Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nov 28: Weekend trip to Udaipur, outreach work, village visits and finishing up our project

Days 8 & 9

The last two days before the weekend were spent mostly at our village construction site, we got most of the brickwork done and began plastering the walls. There was a tour of the village school and lots of Chai:) On Friday afternoon we had lunch with our translators and drivers where we planned out the next week before leaving for Udaipur. When we arrived in Udaipur we checked into the hotel and some of us went to a traditional Indian dance show while others hung out at the hotel and shopped. We all met for dinner on the rooftop patio which was amazing with beautiful views of the lake.

Our weekend in Udaipur

Over the weekend we all split up and did our own things for the most part. Saturday morning a group of us woke up early and went on a tour of the City Palace. It was a huge palace complete with an old elephant fighting arena (pretty much like tug of war only with the elephant's trunks instead of rope) The City Palace can be rented out for weddings for the super rich, the outside courtyard alone is 30,000 CDN for the night before decorations!!
After the City Palace we went to the Jagdish Temple, which was completely packed so we only did a short lap and got some pictures. On our journey back towards the hotel our walk was interrupted by a rude pigeon that decided to crap on my head:( After some wet naps and a hot shower, we hit the market for some shopping! We slowly learned how to haggle and shopped until the stores closed down for the night.
All day Sunday was spent shopping by everyone before a big Muslim festival shut down the city. Then it was time to Journey back to our temporary home in Rajsamand.

Day 11 (Monday)

Monday morning our group went to the Rajsamand Jatan office where we sat in on a Legal Day. They have a program to help laborers with issues such as abuse on the job site, non-payment, or any other workplace related issues. We met some people with issues with non-payment from their employer. One guy was owed 3500 rupees from 1.5 years ago, and and another hadn't been paid in 2 years!
They have 2 Jatan workers and 3 lawyers who meet monthly to address issues employees have. They try to arrange a meeting with the employer and employee together to mediate and try to come up with a solution. Each are given three chances to show up to these meetings before they are issued a notice for court, where the courts will make the final decisions.
After lunch we returned to the job site to do some cement mixing and bricklaying in the last leech pit. After finishing all the bricklaying we returned to our hotel.


Tuesday we were all together as a group to do some touring. We were told we had to be at the jail by 10AM sharp. We arrived at 9:50AM and sat around waiting patiently until 11:15AM when they told us we would not be allowed in for a tour:( Some say it was because something happened inside while others say that they thought we were from the village "Kanaka" and not the country Canada! We were brought to the women's holding cells/resource center instead. Jatan has 2 workers who will work with female offenders or ladies fleeing from or reporting abuse. It was a very cool multipurpose centre that combats violence against women and gives them a safe place to report abuse. Next we were off to the village of Piplantri ( Piplantri is the model village. It has a population of 5000 people and every home has a toilet, electricity and internet access, there are no diseases and no crime.  It's been a long project from a rich marble mine owner who is the village's mayor. They have planted 25 million trees and 250,000 aloe vera plants around the town. It was refreshing to see that a cleaner more disease free India is possible.

Day 13

In the morning we went back to our village and did the finishing touches on our child friendly toilets.We installed the slate roof, covered the leech pits with slate slabs and cement and put the door on:) In the afternoon we went to a village where Jatan is doing a campaign trying to stop violence against women. We got to put up posters and paint slogans on the walls all over the village. We attended the bi-monthly meeting of women and men who wanted to show support for the campaign. Over 100 people showed up and after a short speech in Hindi we grabbed posters and did a march of the village while everyone chanted. It was powerful to see so many women hungry for equality. We said our goodbyes (repeatedly to the children who didn't want us to leave) and made the 2 hour trek back to our hotel. Tomorrow we will be doing a couple more tours in the morning and the afternoon will be sad goodbyes to our villages, and to the Jatan workers who have been so wonderful and welcoming to us.

Talk to you soon!

Kyra Demski
DWC Participant
India, November 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22: First day on the job

Day 6

We all woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel before our work day began. Breakfast usually consists of toasted tomato and cucumber sandwiches or toast with jam. This is because the restaurant at our hotel is all vegetarian, in fact almost the entire region is vegetarian or vegan.

