Monday, August 31, 2009

Hearting



Oh, still just hearting India.

You likey?

Hey boys, do you guys like this bag? Is it too prissy for you, Finn?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bobbili

We just went on a little week-end trip to Bobbili, which is about a 3-hour drive from Visak. We met 2 Maharaja's - not as cool as it sounds. I actually brought my nice camera, so I could practice taking better pictures, (Trevor, are you impressed?), but when I whipped it out, it was completely dead. Then my normal camera died after like 1 hour. So, unfortunately, I didn't get very many pictures. And, I got to lug around 2 cameras that didn't even work. Lame. Also, we had lots of vague explanations about what things were/where we even were, so this won't be a very informative blog. Sars.









Buddhist ruins:





John and I - wearing my traditional Indian clothing, minus the scarf part, which "Midnight's Children," by Salmon Rushdie says shows a woman without her virtue. Whoops. I added ruffles to the sleeves, which makes it a little hotter, but fashion before function, right? Also, Aladdin pants = so comfortable:



Me wearing the scarf. They don't really wear them like this, (usually they're worn around the neck - can you imagine wearing a scarf around your neck when it's flaming hot outside?? neither can I), except sometimes when it gets super hot our translator does, so I figure I can if she can. And a beautiful brown river!



You know you have good ice cream when the first ingredient is vegetable fat…

My birthday in India was delightful, (thank you for the bday wishes) – and extra long, as it was still my U.S. birthday on the morning of the 26th in India. Just kidding, I didn’t celebrate it that long. But I did get to skype my family, which is always fun, because it’s almost like hanging out with them. However, I would like to say that at one point in the conversation, Niels and the Faj both started kissing Lars and paying way more attention to him than me. Lars will always be the favorite child, even on my birthday.

In the morning, some friends and I went to get dosa for breakfast. (Dosa is a delicious food I have already blogged about.) I’ll try to take some pictures of it, so you can have a visual. I would post a picture of this excursion, but the one I have is completely blurry. I always try to tell people that you have to hold the button down half way to focus it first, but my Telugu skills do not extend that far.

After Telugu class and lunch, I went bike shopping all afternoon with Courtney, Kristin, and one of the guys who works for the program, named V-raju. All the bike shops we went to are little holes-in-the-wall; some had no bikes, while the others were crammed full of bikes. That was semi-productive. We’re still looking for used bies, but all we could find were new ones. I just found out that I could possibly buy a scooter for cheaper than a bike, so we’ll see. This is a picture of me waiting for a bus, on my birthday, while bike shopping - so. exciting.



After bike shopping, we attempted to make a cake. Luckily, we had a box of brownie mix and a box of banana pudding. After several failed attempts of making crepes out of the brownies, we gave up and scrambled the brownies, and then molded them into a cake-like structure. A couple of my friends bought ice cream, (with vegetable fat as the first ingredient), which layered into my cake as well. It was super fancy.



The India besties who constructed my cake:








Courtney fake soft-shoed danced for me, which is endlessly funny to me. I know it won’t be funny at all to any of you, but at least I will laugh when I look back on my blog:



And Dan did a Chuckles impression for me, which is always funny. However, Krishnayya, (my professor here), would not do a Chuckles impression for me. Bummer, because according to Chuckles, Krishnayya does a good one.

After cake and that entertainment, we gathered around a laptop and watched “Sleepless In Seattle”, while eating popcorn and “masala munchies,” (which taste like flaming hot cheetos with lime – I know cheetos are the trashiest and most unhealthy food imaginable, but I LOVE them), snickers bars, (one of the few American candies they have here), and “maaza.” Maaza is this mango juice drink, which tastes like fresh squeezed mangos and is one of the most heavenly things I’ve ever tasted on this earth. It’s also the main thing that gets me through my daily 2-hour-long Telugu class.

This is a picture of Durga, Lova, and I. I love Durga and Lova SO much. They are from some tribal village, but now they live in Visak and work as our cooks. Durga is 20, but I seriously feel like she’s my mom. She always takes such good care of all of us, and helps us with everything. Lova is just an adorable 15-year-old. She gets a repulsed/scared look on her face anytime we offer her American food, or ask her to dance for us. She is totally dramatic, which is only enhanced by the body language we have to use with each other, since we don't always understand each other.




