Monday, November 30, 2009

Lunch with a dear friend

I was invited to a delicious lunch at a coworker (and friend's) home this weekend. Indian hospitality can't be beat! Even though she lives in a slum, it is one of the nicer ones and her home (a 2 bedroom with 3 families) is quite comfortable. The food was delicious and her family was extremely welcoming. I had a very nice time and was so grateful that they invited me over! I think I could actually live in some of the nicer slums here and be just fine - although I'd be even better if they had running water and it was just one person per twin bed. After awhile, you realize all of the things you don't really need and how loving family and friends can make up the difference.

New Shoes

Dear Aunty Jill,
Thank you so much for the new shoes! The 7 of us live on the streets and before today, we ran around everywhere barefoot. The shoes we picked out are perfect because we'll be able to wash them when they get dirty. We felt so loved today!

Thanks for blessing us,
the children who live outside the East Bangalore Train Station

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sharing the Word and Love of God

Dear Aunty Nancy,
Thank you so much for the new bibles! Bibles are considered so valuable here, that sometimes they're even stolen from others.

Today Christine led a bible study/devotion time for us and she taught us how to look up scriptures in the new bibles. We were so excited!

Thank you for sharing god's love with us-
The children of Doddigunta slum community

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nutritious Treats

Nutritious Treats - and no... I don't mean Smartfood! : ) "Operation Banana" continues - but today Apples were given as a special treat. Apples are relatively expensive here, but the kids go crazy for them!

Sharing Thanksgiving with others...

Aunty Nancy (or "Momma" as the girls are calling her),

Thank you so much for the very special Thanksgiving Party. We had never heard of Thanksgiving before today, but Christine told us all about how Americans takes a day out of their hectic schedules to slow down and and appreciate everything in their lives. We read some great bible verses on thankfulness (1 Thess 5:16-18, Ephesians 5:19-20, 1 Chronicles 16:8) and then all wrote down things in our life that we are thankful for. When we shared these things out loud, we realized how blessed we all are!

Christine explained that the 2nd part of Thanksgiving is eating a lot of special food with family, so we were thrilled when she gave us the special dinners you donated to take home to our families and share with them the things that we're thankful for.

Thank you for blessing us Nancy.

We love you,
The Tailoring Girls

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Many things to be thankful for...

It's (already) Thanksgiving over here and I have a lot to be thankful for! Today I have 2 Thanksgiving celebrations - one "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner with the Overseas Womens Club and one special Indian dinner that my mom is hosting (long-distance) for the girls in the vocational training program. I am looking forwarding to teaching them about this US holiday and about remembering to stop and appreciate even the little blessings in our lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Small reminders that make me smile

I think of friends back home often, especially when I use my thoughtful going-away gifts. I read the bible verses in my quiet time journal each morning and pray for my church community group. I use my notebooks and pens from Marissa and Mary everyday. I’ve enjoyed reading Dave’s book on Tales of India almost every evening. My notecards have come in handy when I want to thank someone for their hospitality. Using my scented hand sanitizers from Nicole and others always gives me a pick-me up – it’s as good as aromatherapy and everyone in the office enjoys the smells. On cool nights I use my warm, fuzzy, moisturizing socks and think of Katherine. I eat Preeti’s and Rachel’s granola bars every morning (to make it through to their late lunches in India) and try to share them with the girls in the vocational program as well since they don’t seem to get much to eat. The last time I shared a small Quaker chewy granola bar, the young woman came back the next day to say she broke it into 4 pieces to share with her entire family, because she won’t eat anything without first making sure that her kids are fed. Wow. I think of Nicole and others when I use the face wipes at night to wipe the dust off my face. I packed far too many wet wipes than I’ll actually use, but the orphanage is going to be thrilled to have them when I leave! And I absolutely can’t wait to enjoy the mani/pedi from Graybill and my work team and champagne from Rich when I return. I really miss these treats!!! So just know that all of you are in my thoughts all of the time and I look forward to our reunion : )

A lot to be thankful for...

