Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Day 1: Women Writers and Welcome Reception
Arriving in India, my first day involved going to a FDP (Field Directed Practica- field trips related to the classes we are in). My poetry class went to the home of a local professor, she was hosting a meeting and reading with Tulsi Badrinath, a local women writer. Beforehand, we had received some excerpts from her first book Man Of A Thousand Chances. While meeting with the author we got the opportunity to hear her read those excerpts and discuss how they related to the larger story. Because she is an Indian women it was really interesting to read a book from her perspective, it included religious aspects, marital relationships and morality issues. At the end of the discussion I purchased her book and have since begun reading it, I am about halfway through and I am really enjoying it.
For lunch, the professor and her family treated us to home cooked food, it was all absolutely delicious and I felt very welcome in their home.
Tulsi also enlightened us about the traditional dance of India. She performs this style of dance as a hobby that she loves. She showed us how you can tell a story just by using the expressions of your body. We had a lot of fun because we would giver her words to dance and she would portray them perfectly, and occasionally turn the tables on us and make us perform them.
After leaving the FDP, my professor told the class that there was a welcome reception being held and that our bus could bring us there. Upon arrival we received a bindi on our forehead, a feast of food and local shop owners selling us Indian goods at a discounted price. It was an opportunity for us to mingle with local Indian students, to get henna, to learn how to wear a sari and to watch a traditional dance be performed. I found the welcome reception to be a great way to start off my adventure in India.
Day 2: Sick
Sadly on day two I was feeling under the weather, with the symptoms of a cold starting. It was a tough decision but I decided to stay in, take some medicine and spend the day sleeping and recovering so I could enjoy the rest of my days in India without getting worse.
Day 3: Rural India and Dakshinachitra Heritage Village and Meeting Toeseph
The third morning I woke up feeling well rested and much better. I had a planned SAS trip to visit a rural village, Dakshinachitra Heritage Village. Upon arrival all of the school children were so excited to welcome and greet us. All of the little girls had ponytail braids that were looped back up. All of the children enjoyed getting their pictures taken and asking us what our names were. We had the opportunity to practice a tradition of using rice powder to create welcoming designs on the side walk. It reminded me of sidewalk chalk. We were also welcomed into the oldest house in the village. Outside of all the home there is a large porch for visitors and passerbys to sit talk and even just have a place to rest. Once entering the house it is a large room for the family to gather in. There was also a shrine set up to honor the family elder, which I thought was culturally fascinating. Inside of the house was a small room dedicated to the three gods, Shiva Vishnu and Brahma where the family members pray everyday. The most interesting part of the house was the kitchen. After walking out the back door you reached the preparation area and the fire pit for cooking. They had stone grinders and mixers and rolling surfaces. This particular family also had a massive garden in the very back that provides them with all of the food that they eat, it looked like a jungle. The family also started a business of collecting empty glass bottles and recycling them to make a profit. I found this to be a simple and clever way to make money for the family.
From there we took a ox pulled cart to a local rice factory. We watched and got to participate in the sifting of rice grains to dry them, and then we went into the factory. From there we watched the men pour the grains into machines which then took the brown shell off of them and polished and sifted them until the were perfect grains of white rice that got sold to the entire village.
We ended our day by visiting a local school that our tour guide teaches at. The children were all very disciplined and studying high level science and business classes. We offered our hellos and words of advice and then we were on our way
After my trip, I arrived back at the ship and teamed up with two other students who had been on the same trip as me. Dianna, Will and I set off on our way to find a great place to eat dinner. Dianna earlier had met a shop owner in the mall who had hosted home stays for past SAS voyages and who was eager to meet current voyagers. We decided to go to him and ask his advice on where to eat. When we got there he told us if we wanted to wait till 8 his son would take us out and pick out the best food off the menu of his favorite restaurant. We immediately agreed. We spent that time walking around the mall and when we got back to his shop we met his son Toeseph. He took us to a local restaurant, ordered a tableful of food and instructed us on what to eat and how. For the first time I got to eat with my hands and it was considered the polite thing to do. I have never tasted more delicious food in my life! After finishing all of the food Toeseph to the 2nd longest beach in the world. It was absolutely beautiful and I felt like I was back at home, walking through the sand to the edge of the water. At the end of our night we went to an ice-cream parlor and sampled all of the crazy Indian flavors upon arrival at the ship, Toeseph said if we wanted to join him the next day he would be more than willing to show us around to all of the sights! Of course we agreed!
