Friday, October 5, 2012

Road Side Madness!

                                                      ROAD SIDE MADNESS                                                                    

One of my favorite parts of India is the Insane roads here that are always filled with excitement, and adventure! After three months i can finally form a brief summary of the set up of this traffic system to make it a bit more understandable for foreigners. so here goes......

                                                                   ROADS OBSERVATIONS

1)                   Rules on streets are NOT followed.
2)                   It is common that, if one side of the road is crowded, to drive in to oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.
3)                   If you pay for a fancy license plate you will not be ticketed.
4)                    It is common but not encouraged to see people hanging off of packed busses or sitting on top of potatoes sacks in the backs of trucks.
5)                   The legal age to drive is 18 but you may see some 12 year olds driving.
6)                    It is common to see full families, of four squeezed onto one bike.
7)                   It is very uncommon for anyone to where seat belts!

8)                   Roads are like one insane game of RUSH, its like if every single tiny gap on the road is not filled with a car people feel they will get nowhere!

9)                   Horns are not used in as an emergency when a crisis is about to happen its more like if you here a honk it means “Move OVER or I will Hit you any way and MAKE and emergency” but basically its just a constant horn going off everywhere….one hand on the wheel one hand holding down the horn!

10)                Before crossing a street by foot one must seriously consider how much they value their LIFE! It is like a war zone out there! At first I couldn’t cross with out having a nervous break down and hold someone’s hand but now I have it down. The problem with crossing the street is the pedestrians frame of mind is “walk across at your own pace…..the cars will move for you!” but the drivers frame of mind is “drive at your own pace the people will run from you”. This causes a little bit of a hectic situation

11)                Not only when on the street does someone have to look out for cars but, there are also Cows, carts, bikes, busses, street dogs, huge pot holes, and other random unexpected sights coming from EVERY directing. So don’t just look left when crossing a street….look up down, left right and be sure to double and triple check.

FYI: This Traffic is more to the extreme side so please do not think that every road in India is like this....but you do see this VERY often here in chennai!

P.S sorry for my lack of blog post! I will start posting more often because there is SO much i need to talk about!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Message to Yes-Abroad participants about the Anti-American crisis

My Message to all people on the YES-Abroad program in reaction to the Anti-American riots in islamic countries due to the film "The Innocence of Muslims."

Hi guys I truly hope you are all enjoying your year, but if you haven’t seen the recent crisis on the news I think you may want to check it out. Since this so closely relates to why we are all on this program I though I would just send a bit of my input on the situation.

It’s sad to see this international crisis in so many countries. I have been watching the news about the Anti-American riots happening in Libya, Egypt and Yemen all day and thinking, how tragic it is that not only someone could produce such a hateful movie about a holy prophet, but also how tragic it is that some individuals around the world could blame our WHOLE country for it.
I knew tensions were high, but just a few minutes ago I saw that in the city I am sitting in right now a riot has occurred and an American was attacked all because of one insulting movie by a small group of people.  I know I should be angry but I also know anger will not do anything. If I show anger and hate to the people who hate me I am just giving them more of a reason to riot and protest. Even though things are really tense right now I am going to push my self to stay strong and diplomatic and not fall into this cycle of violence.              
On 9/11 I had a kid come up to me and tell me he was happy that the towers fell on September 11th ,he was happy America was attacked. He persistently took his anger for the death of Bin laden out on me. Asking me “how I killed him, where I killed him why I killed him?.” Instead of reacting with anger I reacted with peace and words. I told him “he has the right to his own views, but I am not a representation of my whole country, I do not tell the government what to do.”  When my friends tried to stand up for me to him with anger I told them to stop. I told them this anger would just add to this cycle of hate and we need to all just keep our views to our selves because “nothings wrong nothings right everything’s different.” I made those people understand why its important not to retaliate with hate and now those individuals can pass it on and eventually word will get around and our future will be a better place.
It  is situations like these that make me want to strive to achieve the mission of this program. I am just a brick but with us many bricks we can soon build a bridge to unite countries with significant Muslim populations and the United States. I will work hard and I know you all will too. Together we can all make an impact.

