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Home Forums General Discussion Earthship India- Volunteers wanted Re: Earthship India- Volunteers wanted



Update 1, 28/01/09

Our mission began, 24/01/09, when the man with many names came to town now affectionately known to me as Top Cat (TC). With many a tale of adventure and dare-do.

I watched and listened attentively as TC, shivering in the cold of my London flat, cast his persona upon me.

TC seems a man of vast experience with a broad smorgasbord of ablates gained from his many dealings in life. Outspoken, organized, motivated and efficient with an awareness that comes only with a preparedness to look behind the curtain. He had appositive influence on my hopes of completing the project from the outset.

It was an evening tinted with excited apprehension as we familiarized ourselves with each other and talked of the days to come.

Departure day arrived with a clear morning sky. There were a few finishing jobs around the house that i had deliberately left to see how TC would react to the situation, serving as primary ground base for me to work with to facilitate my desire to complete the task that lay ahead of us. With nothing eels to do but wait for a reasonable time to leave for the airport, we got everything finished with ample time to shuffle, sit and observe the flow of travelers making their way through the hustle and bustle of Heathrow’s terminal 3.

On the first day of our acquaintance we managed to wangle a catch phrase/in joke, ‘Munch On!’,

Which i took as a good sign in our efforts to build a fruitful working relationship.

Although the catch phrase wore thin after a few days, to me, it bode well toward the development of our relationship.

I knew the journey from Bombay to Gokarna would be arduous and straining with a lack of sleep and our unfamiliarity, along with the general stresses of arriving in a new country.

TC has a strong dislike of cities and requested that we exit Bombay ASAP.

My willingness to place a mirror (metaphor) in front of the many wheelers, dealers and punters of Bombay’s streets was frustrating TC, after a few hours he asked me to stop due to my behavior putting extra tension on an already stressful environment. Immediately i stopped driven by my desire to complete the transition from England vibe to Indian vibe as smoothly as possible.

When we changed money at the airport (mirror) and paid for a prepay taxi through the polluted, contradictive streets of Bombay to Victoria central station. Mirrors everywhere.

I admire TC’s willingness to express his feelings on any given situation and his forthright, outspoken nature all adding to my positively toward our chances of completing the project, with these being the characteristics that initially drew me to him.

I first met TC on a Sunday morning trip to earthship Brighton’s twice monthly open day.

My boss at the time had a free Sunday and agreed to take a trip to Brighton to see what all the fuss was about and gain a better understanding of the earthship concept.

We arrived at Stanmer Park with an hour to spare. While on the tour i couldn’t help but noticed a dark haired man, amongst a group of 3 or 4. He took every opportunity to encourage the tour guide to go into further detail in relation to practical issues in relation to practicality and functionality of earthship concept and design behind the pretty picture of earthship eco living.

I made a mental note to approach the man once the tour had ended.

Come the end of the tour I approached the group of men positioning myself to ask the outspoken man about his interest in earthships and complement him on digging deeper into the concept.

When the first appropriate moment arose i took the opportunity t ask the man. He told me he had recently finished project managing a conventional build in Spain and that he hoped to purchase land and build his own dwelling. After finishing his brief summary he returned the question to me. In reply i said ” i have a piece of land in India” cutting me short in mid sentence he proclaimed “you’re Jon?!”. Not being famous or infamous this was a shock, a man i had never met before knew my name. He continued ” I’ve been trying to contact you all week. We talked for a short while about earthship concept and general eco development. As the conversation continued my mind was racing in regard to the possibility of this obviously bright man (i have a passion for brightness in people) joining me in a venture to build in India.

Bombay’s Victoria station can be difficult at he best of times and TC’s want to head straight for Gokarna tinted the situation with an element of urgency that I did my utmost to elevate.

We were told, at the ticket office, and by a myriad of Indian punters, the next train for Mardgoa, Goa (the nearest we could get to Gokarna without spending more than 24 hours in Bombay) was scheduled for departure at 23:15 that same evening. We would have to return to the ticket office at 20:00 hours to check on availability for 2nd class sleeper tickets. I could see the prospect of waiting, then not getting a ticket for the train draining TC’s resolve.

Our only other option was to take the 10-hour??? overnight sleeper bus to Panjim (capital of Goa).

The images in the glossy brochure looked quite comfortable and accommodating, along with the opportunity of departure in 2 hours it was an offer we couldn’t refuse under the circumstances.

This was our escape route from the cauldron of Bombay. We ate at a near bye restaurant where TC got his first taste of the cuisine to come. We left the restaurant with ample time to board the coach for departure.

