Delhi Day 14, One of Those Special Days Life Tosses at You Every Now and Then


The girls in our placement wanted to put bindis on. It just didn’t feel right, I took it off shortly after, little did I know.

This is Mrs. Peters. She is the teacher Jim and Alecia have been working with. They have had the kids working on these Christmas decoration this week. Mrs. Peters is Christian.

One last morning assembly

Here are most of the kids I worked with in a group goodbye.

These are a great group of kids. I was lucky to have Anil. He was very helpful and really made my two weeks more meaningful. His English is good, which matters, if you know as little Hindi as I do, and I know the most of our entire group. He is a good teacher working with a group of kids who span a broad spectrum of academic abilities, which is not easy to teach. The kids are holding the going away card they made for me.

I bought a saree. Sarees are not easy for the uninitiated to put on. Indian women put on their own saree. I am going to need so much more practice. Bella showed me how to put it on, but one time was not enough. I asked the ladies in my conversation class (my name for it) to teach me how to put one on, and asked if they would do it in English. There was some English and Hindu, this turned into a party. I am not one to cry, but it makes me tear up just to think about those few hours with those ladies. They were so warm and wonderful.

That is the petticoat and the top. I went to the tailor and had both made. These two items were easy to put on, now for the hard part.

There is so much material in the actual saree, that is what makes it difficult to put on. So much… Bahut bahut…

There are 7 safety pins holding it up so everything stays where it should.

The person working so hard on the saree is Pinky. Pinky is very warm and generous. I have a saying, “She who is generous is lucky.” I hope Pinky is very lucky in her life.

There I am with a bindi. The room was full of women, talking in Hindi and English, going in and out, just enjoying ourselves, laughing and talking. You are not seeing all the commotion because Alecia was taking pictures of my transformation, per my request.

Next the ladies did my makeup. Here Mrs. Peters is making the bindi larger. I came to a realization at a certain point today. When I first signed up for Cross Cultural Solutions I really did not know what to expect. Basically they told me what to do to be able to volunteer for them in Delhi, but what would happen when I got there? I didn’t know, and honestly neither did Cross Cultural Solutions, CCS. They had a rough idea, but they didn’t know me at all.

CCS matched our family to our assignment based on our abilities. I have a strong background in education. This affected my entire family’s placement. We all loved our assignments. They did a great job of matching us to it. Once at the placement though, it was up to us to create our own experience. The ladies group for instance. I was the first volunteer to work with them ever. I wanted to stay longer after the kids left and do more, so Anil asked if I would like to work with them. The first couple of days it was writing assignments, but I realized they needed to learn more conversational skills. That is how the conversational class came to be. Anil told me he really likes how I ran the class. After finishing this I am going to write lessons plans for Alecia and an overview for Jaggie at Cross Cultural Solutions so he can continue having a volunteer work with the ladies after Alecia leaves. Yes it is all about the experience you yourself create, with the help of Cross Cultural Solutions, but they can’t do it for you.

The women decided to make me up as if I were an Indian bride. Here Rajkumani puts a necklace on. At this point I thought she was lending it to me for the occasion.

After two weeks in India, I can see why some people lose their heart to this country.

Alecia coaxed a smile out of Rajkumani. Alecia can coax a smile out of anyone. We were lucky she was in our placement with us.

The next thing I knew someone put more jewelry on my ankles and a bracelet on my wrist. At this point I started trying to get the attention of the better English speakers to make sure no one was buying this for me.

Rajkumani and Pinky are trying to fix me up more. I am so sorry ladies, it is nothing 20 years won’t cure. Lol. The truth is I wouldn’t give up one single day if it meant I couldn’t have this one!

Pinky (there are 2 Pinkys), Alecia, and Babita, the ladies wanted to know if Alecia had a saree. She is going to buy one now. They asked me how much I paid for my saree. They told me I paid too much that I should have bargained better. I told them I was bad at bargaining. They gave me a lesson in bargaining and told Alecia she should go with them to buy a saree so she doesn’t pay too much for her saree.

 Here we are as a group

Notice the bracelets, called bangles. Every time I move my arms the jingle a pleasant jingle. Pinky who is directly to my left gave me these. She was married 7 months ago and told me she had been given more than she needed and that she wanted me to have them as a gift. We had to squeeze my wrists and knuckles tightly to get these on. The first few broke because of the size of my wrists, but Pinky would not give up.

I am just overwhelmed by the generosity of each and very one of these women, both Pinkys, Rajkumani, Gita, and Babita have a special place in my heart.