We are here for a reason and this above picture is not what the future will be like. Lets bring peace love and understanding to this world, So this will not happen again. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Happy Village" Volunteer Work-

what defines poverty?

This past weekend my host mom and I took a trip to do volunteer work for a program called “Happy Village.“ This programs mission is to bring health sanitation and education to a village that does not have access to these necessities. The village consisted of 65 homes, or thatched roof huts, filled with families of elders, parents, children and infants.  These people had been living a simple life for years deprived of medical attention, sanitation and proper education. Yet, the people I saw did not look sad like  I expected they would. They were actually very joyful! They welcomed me into there homes, taught me how to ride there bikes, took pictures with me and even took me to the fields where they grow there crops to have a round of volleyball. They taught me so much. I learned that to be happy we don’t need all the latest technology, biggest houses, and best clothes, we just need to be happy with what we have and the people we to share it with. 
            I think the reason behind my surprise at the village was that before coming to India I was sheltered from the realities of poverty. My view on poverty was that people who do not live to the same standards as I do must be sad or depressed. After seeing the joy of the people, their happiness for the life they live, and their love for the family and community they were surrounded by, I realized that having little money, or living a simple life  doesn’t always make one poor. As long as ones attitude for what they have is positive there lives can be rich.  I also learned that it is not fair of me to judge another ones culture until I understand the true realities behind it, because as YES orientations and this program have taught me is that: “Nothings wrong, nothings right, it’s just different”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Operation Navigation!

OPERATION NAVIGATION.....My day in the city!!! (with out the help of my host family)

Wow today was such an adventure! Today was the first day I actually felt that I could learn to master this crazy city of Chennai. My day began when my host dad called me an auto to pick me up in order to head to community service. Yes, on the outside this auto looked just fine but I guess that just goes to show you that you cant judge a book buy its cover. With in five minutes of driving I could tell something was wrong…..probably due to the fact that the auto had just started rolling down the road, not driving. We pulled over for gas and I could tell the auto driver wanted me to pay for it , thinking that I am nothing but a dumb tourist, but I would not fall for it. Then we continued our long drive to the malar hospital where I was to be met by AFS staff. But my auto had different plans. First time the auto broke down I was kind of frightened and yeah the second time I was a bit scared to. Finally by the fifth break down on the side of the road I could not help but laugh. My auto driver stopped at a quick auto repair shop but the auto well….it didn’t exactly stop it kind of just slowly rolled into a line of motor bikes to the side of the path. With in ten minutes we were on the road again and I was beginning to think this journey would never end. Next we came to a long road with many MANY speed bumps.
 Speed bumps in India Are not like speed bumps in America. In America a speed bump is like a “hey wake up and be careful”, here speed bumps are like “if you don’t stop and just barely roll your over me I will send you shooting through the air break your back and destroy your car -_-“ So each speed bump the driver went over was like a moment of truth to whether I would make it to my destination or would yet another, possibly more damaging, break down occur. After two more suspenseful breakdowns where we had to pray that the auto would turn back on, I finally saw another AFS student walking with his host father on the side of the road. I immediately stopped the driver and ran screaming to Dario like I just had a life or death experience. Thankfully Darios host father offered to walk me the rest of the way to the service project to help people with disabilities make cups !
            After volunteer work we got a ride to T-Nagar and all of us AFS students (besides for cameele)  walked around the shopping area bargaining with the shopkeepers and having a great time. We stopped for some amazing ice cream as a treat and it was so good that I literally cried of happiness! After that I bought some Curtis (Indian dress) and a skirt for half the price they originally asked for!   When it started to get late people began to hitch a ride home in autos. Rowan and I, unwilling to give up on our great day, hitched an auto to the Pondy Bazar. There it is much more exciting crowded and overwhelming…..just as we like it! We walked all around and eventually go caught in the perfect tourist trap (it was heaven) . The people working their saw our excitement with there bags and clothes and immediately began to pull things out from the racks and boxes and anything they could find for us and waded on hand and foot for us. We got ripped off pretty bag because they told us we could not bargain but, I was still really happy with my purchase!
Than there was a man selling drums! I love Indian drums and have been dyeing to get a Tabla! The man saw my excitement and could see that I was an easy target! He pulled the whole “ Madam, they are hand crafted with customizable sound” act on me and I was hesitant. My friend Rowan though was just as excited as me and pushed me to fall into his trap. He asked for 1,500 rupees and I got him down to 500. I thought it was a great deal until I got home and my host family told me 1) its not a tabla 2) yeah it’s a drum but a pretty broken one and 3) it should not have been more than 150 rupees! THUMBS DOWN FOR CON ARTIST!!!!
To finish up the day a transgender women grabbed my bag and tried to rob me! I grabbed my bag back and looked at her with anger. She winked at me, pet my shoulder, did a little hip shake and than tapped on my drums. I than walked away…..quickly!  So I guess that Sums my day! I hitched one last ride from an auto for a good bargained deal and headed home. Even with a crazy Indian traffic jam I managed to make it home before dark safely and happy!! OPERATION NAVIGATE CHENNAI COMPLETE J
This is the bazar i was in! 

