Wednesday, April 30, 2008

“we are all little plants, and the sponsorship program is the manure”

- a kid giving a speech at a gathering at one of our projects in India

Sunday, April 27, 2008

old school.

yanked from the old blog, came up in the midst of a great conversation this evening.

I just remember their kindness and goodness to me, and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within, and from the habitual union of their souls with God in deep faith and charity.

-thomas merton, seven storey mountain


Sunday, April 20, 2008

jet lag kind of amazing.

I cannot remember a Sunday morning, EVER, that I was awake at 6 a.m.

granted, the whole "not sleeping at night" and "becoming disgustingly devastatingly tired at 7pm when I am supposed to be hanging out with people" is kind of a drag, but otherwise it's kindof nice because it has shaken up my sleeping schedule a bit. previously, I could have slept anytime, anywhere, which might sound nice but is actually pretty inconvenient. we'll see how I do when I actually go back to work tomorrow...will I be able to last all day? will I be able to sit upright when my body has become so used to lying around the past few days? will I fall back into the coffee habit, which I may have temporarily extinguished?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I arrived home after...about 36 hours of travel.

without a freaking bag.

so Lufthansa and United do NOT get my stamp of approval for this journey. one suitcase! is this so hard to keep track of??

I have slept maybe only 3 hours in the last 48, so I am going to go crash now.

peace. <3

Sunday, April 13, 2008

culture junkie?

I am worried about the toilet in our hotel here in Delhi. It is making really scary noises.

nothing else is really new...our time in Delhi has been a bit different because we're focusing most of our time on interviews rather than hanging out in the community. but it's a nice change of pace.

I feel like I'm finally settling into India life and and Indian sleeping schedule (I'm not waking up at 4 a.m. anymore), and it's almost time to come home. But I think I'm ready. I miss Molly and the 'partment and my friends, and toilet paper and processed food. ;)

and, Mom, I'm feeling MUCH better. so much better. no more delhi belly.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Take a good look at the diet of each country and the cost of what is eaten in one week.

Italy : The Manzo family of Sicily . Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Germany : The Melander family of Bargteheide. Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States : The Revis family of North Carolina (Sure hope most American
families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.) Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Mexico : The Casales family of Cuernavaca . Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland : The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna. Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo . Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo. Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village . Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

delhi belly

since I've been in India, I've pretty much weaned myself off of coffee.

...and food.

Yesterday my "feeling sickly" continued and was accompanied by fever. I referred to the website, which told me to "seek medical attention immediately" if I get a fever any time during my trip (or a year afterwards!) (in case it's malaria [I have been taking malaria pills, but they apparently don't prevent all cases]). So, we went to a hospital.

Fortunately, our coordinator (here in Delhi)'s wife is a nurse, so I was able to see a doctor pretty quickly (I felt terrible because there were probably a hundred people waiting). Based upon my report of my symptoms, he ruled out malaria (no chills or sweating) and after a bit of poking around determined that I had instead contracted a stomach infection (probably food or water). So I got some antibiotics. (Also, this doctor is apparently the prime minister's doctor. So I am hoping he knows what he's talking about.)

So after a couple of days of eating hardly anything (really, I'm on the road to swimsuit season now), I ate some last night, felt better, and feel almost 100% today.

I am very glad that I don't have malaria.

Otherwise, Delhi is nice. Every city we've been in so far has a different feel. India, in general, "feels" different than I would have expected (probably a combination of my impressions of movies like the Darjeeling Limited, the Namesake, and Born into Brothels).

Urban and rural areas are VERY different, obviously. In rural areas, I feel like a total weirdo because I'm not in a saree. In urban areas, my man-shaped and man-colored outfits don't look SO out of place (though we do get a lot of stares regardless).

