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31

Mar

Coughs, Sneezes, Tears, Smiles and Laughs

So it’s almost April 1st. We’re almost to the one month mark till I’m back home. I’m more excited than ever but now we have to start thinking about what we haven’t done yet and what we need to get done before we leave and what it’s going to be like to experience reverse culture shock. To be honest I’m nervous to be back in the land of endless opportunity. You don’t really understand why the U.S. has been coined with that term until you’ve lived in a third world country. Just the idea of a grocery store is freedom and opportunity in itself.

Tonight a few of us went out for dinner after a few days of actual school work and working hard at Voice 4 Girls. We went to a Lebanese restaurant that was AMAZING!  We had pita bread, hummus, falafels, and schwarmas!  It was so delicious! I can’t wait to be back and go to the Little Italy Farmers Market and get all hummus I need. We made a pit stop at a dessert restaurant called The Chocolate Room. We got sundaes but we discovered PANCAKES on the menu so we’ll be going back there soon! After a night filled with great food and tons of negotiating with rickshaw drivers it got me to thinking about language barriers.

Coming to India I had no idea I would be dealing with a lack of communication and a language barrier at all. I blame most of what you learn in school about India being about the times of British rule and the movie Bend It Like Beckham. After living here for over 3 months you learn to communicate in an odd way.

The all time favorite Indian head bobble is a must. It appears to be a shacking of your head motion that to the western mind translates into no. Here it means yes or more specifically “I understand” or “sure.” I now use it ALL THE TIME but at first, it was super confusing. We also speak english with an accent when need be. The locals understand english more coherently if you use an Indian accent. It took us forever to use this translation tool because to us it sounds like we’re racist pigs. But it does help and the locals see it as a sign that we know “what’s up” and we obviously know what we’re doing and we respect their culture. We also like to scream WE LIVE HERE to let them know they won’t get away with ripping us off!

Everyday communication can be a struggle. We really have to explain ourselves to get anyone to understand. It’s even hard to translate how we feel because we’re just coming from a totally different mind set.

As we were driving to our school I heard a man sneeze and immediately I thought about lying in bed early in the morning listening to my Dad make coffee, eat oatmeal and watch the news. Every once in awhile he would sneeze, cough, etc. When I heard the Indian man sneeze it sounded exactly like my Dad.

It made me think that even though translation may be really difficult. There’s so much that we use our mouth for that connects us all. Like a smile or a laugh or even a frown. Those are universal signs of emotion that we all understand. If I see a little girl crying on the side of the road I know that she’s sad without even sharing a word with her. When I’m on my way back from work and a small beggar boy with one arms scrunches his eyebrows in frustration when I don’t give him a rupee I know he feels defeated by both me and his pimp in the Mercedes stealing his money. A sad reality. The laughs I hear at a chai stand makes me giggle. Emotions and signs of emotions connect us all without exchanging a single word. So when I get upset that a rickshaw driver thinks we’re fresh Americans off the plane who will pay an absurd amount for a quick ride and I throw my hand in the air and make a discussed face he knows I’ve beat him at his tricks without even hearing a single word.

It’s quite beautiful. It helps a lot when you volunteer. Sometimes not finishing your water bottle or diet coke and handing it to the little girl begging for money is a gesture worth more than a thousand words. Or when you’re fitting little ones with TOMS shoes and all you need to exchange is a smile to know how much they appreciate the fact that they now own something brand new! Or when you sit there with the girls we work with at Voice and listen to their stories as a teacher translates. She may not know exactly what I’m saying back and I may not understand the words coming out of her mouth but I know she knows I care.

One month and 5 days to go and I already know I’m going to miss the people of this country a whole lot, probably more than anything! I know I’ll be bring back a decent Indian accent and the head bobble for sure.

29

Mar

M.I.A. Third World Democracy

28

Mar

We made the paper for the girls soccer team on campus! Such an amazing experience!

We made the paper for the girls soccer team on campus! Such an amazing experience!

26

Mar

A New Light

40 Days. That’s how long I have left in this beautiful country. If you asked me 5 days ago I would have said some crazy things about counting down the seconds till I’m home. But, as always, there’s always going to be something to lift you up. It all started last Wednesday. Libby and I went into the city for work with Voice and got some work done and dreaded the day we would no longer be in India working with Voice. After we got some work done we took advantage of being in the city and met up with Erin, Hannah and Walter at a Thai restaurant called Isda Thai. Isda Thai is right above a car dealership and when we walked by we got to witness a group of people blessing a new car with coconuts and incense…only in India. Thai food is heaven in food form. We got some cocktails and had the best Pad Thai of our lives. Just Pad Thai it self could have made me the happiest girl in the world. My love for it is that serious. After we talked for hours under the stars on a rooftop terrace with twinkling lights and the smog below us we started to realize we only had a little over a month left. So much has happened, changed…What was it going to be like when we were actually home? So many unanswered questions. We that night was the beginning of clarifying in my mind that I don’t want to leave India.

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As my week progressed Tanvi and I discovered that Youtube has full versions of Disney movies. So everyday or so we’ve been watching a different princess movie. The first day we tried to watch Jungle Book but we decided that that hit to close to home for Tanvi. And princess movies are just much better. 

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I know what you’re thinking…I’m really Tan…oh the few upsides to tropical heat. Don’t be jealous I had to endure lots of peeling to get this tan. 

On Saturday we had an outing with our whole group. Upu, our student advisor, took us to the Buddha Statue out on the lake in the city that smelt like a combo of hard boiled eggs and sharpies. Oh India. We took a ferry out to the statue, a Hyderabadi landmark, in the middle of the lake where we were the main attraction really. Mostly due to the fact that five out of the ten girls in our group decided to shave there heads like the locals do. So brave! I would never be able to do that! They’re my heros and they all look so beautiful! Be about it girls!