To our combined dismay and discomfort we found the sleeper compartment distinctly cramped. all our cunning plans to hijack empty sleeping compartments were scuppered by vigilant staff and eventually an ever increasing number of passengers as the driver seemed to be cruising the streets of the city for the next two hours in search of short, skinny people willing to pay for transportation to Goa. This made a mockery of the scheduled 10-hour scheduled journey time, or perhaps we were taken for foolish Gorra from the outset.

After taking half a sleeping tablet each to enhance the remote possibility of actually getting some sleep on the non-AC coach. It really didn’t help matters that neither I or TC were confident enough in the security of the baggage hold to risk leaving our packs. We took out rucksacks on board reducing the available sleeping space by an1/6. OUCH!

We enjoyed a midnight snack of Gobi manchurian and Palak paneer, at a reasonably tidy roadside restaurant. As the bus made one of many stops en route, usually for a handful of disfigured, uncomfortably contorted passengers to shuffle from the bus into the roadside forna to relieve inflated bladders and such like.

Panjim our destination was reached 15 hours after departure from Bombay. Goa is always a god staging point on a trip to India, it’s colonial Portuguese history has left it with a distinctly familiar European look and feel. We both began to relax a little in the hospitality and guidance of Johan the great Swede that i have become firm friends with since my last sojourn in India.

From Panjim we took a frantic direct shuttle bus to Mardgoa station

The train journey from Mardgoa, scheduled to take 2 hours, was surprisingly only 15 minutes late. As the train drew into the station the brave amongst the passengers moved closer to the edge of the crowded platform. with TC shuffling amongst them for prime position. to board the train and grab one of the wooden slated bench seats for the 2 hour journey to Gokarna road station.

A sense of imminent foreboding was rising amongst the passengers on the platform as we jostled, nudged and deceptively smiled at each other. We were positioned toward the rear end of the busy platform. The engine of the train sped rattling past our position as the pace of the passing carriages began to slow on the long diesel engine train. Crazy people began their personal missions to board the carriages to claim a wooden slated bench seat aboard the train.

A mini riot ensued as those who had pushed their way to the edge of the platform plunged their bodies against the side of the train. As the still rapidly moving carriages rattled past, in a vain attempt to grab a hold of any protruding metal door handle or window bar. Young and old, men and women were amongst the foray. Those who were lucky/skillful enough to get a strong purchase on any protrusion from the train proceeded to run, jump and drag. Arms, legs and backsides flailing asunder as they balled along the platform edge knocking over all those who hadn’t managed to clamber aboard the train as they as they sped along the platform of the slowing train.

Fortunately we, and Ben, a young German, had seen what was coming and took a few precautionary backward steps away from the ensuing melee. The train drew to a halt as the heaving masses fought to get onto the train. Once inside we could see it would be standing room only for the duration of the journey. The swell and sway, of the overcrowded carriage began to push and pull us in all directions. Eventually i lost sight of TC as i slipped into the connecting area between two carriages found a secure place for my pack and used it to sit on.

It took a good 20 minutes for the carriage to regain a relative calm. Until one man, head and shoulder above the other passengers over dramatically, Bollywood style, began, literally screaming and shouting at the passengers around him from his vantage point, standing on the wooden slated bench seats. His enthusiasm for the task seemed to double, as he realized he was under no threat of violence and the centre of attention of a captive audience.

The journey to Gokarna road station was scheduled to take 2 hours which would have been correct if not for the 2 hours we spent waiting for the diesel engine to cool down at Kalwar station.

Gokarn town came upon us darkness. We left the shuttle bus from the station and made our way to Mr. Pai’s place. Unfortunately there were no rooms available so we spent the next hour or so looking for a place to stay

We first set foot on the site (Kalinga) 2 days after departing London. TC immediately set to work surveying. Previously I had received a phone call from Vinod, the landowner, informing me that the monsoon had washed away all the work that i had done the previous season. Excavating 400 tonnes of earth to expand the footprint of the site by 40 percent and engineering a sloping, sweeping roadway down onto the south facing hillside site, from the road running out of Gokarn up the hill behind the north perimeter of the site. I was gutted and quite depressed with the news and had a struggle to re-motivate myself to return and continue with the project.

It was a pleasant surprise to find the monsoon damage to be limited to maximum 10% of the groundwork. To be honest i had expected this when i left the site and Gokarna at the end of last season.

TC was busily formulating designs and plans to regenerate the overgrown site utilizing the flow patterns that mother nature had left on the site for us to follow the monsoon rains which had followed the land contours i had created on the site when engineering its footprint. The passing of the next few days has been difficult at times as we learn how to work together and settle into life in Gokarn for the next 6 months. And to top it all off i have found a growth on my left testicle, which is a little disconcerting right now. But i won’t let it get me down.

Any way I will push on for now under a bit of a cloud wondering why i am doing this.