Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the journeys end.

6 hours on a bus + 3 hours @ Delhi airport + 9 hours on plane #1 + 2 hours @ Brussels airport + 8 hours on plane #2 + 5 hours @ Newark airport + 5 hours on plane #3 = HOME.

My journey to the other side of the world is over. It is weird to be home and have this adventure that I had been anticipating and then experiencing come to an end. It is definitely bitter sweet. I am happy to return to food I enjoy, a shower, toilet paper, my bed, my family and friends, my cell phone, and in summary, the comfortable life that I am lucky enough to live. But in spite of all these things, it is sad to leave this experience behind. I am afraid to forget India. I am afraid to forget what I have learned and the people I have met. I am afraid to forget the lessons I have been taught and the person I have become. In a small way, i am hoping these writings will overcome my fear of forgetfulness. Gandhi once said that "As human beings, our GREATNESS lies not so much in our ability to REMAKE the world, as in our ability to REMAKE OURSELVES." I have not changed the world, or India, but India has changed me. I feel like my eyes have been opened once again to a world beyond myself. I have interfaced with people outside my circle of friends and learned from them. I have been forced to embrace a culture in a way I have never done before. I have seen disease and poverty in a third world country for the first time. I have lived in conditions deemed less than desirable and grown to enjoy it. I have increased my desire to travel and see more of the people, cultures, and places that make our world an incredible creation. I have given, but I have RECEIVED even more. I am so blessed, and I am leaving this experience a more well rounded and better individual.

I am grateful to my Daddy, for his philosophy of providing his children with experiences to learn and grow, improving the people we have become and getting us closer to our goals. I am grateful for my Mom, for being supportive and excited for me to have this experience from the minute it was presented to me. I am thankful for her giving nature. It is because of this characteristic that this journey was made possible for me. I am grateful for my sweet Grandma Evy, who also helped to provide this experience for me. I miss and love her very much. And finally, I am grateful for INDIA for giving me the opportunity to REMAKE a portion of myself.


Um, I have ALWAYS wanted to ride an elephant and NOW I have! We went down town in Agra and had a quick ride on the back of an elephant. It was a little scary and also sad to see the driver poke the elephants ears to death in order to get him to cooperate. but it was a fun experience to have in INDIA.

We paid a visit to the marble factory in Agra. It was neat to go there after the Taj Mahal and see how the marble is made and then used to construct such features.

One of the girls in our group, Katie, bought a whole bunch of BINDI'S, the lovely dot the women of India wear in the middle of their forehead. We all wore them around for the day, another attempt to embrace the culture that so heavily influences this magnificent country.

We were able to spend a few quick hours shopping @ a market. The best purchase I made was some incredible Indian fabric I found to cut and piece together into a patchwork quilt. It is one of my New Year's resolutions to make a quilt so I am hoping this will give me heightened desire to accomplish this goal. It is SO beautiful! Also, Chelsea and I got HENNA tattoos from some guys on the street.

Our NEXT adventure was a visit to the AGRA FORT. It is the most important fort in India. The great Mughals Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here, and the country was governed from here. It contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was visited by foreign ambassadors, travellers and the highest dignitaries who participated in the making of history in India. Our group had a bit of a bad attitude about being there... it was hot and long and we had other things we preferred to be doing but Nitn, our lovely tour guide, insisted we visit this site. It really was fascinating to see.

This is the bathtub used by the 500 concubines who lived at the AGRA FORT. This is Chelsea and I trying to get creative with our photos... we are washing our hair in the bathtub...

Sadly this closes my adventures in AGRA, INDIA. We got back on the bus to head for the airport. 6 hours later we pulled into the Delhi airport, prepared for the long hours of travel ahead.

Monday, August 3, 2009

the taj mahal.

The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is considered one of the 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD and I got to see it! SIDE NOTE: I almost missed this opportunity thanks to a late night caring for the young and drunk as well as the lack of a wake-up call from the hotel. That is my excuse for my exhausted appearance in these photos, which is unfortunate. There is no description that I could give to do this building justice. It was absolutely amazing. It felt surreal to be there and experience something so unbelievable. We toured the grounds and the inside. The detail and symmetry is nothing but perfection and artistry @ its best. We were lucky to be there at sunrise which was breathtaking. There was a man who came up to Chelsea and I as we were taking pictures and he offered to take one for us, directing us to a great photo spot. We were so impressed with his work that we followed him around for another 10 minutes, posing for his pictures. Don't worry, we paid him. Steve was getting a little nervous about the sketchy situation and followed us around to make sure he did not pull any stunts. We are pretty sure he thought we were lesbians because he had us pose together for a photo as if we were standing @ an altar. We were laughing hysterically; great memories.

Yes, this is my evidence that I practiced YOGA @ the Taj Mahal. Best moments ever.

fridays adventures.

After sleep a whole 3 hours, we woke up to head to DELHI. It was rainy and everyone was running late, very frustrating. First, one of our buses did not show up. When it finally did, there was not enough space for our luggage and SHOCKINGLY, both mine and Chelsea's luggage were selected as some of the few to be strapped to the top of the bus with a rope to create space. Awesome. I spent the entire 2 hour drive to the airport hoping the rain wouldn't soak my belongings and the rope would do its job. Here is Steve strapping our stuff to the roof of the bus.