Aunty Jill,
Thank you so much for your generous gifts. We can hardly believe how blessed we have been this month! Today Aunty Christine came by our school to bring us the new books, World Atlas, shoe organizer and colorful floor mats that you donated.

Before our shoes were everywhere and we had to sit all day on the dirty floor. We like this much better! And we were excited that we now have some books that are appropriate for some of the older children.

We saw the kids musical sing-along CD that Christine bought for the children at Mother Teresa's orphanage too. We think they'll love it!

We hear that there is even more coming from everyone back home, but this week we definitely have a lot to be thankful for!

Love, the kids at Doddigunta's back-to-school program

Tough Choices

Today we went shopping for more school supplies. Along the way, we ran into a 16 yr old girl who had recently dropped out of school to work at a shop. She is getting paid $30 a month, which is more than our teachers! We stopped to have tea with her so that we could try to talk her into going back to school, but I'll admit it's a difficult argument when your parents are unable to provide and your family needs food on the table.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A relaxing weekend in Goa

After a 45 min flight, I arrived in Goa on Friday afternoon. I took a 1½ hr taxi ride to Palolem Beach, which is quiet, pretty and away from the party scene – so my kind of beach! I’m staying at Camp San Francisco (beachfront huts right on the water) and “camp” is a good way to describe the accommodations (my hut doesn’t even have a mirror and the shower is this tiny trickle of cold water). That being said, the location can’t be beat. Even though the place I wanted (and that Lonely Planet recommended) was booked, I had to do a ton of research on my own and take a gamble and I actually think in the end I picked the perfect beach and the perfect beach huts. Camp San Francsico is in the center of a beautiful, long beach, and I have the best room (closest to the water). While the accommodations are quite basic, I haven’t seen even one creepy-crawly thing (amazing) and it looks to me like the most appealing spot on the beach, with the best view, an incredibly attentive staff and a restaurant with terrific food. I enjoyed a relaxing dinner at a little candlelight table under a thatched umbrella (that was right in front of my beach hut), about 50 feet from the waves rolling in from the ocean.

Since I’m traveling solo, I struck up a conversation with a young local girl who was hanging out on the beach. She’s 19 and pregnant with her 2nd child. She has never been to school and was married at 17. She confirmed the message I hear often, which is that in India you’re really expected to have babies IMMEDIATELY after getting married – or else everyone assumes there is a problem. She reinforced to me (once again) that I need to get started with my family! (I get this message here several times a day) Anyhow, she works at a local shop selling souvenirs to tourists and her husband sells sarongs on the beach, with her sister who sells jewelry and does henna tattoos on the beach. Sweet girl…

After dinner I laid in bed listening to a really great mix of reggae/ dance /bollywood music on one side (coming from the laid-back bar next door) and the sound of waves rolling in from the ocean on the other. It was so nice.

Even though it was forecasted to thunderstorm all weekend, Saturday the sky stayed blue and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Thank the Lord!!! It was pretty hot out, but the water was clean and refreshing. I spent the day reading on the beach, eating at beachside cafes and buying jewelry from the beach vendors. At one point I took a boat cruise to a remote cove where I enjoyed a private “Butterfly Beach” (with 3 others who wandered off) for 2 hours. It felt like a piece of paradise.

I’ve met many Caucasian tourists here, but not a single American! Everyone is Russian, Canadian, Estonian, German, Israeli… everything but American – it’s so strange. The boat operators say that very few Americans come to Goa.

Later as the sun set, I walked along pristine Palolem beach and listed to Sarah McLauglan and Enya on my ipod. It was like the dream version of my perfect day, except for the fact that I kept thinking “Dana would LOVE it here”! It doesn’t feel fair that I’m living this adventure while he’s home working on PDRs and Business Reviews, but I guess I’ll have to remember that “I owe him one” (my words, not his) one day when I’m going into labor : ) I felt a bit guilty laying on the beach today drinking Kingfishers while he is actually volunteering and cleaning up trash in Dallas. What can I say other than my husband is pretty amazing and we are very blessed!

