30 July 2008

Chi Chi

We receive an English paper here at the Home called the Times of India. The paper really serves two purposes. It helps us foreigners who don’t have a prayer when it comes to Hindi understand a little bit better what is happening around the country and the world as well as provides fresh material for the boys to work on their english reading skills.

Tonight we were sitting around the dining room table enjoying a bit ‘o tea and reading the paper when a few of the boys decided that they should pick out a girlfriend for Steve before he goes (he heads out on friday). One section of the paper in particular, the Delhi Times, is full of the usual pop culture icons, both Indian and the rest of the world (American, Canadian, British, etc). After carefully surveying all the girls, they decided upon a slightly underdressed and overly makeupped Avril Lavigne. They had no idea who she was, but I started laughing pretty hard. Then, of course, they had to pass the paper around to show all the other boys who Steve’s new girlfriend was.

The last boy to get the paper was Rahul. He is one of the youngest boys and has been feeling under the weather the last two weeks or so. He’s definitely the most skilled when it comes to verbal skills and probably speaks the best English in the Home. Since he hasn’t been feeling well, he has not been his normal self and we have heard barely two words out of him.

Anyway, when Rahul finally gets the paper and flips to the page he clicks his tongue and declares “uh oh, chi chi” (which means “no good”). That brought the house down. We were all laughing so hard. I guess Steve and Avril don’t have a chance if it can’t pass the 6 year old approval test... These are some pretty special moments...

29 July 2008

Taking Stock of Things

Well, I’ve been here for a month now and here’s the quick version of what I’ve been learning.

  1. It’s ok to eat my vegetables

  2. Talking slow is an art form unto its own

  3. Cows and cities do in fact mix

  4. Height is a liability no matter where in the world you are

  5. Boys have lots of energy

  6. Said boys seem to gain energy when they increase in number

  7. One water jug, four jump ropes and one soccer ball are all it takes to pull off a successful olympics

  8. I am not good at taking pictures

  9. Mangos are delicious

  10. Religions can respect one another

  11. The rest of the world loves Obama, McCain not so much

  12. Leaving the Gulf Coast “to escape the heat and humidity” was a bad excuse

  13. Ants and I are not compatible

  14. I like to travel

  15. Writing is good for me

  16. We have a long way to go before there is peace on earth

  17. I have a lot to learn about the world

  18. A tall, white guy in India cannot blend in anywhere

  19. I need to trust people more

  20. The best is yet to come

28 July 2008

Strength in Numbers

I went to the mentors meeting today. Once a month the main office staff for Udayan Care and all the mentor mothers (plus one father) get together to see how things are going and to brainstorm positive solutions to what sometimes seem like impossible problems.

It was really great to see the bigger picture of everything going on and share some joys and sorrows as a group. We also had a presentation on how to work away from motivating the kids based solely on external factors and fostering internal motivation.

There are many times where these boys just seem like any normal boys and there are other times where the trials of their pasts remind us all that they have had a pretty rough start to things. It is definitely no easy task at any level and the commitment that each and every person in that room has been making is huge.

I remember when I first realized that my parents didn’t have parenting all laid out for them, but pretty much had to learn as they went (there are definitely some benefits of being middle child as opposed to first guinea pig!). The task at hand for these mentors is just as large, if not more complicated. What a gift to have the group to work through the struggles and share the joys with!

27 July 2008

Making Sense of Violence

As some of you may be aware, the town of Ahmedabad was the site of 17 confirmed explosions last night (Saturday). The initial targets were public gathering places such as markets and bus stops with a second round of explosions targeting area hospitals as the wounded were being delivered from the first round of attacks. These blasts follow on the heels of 8 or 9 blasts that rocked the city of Bangalore only the day before (Friday).

This is a sad day for India and yet another reminder that the reality of security is vastly different in many other parts of the world than it is in the States. All major metro areas have been put on high alert and there is concern that more attacks may come in the following days. The group who has taken responsibility for yesterday’s attacks has been under much scrutiny as of late and it is unsure of whether there will be more attacks and just how coordinated the days events were.

