Wednesday, June 16, 2010


India is as amazing and mystical and fascinating as I ever imagined. It is as dirty and poor and traditional as is reported. And yet between the two I find hope. First, in the government that is a democracy and continues to right itself without overthrow and police itself for mass corruption. Second, in the emphasis placed on education, the strong work ethic, and self sufficiency in providing basic needs. This is an old, old country and, for it to be non-violent and people driven, change comes slowly, very slowly. But there is a constant striving for the next generation to do better.

Cities are cities and New Delhi has slums similar to China, with too many people living at a sub-subsistence level where there is little work. They were drawn to the cities like people in South Africa with the hope of riches. Many are drawn to America, too, and continue to provide for family out of the relative wealth they have here. Families are of utmost importance throughout the culture.

CCS has a wonderful system of housing volunteers together. We had a terrific group, as you would expect from like minded people caring for others.

India has much more to explore. I hope to go back very soon to see the tourist sites, eat more of the fantastic food, bask in the colorful women’s dress and the warm smiles of welcome.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago

Arrived at 5am Saturday with no clue of the time zone, day or date. More reflections when I have more brains.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The daycare teachers held a one day strike today, but the director of my school did not participate. They are getting a "huge" pay increase - from 1800/mo to 5000/mo. But they want more. It costs my teacher 1800/mo for her own 2 kids school fees. Plus 300/mo for the rent of the day care center - no water, toilet or heat or supplies. She is fortunate her family took her back in after her husband died.

Last trip to McLeod (last shopping? - oooo the airport!), last day at the day care center, last hike home...eventually last glimpse of India. For now. Of all the places I have been on mission work, this is the one I will come back to first.
Six of us - 1/2 the group - leave now and will be together in Dehli for a day. Then I think I am the first one to get on the 12:15am flight on Saturday and be in Chicago by 5am the same day!

Not sure about internet in Dehli. Reflections after I get home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

wrappng up, winding down

The upside of 12 volunteers in one house with different jobs is that we come and go, from different shopping partners and dinner seating, and chatting at all hours or quiet if needed.

Then we also form real relationships with the teachers and especially the kids. Tiny steps are so big. They know blue, dog, cat, 1, peek a boo, Hokey Pokey and Bob. My work here is done.

The downside is I need to leave them all in the next day or so. Pictures are only memories.

Never fear: I will have lots and lots of "memories" to show you all!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cultural awareness

Today the staff discussed with us specific cultural identities of India in the more rural areas. They said in the large cities, anything goes. Family is paramount, including very fringe cousins. Respect for elders is necessary from even very young children, indicated by touching the feet of the elders when greeting them. All people speak respectfully and quietly. The marriage age is 18 minimum with most who are educated waiting to 21-25. Women always wear the pants and long top with the scarf, although at home they take off the scarf. Men wear western clothes out but at home put on loose pants and long top. A bachelors degree is 3 years after high school and masters 2 years after that. At Grade 10 they take a nationwide test that determines what their future schooling choices will be. At that time they chose a career. Parents all hope their children will be more educated and do better than they have financially.

Sanitation: Most of the 2-3 I work with at GEPL like to stop at the hand sanitizer dispenser on the way out of story time. At daycare here, the "toilet" is a drain on the sidewalk outside, and there is no running water in the center. Water that is gathered each day from the leaking pipe across the road is used for cooking. (I personally walk to a nearby school for facilities.) There is a doctor in our group that says 90% of the illness she sees at the clinic is related to being unclean.

Trash: If some enterprisingly person wanted to make a LOT OF BUCKS they would bring public trash cans (and their maintenance) to India. I wonder at our willingness to export lots of snacks (let's not even talk about nutrition!) in plastic wrappers and not point out that dropping those wrappers all over the countryside makes it ugly.

Last week of teaching! Several of the children now bark when they see pictures of Brian's Dog, Munster. I THINK that is progress...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Temple

We finally made it to the Temple today of the Dahli Lama in McLeod. Lots of gold, reminiscent of Vienna! We saw a one hour film on the abuse of the Tibetans by the Chinese. They have been 50 years in exile in India.

Early this morning the clouds blew away and we saw the mountains. Rain here meant snow there, blizzards by the look of the peaks. Completely snow covered. But much cooler here so we are energized for teaching the last three days.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The sun is shining...

...except when a pre-monsoon comes through. We have had 3 times today when the rain and wind lashed the house and the thunder rumbled and echoed off the mountains. Within minutes it all stops, the sun comes out, birds sing. It is dramatic and fantastic.

At dawn (before the rain) I heard a monk chant and a cow moo back. This is India.

We traveled to Palampur today. From Wikipedia:"Palampur is a fascinating green hill station and a municipal council in the Kangra Valley in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, surrounded on all sides by tea gardens and pine forests before they merge with the Dhauladhar ranges. Palampur is the tea capital of northwest India." Visited a tea factory and had a wonderful lunch.

We are nowhere near the bombings, but read about them in the paper everyday.

Ah our day off last week: Buddha's Birthday is the major Buddhist festival of the year honoring the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on the first full moon day in May. The celebration was not limited to Buddhists - everyone was off!

Listing things we miss (other than family): pets, highspeed internet, hot shower, cooking in own kitchen, convenience stores, beef, acessible water and ice. Funny no one mentioned American Idol.