I had asked about bringing Indian sweets and cookies to the school to celebrate our last day (we are going back on the 31st to say a final goodbye actually, since we fly out of Delhi, so not quite last 😉 We were told we were the first people to ever bring sweets for the adults. We all just hung out and chatted. Talked about life. The kind of this girls do. You know, spent time on the real reason for learning a language.

We were told there had been some cancellations to the Cross Cultural Solutions India Program because people were worried about their safety. There was not one single time in the entire time we have been here that I have felt in danger. Other than the crazy driving, this is the safest I have felt in a huge city. Do bad things happen in Delhi? Sure they do, but bad things happen in New York, Paris, and London too. As you can tell I am a fan of CCS India, Delhi, and the Indian people I have met. If you had experienced the last two weeks that I did, you would be too.

Check out yesterdays post here.

Delhi, India, Day 13


I did not think my placement could get any better but it did. I am going to be sad to leave, and I will miss all the people there. We leave tomorrow for Jaipur.

…but first, the carrots here are redder than those we get in the States. I have been meaning to tell you this for a while. See them in the middle of the vegetables. Everywhere you go there are vegetable sellers, not fast food shops, and not people selling junk food. My guess is if you were to conduct a study comparing people in India to people in the US you would find our population to be just as malnourished as theirs only from a different type of malnourishment. I think the people in the US would have more malnourishment in the form of missing micronutrients in their diet (those you can only get from plants) and more additives from foods in their bodies (like those that do not occur in nature and are created in a lab somewhere). LOL, give me a minute as I get off my soap box and get on to what you really want to read about. I just cannot turn my science brain off. You would never believe the amount of things I keep to myself and do not bore you with!

As we were walking to our placement, one of the girls from our noon group invited us into her house to look at photos and to see her house! I love it here!

Pinky, Alecia, and Sean in Pinky’s house

Delhi, India, Day 13: Pinky’s house

Blair, Alecia, and Pinky looking at photos, Alecia is here for 2 more weeks after we leave. I am jealous of you Alecia. Pinky’s entire family lives in a one room house. Her grandparents get the bed. There is no indoor plumbing or bathroom. We have seen men showering with a hose in the middle of the walkway several times. There is a simple kitchen area, although many people cook outside over fire rings/pits. The entire studio apartment is about 11 by 15. Eight to ten people live in it.

The second day I worked with Pinky she leaned over and whispered to me, “You are lovely and very smart.” No wonder I love her so much 🙂 One thing I haven’t mentioned is what it is like to be in a culture that respects age. The Indian culture puts a high premium on wisdom, with age comes wisdom, but you do become less beautiful. In the US it feels as if we respect beauty over age or wisdom. Here it feels that is reversed. Don’t get me wrong, beauty matters here, but I do not think it is respected on the level wisdom is, and therefore older people are more respected and thought to be beautiful not despite our wrinkles but because of them.

Delhi, India, Day 13: Singing at the school

The teacher Jim and Alecia have been working with is Christian, Mrs. Peters. She has been trying to get me to teach the children I am working with the song Go Tell It On The Mountain. The problem is none of the people in our group are religious, so none of us knew the song. Mrs. Peters finally taught me the song, so I could sing it to them. Still the kids would rather have me sing Jingle Bells or We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Delhi, India, Day 13: Jingle Bells
Delhi, India, Day 13: Reviewing for a test

Jim helped these two boys prep for their general knowledge test. It is a big test they have on Friday this week.

Delhi, India, Day 13: The kids get a free meal every day

Lunch time for the little ones at Vidya.

We had one more lady show up today. Her name was Babita. She goes to JNU, the university Dr. Ray taught at. She is studying English and hopes to become an interpreter working at the embassy. She told us she came to our group because she heard the English we were speaking in it was good.

Delhi, India, Day 13: One of the two women named Pinky.

Here is one of the women from the ladies group, also named Pinky. I asked how you can tell a Hindu woman is married. You can tell by the bangles on her wrist, the bindi (the dot on her forehead), and the sindoor (the line that starts at her hairline and goes along her scalp). There is no significance to the color of the bindi or the sindoor. The woman behind the fence watches us every day but never joins in.

I started today’s lesson with something that totally fizzled, but then had the good sense to show them the photo of Minachshee and Sandeep on Diwali (pronounced Duvalee). I told my students how I had celebrated Diwali, then we went around the circle with all of them telling us about their Diwali. When that ended, I asked each of them who was their favorite Hindu God and why. Most of the ladies liked Lord Shiva the best, but one liked Sai Baba best and one liked Durga Mata.

