January 2011 Archives

A Love Letter <3

Dear Hindustan,

India I have something to admit... I love you. I love you sooo soo very much.

Why do I love you?

I love you for so many reasons. It's everything from your look, your past, your smell to your intense spirituality. I love you because you smell so strongly, you smell of roses in the morning, cow dung during the day, delicious samosa and curry in the evening, and you wreak so strongly of incense when you are feeling spiritual that I can hardly breathe.

Your streets and homes are never quiet, you have a sweet melody of car horns and animal sounds continuously. You sing of temple music, prayer chanting, and loud street vendor calls. You never can keep quiet, but I love that about you because I never feel alone.

I love that I can cover every inch of my body, never show you a peep of skin and yet you think I am beautiful. My hair concealed with a scarf, my legs draped with cotton, and my entire upper half sheltered with your unique kurtas always vibrant in color and bedazzled with sequins and beads. And that my clothes always fit perfectly because all of your people know how to alter my clothes perfectly for practically nothing.

AND I love that while I am draped in 6 meters of fabric I can still be completely stunning with all the jewelry I want. Earrings that encircle my entire ear, nose rings as big as my fist, a ring on each nimble finger, two toe rings one on each foot, bangles that cover my lower and upper arms, and anklets that jingle as you walk. I love the golden necklaces that women wear and the jewel placed perfectly between the ladies eyebrows symbolizing their commitment to their husband. I love that your people can be so in poverty yet still have all these jewels draped over their distinct natural features.

I love that I can have an extravagant and beautiful piece of henna on my hands crawling up my arms for celebrations and that the henna smells so fresh and natural.

I love your obsession with black eyeliner that highlights the glowing whites of your eyes and makes your babies so beautiful I have to stare.

I love that I know so much about your people with just one glance. I know who is married based on the 6 meters of fabric circling their waist and showing off their stomachs. I love knowing what caste people are telling a story of their ancient ancestors.

I love that the fabric you have is always a rainbow.

OH India... I love that you don't favor any color in the rainbow, you display every color in the rainbow ALL THE TIME! You are so beautiful with every shade of every color somewhere within reach... that is except for Jodhpur, your beautiful blue city, where every home and every business is painted a pale sky blue.

I love that every day of the year here, is a holiday, no matter where I am in the country I can find a celebration next door: a reason to fast, a time to set of crackers, an hour of puja, or hear a band playing outside.

I love that you make me laugh at my stubborn ways and make me confused at my lack of knowledge. That the more I get to know you, the less I feel I know you.

I love the way you make me shop. You make me think everything is so simple and then you challenge me. Buying an extension cord is not as simple as going to the local hardware store... it involves cutting of wires, installing the plug size you want and choosing the length of the cord... that is SO I can watch the electrician-wala make it in front of me in a shop the size of my closet at home.

I love that you are vegetarian and that I never have to watch what I eat because you are already have. I can eat out at a restaurant and 95% of your menu is vegetarian. I love that I can't even taste the vegetables I only taste your concoction of spices, bathing in oil. I love that all the food is so fresh, that the bread is still warm when I take my first bite and the milk is hot from being boiled because it came from the cow this morning. I love that I don't recognize your fruits, but they all taste so sweet and I love that I can buy them at every street corner and that there is always a fruit in season... so you never get sick of one thing.

I love that I can afford really nice things. I can have clothes made in my size, in whatever color, on whatever day, in whatever design.

I love that I am not the only one who believes non-violence should be in religion. You make me feel reasonable in my search for peace, with your religions that wear all white, and cover their mouths as not to inhale a living thing. You believe in it so strongly you cannot kill a living thing... and worship all life on this planet and believe in being open minded to all religions and lifestyle choices.

I love that family is so important to you and that you respect your parents so much that you allow them to pick who you marry. I love that you believe in taking care of your parents until their last breath. I love that your cousins, sisters and brothers are your closest friends and that your mother is your best friend. I love that the men in your family are your protectors.

India, your spirituality is stronger than anything I have ever encountered anywhere in my life. The people that completely devote themselves to Hinduism and Jainism are more committed to their religion then I have ever been committed to anything in my life. It makes me think about my own spirituality, begin to question my lack of commitment to any specific faith and the lack of prayer I have in my daily life. It makes me crave spirituality and devotion of one's self to something.

I love that in the few months that I have spent here I feel at home. Your people recognize me, your landscape has become familiar and I have found places that I favor. I can now find my way around your towns and through your small crowded old streets. I love that I have my own rickshaw driver whom has my number... waiting to pick me up from wherever whenever.

I love your rooftop restaurants that all have a unique view, their own creative touch and a tasty lassi.

I love that every time I am a guest in some one's home they offer me a feast of biscuits, Namkeen and a warm drink. I love that I am ALWAYS drinking chai... Every 3 hours... or even more frequent then that. I am always sipping on another milky hot ginger spiced tea.

I love that every place I have traveled in your borders has such a unique landscape, culture, and group of people. You have so much to offer me. You have romanticism in Udiapur, blue in Jodhpur, history in Jaipur, camels in Ajmer, havelis in Shekawhati, rat temples in Bikaner, forts in Amber, waterfalls in Bundi, sand dunes in Jaisalmer... and that's in just one state!!!! Your landscape is so diverse, from the Himalayan Mountains, to temples made of pure gold, your heaven like beaches in Goa, to the tomb of Taj Mahal, the deep caves of Ajanta, the sand dunes in Rajhasthan, the Bollywood of Mumbai, the boulders in Hampi, the Kama Sutra, the rivers of Varanasi, and so so much more. I love that I could travel to all these places without having to give an arm and a leg.

I love how mysterious you are... your land works in mysterious ways. Your people's traditions have no explanations; your religion has so many twists and turns. Your day can never be planned; your life will never be what you think it is with you in it.

You have a long history of beauty, elegance and mystery... I LOVE THIS!

I will never fully understand you, but you intrigue me so.

Your customs, lifestyle, and traditions are different every step I take... consuming my thoughts.

MUST KNOW MORE

MUST KNOW MORE

Every day you teach me something about myself.... My spirituality, my personality, my likes, my dislikes, about my relations with friends and family, my favorite colors, my views on politics, education and so much more....

YOU ARE LOVELY INDIA..... and that's why I am asking you to be in a serious-long term relationship with me.

I am going to be leaving soon... and I want to keep this thing we got going....

Let's keep in touch, for the rest of my life. I won't ever forget you, you have taught me so much about myself, I have grown so much being with you.

So please let me come again. .. and again... and again...

I love you so much and will never forget our time together... lets make more memories together

Happy Diwali

I haven't written a blog in a really long time due to my lack of time. It seems like Udiapur has had me on the go go go.

I still love my internship and am learning a lot. Yesterday at work I arrived at about 10:45am and began by continuing to write a report that I will give Sadhna about what products to add to their current product line, what colors are best, who their number one customers are etc. After doing this for about 1 hour, our bus Madhu told us to review her chain of emails that she was having with one of her customers Gabs Gabriel. She opened her email and told us to find out as much as we could about the customer, that he wanted to buy about 30,000-50,000 products in the price range of 500-2000 rupees per item. This is a huge sale for Sadhna, but Madhu said she didn't know anything about the person she was trying to sell to so that we should try to get in contact with them to learn more. We scanned for the emails and immediately became suspicious, Gabs Gabriel did not have a website, the products were to be shipped to France, the company was listed online as from Slovenia, but Gabs said the company was in Africa. After emailing back and forth several times we noticed the email name vs the signature name spellings didn't match. Who was this company?

The company seemed upset when we began asking them for information about whom they were and where the products were to be sold. They wanted our bank information... and that's when it all was confirmed. This was a scam. The man our boss had been emailing was trying to steal the products and hack into Sadhna's bank accounts.

The whole situation really upsets me; this is an NGO that is working for women. Of all companies to steal from, why would you choose Sadhna? It seems kind of twisted, but these scams are common and don't necessarily care who they steal from. After several emails back and forth and our fears had become confirmed I felt like I had actually done something for the day.

After emailing this company in hopes of stopping his twisted scam, Lydia and I modeled a bunch of products to have pictures taken for the website. We tried on close to 30 new shirts, jewelry and hair accessories that will be put on the website. We then emailed a list of companies given to us by our boss Madhu who told us all of the people listed had expressed interest in gaining a relationship with Sadhna but were not currently buying product. Soon after the first email was sent we got a reply:

We are already part of Sadhna and put in our most recent order one month ago and are waiting for our purchases to be shipped. Have you forgotten our order?

This response alone tells us so much about how companies in India are run. Sadhna is a role model for other companies, because it is so such a successful company. Which makes me wonder how is it possible that an organization so successful is so unorganized. If I were the leader of Sadhna I would be so embarrassed by this mistake, Madhu (our boss) thought the mistake was funny.... :s

Work ended and the next day frustration really set in...

I went back to the store I usually work in, in the Old City (there are 2 different stores, one in the old city and one in the new, the new city store is a store that is attached to the NGO while the old city store is in the middle of tourist central, old city). When I arrived at 10am, opening time, the store was a disaster, all of the clothes were on the floor, the blankets and shelves opened and products were a mess. The display was destroyed and the staff seemed stressed. When I asked them why the store looked as though it had been robbed they explained that the people from the other store came to do inventory.

My first thought was...yea and??... your point? But why is it a mess?

But when I acted confused they replied that 2 men from the other store had come to count all the products in the store and record what they had in the store. This was bewildering to me, why had they left the place a mess, why was everything still a disaster the next day. Why would they just come in unannounced and destroy the store. These two women are constantly folding clothes, organizing the store and proud of their work. It seems as though these men had totally disrespected the store. It would be similar to walking into a Coach store and everything was thrown on the ground, the storage cabinets wide open. A fancy boutique opens with a disaster of a showroom is seen as really unorganized and overwhelming.

I was so upset. I have worked hard with these women and have become extremely close with them and was horrified to see how their hard work was being treated. I decided then and there that I was done following unorganized directions. I was going to make my own project and help this particular store... I called my partner, Lydia and we became the tedious job of 're-inventorying' the store. We counted every item in the store, measured it, recorded its color, cost, and found out the total worth of all the products in the store combined.

After the items were counted we showed the store keeper ladies how to use the system so that every Monday when they go to the storage room they would know what products they need to buy based off of their records. By taking a couple of long days and counting every product in the store the ladies now have an organized system. While also organizing the inventory system, we re-setup the store, by changing the displays and showcasing more items the store has a totally new feel and looks much more attractive to the western customer.

The ladies seemed enthused about the new system and were excited to see that other people were as interested in Sadhna as they were. Laxmi, one of the workers at the store began to cry when I first told her what we were going to do for the store. She said she prays for Sadhna every day because it needs more customers to help more women and it isn't making any money right now. When she first saw the displays upstairs that we had done she was so happy.

Although our internship has been a chaotic rollercoaster of jobs we have finally seen that there is something for us to do, and we don't need their help. We can simply take self-initiative and do what we want, and hopefully show them that we are capable and we want to help them! In any case the internship has taught me a lot about what I want to do with my future, how a business can be run, ideas for a new business and I have gained so many connections to store keepers.

As far as my family life:

I have been in the paper three times, the news twice and continue to go to parties with Kavita all the time. Kavita is one of the political elite, as part of the BJP party (Interested in what BJP is: LINK) the rotary president, running her own NGO, being part of several other committees and constantly going to parties she is always in the spotlight. As her 'pet-foreigner' that means I too am going to parties. Which is fun at times, when I am not singing the national anthem in front of hundreds of people at least, I get to go to political meetings, see singing, dancing, neighborhood parties, wedding parties, etc.

Speaking of wedding parties.... Kavita is planning my wedding. Didn't know I was getting married, but Kavita said she will make all the arrangements and that it will be the most beautiful extravagant wedding I have ever seen, in the fort, on the lake with a sunset, music and Rajhastani folk dancing. She will host the party for me and my family and she will invite all the important people of Rajhastan. Exciting right? Except... I am not getting married, and have no plans to in the near future. Haha BUT WHEN I DO..Kavita is taking care of everything. ;)

My family here has some interesting elements. I learned a lot about my new host family over their biggest holiday, Diwali. (What is Diwali? LINK) The holiday includes FOOD lots and lots of FOOD as well as endless sweets and lights (fireworks, candles, and what we would call Christmas lights). The whole city was beautifully lit up with Diwali pots (a small ceramic dish filled with oil and then a hand rolled wick lays in the oil and is lit) lights, and the noise of the fireworks consumes every hour of the holiday. Did I mention that the holiday is 5 days long? This means that the whole country is never resting, fireworks go off until 4 or later in the morning, starting again at 6am. Although it was fun to look outside and see all the fireworks all the time it was extremely frustrating to never be able to sleep. I began to get really over tired, moody and irritable. :P

But the preparation for the holiday and everything, but the fireworks going off at the latest hours is wonderful. Kavita took me shopping and I bought two new outfits to wear on Diwali. Indians are always changing three or four times a day, so one is never enough. The boutique she took me to, Tulsi, was great. All the suits were extremely beautiful and I was so excited to be able to wear one, except the price tag was... lets just say even in American prices it would be expensive. But how many times do I spend Diwali in India.... O yea.... Probably never again. So I ignored the tag and tried to find the best suit, because everyone wears their best suits on Diwali. Everyone buys things on Diwali.... Suits, jewelry, appliances, EVERYTHING they need.