            This is the main part of T-Nagar where we were shopping. Yes,  there is no difference between the side walk and the road
The Amazing T-Nagar again!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Evacuate the Hilltop....School excursion to Moonar


Our trip started with a 12 our train ride, which was pretty exciting. Anyone who knows me though, would know that I am able to sleep the entire time! There was about 200 kids overall on this trip from my school! We arrived at 2am in Cochen and then had a 6 hour drive to the hillstop station of moonar…to which the bus had blasting music and strobe lights the whole time!!!!  Our hotel was beautiful but we had little time to rest before we had to head out for our mountain trek!
            The mountains and land was so beautiful it’s unable to be described but I will try. It was like driving through a movie seen. Everything was pure green with trees and rives flowing through the rolling mountains and cows grazing peacefully along the riverside. It was an unforgettable sight that will just be engraved in my mind forever!
            Our trek was cut short due to a surprise monsoon! Thank goodness for good old mother nature because I was suffering terribly from altitude sickness! I was so dizzy and could not stop puking…..but I tried to keep a positive attitude J  We went to some beautiful locations and made some great friends along the trip. The last night we had a huge bonfire and all the girls were dancing and it was loads of fun. The next day we were supposed to leave around 8 and head to a water park for the day plans changed quickly……..
            We were evacuated from the hotel at around two in the morning due to a strike in kerala. Kerala is a communist run state in India so when a strike happens it is not a peaceful activity. It was more like a huge riot to which the strikers were planning to attack and destroy anything moving on the road, that would include are 7 tightly packed large party busses. Oh and I forgot to mention that our bus driver on our bus rolled into the bus in front of us and completely shattered our windshield! We drove without a windshield through the night, in the cold, down the insane mountainside over looking a deathly drop, in the rain, undercover to avoid the riot!  We survived and reached a safe spot around 5:30 and the riot would begin at 6am and end at 6pm. So for 12 hours we sat about twenty too a hotel room sitting and waiting out the strike and watching the news about what was going on outside! It was actually kind of exciting and it was a good time to make friends with the other students!
            We headed home back on the 12 hour train ride and I thought about some of the things I had learned from the three day trip!