We then broke into our 3 groups and all went to our different villages to begin construction. Our group consists of Josh, Kyra, Edith, Larry and Pam. The village we are working in is Vagdula, we went straight to the preschool and were greeted with chai and got to meet the children. There were 19 girls and boys under the age of 5. At first the children were scared when they saw us, a few even cried and our translator told us we were the first white people they have ever seen!

We had bindi dots placed on our foreheads and had pieces of string tied on our right wrists as a blessing for the work site. We were shown the outlines of where we were to dig and got right to work. The tools we used were a pick axe, bowls for moving sand and 2 shovels (they look like garden hoes but with a bigger base).

After digging for a while we had a break for chai and got to speak to some locals through a translator.They asked us what our occupations were back home and we learned that they were farmers, they grow wheat, peanuts and grains, After that it was back to digging until lunch.

After we had lunch we got to sit in the preschool with the children and sang songs for them (twinkle twinkle little star and itsy bitsy spider) some started to smile and follow our actions but others were still unsure.

We worked until 5 and got almost all of our holes dug, there is a U shaped trench right up against the preschool building where the walls around the squatter toilet will be and 2 round leech pit holes where all of the waste will go.

That evening we were brought to Rajsamand lake, where we were shown an old marble staircase that had to be 400 feet wide and 40 feet tall with amazing marble sculptures and columns placed throughout. We were told it took 3 generations to build! After that it was back to our hotel for dinner and we all packed it in early after our tiring first day.

Day 7 

When we reached the work site in the morning, it was straight to work making cement and soaking bricks. The cement was mixed on the ground with our shovels and consisted of sand, water and a powdered cement mixture. We had a mason working with us who did the measurements and instructed us to make sure everything was square. 

At lunch time, we were invited to a local's house for lunch, we were seated on the floor on straw mats and she served us rice, naan, Dal (kind of like a lentil soup) and a dessert that looked like a timbit but was way sweeter. We have been amazed by how welcomed we are by everyone in the village and everyday new people from the village stop by the work site to watch the process and say hello. We have had lots of laughs and are very humbled by their lifestyle, seeing how people live here and how happy they are with what we would call nothing is so eye opening and we are so grateful for this opportunity.

Tonight we are looking forward to connecting with the other groups here and reflecting on the last couple days.
Talk to you soon!
Josh & Kyra
DWC Participants
India, November 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nov 19: Our arrival in Delhi, the Taj Mahal and our project orientation

Day 1

We arrived at the Vancouver airport and found out that our flight was delayed by two hours which resulted in us missing our British Airways connection in London, so instead they put all of us on an Air India flight to Delhi.

Day 2

We made it to Delhi! After 16 hours in flying time and 6 hours in layovers. Thankfully everyone has a good sense of humor about everything, as it was a marathon of a trip. We all arrived safely in the Delhi Airport minus Larry's bags, after he went to go to find out about his bags there was a miscommunication and we lost Larry! After finding Larry and finally getting to our hotel we were 7 hours behind schedule. Unfortunately this cut into site seeing time in Delhi, so our guide Paul did his best to show us some highlights of the city until we were all so exhausted. Processing this giant city boggled our minds. Some were so tired in fact that they fell asleep at the dinner table in the restaurant!

Driving around in our tour bus in Delhi was an adventure all on it's own. Delhi driving is like being inside a pinball machine that has 100 pinballs going at once and their all honking at each other constantly. The sights we saw that night included going inside a beautiful Sikh temple, checking out the local food bank that feeds 10,000 people daily, driving past the area where all the embassy's are located and seeing Qutub Minar which was a very tall tower built entirely by hand.

Day 3

We woke up bright and early to make a day trip to Agra. First we went to the Taj Mahal, which was an amazing experience and for us personally was the most amazing thing we have ever seen! The sheer size of it and the amount of work it took is unbelievable. All the marble had to come from Rajasthan by elephant and was chiseled by hand.

