Friday, June 26, 2015

Little Moments: Chameleons

There are chameleons here.


That is all.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Girls' Home

Spent two hours at Girls' Home tonight. No crazed children stealing my camera, so no photos for you today, but I absolutely will be taking a few pictures when I visit next week, because the view from their roof is spectacular.


Actually, I will show you one picture:


Several children have asked me over the past few days to see a picture of my family. This picture is saved in my Favorites on my phone, so it is very easy to pull up. I point out my mother and my sister, and without fail they point to me and ask who it is. And without fail, they are shocked when I tell them it is me, and stare intently at me trying to see it. So apparently I'm looking a little dowdier than I thought lately. So now I'm on a mission to locate an optometrist so I can get contact solution and put an end to this nonsense!

Back to Girls' Home. They were eating while I was there, and they dished me up a bowl. I don't think it was the actual meal, but I haven't figured out how these things work yet. Regardless, it was excellent. It was cooked chickpeas. Just chickpeas. I even checked if they cooked them in anything, or added ghee, but nothing. Just pure, unadulterated chickpeas cooked from scratch. And they were so good. Eaten sitting on the floor, with the bowl on the floor, with your fingers. I noticed several, but not all, of the girls mashing each handful a little before they ate. I tried it, but it didn't affect the taste, and seemed like unnecessary effort to me. I also had a cup of tea at the end of the night, with a little sugar and lots of milk. Definitely not as much sugar as they put in my coffee each morning- I mainly drink that to be polite, but it's doable because it basically tastes like tiramisu.

I spent about an hour on the roof with some first graders, doing maths (writing out the words for numbers from the digits), and despite my repeated attempts to explain that I don't speak the language, correcting their Tamil homework as well. The last half hour was back inside (with tea!), helping one of the older girls with her maths. She needs to brush up on the basics, but picked it up astonishingly fast once I started walking her through it. She is going to come find me during lunch tomorrow to keep working on it. I am rapidly getting frustrated with all of the Reading work I do with the kids, but who ever would have thought I would become the Math Maven?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Boys Home

I visited the boys hostel for the first time today. I'm working on a longer post that goes into more detail about Little Lambs School, but for the purpose of this post you just need to know that about 50 of the students come from very rough backgrounds and have been placed in one of three group homes the school runs: Children's Home (next door to my flat), Boys' Home, and Girls' Home. The volunteers go to each one once a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) to help with homework and play with the younger kids. My flatmate and fellow volunteer Pauline has been very sick for the past 10 days, so this was the first day she was able to take me along.


Probably the most exciting part about Boys' Home right now is that they have puppies.

I spent the majority of my time hanging out with some of the younger boys in the yard playing with the extremely tolerant puppies, and a little time towards the end helping with math, science, and social studies homework. I definitely had to look up some of the math information- who actually remembers how to apply exponential functions to fractions?

This little lady just hung out like that for about ten minutes without complaining



P.S. For those who were following the saga, it looks like Pauline does not have Dengue fever! We are all very pleased.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Voyage to India

Let's flash back two weeks to the trip over here, shall we? Warning: it's way too long for a recount of a plane trip, but to be fair, it was a very long plane trip....

The entire trip took about 24 hours- a 14.5 hour Seattle to Dubai leg, followed by a short layover and a 4 hour flight down and over to Chennai. I flew Emirates, which I don't overly recommend for long trips in economy class, as it turns out! There is zero space in coach- in terms of the width of the seats, leg room, even carry on stowage. I made a huge effort to not check any luggage, and ended up taking almost nothing with me:


And yet, they made me gate check my blue bag and stuff the purple one in the overhead bins. I'm a very easy-going traveller- I don't get upset by pretty much anything that might or does go wrong. But I just about lost it when I gate checked that bag! I was choking up and making the poor gate attendant swear on her life that stuff wouldn't get stolen out of my bag, because I've had very bad luck with that, shaking, the whole deal. Not sure why that's where I chose to channel all of my stress over the move, but there you go.

Here's a fun little oddity I realized about an hour into the flight: through a combination of the time of departure (5:30pm), the time of year (within a month of summer solstice), and the route we flew (over the North Pole), the entire flight to Dubai took place in daylight. The sun never set on that plane. The in flight navigation deal had a diagram that gives a pretty good visual of why that happened:


Heading to Dubai


My mom wondered before I left what sort of crowd would be on a flight from Seattle to Dubai, and as far as I could've tell it was almost entirely people from the Middle East and India who had been in the U.S. for vacation/visiting family, and people who were going back to the Middle East or India to visit family. I feel like the family in WSU sweatshirts probably fell into the latter category.

Coach wasn't completely awful, just very uncomfortable. My back started killing me within an hour. But they gave us cute little packs that had eye masks, a toothbrush, and travel socks! They also gave everyone a hot washcloth at the start of the flight. Couldn't figure out exactly what I was supposed to do with it, but I bluffed my way through (I think). The entertainment system took a little getting used to, but it had a ridiculous range of movies and shows to choose from. And despite the raging daylight outside, inside pretty much everyone closed their windows, and the ceiling illuminated with the night sky!


I made a conscious effort to not sleep during the flight in an effort to ward off the worst of the jet lagoon arrival (12 hours difference is no picnic to make up!), but I admit that I succumbed for an hour or two towards the end.

