India – crazy roads, incredible people, amazing food, cows and horns!

Hello so firstly sorry for taking so long to do my first blog in India, internet connection isn’t the greatest, but please don’t worry I am here happy, safe and well.

I arrived into Chennai airport on Wednesday 3rd September. The flight went quickly thanks to narcolepsy and was enjoyable thanks to quite a few glasses of wine. I was relieved and surprised that everything went so smoothly as I was very anxious about getting my medication through customs. Neither security at Heathrow or Chennai were a tiny bit concerned with my controlled medication. In fact I think they found me slightly irritating as I insisted that they check my medication and look at my doctors note. In the end all they were concerned about was that I had no liquids in my hand luggage.

Before Samantha Slater-Persaud embarrasses me I admit that I am actually very lucky that I got on the flight at all as if it wasn’t for Sam asking for me to check I had my passport I would have arrived without one.

Upon leaving the airport I was surrounded by lots of men trying to sell me food, give me a taxi and take me to a hotel or there ‘friends hotel’. Luckily in the distance I saw a man holding a sign saying “Welcome Grace Owen”.

I was feeling knackered and planned to sleep all the way to the village. Despite my usual ability to fall asleep everywhere I genuinely thought that this would not be possible as the car was swerving from one side of the road to the over, overtaking buses on the wrong side of the road. Of course narcolepsy was keen to prove me wrong…….. 15 minutes later I was fast asleep. According to the driver I was shouting “don’t do that” and “stand in a line”…..Who knows what I was dreaming about!

Several occasions during the journey I work up startled by the car breaking suddenly……this is when the culture shock really began; women carrying water on their heads, cows roaming free in the street, constant beeping from cars, lots of people living in very poor conditions, tiny children dodging cars and extreme HEAT.

After a 3 hour journey I arrive in Kanjanur, village in the district of Villapurum, my home for the next few weeks. I have come to this village as I am volunteering with a school to support the teachers to help children learn English (I have a lot more to say about this with some photos and videos so will do another blog).

After the second day I was feeling less shocked and started to get my head around where I was leaving. With help from the other volunteers we worked out how to get around on buses and I soon became less phased by the crazy bus drivers (who made my first driver look calm). After 10 days I have fallen in love with this wonderful little village, I love the food, the genuine friendly people and this extremely simple way of life where darkness falls at 6 and bedtime is shortly after (perfect for me).

Kanjanur is a very rural place where most people only speak their home language which is Tamil. Despite a lot of western volunteers coming to the village most locals were still very fascinated with me and the two other girls I have met. Consequently there is no such thing as a quick walk to the village for a bottle of water as on the way I am stopped lots of times. Although I won’t complain I am enjoying being the celebrity of the village (and this is without the narcolepsy showing its face).

The food in this village is amazing, what I love the most is that each restaurant (well not quite, best described as a cafe on the side of the road) only gives you an option of vegetarian or meat which means I get to try lots of different food and it’s all spicy…whooop! Someone told me that I will lose weight in India, well so far I can’t see this happening with the food as I am in food heaven.

I have had 2 weekends here now, my first Weekend getaway was a little village on the coast called Mamallapurum which i still can’t pronounce. I explored the coast with two girls Zara and Jayne I met at the school. Mamallapurum is a really lovely place, very different from the village where most people are able to speak conversational English. People still stare a lot and talk to me but this is mainly to try and sell something rather than out of pure curiosity with my white skin. I stayed in Mamallapurum for 3 days so I really should talk about the random cows on the beach, goats everywhere, cray shopkeepers and an amazing stone that balances on its own……however there is really only one thing that signifies this trip for me and that is HORNS that grew on my forehead.

These lovely horns are thanks to mosquito bites…altogether I counted 36. This is despite wearing loads of repellant…I admit I did scratch a few but by by the end of the day the bites had grown into horns on my face. Even the man in the shop told me that he has never seen anything like it….Typical I am thousand of miles away from friends and family and I still fine myself centre of jokes due to the horns. Thankfully I am now hornless!!

Given the title of my blog I should really talk a little bit more about my narcolepsy. In general it has helpfully enabled me to sleep on some bus journeys compared to my friends who I have met who have developed nervous ticks on the bus (only joking).

In general I have not been fighting to stay awake during the day and have been feeling quite energised. I put this down to taking the right medication, being able to sleep when I want (even when volunteering as I take myself off for a short nap when needed) and feeling very relaxed. Today is the only time that I have felt excessively tired falling asleep inappropriately on a boat. I think this is due to taking my lunch time mediation late in the day and going on. A full day tour which has included a lot of sitting, waiting and reading.

The cataplexy has been behaving itself to although I am not surprised by this because I generally do not have any cataplexy a with people I have just met. In the last fee days I have had what I call secret small ones where I can feel my eye lid flicker, knee jerk and face twitch but not visible to everyone else.

In the first week my sleep was amazing, I was sleeping 5 or 6 hours straight which is incredible for me. In the last week I have been having more disturbed sleep and according to Jayne who I have been sharing a room with I have been shouting a lot and moving about a lot. Luckily she has found it highly entertaining…..

That’s all for now….hopefully when I get some better internet I can share some of my photos and videos that I have taken so far.

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