Sunday, May 24, 2009


Viji is the house mother at the NGO where I am volunteering. As the house mother she cooks, does laundry and generally takes care of the interns and volunteers. When I first met Viji I assumed she was about my age, she's a short (at most 4'9") Tamil woman with a high-pitched voice who does a constant shuffle/run around the house and who talks in the 3rd person at times in what I would call "Indian English." At some point I met her 18 year old daughter and realized that she must be much older than I thought. Though she can be very tough at times she is very sweet and She refers to me as "boy" a lot as I'm the only boy in the house right now. Our interactions can generally be summarized by our second ever interaction.

Bobby: "Oh hi Viji how are you?"

Viji: "Boy, what you are doing?"

Bobby: "Oh I'm just hand washing my laundry- I only brought a few shirts and I..."


Bobby: "Oh I know I just...."

Viji: "Boy no do laundry I do laundry!"

Bobby: "Yes, sorry Viji I just needed...."

Viji: "Boy you no do laundry I do laundry!"

Bobby: (defeated)"Yes Viji"

She also loves to feed people to the point where they are beyond full. Which I experience on a daily basis with interactions like this.

Bobby: "Thanks for the dosas Viji they're quite good. I think this'll be enough though, seriously this time I've had six now which is too many."

Viji: "Boy you eating one more I making for you."

Bobby: "Really, this is more than enough I'm very full."

Viji: "Boy Viji just making 1 more you are eating."

Bobby: "Alright Viji, just one."

She slides two large dosas onto my plate.

Bobby: "Viji I said one!"

Viji: "Boy you are eating dosas I am making."

I have been hand washing my clothes when she's not around because I only have 2 shirts that I wear to the boys' home and I need to wash them everyday but it's not enough to justify a whole load of laundry. She has caught me several times and always yells about "you no hand washing laundry!" She caught me haning my laundry this morning and picked up the lid to a bucket and held it over her head like she was going to beat me with it and said:

Viji: "Boy you hand washing laundry! Viji telling you four times no hand washing laundry but you still hand washing laundry!"

At this point I couldn't keep a straight face and laughed as I tried, without much success to blame it on a co-worker.

Bobby: "No, Veena hand washing laundry."

Viji: "Veena hand washing boy's laundry?"

Bobby: "Yes Viji."

Viji: "Veena no handwashing laundry! Viji asking Veena when she wakes up!"

So I'm still fine now because she hasn't asked Veena yet but if I don't post again in the next two weeks you can assume I was beaten by the world's shortest 38 year old with the lid to a bucket.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Don't have much time so this post will be brief. Went to Mysore this weekend. 3.5 hour bus ride on a very hot bus with no shock absorbers (81 rupees though- under $2.) Had lunch at an awesome hotel called the Parklane. Butter chicken is very good. We went to the palace and walked around until it started raining and we came back. The ride back included being stopped for a while because of cows sitting in the road.

Other than that everything is fine. Sorry for the short post it's just the mosquitoes are killing me and I'm tired.

Take care!

Friday, May 15, 2009

1 week down- 11 to go

Though I've only been in India one week I have enough stories for a whole summer. I've gone through a bit of culture shock, especially earlier in the week when strangers seemed really pushy and sweaty people climb all over each other on overcrowded buses. I'm normally one to avoid touching and bumping into strangers, especially of the sweaty variety, but eventually caved in to the inevitable. I'm looking forward to Sunday when I will be traveling to Mysore to see the night lights.
I volunteer with an NGO called Peace Child India. It's been a great experience so far. I volunteer with two other Americans and several locals at a government run boys home. Though I see many sad things on a daily basis (guards using whips on them, children crippled by polio and other preventable diseases, one boy who's eyes are cut out, etc.) I also enjoy the simple pleasures we are able to bring into their lives by playing with them and teaching them basic skills. Many of these boys are not much different from kids in America. We took them to the park on Wednesday to ride a train and a boat. There wasn't enough room on the boat so I stayed on land with one of the local volunteers who can't swim. While we were sitting there, a Muslim family came up and asked me to take pictures with them. First it was just one guy with a baby but then he kept calling people over and by the end I had taken pictures with 6 or 7 different groups. After they left a family came over and stared at me. Finally they whispered things to a boy who was about 5 and he came over and talked to me in English a little bit. He asked me to shake his hand and when I did, they all laughed and flocked over to awkwardly shake my hand without saying anything and then run away smiling and shouting things in Kannada to one another. I get pseudo-celebrity treatment in Bangalore with many people staring at me wherever I go. I've also been asked if Paige, the only other white volunteer in our group, is my mom many times despite the fact that we look nothing alike.
Though I've only just hit the tip of the iceberg as far as stories so far I have to go eat lunch. I'll try to update again soon- I have interesting stories about waiters, laundry and an 8-legged creature about the size of my hand. All is well and I hope the same is true of anyone reading this. Take care!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Safe and Sound

