Wednesday, June 30, 2010

India: 15th-18th Thankful Thursdays: Mothers, sisters, blessings and smiles

On Thursday June 11, my sister took care of Thankful Thursday for me by posting the following on Facebook:

15th Thankful Thursday: Today is my mom's birthday. What are 5 things you love about your mom?

[Why we love our mom]
1. She gives great advice
2. She gives great hugs :)
3. She is supportive
4. She is strong--spirit, mind, and body.
5. She's a great cook!

India: Monsoons, affection, and hole-in-the-wall food stops

As I type this, monsoon rains are pounding the cement and earth. I love them. They bring all the gucky pollution out of the air into the streets so now the air smells fresh and clean. (The silty brown rivers of garbage flowing down the streets are gross, but the clean air is worth it. The streets normally clear up fairly quickly once the rains stop). The pounding rain is a familiar setting where I can imagine I'm on the front porch with Dad and Mom watching the lightning. Middle Sister is there too because she loves thunder and lightning. Youngest Sister comes back and forth in and out of the house. And Molly is curled up on the sidewalk, waiting with us.

I can finally pronounce Hyderabad like the locals. It is High-dra-bad (like "bad boy").

Hyderabad is not a tourist city. I have not seen many other "White People" (and when we do, we stare like the Indians because it is so rare). Other than paying the "White Man's Price" for everything, I don't feel targeted. In Italy I was nearly always worried that someone was going to slit my backpack or pickpocket me, but I feel safe here. I believe the Indian people have a neighborly view, and that contributes in large part to pickpocketing not being an issue. We'll see if this theory holds true when we visit touristy spots of Northern India (Ma. is planning a six day trip for us--I'm rooting for the Taj Mahal).  

I had to adjust to being surrounded by men. In public, there has to be around an 80:20 ratio of men to women. It is still odd to be at a traffic stop in a rickshaw, and have almost all men with the occasional couple or woman surrounding us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

India: Cake, boulders, a Fort, and tenderness

Several Skype conversations ago with my family, my mom said I hadn’t posted anything really negative on my blog, and asked if I had been sick at all.

Well, two evenings before, two teammates organized a Cake Party. We sat around two plates with nine samples of cake from our local bakery, and a block of butterscotch ice cream (a flavor Indian people LOVE—it is everywhere). We sampled using tiny plastic spoons, sitting on the floor in the A/C room. The ice cream was fantastic.

The next morning, I started the day off with nausea. I drank a TON of water, and the day after, started my first Real Diarrhea (It's over, finally. Liquid Pepto Bismol is one of my best friends). I’ve written off frosting.

So, yeah. Add stepping on two cockroaches, murdering a mouse with rat poison, being grabbed by beggars, and my experiences haven’t all been mangoes and honey.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

India: Milestones, ambulances, and strolling through Monda Market

(Actually typed on Tuesday June 22, 2010)

Today marks a special day in Ivy's Adventures in India. Today, Ivy arranged for a rickshaw ride without any of the Totally Experienced Teammembers. Yes, indeed. Coming back from a productive research hour at an internet cafe, Ka. and I had to find our own way home. I 1) led the way across a usually very busy street that, miraculously, didn't seem nearly as scary as usual 2) hailed an auto rickshaw driver and said "No" when he wanted 40 rupees 3) asked a second auto driver if he would take 30 rupees instead of 40 to take us to "West Marredpally" and 4) was able to direct the driver to the right street when he took a route I'm less accustomed to. It was so satisfying.

I also finalized the dates when I want to have certain tasks done for my projects. That felt good. I feel like I will be able to finish what I need to in the five weeks I have left here. I feel more confident.

I went with K. to Charminar so that we could buy fabric. The store we entered was at least four stories tall. Fabrics of all colors and textures. I'm amazed how all the tailors here use pedal-powered sewing machines. it is incredible to watch them, and how fast they sew. I wish I could bring one home for my sister.

On the way there, I gained a new appreciation for how respectful and responsive American drivers are of ambulances. The roads here are chaotic, with all drivers jostling for the most forward position. An ambulance, which was not much larger than one and a half rickshaws, had its siren wailing but the others drivers didn't make a path for it. Most seemed to completely ignore it. Our rickshaw would have gone faster than the ambulance if our driver hadn't hung back, even trying to keep a few people from getting in the way of the ambulance. In the ambulance was the parents and grandmother of a young man laying on his back with an oxygen mask. He was breathing heavily. The faces of the family were tight and the father was agitated. We traveled with the ambulance for about four saddening minutes. I hope the man makes it.

India: Tiny chess sets, a surprise phone call, and a social whoopsie

Let me introduce you to my HELP teammates. My county director, K., is a highly capable lady who will be marrying an American diplomat in September. T. and his wife M. are the young married couple who are in charge of keeping us single scallywags in check. That leaves five other young ladies not including myself: Ki., Ma., C., G., and Ka. If any young men are reading this, you should go on humanitarian trips abroad. Or maybe it's a good thing you didn't, because HELP has a "no dating" policy. (This rule is so handy. One of the young men here told Ki. he wanted to marry her and she had a good way to end it right then and there).

Last Friday, the ladies went on a weekend trip to Chennai. It was fun to hang out with T. and M. On Saturday we were able to spend two hours at the Salarjung Museum I've wanted to see so badly. It houses the 40,000+ object collection of Salarjung III, prime minister of Hyderabad between 1899 and 1949. Out of the 35 rooms, we dashed through 17. I very much want to go back and see the rest. Some of my favorites: two tiny chess sets with pieces less than 1 cm tall and 2 mm wide; a sandlewood carving of two Hindu gods on a swing. The flute one was playing was thinner than a toothpick and slender, and the toenails were tiny. The tree canopy was multi-layered.; 3 inch diameter ivory balls that had been carved so that there were more than three balls inside each other; a modern painting of a calf nursing. The cow's face was frontal, and her eyes big and wide like a Jersey cow. The calf was tinted blue and you could almost see it's tail wagging. (Dad, I couldn't tell if it was a bull or heifer). :P

Unpaid Endorsement: Rawlin Chiropractic

This has been edited since the original posting.

