Eager to begin my grand tour of India, I took an early morning train to Chennai. Believe it or not, this was my very first train ride. As the man next to me explained, the rail system is still very much alive in India, with millions of passengers daily. The trip from Bangalore to Chennai offered sights of the beautiful Indian countryside- something I really needed to see after a week in Bangalore. The train offered more room than an airplane and more interesting views. I took a couple short naps during the ride and was quite happy with the experience…I’m even proud of the fact that I can now say I’ve used a squat toilet on a moving train.
Although I was a little worried about the trustworthiness of my chosen autorickshaw driver, I made it to the TREE Foundation site without much problem. Having been told the ride should cost 400 rupees or less, I stuck to my guns when he asked for 500. Another proud moment. I’m getting the hang of this!
I was led to my room to deposit my stuff and woke up two hours later to knocking on the door. I was informed that this was a second attempt to wake me up for lunch! I guess I didn’t realize how poor my sleep has been in my new PG. Coming from small town US, to rural village in Thailand, to big city India, the adjustment to noise level has been difficult. Much quieter here in a side street in Chennai.
After lunch I was introduced to all the sea turtles currently being treated here at the TREE Foundation. Why am I at a turtle rescue, you may ask? The director, Supraja, has taken an interest in temple elephants and offered to show me around. But in the meantime, I’m happy to learn about feeding turtles, the dangers they face, their importance to marine ecosystems, and medical treatment.
I watched a great documentary put together by the TREE Foundation and learned about all the work that went into the development and initiation of Turtle Exclusion Device (TED) use on Indian fishing boats in Tamil Nadu. TREE Foundation does a huge amount of community outreach and education.
Oh, and also there is an Irishman working on the team. Although, Indian people are completely lovely and I’m glad to work with them, there is something comforting in having a fellow Westerner around to show you the ropes. He’s in the room next to mine at night in case I need anything and took me for breakfast at a little coffee shop. Next to the coffee shop is a convenience store, and its all an easy walk down the road, so I already feel much less overwhelmed here than in Bangalore. Looking forward to hanging out with turtles and elephants for a handful of days.
I was asked not to share photos of the turtles on social media, but here’s some snaps of my new best friend, Elinor. She was rescued from the floods that occurred in a Chennai a couple of months ago.