The 5 days of Diwali have three most important days.

Day 1: Choti Diwali= little Diwali or similar to Christmas eve

On this day I had to work so I went to go to work and then was picked up by Kavita to go shopping. Because this is the day you buy things, most people buy things before hand as well, but it is also the day where buying things 'blesses them.' After buying my outfits I went to the carnival at the Municipal building where Kavita works and also I was in the paper for the third time. We rode carnival rides together and drank real fruit juice.

Day 2:

PUJA!!!!! I got up and went to a 4 hour puja. What does this mean exactly? It means sitting on the hard floor with heavy incense in the air, while praying to THOUSANDS of dollars at the front of the room. It was incredibly interesting to be with a highly wealthy family and see what exactly they do for their puja. We all got dressed up and went to their family business where they prepared a room FULL of money. We then all sat in the room, doing the puja and then at the end all the people of the family where given 500INR which is equivalent to 11 US dollars. After the prayer we lit off fireworks for about 2 hours and then went home where Kavita told me not to leave the house in my sari again.... BECAUSE.... Get this! 'You look to sexy in the sari, don't go out in it' haha ;) yes the most conservative dress in India.... J

Against her wishes I went to meet some friends at a local circle that had paddle-boat rides shaped like swans. It was nice to see everyone in their beautiful clothes. We stayed in the boats in the pond until dark and watched the giant fountain light up for Diwali. While waiting for the paddle boat ride the most interesting thing happened.... Everyone gathered around me while I waited in the park alone for my friends to arrive. WHY- because no one had ever seen a white girl in a sari before, so I was the center of attention in the circle. Everyone was taking my photo and interested in me... Which makes me wonder, by the time I leave India, how many random pictures I will be in?

The best photo... a woman asking me to hold her baby for a picture with her while her husband took the picture... the baby was terrified and cried.. hahaha

After the boat rides I headed home where we then changed into our nicest new suits and lit the Diwali lights around the house. The whole house looked beautiful and serene. We then went to Prateep's mothers house (Prateep=house dad) for dinner and then came home to meet people and go to the Jain temple for more puja.

AFTER WAS FIREWORKS!!!!! I set off so many fireworks. The sound of Diwali is similar to how you would imagine a warzone. BANG BANG BANG bang BANG... (HOURS AND HOURS of this). I set off a 51 meter long firework and laughed hard as I noticed there was for the first time in my life no animals in the street... all had gone to hide... fearful of the BANG BANG BANG bang BANG...

Around midnight we got back home where we found Laxmi (the god of money) in the form of a lizard near our front door.... Which means money would be coming to the family this year....We followed tradition and flicked red powder at its body so his shape would be outlined (my guess) to remember.

We finally went to bed and the next day was even more hectic.

Day 3:

Two women from Sadhna invited me to their homes for Diwali, because I was so busy the day of Diwali I went the third day.

First I went to Rehka's house. Rehka is a young woman who works at the same shop as me. I have talked about her before and how she worked every day for 5 years. Her home was wonderful, although teeny tiny. She had four bedrooms and a small living space with a kitchen that looked more like a closet. The catch is that the house was for 25 people. It was a joint family. Rehka and her husband and two children had one room and every other family similar in size shared another room, while the grandparents also stayed somewhere in the small home. I did not see a bathroom in her home which made me curious as to where exactly they bathed in the morning. Her home was 8km outside of the city, which means she lived in a small village. It was interesting to meet her family and children whom were all ecstatic to see me. None of them knew English so the first ten minutes was incredibly awkward as I tried to use the little Hindi I knew to ask them simple questions. Of course Rehka's family brought out tons of sweets and snacks for me to munch on while I was there. As part of Diwali you exchange gifts so I of course brought gifts to give the children and family. I brought them a stainless steel sugar, coffee, and tea container set as well as colors and notebooks from the US for the children. They were so grateful, and immediately began to color with their new gifts. After sometime Rehka brought me NesCafe (a form of watered down chocolate like coffee=extremely tasty) the coffee was a sweet gesture considering it meant she had taken note to the fact that I always order coffee rather than chai at tea time. After playing with the children sometime Rehka gave me her gift. She had someone come over to her home to do my henna. It was so sweet. When I left I gave Rehka her gift of the stainless steel set which she was extremely happy about considering it was more expensive than two days of work. I then went over to the next ladies house.

Laxmi's house was very similar. Her home was much nicer and defiantly bigger. I met her children and of course it was awkward but we exchanged gifts and ate sweets before parting ways. I got a beautiful jewelry set from Laxmi J

After separating I went home to find that there were so many people over all of which are Kavita's family. She had fixed her son and my favorite dish, dal bati and I ate even more. By the end of the day I was so full that I felt like puking it was craziness.

It was a wonderful holiday and I had a lot of fun.

Diwali is a holiday of money, which is why at the same time that you are doing a puja (prayer) to Laxmi (the god of money) you are also dealing with lots of protest. It's a confusing though to think you are taking part in a holiday that some people literally can't participate in.

CONSIDER:

Christmas- We celebrate Christmas by buying gifts.... It's not about the gifts, there is much more to it. Diwali would be similar to Christmas but it's ONLY about the gifts set and cleaning. For the poor.... What do can they celebrate? They cannot afford to buy new things, pray to money they don't have set off fireworks they cannot afford. It is a holiday in which you must spend money. Because of this people are protesting Diwali, which it should not be about money. That Laxmi, the god of money does not visit their homes. It was a really sad day in that sense. People surrounded local circles and released black balloons to show their support. It was incredible to see everything going on all at once.

Between the holidays, work and our mid-semester internship seminar where all of the students got back together to talk about what they have done thus far. I have been soo busy. I haven't written a blog in so long! It seems insane.

The more I think about everything, the more I realize everything is going by so fast. I worry about my return home and yet I am so excited about it.

I have had so much fun here, I have learned so much here, I never want to leave here, but yet I miss my friends and family.

It's amazing to think about everything I have done: riding camels and elephants, celebrated the biggest Hindu holiday of the year, work for a successful NGO, meet amazing Indian families, make friends, learn so much about the politics here, travel the entire state, participate in puja, and sooo much more.

40 Things I have learned in India thus far... worth sharing

1. Time is different here: 11am means much later then 11am, it depends how important you are, what exactly is supposed to happen at 11am and who is involved.

2. Family is the most important thing. WHY? Because family is who is there in the end, they created you and your whole being was morphed by what they provided with you.

3. Love marriage is not always the best thing, you should think more practically, before marrying someone you should consider your priorities in life, and how they will have to change or stay the same after marriage. Marry because you won't be unhappy, not because your happy this moment

4. Live life casually, don't try to plan every second with something, you will never finish it all and when you don't, you will feel unsatisfied

5. Curd is amazing. Learn to make it fresh, it's the healthiest way and the best tasting.

6. America has really clean air... you don't know until you are away, but India's air is similar to smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. No wonder Indians don't usually smoke.

7. A clean house is very important, weather you do it or weather you hire someone to help you, being surrounded by cleanliness makes life more enjoyable.

8. Go to parties. You get to know people and try new things.

9. Some people really are: out of site out of mind. In a good way. You learn to appreciate people more and begin to realize who in your life you must keep talking to when things are difficult.

10. You cannot help everyone, your life is busy enough as it is, and even if you help one person people will see you helping and want your help... therefore helping one person means helping many more and will begin to consume your life.

11. Being fit is really important. Why wouldn't you take advantage of the instrument god gave you, don't abuse it, cherish it. Indians either know this because they exercise and walk everywhere or they don't walk anywhere and don't take care of their body.

12. Eat fresh food ALWAYS! You will feel your energy go up immediately. You won't crave meat after 3 weeks so stop eating it for a while and see how wonderful your body feels. It feels good to be putting all living things such as plants and curd in your body rather than dead things.

13. If you do your own laundry you will become a cleaner person. You will realize that avoiding dirty things is easier, that you can wear the same jeans 10 times without washing and that you don't need as much soap as you thought.

14. If you are an American you are more than likely more organized then any Indian I have ever met.

15. If you have a plan with your life you are not Indian.

16. If you are not majoring in business, engineering or trying to be a doctor you are DEFINETLY NOT AN INDIAN!

17. The clothes you wear make a statement, so choose them wisely. If you are wearing blue often you are stating that you like blue, if you only wear short shorts in the summer you are asking people to stare at your legs, if you wear shitty clothes all the time you are telling people you don't care about appearance. APPEARANCE DOES MATTER! Why? Because that's how people literally see you, if you look a mess then you are a mess. This is important because people do judge, it is their nature and even if you truly believe, "if they want to think I am mess because I dress a mess then go ahead I don't want them in my life anyway.." you are wrong, these people are important people. The more connections, the more friends, the more business partners and the more people you get to know in life the better.

18. The people you know can make all the difference.

19. I am a homebody, but not in my hometown. In my home at the moment, I like being 'home' with my family and friends.

20. I like being alone, it doesn't depress me to eat dinner alone or spend the night alone in my room.

21. I would rather have one amazing relationship then 100 'okay' relationships.

22. I do gossip, and I like it. That's normal though, most people do, and they just don't like being the one gossiped about. In India, people are ALWAYS gossiping. (by gossip I do not mean hurtful, false things)

23. Reading is always good, but reading non-fiction is important... why? Because you learn while doing something enjoyable. NOT all non-fiction is un-enjoyable and it gives you things to talk about with people.

24. I want to own a social business that helps women, and works with handicrafts and recycling.

25. Human touch makes things more comfortable, if you are having a bad day get a hug... it will help and even though Indians don't touch others... they do hug their family at home. Men hold other men's hands, and this is normal. Putting your arm around someone makes them literally feel that they are there with you.

26. Sit down to eat with family often.

27. Americans eat so much flipping butter.

28. You should know more than one language. It tells you a lot about other cultures and makes you think more about your own culture. EXAMPLE: 'beta' means child in Hindi. Indians use it for more than their literal child. They use it for people they adore, their pets, their loved ones, innocent people, those who are distressed, those they are angry at who need to hear them, their co-workers, their friends... so much more... ANOTHER EXAMPLE: runny nose in English translates literally to "water in nose" in Hindi. haha

29. I need to recycle more, and plastic grocery bags should be banned. Learn to use canvas bags, if we just got rid of them then thing about how much waste we would reduce.

30. I really like to take pictures.

31. Magazines, newspapers, and bulletins are a waste of paper unless used two or three times... they can be made into several other things: a rag, a sack, coaster, placemat, plate, bowl and much more.

32. Paper towels and toilet paper are a bad idea... using water spray is much better, think about how much waste you cut down on. You can use a rag to wipe the counter, and water will clean you better then smearing it with paper. (I used to think it was weird, but it makes so much more sense, imagine wiping your hands after doing something dirty or rinsing them, what makes more sense.)

33. I like things quiet.

34. I have an appearance that makes people want to talk to me and makes me people think I am smart which makes me extremely lucky. People want to talk to me... and that's not the case with many foreigners. I don't know what it is.

35. Everyone around the world cares about American politics.... They are covered internationally. We cannot say that about any other country. In fact I bet if I asked ten American if the president of India was male or female they wouldn't get it right, and I KNOW if I asked them their name it would be a sure fail.

36. The education system of America is better than you think. Look at a list of the top 100 universities in the world and count how many are in America. Then look at people who are nominated for the Nobel Prize or other huge awards and notice almost all of them teach at American Universities.

37. Americans are really freaking creative... you can thank your education system, it encourages creativity.

38. The ability to be part of a political movement should not be taken advantage of, we are lucky.

39. Saving money is really smart, Indians do a lot of it, and they are able to do more in life because of this. Even when there is an economic crisis Indians spend their money, this is because they have a huge savings. They save close to 60% of what they make.

40. I deal with change really well.

There are so many others... but for now this is what I got off the top of my head.

* This post is for Taryn, for giving me the idea of making a list... LOVE IT

SADHNA

My internet has sadly been so slow that doing anything with it seems to take hours. Which is really unfortunate when considering my internship.

First of all, my internship is going really well. I think Sadhna is a legitimate organization that just needs help with marketing. I have been working in one of their shops. The shop is fairly small but houses a large sum of their product on the first two floors, the top floor is a work room for the artisans.

My job is to help the shop grow, this includes teaching the two shopkeepers English, organizing the store so it is more inviting, helping to draw in customers and lastly to talk and research customers about what they do and don't like about Sadhna, how they feel about the styles, products and suggestions for boutiques to call.

The feedback has been really helpful and I think it will be really beneficial to the organization... that is if they take my advice. The number one problem I am having with my internship is being taken seriously, or maybe just not getting any attention.

India is notorious for being too busy for you. That is if you have something you want to help with, they are too busy to have you help them. If you want to know what to do, they are too busy doing something you could do to help.

OR

They are so unorganized that they don't know what you should do, until you do it. But then once you finish your project they want you to redo it after they thought of it with their spin on it.

An example of this... Lydia and I are told to check in once a week with our internship and other wise everything is on our own.... 4 days later... they tell us that there is a staff that is in charge of marketing... that is after we wrote a marketing letter, decided to make a catalog, researched a list of companies and talked about how this was all going to fall in place...

