Saturday, April 14, 2007

Funny Signs!

Ok so we have all heard about the bad english and funny signs which exist in India...Or maybe we haven't...but I thought i'd post some photos friends and I have taken which tickle the funny bone...

It is just funny because you wouldn't want to swim in it anyway, it is very gross looking and there are rumors that if cows drink from it they die...

This is a menu with ice cream favorite is the "chocolate dad"

This is a sign which was found in delhi right near the nations capitol buildings...a very prestigious spot...with reserved parking cream trollies!

This ones more of an interesting photo...Indians like to charge more for foreigners to see things, and they always charge to bring your camera in/video camera in. example: Taj Mahal for indian citizens is arond $.50 but for foreigners it is $18.00...go figure

Typical traffic sign in India...this ones located right by the main road in Bangalore....Mahatma Gandhi Road...

look forward to part two of this post...


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A trip, and much more

So here I am, finding myself dusting off the screen and racking my brain for the password to sign into my blogger account. It has been a long time and I know that it is selfish of me to deprive my loved ones of information regarding my happenings and whereabout on the Indian Sub-continent. So many things have been happening that it is hard to know where to begin when it comes to relaying activities to those overseas. The picture above is certainly one which pretty much sums up India, what is said will be done on paper is so often ignored. These cows eat trash, and you see people milking the cows. I don't want to think that it is the milk which is being put into my tea at the local bakery, but it probably is! It is a land which begs to be compared with the wild west where people take justice into their own hands. Certainly it is not that wild, but in a country of over 1 billion people, enforcing laws and regulations becomes a huge logistical issue when taking into consideration each state speaks a different language and has different food, clothing, and culture. Where do you begin to bring forth a change?

I will start by saying that Indian children are adorable. I have had the bounty of being able to volunteer every saturday at a public school outside of Bangalore in a small village by the name of Mohre Public school. I have a class of around twenty-five children who I am in charge of for an hour every week. They asked me if i could be in charge of a music class, so I have been bringing in my guitar and teaching them songs. The second week of class we did a craft project which involved making shakers out of toilet paper tubes and some starch, rice, and newspaper. I really have to thank Red Grammer at this point as his songs have proven mighty popular with the youngsters in India. Mohre School is "English Medium" meaning that they teach in English, as well as teaching the local language Kanada, and Hindi, so I don't have that big of a communication barrier to overcome. Although my accent is definitely hard for the children to understand and it is very difficult at times to get the children to speak for themselves, as it seems to be built into the Indian education system to just regurgitate everything the teacher says and mimic the actions of the teacher. I will ask them their opinions on what a word means, and they sit with a blank look, then I'll give them the meaning and ask them if they have any more ideas, all the hands will raise and they will say exactly what I just told them, it is kind of creepy. But we have learned three songs: I think you're wonderful, Hooray for the world, and Teaching Peace.

I also help with a Jr. Youth/childrens class on the other side of Bangalore on Saturdays as well, it is located in a new developing neighborhood where a lot of families have moved due to construction jobs available. There are a lot of children due to the bustling area and most of them have not been in school regularily, so they are thirsty for knowledge. I also work with another childrens class near the Baha'i center in Bangalore. They are so cute and we have been concentrating on learning about the various religions of the world and instilling a sense of respect in the children for the varying belief systems which exist around the world.

The semester has ended here and my fellow students are beginning to fly out and head home. I on the other hand will be beginning a journey throughout India for about a week and a half. I will be heading to Panchgani first, which is around a 18 hour bus ride from Bangalore. There is a Baha'i winter School happening there which will be three days and should prove to be quite a great experience! After that I will continue on to Pune and catch a flight to Delhi, stay there for a few days and visit the Baha'i Lotus temple, will then take a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and then will go back to delhi and catch a flight back to Bangalore. I then hope to go out to some remote villages which I have been invited to come to by some Baha'i friends of mine. They wish me to come out and work with the children, God willing it will work out so I can experience a part of Indian life which I have had very little contact with, that is a rural life. It is interesting because the majority of the population of India exists in the rural villages, and not the cities. I have experienced a part of India which a very tiny fraction of Indians actually get to experience and am looking forward to getting "down to earth" with how most of the populous exists.