Dr. Rawlin is a chiropractor unlike any other I’ve had. Here is the basis of his work:

Muscles shut themselves down when they are injured or overloaded. The work that they were in charge of is then transferred to other muscles. Those other muscles become overloaded, and a chain reaction of muscle “shut downs“ occurs.

Dr. Rawlin finds the muscles that have shut down, and restarts them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

India: Project updates and random camels, and ramblings that turned out way longer than I anticipated

Before coming here, I think I thought I would be living and working in the slums of Hyderabad.

Not so at all--we live in a nice yellow apartment in a residential area not far from a guy who sells mangoes, three internet cafes, small grocery stores, and other businesses. There are 1 1/2 inch cockroaches in the kitchen, but I've never seen live ones while I'm out and about. Two of the rooms in the apartment have air conditioning, and the room I sleep in has a large ceiling fan and a swamp cooler.

I'd say we're fairly spoiled.

T. explained why we're not working in slums. Legally none of them are supposed to exist, even though the government facilitated their creation. Because none of the people in the slums own anything, land or material, and because they could get rooted out like cockroaches by the police at any time, they are unwilling to invest in any renovation, and we're not supposed to be there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

India: Mangoes and Hearing Problems

I've eaten mangoes. Real mangoes. Juicy ripe and yellow skinned mangoes. Pure heaven on earth. :) It is the end of mango season, and I want to eat two every day while they're still here. Not sure what that'll do to the digestive tract...better Google it. ;)
I didn't know cities could be so dirty. It is filthy here. The roads are chaotic, but the drivers must be the best on earth in terms of having 360 degree vision and lightning reflexes. . It's like Mario Kart on Steroids, and drivers, no matter the appearance, are actually NOT trying to kill each other.

I'm grateful when the city goes quiet after 10 pm. Wonderful to have a break from honking and noise.

Friday, June 11, 2010

India: Transfers and First Day

Thus begins the India Saga of Ivy. :)

Hello, friends and family. I made it. :) Thursday at 8 am my Visa arrived in the mail, 30 minutes later my dad drove me to the airport. It was odd being by myself. This is the first extended adventure of my life where I am unaccompanied by anyone from my family.

Imagine my gratitude when two familiar persons saw me, smiled and waved. It was a blessing to find out that two neighbors were going on the exact same flight as me, and least for the first leg of our respective trips. It was comforting.

Another blessing was that our flight was delayed for about two hours. This allowed me to write and mail a lengthy letter to my brother. I hadn't been able to write him well for about three weeks.

A few other blessings: I made each of my flights. I had connections in Chicago, Paris and Abu Dhabi before arriving in Hyderabad at 3:30 am. I was able to sleep for about five hours on the flight to Paris, and about another three hours between the other flights. On the trip to Paris, I was offered an aisle seat by a couple from Colorado so that they could sit to each other. I happily obliged. :)

A plug for Etihad airlines: the trip to Abu Dhabi was immaculate, and the food impressive. If ever given the chance, have the Arabic spiced chicken in yogurt sauce for dinner. I think Etihad finds the most polished and stern and well-spoken flight attendants possible. Between them, the flight attendants on the leg to Abu Dhabi spoke about 12 languages, Romanian and Slavic among them. This is when I wish I had kept up with my French. (Random phrases and surprisingly accurate sentences popped into my head while I was in the Paris airport).

I used my first squatter toilet in Abu Dhabi. I laughed. I bet my dad is laughing as he reads this.

In the Hyderabad customs line I met one of my new teammates, C., for the first time. Glad we could go through together. She arrived at the same time we did coming from Mumbai. I forgot to define "we": G. is a fellow teammate that traveled from SLC to Hyderabad on all the same flights I had, though our seats were never next to each other.

G. and I each lost our checked bags somewhere along the line. I'm grateful I listened to Dad and packed all the non-essential items into it. /I'm also glad to have bought toothpaste this morning. I didn't know brushing one's teeth could be so enjoyable. :) It took two hours for us to finish filling out paper work for our lost bags, and it was about 6 am when we were able to go to our new apartment. I was so grateful our country leaders picked us up. We could have ridden the bus, but by the time we finished I was drained.

I really like our apartment. It has an iron gate in the front, the building looks like the outside is plaster and it is painted a cheery yellow. There are four bedrooms, three restrooms (with porcelain toilets!) and a small kitchen. One room has air conditioning, so i've been told the team has "sleep overs" every night to share the luxury. We all have our personal space in whatever bedroom we're in, but we all put our sleeping mats in the AC room at night.

We had a meeting with CARPED, an organization led by a man who reminds me of me. I finally understand what people have been trying to tell me, to "focus". He has TONS of ideas of areas he wants to expand in, including setting up beehives for 770 women and setting up a community science center which includes a demonstration square foot garden. I decided not to help with beekeeping, and to encourage him to find a local beekeeper to help him. I can't fathom setting up a bee program in five weeks when I know so little, when it is very much a long-term project.

This is long enough. I'll post another update soon. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

14th Thankful Thursday: Critters

There are bees in my beehives again!!! :) :) :)

I became a beekeeper last year (my requested birthday present: two hives + bees+ equipment). Though I wish I could say I was a professional and innately talented, I ended up killing both hives by the end of last winter... *cough*

But now the hives are populated again. Queen Beea II and Queen Betsy II seem to be doing just fine. :)