Thursday, September 16, 2010

(Nathan) Arrived, oriented and amazed

So it has been almost a week since Sarah and I arrived in India and I would say that we have conquered our jetlag. We arrived at the Mumbai International Airport at 9pm Standard Indian Time and foggily retrieved our bags, breached the security area and payed for a prepaid taxi. Finding our taxi outside was an adventure in itself, not to mention our first auto ride through the city to our hotel, the Royal Palace Hotel, where we stayed for one night.
The next day (Sept 11) we found breakfast, walked around in a bit of a daze and encountered loud festivities for the celebration of the elephant-headed god Ganesh. We also had our first experience of the monsoon rains which are warm and bountiful. They use umbrellas here for good reason. We then caught a three-wheeled rickshaw taxi to the airport again and had a long waiting time for our flight to South India where our internship is taking place. It was a short flight where all that could be seen were the monsoon clouds, beautiful like puffy white landscapes. We arrived in the small Hubli airport and were immediately met by a hired driver who took us on an unimaginably wild and hectic van ride through small villages and countryside late into the night. By the time we arrived at our destination at Huthina Betta (ant hill) it had been a 3.5 hour bumpy ride. WE MADE IT!
It is hard to describe all that has happened since we arrived at the farm where our internship takes place, but I can describe some aspects of what life has been like for us. Adjacent to the farm are rice paddy fields where one has to walk along narrow constructed mud paths, avoiding leeches and the possibility of slipping in the dampness. We take this route in order to reach a main road and bus stop which takes us to the small town (80,000) of Sirsi, where the office of the Vanastree collective is situated. This is also the way which leads to the households of several families in the area, one of which has invited us into their home several times and has kindly offered us food and hospitality.
At the farm there are neighbors who help out with various tasks such as taking care of and milking several cows, cleaning the house and washing laundry and grounds work in return for milk, vegetables, fruit and food. Sarah and I are going to be practicing our Kannada (the local language) with them and helping them out when it suits them. One of the helping families includes two young boys, Prajual and a younger son whose name escapes me at the moment, but I think Prajual who is about 4 years old has taken a liking to us. At the farm there also live two dogs, Chiti-a kind, sleek and charasmatic little dog of tropical looks who has taken a liking to Sarah and I, and Scrabble-a rottweiler mix who is blustery, uncontrollable and with a tendency to be aggressive. All in all this makes a wonderful and dynamic household which has served as our home base of operations.
We had the opportunity to attend a class at a school for 1-5 graders who were learning songs and playing games in order to gain skills in oral retention of both Kannada and English. We are learning one of the songs they were singing in Kannada, it is quite beautiful, with tone inflections that we are yet to replicate properly.
I am running out of time so I will say that all in all our experience has been rich in many ways, not to mention some amazing meals and cooking lessons right from the source!
I will close with the phrase "ho'ogbit bartini" (I am going and I will come again). I hope you all are well and there will be more to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

(Sarah) Day after tomorrow...

plus another day in the air, we will land in Mumbai. Half the time I'm wildly excited and half the time I'm reminded of how much I don't know. I have no frame of reference for India except the Mahabharata, which I read in fifth grade and again last year, and friends' photos and stories--and most importantly, the counsel and friendship of Sunita Rao, with whom we will be working. From the Mahabharata comes the thousand eyes story. Indra, the thousand-eyed Hindu rain god, unleashes torrents and thunderstorms to celebrate the birth of his grandson, the great king Parikshita:

"Over Hastinapura and Indraprastha the racing wind tore into the heavy blue clouds and the rain spilled over. Thunders rocked the sky and shook its lace of boiling lightning, but by only looking, Indra kept the winds out of every dwelling and made the waters harmless. Not one flower or leaf was torn or crushed; no crop was spoiled nor any blossom hurt; no creature drowned in a flooded burrow or fell while flying. There were no floods, and the roads were only damp, with no sticky mud. After the storm, all the hay and straw was still dry. In Kurujangala, where a million frail lights and incense sticks burnt outdoors in thanksgiving for your father's birth, in the lashing winds for a day and a night, none of them went out, and no bowl of water beside the houses even overflowed.
                             The thousand eyes had only blinked."
--The Mahabharata, as told by the sage Vyasa and retold by William Buck

When uncertainty gains the upper hand in my head lately, some part of my brain says "The thousand eyes had only blinked." I don't know how this particular bit of advice was chosen for me, or what it means--three months is only a blink? chill out? what looks scary can be benign if you have the courage to look at it for a minute?--but it is certainly a good story.

May our desire to do good work for a country and a people we do not yet know be enough to warrant us such protection from the gods of that place. May our eyes and hearts be open; may we accept new things, crazy things, with humility and humor. I am sure we will weather our share of storms. I am sure I will wish I had a thousand eyes with which to see everything new and breathtaking and amazing. And to keep an eye on rambunctious schoolchildren.

Thanks to all of you who read this and care about Nathan or me or both of us; I'm glad you're in our lives. I hope we can share our adventures well.

Friday, September 3, 2010

(Nathan) Okay, so the departure date is getting very close... I guess it's real then

This is Nathan here, I'm just testing this thing out since I've never really had occasion to write in a blog before. Woohoo! Anyway all our vaccinations have been taken care of and all Sarah and I are really concerned with is figuring out what to do with ourselves while we're in Mumbai for a night and part of a day. It is a big city...