I have also started to learn Farsi, which is the language that is spoken in Iran. Perhaps the drive to learn this language stems from the fact that some of the original texts of the Holy Writings of the Baha'i Faith were revealed in Farsi (the other language they were revealed in being Arabic, which shares the same alphabet as Farsi). The thought of being able to read the Baha'i writings in their original form is something which I feel will only enhance my ability to serve the Faith and truly understand the global implications which the Faith has. I have been studying farsi for about a month and a half now and have begun to learn simple grammar and can formulate simple sentences (keeping in mind my friend saloomeh who is graciously helping me to learn, is sitting at my side helping me stumble through). I absolutely love writing the script, which is written and read from right to left and flows somewhat similiarly to cursive writing. It is a beautiful language both to look at and to speak.

Simple sentences in Farsi, the pen is my Teacher Saloomeh's writing, and the response in pencils Is my writing

Things are well here, I continue to enjoy my time and have really been greatful to God for allowing me to take this journey. I am learning so much that will only enable me to further help humanity. I think of you all often, and I want to you to know that (and i am completely honest when I say this) even if I don't contact you that often it does not meant I don't think of you often. I keep all of you in my prayers and can only hope that Life, in all its ups and downs, does not cease to be an arena in which you can grow and learn. For if you cease to grow, you stagnate and that cannot be healthy.

With a warm heart,

P.S. here are some pictures of the group that I studied with this semester.

Myself, Jon, and Michael,

Michael, my flatmate, and I, It was Indian dress day, so we wore Kurtas.

Myself and my somewhat well known model pose...

The Group

The Group with Nagesh, an employee of ICMIS who has done a lot to help us and is one of the nicest Indian males I have met

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Recapitulating time...

Any reason posted as to why I have not made an update would simply be an excuse, in order to catch people up, Here is a pictoral summary with minor descriptions of the photo. I will try to be more regular in my postings as I realize people enjoy reading them.

Awesome Salad that was available at the wedding
Banana Leaf meal that was served at the wedding
Great live music which was at the wedding
Man making dosa at the wedding
The kitchen at the wedding
This is for Caitlin
Hindu Temple we visited which was at Halibad, about 120 KM from Bangalore
This is the entrance to a temple at Belur, around 120 KM from Bangalore...
My feet, and carved feet, which are supposed to be Vishnu's (a Hindu God) which are located outside of the temple at Belur, which is dedicated to Vishnu
Steps which we had to climb to reach the top of a mountain with Jain Temples.

There will be more photos in awhile, alas it is late and the internet connection seems to be dwindling to a slow haphazard walk...akin to the 56k days, ok maybe not that bad.

Thank you


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kids and Kittens

There is a hotel across the street from my college called "Hotel Rajesh". Hotels in India are often not hotels at all, rather they just feed you food; incredibly amazing, awesomely good food. This particular hotel's portions feed about three people and cost roughly $.50 for an amazing amount. Classmates and I often times venture across the street to get some lunch. My schoolmate Jon, who is from Rochester, New York, and I went across the road the other day and were waiting for our roti's (bread), dhal (lentil vegetable soup type liquid) and rice to be served up. We were watching the process of the roti being spread out on a flat surface and fried over open coals, when out of the shop next to us this little child (at left) came running out with a kitten in its arms. It was so adorable, and made even more so by the fact that the kitten was very complacent and seemed quite content to be right where it was at. It made no fuss to get away and the child just walked around. Jon and I were both taken with this child and Jon happened to have his camera and snapped this photo. It seems in India whenever you pull out a camera, everyone wants their photo taken so we snapped a few more of the man making our food and various personages. We then went back to ICMIS and ate our food on the terrace (roof).

This weekend is the wedding of Michael and I's hostmother's son. We are going to be dressed in full Indian Garb and I will be sure to have a write up including pictures sometime next week. Until then, enjoy this wonderful photo!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Gift

It is amazing to think about the world, and how in all its apparent vastness it can come shrinking down to the size of a single conversation between a few human beings. Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the wedding reception of the daughter of the chairman of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bangalore. During the wonderful festivities, which were opened by three wonderful prayers from the Bahá’i writings, I had the pleasure of being acquainted with a certain Mr. Mark Perry and his lovely wife Azadeh Rohanian Perry. It seems as if we had a mutual friend by the name of Vesall Nourani (pictured at left), who I had the pleasure of serving with at Green Acre Bahá’i School in Eliot, Maine this summer. They both live in the same community of Chapel Hill North Carolina, and Mark told me that on the eve of their departure to India Vesall was over at their house showing them pictures of his summer at Green Acre, which had included pictures of me! Both Mark and I thought this was rather humorous and talked later on that evening about what a special place Green Acre held in both of our hearts.

