Archive for the ‘Ellen in India’ Category


Ellen: No chronology

October 19, 2010

Let me tell you about my weekend.

On Thursday evening I got on a sleeper bus and didn’t get off for 12 hours. I was in a bunk above the seats sleeping, talking and watching the Rajasthan desert whoosh past out the window.

10 of us arrived in Jaiselmer (real close to Pakistan) and had a rooftop breakfast (typical India, rooftop adventure #784) We explored the Jaiselmer fort in the morning and then went to catch the bus to the village of Khuri where our camel safari would commence.

Our group had split up to explore, so some got on the bus at the bus station, while my small group was at another stop farther down the road. We kept in contact to make sure we would get on the bus together. Every phone call from those already on the bus was a warning about how the bus was filling fast and we might not be able to get a seat. Well, when there is no room in the bus, you only have 1 choice. Get on the roof of the bus. So yes, I traveled for 2 hours sitting on top of a bus with 30 indians going to the tiny village of Khuri. Absolutely amazing. And the camel safari had not even begun.

From the top of the bus to the top of a camel and into the desert. The view from the top of the camel was spectacular yet incredibly bumpy. especially when we galloped as fast as we could to see the sunset. We ate around a campfire with our 8 Warmari guides and played hide and seek in the dunes before falling asleep under the stars.

Sunrise, tea and back on the camels to return to the village.

We had a hotel back in Jaiselmer and this time we rode inside the bus.

And the diversity of modes of transportation did not end there! On Sunday afternoon we rented scooters and zoomed-zoomed our way to a lake, another village and The Secret Garden, India style.

So, I am physically exhausted but mentally satisfied and emotionally overwhelmed because tonight I pack up my room to move into a new host family to start my internship on Wednesday.


Ellen: Thoughts & feelings

October 5, 2010

I try to cram in all the tangible things I do and see, but a big part of this experience is how I am feeling and how I am processing everything.

A third of my journal is already full, and I could probably be writing more. (“If I get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me threatening the life it belongs to” –Anna Nalick from”Breathe.” Really cheesy, but so incredibly relevant to my life right now)

I am overwhelmed—but in a good way. I was ready to be confused and frustrated, and I am! Unfortunately, I tend to be over-analytical of myself in situations and that cannot happen in India. I can adapt to people and situations, but India is always unpredictable and there is nothing I can do to adapt to that except stop thinking about everything and that just won’t happen. Every time I try to anticipate the way an experience will play out, it never NEVER goes the way I thought it would. (The rickshaw driver will never take the same route, nothing will ever be on time, you never know how much change you will get after you pay for something,  what you thought would be around the corner isn’t). I guess this makes sense in my head, but it might not translate well on the interwebs. But don’t worry: “ALL IS WELL” (youtube that plus “aamir khan”)

Moving on…

My biggest passions are all intersecting here in India. I have little siblings to dance with and take jumping pictures with, my internship is with an arts foundation, our last country analysis class was about Gender and Development and it started so many amazing conversations. Being in India goes along with moments in my life when I have breathed a deep sigh of relief saying “This is where I need to be.” It’s the realization that this is where I can be totally and completely myself and that is what will make this experience amazing.



September 29, 2010

A few friends and I spent last weekend in Johdpur, the Blue City.
We took the train-sleeper class there and Second AC on the way back. Ven Diagram time!

Second AC:
Closed and curtained windows
Sheets, blankets, pillows
sneezing, snoring, farting old people
Benches that can be seats or beds
Sleeper Class:
Open windows to let fresh air in
cute old couples to sit across from
Lots of college-aged Indians watching Justin Beiber music videos on their iPhones and sharing them with us
Small Indian boy walking up and down the aisle wearing his mother’s heels
Men walking down the cars screeching “chaiiiiiii” “garam chaiiiiiiii”

conclusions: sleeper=more fun.

JODHPUR: So beautiful. We saw the Umaid Bhavan Palace: beautiful, built in the 20th century, small museum. The rest of the palace is royal residence and a hotel. You can see the hotel if you eat at the restaurant and spend 2000 rupees a plate.

