Sunday, November 20, 2005

BR Hills

This past week, I have been in BR hills, up in the mountains in southern Karnataka. Our final village was Sanneri Colony, a previously-nomadic tribal community experiencing the long, slow process of resettlement. Lots of similarities as First Nations in Canada, except that the resettlement is now considered to be an embarassement in Canada, whereas here they still think they are helping these ‘primitive’ and ‘backward’ societies advance in life. I guess seeing the worth of some other way of life is a process of shifting ideology – they are still in an earlier stage maybe. It is rather tragic they can’t learn from our mistake. Lots of challenges for these people, pretty poor living conditions on top of loss of culture. We did meet some really great people who are dedicating their lives to protecting the people and their way of life, which is heartening.

Gorgeous setting. Coffee country – the village was covered in coffee plants, heavy with round little green and red coffee beans. I was up to my elbows in java and smiling ear to ear. Funny, the locals sell the coffee beans, but buy ground coffee from elsewhere to drink. We helped a local guy map some land he wants to development for community work – as payment we got a pocket full of unprocessed coffee beans awaiting slow roasting and brewing. Fun fun. We got a chance to play aroung with a GPS machine, run a short census, and do some questionaires. Judy Guernsey from Dalhousie University arrived in time to join us in BR Hills and really helped us try some new things and give us some needed support. We got a chance to expose the Indian students to the joys of campfires – and got to see how fast and intensely coconut shells burn – it seemed like they had been soaked in lighter fluid. I also got to indulge in the best lime pickle I‘ve had yet – delicious tender lime rinds dripping with red spices.

It really was a jungle out there. We went on a hike on the final day, but had to turn around because there was a herd of irate elephants blocking the way. On drives home, we saw acrobatic displays by monkeys, families of elephants crashing through the brush, wild boar trotting off into the woods, and enormous bison grazing along the roadside.

Before we arrived in BR Hills, we had some tough days with the JSS faculty and the project. By the time we left, the energy of the group was much more serene and happy.

And so our field work is complete. What an unforgettable adventure.

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