Delhi, India, Day 13: Selling honey

The boy in the middle climbed a tree and got all this honey out of a bee hive in the tree. I felt sorry for the bees wandering around on the ground.

Delhi, India, Day 13: Ludo

The Cross Cultural Solutions staff like to play this game called Ludo.

Those who are not playing Ludo are watching day 2 of a 5 day cricket match between South Africa and India.

The girls and I went out for a while. I saw this place all lit up, found a latched gate, opened it with some trouble, and then went in. The girls were a little nervous, so we left as soon as I took the photo.

We had the craziest drive back ever. Patrice and I drove back with the music blaring, crazily zipping in and out of traffic. Even speeding against traffic! It was a bit insane.

Sean got sick today. Jim has been sick this week as well. In fact of our group of 7, only two of us have not been sick. Lucky me!

Check out yesterdays blog post here.

Delhi, India, day 12


It was another great and rewarding day in Delhi and at our placement. I started my day blogging then did yoga. After that we rushed out to our placement.

These are eggplant. To get the skin off the cook holds them over a flame until they look like this. Doing this gave the eggplant a smokey taste. Unfortunately for me the cooks made the eggplant dish so spicy I couldn’t eat much of it.


It is cold in Delhi. Not Mammoth Lakes cold, just San Diego cold. Hey Carol Solorio do you see what I am wearing!

On the way through the slum today I saw this fellow selling pasta. This is the first time I have seen him here. He rides his bike around to different areas selling his inventory.

This man came and asked me if I would take a photo of his mother. I did and then showed it to her. They both laughed when they saw themselves on my camera.

Check out that load of candy.

Like I told you, the dogs are everywhere.

The kids were exercising when we arrived. I joined in when they started to play Simon Says. The kids all started to laugh because I was so bad at it.

It occurred to me that we should have a conversational hour instead of working on isolated skills. (I made worksheets for them to work on the skills.) I would ask a question, often to Alecia so that we could mimic the correct asking and answering, then the ladies were expected to ask and answer the questions. It was super fun. Here I am with Pinky and Pinky, they have the same name. Pinky on the right is 18 and wants to be a teacher. Pinky on the left is 26 and is recently married. Her mother-in-law suggested she come and take the class. Everyday we have had one more student join so that now we have 5 ladies coming.

Here we all are. I will get everyone’s name tomorrow. The girl next to Pinky is from Thailand. She is of Indian descent and is living with her aunt. She speaks Thai and is learning Hindi and English at the same time. Then there is Alecia, who is with Cross Cultural Solutions as I am. Between us is a 36 year old lady with three sons who has decided she wants to learn to speak English. I told her she should tell her sons they can all only speak English at dinner.

On the left is Mrs. Peters and on the right is lady who works at the school. She joined in a bit today. Her English was pretty good.

The bigger of the two girls takes care of her little sister and two more I. Between. She is so sweet, they call her little Mama.

We love these kids! I wish you could all be here with me. If you have ever thought of doing something like this, come with us the next time!!!!

A man came walking by asking for money. He had this monkey with him, so we give him 2 rupees.

I am going to leave a piece of my heart here.

Check out yesterdays blog here.

Delhi, India, Day 11


We have settled into a routine with our placements. I can see how I could make a difference for some of these students. Two weeks just isn’t enough time. I am the main photographer for our group at our placement. I work with the older kids and have a little more time to myself because the students are expected to work independently when given a task. That is why there are so few photos of me at school.

The students take these sentence pairs and make compound sentences with them. The only thing unusual about this problem set is that I am in a country working with second and third graders, and English is not their native language, Well that and some of the references. The bottom sentence refers to a Bollywood movie and an actor from it. Pittu is an active game.

After we went to our placement, I did yoga, then we went to hear a talk. Some of the girls went out to dinner but our family stayed at the flat. Our meals are all cooked at the office for us. The food has been superb. I have been inspired to come home and try making more varied Indian dishes. The food and spices are mixed up more than I do when it am home. I also like the hot food here more. I think it might just be that I don’t like jalapeños, and not that I don’t like spicy food, although I do not like it if it is too spicy.

This is a worksheet I made. Yesterday I made the mistake of creating and bringing a worksheet written in cursive. I hate writing using printing. Yikes I left the answer choices off # 7! I will have to fix that.

Have I remembered to mention that they drive on the opposite side of the road in India. The driving here is really crazy, I mean really, really, very truely insane. Add the whole opposite thing in, and I could not drive in India.

It is impossible to catch how crazy it is on a still photo. When asked about the traffic we were told by a native Indian, that the Indian people survive more by accident than by design.

