Saturday, October 30, 2010


This weekend we went to a place called Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram in Sanskrit).  There are all these temples that are over a thousand years old carved into huge boulders. On of the temples is even underwater in the ocean because the water has slowly come further and further on shore.  We were lucky enough to have Dr. V, an amazing old Indian man, with us. He is an expert on temple architecture, and knew so much! He was also just a really funny and cute person. 

We were only there one night, but on Saturday evening we were able to go get dinner on our own. I went with a few other people to one of the cafes on the beach, Shanti Cafe. The guys that worked there started talking to us and then taught us how to play this game that’s kind of like pool. You have a square table that you sit around, with little pockets in the corners. You flick a round white chip with your finger and try to get it to hit either black or brown chips into the pockets. They kept wanting to play more and more games, but we were exhausted!
one of the temples!

my teachers Bindu, Jivan and Dr. V singing in one of the temples
beach cave
playing games at Shanti Cafe!

On the way there, we went to a sort of museum of houses and the lifestyle in southern India. The had different traditional houses from the different states in South India - many were just picked up and brought there! They also had traditional crafts and other exhibits. I got henna done on my hand along with a couple other girls - the woman was so creative, and did completely different designs on each of us! The hardest part was not using my hand for 2 hours.
On the way back, we stopped at a crocodile bank (click for more info) where they protect crocodiles and other reptiles. Some of the crocodiles were huge! We got to see some of them be fed, too.
crocodile who wants to be fed

Monday, October 18, 2010


I saw my first Indian movie on Saturday! It's the most popular movie here, like, ever. Everybody here has seen it. It even ranked 12th in the U.S. on opening weekend! It wasn't necessarily a quality film, but it was an experience for sure. The people get really into it and clap and make noise for almost everything that happens.  It randomly cut to music videos that didn't seem to have anything to do with the plot. I think my favorite was one filmed at Machu Picchu, with llamas roaming around in the background.
Machu Picchu
Even though the film was in Tamil, it was fairly easy to understand.  It lasted over 3 hours and included an intermission! To get a snack, you had to wait in line at this machine, then enter what you wanted. IIt was too much hassle for me even though I hadn't had dinner! Everybody was pushing because there was no room. But there was air conditioning and popcorn, which is apparently a new thing! 

Here's the trailer, for your viewing entertainment.

The day we went was also the Saraswati Puja, which is a celebration honoring the goddess Saraswati, so the roads were even busier than usual. 
People clean their living and work places and bless everything they use.  Almost every car was decorated! You also make chickpeas and sweet rice. We celebrated it at my internship on Friday. I don't really know all the customs but it's fun to have celebrations! And of course, nothing is complete in India without a nice healthy round of fireworks - even funerals!

I also wanted to give you the link to my blog that I'm required to write. I've only written once so far and in the future it will be a lot of repeat, but if you're really interested and have nothing better to do with your time, you could read other peoples' blogs on the program. Some people put up pictures too. We're only required to do 2 during the semester, so there won't be that many.

p.s. I got sunburned for the first time here - I don't even think I got burned this summer! Just thought I would share.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's raining, it's pouring,...'s monsoon season.  I know this because
My friend's moldy Birkenstocks

a) Everything is moldy. Or at least smells like mold.

b) It's storming almost every night.

c) There are a million dragon flies flying around everywhere.

d) My elbow hurts, which means RAIN!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rules of the Indian Road

I was given this my first week here, and I thought I'd share it with you because it is absolutely true. As in, some people didn't get that it was a joke! 
On our way back from Tiru yesterday, we were driving on a newly built highway with 2 lanes each direction and a median in the middle. People were driving the wrong direction!

