Monday, August 30, 2010

World's Best Countries

Interestingly, I was watching The Colbert Report yesterday and busted up laughing at his usual comments regarding Canada, Americans love to poke fun at Canada. And no, I don't know why, we just do. The episode was hilarious though, he discusses the latest article in Newsweek magazine on "The World's Best Countries".

Check out the clip here... (the embed didn't work on blogger for some reason, but please check out the clip before reading further)

This prompted me to research the article in Newsweek he was talking about, the "World's Best Country" ratings. I checked out their website where they have an "Interactive Infograph" of EVERY country in the world and it's rankings with Education, Health, Quality of Life, Economic Dynamism, and Political Environment. It was fascinating to see, and very surprising. Surprising to me that the U.S. made it as high as 11 on the rankings list. Considering our horrible health care system and education falling farther and farther behind. But I suppose 11 seems somewhat accurate. I was also surprised that Japan was not higher, only making it to number 9. Tsk tsk Japan!

Anyway, of course I looked up India, which made it to a shocking (yet not shocking) #78. Wow. I mean I imagined them behind, but I was surprised such countries like Honduras, Tunisia, Colombia, Philippines, Jordon, among other Middle Eastern countries that were ranked higher than India. As I said...makes sense, yet doesn't, and why is that? I can only explain it this way, it's due to the huge extremes in India. A massive difference between the "haves" and "have nots". It's so drastic sometimes you almost forget that like NOBODY shops at these malls you go to, except you, other expats, and the other 10% of the country who actually can. You live in a huge contrast, especially when volunteering where you see the lowest of the low, yet go shop at what (In India) is considered the best of the best. It's just weird.

Even Botswana and Kenya ranked higher on Education than India, tsk tsk India.

Check the stats for yourself here. (scroll down to #78 and hover over India)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

AIC is on CNN ~

There was a huge excitement over the fact that Liz & Julia (founders of AIC) got - our oldest boy at AIC- Akash into this exclusive summer camp program in the U.S. at Exeter Academy. The school even gave him a full scholarship into their (very expensive) program, and an AIC donor offered to pay for his round trip ticket. This all happened back in January/February, and it was such a big deal that he was accepted, it's a very difficult program to get into. He was so excited. Every time we spoke he would ask questions about the U.S. and what to expect, he loved talking about it. I remember telling him about how in the US we don't have dogs running around wild like in India. He thought that was so strange, he said "Well then where are all the dogs?" I said, "Mostly people own them, as pets, they are loved and cared for." I told him "The ones that don't have homes go into animal shelters until they're adopted." This concept was so foreign to him and fascinating. I was explaining traffic laws, and how you can't just cross the street in the U.S. where ever you want like in India. How everything is going to be very clean, and no trash on the ground (mostly). It was like describing heaven....a dreamland to him.

He was beyond excited. Akash has never really been outside of Pune, let alone India. Everyone was so excited for this to happen for him. I couldn't wait for him to return to India after his time in the U.S. and give the other kids hope too. It would be good to give the other kids here some dreams to wish for in their own future. With their backgrounds, even though they live in this house and go to school and get fed everyday, it's hard to keep a hope alive that there is something actually better than this out there. That there is something more than just being fed and having a roof over your head. I really thought this trip with Akash would light their imaginations afire....give them the reality of what's possible for them. Help build their aspirations and give some real motivation.

It's extremely hard for an average Indian to get an American visa. Unlike U.S. citizens who can basically travel anywhere "visa-free", Indians cannot go anywhere without visas. Just getting Akash's birth certificates took months, City Hall here is ridiculously corrupt and refused to give any birth certificate to a slum kid unless bribes were paid (only way to get things done here). After finally receiving the passport, it was sent to the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai for the visa, where ultimately it was denied. Basically, because he is a slum boy. They won't send him to the U.S. for fear he'll just run off and never come back.

When I watch this it makes me cry. I guess because I know Akash and how excited he was. He doesn't talk to me about not getting his visa because he is still really upset about it. It really breaks my heart.

It was originally supposed to be done as a "Slum boy gets dream of going to the U.S." type of news piece, however they changed the story after his visa was denied.

Monday, July 26, 2010

There is something very magical about rain. Of course, being raised in Southern California where you get rain maybe 3 times a year probably has something to do with my personal feelings towards rain. I remember as a child those days where we'd have a full days rain (ultra rare) and it feeling like a real winter to me. You see, we don't have huge change in seasons in Southern California, it's pretty much glorious weather year round. Mild temperatures without a cloud in the sky. This is what I grew up with, never too hot, never too cold. Sounds boring, but when it's all you're used too, any change in weather is considered 'freaky'. Like rain. But oh how I loved the rain, such magic! Cold wet rain,wearing your raincoat, carrying and umbrella, coming home and warming up to a fire my Mom would light in the fireplace. This is my winter.

