Saturday, October 29, 2005

We survived our week in Suttur - had a fantastic time. The village of Suttur is about an hour's drive away from Mysore (and is only 30km away - less than perfect roads). The guest house where we stayed was close to some beautiful rice fields and sugarcane crops - the picture to the left is of the sugarcane collected that day. Right hand picture is of the rice fields - hard to capture how beautiful they are - there is a huge expanse of green, gentle breeze.

We spent time with womens groups, mens groups, youth groups - we had to split them up by major caste so actually had many more meeting than we had thought necessary. So much tension here around caste. People are divided into neighbourhoods by caste and each has it's own community centre. There are still untouchables that are not allowed to be in most places. The lower castes are called Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste - SC/ST - they have trouble making money becuase no one will hire them, and the upper castes will not buy what they make - hard for them to eak out a living.

Many of them say they would like a factory to come to town to provide work - if a product comes from a factory the uppercastes won't know who (or what caste) made the product Hard to get a community plan or create community enpowerment and civic sense when they are so very divided. Even within broad caste divisions there are further subcastes - In one of the meetings with the womens group (which was already of a certain caste), some of the ladies would not join our circle because they didn't want to sit beside the ladies of lower sub-caste within their caste- so they sat off to the side. Argh. Here is a picture of one of the meetings with the women - we asked for around 20 people - many more showed up.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Off to Suttur tomorrow

Tomorrow we finally get the field work started. We have spent endless hours in discussion preparing to go and getting the project finalized. We leave tomorrow to spent five days and nights in Suttur - we will be staying with the Indian students in the guest house.

From left to right is Yamana, Angus, Ragu, Matt, and Ramya.

It has been finalized that after this week of field work will be our

vacation in Kerala. It is not possible to do another village visit as it is yet another season of holidays - so everyone is happy. I think we will be ready for a little R&R. Angus is not coming with us - he is fulfilling his dreams of travelling up north in search of hte Dalhi Lama I think. There is a possibility that the Japanese students will come along to Kerala - add to the crowd. GuruSwami will be our tourguide - it is his homeland. I think the current plan is to float around the back waters, with a bit of beach time. Sounds good to me. We may also visit the world's best hugger who is in the area.

Things continue be good. Some days are challenging but we work through them. I continue to feel lucky having Angus and Matt here - they've been great support and company. Goin through everything that has happened solo would have been a much more uncomfortable challenge. Working in India has taken some re-adjustment- I think I am definately refining my skills in diplomacy and patience - good things to practise and refine as there was room for improvement. :)

Delhi pictures

This is a picture of the bahai temple. Gorgeous. Also gives you a little taste of the crowd of people present - crazy!

Me and Beth with the mosque at the Taj behind us - got a tourist from Bulgaria I think to take the picture - a bit skewed :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Delhi, pink swans, pizza

The past week was full of meetings, hanging out with the student group, and a few goodbye lunches for Beth Lewis. One of the students, Dr. Ragu, had us in for lunch at his family’s house – very nice. Their family is non-veg so we had tons of meat served to us – lots of chicken, eggs, and fish. It was great to see a family home, get a sense of how normal people live. My favorite part of the house is a little room, probably 3 feet by 3 feet. It is a quiet sanctuary for prayer/meditation – incense, fresh flowers, pillows. We also had supper that night with faculty and some of the students at The Roost– lots of fun though we could barely eat after our feast at lunch. Here is a picture of Angus after Ragu's lunch - absolutely stuffed and me with Guruswami (left) and Maj Rao (right) at the Roost.

My trip to Delhi/Agra was very busy, with so much time spent travelling via car, train, and plane. The Taj Mahal was beautiful, as were the adjacent mosques. It was the first time I felt like a majority – it was full of tourists like no where else. Many of the tourists (older white people) wouldn’t take off their shoes so they were walking around with little blue booties on, like OR foot covers – Beth and I went with bare feet. Agra was super hot so after we saw the Taj Mahal we skipped the rest of the sights and spent the afternoon at a hotel pool – were grateful for the break from all the people and the heat. We did see a marble workshop where they make mosaics and do resturation for the Taj – pretty neat.

We got back to Delhi quite late, and after a quick bit and shower Beth was off to the airport to return home. I met with a JSS person the next morning and got a tour around the city. We covered everything from the parliament to a boat ride in a big plastic pink swan to a ride on the brand new subway in Delhi – first subway in India. We stopped at a Bahai temple on the way to the JSS guesthouse where I was going to be staying – the temple was beautiful – looked like a flower blossom about to open.