Now notes from today’s talk: Dr. A. K. Ray, talked about the political history of India. Before retiring he was a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU. All statements below unless indicated are from Dr. Ray.

1 in every 6 people on the planet is Indian. India is 1/3 the size of the United States. India has 3 times the people as the US, which makes it 9 times more densely populated than the US.

When you look at the Indian civilization you are looking at a civilization that is 10,000 years old. Hinduism began about 8,000 years ago, and at that time they stopped eating beef. In case you did not know, Hindus do not eat beef. Most eat milk products though.

Not eating beef might seem trivial to you, but it is important when looking at something unfamiliar that you do not dismiss or trivialize the unfamiliar. 86% of Hindus do not eat beef. When you look at the health of the people and the cows you would expect them to eat beef. This is a very malnourished society. It is estimated 80% of the people in India are malnourished. This is an Indian phenomenon that leads to a high rate of death, and the cows are just as bad off. So why don’t people eat those cows? There was a phase in Hindu society when they ate beef. The Hindu society has been an agrarian society for millennia. Within that everything depends on the cow. Since the cow provides everything, plowing, food in the form of milk, and manure, it makes more sense to protect the cow than to slaughter the cow. This has led to a deification of the cow. This deification of the cow led to cows being protected from slaughter for food consumption. (My thoughts here: The Indian people do not seem to have a clear separation between the value of human life and the value of life for other animals, as is seen by most in the US. Hindus seem to just plain old value life. If you think about it, it is much more rational to value life in and of itself, than it is to have arbitrary separations and hierarchies within animal groups as to whose lives have more value.)

All Hindu Gods and Goddesses are products of myths. But these are myths that have been believed and a part of society for 8,000 years. Actually all religions are based on myths. It is all a matter of faith, and the faith of the Hindus is so old that it has become the fabric of history for the Hindu people.

As an example of this: Monkeys cannot be killed in India, because the monkey god, Hanuman, is said to have helped Lord Rama. For the tale you can go to this site, Today in India, monkeys get into everything, even government buildings where they have been known to destroy documents, but you cannot do anything about it because the monkey is revered.

Irrational? Yes. But it is imbedded in society. The past is deeply imbedded in the present. When Americans say forget about the past and focus on the present, Indians cannot. This is very important to understand when understanding the Indian people. For 10,000 years the Indian society has survived by being rational, even if we think it is irrational. It is our lack of understanding the Indian people and their shared history that creates this misperception.

Lifestyles here are imbedded. 

There is a global fault line at Istanbul. One side is an ancient civilization, the east side including Africa, and one side is newer. In these ancient civilizations, traditions have been around a long time and die hard.

The colors on the map of India show how different Indian society is. It is divided by language, tribe, caste, and race. All of these things divide. Even Hindus are divided by language and caste. 78% of Indians are Hindus. There are more caste riots within the Hindu group than there are riots between the different religions.

India has people of many faiths and has had a long history of tolerance towards all faiths.

St. Thomas, one of the original disciples of Christ visited India. There is a population of 200,000 Jews in Kerala who can trace their roots back to Soloman.

The Zororastrians are Parsis. The Parsis originally came to India to escape the Islamic invasion in Persia (modern day Iran). The Parsis came to India because India had a reputation for accepting asylum seekers.

They are followers of Zarathushtra who lived 3000 years before Christ. Zarathushtra preached monotheism in the name of Ahurmazda who has no form shape, beginning or end. He, however, acknowledged archangels who protected humanity through the sacred elements. Parsis led a peaceful and happy life in their native land, and Zoroastrianism was quite popular in parts of Asia and Europe. But with the arrival of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, religious zealots invaded Persia and forcible conversions (or death) took place on a large scale. People fled to different lands. Some came to India by sea, carrying the sacred fire with them. Tradition declares that the flames were collected from potters, goldsmiths, brick makers, shepherds etc, sixteen vocations undertaken by ancient Parsis.

When the first immigrants landed on the swampy port of Navsari (Gujarat) and requested  shelter and patronage of the local ruler, he sent them a bowl of milk full to the brim, indicating that though they were welcome, his land was full of inhabitants. The Parsi high Priest asked for some sugar and put it in the bowl and sent it back. The milk did not overflow and the sugar added to the taste, suggesting there would be benefits from a merger of immigrants with the existing inhabitants, and there would be eternal help to the ruler from the refugee community. The ruler was impressed. India became a second homeland to newcomers like Jews, Syrian Christians, Central Asian and African communities. All were free to follow their own faith and take up different pursuits.

The two paragraphs above are from,, because I wanted to get the history of this just right. My notes were fuzzy on it.

