ISP

So I haven’t posted in almost a month and I am not even remotely close to catching up on what happened.

I spent the past month on my Independent Study Project. I studied the NGO Seva Mandir’s work on common lands in villages south of Udaipur. I spent a total of about 10 days in villages. A lot happened – enough that I’ve now written a 39 page paper on it that doesn’t even begin to cover everything that happened. But I hiked mountains and trekked across fields and met with lovely people who eke their living from fields and pasture and forest. They make a kind of alcohol from the flowers of a tree. Both alcohol and flower are called mua. I tried some. It’s as strong as whiskey but with a better flavour. The flowers themselves are sweet, sticky and tastey. The women use sickles to cut grass and axes to cut dead wood. Goats and cows and chickens everywhere. Sweet girl named Suraj who spoke a little English and was friendly and patient with my little bits of Hindi. She did lovely mehindi on my hands and feet and helped me buy anklets. I had a blast working with my translators, two young men: Sahil and Sanjay, patient with my obvious questions.

On Wednesday I’m headed to Delhi, and on Thursday I fly to NYC! Friday morning I meet my parents and we drive to Amherst. That evening Graduation ceremonies commence!

Much more as soon as I’m done polishing this paper and prepping my presentation. I’m coming HOME!

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Holi (for real this time), Gauv, and Sariyah

So last time I didn’t actually write about Holi. Holi is the best holiday ever. It’s a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, and it’s conducted by throwing coloured powder and water at each other. So. much. fun. Since many of our homestay families don’t play Holi, our program arranged for us to stay at Shree Niwas Guesthouse and play there. At first, it was mostly us students throwing powder at each other and at one student’s dad who was there. Then our teachers came with water guns, and that was fun. At some point, I got into  it a little with the young women of the family who runs the guesthouse. That was the most fun. I can speak enough Hindi to communicate about Holi, and we had fun hitting each other with colour and then conspiring about who to hit next. It was a blast. It is also the only time I have been soaked in India. Just imagine being dusted with coloured powder and doused in water and then hit with colour again for about 6 hours, while the sun, mostly futilely, attempts to evaporate the damp from you. So that was Holi. I would LOVE the chance to play in the States next year.

From March 25- April 2, we had our workshops. Mine was based in a village, (a gauv)I went with 6 other students and 2 teachers to Ogna, a village near Udaipur, where we learned about the work of GMKS, a Gandhian NGO working to improve all sorts of things for rural people, from small dams and wells to women’s self-help groups to sustainable agriculture. We asked to do some farm work, so every morning, we got up, had chai, walked to the Sustainable Agriculture Training area, had cookies, and did whatever they wanted us to do for about an hour and a half. The first day we cleared sugarcane debris from a harvested field. That was some hot dusty work! The next day….. damn, what did we do the next day? The next two days, we moved sheaves of wheat from the low field to the field we had cleared sugarcane from. Our teachers, Awadhesh-ji and Manoj-ji, took the bundles from us and arranged them into a huge circle of sheaves. I found it meaningful to participate in this process with wheat on which so much of the history of human civilization has been based. Although in some places this has been mechanized, in Ogna, Rajasthan, people still use sickle and scythe and bare hands. Besides meeting with specific groups of people through the organization, we also had time to ourselves to explore the village and interact with people. We met children more than anyone, curious and friendly, few of them begging. Laura and Andrew met some kids at a school and started playing volleyball with them. The next day, we all went to the school. I didn’t play volleyball because it’s not a sport I enjoy, so instead I went to talk to a couple of kids. I chatted with them a little and then, with my limited Hindi, some pebbles and sticks and scratches in the dirt, I showed them how to play tic tac toe. A group gathered, eventually comprising of some young men. They all asked me to sing something. I was shy and hesitant about my ability to sing well, but eventually I sang part of Loreena McKinnet’s Mummer’s Dance, until someone said something and I lost my place. But they were kind and cheered, which was sweet of them. Another day, some of us went on a walk around the village in the afternoon, gathering children and the curious as we went. We had some lovely interactions then. At one point, we stopped to ask people with a bunch of pots by their house (presumably potters), if they had a head-ring to buy or where we could find them, as Kate wanted one. It was funny for all of us to try to communicate what was wanted in Hindi. Shortly after that, I saw a woman pumping water at a well, and I stopped and offered to help. She let me pump her jar full and place it on her head, an opportunity to participate in something that rural women in India constantly do, every day. Further on in our walk, some people started speaking with us, asking what we were doing in the village. I responded that we were studying villages, and got into a great Hindi and then English conversation with a school teacher about development and how good villages are and that although they are hard work, it is a good life. We talked about how peoples’ perceptions get skewed by media and rumour. He characterized village people as “innocent”. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had India in terms of coming to shared perspectives, and it was spontaneous and organic.