I am in no immediate danger as these attacks appear to be politically motivated and Noida has little connection to the major political happenings (nice to be in a wealthy neighborhood).

There is much outrage across the nation and I can’t help but think of the many other places worldwide where theses types of acts are a regular part of life (Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine come to mind). Let us all seek to give voices to those who feel as if they are not heard in hopes of a less violent tomorrow...

26 July 2008

Udayan Olympics 2008

Today we held the inaugural Udayan Olympics Day here at the home. We started out the morning in the basement learning about the history of the Olympic Games and about the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympics to be held next month and the Indian athletes that will be competing there. After that, each boy selected the sport that they would like to compete in someday at the Olympics and drew a picture of that day along with writing a short caption.

After a break for lunch, we all gathered together to watch the movie “Soccer Dog” which was a smash hit and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

We then proceeded to go outside to the park across the street to compete in various events ranging from a foot race and soccer ball toss to water jug lifting, three-legged races and pull-ups.

To cap off the evening, Steve and I cooked up some good ‘ol American food in the form of spaghetti (with garlic and mushroom sauce), garlic and cheese bread, watermelon, pineapple with Hawaiian Punch to wash it all down. I have never seen the boys eat so much (it’s 9:30 and dead quiet here!).

This day has been in the works for a few weeks now and it turned out to exceed our expectations. It was such a fun day and the boys really got involved and gave it their best shot all day long.

I’m so stinkin’ tired, but can’t wait to look through all the pics with the boys tomorrow :).

23 July 2008

Quick Update

Things continue to move along here at a pretty hefty clip. I spent my morning going out to several different markets in a few other parts of Noida partially just to see what they were like and partially to help Berindra carry some of the goods. Today was also a first for driving on a road that had no lane markings for either direction and I’m pretty sure that cars were using the entire road for each direction. Yeesh. We’ve been in the upper 90’s for both temp and humidity all week and it’s has been about four days now with no rain. Strange to think that that’s a really long spell. It also just means that the smog is making a comeback.

Thoughts and prayers are with those starting the cleanup in Mexico and Texas and Japan...

22 July 2008

Losing while Winning

Parliament had their big trust vote yesterday to determine whether they should back the current government or whether there is enough dissension to justify earlier elections. Most of the stated controversy is due to the proposed nuclear deal with the United States, although there are other long-standing issues. The vote held and the current government is now moving forward, but the bitter divisions and sentiments will continue to echo for the next several years as sides and factions continue to remember this day and the emotion and controversy that it contained. Sadly, this means less time and cooperation concerning things like education, health care, rural reform, and the million other things that people desperately need the government to give attention to.


so it’s no secret that i wasn’t a perfect little child. i had my moment of weakness and stubbornness that i’m sure my mother could attest to. while i’ve paid i’ve paid the consequences for some of my actions and probably got away with a few, i’m pretty sure that i’m in a season of repayment for another...

yes, it’s true and i confess, i burned ants with a magnifying glass.

i think that youthful transgression is coming back to haunt me.

you see, ants in minnesota aren’t really all that pesky. they don’t sting or run rampant or cause much damage other than the occasional carpenter ants colony. killing and pestering them was simply youthful curiosity and entertainment.

and then i moved to mississippi. there i found out i have a natural knack for stepping on fire ant hills. you see fire ants can, and will fight back. not a week went by that i didn’t sport some welts or another from my inability to watch where i stepped. they had it in for me. penance, i guess for my youthful carelessness.

and now i live in india. no big, hungry carpenter ants. no pesky fire ants. just these tiny little red ants that have this amazing ability to find a way into anything and everything. i continually find them in my bed, on my clothes, crawling on their little ant highways along the walls, even in my pens. i’m sure they are out to get me. they never sleep, never stop. quite a good number moved into my computer the other day. i have been squishing the pesky little buggars on their way out ever since. they no longer come pouring out every time i turn it on or every time it heats up which i’m taking as a good sign. i think i’ve gained the upper hand on this battle, but i’m a bit worried about the war...

