Saturday, June 29, 2013

Connections


These last few days in India have certainly been some of the most eventful thus far!  Wednesday was Emily’s 20th birthday, so I woke up extra-early to decorate while she was still asleep.  I think she really liked it!  Later that evening, we sang and had cake, and it was a lot of fun!  One of our resident friars, Fr. Leslie, celebrated his birthday on the same day, so a lot of the other friars came to visit and it was quite the affair.  We took a lot of pictures, mostly because the boys jump in front of the camera (and take the camera from you) every chance they get!  Here’s a picture of Emily and a swarm of our boys in front of her birthday poster that we all signed:

Where's Waldo?


On Friday, we had an opportunity to see some of the other centers of ICID.  One, Nirma Jyothi, was located relatively nearby in a slum section of Nagpur.  It was not the nicest area, but the people there were so kind!  (One of the perks of India is that no matter where you go, [schools, houses, jewelry stores where they think you’re a dumb tourist and want to get you to buy something] they always give you tea. It’s awesome.) There were two main buildings at Nirma Jyothi.  One is a schoolhouse, which was having kindergarten class that day.  We got to see English vocab practice, story time, and lunch (Guess what they had for lunch? If you guessed anything other than rice, I don’t even know why you bothered guessing!).  The kids were great and were more than happy to pose for a few photos (although, the photos are usually even better when they're not posing!).





The building next door was the tailoring instruction center, where women from the community are able to attend tailoring classes and can learn how to make different types of clothing.  Something different about this center was that it catered to less fortunate and less educated adults in the area, and women at that.  These women have been given the opportunity to learn a trade not just for the benefit of their families, but because it’s something that they can be proud of within themselves.




After swinging back to Yuva Jyothi for lunch, we went to the other center, a combination library, classroom, and sewing center for local women.  We were told that the first area would be bad, but it was nothing compared to this.  The entire neighborhood was located between the railroad tracks and a garbage dumping yard, and everything was mud (there were temporary bridges built out of bricks and plastic containers to assist people in getting across particularly large or deep puddles).  However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen happier people in my entire life.  The kids at the center were thrilled to see us, and even sang for us and showed us some dances they had been practicing!  The older women were wonderful, too, and they showed off some garments that they had proudly made themselves. 





One of the teachers from Yuva Jyothi who accompanied us, Sharda, actually attended this school before she came to work for ICID.  Her mother was in the sewing class, and her cousin was a teacher as well.  After visiting the center, we walked across the neighborhood (and a lot of puddles) to visit Sharda’s mother’s house, where she made us each a cup of tea (I am LOVING the tea).  I was surprised to find that this “home” was really just one room with a bed, a television, a vanity, and a small gas stove sitting on top of some cinderblocks.  Afterwards, when we visited Sharda’s home (which was just across the way) the setting was very much the same, except her husband was there to greet us (they got married about a month ago, and Emily and I loved looking through the engagement and wedding photos.  Indian weddings are super fancy). 

Soon enough, other family members like in-laws, cousins, sisters, brothers, and plenty of neighbors all crowded into the tiny room to say hello.  Cookies and juice were passed around, and the room was quickly filled with laughter and chatter.  I barely cared that I couldn’t understand a word, just because I enjoyed the atmosphere so much.  Here were these people, living in an area I could only imagine ever seeing in the movies, with basically nothing, and they were just so happy to be together.  They were all friends and family that had grown together over the years and knew each other so comfortably that they could talk about anything.  It made me really miss my own family and friends back home (Sharda’s mother-in-law literally looked just like my grandmother, but in a sari), but it also made me happy that that kind of comfort an familiarity can happen anywhere.

On the way back home, I did a lot of thinking (riding on a motor scooter in India with the wind in your hair will do that to you).  I thought about how blessed I am to be able to travel to a place like this and to see the beauty in what others might call ugliness.  Here there are millions upon millions of people, all crowding around each other for a tiny space (or a one-room home).  And yet, it is just the same as back home in America. Family is the same. Love is the same. Home feels the same.  Within these faceless crowds there are individual people, each with a story and life goals and a mom and a dad and a place that they call home, just like me.  Sure, maybe theirs are a little different (and there were most likely WAY more cows where they grew up), but it seems to me that people really are connected by that one common thing: the ability to connect.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All Kinds of Community


Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a community means.  The way that people come together, support each other, and carry out traditions is different in every place you go; however, the essence of togetherness and support for one another is exactly the same.  This past weekend showed me plenty of examples of community.

