Friday, February 27, 2009

The hunt is on!

April showers will bring May flowers but February is wedding season in Delhi. I have to confess that since I’ve been here, a not-so-secret desire has arisen to crash an Indian wedding. Like hunting season, every pink, purple, or blue tent signals the beginning of the game. As foreigners, we lurk ready to pounce on any opportunity dance and eat with complete strangers on their special day.
Strike one: A week ago, Shanta, Lindsay, and I were walking back to our flat from dinner. Along our way we heard loud upbeat music and saw flashing lights and immediately assumed it was a wedding. The next logical assumption was that we should crash it. Naturally we didn’t want to be completely rude so we ran back to the flat to change into our Indian clothes. Once dressed in our kameez tops (and jeans) we made our way towards the noise. As we get closer we realize it’s coming from the nearby school of fashion.  Confused we walk to a gate and ask the guard if it’s only for students. Hearing the word students, he assumes we study there and lets us by! So in we waltz in our salwaar kameez and see a full scale Indian fashion show run by students. We were surrounded by people in hip western clothes and of course looked out of place. We later found out that only students and family were allowed so though we didn’t crash a wedding, we at least crashed something.
Strike two: Yesterday, we had gone out for dessert. On our way back to the flat, we had a repeat experience and followed the sights and sounds to one of the apartment gardens. The entire garden had been blocked off by a huge pink tent. Lindsay, Laiah, and I strategically lingered outside the entrance for some time doing our best to look curious. When someone finally emerged, we of course acted completely surprised when he insisted we come in. “Who us? Really? Oh no, we’ve never seen a wedding like this. Oh we couldn’t come in, no, no. Ok, if you insist.” In true Indian fashion, we were ushered in and introduced to the bride and her entire family. Conveniently the brother of the bride was from Portland and spoke fluent English. He was very kind and explained that this was not actually the wedding but merely one of the five or six days of celebration that precede a wedding. Instead, we had crashed the pre-wedding henna party. Naturally, everyone insisted we get henna done on our hands. We agreed and sat down as a man began decorating my hands in traditional Delhi style. I think he was a bit bored with the traditional Delhi style and took advantage of the fact that we didn’t really know or care what the final product was. After doing one of my hands, he decided to switch it up and began what he explained was “Bombay style.” To me Bombay style looked like he was ADD and just sneezed random designs on my arm. Then, he took it a step farther and asked if he could do my upper arm, below my sleeve. As he was doodling with the sticky wet henna, he asked my name and then proceeded to tattoo my own name on my arm, very sailor-like.  
Due to our brilliant lack of foresight, Lindsay, Laiah, and I were now covered in wet henna. As we not-so-gracefully managed to pick up our purses and head towards the door, young girls stuffed flowers into our bags and between any fingers that weren’t wet. We made our way back to our apartments and realized we now had to manage getting through two padlocks without rubbing the design off. As I reached into my bag to find my keys, I felt like I was playing an intense game of Operation, all three of us groaning in dispair with each smear of henna. After ten minutes of accidentally smudging my lovely design, dropping flowers and trying to pick them up again, and carefully opening the door with all body parts except hands, I managed to get into my flat. Having already gone to bed, Shanta sat up as I entered the dark room. She was concerned that I had hurt myself as I was walking “like Edward Scissor Hands.” I gave up on trying to get ready for bed and somehow fell asleep with both hands in the air and my arm away from the sheets. Any acrobat would forgive me for not being capable of a cartwheel after attempting a similar feat.
Though we still haven’t successfully crashed a wedding (the groom’s family wasn’t even present at strike two), I have a feeling the third time’s a charm. This is only the beginning of wedding season so bring it on Delhi!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Be veg, be strong

This morning, Shanta and I visited Mother Theresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying, instead of our usual placements. In the car, we passed through Delhi to the outskirts of town where boys scavenged through trash with sticks. Marble and stone shops recruited day laborers who stood waiting beside the road, hoping for employment. Diseased looking cows chewed their cud and stared blankly into the morning fog. As we passed through towns that rivaled the inner city slums, Vicky (one of the staff who was accompanying us) pointed out elegant “farm houses” with big sprawling gardens and padlocked gates which the wealthy rent for parties and weddings. It seemed odd to me that the rich and powerful choose these shanty towns for their posh retreats and extravagant weddings. Here the air carries with it the scent of poverty.