21 July 2008

A Gem of an Evening

We were invited over to a neighbor’s house for dinner this evening. What a treat for everybody. i can definitely say that inviting 11 boys over for dinner takes some real guts, but to do it with such open arms and welcoming was truly amazing. It is one thing to feed the orphans because of guilt or mandate, but quite another to willingly welcome and embrace them. The boys were on their best behavior and everybody had a wonderful time and came home stuffed.

This is also exciting on a second level. Most of our neighbors know nothing about the boys or the home. There is virtually no interaction whatsoever between the two other than an occasional passing in the street or in the park. Most of this is due to the boys having lived here less than a year and hopefully with time this will change. It is exciting to see the possibilities of friendship with neighbors. The older I get, the more I am amazed at my parent’s ability to keep up with four of us, and we had a huge support network. What a gift for these boys to be able to have some of that added into their own lives.

I’m pretty sure that it does take a community to raise a child...

20 July 2008

New Delhi

I went into New Delhi for a little sightseeing yesterday. Left here at about 8am and returned home at 6pm, so it was quite the long day. I took a bunch of pictures and I’ll throw some up once I get them sorted, but I thought I’d throw together some initial reactions to the trip...

  1. Snake charmers do really exist (as do the snakes)

  2. I had my first ever conversation with someone while they were holding a fully automatic rifle

  3. Narrow streets + too many people + motorcycles + rickshaws + tourist should end in lots of blood and broken things, yet mysteriously it does not.

  4. Anybody who has money (in India I fit into that category) does not walk anywhere, therefore if you break that norm people get really confused (and every rickshaw between you and your destination will stop assuming that you need a ride)

  5. Touching stones laid by distant Empires in the 1600s is an eerily awesome experience

19 July 2008

Well Said, Mark

“This is indeed India; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence... the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition... the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined... Its marvels are its own; the patents cannot be infringed; imitations are not possible.”
-Mark Twain, Following the Equator

18 July 2008

Shivam's Birthday Party

On Monday, we celebrated Shivam's 9th birthday... Here are some pics from the bash.

17 July 2008

A Moment

i had a moment today...

i found myself standing in the middle of a dusty, empty lot in humidity that i had to swim through surrounded by a bunch of boys who were just as sweaty as i was, and to top it all off it appeared that some of the local cows had chosen that lot as their grazing plot this morning thus the addition of gobs of cow poo on the soccer ball, the kids and myself... and that’s when i realized that this is my life :)

‘twas a good moment.

15 July 2008

Staring as Polite?

People look you in the eye here... and never stop looking. Granted I tower over everybody and my pastiness gives me away as an outsider, but what I’m referring to is more along the lines general conversation. People never look away. The entire dialogue is had with locked gazes. It was pretty unsettling when I got here and still is to some extent. But the flip side is this non-verbal communication that you have someone’s undivided attention. I still break the gaze all the time and half the time I feel like people are peering down into my soul, but I think with some more practice I might pick up some more skills on what it means to be an undivided listener...

14 July 2008

On Religion

I only packed one book for this trip. Mostly, I didn’t want to have to lug around a bunch of books (as I am want to do) the whole trip, especially ones that I would like to keep permanently. Thus, my book of choice was an archeological fiction piece that I plan to leave behind for whoever else would like a book.

The only real problem being that the book barely lasted me through week one (lots of time on airplanes makes for short reads). A few days ago I managed to stumble into a bookstore as I was out ‘n about for a bit. Mostly I was excited to get some good maps of the area in anticipation of the touristy stuff to come when I leave. That said, I of course spent a few hours browsing and ended up with an English translation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Autobiography. Best part yet is that it cost 30 Rupees or 75 cents. Perfect.
Below is an excerpt from the book that is an interesting perspective about turn of the century Christianity here in India. Unfortunately, it appears that such an impression was not an isolated incident in India’s past with concern for Christians proselytizing in India...