The marketing staff then wanted us to look at the letter he had already written, the catalog idea was thrown out, the company list was thrown out and we started over...

Not only that but the marketing Indian staff is going to an exhibition in New Dehli where they will try to sell Sadhna's products to US citizens...are we invited to help? NO... however we are asked what to bring to the show, so they know what looks western.... but when we give our suggestions he doesn't like the products we choose, they are his least favorites.

OF COURSE THEY ARE, Indian style is not western style...

It is these moments that you learn to bite your tongue, go with the flow and think to yourself "WHY AM I HERE?"

But then you just take a deep breath and remember that it will all fit into place.

My life here is like a puzzle. I know all the pieces are there and it will eventually show a larger picture.

I just need to remember that eventually they are all going to fit together in the right way, it just takes patience, concentration and the right state of mind...

Every once in a while the frustration is overwhelming... the culture being so different.

But then it all fits together and the big picture is like a freaking firework going off in your body as you realize you actually accomplished something difficult but so beautiful. YOU DID SOMETHING SO GREAT!

I am putting those pieces together, there are amazing moments like today....

Everyday I go to the shop for eight hours... that is 7 days a week I work for 8 hours a day. I sit at the front desk with the two women who barely speak English and talk to them all day. It is supposed to help them practice their English and learn more about Western culture. It is also beneficial for me because I basically interview two women all day who live in poverty and are being uplifted by a business model I want to run.

The first day was somewhat boring/...

What is your name? Where do you live? How old are you? Do you like this color? Do you like this korta? Where do you study? Do you like Udaipur? Do you like Sadhna?

But the second day was a total flip...

Do you like working here? Did you have an arranged marriage? Do you eat this food? Do you have a boyfriend? What do you do in your free time?

Talk to the customer like this...

Change this, Change that....

TODAY!!!!!

What was your wedding night like with your husband you never met? How do you feel living in a slum? What do you really think of Sadhna? Do you think you are treated and paid fairly? What do you fantasize about in the USA? Do you believe in God? What are your biggest fears in life? ETC

I basically made two friends who want to know everything about USA and I want to learn everything about the culture of India. They talked about some of their most intimate moments of their lives today.

Not only that but I get to observe the women's efficiency working there, the types of customers that come into Sadhna and so much more.

Today I formed a list of things that tomorrow I will demand from the NGO that runs Sadhna. It seems as though the two women who work in the store are too shy to ask for anything, are hardly able to communicate with their managers to ask for the things they need and their pay relys on it. The more these women sell the better the pay... But they sell out of things and then don't get restock until much later and therefore miss out on potential sales. The environment of the store could be much more welcoming with a hint of music, a splash of color on the walls, updated materials to handout, the dead lightbulbs replaced, and the cash register fixed. These small things can make a huge difference to westerners.

A customer needs to feel like they want to be in the store, currently the stores silence, inability to give the right sizes of products due to not restocking the shelves, and their lack of decoration makes the store seem cold and unwelcoming.

Sadhna has so much potential but they seem to be on a total stand still...

ABOUT SADHNA:

Sadhna started in 1988 with only 15 women, the organization started as an income generation project for village, slum and tribal women and now is much more. Sadhna provides scholarships, health care, child care, eye check ups, pension plans for widows and retirement, so much more. Now it helps almost 700 women artisans and is continuously growing in sales.

It is proven itself as a self-sustaining reliable handicraft enterprise.

This is what I one day want to create. A handicraft social business that provides services for women that they otherwise would not be able to receive.

The whole process is such an amazing learning experience and I have loved getting to know the business and the women. I look forward to hearing them speak fluent English by the end of the 45 days. The smiles on their faces when they see me every morning at 10 is so motivating.

The women are so friendly, they are always offering to buy me tea even though their monthly income is less than I make in a day making minimum wage. They are always buying cookies and offering me some, pieces of their lunch, showering me with compliments, opening their lives up to me and always willing to learn.

I am really lucky to have met these two ladies and today when they told me their salaries it took everything for me to hold back from crying.

One of the women hasn't had a single day off in... 5 years... not one day. She works 8 hours a day 7 days a week. Making less in a month then a days work at minimum wage for an American. They are yet the happiest women, never complaining.

They smile and giggle while we eat lunch together on the floor of the shop with our fingers. The women are so dedicated.

Both women wake up at 5am everyday to start breakfast to serve for their bean (hubby) and beta (children) and cook lunch for their tiffins (lunch box). They then clean up the cooking mess, clean up their homes, shower come to work until 7 and then work on their handicrafts at home in their free time while also preparing dinner for their family possibly having to stop at the market, and putting their children to bed.

One of the women has an hour auto ride to and from work.... which makes her work day alone 10 hrs

All in a days work they say.

I ride with Laxmi, one of the workers, on her motorbike to and from work. It's an amazing ride... no helmet wind in your hair, winding through the traffic speeding through the tiny streets of the old city. At night it is even more amazing as the dust of the day has settled and the shops glow in the night.

Its hard talking to these women and then coming home to the haveli I am currently staying in...

My home stay is going really well and I am loving having my privacy... that is when I am actually home... which is almost never. :P

Living a whole new Indian lifestyle

So I have arrived at my internship site and it is completely different from the life I was living in Jaipur it's really interesting to see the captivating difference of just 400km.

I arrived Wednesday night and moved in with my host family right away. Things were great, my family is really wealthy. Our house is a haveli (mansion) the rooms have beautiful glass and mirror borders shaped like intricate flowers, the ceilings are crazy beautiful with levels to them, like a staircase, all the floors have marble inlay that is insane, there is a garden, 3 balconies, a beautiful view of the mountains... the list keeps going WONDERFUL set up.

My host mother is the financial counselor of Udiapur. This is really cool for several reasons:

1. I am always well fed.

2. There is an abundance of space.

3. I get to go to super cool things meet really amazing people, and have a totally different experience.

4. I stay in a beautiful house.

The first day was odd but this can be expected with any host family the first couple days.

I began my homestay with chai, crackers and conversing with my host mother, and her mother. We then went to her in-laws to cook dinner because the mother-in-law had surgery on her hand and is unable to cook. After dinner I fell asleep soundly... next to my host mom in her bed.

I felt very uncomfortable with the situation but was unable to do anything. Privacy here is non-existent so I was very unsure of what to do.

The next morning we woke up at 5am to go for a walk. It was a long walk but none the less it was beautiful. We got to see some of the beautiful lakes of Udiapur and explore the local area. After the walk I was served breakfast and chai and then prepared to start my internship with Sadhna.

Sadhna is everything I wanted and more. It is a wonderful organization and everyone is going to hear about it... A LOT in my blog because I am going to be working with it ALL THE TIME!

Sadhna was started in 1988 but a women who wanted to help village ladies out who did not have a source of income. Now it is a developing business that promotes economic independence for women, while also providing them with services that are helpful for their growth.

They provide healthcare, scholarships, micro loans, job security, income, travel experience, vocational training, amongst other things to help women in need.

The products they sell are really high quality and sooo sooo soooo WOW beautiful.

The first day of our internship we went to Seva Mandir (the main organization that built Sadhna) to meet our boss Madhu, Madhu had nothing much planned for us and told us to check out the shop and begin to think of a plan for international marketing. We checked out the store, the tourist shop, their factory and then were told that our main job would be marketing their products to American companies in any way possible. We were told to meet up again the next day at 9:45am and consider what we wanted out of the internship.

NEXT DAY:

Basically Lydia ( my co-intern) and I shopped in Sadhna all day. We looked at every single product, and ripped it apart as if we were companies looking to buy their products. We tried to consider what would sell in the US, what people are currently interested in and what stores these products would work well with.

We developed questions for the staff, made suggestions, talked about our concerns, and what we liked about the program to talk to Madhu about when we met her.

TURNS OUT!!!! THATS WHAT SHE WANTED!!! We did something right. She was really pleased with our comments and seemed excited about the potential of our internships.

Then she told us 'the news'... most people in MSID have internships that require office work, labor work, actual sit down with staff work....

NOT US!!! :S

Madhu told us to check in with her once a week, she just wants us to market the products, share with people the awesome-ness of Sadhna. At first Lydia and I felt a little disappointed, what now?!? We split for the day and agreed to meet up the next day with our thinking caps on at the local cafe.

We did just that, we had tons of ideas and the more we talked the more we realized we had our work cut out for us, the nice part is that the internship is super flexible, so traveling, sightseeing, amongst other things that take up a lot of time were TOTALLY possible.

We can do our job from anywhere, which is really nice.

Since then I have been doing a lot with my host mother. It started off weird but has turned out to be really great.

The other night she took me to this really cute school for village girls, where they had a feast for the full moons arrival. All the girls were really excited to meet me and were constantly staring at me and asking me the same questions over and over.

Whats your name?

How old are you?

Your country?

It was an amazing experience to meet the young girls and some of them were really great at English. The dinner was a lot of fun and we got to meet a lot of high-up people.

I would love to go back to the school and meet the girls again, they were so excited to see me. They all had huge smiles painted on their faces, it was so cute!

THEN! Today was o god! My host mother told me that we were going to some auditions for the Diwali holiday next week... turns out I am singing in the auditions, I was asked to sing my national song, dance and introduce myself to the city of Udiapur, they told me to look in the paper because I was going to be in it today.

My worst fear: singing in front of people. There are few people in my life I sing in front of, hundreds of people I don't know is the most terrifying thing I think I have ever done....

I was so embarrassed, I was sweating buckets, messing up all the lyrics, introducing myself wrong, tripping all over myself it was terrible and that is why I will never again sing in front of that large of a group of people again!

I lived through it though and am here to tell the story.

I have been doing some things I have really wanted to do but haven't had the time... like running, reading books of my choice, etc.

It feels good to be able to travel around here and not be so hectic with time, it is very relaxed here. There are lots of interns in Udiapur, in fact just the other night I went to a dinner where I met a lot of the interns here.

It was so cool. Evidentially every Saturday night interns are invited to this persons house who cooks a meal and has everyone hang out on his roof. This allows the interns to get together chat about whats going on, who is doing what and make some new friends. I went and had a wonderful time.

I think thats the important things that have happened thus far.

Check out Sadhnas stuff in their catalog soon to be redone by Lydia and I.

http://sadhna.org/pdf/autumn-winter2010.pdf

SAND DUNES

My life is a fairytale, everything is going my way. I love being here and love India! This past weekend was a weekend that will never be forgotten, in general this trip will never be forgotten, but I do think that this will be one of the major highlights. I do say that every week though, life here just keeps getting better!

This weekend was a long weekend so we decided to hit the road for an extra long journey to Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is known for its camel safaris and is located 13 hours away by bus. We decided to save some money and take the overnight bus without air-conditioning in the sleepers.

13 hours.... is a long freaking time to be on a bus....

When you are in a compartment that doesn't close, that is really disgusting, without blankets and freezing it seems even longer. The beginning was fine... I just closed the curtains in my section and had little privacy but was still able to get some work done for the book report that was going to be due on Monday.... But soon the bus was on a highway, and the wind became cooler and cooler. Without blankets I was already chilly, but then every time we would go over a bump on the road the window in my compartment would fly open and I would be woken up by a blanket of freezing cold desert air blasting me in the face and a loud bang as the window swung open, needless to say I didn't get much sleep that night, until I c limbed into Anna and Megan's two person area where we spooned until 6:30am when we finally arrived in Jaisalmer.

Its times like this bus ride that you once again have to say.... "Oh India!"

After getting off of the bus we headed to the fort where we had a wonderful view of the city and ate a heavy breakfast. We had some time to kill before our next bus would leave at 1pm so we went shopping around town and found several cool little shops including: a store selling marijuana, several leather stores, and a khadi shop.

For those who don't know what khadi is: khadi is hand spun cotton, always made locally. It is a Gandhian thing, Gandhi believed we should all spin our own cotton and if we are unable to do so then we should buy cotton that is spun locally because that would relieve us from the dependence of buying it and having to be dependent on others.

I bought a blanket.... for the ride home, figured I could spare a couple of dollars so that I could sleep well the next night.It is a beautiful tie-dye blanket with a black Hindu design.

After exploring the town we headed to the bus station to take the next bus to the village, Khuri, where we would embark on our camel safari.

This was even more interesting than the last bus ride.... the bus was supposed to leave at 1. We arrived at 12:30 hoping to get some seats, good thing we arrived then, the bus was packed, we didn't even have seats arriving that early... But the bus didn't leave

1:15...people are still cramming on.... three people for every two seats, and people sitting on the heads of the seats.... standing in the aisles... max capacity.... plus 30

1:30? Still people are filing on, we are calling the other group members who are at another bus station waiting, to get on our bus, and tell them to shove themselves on the bus because the next bus doesn't leave until the next day at 10am

but then the bus finally pulls out of the parking lot.... turns out we have stops to make besides the one that will pick up our friends... by the time we get our friends people are sitting on the roof of the van. It was crazy.

I have never been so jam-packed in a bus before. It was so incredibly hot being that we were in the Thar desert in the middle of the day in a bus full of sweaty strangers.

After making it to the desert our camel safari leader came to pick us up and get us ready for our amazing experience.