12 Rules Of The Indian Road


Traveling on Indian Roads is an almost hallucinatory potion of sound, spectacle and experience. It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable -- and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous.
Most Indian road users observe a version of the Highway Code based on a Sanskrit text. These 12 rules of the Indian road are published for the first time in English:
  • ARTICLE I: The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.
  • ARTICLE II: Indian traffic, like Indian society,is structured on a strict caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to:
    • Cows,
    • elephants,
    • heavy trucks,
    • buses,
    • official cars,
    • camels,
    • light trucks,
    • buffalo,
    • jeeps,
    • ox-carts,
    • private cars,
    • motorcycles,
    • scooters,
    • auto-rickshaws,
    • pigs,
    • pedal rickshaws,
    • goats,
    • bicycles (goods-carrying),
    • handcarts,
    • bicycles (passenger-carrying),
    • dogs,
    • pedestrians.
  • ARTICLE III: All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat. This is the Indian drivers' mantra.
  • ARTICLE IV: Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet):Cars:
    • Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, IE in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path.
    • Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, IE to oncoming truck: ``I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die". In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).
    • Single blast (casual) means: "I have seen someone out of India's 870 million whom I recognise", "There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)" or "I have not blown my horn for several minutes."
    Trucks and buses: All horn signals have the same meaning, viz: "I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could." This signal may be emphasised by the use of headlamps. Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.
  • ARTICLE V: All manoeuvres, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.
  • ARTICLE VI: In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be kept fastened at all times.
    • Rights of way: Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.
    • Lane discipline (VII,1): All Indian traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.
  • ARTICLE VIII: Roundabouts: India has no roundabouts. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.
  • ARTICLE IX: Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centres. No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing -- and one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.
  • ARTICLE X: Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash.
  • ARTICLE XI: Reversing: no longer applicable since no vehicle in India has reverse gear.
  • ARTICLE XII: The 10th incarnation of God was as a diesel smoke spewing truck.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010


    Hello! Our internet hasn’t been working since Wednesday, but I’m back! This weekend we took a trip to a place called Tiruvannamalei (or Tiru, for short.) It’s very flat around here, but in Tiru a mountain randomly pops up, called Arunachala.  It’s said to be the actual body of the god Shiva, so it is very spiritually significant. Many people make the pilgrimage to go to the mountain.  With the help of google and other people’s pictures, I have some pictures for you!
    The temple and the mountain in the background
    We stayed at an ashram, called the Sri Ramanashram.  Sri Ramana lived in a cave on the mountain for more than 17 years, just meditating. If people hadn’t found him and fed him and took care of him, he wouldn’t  have eaten and he would have let the rats and bugs eat him.  Friday afternoon when we arrived, we were able to hike up to the cave and go inside.  We ate our meals at the ashram, and they were very efficient! Volunteers would set banana leaves or other smaller leaves sewn together to make plates out in rows. Then they would usher us in and give us water. Somebody would then come around with a bucket of rice and throw a scoop on each person’s leaf, and then people would follow with different vegetable dishes and curries. I’m not really sure what exactly we were eating, but everybody just mixes it all together and it tastes good! And of course, we eat with our hands. Well, just the right hand. When you finish eating, you fold your leaf towards you and go wash you hands. It was a very quick process.

    feeding the monkeys at the ashram

    Saturday morning, we left at 6am to make the journey around the base of the mountain. It’s about 14 km, and if you walk clockwise, it’s supposed to be the Hindu version of washing away your sins.  It was very peaceful until the last 4 km, when we walked through the heart of the city. I really enjoyed being able to walk and not talk or be distracted, but just to be. A dog found us right after we started and followed us the whole  way! We also went to the main temple in the evening. It has huge gates that have hundreds of carved statues on them. I can’t imagine how long it took to build them. There was music and dancing because it was goddess week, and we also went inside some of the temples. The biggest one is for Shiva, but there were smaller temples for the other gods and goddesses.