When Emily and I returned to Yuvajyothi from our excursion, Fr. Harry informed us that we’d be able to attend a mass on Saturday morning at St. Charles Seminary in Nagpur.  We were both very excited because we hadn’t seen the Dominican Seminary as of yet and were eager to go.  Upon our arrival, we discovered that we were in for much more than the average Saturday morning mass.  There were people all over the place, including priests, brothers, and new seminarians.  Turns out that this mass was the 2013 inauguration mass for the start of a new school year (classes started on Monday).  The friars were receiving new students and welcoming back returning ones, and the archbishop was the celebrant for the day.  The mass was very long, but luckily, it was in English, so Emily and I could follow along.  It felt wonderful to witness this rejuvenation of a community of Dominicans who were all friends and to see them welcome new prospective friars.  There were even some sisters from surrounding parishes and centers.  We met SO many people that day and they were all very happy to meet us and ask about both our stay in India and life in America and at Providence College.

Sunday morning, Emily and I attended mass at 7:30 am at the same place I had gone to a few weeks before (Fr. Harry serves mass in a small chapel at a home for retired/disabled persons.  It is run by sisters who are part of the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic congregation started by Mother Teresa).  I always enjoy my trips there just because of the welcoming and warm nature held by the people there.  Everybody wants to shake your hand and say hello, and everybody wants you to feel at home.  All of these people, whether they were residents or visitors, all took part in the mass in some way.  Some of the women in the chapel were not even baptized and could not receive communion, but they still participated and prayed just as hard as the rest of us. 

It was also a big day because Emily and I finally got our sarees (saris? I give up) back from the tailor and we got to wear them to church!

...we were a little overdressed...


That night, we returned to the seminary to join the Dominicans for Sunday evening prayers and dinner.  Prayers was a little awkward at first, as there is so much ritual involved that the friars have done a million times and Emily and I have never done at all.  It’d be like taking two twenty-year-olds who had never set foot inside of a church to a mass proper.  There’s a lot to remember (I still forget sometimes when I’m supposed to kneel and when I should stand, and I’ve been going to mass for 21 years…)

Dinner was wonderful, and we got to see some old friends (reunited with Brother James and Brother Joseph!) and make some new ones.  The friars were so wonderful to talk to and asked us all about our trip, our school, the weather in America, what we think of India, etc., etc.  It was a pretty interesting night, since the brothers made dinner themselves.  Their usual cook has recently left, so they all have been taking turns cooking meals.  Whoever cooked that night might have overestimated their spice quota just a tiny bit…when we took our first bite of rice and chicken, Emily and I even saw some of the friars’ eyes watering! We’re usually the only ones who suffer from the spice, so we definitely knew something was up. It was so funny to see these born-and-bred Indian priests guzzling down water like their lives depended on it!

Monday was a very big day for us! Father George and Father Albert (another Dominican, of course) took Emily, me, and three other students who are friends of the friars to the Bapu Kuti Sevagram Ashram near Wardha town.  It is one of the main ashrams where Mahatma Gandhi (also known as “Bapu”) lived.  Upon arriving in Nagpur, Fr. Harry told Emily and me that the Gandhi Ashram was one of the best local sights.  Therefore, we both assumed that it would be a small, local spot, somewhere within the city.  However, by the time that Father George had been driving on the highway for well over a half hour and we were clear out of Nagpur, it dawned on us that this sight wasn’t nearly as “local” as we had thought.

On the way there, we ran into a whole different kind of community! As if driving in India wasn’t crazy enough, an huge herd of cows appeared in the middle of the road, and they were all running pell-mell to get out of the way.  I had to take some pictures, but I assure all my readers that no cows were harmed in the taking of these photos:

Oh hey guys. No don't mind us, you just do your thing.


Run like the wind, Bullseye!


We arrived at our destination after driving for about two hours.  Of course, admission was free, and, of course, we had to remove our shoes before walking into any of the structures.  It was really surreal to walk into the small homes where Gandhi, his wife, and their friends all lived.  The people who lived among them were called “ashramites”, and the place is really kind of like a village where everyone has equal responsibilities and are considered family.  In the film Gandhi, an ashram is described as, “a community. It could be a small village, or the whole world”.






Just casually hanging out at Gandhi's house.


Afterwards, we went to the Gandhi museum across the street and took a lot of pictures that we probably weren’t supposed to.  Turns out, Fr. George is quite the tourist, and insisted on a lot of cheesy pics!

