Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 10 - Happy Holi from the state of Punjab

KC Global School

Holi Festivities

Post Holi at the Aroras

To start off the morning we headed over to the KC Global School and planted some trees.  The school opens in April.  They were very excited that we were there and helping them, but they thought we were from Chichago. The local press joined us and both groups took a lot of photos. Here we also celebrated Holi. People from the school came around with thalies full of colored powered. We all went crazy throwing the powder at each other. At the end we were all totally covered. Our hosts, then, took us next door to a Sikh temple for a short blessing and a performance.  More press member were also here.  Tiernan was interviewed on live TV. We got to taste sugar cane juice, which was green and lumpy. After this we went back to the house and met a member of Indian Parliament. He talked to us about saving water and helping the world. We were all given trophies for being there.

- Mariah

Days 5 & 7 - Trips to Shimla and Kasauli

Above the beautiful setting of Shimla

At Hanuman's Temple in Shimla - primates were too close for comfort.
Viceroy's summer residence in Shimla.

Browsing in Kasauli

Negotiating in Kasauli.
The Lawrence School from Kasauli

Day 9 - Punjab - Wagah Border and Amritsar

Stopping along the highway for communal tea.
Susan and Mashal help make roti.
--> After a great visit at the Lawrence School, the Blake School had an early morning departure and headed for Amritsar. It was a long day in the car, our first stop was the Arora house. They were incredibly gracious hosts as we were welcomed into their home with a huge breakfast feast! After some time to freshen up we all loaded up the bus with the Arora family and headed for Amritsar. We stopped for a quick “fast food” lunch at the Amritsar mall, in which most of us took a break from the Indian food and ate Dominos! Our first stop after the mall was the Wagah Border. We were seated in the “foreigner gallery” and the ceremony reminded most of us of a sports game. There was an immense amount of nationalism present, full of cheering and dancing among the crowds. It was interesting to see the contrast between Pakistan and India, and to have had the opportunity to visit the friendliest point on the border. Afterwards,we were escorted back to the garden in which we waved at the Pakistanis standing on the other side. (The blonde girls on the trip had a lot of photos taken of them there!) 

Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Our group with the Arora family at the Golden Temple.
 Next, we headed to the Golden Temple. We sat on horse drawn chariots and rode through the main roads of Amritsar until we reached the entrance of the Golden Temple. We removed our shoes, covered our heads, and proceeded to walk barefoot to the Golden Temple!  The Golden Temple was spectacular at night, although very crowded. We explored all parts of the temple,  and although it was very crazy keeping track of all 19 of us.  It was a memorable experience. We ate at the Gurudwara in which everyone sits on the floor in orderly rows. In the Sikh religion, there is a large emphasis on equality.  This communal way of eating reflects this core value. While the temple was overwhelming for some, the overall experience was terrific. We headed back to the Arora home, about a 3 hour bus ride, and arrived at the house at 1 am. 

- Siona

Friday, March 22, 2013

Days 3-8 - Life at the Lawrence School

Our group with the headmaster.

In proper dress

We are at the school now. It was really warm when we arrived but then got cool in the evening. Thankfully, we are all in the same room and several of us snuggled through the night to keep warm.  We are in the center of everything (overlooking the big soccer stadium) while the boys are in the quarantine area in the tin huts. We think it is funny that that is where they send kids with chicken pox.

Presenting to the special assembly.

They deliver us delicious cocoa in the evening and chai in the mornings – at 6 a.m.! The Lawrence School students are preparing for a competitive run so by 6:15 they are out running on a hilly track. In some ways, this school reminds us of Hogwarts. It’s not that they are teaching magic but they do have four houses the same colors as those in Harry Potter. Each house has its own color that they wear on their backpacks. We’ll let you know if we see any moving staircases!

 – a collection of comments from the girls

Main Office at Sanawar

Inspecting the printing press, where all of the school's newspapers, forms, labels, programs, etc. are made.