It was amazing we got on the camels and headed towards a village where we got to explore and look inside some of the huts, afterwards I watched one of the camel safari helpers milk a goat, putting its milk in his used water bottle which would later be used for our chai at dinner.

The sand dunes were beautiful! I couldn't believe how soft the sand was, it was the most amazing feeling to stick your feet into the sand. It was even more amazing at night once the sand had cooled, and it was nice and cool on your body, but once you dug your feet deep into the sand the days warmth could be felt.

After riding the camels for a couple of hours we stopped at the top of a sand dune watched the sunset and began to set up camp. By camp I mean we started a fire and put blankets on the sand dunes because we were sleeping directly under the stars with no cover. We sat around the dunes drinking wine and Indian homemade sugarcane vodka while cooking dinner. After dinner we played hide and seek in the dunes, which is harder than one might think. The sand looks even in the beautiful midnight sky. But one is fooled by the deep cliffs of soft sand that are invisible in the darkness.

When running straight you might fall suddenly down the plateau of soft sand and possibly find a person hiding in the curved hideout

It was so much fun, and we played until our exhausted bodies couldn't take it anymore. We were exhausted from the long day and fell asleep fast under the white light of the moon.

The next morning we woke up to watch the sunrise together before eating breakfast and heading back home. The safari was amazing, it was short, but considering how painful it is to ride on a camel for any amount of time.

Before going home we had a taste of some camel milk ice cream and tried to visit some of the famous haveli's around town.

We caught the bus back to Jaisalmer and ate lunch, did a little bit of shopping before heading back to Jaipur once again embarking on a 13 hour bus ride.

After getting back to Jaipur we celebrated Megan's birthday and Dashara with our family.

We got home showered, bought a cake, went our for lunch, studied and then came home to the puja in our house. (PUJA: prayer) Puja in our house was bigger then ever before, we had over 30 people in the house sitting in our living room listening to the priests chant and play music while they sang prayer. After 3 hours of puja we ate dinner and went to Mela, mela is when a huge statue of ravana (god) is set on fire along with tons of fireworks. It is said that burning these statues is to relieve you from your anger and cleanse you of fear. It was amazing to watch, the statue was several stories high and burnt to the ground really fast. It was incredibly dangerous but also very fascinating.

I leave for my internship Wednesday morning and am very excited. my internship is in Udiapur and I will be working with Sadhna. I already put up the website but I will put it up once more just incase:

sadhna.org

I found out a little bit about my host family. I have only a host mom and dad this time. The host mom works for the government on something similar to a city council in the United States, and the father owns his own marble construction company. I am very excited to meet them, I was told they live a very affluent posh lifestyle so it should be very different from what I am currently experiencing.

I am glad there are no children for the sole reason that I can't get anything done unless I have some time to myself which was somewhat impossible with two children in the house here.

More after I arrive.

BUSY

I haven't been as good about posting lately. I have been incredibly busy and school here has been kind of hectic. It seems as though my stay in Jaipur has gone by too fast. Next week at this time I will be on my way to Udiapur getting ready for my internship with Sadhna.

I feel like I have been busy all the time, but yet there is so much still that I want to get done in Jaipur, and want to learn about. I feel like life lately is going going, gone by.

Between traveling every weekend, book reports, lectures, trying to be with the host family, hang out with friends, updating blogs, uploading pictures, trying to keep in touch with everyone at home and so much more I have lost track of time.

It's amazing how much has changed since I left. There are things I see in myself that are changing that are beginning to freak me out.

1. My English is beginning to deteriorate. My spelling is terrible and so is my grammar. Since I have arrived here I am always talking in simple words so that the Indians can understand what I am saying, therefore I am no longer using bigger words and my vocabulary is beginning to become smaller and smaller. My spelling is beginning to become worse and worse as well. I am thinking in terms of Hindi-English spelling or something.

2. The more I learn, the less I feel like I know. The longer I stay here the more confused I feel. Each lecture is teaching me something, yet I walk away from the lecture having so many more questions, or feeling stupid because I don't understand something. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world and I can't hardly the world I am in right now.

3. It's amazing the things that you miss, or realize are such a big part of your life. I can honestly say I never fully appreciated being able to go outside after dark, having consistent friends, intellectual discussions with professors and other students, being able to eat whatever I want whenever I wanted, internet access, down comforters, tea without milk, dark chocolate, autumn leaves, grocery stores, being able to touch people without it being seen as promiscuous, safety, and so so sosososososo much more.

It's so many little things that make up your life, and here you realize what those things are.

4. I look at my relationships with people very differently. Especially my family. Here family is EVERYTHING! I would really like to restate that family is your school, your friends, your money, your job, your safety net, your provider, your stability... EVERYTHING. I think about my relationship with family and I feel as though I am very lucky. My family is very close, but I think about some of my other family that has so much tension and I worry about them.

Here you don't fight with your brothers or sisters, your mother or father, your cousins. You start businesses with them or you have a previous family business together, you make friends with them because you aren't allowed to talk to people of the opposite sex unless they are family. You take care of each other, because nursing homes don't hardly exist here. You live with your family. My host family for example lives all together. It is a joint family who has their apartments. The apartment building I live in has the mother, her 3 sons and her only daughter, and their families. They are together constantly, they are always cooking together, playing together, tutoring each other, working together, and taking care of each other.

My relationship with family is very much like this too, however it seems as though there is another barrier, distance. I have family in Chicago, New Mexico, California, Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Iowa and all over!!! It seems crazy to me that this family sticks together so much.

MOVING ON:

I went to Choki Dani this past Friday, which was an amusement park with a twist of theater and dinner. I got to ride an elephant, watch dancing, explore caves, see camels, eat traditional Rajhastani food, go on rides and so much more. We had a lot of fun...

The next morning at 5:45am I got up to get on a bus to head to Jodhpur: The Blue City. We took a 6 hour air-conditioned bus so the ride was nice and relaxing. I met a man on the bus who was really interested in the US, and asked several questions and made judgements:

1. America does not have poverty.

2. America is bigger then India?

3. India has a better educational system.

4. We are all filthy rich.

5. India has more engineers and therefore America doesn't know how to engineer anything.

6. America does not produce anything. We in fact import everything, including food.

7. America doesn't incorporate religion into class and therefore the educational system needs to reformed.

This whole conversation was really interesting, but kind of frustrating. Sometimes I think to myself, "how do you not know this?" other times I think "hahahaha, woooow, you are clueless." or "That's a good point" or "Why on earth would you think that?"

In the end of the conversation he asked for my email, and number saying he wanted to keep in touch. I told him he could just email me.

It's also funny talking to people, because things that we think are cheesy they think are just nice. For example:

"You are one of a kind."

"I hope this is the beginning of a log term friendship, and not the end of our short friendship."

"You are the most beautiful girl."

Once we arrived in Jodhpur we checked into our guest house ate lunch on the roof top restaurant that was perfect for getting pictures of the blue city and fort, before heading out for some shopping and to see the clock tower.

We had a wonderful day of shopping, and the clock tower was wonderful, it felt good to be in Jodhpur, there wasn't much harassment and the people were incredibly nice.

We stopped several times for a pick me up drink called a lassi, I highly recommend trying one. Here is a website of recipes!

http://www.indiamarks.com/guide/Different-types-of-Lassi-Recipes-and-Videos/184/

At the end of the day we ate at a wonderful place called Preya where we got to try this wonderful food called Uttapam which was soo tasty!! I am going to miss it like crazy when I go home!

The next day we got up and saw the beautiful fort of Jodhpur. It was very touristy with lots of gift shops and cafes. But we had an amazing audio tour and a great time. We had another amazing view of the city, and got to learn a lot about Rajputs, caste, opium, and maharaja of India.

After the for we ate lunch where I ordered a chili cheese bread... thinking it would be cheesy bread with chili on it, some kind of beans and chili powder sauce.. WRONG... it was cheesy bread but by chili they meant chili peppers!! WOWOWHOA it was sooo spicy.

After lunch we went to explore another palace which was the last palace in India to ever be built-in the 1950s. It was so beautiful but we could only see 1/3 of the palace because the maharaja still lives in 1/3 and the other 1/3 is now a fancy hotel. It was really interesting learning about the fort, where the current maharaja was only 4 when first taking rule.

After everything we headed back to the bus station where we missed our AC bus so we had to take the public bus... WOW haha it was an experience. It sure was cheap, for good reason. There were people who stood the entire time, which on this bus ended up being over 8 hours. We stopped for the bathroom a couple of times but that was terrible. There was human waste all over an open squat toilet with flies occupying the entire area. YUCK!

By the time we reached Jaipur it was 2:15am or so and we had to wait for a ride, which took two hours to arrive. We finally got home around 4ish and went to bed.

The next day was just as fun. I went to a Dandia dance. Which is hard to explain further than saying: it's a dance where you each hold two sticks and you hit them to other people's sticks while wearing EXTRAVAGANT clothes.

The dance was a lot of fun, and I got to wear my sari out of the house. I wore a tilak, bangles, gaudy jewelry and felt very Indian.

This week is our last week of classes so everything is really busy, however it is a long weekend this weekend, so 10 of us are headed to Jaisalmer for a camel safari!!! SO EXCITED

A fairytale land..

I had another amazing weekend, this time I went to Bundi and Kota.

This weekend we planned at the very last-minute to go to Bundi. Originally there was going to be 4 of us, but at the last-minute someone got sick so the trip was just three girls, myself, Megan, and Kate. We left Jaipur around 4pm, the drive was amazing. Bundi and Kota are very wet towns, the highest rainfall in the entire state, and Kota has the only natural flowing river in Rajhastan run through it. On our drive the landscape was all kinds of crazy! I loved it, we got to stop in one of the most beautiful places on our drive where we watched the sunset over a fantastic horizon of mountains!

A couple of hours later we knew we had arrived in Bundi because of the beautifully lit up castles and forts that appeared on our downward spiral around a mountain into Bundi. We drove straight to our guest house, which ended up literally being someones house, it was perfect for us though, only 4 dollars a night!! AND they had the best food ever! My favorite Indian dish: Dal and Bati. I had a wonderful dal and bati, with a banana lassi for dinner on the roof top restaurant. The next morning we got up early to set out on our adventure!

We started the day off right by eating a banana crepe with nutella smothered on top. The breakfast was once again on the roof top restaurant, but this time we had several guests, monkeys were everywhere. When I first arrived in India I thought monkeys were the greatest thing.... NOW: I am scared of them, like seriously don't like them. I saw a monkey hissing at people and making people cry in town one day, and have heard stories of them attacking people and now.... they freak me out! Although the mama monkey with her baby monkey grasping to her stomach was cute. I am more aware now of their feisty selves and try to stay away from them.

After breakfast with the monkeys we began heading to the Bundi castle... IT WAS AMAZING! My favorite place thus far... the castle had the most amazing features... the paintings alone were so beautiful, the turquoise colors, golden details, the holes in the walls that used to home the birds that did air mail, the drop down floors that were water pools covering the entire floor. The beauty of the place was incredible. Our tour guide was wonderful too! He was so helpful in explaining everything and did a great job about explaining all the small details including what each room was used for, who was researching the paintings of the castle etc.

We took so many pictures! (AS you can see)

After the fort our guide took us to a step well which was also really cool. The step wells are wells where you descend many flights of stairs to reach the water. Depending on the season, or that year's rainfall you may have to descend more and more steps. THE WELL WAS HUGE!!! It was really cool though, and I can't imagine trying to carry any amount of anything up and down those stairs!

After the wells our tour guide drove us 30km into what appeared to be a mountain desert like land where we hiked to rock paintings. The hike was kind of crazy, it was so so so so sos sosososososooso... OMG it was hot and there were monkeys running all over the place because we were in the middle of nowhere, where the monkeys gathered in huge groups...40+ and were running across the ground in front of us, not even 100 meters in front of us. It was incredible. The rock paintings were hidden in this tiny little cave like structure. They were in a crest shaped cave that would have one time provided shelter for someone. The view from the dave was amazing and we sat there for a while looking at the waterfall nearby, the ancient rock paintings and thinking about how amazing it is that WE ARE IN INDIA, before heading back where we would then visit the waterfall.

Our hike was so exhausting but totally worth the hike. THE WATERFALL WAS SO STUNNING! I couldn't believe how amazing it is that in such a hot place there was a really cool calm misty waterfall in a desert like landscape, it was more beautiful than I can even begin to say. We sat at the bottom of the waterfall wishing we had brought our swimsuits as we watched several people swimming in the bottom of the waterfall as we were dripping in sweat from our hike.

After the waterfall we went to a 9th century temple made of solid stone which was incredible.... by this time we had not eaten and it was 4! The beauty of our trip kept us so busy that we hadn't even noticed that we had eaten in so long and suddenly we were starving. We agreed that it was time to go to Kota and get something to eat and see the fort.

BUT, we got there and the fort was closed!!!!! It was Gandhi's birthday so closed the fort, so we ate a couple of snacks before moving on. So instead we decided to go on a boat ride on the only flowing river, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was beautiful, we once again saw the sunset, on our private boat ride on the beautiful river.

THE ENTIRE DAY WAS LIKE A FAIRYTALE! Waterfalls, deserts, castles, boat rides, ancient paintings, amazing food and all in just one day!!

I LOVED BUNDI!!!

