Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In the meantime, the kids are all out of school. There was a two week period where all the Outreach kids as well as our Residential kids were enrolled in a "summer camp" program. Where every day they had lots of super fun activities. Like dance classes, movies, arts and crafts. It was so much fun! Especially watching them during their dance practices, they're all so talented, it's so much fun to watch. Pictured here is the nursey school kids. They are so fascinated when I come with my camera, they love to see pictures of themselves. The beauty in the middle is Gauri (5 yrs old), she's very outgoing and always is interested in what Didis have to say. She'll ask you any and every question she can think of to say in English.

But now that summer camp is over our rez kids have lots of free time on their hands. I have been waiting for these moments! Especially since the big push during exams, where we basically did non-stop studying. This free time was much needed. Now we can finally do some fun things! Tresta Didi and I have organized a poster making contest. Each one of the kids will be given a poster to decorate with whatever they want. When it's finished we're going to have them laminated and hung up in the Volunteer Apartments. Since those apartments are virtually empty and devoid of love we thought these posters would add some much needed cheer. The kids all leave Thursday for a trip to Goa. Once they're all gone Tresta and I plan to clean up the volunteer apartment and purchase a few needed items as well as hang all the new posters created by the kids.

The general theme of the posters is a sort of "welcome to AIC, thanks for coming". They all seemed really excited and Tresta and I bought some really nice markers, paints, glitter, a and amazing colored wrapping paper to use for decorations. Yesterday they spent an hour brainstorming and practising their ideas on scratch paper. Today is the day to work on the posters and Tresta and I are so excited!!! Some of them came up with some amazing ideas, even little Poonam had some really cute drawings of the sun and a mouse eating ice cream. It's going to be so cute when finished!

(I will post pics of the completed posters)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Bored today, decided to finally crack open this box of the henna cones I'd bought nearly 4 months ago. Henna cones are what's used to apply mehendi, think of frosting a cake and it's basically the same tool.

First foot turned out really funky. I was going to just "free-hand" it. Since I was a little girl my sister, Mom, and I would use fountain pens to put designs on each others feet while we watched tv. So with this background I had decided I was competent enough to do this without any practice. However I over did it, and now my right foot looks like a hodge podge of randomness.
Second foot, which is my left (pictured here). I stencilled the design first, which was so much easier. After doing half the design my hands got a little shakey so Remi took over applying the henna. He did a really nice job and did a little free-hand towards my heel and atop the ankle.

I did my left hand myself while watching a movie on HBO. I'd found a simple enough design via google images and stencilled it first again with pen. It went pretty smoothly. When I was finished I was sort of sad. I had one botched foot, one nice foot, one nice left hand, and Remi was too annoyed to do my right hand. Since I couldn't do my right hand myself (I'm right-handed) I now I have nothing left to tattoo. And it's so much fun too!!! The more I do it the better I get. I asked Remi if he'd let me do some on him but he wasn't having it.

I plan on bringing lots of these boxes of henna cones back to California this summer. I can already tell this will be an excellent activity to do with the women in my family.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not an easy task.

First of all, it's not like the guys can be there to fix problems in your apartment when you're not there. You can't leave anyone alone in your place, unlike in the U.S. where you can leave the cable guy alone to install your cable while your gone, have to babysit them.

So you have be present. That always sucks. Having like 5 Indian dudes in your house staring at you is weird. On top of that they almost always smell to high heavens. I don't know why this is, but they just always do. Remi came home once after they'd been gone for nearly an hour and the apartment still stunk. We had to open all the windows (with scorching heat outside) just to flush the air out.

They don't care about your stuff whatsoever. They'll step barefoot on your leather couch, drill into your wall letting dust fly all over your couch, tv, etc. Step on your counter-tops barefoot, BAREFOOT, and leave a smell that requires mass amounts of scrubbing to get out. On top of that they've completely cracked all the paint where they've drilled and left smudge prints all over the walls they were working on.

They never quite fix anything. Everything is either a temporary fix which falls apart later or they break something else in the process of fixing what you called them for. Like for example we had a guy come to fix a tile in the kitchen that the AC installer had broke when he was installing the AC. But the tile guy not only does THE worst job glueing the tile back but he also cracks the tile next to the one he was fixing (see picture above). So now it looks even worse!

This is typical India though, Remi and I try so hard to laugh it off but it gets to a point where you literally expect shit to go wrong. Remi calls it the lottery, you never know if you'll win or lose. If something here actually goes right, as in according to plan, on time, at the cost promised,'re AMAZED beyond WORDS.

I'm not trying to be rude here either, as I've mentioned before I have a love/hate relationship with India and Indian culture in general. These are one of the things I do not not like. The total lack of respect, diligence, or pride in ones job. And of course they aren't all like this, I am making a big generalization. However, my experience compiled with the same horror stories from other fellow expats had lead me to believe this is a normal thing around India.

I wonder how I will feel transitioning back into the U.S. How I much patience I will have earned through countless frustrations endured here. I am absolutely positive India has made me a better person, in its own weird freakish way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I forgot to mention what I've been really up to lately. I just reread my last post and it's so all over the place. Aside from the kids exams, for the past weeks I've made a really good friend out of Tresta.