I also had a sort of adventure buying a sari in the village, but that is something I don’t think I’ll forget easily and I’ll write about it later. While based in Ogna, we also got the opportunities to milk a cow and a goat, which I’ve wanted to do before but haven’t had the opportunity. It was a little weird, but cool. I only got small streams and definitely would need a lot more practice to become efficient. I think I was too afraid of hurting the animals with hard squeezes, but I suppose they are used to it.

When we went back to Udaipur, we had two days to explore the city. On the first day, we found a place to eat and then mostly just wandered around. On the second day, I decided two things: that I wanted to spend at least part of the day by myself, and that I wanted to try out my beautiful green sari with peacocks. Sariyah (sariyah is plural of sari) are a bit tricky to wrap, so there was some doubt from myself and other students about my ability to do so. But I tried to imitate what I had seen Rama-ji do (when she dressed me for the wedding early), and I managed to put it on pretty well and so I didn’t feel like it was just going to fall off when I walked. I went to breakfast and people were surprised. When Tara-ji came, she said I did pretty good, but the pleats were facing the wrong way. She helped me rewrap it, explaining a few things. 1) a sari should always be draped over the left shoulder and the pleats should go the same direction. 2) It is important that the drape across the chest should not fall down. It is considered inappropriate and suggestive, and to avoid this, a safety pin should definitely be worn at the shoulder. 3) The drape should cover the whole chest, particularly for me as a foreigner. 4) In the future, it is possible to get longer sariyah, made for taller women, so they go to the ankle and also have enough fabric for tucking in. Thus adjusted, I felt good in the sari and I was ready to go. I really enjoyed walking around in a sari. First of all, it was very comfortable. Many Indian clothes I have are too short or tight for me, and this didn’t make me feel pinched anywhere. I liked the fabric and the tight blouse and the flowing cloth. Second, people had delightful reactions to me, generally of pleased surprise. I noticed that many more women of various ages said Namaste to me.  While waiting to meet with Laura and others, I stopped at the place where I had bought my notebook the day before, and had a jovial time drinking chai and conversing with the shopkeepers there.  When I went City Palace with others in the group and Tara ji and Manoj ji, the woman at the camera check asked if I was Indian! Later in the day, when I went to look at Ganesh statues for my brother in law, the shopkeeper told me that he was giving me a much better price because I was speaking Hindi and wearing a sari. I haggled him down a little more, and finally got a nice statue for my brother in law, then proceeded to spend ~2 hours speaking with the shopkeeper and his brother and his friend. They were really nice and not at all creepy. I was really happy with my day in the sari. Unfortunately, when we got back to Jaipur, I forgot my sari on the train in a bag , which also contained my notebook, my first aid kit, and most expensively, my glasses. 😦 But I am glad I got the sari and wore it. Now I know better how to go about buying and getting tailored and wearing a sari, and I am planning on wearing another one.

Thank you Mr. Rosling, for the Paradigm Shift

Tigers and Gandhi and Holi oh my!