The bus ride turned even more adventurous and worrisome when Chelsea got quite sick. We ended up pulling the bus over and the two of us ran into the bushes out of sight. It was sketchy but we survived. We arrived @ the airport in time and made our flight. While sitting at the airport, Chelsea and I came up with 3 words to summarize the country of India: SKETCHY, PRIMITIVE, and INEFFICIENT. Arriving in Delhi was wonderful. The airport had at least a few white people and normal bathrooms that even included toilet paper! Such a contrast. We loaded our tour bus which was air conditioned and clean. We stopped @ a McDonalds for lunch where I ate french fries and a milk shake, the meat seemed a bit sketchy. We toured the city by bus before heading out to Agra. New Delhi has a European feel which makes sense because it was built by the British when they were still in power. It also reminded me a lot of Washington D.C., lots of grass, open space, clean streets, fences, all the government buildings, military, embassies, and the presidents home. The were guards on every corner and the whole city was well kept. It was really fascinating to see.

Agra is an interesting place. All I can think about is Aladdin and the city of Agraba! I am so happy to be here and experience yet another part of this country. These photos were taken on our way into this city:

We arrived @ our hotel which was incredible. It was so nice to feel clean and comfortable again, with nice showers and normal food! We were greeted @ the door and given flower leis and a yellow dot on our heads to make us feel right at home with the culture.

We headed to a rug store to see how they create such masterpieces. It was so interesting to watch the process and see the works of art. The ladies we were with from New Canaan spent lots of money so we were pampered with drinks and they let us take lots of pictures on their "magic carpets."

After our magic carpet rides, we returned to the hotel for an awesome buffet! Our hotel also had a DISCO BAR which you better believe we attended. Turns out no one else was there so we had the floor to ourselves. It ended up being our group of 30 and the DJ but it was the best dance party I have ever been to. Chelsea and I requested "Jai Ho" by the Pussy Cat Dolls, our theme song for the trip. We all went crazy and I loved every minute of it.

saying goodbye.

Since we are leaving early tomorrow morning for DELHI, we said goodbye to the kids @ RSO tonight. They are truly incredible. I feel blessed to have spent significant time with such great children. It is interesting for me to think about these children and their opportunities, or lack there of. I have a difficult time understanding why I was born in the USA and they were born in a third world country. Why do I have wealth, higher education, loving family, and they do not? Why are my opportunities such that I traveled to India for two weeks and they probably never have, and never will, leave the boundaries of their own communities. On the other hand, I think about the opportunities that are presented to these kids, such as Rising Star Outreach. The facilities provided for them are far better than where they have been. They are gaining an education. They are learning English, improving their job opportunities and paving the way for a better future. They are socially stimulated by friends, teachers, and volunteers who come to RSO to interact with, teach, and serve them. They are lucky children in their own way. I guess what matters most is what we choose to do with our opportunities, no matter what they are. I keep thinking about how ridiculously lucky I am to be in India and how if I walk away from this experience UNCHANGED, I have wasted my opportunity. I came here to serve and yet I am walking away a better person because these children have served me.


Prianka. We LOVE PEARLS.

She is adorable and LOVED my sunglasses.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

my fabulous final day @ RSO.

Today was amazing. It is not over yet but I am afraid I won't be able to post tonight because we will be busy packing up. We are leaving Rising Star Outreach @ about 4:00 am to head for Delhi. We went with the building team today out to do the final touches on the squatters (the Indian bathrooms we have been building in one of the colonies). This particular colony has an ART SCHOOL where the local lepers paint for a living. Most of them don't even have fingers and it was incredibly humbling to walk into the school and see multiple people barely holding a paint brush and yet, creating a masterpiece. One woman in particular caught my eye. Her name is SUNDARI. She was the sweetest old woman and Chelsea and I fell in love with her work. We both ended up buying a painting from her, as well as our friend, Steve. She was so amazed that we loved her work so much and as she watched us pay the man for her paintings, she stood there and cried. Chelsea and I were both so touched and teary ourselves. It is incredible what these people are able to do and I was amazed to see them use their talents in spite of what they have lost. It was incredible.
This is on the wall of the school. So neat.

Incredible. He doesn't even have fingers. We loved this painting but it wasn't finished so we couldn't purchase it.

This is SUNDARI. She is incredible.

Our next adventure for the day involved these bushes. This colony does not have any bathrooms, hence the reason we are building them. SO.... Chelsea and I both had to use the restroom and were directed to the "hill." It was a lovely sight, walking on the path surrounded by human feces. I realize this is graphic but it was one of the most comical moments of this trip so I just had to write about it.

We worked on the squatters for a while, plastering the outside. It was harder than it looked but a good experience. They look so great! It is amazing to think I helped to build that! It turned out the medical team was actually working in the same colony we were @ which was SO LUCKY! Chelsea and I both got to help wash and bandage wounds of some of the lepers. I am so grateful that I got to have this experience. It was wonderful to sit and talk to the people and help the nurse to make them feel better. It was one of the most MEMORABLE things I have done on this trip.

You can't really see this wound very well but it is on the back of his heel and SO DEEP. I watched the nurse shove the gauze about an inch into his foot. It was crazy but amazing.

As we were walking through the colony we saw KARPAN! He is the man I helped around the hospital yesterday. I was so excited to see him so we got another photo with him @ his home.

Such a fun filled and memorable day. I LOVE Rising Star Outreach. Every moment I am here I wish every person I know and love could see what I have seen here in India. Pictures and words can only go so far. These people are truly INCREDIBLE. Serving here may not change the entire world, but I believe that each day we are here we change a life, and in some small way, it changes a part of the world.