1)   In the U.S when there is a mountain and we want a road we just blow a whole right through the mountain. In India when there is a mountain and they want a road they just peacefully build a long, curvey and slightly sketchy path along side the mountain.
2)   Indian girls when free from school will sing and dance no matter what time and what the occasion
3)   A strike in India is generally not like the average strike in America it’s a tad more violent and unpredictable
4)   When in the mountains, drink plenty of water because altitude sickness is NOT fun!
5)   If your in front of teachers you should NOT stand to close, talk to much, or have physical contact with the opposite sex.
6)   Don’t expect hot water in a Hotel room!
7)   All that amazing looking junk food in the hotel fridge…..Is NOT free
8)   Its impossible to be perfect all the time even when people are watching you, so don’t pretend to feel all right when in reality you know your going to puke any second!
9)   When on an Indian sleeping train make sure you get a bottom bunk if you don’t know how to use the latter
10)                  Go to the bathroom before you go on the train because OH MY GOODNESS  my feet were not going to step foot in that bathroom!

                                                      Train station in Chennai!

                                                      Wild Elephants!!!!

                                           Loving the mountains so much!
                                                      Karate kid in Moonar
                                       No touching boys....awkward stance!
Lloyd our favorite bus driver proud of his windshield incident


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BLESS ME :D trip to the holiest part of southern India!

My Trip to the holiest spots in southern India!

I got home from school around four pm and sat down to eat. My host family had a spontaneous idea to go to a temple. I thought it would be just a hour or so long trip  but…… boy was I wrong. When they said “trip to the temple” they actually meant a four day long road trip to the most holiest spots in southern India! So with in about an hour (after AFS approval) all of our bags were packed and we were ready to GO!
            We traveled about five hours and stayed at a relative’s house for the night. When we woke up and showered (you must always be clean before temple) we were already to go. We arrived at the temple about an hour away in all of our finest Curtis (Indian dress). This temple was called TANJORE temple, one of the biggest and most famous in India! The architecture was so amazing especially considering this temple is over 2000 years old.  It is designed with such precision that the main temples shadow can NEVER be seen! Here was where the famous tradition of whispering into a particular statue and having any wish come true! I also got to pray to the god of education and also to the god where you make a wish and then do a clap and with hope it will come true. Oh and I got blessed by an ELEPHANT!! And since lord Genasha has the head of an elephant it is as if I was blessed directly by him according to Hinduism!
After that we went to two more amazingly beautiful temples in which I was blessed numerous times! It was very unique to see the dedication of the hindu people to there temples! .They will wait for hours just to see there gods and prey to them! And people bring offerings daily of fruit and flowers and money and anything they can just to show there love. The ceremonies are all so beautiful with smoke and bells and flowers everywhere I feel so lucky just to have seen this!
Next we went to a famous mosque a few more hours away! We went during Ramadan so it was super busy!  It is said that many lives have been saved at this mosque just by praying at this spot. When we walked in we went to the spot for preying. Girls were not allowed to go all the way in but we stood on the outside and followed the traditional ritual! We were giving some sort of sand wrapped in newspaper and told to close our eyes and pray.   Than we sat down on the ground and a holy man held our heads and prayed in a different language while slightly blowing on our head. Then he tied a black rope around our hand to protect us from all evils.
Lastly for the day was our trip to an Indian catholic church. It was absolutely beautiful but also very different form most American churches. In this church they don’t just worship Jesus they also worship Virgin Mary. Also in this church Jesus is dressed up as a king and people decorate him with offerings of flowers and gold. There was a whole museum next to the church just to show all of the offerings of gold and the miracle stories associated with them. For example, there was an offering of a small gold baby crib and along with it was the story of a mother who preyed for her babies life…..and here Prayers came true! Another interesting fact was that there is a tradition at this church where people will crawl on there knees all the way from the beach to the church, about 3 to 4 kilometers, just to have there prayers answered. Before I left both me and my host sisters kneeled by the alter and I taught them the “Our Father”.
            The next day we woke up and indulged in wonderful breakfast to which I had never been so excited to see bread and cornflakes!!!! Our last temple we went to was for the God of Dance which was jaw dropingly amazing. We went just in time too! There was a crowd of people waiting anxiously inside the temple infront of a closed door with bells ringing and smoke flying. The doors open to the gods Idle covered in decorations and candles all around! People started praying and pushing to get in front just to see it!  
Then, my host family and I sat down at the palm reader who was teamed up with a parrot. He read our palms and saw our future and some how was extremely accurate! He said I was someone who always gave back to others and in my future I would have a job that’s goal was to help others and ill make a lot of money…..but never keep it; I will always donate it to a good cause. He also said I would find my husband soon and it would be a completely loving relationship with no worries and I will live till I am 90!! I guess that’s good news! Hopefully it comes true!
Our next stop was to go row boating! We had to drive all the way through a small village to get there. The river was so nice and the temperature was beautiful and following are boat the whole time were small jumping fish that would hop down the river.  The person rowing the boat for us took us through a small channel of the river where all of the trees and bushes went over are heads and around the boat kind of like something you would see in the love seen of the little mermaid.
Finally we stopped at a branch of Auraville  (self sufficient communist utopia) where the “mothers” (creator) tomb is. When we were in this area we were not allowed to speak it was supposed to be complete peace. It’s a center of meditation and self enlightenment for learning and understanding. I got to pray with the others by putting my head on “mothers tomb and closing my eyes. SOOO COOL!
We finally headed home after the three days. It was one of the most enlightening and eye opening experiences in my life. I prayed for the same thing at every temple and it was something I thought about for a long time. I don’t know how religious I am but I thought praying is worth a shot and anything can happen. I truly feel blessed after this weekend and I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to get to see this through my own eyes!!!  Reading about India in textbooks is one thing but actually being here with all my senses is a whole different experience. .

