Friday, January 29, 2010


January 18th, 2010
Prem Gideon’s ANURAG Society

Bing bang boom. Today was a fun-tabulous day!  :D
We woke up a tad bit early to go to a school/vocational program started by a Christian Indian woman named Prem (which apparently is a masculine north Indian name, but her dad really liked it). She became a Christian when she was 17. At the time, all she wanted to do was be a dancer, but she ended up working for an adoption agency. Twenty years ago, she found a different calling and started an after-school program for kids who were not the poorest of the poor (there are many organizations helping them, plus the government) or the lower middle class (they can afford more things).  Now she has a school for them that goes up to 4th grade, plus a tailoring school for women to learn and get jobs (or start their own business).
Here, I took a picture of their sign that says what they do. 

[ze sign]

[the outside of the operation]

[meet Prem Gideon- cool name right?]

Anyway, we got a tour of the place. The children in daycare and school were simply precious! They all wanted to shake our hands and say “Hello, ma’am” or “How are you” even though they didn’t know too much more English than that. They knew some English songs though and a few of them sang for us.

[a classroom, what else?]

[stealing the answers from someone's homework! scandalous!]

[a knitting machine. Billy? Justine?]


[but they were cuter!]

[look at this adorable toddler wearing... makeup?]

After the tour, we had lunch. Let me tell you about this lunch. One very common Indian food is called paneer. It’s basically squares of cottage cheese with some sort of mild sauce on it. It’s one of my safety foods because it’s not very spicy. So, naturally, I took a nice big bite of the paneer Prem’s people served us. And another.
It was the spiciest damn thing I’ve ever had in my life. I moved onto the vegetables and they didn’t help either. My entire mouth felt like it was bleeding. I ate an entire piece of plain flat bread (nan) and it only died down a little bit. After many more pieces and some plain rice it was finally better. Oh man. The only thing I could handle was a tiny bit of the dhal. SO HOT.

[don't be fooled, it's actually fire.]

Next we were told to plan a 45 minute show for ALL of the 200 students!! We picked out a bunch of fun songs with actions (i.e. Father Abraham, Hokey Pokey…) and two skits (Moses parting the Red Sea, and the Good Samaritan).
As the kids came in, Bryan and Andrew performed a nice lil’ preshow. Pretty much karaoke… My Heart Will Go On was even sang. 

[Brian, you don't have to be jealous of Bryan's music. Trust me.]

[kids watching. more came too!]

[skit = Moses parting Red Sea. Can you tell?  hint: Moses is the one with the guitar.]

The show was super fun. The kids LOVED it and some of the teachers helped translate. Then after they finally left, the older girls wanted to dance with/for us. At first they were all quite bashful, only one or two of them danced while the others nervously sang. Then someone played some music on their cell phone and a few more got involved. Inevitably, they dragged all of us onstage. It was funny to see which people in the group relished group dancing and which ones nervously shrank to the back. Really fun though, we all just danced to random Indian songs… they were sort of poppy- rap, yet uniquely Indian too.

Then we went to Prem’s office and she answered our questions for another hour. Plus we got delicious tea and some crunchy fried onion things. Yum.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted! I took a nap before dinner!
Now I’m watching CSI and ready for bed!
Tomorrow we wake up early to fly to Chennai… BEACH TIME BABY! 

p.s. "Other Random Sights from the Day that Didn't Fit Into My Story"

[the alley we walked through to get tharrr]

[clothes! a common sight]

[view from the balcony thing we planned our skits on!]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Americans in India

January 17th, 2010

Hey, we can’t help it. We can’t all be world travelers 100% of the time. So today we took a break. We didn’t learn much or go to church. We slept in, not meeting until after noon.

And for lunch we went to the Hard Rock Café. Yep, you heard me. We are just that lame. ;)
It was very good though! I had a lovely BBQ cheeseburger. I was lacking on my BBQ, cheese, and beef so it was probably all for the best anyway. Right?! Hahah.