Next we went to the Red Fort, which was also an amazing site to see. It's an ancient military defense post that has served a number of different functions for many years, including being a King's home and a prison. We were so lucky to have Paul with us over the few days in Delhi, he watched out for our safety and always made sure we were not paying too much for anything. He is very knowledgeable, has a great sense of humor and fit right in with our group:)

Day 4

In the morning our guide Paul took us on a walking tour of a huge Delhi street market. This market included everything from car parts to shoes and everyone was trying to get us to buy something. After the market we had to go straight to the airport to catch our flight to Udaipur. We arrived at the airport and met up with our Team Leader, Tim and his wife Debbie. The flight was on a smaller plane and even though it was only and hour trip we all felt nauseous by the end of it. Our first impression of Udaipur was a good one, we saw a lot less garbage on the main streets than Delhi. We didn't get to see much of Udaipur as we headed straight for our hotel in Rajsamand but we will get to have a better look at Udaipur when we return this weekend. Our drive to Rajsamand revealed a completely different side of India from the big city. We enjoyed passing through villages and seeing some of the rural lifestyle.

Day 5

Our hotel in Rajsamand is cleaner than our stay in Delhi and we finally had time for a good nights sleep. We had our orientation with the Host Partner,  Jatan Sansthan, all day. We learned about their organization and everything they do, and were amazed at the variety of programs they have! The organization has about 60 staff and we met about 12 of them today and they are all very friendly and welcoming. Even the District Leader (Mayor) was there to say a few words, he was followed by camera crews and news stations who also interviewed our Team Leader, Tim. This is the organizations website if you want to read more about them:

We learned about what our first week here will look like. We have been broken into three groups and will be building a children's bathroom and also doing outreach work within some of their programs:) Tomorrow we get to observe a village meeting that will bless the work site before we begin construction. Were not sure what to expect but we are very excited and ready to start! After meeting with the organization, district leader and the planner of the bathroom project, it feels like we are about to be a part of something big for Rajsamand!

Talk to you soon!
Kyra & Josh
DWC Participants
India, November 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4th: "Same same, but different"

We woke up at 5:30 and left for town. I will never get used to riding a camel; they are huge and unpredictable, occasionally bending down to eat greenery or trotting off the trail. The sun was rising and it was again, really pretty.

We got back to the hotel at 7:30 and "took breakfast" at 8. We all say that now and don't even notice haha. We left and went shopping! We stopped for lunch, but that's it! Everyone was super friendly and chats us up. By noon, everyone in town knows we are from Canada. I always tell people because I'm super proud.

In the markets, men offer you these flowers, hoping you'll take them and proceed to a festival at the lake. The festival is just prayers that are the biggest tourist traps sometimes costing 2,000 rupees ($40 CA). Madan warned us not to accept the flowers an we had no problems. The streets are not as busy cause only two wheel vehicles are allowed on them. We bought a child beggar flour; we're still not sure if we got bamboozled or if he was legit. Pushkar is home to the famous Brahma Temple. We didn't get to go in, but I would really like to someday.

We took dinner at the Sunset Cafe on the edge of the lake. I had mixed pakora and stuffed parantha and like ten Maazas. We're just getting ready for bed now. We leave for Ranthambore at 4:45! Later days. 

Torry Harris
DWC Team Leader
India, May 2012

June 3rd: Camel Safari in the desert

We left camp at about 7:45. Tiji Devi blessed us with tikas. It was beautiful. So sad to leave, but happy to be have been there at all. I won't dwell on us leaving because I know I'll be back.

We drove to Pushkar. It took about four hours. We drove the windiest roads and I felt so carsick. Pushkar is lakeside and there is about one and a half kilometers of markets. We went for lunch and went window shopping.