Me, Emily, the girls, Fr. Albert (left), and Fr. George (right)

Those are Gandhi's real glasses, I swear it. Also, this probably wasn't allowed.

This DEFINITELY wasn't allowed.

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.


Our last event of the day was going back to the students’ house for lunch and having their mothers make us the best home-made meal ever.  We even had ice cream for dessert, which tasted fantastic after having almost no sweets for a few weeks!

Us and the wonderful family with whom we shared lunch!


Basically, what I learned this weekend is that communities come in all shapes an sizes.  Some are connected by blood, some by a common faith, and some just by a really good meal.  I had a unique experience amongst every single group with which I shared time, but that feeling of welcoming and safety was always the same.  Emily and I both agreed that these past few days have been amongst our best in India thus far.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Trip of a Lifetime!

My sincerest apologies to all of my adoring readers who have gone so long without an update, but I have a very good reason.  Emily and I just got back from an excursion to Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi!

We flew out of Nagpur on Sunday morning, but that day was mostly for travel and catching up on some much needed sleep.  However, we were able to pay a visit to Saint Dominic's Roman Catholic Church in Delhi and meet some of the friars there!  They were incredibly welcoming and kept trying to give us tons of snacks and candies, one of which Emily and I fell in love with and we are still searching for back in Nagpur (the headquarters for Haldiram's, the country's biggest snack food company, is actually in Nagpur. Who knew?)

On Monday, we departed very early in the morning for Jaipur.  Jaipur is the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan in India, and is also famous for being the hottest place in India.

(Guess who didn't have sunscreen because of the liquid rule on planes? We eventually found some, but I got a lot of weird looks from shopkeepers because many Indian people have never used or heard of sunscreen!)

Anyway, Jaipur is also known as the "Pink City", mainly because many of the buildings are colored pink.  Also, many of the kings of India lived at Jaipur from the 1700s onward (as well as many British royals and dignitaries visiting) and pink is considered the color of royalty.

Our tour guide, Raj, was absolutely wonderful and knew so much about the city!  While in Jaipur, we visited the observatory, the City Palace, and Amber Fort.  However, we saw many other sights from afar and were able to take pictures.

Jaipur Observatory

City Palace...with Emily...

One of the gates of the Pink City

View from the Amber Fort

Emily and I in the Mirror Palace, Amber Fort


The highlight of the day was by far the elephant ride!  We had hoped to ride an elephant, as we heard that it was a big tourist attraction in Jaipur (not to mention that it's Emily's dream).  However, upon our arrival, we found out that the rides close at 11:00 am due to the heat and not wanting to overwork the elephants (we arrived at about 11:30...it figures).  Luckily for us, though, Raj pulled a few strings and we were able to ride elephants through the streets of Jaipur!

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos with me because my camera died right before our ride started, but you can check out Emily's Blog for a picture, as well as some other great photos!

On Tuesday, we departed very early again for our drive to Agra, the site of the Taj Mahal! I seriously don't even have any words for how gorgeous it was.  It didn't even look real; it looked like something out of a movie, or as if someone had just painted this gorgeous structure against the sky.  And there is so much detail and backstory involved as well!  It took 22 years to construct (1631-1653 if my math is right, which it never is), and was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz, who died in 1630.  At the north gate, there are 11 domes on each side (adding up to 22), and 53 fountains in the pool leading up to the Taj.  The four towers built around the Taj, interestingly enough, are built leaning at a 5 degree angle away from the main building.  Our tour guide, Sonu, explained to us that this decision was made because just in case the towers should fall, they would fall away from the building.

Interestingly enough, the Taj Mahal is a Muslim work of architecture and not a Hindu one (though India is famous for being an almost completely Hindu country).  There are mosques built on either side of the Taj, and they are gorgeous works of art in themselves and would probably be appreciated more if they weren't being dwarfed by one of the seven wonders of the world...

I counted on my camera, and the total number of photos taken with the Taj in them (I counted all pictures that involve some part of the building, even if it is just a wall or a carving) is...62. 62 pictures. I'm a little embarrassed by that. Anyway, here are some highlights:

Wait...this is not real life... 

Jumping Photo: a tourist obligation

One of the mosques on either side of the Taj




After some lunch, we also toured the Agra Fort, which was a beautiful sight to see and also had a great view of the city and (of course) the Taj in the distance.  Only 25% of the Fort was open to the public, and even less will be available soon enough, because the Indian army actually still uses it for training and their new sessions start in a few weeks! Many of these forts, though they are called "forts", were actually the homes of royalty.  They just had really high walls and the best secret service ever.