Our tour guide was great, he gave us the best places to go, and helped us see so much in such a short period of time!

We then headed back to Jaipur around 6:30pm. We still hadn't eaten much so we had to stop in a small village on our way back...

(Since I have been here there are things that are just "SO INDIA" this was a moment)

As we got out of the car to buy some snacks to eat on our way home we stepped into the street shop... and the town's power went out... its super late!!! We can't see anything, we are in an area we don't know. CANT see anything. Now when you first arrive in India you get annoyed with this kind of thing, impatience is still flowing through your system. But after being here this long... it's just. SO INDIA! We waited and finally the electricity turned back on and we headed out, but didn't arrive in Jaipur until 12:40am.

We had plans for the next morning and had to be up at 7am... so we went straight to bed... got up just 6 hours later and prepared for our all day tour of Jaipur. We visited something incredible like 9 sites in one day! TOO MUCH!

The day started out perfectly... exhaustion, no breakfast, and me puking my brains out on the side of the street from a small lil stomach virus that ended as quick as it came. After we saw all the sites... they were also beautiful, but we had just been terribly spoiled in BUNDI...

We got home around 7:40pm... from our early morning tour, and passed out!! I was so exhausted! Got up for dinner, cranked out the book report due the next day and SLEPT ... really well to say the least.

The next day was just as interesting. Megan and I decided to go to a local coffee shop and boutique, Anohki. It is wonderful, western food which is nice when you are feeling exhausted, homesick, or just craving a super sweet something. We begin doing homework when our friend Anna comes, with her two Indian friends.

The rest of the night was incredibly interesting. Two old men who have had quite the life history. One of them is a chef around the world, very wealthy man, Rajput (warrior caste and royal), and world traveler. The other is constantly working on designing a new motorcycle. We made friends with the two guys at Anohki, and then they asked us to go out to dinner with them at an amazing restaurant called HENRY'S where I had like all of my favorite things: India, pasta, philosophy talk, music, gin and tonic, friends, and laughs! It was our first time experiencing Indian night life. Our host families are generally pretty protective so we have been unable to go out at night, but for once we were able to get out and see the town :0

Which brings me up to now... today was a relaxed day with the host family, trying to catch up on sleep and studies.

I did pick up my sari today from the tailor, check out the photos!

One day... to the next seems so _____?

It is amazing how one moment you can be in a slum (notice the last post) and the next moment you are in a fancy resort!

This past field trip where our MSID school took us to Shekawhati was just that... we spent our field trip stay at a place called the "Desert Resort" it was amazing to me that we were staying in this beautiful place.

Our room looked like a small haveli. and if you don't know what a haveli is: it is a home that at one time belonged to an upper caste or royal family it has been abandoned and now just looks GORGEOUS!

As you can see from the pictures it was stunning! So many beautiful colors and intricate painting.

We left Jaipur about 8:15am on Tuesday morning and drove to Shekwathi where we checked into our resort and then went to an NGO to learn about what they do: teach farmers about organic farming and provide the necessary materials to begin an organic farm. It was crazy to see the organic materials they use. They were showing what organic pesticides are made out of: cow urine, red chili, leaves, amongst other things that smell terrible together.

After the NGO visit we went to a farm where we saw the organic farming taking place. It was beautiful farm land and there were people all around working.

After the farm we stopped at a haveli. The haveli had been converted into a hotel and was extremely beautiful. All the doorways were in the shapes of lotus flowers and the paintings on the walls depicted ancient Indian fairytales.

All the paints on the walls are made from natural materials. Black paints are made from the soot of a candle, blue from indigo, green from vegetables etc.

After the haveli we went back to the resort where we watched the sunset on the hotels roof. It was so beautiful the sun set so fast we could literally see the sun moving, closing the gap between the desert plains and the darkening sky.

After the sun set we had a beautiful dinner under the trees which were lit by light bulbs hanging from the branches. The food was sooo savory tasty!!! After dinner we had traditional Indian entertainment, a puppetshow, musicians and singing before heading up to bed.

The next morning was just as wonderful. I got up early to sit by the pool and finish reading my book before taking a REAL SHOWER!!!! By real shower I mean: a shower head, above my head, stationed to the wall pouring water on top of me... and it was HOT!!! :)

The rest of the day was just as wonderful. We learned all about the theatre in India, how theatre has to be approved before it can be performed.

The man who did the lecture told us about a play at one time that had a man who was going to act out raping a pregnant women. It was so early in Indian theatre that people didn't know how to act and so they all ran up on the stage and began beating the actor up because they didn't understand. This made the government realize how powerful theatre is and they began to moniter what would be put on stage.

It was really interesting and I had never really known to much about Indian theatre.

After visiting more havelis and seeing another larger farm we headed back to Jaipur.

Today was a big day in India because a verdict of the courts was annouced, the verdict has been pending for 16 years. We were on curfew because people were worried that riots would break out if the ruling was not in someones favor... if you are interested in what the case was or what the verdict was:

http://news.oneindia.in/2010/09/30/upcongress-to-meet-friday-to-assess-ayodhya-verdictimpact.html

LIFE IS WONDERFUL!

I am headed to Bundi and Kota for the weekend! BEAUTIFUL PICTURES ARE PROMISED!

Ajmer and Pushkar

Our class went on the most amazing field trip on Friday to a slum. The slum was an amazing field trip... It is a home to hundreds of diverse artists: painters, puppeteer, jewelers, quilters, India dancers, folk dancing, musicians and so much more. The field trip involved trying all the different jobs in small groups. I began by beading an extravagant necklace... you can see the picture... knowing these women do this every day all day is amazing to me, their tiny little nimble fingers, the strain in their eyes, and their backs bending over all day to do that is incredible. Then I moved to the quilt making where I sewed the blankets, which was a lot of fun, but once again similar to the beading WOW!!!

After the beading and quilting I went to the dancing, where we were taught to do some Indian dance moves, a musician patted on the drum as we danced in a tiny space of her home. It was so much fun, we danced like no body was watching, looking like fools next to the most amazing dancer! She looked beautiful in her costume! We watched her children dance too, filthy, barefoot and un-groomed they danced giggling and loving every second of the attention we were giving them :)

The next stop was a puppeteer and drummer. the puppeteer was SUPER AWESOME!!! We got to try it... surprisingly I have the hidden talent... I guess I did quite well guiding the incredibly heavy puppet across the floor, while the man beat on his drum, we were all clapping and loving being in the shack.

The last stop was the dancing with the traditional costume of a horse. OMG so embarrassing. Everyone was staring at you with a horse costume on... fifty small children watching and countless adults. It was a lot of fun, and incredible, but I also felt stupid... LOOK AT PICTURES to fully understand.

After it all we had a program of all the artists performing and the final piece asked us to get up and show everyone what we had learned in our sessions! It was so fun! It was amazing to see the slums, make the children's day and learn about what they do. Which brings me to the next thing....

I have decided on an internship called Sadhna. It is a social business, a smallstart-up, vocational training for adults, empowerment for women, and rural location close to Udiapur. I think it will be similar to the field trip we did, helping women learn handicrafts to sell to help them have an income of their own. You can check out the website of the internship....

sadhna.org

This weekend I went to Pushkar and Ajmer. They are both smaller Indian cities in between the mountains! They were so beautiful. We went to several different temples... I posted the pictures of their magnificence. :)

All my friends and family however are in trouble... I went to the holy water to pray for you. However the Brahmen religious leader told me I had to pay 300rupees per persona I prayed for.... ummmm didn't pay haha.... I paid a total of 50 rupees for all of you.

Sorry folks, I hope whoever was listening to my prayers understands my fear of people constantly trying to rip me off and take my money :P

After exploring Pushkar, we went to a lovely lunch at Pink Floyd Cafe where I met my new illegal friend Herman, a turtle on the roof of Pink Floyd! I guess its illegal to house or have turtles in India. Herman did enjoy the roof with us though, it was beautiful, the view was amazing and he seemed to enjoy playing with my straw!

After the cafe, we went to Ajmer where I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. While exploring Ajmer we decided to go to a mosque where we saw several people missing limbs amongst other disabilities. I have seen this so many times before. There are hundreds of people all over India with missing limbs, scooting around on scooters, riding it bikes pedaled with their hands but this was really different.

I think there is a problem with polio here. The people have legs but they are literally just bone.... soo sooo skinny, and because they are so weak, they move them in all kinds of awkward broken positions. Their knee pointed one way, their foot another, their toes missing, or distorted.

This sort of site doesn't phase me the same way it did one month ago, however one man in particular did.

The first time he walked by I thought little of the man in torn clothes who carried a large stick right in front of him... stomping the ground with the base of the stick in front of him... I could recognize he was blind... his face was looking at the ground so I could not look at him, but his stick pounding showed his disability.

The second time he walked by I saw his face.. his face was full of fear as he walked down the most crowded street of Ajmer, unable to see anything, his stick leading the way to scary path crossing the busy intersection. I saw his eyes and my heart skipped a beat. He had been blinded on purpose, his eyes were burnt from what had appeared to be acid... solid white with scarring covering his eyes and eyelids... He had his hand out between each sticks stomp, begging for money.

He was such a tiny little man.

The third time he walked by was when my eyes filled with tears as someone literally rammed into the man, knocking him off his balance and his face already full of fear became full of surprise, sadness and terror. I almost lost it in the market and was thankfully then allowed to walk into the mosque where I was distracted by many other people asking for my money, my handshake, and the curtsy of an introduction.

The whole town was amazing and incredibly beautiful. The entire city was completely different than Jaipur. We loved every second of our adventure!

Gender Differences

So I have been wanting to blog about this for a very long time and I finally feel as though I know enough about it to finally make an opinion, and explain my view.

India is very different. First I want to explain the differences in what I see in Meenakshi-ji our host mom compared to my own mother or what I characterize as an American mother figure.

1. Indian mothers cook EVERY meal... this does not mean that they cook one meal for everyone. It means the woman will cook breakfast for her children before they go to school at 6:30am, then again at 7:30am for her husband, and then again for Megan and I at 8am. The food is cooked fresh every time. She cooks small amounts each time rather than reheating the leftovers. After each person she cleans the dishes, resets the table and begins again.

2. Indian women think for their children. They do so much for their children. Our host family spends 1/3 of their income on their children's elementary education. The mother constantly nags her children to study, spending hours working on homework with them.

3. Arranged marriage

4. Women of India belong in the home not on the streets. They do not go out at night, and are usually home makers.

5. The cook eats last, as Indian's say: Women eat last, least, and leftovers.

SOOOOOO... I had an interesting conversation with my host sister, Kanchi.

Kanchi told me that her mother believes she should be married by 19, should not score higher than 7o on her exams, and that she would be a housewife and nothing more. She also expressed her frustration with how her parents treat her brother compared to her, she talked about how her brother is worshiped compared to her and that she feels as though her parents love her brother more than they love her.

It was incredibly sad. It is hard to talk to her about these issues and it is very complex here. With things such as dowry and sati gender issues are very complex.

Today we had a lecture about gender and equality in India. It is incredible how women are treated here. Especially in our house.

1. Kanchi is encouraged to do bad on her exams.

2. Her family doesn't want her to fulfill her dream of being a librarian instead she should be a housewife.

3. Kanchi is not allowed to talk to boys.

4. Kanchi is expected to learn to cook, clean etc.

5. Kanchi is referred to in the form of "you" that is informal, while the son is referred to in the formal alternative.

6. Kanchi is constantly yelled out while Vatsal the younger boy is not. Even though Vatsal does not do as well in school, and is a highly energetic naughty 9 year old.

It is so interesting to watch the interactions between the mother, father, son with the daughter.

The other thing totally unrelated to the gender issue is several things in the news in India.

1. Common Wealth games are similar to the Olympics but only for the countries that were under the British rule...

Anyways... check out this news article about the problems India is having preparing for the Common wealth games and what other countries reactions are to India.

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/09/23/19-hurt-in-bridge-collapse-fate-of-delhi-commonwealth-games-hangs-in-balance/

2. Check out how to use the Indian toilet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKkryfdtMNQ

Lastly... I cooked an American meal today with Megan for our family:

Mac and Cheese

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Baked Apples

THEY LOVED IT :)

Home? Where are you?

On my way home from Bikaner all I could think about was getting home. When I was thinking about home though it wasn't Morris or Albert Lea, it was Jaipur. That is a really weird feeling I have only been here a couple of weeks and I already feel very at home here.

It seems really bizarre that only a few weeks in India makes me feel as though I truly live here when this India-world is like a completely different world.

I have passed the honeymoon stage of India... I decided the other day when I was pissed off so bad that I felt like crying.

It is the same India as I have had this entire time but things have begun to piss me off.

1. TOO MANY PEOPLE work jobs that one person could do in half a day. They have ten people working a 1 person job, therefore being really inefficient and wasting my time. FOR EXAMPLE: I applied for a cell phone, and have had to redo the paper work for the fourth time. BECAUSE my photo copy of my passport was to dark, I don't have perfect matching signatures, and I don't technically live here. So instead of one person telling me what I need to do i have to go in circles...

2. Indian families are really close... = no personal or private time

3. STARING...STARING... MORE AND MORE STARING

4. Everyone wants to rip me off.

I feel as though India will be an emotional roller coaster at times.