Also, one of the girls in the program gave me one of the best compliments of my life – she told me I annunciate very well. Seriously, guys, being from Provo, Utah, a place of “stills,” “dills,” and dropped t’s, that means the world! Best birthday compliment ever!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just a little something-something

I love living by the beach. And I love living by this (frightening) gigantic baby, which is on the beach:





Sarees are so beautiful and they are so bright. Women always wear them. The other day a few girls from the program were wearing sarees, and some women came up to them and thanked them for wearing sarees and preserving the Indian culture. This is a picture of me with one of our cooks, who just left/had to quit:



More beautiful sarees:



India is cool, and I dig these statues (they are at the top of a hill in Visak):



Also, maybe they really do sell deodorant here (sorry for doubting you, Faj and Andy):



Also, I miss these cutenesses:




I miss Kai, too, but don't have any blog-worthy pictures of us together. Sars, Kai.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Visak

This is a picture of the view from my balcony:



Also: A really embarrassing picture of me. Maybe I tucked my dress into my underwear, (don't judge, it's sooooo hot here), and maybe I forgot to un-tuck it for this photo.

My Research and India Independence Day

As far as my research goes, my companion (seriously, I feel like I’m a missionary here sometimes. Kristin and I are constantly together because we’re doing pretty much the same research project. We’re always running to “appointments”, politely drinking beverages we don’t want while in people’s homes, and when we’re with our translator, we feel like she’s a member going on splits with us). Anyway, Kristin and I and I have been going to the Jalari Peta daily. (That’s the slum on the outskirt of the city where we’re doing the bulk of our research.) Our professors just want us to go there at least once every day and hang out for a while so the people there will get used to seeing us around. So, we go at different times everyday and walk around and talk to people. We get to hold precious Indian babies, which is always fun. The other day I brushed my teeth with a stick, the way they do. It splinters in your mouth, but it was cool to try out.



The other day, I had my first legit interview. We met with the headmistress of the only elementary school in the Jalari Peta. I was really impressed with her. She spends 15-20 days each year going around to every household in the Jalari Peta to explain the importance of education and the amenities the school provides (text books, meals, and uniforms for all the children), in order to educate the children and parents. The children usually drop out of school by the age of 10. The school has about 500 students and 7 teachers, 3 of whom are volunteers. The headmistress asked Kristin and I to teach English to the older students of the school every Saturday. We are so excited, because it’s exactly the type of thing we want to do. We were surprised that we have received this opportunity so early in our research, as well, because we were not expecting that. So I’ll let you know how that goes, and if anyone has any teaching English as a second language ideas, I would love to hear any and all of them.

Also, on India Independence Day, we were walking back from field/sports day at the Jalari Peta, and passed by a little band playing outside a little temple. The music was like an Indian-jazz fusion. The temple was small and crammed with people. They all started yelling at us and motioning for us to come in. We went over and they dragged us into the temple, where a coule was getting married. They shoved yellow rice into our hands to sprinkle on the heads of the bride and groom. They gave us each a bindi (the red forehead dot), and guided us right back at the door. It happened so fast, and it was so loud and bright and colorful. I think it was like how I pictured India to be before I came.







And Independence Day:




(photo courtesy of Madeliene Mayo)


(photo courtesy of Madeliene Mayo)

Kakinada

A University in Kakinada invited us to visit their university and spend some time in Kakinada with them. They were extremely generous to us. For example, they provided air-conditioned cars to drive us from Visak to Kakinada, which takes about 3 hours. They put us up in the campus guest-house, which was also air-conditioned.

Our first day there, we went to a little town called Yaman, which is a French colony, but nothing about it is really French anymore, minus the humble Catholic church we visited. It is about an hour from Kakinada. The drive there was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. We drove through the countryside part of India, with expanses of rice paddy fields and tons of palm trees. Definitely the most clean and pristine part of India I have seen thus far. When we reached Yaman, we walked along the Godavri river shore, watching fishermen pulling their boats in at dusk and went on a little boat ride along the river. It was a fun, touristy thing to do.








(This is my "companion," Kristin and I. More on that later.)


(I always drink soda here...Not my fave. This is my friend, Dan.)