For dinner I ate on the beach again under a starry sky. A very talented Estonian singer (who is apparently recording his CD next week) performed with an acoustic guitar while all of the Camp San Francisco guests relaxed around a campfire.

Sunday I bought some jewelry on the beach from a 15 yr old girl named Nikkita. I thought that was a beautiful name and asked her how to spell it. She said she didn’t know how to spell (her own name!) since she had never been to school. That is so sad. I also took a dolphin boat cruise out to “Honeymoon Beach” – we didn’t see dolphins but the beach was gorgeous.

This weekend confirmed to me (once again) that you don’t have to stay at a 5-star hotel to have an amazing vacation. For about what we pay for parking when we stay at fancy hotels, you can really live an amazing life and have quite an adventure. I think that’s why D and I really love to explore developing countries. I’m really looking forward to seeing him in less than 3 weeks!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An usual way to commit a crime...

For the most part, I'm going to miss India terribly. Life here is a thrill everyday, and the people I am surrounded by are so full of hospitality, compassion and love!

However, there are definitely some weird things that go on in India as well. This week on the news they were talking about autorickshaw drivers who prey on single female passengers and spray them in the face with some chemical that makes them pass out. Then they rape and kill them. Fascinating....

Then my friend Karen said that it's actually a common enough occurrence that there's a term used for it in India (which I can't remember), and burglars do it too (use the spray to make people pass out, then rape and rob them). I'm actually pretty surprised that this strange way of committing a crime has not spread around the world yet (to the best of my knowledge anyways). Craziness!

In light of all that please know that I'm being careful, and if any of my day-to-day activities sound a little dangerous, accept that there is a certain amount of danger everywhere and you have to pray and trust the Lord to protect you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Education: the key to a bright future

A huge thanks to Ron, Judy, Kelley and Carl for donating much needed school supplies and books for the children at the Oasis back-to-school program and preschool. We were able to get 135 notebooks, 70 reading books, 5 dictionaries, craft project materials and a ton of critical supplies! The teachers are thrilled and I can't wait to see the look on the childrens' faces when they see their new library.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Humble Design

My big sister, Ana, has recently started an AMAZING non-profit that I'd like to share with you...

Humble Design is an eco-friendly, non-profit that provides needy families with functional and welcoming home interiors. They minimize the impact on the environment by matching clients in need with donated and gently used household goods.

I'm REALLY proud of her so please check it out and pass along to anyone you know in Michigan! And contact them directly if you're interested in opening a "franchise" in your own city.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My new friends: some beneficiaries of "Operation Banana"

These kids follow me home everyday now after I drop off bananas in their slum community. They usually grab my hand and give me a baby to carry.
They are so darn cute. They are smart too. First they ask for money. When they realize I won't give them that, they ask for chocolate. When they realize they aren't getting that they ask for shoes and school notebooks. When I say no, they start singing me sweet songs, usually about Jesus. At that point I usually cave in and get them something. I think they have me all figured out... I'm telling you, really smart kids.

I've been back to Mother Theresa's orphanage a few times to volunteer (changing, feeding and playing with the children) and that's also continued to be a good experience, but they don't allow any photos to be taken.

Friday I head to Goa for a relaxing weekend, just hanging out by myself on Palolem Beach and reading a good book. I can't believe I only have 3 weeks left! Dana and the Allens will be here soon and then we're off to explore the rest of India : )

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 1 of the Orphanage and Operation Banana

Sunday I volunteered at Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity Orphanage. It was pretty exhausting for me – both emotionally and physically. As soon as I arrived all of the kids needed their diapers and clothes changed. There was one other volunteer who said “Great! I have two kids. I’m a diaper expert”. I thought “Great! I have no idea what I’m doing. Well I guess this is free practice for the future”. Except that since they were using cloth rags as diapers, I didn't know how to tie them and their clothes and beds were soaked in urine.