Some relatives of the Groom, who was originally from Shiraz, had also came to attend the reception. Among those kin were three youth, Rahil, Maaman, and Martha, who were among the Bahá’i youth from Shiraz who were arrested and thrown into prison earlier this year for allegedly teaching the Bahá’i Faith. The Bahá’i’s are heavily persecuted in Iran and a new wave of victimization has swept the country in the last few months. I had the wonderful bounty of being able to speak with Rahil, and Maaman about their experience. They both were quick to let me know that it was a misunderstanding on the Iranian Governments part as they were only holding moral development classes for children and jr. youth, and were being very careful not to associate it with the Bahá’i Faith at all. Somehow they were reported to the Mullah’s and were scooped up and thrown into jail. Maaman recounted how she had been blindfolded and forced to walk to an unknown location to sit in isolation for hours before the Iranian Government interrogated her about her activities. Both of them said that all the youth put in jail were in good spirits the whole time and that what had happened to them was nothing compared to Mona’s story. They were in Jail for six days before they were released. I asked them if there was one thing that they would want to tell the world, and they asked the Bahá’i youth of the earth to take advantage of their religious freedom and to take on the glorious responsibility of instilling morals in our most precious resource: children. What a wonderful gift those precious youth have given the world.

You can read more about what happened to the youth of Shiraz Here

And if you wish to know more about Mona’s story Please Click Here

To find out the latest news regarding the persecution of Bahá’i’s in Iran, click Here

Sunday was the birthday of one of the most popular Gods worshipped in the Hindu Religion: Ganesha, the elephant headed God. Starting around six o’clock many troops of drummers congregated on the street outside of our apartment. They were drumming in front of a rather large Ganesha idol and there were many youth dancing in the streets. Geeta’s cousin had invited us over for dinner so Michael, Geeta, and I loaded up into an auto-rickshaw and made our way over to Geeta’s cousins house. For the festival of Ganesha’s birthday in Bangalore, the local Hindu families each bought an idol of Ganesha, some made of clay while others are made of salt, and decorate it and give it an offering of food in the form of a meal, which is placed in front of the statue. Then, sometime in the early to late evening hours the families join a procession of thousands to Ulsoor Lake, which has a section of it partitioned off especially for this event. The Ganesha statues, some measuring 12 feet high or more, are then dunked and immersed in the water and left to dissolve. This is because they are giving the statue back to the earth, from whence it came. After looking at Geeta’s cousins dressed up Ganesha Idol, Michael and I went to the lake to watch the festivities while Geeta made her way home. Upon nearing the part of the lake where the dunking was being held, neither Michael nor I knew what to expect. Upon entering the gates our eyes beheld a glorious, shocking, bewildering, amazing, surprising sight. Thousands upon Thousands of people were all standing around a square arena with descending stairs on all sides that led to a giant pool of brown brackish water. Hundreds of people at a time were dunking both themselves and their Ganesha Idols in Adam's ale (water). The smell of incense invaded our nostrils and our brains went wild with this sight, which held no comparison to anything previously seen in both of our pasts. The stimulus was amazing and we watched as a crane would slowly lower pallet after pallet of giant Ganesha statues along with eight to ten men to the waters surface. The men would then exert five minutes of extreme effort to get the statue dumped into the water. The energy, which was emitted from the crowd, was absolutely amazing as thousands of people were all celebrating this festival for Ganesha. The only thing I can compare it to would be New Years Eve at Times Square, only on a smaller scale.

Again, Michael and I being the only white people we could spot, stood out. And because of that we got a lot of attention ourselves, no doubt making people wonder why a couple of white guys would want to observe this festival of Ganesha. Group after group of Ganesha dunkers would stop by us and ask us to take their picture. A few even erupted into cheers upon hearing that we liked India, and had us dance with them. After about 45 minutes of watching the dunking, which was going to continue for hours, Michael and I went across the street to visit the Ganesha temple and then made our way home, with people stopping us on the street every five minutes or so wanting to talk with us and have us document the occasion by taking a picture that in all likelihood would never be seen by their eyes.

