Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hindu Temple + Picnic = Sunday

Today we went to a Hindu temple and then had a picnic in some woods. The temple was really cool, it was dedicated to Shiva, one of the Hindu Gods. There was a river near by which was AMAZING to step in because it was really hot out. It was really refreshing to just stand there in the cold water. The staff played cricket while we had the picnic. It was a really chill and relaxing Sunday, the temple was really beautiful.

-July 5, 2009








4th of July... Indian Style!

Not all the of the students came today being that it was Saturday. We had a couple come and it was good to just sit around and talk to them. We ended up talking about marriage in India and how it was different in America . As well as how couples worked back home.

Today was the American Independence day back home and so the staff decided to do fireworks for us as well as a cake saying "Happy Independence Day". Some of us just hung out until dinner then we ate, had some fireworks and headed up to McLeod to see some of our students play. They were absolutely amazing. They played things like Guns and Roses, Nepali music, Jai Ho, Coldplay and even Radiohead. They were really good and have been playing for about 10 years now. Their band name is the “Himalayan Mountain Band”. It was a really good day!

-July 4, 2009





The Dalai Lama? No, a Tibetan Lama!

Today we went on a excursion to a little bit outside of McLeod Ganj to see a Tibetan Lama talk about how they are trying to preserve their culture and how they got to where they are now. There are definitely a lot of shops in McLeod which you can buy souvenirs from and I know I'll definitely be coming up here quite often. The ride isn't to expensive as well, it's RS 200 which if you split with four people it roughly equals $1. After the discussion, we headed over to a Buddhist temple and His Holiness' house; unfortunately he wasn't there. We headed back for dinner and the rest of the day is kind of a blur.

-July 2, 2009






Sick to my stomach...[literally]

Today was the start of pretty much a chain reaction or domino effect. Today was the day that I got sick, and I didn't pass it to other people; but it was pretty much the start of everyone else as well.

Being sick here is totally different, all the new bacteria and what not I guess taking its toll on your body really is different than being sick back home. I had to miss placement because I was sick, and it was only the second day of being here in Dharamsala. The staff says that most people get sick because of the adjustment. The altitude, the food and just everything in general takes a toll on your body the first week you're here. Gatorade really helps out when you're sick because the sound is of food is upsetting. You don't want to eat or even see food; and the thought of actually trying to digest it turns your stomach upside down. I just laid in bed today getting some rest.

How I hate being sick!

-July 1, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

First day of Placement!

Today was the first day of placement and I met a lot of my students, it was quite hard to remember all of their names but I'm sure over time I'll have them. Today we pretty much introduced ourselves five times over and over again to the students about where we were from and what we do at home. It was like an ice breaker and definitely an ice breaker when I fell from my chair since the leg got stuck in the ground. The broke into four pieces (it was a plastic lawn chair) and I was a bit embarrassed since it was my first day with them. After placement, we had a drop off activity where we were taken to the Kotwali Bazaar and the group I was in had to find a fabric store, post office and a place to make copies. We found everything but the post office and I swore it felt like we walked down the entire mountain to find it. We then went back and had a debriefing about the activity and what we were able to find and what we didn't find. It was a good way to get us to know the bazaar better.

-June 30, 2009




Next Stop- Dharamsala

Today was our Kingfisher flight to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The flight was only an hour on a small propeller plane which had ash tray pockets in the armrest and the leather all cracking and old. Outdated? We didn't fly to high, we were still able to see the roads, houses and hills. We landed in Gaggal airport and the drivers picked us up. There was a significant amount of difference in the temperature from Delhi and Dharamsala. The view of the mountains (Himalayan) is stunning from the house. There were some monkeys on the road just watching the cars and we passed and I guess HP's (Himachal Pradesh) version of Six Flags, which is Himalayan Wonder World (not really the same though). We have two houses here at the CCS home base but the one we're in isn't the same like the nice, main big one.

-June 29, 2009

Also, the day before was orientation. Bela talked to us about how CCS got started (which was actually in India which is really cool). After he headed out to a South Indian restaurant and ate there. The food was a bit spicy but good, and I got to try a mango lasse which was good! We then headed back and went out exploring and found a temple and just walked around for a bit.