We turned off the road and into the home. There is a strict policy against photography inside the grounds to prevent misunderstandings and misrepresentations. A few years ago, there was a terrible confusion in Kolkata (Calcutta) when a volunteer sent pictures of the Sisters tying a child to a chair into the local paper. When the Sisters saw him again, they kindly asked him to try and feed the child (who was mentally handicapped) without the child hurting himself or knocking away the spoon without the use of ties. After an hour of trying and failing, the volunteer begged the Sisters for forgiveness for misrepresenting them. Forgiveness was instant but the repercussions of his actions lasted. As we pulled to a stop, I wondered if words would ever suffice to describe what a video could only begin to introduce. For the volunteers who have worked in the past and the Sisters who work there now, I know there is no way to communicate the feeling of the home and the residents within. This is only an attempt.
Beautifully lush gardens surrounded us, contrasting the dirt streets outside the complex walls. The home was encompassed by a tropical and self-sufficient farm. A woman in a blue and white habit greeted us and led the three of us inside where two gated courtyards separated the male and female residents. The men and women who live here are from the streets and slums. Ninety percent of them are mentally ill and most are dying. As we walked through, the women swarmed us, smiling and laughing, touching our hands desperate for the attention of a single smile. Other women stayed back watching, unsure of us. The Sister explained that if we chose to help, any work would be appreciated. We would make beds, clean floors, help feed the residents who were unable to do so themselves, and simply be with them.  On the men’s side, a young nun from Germany was helping to dress open wounds. The men sat along a line of benches, waiting their turn to have their arms and legs re-bandaged. Flies clouded the air, landing on the sores. I’ve seen similar scenes in war movies, yet no camera can make it real until the flies are landing on you and the men are staring into your eyes as they ask your name.
I’ve been considering switching volunteer placements for a while, though I’m still unsure of where I would move to. I’ve seen three sites now at Mobile Crèche, schools for kids in the city slums, but they did not compare to the feeling of Mother Theresa’s Home. On Thursday I’m visiting another NGO (non-governmental organization) called Jagori where women are empowered through the sales of handmade crafts. This weekend, I may decide to move placements and begin working at either Jagori or Mother Theresa’s Home.
After lunch today, Vicky took the volunteers to Swaminarayan Akshardham (yeah, try saying that five times fast with a mouth full of water). The Akshardham is somewhat like a temple, although the brochure calls it “a unique complex of Indian culture.” Unique is right. We pull up in the CCS van and first of all, Vicky tells us we should leave our shoes in the car because otherwise we have to leave them at the ‘boot house’ when we enter the temple. We dutifully remove our shoes and walk barefoot up to the entrance and go through security. Security in India seems to consist of a metal detector and guard and appears practically everywhere (train stations, museums, temples). After walking through the metal detector, which beeps at everyone and is ignored by all (essentially just an obnoxious beeping doorway), a guard pats you down and let me tell you, they do pat thoroughly (although again, they never question what’s in your pockets). Everyone passes the security check and the guards laugh as they inform us that shoes are allowed inside. We look around and sure enough, everyone else is wearing shoes. Live and learn.
The actual complex is absolutely beautiful but unfortunately photography is prohibited (as are cds, bags, food, fire, firearms, helmets, and many other unusual things). I could describe the incredible architecture to you but I’m pretty sure you should simply google it instead as I have even better things to write about. Once inside we purchase tickets to the many attractions, yes attractions (as in theme park-ish). While the Akshardham is a temple, it is dedicated to a man named Bhagwan Swaminarayan and what better way to educate the masses about him than with animatronics and a boat ride through history! Just imagine the splendor of Disneyworld, the budget of Dollywood, and the mystical intrigue of ancient India.
 We are ushered into a room with a semi-circle of benches facing a large rock and a spectacular night sky behind it. The lights dim and a voice that rivals the typical movie trailer narrator begins a dramatic introduction. “It took 7,000 artisans five years to carve the stone of the Akshardham. How many does it take to carve a human life? Only one…” The lights flicker and behold the rock rotates to reveal the figure of a man emerging from the stone holding a chisel. Deep dramatic voice- “You can achieve constant happiness. Bhagwan Swaminarayan did. Journey through time to learn his wisdom.”  The lights come on and a door opens to our right. The next room is dark as we settle on benches, this time facing a pool of water and miniature island. As the lights brighten, I’m horrified to see the creepiest animatronic children ever. A story unfolds, of a young Bhagwan who heroically saves dying fish from two fishermen. The moral of the story- the world would be a better place without violence or savory fish dishes. PETA supporters would be proud. Again, we are ushered into another room where scenes unfurl of Bhagwan’s life. I would just like to stress that there is nothing more terrifying than nine realistic animatronic yoga students chanting OOMMMM in the dark. Fourty minutes and countless animatronic scenes later, we make our way to the boat ride where we again travel through time. On our way out, cardboard animals with thought bubbles promoted peace and vegetarianism. Be veg, be strong. Once on the boat, we float by sets reminiscent of Dollywood’s Blazing Fury depicting the first university and hospital in the world. Lesson learned: Don’t be fooled, India invented everything.