So, I am going to start a new list: things that I miss most when in India:

  • showers (it is rare that we find a good one. and I haven't quite mastered the art of the bucket-bath.)
  • toilet paper. (seriously. hot commodity in these parts.)
  • food that my stomach can handle (I had mostly cookies today, gross)
  • traffic laws (I can't believe we haven't died yet)
  • my clothes (in the absence of sarees and because my authentic Indian dress is limited, I am sporting the whole business-casual look, which is NOT ME AT ALL AND IN FACT PRETTY AWFUL)
But other things about India that I love, in addition to color and immaculate kitchens:
  • hard beds and pillows. mmm. I love it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Today was a great day in Hyderabad. I got to see:
  • a street children's center
  • a shoe-making training facility
  • a bag-making shop
  • a notebook-making shop (these are all livelihood programs supported by sponsored mother's groups)
  • an in-construction community center (that will house the notebook-making)
  • an engagement party
I also:
  • got a little sickly
  • gave a presentation in front of like 150 social workers (maybe not that many, but it felt like that many, but it was great fun)
  • had dinner at the Hyderabad coordinator (Suresh)'s home (he has the cutest little boy I have ever seen)
  • visited other friends (yes, you can make dear friends within only a few days.)
Tomorrow we fly to Delhi for a bunch of interviews. It will probably be a nice change of pace, as we've had such a busy schedule since we arrived. And I'm excited to see Delhi.

Also, since I've apparently started making lists, I have one more point to add to my "to-do-upon-returning-to-the-states-from-india" list:

  • organize my kitchen (Indians have the most immaculately organized kitchens! it's amazing!)
I'm pretty sure there was something else, but I can add it later. There are 6 more days, after all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

good morninnnngggg hyderabad

things I would like to start doing once I return to the States, thanks to India:

have more plants on my porch (and take proper care of them)
hang my laundry out to dry
wear more color (I know, I said it, be sure to write that one down)
be a nicer person. (seriously. the hospitality is...overwhelming.)

We had our first day in Hyderabad was great. we had meetings all throughout the morning and afternoon. this evening, we met with some of mothers' groups, and I was privileged to meet some of the most gracious, beautiful, powerful, and inspiring women. in the world. I'm sure.

plus, I think I'm just in love with this city. It's great. I have loved being in some of the more rural areas this past week, but since I'm a city girl I feel very at home here. and, as I mentioned previously, the hospitality that we've received is just overwhelming. you can't help but feel at home, even though I'm very very far away from home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


So, we finished up in Kadapa this morning, and early this afternoon began the 7-hour drive to Hyderabad. Because our days have been SO BUSY since we arrived, it was nice to have a few hours to plug myself into the ipod and watch the foliage as we drove along.

It is so nice to be in Hyderabad. Kadapa was kind of stressful, very busy, and I kept getting chomped on by mosquitoes. Here, we are staying at the CFCA office which is BEAUTIFUL (nicer than any of the hotels we've stayed at so far...but don't worry, it's still modest), and the internet connection is working, and the staff here are amazing. It just feels so homey, and I haven't felt homey since I got to India.

speaking of. being here has been so...different. It's so different here than any place I've ever traveled. The cultural differences are profound. The women are the most beautiful people I've ever seen. Pretty much everything is falling apart, but everything is beautiful. There is color everywhere.

I would go into more detail, but I am exhaused and have a very cozy bed and blanket here in Hyderabad. Until next time.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

had dinner with the bishop of Kadapa tonight.

had dinner with the bishop of Vellore last night.

bishops are funny, entertaining people.

my ankles are all swollen and mosquito-bitten.

I have never been so tired in my life.

good night. (good day.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

oh yeah!

...I was reunited with my suitcase last evening. What a blessing. We took a celebratory picture.

It is nice to be reunited with my things, so nice, but...I was good for me to be without them for awhile. It's good to be reminded that I can survive without my "things." and it's good to be forced to depend on others sometimes. and I have depended on many others over the past few days!

I think it's sunday?

So, we arrived in Cuddapah this morning. We took an overnight sleeper train from Vellore (very Darjeeling Limited) and got here about an hour ago.

