Thursday, September 24, 2009

Out from under mother's wings...separated flock

Well, we all graduated from CCOORR, and travelled successfully and independently to our respective sites. Sara, Ann, and Lisa to RUHSA; Dianna and Bryan to Karigiri (both these sites near Vellore); and Susan, Erin, and John to Kodai Kanal. From what's been passed on between us, the accommodations are great, the food is great, and the people are great at all our sites! Out from under mother CCOORR's wing, we are finally independent birds flying free around India, but we had a great week at CCOORR to lead up to it.

We went to a random temple cave that was a very rocky drive and 3-5km hike away, and it was beautiful. Apparently Aman, the wife of Sheva, lives in the mountain, and there are many stories/superstitions about the cave. It is rarely visited and almost never by tourists, so it was very nice to see. There were also huge honeycombs all over the mountainside. It was amazing to see all the bees work.

One day, as said previously, we visited the brick industry, flower industry, and rice patty fields. We actually got to jump into the mud/water up to our knees and stand beside the women planting the fields, and plant half a field of rice with them. It was surprisingly difficult work, and the women were unbelievably fast and fantastic at it. We tried to keep up getting much smaller plots to plant, and it was a very rewarding experience getting to feel what the manual labor is like. Our backs were a little sore afterward due to the bending over and planting rice. And walking through the mud was quite fun :) It was overall a fantastic experience! The brick industry was very fun to learn about. Sadly, they were not in the brick making process at the moment, they were baking the bricks, so we were unable to help with any of the work. But the brick industry workers were such wonderful people. They were all very nice, and were all very happy to be out there doing work each and every day! The people have so little, and work so hard, but they are so proud of what they have! They are more than willing to welcome us, and share what little they have with us. It has really been humbling to see how giving and friendly these people are.

Later this same day, in the afternoon, we played volleyball with the villagers. Four of us on each side, and three village boys on each side. Naturally, Bryan's team (with Sara, Ann and Dianna) beat John's team (with Erin, Lisa, and Susan) :) It was great to play though. They all really enjoyed watching us play because we all have a height unmatched by most Indians. So, they enjoyed watching us spike it over the net. All the village yougsters came up to us afterward and shook our hands and said "super!" "super!" We've come to learn that that is a favorite English phrase for Indian children when complimenting us.

ECO FEAST! -- This was the bizarre name of the day we went out to hang out on an island near a huge backwaters area near the Bay of Bengal. We were the first tourists to ever visit this fishing village and we got to hear all about their industry, and moreso how the tsunami affected their industry. It was all very interesting and very fun to hear, and then they took us out to a "virgin" beach. Our guide, Amalan, called it this because tourists almost never visit this beach. Naturally, me and Ann played frisbee. Also, we were able to find beautiful untouched seashells washed up on the beach! It was fantastic. It was quite a day where we all got significantly sunburned being in the sun from like 10AM until 5PM...we also got to ride on a sweet fishing vessel :)

Visiting the village in general was a fantastic and fun experience. So many of the children remembered our names, and latched on to us like we were the heroes of the hour! They gave us a cultural/dance performance that lasted multiple hours. We sang for them, and it was a very mutualistic relationship :) Then, we went to a house, and jammed some music with them all. Sara played her guitar, they had cymbals/drums for us to play, a harpsichord, and we made fun music, and it seemed like the whole village would just follow us around. Later in the visit we had a meeting with the women's self-help group, and they asked us to stay in the village and to never leave! They said that they would provide us with rice :) So giving, and so caring; it has been so wonderful to meet all these fantastic people, and be introduced to what India is like beyond the tourism. We were no longer tourists this week, we were intitiated into real Indian people! It was warm, welcoming and wonderful, and we are all very excited for the coming months! We all will miss one another while apart, but I'm sure the Indian people will keep us feeling at home no matter where we are!

Hope all is well in the U.S.!!!
(We heard all about the swine flu spreading around campus...luckily we are in India picking up much better diseases than that ;)...)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Indian Clothing (sorry no lungi pictures...)

Bryan and Susan getting splashed at the beach in India...the undertow was SO strong!
Here's the eight of us with our infamous cook Rajmohan! I think he may have been more of the manager, but nonetheless, he was great to us!

Some girls showing off the henna that the JJI students created for them :)

The large density of crocodiles at the crocodile farm.