The next day, we were herded around to several classrooms to meet the students there. The students freaked out whenever they saw us. When Professor Nuckolls would say one word in Telugu, the students broke out in uproarious applause. We counted to ten in Telugu with them (can you say, I felt like I was in first grade??), and sang the one Telugu song we know called “Chanda Mama.” Also embarrassing. That evening, they had this big celebration/lecture thing in order to celebrate “Internationalization Day.” Luckily, each one of us were invited mere hours before the lecture to give a one-minute speech in front of the university staff, hundreds of students, and even 2 professors from Texas A&M and MIT. Our topic was the importance of the internationalization of education. Good thing I don’t even know what internationalization is. It sounds like globalization to me, but Chuckles gave his talk on the difference between internationalization and globalization. Anyway… I gave a tiny talk on how my father has always taught me the importance of communicating and associating with other cultures and implementing the things I learn from those cultures into my own life. (Shout out to the Faj Mahal.) Veeeeery impressive, I know. Afterwards, we sang that Telugu song for everyone and maybe we were forced by certain students to do the macarena, as well as other “American” dances, in front of the everybody, as well. Embarrassing. I felt like the world’s biggest idiot. Sorry for the poor representation, America. At least everybody really liked it. Then some Indian girl joined us on the stage and was totally breaking it down and dancing so well, which made us look even better. Then some students did a skit that involved pelvic thrusting. Just saying. It was a good experience though, and like I said, everyone was so kind and so generous to us.

On the third day, we went to a temple called, Anavarum, which is one of the most important temples in this region of India. It was really cool. We went through the same routine we always do at temples here. You walk through part of the temple to the deity, and one of the priests there brings fire to you. You fan the flames into your face three times, then you put a red bindi on your forehead. Then the priest cups your head with this huge, heavy, ornate metal cup. At this temple, they gave you a fresh flower after that. I thought it was so delightful that they hand out flowers. Normally at temples, they put some water in your hand, and you touch some to your mouth and then rub the rest over your head. Anyway, we go to lots of temples here and it’s always a cool experience.





On our way driving to this temple, we were driving in between the ocean and rice paddies. It was divinely beautiful. We stopped because our professor wanted to show us a little temple on the side of the road. India has temples everywhere. This one was cool because it was really rural and not fancy at all. (Usually they are really colorful and fancy.)






(This is a picture of the roadside temple.)

Also, my new favorite Indian food: “dosa”, which I ate twice on this trip. it is often eaten for breakfast. It’s like a fried pancake thing, and it’s stuffed with a potato curry, and you eat is with cocoanut chutney, which is one of the most delicious thing in the world.

I also tried this certain kind of cocoanut milk, which is drunk straight from these green cocoanuts they sell on the side of the road. It is surprisingly the nastiest things I’ve tried thus far. Actually the only nasty thing I've tried thus far.




Another delicious thing here is called “barfee.” I know it sounds like vomit, but it is really this smooth, rich slab of cashew paste, coated with real silver. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it is divine..

Also, speaking of food, we drove home from Kakinada in the same car as Prof. Nuckolls. A professor in Kakinada gave us a bunch of sweets to take back with us. You better believe that as soon as Nuckolls left the car, we opened those sweets right up. And then ate more of them when he offered them to us a couple hours later.

It was nice to return to Visak, because it’s finally starting to feel like home, which is a good feeling.

Also, I finally bought saree material. One of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. There are billions of fabric choices, and our translators criticize me for liking fashions “the elderly wear.” (The younger girls wear such bedazzling things.) The translators are great, but they give me serious anxiety sometimes, because they tend to hover. I almost choose a royal blue saree, but couldn’t quite bring myself to buy it, because it looks almost identical to the one my 60-year-old Telugu teacher wears. I still need to get it made into a saree, and I cannot even wait. All the women here were traditional Indian dress, which is either this pant and shirt outfit, or a saree. All the men here wear Western style clothing.

