Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kolkata Runnings

The Little Brown OnesGoat on display (soon to be dinner)
Wash away all your sins on the Ganges (and get a few parasites in return)
Drive by shooting (pics that is) - 1
Drive by shooting (pics that is) - 2
Drive by shooting (pics that is) - 3
Bengali Sweets - Oh so tasty, yet so bad for you
I call it...Derelicte!
Margarette - the "other" Fellow
market days
Ravi in the Sky

Delhi - Scenery

Delhi at DuskHow do you say "squirrel" in Hindi?
Andy, Neil and the Lotus Temple

AIF Orientation - Delhi/Rajasthan - tiin (3)

One last hurrah! (normal)Dandia anyone?this is what happens when you spent too much time together
One last hurrah! (artistic like)
Waiting around (am I trying too hard? :-)
having way too much fun

AIF Orientation - Delhi/Rajasthan - Part Deux

Rajasthani Street-2

Rajasthanis Playing Cards

Storage Shed - Rajasthani Style

Riding the Jeep In Style

Camel, 'nuf said

AIF Orientation - Delhi/Rajasthan

Dressed-up Fellows Working the Embassy Reception
Bush's Cronie (a.k.a, the U.S. Embassadorto India)
Rural Rajasthani Street
Water Buffalo, chillin
Fellows at Breakfast - First Day

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Working in Kolkata

As if the AIF Orientation wasn't long enough, I've been on CINI orientation since 19 Sep and it's not due to end till 7 Oct! Luckily we will have 5 days of celebration (Durga Puja - I hear it's like Indian Mardi Gras if anyone wants to come visit) and then I officially start working on 13 Oct. Overall it's not so bad, but everything is starting to blend. As for work, I'm going to have a 2-part project for the coming year. 1) Work with the ARC to integrate HIV/AIDS activities into their already existing programs, 2) Help them write their 5 year strategic plan. Should be fun, and I'm looking forward to it.

The Adolescent Resource Center (the CINI division I will be working with) seems cool, at least the director and a few staff peeps def do. But there is one anal-retentive control freak woman, who does not let us do anything for ourselves. I've been dying to get a flat in the city (and today there was a gleamer of hope that it may happen by this weekend) because the dorm room in the village sucks and I really like being in the city.

Kolkata is cool. Def been having fun. There are some cool bars and clubs (some even open till 3-4am). A really cool pub that has live bands every night (Mondays is Latin Night! And the band ain't half bad - though watching the Indians trying to salsa made me sad). There is even a sketchy gay bar. Heat aside (and trust me it's hot!!) this place seems liveable. And I hear that there is even some sort of winter'esque season that last for a couple of months where it's less hot. So we shall see. I may survive after all.

That's the reader's digest version of life here. More when I have more consistent email access (prolly when I'm in the office full time)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For A Country Full of Computer Programmers, Why Can't I Find a Decent Internet Cafe

First off let me apologize for the long delay in chronicling my life in India. But it has been ages since I have gotten computer access (also sorry to those who have emailed me but I have not been able to reply to as of yet).

So I have been in Kolkata for a bit over a week now. And it has definitely been interesting, wet (is it ever going to stop raining!?), but fun nonetheless.

So after my ordeal getting to the CINI guest house. I learned that someone will be in in the morning (as in Tue. 13/Sep) to talk to me and start the orientation process. She arrived the in the morning and turned out she was really nice. We talked for a while as we waited for the other fellow to arrive, because she was coming in by train from Delhi. At this point is where I learn that this campus is the main HQ of CINI (where they started 30 years ago) and that I was in fact NOT in Calcutta, but in the district south of it (South 24 Parganas to be exact, in a town called Pailan). This was SO not part of the deal!!