-June 28, 2009






Day two- Sight seeing New Delhi

So our second day, or rather my third day we went out to sight see New Delhi.

Not all of the volunteers were there and so only about a handful of us went. Of course, it was intensely hot and the day's high was 114! On the way to Humayun's tomb we stopped on the side of the road to see the Lotus temple which is looks exactly like it's name; a lotus flower. The tomb of Humayun was really elaborate and pretty, unfortunately the heat made us run back to the car pretty quickly. Then we saw the president's house as well as the Parliament buildings. Our last stop was the India gate which is India's version of the Arc de Triomphe. We literally almost fainted there since there was no shade and just open sun over us! We noticed some people trying to discretely take pictures of us from their cellphones which was kind of amusing. I think I'm quite over jetlag now which is good but not quite over the intense heat even when it's midnight!! There is a lot in store in these next 6 weeks!

-June 27, 2009




Sunday, July 5, 2009

Arriving in New Delhi... confused and jetlagged

So this is my second attempt to put this up. The first time it was erased, so let's try again!

Arriving in New Delhi was good. I woke up early the day of my flight, packed and ready to head out for the plane flight. I was there early so I just sat around waiting for the gate to open up. The weather was both nice in New York and London so both of my flights were good. There were movies, games and TV shows so I had a good time just using that. I saw Mall Cop while on the flight and about 20 minutes of Bolt. The Heathrow Airport was very interesting. It took me about 1/2 hour to get to my second gate and that was even in the same terminal. On my way to London, a lady on my flight flipped out on some lady behind her, on my aisle, because she was on her cellphone. She said that she was putting all of our lives in danger by using her cellphone or 'mobile phone' yet our plane was still refueling, definitely overreacted. The flight to New Delhi was long but fine and was happy when I finally landed in the capital of India.

When I got out of the plane, I was so surprised with how people reacted to the whole Swine flu thing. The staff in the airport wore masks and I was looked at a couple of times as if I was the starter of the outbreak. We were made to sign papers saying that we didn't have Swine flu or any of the symptoms. (One of the volunteers told me that the baby in front of them on the line started coughing and the nurses made the people behind and in front of the baby wear masks while they pulled aside the mother and the baby). I was picked up by the CCS driver and was surprised by the different first sights of India. The traffic in India is insane it's like being on the insane level of Frogger, Jai Ho was on the radio on the car ride, the driver's side is on the right hand side, a motorcycle can be a family vehicle for 4 and the India heat is crazy. It was really hot when I got here, around 111 but it reached on different days 113 and 116 while I was in New Delhi.

I got to meet some of the volunteers that had been in Dharamsala for 6 weeks and it was cool to talk to them. I just spent the day relaxing around the house trying to stay out of the Indian heat and slept through dinner so I was so tired. So yeah, jetlag + heat = India day one.

I got some really cool pictures over near Kabul, Afghanistan on my way into India of some mountain/ sand dunes things but apparently the picture doesn't download maybe later.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Winding down; 6 days!

So here I am with only 6 days left before leaving for India. Not too much has happened within the last blog, except some last minute shopping and just really normal things I guess. But, I did finally receive my placement!

So I received news about my placement; it wasn't exactly what I had wanted but I'm happy now with it being that I know more about it now. I've been placed, along with another volunteer, to help out with an organization called "Woman's Team Badlav Ki Aur". This organization, though newly created 8 months ago, has a strong mission and goal. The organization, nestled in the village Khaniyara, focuses on helping women between the ages of 14-22 to learn conversational English, basic computer skills and other skills that may lead them to live better lives. Most of these women come from low or middle-class socio-economic backgrounds and have dropped out of school or college in order to learn English, computer and other skills.

My duty as a volunteer is to: support women in their pursuit of healthy and sustainable livelihoods; engage in discussions and exchange ideas on issues such as family health, women's rights, access to resources, income generation, etc; collaborate and support women on ongoing projects; teach conversational English and pronounciation; teach basic computer skills; and be a positive role model.

