Monday, December 19, 2011

LIFE: a short overview

I have been in India for about two months now and I have seen everything from the most glorious homes to the family sleeping with a blanket on the sidewalk and everything in-between. So, let's take a quick recap of the last few months, since I began LIFE. I began this journey in Israel where we spent time on a kibbutz, learning about composting and organic farming as well as creating buildings out of mud bricks. The mud bricks were my favorite with the seed balls as a close second.

After the week long journey on the kibbutz, we stayed in Jerusalem for another week doing leadership training and preparing for our time in India. Arriving in India was an experience like I have never had. It was the first time, even through my travels in Europe, especially Greece, that I really saw poverty like I did when I got to India. I have never seen an entire family sleeping on the streets. I will never forget the image of the mother with her children, including a baby which could not have been more than a few months old lying in a row on top of a blanket in Mumbai.

We spent a week in Mumbai in leadership development and visiting a few sites including Elephanta Island and the old Jewish quarter in Mumbai. It was amazing; I was able to see a few ancient carvings and yes, wild monkeys (I sent one home to my dad, I hope he got it).

The journey to Hyderabad from Mumbai was probably one of the most interesting experiences of my life. We took an overnight, 19 hour train to Hyderabad, the city I now live in. We began our trip making friends right away with the gentlemen in the sleeps near to us. We began by simply chatting a bit and by the end we had about 5 of them joining us in a round session of row row row your boat, with hand motions. It was hysterical!

Arriving in Hyderabad, I was able to experience my first auto ride. 3 people per auto is should be there but we tend to fit at least 5 on a regularly. Haggling is a regular part of life here, they say fifty and you respond with forty sir we go for forty every day. Really we are arguing over twenty cents. Autos are not the only thing to be haggled over, you haggle over everything. Purses, clothing, food, anything and almost everything is up for a debatable price.
Living in Hyderabad has really given me a new perspective on life. I have never had to experience what it is like to go without anything I needed, I may not have had everything I wanted but I have never known the pain of hunger of the cold of having no shelter. That is exactly what I have seen in Hyderabad, India. I have never seen so many stray dogs and families in need of food as I have here. At every turn there is someone asking for money for food. They hold out their hand then point to their mouth and stomach asking for money so they can eat. If I had all the money in the world I would be able to give to everyone. It is so hard to look into their eyes and say no.

So, we are up to the current now right? As part of the program we have learning days where we learn about the country and visit other NGOs. We were visiting one a few weeks ago and we just got out of our meeting and talking outside on the steps of the office. We noticed a few men coming over talking with us taking pictures. After about 5 minutes we told them no more pictures and that we were talking. Pretty soon, in about 5 minutes we were surrounded by about forty-fifty people all taking pictures of us. I think this was my first real experience of feeling like I was in a zoo. One of the girls in the group got out the video camera and told them well, you're taking pictures of us I will just video you right back. This did not stop the zoo feeling so; we got up and left to sit somewhere else.

You may be wondering about my project eh? I am now well on my way with my project which is amazing, it only took two months to get it going. I am very excited about it and I know the committee I am creating to do fundraising, outreach, web design and other essential activities for the organization will leave a lasting impact on the organization I have been paired with. I can't wait to get further into it.
Till next time,

I love you and don't forget to smile!