[wooot. Morgan, Kristen, me.]

[yummers in our tummers: Laura, Rachel, Kayla, Shannon, Megan, Bryan, Sarah, Morgan, Kristen. not smiling: Andrew.]

Now, Harley decided to tell everyone that today was MY day. This is because we got to go to the National Museum for Modern Art! I didn't want everyone to be annoyed that we were at a "boring" art museum just for me, but the truth is I definitely loved it more than the others. Indian art seems to have gone back and forth between indigenous styles and Western styles. It was fun to see, and I would have stayed way longer than an hour were it up to me. I also met a random guy from Poland doing an internship who told me to try street food.

[the container for the art. no pics of the inside aloud.]

[poorly framed photo of the sculpture garden]

Then we went shopping. But apparently our guide doesn’t know how much we like to barter at the small random bazaar-type places. So he brought us to a strip mall with a bunch of fixed-price stores. Most of them were closed for Sunday, so we got to enter about three. Hahahaha.
I couldn’t complain though because I needed to get my secret India friend (kind of like Secret Santa) something! I got him tea, don’t tell him! He already figured out that I have him. How lame-o-rama is that!

After shopping we had to wait outside for the bus for awhile, and we started to feel unhealthy from breathing in all the smog.

Then we went back to le Hotel and rested and ate and rested!
And played games!! We (minus the teacher, his wife, and my secret India friend) played Bowls, then “The Random Game” which was invented by Meghan. You have to say a word (or two) that is not something you just saw in the room, or related to something anyone just said, or the same as something anyone else said during the who game. And you must say it quick. Harder than you think… if I say “apple” you can’t say any fruit, and “Adam” or “Eve” would surely get you out. Even if a half hour later you said “apple” on your turn, you are OUT. Then we played Psychiatrist. Mom, you surely would have loved this night.
Finally was shower, chatting with the roommate (Aly), and beddy bed bed.
Which is where I am now. Huh. Goodnight!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jaipur Again

January 16th
Ancient Sites and Binge Traveling in Jaipur

Hullo hullo! As I write this I have no wifi. And I know that I am many days behind on my blog. Yet I must press on!

Today we woke up early, but no one could complain because the time was ripe for RIDING ELEPHANTS!
Well, almost ripe.
First we went to an old observatory called Jantar Mantar (fun name, right?). It was built in 1728 by a Maharaja (Indian king) named Jai Singh II. It all relies on the sun, but you can make really complex calculations from it. There is a sundial that gets the time within two seconds and other ones that can plot sunrise and sunset times and the earth in relation to numerous heavenly bodies. There are also different one for each zodiac sign, of course. Jai’s main reason for building it was astrology not astronomy!

[stopped in front of THIS GUY on the way]

[observe le observatory]

[got distracted during the tour: Monkeys!!]

[Anyway, shadows on this can tell all sorts of things about the position of earth in the universe, seasons, day lengths...]

[observe the WORLD'S largest sundial!]

[we sure did. Sarah, me, Laura, Janice, Bryan]

[it's for Capricorn aka me! what it does, I do not know.]

["hi there!" says my shadow. this one can tell sunrise and set and longitude/latitude and more.]

Next we traversed to ye old Amber Fort. And we RODE ELEPHANTS TO THE TOP!!! Yay. I have to admit, I still like camels better because they are smaller and you can get to know the one you are riding better. Yet elephants are awesome because they are HUGE and they live to be around 100! And they are very cute. I pet one’s trunk. It was bristly and thick.
Pictures of me are on others’ cameras, but I’ll show you some people in our group on elephants and you’ll just have to take my word that I was on one too.

[Amber Fort from out yonder]

["vant a ride?"]

[Harley and Jan say YES]

[Bryan and Sarah are lovin' the one with the painted face]

[I was on the back of one too!]

[I lied, guess our tour guide did get a picture.]