There wasn’t exactly training, you just jump in and figure out what you can do to help. The kids were all mentally and physically handicapped, so we put them in wheelchairs and threw them a party with singing, balloons and cake. Some kids wanted to dance but their limbs have atrophied so I picked them up and carried them “dancing’ across the floor. One girl had a serious skin disease with open sores all over her body. Each day the nun has to prick open the sores, let all of the puss drain out and then apply 4 tubes of anti-bacterial ointment all over her body. Her skin is so delicate that she can’t even wear diapers or underwear – if you rub her too hard the skin just falls off.

Sister Claire Rose said that she hardly gets any volunteers and is greatly in need of them, so I think I’m going to try to restructure my last month here to wake up a bit earlier and spend 1 hour a day at the orphanage helping to get the children changed and fed each morning.

After that I kicked off day 1 of Operation Banana. The crowd was less “friendly” today and it quickly became a crazed mob with people fighting for the food. Luckily I had approached a group of children, so even though it got a little out-of-control I didn’t feel scared. I just felt sorry for the many people who approached me after I ran out, begging for food.

5 young, disheveled, yet incredibly adorable kids under the age of 9 followed me home for almost a mile. When they realized I wouldn’t give them the money or chocolate they wanted, they then asked for books and pencils for school. So I stopped and bought each of them a notebook, pencil and pencil sharpener (the cost to supply this for 3 children is just $1). They were so thankful and said “do you know Jesus?” I said that I did and asked if they were Christians. They said that their parents were Hindus but that they knew Jesus (and then they gave him a “thumbs up”). Then they asked me for food and shoes and told me they owned no shoes and just one (poorly-fitting, dirty) outfit each. At that point you could say they were being greedy since they kept asking for more, but how can you be mad at sweet children who are asking for basic food and a single pair of shoes (vs. xbox and a cell phone!). I told them I’d think about the shoes and I’d be back tomorrow with more bananas. There is so much need here that I struggle sometimes to decide whether to buy bananas, notebooks and pencils or shoes for the hundreds of impoverished kids that I see everyday. I suppose there is no right or wrong way to help, as long as we’re trusting God with whatever we have.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thank you for Hope and Healing

Auntie Haylee and Uncle Ryan,

I am Deepak - a 13 yr old boy who takes part in Oasis India's youth sports program. While playing soccer I had a bad fall and ended up with a massive fracture in my right thigh.

Because my family is very poor (my father is handicapped and my mother sells vegetables on the side of the road at the train station), they have not been able to afford the doctor's bill to have my bone set. As a result, I had to drop out of school one month ago due to my injury.

I can't thank you enough for funding the surgery that I need. I'm anxious to get well and get back to school!

May God continue to bless you and your family,

Operation Banana

Mandy Lozano kindly gave me some rupees before I left for India with a note saying “please make sure to use this for someone in need”. Thus, today I’m kicking off “Operation Banana” (a.k.a. my personal version of “Project Hope”). Every day I am planning to visit this community and bring them bananas.

For the hundreds of people that have to live, wash, cook (and even poo) on this public road, this fruit may be their only meal all day. Malnutrition is a huge issue in India. Mandy’s rupees will result in over 650 "meals". Thanks Mandy!

On a different note, I really feel like I’ve been getting “signs” lately that I’m supposed to return to work at Frito. Not that this was ever a big question in my mind, but you never know how experiences like this will alter your perspective. I felt it first in our day of Prayer on Friday, then Friday night I noticed some great product placement of our Baked! products in the movie “2012” and then Saturday I was watching a Cricket match on TV and Pepsi’s advertising was everywhere in the stadium. And when I flipped the channel it went to “Jaya” TV!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Celebrating Children’s Day

Friday our office had a full day of Prayer and Fasting. Afterward I saw the movie “2012” – an action-packed movie on the end of the earth. It had a great cast and was totally exhilarating. Even though it wasn’t the type of movie I typically watch, I really enjoyed it and recommend it if you’re in the mood for a real thrill! The movie theater at Garuda Mall was very nice and sold many types of food – from popcorn to pizza rolls to dim sung – but absolutely no candy! I guess the Milk Duds or Sour Patch Kids will have to wait : ) Again, the movie had an “intermission” which still makes me laugh, but the commercials were much better this time.