Yesterday, we visited a bunch of families and spent a lot of great time in the Vellore project office. The team there have mostly been brought in from some of our other projects in Tamil Nadu, and since they are kind of transient they live most of the time in the office. They cooked us an AMAZING lunch...the first time that we have had anything in India that hasn't been spicy. (My boss is very funny...she cannot stand spicy food at ALL, so lives off protein shakes, granola bars, water, and sometimes a tiny piece of chicken.) I have been pretty good at trying stuff, but because I have somewhat of a sensitive stomach anyway, I have been a little more careful (it's not good to be a sensitive-stomach-traveler). But, all that to say, the lunch that the Vellore staff prepared for us yesterday was EXCELLENT. And they are all really excellent people. I have been blessed to have been able to spend time with them. And I'm very encouraged.

The home visits have also been great...people are so hospitable. In every home we've visited, they've offered us all sorts of drinks (mostly coconuts...with the top cut off and a straw stuck in). I am always very hesitant to take stuff (sensitive-stomach traveler), but feel okay drinking bottled soda, so when they offer soda I feel like I HAVE to drink it, so was definitely on somewhat of a sugar high for awhile (and had a sugar CRASH yesterday evening).

We visited a leper colony last night at dusk. We were greeted by a group of elderly ladies who were just FANTASTIC. When we asked them what the greatest challenge in their community is they told us that they really need toilets: they used to use a nearby field, but it has recently been fenced off. sigh.

When asked what is the BEST thing about their community, they said, all of them, without hesitation, "God. We are so, so blessed." They then proceeded to claim us all as their granddaughters. I cried a little bit.

So...we're having a good time. We have about an hour to get ready before we start another busy day, so I should get my train-slept self together. peace and blessings to everyone.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm losing track of our days!

I’m really only capable of a short update right now because I am sooo tired…we have been having some very long days. Good, but long. It didn’t really help that I slept for what was probably a total of 5 hours in a 48-hour stretch (my body was still on ‘merica time and I was having anxiety about my suitcase sitting at the bottom of the atlantic). Fortunately, last night I got about 8 hours. Unfortunately, I was more tired during the day today than I have been for the past few days. Figures.

We did find out yesterday that my suitcase had been discovered…somewhere in DC, or Frankfurt, I’m not sure. Kandasami and his international network worked for a couple of days until it was found. I cannot express how blessed I feel to have someone that has dedicated so much time to finding my bag…and I cannot express how relieved I am to know that it is NOT at the bottom of the ocean. It is being delivered to Kandasami’s house tomorrow, and then one of our CFCA staff members will bring it to Vellore. Tomorrow!

In the meantime, Venita and Preethi took me shopping to get some new clothes. I had been hoping to buy some Indian clothes sometime when we were here, but didn’t know if I would have the opportunity in our jam-packed schedule. But, thanks to my suitcase being lost, an opportunity was created! We went to a mall in Chennai (very tall mall with many stories) and were able to go to the only store (that they knew of) that was open until 10pm (as I said…jam packed schedule. It was late.). They had stuff in there that American teenagers would wear, but Preethi and Venita seemed pleasantly surprised to find that I actually WANTED to buy Indian clothes. So, in the 15-20 minutes that we had until the store closed, they quickly helped me to determine the items that I would need and the styles that would suit me, and I was able to get 3 outfits (2 Indian and one more generic American [khaki capris and a little polo…still not very “me”]) and a bunch of underwear.

So, I’ve been wearing my Indian outfits the past couple of days. They’re fabulous, and sooo comfortable…I feel like I’m wearing pajamas. You will likely see me in these once I’m back in the States.

BUT…I am very much looking forward to getting my suitcase back. It will, of course, be nice to have clothes, but it will be nicer to have my camera-battery charger and own shampoo and stuff to make my hair look a little less crazy (though, in the humidity here, it ain’t bad). Ilene has also been nice enough to let me borrow pretty much anything I need…so I bet she will be glad when I have my stuff back, too.