So I have been really bad about updating lately.
Let’s see, we went to Ranthambore week before last. Ranthambore is a National Park where there are about 30 tigers living. We rode a safari vehicle through the park and saw lots of deer and elk. We also saw the oldest Banyan tree in India there, and some other ones in beautiful configurations. And yes, I SAW A TIGER! He/She was hard to see… lying in the grass behind some trees. There was a lot of competition to see it, both with my classmates and the other vehicles of tourists. But see him I did. Most of the pictures all you can see is some black and orange striping. But my teacher snagged me a photo where you can make out the head. I couldn’t get it on film, but it was cool when he rolled over and had his paw in the air, kind of like Jean Luc (my cat) does. The rest of the week in Ranthambore, we visited various NGOs connected with the park. The first was Prakritik, which works with villages to encourage them to see the value of tiger and forest conservation. They provide school and healthcare access, promote agroforestry, and are helping villagers implement a biogas system. I will have to write more about that soon. It has great implications for the Sunflower Village Initiative and I think it could be replicated pretty well in the US, especially in Western Mass. We also met with Tiger Watch, an NGO that works to stop poaching, both through direct intervention and through alternative livelihood support. It was a great trip and I learned a lot. On the way back, we had to stop for a little bit. Into the bus they brought us fresh chickpeas still on the stem, which were okay and interesting to try.

Class now, more soon!

Fastwrites, unedited

3.12.11

Been reading and thinking a lot about a lot of different things this week. Through my personal struggles and obstacles, I return to what I see as most important. The most important things in my life are Daniel, my Buddhist practice and Soka Gakkai activities, The Sunflower Village Initiative, and my friend-family. When I struggle, at first I feel all-consumed by the apparent obstacles. But when I chant, however gradually I return to my truths, that I am Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, or rather that my life itself is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. That I am more than my immediate circumstances. That the obstacles or difficulties or barriers I have in my life are there for the reasons that I put them there, my growth and development for my further happiness. That although I am not yet deeply consistent, I return to core values which I come to value more over time and strive to implement those things in my life. That no matter how hopeless soemtehing seems at first, there is always a way forward, and that there is more than one way forward. For a long time now, I have been able to look back at my life and see how the most difficult things made me grow and thus were not ultimately negative because they were transformative. My life is ultimately about transformation, whether or not I initially understand that I have invited and longed for that growth, even if it is painful.

I have been reading quite a bit of Gandhi’s writing. Last week I read his Autobiography, and yesterday I read his Ashram Observations. I find much of his thinking and explanations and experiences helpful. Some things he has explained very eloquently along my precise sentiments so that I would feel no need to attempt my own explanations. There are some things which I disagree about, but suspect that this is due to my own weakness or lack of experience. There are other things which I more strongly disagree with that are perhaps due to my own cultural and chronological contexts. Foremost amongst these is bramacharya. Throughout both his Autobiography and Ashram works, he places great emphasis on this conception of chastity or celibacy as being vital. My own conviction is that while some of the aims of bramacharya may prove helpful, the stringency of his practice is not something to which I can ascribe. In the Ashram work, he wrote about bramacharya as beneficial for the sake of women. I can appreciate this to some extent. Whereas often women are sexually objectified and have little control over their participation in sex, restraint, particularly on the part of the man, can dramatically reduce a woman’s suffering by not forcing her to participate in sexual activity against her will or desire. This is particularly important in India, where young women are tightly controlled by social norms, especially in instances of child and arranged marriage. However, I see Gandhi’s view on this as highly connected to his own experience, wherein he was married at a very young age and became given over to his lust to the point of misusing his wife. My view is also strongly connected to my experience. In both of the major sexual relationships in my life, sexual contact was used to enhance and deepen love and respect for each partner, and was conducted with the happiness and well-being of the other person in mind. In his Ashram observations, Gandhi in at least one instance writes that part of the purpose of Bramacharya is to make the husband and wife or man and woman value and respect each other as partners in life. Where this already exists, I see little reason for Bramacharya. The uses of sex do not have to be just about lust and procreation. This physical intimacy is also an opportunity for us to appreciate the miracles of bodies and to respect the Buddha nature or “divine” in each other. I think that part of the problem Gandhi was trying to overcome was the difficulty of patriarchal and monogamous relationships, which tend to encourage people to conceive of their sexual relationships in terms of ownership of another persons body and life and limit who can connect with whom in intimate ways. When we challenge this barrier and when we overcome our desire to own another persons’ body or actions or feelings, we become more liberated and conscientious of our actions, as we bear the responsibility ourselves, and not because society makes us or because we do not trust ourselves. These convictions are based in my own experiments with polyamory and queer sexuality and are obviously partially possible due to my being born into a society in which I can, to some extent, pursue these experiments without fear of extensive persecution.