The other night I was trying to fix my cell phone.... couldn't figure out whats wrong... then they told me to get new copy... then a color copy... then another color copy... while the copy machine man tells me to pay WAY MORE then listed prices... 5 rupees for a color copy... but there is some 'rule' foreigners pay 100...

I am not that stupid. But it is amazing that they have such confidence that I am.

Overall though I am really still loving it.

Tomorrow night I am making macaroni and cheese for my host family along with caramel apples. I am even considering going out of my way to buy a jar of peanut butter to eat on the side...

I am really interested to see what they think about our meal. They will probably think it is really bland, but its all part of the experience.

My First Travel Experience, BIKANER

So much to write and I am always so exhausted!!

FRIDAY:

Our class went on a field trip to Jaipur Foot, which is a local NGO that makes prosthetic limbs for people. We went to the NGO and had a tour of the huge building, where they fit people with a limb for free, provide them with a ticket so they can return home after coming to Jaipur for their limb. Housing and physical therapy are provided as well for their duration in Jaipur.

Not only does Jaipur have this amazing service but they also help people who are in need who are missing a limb. They provide bikes that can be pedaled with their hands for people missing a leg, sewing machines to those who need to make money for their families amongst other common items to uplift those who are on the streets. In total in the year 2009-2010 Jaipur Foot provided 371324 limbs for the needy, 316282 calipers, 72981 bikes, 18110 hearing aids, amongst other services.

The NGO was super uplifting and i really enjoyed going to see how the limbs were made, how many people were there and to see the difference the limbs make in somebody's life.

The limb only costs 20 to make and is free of charge to ALL people, they can provide a donation if they wish but it is unnecessary. It was also shown that the prosthetic limbs would be ready within 1-3 days. It was really cool to see the process take place, we got to see the measurement process, the mold being made, the plastic being melted and smoothed, the fitting and the final piece in use.

After the NGO visit we went out for ice cream as a group and watched a movie about India before going home to prepare for my adventure to Bikaner this weekend! After an early dinner I met Luke, Tiffany and Katie for a rickshaw where we would go to the train station for overnight train that would arrive in Bikaner at about 7:30-8am....

SATURDAY

4:40am... we arrive in Bikaner, train decided to rush to Bikaner and while it was nice to get off the train, it was not so nice that we had no where to go so early in the morning. Nothing was open and nobody on the streets. We decide to try to call the hotel which told us that it would pick us up at the train station when we arrived. However when we called, they answered the phone with sleep in their voice, obviously sleeping at the front desk to tell us they were 'too tired to pick us up' but that they would let us check out the room for 12hrs. So we were approached by a man who offered us a ride to our hotel. Exhausted we all climbed into the rickshaw, somewhat angry, but mainly exhausted and ready for a bed that wasn't shaking from the train...

Our driver did not sence our tiredness, or if he did he chose to wake us by playing SPANISH?!?! music way way way to loud in the rickshaw turning on his flashing lights in the rickshaw as we made the drive to our hotel on the empty streets of Bikaner.

After some sleepy hotel workers finally helped us into our room we made it into the room and passed out for a good 4 hours before heading to the rooftop restaurant to eat breakfast and look over the beautiful small city of Bikaner. We could see a cricket practice field on one side and the huge fort on the other side.

After breakfast and chai we headed for the local fort which was sooo beautiful. When we entered the fort there was a group of Indians visiting the temple as well. Indians are always trying to get a picture of the white people, so sure enough as we walk into the big front gates of the fort the men are trying to get a picture of us.

I decide I am going to be a smarty pants about it and decide to strike a ridiculous pose before taking my own camera out and shooting photos of them as well. I thought they would get the hint, but oooo nooo. THEY LOVED THE ATTENTION and decided to all smile and pose for my camera. After I put my camera down, they kept coming up to me each wanting to take a picture with me. uuuuggg

After we escaped the Indian photographers we entered the fort to meet our tour guide, who barely spoke English. However he did let us into a bunch of rooms that were definitely off limits. Letting us sit in the fancy throne chairs and checking out areas that were roped off. It was really nice to have such a relaxed tour guide. After the fort we decided to eat some lunch before heading to the Karni Mata Temple (rat temple). After a goat cheese macaroni with ketchup and cold coffee lunch we caught a rickshaw to the bus that would take us to the 30km south temple in a town that has nothing other than this temple. I think the bus ride to the temple was more exciting than the actual temple. People were just staring at us on the bus, scrunched up next to us and asking us questions. It was nice to see the different landscape of desert with a random mountain popping up, small village huts, and dried up bushs decorating the dessert.

The temple did have a lot of rats, but unfortunately we did not see the lucky white rat, only baby rats, old rats, dead rats, rats eating, rats sleeping, rats running around, rats drinking coconut milk, everything but.. the white rat.

After the temple we went back to town in the old city where we met up with an interesting Indian teenager named "Lucky" who wanted to help us explore the old city and then take us to this government shop where we all spent way too much money buying really wonderful gifts that would support the local village women who made them.

I bought a beautiful peach scarf, a bed sheet with the most wonderful stitching of Indian animals, flowers and more and a box made of camel bone.

We stayed there a long time and made good friends with the shop keeper before heading back to the hotel to eat our dinner on the rooftop again, lit by candles and romantic lights lining the railings around us. I had some tasty daal and chapati along with a Coca Cola made with real sugar unlike the US!

The next morning we went to the most beautiful Jain temples! I am really not much of a temple 'viewer' but this was gorgeous. You should defiantly check out the photos. We got to meet the priest there who told us a little more about the religion, their method of praying, more about that particular temple and asked us a little bit about our home country. It was so wonderful being at the top of the Jain temple, looking over Bikaner listening to the Muslim call to prayer watching the birds fly, the colorful homes in the bright sun. It was sooo beautiful on top of the temple!

After looking at the temples we headed out to lunch where I had more fried daal chapati, and a banana milkshake and then went to walk around for a short period of time before realizing it was too hot and we needed to just sit and study in a cafe, after a search we decide to stick with a restaurant and order ice cream. We ate ice cream, studied Hindi, and chatted waiting for out train to arrive.

Once at the train station I had one of my giggle over tired attacks. I am so blown away by people's curiosity. People just have no sense of being rude here. People will stand one foot away from you staring at you, checking you out, what are you wearing, what expression you have on your face. They are constantly trying to figure you out. It amazes me how fast people come to stare! After standing at the train station for not quite 90 seconds we had our first encounter. They all say the same things:

Indian (I): Hi, how are you?

US: We are good...

I: What country u from?

US: USA

I: Is that in the UK?

US: America...

I: What is your name?

US: (we begin to walk away) Luke/Mal/Tif/ Katie

I: (huge smile) I am _______. (stretches arm out for handshake)

MOMENT of...weird

US: (walk away !!!!)

So this happens, and we make up some excuse like... we are gonna go to the bathroom, nice meeting you, we got to go... etc.

But when we just sit down at a place they flock.... we sat down 10 minutes... and 10 men (no exaggeration I counted) come over and circle us... STARING! Nothing else just checking us out, to see what we do, how we act.

I had just had one to many glances for the day so I was in just a laughing mood. I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that this is what people do.. They see white people and get super excited! They want to shake your hand as if we are famous.

It amazes me. I have several methods of dealing with this...

1. IGNORE

2. STARE BACK

3. ASK, "Is there a problem?"

4. Roll my eyes and shake my head no...

Usually if 1 doesn't work I go to 2 then 3 and worst 4....

It's as if people are in a trance and don't even realize they are staring at you....

more later.. bed time

Well Worth 5 bucks

I went on an amazing tour of Jaipur last night. At about 6pm we headed to the tour. It was beginning to get dark but the sun was still up. We went to 13 different spots all over Jaipur it was so beautiful. Although I knew most of what was said on the tour, and some of the sights I had seen before, it was so nice to see them at night all lit up!!! SO BEAUTIFUL! I am so excited to go in everything and take a million pictures.

At the near end of the tour we went up to the top of a mountain/hill and ate in a fort that overlooked my new beautiful home, Jaipur. It was so wonderful! The food was amazing, the setting was gorgeous and the other people on the tour were really great. After the tour we came back home and went straight to bed because it was exhausting and already 11pm. It was interesting coming home that late. Megan and I havent really been out that late because our host family is very protective. It seems obvious why now. It seemed really dangerous at that time of night. We seemed to be getting a lot of looks that told us we should be inside. Women were not on the streets at all. It was somewhat scary!

Today we had class and I watched a really sad movie, "Taare Zameen Par" it was sooo good though. It was about a boy who struggles in school so his family sends him to a boarding school where a new art teacher discovers....

watch it and see... ;)

After class, Tiffany, Luke, Katie, and I (my travel buddies this weekend) went to the travel agency to buy our tickets for: BIKANER!

If you don't know anything about BIKANER there is one thing you should know... there is a rat temple, where the rats are worshiped. The story simply is that the rats are ancestors and so they are fed and worshiped. It is supposed to be good luck it you see the single white mouse, and very auspicious to have the rats crawl over you. So I am hoping rats feel at home on my feet! I could use a little luck as I travel India for the next several months!

There are many other places in Bikaner, that I am really excited to check out. Including: Gajner Palace, Devi Kund Sagar, Shri, and Bikaner Havehes. Bikaner makes really nice shoes too I guess out of camel leather. I am so excited to travel and see everything. I am not bringing my computer though so this is the last time I will be blogging for several days! But I am so excited and really hope I get some auspicious luck...

I have talked about reading the new book I got. TODAY I read a really interesting section called. "What we can learn from the west?" It was 8 things Indians should copy the west in. They need to learn to...

1. "Respect their community. Parks free of litter, clean streets, public toilets free of graffiti, these are examples of a society that respects the community and its spaces. On the other hand, in India, we keep our houses clean and water our gardens every day but when we go to a public park, we do not think twice before littering."

2. "Respect others who have accomplished more than they themselves have, and the willingness to learn from them... no other society boasts so much about the past as we do, with as little current accomplishment."

3. "Indians should learn from the West is accountability. In India, the more important you are the less answerable you are.... leading to the problem that everybody in india wants to be a thinker and not a doer, for doing anything requires action and that is looked down upon."

4. " A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly."

5. punctuality. " Deadlines are not met."

6. 'Parents teach their children to be independent thinkers in the West. Thus they grow up to be strong individuals. In India people are very attached to their parents and can not step out of this comfort box."

7. " In the West contractual obligations are seldom dishonored... we considermarriage vows sacred however we do not extend the same line of thinking to the public domain."

8. Honesty

I think a lot of this is true, the longer I am here the more I strongly agree with these 8 pieces.

I will say though that I LOVE IT here, and am soo excited STILL! :)

I got to talk to Meenakshi and Vinod about these 8 things... interesting viewsdifferences, and reactions :)

time for bed... more later

Rain. Rain. Go Away

I went to an amazing coffee shop with some of the students yesterday! It was across the street from what will soon be a jungle like park. It was sooo soo beautiful! Sad news: I didn't bring my camera to take pictures. I had no idea the beauty I would experience in this particular study experience. :S

I have a new favorite study drink. I am always drinking so much pop and coffee back at home, everyone knows how addicted to caffeine I am. Here however I have only had one pop in two weeks! Everyone should be so proud! Instead I am having a cold coffee and ice cream. At this particular cafe I had cold coffee with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup!!! YUMMY

The set up of the cafe was so cute. I love pillow rooms here, the cafe was so colorful, hot orange, hot pink, neon green, deep reds AND so many wonderful fabrics! Silks, cottons, linen. I love the cafe rooms. Anyways we set up our room for our studies and had a wonderful chit chat before heading home and eating a delicious dinner with our host family.

After dinner Megan and I tried to study, but studying here is very difficult when the children want to play, and the family wants to talk, blogging, facebook, preparing for the next day of school, wanting to read about what you want to read about rather then what you should be doing.... HOMEWORK.

Today I got up and went to school and then came straight home to do homework. Probably a good idea considering the rain we got today! It was insane! It poured.... Poured... flooded, and then I stayed home!

I am beginning to read a book called, "A Better India, A Better World" for a book report I have to do for class... I really like it there are a lot of quotes that really make me think about the situation going on here. The author talks about the poverty, the depressing statistics and what he believes should be changed to help INDIA reach the potential it has.

So many intersting things happen here all the time its hard to know what to write about...

I will say though that Megan and I's host sister didn't realize people in other parts of the world eat meat... Told her about that.... she was somewhat surprised to say the least and was puzzled to put it lightly...

I had been practicing my Hindi trying to tell her that I do not eat cow...

She responded saying, I must have written the wrong word, because no one eats cow

CULTURAL MOMENT... so I explained that in fact people in the world do eat cow, lots of it... and although it is sacred here it is not in the USA or CHINA or most places in the world besides India.

This blew her mind... and lets just say my host mom was less then pleased that I had shared this information with her daughter.

Whoops.

Off to read more for the book report!

Ganesh-ji Birthday

This weekend has been amazing!

Friday I had a field trip where I learned about paper making, hand block printing fabric, and blue pottery. The craftsmanship here is astonishing! Everyone is so good, all the stitching, and painting is so intricate and wonderful. After the field trip we began planning the weekend.