Monsoon

I LOVE when it rains here. It’s brutally hot and humid, but when it rains, it really rains and everything cools down. (And then lots of flies come out.) That’s one thing I like about not living in the desert – it actually rains here. Today we got caught in the monsoon and the streets were like rivers, causing all the trash to stream along, which canceled out the delicious fresh rain smell.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Araku Valley and Borra Caves

On Saturday, there was a branch activity to Araku Valley and Borra Caves, which about an hour and a half car ride or three hour train ride from Visakhapatnam. The people here tend to be vague about everything, and Indian Standard Time is even worse than Mormon Standard Time. We kept hearing tons of different schedules concerning the Saturday activity, and ended up meeting the branch at the train station at 6 am. At about 7, we were able to board our train and the station was a madhouse. The branch members kindly took good care of us. One member led us onto one train, but there was standing room only. So he started running (fast) towards another train car and we haul after him. Once we get on that (completely full) train, the member starts negotiating with other passengers to secure seats for us. The other passengers were quite sensitive about their luggage being rearranged, but he finally secured us some seats…on the luggage racks, which were shelves dangling from the ceiling. My friends, Dan, and Kristin, and I were sitting on the luggage racks, pretzel style for three hours. We passed the time playing would-you-rathers involving the cranky passenger sitting below us who got chapped at Dan for having his shoes sticking over the ledge a little bit.



After three hours, we arrived at our destination. First we went to the caves. Good thing you weren’t allowed to bring cameras in, but every Indian person did anyway, and all us dumb Americans were stuck without documentation. So I don’t have any pictures of the caves. The jungle leading to the caves was swarming with monkeys. The cave entrance was huge, and the cave was huge and open; no little passageways or anything like that. At one part of the cave, we climbed up a steep/sketchy/scary flight of stairs to a little shrine for a deity. Also, there were railings partitioning places off and creating a walkway, but everyone was hopping right over them. Don’t even worry that the cave is 150 million years old, or that climbing up huge slabs of damp rock with dim lighting could potentially be dangerous.

After the caves, we ate delicious and spicy (the most spicy I’ve had thus far) food at a little thatched roof hut, with newspaper pages lining the entire inside.



PS, Speaking of newspapers, there is a picture of my roommates and I in the Telugu newspaper. I didn’t even know I was being photographed. In the picture, I am chugging water, and the caption read something like, “The Americans are suffering from heat stroke, and they needed a drink from the store.” How true that is. It’s a reeeally good picture of me. I’ll maybe try to post it sometime.

Our next stop was an Indiana Jones-esque, jeep ride (packed full of people) to a hike through this beautiful jungle, up to a waterfall. It was beautiful and so nice to be in nature, despite the fact that people litter everywhere, always. I really miss the mountains in Utah, and it’s nice to get out of the crazy city. There were lots of people swimming, and lots of men in their skivvies only – bonus!







We had to hurry and hike down because we didn’t want to miss our bus home. Good thing we hurried, because we ended up waiting for 4 hours at the bus stop in this little rural town. (When I had to use the restroom, I asked a man at a little food shop, and he told me, “By school … very silent place.” Outside behind the school is the communal toilet, apparently.) A few buses came through, but each one was already packed. Finally at nine pm, we each paid 100 rupees to get a ride home from some jeep driver guy. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t sketchy, because native ward members were with us.) We had 13 people on the ride home, and I was the lucky one who got to sit on everyone’s laps in the backseat the whole time. Not comfortable. But our driver blared Indian music the whole time, so it was worth it.

My trip highlight is: turtle-ing. Dan cleverly coined this phrase while on the train, (you know, like when turtles stack on top of each other to sun), and we noticed four boys sitting in two seats on each other’s laps. It’s so awkward and so awesome, and not to mention beyond sweaty. Also, on our jeep ride home, maybe there were four people in the front seat, and maybe the 2 men were spider sitting. I think you all know what I mean. Anyway, notice the two boys on the right hand side of the picture.



And just in case you want a closer view:



Don’t even worry that there’s a whole open bus stop.

Also, Indian people are pretty modest. Since it’s so hot here, my roommates and I walk around our house almost naked. I always feel kind of bad, because I sometimes our neighbors can see us, since their house is about 3 feet from ours. But still, it’s soooo hot. Well yesterday our neighbor definitely saw my roommate in her underwear and totally shook her head at her. However, I would just like to mention that a couple days prior to that, I looked out my window to see her on her balcony, with her skirt pulled up, exposing her bare bum to the entire neighborhood. Just saying.