We came back at 5 PM and embarked on our journey to the desert! The camels were so scary. I heard that they're mean and huck loogies at you, but no such thing happened. I wasn't too keen because of the whole animals being treated like crap and used just for people's pleasure, but sometimes you gotta go with the flow. It's still nice to be cognisant of what you're doing and the impact of others. Madan ji said they were malnourished, but healthier than the ones who pull carts (they need to be stronger to carry things on their backs). Anyway, we rode through the desert for about two hours. My camel's name was Rama. We saw pigs, blue cows, peacocks, antelopes, and monkeys! So cool. The sun was setting and it was beautiful. The hills kinda of looked like Kamloops haha. We got to the camp site and the men that lead the camels pitched tents for us. We ate dinner (dal, rice, curried potatoes, eggplant, ladyfingers, and gulab jamun) and drank masala chai. We goofed off and made about a billion light paintings. All the men thought we were cray-cray. Then we went to bed! I loved the whole thing. One of the highlights of my trip, for sure. 

Torry Harris
DWC Team Leader
India, May 2012

June 2nd: Last day at Youth Touch

Hi! Today was our last day at camp. We couldn't work because the mason was still with his wife at the hospital! She had surgery to remove her appendix. We hope she has a quick recovery!

We're so happy to have completed as much as we have on the boarding house this month. The foundation is almost complete. Madan said that everyone thought the Westerners couldn't do the construction work (we're the first group to do so) in the heat, but we proved them wrong! Yay! We know this boarding house is going to change many lives of the children of Banjara Basti. The first floor will be finished in two years if we come back next May and three years if we do not. Past Swedish volunteers have been collecting funds to support the house as well! Donations are accepted if you want to help speed up the process of building the boarding house. Your support is much appreciated. You can email Madan ( or myself ( if you have questions.

Today we all did laundry, packed, did chores, and hung out. We had mangoes for lunch and dinner (you jelly Vic, Elma, Rebecca, and Jess?!). All the laundry we did today was clothes we are donating to the Banjara kids. We also gave our toiletries (hand sanitizers, shampoo, medicines etc) to help with Youth Touch's Health Project. The last time we went to visit the children we took pictures and took names for kids we would like to sponsor (to pay to go to school for one year). It's about $340 US a year. We plan on holding fundraisers throughout the year so we can support kids we connected with and would love your help.

The lessons I've learned this month are invaluable and I am so grateful for this experience. I hope I can come back next May and work here again :). As you can tell by how much I gush in this blog, I love it here.

Stay tuned for our travels to Pushkar, Ranthambore, and Delhi! As always, thanks for reading.

Torry Harris 
DWC Team Leader
India, May 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 1st: Work continues despite some departures

Work was bomb; the new trench is dug so it's like we are starting from the beginning (laying rock on the floor and building it up to ground level).

Today was sad times cause four of our volunteers left (Jess, Vic, Rebecca, and Elma). I cried like a baby in front of everyone. So lame. The women blessed the girls with tikas (red paste on the forehead). It symbolizes "the third eye." Madan took them by van to Delhi at 1 PM. It's a seven hour drive or so. We've had such good times and I was really sad to see them go. It's like a family here and it's just not the same with them gone :(.

We oiled our hair with coconut oil like the women do here! We went on a walk and went to the stall. I slept through tea. First time it's ever happened; it was devastating. Dinner seemed weird cause there was only the eight of us! Tomorrow's our last full day here :(. We'll work, pack, and do laundry. Then we are off to the camel safari! I'll keep you updated.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31st: It's coming to an end

Namaste! Today was so hot! One of the record temps. Work was legit! Pretty much the whole family was there. Two men from Banjara Basti dug the last trench today. Shreya, Alex, and I went on a walk and of course, we hit the stall.

Arun left today after lunch. Sad times! He had an interesting sendoff.. :)

Niraj taught us how to make gulgule! It's made of flour, water, and sugar, and is fried in oil. Everyone went nuts for the mangoes.

Now we are just hanging out, using the Internet while the power is working, and henna-ing each other. It's Vic's, Jess's, Elma's, and Rebecca's last night here. I'm so sad that our time here at Youth Touch is ending. It's gone by so fast and I've learned so much. Eight more days in India; we leave for Pushkar on Sunday (and then off to Ranthambore and Delhi). 

Thanks for reading!

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30th: Last time in Banjara Basti

Work was canceled because the mason's wife has something wrong with her appendix. We hope she gets well soon!