So our days…our first “working” day involved meeting with staff, doing some interviews, and my fun shopping excursion (which also involved dinner at the mall and driving by the beach…apparently the 2nd longest in the world).

Second day: home visits with some sponsored children and families. Most of the time, this includes an elaborate welcome involving flower garlands and rituals to ban evil spirits and putting stuff on our foreheads. Then, we get to go in their home and meet and talk with the families. This is nice. Ilene and some of our other staff here apologized that I wouldn’t really have the opportunity to do any “touristy” things on this trip, as we’ll be so busy…but I would much rather meet with normal people and see their homes and hang out in back-alley neighborhoods.

We also got to “meet with the children and families” of one subproject: this basically means that they do lots of performances for us (and of course, more flower garlands, etc) and give speeches. I even gave a little bit of a speech. Ha.

Today: More family visits. Many family visits. I got sooo tired in the afternoon/evening, and at about 5 our car stopped, and I woke up to see hundreds of children looking at me and smiling. Following that, there were many dances. And speeches.

this was written a few days ago...

...on our first "night."


So, we’re in India, finally “settled” for the first night. It’s apparently 4:30 pm in the States, and it’s 3 am here. And it’s been one helluva long day! I am having so much difficulty comprehending where I am in space and time. Literally.

The travel process was arduous. I’ve done the “one-leg” international flight before, which is disorienting enough, but we ended up traveling for about 26 hours total. Here is my quick synopsis of our travel experience:

Kansas City: quick and efficient. It always is at MCI.

DC: I find out I had left my luggage sticker on the last flight. Oops. We transfer from United to Lufthansa, a German airline. The Lufthansa lady doesn’t seem too concerned that I don’t have my luggage sticker.

Frankfurt: Well, at first, it was really nice being in Germany, if only at the airport…reminded me of the good ol’ days when I was there in 2002. UNTIL we realize that…ugh. I don’t even want to go into it. Suffice it to say that it is the WORST airport I have been in, ever, and I am going to try to avoid it (and Lufthansa, though I don’t know if they are entirely to blame) from now on if I can help it. (they basically don’t have anywhere to sit in the airport, and won’t let you sit at your gate, and they are SO rude, etc.)

(When in Frankfurt, though, I had the opportunity to witness dozens of Hasidic Jews [I am assuming they were Hasidic based upon my reading of Chaim Potok] pray together, which is a big affair involving props such as boxes and ropes of leather and odd clothing garments, and lots of chanting. It was awesome. Plus there were lots of these cute little Jewish families…very young couples with infants. I was enchanted.)

Flight to Chennai was fine…aisle seat with an open seat next to me (awesome). I slept about 7 of the 8 hours (which was great considering I had hardly slept at all on the first flight). I had Indian food for dinner and German tea for dessert. Excellent.

Then we get to Chennai…wait for the bags…and mine is not there. Not. There. Soooo we had to go through this big ordeal with the Lufthansa people, which seemed inordinately inefficient and unproductive (I JUST NEED YOU TO TYPE MY NAME INTO A COMPUTER AND TELL ME WHERE MY BAG IS, IS THAT SO HARD?). So I won’t know any information until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Fortunately, the person we are staying with (Kandasami, one of our independent auditors) is extremely well connected and was pulling as many strings as he could with the staff in Chennai, even made calls to DC. So we’ll see what happens. Until then, I am stuck with my computer (which is why you get a blog!) and purse…which has…a toothbrush, and a little bit of money. Sigh. We might go buy me some clothes tomorrow.

So, I’m now in Chennai, staying at the home of Preethi, Kandasami, and Venita. I don’t have many impressions of India yet, as it’s the middle of the night (and I am so not tired…), but love it (and the people, particularly the ones we’re staying with, these people get hospitality better than anyone else I know) so far. We start meeting with people tomorrow here in Chennai, then travel to Vellore the next day…so I hope my bag turns up by then!