Sunday, March 28, 2010

The pictures I posted here show Sanjay going for a swim in the pool at Solaris, in Pune. And Ramu enhoying his new birthday present alongside Tushar and Kajal.

Remi and I frequent the pool regularly, it's such a nice relaxing place to go on the weekend. I knew it would be a great reward for the kids if they did well on their upcoming exams. Tends to happen everywhere I go these days, "I wonder what the kids would think of this?", "The kids would LOVE this!", etc. Having trips like these as rewards for good grades or behaviour is the best tool we have. It adds to their motivation. For this trip we only took the three winners who did the best on their "mock" exams. We knew their great time will then spread like wild fire to the other kids and give them the carrot on the end of the stick that many of them need. It was a complete success, once back home they all discussed their fun at the pool. Some kids were jealous, some excited at the prospect of going next time, and some were just as excited as if they'd gone themselves. They all revelled at the photos I showed from my camera of Sanjay doing a dive, Geeta in the floaty, and Sonali in her new swim suit. Can't wait to see how this week of studying goes, I expect everyone to be at their best behaviour!

After our day of fun and sun we picked up a birthday cake for Ramu in town and also his birthday present, a new tricycle!!! He was so excited!!! After cake Kajal brought it out and his eyes totally lit up. We were worried that his feet wouldn't reach the pedals but with the help of his siblings he scoots around nicely. Ramu seemed to care little for cake or the fact it was his birthday, he just wanted to ride that tricycle!

Today is Monday and Julia (on-side director) is out of town for a week. Tresta and I are going to keep the kids in line the best we can, it's exams week so the house will be very busy with studying.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm confused about a lot of things in India. I never really understand things like how babus can exist so openly. How so many people who claim to live in the "best country in the world" (they seriously believe that here), can allow such horrible disgusting blatant forms of corruption. Down to even the tiniest thing, for example applying for a BPL (below poverty level) card, which is supposed to be FREE cannot be obtained without slipping some rupees to the clerk who handles the forms. You think people who can't even afford a bag of rice will be able to afford the bribe money required for this form?! Obtaining birth or death certificates (also free) require bribes as well. These are only small examples, setting up a business here for a foreigner is incredibly difficult. I honestly don't see how it's worth it. The bribes, the delays, the incompetence with a lot of the workers...I wonder if they factor those things in when companies are like, "Hey, let's set up in's cheap there!"

And btw, it's not that cheap any more. India's inflation rates are through the roof. Every year prices are drastically higher for not only food but even getting clothing or home items. If they don't do something about it, companies are going to be less inclined to set up shop here. Currently the only reason (aside from tapping into the new market here if your selling your products) is the fact that it's cheap.

I could go on and on with examples of civil servants (who btw, are un-sackable in this country) sit around making money by doing nothing. Roads remain unfixed, irrigation goes to rich farmers only, electricity remains shut off in most of the rural areas. The list goes on and on...

What irks me most about all of this, is their total lack of shame, they're not even trying to hide their love of money here. I've been asked for money to park in lots that are free, I've been told I need pay to see the man in charge of the FRO (foreigners/visas) which is supposed to be FREE, or sometimes just pay a cop that stops you for no reason who will make up a reason to get some of your money.

It's all accepted here as perfectly OK.

I know every country has it's problems, I'm not saying the US isn't loaded with it's fair share of corruption. Of course it exists everywhere, but getting caught means jail in the US. You know, ...cuz it's like, BAD to take money that's not yours. So you hide the fact you do it. But here it's like, whatever...everyone does it, who cares? India has so many problems and so much corruption I just don't see them becoming a world power any time soon. If you cannot even fix simple problems like INFRASTRUCTURE how do you expect to be a world power in the next 10 years? If you cannot supply your people with drinking water (a project India promised would be finished back in the 1970's), or even basic food and sanitation...what...the...heck?! How do you see yourself as a world power? It's like almost a joke to me and if anyone has ever been here you'd laugh too.

If you look back on India from Gandhi's day (1940's) until mid 90's, almost nothing had changed. It would look relatively the same. Only in the 90's with their IT and knowledge of English (thanks to the Brits) is India even remotely competitive with China. Even with all their natural resources, knowledge, and wealth they cannot handle simple things like enforcing traffic laws, fixing pot holes in a road, or supplying electricity. All the new buildings and construction going on are still under this old mentality of "it's good enough" (sort of like an Indian standard) they don't have any desire for perfection here. There are no building codes and electrical safety checks...and even if there was, you could just bribe your way out of it anyway. They honestly don't believe in buying expensive quality building materials or hiring professional skilled electricians. Why do that when you can hire cheap and buy cheap? Who cares if a brand new apartment building is falling apart in 2 years? As long as it's up. Honestly, I just don't foresee this "next world power" idea happening for India for a long time. If I were to guess, definitely not for (at least) another 40-50 years.