So, Tresta is a fellow volunteer here with AIC. Unlike other volunteers, but LIKE me, she lives here. She lives with her boyfriend in a nice apartment in Kaliyani Nagar. Since Tresta volunteered for AIC back in 2008 and is now back again, she has a lot of insights in how much AIC has grown and improved. She also has tons of wonderful India knowledge. Both her and her boyfriend have travelled India and her boyfriend has lived in Pune for 4 years now. They know all the best restaurants in Pune. It's so nice to have someone with this knowledge. Not the same as having an Indian friend of course (still looking for one ;p) but good enough.

In light of the fact that during the week I spend my time at AIC with her, Tresta has offered their extra guest room to me to stay in when I stay the nights in town. Even though Remi and I technically LIVE in Pune, we're actually out in Fursungi which is quite far from the downtown/fun areas. So of course I took her up on this offer, it's so much easier for me this way. So I am away from Remi 2 nights a week but he doesn't mind since he is so crazy busy with work at the moment anyway. Plus, he has always encouraged my work with AIC since day one, which I appreciate.

Just last week Tresta, her BF, and I went out to dinner at Malaka Spice (funny name because I am like 99% sure 'malaka' in Greek means 'asshole') for the first time, well first time for me, not them...they're regulars. The food is all Asian style, and by that I mean the menu is a mix up of Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, even Indian style foods. The food was so delicious! And much needed after weeks of only Indian food. Remi was so jealous when I told him I got to eat some decent Thai food finally, and can't wait to try the restaurant out for himself. Thai and Sushi are Remi's two favorite foods. The atmosphere here is great, we ate outside (luckily I had my mosquito spray) and were brought plenty of drinks for once. Although the mixed drinks are a little weak (which all us expats agreed tend to be in India) everything else was perfect. The appetizers were so yummy, I could eat plates of these little kebabs and dumplings. I am definitely going back with Remi.

As a rule I find in fancier restaurants in India you tend to get a little annoyed with the waiters. They either never bring you drinks you ask for (annoying!), they often bring you something different than what you ordered (Remi calls it the 'lottery'), or they come to your table too often and bother you with questions they should have asked the first time they took your order. They also don't hesitate to interrupt your conversations (which I hate). And they really try to push you to order more appetizers than you want and really really push desserts, even though you've kindly told them no several times already, and even when you finally say 'If I eat another bite I'll explode', they'll still pester you! You really have to put your foot down and say NOOOOOO THANK YOU!!!!

It gets old, but it's India.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

~ Exam Week! ~

Julia is in Italy for the week and exams have officially started for the kids at AIC. Tresta and I have been working round the clock to prepare all the kids. So far we have 4th standard covered, they all seem like they'll do fine on their upcoming SST. Pooja, our only 2nd standard received a 99% on her English exam. AMAZING to think that only a year ago she barely spoke English and now she's aceing her exams. She's been doing so well they want to bump her into 3rd standard.

Our 6th standard kids will probably do the best, they've been doing consistently well on their mock exams over the past weeks. Sanjay actually broke his wrist (playing in our cement yard) the day before his first exam. It's his writing hand too, in light of this accident his teacher decided to take an average score from all his previous exams and use it as his final score. Since it was so high, Sanjay is now officially bumped to 7th standard!!! He was so excited about this news until I told him that just because he doesn't have to take his exams doesn't mean he gets to sit around doing nothing.

Poonam, our latest addition is in dire need of some help with English. I spend as much time with her as I can lately and she's got a firm understanding of the ABCs and counting 1-20. However she needs to know more fruit/vegetable vocabulary and animals before she will be accepted into 1st standard (which is where we'd like her to go). Poonam is the hardest because she's only 6 and was basically abandoned by her parents at the Pune train station (where she'd been living when we found her). Her head is loaded with lice (which she's spread to all the other kids, hopefully not me!!! *scratches head*), she's a Waghri (same as Pooja but differen't from the other kids) which makes her slightly more of an outsider. She speaks NO English. Which is the most difficult in a house that (when Didi's and Dada's are around) speaks predominantly English. She's often feeling left out and as a result cries a lot and will be extremely naughty. We've already caught her asking neighbors for mangos, claiming we don't feed her. She's a sneaky little 6 year old.

We've paired her up with Sanjay (who really didn't like her) who will teach her more vocabulary so she'll be able to get into either kindergarten or 1st standard by next school year. A lot of work ahead of those two but it's cute seeing them study together. I've already seen Poonam's attitude improve. She finally treats study time like "school time" and she's excited to show me her book and all her knowledge after a good study session.

I've become quite fond of little Poonam, she's so skinny and her voice is so high. We call her our pixie, or fairy sometimes. This little girl is so adorable, she's going to be gorgeous when she's older. Great face and perfect white teeth (almost unheard of in the slums). She's got a bright future ahead of her and I feel so happy I get to be apart of these first vital moments in her life.

(The picture above is of our little sprite Poonam) :) Love that girl.


Mary's Travels (so far!)