'm sure he would be proud of the politics.
I don't know what I'm doing!
So, my boss, the secretary of the OAB, gave me the task of putting together a "Rehabilitation Scheme" for disabled persons in India. This scheme is going to be considered by the state government. This scheme is to outline services and policies to be implemented by the public and private sectors for the inclusion of disabled persons. My first response was that is should be called an "Integration Scheme" because the language of the former suggests that persons can be cured of their disability... he listened to my suggestion but did not really respond to it. So, he gave me a booklet, from Canada actually, called "Bridging the Gap, Government of Canada Programs and Services of Interest to Canadians with Disabilities" as a guideline. I think I am tackling the task alright, my biggest problem being my ignorance of policies and schemes already in place. We are going to have a meeting about that next week.
My new best friends
My office has dogs! Dirty, strayish dogs but they enjoy the company of people and consider the halls of the OAB to be home. Kalu ("Blacky") is a vision impaired dog (he is missing an eye) so he fits in well.... he really resembles my family's dog Ben... just thinner.
Also, out back on the grounds there is a litter of young pups, 9 of them to be exact. One of them in particular has taken a liking to me and lets me pet him... I'm trying to be careful not to let him lick, scratch or bite me for fear of rabies. (Even though I am vaccinated the treatment plan has to be quick and it is lengthy, involving lots of needles) My research suggests that a dog has to be acting like it has rabies to spread it... someone correct me if I'm wrong! Anyway, my landlord is not fond of dogs but I want to see if I can adopt the one puppy with hopes of immigrating him to Canada upon my return. This is all dependent on the laws, vets, and landlord situation working out... that is a lot of factors.
The puppy posse.
My little guy.
Mandeer is the Hindi word for temple. So, I was brought to Raw temple by a co-worker named Praygna. She showed me around and I asked if it would be alright if I could snap some pictures. (I got a couple but I didn't want to take too many, people were already staring at the foreigner.) It was neat to see how they pray to different gods as this temple housed shrines to a number of them. I had to wash my hands before entering and check my shoes at the door... for the cost of 1 rupee. People were all over the place, sitting on the floor, standing, lighting candles, and all engaged in personal prayer. It was interesting to watch.
Candle tree inside the temple.
My roommate Jen and I have taken to shopping at AG Square. This is a very local market. The crowded square is a maze of stalls that sell household items, electronics and food. It is narrow, dusty and made for people much smaller than me so I often get held up at a human traffic jam as Jen slips by... she is a tiny woman. The locals are always surprised to see us there and Jen (who has been in Bhubaneswar for 4 months and has a better grasp on Oryia) overheard a man ask a shop owner "What are these two doing here?". We had a good laugh. Out back there is a produce market where the food is of much better quality than at the local Reliance Fresh (a grocery store chain) and at a much better price. The catch is you have to bring your own bags to carry the produce home.
Out in front of the square.
Inside the square.
Behind at the produce market.
Song from title: Long December by The Counting Crows