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Pictures & stories

This will probably be a long post! I am not sure if it’s WordPress, or my internet, but I have made two posts that saved as drafts and posted and they just completely disappeared, so I was a little frustrated about putting a ton of effort into this blog the last week. But, I want to share some more pictures and stories! So, here we go.

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This was a little waterfall that we walked to. I more enjoyed the nature walk than the waterfall, because it was kind of just a stream of water. Funny story – we got ice cream on our way back from this walk and Ian asked what flavor one was. The guy said “uhhhh… black.” So, Ian said okay I’ll just have some black then. And we went back to the ice cream place a week later and the guy laughed when he saw us and said he was out of ‘black.’ It’s the silly little things like that I’ll remember most 🙂

Mcleod Ganj is a little subset of Dharamsala, it’s just a 15 minute drive uphill from where we stayed for the month and I probably went up there 8 times or so. I adored it! Mostly because it is the heart of Buddhism, where the Dalai Lama lives and it has rich Tibetan culture as well as monks everywhere. I didn’t get many pictures of the streets of it, but here are a few shots from random parts of Mcleod:

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Interesting story here that I didn’t know. This boy featured on these signs is the youngest recorded political prisoner. Don’t quote me word for word, but he was supposed to be the person who decides who the next Dalai Lama is. China stole him when he was really young and also stole his parents. No one have heard from them since. Now it’s still undecided whether or not there will be another Dalai Lama because China went ahead and put a wrench in tradition and belief.

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These are all people, many around the age of 18, who set themselves on fire in peaceful protest of the freeing of Tibet from China. Again, fuckin China, man. Here are some facts I’m stealing from freetibet.org :

1. It is estimated that one million Tibetans have died as a result of the Chinese occupation, through imprisonment, torture and executions.

2. Since March 2011, more than 100 Tibetans in Tibet have set themselves on fire in protest of the Chinese government’s oppressive regime. These protests are continuing in 2013.

3. In 2008, a United Nation report concluded that the use of torture in Tibet was “widespread” and “routine”.

4. What China calls the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is only half of historical Tibet, which was about the size of western Europe.

5. Before the Chinese invasion in 1949, Tibet was a nation with its own government, currency, postal system, language and legal system.

6. The Tibetan plateau holds the world’s third largest store of fresh water in glacier form, and feeds Asia’s largest rivers. One billion people rely on this water source, which is under threat because of China’s policies of strip mining, deforestation, damming and diversion of rivers.

7. After the Chinese invasion, more than 6,000 monasteries were destroyed in Tibet.

8. Tibetans are becoming a minority in TAR due to the vast influx of Han Chinese migrants, encouraged by incentives from the Chinese government.

9. Despite China’s claims to have ‘developed’ Tibet, the illiteracy rate for TAR was a staggering 45% in 2005, compared to 10% in China as a whole in 2004.

10. One million nomadic herders have been forcibly moved from their traditional grazing lands, because of China’s re-settlement policy. This is comparable to the treatment of Native Americans and Australian Aborigines by Western colonisers.

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I posted this picture previously, but this is a Tibetan monk who I had the pleasure of talking to. He told me his life as a political prisoner and I bought a book of his, can’t wait to learn more.

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There are multiple of these spread around Dharamsala & Mcleod Ganj. They are called prayer wheels. People can pray to gods or say mantras while running their hand along them. We saw both monks and normal-folk doing it 🙂 I even said a prayer once along one.

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Being silly at the monkey temple. “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”

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This was the Jakhu Temple, or as we called it The Monkey Temple! It’s dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman. It’s in the capitol of Himachal Pradesh (the state we stayed in) called Shimla.

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I think this bugger looks like a little old man!

IMG_1009“Thank you kind sir”

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Shimla was not what I expected! I don’t know what I expected, but it was much different from the bustling city of New Delhi and even more different than the small town of Dharamsala where we stayed.

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Shimla had a lot of old Britain-looking buildings. It was an awesome little town/city.

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Unfortunately I was still sick in Shimla, so I looked like shit in many of the pictures (see above)!

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There are animals evvvvveryyywhere! They are like people walking around the streets haha.

tumblr_mnkbriwduS1rhau6ro4_250 Not my picture, that’s why it’s so small and crappy quality, but that’s a water pump where most people in villages get their water when they don’t have running.

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A picture of me with the Dalai Lama’s throne or holy seat? I don’t know what to call it. 🙂

IMG_1122 Some henna 🙂 Nupoor did it, and you can see her here…

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I love making new friends, but sometimes I meet someone and I think to myself “this person and I are going to be really close.” She was one of those. She lived right next to the daycare I worked at and would visit often. Every time we spoke I was blown away by her. She’s so beautiful, so intelligent, kind and driven. She taught me a lot and I could ask her pretty much any question I had about India or the culture. She’s getting her Master’s in commerce and hopes to work for the world bank. She’s 23 and a dear friend to me even though I haven’t known her long!