3.13.2011

Shortly returned from an hour long walk. Observed a lot about Shyam Nagar, where my homestay is located. Thought a lot about Gandhi-ji, what he wrote and what he did. I feel there is absolutely no doubt that Gandhi continues to be relevant today, despite some lack of conviction about this on the part of my peers. Many of Gandhi’s concerns about India, the West, and colonialism persist. Lack of Swaraj continues to be, for both most Americans and most Indians, the fundamental major source of inequity. This inequity is also connected to the lack of respect for bread-labour, which is nothing new. Gandhi wrote about it, and this trend began long before he wrote about it. The tendency for those who base their lives on work which is not directly critical for survival to look down on those whose physical labour serves to keep everyone alive is one of the most persistent forms of subjugation. To simplify, the continuing dominance of bankers, lawyers, politicians, retailers, and all kinds of office jobs relies entirely on the paradigm that their work is more valuable than that of farmers, construction workers, weavers and other work which provides necessities and commodities. In fact, both kinds of work are important. One of the themes of Gandhi-jis writings is that our prioritization of what kind of work should be done, how much of the different kinds of work are actually needed, and who is capable of what work. He elucidates that we all have the responsibility to participate in bread labour, or labour which contributes to our basic needs and sustenance. It was towards this end that he was convinced that all must participate in spinning and scavenging. When we do not participate in cultivating our own sustenance, making our own clothes, or providing for our own sanitation, this gives rise to the presumption that we are “better” than that. This one assumption has important ramifications. 1) It devalues all physical labour by postulating that we are too good for it. 2) This leads to the idea that those who do it are not as good as us. This in turn has judgmental implications for their intelligence or ignorance, from the binary assumption that if they are doing the physical, they must not be good at the mental. These assumptions are falsehoods, as human biological science, especially kinesiology increasingly demonstrates that people who have higher levels of physical activity gain the benefit of greater brain stimulation. 3) This also implies that those who do not participate in physical activity are depriving themselves of greater intellectual strength. I myself am often guilty of this. 4) It is a hypocritical waste for those who avoid labour to engage in exercise for the sake of such. If they would engage in some physical labour, they would be more physically fit while increasing their respect for those who must labour full time, and they would decrease their siphoning off of the “surplus” or extraction from the impoverished labourers. 5)Perhaps we would find much less need and desire for certain kinds of occupations. Of course some of this work will always have a place, but if it was done as need for the actual service arose and not as a primary source of sustenance, far less exploitation would occur.

How do we change this valuation of labour? There are two ways, and it is hoped that they will engage simultaneously. The first is that those who have what might be called “city office jobs” will recognize the importance of bread labour both for the benefit of themselves and for the greater good. The second is that the farmers and labourers will increasingly (as they have already begun) insist on the value of their own labour, their right to live from their labour which provides life to others, and the right to respect, dignity, and attention. An important bridge between the two is education, both as initiated by the farmers and labourers for their own benefit and advocacy, and as offered by those who have privileged backgrounds with access to institutional, educational, and intellectual advantages.