Halloween isn’t commonly celebrated here (yet), but in honor of “Children’s Day” the kids went to school on Friday in “Fancy Dress”. Fancy Dress is not what it sounds like (you imagine kids getting dressed up in nice clothes, right?). It’s essentially Halloween without the trick-or-treating. Nirell (the niece of the family I’m living with) went as a Princess. Looking totally adorable, she placed 3rd in her class’ costume contest. The best costumes in her class were a sunflower and an eagle.
Saturday was a GREAT day. First, my “host” family made me cinnamon crepes. They don’t use cinnamon in sweet/breakfast foods here (it’s more common on meat) so that was yet another sweet act of kindness since I had mentioned that we often cook breakfast with it in the US.

Then I visited one of Mother Theresa’s orphanages where they care for handicapped children and babies who are waiting for local adoptions. They were giving medical exams to some of the tiniest babies I’ve ever seen! A lot of children are given up for adoption here since even poor families will often continue to have babies until they have a boy. All of the kids were precious and I made arrangements to come back to volunteer.

Later I went to the office to write project plans for 7 new volunteers starting next week and complete a database where we will store electronic case files on all of the trafficking victims we rescue.

After that I went to McDonald’s to celebrate “Children’s Day” with a colleague’s family. The place was mobbed because they were giving out 6 toys with every happy meal! I really love the McVeggie meals here, but it will be nice to have a good cheeseburger once I get back home : )

Then I went watch the children in our slum community programs put on a skit in honor of “Children’s Day”. The skit was written to teach local youth groups about issues in these communities. The kids (ages 8-17) were all dressed up and looked adorable! They traveled across town to perform, only to find out that the program had been canceled. They were so disappointed so I ran to the store and picked up fancy cakes, chips and drinks and hosted an impromptu Children’s Day party in a nearby park. It was lots of fun!

On the way home I knew I would be walking by one of the poorest areas in town. I’ve always thought about bringing them fruit since I walk by this slum every day, but I’ve been too nervous about how people would react. Would they be insulted if I offered them food? Would they mob me and get violent? Would they ask for money instead? Who knew…. Anyhow, today I got up the nerve and bought a big bag of bananas. Some of the women saw me coming and before I had to even offer, there was a crowd around me. But it was an awesome, kind, loving and grateful crowd. Everyone went crazy for the bananas but then stopped to hug me or shake my hand after taking one. It was incredible. I promised to be back tomorrow, and I hope to be back every day after that.

I ran into one of the sweet girls in our vocational program standing outside her tent/home with her two young nephews. Many babies here don’t wear diapers (or anything other than a shirt and sometimes a hat) so you have to be cautious when you hold them. But they were super cute! I have developed such an incredibly deep love for the people here… it will be hard to say goodbye next month.

Oh, on the way home a man on the street approached me, took out his penis and showed it to me. It’s the first sexual harassment I’ve had, and I consider myself incredibly blessed. I’ve been so mentally prepared for this in fact that when it happened, all I could think was… well that will be an interesting story for the blog!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Visiting the Schools

Today I visited the new slum preschool. Another NGO built a beautiful new school building in one of the slum communities where we work, and they were kind enough to let us merge our preschool class with theirs. The kids sang me a sweet song and were PRECIOUS. I wanted to take home every single one of them. Here is a pic of one of the cutest girls I’ve ever seen in my life!

After that I visited the new computer training center that Oasis just started (also in this same slum community). The equipment was very nice and every seat in the place was packed with young women learning Excel, PowerPoint, Word and the internet. It was really impressive.
The people in these communities are so amazing and I feel incredibly re-energized every time I’m able to get out of the office and visit with them. On top of that, the Oasis workers who serve these people everyday (most of whom actually grew up in these communities) are truly remarkable. I am in awe of their positive attitudes and the impact they are able to make with such a small staff.

