Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blog Post 5

Namaste! The group arrived back in Mumbai at 7 a.m., and we're freshening up at our original hotel before spending our last day in Mumbai. Sorry blog posts have been infrequent: we had a hard time catching an adequate signal while in the south. Here's a post that Jake L. and Meret wrote a couple of days ago, and I hope to get at least one more post up at the airport before our flight tonight. 

Parents, please check back because it looks like our flight has been delayed 75 minutes. I'll have more information later, and will post a quick update when we land in Newark so that you know when to meet us at Lincoln Place.  

- B. Clarke


There is nothing like a delicious, heaping pile of rice to start one’s day. Some woke up to muffins made of rice; others, rice pancakes. Although most live within a four or five minute radius, some must make a grueling, ten minute hike to Krishna’s house. Throughout the night, Yakshagana artists danced through everyone’s dreams, and so it came as a disappointment when we were informed that our teachers would not be able to come. We practiced our newfound moves on our own to keep them fresh in our minds.
After our dance practice, we trekked to the peanut fields, which are conveniently located in Krishna’s backyard. During our hour-long experience, we managed to pick roughly half the amount of peanuts that a farmer harvests in ten minutes, as well as sweat out half our body weight. A new appreciation was gained for how physically demanding a farmer’s job is.
We returned to our loving homestay families, where we eagerly gorged on another platter of rice. The first of two much needed showers were taken.
We returned to Krishna’s where cups full chai tea awaited us. We wrote in our journals considering the question: “Who are you in India?”  As we have reached the half way mark of our trip L, we are beginning to think about what everyone contributes to the group with their different leadership styles. We read aloud short paragraphs and were led through activities that prompted us to reflect on ourselves.
For many, our time spent playing with the children after school is some of the most incredible. We led everyone through games of Duck, Duck, Goose, an instant hit, and a challenging game of Seven Up. Unfortunately, our playtime was cut short as rickshaws, a cross between a motorcycle and a taxi, rolled through the front gates of the school fifteen minutes early. We were carted away to a market just outside of Heranjalu.

It is incredible how far one can stretch 100 rupees (roughly one and a half dollars) in an Indian market. Everyone participated in a scavenger hunt, looking for items such as cookies, fruits, and vegetables that are unavailable in the USA, and most importantly, goli baje (a savory twist on a doughnut hole, which to the hungry traveler seems like a delicacy). Rumor has it that Jacob, Dean, and Jake blew their remaining thirty rupees on bags of goli baje. We headed to the local restaurant where we indulged in a meal of cauliflower disguised as General Tso’s chicken, and rice disguised as a potato latke.

We boarded rickshaws in groups of three and drove back to Krishna’s where we ANCHORED and formally answered the question of the day. We returned to our homestays where we took our second shower of the day and promptly crashed.

-       Jake L. & Meret

Dance practice at Krishna's

Games with students at Heranjalu Primary School

A fun day at the beach

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blog Post 4: Heranjalu 03/10/2016

Instead of waking up to the sound of traffic coming from the streets of Mumbai, we awoke to the cock-a-doodle-doo of the roosters and the mooing of the cows.  After a delicious breakfast of agila and chapatti (both pancake like foods), we walked from our homestays to Krishna’s house for some morning activities. We were delighted to see the familiar faces of some of the school children we had played with the previous day joining our games. After they went off to school, we prepared for our first lesson in Yakshagana, a traditional religious dance performed at many ceremonies. It’s so valued that our Yakshagana teacher, Shinivas’s dance team is booked for the next 20 years. After he performed a seemingly complex dance, we were very intimidated. But after over an hour of drumming and dancing, we felt pretty comfortable, until we were told that we would have to perform it in front of the whole village on Sunday… with only three days of practice — talk about intimidation!
            A couple of water, or niru, breaks later, we were ready to start harvesting peanuts. We thought we were making good progress in our field, until we looked up to see the local men and women picking twice as fast as we were. They tried to come over and teach us, but it’s easier said than done. We hope to finish a whole field by the time we leave (but we’re not getting our hopes up). After all that work, we decided it was time for some lunch, so we went back to our homestays and ate another delicious meal. After stepping out of the cold shower (and being immediately covered in sweat again), we walked over to Krishna’s for some down time, where we were able to play some games and write in our journals.
            We were excited to go back to the local school to play games with the kids again. We (somehow) corralled all the kids and taught them Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. We even got the kids to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in a round! We are impressed every day by their enthusiasm, kindness, and English language skills. Their excitement continued into our game of What Time is it Mr. Fox. It inspired them to teach us a new game that they call Lagori. We would try to explain it if we had fully understood what was happening, but we know it involved two teams, one throwing a ball to knock down a stack of coconut shells, but after that the rules were lost on us. The kids knew exactly what to do, and beat us every time. Oh well. Then they creamed us at a game that they taught us yesterday, where we hop on one leg. One of the boys single handedly tagged all of us out in one round, whereas it took all 15 of us BC kids to get most of the kids out.
            After another long and sweaty day, we went back to Krishna’s house, accompanied by some of the kids. There, we did ANCHOR, played a few more calm games, and did a meditation guided by Susan. We were then joined by some local teenagers, most of which are our host siblings. We played some name games and icebreakers for about an hour before heading back to our respective homes. Another cold shower and amazing meal later, we spent some quality bonding time with our families, playing games and talking. After this amazing day full of hard work and fun games, it’s safe to say we all crashed pretty hard. J