Day 4: Mamalapuram
We met Toeseph at his dads shop and we started our adventure. Our goal was to reach Mamalapuram which was a few hours drive away. On the way we stopped at a science park. Toeseph told us his classes as a child used to go here on field trips. I found the area to be a bit run down but still in operation. We got to watch an awesome show in the planetarium and view the stars the way they are seen in India, and we also went to a very primitive 3d science show.
On our way we also stopped for lunch. This time it was at northern Indian food restaurant rather than southern. Once again toeseph ordered for us and made great choices, everything was superb and a bit spicier than the southern food. We had a lot of sauces for dipping bread into and marinated chiken. I have decided that Indian food has by far been my favorite and my goal is to find a restaurant in the states that does it justice!
We finally made it to Mamallapuram and it was amazing. To see such detailed structures carved out of stone using only primitive tools was absolutely mind blowing. A lot of the architecture was tributed to the gods and it all told a very interesting story. I think my favorite part of Mamallapuram was Krishnas Butterball. It is a very large round rock that is perfectly perched and balanced on a hillside. It looks as if you could just tap it and it would go rolling down the hill, but in reality it hasnt ever budget, even when the attached 12 elephants to it and tried to pull it down!
Day 5: Service Visit
On day five we were supposed to visit and orphanage but it had been relocated for remodeling, so instead we visited a home for the dying and destitute. It was really heart wrenching to see all of the women sharing one room of cots, most not able to communicate or move on their own. As the day went on we found ways to interact by coloring, with stickers and with bubbles. I had one woman who just wanted me to sit next to her and listen to her sing. I didnt know what she was saying but it was a awe-inspiring experience. My favorite part of the day was when I was walking around with Jocelyn, on of the dependant children (children of staff members) and we were exploring the premises. We found the kitchen and met a woman who does all of the cooking for the entire place. It amazed me that she devoted her days to helping. We asked for a picture with her, and when she saw the result it made her so happy and she wanted to take more. It made me realize that its easy to make someones day a little better.
Day 6: Exploring with Krishnan
On the last day in India, I met up with my friend Elise who was spending the day with a local named Krishnan. He is a member of the rotary club and spoke English very well. He has hosted many families and shared lots of great stories of how he has helped improve his town.
First, Krishnan treated us to delicious coffee and then we met up with his sister and went to the temple where she is a member. It was cool to see a small temple just on the side of the street that the people actually attend rather than the large temples that tourists visit. We spent a lot of time listening to the prayer and watching the ceremony. It was a lot of chanting with call and response. We were told that it is a nonstop ceremony that is part of a pilgrimage.
We then spent our afternoon at the spa, getting massages for only $13. I ended my time in India by going out for dinner one last time.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
|Locals and the lovely crew of people who visited the village.|
|Mansion in Malaysia.|
|Bicycle trishaw. I rode in one of these for my city orientation.|
|Hiking through the rain forest at the National Park.|
|YAY baby turtles!!!!|
|Delta Zeta baby turtle!!!! 2 days old!|
|Bailey and I pointing out the recently tapped rubber tree.|
|Women in the Heritage village manufacturing a delicious local snack.|
|Rickshaw! My new favorite way of transportation.|
|Tulsi Badrinath, a local woman writer, gave us the first reading of her book. :)|
|Getting henna at the welcome reception held for us.|
|Children at the rural village very excited to be in a photo.|
|Typical kitchen in rural house.|
|Me sifting grains of rice to dry them out at a rural farm/rice factory.|
|My "shipboard grandma" with the women who work at "the woman's home for the dying and destitute."|
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Mauritius is a small but very populated island off the coast of Africa. We were only docked there for one day and I spent it on a catamaran cruise. It was kind of our spring break (because where we are it's springtime) and it is a tropical climate. While on the catamaran I saw dolphins, went snorkeling over the corals, and saw many awesome tropical fish. I actually ended up swimming right in the middle of a huge school of fish. (I wish I had thought to bring an underwater camera.) We also got some time just to swim in a clear area of the ocean. The water was an unimaginable blue and the sand perfectly white. It felt like I was in a postcard!
For lunch we had a barbecue on the catamaran. I spent the rest of my time lying out on the front "trampoline" soaking up the rays. It was the most relaxing way to spend the day and have an awesome experience.
