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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Friday, 26 August 2011

Saving Ivy - Part 2

 “I don’t understand” I tell the woman on the other end of the phone. It was a bad connection and the woman was either speaking English with a Tamil accent or speaking Tamil, I couldn’t tell which. “Wait, wait, I put you on to someone who speaks Tamil.”

I ran out of the bathroom where I had gone to make the phone call to escape the noise from fourteen orphan boys creating chaos in the volunteer house living room. “Manoj, Manoj, can you talk to this lady from Blue Cross about the puppy, ask if they can take her? I can’t understand her.”

Manoj took my phone. After a minute he hangs up. “No, they are in Chennai and can’t pick up the puppy here.”

It wasn’t exactly the question I wanted answered. I wanted to know if there was somewhere in Pondicherry that I could take her. I wasn’t ready to give up on the Blue Cross yet and decided to email them in English. The auto response I received acknowledging receipt of my email was in English. A drop of hope . I crossed my fingers and waited for their reply.

Ivy was dirty and her wounds needed cleaning and disinfecting. Partially filling a bucket with cold water, I dampened a cloth and dribbled the water over her, holding her still with my left hand. She obliged without complaint so to make it easier to wash her properly, I placed her in the bucket with her two little front legs dangling over the lip. She whimpered and moved her legs in a futile effort to escape but once I started massaging my Herbal Essences shampoo through her fur, she stopped.

After she was rinsed clean and had shaken herself off to dry, I tended her wounds, cutting away some of the matted fur and using antiseptic wipes from my first aid kit to gently clean them. She stood still the whole time somehow knowing that I was trying to help her. With no fat to keep her warm, she began to shiver. I wrapped her in my purple scarf and placed her in my lap to use my body heat to warm. Her shivering soon stopped. I gently stroked her through the scarf and watched her sleep fitfully, my heart aching for this little soul who so far, had lived all alone in the world, without a friend or someone to care for her, hunting for food, always hungry, unable to sleep peacefully, ignored, unwanted, unseen, living a rough existence without love, the only one she knew. I would not give up hope of a better life for her.

Before heading out for dinner with friends from the IVC house, I quickly checked my email on my iPhone. The Blue Cross had responded and with it came some more hope. They provided me with the name and number of a lady in Pondicherry called Marion, from an organisation called Dayakara. I quickly googled to find out about them. Dayakara is a trust run by Marion and her husband, both of German origin, who have lived in Pondicherry and run Dayakara using largely their own funds for over 30 years. More than 20 dogs, 3 horses, pigs, ducks and a goat live a free-range existence at Dayakara but the article indicated that they didn’t have capacity to take in any more animals. It didn’t sound like this would be the final solution but I crossed my fingers and planned to contact her the next day anyway.

The next morning, Marion contacted me before I could contact her. “Please bring your puppy ASAP” she emailed and text me. “You’re saved” I sang to Ivy joyfully, “you’re saved.”

I went home from my ayurvedic treatment to shower and take Ivy to Marion immediately. As I approached the back door, I already knew something was wrong. The cleaning lady had been whilst I was out. The plastic chair that I had placed outside to block the outside stairs was now sitting inside near the back door. Stepping outside, I looked around. Ivy wasn’t there. Anxiously I started to search and call for her. I checked the back steps. Everything I used to block them had been cleared away. Her water and food bowls were gone. I checked the downstairs shower and toilet. Not there. I climbed up the stairs checking the back terrace, toilet and showers. Not there. I climbed the next set of stairs to the locked rooftop and peered through the gate, calling for her. Not there. Crying, I ran back down the stairs and grabbed my keys to unlock upstairs. Maybe she had been put inside? Not there either.

I threw on my sunglasses and flip flops and walked along my street, an oily, crying mess. I looked down the side streets, I looked at each house and feebly called her name. I reached the end of the street. No Ivy. I walked back, crying, convinced she was gone and wondering why the cleaning lady would do this, she was just a little puppy and she was about to be saved.

The walk home calmed me down so that I was capable of talking. I rang Arasu, the director of my volunteer program and asked if he knew what the cleaning lady had done with the puppy. “She rang me this morning and said the puppy had made a mess. I told her to clean it up and leave the puppy there until you got home.” At those last words I started to cry. “But she’s gone, she’s not here,” I sobbed. “I’ve found somewhere to take her. Can you please call her and find out where she put her?” I asked.

