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A journal entry by volunteer Priyanka Kripalani of Mumbai, India

Monday, Aug. 8, 2005

“Exhausting,” “exciting” and “fun” are three words I can use to sum up my first day at the Habitat project for the 200,001st house dedication at Kanyakumari. The group seemed excited, and I was looking forward to doing some house building—but I did not imagine all the manual labor that actually went into the process!

We started our day at the site at 8 a.m. with a short dedication and prayer. Soon, I found myself with the five others in my group at the house that had been allocated to us. After conversing with the skilled masons, us being the unskilled ones, we began to transfer bricks. Our task for the day was to complete a certain portion of the wall. Some of the activities included shoving sand into containers and carrying them, forming chains to transfer bricks, cementing bricks, adding bricks onto the wall and moving tiles off a truck. The tasks I mention might not seem very difficult, but trust me: When I say “labor intensive,” I mean it 100 percent.

Our teamwork was amazing, and we all strived toward the goal of working fast to finish as soon as possible. Shifting between tasks, we finished our long and tiring day at 3:30 p.m. Tired and extremely stinky, we boarded our bus to the hotel with only one thing in mind: a long shower!

The highlight for the evening was a folk dance by a local community dance troupe. It was very good and extremely professional, to say the least. I was very impressed with their coordination and balance in particular as one dance involved carrying pots on the dancers’ heads throughout the performance.

After a delicious dinner, I crashed…. To prepare for another busy day.