Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fabulous Flavorful Food

In honor of thanksgiving, I thought I'd blog about the food I've been enjoying here. You'd think it would make sense to blog about thanksgiving, but that will have to come later. First of all, let me just say the food here is delicious. I really have enjoyed tasting all the delicious flavors, but that is only one side to the experience of food in india. First of all, preparation of food can be pretty intense. Most meals include rice, so they cook a lot of it!
Eating at RSO with the kids is so fun. The kids eat with their "families" and each family gets a big pot of the days meal. The kids spread out on the dining hall floor and line up to get their food.
We then sit on the floor, and eat with our hands!

The girls taught me how to eat with my hands. There's a very particular technique apparently, and they liked to give my lots of advice on how to do it properly. And of course I'm not allowed to eat with my left hand because that's improper. This is Gracylydia. We have the same birthday!

My favorite lunch that they serve is served on thursday (we have the same menu every week). It's a buttermilk sauce with okra and a potato dish with lots of yummy spices over rice. Delicious!
One of my favorite dinners is friday night. Chapoti night! Chapoti are pancake like bread that you tear into small pieces and use to scoop a sauce to eat.
This is the yummy chapoti sauce.
My other favorite dinner is Idly. Idly is this weird spongey bread-like disk that is dipped in different chutneys. I'm not sure what the orange one is made of but it is delicious. The white one is a coconut base and its amazing, and the red one is a beet base.
Traditionally, meals are eaten on banana leaves instead of plates. It's pretty fun and really easy to clean up when you're done eating. This dish picture below is parota. It's kind of like the fast food of india. We get it when we're out driving, and its so deliciously greasy. The sauce you dip it in is delicious (a lot of spice that I can not identify)
This is the wedding meal we ate last weekend. (i'll blog about the wedding later).
I've also had home made chips. They had a spicey chili powder on them. That was a fun experience.
But every once and awhile, its nice to have some good old american food. So often in the morning I'll make myself some oatmeal.
And from time to time the volunteers will make up some american dish that we don't get very often, like pasta with alfredo sauce, or tomato sauce or omelets.
Needless to say our very american thanksgiving dinner we had to day was amazing, and I look forward to blogging about that soon. It was delicious, and the whole day was a joyful wonderful experience. Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm so grateful to be here in India, and I'm so grateful that I have the chance to share it with all of you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Nickname

I have a new nickname. I am fondly called, "Diana monkey." One of the first weeks I was here, some of the kids started calling me Diana Monkey and I had no idea why. I tried to ask, and from what I gathered I learned that there's a book in the school library with a monkey named Diana in it. Eventually I got one of the kids to show me the book. Turns out, it's a book about monkeys, and there is a kind of monkey called a Diana Monkey. Here's the proof:
I've grown quite fond of my new nickname. I melt a little bit inside everytime I hear Gokulraj call out, "Diana Monkey, where is your buffalo?" According to Gokul, buffalo is Anne, the other dance volunteer here at RSO. I still haven't figure out why he refers to he as "my buffalo." A mystery still to be solved.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The wild side of India (4 legged creatures and such)

I know I'm way over do on blog posts, so I'll try my best to catch up. Life is getting quite busy, and I've gotten to the point where I very much feel a part of life here at Rising Star. I'm getting used to expecting the unexpected, getting bombarded by adorable, energetic and loving children all hours of the day, and seeing a ridiculous assortment of animals wherever I go. Just here at Rising Star, we have 2 ducklings, 3 kittens, 2 dogs, 6 parakeets (or so), 2 love birds, 2 cockatoos, many fish, a lamb and then on any given day I may also run into a variety of bugs, frogs, toads and insects. Let me introduce you to some of the furry, feathery and scaly friends I've made since I've been here.

The three kittens (yet to be named). They were found right outside RSO campus, and some of the boys here rescued them. They are currently living in Lyndsey's (volunteer director) room. They are the cutest things you'll ever see.

Here's Monica. She's the sweetest most lovable dog. There is also Monicum (apprently that's a Tamil word), but he's not a huge fan of people right now.

The cute ducklings.

Our love birds.

Children beside the bird cage, where the parakeets live and the fish tank, where some aggressive fish poked out the eyes of some of the other fish. The blind fish now live over in the volunteer house.