Even though it kind of sounds like a lot, most of it I guess intertwines with one another. I'm excited for this placement because I'll be able to teach English, which I really wanted to do, and most likely will be able to pick up Hindi from the women. Whether it is listening to their stories or just trying to talk with them one on one; I'm ready for the challenge.

So for these 6 days left. In that time I plan to: A) Have a get together with zome High School friends; B) Get my shots on Monday (which I'm dreading); C) Read, read, read; D) Pack; of course!; E) Study some more Hindi and F) Just over all prepare myself for this long flight with jetlag since there is a 10 1/2 hour time difference between New York and Dharamsala.

Time to prepare myself for spicy food, monsoon rain, a Hindi-speaking atmosphere, the Indian heat and a great experience!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ready, Set, GO?!

SO! I'm pretty much done with everything for preparing for India through CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions). I've received my visa, paid my program fee and definitely booked my flight. All that is left to do is to pack, check if my shots are completely up to date (which most are), and just completely being ready for the experience. But I don't feel like I am. I feel like I'm going to be thrown in the middle of the hustle and bustle of India; which technically will occur). Lately I've just been at home: reading, watching TV, studying Hindi and just meeting with some friends. It's pretty much has been low key, nothing to big. Except somethings like Posse Olympics and other meetups with friends; I'm just going to be relaxing which also kind of tenses me up. Doing nothing always brings my mind to India and what exactly I'll be doing there (which I'm still waiting on from the placements). This blog is just going to be short and sweet just updating on this experience, already it's going to be 24 days until my departure to India!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Awaiting summer

So to continue on the last post, here I am. Finally with a plane ticket to Dharamsala, an entry visa on its way and a long, new road of experiences for me. I still can't believe that I'll be going to India on the 25th of June and still won't believe it until I get there.

Cross Cultural Solutions places their volunteers in areas which they feel best fit the volunteer's skills. For example: teaching, health, women empowerment and other areas in which the community could benefit from. Hopefully I am placed in teaching English to younger students because that way I can provide and be provided with an interchanging language setting. I can teach English and pick up Hindi from the students, since my level will be lower than a kid's. =P

Hopes and fears? I'm scared of not being able to enjoy myself because of barriers. I can't speak the language, I don't really know the culture, a new and foreign cuisine, and I am an outsider looking in. When choosing India, I knew that I would need to pick up on Hindi which I was not afraid of doing. I could have chosen an area in Latin America, or even Russia (being that I know some) but instead I wanted to challenge myself. I hope to be somewhat proficient in Hindi by the end of my 6 week journey in Dharamsala, India. I hope to know a lot more of the ins and outs of India, learn some more about Bollywood, as well as more about myself.

So here I wait; for something new and scary. A flight half way around the world, or completely around the world? To an area unknown to me but only known by textbooks and classes. And a new experience that will rock my very core. Fasten your seat belts?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dharamsala, India 2009!

So Dharamsala, India!?! Who would have thought that I, a student from the Bronx would be traveling to the Himalayan Mountains in India? WHY did I want to go to India? WHAT will I do there? These are the questions I asked my myself as I started searching for internships to be a part of this summer. I did not know exactly where I wanted to go, but I knew that I wanted to go somewhere!

It was time I took advantage and "left my nest". I started searching through various websites of different internship and volunteer groups that I could join. Then I came across Cross Cultural Solutions, it was what I wanted! It was either between World Teach and Cross Cultural Solutions. Even though the latter was the more expensive, I was determined to make my dream to travel come true.

I looked at the different countries and decided India! I was always a bit interested about the Indian culture. We always talked about Hinduism in school and once I read
Life of a Pi for my English class in High School, I became more interested with Hinduism and its relation to other religions. Mainly, Hindi struck me as intriguing and it was fascinating to me. The script was different, the sounds were different; it was a linguistic adventure! I signed up for CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions) and decided that Dharamsala, India would be a great and amazing place to go to!

Once I was set on the idea, I began to endlessly search for scholarships and other forms of aid such as funds and grants.Luckily, after all the hard, long months I've been able to raise the entire fee! Which was quite a hefty amount! Now I just need to worry about the plane flight and spending money and I am well on my way to Dharamsala, India! I think that's all for now!