Welcome to my blog! I am so excited to have this back up and running so I can keep all of you up to date on my experiences in Ghana. I will be embarking on a 3 month internship in Accra with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) developing anti-child trafficking initiatives in schools around the city.

I hope you enjoy the blog! I will do my best to post regularly!

28 September, 2010

Village Adventures

Hello all! Life in Agartala is great. Recently, we celebrated Aja's 22nd birthday at a restaurant in the town, which reminded all of us of the Rainforest Cafe. The food was great as it was nice to have some new dishes. We couldn't completely leave our traditional meals behind so Mukta came with us!
About a week ago we accompanied Father Joe Paul to the small village of Radhanagar for a Sunday morning mass. After picking up Father Jilson at the Blessed Andre School, we
proceeded through the jungles and rice paddies. Father Joe Paul drove admirably, but even he couldn't defeat the slippery and dangerously soft mud that awaited us. After getting stuck once (we managed to free the car with the help of some local men),
we came across another, slightly larger, stretch of mud that the Fathers wisely decided to avoid. We went the remaining distance (only a few kilometers) on foot, which was beautiful thanks to the bright blue sky and unreal greens of the paddies. I had got some pretty nice shots of some workers tending the fields. Take a look!
We reached the village after a very steep and thankfully short hill. Father Joe Paul led us along a narrow path surrounded on either side by a steep drop into dense jungle below. We then came to a small building made of thatched bamboo, wooden posts, and sheets of metal for the roof. This was their church. It was one of the more spiritual moments of my life as we
approached it because even though their priest was over an hour late, not one person had left. The church was full; men, women, and children sitting in neat rows on the tarp covered dirt floor. We sat in the very back of the room and waited for mass to begin. The entire mass was in Coakboroak, the tribal language of the region, except for a few words such as "tax collector," which didn't quite translate, and "Americans," which was followed by a nod in our direction and the turning of every head. As the mass was difficult to follow, I used the time to reflect on our experience of the day and as a whole and to wave to all of the cute kids! I snapped a few pictures of them as well.
After mass had concluded, we were called up to the front of the church where we were greeted warmly with smiles and bouquets. We then proceeded into the village where we were taken into a traditional mud home and served lunch.
After our amazing day in Radhanagar, I hope to spend more visiting villages in the area and experiencing everything they have to offer.

14 September, 2010

Palaces and Temples and Teachers, Oh my!

I apologize for the length of time between my last post and this one. School has gotten much busier here as we have been given new classes to meet the demands of the Blessed Andre School. A quick fact: the Blessed Andre School will be changing its name in mid-October to the Saint Andre School when Blessed Brother Andre becomes officially canonized!
Keeping with the school theme, my classes are going very well. Working with such a wide age range (3rd to 12th grade) has proved to be challenging, but it also keeps you on your toes and guarantees that every day will be different than the last.
Recently, we had the opportunity to take a bit of a day trip to see a Hindu temple and a palace. The Sundari Temple is one of the 51 holiest ‘Shaktipeeths’ (Shrine of the goddess of power ) in India as per Hindu mythology. It is constructed just off the bank of a man-made lake where children and adults alike feed the hungry(and might I add frighteningly large) fish. The temple itself was very crowded as we visited on a religious holiday. We were able to make our way to the temples entrance and see the idol inside. While at the temple complex, you must remove your shoes as a sign of respect. Forgetting it was such a hot day, we complied and immediately found ourselves searching for any spot that the sun might have missed...no luck! Here is a picture of us at the temple...note three things in the photo 1. The beautiful temple in the background 2. The way we are standing to avoid burning the soles of our feet 3. How many people are staring at us!
In Agartala, we have noticed being stared at plenty of times...let's face it...it comes with the territory of being the only 4 white people in a city. When you leave Agartala and travel to some of the more remote areas of Tripura, you become even more of a curiosity!
From the temple we proceeded to a palace built in the middle of a lake called Neermahal, which translates to water palace. It was one of the more impressive things that I have seen in India so far. Once you arrive you have to purchase a ticket for the ferry that will take you across the lake.
The palace was built by King Bir Bikram Kishore Debbarman (quite a name!) from 1930 to 1938
and was intended to be a remote and peaceful escape from political life for the royal family of Tripura. I could immediately see the appeal of the chosen location. You have 360 degree water views with beautiful gardens and wildlife on property. I would imagine that in 1938 there weren't even any buildings within eyesight!

Aside from our small trip, we feel much more comfortable moving around the city of Agartala without escorts now and have hailed and ridden auto-rickshaws (here's a photo of one)
to and from various shops and markets in town.
We also celebrated Teachers Day here in India on the 4th of September. Not having grown up with this holiday, none of us were completely sure how big of a deal it was...let me assure you, it's a pretty big deal! Aja and I arrived at school to a warm reception and decorations throughout the hallways. We were then told to go and check on one of the 3rd grade classrooms. Upon arriving we were instructed to stand in the center of the room. The students cheered and laughed as the ceiling fans were turned on and confetti and glitter rained down on us! We were then presented with gifts, flowers, and homemade cards and drawings from the students. What a great holiday! To make the day even better we were then brought to the school hall where the students put on an impressive program for all the school's teachers. The acts ranged from dancing to singing to speeches and even one Michael Jackson impersonator! Here is a picture of Aja and I with our 3rd graders.
We are very much looking forward to our upcoming holiday in mid-October during which we will be heading north to Darjeeling. While there, we will be able to visit monasteries, tour tea plantations, and view the Himalayas including Mount Everest at sunrise! We are also in the midst of putting together an elaborate almost 40 day trip that will take us around entire country! More details on that to come.
Until then,