One of the great barriers to this whole process is the awkward position of the city-bred person who desires to contribute to equity. I do not have first hand experience of the Indian educational system, so I will have to learn more about the experiences of others. But my impression is that there is a similar difficulty here as there is in the US. While we are taught about the great leaders, it is often as a surface education. The reasons for the ways we are generally taught about leaders are not difficult to deduce. 1) It is part of the nationalist mythos-building which tends to encourage blind patriotism 2) It would be an embarrassment not to know anything about such leaders, but also impossible to explain American history, as American society has only ever progressed at the insistence of people’s movements. 3) We are not generally taught for deep understanding or emulation. We are taught as if the major challenges have already been addressed and overcome. 5) Strongly connected to 4 is that we are also encouraged to believe that the strategies of the past are not likely to be effective strategies or approaches to the issues at hand today. 6) Individualism, further explained below:

The emphasis on the individual is destructive in two ways:

1) A mythos has been developed around the magnetism and capacity of individuals, often separating them from their community context and the context of their likeminded peers and colleagues. This separation is a major problem. It makes the person appear as superhuman, unique, and irreplaceable. Deeper probing by the insistent eventually realize that this is absolutely not the case, that particular types of contexts, encounters, and influences offered individuals opportunities and choices to become world-shifters.

2) The construction of much of education is not towards practicality, but is offered in a sense as background knowledge to other things, as a way to make one fulfill criterion intended to measure intellect and education and thus fitness for various arenas of “the workforce”. Then young people are often encouraged not to take practical action towards changing the status quos of the society. Strangely, this is done by telling them to “be practical”. What is meant by this is not that actions which may be taken to change society are not practical. They have been tried, and they do work in practice to create changes. But what is meant by “be practical” is to look out only for one’s own future and aspirations, to find a way to be as materially successful and exploitative in the society as it is. That is to say, people are encouraged to “find a real job”, “secure your future”, “establish a career”. Because these are the goals of most of the current educational system, we are taught to examine the great leaders only in very specific ways which ultimately support those goals. This is why some students have difficulty in understanding “the relevance of Gandhi today”. People are heavily socialized into the thinking that it is okay to want to change the world, but that it is only and most efficiently done through conventional means and norms, eg by obtaining jobs which offer them the dangerous seduction of not merely being able to provide sufficient means to sustain their family, but status and excess. This removes many potential world changers from immediacy, reducing solidarity and making them part of the system. Some still do contribute to mitigating the many struggles.

The other misfortune to this is that many people who are frustrated with the status quo eventually feel that the only recourse is to reject the system inasmuch as is possible when it comes to employment. I say that this is unfortunate because many people with great compassion, intellect, understanding, and capacity often fall into low-paying jobs where they continue to be cogs in the system and console themselves that at least they are not as tainted as higher levels. I have been there myself. I recognize, however, that this is merely a way in which the system has evolved to sedate some of the frustration and potential resistance. Therefore, I believe that some negotiation with present systems is necessary. To change the world, we must be able to speak in terms which the sophisticated and highly educated can respect and understand. We must demonstrate a capacity to speak powerfully and eloquently, we must be able to connect and negotiate with those whom we disagree.

At the end of the day, the self-orientation as to the purpose of education and participation in career society is critical. If that orientation becomes defined by societal norms and expectations of who we should be and what we should have, then the significance of Gandhi and MLK slips into the oblivion of mythology. However, if we consider carefully how to establish Swaraj and their other lessons into our lives, our education shifts towards creating the kind of world which many seem to dream but few seem to act.

Reading Gandhi now, the way I am reading him now for example and clarification, is offering me new insights and reflection. This is where the activist education differs from the academic. The question does not stop at why Gandhi was effective in getting the British to quit India, as most history classes do. The question is whether we are willing to take up that legacy and that opportunity and see what we can do.