“I developed a sort of dislike for [Christianity]. And for a reason. In those days Christian missionaries used to stand in a corner near the high school and hold forth, pouring abuse on Hindus and their gods. I could not endure this. I must have stood there to hera them once only, but that was enough to dissuade me from repeating the experiment. About that time, I heard of a well-known Hindu having been converted to Christianity. It was the talk of the town that, when he was baptized, he had to eat beef and drink liquor, that he also had to change his clothes, and thenceforth he began to go about in European costume including a hat. These things got on my nerves. Surely, thought I, a religion that compelled one to eat beef, drink liquor, and change one’s own clothes did not deserve such the name. I also heard that the new convert had already begun abusing the religion of his ancestors, their customs and their country. All these things created in me a dislike for Christianity.”

India is incredibly amazing when it comes to religions. While most of the population is Hindi, there is a general understanding of other religions and an openness to allowing others to worship as they desire. We could learn a lot about what it means to be hospitable towards others of different faiths and open to dialoguing along such lines. There is still a common understanding that for Christianity it is necessary to adopt a certain culture (read British Imperial Christianity from the turn of the century), but even with that backdrop, I have been warmly welcomed and people are genuinely interested in talking about faith and religion.

13 July 2008

Vegetarian Diet

I have been eating pretty much exclusively vegetarian fare since my arrival here. Actually, it started before my arrival since I ended up on the back of all three planes en-route due to the last minutes switches and all the only meals left at that point were vegetarian (but I digress). I have never intentionally tried to eat vegetarian before. I grew up eating plenty of meat and have never been so disgusted by the industry or felt the need to discipline my diet for a higher purpose.

My arrival to India, however, has kicked off what will be a mostly vegetarian diet for the next few months. There are many reasons why India has quite a few vegetarians. Some of it economics, since meat is usually more expensive. Some of it is religious, since some sects hold a sanctity to all animal life. Some of it is social, since there is a limited distribution chain that is very much dictated by supply and demand.

I have had the opportunity for some meat. A local volunteer, Ravi, to the home invited Steve, my fellow American volunteer, and I over to his place last Sunday for dinner and to watch the Wimbledon final and the Asia Cup Cricket final. We had a very delicious mutton meatloaf dish and a great time with his family (tennis was a big rained out and India got blasted by Sri Lanka in the cricket match). Yesterday, Steve and I snuck away for a bit and grabbed a good ‘ol chicken big mac as we were out an about. I am hoping to find a little bit of meat once a week or so, but am fine with the majority of my intake being veggie... for now :).

12 July 2008

The Power of the Spoken Word

I know that in the overall scheme of things in this world that I sit in a pretty good spot. I am an American citizen who is young, male, white, well educated and so on and so forth. Up until this point, however, I have never added “english speaker” to that list.

My role here in India is first and foremost to help the kids with their english skills. It’s pretty great really. I am to talk, talk and talk some more. I will also probably return to the states and talk very slowly using simple words and phrasing for the first few months as I readjust to speaking with people who actually know the language...

In India, english is very widely spoken in the major urban areas and the upper echelons of society, but is not so common among the rural peoples and those in the lower economic stratums. Therefore, here in India, education and english are closely tied together and most of the premiere job sectors require a high proficiency of english skills for employment. The cycle feeds itself.

It is exciting to realize that for these 11 boys here at the Home they will break the cycle and acquire good english skills both through their school as well as exposure to so many foreigners like myself during their stay here. This is something to rejoice about. It is extremely depressing, however, to walk through the streets and neighborhoods and realize just how many people will never have such opportunities. They will spend their entire lives cutoff from participation and inclusion in much of what makes India tick.

I know that there are so many factors that enable systems to function and that english is but a small part of the issues here in India (and elsewhere), but how does one come to tackle such inequality? How does one be a person endowed with substantial privilege and wield that privilege for leveling purposes? How does one (1) make a difference?