It was an intense evening to be sure, and the experience is one whose essence can truly not be given by text and photo alone.

The adventures never stop and I am continually showered with bounty upon bounty. For all of those whose prayers are directed this way, they are felt, and reciprocated generously.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mission Accomplished

Caitlin Johnson played an integral role in the process of preparing me for my trip to India. Caitlin had given a year of volunteer work for the Bahá’i faith in India a few years back, and therefore was quite well versed in Indian culture. She gave me tips on food, dress, language, mosquitoes, among many other things. I do not mean to insult her humbleness by devoting a few paragraphs to her, however I feel it quite necessary in order to tell this tale. Among the activities she told me I needed to do during my stay in India was to listen to a certain Mr. Afshin give a talk. “A prolific speaker he is”, she said (the staff at current time is not able to give 100% assurance that Caitlin actually said that, so please disregard the quotations, they are only for effect – ed.) “You must see him speak!” Caitlin then asked me if I would be willing to bring a gift across seas to give to Mr. Afshin, who resides in Bangalore. I let her know that I would be more than wiling, and for the last few months, have had a package in tow for Mr. Afshin & Family. This last Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Afshin, and their son Naim at a talk he gave on the subject of “The nonexistence of evil”.

It was held at a weekly gathering hosted by various Bahá’is known as “Open House”, where people gather and discuss certain topics. It was held on the terrace of a very beautiful house, and as the evening went on, a discussion that was quite enlightening was passed among the some 30 participants. Mr. Afshin is indeed quite a prolific speaker and I felt honored to be able to meet him.

So without Further ado, I give you photographic evidence that Caitlin’s package did indeed make it safely into the hands of Mr. Afshin.

The range of experiences I have had since arriving in India are so many, I thought I would make a quick list of things I have taken note of that differ from the states:

The toilet paper rolls (when they have them) are a bit smaller than the ones in the states.

Traffic morphs around any obstacle it may have, making it safer than in America to stand in the middle of two lanes of speeding vehicles.

IST (India standard time, the time zone we are in) also can stand for “India Stretchable time”

I wake up to the Muslim call to prayer every morning, and hear it often throughout the day.

Even middle-class families can afford to have a maid come to clean and cook everyday.

The bills of India's money (the rupee) decrease in size as they decrease in value.

People of every religion can co-exist peacefully with one another, as there might be a mosque, a cathedral, a temple, and a church all on the same block.

If you are white, people will stare.

The vehicle drivers oftentimes turn off their engines at a red light, I assume to save petrol.

I am refered to as "Boss" by most people I do business with.

Indians are the most hospitable, welcoming people I have ever been around.

Food is not eaten with utensils most of the time, but with your right hand. This is a practice I have gotten quite used to doing.

Haggling is a normal occurrence and most of the time you can get things for cheaper if you are willing to negotiate.

There are piles of trash on some streets.

A slum with people living in tents may be only two kilometers from an upscale neighborhood.

There is no posted speed limit anywhere throughout the city.

There are many more fruits and vegetables on the planet besides the standard fare known to Americans.

You do see cows on the side of the road all over the city.

People will try to take advantage of you, assuming that because you are foreign you have lots of money.

Because you are foreign, people are interested in why you have come to India, and are eager to show you the best that their country has to offer.

Little children seem to stare the most, and are the most curious and have very little inhibitions when it comes to talking to you. They seem to make a game of trying to touch the “white guy” as they will come up to me and want to shake my hand, and when they do they will run off laughing as they catch up with their friends. I carry a small compass on me to help me with my sense of direction, and the children are often fascinated with such a simple object, wanting me to explain to them how it works and why I have it, the same with my mobile phone. I love stopping to talk with a child who has asked me my name, and often find that within minutes I have a large group around me wanting to know “What food is popular in America?” “What sport is popular in America?” and “Why did you come to India?” I was in a neighborhood the other night talking with a group of children for nearly an hour and they asked me upon leaving if I was going to come back. I noted the location of the neighborhood and have every intention of returning to see them again. What beautiful characters children have, I now perhaps understand why ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved them so dearly.