Agra Fort

Our last stop that day, on the way back to Delhi, was the Krishna temple at Mathura.  It is said to be the birthplace of the Lord Krishna of the Hindu religion (I would say he's their Jesus figure, but upon further touring and learning about Hindu gods, just about everybody's a Jesus figure).  Photographs weren't allowed here because it was a distinctly holy place, so I don't have any pics, unfortunately.  It was also another place (among many, I'd come to find) where we were not allowed to wear shoes.  One interesting fact about the temple is that they have musicians constantly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra 24 HOURS A DAY. They never stop! (I'm assuming they take shifts). I think they could just play "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison on repeat and save themselves a lot of trouble, but it is tradition.

We arrived back in Delhi late that night and spent Wednesday seeing the sights of India's capital.  We soon came to find that Delhi (or New Delhi or whatever you want to call it), is very much like the Washington, D.C. of India.  Our first sight was the Indira Gandhi museum (no relation to the Mahatma, as I eventually found out), and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India after the country gained home rule from British imperialism, and is considered one of India's greatest leaders.  Her father was India's first Prime Minister and was a contemporary of Gandhi, and she was a close friend of his as well.  The house where she lived with her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren was transformed into the museum after she was assassinated in 1984.  Emily and I actually saw the sight where she was killed, which was just on a path in her back yard.  We came to find that the Nehrus (Indira's family name) were kind of like the Kennedys of India: very politically involved and all with very tragic stories.

Newspaper Clippings from the Indira Gandhi museum


Next, we saw the Qutab Minar, the tallest minaret in India (though still 5 meters shorter than the Taj Mahal) and its surrounding ruins.  This ancient Muslim architectural feat was finished in the early 1200's and was absolutely breathtaking.




Qutab Minar




Afterwards, we saw the Lotus Temple, which is a fairly new construction but is still very popular.  It is a Baha'i House of Worship, stemming from a belief system that welcomes all faiths and all people.  We got to sit inside and meditate/pray for a bit, and saw that there is no iconography and no indication of any on faith inside the temple.  This was another spot where we were not allowed to wear shoes, which was a serious struggle on the sun-baked sandstone outside...ouch...

Lotus Temple


We also saw the Ashkardam Temple, which is one of the most stunning Hindu temples on the planet.  This was another "no-shoes, no-photo" spot, but I highly recommend that my readers look it up, because the detail and architecture of the temple is absolutely out-of-this-world.


The last big spot of the day was the Raj Ghat, also known as the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi.  This was to me as elephant riding was to Emily.  I am a huge admirer of Gandhi and I was so excited to see his memorial.  As was Gandhi's existence, the site was very simple, but it was beautiful and well-kept and had many inspirational quotes by both the Mahatma himself and other thinkers that he admired carved into the walls.  There are many surrounding parks at this spot as well, including a memorial to Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son and the Fourth Prime Minister of India, who was assassinated in 1989. (I told you, they're ACTUALLY the Kennedys.)

Raj Ghat...I was waaaay too excited for this


Now that this post has gotten way out of hand, I'll just close by saying that I loved our excursion.  It was the perfect getaway and a chance to see some of the greatest sights in India.  We're both happy to be back at the center, and we have lots of pictures (and way too many souvenirs) by which we can remember our awesome trip.

More updates coming soon from Nagpur!





  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Center, the Culture, and the Boys

I realized that, for the majority of the time on my blog posts, I’m just writing about the goings-on and various activities that I’ve done, and not about the country and the center itself! So, since we had kind of a slow weekend, I’ve decided to dedicate a post to exactly what life here is like and what I’ve learned.

The Center:

The Yuvajyothi Center, where I am, is just one of many centers around the Nagpur District started and kept going by ICID.  It doubles as a school and a home for boys ages 7-18.  Most of these boys have either been orphaned, abandoned, or have run away from home, and now live here.  I was surprised at just how proactive ICID is in promoting children’s rights and at how much they really do.  If these children have been mistreated, the teachers want them to understand just how and why it was wrong, so as to educate them to become better citizens in the future.  In almost every room in the center, there are posters dictating exactly what child abuse really is, and these examples span from teasing a child unnecessarily to physically harming a child, and everything in between.  ICID wants the children to heal from their experiences and grow into thoughtful people, and this means accepting their pasts and not suppressing bad feelings.  A few times a week, the children are split into groups (older and younger) and participate in counseling sessions. 