And what really cracks me up, is if you view some videos on youtube of people's India vacations. They show you India, they aren't showing you anything in particular, just...India. All the comments on these videos sing the same old song, "Why do foreigners always show the poor parts of India? Always giving us a bad name." HA. So laughable. Everywhere you go in India looks the same, there is no "nice areas" here. Everywhere there are stalls, dirt, cows, people, rickshaws blowing smog in your face, beggers, poor people, shoeless children, people going to the bathroom, and loads of trash. It's like the young rich India is in denial that this is how their country looks. They're fooled by their own Bollywood films or TV commercials. Like that is what life is REALLY like here! It's so bizarre. They've either never been outside of India or they live in some fantasy land.

Back to becoming a "world power" idea. There is so much culturally they'd have to change, and they just don't want to give up their deep rooted superstitions, ideas on castes, communalism, and this sort of idea that some how an Indian with wealth is better than a villager. Until they see all their own people as worthy, as humans, as their fellow Indians...they will never fix any problems. Because the root of their problems is not only their severe corruption but their high opinions of themselves (those who make money versus those who don't).

Sorry for the long complaining post. But sometimes this just builds up inside me, working with the kids from tribes that are (even to this day) literally spat on, takes it's toll on my spirits. Being in the slums, seeing all the injustices, it's just enough to make you want to scream sometimes. HOW CAN PEOPLE WALK AROUND SPENDING LOADS OF MONEY ON FANCY CLOTHES AND JEWELRY WHEN PEOPLE DON'T EVEN HAVE WATER TO DRINK???

WHAT THE F***!?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This weekend was a special festival the school put on. Mostly to sort of put the name of the school out there (since it's still only in it's second year) and attract new students. It's going on right now as I type. There has been music going since 11am this morning. It's a two day event and yesterday they had a lot of music, games, some equivalent of a bouncy house but made for soccer, and other random things. All night they had a really famous rock band play until 11pm. It was so loud I couldn't watch tv at night. Today was mainly paint-ball. Pictured above is Remi and his team, I believe Remi won both matches he played. He is always so calm and methodical when he plays, he also has deadly accuracy with fire arms, it's scary. I would have played, I do love paint-ball. But it's was already scorching hot outside (around 100 degrees), and the idea of putting on these smelly suits that the stinky male students had already been sweating in all day really deterred me. It was so hot that just standing outside watching them for 20 minutes and I was ready to come in. When I finally came back to the AC in our apartment I checked my face in the mirror and it was bright red and hot to the touch.

Yeah so...something you might not know, India is HOT. Hehe.

Friday, March 5, 2010

~ Holi Festival 2010 ~

Holi is a Hindu holiday in India lasting three days, though some people say a week. Now, if you ask the average Indian here what Holi is about, you'll get mixed responses. I think most don't really know, they call it the "Festival of Colors" and that's about it. In fact, I had a Muslim once tell me it's not even a Hindu holiday, that it's just a day of "fun" with colors, which is why sometimes you can find Muslims playing. Since I couldn't seem to get a straight response out of anyone I researched it myself.

The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli Vandana in Sanskrit,also Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing coloured powder and coloured water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister ofHiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion.

So in fact, it is a Hindu holiday. I started out on the campus here, the students weren't allowed the day off (which they were super pissed about), weird since most of Inida gets t he day off. However, Remi and I knew they'd find ways to play Holi somehow, so Remi made sure to wear an older dark shirt with an old pair of jeans. As expected, during the students lunch break Holi broke out. I watched from my apartment as they ran around dousing each other in water and powder. Eventually they turned on a water spout that sprayed water 30 feet in the air! The French students participated and it looked like they were having an awesome time. I would have joined them but my driver was arriving to take me to my Holi celebration at AIC. If I was wet with colored dyes all over me I doubt he'd let me in the car.

I wore one of Remi's old T-shirts with a pair of black leggings. The kids had already spent the morning playing Holi and had showered. They planned on restarting after lunch. Julia (on-site director) was already recovering from her serious scrubbing. All the kids were so happy and excited, except Kajal who made it abundantly clear she was NOT playing Holi after lunch. She was worried her hands would stain and they're not allowed to have any color on their hands at school.

After lunch the real mayhem began. What started with water guns quickly turned into large buckets of water, and then the powder broke out, smearing all over faces, rubbing in hair, sprinkling, dabbing, throwing, pouring...etc. After we were thoroughly covered we sat around in the sun to try and dry ourselves. Being soaking wet in India can still be pretty cold. After a mini break the water balloons began, the kids went crazy filling up the balloons and once all were filled launched an attack. I was pegged a couple times by Aakash and Tushar, they seemed to have the most vigor and accurancy.

Once we covered Simba (the dog) in color we were finally finished. I followed Nikita to the volunteer apartment for a shower. Most of the color however would not budge from anywhere. It stained my hair pink, my face had blue, yellow, and green and my arms and neck were purple and yellow. Luckily for me, Holi is a huge holiday so having stained skin or hair is acceptable for a few days. :)


Mary's Travels (so far!)