Twenty minutes later ArasuAnja. “I’ve found her. Can you come with me to take her to Auroville in 30 minutes?”

Without knowing exactly where we were going, Anja and I rushed off on the scooter with little Ivy wrapped in my purple scarf held tight against my chest. Ivy loved the ride. Alert, she watched the traffic and scenery pass by and from time to time stuck her nose up in the wind. Content, she sat snuggled in my arms, going with the flow once again, surprising me with how easy going and cool she is.

Eventually, we found Dayakara, near Auroville but not part of it. Marion quickly ushered us inside to put Ivy on the table for examination. Wounds cleaned and disinfected. Toe nails clipped. Vitamin injection. One more injection that made Ivy howl pathetically in fear. “She definitely has a lot of worms” Marion told me. “We will need to worm her tomorrow.” Marion also told me that Ivy was probably around 3 months old and was a Doberman crossed with an Indian dog. With small paws, she would only be a moderate sized dog. We put her inside a cage distracted by a big bowl of food and walked away.
Ivy is now safe in loving, caring hands. 

A week later, she has already gained more than 500 grams and her wounds are healing although slowly. Ivy has a guaranteed home at Dayakara with Marion and the rest of the animals but the ideal outcome would be to find her a loving home. The odds are against her as she is female and an Indian cross-breed. Both are unpopular traits in domestic dogs here as pure breeds are in fashion and males preferred because they can’t get pregnant. But regardless of what happens, Ivy’s days as an unwanted street dog are now over.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Saving Ivy - Part 1

Dropping by the other volunteer’s house to meet some friends for lunch, I found a tiny, sick and injured puppy wandering the street. Alone and without a collar she was obviously an orphan and not owned. She was also emaciated. Fur over bones with a bloated stomach full of worms. Covered in dirt with a section of skin and fur missing from her side revealing raw flesh, not yet infected. On either side of her head, skin was torn away from the soft folds of her neck just below her ears. The torn fur was matted with dried blood and puss and dirt. The wounds were infected. A pussy discharge trailed from the inner corners of both her eyes. On her cheek and on top of her head, more areas of exposed flesh was slowly healing. She was so small I estimated that maybe she was 8 weeks old. So young. Too young to be on the streets all alone without a mother.

She looked terrible, her wounds and layer of dirt a little repulsive but she was still gorgeous. This tiny little puppy with huge ears that stuck out from her head like wings. I touched her gently with my fingertips, trying to avoid her wounds, feeling the knuckles of her spine like hard lumps beneath her puppy fur. She lay down at my feet and rolled over to offer her tummy to my fingers. I wondered if this was the first time that a human had ever touched her with kindness. She stayed at my feet for twenty minutes as my friends gathered around and we tried to figure out what to do with her. To leave her on the streets would probably mean death. If starvation didn’t take her then infection from her wounds probably would. Knowing this, how could I leave her here on the street?

We contacted our local friend to see if he knew of a vet but by the time he responded, it was too late. The little puppy wandered back up the street. With nowhere to keep her and no idea of what to do with her, I let her walk away. Torn between wanting to help and the seeming helplessness of both her and my situation. I watched her walk around the corner, fighting the urge to chase after her and hold her safe in my arms. Flushed with guilt, I turned away, sending her a silent prayer, that she may stay safe and that we may find her once again.

Three days later, the incessant barking of a dog caught my attention as I left the IVC volunteer house, the last in a scooter convoy with my friends on our way out for dinner. As I drove past the barking, I spotted a small familiar figure standing in front of the gate of the large barking dog. I turned around, yelling out to my friends to stop, and went back. Behind her, another dog, a large male, limped over to her. Despite his lame leg, I sensed danger for her and I quickly scooped her into my arms. My friends came back to find me holding the emaciated, dirty,  little puppy and they knew we couldn’t leave her this time. We locked her inside the gate of the volunteer house whilst we went out for dinner and tried to figure out what to do.

Returning home to check on her, we find her a little distressed at being locked up in a strange place all alone. Unable to leave her by herself, we stayed with her and I jumped online to try and find a way to save her. Ivy (named after after IVC (India Volunteer Care) because I found her outside their volunteer house), curled up underneath the one and only lounge chair in the house. She closed her eyes to sleep, but she found no peace. Her eyes twitched and opened at the smallest sound. I wonder if she had ever enjoyed a peaceful sleep. Perhaps this is the only kind she has known, on guard, ready to react and protect herself every moment of her life.

