On the weekend I took a trip to the village of Bahanaga with my friend and co-worker Prangya. I had a great time and I felt that I had to keep pinching myself to feel like it was really happening.
The train ride from Bhubaneswar was about four hours and we had general tickets. This meant seating with no A/C. It was warm but bearable. At least we had seats. On the way home it was standing room only for a couple hours.
Bahanaga and Barikpur
We arrived at Prangya's home around 9:30pm in the middle of a scheduled power cut. Her mother was busy making us dinner and I was introduced to her brother, Jitu; the neighbour, Damayaanti; and Damayaanti's son, Babulu. In the village neighbors are like family and the two families cook and eat together everyday. All of the cooking is done on an open fire outside. They made me a mixed vegetable dish and some naan that night. It was really amazing. We spent some time visiting and got to bed around midnight. The family insisted I sleep in my own room (the house only has 3 rooms) so I thought it was very generous.
The next morning I woke up early and had a chance to look around the property. I was taken to the pond nearby where people swim and bathe. Luckily, Prangya's family had a make shift shower stall where I had privacy for my bucket shower... I just couldn't fully stand up in it.
Damayaanti while cooking breakfast.
Making friends with the calf.
Brushing my teeth was even an experience. Her brother Deepak (whom I have met a few times now) insisted that I try an all natural tooth brush that is basically a stick from a tree they called “dantakathi” in Oryia. So, I was instructed to chew one end of the stick until it was soft like a brush and used it to brush my teeth. The taste was bitter but apparently it is very good for your teeth.
Trying it out.
Before heading out on our long day we visited a temple that was near by and made some offerings.
Posing as instructed.
We started our journey around 9am. We had rented a car for the occasion. I was taken to meet many friends and relatives in Bahanaga and Barikpur (a close by village where Prangya grew up). The villages are mainly dirt roads with mud huts that have straw roofs. Everyone I met was really interested in me and wished to shake my hand. I was told that I was the first foreigner to visit the village. I even had children following me around. The kids got a kick out of my camera and laughed when I would make faces at them. I found the curiosity of people in the village to be more genuine and friendly when compared to the menacing stares I get in the city. It was a welcome change of pace.
Babulu and Deepak.
Typical village dwelling.
Kids following me around.
The first site of the day was Panchalingeswar Temple which is located in Nilagiri, Parbat at the top of a gorgeous hill. We hiked up the hill and took rest in the shade and bought snacks on the way. When we reached our destination there were people lined up and sticking their hands in to some water. Nearby there were priests making offerings to the god Shiva. Prangya and her family insisted that I line up to have a go at the water fall. This water fall has been flowing constantly for hundreds of years and when you reach in you are to find the five lingeswar (parts of the god Shiva). I reached in and felt around and found five distinct rocks. This meant good luck for me meaning that I get what I desire. (I suppose it is sort of like a wishing well.)
Feeling for the rocks.
Priests making offerings to Shiva.
View from the hill.
Our next destination was the Jagannath Temple in Nilagiri. I entered the temple and followed suit of my company by hugging a large wooden post. This represents the guard of Lord Jagannath. Jagganath is the top god in Orissa and I got in trouble for not sitting properly to show respect. I had to switch to lotus position from having my legs stretched out in front of me. I was quickly forgiven of my ignorance. This temple is where we had lunch. We partnered up and shared plates because the amount of food was too much for one person. We sat on the ground and ate with our hands. I was laughed at for dropping rice all over myself. I was a good sport though.
Prangya and her mother.
Eating with my hands.
Our last stop was a beach on the Bay of Bengal at Chandipur. The beach was vast and you could walk out into the water for a couple of kilometers. We walked pretty far and the deepest water was up to your ankle. It was beautiful.
In the water facing the shore.
Deepak, Prangya and Jitu.
Tiny crab guy covering his hole with sand.
When we got to shore we had snacks of Muri and Kurkure. We had to fend off goats for our snack. The goats hang out on the beach and pester people for food. They were pretty cute so we took turns feeding them.