Friday, October 7, 2011
|Me at the Castle of Good Hope in front of the dolphin pool|
|View of Table Mountain from The Company's Garden|
|The most delicious mushroom burger from City Grill|
|View from port mall to the right, waterfront to the left, Table Mountain back left, shops, and Ferris wheel|
|Balancing water on my head during my home stay|
|The township I stayed in|
|An almost empty bucket of meat from Mzoli's|
|Cartoon from the Nelson Mandela Exhibit|
|Visiting the South African Jewish Museum|
|One of the "Waka Waka girls" from the Operation Hunger day|
|Playing on the playground during Operation Hunger|
|The view riding to the top of Table Mountain|
|View from the top of Table Mountain|
|Desmond Tutu giving his speech|
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Street lights are called robots.
Apartheid just ended in 1993.
The name of the national rugby team is the Springboks. They are widely supported.
The currency is the rand.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament was held in South Africa.
There are 11 official languages.
The first day in South Africa I participated in the SAS city orientation trip. Our first stop was the Castle of Good Hope. It is the oldest building in South Africa. It is a beautiful yellow castle with a dolphin pool (just a fountain), chambers, and a bell tower. It was a nice visit. The next place we visited was The Company’s Garden. Originally used to grow crops, it is now a beautiful botanical garden. While there we stopped for tea/coffee and scones with jam. I ordered a cream soda and when they served it, it was bright green! So unexpected! Our last stop on the city orientation was the South African Museum. I was expecting a museum full of history of South Africa, but I was surprised to find out that it had many different exhibits, including dinosaurs, marine life, and large animals.
That night my friends (Kim, Rachel, and Amelia) and I, went to dinner at a local restaurant at the port called City Grill. We were longing for some real, non-ship food—something other than pasta and potatoes (lol). I enjoyed a delicious mushroom burger and a glass of African white wine. We learned during our pre-port seminar that South Africa is one of the main distributors of wine so many of the SAS trips took students to vineyards and wineries to teach them about the industry and how is has helped South Africa's economy.
On our second day in Cape Town, Rachel and I walked around the port. There were tons of restaurants, small shops, craft barns, and even a mall to wander through. We did a little grocery shopping to stock up on snacks for our cabin and then went and checked out the views of the city.
That afternoon I did a SAS trip to a township where I stayed overnight with a local family. The home-stay program is run by Mama Knox, a local woman living in a town in Gugulethu. It is a small business that also employs other women from Mama Knox's town to host travelers overnight. My house partner was my friend Audrey. We both stayed with our own "mama," who walked us around the town, introduced us to the local kids (who were playing jump rope in the streets), and then let us help cook dinner. We had traditional food of cooked cabbage and spinach served over mealie pap, a cornmeal with a solid consistency. It was all extremely delicious. Her house was filled with family members: her twin sister, a niece, two nephews, her two brothers, and her mother. Although the house was in good condition, there were still things that let you know they were still developing. They had only one lamp for the entire house, a bathroom with a toilet and tub that didn’t work, and flooring that was damaged. The entire family was a pleasure to spend time with. I even learned some of their native language, Xhosa. It involves clicking consonants. It was very difficult to learn. I also attempted to walk while balancing a bucket of water on my head. I successfully took two steps!!!
The children spent their time playing outside or watching Disney Playhouse, while Audrey and I got to know a little bit more about the family and their opinions on how discrimination is being handled.
Overall, I would say that my home stay in South Africa was quite a learning experience.
After I woke up at the home I was staying in, I met up with the rest of the students. My friends, Audrey and Gina, and I decided that instead of going back to the ship with the SAS group we wanted to stay independently longer in the village. Gina’s "mama," Mama Mpumi offered to bring us to church with her. I really enjoyed participating in an African church service. There was a lot of singing and dancing and the sermon was given in both English and Xhosa. A very unique experience. After church services, we went with Mama Knox’s daughter to a local restaurant called Mzoli’s Meats. It is the place to be on Sundays. People from all of the neighboring towns go there on Sundays. It has outdoor seating covered by tarp where everyone socializes and loud music is played. Mzoli's is famous for its meat. The line for different kinds of barbequed meat was an hour long and the meat was served in a huge bucket. It is shared by the entire large table and you just dig in with your hands. A very messy but absolutely delicious meal!