First of all, Hinduism is so complicated, there is so much to it. I don't understand any of it, I think I know the tale of one god, but then i hear another twist. I think I know why they do this... and then it changes. If you ask someone, "Why do you do ____?" they each give a different answer. It makes trying to understand anything REALLY difficult... However I did understand that this weekend was a HUGE deal!

This weekend was Ganesh's birthday... my host families number one god. A little information on Ganesh:

Although he is known by many other attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles.

Look online if you are interested to know why he has an elephant head or why he is seen as the Remover of obstacles.

The festivities started earlier in the week, but Friday night we really began prepping. Friday night, I went into Rajah Park, the shopping district near our flat. I had to pick up my new clothes for the festival, on the day of the festivals most people wear new clothes. After picking up my new clothesMeenakshi (host mom) put mendi (henna) all over my hands, I guess you are supposed to put mendi on for the festivals! She did a wonderful job, and told us how she had won awards for her mendi skills!

Later we ate dinner and then Meenakshi and her mother-in-law began to make traditional Rajasthani food for the festival. Then of course I had to go to bed early for the big day!

THE NEXT MORNING:

Breakfast of Champions, bucket shower, new clothes, and visit temple. After the temple something very interesting happened... Meenakshi and Vinod of something called a puja. A puja is a little place of worship in their home. It is a cabinet filled with all kinds of religious pieces, figurines, religious texts, candles, incense, and pictures. After going to the temple they preformed rituals on their statue of Ganesh. They began by taking out the statue ofGanesh and putting it in an aluminum pie pan. They then proceeded to put holy water from the Ganges river over the two Ganesh statues and then patted him dry. After he was dry they poured curd (yogurt) over him. The interesting part was that it was not just Meenakshi and Vinod who performed the rituals, Megan and I also partook in the events along with their youngchildren. We all poured small amounts over the statues and then repainted the statues with orange paint powder and butter mixture, and then put a very thing layer of silver foil over the main portion of his body. After all was finished they put the two figures back in the puja and filled a clean pan with incense, candles and some sort of powders and sang/prayed while taking the dish and moving it in circles towards the left in front of the puja. After finishing the prayer and we had all had a chance to move the dish in front of the puja we had another welcoming ceremony similar to when I first arrived in India we got new bracelets and red marks on our foreheads. I am unsure of what the red marks are called, because they don't seem to have the samemeaning as they usually would for this kind of ceremony. After all had been done....

Come home, eat, drink chai, take nap.... GO TO CARNIVAL! I rode the most sketchy ferris wheel of my entire life. The wheel literally had no safety measures. There was no door to close us in the piece. There was no bar on our laps, or weight restrictions, just four people in a cart and around and around we went 12 times... looking over the most beautiful country in the world. After the ferris wheel we went on a ride called the Columbus" which had just as much safety measures as the ferris wheel. NONE.

It was amazing being in the festival! There were so many people and we were the focus of everyone's attention. Megan, Anna, Olivia, and I went to the festival (all MSID students) with our host families. We would stop for just a moment and Indian men and women would gather around us, a freaking herdof people stared at us constantly, there was no subtleness about it. People literally stood 6 inches away from us, staring at us, watching our expressions, checking out our white skin, my blue eyes, and light hair. The gaze they give us is a glance of curiosity but sometimes feels as though it is a gaze of disappointed and makes me feel very unwelcome. I know it is a look of curiosity but sometimes its hard to deal with people constantly staring at you. It never stops. I will be on a ride and people will point at me. There were some girls in the park the other day on a walk and a grandpa brought up a small child and pointed to them saying this is a white person. I have begun now to feel the same way though. When I see a white person I automatically either think, I must know them, or i stare.

After going to the carnival we stood on top of the apartment roof gazing at the city. It has begun to really feel as though this is part of my life. I have begun to feel as though I live in India. I went to bed awhile later.

TODAY!

Today I slept in and then showered to get ready for the day. I really didn't know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to leave the house we had been cramped up in for a while. I checked my email and had a message from a friend who had done the MSID program before. He suggested going to Mr. Bean a coffee, sheesha bar on the other side of town. Megan and I decided we would check it out. After getting to the other side of town we decided to look around in the mall and eat at a really cut restaurant called potpourri, and our first taste of meat in a long time. Megan had really been craving meat, and I had really been craving something bland. It was incredible how at home we felt just from the few moments in the restaurant. The music was Justin Beiber, 7 songs later... still Beiber. INDIA loves Justin.......... A LOT! Lucky for Megan and I we don't mind him. I had some Chicken A'King and a cold coffee with ice cream. Which was really nice except I got sick for the first time today. It wasn't from lunch, I had been feeling really 'fjksjfkl' for awhile! But lunch did not settle right :( I did make it awhile before this happened though so that'sgood!

After lunch we checked out the 'Mr. Bean' coffee shop! AWESOME, very western, but also very Indian. I had a very very tasty KitKat shake, andstudied Hindi for a couple of hours before heading to our next stop... CROSSWORDS! I think this is one of my new favorite places in India as far as shopping! It is a bookstore with a coffee shop attached. All the books are about India, which makes the book store a lot of fun! Not only that but all the books were sooo sooo very cheap! I bought a book called "A Better India, A Better World" I am super excited to read it! It is the number one best seller non-fiction book in India today!

I think I will be able to use it for a book report we have to do for class this semester. I am trying to figure out what I want to do for my senior thesis, and am hoping between this book, MSID, and my upcoming internship I will be inspired for not only my senior thesis but what I want to do with my life. Being here has really opened my eyes to development. I have always know a bout development but the contrast of seeing it and think about it is so different. Development here and seeing what I see makes development seems somewhat silly.

After the book store I went back to my apartment with Megan for the Ganeshparade! So wonderful, pictures are on facebook. There were elephants, and bands, and wonderful dreamy floats! It was incredible. After the parade I went to the carnival again and rode the unsafe ferris wheel and boat ride in alightning storm ;) it was already really dangerous I figured if I didn't die from the ride, the lightning wouldn't get me.

After the carnival I cam home exhausted, ate dinner, and now... writing this...

India is fabulous. i love it here and can't believe it is all really happening!

Technology...

So I finally have internet, after a goose chase around Jaipur... 4 hours of waiting in MTS, I now have internet :)

So much has happened its so hard to know what to write! I am getting along with my host family so well! They are such nice people and very genuine! All the food is great and our set up is perfect!

We have been going to the Ganesh temple with our family because this week seems to be Ganesh's week. his birthday is this Saturday, September 11th.

On Monday morning at 8am a parade marched outside of my balcony. Many women marched down the road led by a band playing loud music. All the women wore red and orange sari's and carried pots on their heads filled with water, leaves and covered with a coconut as an offering to Ganesh. Once the women reached the temple they walked to the front of the temple and one by one poured the water over Ganesh's statue. They pour water, milk, curd, and honey over his body. There was tons of things poured on him. After all the women pour the water on Ganesh they go outside of the temple and dance to the band playing. I was invited into the circle and danced with the women. :)

Then there was a huge celebration on Wednesday. Wednesday at 10pm my family and I went to the temple and had ladu. (There are pictures of it on facebook.) Normally ladu is a small peice of dessert usually smaller then a ping pong ball, however at the Ganesh temple you give donations to the temple and recieve the ladu as a token of thanks the week of his birthday. There are huge ladu's in the front of the temple several feet tall and wide. There is such a crowd that there are metal barriers making lines for the people to wait to get into the temple.

School has started and it has been going well. I am slowly learning a little Hindi, however I do think that my home stay teaches me more Hindi then the teacher does. It is like 24/7 personal tutoring :) I can make small sentences, but I can't write anything quite yet. Our economics class is so interesting and we are learning all kinds of sad statistics about the poverty in India. We have field trips every Friday around Jaipur so I am really excited to get to travel with everyone. Another cool thing about school is tea time. WE have tea twice a day in school, at 11am and 2pm we have tea. A worker at MSID brings the tea to us in class, it is so tasty and I love drinking tea well getting a lecture something about is so delightful!

I bought several outfits and have begun to try to camouflage myself into India, however my skin still appears pure white :P I I want to buy so much from here, but I don't want to have to carry everything from place to place so I have been trying to hold off as much as possible. I had an entire outfit made and it looks so pretty its blue and yellow, I will wear it this weekend for the Ganesh birthday celebration and take pictures to post.

I already feel so much more comfortable in India, I don't fell nervous when walking the streets. Even though I am constantly stared at, followed by begging children, and ripped off by shop keepers I do feel much better. The men don't seem as intimidating, the roads are starting to become more familiar, and I am beginning to feel as though this is my home.

I can already tell that I will return home and have a sense of reverse culture shock. The showers out of a bucket, the auto rickshaws, the Indian family life, the food, the streets, etc. Everything here is so different. Today I talked to Meenakshi (host mom) about her marriage. She was in an arranged marriage at the age of 23 to her husband Vinod. She met him on Oct 20th and was married to him on December 6th! That seems crazy to me, however in life I do need to recognize that this system does tend to work better then our system where we marry for love. Meenakshi is very happy with her husband and they work together very well, it is so different then our system.

The children Vatsal and Konchi are so wonderful, they call Megan and I didi, which means older sister. It is so cute "didi come here," "didi come see" "didi is home" i love it. They have both been making us small gifts. Konchi is very artistic and has made me a paper weight of Winnie the pooh and a rose out of pink napkins and a piece of broken wood!

Today I went to a fancy restaurant called "reds" it is a very modern restaurant that was super expensive but really tasty and had wireless internet. The building was glass and on the 6th floor so I was able to see the beautiful busy Indian horizon. Everytime I go to a cafe I am always ordering cold coffee with ice cram! It is my new favorite drink, it is so sweet, and everyone knows hw much I love caffeine and ice cream! A match made in heaven!

Tomorrow I am going on a field trip to a village where they sell blue pottery and hand blocked fabrics for school. It is supposed to give us a little insight on the internship phase of the semester! I will have to take lots of pictures and put more things up on facebook.

It is crazy how big India is, every time I begin thinking about my traveling plans I get overwhelmed. It is so cheap to transport however everything i want to see is so far away! Although the train rides cost 4-5 dollars at the most they are so far away, sometimes 8+ hours!

I have to much I want to do but yet I want to be here with our host family because they are so wonderful!

Blogging is so hard.. so much stuff I want to say, but I am always exhausted...

p.s. if you want to visit me over winter break i would love it... any takers?

Never Enough Time

September 5th, 2010

11:15pm Indian Time

I have met my Indian family! They are wonderful. I really lucked out, and if anyone Skypes with me they would love to meet you. They are so kind. It is small family, the mother Meenakshi, her husband Vinod, and their two children, Vatsal, and Kanchi. They are a very traditional family and are really excited to host us. They have hosted two groups before Megan and I. They have been so welcoming. Our apartment is perfect!

When we got to the apartment we were met by Meenakshi who gave us a welcoming ceremony. She put Tilak on our head (the red dot for welcoming, unlike a Bindi which is the same red dot but women wear it to show they are married) and then tied tie-dye bracelets on us, mouli, and gave us a small dessert, ladoo. It was really interesting and very welcoming! After the small ceremony she made us chai and we sat around the table chatting until the children got home from school. The children were very shy at first but have really begun to open up to us already. Vatsal is a very naughty boy as his mother and father like to say. He is quite a monkey climbing all over everything and swinging on things, he always stirring up trouble and not a very good listener, but a very funny kind kid. He is 9 years old and in 3rd grade, he loves sports and playing games like cards and "Guess Who?" He is always wanting to play games with Megan and I and constantly cheating at them... Kanchi is 12 and in the 7th grade and loves to paint and study English and German. She is very smart and is shy but likes to talk.

The father Vinod is a jeweler, he designs silver jewelry for exporting all around the world. He is a very nice man and has a HUGE moustache :) . Meenakshi is a wonderful cook and likes to over feed Megan and I, she is always saying: eat more, take more, do you like?, don't be shy?, or she just puts the food on our plates. Even when Meenakshi asks do you want some and we answer, "no thank you" she always puts the food on our plate :) She is so welcoming and wonderful. She wants to teach us how to make chai and Indian food, which I am totally excited for. Meenakshi is a housewife and usually spends her time doing laundry and cleaning the home while preparing for meals. But she also enjoys stitching and has several of her pieces in her home.

The first night here we showed the family pictures of our homes, friends and family. They were very interested in our lives back in the US. We talked about our basic interests and hobbies over dinner and then looked at pictures of their family and past home stays. There have been two different sets of girls before us.

The way people are in the home is very different then back at home. The woman of the house is always cooking and cleaning. Meenakshi is a very good cook and is always preparing tea, dinner, breakfast or bread and biscuits for us to eat. Although Vinod has also been helping in the kitchen, in our MSID classes they have talked a lot about servants, we do not have any in our home.

We eat our meals at different times then we would in the US, we eat breakfast about 8am, lunch at 1:30, and dinner late at 8:30 with tea and biscuits in between. It will take time to get used to having meals so late in the evening.

We woke up at 7:30 the next morning, showered and had breakfast which was rice with several spices. After breakfast we played games with the kids. Another big difference about homes in India is how many guests they have over constantly. There are always people coming in and out of the home. The Sharmas (my family) have Vinod's siblings in the same apartment building, on the same floor lives his sister and mother in one apartment across the hall and next door lives his other sister and her husband and children, and then his two brothers live below them two floors. The convenience factor of this living style is wonderful in the sense that they are always together and can help each other, share food, and the children can play together. However there is no privacy with these families, but they don't seem to mind.