Of course for Remi it's much the opposite, he loathes the rain. Hailing from Lille (Northern France) where it rains continuously throughout the year, with gloomy cloudy weather every day. Having only a brief window of summer in which the sun graced you with it's presence...I can see why he hates the rain.

But, it's monsoon season in India right now and as I'm typing the rain is pouring outside my window. It has been raining steady for the past week now, usually stopping at night and starting again in the morning. I've never experienced rains like here in India before. Last year I arrived during monsoon, but I was told it was a somewhat weak season. But this year has been pretty much on the mark, pouring rain every day.

I love it. It makes me feel like a child again, the excitement of the rain falling, the sounds, the smell of wet asphalt. It makes me want to curl up on my couch and read a book while sipping hot coco. I can't help it, I love anything that makes me feel like a kid.

(Attached a news report of this years monsoon arrival, though it's in Hindi you can see some of the video of the rains)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Living in India makes you (or at least it should make you) more interested in learning about the country itself. After all, you are living in it. As a result I spend some of my time researching many a questions.

Google has that interesting feature that lets you perfect your search to their most common phrased questioned. If you start typing this, "Why is India so " --- Google will pop up with some suggestions to finish your question. You might be interested to know the most commonly phrased questions on India. Number one being "Why is India so dirty" second being "Why is India so poor" and third "Why is India so hot".

Out of curiosity, I chose the number one question. "Dirty" was not as interesting as I'd thought it'd be. I was hoping for some thought provoking reasons, something to do with infrastructure, perhaps a time and date when things began to get bad, a politicians name from history. Some concrete evidence. But nothing really substantial came up, only Indian blogs titled "Why foreigners think India is so dirty" or questions posed to other Indians such as "Are we dirty?". Some were fairly good and had some interesting theories, but a majority do the same thing most Indians do. Which is to tell you you're wrong and that India is amazing and they'd never leave it in a million trillion years (even though they've never been anywhere else). Or they'll cop an attitude about the rumour even being passed around that their country IS dirty. Or the one I am most sick of hearing about, when they actually admit to their country being somewhat dirty but boast about how great their country will be later. Throw in some comments about how they'll kick everyone elses' ass in the THE FUTURE and you have yourself the typical majority response from the "Proud Indian" (notice I said majority, obviously not everyone feels this way).

The future, the future, the future. That's the trend I am noticing. It's all you'll see them say, on any given Youtube video showing India as is, poor people, dirt, animal cruelty. People actually comment "India doesn't look like that! Typical foreigners, always giving us a bad name by filming the bad areas." Which is a total lie I have to tell you. I came to India thinking there would be "bad areas", areas that were of course dirty, etc. But I assumed with all the money in India, and this emerging middle class, that surely there would be "nice areas" too? But there isn't, in fact when I first moved here I asked one of my fellow expats this (now ridiculous) question, "So where are the nice areas in town?" she laughed for about 5 minutes in my face. They simply DON'T EXIST.

India could be great. It's an undeniable fact. But they must let go of these fixations on being #1. Or should I say obsession? China is on the path to becoming AND will no doubt be #1, having just visited there I feel like they're light years ahead of India, especially when it comes to the standard of living. If India would stop looking outward and quit worrying about being better than everyone they may have a chance at being great in the next 50 years or so. But, it doesn't change how it is here NOW, does it? India is still a dirty place to live in the present day. That is just a fact.

I do however look forward to seeing India's progress.

(Sidenote: Out of curiosity I typed, "Why is the US so --" the answers Google provided were also interesting. Since it's World Cup season, #1 was "bad at soccer", #2 dependant on oil, #3 "powerful" #4 "rich")

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finally home!!!

Remi and I got back from our three week Asian vacation few days ago. Let me just say, three weeks is a long time!

I am only now able to reflect and begin going through all the photos. So far we have posted Beijing and Shanghai albums on our facebook. Still working on Hong Kong, Phuket, and Singapore. On top of that we have mountains of laundry to do and no food in the house.

Today however I visit the kids to give them some bracelets I picked up for them in Thailand. I'm so excited, I haven't seen them in nearly a month! I miss those guys so much! I am just hoping they don't fight over who gets what color bracelet (always an issue when lots of kids are involved).

Here is one pic from the first set of photos. Our journey began in Beijing, we visited the Great Wall on the second day. We walked so incredibly far that day that we actually got to parts of the wall which were empty of the typical tourist scene. It was so peaceful and amazing out there alone on this ancient piece of history. Though I did feel like I might die on a few of the really steep climbs, the reward was totally worth it!

I will post a better update this week...

In the meantime I leave you with a song my driver was singing to yesterday in the car. Oh India, how weird are your tastes in music...


Mary's Travels (so far!)