    Sunday morning, we woke up early to climb the mountain. I was walking with a few other girls, and right at the beginning an Indian man told us to go a different way.  One of the staff for our group is from here and spoke to him in Tamil, and said we should follow him. He led us to a path that went straight up. Which was great, but then the path ended. We had a great time climbing over boulders, fighting our way through waist deep 
    On the way up! I'm in the middle of the 3 people
    grass, getting stung by wasps and enjoying the breeze, the view, and being with nature.  We figured we should just keep going up until we can’t anymore! We reached the top in about 2 hours, and it was so peaceful and amazing. And cold! It was definitely nice to be shivering instead of sweating. It was fun to look down at the city and still be able to hear car horns blarring and the hustle and bustle of life, but be so far removed from it. It was also the first time I really felt that I was breathing fresh air. On the way down, I ended up walking with one other girl from our group and a German woman about our age that we had seen around the ashram and met at the top. It was fun talking to her.  She started struggling to remember words in English, and the other girl I was with knew some German, so we spoke in German for a few minutes.  It seems easier to connect with other foreigners in India.  After we reached the bottom, we showered, packed, and made our way home.  I really enjoyed getting out of Auroville and seeing a place like that!

    The people that climbed to the top!
    The guy on the far left isn't actually in our group -
    he's a german volunteer than we've kind of adopted
    so he came along!
    I just realized the internet is out again so hopefully I can post this before next week!

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    a cow ran into me...'s true. I was walking down on of the main (that means paved) roads, minding my own business, when a cow decided it did not like me. I was not even close to being in its way, but it came running at me and practically butted me off the road! I tried going back the other way, and it followed. I tried crossing the street, and it followed. It kept chasing me! Luckily, two Indian women drove by on a motor bike and were able to get in between. They told me to "go! go!" and I did. I practically ran back home. And now I am a little terrified of cows.

    Sorry I didn't blog till today. And I'm also sorry there aren't any pictures. My waterproof camera got wet and now it doesn't work. I'm hoping it's just the battery, but in the meantime I may have to reactivate my facebook account so I can get other peoples' pictures.

    Last Tuesday, we started our Service Learning Projects (basically an internship) and so now we have more of a regular schedule. Tuesday - Friday, we go to our SLPs from about 9-12 in the morning. I'm working at Thamarai Educational and Healing center. So far, I haven't had any specific job except to watch and learn. They have an educational center where they have preschool in the mornings, and then afterschool care in the evenings. Recently, they opened a healing center, which is where I am most of the time. Typically when I'm there, elderly people come in for treatments, typically for joint pain, and some women also come for a yoga class. Sometimes I participate! At noon, one grade from the local village school comes for health education. This way each grade comes once a week. This past week has been school holiday, so there have been about 10 or 12 kids hanging out at the healing center. They teach teenage girls on Saturdays, and even though I don't work then, I'm helping set up a nutrition program for them. It looks at a single plant and all its benefits. For example, they've already done papaya. They learned what vitamins it's rich in, learned to make soap from the leaves, and learned its health benefits and how it can be used as a medicine.

    We're starting our third week of yoga now. Our yoga teacher, Shambo, has a strong French accent and the most hilarious quites. They probably don't sound funny if you weren't there to hear it, but one of our favorites was when we were relaxing and he wanted us to become aware of how our body was feeling. Imagine a very French man with a ponytail and very short shorts saying, "scaaaaaan your body. bzzzzzzz bzzzzzz." It's a lot of fun though, and we've done some difficult poses. I've been going to yoga classes for a couple years, so it's fun to do something challenging and new.

    In the afternoons, we typically have class. These are basically just group discussions. Some people have been a little frustrated that we just talk and talk and never really learn how to do anything specific, but I think everybody is getting used to the way it works. We have also been working on our Individual Learning Plans, where we choose what our interests in each class are and what books we want to read. It's a very flexible curriculum which allows for people to pursue their own specific interests, even if our faculty aren't experts in that area.

    All in all, it's going well and I'm having a great time. If you want to know anything specific, let me know! So much is going on that it would be hard for me to write it all here, but I'd be happy to tell you more!
    Till next time!