11 July 2008

My Daily Schedule (in very generalized form)

6:00-7:00 Wake Up (really no set time. Some mornings I get up and run with the kids, others I enjoy some space)
7:00-8:00 Help the boys get through a quick breakfast and ready and off to school.
8:00-9:00 Breakfast and getting ready for the day
9:00-2:00 Most of the boys are at school so this time is filled with working with Praveen (who is not in school yet), some grammar work with Birendra and Rita, emails and blogging, trips to the market, etc.
2:00-3:00 Lunch :)
3:00-5:30 Homework time with the boys. They have a paid “teacher” who comes during this time and I assist them with their work.
5:30-7:00 Outside play time. Usually consists of some running, and then any combination of football (soccer), cricket, frisbee, and whatever other spur of the moment entertainment can be derived on short notice.
7:00-7:30 Snack time. This is probably my favorite part of the day since it usually is a time of much laughter and togetherness :)
7:30-9:00 Open time. Lots of baths take place as well as some computer time or finishing unfinished homework as well as reading and playing.
9:00-9:30 Dinner time. Yup, that’s right, dinner. The evening meal is extremely late over here and my stomach is still trying to catch up to that time schedule.
9:30-10:30 Down time and getting ready for bed

09 July 2008

The N-Deal

I don’t know how many of you have been paying attention lately, but this week in Japan 8 major global powers have assembled for the G8 summit. The purpose of this summit is for world leaders to come together to discuss climate change and how, as world powers they can positively impact the current climate situation.

A side-affect of this summit was a breakfast meeting yesterday morning between President Bush and India’s Prime Minister to continue discussion concerning a nuclear partnership between the two countries. I know in the US that people are divided on the proposed deal.

Some say that the thought of sharing nuclear knowledge with an Asian government is fundamentally a bad idea. Others are worried that India will use this partnership to further their standoff with not-so-neighborly Pakistan. Others see this only as a last ditch effort by Bush to put something positive on his international record before he leaves office.

There are also those that support the proposed deal. They see it as securing and ally in a volatile region of the world. Or as a great way to de-escalate the tension in the region by forcing India to pursue non-weaponized nuclear technology. Some even see it as a way of ensuring that the US interests in India’s budding economy is secured for years to come.

But what about India? It appears that the National government is reaching a crisis situation over the proposed deal. A vote of confidence in the current administration appears both likely and unavoidable as the country is torn between immediate need and future security.

It is no secret that India needs energy. There are constant interruptions in power and rolling brown-outs plague many regions. Ironically, this is not due to an over-reliance on technology or people having too many gizmos. It is simply too many people trying to power their lights and fans and demand far out drawing the supply. India needs energy infrastructure now. This new deal would accelerate the process of creating sustainable nuclear power to enable India to continue to ride the wave of this economic boom as well as extend that boom beyond the cities and into the very underdeveloped poorer areas.

But for India, this is a short-term fix. In agreeing to the deal, India would be forced to play second-fiddle to the whims of the US government for it really is an all give and very little take for the long term. Much of the development would be lining the pockets of Western companies and India would be forced to not only back down on their own military security (even possible nuclear disarmament while being surrounded by several very capable nuclear neighbors) but also other concessions that have very little or nothing at all to do with sharing energy technology. The US would not be held to such standards, for really they are giving up next to nothing yet reaping quite a bit of control.

Thus a political system that is already hampered by the demands of being the world’s largest democracy (1 billion people strong) is spending far too much time debating whether to make long-term concessions for the sake of short-term prosperity and far too little time addressing the plethora of other needs the country has. In a government of coalitions, this division could affect the ability (or inability) of factions to work together for years to come.

I honestly don’t know where I stand on the deal. I will say, however, that the deal is a lot more real due to waking up in the middle of the night because fans are no longer running or attempting to eat dinner with 11 kids by the light of two candles. I can also say that my Bible talks about loving my neighbor as myself and that I feel a high degree of cynicism that any government will ever heed that directive.

There are no simple answers here.

Yaakov's Light

Yaakov’s Light is the sixth Udayan Ghar home and the most recent boys home to open. The planning stages started in March of 2007, and boys have been living in the home for nine months now. We live in a middle to upper class neighborhood that is very nice and the home is quite large by India standards. Across the street from the Home is a small grassy park with a walking path and some playground toys, which is great for wearing off some energy and there is another larger play area a shorter walk away as well which is great for football (soccer) time.

