Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Arriving in India

Hi Everyone!

This summer I've embarked on a 10 week trip to India to work with several NGOs in New Delhi. This is courtesy of a Public Service Center (PSC) Team Fellowship through MIT. I'll be sending out weekly email updates to you about my activities and experiences. Hope you enjoy it!

On Friday, June 8 we were greeted with a balmy 110F when we stepped off our plane (after about 25 hours of travel) onto Delhi ground. It is like an oven, Las Vegas without the sidewalk misters, and this was just at midnight! We were greeted by a very kind Prof. Mathur who personally came to greet us and pick us up. Our lodging in "Meadows" Residency is on the Rai Foundation campus on the Faradibad border. We are spoiled with a beautiful guest house, our own dining area, lounge areas, and rooms complete with AC, internet, and private bathrooms. My team of 5 definitely bonded over the long flight and I have the pleasure of rooming with Julie Bharucha, a sophomore in Biology.

My teammates: Julie, Sony, Catherine, Yamilee

On our first day we awoke to eat breakfast in our guest house. I've been delighted with the variety there is at every meal and the amazing quality of the spicy food, all of which I've only seen to be vegetarian :). I've been slowly learning the names for everything- for breakfast: Alu Roti (Potatoe Filled Bread), Pakoras (deep-fried potato fritters), and sweet Indian porridge with papayas- for lunch and dinner: basmati rice, chipatis (flat bread either carrot, pea or lentil based), Okra Curry, Chana (spicy chickpeas), Dal Fry (Lentil Soup), egg curry with tomatoes, Matar Paneer (Green peas and cheese curry), and cauliflower curry…etc. Basically a lot of curries! We've definitely got our culinary cultural immersion already!

Eating Thali- a dish with a bread (naan/roti) and several small side dishes of curry etc.

Since we've arrived, we've gotten driven everyday to complete our "orientation" program at the central Rai Foundation campus in New Delhi. Traffic lanes here are just for show and no one uses turn signals. Rickshaws, motor bikes, bicycles, automatic rickshaws, cars, and trucks all share the road in a fast paced chaos that make pedestrians a rare breed. The Rai Foundation is a private university in India and has many campuses. Our lessons so far have included learning about the "Two Indias" (the India of the super-rich and the India of the slum dwellers), Indian Religion & Beliefs, Do's and Don'ts of India, and a brief on our project work.

Going to "Orientation" in a stifling van in 120F weather. Whew! L-R: Sony, Catherine, Julie, and sitting in the front are a few of our Rai Foundation Indian counterparts.

We are working closely with Professor Dr. Miraj and Dr. Sunana who have been teaching us this whole time and showing us India, which to me is an incredible commitment from two such great mentors. They are very enthusiastic and truly want to make this an experience of a lifetime for us. Also we are working with 6 Rai Foundation students or alumni which has been a great social experience so far.

Our timeline:

We will spend the first 2 weeks learning from and interacting with the staff and patients of UDAAN ( , a foundation for Spastic and Mentally Disabled Persons. Next we'll spend 2 weeks with the NGO Deepalaya ( ) which has broad specialties including education, disability, health awareness, and working with street children. We will then go on a 1 week trip and break to explore India. When we return we will spend our remaining 4 weeks working with the Handicapped Children's Rehabilitation Association (HCRA, ) and creating programs and solutions to meet their needs using our learning from UDAAN and Deepalaya.

On weekends we hope to explore more of Delhi, though the heat has been a bit unbearable. They tell us monsoon season is coming which make things much more pleasant. Tomorrow I start working with the NGOs which is very exciting!

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