For my own part, I am more determined than ever to move the Sunflower Village Initiative forward. But I have been reminded that this is not merely an academic or logistical or macro-level exercise. I must begin with a stricter self-Swaraj. This involves immediately implementing those points on which I agree with Gandhi-ji, particularly those about which I have been slack so far. At the same time, I must be mindful of  my current context as an American student in India. So it is not part of my current privilege to rock the boat on having house help or challenging gender norms. But I can go on a walk every day. I can moderate how much I eat. I can choose not to buy more clothes while in India, and I can be more pro-active in taking care of my clothes, managing my time, and being proactive. I am trying to watch my electricity use more carefully. Above all, I am determined to persist in my Buddhist practice, challenging myself to develop an unshakable state of life and contribute to the happiness of others.

India is teaching me much. Of course I am learning Hindi, and it is always good to learn more tools for communication. But few of the themes in the Sustainable Development and Social Change aspect of the program are new to me. The valuable lessons most strongly lie outside the course material. Negotiating space with the househelp and the protective concern of my homestay mom and Aunty. Trying to stay friendly with classmates with whom I have inconsistent interactions. Being courageous and joyful and determined despite financial karma and obstacles. Sucking the marrow of the experience of being in the villages and rural places, feeling happy there from the sheer simplicity and realness and solidarity they invoke in me. Reaffirming that I am disturbed by cities and the processes that make them tick, whether Delhi or New York, Boston or Jaipur. Nurturing the hunger for real skills, persevering through this last semester of undergraduate work and looking forward to drastically altering my time use.

Obstacles

This week has been really rough. I guess its a convergence of stressors in my life. I am really grateful to my friends and SGI members in the States who do so much to support me, and the kind people here in India who encourage me.

Finances continue to be a struggle, despite Daniel working long, hard, energy-consuming hours and doing everything he can to manage. I try not to let this interfere with my studies, but that doesn’t stop it from being a constant underlying stressor. Last week while I was traveling around Western Rajasthan, my cat Sher Khan’s health deteriorated to the point that he had to be put to sleep. We had tried everything we could to save him given our circumstances. He was a person to us and it is hard to let him go. In some ways, his death seems unreal to me, far away and amongst so much else that often seems unreal. I feel like it is going to hit me all over again when I get back to Massachusetts, when his absence from my daily life will be starkly apparent.

I have been struggling with not having a bosom friend here. My fellow students are kind enough, and all very intelligent. But I miss being in the presence of those like Daniel and Mamta and Katie and Jasmina who thoroughly understand me. I love my unique characteristics. At home, I revel in them. But here those differences, especially of age and goals, seem to set me uncomfortably apart. I hate ageism, and it can be a problem in myself as much as others. So. Learning how to negotiate these things, once again. Really grateful to Katie for the brilliant articles she’s been sending me, about liberatory consciousness and socialization. Along with studying Daisaku Ikeda’s speeches in “My Dear Young Friends in America”, I try to pull myself out of my narrow thoughts and sheltering my heart. I am trying to chant, and keep my determination up, but it’s not easy.

I have more to say but my laptop battery’s dying and I should probably make sure I’m ready for my Hindi oral exam in 45 minutes anyway. I may or may not be as down as I sound here. Changing a lot these days. trying to be strong, trying to grow.

Barefoot College.

http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2009/03/article_0002.html

Western Rajasthan Day 1, 2/21

We went on an excursion this past week around Western Rajasthan, staying in Bikaner and Jodhpur. This past weekend, 18 of us went to Pushkar, while 4 others went to Jaisalmer. For many people, including myself, this was the favorite week so far. Our first stop was on the way to Bikaner. We visited a school for rural young women from 11-16 years old. In 6 months, they advance to “5th Standard”, what Americans would call 5th grade. They fed us lunch, and afterwards, we introduced ourselves and learned about them and their school. About 1/6th of the students are married. Some usually live with their husbands and inlaws, while other married girls still live with their parents because they have not yet reached adolescence. Because marriages are so expensive and rural people have difficulty affording them, many people are married in a group. When a young woman hits puberty, then there is another ceremony, after which she moves to her husbands house. Although all the girls are over the age of 10, many of them appear between 8 and 12, probably due to stunting from uneven nutritional distribution. During this time, I drew a picture of Sher Khan, and wrote in Hindi that he was sick. I gave it to one of the girls, or tried to, because she wouldn’t take it from my hand, so I put it on her knee. A minute later, it was circulating around our group. With a little help from Awdesh-ji, I got them to understand that I would like it if they drew pictures for me too. A few of them did. I got a dog, a mouse, another animal, and a lotus. After the info session, we got a chance to play games with them for awhile. It was fun. They taught us some and we taught them some. Duck Duck Goose became Billi Billi Kutta (Cat Cat Dog), so that was fun.