After Margarette shows up (she had some drama of her own getting there) we head over to the office of the CINI Adolescent resource Center, where I'll be working. The ARC is IN the city proper, actually in a pretty area called Golpark. The sucky part is that it takes a freaking hour to get from Pailan Golpark! and that's if you hire a call. The cheap ass foundation only pays for an autorickshaw (which if I were to do that it would take 3 rickshaws and 2 hours, so not cute - no worries the appropriate authorities at the foundation have been contacted and they will be covering the extra expense of hiring a car, becuase there was no way in hell I was going to that that commute. Granted it would have been temporary becuase I already requested an apt in the city, more on that later.)

Point of this story (because I got bored of writing it) is that for the past week I've been in orientation for the agency and the projects. Their orientation period last 3 weeks (I finish on 7/Oct) and it includes observing/shadowing all the different department and projects of CINI, which is kinda cool, but very long. It also means that I wont start any real work until the 13/Oct, because 8-12/Oct is Durga Puja (for you non-desi folks, it's like Indian Mardi Gras in West Bengal). Anyway, I've spent most of my time in the villages around Calcutta and running around the city finalizing logistics and getting acclimated. Not having regular computer access sucks, till today i haven't had more than 10 uninterrupted emails at a time since i got here. And for the record internet cafes in this country suck. I haven't found a good convenient one yet :-P

Bottom line - I'm alive, but stilled unsettled.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


...sameer bilal shah are you trying to kill me!? i've been inquiring about these "gol guppas" that you want me to eat and from what i have gathered it sounds like something that will make my intestines fall out. for those of you uninitiated into indian streetfood, a gol guppa is a small hollow oval of the lightest pastry stuffed with potatoes then dipped into a fiery liquid sauce made of tamarind and cayenne and lemon and cold water that has been stagnating there for god knows how long with the vendor dipping his unwashed hands there constantly and who knows what other sort of roadside detritus has blow into it. it is evidently a food invented as a joke, in a moment of good humor, for those with iron stomachs or wishing to spend the rest of their life seating on the toilet.

thanks for the offer samee, but i'm sort of attached to my colon and have absolutely no interest in flushing it down an indian toilet (which has a whole separate set of issues!).

Ok, I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed

so i arrive in kolkata late sunday night, i get sent a driver that does not speak any english. i get in the car and we drive off, and we drive...and we drive...and we drive. for the first hour i was ok, this is pretty far. by hour number two i was like where the fuck is this dude taking me!? then when we pull into this country back alley, i was convinced that i had been kidnapped and my organs were going to be sold in the black market. then we pulled into the CINI guest house which is on grounds of the head quarters. driver gets out, says something that i can only assume means "why are you still seating in the car dumbass we are here" and point to a building, where again no one present speaks english either (to all my indian peeps - who was the mofo that said you can get away with english in kolkata!? you suck!!!) in my state of confusion, tiredness, and pissed-offness at being in buttfuck nowhere, i aimless wonder the driver following me. he knocks on some door, gets some keys and points me to a room. i'm like ok, this bites, but what are you going to do. i enter my skanky little room, throw myself on the bed and scream in pain cuz the bed is hard as a freaking rock (i actually think it was made of rocks, but i had no way of confirming) wishing for some hard liquor i dig for my ambien in a weak attempt to make this entire evening disappear. when someone knocks on my door (by mistake of course, but i'll take it). and by a miracle he speaks english! hooray i am saved. we chat for a minute, and he says that he is going to make some calls, talk to some people and he will be back (turns out that he works for CINI in the same office i will be working in) he brings the caretaker by and i find out that I am in the wrong room. they had prepared a room for me, freshly painted (with the fumes to prove it), and...are you ready for's on own bathroom!! i almost got ecstatic, but then remember that i was still in the middle of no where (i think somewhere near the crotch and bellybutton of west bengal). so we get the whole room situation squared away. i learn that someone from the office that i will be working in will come in the morning to get me and i smile and nod, thank them for the help. close the door and pull out the ambien again, wishing form something stronger.

that boys and girls was my first night in kolkata. let the good times roll!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A cool thing about globalization include...