When the British left, the Indian people decided to eliminate English from schools, but they could not agree what to replace it with.

13% of Hindus are still untouchables today, but you cannot discriminate against them or you face jail time. Gandhi and another man named, Ambedkar, started converting the untouchables to Buddhism from Hinduism. Once they were Buddhists they were no longer untouchable, because Buddhists don’t have the caste system. This group of recent converts from Hinduism to Buddhism is called neo-Buddhists.

Another problem with the caste system is that the 4 principle castes led to subcastes. This created tensions within each caste group.

All the tensions, all the differences. What unites the Indian people is their civilization and cultural unity.

I will write up the last 1/2 of the lecture later today. GTG 🙂

Check out yesterdays post here and here.

Manoran Singh, on Education, Social Differences, and Arranged Marriages, post 2 of 2

Social differences

Manoran Singh, on Education, Social Differences, and Arranged Marriages, post 2 of 2

The morning starts with students reciting the Indian National Anthem

The rest of Dr. Singh’s talk and what we did today

If there is one thing Westerners find fascinating about India, it has to be arranged marriages. Dr. Singh explained what that means in the India of today.

The Marriage System in India

There are three major marriage laws in India all based on religious affiliation. When you marry or divorce you are under the jurisdiction of the Hindu, Islamic, or Buddhist marriage laws.

Many Indian people, both in the United States and outside of it have arranged marriages. It is more of an arranged introduction these days. Rishi, the 22 year old fellow I am working with at my placement said the same thing. I asked him if his parents were going to arrange a marriage for him. He said not unless he was still single in his mid 30’s, and then they most likely would start making suggestions to him about girls they knew of. I asked if his parent’s marriage was arranged and he said sort of. That it was the modern type of arranged marriage, where two people are introduced who the parents think would make a good match.

This is how it works

1.) Parents do some homework to find someone who will be a good match for their child and the entire family. Families in India often live together or at least close to each other. It is important that anyone new coming into the family meshes well with the fabric that makes that family. The feeling in India is that young people do not have good enough judgement yet to choose someone who will work long term as a good life partner.

2.) Next parents arrange an introduction, but the couple has the final say.

3.) Divorce is very uncommon in India. People have the attitude that they have to make the marriage work. This has a big effect on the importance of choosing the right partner and getting help making the right choice.

4.) If there are any problems the entire family will help to make the marriage work.

There are exceptions to this. The two groups you see the most exceptions with are the highest and the lowest classes. The group who is most affected by these attitudes about divorce and marriage is the middle class.

Both these posts are my notes from Dr. Singh’s talk. These are not my original thoughts or observations.

Now for our day.

We started our week returning to our placement. Sean commented multiple times Saturday and Sunday that he couldn’t wait to go back. He is really going to miss those kids when we leave.

Everybody loves suit guy.

At 12 all the little kids get a meal of dal.

This is in a classroom. This dog wandered in to it and went to sleep.

Dogs are everywhere in India, puppies, lactating females, male dogs fighting, and hanging out too. They are in the streets, wandering into buildings, you name it, they are everywhere. We have seen a few hit too, the driving is really crazy here, and dogs run right into the streets. We have seen some dogs with owners, but not most. At first I felt sorry for the dogs, but after observing the situation I came to a new appreciation and understanding of what I was observing. I have never seen anyone here be mean to a dog. In fact they are quite nice, warm, and tolerant of the dogs. If a dog wanders into a place, it is as if they have the right to be there. No one says anything. If a gate or a door is open and a dog wanders in, no one does anything about it. Often the dog is not even acknowledged. If they are acknowledged it is with kindness. I came to understand that these dogs are free. They have free will. I have heard that this is the same situation with monkeys, which I will get to in tomorrow’s post. These dogs are really and truly free and enmeshed within the fabric of the society and areas they live in. Their freedom is not always perfect, some have mange, some look malnourished, and some wander in to the street. Some people would argue that freedom at any price is still worth the price.

Sean’s group is waiting for lunch.

We went to the sweet shop. You were right Sandeep, they did let Sean and me taste things! We had so much fun here.

Sweet shop in Hindi is Mithai ki Dukaan

Aren’t they beautiful?

Look how beautifully he is wrapping our chocolate. I just went down one of the rows and got 1 of everything.

A country that loves dogs and sweets as much as I do. I might never come home.

Marigolds are everywhere in India. They are used for religious blessings and offerings.

I am counting on you Denise Perpall to help me figure out how to make this drink. It is a salted fresh lime soda, it is non-alcoholic, and is both sweet and salty, but not too sweet or salty.