As we walked back to our cabs we walked through a park were they had a few rides, like a carnival, and a couple fountains and some games to play as well as a play structure. A fun place to be for kids and anyone really. Mostly because it had grass! Real grass! What!? How do they grow grass in India? It’s 8 at night and it still feels like it’s 100 degrees?

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Yes. It is fun to pet their heads. After the Buddha, we went to a restaurant. The food was amazing! Coconut rice, spice fried chicken, coconut milk curries…all so good!  

Then as the waiter brought the plate of sizzling calamari our eyes started to burn, our mouths started to water. As we took our first bite I think I started to cry. My mouth was on fire. They had coated and stuffed the calamari with spices and peppers that made it the spiciest thing I have ever eaten! I had to pop in at least 5 pieces of gum and drink all the water I could get my hands on! For the rest of the night everyone said I even smelt spicy.

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After we debated going to the hospital because our mouths were on fire we left to go catch our first Hindi movie. We went to a movie theater that was more like a mall and took our seats. I was quite worried. I thought I was either going to fall asleep or not understand a single word. Luckily we had Upu to translate. The movie was a thriller about a women taking revenge on the Indian Police for killing her husband. Quite suspenseful and interesting and a whole lot of girl power! The whole movie was like playing telephone. It was hilarious and we also had a intermission to understand what was going on. It was funny to see the difference between what we guessed what was going on and the actual truth. And if you’re hungry they have real “mexican nachos.” Seriously? Definitely not nachos. I opted for a Amaretto Latte to keep me awake. God I love Amaretto.

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The next day was the lantern festival. A dream come true. It’s to bring in the spring and harvest season. We got to the arena at 6. The place was packed. For what seemed like an eternity we watched terrible, and I mean terrible, performances waiting to get the show on the road. There was a screamo band that got the crowd so upset that they started lifting up their chairs in the sky and booing. Then for the main act we watched a sand artist. Oddly cool. But still very odd.

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After the chaos died down it was time for the battle for the lanterns. The event was highly unorganized and probably unsafe. Once we yelled and pushed for lanterns the chaos died down again and the beauty of lighting up the sky put everyone a peace. There were plenty of lanterns to go around and we all got to send multiple up into the night sky. It beauty in indescribable. Everyone was so happy! It was tricky to get them up in the sky and we were literally playing with fire but we finally got the hang of it! Doing this has always been on my bucket list. Before Tangled and the Hangover 2. It is just so gorgeous. A dream for anyone.

A fun filled week really gave me a new light. I turned over a new leaf. This all has been an experience of a lifetime and I can’t believe my time here is almost over. I don’t want it to end. I do miss home so much. I can’t wait to be in the loop again. My week was much better with skyping my best friends and big bros and last night I ended my night skyping my parents and started my morning skyping the rest of my family that I haven’t talked to in forever! If that’s how I started my Monday I can’t imagine how great the rest of my week is going to be!

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25

Mar

Keeping it Classy, like Jackie K., in India 

Keeping it Classy, like Jackie K., in India 

23

Mar

Stand Up Against Street Harassment 

20

Mar

TOMS Shoe Drop Take Two

Well lucky me! Due to the fact that I’m Irish and inherited luck I got to work with TOMS a second time on St.Patricks Day! We gave away 300 shoes to 300 preschoolers in the rural outskirts of Hyderabad. What’s awesome about TOMS is that the kids will have TOMS for a long time because when they grow out of their first pair they get another bigger pair. Super cool for these little ones! Recently TOMS started the campaign to gift to see your one for one purchase in action. They give away a TICKET TO GIVE once a week! So you too can get a chance to give little ones TOMS like me! Support a NGO who does exactly what they say they do! I’m proof! Plus how freaking cute are the new TOMS!? Give back ya’ll! 

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10 Reasons Why the Rest of the World thinks the US is Nuts

16

Mar

Not for the haters. Just for those who believe that we’ve come a long, long way as Americans in the last 4 years and we have the chance to do it all again!

15

Mar

The World Today

Just sitting here in the common room of the international hostel reading the news. Switching from Huff Post to Al Jeezera you are greeted by the world’s problems. It’s the one year anniversary of the uprising in Syria, Afghan Taliban suspends peace talks with the U.S. due to recent massacre, Ugandans are enraged after watching a screening of the Kony 2012 viral video, rising gas prices, death to the amazon rain forest, etc. THEN you look at election updates for the U.S….Instead of news sometimes I feel like I’m following the Real House(husbands) of Conservative America. Are the GOP candidates supposed to be comical??? Seriously while terrible TERRIBLE things are going on, all the news can seem to focus on is what so and so thinks about Gay Rights or Women’s Rights or whether or not they support Planned Parenthood? All important issues that some of the candidates have some obscene views about but it makes me sad that I can’t even bring myself to believe the things America argues about! Reading about the Republican Primaries is like sitting at a table at a high school cafeteria? Should it be a reality show? Obviously not! The rest of the world sees it as a joke and we’re okay with that as Americans?  A U.S. based NGO tries to make a point about something we can all agree on and all we can do is argue about it? Drama!? How old are we? 

Here I am in India with a group talking about sexual harassment and how hard it would be to fight such a drastic problem throughout a whole country, while our politicians back home are telling Puerto Ricans that they should only speak english or that they “despise the integrity of Latino voters.”

I hope that everyone is as intrigued to read about WORLD news just as much as they are to read about our problems back in the U.S. At the same time do pay attention to the election news because it’s not only interesting but it’s something we should all be a part of as citizens of a Democracy.     

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/elections-2012/

http://www.aljazeera.com/