Mandore Garden: King Louie’s court from the Jungle Book. Monkeys and all. Built in the 15th century. Tombs of royals and temples. We could freely roam through all of them (no charge) and climb up the twisting stone stairs to the balconies/roof with no railings and no surveillance. The phrase most often uttered on adventures like that is “We could never do this in the US.”  Plus an Indian guy that wanted Sam to sign a 10 rupee note and “be in friendship with him”

Mehrangarh Fort: I am speechless. It is at the top of a mountain overlooking Jodhpur. We all did the audio tour so we were the nerdy white kids with headphones on in a sea (literally, if we didn’t hold on to each other we were swept away) of Indians. Gates and courtyards and battlements and the intricately patterned windows that don’t allow anyone to see in, but allow the women living in those quarters to see out.

On Sunday we met Megan’s host family’s aunt and nephew (Daksh. so. cute.) We had lunch at her house and it was DELICIOUS. Living with a family in India means you eat real Indian food every day. When you travel and go to restaurants the “Indian” food is BLAND. its all about eating in a real Indian home.

More Jodhpur adventures include my first true Indian shopping experience, where you stay in the store for 2 hours while they present all their finest tapestries to you, serve you chai and then bargain. We became regulars at a Lassi place, we sampled tons of sweets, we sat on the roof of our hotel, Megan became an honorary marwari woman and we had a 14-year-old rickshaw driver that had no idea where he was going.

ps: My internship is with the Jaipur Virasat Foundation and I will be back in Jodhpur with the foundation to work at a music festival! hooray!


Ellen: Only in India

September 25, 2010

This next series of blog entries comes to you in unchronilogical order. Its been a rather crazy 2 weeks and I anticipate that it will only get crazier.

Firstly, I am disclaiming my grammar and spelling for all of my blog entries past, present and future—because I get on the internet so rarely I am always rushing to check a million things plus trying to put together a coherent blog entry. Plus, the internet cafe has a slow connection and doesn’t always automatically spell check for me. And sometimes I don’t want to spend extra time (meaning rupees) on re-reading and for that I am sorry. Pleeze furgiv mme.

Just now, after telling Kamlish “Mai Raja Park me ja rahi hu” and him responding with “Jao” I made my way to ye olde internet cafe: down the little lane, jog to the smelly street and onwards to Raja Park. I am not as startled by the stares and comments every 2 feet anymore: I ignore it, make my angry face and walk with purpose. Rickshaw drivers always slow down to see if you need a ride, and you just wave them past and say “nahi” Well. 5 minutes ago on the smelly street I noticed a driver slowing down behind me and prepared to wave him past, when I turned it was a man in a car slowing down and stopped next to me and asked if I needed a ride. I said no and waved him away. [my mama raised me right] He kept speed with my walking and said I looked very beautiful today. Then he drove away. I should be freaked out by this—but I couldn’t stop laughing all the way to the internet cafe. I wasn’t scared or creeped out. I want to be flattered, but I can’t be because he probably does that to any white woman he sees. Its noon on a beautiful Saturday, I have short blonde hair and am wearing my favorite blue kurta. I was a tad conspicuous. If that happened in the US I would run away, but this is India and it happens.


Ellen: overwhelmed in India

September 14, 2010

Roller coaster of culture.

We went to the Albert Hall museum and had a pretty terrible time. Six of us paid admission to a museum where we were the exhibit. A man asked for a picture with me at the very beginning, and he was harmless, but that was nothing. Herds of middle school boys followed us around, surrounding each of us individually as we looked at the books and pottery and the mummy. They would just stand staring at me while I stared at the art. Remember, Indians have no personal space either, so they are fine with getting as close too you and close to each other so you are trapped. We told them to stop, but that really didn’t help. And in the end I felt bad, because it was like I was a disturbance to the other patrons of the museum because the boys were making a scene. When really, every else probably loved it and they will be telling their friends all week that they saw white people at the museum (while showing the pictures they took of us on their cell phones). So, that experience didn’t go so well, and I’m really glad that it’s over.

The afternoon made up for it though because it was the parade in honor on Ganesh’s Birthday—the hindu god, remover of obstacles, with the elephant head. Six girls on the program live in a big apartment near the temple, so we watch the procession from their balcony. We watched for four hours—the crowds (crowds doesn’t do it justice; we probably saw a million people in that amount of time), the decorated trucks, the ladoo (the sweet that every eats on Ganesh’s birthday), bands, fire breathers, ladoo, elephants, dancers, giant pink replicas of ganesh and ladoo ladoo ladoo!!

And then we went on the Ferris wheel that could never exist in the US because their was nothing holding you in, and it went about 45 mph. It was awesome.

What a weekend.