Being blessed by lord 
about to go in temple! Unfortunately no pictures can be taken inside...sorry but it was much prettier on the inside!
Me and Amma on the row boat!

First auto ride alone....and yes i bargained!

Outside of the temple of the God of Dance

My first street food....and i survived! Cuta purota!

Other boating family going fishing!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Expedition: India!


The Trailer of my Year to come....This is only the beginning of a very long and life changing year

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yenakum India Pitakum

May I just say that I am at the tippy top of excitement for my journey. Everything I see, feel, here, and taste just excites and amazes me. The differences between India and America are so vast but the similarities are all there too. Not only am I learning so much about this culture and country I'm learning a lot about myself. I have never thought about it before but I'm learning just how strong and flexible I can be. I am overcoming so many fears and learning at a rapid rate. Me and my host family get along so well and I would never trade them for the world. They keep telling me that I am there "Gift" but in reality i know they are actually mine. One day when sitting with my host sister she asked me why i loved India and my response was endless. I think the reason I'm enjoying it here so much is that i don't just look at the big picture i appreciate all the small details and constantly remind my self that 1. I belong here, 2. I can do this! 3. This is a once and a life time opportunity and every minute counts.  Every little thing that confuses me, I push my self to ask questions. Every positive thing  I encounter I embrace strongly with a smile. For the good or for the "different" I love this place and wouldn't change it for the world.

Things i love:

1) The adrenaline rush i get when i cross a road with cars and bikes and cows and goats coming from every direction
2) The family bonding times in the house when we all just laugh at my Tamil and enjoy each others company
3) The food that is making my stomach grow at a rapid rate....and the fact that I don't care because its taste so good!
4) How much I can grow to love bucket showers!
5) The funny and usual feeling I get when little kids run and giggle at me and call me “foreign girl”
6) That funny moment when I am looking out the car window and randomly see a stray cow on the sidewalk
7) That awkward moment when I wake up and my host sister tells me all the weird things I say in my sleep
8) The exciting feeling I get when I get to eat all the food with my hands including cake!
9) The friendly people in class who tell me what to do when I am extremely confused and don’t understand the teachers accent
10) That amazing moment when I stop and think “Oh my goodness I am actually in India!

 Adorable little girl....


ancient temple found after a tsumnamie