Friday, October 31, 2008

Pedal Inspired Holiday Machinist

Diwali has in fact come, and remains for four days, at our empty NGO complex, where most everyone has gone home to see their families. Many people "commute" or work here most of the time, sending money back to their spouse and children, residing with a parents or brother or sister. Most of them have returned to celebrate the epic return of Rama (King from the Hindu tale of the Ramayana) to his kingdom after recovering his wife from his evil enemy in Sri Lanka = Diwali. That leaves us three volunteers as well as a mother and her five-year old son, another two families and one cook, which inspired me to cook the rhoti's this morning, proving my worth by successfully rolling flack flour-dough pancakes to be cooked on our propane stove.
Last night was the big celebration, with fireworks on the horizon and Rashmi's treat (volunteer) of her bag of gunpowdered packed excitement. I tried to set off a firework with a sparkler, but couldn't tell it was lit and as a consequence still can't hear out of my left ear - all digits are accounted for, however, so I'm still typing along without problems. Camu, the five-year old, jumped around with joy, lighting tons of black cats, meanwhile I cowered in the corner and hoped he kept both his hands. My stomach continues to recover from my cheese experiment (home-made pizza may have to wait), aided by two Mountain Dews I purchased on a recent trip to Almora, a four-hour-away city haven with cheap sweets and broadband - I loaded up on a few albums, one episode of the Colbert Report, and a description of how to make a Stirling Engine with a coat hanger, a balloon and  soda cans - so I do the dew. I also stocked up on Bollywood films, sadly unable to find the Hindi version of Oceans 11 that was recommended to me by a visiting Delhi-ite. I stayed with Purunda, my guide on our previous trek to Digoli, who's family lives ten kilometers outside the city - he was quite busy, but treated me (fed me) like a king, and I did my best to help out with Diwali cleaning and work, painting one section of wall in his 80 year old house his greatgrandfather had made. As soon as I returned, a little jostled by a crammed jeep ride that took me two hours to find, I received kind greetings from the few workers remaining around, before they pilfered my collection of cheap films. I thought about being irritated that they were mostly interested in borrowing from me, but I have come to realize even from people wandering into the office that my posessions often prove more interesting than my conversation, clumsy and unintelligible as it still emerges from my foreign tongue.
With a new vigor, I attack my designing challenge, coming up with a machine to be made entirely from bike parts. I had been stuck trying to figure out what materials I really have access to and in conclusion sheet metal and bike wheels seem the most useful. A few groups make numerous machines from/powered by bikes ( & which is pretty inspiring. I wish they could send me a machine or two, but alas, my Halloween package from Mom has yet to arrive (sent over a month ago)... Tonight we're eating fried spinach and onion pakora with daal and rhoti as always. The fog has settled in and we're looking at a cold night, but the snow doesn't come until January.

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