Major Sud is the Chairman of the Home, which means he is in charge of the overall operations and has been heavily involved since its inception as he is retired and quite wealthy at that. His wife, Asha, as well as Anjana Jain are the two mentor mothers. They see to the overall care of the children. All three are quite committed to the home and usually try to stop by every day if possible.

Birendra and Rita Xana are the caregivers. They live right here in the home and are the ones that really make this place tick. They do not know english very well (we have been doing some grammar lessons for about an hour each day) which makes it a bit tricky, but they are an amazing couple who moved here to the Delhi region specifically to work in this home.

There are also several teachers, drivers, and volunteers that pour countless time energy and effort into making this place tick. It’s really quite incredible to see the outpouring of support that these boys have and the dedication present to enable them to succeed both at present and in the future. Note, the goal of this home is not to work towards adoption, but to equip each boy with the life skills needed to succeed here in India.

That brings us to the boys... Currently there are eleven boys: Gaurav, Mohit, Sandeep, Umesh, Ajay, Shivam, Manjeet, Vijay, Rahul, Praveen and Aryan. I never was very good with names to begin with, but it has definitely taken some practice to get all of them down! All of the boys, except for Aryan, have spent the majority of their lives on the streets and do not have any parents. Aryan is the youngest and is actually Birendra and Rita’s son, but lives right in with the rest of the children and is treated no differently (for the most part). They boys have their rough spots and are still less than a year removed from their former lives (less than for months in the case of Praveen). That said, they have made amazing progress under the circumstances and I am so thrilled to be here with them for a spell.

08 July 2008

Udayan Ghars

As part of their mission to serving the underprivileged youth of India, Udayan Care has established several Ghars, or Homes for orphaned children. They are set up with a “family-like environment” and aim to function as the primary residence for these kids as they mature to adulthood.

Most of the children living in these homes have passed the ideal adopting age (3 years old) and all come from living on the streets in and around the New Delhi National Capital Region. They arrive at these homes via government involvement or through the efforts of other non-government organizations. There are currently 4 Homes for girls and 3 Homes for boys with one more of each in the planning stages.

The homes are placed in middle class neighborhoods both for stability and isolation, but also to provide them access to good environments to play as well as to be near good schools and such.

Each home has two caretakers, which is usually a live-in couple who are responsible for being the primary care givers as well as 2-3 mentors who are directly involved in all facets of the Home operation and care of the children. There are also countless volunteers who drop in roughly on a weekly basis to spend time with the kids and provide extra support and encouragement.

Which leads me to me. My role in all of this is to supplement the quality care already being offered to these kids and to do as much english work with them as possible. They have english courses as part of their school routine, but they still need a lot of attention as far as proper speaking, grammar and conversation are concerned. It is quite interesting, actually, to be in a position where I am charged with something so simple and I really hope to be able to embrace this fully.

07 July 2008

The Physics of Lots of Boys

There are 11 boys here at Udayan Ghar VII ranging in age from 5 to 12 and there are not very many dull moments around here. Overall, they are actually pretty good boys. A bit rough around the edges and a bit lacking in verbal communication skills (they are boys after all), but parts of their past have led to some surprising maturity in different areas...

However, with this many boys things are usually pretty hectic. Whether it’s getting ready for school and making sure the right backpack gets with the right books and the right owner who needs to be wearing the right socks kind of thing or just making sure that everybody got some food at each meal, there are just lots of things going on at the same time.

It’s all an exercise in entropy really... Everything is kinda measured on the degree of disorder in the system. Some days have more measuring than others and some days are just flat out anarchy.

And every once in a while there are time like tonight... We came in from playing cricket, football (soccer) and frisbee in the street and park and all sat in the dining area for a snack and it was incredible; no yelling, no crying, not even anything goofy. Just 11 boys, 2 caretakers and 2 sweaty and exhausted volunteers all laughing, talking and still... magical.

...until the glass of milk got spilled, a fight broke out over the last few crackers, and anarchy reigned again...

I have had lots of those moments in my life. I gotta admit, as far as families go I think I came out pretty far ahead of the curve. But for these boys, I’m pretty sure that moments like this have not been the norm or even the exception for much of their lives to date. But this is why Udayan does Homes, for moments like tonight...