This sign is outside establishments that serve alcohol in Delhi.

I spent hours tonight booking the next leg of our journey. We are not extending our volunteering, we are getting on the road and seeing some of India instead. It took some work to get it all planned because we put it off. I was not sure what we were going to do in the end, but Jim wants to see some of India. He is afraid we might not get back here again and he wants to see more than just Delhi. I am not so sure though, Sean and I love India. Because we put it off, we have to take the bus for part of it. We could hire a car, and that is not very expensive, but the buses are supposedly more comfortable. We will try the first leg by bus and see what we think. You are all in for a treat though, because you will also see more of India this way.

I also had to write a worksheet for my students today. Last Friday I had a great day working with the older grade school students, and I was asked to stay until 1 to work with the high school aged girls who are getting ready for a big test. Today was so rewarding. I worked with the grade school students on answering what, why questions. For example, “What is your favorite food? Why is it your favorite?” They did great on the first question, but it became more complicated when they had to add the because part from the 2nd question to their answer. Then I worked with the older girls on pronouns, but they were writing their own sentences, and there was so much going on with them, that I realized they couldn’t get a good handle on pronouns. There was too much to keep track of, so worksheets for all! I am not necessarily a fan of worksheets, but sometimes they are the best solution.

Check out part of of today’s blog here.

New Delhi day 4

New Delhi

Every day we are here, we are more inspired. Very few Americans, in my experience, understand tolerance and acceptance with the depth and breadth that most Indians seem to. Because of this there is a focus on social activism that I haven’t experienced much in the States. Sean wants to move here. It is the first vacation where he isn’t talking about how much he misses Jezabel, his pug. I told Sean he cannot move here until he finishes college, and then it is all up to him anyway. He loves working with the kids, especially the littlest ones.

We are loving it, with a caveat, Jim has Delhi Belly. That is what they call the stomach flu most people get in their first week of staying in Delhi. Married to a woman who can eat unwashed leaves and laugh it off, ah the inequities of life! Poor guy, he can now say he threw up in a slum in India.

Sean and I started our day at the Vidya school. I taught a lesson about nutrition, right up my alley. Sean was asked to teach math. His least favorite subject. He was doing okay until he asked the kids to calculate 0/3 which has no solution, oops.

Sean said, “Mom, two of the girls would rather do math than play tag.” I hate to tell him, but that was me as a little girl. How could my son not love math more?

I am really proud of how Sean is handling himself. I am not the only one either. The director of the program, Bella, told him she is very impressed with him. She said that many kids who come with their parents spend their time complaining and comparing India to the US, instead of appreciating India for itself. Sean was invited to participate in a teen project for teens 15 to 18 held in Dharamsala, India in the summer.

Today they are playing freeze tag.

This is what Sean has been waiting for! He loves working with these little ones so much.

Here Jim and I are with Dr. Rekha Chaturvedi. I have met three women in three days who make me feel inspired to think harder about making a difference on this small planet we live on. Rekha told me the crèche program, the program that gets the little ones in, was started by her many years ago. I was told later that Rekha is a very powerful woman in the slums and with community service advocacy in Delhi. The children in the crèche have mothers who work. Before the crèche they were left at home on their own or with slightly older siblings. They were not getting the love, care, or food that they needed. She and other workers went through the slum communities talking to parents and convincing them to leave their little ones at the crèche where they would receive food, attention, and love. Once these children graduate they are not abandoned by the program. There is a network of programs that help them all the way through to graduate studies if they make it that far. Sean wants to spend the entire time we are in Delhi volunteering, not traveling. The two women working in the crèche were both success stories coming out of these programs. At the end of the last two days none of us in our group want to leave and go back to the CCS office. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to stay later and go help at a computer center for older kids.

Here is a link if you want to learn more about the work Rekha and her colleagues are doing.

I commented on how welcoming everyone in the slums is. Rheka told me when they started bringing volunteers in, the people asked her what they were doing there. The slum dwellers thought we might be coming in to laugh at them because they have so little. She assured them we were there because we love all people and want to help all of them to have a better life. Yep, that sums me up!

I bought myself a sari in my favorite color. I have my eye on another one too. I just have to see if I can figure out how to put this one on well enough to ever wear it. This is the sari before the piece has been cut off to make the blouse. I also had to have a petticoat made to hold the fold up.

We had to take the sari to a tailor shop. I was given careful instructions about where to go. Do you think I ended up at the right shop? Everyone who knows me knows the answer to that question! Jim has never been able to figure out how someone so good in math and science has no sense of direction. I hope this tailor does a good job. We will know the answer in two days.