Rooftop adventure #5:
Last night, Sam and I visited our friends’ apartment building and they were having dinner so we went on the roof. It was an awesome view of Jaipur at night, and its a huge roof. I went over to one corner and found that it was already occupied…by monkies. Indian monkies are not the cute cuddly creatures you imagine them to be. They are the animal that you AVOID. Cows are no big deal. Dogs: fine. Camels, cool. Elephants chill.  MONKIES = NO WAY. 6 feet away from me. I have no idea what kept me from running screaming but I got Sam’s attention and we got the hell off the roof. I am only now realizing how terrifying that experience was…


Ellen: ek, do, tin

September 10, 2010

This post is coming to you in parts—ek, do, tin—one, two, three of them:

Part One: didi
My little siblings call me Didi Ellen [older sister, Ellen] and I have already introduced silly bands to their lives. And the ukulele. I am a trendsetter.

Part Two: puja puja puja
My very first night at my homestay was the anniversary of the grandmother’s passing so we had puja (worship). Sam, my fellow program participant and housemate, and I were invited to join the ceremony. The living room was rearranged and a small shrine set up while musicians and other family members arrived. The musicians set up a speaker to project the chanting and song out to the street. Our foreheads were marked with red dye and rice and then the chanting began. What started as 14 people sitting on the floor gradually became 35+. People just kept on showing up. By about the 3rd woman visitor, I realized I was sitting on the left side on the floor when, as a woman, I should be on the right. I thought I would just stay with Sam as the pair of white kids, but then he left to go to the bathroom, leaving me as the white woman on the wrong side. I quickly shuffled over to the right and joined the other women. I also realized that the book that everyone was chanting from had 35 pages and we were on page 12…

It was a beautiful experience to observe and be included in, although my back and rear end got very sore. No wonder they do yoga. By page 32, Sam and I were ushered into the kitchen to eat. When they say EAT, you eat. At the end of the ceremony, it was like any schmoozy family event in America—children running around, parents chatting, greeting and such. What a commencement into my homestay family!!

Part three: “Look at me, I’m the King of Jaipur!”
On Sunday, Sam and I went to the JKK (Jaipur’s hip art center/cafe hangout for university students.) We took a rickshaw (first time!!) There was a Ganesh art show that we checked out and then we went to the cafe. We were approached to see the art show again so they could take our picture for the newspaper. And yes, we were in the paper the next day.

School is good, Hindi class is ridiculous. The chai is great (at least 4 times a day).

This weekend is Ganesh’s birthday!!


Ellen: New to New Delhi

September 3, 2010

The first great Indian adventure was driving into the city from the airport. After 15 hours in a plane (flying north directly over tip of the mitten state), sleeping 10 hours and talking to my lovely seat companion Marla, we made it to Delhi, through customs (no lost bags) and were met by a enthusiastic man and shuffled onto a bus. And the driving is just like you would expect: steering wheel on the right, driving in the left lane, obeying no traffic signals and following the Indian rule of the right-of-way; whoever has the least to lose goes.

Delhi was a whirl but somewhere in there we were introduced to the social benefits of chai, saw the president’s house, parliament and were pulled over. We did walk around the corner to explore the Sikh temple and were escorted through by a wonderful old woman. The temple was welcoming and full of people of all ages; babies, toddlers, grandparents and teenage boys. We also had roof sit #1.

The drive to Jaipur was most interesting. We could feel the shift into Rajasthan: brighter colored saris, camels, goats and cows cows cows. Entering Jaipur we went through the Pink City and saw our first elephant.

Jaipur is great—the few parts of it I have seen. Our school (the MSID office) is in a great neighborhood a few blocks away from a busy market. There are malls and parks and shops and people people people and cows. Our hotel in Jaipur was the sight of roof sit #2.

That covers a lot of logistical things, so let me mention the social: There is a lot of staring, but it doesn’t feel probing, just curious. Children exclaim HIHOW AREYOU! while they run by and grab your hand, and men zoom past on their motos honking their horns. The food is delicious (and agrees with my system *knock on wood*) and our professors are fantastic. The women are articulate and full of wisdom (especially the woman who will be in charge of the Arts and Culture track internship) and our program coordinator aka the “Herder of American College Kids” is wonderful.

I am learning a ton already from this program filled with global studies international relations development majors… but I have come to the conclusion that they are all feminists and have yet to come to this realization. I will help them reach enlightenment.

I move into my homestay tomorrow morning. I am going to have a 6 year old sister and 5 year old brother! I am happy and overwhelmed but satisfied and ready to be here for a while.

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