On the way back from Chandipur we stopped for Dosas... the perfect end to a perfect day.
Song from title: Exiles Among You by The Weakerthans
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
The second week of March was the annual Program Area Review for VSO. It was held in Puri, a touristy beach town that is about 50k from Bhubaneswar. This meant that ALL the VSO volunteers from across the country came to talk about the future of VSO (at least for the next few years). The days were filled with meetings which entailed power point presentations, brainstorming and role playing. Nights were filled with fun mischief. It was nice to meet up with old friends and greet the batch of new volunteers that had arrived just days before. There was much time spent swimming, drinking, playing music and eating. Memorable highlights were the magician, Marco-Polo (poor Tim (a new vol) just couldn't catch anyone!) and a combo game of spin the bottle/truth or dare. The one down side to the time spent in Puri was the food poisoning... about 15 volunteers (OF COURSE including the VEGAN!) got pretty ill.
Paul and Mark jamming.
Oryian dance show.
It's getting hot and hazy here in Bhubaneswar. For instance, there is a high of 44 today. It is a bit of a struggle. I mean, I am alright with limited exposures... even a few hours out in the middle of the day is fine as long as I get back to my AC'd room. I'm so glad that I was able to purchase one... it is a real luxury item but I'm pretty sure I would be miserable with out it. Work is becoming difficult due to the heat as well. I really start to feel it around 2pm and want to go home. The two ceiling fans in my office just don't cut it so I have been working from home about 1-2 days a week lately. Also with the approach of summer there are regulated power cuts to save energy. Like clockwork the power in my half of the city goes out at 5pm and comes back on at 6pm. (I've heard the other side is cut from 4-5...)
Check out the graph!
Let's take a walk: tidbit of everyday life
It was suggested in a media presentation at PAR to try and capture moments of everyday life to share. I decided to video my walk to the gym. Enjoy!
(I'll try to include these tidbits more often)
Song from title: Icky Thump by The White Stripes
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Late in February the OAB lost one of its members. At the age of twenty-four Amrendra Prasad died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was an active member of the OAB who helped organise workshops and conferences. I had only met him a few times but I remember him as motivated and positive. Members of the OAB consider each other family and it was tough to see so many of my colleagues and friends grieving. Prasad's body was even brought to the office/hostel on the day of his death so that all had a chance to say goodbye. This entailed lining up and placing flower garlands around his neck. While the loss is very sad it allowed me to see just how connected everyone at the OAB is to one another. Prasad will be missed.
Body wrapped in flowers.
My work has been going well. I was asked to make a report about my contributions so far and I thought it necessary to also comment on the things that I have planned to achieve. I feel that this is helping to focus my role. My boss was impressed at some of the things outside the scope of my placement objectives that I would like to change. Waste management being one of them. I am finished scripting my database and now I am moving on to writing a web application. This web application has to be accessible for those who are completely blind. I've been researching and I have a plan but any resources or tips from developers out there would be much appreciated.
March first was the Hindu festival of colours called Holi. To celebrate people take to the streets armed with coloured powders and water. The morning is spent adorning everyone in sight with the colours either by rubbing it on faces or shooting it from guns. I spent Holi on the beach in Puri with great company and we had a blast decorating each other.
Late in the afternoon on Holi I left my friends at the hotel to have a short swim at the beach. I knew that going solo would entail answering lots of questions from locals about where I'm from and what I am doing in India. I actually was having a nice time chatting with some people I met out in the waves. After I had moved on and was enjoying the water a man stalked me and when I wasn't paying attention he waited for a large wave and then dove at me. He was hugging my waste as I was recovering from the wave. I reacted quickly by standing up, swinging him around, and socking him one on his jaw. I was yelling and causing a scene as he stood there looking shocked. I felt provoked and it put me in self defense mode. I'm fine and luckily nothing else happened afterward. I left the beach shortly after the incident. This is the sort of thing that can happen anywhere and I thought it would be wise to tell of my encounter to remind other volunteers and people in general to always be aware of their surroundings.
Song from title: Lazy by Deep Purple