Monthly Archives: January 2012

St. Anthony’s Boys Home

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After landing into Colombo, Sri Lanka, we were picked up by the driver from the St. Anthony’s Boys Home.  An immediate 2.5 hour drive to a small village called Hiwadiwela left us tired and hungry.  Side note: the roads in Sri Lanka are not like the roads in America.  The drivers skillfully avoid tut-tuts, cows and many pedestrians.  I felt as though I was in a Small India.

Once we got to the Orphanage, we were greeted by Ramesh, the Property Manager.  AKA the Chuck Norris of Sri Lanka.  The guy is super nice and is quite possibly the most resourceful person I have ever met.   He took us down for lunch.  All food is made by the local, poor Sri Lankan women using utensils that look to be dated from the early 1900s.  It is also quite possibly the most tasty food I have had during the course of our travels so far.

After settling into our room, we explored the area.  The building (or dormitory) is an airy, sunny space with a roof over the rooms while the common courtyard area is un-shielded.   It’s nestled within tropical plants and cocunut & pineapple trees.  You can often see rays of sunlight reflect through the plants and into our home.  It is quite beautiful.

The best part was, of course, meeting the orphans.  There are 21 of them and they are the cutest, most lovable kids ever.  Each one was thrilled to meet us and immediately asked if we could play games with them.  Part of which entailed me participating in a game of cricket.

Our main responsibility was to teach the kids English.  Some of them were really eager to learn while others shyed away from the opportunity to practice English with us.

Now, your fast facts for the past 9 days include:

  • I taught English for a full week and enjoyed every minute of it.   However, I realiye that teachers desevere a massive kudos for all the work they do.  It is not an easy job.
  • I accidentally went to town with a really tasty dish.  Later, I was told it was fish.  I am a vegetarian that does not eat seafood. Sigh.
  • Electricity goes on/off as it pleases.  I realized we don’t really need as much electricity as we use.
  • Another realization: America and Australia tend to be incredibly wasteful countries (duh) but seeing firsthand what Sri Lankans can do with sparse resources puts things into even more perspective.
  • A loving child can make the worst of problems seem insignificant.
  • I got to participating in making string hoppers and cocunut chutney using an old world kitchen.  Pictures to come.
  • Everyone there thought I was 22 and was shocked when I told them I was 33.
  • The biggest problem we encountered on the trip was that the cows went missing!!
  • There was only 1 true orphan.  The other orphans actually had 1 or 2 parents but they are alcoholics, gamblers or have to work overseas to earn a living for their family.
  • One orphan ran away during our stay there.

I am so incredibly happy that Martin and I got this experience.  We feel really blessed and fortunate that we come from happy, loving families and have a roof over our head.  This has been a very humbling experience so far…and now we have moved onto Kandy.

Kandy is in the middle of Sri Lanka and we took a 3 hour train to get there.  The train looked as if was ancient but the train ride was magical.  We spent all of yesterday at the Sacred Tooth Relic temple, where Buddha’s tooth is supposedly stored. It was phenomenal.

Today, we venture over to Adams Peak which is south.  We will be doing a 2 AM hike up a very steep summit to see the footstep of either Adam, Buddha or Shiva.  Each religion claims that the footstep belongs to their diety.  Apparently, the sunset at the top of the freezing cliff is insane.  Can’t wait!

I apologize for all typos, gramatically incorrect sentences and ramblings.  I write these blogs in under 30 minutes so often they don’t make sense to others but they make sense in my head!

Until the next post……RALI signing out.

 

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Kerala.

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Kerala: where we ended up after leaving Hyderabad.

Your fast facts about Kerala include:

  • It is in South India
  • It is called God’s Own Country
  • A place I have dreamed of visiting for 10 years now.
  • It contains the famous backwaters, where we got to take a sunset boat ride and left me with the feeling that I wasin one of Claude Monet’s pieces of work.
  • I fell asleep for 3 hours on a hammock overlooking the backwaters (including floating lily pads).
  • We explored the street markets of Cochin, where we ended up in a secluded (yet popular) art cafe surrounded by greenery.Of course, this find was thanks to Lonely Planet, where every other Westerner was neatly tucked away.

My realizations after leaving Kerala:

  • While it was just as beautiful as I had imagined, I am thankful that I was able to get the true India experience for the firstthree weeks.  Nothing beats having family in local places to show you around and introduce you to the ‘real hidden gems’.