Back in the car, we were reunited with our shoes. We were exhausted on the drive back. Thanks to A R Rahman winning an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, his hit song Jai Ho seems inescapable. Falling asleep in the car, images of Mother Theresa’s Home mix with eerie robotic children dancing along to Bollywood music. Just another day in India. JAI HO!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A never quite typical day

An average day at Raja Bazaar

I don’t think I’ve had a single day yet that has had the same schedule. So far, each day has been a new adventure coupled with sleep deprivation. Today has been about as routine as any of them. This morning, I woke up only after hitting the snooze about twenty times (I know my roomie Shanta loves that about me). I walk into the bathroom and grab my toothbrush, reach for the tap and at the last second change course after remembering to use the bottled water next to the sink. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I sleepily walk over to another lfat where the other five volunteers live for yoga class (four of us live in one flat, five others live in another, and the CCS office is around the corner in a third flat of the same apartment complex, all within three minutes walk). I grumble my way through yoga, secretly resentful of our instructor for only being able to have class at 6:30 AM. Today of course was Tuesday and therefore I relished the extra hour of sleep. Shanta and I have worked out a system for breakfast, alternating making eggs and toast and doing the dishes. We sit down together and scan the English newspapers for interesting articles and the Hindi papers for words we can read while sipping our tea and pretending we’re awake. Then I run to flat five, meet up with Lindsay (the volunteer I work with) and hop in the car headed towards the Mobile Crèche headquarters (90% of the time I catch my long salwaar top in the door and try to pull it out without ripping it. So far I’ve been successful in keeping it one piece and today I even avoided getting it caught it the first place).
Sunil, our driver, hums along to Hindi radio stations that play a sort of Bollywood-1990s-boy band fusion with the occasional Guns and Roses or Katie Perry song (remixed with Hindi inserts of course).  I often think that India has only just now reached the 90s as far as Western culture is concerned.  After a few minutes of sitting in the Mobile Crèche office (known as the Raja Bazaar Crèche) trying to read more Hindi newspapers, our supervisor Sunita appears. She seems to be pregnant (we are afraid to ask in case we’re mistaken) and she tends to have mood swings, more often towards the grumpy-not-so-happy-to-see-us moods. I think she got a bad impression because one time we both misread the clock and started to leave an hour early. She thought we were trying to escape. Normally we spend an hour and a half working as teachers’ aides, drawing worksheets and making crafts that will go to the kids. Occasionally- depending on Sunita’s mood swings- we get chai (tea with amazing spices and milk and pretty much everything wonderful in it). After working in the office, we walk up the driveway to the classroom and help teach the kids math and English. Today though (since there is no such thing as a typical day), Sunita explained that we were going to visit another Mobile Crèche site called NBCC in the slums of construction zones.
The city of Delhi is constantly under construction. In preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games the entire city is being renovated, at least in theory. Grime-covered walls create “diversions” around the new and expensive metro system scheduled to be complete in a year. One professor explained that the capital is being built at the cost of the country.
Lindsay and I climb into the car and are dropped off without any explanation at one of the construction sites in the city. Mountains of dirt piled high with wires and bricks surround a small concrete building with brightly colored paintings on the side (the NBCC Crèche). One of the teachers greets us and gives us a quick tour of the classrooms employing her entire English vocabulary (all of maybe fifteen words). We settled in with the oldest group of kids who just happen to be doing math. Here I am thinking, perfect- numbers in Hindi have become my strong suit, I can handle this. Well, numbers up to twelve at least. These kids were doing long division and counting to 100. I strategically sat next to the smaller boys who were just writing their numbers. Despite my broken Hindi and confused facial expressions, one little boy decided to tell me what I pretended to be his entire life story. He talked to me in Hindi like we were best friends and after several attempts at telling him I had no clue what he was saying, I began making up stories in my head to go along with his theatrical gestures. I think there was a car wreck or maybe an explosion involved at one point in the monologue. The boys wrote down their names in Hindi for me to sound out (I can read Hindi now, but have no idea what the words mean yet) and got super excited when I wrote their names in English. I tried writing my own name in Hindi but forgot how to write an E so they called me Rin. Then my new BFF decided since I couldn’t understand him when he spoke Hindi, he would write a tiny novel on his chalkboard. I began sounding it out but again had no idea what it meant, though he didn’t seem to mind. Finally we found common ground in a game of tic-tac-toe. Unfortunately for me, the kids didn’t count three in a diagonal row as a win. I was sad to leave the NBCC site after only an hour and half. All the kids shook our hands and waved as we climbed into the car and drove back to our apartments.