We began our first full day of school here in Sanawar with a run—or at least, we would have, if we hadn’t gotten lost on the way. Rory, David and I ended up following alongside the youngest kids as they booked it in the final stretch. At least we beat out our comrades in the Infectious Disease hut on the effort front.
            Classes were a bit of a culture shock. In the first class we sat in on, in the “Lower 6th” form, the teacher began by chalking out notes on the board. The students told us that much of what they did was a “lot of writing”—detailed notes, pages for every class. The students managed to convince their psychology teacher to let Siona and I give a talk about Blake at the podium.
            After school ended, we filed off to the basketball court. The school’s basketball coach had invited us to play against their team, possibly based on a rumor that David had played in the “Junior NBA.”
            After an intense fight, the Blake squad fell away from its close 4 to 6 pt. deficit against the Indian contenders to a 34-50 loss. The game was exquisitely documented by photographer and 10-yr-old Jasper Graham and photographer and Frenchman Geoffroy Guillame. Jasper played; Geoff didn’t. Connect the dots. Elite basketball mind David Graham pulled his own weight and impressed the crowd with his flowing halo of lettuce.  
            Despite the fight over who got the space heater in the girls’ cottage, today was thoroughly fun and it was really cool to mingle with the Indian students. We look forward to our day trip to Simla tomorrow and everything else down the road.


Day 2 - Gandhis & Khan Market


After a slight traffic delay due to a state visit by Egyptian President Morsi, our second day included morning visits to Indira Gandhi’s home, the Culture Museum and the Birla house, where Mohandas Gandhi stayed while in Delhi.  The fact that both Indira and Mohandas were both assassinated in these residences made provided us with the moments of deeper reflection.  

Crossing the street provides an exhilarating challenge, but our guide stops traffic for a moment.  The rules of street tilt towards the larger vehicles with pedestrians with the bottom of the pecking order just above dogs and monkeys. 

In the afternoon most of us relaxed by shopping at Khan Market, while others happily hit the links at the Delhi Golf Club thanks to the hostility of the Devs.   That night we dine at the Delhi Gymkhana Club.

David G

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 1 - City Walk. Humayun's Tomb and Lodhi Garden

City Walk Tour near Delhi Train Station


For the city walk, we didn’t know what to expect. However, our tour guide, Iqbal, informed us of the children who are homeless in the city and what the Salaam Baalak Trust Organization is doing to help. We were toured around the poorer parts of the city and introduced to the boys at one of the shelters. During our time with them, we enjoyed the unexpected dance party and their smiling faces as we played hand games with them. It was a great experience and I don’t think we could ever forget it.

In front of Humayun's Tomb

After a brief stop at the hotel, we then visited the historic Humayun’s Tomb and Lodhi Gardens. Our guide informed us of the historic significance of both areas, which without, we would have been clueless. However she didn’t warned us about the ridiculously steep steps at the Tomb.
The buildings and gardens were spectacular and we learned and did so much that day. However, since we were so tired we almost couldn’t make it through the wonderful dinner at The Delhi Golf Club.

-Sierra, Surina, Sita, Kelsey, and Madison

Salaam Balaak Trust

            The contradictions scream out at me as we sit in the playroom of the Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization set up to help former street children. Even within the room itself, the great work being done and the impossibly difficult conditions in which it is being done come into sharp relief.
            In one corner of the room, one child lifts another up and the other claws back until they both fall onto the floor, shrieking in delight. It is not difficult to imagine these two, perhaps only months before, fighting desperately in the street over food, water, or shelter, but here they can laugh and play. Meanwhile, Mr. Graham shows off some great dance moves, much to our delight and Margaret’s embarrassment, and a child teaches me a version of patty cake. The improvement in these kids’ lives is astonishing, and the possibilities before them are inspiring. Proudly hung in the hallway are pictures of success stories, former residents of the trust who now work as a Pizza Hut shift manager, a choreographer, or a pharmacist. More personally, our tour guide, Iqbal, was beaten by his father, abandoned in a market, was left unconscious by the side of a train track, and was forced to work for a gang – all before age six – and now is applying to universities and dreams of owning his own business and working as a software engineer.
            And yet just across the room the obstacles are equally evident, as the room is cooled by an air conditioner made by the Oberoi company, so named after one of the richest families in India (the namesake for the hotel we would return to in a few hours, one of the nicest in the country), a sharp reminder of the staggering income inequalities India still deals with today. Meanwhile, the guide tells us of how only 70% of the children find their families, many of who cannot afford to send them to school. And this little haven of hope requires an armed guard and a metal barrier to protect it from the dangers of the slum outside. Of course, outside in that slum there are thousands more street children Salaam Balaak, and other organizations, simply do not have the resources to aid.
            Overall, this experience and the thoughts it provoked were truly profound. Despite all the obstacles preventing a total, or even comprehensive, solution to the issue of street children, the work being done and the transformation of these kids from a state they should never have had to be in to having a truly bright future was something inspiring to see, and I am eager to find even more ways to help.
- David S