After settling in our rooms, and playing with the children we had lunch and then went to the new mall, "Pink Square". I had a lot of things I wanted to buy because I had chosen to pack lightly. We went to a store called 'easyday' which is owned by Wal-Mart, you can tell instantly from the set up and logo of 'easyday.' After looking around in the mall we went to 'Central' a brand new store that is similar to a Younkers or other high end department store. We have to go through security in every store you enter, you must go through a metal detector and leave your bags outside of the gate in storage bins. We didn't

Buy anything but did have lots of fun looking at everything. When we got home we dropped off our purchases at the apartment and then went to Rajah Park to look for some cortas (long shirts that they wear here, Indian shirts for women) and a cyber cafe. Because it was a holiday everything was closed, so we had no luck for the cyber cafe. However we did find a store called CHHIPA, which was a high end corta shop so I bought my first cortas. I will post pictures on facebook.

Will post more about my weekend later...

First Day of Class at MSID

September 2, 2010
5:00pm Indian time
Yesterday was fairly uneventful, we drove from Dehli to Jaipur which took us roughly the whole day. Although it was beautiful I had seen mountains before. We did get to see several rural areas, but were moving so fast in the incredibly terrifying traffic that it was hard to do much other then glance. The exciting part was that we did see elephants, camels, boars, and monkeys throughout the trip in the road! On the highway people would have to stop and wait for the cows to move, several times there was a herd of cows lying in the middle of the road in which case we had to make a single lane around them. The elephants were beautiful and had been painted with beautiful colors all down their trunk and were literally jogging on downtown streets. The monkeys were climbing all over the walls and fences lining the streets, and boars were hanging out in the fields. After settling into the hotel we went for a walk in the nearby park. It was really interesting to see so many people just staring at us. They were taking our pictures and trying to walk close to us to get a glimpse. I am the minority here, and everyone makes sure you know that by constantly staring at you and taking your picture.
Today I got up early; my sleep schedule is finally getting into a normal schedule. About 6am I got up and put my pictures on Facebook and then took a shower. We are currently staying a really nice hotel called "The Sanner." It is a very American hotel. Everything is really modern and they have American outlets, hot showers with crazy nice shower heads. Although it is nice to have all these wonderful things I feel like we took a step up from the last hostel that we were at and now we are going to have take 20 steps down again when we move into our host family homes. In those homes we are not going to have hot water, showers or the chic atmosphere. Not saying the hotel isn't awesome, but this is really upscale.
After my nice hot shower, I ate breakfast with the group. Breakfast here is my least favorite meal. Indians seem to like hot milk, which I really don't like. For breakfast I had cornflakes with hot milk and this amazing orange fruit juice, but since I hate the hot milk I never eat much and lunch here isn't until 1:30 so I am always starving by lunch. I feel like I am going to lose weight while I am here, especially the first several weeks while I am trying to get used to the spices and new foods.
After breakfast we all went to the MSID classroom area. It was awesome, the class area is huge, I couldn't believe how big the space is. There is a computer lab, a kitchen where they make us tea twice a day as well as a water filter, a main area that seems more like a living room/ lobby area, a room filled with pillows on the floor, several porches, office areas, and an air-conditioned classroom. The MSID office area/classroom is very homey and comfortable. It has royal blue walls and bright orange curtains with a rustic clean look. There are hundreds of books you can check out, packets of information on NGOs you can work at for your internship, guide books of the area, and journals of past participants filled with helpful hints.
At the school we got to meet the other students who did the pre-session. Things are still a little awkward between the group members because we are still getting to know each other. However clicks have already begun, although this is obviously expected. I am getting along with my roommate Megan really well and we are both interested in traveling all of Jaipur rather than just staying in our comfort zone.
Once we met the other students we went on a scavenger hunt to really force people to become exposed to the area. We found shopping malls, parks for running, the bus station for leaving Jaipur and ATMs. The mall was really interesting there were stations around the mall similar to a T-mobile booth in the US; however the Indian booths were beauty products selling shampoos, soaps and lotions. Not fancy brand names but brands such as Nivea, Garnier Fructis, Dove, and other common names. It seems very weird to be seeing these kinds of products on a fancy display.
After being on the scavenger hunt almost getting hit by several people on the road (people do not stop for you, you move for them, as our teacher says the biggest thing on the road has the right of way) we went back to the school and started talking about the cell phones we would be getting and travel information. The more I think about everything the more I am totally and completely in love with this country.
Although I will say one thing I can't stand... makes me want to vomit: the smell of pee on the street. It is amazing how fast the smells here change, one second it smells of curry, spices, incense and jasmine and the next moment it smells of cow dung and human waste. I honestly feel like gagging at some points. However everything else is wonderful here.
Another thing I want to really remember about these first couple of days is my reaction to the poverty. There are seriously no words to describe the poverty here. People sleep on the streets constantly; it is incredible hundreds of people line up on the sidewalks at night as if the sidewalk were an incredibly long mattress. The streets have "tents" lining them made from garbage fabrics and mats. There are people walking around with disabilities constantly. Today I saw a man with his feet turned all the way around, he walked on the top of his foot with his heel pointed upward. There are old men who are stuck in a position unable to get above their knees. However there are no women on the streets, most women must be married off or hiding somewhere. I can understand why, the men here are intimidating. Children are everywhere begging, tugging at your clothes, pulling at your bags, pulling your hair, and waiting for you next to the ATM. It is crazy!
About to fetch some dinner...

My New Life

August 29th 2010
10:10am MN time

I am going to land in India very soon! The flight here was so beautiful; there were so many mountains, and seas. I couldn't believe the landscape. It seems amazing that I just traveled half the world in 28 hours, 23 of which were on a plane. The sun has just begun to set so when I land in Dehli the sky should be lit up. I am so excited to meet Mrinalini, and see what tomorrow has in store for me. I know that I am going to have an awesome time. Our flight took off late and so I will be arriving about an hour behind schedule. So that meant I got to spend an extra hour on the plane. I have been on here way too long, I have watched 4 movies, read about 100 pages, slept, and ate a total of four meals on flights today. You should never eat four on flight meals, that means you are flying for
Too long. This flight was a lot better then the flight to France, the plane is almost empty. It's really interesting the way the flight was set up, half the plane is first class and the other half is the main deck. The passengers are made up of all kinds of people, however the first class is entirely white males with just a few women. The plane has one person for every 4 seats, which seems crazy when you consider that the plane has 8 seats
a row, and 40 rows.

Arrival is expected in less then 2 hours.

8.29.10
8:45pm Mn time
OR
8.30.10
7:15am Indian time

I have finally arrived! I can't believe how emotional I was when I got here. I am so very excited to be here! I was a little nervous at first because when I arrived I couldn't find Mrinalini and her driver. But I found right outside of the airport waiting for me. We drove back to Mrinalini's apartment and I went straight to bed. I just got up and will experience my first Indian shower, there is no walls around the shower. It is a bathroom without any signs of a shower other then a shower head in a corner of the bathroom. I have my own room here. Her apartment is really cute, there are pictures of her son Anshul(her son, who I attend Morris with) every where. On our drive back from the airport, I was amazed to see so many people sleeping on the sides of the streets. Mrinalini said that they are the truck drivers that can't afford the tolls on the roads so they sleep until the next day when either someone can pay for them or until they can cross for free. There are also lots of dogs sleeping in the middle of the streets and there were several cats run over on the highway. It is really sad when I asked Mrinalini about this she said that all Indians love all animals and that they try to leave them at there peace. Interesting...

Mrinalini is going to work today but I will be shopping with her when she gets back at 2.
Maybe I will find something wonderful to wear. Her dress seems very western; she wore a jean Capri, with a low cut sweater. Striped sweater.

One last thing. When I landed it was 88 degrees out and so humid that the wind shield in the car needed the wind shield wipers on. Never have I seen so much humidity! The humidity can actually be seen. Mrinalini, says that's because the monsoons
just finished so all the water is still lingering in the air.

8.31.10
4:40pm Indian time

Well a lot has happened! Mrinalini and I had a great time yesterday. We went to McDonalds and I ordered a Chicken sandwich except I don't think it was actually chicken. It tasted somewhat like a super spicy veggie burger. I thought I had ordered something similar to a McChicken... turns out, didn't order that at all. After McDonalds Mrinalini and I went out for ice cream... and I got my favorite flavor, Mango. It tasted different then in Egypt however. I think there was cinnamon or cardamom in it, but none the less it was delicious! After that Mrinalini took me to the marker and I got to look around. There was so much stuff there and everything was so incredibly cheap. Real silver moonstone earrings were only 4 American dollars! It was crazy. After awhile I was
dripping in sweat and so we sat down to order a lemonade. I guess Indians drink lemonade with salt in it to help ease your stomach. It sure helped! Mrinalini and I began talking about some cultural norms and such and then realized we had been sitting around for 2 hours! We had a last cup of NesCafe coffee and then headed back to the YWCA where I would be staying. I found my room and then went downstairs to use the internet.
No sooner after I used the internet the rest of the people came from the airport. My room mate Megan included. It is amazing how different everyone is. Our group includes a couple, someone who has been in India all summer, Megan who knows EVERYTHING about India, and people who came here because they want to e different. Megan and I stayed up late talking and getting to know each other. She has taken Hindi for a year and her interest in it has enabled her to be motivated enough to be studying it on her own continuously. My sleeping schedule is still quite a bit off and have really had a hard time sleeping at night. I am exhausted about 3pm.

Today Megan and I got up at 8am, showered and then went down for breakfast which was porridge and jam toast. After breakfast several of us went to the Shikah temple. the Shikah religion is really interesting. When we got there we had to cover our heads (men and women) and we washed our feet and hands. After washing we were told to go inside the temple and listen to them pray. If the religion were devoting yourself to their music i would be in, the music was so beautiful and it makes you want to dance. After listening to the music and leaving the main area we were asked to try their holy food. We were encouraged to try it, but never will I do that again, the food was awful and it made my stomach cringe and bubble and I wanted to puke when I smelt it. After finishing the food we left the temple to begin orientation. This is where we were given our MSID guides on how the program would work, when we would be placed with an internship, tips for getting along with the family, and tidbits about what to expect. After going through the packets, and looking at housing assignments we played some get to know you games, and learned more about everyone in the group. It seems as though this group STRONGLY focuses on the importance of development, and are all extremely LIBERAL! There is nothing wrong with that, just something I noticed. After getting to know each other we were told a little bit about the size of our host family. It seems as though my family is only 4 people, the Sharmas that I live with own the entire apartment complex we will be staying in. Their family lives in about 3/4 the apartment complex. Some how they are all connected. Another thing I learned was that there are other people in our group that will be living in the same apartment complex, with family members of the Sharmas. the apartment building is only a ten minute walk from the MSID school and all students are really close together. The family I am living with has 2 children, that are 10 and 12 one of which is a girl and the other a boy. We will be leaving for Jaipur tomorrow morning at 10am and I am so excited to learn more tomorrow when we talk to the home stay director who places us. She will tell us why we were placed with that family, the rules of the house, what the people do for a living, their religion and much more. I am so excited to meet them.

My First Day

I AM HERE!!! My dream has come true! It is beautiful.. I love it, although it is only my first day I am still running off adrenaline I love it already...

I had a safe trip and had 23 hours of flight and 4 hours of layover. My plane ride from Paris to Dehli was not as nice, there was a lot of turbulence and we arrived two hours late. It was amazing flying over so many countries and seeing everything. You can tell when you are flying over countries that are under developed because in the dark of the night there is only small amounts of lights. The mountains that I saw on my way were so tall! I thought we were really high, however when I looked out the window I saw them right next to the plane! It was beautiful and I will put the pictures up soon!

When I arrived in Dehli I met Mrinalini and her driver. We went to her apartment and went straight to bed. It was incredibly hot and the humidity could be seen under the street lights and on the windshield that looked as though it was raining.

This morning I got up to early at 4:30 am the time change really has me doing odd things! I stayed up until about 8:30 and then fell back asleep until 10:30 which is when I attempted my first Indian shower! It wasn't as bad as I had imagined. It was out of a bucket but the water wasn't too cold and the heat made showering feel wonderful. Afterword I went to the market with Mrinalini and had henna put on my hands! It is beautiful... The air here is thick and smells like incense. The people here are beautiful wearing all sorts of wonderful colors! I am so excited! So much more to write but everyone is here so I will write more later.

one week....

So the time is finally here! It's the one week count down... It seems unreal that my life time dream of going to India is now finally going to become reality. I am so nervous and yet thankfully my excitement is overpowering the anxiety of leaving. I am visiting Morris for the last time this weekend and saying goodbye to all of my college friends, for the long travel experience I am about to embark. These last few weeks have flown by and it seems like this last week will probably go by faster than any of the others. I have all my last-minute shopping done, and am just searching for last-minute gifts to give to my host family.

That is the other exciting news! I got my host family and room-mate. I am so excited to meet them and see their home or rather our home for the next 4 months.

The final countdown... this time next week I will be on my way to India.

6 DAYS 16 HOURS

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