It’s hard to believe that there was a brutal murder of a 19-yr old boy in this slum last week, as well as horrific abuse that one man did to a 4-yr old girl (I won’t go into detail here). You know God is here when people can manage to find so much hope in a place where incredible danger lurks everyday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A big thank you!

Dear Aunties Elizabeth, Stephanie, Cayce and Lauren –

Today Christine visited us at the “Back to School” program and brought us your very special gifts. Boy did Christmas come early this year!

BTS is a program for young children who live in the slums and don’t currently go to school. Many of our parents are uneducated and don’t realize how important it is to send us to school. In other cases, our parents just can’t afford the ~$3 monthly cost to send us.

Although we are far behind where we should be in terms of our educational level, the BTS program teaches us how important it is to get an education, and now we are very willing to learn!

BTS gives us special tutoring everyday until we know enough of the basics and we are prepared to move into regular schools. Since we are currently practicing the English alphabet and numbers, the books you sent will be perfect to help us learn! And the puzzles, crayons and markers make our days a lot more fun.
Thanks for thinking of us. We love you!

Love, the girls and boys in the Back-To-School program

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wine and Egg Puffs

Karen and I attended another Overseas Women’s club Wine Pairings dinner and it was superb! We were very amused that it was at an Italian restaurant, hosted by a French chef, with Spanish wine. And the restaurant was inside a mall that really felt like Mexico. Quite a multicultural event!

Here are more interesting things I’ve learned this week:
- “(Sales) Revenue” is called “Turnover” here. People kept talking about “Turnover” and I was so confused as to what they meant.

- “Egg Puffs” are pretty fantastic. Egg puffs are essentially hard-boiled eggs cooked inside of a buttery croissant. They are tasty, cheap and filling!

- Indians are not used to having space and don’t have the same desire for privacy that we require in America. If you have 2 bedrooms and you invite an Indian to stay with you here, there is a good chance they’ll prefer to sleep in your bedroom, and quite possibly even share your bed. (My friends have some really funny stories about this). Many people in India have never really been alone, and as a result they are quite comfortable sharing very small spaces.

The Cow is Gone

Our cow was stolen this week. Yup, you read that right… our cow. We have a home for rescued girls (Potter’s Wheel) that until recently was also the home to a really great looking cow. Some thieves broke in, drugged the dogs and stole the cow. It’s a pity as the cow was big and healthy and will be expensive to replace. The home is in need of security wall to protect future cows (and girls). Thankfully, a church in Seattle may be providing funding for the wall in the near future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Gifts God has given us

Today I had a lot of fun leading a devotion with the young women in our vocational training program. We talked about God's grace, the gifts that God has given each of us, and how we can use those to serve others.

My Community Group back home in Dallas made me this awesome compilation of inspirational bible verses for my "quiet times" in India, and I was inspired to do this devotion from one of these verses (1 Peter 4:10):

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms”

Each girl was supposed to write down some of the gifts that she felt God had given her, along with an action plan on how she could use those gifts to help others in the next 30 days.

The devotion had to be translated due to the different languages everyone spoke, so not everyone understood exactly what we were trying to do (which was capture their "internal" or "personal" gifts). But everyone did understand the idea of thinking of the gifts God has given us. The girls said that their "greatest gift" was Karen and I spending time with them to teach them about the Lord. How wonderful is that? I almost started crying and barely could finish the devotion time.

Every day here is so incredibly precious....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Barry's Goodbye Dinner at Barbeque Nation

It was a fun evening of grill-your-own kabobs in celebration of Barry's time in India. Barry is the other volunteer here, and he leaves tomorrow to head back to California.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Bucks, Big Bucks, Big Bucks

Today we're working on writing grant proposals for the anti-human trafficking team. It is a great learning experience for me, and part of me wishes I had a copy of "Grant Writing for Dummies" to help me out!