India continues to excite, and having a city full of experiences waiting at my fingertips to be explored is an exhilarating notion to say the least.

I appreciate all of your comments, I love you all and think of you often.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

A day of adventure

ICMIS, the institute where I will be attending classes for the next year, is where I spent a majority of my time yesterday. I met my fellow students; there are 8 of us. It is a small number, but we seem to get along quite well and will no doubt have a good time learning about India together. We officially registered for classes and received our mobile phones. My class schedule is as follows:

9:00 - 10:30: Indian/British Literature
10:45 - 12:15: Hindu Mythology
12:30 - 2:00: Hindi as a foreign Language

9:00 – 10:30: Religions of India
10:45 – 12:15: Indian Civilization

10:45 – 12:15: Hindu Mythology
12:30 - 2:00: Indian/British Literature

9:00 – 10:30: Religions of India
10:45 – 12:15: Indian Civilization
12:30 - 2:00: Hindi as a foreign Language

I am looking forward to starting my classes, they seem like an interesting bunch.

I received, as I stated earlier, my mobile phone yesterday. They don’t use the term “cell” that often as it is referred to as your “mobile”. It is an interesting system they have. Unlike in the states where you join a carrier and have a plan with so many minutes a month, over here when you receive your phone, initially the only people you can call are others with your same service provider, in this case “reliance”. You have to “charge” your phone by going to a phone shop and buying minutes for your phone. And also, unlike the states, it is cheaper to text message (one rupee per text) than to call someone, leading to texting being a preferred means of communicating.

Our tuition includes a ride to and from our homes to the school, and it is roughly a half hour commute from the “heart of the city” to the outskirts of Bangalore, where our school is located. After we were dropped back home yesterday from orientation, Michael (my flat mate) and I decided to walk Tara (another girl attending classes) home. Tara lives in Cook town, and Michael and I in Frazer Town, it is probably 2-3 km to Tara’s flat. As it is monsoon season here, weather can be very unpredictable and it can start pouring rain very unexpectedly. As we were walking it started to rain, Tara and Michael spotted a church across the street and people were entering, we decided to dip into the church A. because it was about to pour, B. because we though it would be interesting to see a Christian service in India, which is majority Hindu. As we were waved into the church and sat down in a pew we waited for the service to begin. As people kept entering, we noticed how immaculate everyone was looking, men in dress pants and shirts, bright yellows and blues, greens and reds. Sari’s so beautiful it made you happy to look at them, and also very aware of how much you stuck out, with just jeans and a t-shirt, and white skin. I couldn’t help but feel as if many different people were staring at us. Three white foreigners with foreign clothing amidst a sea of brown skin and colorful garments.

Eventually the flood of people entering the church slowed down, and the crowd got quiet. At this point we had been in the church for around 20 minutes and had started to wonder why they were having a service on Friday night. One of us in the group made the comment “that would be funny if this was someone’s wedding”, and not a moment after the words finished leaving the lips the wedding march started playing on the organ. As the couple walked down the center aisle, Michael and I exchanged glances and burst out laughing, not knowing what to make of the situation. Here we were at a complete strangers wedding! The service was mostly in a foreign language (which we learned later was Telagu) with a few words of English spoken in between sections.

There was a wedding photographer and a man taking video the whole time. As the man with the video camera was sweeping the crowds we couldn’t help but think of what the couple would think when they saw us in the crowd on their wedding video. And at one point the photographer came to our pew and took a very close up photo of Tara, Michael and I. We sat through the entire service with people catching us in their eyes every so often, giving us strange looks. We just kept laughing the whole time at the awkwardness of the situation!

As the bride and groom left the church after the wedding, the preacher tracked us down and he invited us into his office. He bought us all sprites and we talked for a good half hour about the church, which was the Church of South India. He told us that he thought we may have been colleagues of the man getting married and had thrown in the few words of English so that we could follow what was going on. It was at that moment we realized how easy we must have stuck out, as we were close to the back in a good sized church, yet the preacher had noticed us right away! As we said our goodbyes we exchanged mobile numbers and he invited us to dinner at his house sometime in the future.

We then walked Tara home and hung out at her flat for about an hour. As Michael and I walked back to our apartment, we couldn’t help but realize what a fun time we had had that night.

It is only when you venture out when you get stories that you will tell when you are ninety.