Saturday, July 31, 2010
I drove five-hundred thousand miles to find a world unlike my own and now the middle of nowhere seems like my home.
Bakul School Foundation Canadian Story Time
July 17th was my debut as the Canadian story time teller. I made a power point presentation which seemed to go over well with the kids. There were no words, just pictures of me, my family, friends, Niagara Falls, Toronto, snow and Canadian landmarks and animals. I wanted the children to understand a little about me and where I'm from. I also explained our flag and the maple leaf which was a good segway into maple syrup and the pancakes that I had made for everyone. The food was a real hit and I had kids coming back for seconds.
Finding Canada on the globe.
AnnMarie's life in Canada presentation.
Kids eating up the pancakes.
Love his face!
I read them a Robert Munsch book called Purple, Green and Yellow. It was a fun story and the kids seemed into it. I was even asked for two autographs post reading! I'm a star! So, it is now my mission to beef up the book collection with some more stories by Canadian authors. They definitely need more Munsch! I'll be flying some books back with me after my sister's wedding next month so please feel free to pass on titles and authors... or even books.
Progress or no progress? that is the question. Things work sooooo slowly here. I actually staged a one day strike saying that I was not coming into the office until the new administration was ready to sit down and see a software demo from me. They kept pushing the meeting off and not showing up and making excuses so I got a little desperate. One day off work and they were ready to see the software. Now they are getting quotes for servers based on my specs and have plans to open a job matching lab. Seems to me like they were impressed with how well it worked with the screen-reader.
After the meeting they even narrowed my role over my last three months here.
1.Set up the job matching web application.
2.Training staff how to use it
3.Train staff/members computer skills (I get to train the elite computer users on more advanced computing techniques so that they can pass down their knowledge in the future.)
So now I am awaiting the server(for 1.5 months!) and doing as much training as I can. Feeling a little frustrated but hope that things are on track before I leave for Canada for my sister's wedding.
Song from title: My Hotel Year by The Ataris
Sunday, July 25, 2010
July 13th was the festival of Rath Yatra which centres around Lord Jagannath. This festival recreates a trip that the god took to his aunt's house and gives a chance for non-hindus to see Jaggy pulled through the streets on a wooden chariot along with his brother and sister. The largest gathering for this celebrations happens to be in Puri which is a beach-town near by Bhubaneswar. Millions of people from all over India and the world make the pilgrimage to Puri in cars, trains, planes, motorbikes, cycles and on foot. Some people walk for days and days. Luckily my group reached Puri by air conditioned car.
The carts at the starting line.
The growing crowd.
The crowd was huge! (I've heard approx 1.7 million) There were groups of people singing, praying, chanting and dancing in the street. There were lots of volunteers for the event including water sprayers, medical professionals (I noticed the Red Cross was a presence) and lots of businesses giving away food. The crowd was a little intense for us and we managed to score a roof top spot for the main event. Even though we were far enough away from the beatings of police and the general stampede Lucy managed to get hit in the head with a sacrificial coconut from Jagannath's chariot. On the ground it is considered very auspicious to grab the ropes and help lead the gods on their journey but people were over enthused and attempting to pull at the wrong times and the police were beating them off the ropes with batons and full 2L water bottles. We could hear the contact of their weapons from the roof top.
Police manning the restricted ropes area.
Cart getting closer.
Wheels of the carts. It is very auspicious to die by throwing yourself under the wheels. Thankfully, this did not happen this year.
Priests and holy people on the cart. (Apparently they pay lots of money to be there)
I enjoy the wooden horses that are ceremonially whipped.
Food thrown from the carts is shared in the crowd. Yummy coconut!
Cart Pulling in action!
We made our way through the crowd after the chariots passed on our way back to base (aka Lucy's place) and I could not believe the blatant groping. Men were grabbing at my boobs, my butt and anywhere they could get their hands. I thought it was ridiculous and it sucks that that sort of behavior might stop me from seeing events like this in the future. All in all it was a good day.
Cooling off with my complimentary cardboard visor and water pouch.
Song from title: My Name is Jonas by Weezer
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday the 3rd was a busy day. On my way to meet with my friend Sujit to discuss my future story telling at his foundation I met up with the Bhubaneswar Pride Walk 2010. It was really a sight to been seen in this sometimes backwards state. I was feeling kinda bummed that weekend because I was missing Toronto Pride which really is one of the best weekends in my city. So, I was thrilled to see men wearing wigs, make-up and saris! Women were a presence as well but none in elaborate clothing. Everyone looked fabulous! As happy and great as everyone looked I had to remember that this event is less of a celebration of lifestyle and more of a fight for equal rights. People involved with the walk handed out pamphlets about LGBT rights and lifestyles. I noticed a large number of police but I didn't see any one trying to interfere with the walk or be disrespectful. I stood beside the group and their giant rainbow flag and chanted "same sex same rights!" before I had to be on my way. It was really spectacular to see this movement here.
The Pride walk coming up to Ram Mandeer.
Rally (which VSOers are supposed to avoid) so I took my pics and got out of there.
