Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Traffic laws getting enforced?
A little while ago on my way home with my roommate Jen I witnessed a rare phenomena at Kolpana Square. The police were actually pulling over motorbikes for violating the helmet law. In Bhubaneswar (and I think across India) it is mandatory for the driver of a motorbike to be wearing a helmet. This law is seldom enforced and tonnes of people break it. It was nice to see people receiving their fines and warnings... so I took a few snaps of the displeased offenders.
Tickets being handed out.
Before you ask, the law is indeed only for the drivers of the motorbikes. Passengers are free to ride without a helmet. I am not sure of the reasoning behind this because I feel that passengers are just as likely to receive a head injury in the case of an accident.
My roommate Jen and another Bhub volunteer also named Jen have birthdays that are two days apart. So we threw a joint birthday party for them. Jen G. (my roommate) cooked up some meat delicacies while I made sure there was vegan food for all. We spent the night chatting over drinks and eating way too much food. The birthday celebration was official when Lucy went around smashing cake into the faces of the birthday girls.... a long standing Indian tradition.
Jens' feed each other cake.
Jen G. getting cake-faced by Lucy!
My animal friends
I have been in India for almost eight months and I am still fascinated by the animals that I see everyday. I constantly find myself watching the cows, dogs, goats, and pigs that can be found on the streets.
Pigs in Koraput.
At work I have a routine. I get in, settle down and try to cool off. As I am setting up my computer and waiting for it to start up I walk to the back of the OAB and whistle. I have about four pups that come running and I run around with them and make sure that they get some water. Everyone at the OAB refers to those puppies as "Madam's dogs".
Cows are everywhere and seem to have more of a presence on the street now that the weather is cooling off. I really enjoy how the cows make a claim to their space and will lay down for hours in the middle of streets and intersections. Cows learn quickly that nobody will mess with them so they walk confidently into moving traffic knowing that the cars and trucks will avoid them. In India it is the responsibility of the public to care for the street cows. I take on this tradition and hold on to left over fruits and vegetable pieces and feed my "regular" cows as often as possible. Most of the cows I see are in poor health and in desperate need of more than just food scraps.
Cow in the middle of a busy street. (Lewis Road near Ravie Talkies Square)
Song from title: Set Yourself on Fire by Stars
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Recently I travelled to Koraput with some of my Bhubaneswar Posse to visit some VSO volunteers. They promised us food and fun and we promised to get them random and luxurious items from the big city. Such items included muesli cereal, Earle-gray tea, maple syrup, wine and baguettes. Margret and Jan were in the midst of leaving and therefore holding an auction to sell some their household items to raise money to benefit girl child education in Ramgiri. I scored a few things for my kitchen in exchange for some wine.
Bhub Posse looking fresh after our 14-hour train journey. (Photo courtesy of Paul Drielsma.)
Sarah, Susie and Corey.
The weekend was wonderful. The weather stayed nice and cool with only a bit of sunshine. We had a top notch tour from our guide Jan at the Koraput Jagannath temple. We had a blast checking out the local market that was bustling on Sunday afternoon.
Going up the steps to the Jagannath Temple.
Jagannath (far right) with his brother Balavadra (far left) and sister Suvadra (centre)
Koraput Market. (Photo courtesy of Paul Drielsma.)
It was nice to catch up with volunteers and relax with good food, friends, music and gorgeous scenery. Kudos to Magaret, Jan, Gina and Corey for the lovely meals!
Koraput sunset over the hills.
I finally had a chance to sit down with my new secretary. It turns out that I had already met him a few times but I just didn't know his name. So, it seems he is interested in my job matching software and wants to improve his computer skills. I advised him to employ one of the OAB members to train him on basic computer skills and then I will show him how my software works. I'm trying to get him to utilize people that stay at the hostel so that they can earn and not have to rely on the OAB so much. I'm not sure that it was well received because they would rather have the help for free.
Otherwise things are going well. I have taken on a light project which is reformatting all the computers in the lab and making them consistent. I should be finished soon.
I'm A Botanist
While in Koraput Margaret handed out the last of her herb seeds to us visitors. I have since started an herb garden on my front porch. I even took a short walk around the neighbourhood collecting cow pies to fertilize my plants. I did have some strange looks that day as I was scooping it up into a bucket on the street. Apparently this job is reserved for lower caste people. I even had a guy come and ask me what I was up to. Regardless, it seems to be working because my herbs have been planted for one week and I am seeing some of them spring up. I just hope I can keep them alive!
Moon flowers after 1.5 weeks. The only plant I can not eat.
Arugula after 1.5 weeks.
Song from title: What I Got by Sublime
Monday, June 7, 2010
This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together. We could flood the streets with love or light or heat, whatever.
I recently attended a wedding reception for a colleague of mine. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the ceremony because it was held in Cuttuck (about a 45 min drive away) and rains had spoiled our plans to attend. The reception was a couple days later and held at the OAB. I really like weddings here. Basically there are no seating charts or even enough seats for all the guests. It is buffet style eating with two buffets of course: veg and non-veg. This wedding even had a Gup Chup booth and a Chaat booth. Mmmmm good eats. Most guests come, present gifts, eat and go. A reception is more like a revolving door of friends and well wishers. I stayed under two hours and got a chance to mingle with friends from work and meet many people who were interested in the foreigner at this affair.
I took this event as the perfect opportunity to buy myself a sari. Auntie, which is what I call my land lady, helped me get dressed.
Veg food on a banana leaf plate. So good!
Presenting gifts to the bride and groom.
A pan of the wedding.
June 6th was the day that all members of the Orissa Association for the Blind came out to vote for the NGO's top positions. I gladly went into the office on that Sunday to observe how they did it. I even took over some of the responsibilities to give my workmates a break. For a while I crossed off names (which I pronounced horribly!) and helped people into the voting area. It was a real treat to see the proud faces of everyone contributing to this organisation that fights for them. The amazing energy in the building that day was something only to be experienced.
The actual voting was interesting to learn about. All of the voting members were given a specified number of cards which had their identity number on it. After being marked with ink on their hand (to show they had voted) the members went being the curtain where there were various boxes for all the elected positions like general secretary, president and treasurer. The boxes were marked in Braille as well as large print English and Oryia with the names of the candidates. The voting member then would drop their card in the prefered box.
Members getting identity cards and numbers.
Crossing people off the list.
Confirming identity outside of the voting curtains.
Later that evening I received I phone call from my friend Prangya to inform me that the general secretary position (that of my boss) had went to his opponent. The office is closed until June 16th and I am a bit nervous to try and establish a relationship with the new secretary...as he will probably be extremely busy settling into his new role. I guess I will just have to wait and see.
Song from title: The Youth by MGMT