Around 1 PM Lindsay and I met up with the other volunteers and the staff over at the CCS office in flat 5 for lunch. After lunch I attempted to get some of my work for the internship out of the way but at 2:30 CCS had arranged for the volunteers to visit the National History Museum of India. A former employee of the museum accompanied us as our own personal tour guide. I never caught his name but studied his face as he talked instead of listening. He was almost feeble and his big eyes were magnified by bifocal glasses but after spending ten minutes explaining the history of the History Museum, I could tell he was passionate about his subject. Later I learned he was the first assistant of the museum when it was created in 1947 after India’s independence. He dedicated 37 years to the history of his country and spoke of each artifact as if it were an old friend.
By the time we got back home and drank another cup of chai, dinner was ready. I was ecstatic to see that mashed potatoes were on the menu though they were still distinctly Indian. I enjoy the food here though most is a bit spicy for my weak taste buds. I have realized my love for potatoes and cheese transcends culture, however I’m still rationing my Teddy Grahams for a rainy day.
After dinner I finally have a little time to relax, read my email, procrastinate on homework, practice Hindi, look over assigned readings, and reflect on the oh-so-busy-always-an-adventure-crazy-wonderful-typical day.
PS if you want to read other perspectives on this trip, read Laiah’s blog:

Friday, February 13, 2009


It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for almost two weeks now; time has flown by. I’m just beginning to remember which of the six switches in my bedroom turn on the light. I still catch my salwaar in the car door every day. At lunch today, Lindsay had finished eating and the other volunteers weren’t back yet so the staff took advantage of the empty chairs and ate with me. For the first five minutes there was complete silence, even Bela (the program director) sat quiet. Finally Sunil cracked a joke in Hindi that got everyone into a light hearted conversation (even the solemn cook whose name I still don’t know smiled and joked). While they talked and laughed in Hindi, my mind wandered. Though so much is still new to me here, scenes from the daily drive to work and back replayed in my mind. There is no way to describe Delhi without experiencing it. I may never know or understand the significance or stories behind what I see yet every day I pass people and places that are becoming familiar to me. I think of them as snapshots of the city.
- On my way to the market, I pass a Mosque with red stones and a dirt courtyard. It’s over a hundred years old, Ekraj tells me as we head off to add minutes to my new Nokia cell phone.
- Stuck in traffic I look up at the green and white bus just feet from me. A woman in a bright pink and orange shawl rests her head on her hand as she leans on the window. Her face is somber as she sleeps.
- Police officers in tan uniforms reminiscent of the Imperial British of a bygone era sit by their guard stands and play cards or chat on corners.
- Children build tiny towers out of rubble while their mother’s carry bricks on their heads to build sidewalks.
-  Sikh men tie bandanas around their full beards and tuck them into the wrap of their pugaree (turban) while mounting motorcycles.
- Women in heels talk on cell phones as they wait for the bus and try not to catch the dust of passing cars.
- Blue and white ribbons, flowers, and fabric adorn the gate of a politician’s house on Parliament Street in preparation for a wedding.
- Girls sitting side-saddle watch passing traffic as they cling to men driving motorcycles that weave through the crowded streets.
- Our neighbor, Mr. Jafa, stands in the garden in his gray sweat suit every morning as I walk to the CCS office. He waves as I pass and then turns back to the flowers. Last night he invited Tom, Lindsay, Laiah, Shanta, and I over for dinner. When he opened the door in a suit and tie, I felt a bit under-dressed in my sweatshirt and jeans. He and his wife welcomed us with a delicious dinner and captivating conversation. Talk ran from oil, the Middle East, optimism, and America to the future and hope for my generation. I left with new friends and new perspectives.