06 July 2008

Burned elephant goes on rampage, kills man in Orissa

A clipping from todays India Times newspaper...

Keonjhar (Orissa): A tusker, which had escaped with burns after villagers set it on fire last week, returned to Jodha Bhuyan Basti, 70km from here [Delhi], on Saturday and went on a rampage killing one man and destroying homes.
Panic gripped residents of the village as the elephant killed Phulchand Mohanta (40), who is originally from Mayurbhanj district’s Rairangpur.
The elephant, which has already killed eight persons in Barbil forest range area over the last two years, trampled Mohanta near his house around about 8am.

05 July 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

The boys usually get up at about 6am every morning and start their day with a run in the little park across the street. It’s usually about 5 laps or so before they head inside to do their chores and get ready for school. The crazy part is that nobody wakes them up to do this, they actually get up on their own to start their day (not my childhood I’m sure). If you ask me, it’s a great way for them to burn off so extra energy before jumping into the daily school routine.

Well, apparently a few (and by few I mean that it turned out to be six of ten) of the boys had been using the park as part of their early morning bathroom routine as well. Now remember, these kids have spent the majority of their lives on the street where the prospect of having such a lush bathroom was never even dreamt of. Granted, they knew better and had a pretty good idea what they were doing was wrong. But for whatever reason, convenience probably, they were being naughty.

It took about 20 minutes to sort out all the details tonight and find out who was guilty and what the whole story was and why they felt the need. I don’t know very many Hindi words, but I think I was able to follow most of the conversation. I was definitely struggling at holding in the giggles the whole time. We live in a gated part of the town and the fact that there is any grass at all, not to mention really nice grass, testifies to the income level of the community. I guess the bottom line (pun intended) is that they are doing their part to keep it that way... C’mon, that’s just too funny...

04 July 2008

Why this blog?

I will get to more details about the Home and the boys (which I know is what everybody is really waiting for), but today I’m just not feeling the whole details thing. I’m actually quite amazed that I’ve been able to keep up this pace on blogging, and hope to for the duration of my stay in the Home.

One of the things that I’ve been hoping to get out of this trip is discipline. One cannot jump into a society and a people that is so foreign without needing take a good long look at themselves. Everywhere I go and in everything I do I am reminded that I am different and not of this place. Really, this is probably pretty good for me since I often find excuses and distractions in “normal” life back home.

Blogging is part of this desire to be disciplined. Not only does it force me to process through the massive amounts of information and thoughts colliding in my brain, but it also affords others a peek into this experience and a brief taste of life a little different. I have had quite a bit of feedback, which is both wonderful and appreciated, and am starting to realize that this kind of experience is not possible for everyone to undertake. Hopefully the thoughts, words and stories here will not only continue to convey that fact that I’m still kicking, but also push all of us deeper into this whole living life mindful of who we have been, who we are and who we want to be...

(oh yeah, and last night I realized that I reached my goal of having all 10 boys’ names down)

Udayan Care

Udayan Care is the parent organization that this orphanage operates under. It is a trust that was set up in remembrance of Udayan Modi, an Indian who cared deeply about the state of his people and went to the United States to study economics in pursuit of helping disadvantaged children here in India. Tragically, he died in 1993 at the age of 21 and the Udayan Trust was set up in 1994 by his family and friends in his memory and as a commitment to the work that he so passionately cared about.

“Udayan” is a Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language heavily tied into current religious writings) word that means “eternal sunrise.” It is the hope of all who come through these doors, whether they be here to help or be helped will then leave these doors as part of that never ending sunrise on India and the world. In fact, since practically all of the children all come to the Udayan Homes without last names, they inherit Udayan as their legal and official last name. Pretty incredible :).

The Vision:
To Regenerate the Rhythm of Life of the Disadvantaged

The Mission:
For every child a home and education, for every adult the dignity of self-reliance and desire to give back to society

This Vision and Mission has led to the development of 6 Ghars (Homes) for children rescued in and around New Delhi as well as programs to assist underprivileged young women with money and mentoring as they seek higher education and learning and supporting underserved communities by assisting in vocational training and personality development programs so that these affected individuals can then enact change in their own environment.