The walls of the center are completely covered in works and projects that the children have completed.  A lot of them have to do with learning to work with others and how to respect and understand each other.  This may be because the children may not have found a lot of patience and understanding in their community otherwise.  Everywhere you look, there are posters explaining their rights, whether it is a right to life (pro-life projects), a right to health, a right to education, or even a right to individual dignity.

There are a few girls who live at this center as well, but there are other centers in and around Nagpur that are devoted specifically to young women’s education.  However, the girls here are not cheated out of a real education, either. Although the culture dictates that women are expected to help with food preparation and serving anyone who might need it (and the girls do that), they go to real classes as well.  They learn about everything from dance to religion to advanced mathematics, depending on their age and interest. 

The boys are educated in music (my responsibility as of late), dance, math, calligraphy, English language, computer skills, social studies, and the visual arts.  And that’s only what I’ve seen thus far!

The Culture:

I’ve learned SO much about Indian culture so far, and I've only been here a week!  I’m not even sure where to start, but I’ll do my best.

First off: the clothing. I already talked about this a little bit in my last post, but here’s a basic overview.  Women are obsessed with matching, and have a wide variety of outfits.  However, there is protocol: it has to be coordinated, and it has to cover both your shoulders and your ankles…and everything else in between. Indian people hold respect of the body in the highest regard, especially women’s bodies. Men, on the other hand, can basically wear whatever they want, but most wear long pants as well.

Mealtime is extremely important in Indian culture, and there is a set routine for meals.  There is breakfast right at the beginning of the day (the boys here are done eating by 7!) which usually consists of tea, toast, and maybe some vegetables. Then, lunch isn’t until one o’clock, which took some getting used to for Emily and I, and dinner is around 7:30.  There is also afternoon tea to tide one over until dinner. The last two meals of the day always consist of the same thing: rice, curry, some kind of vegetable, and bread (in this part of India, they don’t really eat naan, but they have chapatti bread, which is a flat wheat bread).  Of course, there is variation of the spices and side dishes, but there is a specific routine and method to mealtimes here.

Also, you eat with your hands.  This has been difficult.

In Indian culture, welcoming guests into the home is important and expected.  If someone should show up for dinner unannounced, you always welcome him/her in with open arms and, as the Brothers told me, “treat them like God”.  Making your guests comfortable is of the utmost importance, and Emily and I have certainly felt very accepted.  It’s a little strange for us to be waited on sometimes, as we have no problem picking up after ourselves!  Also, I’ve noticed that it’s the women who are expected to cater to everyone’s needs and make them anything they might need.  It’s not even a question; it’s just customary.

Appreciation of the arts is also a highlight here.  Of course, dance is the age-old tradition in India, and everyone here wants to be a dancer.  Dancing here is like singing in America; on talent shows on television, most of the acts are people dancing and lip-syncing to a song.  Their movements are the important part.

And speaking of which, Indian television and film are hilarious to Americans!  It’s so different from anything we have at home that we have to laugh.  Everything is very melodramatic with a lot of sudden cuts and zooming in and out and random dance numbers coming seemingly out of nowhere.  There is always a love story in every single Bollywood film, and on television, too (I’ve seen more than one promo for a tv show that involves two lovers staring longingly at each other through a window…in the rain…for a while). 

Also, in action movies, there is very little plot or character development, as far as I can see.  The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad and the good guys beat everyone up without breaking a sweat.  The boys love this, too; they want to be just like those action heroes! Lastly, a very popular genre here is dance movies.  You know the Step Up series in America?  They have like, dozens of those movies here.

In India, movie stars are celebrated perhaps even more than in America.  Everybody has a favorite actor or actress whom they idolize and strive to be.

The Boys:

Last but not least, I have to talk about the reason that we’re here: the boys at Yuvajyothi.  They are the best group of kids that I think I’ve ever worked with.  I can’t even begin to imagine what some of them have been through, and yet, I’ve never met a happier group.  They are just so thrilled to dance and to sing and to play hand games and kick around a deflated soccer ball (sorry, sorry, football) all day long.

They love American music, even if they don’t fully understand the meanings of some of the songs. They all want to be Wiz Khalifa or Lil Wayne and they are obsessed with wrestlers like John Cena and The Rock. 

Constantly, they are teaching me new things.  Whether it’s a new game, a Hindi folk song, a dance move, or how to give a proper handshake, I think they’re really just teaching me how to live a more positive life.  I think about how much these boys value what they have and how much less they have than I do, and it makes me realize just how much I value having my own home and a family who is always there for me.