On a different note, one of the amazing women in our vocational training program has asked me to pray for her. Her family of 5 currently shares a one room home that costs $20 a month. The landlord is upping the rent to $23 and the price is too steep for her family, so she must move and is praying to find a home she can afford. Can you imagine praying to find a home that you can afford that a) is one room for 5 people and b) costs $20? It's moments like these that really put things in perspective for me. And she's one of the "lucky" ones...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A beautiful day in Mysore

This Saturday I took a bus tour to Mysore. Mysore is known for its 8 beautiful palaces. You can't take photos inside the stunning palace, but here are some pictures of the grounds and nearby gardens. It was a terrific outting! I particularly liked seeing the monkeys in the temples.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I love surprises!

Here's a picture of me being "kidnapped" by Brenda and Karen for a surprise lunch at Olive Beach (a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant in Bangalore). Thanks for such a fun afternoon ladies!

In other great news, I found an English-language tutor for our undercover operatives through the OWC! They've asked for help in improving their English since sometimes language is a barrier when they go to get police support for a brothel raid. Sometimes the police won't meet with them and then the rescue can't happen. I'm so excited that I found someone! God bless volunteers! Ultimately, the time that this person invests in tutoring these men will ultimately ensure more girls are rescued in time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Clinton Foundation & Classical Music

Yesterday was yet ANOTHER school holiday. They happen almost every week here! This time they were celebrating the birthday of a poet. It amazes me that Indian children are so smart, because they seemed to be pulled out of school a lot!

This week I've been helping our Fair Trade business get ready for Christmas. We're finalizing our new brochures, printing banners to take to festivals, updating our tags, photographing our new items and planning inventory levels in order to achieve the profit we need. We've also started the LONG paperwork needed to complete our registration with the World Fair Trade Organization.

I also worked with the Anti-Human Trafficking team to identify their biggest team challenges so that we can come up with an action plan to address them. It looks like the biggest issues (which are likely common across many non-profits) are a lack of funding and people to get everything done. Actually, those are also Frito issues, so I guess they're common wherever you go!

One night I had the pleasure of attending an OWC Professional Women's Group wine event for the Clinton Foundation. I loved hearing their Indian CEO speak on their activities here and learned that they will be shifting their focus from HIV to Malnutrition (a much bigger issue here today).

Last night I attended a wonderful classical music concert and heard a trio of musicians from South African perform Beethoven, Mozart, etc. It brought back memories of my early days as a ballerina (since dance class always played classical music).

I'm already in my 7th week here and I can't believe how well it's gone thus far. Time is flying by, and I'm loving this experience. It's definitely met all of my expectations, and on top of that I've stayed safe and healthy.

I LOVE the team here and really enjoy spending time with all of my new friends. It will be sad to say goodbye in 5 weeks!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beautiful Surprise

My biggest concern about taking this sabbatical was how spending 3 months away from Dana would affect our marriage. But I have to say, it's been better than I could have ever imagined. We're able to talk almost everyday, and instead of feeling far apart, I feel like I did when we were dating! I get so excited to hear his voice. It's pretty awesome - and I give all the credit to God.

So in honor of my amazing husband, I wanted to post a "long-distance dedication" to him. This was sort of our theme song when we were dating in business school because I thought it captured my feelings so perfectly at the time. I love India Arie's music - this song is called "Beautiful Surprise".

It's like yesterday
I didn't even know your name
Now today
You're always on my mind
I never could have predicted that I feel this way
You are beautiful surprise
Intoxicated every time I hear your voice
You've got me on a natural high
It's almost like I didn't even have a choice
You are a beautiful surprise

Whatever it is you came to teach me
I am here to learn it cause
I believe that we are written in the stars
I don't know what the future holds
But I'm living in the moment
And I'm thankful for the man that you are, you are, you are
You are everything I ask for in my prayers
So I know my angels brought you to my life
Your energy is healing to my soul
You are a beautiful surprise
You are an inspiration to my life
You are the reason why I smile
You are a beautiful surprise

Monday, November 2, 2009

I LOVE Mahabalipuram!