One of the many toads I've seen sine I've been here. (they're everwhere). Rumor has it we might try to capture some of them to do toad races. We'll see....

The huge spider that nightly made webs outside of the green house. We fondly named her Charlotte. Sadly (or not so sadly), we haven't seen her for the last couple of days.

The other day we saw this Cobra, one of the many venomous snakes that live here in India. Snakes are one of the bigger concerns, and at night we only walk on lit paths. If we come across a snake, we call Jim or John, and they come kill the venomous snakes.

Outside of Rising Star, we encounter many animals as well. For example, the other day in Chengalpattu, we came across some pigs rooting through some garbage in the street.

While out and about, you also may come across monkeys, or one very fat monkey, like this one here.

Or these cute little guys.

Cows, of course are everywhere. They are in the country, in the villages, in the city. In people's front yards, tied to lamp posts, crossing the street, pulling wagons.... Everywhere! I found this bull rather interesting.....

Then aside from all the animals out in the wild, I also got to go to the Chennai zoo. Then it got even more interesting. While at the zoo, we rode around in this awesome golf cart, and checked out all the wildlife, such as this Gar. (check out those muscles)
and this Bengal Tiger.
And these white tigers.
In case you were wondering, not all the wildlife at the zoo is in cages. The sign says "beware of free ranging deer, snakes, etc." Kinda makes you wonder what the "etc." is.

Also saw the snake house, which really freaked me out, because I realized that I might run into any number of snakes in the wild while I'm here, but I also saw this cute chameleon. Not quite as scary.

And why not a picture of one more cow, for good measure. (I've literally seen hundreds since I've been here).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sights of India

So I would have posted this on Monday, but our internet went out and has been down for over 2 days! Crazy huh. So here's this random post. Enjoy!

I see a lot of random stuff in India, and I thought I'd share some of those with you. Granted the first one isn't random. It's my foot. There is a lot of henna in India, and it's fun to do. One of the volunteers who's here right now, Holly, is an artist, and she did this awesome henna on my foot. This was done awhile ago, and its still on my foot. Isn't it beautiful!
At RSO there are lots of different trees, we have a mango grove and lots of coconut trees, so while walking around campus it's not surprising to walk past a large pile of coconuts.
The kids play on this playground whenever they have free time, but apparently they also use it as as a clothes drying rack.
So the awful driving is well known in India, and honestly its not as bad as I was expecting, but there are still a lot of crazy things that happen on the road. One thing that's really interesting though is the buses. They are so colorful and usually have random things written on them. I'll try to find more pictures of the random things I see when we're driving.
Here's another example. You'll see a lot of random things being hauled down the road: cows, for example.
Also, there are lots of things in disrepair.
In Pondicherry, bikes are apparently a common form of transportation.
And there are also very scary looking mannequins.
There are plenty of street vendors and there set up usually looks something like this.
And it is not uncommon to see shrines anywhere and everywhere.

Life Dance Performance

Today is the Muslim holiday Eid-ul-Adha, so the kids don't have school. That means I get to catch up a bit on my blogging. This holiday celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. The purpose of the celebration is to remember one's own submission and willingness to sacrifice to God. Traditionally for the celebration people sacrifice a sheep, and eat the meet and then share gifts with friends and family. That's not happening here at RSO though, so I get the day off to relax and catch up on things.

On Friday night, the Life Dance Troupe that meets every day after school had their first performance. There's a small group of short term volunteers that are leaving soon, and Rising Star wanted them to see a performance before they left. For the couple weeks the kids have been working really hard to get ready for the performance. It's been great working with the kids and sharing their excitement for the big day. This is how we all felt before the performance started.

Anne has been working hard for the six weeks before I got here, and these kids look amazing. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to work with her for the next 2 months.
C. Vignesh, Arun, Anne and I being gansta.
Check out these cool PS t-shirts that they wear to perform!
The kids ready to perform.
The audience
After the performance the kids did some free styling and we had a dance party with the audience. It was so fun and so exciting. Throughout the whole performance I was just grinning from ear to ear. These kids are so great, they work so hard, and you can see the joy on their faces when they dance. They really love it.
I'm so glad that I have the opportunity to be here to work with these amazing kids.