Amber Fort itself was pretty cool too. It looked like a mini Great Wall of China and was the small empire of some Hindu maharaja. He surrendered to the conquering Mughals later on, but hey, he didn’t have that big of an army. So give him some credit, geesh. It was very maze-like and fun, with random designs in each place because it kept being built bigger and bigger over the years.

[not bad panorama, not bad]

[pretty walls, take one. entire group minus Andrew]

[pretty walls take doux!]

[take trois is a shiny wall]

[jacuzzi from the 1500s or earlier. I'm serious.]

[monkers hangin' out on the fort walls]

After these fun things, we had the boring time of riding the bus and riding the bus and riding the bus. It was a bit (okay a lot) bumpy but we survived. I couldn’t sleep though… has that EVER happened to me? I think not.
Then we stopped for lunch then we rode the bus and rode the bus more. There was a very long traffic jam once the sun set, which made it even more joyous! J
Then we got back to the ol’ Delhi hotel that we were staying at before. Dinner and bed. Yays.


[eatin' pigeon food outside the fort]

[close up!!! you're famous now!]

[me and my new friend, who growled at me when I got too close]

Monday, January 25, 2010


January 15, 2010
The (Reddish) Pink City

Now we are in Jaipur! Just for a day though. And Jaipur is called the pink city because the old buildings in the town are light red—apparently the color of hospitality.
Before getting there we had to wake up early in Agra and get on that damned bumpy bus with that horn-happy (but not “horny”) driver.

After an hour we stopped at Fatepur Sikrh. This was at one point the capital of the Mughal empire. Why, you ask? See, the third Mughal emperor, Akbar, desperately wanted a child and couldn’t have one no matter how hard he tried. Even though he was Muslim, he went to a Sufi (super liberal Muslim-Hindu combo religion… if explained in 6 words, look it up for a better answer) prophet who told him he would have a son. Sure enough, he did have a son and was so excited that he decided to build a new capital city where he met that saint. It is large and in charge, made of red sandstone. Except, the city was abandoned after only 15 years because they ran out of water! Whoops.
Needless to say, we looked around.

[not yet there, merely approaching.]

[outskirts of Fatepur Sikrh]

[aww! Harley, Shannon, Janice, Morgan, Rachel, Laura, Bryan, Kristen, Megan, Sarah, Kayla, Andrew, Aly, myself]

[the pillar really wanted in on this pic]

[life-sized Parcheesi board. the king (Akbar) would play against his wife with the concubines as pieces. this game pic is for you, mom.]

[Akbar's bed. truly king-sized.]

[sleeping on the bed of the third Moghul emperor]

[and JUMPING on the bed!]

[cool stairs. what more can I say?]

Then it was back to the bus for four (4) dreadful hours. We did see animals out the window (monkeys, horses, camels, goats, sheep, dogs/puppies) and the Indian countryside (many many poor farmers, over 60% of the population farms).
We got to the hotel I’m in tonight and after lunch the band set off!
For where? The pink part of the “The Pink City” and the Palace Museum!
See the pinkiness? Oh, and the Palace Museum was a bunch of stuff used by the royal family of Jaipur before 1947 (India’s independence, when it became a democracy). There were old paintings (different style from European ones during the same time), uniforms, and furnishings.


[think pink]

[tickle me pink]

[old, royal kites! for Brian. they fly kites all over during the harvest festival! plus a bunch of people on the trip read Kite Runner. kites rule!]

[Laura and Rachel discover the peacock door at the Palace Museum]

We were also bombarded by salespeople outside of the two sites. No big deal though, I suppose.
AND we saw monkeys!!!!! Monkeys are to Jaipur and the surrounding area what a boom in the squirrel population would be to MN! So exciting to see them in all of the trees and on top of the buildings!


[so I got a little over-excited and took blurry monkey pictures. sue me.]

Went back to the hotel, dinner, unpacking, free cake from Harley, shower and bed. Hooray! Hip, Hip!
Gooooodnight :)