As she slept fitfully, I googled veterinarians in Pondicherry and emailed them asking for help. I googled for animal welfare organisations and found an address for the Blue Cross listed at a university in Pondicherry but I could not find it on google maps. So I look up Blue Cross India directly and found a listing for Chennai, phone number, email and address. I email myself the details and planed to contact them the next afternoon.

With no children at the Day Care centre until Wednesday given the long weekend, I wrapped Ivy up in my purple scarf and zipped her into my imitation longchamps bag, her little head sticking out of the small gap I left open so she could breathe and see. Carefully placing her between my feet on my scooter, I slowly drove the short distance home, regularly glancing between the road and my feet, in case she tried to jump out. She sat still, placid and seemingly unperturbed. Her big ears flapped all the way home.

I took her to the outside area at the back of the house, her temporary home. Using a plastic chair, bucket and dust pan, I blocked off the stairs to the second level to keep her in a confined, safe area. With a good night cuddle, I put her down and watched her curl up on the step. At least for one night she was off the street and safe. Unsure if I would be able to find an option other than returning her to the street, I wished for her at least one good night’s sleep and prayed that help would find its way to her via me tomorrow.

 Little Ivy outside the IVC volunteer house

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Constant Dirt

Lightning flashes light the night sky, momentarily turning midnight blue to bright white and warning of approaching rain. When it finally arrives, the first light drops quickly turn into giant splatters filling the gutters to overflowing within minutes. The sound of falling rain and water gushing from spouts onto the ground muffle the honking and motors of the evening traffic, ferrying passengers home to shelter. The rain beds down the dirt in the air and brings with it a cooler, more bearable temperature. The earthy damp smell unique to rain that has fallen on hot dry land is blown into my room by the stormy wind rousing sentimental memories of summer rain in Australia.

In my spearmint green bedroom, the temperature is cooler but still uncomfortably warm.  I feel the urge to stand outside in the rain, allowing it to drench me in coldness. Instead I walk momentarily through the rain to the outside shower. Closing the door to the outside rain, I stand under the cool, sprinkling water as it slowly wets my hair and skin and the layer of dirt and sweat runs onto the tiles and down the drain. I am reluctant to turn off the water for as soon as I do my shower cupboard becomes a mild sauna and a new layer of sticky oily sweat coats my skin.

No matter how many times I shower or wash each day, I end up feeling the same, uncomfortable, as oil, sweat and dirt coat my skin once more. Although my body is well used to Asian climate, the heat and accompanying humidity here is overwhelming and the only way my body can cope is to sweat, all day and all night until I lay down in my bed to sleep. During the day I wear a singlet to absorb my sweat and  loose Indian clothing to cover my limbs and allow air to circulate over my skin. My hair is tied up on my head to cool my neck. But it doesn’t matter what I do or what I wear, I feel constantly bedraggled and I’m sure I look that way too.

The air carries constant invisible particles of dirt ready to coat my skin every time I venture out. It doesn’t help that many of the roads are part bitumen, part dirt and rocks. As I ride my moped through the crowded streets, dodging bicycles, rickshaws and motorbikes,  more dirt is flicked into the air and settles on my skin so that my once clean body is coated once more.

I hand wash my clothes daily to prevent sweat and dirt staining the cloth. But no matter how much I scrub, my whites are never quite white. Black hides the dirt well but is the worst colour to wear under this hot Indian sun.

I went to the beach thinking that a dip in the Bay of Bengal would cool and refresh me. The cloudy surf was warm with a strong undertow that I didn’t think suitable for swimming. I dipped my body into its murky shallows to cool my skin but as I stood up out of the water the humid air wrapped itself around my body leaving me sticky and feeling unclean once again.

The only lengthy respite I have discovered was a day spent at Mango Hill Hotel’s swimming pool. A long soak in cool water and like magic my sweating ceased replaced by a cleansed freshness that stayed with me long after I returned to my Pondicherry home. But I didn’t come here to spend my days at a swimming pool. I came here to interact and to be of service where and how I can.