- The same beggar girl walks along the cars that stop at a certain traffic light. She holds out her hand and points to her sleeve that hangs loose where an arm should be. Today she stood at Belah’s window (in the front seat) between our car and a school bus. I caught her glancing up at the children her own age, laughing and singing to each other in their clean sweaters on their way home from class. For a fleeting second as she turned back to the window, we made eye contact through the glass. We’ve seen each other several times before but just then it was different. For that one second, we understood each other and smiled.
India cannot be captured in pictures or even words. India is the joy of the guard when you thank him for finding your lost wallet (and yes, I lost my wallet but somehow it was found again- credit card intact, only $30 missing). India is the smile behind Jasi’s kind eyes as he looks in the review mirror of his taxi. India is the sound of honking and chanting and men singing while they cook.  India is a land, a people, and a way of life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Haridwar and Rishikesh

This weekend, some of the other volunteers (Laiah, Lindsay, and Shanta) and I decided to take a road trip to a holy city in Northern India call Haridwar and a nearby town Rishikesh. Early Saturday morning, Jasi (our favorite taxi driver) took us to the train station and wished us a “berry goot” trip. We settled into our seat in our section of “AC Chair Car” (exactly what it sounds like: a train car with chairs and fans). Like an airplane, they fed us questionable pre-made food and gave us newspapers. Later after the Indian man who had sat next to me left, the steward snuck up on me and held out some rupees asking for a tip. I could tell that I was being singled out because I was a tourist and there were no Indians around to tell him to go away but alas, I gave in and handed over ten rupees. Score: volunteers- zip, India- one.
Four hours later we arrived at the Haridwar train station. It was a bit desolate and abandoned. There were only about five auto-rickshaws though there seemed to be a million drivers asking us if we needed a ride. We settled on the cheapest one and drove into town towards the temples. The streets of Haridwar were narrower than Delhi and if possible more crowed. Busy market stalls stood side by side creating narrow alleyways packed with people, cows, dogs, bikes, and rickshaws. The foothills of the Himalayas peeked through the ever-present smog. Shouts of “hello, ma’am come inside” rose above the honking from vendors sitting at the entry to their shops. Flies buzzed through the air and cows snatched food from roadside stands. We got tickets for the cable cars up to two temples (both temples were in the mountains). As we walked towards the entrance, tour guides insisted we needed an offering and of course they happened to sell some. We eventually were persuaded to buy a coconut offering complete with ribbon and rice puffs. Score: volunteers- zero, India: two. When we got to the cable cars, the chipped pastel paint with happy looking advertisements reminded me of the Ferris wheel at carnivals. As we climbed higher up the mountain, the city emerged from behind the tree line with the mighty Ganges winding through the tangle of roads and markets below. The sun caught the water and glistened through the haze. Monkeys danced in the trees below us and women carrying baskets of sticks glanced up at us as they walked along a dirt path.
At the top, we entered Mansa-devi temple. We had no idea what to do with our coconut offering and watched the people in front of us as we approached the first statue. A man sitting by the god chanted and blessed us, painting a bindi on each of our foreheads. Then he explained that the gods accepts cash donations. Not wanting to offend (and also because of some extreme encouragement from the priest) we each set down more rupees. Score: volunteers- none, India- three. We turned around and repeated the same encounter at the next god statue. Volunteers-nada, India-four. Finally we realized we could simply walk by and politely bow or smile and keep our wallets intact. Back down the mountain, we took a bus and then another cable car to the second temple, Chandi-devi. The view from the top was even more striking at Chandi-devi, across the Ganges. There were no crowds and the air was quieter.
Flowers in the Ganges at AatiOnce we made our way back into Haridwar, we headed over to a nightly ceremony called Aati. Hundreds of people gathered along the river to bathe in the holy water and wait for sunset. As the colors of the sky changed, people lined up to place a boat made of leaves and filled with flowers into the water. Priests escorted the four of us to the water to help us with our blessings. After a prayer, the priest would explain a blessing and then say “donate as you like.” As you like was never quite enough though. “This prayer is for the long lives of your mother and father, anything will be accepted, now how much in dollars would you like to give? Ten rupees is not good, give in your money, give in dollars, ten dollars? Yes, ten dollars is good and how about for this blessing? Ten dollars also? Yes, of course, give dollars.” By the end of the prayer, the man expected about one hundred dollars, none of which I had agreed to. I was frustrated and handed over 100 rupees (about two bucks) after several stern scoldings. Finally, he lit a candle and handed me my leaf boat to set sail in the murky cold water. I watched as it floated away, flower petals drifting behind and thought of my 100 rupees. Volunteers- still zero, India- five.