IMG_1087IMG_1129Good times with good friends!IMG_1126

Absolutely hilarious story behind this picture. One of my favorite things about this trip is the people I have spent all this time with. The other volunteers and I have, on too many occasions, laughed until our stomachs hurt and we starting crying. Here was one occasion. I ordered a beer and the waiter gave it to me, then came back in a few minutes, took it off the table and put it on the floor next to my flip flops. We all looked at each other like what the heck?! So, Stacy started putting other things on the table on the floor. It was so funny. I guess he did that because it was a family restaurant? Still not really sure. Haha.

IMG_1079IMG_1080 Silly signs.

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We saw this sign in a hookah bar! So silly.

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Here is said hookah bar, we ate breakfast one Sunday on the rooftop of a building across the street.  Just me and Stacey went at the hookah bar one night and there were about 50 men and .. well, her and I.

IMG_0899 Tattos anyone?

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India is a very holy place. One of my favorite aspects of this country is how SO many religions live in harmony with one another. Further, people of any religion are welcome to visit any temple or mosque and get blessings, or to just look. I love it.

IMG_1142IMG_1140 Saying goodbye to the staff. If I look like I lost some weight, it wasn’t because I’ve been eating healthy or super active, it’s because I’ve been sick! So, no congratulations haha.

I’ll be posting a post with my kiddos & my ending thoughts either later today or tomorrow.

Namaste!

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Explore. Dream. Discover.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

My experience with Cross Cultural Solutions :)

I feel like it’s more than necessary to make a post about the organization I used for this trip. It’s called Cross Cultural Solutions. I know it’s very possible to travel India incredibly cheap and find places to volunteer and stay. However, I chose the cheap route two years ago when I went to Uganda, Africa and I opted to not do that again this time. For this trip, for 4 weeks, I payed $3,900 and had to also pay for my own plane ticket. It sounds like a ridiculous amount and even though all of the costs were broken down, I still felt I was paying too much. Still, the reviews and reputation of CCS drew me to seal the deal.

ImageI am beyond happy with my experience. I signed up in November of 2012 for a summer trip and during the months in between I received endless support from the CCS team in New York. I received phone calls, emails, trainings and they answered all of my mundane questions as well as the important ones. I received a t-shirt and packets of information about my destination and placement. There was always someone to talk to in preparation for my trip. When I got to India, I was happily greeted at the airport by an awesome crew and then shown my flat in New Delhi with AC and wifi. We had a cook and some orientations. The director got us ready for our placements and cultural experiences. She’s a sassy and bold woman who started CCS India 15 years ago herself. She’s awesome. All of the staff we met had been working for the organization anywhere from 10-15 years.

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After I made it to Dharamsala, I was warmly welcomed by more staff and lots of delicious food. Although our flat didn’t have AC, both it and the home base are beautiful buildings. We had rides to placement everyday and tons of organized cultural activities that were paid for and transportation was paid for. Some examples are history and Hindi lessons, a talk from a women’s center about empowerment and feminism, a Q&A with a Tibetan monk, a visit to the Tibetan archives, a visit to a fort and an awesome temple. All of these were to enrich our cultural experience and help in our understanding of Indian culture.

Further than all these trips, the staff have been even more amazing than I ever could have expected. The cook makes my life happy every day because everything he makes is phenomenal. Also, he will add anything to the menu if we request it, he will teach us how to cook anything and give us recipes. Wonderful chai tea is served every morning and (much to our dismay, but also love) the cookie jars in both houses are refilled whenever they begin to run low.

We trust the drivers with our lives on the daily and the staff has gotten up in the middle of the night many times to take us sicklings to the hospital almost an hour away. The staff will answer any of our questions with minimal pushback, they do like to joke with us though and I like the casual style relationship we’re able to have with them. They’ll always listen to concerns and tell us the best solutions or sometimes force us to do things we may otherwise not have done (such as go to the hospital, or not go on weekend trips). They’re even around to kill monstrous bugs that belong in shitty horror films, not in real life.

All in all, CCS has been amazing. I chose this organization for the structure and support because that is something that lacked in my previous experience. I definitely got those and more! So, I highly recommend CCS and if anyone wants to sign up with them I’d be more than happy to help you fundraise. People came on this trip ages 18-65, so you’re never too young or too old 🙂

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Small progressions

Small progressions

Birthday Festivities

Here’s a post that I had tried to post for days, but it didn’t work..

