So, we have finally arrived and settled into our Indian home. This morning was spent recovering from the last few days, with some choosing to chill out and read their books, some trying out the pool and others buying out most of Yerwari, the Sangam shop. The new fashion is either purple t-shirts or elephant print trousers, beautifully modeled by many of the group. The time to relax was certainly appreciated, as the rest of the day was jammed packed.
Our event officially started at 12.30, with a flag ceremony. The flags of all the home countries of all current Sangam residents were paraded through the hall, followed by a reflection and singing the Sangam song. But it wasn’t all serious – there were also some silly games to try and help us to learn each others’ names.
After lunch, which showed off the amazing cooking skills of the kitchen staff, there was a chance to get to know Sangam better, with an informative tour and an introduction to the staff and our programme. We also met our patrols, who we will be working with for the next two weeks to help out at meal times and for flag break – we are members of Girlguiding after all!
Now that we knew Sangam, the next stage was venture outside. We went on a walk of the local neighbourhood and experienced the colour and contrasts which it offers. This included visiting temples and mosques (sitting almost side-by-side), as well as the ‘thrilling’ experience of trying to cross an Indian road, where you really do take your life in your hands. For many, the highlight was getting to explore the home of one of the staff members and being giving a traditional Indian welcome. It was interesting to learn about their way of life, and how little they really have sometimes.
The day concluded with our official welcome to Sangam. The opening ceremony is a combination of Indian and Guiding traditions. The Indian traditions involved us being blessed and cumcum and turmeric being put on our foreheads, before being garlanded and officially welcomed to India and to Sangam. As light and flames are important in both traditions, we all lit a wick in the lantern, which glowed throughout the ceremony. For the guiding element, we then sang the World Song and Taps, before taking an official event photo – and hundreds more, including an official Venture Abroad one for next year’s brochure! Reactions included ’emotional’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘exciting’, with all of us feeling like we’re now part of the Sangam family.
Today looks set to be another busy day, with more exploring and the International Event in the evening – watch this space!