I’m so glad I came here. While you only need 1 day to explore it, I highly recommend it to anyone traveling in India. There are more Westerners here than I’ve seen anywhere else, but I’m told there are even more in Goa. Surprisingly, none seem to be American however (they’re European).

I did some window shopping (the shopping here is better than other places I’ve been and the shopkeepers are very friendly) and then enjoyed a milk shake at Bob Marley CafĂ©, overlooking the beach and enjoying the relaxing breeze. No one “lays out” at the beach, but it’s fun to watch the children play and the fisherman in their colorful boats.

Afterwards I got my first ayurvetic massage. I actually don’t recommend that. It was sort of this oily mess. It smelled weird, incorporated a chest massage (that really tests how fast your reflexes are), didn’t include a top sheet (no room for modesty here) and gave me the heebie-jeebies because the table had the same type plastic tarp that I saw being used in the brothels! Still, I’m glad I tried it or else I would always wonder if it was good.

For dinner I splurged on awesome seafood at the “Blue Elephant” where I enjoyed the biggest, most amazing tiger prawns (shrimp) I’ve ever had – cooked in tomato, garlic and onion. (By splurge I mean $12, but this was double the cost of my quite comfortable room at the Siva Guest House). One funny thing was that I didn’t see beer on the menu (I’ve actually never seen it on the menu in India) so I ordered Diet Pepsi – which is RARE so I was happy to find it. When I saw everyone around me drinking beer, I finally realized (after 6 weeks in India) that just because beer is never on the menu doesn’t mean they don’t serve it. You just have to ask for it!

Later I moved to this cute, rooftop French place called “Le Yogi” that had cushions on the floor and colorful lanterns. There I had a delicious nutella and banana crepe and chai tea. Yum! It was a terrific place but it would have been even nicer had I not been traveling alone.

The next day I took a yoga class (on an open-air terrace overlooking a temple) and explored some of the famous rock carvings. This 1-day excursion was a wonderful treat!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Feasibility Studies & Fair Trade Conferences

This week I’ve been back on the road again continuing a “feasibility study” to explore if and how we should expand our anti-trafficking team to a new city. I met with partner NGOs (like International Justice Mission and Justice Ventures) to understand how widespread the problem of girls being trafficked for forced prostitution is in this area.

This weekend I attended a Fair Trade conference to learn more about how we can grow our fair-trade business (that benefits young women from slum communities). The conference was soooo different from what you would expect in the US.

First, the accommodations felt more like summer camp and had no towels, soap, toilet paper, blankets, etc. I am getting used to these things in budget hotels, but didn’t expect a conference to be like that! However, Dana would LOVE the fact that people are also as laid-back as they would be at summer camp – and often like to take off their flip flops and walk around barefoot (he hates shoes). This is perfectly acceptable here even at conferences and in restaurants!

Second, it was so unorganized. Talks would start and end hours after their scheduled time. It was really interesting to watch and observe the differences since the US is always so focused on efficiency.

Third, I once again found myself in breakout discussion groups where not everyone could communicate due to different languages. India has so many languages that it makes something like a conference very difficult because it’s almost impossible to find a common one that everyone in a room will speak! Almost all of the women who attended were actually Artisans, none of whom spoke English – so I was a little lonely! (Regardless, they all looked beautiful in their colorful saris) At times the speakers would use a language other than English as well, so I used this time to create my personal “Best Year Yet” goals for 2010! So all in all, it was still pretty productive : )

Two other things I found amusing were that one of the leaders was named “jayakumar” (the same as the previous Frito CMO). Also, the conference was kicked off on the 2nd day with these words of inspiration:
“Every day is a gift. Yesterday, be happy that we all learned something. If you didn’t learn something, be happy you weren’t sick. If you were sick, be happy you weren’t dead.”

Sunday I’m heading out for a little 1-day detour to explore a village called Mahabalipuram, which supposedly has sun, seafood and sand. It’s a World Heritage site that is famous for its ancient rock carvings. This is 1st excursion I’ve planned (and my first bus ride on my own), so I’m praying everything works out!