Here are the guys showing off the dhotis (a much more formal style of dress than the lungi, the lungi is for around the house, and for the laborer)

The girls with Irene and the nicely constructed sarees :)

Oh my gosh, today was by far one of our most favorite days in India thus far. Who knew we could do SO much in a day? Today was FANTASTIC! We woke up to run early in the morning. Then when we got back, it was tea/coffee time. Then, breakfast…We had this vegetable pizza like thing for breakfast, and our fourth variety of bananas. Breakfast yesterday, they were green and medium length, lunch they were normal, long and yellow, and for dinner they were long and reddish brown…all of them were delicious. This morning, they were super short and yellow! The shortest bananas I have ever seen in my life. They were like bite-sized, and apparently they grow in the mountains. They are all much sweeter than U.S. bananas. Tonight, we made chapatti with jam on it wrapped around the banana…pretty much the best thing ever! We are finally getting to know the many varieties of bananas I kept hearing about from all the India trip goers from last year. We went to a brick making place. They mold the bricks by mixing the clay sand and water, then they let dry for two to three days, then they stack all the bricks in these brick ovens (isn’t that ironic?) and put charcoal on both sides of each stack. Finally, they bake them for three to four hours, and they are ready to go then. There can only do this for three months out of the year.

Then, we went to a rice field and actually hopped into the water, up to just below our knees in mud planting rice seedlings into the water. We actually helped with almost half the field…then we went to see a random couple’s farm who grew jasmine flowers to use for garland amongst other things. And finally, we visited a HUGE joined family system that originated from eight brothers living together, and their significant others/offspring! Their house was beautiful. We visited an orphanage where all the children had the day off of school, and we ended up playing volleyball with a few of them, and all of them watching! Bryan’s team took down John’s team…and we also visited a local government office. We then visited someone who played some music for us, and in all these places we were welcomed, oftentimes served tea or coffee or Fanta, and biscuits (cookies). We miss some of the people at ICSA, like Raj, Irene, Srinivasan, Pownderai, and all of our favorite shop owners, but they have been far too friendly to us here to not enjoy ourselves. We will be spoiled for a week before splitting up forever…but we have quite a week planned: a wedding, a visit to an island on the largest saltwater lake in India (where tourists NEVER go!), amongst performances at the orphanage, and who knows what else is in store! Our week is packed full of fun, and I look forward to it! It should be a grand time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some India Pics

Here we are at OfERR, watching the harvesting of Spirulina. We got to try some afterwards!
A big group picture with some very inspirational women at a primary school within one of the city's slums.
We met some great girls that go to the JJI school for technology. We dance, do henna, and exchange pictures.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I can't believe we are down to one week in Chennai! It has been amazing so far- every day is full of new things, and nothing is ever quite as we expect! Some highlights: seeing the city from high up on Mt. St. Thomas, being welcomed in dance by schoolchildren at a slum, getting henna from students at the technical institute connected to ICSA, learning about spirulina and biofuel at OfERR organic farm, learning how to REALLY wear a saree and getting dressed up for church, and working our way to the water at the incredibly crowded Marina Beach. Many of us get up before the sun to go for a run on an nearby track, followed by a big breakfast of idly, sambar, and eggs. We either have field trips or classes all morning, and after lunch go to another session. Some of us have experienced some pretty bad stomach issues, but the group is working its way back to health. Irene, Raj, and the desk workers at ICSA take good care of us, and are always there to offer remedies. It has been an exciting couple of weeks traveling around in our touring vans, experiences the different aspects of the urban Indian life. We are excited to head to our rural orientation and get a taste of yet another India.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Few Pictures (mostly Malaysia)

Most of these pictures are Batu Caves and Teluk Chempedak beach in Malaysia, but naturally the first saree picture made it in :)
The first, uninformed attempt at wearing sarees...not the best display of Indian wear, but a good attempt with no guidance :)
One half of the beach in Malaysia. Bryan and Ann walking towards the rocky shoreline.
A view of the other half of the beach in Teluk Chempedak.

Yes, we are the Bio in South India group!

The girls on the beach in Teluk Chempedak, Malaysia

Trying to jump on the beach, but we could not coordinate the jump at all...

Playing frisbee on the beach of Malaysia, swimming in the South China Sea, very nice way to spend our last day in Malaysia!

Bryan and Erin rocking the 272 stairs!

Our first ever full group picture!

A view inside Batu Caves!

The inside of the Batu Cave in Kuala Lumpur, so beautiful!
The entrance to Batu Cave, HUGE statue, and 272 stairs to get to the cave!