Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One of these things is not like the others...

Periodically groups of women from nearby villages come to visit the Bal Ashram. On one occasion, I noticed that they were all staring at me as they walked past where I was sitting studying, so I got up and approached them to say "namaste" (hello). They thought it was soo cool that I was actually speaking to them--they all swarmed me and wanted to shake my hand. After I had exhausted all the Hindi I knew, we just kinda stared at eachother. Then I pulled out my camera to take a photo and they went crazy! Indian women either love to have their photo taken, or they cover their face with their shawl and shy away from the camera. These women were not shy! as soon as the photo was taken, they all grabbed for the camera and fought with eachother to see the picture...I just stood back and giggled:)

First glimpse of the Taj Mahal

It's not a zit...really.

Here are my souvenirs from my night at the Ghats: A bindi dot and some red string around my wrist. Still not sure what the significance of each is. I'll have to do some research. Oh, and the walls in Varanasi are covered with murals, paintings, and advertisements--a super colorful place!

Bathing in the Ganges

Ganga (Ganges) River

The Taj Mahal!

I think I kinda look like a sister missionary in this photo. ha.

Monday, September 17, 2007

pictures worth a thousand words

so, you'd probably rather be looking at photos than reading these long posts. well, to be honest, id rather be posting photos than writing these posts, but alas, Indian computers have been somewhat at odds with me the last couple of times i've tried to post pictures. I'll put photos of the amazingly stunning Taj MaMahal, the bathing ghats of the Ganges River, some of the other awesome forts in India, as well as the local life of the village where I live. So, check back later. Until then you'll have to actually read something.
Life in the village is very simple. Children tail me everywhere I go trying to see the digital photos I take. And I love to see the surprised look on peoples faces when I stop to practice my limited Hindi with them--they think it's so great that I can even say Namaste (hello). Camels pull carts through the narrow streets, and often traffic jams occur when a rickshaw, camel cart, bus, car, and scooters all try to pass eachother at the same time. I teach a group of 10-12 year old boys for about three hours each day, have hindi lessons for about one hour each day, play with the kids, do meditation with them, help in the kitchen, and use the rest of my time to do basically whatever I want.
The past few days I've been away from the Bal Ashram (center for the boys) visiting Agra and Varanasi. The trips on buses, trains, and rickshaws have been crazy long, but it's been worth it! I can hardly describe how amazingly awesome the Taj Mahal was! I could have stayed there all day just looking at it--definitly qualifies as one of the great wonders of the world! Varanasi has been interesting. I didn't think I liked it much at first, but then being there at the Ghats with thousands of devoted Hindus last night was an unforgetable experience.
Hopefully I can find a computer that will let me upload photos soon--a picture is worth a thousand words!


Last night I did Puja (offering) on the Ghats of the Ganges River. A little girl led me through the crowds of pilgrims to a "Brahman" priest who chanted something in Hindi, tied some red string around my wrist, put a red bindi dot on my forehead, then gave me some sort of blessing. And for all that he only wanted a small donation of 500 Rupees:) Sounds a bit like priestcraft if you ask me:) Okay, really though, being here in Varanasi has been amazing! The shop keepers, hotel owners, rickshaw drivers, and even the beggars are more aggressive here, but to see the puja rituals is soo cool. Thousands of people come here every day and night to bathe in the "sacred" waters of this river. Across the river from the balcony of my guest house room, I can see funeral pires--I think the Hindu people believe that if you are cremated and your ashes are spread over the waters of the Ganges River, you're automatically guaranteed moksha (release from the chain of reencarnation--like eternal life or nirvana).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

At the Bal Ashram

Bal Ashram Boys

It's hard to believe that these boys were once exploited child laborers rescued off the streets of India and Nepal. Here we sit in front of the small library at Bal Ashram (the rehabilitation center) where we hold class for three hours each day.