Orhaned Children, Terrorists and Catholics. An Eye Opener

20140115_095327“Okay, Suresh says you should not speak or look like a foreigner when we are in Chhattisgarh.”

Anand on the left, with Suresh and two locals, as they ponder this piece of land for an orphanage

Anand on the left, with Suresh and two locals, as they ponder this piece of land for an orphanage

That’s Anand. He’s just spoken with Suresh who is stationed in Chhatisgarh, our first stop. Apparently, the area is a Red Zone for terrorist insurgents, and is the least politically and socially stable region of India.
And if that’s not enough, I get a mail from The Captain. He’s a school friend from 20yrs back, a British military officer with tons of experience and knowledge far beyond me. He’s in India and, under my brother’s request, has been keeping a watchful eye.

“Philen you cowboy. How are you doing? Don’t mean to get you into trouble with your bro, however, watching your FB page, I can see you are going deep into potential bandit country. My concern is that if anything happens to you;
1, nobody knows these people you are with,
2, you are not checking in with anyone to say everything is ok,
3, I bet you have no medical plan if you get hurt,
4, if the cops find out there is a foreign national in the area, they will get excited and maybe arrest you,
5, have you let the RSA Embassy know where you are traveling in case they need to assist you.”

Wow. I didn’t know. Typical of me, I just went off on a whim, following my heart and not researching anything beforehand. Medical plan, embassy …. seriously? I’ve never thought of this stuff before. If I did, I would’ve known that I was heading into the land of Maoist terrorists and Naxal bandits, where foreigners are kidnapped for ransom … especially by the police. Thankfully, I have The Captain. All I gotta do is check-in with him to let him know my expected dates of arrival and departure from places. If I don’t check-in when I say, then he’ll send in a team to get me out of trouble.

Andhra TourBefore I left South Africa, Nicole and her Mom connected me with Anand, a young Catholic Missionary in India. In January 2014, Anand invited me on a 3-week trip through India’s tribal lands, where he and two friends, Suresh and Antony, are still active in their ministry amongst orphaned and vulnerable children, in the region of Andhra Pradesh, where my GrandFather was born.
It was an experience that stays in my heart, even today. 21 days that culture-shocked the bejeezus out of me and kept me smiling like a child, throughout. Continue reading

A Different Kind of Love

So I got a message from a friend about 10 days ago. He was stranded in Cambodia. I met him at AMMA’s ashram in Amritapuri about a year ago. South African dude … crazy as salted candyfloss. Anyway, you know when you’re put into a room with ten thousand people, and then you’re asked to pick the one that you’re least likely to form a friendship with? You know what I’m talking about? Well, this guy I’ll call him Bob, is that guy. I swear I would never have guessed to even have one meaningful chat with him. Turns out though that he became a good friend and still is. Bailed my ass outta trouble when I was in India, without me even asking. He just intuitively picked up on something and sent me money, coz he had some paycheck come in. So when I hear that he’s stranded in Cambodia, I’m a bit troubled.

Down and Out in Kathmandu

Down and Out in Kathmandu

1) because he’s my friend.
2) because I know what it feels like when things don’t go our way and we get stranded.

But here’s my challenge …
I got no income at the moment and I don’t foresee any for a little while. I’m also completely broke with about R1800 ($160) in my account which I plan to use to carry me until the tide turns. No stress. I choose this Simple Life. But this is the part that was tricky… Continue reading

Masala Roast Lamb Recipe

EmpireRoastLambThis is the most delicious Roast Lamb I’ve ever cooked or eaten. And as much as I would love to take credit, I can’t. It’s not mine.

I was watching a new cooking show on tellie – Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight – when I came across this. Basically, what Jamie Oliver was doing was taking the traditional Sunday Roast and Friday Night Curry, and getting them to dance together in one meal, a Masala Roast Lamb.
And I must say, it works!

Bursting with flavour, falling off the bone, dripping with juice, and sending out a scent that truly gets you salivating, you can’t go wrong with this.

So, let me not waste any more time, Follow This Link and check out Jamie Oliver’s Empire Roast Lamb Recipe.


Naked. My Ashram Strip Down

on-the-job2-june08Only 6 weeks after my decision to stay at the ashram, I found myself BANG! in the middle of the Red Zone … The Naxal and Maoist Terrorist insurgence region of India.
How? Why?
What was I doing there?

We are into Week 5 of the story, so if you’re new and would like to catch up, then please Start Here.

It started one day, when I decided to leave the ashram for a while. I just needed ‘a backpackers day’; to be out on the streets, in market places, off the beaten track … in amongst the locals, at street level. So I jump on a bus and ride to the nearest city, Kollam. As soon as I get there, I ask the rickshaw walla to take me to the local market, and when he takes a turn down a narrow alleyway, I’m feeling good.

a ‘walla’ is a ‘guy’. so … rickshaw walla is the guy who drives the rickshaw; chai walla is the guy who sells chai; juice walla, chicken walla, veggie walla … India is full of wallas

14264116389_413ebb2ac5_oAnyway. The rickshaw walla drops me off and I start cruising about.

Now, I should’ve been in my element. This is what I wanted and this is what I have thrived on, through many years of backpacking. But there was a strange discontent I could feel inside me that I could not ignore. And it followed me, distracted me, and ensured that I wasn’t my usual self.
And then, only after about 30min in the market, in the middle of the road, I stop.

“Where are you going?”

Continue reading