Now prepare yourself, because the cuteness factor on this blog is about to increase by 108%: I have a few pictures.  For privacy reasons, I’m not going to use the boys’ names just yet, but I can give you little fun facts about them. 

The one on the right is our resident John Cena expert. The one on the left LOVES technology and took most of the following photos.

An afternoon of free time in the big room!

All this little guy wants to do is dance. Clips coming soon because he needs to go on Ellen.

Best smile award!

Thaaaaaat's not safe...

Two of the lovely young ladies of Yuvajyothi! They are the best.



















Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Sunburn and a Saree

Okay, so I didn't really get a sunburn, but Thursday was 108 degrees (118 with humidity) and sunny, so my face was pretty red, anyway!

SO much has been happening over the past few days that updates have been tough.  Thursday was a big highlight because Angelique, one of the teachers at Yuvajyothi who is around mine and Emily's age, took us out shopping for our first pieces of authentic Indian clothing.  I have to say, as an American who grew up watching her parents obey the rules of the road and becoming a very cautious driver herself, riding around in an Indian city an be downright terrifying at first.  There virtually are no rules of the road whatsoever!  People just drive or ride bikes or scooters wherever they need to go and are constantly passing or veering around each other.  The horn-honking is nonstop.  People honk their horns when they want to pass someone else.  People honk their horns when they are making a turn and a pedestrian is in the way.  People will even honk their horns at another driver when they are the only two vehicles on the road and they are passing each other on opposite sides of the road!  The only road rule that I found Indian drivers share with American ones is: red means stop, green means go.  Everything else is anyone's game.

The three of us went to the main bazaar in Nagpur, which is enormous and a little overwhelming at times.  I wasn't able to take any photos while there because everything was so fast-paced, but here is a photograph from the web with the bazaar at its busiest:

Pretty crazy, huh?
While there, we bought a few outfits and some jewlery. Indian people are very conscious about what they wear; they keep up with age-old traditions when it comes to clothing, and have a very strict respect for the body (women, I've found, are not even allowed to show their ankles in public, and always have their shoulders covered). 

Also, they are CRAZY about matching here!  First, you pick a shirt (make sure it has sleeves), then, you buy a pair of pants that match a secondary color of that shirt, and then you buy a scarf that matches those pants exactly (this is for women's clothing, mind you).  Also, you are expected to barter about prices in Hindi, which Angelique insisted I do (I struggled). 

At the enormous indoor Apna Bazar, Emily and I bought our very own authentic Indian sarees (yes, that's how they spell it. I've been spelling it wrong for years).  We found out that there is a lot more to choosing a saree than we originally thought.  There are old fashions, new fashions, different materials and patterns, sarees for every day, sarees for special occasions, sarees for specific occasions, and everything in-between!  Emily and I cheated a bit; we bought some heavier silk sarees that are really meant only for Diwali vacations or wedding parties.  But we thought, "Hey, when am I gonna be in India again? Let's get the fancy stuff!" They are absolutely stunning, but we don't have the first clue how to put them on on our own...that will be a lesson for later...(pictures to come soon, I promise). 

On Friday, I was lucky enough to leave the center again to go on an excursion to buy guitar strings at a local music shop.  I was teaching a music lessons that day with the boys, and the guitar at the center desperately needed some new strings.  A first for the day was that I got to ride on the back of Angelique's scooter into a smaller market in town.  

Just so there's no confusion, when I say, "scooter", I mean this...



...not this.

Brother James, one of the seminarians and our guitar string expert, came with us as well.  

As it turns out, scooters are a very popular mode of transportation in India, as cars can be too expensive.  They're everywhere on the road; basically, scooters are to India as cars are to America. Plus, they come in handy for sneaking around large cars and getting into smaller spaces. 

While at the music store, I was lucky enough to check one item off of my list and buy some traditional Indian musical instruments! I bought a wooden flute and a tabla, which is an Indian drum. 

Guess which one's the flute.
Later that afternoon, after Brother James had strung and I had tuned the guitar, I taught my first music lesson, with different groups of students rotating to different lessons in various rooms.  Teaching English language songs has been a struggle, especially since the boys are more proficient in Hindi, but I managed to teach them one "Hello" song to start the lesson and integrated some other English songs and hymns with which they are familiar.  I think they had a lot of fun!  They especially loved the movement with "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" (and they didn't even know they were learning English vocab!)

There's much more to tell, but it's getting late and Emily and I will need some sleep...we're attending a Mass in Hindi at 7:30 am tomorrow!  That will certainly be an experience...