After getting back to the waterfront, Gina, Audrey, and I spent the rest of our day walking through the craft sheds, admiring and purchasing handcrafted items made in South Africa. Usually the items were made by local women who started their own crafts business to make a living for their family.
I spent this day independently traveling (with three other friends) around the city. We started off at South African Jewish Museum. My favorite exhibit was on the bottom floor, which was dedicated entirely to Nelson Mandela. We then went to an art museum. It was very abstract. We didn’t spend too much time there. We then walked again through the Company's Garden, where I shared what I learned on my city tour. We ended at a different craft barn, where my friend bought a homemade African style dress. This day was very laid back but I had a great time figuring out my way around the city.
Operation Hunger is a service project that brings a local nongovernmental organization to townships to weigh the children in the schools. The children’s weight is tracked over multiple visits to see how they are progressing. If a child is malnourished, the child's teacher is informed. It is a very tricky subject to bring to parents, who often feel like they are being accused and will pull their child out of school, which is counter productive. To prevent this, the parents and the children are educated about the importance of nutrition. The children often receive some extra food while at school.
Our job was to help with weighing the children. Most of the older (5-year-old) kids were OK with the process. They just had to take their shoes off and stand on the scale. We would then record their weight on their hand and they had to show it to the people collecting the data. The younger babies were terrified of us and most of them were crying. Many of them had never seen white people and often related white people to doctors. This was scary for them because the only time they would have gone to see a doctor was if they or a sibling was deathly ill and seriously needed help. So the sight of us reminded them of those bad experiences.
Another job the SAS students did was to work in the SAS-donated garden, which provides food for school lunches. Another group was in charge of cooking a meal for the children.
After getting our work done, we got to watch the schoolchildren sing and dance. We also got to go outside and play with them. It was a ton of fun spending my day with the young kids. They especially loved when we blew up balloons for them, and I loved when these three little girls started singing and dancing to "Waka Waka." <3
That night was my friend Jessica’s birthday so we went out to dinner. A South African group sang to her. We also had ice cream. We tend to treat ourselves well in port because we get so sick of the food on the ship!
I woke up at 8 a.m. and went with my friend Kim to Table Mountain. We took the gondola up to the top. The views were spectacular and the floor of the gondola rotated to you could see it all. When we got to the top, we followed the paths to the best lookout places. Luckily we made it back down the mountain before all of the power in the town went out. This sadly meant that no restaurants or stores were open, and most people headed back to the ship early.
That night Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, spoke to the SAS community. He told all of us how awesome we are and how everyone is interdependent on one another. I really enjoyed listening to him speak to us. His laughter was contagious. And I left with a feeling of importance and purpose.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
I apologize for such a late post. Life has started to get really busy!
The day after Ghana (9/17) is what we on the Voyager call Neptune Day. Neptune Day is when we crossed the equator. It is a ritual for sailors who pass over the equator to pay their respects to King Neptune in order to become shellbacks.
Our morning started with all of the professors and other people, who were dressed up as gods, waking us up by running through the hallways blowing whistles, banging pots and pans, and banging on doors. When you opened your door to see what the commotion was about, they would snap a picture of your "morning look." Lots of unhappy students (lol). It was 0730 in the morning!
Then the festivities continued up on the pool deck where we had to pay respect to King Neptune. We all watched a short ceremonial scene explaining the procedure. The first step was to have water dumped on our heads. Then we had to jump in the pool. When we got out, we had to kiss a fish! (Yes! A real dead fish!) That was followed by a bow to the "queen" and a kiss on the “king's” ring. Finally, we were knighted as shellbacks. It was a very weird thing to witness (lol).
Also part of the ritual is to shave your head, which isn’t a big deal for the guys but so many girls did it! It’s crazy. We have so many people with super short hair roaming the ship!!!! No worries, though. I still have all of my hair. :)
The day was wrapped up with a large dance party on the pool deck—and some relaxing. :)
Monday, September 19, 2011
|African drumming and dance|
|Local food: rice, chicken, plantains, and beef|
|Me at the place we did drumming and dancing. Great view!|
|Me at the slave castle with a good view of Ghana in the background!|
(Not sure I should be smiling...)
|Fishing village—a huge industry!|
|The coconut I drank from!|
|Canopy walk at Kakum National Park|
|Bamboo Orchestra and dancers|
|Me playing the bamboo|
|Spending time with the kindergarten class at the City of Hope refuge school|
|Participating in the street feed. Delivering 600 meals to children.|