Minor set backs include:

  • A crazy driver who did not know how to drive manual, manuever the roads, get from one place to the next and above all,had his shady friends follow our car on their motorbike so he had someone to talk to while we toured the area.
  • Hotel booking at first place turned us away, as they had overbooked.  Profusely apologized and put us up in a crappier hotel.
  • Hotel booking at last place checked us in, brought our bags up and then all power went out just as i noticed a Geiko onour wall.  After power returned, geiko was gone and I was freaking out.  Power went back out, Martin found his flashlightthat wraps around his head and got a glass cup to capture the Geiko and throw it out the window. Pretty mad skills consideringthis all happened in the dark.  It should have all been captured on film but unfortunately wasn’t.
  • Once arriving to the Kerala airport, Indian officials didn’t want to let us check in for our flight to Sri Lanka as we hadn’t yetbought a ticket out of Sri Lanka.  After talking to a few men, they finally let us on and we booked a one way ticket to Thailandout of desperation on Martin’s phone.  Once we got to Sri Lanka, they were fine with everything and gave us our ‘visa on arrival’.  All good now.

Now we are sitting in the tiniest of villages in the middle of Sri Lanka at St Anthony’s Orphanage.  I will write a lot
more about this later, as we have very limited Internet access right now.  This has already been such a cool
experience for us , and maybe the highlight of my travels so far.

Until the next post, I leave you with my fast facts above.  Also, I will try to post pictures on Facebook once we have
high speed Internet access.

Rali xx

 

Camp Voice.

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Since I last wrote, I took you through the wonders of Northern India. After returning back to Mumbai for a couple of days, I opted to see a doctor for my Delhi Belly…we like to call it the DB.  After being diagnosed with a bacterial infection that most Westerners get when traveling to India, I headed over to the chaotic pharmacy where it is a free for all.  I walked away with a handful of medications, at the price of $8.  Something that would cost much more in the US.  I also decided to venture over to the grocery store to get a bottle of Gatorade. To my amazement, they don’t have a scanning system in the store. It is done the very old school wa/y, where a guy memorizes the price of every merchandise in the store and yells it out to the cashier.  The error rate is next to none.

Which brings me to my next point.  The Harvard Business Review has conducted studies on India’s organized chaos (as I like to refer to it) with the Daba wala’s.  If you don’t know what this is , you should google it.  It is an amazing system where the woman makes her husband a hot lunch, leaves it outside their doorstep, and then a daba wala (Hindi for a ‘box person’) comes and picks it up without any addresses listed on it (just color coded), gets it delivered to the husband at work and returns it back to the house for cleaning.  Amongst, all
this, there is not one single address written on it.  They rely strictly on the color coding.  I was able to witness the train statíon where the daba wala’s happen.  A miracle beyond belief.  And another reason why India is amazing.

Next up was Hyderabad.  This is where I met the amazing girls that have been doing social work for hardly any pay just to give back to the Indian community.  They deserve a massive kudos.  And, many of you reading this blog now had contributed donations to help Camp Voice.  I was able to see the schools first hand and talk with the principal.  The conditions are so poor where we are trying to get this camp going; however, the smiles you see from the kids makes it all worthwhile.  I hope that many of you vote during the next voting cycle…each vote really does make a difference in a child’s future.  This could be the first step to me changing career paths entirely and going into social work and/or teaching.

Today starts a new beginning in Kerala.  Known for its beautiful, pristine backwaters and beaches.   The first day has not been the best, as we ran into a person. You don’t ever want to witness what happens in India when this occurs. It involves a series of men pounding your car and trying to get the driver out to beat him up.  We were lucky the driver was able to escape and drive off with us in the car.  Then we get to our hotel and there was a mix up with reservations, so we were brought to another hotel where we could enjoy a complimentary dinner.  There was a bit of Nirali yelling involved.  That is how they roll in this country and I am not afraid to speak broken Hindi to get my point across.  Whatever it takes yo.

And now I have left you with a handful of photo’s taken over the last 3 weeks.  It was a challenge to select a few from the thousands we have.  I will try to get some Kerala pic’s up soon.

Drum roll…your fast facts for this entry include:

  • The Swastika symbol originated in India. Hitler stole it from us to make it his own.  Lessons learned: Never let your aunts hand your German boyfriend vases to deliver with swastika symbols all over it to another aunt.  Sorted.
  • In Indian airports, they don’t ever make boarding call announcements.  As a result, we have almost missed 2 flights.
  • Highlights in Hyderabad: Best chai ever.  Best Biryani ever (they are known for it).  And, best Kite Festival ever (happens once a year and we got to participate in it on the rooftop of a friends place).
  • Dude tried to take my Longchamp bag from the security conveyer belt.  I had to scream across the airport that it was my bag and couldn’t get past security to stop him.  Apparently, Longchamp is the bag of choice among Westeners and he mistook my bag for his wife’s.
  • Kerala: The most literate region in India.  And, I also saw with Martin the most amazing sunset while swimming in the pool. Gold.