...the fact that they were playing daddy yankee's runaway hit "la gasolina" at the quuer bar in delhi last night! How freaking radnom is that!? it was so cute seeing all these guys groove to reggeaton in india when they had no clue what the song was about 9sort of like me when i dancew to bhangra!!).

the most interesting aspect of the gay bar was that the non-existent lighting. it is impossible to measure the cute quotient of a place when you cant see what the peeps look like. i was told that they do that on purpose cuz the dudes are ugly. i dont know about that but raj was def a punjabi hottie that ended up hannging out with us.

something else i learned today is that being the loud mouth of the class has it's drawbacks. i was SO not in the mood for another stupid lecture yesterday so i went to my room to sleep (the nap was totally worth it), but EVERYONE noticed. the program coordinator was asking me where i was yesterday, she said that a "presence" like mine is definitely noticed when absent :-P

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Shout out to September Birthdays!

Khushie Birthday!!! (that's as close as I can get to happy birthday in hindi :-P) to:

My Mum
Tony Vincent
Sue Kelly
and Laura Deeb

Sorry I'm not there to celebrate with you. Will be thinking of you!

Lots of love,

The Dichotomy of Development

we have spent the past two days on field visits to NGO's that work in the slums of delhi on issues ranging from health to education. though delhi slums are not like i would imagine (they are more equivelant to "projects" in urban areaaas of the US, than the shanty-towns we would picture at first), they certainly help to put one's life in perspective and to be grateful for what we have. it always fascinates me how we delude oursleves in thinking that we can really make a difference. we are but band-aids on the bigger problems.

but on th eother side of "development" is that fact that even though we as a class of fellows trying to survive on an indian salary (which aint that much) are hitting the bars tonight. we dont have to worry about puttin gfood on the table for our kids or wonder if we will be able to get work tomorrow. we will never know what it feels like to live that life day-to-day. but i for one dont feel guilty about the priviliges that i have had. i am grateful and know how fleeting power and privilage is, but in the same token i would revel in it's comforts while i can. would any of the people in the slums turn down the opportunity if they had the access to it?

Monday, September 05, 2005

it's so hard to look cute...

...when it's 500 degrees outside (ok, it's really only 104, but you try to tell the difference!) and then the dust gets all stuck to you...ugh...anyway. it's all for the cause right!? :-P the orientation still sucks and i'm finding it harder and harder to continue to pay attention. but only a few more days left.


so i learned yesterday that some good things do come out of globalization. i spent the afternoon with Neil, a friend from Tallahassee (as in FL) who I had not seen in a couple of years and who co-incidentally was in Delhi at the same time as me on a State Department thing on Social Work and HIV. Who would have though that when we met in in Tallahassee 9 years ago that we would be having dinner in Delhi!? :-P

Friday, September 02, 2005

it's so bloody hot here!!

so i'm convinced i'm going to die from either heat exhaustion or boredom. today we spent the better part of the day "discussing" what development means to us. i thought we should have done an interpretive dance about it. luckily a few of the other fellows are just as sarcastic as me. but apparently i'm not as shy and quiet as i thought i was cuz i'm already startin to get a reputation for being the loud mouth :-) it's all good. i'm comfortable in that roll. today one of the fellows called me the godfather cuz i had peeps coming to me and asking me questions and bringing me food and water and stuff. not bad for being only my second day here ;-)

i'm dying to post some pics, i'm bound and determined to find a comp where i can.

still missing everyone! when are y'all going to come visit!?!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I've made it to India!

omg! i arrived last night exhausted, but non-the worse for wear. delhi is so freakin HOT!! :-p the orientation for this fellowship started today, it's kinda hokey, but some of the other fellows seem like they could be cool. let's see. i have some pics to post, but this comp is 700 years old and doesnt have a USB port. i'll try to put some up as soon as i can. i'm really missing everyone