I have a lot more to write about this past week, but we also got a bit slammed with schoolwork this week, so I’d best get off the net and start plugging away. More soon.

 

Dependent Independence.

Things I did this week:

Saw Jaipur City Palace. Twice.
Went out to eat with Bhagwant-ji and some Uncles and Auntys.
Read a lot about Women in India, Sustainable Development, and a little about Gandhi’s relevance today.
Discussed my Independent Study Project
Walked halfway home and Took a bike rickshaw.
Figured out exactly how to get from school to house.
Found a green kurta that actually fits me properly.
Called local SGI leader.
Read about 150 pages from The New Human Revolution, Volume 11, given to me by Bharat Soka Gakkai Young Women.

In some ways, being in India feels like some kind of cross-cultural time warp. My daily school rhythm feels a lot like what it was like in junior high: I wake up around 7/7:30, dress, eat, and go to school, which starts at 8:30. Classes are very lecture-y and not very dialectical. Hindi involves relearning grammar and using terminology reminiscent of 6th grade, like object, subject, post-position. We have breaks for chai and snacks. The chai makes me feel like an adult, the snacks make me feel 12. A second break, when I get the most computer time in feels almost like recess, and then we have an afternoon lecture on development issues. After that we have lunch, and school formally ends, except that increasingly I find its better to stick around to do Hindi homework and go to office hours etc. So school seems to end around 3pm. I go home and have a snack if I want – definitely reminiscent of adolescence! If my mom is home, she asks me about my day, and then I do homework. Due to the hard work of Parvesh, the house help, I hardly lift a finger to feed myself or clean. I am grateful to be responsible for my laundry at least.

It’s not that I dislike this, but it just feels so strange. For so long I have relied on myself, or Daniel, to do what needs to be done. And my experience of school generally has much much less structure in my day. I find myself feeling odd about it. Some of this dependence is important and necessary – being in a different culture, some of the stuff, like obtaining my own food or having structure to my day is helpful so I waste less time. And it is important for me to venture out on my own or with other students to figure some things out. But it feels like a strange mix of what I have long since done without and what I feel I could use more of. I’m not sure how coherent this seems, but I’ve been chewing over it for a few days and it begged further expression.

Next week, we are going to Bisamer and Jodhpur. I am excited because we are visiting a number of places and organizations which are village and labourer oriented. Although many of our lectures are broader than I would like, I am increasingly finding that our outside activities and readings are useful both for my studies here and my goals at home related to the Sunflower Village Initiative.

Here are my India photos: http://s1184.photobucket.com/albums/z330/saerahanlon/Surajmukhiya/

I wanted to write about the Basti, but that was actually last Thursday and I’m not focused on it right now. Basti is the Hindi term for slum, at least colloquially. Right now I’m uploading photos from the past two weeks in Jaipur. I’ve forgotten my camera some days and other days I just wasn’t feeling the photography. Honestly some days it is school and straight to home and then homework and hanging out with Bhagvant-ji. I’m settling in though and I hope to be more adventurous this week.

So the photos are of 1) the first day in Jaipur, 2) A Rajput (landowner caste) wedding reception, and 3) SIT welcome party at Jyoti-ji’s family’s property.

The first day in Jaipur, we got to see SIT’s Jaipur program center and hiked up a mountain to Jahangarh. This past Friday night was the wedding reception. It was fun to wear a sari. At Jyoti-ji’s family property, we walked around the old hunting house, learned to play cricket, ate, and danced.

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