Wow, it’s been a few days since I posted. I was sick as a dog! I won’t go into the yucky details but two hospital trips and I’m positive I never want to experience Indian hospitals again… never was enough, but now twice is definitely enough.

It’s still my birthday in the U.S… wahoo! This is the longest birthday ever, geesh. It’s 5:45 a.m. here on June 14th and people are still wishing me a happy birthday :-P. The phenomenal staff and the AMAZING volunteers made my birthday so so so wonderful. Oh and I’m feeling much better, at about 95% 🙂

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CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions), the organization I’m volunteering with, bought me a cake! Wahoo! It tasted quite… Indian. Their sweets aren’t quite like the sweets at home… but the frosting was yummy 🙂

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Whoops, broke the knife.

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Card signed by everyone 🙂 my personal favorite is Ganesh’s (yes, like the Hindu God, but he is a 19 year old from Oklahoma, arguably as awesome as the Hindu God himself):
“Dearest Ginelle, we send our warmest regards towards your presence for this joyous occasion and hope that your eventual intoxication will yield memories that will make your ancestors vomit.” – Ganesh

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My birthday present from the staff – This is also Ganesh 😛 THE Lord Ganesh or Ganesha. Super nice of them.

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Ian showing me that it could possibly be the head of an axe if it did not have a God on it.

These were all pictures from last night. We had pizza for dinner, which I was incredibly pleased about and I could eat! Before dinner the couple from Britain, Jess and Martyn taught us a card game called “shithead.”

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The staff were very intrigued by it and I thought it was funny 😛

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I told them in America, when I was younger we played a game called “asshole” and we turned a beer box inside out and the person who lost had to wear it on their head with asshole written on it. Martyn put his cub scout leader skills to good use and made up this hat with “shithead” written on it. This is Kody, the first shithead. I was the second shithead, but no pictures.

Later we watched amazing Bollywood films. I may overuse the word amazing, but no exaggeration here those were two of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t believe I waited until my last week here to start watching them. I actually honestly thought to myself at one point something like “meh, any movies that aren’t American are probably garbage.” Typical ignorant American thing to say, and I consider myself pretty far from ignorant. Whoops. They were amazing!! Barfie and Jodhaa Akbar. If anyone loves a good movie, I highly highly recommend them.

The day would have been perfect, placements were cancelled because monsoon season has closed in and the torrential downpour doesn’t stop, so I had all my buds around all day to relax with, and by the end of the day my sickness that I had for days was gone. But, while we were at the end of our last movie… I shit you not.. a cockroach the size of my damn palm flew on the wall and we all screamed like children. Even the men screamed and retreated. A staff member calmly took off his shoe and killed it, but we couldn’t believe the size of it. Plus, who knew cockroaches could fly? Not me anyways. Maybe it wasn’t a roach, but that’s what he said.

Then, not long later, a spider not quite as big, but a little smaller than my palm came out of Kody’s headboard. She lives in my flat. So I went to bed with a serious case of the heebiejeebies. I woke up to a nightmare hyperventilating and my roommate asking me “dude do you need a paper bag or something?” I must have been having a bug dream! And she told me, without knowing any of what happened earlier that she had been up for a while just watching an enormous spider crawl from the ceiling to the floor. So, I have had a night with little sleep. Such is life.

Today I go back to placement and this weekend I’ll rest. Namaste ❤

Checking in…

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. I had a post on my birthday (Thursday) and I attempted to publish it for two hours but either the internet or wordpress was not cooperating.

I’ll post some pictures tomorrow, I need rest tonight. I am still sick, unfortunately… fever and dehydration, but I may take a trip back to the hospital tomorrow to get some more meds. 

I’m here only until June 22nd! 

Namaste

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Silver lining, fate, all that cheesy stuff

Silver lining, fate, all that cheesy stuff

I am feeling awfully sick. I had to take a trip to the hospital today to get some medicine and get checked. Hopefully it’s just some sort of fever. HOWEVER, on a positive note… Yesterday we were walking around in upper dharamsala yesterday and I started to feel like shit. I went out of my way to find a bench to sit on and I sat next to this jolly Tibetan monk. We started talking about life and his life in particular. Turns out he is kind of a big deal…! He’s been all over the world meeting tons of important government officials and celebrities. He’s written 11 books and I told him I wanted to buy one. So, we walked down to a store that sold them and he told me a bit about his life as a political prisoner. He signed my book and told me about he sold 31,000 copies of it. He’s an awesome guy!

Being sick sucks, but I see the silver lining in the situation because I would not have stumbled upon this man if I wasn’t feeling awful.

I’ll post more updates when I’m feeling better. I got like 7 different kinds of pills for this sickness so if better go away!

Namaste 🙂