We went to Banjara Basti this morning. It's the last time we'll go this trip. I was stoked to see the kids! We washed their hands and passed out food and then started a lesson. We brought chalk for them. Poonam gave me her earrings. I tried really hard to give them back, but she wouldn't take them!

I didn't see Meher and Bapisha so the teacher took me to go find them. They weren't in their home, but in a new by shop surrounded by garbage. They were with their dad. We took them and gave them food. They were so dirty so Mel, Shreya, and I washed their faces with sanitary wipes. They got more comfortable with us so once they were done eating I gave them capsules of my water. They were still so dirty so we got permission and washed their hands, faces, arms, legs, and Bapisha's hair with the soap and water. Aida joined in. They both knew how to wash their own hands.

Their faces are always expressionless and they don't talk. They can follow simple commands like "close your eyes." Meher let me hold her and kiss her little cheeks; it was so lovely.

We learned how to make pakora tonight. You take onions, green chili peppers, potatoes, chili powder, salt, cumin seed, flour, and water to make a paste. And then you drop small balls in boiling oil to fry them. So good! I love Niraj's cooking lessons!

It's Arun's last night! He leaves for home Dharamshala (Meclod Ganj). Sad times. I'll miss his phone blowing up twenty-four/seven and him yelling "yes, please!" and "I don't have time!" Youth Touch is lucky to have someone like him!

Work is back in full swing tomorrow. Alvida friends! Thanks for reading :).

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29th: Raita

Hey everyone! Work was great today. We also learned how to make raita! It's made with yogurt that the women make, mint powder, salt, and chili powder. We went on a walk down to Madan's fields after tea. We saw his crops like eggplants, green chili peppers, and onions. There were two cows, two goats, and this four-day-old lamb! We named it Lady Gaga because of it's black booties and eye spots. The family that lives there and farms thought we were weird because we're so affectionate to the livestock haha.

We came back for dinner, hit the local stall for candy, and we are all just hanging out before bed. Tomorrow we go to Banjara Basti for the last time! Talk soon!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28th: Back to work

What's shakin'! Today was the usual: a little CTL (Construction, Tanning, Laundry). The mason went to a fair and was not coming to work so we had the whole site to ourselves! They work Saturday and Sunday, so it's a lot different than in Canada. We also went on a walk after work! Twice around the neighbourhood.

After our second shift at work we walked again and had our usual following of boys. We tried to ask them if they wanted to play soccer tomorrow, but they couldn't understand our Hindi. They speak Rajasthani. A couple of the words we could pick out; one of the boys was introducing his friend as "Stupid." Boys will be boys.

We're just winding down before bed now. Night!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27th: Taj Mahal

We were up at 5 and left the hotel at 5:45 before the heat and the other tourists would get to the mausoleum. There was no one in line so we went straight in. We're so lucky to have Madan and Arun and their inside scoop.

I can't even begin to describe how crazy the Taj is. It's as exquisite as all the pictures. It was so surreal. You walk through the Royal Gate (one of four). It frames the main attraction like a pretty postcard. There are twenty two ornaments on the top of it for every year it took to make the Taj.

The emperor Shah Jahan decided to create the Taj Mahal (in 1632) for one of his four wives (Mumtaz Mahal) a year after she died. She was the only one to birth him sons (fourteen!). It holds two tombs; one for her and one for him. It has marble screens around the tombs. The marble is from Jaipur. There is an Arabic prayer around the outside of the archway in calligraphy.

All of the detailing is done by hand and made of precious stones and marble. It's all symmetrical (even the placement of the buildings). It cost him millions of rupees which would be worth billions nowadays. The tour guide told us gardens were built by the British; it was just mud before that. They also have the original ten meter pure gold tower on the top; it sits in a museum there. They have a brass one on it currently. I thought that was interesting. There are two buildings on either side. One was a guesthouse for the royal family and one was built just for symmetry!

Ooh! I saw the girl from the bus yesterday in the gardens. We smiled at each other, but I should have got a picture! We always cause the biggest scene everywhere we go. People will take pictures of us all the time. Men were taking pictures of us with the Taj instead of their families. So weird.