I'm safe and sound in Bangalore. My Tuesday started at 6 a.m. when I got up to catch the 7:20 Martz bus from Scranton to the Port authority in NYC. When I arrived at the PA I caught a shuttle to Newark airport, arriving around 11:30 a.m. Waited until around 8 p.m. for my flight to Delhi which arrived in Delhi around 9 p.m. Indian time. I spent the night at the airport where I met this really nice guy named Lovleet who I talked to until about 4 a.m. when I left to find my terminal for my 6:30 a.m. flight to Bangalore. I should mention that this is where I made my first food purchase in India. I bought a chicken snacker from KFC which was basically the same as an American one except they put carrots on the sandwhich. Carrots on a sandwhich. The flight was only two hours or so and landed in Bangalore and was picked up by a guy who works for the organization where I am volunteering. Nothing could have prepared me for the ride from the airport to the house where I am staying. The two-hour long trip was punctuated by smog, speeding, beeping like crazy, rickshaws, tractors and cows in the middle of intersections. I arrived at PeaceChild, briefly met one of the organizers, showered and went to sleep until today. I'm going to write a more extensive post once I have more time.
Hope all is well with everyone! Also, I am unable to log into gchat for some reason so I don't know if I'll be able to anytime soon. :-(

Monday, May 4, 2009

My final adieu to the States and adventures with haircutting

It's now the eve of my departure and excitement is running through my body like bulls in Pamplona. Saturday my dad and I drove from Ann Arbor back to Scranton and we've been preparing for my departure ever since. My tentative plan is to catch the 7:20 a.m. Martz bus from Scranton to the Port Authority in New York City were I'll catch the New Jersey Transit bus (thanks for the tip Aissatou!) to Newark Airport in Newark, New Jersey. My flight (Continental on a Boeing 777) departs at 8:25 p.m. tomorrow night and arrives in Delhi 14.5 hours and 7,305 miles (11,756 km) later. I then have a 10.5 hour layover before my flight from Delhi to Bangalore. Once I'm in Bangalore I should be picked up by a driver who will take me to Peace Child, the organization I'm volunteering with for a month. Because of the time change and the travel distance I will be leaving Tuesday night but not arriving until Thursday morning. The adventure begins!
I also decided to to do away with the majority of my hair since I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to shower or how clean hotels and hostels will be there. I bought a buzzer for $9 at Wal-Mart and enlisted the help of my neighbor Cade to do the dirty work. We decided originally to take it down to a "1" with the clippers (which is pretty darn short for those of you who don't know) but once it was there I decided to "go big or go home" and take it down with no gaurd on the clippers. I've included some before shots, after shots and action pics below.

Relatively normal me, pre-shaving.

Sporting a solid look.

Action shot! Thanks again Cade.

Half-way there.

I wanted to leave it half-done but my sister wouldn't let me :-(

Pretty solid hack-job at this point.
The finished product is above ^
I decided to include these pictures not only because of the haircut but also to have a record of how pale I was before leaving. Two lessons came from this experience. One is that the sun probably hasn't touched my scalp, ever. The other is that from the side with no hair I have a very Mars Attacks-like head.
For now it's off to bed- if I don't get up early enough tomorrow there's a pretty good chance I won't get to update until at least Friday, probably later. So long for now see you in Bangalore!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Website Launching

Greetings readers! Today is my last day of work for the school year and since the phones are quiet I decided to create a travel blog for my adventures in India. My plane departs out of Newark on Tuesday, May 5th for Bangalore by way of Delhi and I will be returning to the States on July 22nd. I don't know what internet availability will be like throughout my trip so I can't make any promises as far as posting frequency but I will be sure to keep you abreast of any major developments or interesting happenings. I'm going to play around with the basic layout/settings since I've never done anything blog-like before but once I figure out what I'm doing I'll post my tentative itinereary. Take care until then!