For your entertainment!

Arriving in Udaipur:

View from the hotel:

Isn’t it ironic…don’t you think?

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First impressions of Udaipur: Stephanie

Jay shadee Khrisna (spelled phonetically- by no means correct)! I am hoping to improve my Hindi during this two month stay, but so far Hindi is proving to be very difficult for me. There are so many vowel sounds and letter combinations that sound exactly the same when spoken. The “h” sound after consonants is especially challenging. As usual, I continue to speak in English/Spanish, which has led Alice to claim that we all may leave India with better Spanish skills than Hindi. I hope not! We’ll see how my Hindi progresses…..

Naturally, the first thing I notice about India is the children. Here the children are so beautiful, but I can’t really say why that is. It could be due to the black eyeliner that babies and children from 0-2 wear. I’ve received mixed responses from people for the purpose of the eyeliner: good luck, protection from the sun’s rays, and the flow of good/positive energy. It also could be because the children are generally interested in foreigners and offer an excited “hello” in passing. I even had a father ask if he could take a picture of me with his two little sons, I said if only I could take a picture with my camera too!

Right now I am questioning my decision to work with older children on the scholarship program since seeing all the younger ones makes me so happy! However, I think it will be possible to work with both younger and older children during my stay. Tomorrow Evan, Mike, Sarah and I are going to visit the children’s summer camp (6-14 years old) for the day. I am sure we will have lots to talk about after.

Other than that, I will echo the previous posts that Udaipur is VERY HOT! In the heat, work is generally a lot slower and produces several risks including dehydration. My first few days in India were spent adjusting my body back to the hot climate. Gatorade, hydration salts and leemoo pani (lemon water with salt) have been my medicine of choice. Of course, it also doesn’t help that there are two one hour (or more) power cuts during the day and usually during the hottest times. Hence, dealing with the heat has become an integral part of our initial experience in India.

Some extra initial thoughts!

So…India! While my focus and energy is all-in for my experience here in Udaipur, my internal clock seems to remain in Manhattan.  So, good morning to you! It’s about 4:45am here, and the day will likely bring about temperatures of about 45 degrees Celsius – things seem to be in sync.

First impressions? I can offer some general first-glance observations, and then perhaps some bigger questions (ie. related to school) that I’m starting to ask myself. I do have to put the disclaimer out there that after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, it will forever be my point of reference.  Bear with me as I work through this comparison.

Well, it’s hot.  Suits me quite nicely, especially after a bit of time in the Sahel and the general fact that I hate being cold.  The monsoons are rumored to come in about 2 weeks’ time, and I think everyone here is waiting on bated breath for the event. Evidently, it cools drastically, but I’m personally not really looking forward to the critters that will likely surface with the rains. Ah well! Udaipur as a city has a natural beauty given its location at the foot of several mountains and skirting around three main lakes.  The actual town is built straight onto those mountains in such a way that reminds me of the “ville perchées” in S. France.  I’m surprised to find similar flora to that in Niger: neem, eucalyptus, and plain trees.  Also, a few brush-ey type plants that probably have names I just don’t know what they are.  It’s likely that the dry sandy soil suits these types of plants just fine anywhere.  Oh, and underfed cows here look like underfed cows everywhere else, and they are universally entitled to occupy the entire road. Life is public, vibrant, full of commotion, and providing me with energy despite my total lack of sleep (I also must give credit to the endless supply of chai and coffee).

Last night, I moved in with my homestay family.  They were described by our facilitating organization, Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) as a “traditional Rhajput family”…whatever that means, I suppose I will learn.  All I know after about 5 hours around the house is that my host brother, Harsh (short for some much longer, more complicated name) speaks brilliant English, by host mom Rheka is a fantastic cook, my host grandfather is very welcoming, and my host dog, a Pug, snorts alot.

Ok, onto the thinking part. INGO and LNGO partnerships. There is an underwhelming visible presence of large INGOs (Care, MercyCorps, Plan, StC etc).  I have yet to see their headquarters, expats who run the show, or big white Land Cruisers, as is the case every time you turn the corner in Niger.  From what I have gleaned in two days’ worth of orientation, it seems to me that they are here, in a big way, but just “behind the curtain”; they are funding the endless pool of local NGOs .  This is very interesting to think about.  There seems to be an infinite number of locally based NGOs, focusing on every facet of development conceivable.  I imagine that those who extol participatory development done by searchers rather than planners would be jumping in their seats to see the apparent grassroots, bottom up action being taken here.  However, ever the cynic, I am curious to see the limitations on how local and organic the work done by LNGOs actually is if they are being funded by INGOs (or, even more, bilaterals).  I think it goes without saying that with funding from INGOs comes guidelines and timelines that encroach upon the actual vision of local actors.  So, who wins out in Udaipur? If anyone out there can speak to this, particularly in the Indian context, I’m all ears.

I’d be tempted to banter on about my conflicting thoughts on whether development issues are actually quite the same  everywhere and thus can be addressed by similar approaches, or if a one-size-fits all approach is rubbish (my original belief).  Also, there is some interesting stuff going on here with education and processes of “learning by unlearning” typical school structures and exploring intellectual development in very unstructured ways.  (Attempting to break the idea of the school that “flies around the world” as my TA from last semester called it).  Perhaps next time. But alas, the sun is rising, and I think I’d rather work out for a bit before the temperature is too scary.  Namaste y’all.

Alice J

First few days…

Namaste! (Greetings!) Keseh chal raha hai (How’s it going?)

We have successfully survived our first 4 days in India! After a “balmy” 115-degree day in Delhi on Friday we flew to Udaipur on Saturday where we were welcomed by Giulia, the Foundation for Sustainable Development‘s Udaipur program coordinator. We spent most of the past 3 days at our beautiful hotel which has breathtaking views of the city where one can see the lakes and city palaces.

These past few days have been a great balance of learning and doing. During the day (and to escape from the heat) we had orientation where we learned some necessary tips for the upcoming weeks. For example, in India people eat only with their right hand (usually without silverware) because the left hand is considered impure. We started our Hindi lessons and we had educational workshops about development in India. We visited a lake 2 days ago and last night we went  into the “old city” where we bought local clothes to help us “blend in” more. Then we had a delicious dinner at a restaurant downtown with the FSD Udaipur program director Roma.

Tonight we were picked up by our host families…and now this part of the trip is where it all sinks in. We’ll write more on that topic soon. But for now I’ll leave you two videos, one of our cab ride in Delhi and the other of the streets of Delhi.

Hello there, world!

Welcome to our blog!

We are very excited to share our insights with you from our internship experience in Udaipur, India. For 7 weeks we’ll be interning at the non-governmental organization Seva Mandir where we will be working on three separate educational projects.

Besides interning at Seva Mandir, we’ll also be living with host families so, needless to say, this will be an adventure!

Check back often for updates!