A legend is that Shah started to build a second Taj Mahal in more expensive black marble, but his son took over the throne and put him in jail before the project got off the ground. His son said that the emperor was spending too much money on architecture and that the wealth of the kingdom should be for the people. We could see piles of marble from across the river so maybe it's true! We toured the Taj for about an hour. We had to put little hospital booties on before touching the marble. The whole thing houses the tombs; it's crazy big. There were twenty thousand workers. There's another legend that once it was completed, their hands were cut off so they could never build anything as beautiful and magnificent again.The whole thing is gated, except the back where the river is.

We ate breakfast and shopped the stalls before we had to leave for our bus. When we got to the stall our bus was broken down. It was fixed and we left about an hour late at 12:15. Roni drank like ten Slices (bottles of mango juice) while waiting. We met three men from England and talked to them a bit about their travels. They have been here for nine days and are traveling north. We like to tell everyone who wants to know about our project :). I love hearing other stories and opinions of other travelers on what they've seen.

We took the bus from Jaipur at 5 and got home around 9 PM. On the bus the girls in the window kept getting like a fine mist in their face. Me included. We were puzzled cause it was clearly not raining. One of the other passengers told us it was people spitting out the window on the front of the bus. Lovely.

Anyway, the Taj Mahal was one of the coolest places I've ever seen and I am so grateful that I got to see it. I'll keep you posted.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

May 26th: To Agra, and the Taj Mahal

We left Sikar at 7:30 and tuk tuked into town. We hopped a bus at 8:30! Arun came with us this weekend as well as Madan! It was Arun's first time to the Taj Mahal. So cool that we got to share this experience with him.

We got to Jaipur and waited for our bus that left at 1 PM for Agra. We got some drinks in a restaurant, basically using it as an excuse for the Air Con and a cleanish bathroom. A cockroach was just hanging out under one of the tables so decided to peace that scene!

People always ask us if we are from the French part of Canada. And I always get England. This man who called himself "Mr. India" and wore a very inappropriate shirt chatted us up outside the restaurant. It was hilarious. Then we left for Agra! The bus ride went by fast; it was about six hours. The girl sitting behind me started talking to me about our travels. She spoke English well. She was with her family visiting the mausoleum like us. The scenery driving to Agra was very desert-y. There were some small villages too.

The first thing I noticed about Agra was the heat (about 47 degrees) and the smog. We took a tuk tuk into town (it's three people to a rickshaw). They gave us adorable flower necklaces welcoming us to Agra :).
Our hotel was legit two minutes away from the Taj. We ate dinner and went to bed because it was too dark to walk safely outside. Our bathrooms had TP! So sad that that excites us here. There were a lot of monkeys on the roof so we weren't allowed up there. There were babies too!

Torry Harris

DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25th: Happy 21st Birthday Jerry!

Hey everyone! Tomorrow is Jerry's twenty-first birthday. We decided to celebrate tonight because we will be traveling all day tomorrow.

We couldn't go to work today because there was only skilled work to do. Not that we are not skilled or anything.. :) We did laundry, chilled, and packed for Agra! Jess did laundry for the first time! At 10 AM, Shreya, Arun, Quinn, Roni, Alex, and myself went into town to hit the bank and run some other errands. We also bought some new headphones for Jer, as a b-day gift, because he lost his last weekend in Udaipur. Madan's brother, Har Lal, ordered a cake from a bakery and picked it up for us, with candles saying twenty-one. It was super nice of him!

After dinner, Alex and I brought out the cake and we all sung Happy Birthday! He was so surprised! I am so happy that it all worked out :)! It's been such a great night. We're so lucky to have Jerry on this trip. He's the only boy and has to put up with all eleven girls. He kills a lot of bugs for us, let me tell you. He's such a hard worker and we love hearing about his life in Singapore. 

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

May 24th: Always learning about the culture

Since it is summer, the power has been going in and out. We slept on the roof last night because it's too hot when the fans don't work. Looking up at the stars and the expansive sky, I feel so small and insignificant.