Adapting to the heat and dirt is taking me a little longer than adapting to my living arrangements and the general chaos here. I can’t escape it although I can find temporary reprieve which is more than many, many people who live here in simple huts, no electricity and no running water. I'm not comfortable but then I didn’t really come here to be comfortable. I’m grateful to be here in this incredible country. Still, I'm hoping for a day where I can at least get out of bed and not start sweating straight away.

 Some boys from the orphanage swimming at Mango Hill

 View along Serenity Beach towards Pondicherry

Fishermen children playing in a boat, Serenity Beach

Friday, 5 August 2011

My Indian Life

Unexpectedly, my arrival into India was soon followed by a 36 hour dose of culture shock. The orderly, clean and comfortable life I had known during my visit to Europe, was suddenly replaced by very basic accommodation, a constant layer of sweat and dirt, crazy honking traffic, bright and loud late night temple processions and a very laid back approach to getting things done in its own sweet time which I did not yet understand.

In a gesture of kindness, I was left to rest and recover from my flight. “We can talk about your volunteer schedule later” were the manager’s parting words as he left the house and me without any idea of when I would see him again. I felt abandoned and disconnected in a strange place, with no idea of where I was living, where to go, how to get there or how to return. And although right outside my room, in the living area of the Day Care Centre and Evening Remedial School that is now my home, were a dozen three year old children having their afternoon nap watched over by their four sari-clad carers, I had no one I felt I could ask to help me or explain to me how things work around here.

I had expected things to be different. A same day induction, to be shown how to get around town and the key necessities to my new life. I had expected to be housed with other volunteers who could show me the ropes instead of being housed on my own. I had expected greater domestic comfort, hot water, air conditioning, a more modern, equipped and cleaner looking kitchen as well as clean sheets, towels and a bed cover. I expected to be given instructions and a timeline about how things would proceed including all the information, introductions and contacts to select my project and commencement day as soon as possible. But these were just expectations and not how things were to be.

My innate need for clarity and order in my life was instantly challenged pushing me outside my comfort zone. Everything was grey, blurry, unclear. My immediate panicked reaction was to get back to what I knew or at least as far away as possible from what I perceived as chaos. I felt the impulse to run, to cut short my trip, to escape. But I didn’t. Instead, I sat still and felt my discomfort and breathed acceptance into its core. And little by little, the discomfort began to disappear as I melded into this new, different way of life.

A week later, the shock is just a faint memory. A new order and disorder has been created in my life here and I am now accepting that nothing happens as I expect it to happen.  I have made new friends. I know my address and can generally find my way back home even if I do get lost trying to find my way most places. I love riding into town on my moped, dodging through traffic and honking the horn like a true Indian. I have settled into my new home and even like my “rustic” spearmint green walls and cold water showers after sweating non-stop all day. My privacy here is limited and I’m often climbing over the three year olds to get to the kitchen or toilet but I get to play with them when they are not staring at me in shock or crying because of my foreignness. And I have four lovely Indian ladies here looking after me, making me coffee every morning. My volunteer projects have not quite started, although I am slowly making progress and am almost ready to commence in Indian time of course. Everyday I get to surround myself with the sights, colours, flavours, scents, sounds and energy that is India. I couldn’t be happier to be where I am right now in this crazy, chaotic, sweaty, dirty but incredible country that I love.

My bedroom

 The kitchen

One of the many temple processions passing my front door

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Wordless End to Europe

From Sardegna to Prague to Hrensko to Bavaria to Sciez, Geneva and Gruyere I have witnessed and shared beauty and friendship. For these moments in time, I am grateful.

Sometimes there are no need for words but to be in the world with an open, grateful heart and a sense of wonder. These last few weeks has been one of those times.

Sunset from Porto Piccolo, Baia Sardinia, Sardegna

Sunset afterglow from Porto Piccolo, Baia Sardinia, Sardegna

Baia Sardinia Beach, Sardegna

My favourite window shutters, Fabriano, Italy

View from the Old Castle, Prague

St Nicholas Church, Prague

Pravčická gate - the largest rock bridge in Europe, near Hrensko, Czech Republic

Kamenice River, Mezni Louka, Czech Republic

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany

Schloss Hohenschwangau, Germany

Lake Geneva

Me on Lake Geneva!

View towards Geneva Fountain and Lake from St Peter's Cathedral, Geneva

More Geneva

Gruyere Castle, Gruyere, Switzerland

Gryere cheese maturing in Gruyere, Switzerland

Eidelweiss, Chateau-DdOex, Switzerland