Sunday morning, we awoke at our hotel in Rishikesh ready for a relaxing day. Rishikesh is about an hour north of Haridwar and the yoga capital of the world. International hippies lingered in the quiet town after last week’s World Yoga Festival. Indian men with long beards and bright orange robes tied yellow scarves over their dreadlocks. Cows napped in the streets while motorbikes zipped around them. Our hotel offered yoga classes in the morning and it was quite a way to start the day. After yoga we meandered through the streets, relishing the serene atmosphere. We walked past the hanging bridge to a temple towering over the river yet dwarfed by the foothills. Stairs led down to an alcove along the river where we sat and watched the water. Bells from the temple sang soft notes that joined with distant chanting. The Ganges lay still before us and the disarray of the streets and markets seemed so far away. For the first time, I didn’t notice the smog. I could breathe and think and soak in the beauty of the moment. Game point: volunteers- at peace, India- perfect.
Sitting in the CCS office back in Delhi, I look at the prayer beads on my wrist and remember the warm clean air, the bells, the flower petals, the men with dreadlocks, and the mountains and I breathe again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A moment at last

So this is a bit overdue but the past few days have been busy to say the least. The sounds of the Muslim call to prayer, constant construction, honking, and vendors shouting in Hindi are carried by the warm air into our flat. It’s day 4 for me and I’m beginning to settle into a routine. The flight was long but I had plenty on my mind to occupy me (one of which was the passenger next to me who had drank herself into a coma, sprawled out into my seat, and snored the rest of the flight). I got into Delhi late and most of that night is a blurr. Sunday morning we had orientation and then shopped for Indian clothes. I bought two salwaar (long tunic shirts worn with a scarf and Indie-style skinny pants that poof at the top somewhat like a diaper with tights). I’ve learned always wearing a long scarf is terribly dangerous for me as I’m constantly dropping it into things like the sink or my food.
Monday, we started at our volunteer placements. I’m working at Mobile Creches in Raja Bazaar, a slum of central Delhi. On the drive to work we pass the beautiful gated houses of politicians and the magnificent President’s house across from the India Gate, then drive down into slums where children beg at the car window and men in rags crouch on the corners. The crèche is a one room building where the children of day laborers can eat and learn and play. Lindsay (one of the other volunteers) and I try to teach the kids math and English but most of them are still learning Hindi. I’ve learned to do math in Hindi with numbers up to ten. The children call us dede which means big sister but I only know a few of their names. Today we learned one girl’s name was Uhdmeelah (I made up the spelling) instead of Uvula which is what we had been calling her (like that thing in your throat that I always thought was your tonsil but it isn’t). The kids look adorable but have a habit of attacking each other.
Each day we leave work about 12 and go back to the CCS office for lunch. We’ve had all Indian food for lunch but dinner seems to be a different story. The first night we had Chinese and Monday night we had “veggie burgers” and fries. I put burgers in quotations because I would not have titled them that if they hadn’t been on a bun with ketchup. Between lunch and dinner we have Hindi lessons and some cultural activity. Monday the activity was to survive in the market and accomplish a random task. My task: buy the ingredients for and make ten sandwiches and then give them out to people. That would never work in America, some random kid handing out sad little sandwiches with only tomato and cheese. In Delhi however, they were hot stuff. Some people even took two. Last night a classical dance troupe performed for us. Today we had a lecture about the political history of India. It was interesting to hear about India and the notion of colonialism from the Indian, British, Scottish, Canadian, and American perspectives. There is definitely a lot of emotion still connected from all sides (except maybe Canada, haha).
Overall, Delhi has been interesting. Shanta (my roommate) and I both felt it had a familiar feel to it, no matter how lost we get. The culture has a complexity of layers both straightforward and contradictory. Delhi is not a pretty city. I see people sweeping the dust off the roads only for it to settle back into their hair and on the buildings. Crowds of people in a chaos of color, from silk to rags, congregate on every broken street. Cars weave in every direction incessantly honking, narrowly (and by narrowly I mean approximately one inch) passing motorbikes, rickshaws, cows, and pedestrians. Yet despite the dirt and the chaos, sometimes the sun will shine just right through the smog and you can see the rays dancing through the trees. Sometimes I catch someone’s feet showing through the cover on a rickshaw and wonder where they’re going and where they’ve been.  There is so much to learn here and I have 66 more days to do it.