But then I go to Banjara Basti and I feel like I can make a difference, a little blip on the timeline of some importance. I know Youth Touch, including the boarding house, will change the course of many kids' lives. We went to the village at 7:30 AM and brought spiced rice with veggies. Madan and some others have to go into the children's houses because they aren't self motivated to go to school on their own. They don't know discipline because their parents haven't taught them. Youth Touch wants to teach them hygiene (like washing hands) so they can be integrated into society.

Mission accomplished: we got invited to a wedding! I didn't catch her name, but she's twenty and her fiance is from Delhi. She said she chose him. I asked if she was nervous and she said no. I asked if she was happy and she said very. So I told her I was happy for her too. She introduced me to her other two friends; one who was already married. They were having the women's ceremony (kinda like the idea of a bachelorette party, but not at all). They all put creams on the bride. One has turmeric in it and it stains their skin yellow. Madan said we couldn't go for safety reasons because there could be up to two thousand people there and most would be drinking heavily. Madan is bringing a gift over tomorrow for her.

After some play time, the kids washed their hands and then we handed out the food. I found the girl who I helped write last time we were in Banjara. I'm so embarrassed that I don't remember/can't spell any of the children's names. I was so good at that in Guatemala. Anyway, she was with her little brother today and was fiercely protective of him. She gave him her food and would tell off the other kids who would take his chalk.

This little boy that I hung out with last time we were in the village would run off the edge of the school into my arms and then I would spin him around. Once other kids saw, I was doing it for everyone. Even bigger boys, maybe age eight or nine. So much fun.

I got to meet the two girls (Meher and Bapisha) whose parents wouldn't take care of them, so Youth Touch nursed them to health. I talked about them in previous posts. They can sit and feed themselves now! The two girls that Quinn and I helped write sought us out when school started. We were stoked that they not only remembered us, but wanted to hang out again. We copied some Hindi words, then numbers, and I got to teach the English alphabet!

The students do everything on small chalkboards. They don't get to keep notebooks overnight because they don't take care of them at home. Again, going back to the discipline and responsibility they haven't had the opportunity to learn as well as lacking a productive learning environment. We had to leave and all the kids follow us out to the tuk tuks and then chase us down the street waving.

We went to the supermarket and I finally got the hang of things. You pick out what you want and bring it to one counter and they give you a receipt and then go to the front to pay and then go outside to pick up your package.

I also learned about widowed women. If your husband ever was to die, you aren't allowed to make yourself beautiful (use henna, wear bangles, or colourful saris) because the purpose of this is to attract a man. Women are not allowed to have other relations with men after their husband passes away. It used to be that you had to dress in all white, but now pale colours are acceptable. It shows that the woman is still sad and grieving. I'm still trying to sort this out; it's so different from what I am used to. Wearing white would be a constant reminder of the one who passed away and everyone would treat you differently. Also, what if you find a second love? Or a companion that happens to be of the other sex? I obviously respect different cultures, but this tradition is hard for me to understand.

We came back for lunch, then tea. This happens everyday: not all people come for tea, it's now down to the usual seven (Quinn, Melissa, Shreya, me, Jerry, Jess, and Roni) so there are always a couple extras from the people who do not come. When everyone has had one, we all fight to the death, Hunger Games-style, for the last couple chais. It's embarrassing to hear us all bickering, but it's totally necessary. The tea is that delicious.

After that, we went to work! It goes by so fast. We came home and ate, showered, hung out then went to bed :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23rd: Update on the real work

Here's a little update on the progress made on the boarding house. We made a well (see photos). The foundation trenches were dug up except for one row because it was too sandy there. That's when we came in! We added gravel evenly to the floor of the trenches. While this happened, the masons made posts for the corners and outside walls out of metal rods. The men added water on top and packed down the rock to make a solid surface on which the foundation will be built. The masons secured the mental poles in the ground by a grid. It is also made out of metal rods and made sturdy with cement. They do measurements with string. We carried many rocks to the sides of the trenches for the mason and his workers to build the foundation out of rock and cement until it reached the ground level. The sand that was dug up was leveled out around the foundation in the ground. Currently, we are continuing to move rocks from large piles that have been brought by trucks to the edge where the foundation is being built. I hope that paints a nice picture of the work we've been doing :).