Bakul School Foundation Story Time
I visited Bakul School Foundation shortly after the meet-up with the Pride Walk to see fellow volunteer Paul read an Australian story for English story time. Only two children came but the show went on. I have agreed to a reading on July 17th and plan to read a Robert Munsch book.
Paul pointing out Australia on the globe.
Paul reading the story.
I'll also have the opportunity to share a little bit about my home country before the story begins. I will be pointing out Canada on the world map and showing off the flag. I also want to talk to the kids a little bit about animals and being a vegan so I will come ready with pictures of Canadian animals like moose and beavers. I'm also planning to make some pancakes to be topped with some real Canadian maple syrup I have in the house. I figure I will share some of this precious commodity because it is for an educational purpose. More to come after my story session. Learn more about Bakul here.
Poster for the reading featuring yours truly.
Kolkata Part Two
This past weekend I traveled with some fellow Bhubaneswarians to Kolkata. It was a time to relax with other English speakers and enjoy the perks of a big city. We visited an art gallery (where I purchased a gorgeous purse), a mall that had a Lush (where I purchased None of your Beeswax Vegan Lip Balm) and we sat for hours talking in the local coffee shop (partly because the service was so slow and partly because it was nice to be around some many other expats). Other highlights for me were: taking the subway, eating at McDonald's (vegan options of course) and sitting around the Sunflower singing and playing songs. I really love the feel of Kolkata and hope that I can return there at least once more before I leave India.
Pictures from the weekend:
Passing over Howrah bridge.
Our lovely accommodations.
Salty lime sodas being made.
Peter Cat menu. Love the name of this restaurant.
Peter Cat food... which I think made me sick but it was still really good!
Viva la communism!
A man walking a goat and a monkey. Funny to see but the reality is animal exploitation.
Song from title: True Colours by Cindy Lauper
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this. They cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and dis.
Lucy, Jen and I all attended an meeting for IPAP( International Partnerships Agreement Programme) which equates to a network of NGOs in Orissa. The meeting was held over two days at HHI... which coincidentally is the hotel with the night club where we dance. It was interesting to see the place in the light of day. The goal of IPAP is for all civil society associations to come together and work together for advocacy programs that address social exclusion. Now, it seems to me that us volunteers were invited to see how it all works but were not encouraged to really participate. We mainly just sit there to give the appearance of an international presence. That's fine with me because I think the ideas and game plan should come from the NGOs themselves.
Not a conference without a banner.
I have issues with these sorts of conferences.... for one they never start on time. Once we had one start over an over and a half late just waiting for people to show up. Usually these things run behind schedule and you end up skipping sections and discussions entirely. Second, they are always in nice hotels...nicer than they have to be and I feel that the money in these programs should and could be better spent. Everyone likes conferences and they may be a perk in the corporate world but for the non-profit and NGO sectors they can be frivolous. How do you justify these lavish events to your donors? So after two days of discussion I am not really sure what conclusions were reached.
The one thing I made note of was how they plan to continue their planning and discussion: email. This is a sore note for me because the NGO that proposed the idea has yet to respond to a very well written, researched and helpful email that I wrote to them. They asked me to be involved with a software project and so I wrote to them and did not receive even an acknowledgment...They claim to have never received it which is an excuse I hear again and again... if you don't know how to check a junkmail folder then perhaps you shouldn't be using email as a means of communication for your NGO! After late meetings and lost emails I am totally unmotivated to help them with this project. I'd rather work for my NGO where I feel appreciated and valued. (Ok, bitch session over.)
I purchased a gently used bicycle from an existing volunteer and I have started riding my bike to work on the crazy streets. I got into a small accident on my first day riding to work. I met head on with a motor bike who was of course heading in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road. I was on the shoulder (where cycles should be) and about to duck behind a rickshaw that was pulling out. Then a motor bike came swerving around the rickshaw and slammed into my bike. The bike took the brunt of the trauma. I walked away with a few bruises on my shin. If a pedestrian had been there I think they would have sustained some more serious injuries. The bike is a little warped but I got him patched up.
My trusty cycle.
The name running across the frame of the bike is Hercules and after he so graciously saved me from getting hurt I think it seems appropriate to stick with that.
Another 'typical' lunch at the OAB
Last Friday there was a buzz in the air about lunch at the OAB. Apparently a man decided to donate lunch to our organisation that day. I asked around but could not find out why exactly he had decided to do this. It looked to me like the food actually came from a temple because it had been cooked in clay pots. There were various veg curries and tonnes of rice. Everyone at the OAB filed in to our "special events" room and took a seat in a very orderly fashion without being directed. I help set out plates and scooped food for as many as I could before I was told to sit down and eat myself. I enjoyed pitching in and making sure that my VI peeps get fed before I can sit and relax. The food was really good and I hope that we can have it again soon.
Various veg dishes that all sort of look the same... tastes were very distinct though.
Rice getting portioned out.
The final product.
Song from title: Whoo! Alright- Yeah... Uh Huh