-Lily and Gabby

Update from 3/09/2016

Yesterday, (3/09/16) after 12 hours on an overnight train ride where we slept in triple bunk beds (!) and were offered amazing chai tea every five seconds, we got off the train in Bindyor, a village near Krishna's home village of Heranjalu.  Bonus points to Jake L. and Ms. Drezner for hosting mice in their backpacks.  (They did not actually see the mice--just the evidence.)  We got off the train at 10:30 in the morning and experienced a whole new kind of hot from what we had finally adapted to in Mumbai.  As we waited for rickshaws (motorcycles meet
Central Park horse carriages), we played a huge game of Ninja.  In the final round it was Jake vs. Jake.  All of our money was on Jake.  Jake won.  Jake lost. 

We got on the rickshaws and rode on them for about 30 minutes before finally reaching a school in Heranjulu.  The kids, aged around 7-11, greeted us warmly and watched in amusement, okay, fine, they laughed at us—as we all attempted to chug coconuts that Krishna's father had broken open for us.  The children sang to us, especially to Aniris who turned 16 yesterday (yay!) before we went to Krishna's house for lunch.  We ate a delicious lunch on banana leaves (with our right hands only) that consisted of rice, spicy pickles, and spicy cucumber curry. 

We got our homestay assignments and headed off to meet our new families (You've been replaced.)  In each family there is at least one person who knows a bit of English, although we have really been brushing up on our Kannada and charade abilities.  There is also, in each family, an average ratio of cows to humans of 2:1.  We spent about 45 minutes with our homestay families before all joining back together as a BC group and playing with the children from the school.  We taught them how to play quack-a-dilly-oso (spelling!?) where we, let's be honest, let them win.  We then played their game with a name that in English translates to "broken leg."  In this game there are two teams and the object is for one person at a time to, while hopping on one leg, tag as many people from the other team as possible.  We are convinced they have been doing Olympic-level training for this game in anticipation of our arrival.  They DESTROYED us.   We said goodbye and headed back to our homestay families for a shower.

 We then walked back to Krishna's house where many of the kids joined us to surprise Aniris with a delicious birthday cake and confetti.  We talked about our day and did ANCHORS (appreciation, news, concern, hopes, obscurity/observations, reading, shoutout) and headed back to our homestay families for dinner.  After dinner the power went out in the majority of our houses, taking the lights, our sanity, and most importantly, the fans with it.  When the power came on shortly later, it was "the best moment of my entire life."- anonymous.  We have all really bonded with our families and are super excited for the next couple of days!!!!

-Eva and Ari

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Day 2

While preparing for the twelve-hour train ride that lies ahead we, the group, attempt to metabolize and internalize our unforgettable final day in Mumbai. Today we visited the second largest slum in Asia, Dharavi, which is home to one million people in a space the size of Central Park, in an effort to see an important part of Mumbai and eliminate the commonly held single story of slums. We were taken on a tour through the slum, which was largely focused on illuminating the pride of those in the slum. Through the narrative of Slumdog Millionaire and other such stories, we are solely taught of the negatives of slums, a dangerously singular perspective. This tour allowed us to appreciate the different industries within the slum: leather production, plastic recycling, aluminum recycling, cooking of pappadam. This five-hour excursion was topped off when we visited a Dharavi-based nonprofit that offers courses in conversational English and life skills to help residents compete for jobs. We played games, were given henna tattoos, and talked for close to two-hours. The interactions were neither forced nor uncomfortable, but rather felt natural and as if we had been best friends for years. This time was fascinating, wonderful, and invaluable. While processing this potentially life-changing day, I along with the rest of the group attempt to appreciate this opportunity afforded to us.

 - Dean

*Note from Mr. Clarke: Internet isn't working in the village, so we have to post in batches each time we can get into town. More tomorrow!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 1: Mumbai

“What did you observe?” – Question of the Day

Today was the first full day of our trip.  After a breakfast of eclectic tastes and new breads, we set off to the Gateway of India, a historical sight meant to welcome in travelers from all over.  We then navigated through back allies and stairways towards a small water oasis, Banganga Tank, containing holy spring water where people go to bathe.  We then visited Gandhi’s house and saw letters and journal entries he wrote, as well as miniature scenes representing his life and journey. Lunch was interesting because, in practice for when we get to the village, nobody could use silverware or their left hands. Finally we spent a few hours traversing through an incredibly busy market.  We fed cows in a sanctuary grass we had purchased, encountered a workers' strike, and desperately tried to follow our guide Krishna through the endless sea of people.  While the sights, sounds, and smells were overwhelming at times, Mumbai is beautifully chaotic, each person lives their own intricate life separate but in part with one another.  What’s really crazy is that these weren’t even the streets at their fullest. Today was a holiday dedicated to Shiva so many people were praying in their homes or in temples.

- Estella and Jacob

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Good Night

Note the smiles in the previously posted photo - everyone is doing well and we're off to a great start. We checked in to our hotel, and ate a delicious dinner on the rooftop of a neighboring hotel. It was a beautiful evening, and the India vs. Bangladesh cricket match was being projected, so we started to wrap our minds around the rules governing that sport. Please no quizzes when we return!

Everyone is going to get a good night's sleep, and tomorrow we're exploring Mumbai.