Oh my, when did I get all those wrinkles 🙂 it beats the alternative though. The tailor is helping me choose petticoat fabric to match the sari. Look at all the bolts. There are more behind the door at the back.

Here is a little temple to Ganesh beside a tree.

Alecia and I took a yoga class.

Then we went to an open air artisans’ market. This fellow is from Kashmir; his name is Sarfaraz Ashraf. Jim and I now have a family in Kashmir to visit if we ever go there. They live between two lakes. We are now Facebook friends, so if any of you have questions about Kashmir, you can ask them. Seriously.

Check out our posts from yesterday here and here.

Delhi Day 3, post 2 of 2, Learning More


Delhi Day 3, post 2 of 2, Learning More

We all went to our placement yesterday and were expected to dress in our outfits we bought. We learned that in India teachers are expected to be treated with respect. The female teachers here wear the salwar kameez or a saree. This is considered more formal clothing.

I learned that there are two types of pants that go with the salwar kameez, loose and tight. Here I am with the tight pants on. This is before wiggling the rest of the pant leg over my foot on the one side. I let the sales girl pick out everything except the tops. I  chose a top and had her choose the rest.

Here we are in our work outfits. We bought two. I will show you the rest tomorrow. From left to right we are, Patrice, Alecia, Blair, and Wendy.

These are our chefs making saag paneer. After getting the spinach, saag, ready they left the kitchen. I took a piece of another vegetable they hadn’t chopped up yet and ate it. AFTER THAT, what an idiot I can be sometimes, I asked if it was okay to eat it. They said yes but only after it has been washed. 6 pepto bismal tablets later I was back in business. I did not get sick either so no lesson learned. I am writing this the next day. I had been so careful up to that point too.

For the first two dinners they made us what I consider unhealthy types of American food. Pizza, chips, soda, veggie burgers, and fries. Sean has LOVED it all. At breakfast I asked if we could have India food instead for dinners. They told me that they were making the food for Sean, lol, so he would feel comfortable. How thoughtful that was! Sean thinks they make American food better than Americans. I have to admit, the fries were something special.

We are having dal instead of pizza tonight.

Vickey has 5 colors of turban he wears. He interchanges them. His beard is also long, coiled up, and pinned close.

These photos are the lane we take walking to the school in the slum. Every single person we saw said hello (almost all said it is English) and smiled. The feeling we got was very warm and welcoming.

India is a place splashed with color everywhere.

Sean and I are learning to play the Indian game Coco.

It is a tag-like game with 2 teams. One team crouches down with every other person who is crouching facing opposite the person next to him or her. The other team runs around the people crouching tapping some of them on the back of their head. You can only tap them when they are facing away from you. Once tapped you can get up and chase the person or anyone else on their team. If you catch them they are out. You can sit down when you want and let someone else from your team be tagged and get up and run.

This is the group Sean and I are working with for the first 2 hours during our placement. They are 2nd and 3rd grade students who need extra help. I am to teach them science (can you believe the luck!) for the first hour. I was asked to teach them about the nutrition and what the different food molecules do in your body.  Sean will be tutoring math for the 2nd hour.

The first group of children is where Jim and Alecia work for their 3 hours. The second is where Sean and I work for the last hour. They are the little ones. Two of them got into a fight over who could sit next to Sean, so I separated them and put one on either side of Sean.

Here we are at the large Vidya school.

This is a chemistry lab, all funds for constructing and running this school come from donors, many of them corporate donors like GE.

The school was started by a woman who was horrified to learn that many of the slum children, particularly the girls, were not receiving any education.

The students learn computer coding starting in 1st grade.

The school is a gem in the middle of a slum area. It made my heart feel bigger to see what these people were doing to help these kids. I feel really fortunate to be even a small part of it.

As we were driving back I saw this girl, she ran across the busy street and here she is walking alone. The striking contrast there compared to all the school children we saw is heart breaking.

For the first half of the women’s issues class Sean had a lesson in how to play cricket. He loved it.

Check out part one of this post here.







Our Third Full Day in Delhi, post 1 of 2, Volunteering at Vidya









Our Third Full Day in Delhi, post 1 of 2, Volunteering at Vidya

Here are two photos from our assignment. This is of Jim and Alecia.


I am exhausted tonight. Today was full, my mind was kept whirring all day. We went to our assignment, then to meet the principal of a larger school run by Vidya. After that we had lunch, a recap of the day, a Hindi lesson, a talk on women’s issues, and dinner, whew. I loved every minute of it.

