Training for a Life Time

Thinking back to the happy moments in India, this photo reminds me of all the memories of the little village Kumar, near the Himalayas. It seemed only a short time ago since I have finished my A-Levels, when I had the fortunate opportunity to take a gap year. When I believed that I have made the right decision, I decided to take a gap year to India. I wanted to learn more about life before I begin University and get a job. There are many wonderful places for me to choose from before I began the course: France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and so on. And yet out of all the possible places to choose from, I chose the poorest, most difficult course of them all – India. Ok, I shall start telling the story:”

I told my parents that I would be going soon. They have always strongly opposed my idea of taking a gap year, they always said I was wasting my time – but I believed in myself, I knew that this trip would help me expand my knowledge of different cultures and meanings of life. I can still remember myself getting out of a 747 Boeing jumbo jet in India, I stepped out of the aircraft and sniffed the warm, refreshing breeze. It wasn’t that bad, I thought. But then I found out that I am only at the capitol, I still had to travel a 7-day coach journey to arrive at my destination, the Kumar village. It was a very exhausting journey. Most of the land that we traveled was a desert-like surface.

As I finally approached the wooden gates of the village, the coach suddenly stopped. I looked out of my window and spoke to the coach driver, he then told me that the gates were too low for the coach to drive through, he also told me that the village had not been visited by a single vehicle for about 6 years. I disembarked the coach slowly, feeling slightly carsick. I then caught sight of a group of children running towards me! What did they want? I backed away from them slightly, but to my surprise some of them greeted me with a poorly pronounced “Hello!” while a couple of them hugged me and wouldn’t let go.

A woman in ragged clothes said something in a strange and unfamiliar language, then immediately the children scattered and ran towards a small building. She walked towards me and spoke to me in English! She told me that I would be staying at her house during these 11 months, and those were her children. I was absolutely amazed! She had a total of 7 children! She took me to her house and showed me my room. It had only a straw bed in it but I appreciated it all the same.

I settled in the Yoshima family pretty well during the first few months, at least I got used to their food – it was all vegetables because they were not wealthy enough to buy meat. The family had so many children because their main income came from rice farming and they needed a lot of children to help them. Life in the Kumar village is getting better everyday. I had a lot of fun planting rice and harvesting it, my feet got all muddy in the evening, so I had to wash under springs in the family’s back garden. I also taught the children how to play rugby. I gave them training lessons of passing, running with the ball and shooting accurately, which they learnt amazingly quickly, it was probably because of the massive amount of exercise they have been brought up in.

One morning I was woken up by the noises from the children’s room I rushed next door quickly and wondered what happened. I grabbed one of them and asked them what happened by pointing my hands into either direction in the air to show a sign of suspicion; he pointed to his scraped and dented alarm clock, then pointed to the rest of his brothers and sisters, who were putting on their clothes hurriedly.

I immediately got the message, they were late for school and they had to worry! I helped some of them get dressed and led them out of the room, breaking into a sprint. I was surprised at how strongly built some of their leg muscles were. Most of them overtook me on the way to their school, I wanted to tell them to wait, but I was far too out of breath to do that. I soon arrived at their school panting and choking. I could tell that they are much fitter than me by far. I was soon reaching the last week of my gap year. I didn’t want to go, I would miss the children very much, I have spent the best time of my life there and I learnt a lot. I have survived a year in a poor but peaceful and happy village.

On my last day I woke up earlier than usual. I woke the children up and told them to get changed. I led them to a fairly large field just beyond their farm. I had a small rugby match with them, I was the referee and they split into two teams and played each other. After the match, I told them (using sign language) that I am going to go. As I walked towards the coach, they leapt at me and refused to let go. I burst into tears and hugged them. I reached into my pocket and reached for a packet of “Malteasers” chocolate, I handed it to them. The tallest one of them gripped it with a shaking hand. I told him to share them out among the rest of them.

I took off my “Nike” jacket at that moment and put it on him as a symbol of the leader of the group. I bid them goodbye and got onto the coach. Then, I ran into my room and took out a large present wrapped in shiny wrapping paper. I signaled them to unwrap it. Each of them then grabbed a handful of paper and pulled – out comes a beautifully blue foldable bicycle. They all leapt towards it and tried to unmistakably fit all of them on to it! They were so pleased that tears filled their eyes. It was a really touching sight. I have only just taught one of them how to ride it when the driver approached me and said it was time for me to leave.

As the coach drove away I waved slowly at the red and watery faces of sorrow and sadness, I couldn’t help my stomach lurching and tears squirting from the corners of my swelling eyes. I took the same long journey to the airport and got on the same 747 jet. As the wheels of the jet screeched, they lurched the aircraft forwards. The giant, metal bird lifted itself at full blast from the runway and soared through the starry night, leaving the Kumar village further and further behind…

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