I have the opportunity to participate in only a small part of the bigger picture here, but it is pretty incredible to realize the scope of how many ways the underseved and underprivileged of any society need assistance and chains to be broken. It is incredible how large Udayan Care has grown in the past 14 years and amazing that they have been able to tackle several different issues head on. Even more exciting is the fact that it is a completely native Indian organization and not a Western dependent program.

You can find out much, much more about Udayan Care as well as ways to get involved at their website: www.udayancare.org

03 July 2008

There and Back Again, A Luggage Tale

Driving in India is crazy. The lines designating lanes are really more of a suggestion and a formality than an actual structure to be followed. Really that sums up driving in general. In the West, we have been trained to function out of designated structure. We stay in our lanes and follow all traffic lights, etc. In all things, we are taught to first “know the rules.” Not so much in India. Here, movement is based on the movement of others around you. Keep in mind of course that most vehicles here are small cars and motorcycles and bikes (much unlike the behemoths we Americans tend to favor). Traffic is constantly in motion and horns are used to help one identify where others are around them. The flow seems immensely chaotic to those of us used to highly defined rules of engagement, but as a whole, it is a beautiful motion that is really impressive.

I had experienced this motion by car when getting picked up at the airport and delivered to the Home, but today was a bit different. I went into New Delhi today to pick up my luggage which had finally been recovered, but since I didn’t have a car, the method of transportation was an auto rickshaw. These tiny little three wheelers are really the taxis of India (along with their bicycle counterparts) and have replaced the traditional rickshaws which were pulled by people running (great little aside: the “autos“ can run on either gasoline or propane along with many of the cars here in India). They don’t have seat belts or any real sense of safety (Mom, start breathing again), and compared to some of the trucks we’re little more than a bug about to get squashed, but the city is full of them and they are really quite useful to anybody who needs to get around and doesn’t have a vehicle.

So really the good news is I got my luggage (yay!) and the ride of my life to boot. There will definitely be more fun rides to come (Erin start working on those nerves of steel)...

02 July 2008


Well, I’m pretty much settled in now, so I guess it’s time for a few more details...

Just prior to my arrival here in India, the boys’ home where i was to be working was flooded. The monsoon rains came 2 weeks early this year, and the location of the home is apparently not on the highest ground. The boys are all currently living eith with volunteer families or at another temporary facility, so I have been rerouted to Noida, India which is a South East suburb just across the Yamuna River. The name of the home is Yaakov’s Light and is still part of the Udayan Care Homes. I’ll talk about Udayan Care more in a later post. I am no longer living with a host family, but am living in the home for my stay. We have internet access here, so I should be pretty consistent with updates and emails :).

I have a roommate. Steve is from Philadelphia and has been here for a month now. He is taking some time this summer to hang out here before heading back for his senior year at college this fall. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have another American around just to be able to ask questions and process things with. What a welcome surprise!

My friend, Erin Counihan, who I worked with on the coast for 21 months is ending her term with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in the beginning of August. Before settling in to “normal” life, she is coming to India for two weeks at the conclusion of my stay at the Home. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a travelling buddy to explore more of the New Delhi region with and to have an excuse to prolong my stay.

I got word this evening that my luggage has been delivered in New Delhi and will be taking an auto-rickshaw into the city tomorrow to retrieve it. I have never been so excited about clothes (and most importantly flip-flops) before in my life. I’m also still working on the whole acclimating myself to life thing. I did not get much more than four hours of sleep during the traveling craziness, so needless to say I was pretty wiped when I got here. I fell asleep Tuesday afternoon at 3pm and slept hard until about 2am. Of course, since my internal clock was flip-flopped, I spent the rest of the night awake and doing the few miscellaneous things one can do when there is one roommate, 11 boys and a caretaker couple all sleeping in most areas of the house. Today was much better, I hit the wall at 6pm, but with a little bit of soccer time, I’ve managed to make it this late (10pm). I’m hoping to crash hard tonight and be close to getting on schedule after that.