The JSS guesthouse was in Noida, a sort of suburb of Delhi. It was more like middle America – lots of cars, lots of upperclass, lots of young families around. I spent a lot of time in Noida with a young couple and their baby. I got lots of questions about marriage and whatnot in Canada – seems just not right to them that none of us students are married. One night I went out with the couple to the new mall and had dinner at Dominos pizza – hehehe. Based on my surroudings, I could have been in any city in North America. I picked up a few shirts at a local shop – my wardrobe is getting much better I think. Out the next morning at 430am for the return trip to Bangalore and then on to Mysore.

In terms of work, we are still trying to get useful background information about the communities where we will be staying. Visiting offices, drinking tea. We are spending more time with the students, which help make it more enjoyable, both for their company and for some translation. Mainly Kanada spoken, not much English.

So life continues to be a variety of adventures.

Hope the rain lets up back home
Happy Birthday Amy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

birthday and thanksgiving

A picture posting

Thanksgiving dinner
We went on a road trip so Prof Beth could see the Golden temple, also went to a beautiful waterfall. Our dinner was Masala Dosa - a big rice based pancake filled with spicy potatoes. very good.

My birthday was fantastic. Day started with a bouquet of flowers from Maj.Rao, Sophia, Smitha, and Anil (our driver). Chandu and VG showed up a few hours later with more flowers.
I got a ride on my friend Dr. Ragu's motorcycle to the restaurant for my birthday supper - very fun. The canadian,indian japanese students threw me a surprise birthday party at the guest house and then we went for a great supper at Boppys - our main resturant.

Friday, October 07, 2005

fountains, birds, crocodiles, and graves

Lots of discussions and hashing out of ideas, trying to finalize what the project is about and main activities.

After one day of meetings, feeling kinda spent, they took us to a botanical garden. Except it wasn 't a botanical garden, it was a collection of lighted fountains. They built it adjacent to a hydro-electric project - love the duel use of space. It was super crowded, you get prodded along like cattle through a couple of fountains with coloured lights. I'll try to post a picture of it soon. The main attraction was a big fountain, maybe 20-30 feet in diameter, which spray water in sync with some cheezy music. Like the show at Epcot, but smaller. To be honest it was kinda silly but the crowd were going crazy, clapping when the water spray up high. ?? what ever thrilles you :). Had a great meal at the Roost - served indian food but in the background they played country music. again, kinda silly but fun.

Thursday's afternoon trip was just what I needed. They took us to a bird sanctuary. no crowds, gentle scenery, light breeze. very nice, soothing. We rented a row boat and toured around the sanctuary, saw lots of birds, some trees covered in bats (little black packages) and a few crocodiles. Toured the grounds, checking out local flora. Got a chance to just sit for a while and soak it all in. Following the gardens, they took us to see Tipu Sultans (?) monument and tomb. He was the tiger of mysore so the inside of the monument building was all reddish-orange and black - unfortunately no photos were allowed. The sun was just setting so it was gorgeous seeing the ornate buildings with the reflective light. Again got our picture taken with some complete strangers.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Busy couple of days. Lots of work, lots of touring around.

The trip to BR Hills was good though a little frustrating - gotta learn the local dialect- a few photos to post. On the way back we got a tour of the rural development department of JSS - pretty interesting work. Lots of training programs for local youth, skills they can bring back into the community. Our lunch and dinnner were served to us on palm/banana leaves - called a thali i think - so you have a big leave in front of you and people come around plopping piles of rice, lentils, coconut chutney, and chapati on it - and you dig in with your right hand. so yummy. I think I am getting the hang of eating with my right hand, though it took a while to learn how to rip off pieces of bread mono-handed. Must keep away the forbidden left hand. Lots of purell used before eating - hands really have to be clean if they are your utensils.

On Sunday, Beth, Matt and I went on a trip to Somnathpur to the Kesha Vishu temple - covered in carvings, huge pillars done on lathes. It was built in 1268AD and is starting to show its age - some of the walls are falling in, you can see lots of supporting walls, some of a statues missing. Regardless it was beautiful. Nice also that we weren't escorted around by JSS people, got to stroll around at our own pace, looking and soaking it all in without having to listen to a history/cultural lesson. We were treated like celebrities there, like nowhere else. Crowds of people and children coming up to us, getting group pictures. Lots of waves, hand shakes. I can see how people love fame - everyone happy to see you, lots of smiles.

Sunday was Ghandi's birthday - so in the evening we went downtown, the palace was all lit up, crazy crowds of people. We got totally soaked in a downpour, so it does rain here. Huge thunder and lightening, intense rain. kinda fun.

So tomorrow we are off to yet another village, this time to see a demonstration of participatory rural appraisal. The indian students are coming along so should good time.

Hope you are all enjoying the fall.