My first thought when we cleared the clouds on our descent into Dubai was how sandy everything was, and how much that surprised me. That's been happening a lot the past two weeks, actually. My generation is so engrained in the idea that Hollywood incorrectly stereotypes everything foreign that each time I encounter something that it got right (sand in the UAE,for instance, or the head waggle they do here), I have this frozen moment of cognitive dissonance before my mind settles into this new knowledge of the world.
I don't know if it was sand or smog or dust, but as we got close to Dubai proper the air became very hazy, so I can't really show you a picture of the skyline. I have pictures, but I'm probably the only one who can tell that's what they are of. But I could see the outline of the city, complete with the iconic skyscraper. Very exciting.

No passport stamp in Dubai,sadly, because I never left the airport. I did find lounge chairs, which took advantage of, and a stand selling "Irish sandwiches," which I did not. I did stare at the menu for about five minutes trying to determine what constitutes an Irish sandwich, but the mystery remains unsolved. Also had my first encounter with this terrifying contraption:

First of many, as it turns out. There's even one in my flat.

As I went to check in for the second leg of my flight, I had another first: a surprise upgrade to business class! I have always always wanted to fly business class, even more than first. Is that weird?

It was so exciting and lovely. The priority boarding. The exclusive flight attendant. The noise-canceling headphones sitting on my seat! Anyone reading this who has spent pretty much any time with me knows I don't drink alcohol, but I have never been so tempted I my life. Not because I actually wanted it, but it just felt so chi chi and The Thing To Do. They wander by and offer you champagne. They wander by and offer you the wine list. The extravagant menu is half cocktails and top shelf liquors.

Speaking of the menu, the food was amazing. First they brought us our drink orders and a fancy selection of nuts, then they brought out the table cloths. Actual table cloths, sized for our very large tray tables.

The butter was molded into a flower, the salt and pepper was in actual shakers... So fancy. And the food was super yummy! I even tried the mushrooms. The flight attendants wandered around with a basket full of bread options (I chose naan and garlic bread), and bottles of wine.

At one point I thought I'd check out the bathroom. At first I was disappointed- still a little cramped box with a plastic toilet.. Then I got a better look at the sink area:

Perfume and cologne, wash clothes, shaving kits and dental kits! Faith in fanciness restored. I spent the rest of the flight experimenting with the various levels of reclining available to me, including the fully flat bed option, which was divine. Then, finally, after a full day of travel, we touched down in India, and the real adventure began....




That would be such an awesome way to end this post, but as it turns out my night wasn't quite over. Remember way back when I didn't want to check my bag? Yeah, turns out I had the right of it.

I was jostling in the scrum around the baggage carousel when a gentleman came up to me and identified me by name. I was quite literally the only white person in baggage claim, so in retrospect that actually wasn't that impressive. Anyway, turns out they left my bag in Dubai. They put it on the very next flight, it would arrive later in the morning and they would deliver it right to my door- as soon as I provided them with a local phone number. I'd literally been in the country less than an hour. Of course I didn't have a phone number yet. It all worked out eventually- the house father who runs the children's hostel next door to my flat let me give them his number the next day, and they delivered my bag to my door as promised around 6:30 that evening. But it definitely added a surreal "well, here goes nothing!" feeling to walking out into the balmy Indian night, armed only with my little purple backpack full of electronics cords.

So there you haven't: a faithful rebelling of how I arrived in India. Much more about actual life in India to come. Stay tuned!










Monday, June 8, 2015

I've been here for a full week and I now finally have proper internet access! So my first hodgepodge of posts are going to be hopelessly out of order, based on how detailed my notes were over the past week....

For instance, this is from Saturday....

It was very very hot today. Don't get me wrong, it has been ungodly hot since I got here (you may a have seen our heat wave on the news), but today it went to a new level of ick. But then around 4:40, something wonderful moved in: a thunderstorm. It brought with it cool winds and lots and lots of enormous raindrops- and power outages. I sat out in it for over an hour, soaked to the bone and Not Hot for the first time in a week. The entire world smelled of damp earth and lightning strikes.

After the storm had passed, I spent some time watching life on the street below. First came the wave of motorcycles- intrepid cars had continued to drive during the worst of it, but for that twenty minutes or so the bikers and their passengers all sought refuge under store overhangs. Once it had been slow for about ten minutes, they all resumed their journey as one.

Then came the burning of the palm trees. This was not an intentional thing, of course- a large palm tree in front of our building had a number of fronds that draped over a telephone wire. When lighting ran along one of them, it set the fronds to slowly burning for about the next half hour. All of the adults in the surrounding buildings, myself included, kept watch to make sure it stayed a slow, localized burn and didn't decide to flare up and take the whole tree. Little bits would burn and fall off every minute, so one man down on ground level tossed a giant stick in the road to keep people from driving under the danger zone.

I was watching this all unfold with Deepa, who was watching the children's home for the weekend so the house parents could have a break, when suddenly she said "Here come the cows." And, I kid you not, an entire herd of water buffalo walked by.

And I didn't have my camera.

Well, we're due for a few more this month (supposedly a smaller monsoon usually rolls through during June each year), so I will be better prepared next time!