Those are your highlights for now.  More to come as we explore the Kerala beaches and backwaters.   I will try to keep everyone posted assuming Internet access is up and running.

Until later,

Rali

Taj Mahal…and Delhi.

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OK, since I have access to internet now, I thought I would quickly write another post recapping our recent visit to the Taj Mahal.  We have basically been in the car for 3 days straight…between Jaipur, Agra and Delhi (or the triangle as they know it here).  Our driver, Papu, is the most amazing driver. He has survived dodging a guy in crutches, a van full of lots of people and several cows and camels.  We are finally done with all our touring and I am exhausted.

The Taj Mahal as an adult is still as impressive as it was as a 12 year old kid.  Shah Jahan built it for his wife and it is where both their tombs are now.  Fast Fact – Noone knows the recipe for the glue that was used to build the Taj Mahal except the family.  I would like to know what was in that shiznit. It is BREATHTAKING.  And, for the 2nd time, it is still the most fascinating man-made monument I have ever seen.

After Agra, we headed onward to Delhi. We have done a full sightseeing tour today.  We got to see the oldest mosque in India.  Crazy beautiful.

Your fun facts for today include:

  • Me having a case of the Delhi Belly and you don’t want to know what that entails!
  • Most people seen on one rikshaw: 14 people (usually transportation for 3 people tops)
  • McDonalds outing includes one spicy paneer burger…which did wonders for my Delhi Belly.
  • A bicycle ride through the back alleys of Delhi where I witnessed Indian lunch joints, street foods, making of saris, gold jewelery shops and way too many people crammed onto one street.  This is by far the coolest thing I have done on this trip.

Tomorrow it’s back to Mumbai for 2 days, where I get to see the fam one last time before embarking on a solo adventure through Southern India and East Asia.  May the force be with me.

I will try to upload some pictures soon.  It’s been a challenge with the limited Internet access.

Hopefully, we make tomorrow’s flight without a problem.  On our way here, my brother managed to throw away his ticket and we got called twice to board the plane, as they were about to leave without us.  I should not be allowed to leave the country.

Wish me luck!

N

 

India.

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First impressions do last a lifetime.  When I first met India 18 years ago, it left an unimaginable impression on me.  An impression that can only be described as organized chaos. The same holds true today.

Never in my wildest imagination could I have ridden an elephant and a camel in the same day.  Or discovered an elaborate Indian Disneyland in Jaipur, where a roller coaster is manually operated by 4 Indian men running in circles (just as a hampster would run).  Or being told by a militant Indian man, who resembled the likes of Sadam Hussein, to buy a silk rug because you never know when you might need a silk rug.  The beauty of a cow, dog, pig, camel and elephant sharing the road with bikers, rikshaws , buses and pedestrians.  How about a 3 day Indian wedding event with the most colorful sari’s you will ever see?

My experiences in Mumbai, Jaipur and Agra have been mindblowing (a word my uncle here loves to use).

My largest discovery?  In this country, it is next to impossible to feel lonely.  Even in the poorest villages, you see a million smiles and friends grabbing friends by the hand to play a game of street cricket.  Children who are beautiful and happy to wave hello to strangers.  Everyone has somebody here.

Facts:

  • I have never quite felt American enough and never quite Indian enough.  However, at least in India I don’t have to spell my full name out for people.  I am officially the Kate Smith of America.
  • I wore a sari for the first time ever.  And, I felt more elegant in a sari than any dress I could ever find.
  • In the most polite way, I have discovered that an Indian family wedding can make the craziest families even crazier. And my family is living proof of that.  I love them even m0re after this trip.
  • I had 2 palm readings done – one unfortunate and one fortunate.  I choose to believe the fortunate. 🙂
  • I feel more at home here than any country I have traveled to.
  • The Indian race is probably the kindest and most generous race that I will ever come across (okay, not really a fact, but just my opinion).
  • I rode a rikshaw through the tiniest of villages and felt so alive and happy!
  • My cheapest meal so far: $2 USD & most expensive: $10 USD.

Tomorrow is a new beginning and will be an awesome one, as I venture over to the Taj Mahal.  I hear they sell ‘find yourself’ passes there now? Only kidding.

Until next time!

– Rali xo