Today we were split into two groups cause there wasn't much work to do. Work started at 7 as per usual; I decided I might as well go to both sessions. Madan's sister hooked us up with watermelons. So freaking good. We had a lesson on Vastu Shastru (or Hindu feng shui) today at 11 AM. We also learned that Dadaji (Grandfather) is one of the oldest in the village. If someone looks at you with bad intentions, and you need to get rid of that presence, you come over and Dadaji will spit on your face. This is supposed to cleanse the evil. So that's cool.

We had tea at 4 then went to work again. Arun, Elma, Melissa, Jerry, and I went on a walk afterward. By the end of it, we had like fifteen kids following us, saying hi and laughing with us (or more likely at us...). We pet some goats as well. We had the bombest dinner - gulgule and the yummiest mangoes I have ever tasted.

Anyway, we visit Banjara Basti tomorrow and see the Taj Mahal in three days! Alvida, friends :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22nd: Back to work

I cannot believe I left for India nineteen days ago. It's crazy.

We worked this morning at 7 AM. Some American visitors are checking out the camp as well as the work site to see if their organization should send volunteers here (which they totally should)! They were super cool and nice to talk to.

After work, we learned how to make dal. You soak the lentils and then boil them with onions, tomatoes, and garlic. The spices include coriander, cumin seeds, garam masala, salt, and chili pepper. I call the chapati "chapats" and all the women laugh :).

I'm having the best time and don't want to leave! I know tomorrow will be just as sweet. I'll keep you posted. Alvida!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21st: Return to Sikar

We got back to camp at about 7:30 AM. Just exhausted. We ate breakfast, did laundry, showered, and unpacked. Then we all just chilled and slept before lunch.

It thunder stormed so hard this afternoon. Must be gearing up for monsoon season!

We had tea at four and went to work at 5:30 PM. After that, we all hung out, watched Twilight, and then went to bed at around 9:30!

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20th: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

We left the hotel at 8:30 AM. There are two workers in the hotel, a man and his son. They sleep on mattresses in front of the front desk. The boy is around sixteen and the cutest thing. Him working legitimately the whole Saturday night and still being the biggest bro? Pretty cool.

We drove to the outskirts of the city and went for breakfast. We then went to a mock village that was set up to look like it did back in the day.

The houses were made of animal dung and were very small for a family to live in. People there make clay for a living. Mel and I helped this man make a clay pot on the turning wheel! It was super cool. We also saw musicians and watched them play a few songs. In the museum parts, there were old machines that make wool thread and yogurt and butter. Madan said his family used things like these when he was a child. I learned something interesting: a married couple don't sleep in the same room. Usually the women sleeps inside the house with the kids and the man sleeps outside of the house, in his own room. Again, no cameras were allowed at this place. We then went back into town and cruised around the streets. At one stall, this family handed me their baby so they could take a photo of me with her. Then the dad wanted one and then the daughter wanted one. I think it's because of my skin colour. A shop keeper was chatting us up and said since it is summer here, there are a lot of Indian tourists, but hardly any crazy Westerners like us. Which makes sense, cause it's the hottest time of the year here.

We see many stray animals here. I found out how cows become stray: if they don't produce milk, no one needs them or keeps them (they don't eat the meat). When we saw a pregnant, blind dog come up to us, we had to give it water. Jess gave her water bottle and Jerry used a knife to cut it up a to make a dish.

We went for dinner and hopped the overnight bus at 7 PM. The streets are windy and the stretch of land is all desert leading out of the city. There was a lot of traffic! The title of this post refers to the Kelly Clarkson song, naturally. Whenever we are doing anything a out of our comfort zone, the girls and I sing it. If I can go to the bathroom in a Indian toilet on the side of the road, I can do anything. You should have seen this one. Picture the grossest bathroom you have ever seen and then times that by a hundred. I had to sing pretty much the entire Kelly song to get through that one. You've got to just chalk it up to an experience :)

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012