My first of two posts for today have the notes from the talk. The speaker was Jaya Shrivastava. She is a social activist, a singer, and she studied English literature. She loves to revisit Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Hindi authors of classical writing. She is an advocate for justice and rights for all groups. She is involved with the Unkar Society of Alternatives in Education. This group promotes open inquiry learning.

Another volunteer asked about the dots on the forehead.

The dots are part of the culture and show what god you worship. Many westerners wonder why all the different gods. A variety of gods better reflect the diversity within the human population. Hindis have a word, isht. Isht means your own god, your isht.

The strength of the Indian people is their diversity. There are 22 majors languages, and over 1000 minor languages spoken in India.

During Queen Victoria’s reign there was a national movement for independence. Gandhi was a part of this. Some of the leftist groups, not Gandhi’s, had many women in them and were very violent. The educated Indians said let’s learn from the English and model our country’s laws after theirs. This was a long time ago and many of these laws have been abolished in the UK by the British, but they are still a part of the Indian Penal Code. For example Law 377 stated that same sex relations were illegal. This law was struck down last year, but there are many that have not been.

In other ways India has been progressive, they have a history of having a high number of women in political office. The last two Indian Ambassadors to the United States have been women.

In some states it is the law that 33% of the seats must be held by women. Women gained the right to vote in 1950. India is more liberal than the US as to who can vote. If you are in jail you can vote; you can even run for office. You have to be 15+ to vote. You can be illiterate and vote.

40% of women in India are illiterate. 1/2 the children in the country are not in school. To promote the education of girls some of the states have gotten creative. In one state the government has started a Cycle Scheme. If a daughter goes to school, she gets a bike when she reaches the level of 8 or 9. In the State of Uttar Khand, if a family has only one child and it is a daughter, her entire education is paid for, even if she goes all the way through and gets a PhD.

Patriarchy must be looked at as a philosophy about a style of power structure, not as a male thing. You can think of Indira Gandhi as an amalgam of male and female. She was beautiful, petite, stern, and brave. Indira Gandhi was said to be the only man in her cabinet because she was so strong.

Jaya works mainly with small groups of women. It is an intensive 5-6 year program aimed at empowering women in remote areas. There is gender training that focuses on understanding and analyzing patriarchy, violence, and oppression against women.

This is not just a female thing though, as masculinity and femininity are present in all people regardless of their gender. Joseph Campbell is a good source for looking at the merger of the two energies. The real problem is that there is a disconnect in a paternalistic society. This leads women to accept inequity and subjugation.

Another problem in India is parents getting pregnancy tests to determine the gender of their children. This has recently been outlawed. The census data is as follows for live births: the ratio for female births to male births in India is:

In 1991: 948 females: 1000 males

In 2001: 936 females: 1000 males

In 2011: 926 females: 1000 males

The largest drop in females has been among the wealthiest families.

The extreme disparity among the rich and poor raises aspirations. In the election that was just over, the AAP, which translates to the Common Man’s Party, won 28 seats. There are 70 seats total. The Common Man’s Party will not make deals so there is going to be a problem getting things done. (That sound familiar.)

I am also uploading a video of Jaya singing a song written by Kamla Bhasin, and then I am going to sleep. I hope I can sleep as well as this fellow can.

Check out part two of this blog here.

Vidya Munirka School in India. Our Placements! Teaching, of course!

world schooling india, Vidya Munirka School

Vidya Munirka School in India – Volunteering

Our Placements! Teaching, of course!  Vidya Munirka School in India.

We could not wait to get our assignments. There were several projects we could be assigned to. We knew that Sean would be assigned with one of us, but there were many different choices. My husband felt that a construction-focused project would best fit his talents, and I was hoping to spend the time volunteering with one of the organizations that focused on teaching. Even Jim, my husband, was excited when we learned we would be volunteering with a literacy program through the Vidya Munirka School in the Munirka Slums in Delhi.

Happy Thanksgiving even more importantly in our house, Happy Birthday Sean!

We are going on a world schooling trip India to volunteer. We have been anticipating the news about what our assignment would be. I thought I would end up at a school, and I was correct. I will be working with a 1st/2nd grade class in a school that works with low to low-middle income students. The name of the school is the Vidya Munirka School. The school has a focus on empowering women and girls in their community. Doesn’t that sound right up my alley! It is a great assignment for Sean too. Jim was assigned to a preschool class at the same school. We will all work together, how great. Here is a YouTube video from the founder of the school.

Here is a picture of a classroom at the school and you can check out their website here. We did not actually work in a classroom setting. Where we volunteered it was open with limited desks. Our site was a feeder program to get students ready to be able to attend the classrooms.

Vidya Munirka School

Check out the next post here.