Because you asked
First of all, I'd really appreciate to hear from everyone who lives in Minneapolis. I heard just an hour ago about what happened, and I've been a little frantic since. I can't count how many times I've driven over that bridge. It's sick irony that apparently I've been safer in rural India than Minneapolis this summer.
Here are some quick answers to a few of the questions I've gotten:
...The caste system is still visible here. An Indian women's group came to speak to the volunteers a few weeks ago, and one question put to them was about whether caste is still considered in marriage. Yes, it is. In fact, India's national Sunday newspapers have a matrimonial section, where families will advertise (as in a classified section) for brides or grooms for their children. More often than not, caste is mentioned, as is age, education, family background, and skin color. The lighter the skin the better here.
...The best part of my experience has been building friendships with my students and the CCS staff. The children are wonderful -- they have virtually nothing and, believe me, are just as happy as American kids. Every morning they rush to our car to present themselves, put out their hand, and puff out their chests to say, "Good morning, sir," or, "Good morning, ma'am." They forgive and expect forgiveness. They are more affectionate than I was years ago, but they aren't sell-outs either. You have to earn their respect.
Something else about the kids: If you give one kid something, you better have enough for everyone. Things can turn them into monsters, just as things can turn kids everywhere else into little monsters.
...Naan bread and tandoori chicken are fantastic Indian foods. Dried daal is also very good. Fresh chappatis are great, too, but they need to be hot and crisp.
Again, I hope everyone is all right back home. I'll be checking my email and site a lot in the next couple days.