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Joel looks like an old Indian woman (apparently)

We just updated iPhoto on our computer. It has this awesome new Faces feature that recognizes the faces in photos and allows you to name them so all your pictures are organized by who is in them. For someone with borderline OCD like me it. is. fantastic. I love sorting and organizing. Especially when it’s just about pushing buttons on a computer so I can be totally lazy and productive at the same time. Win!

After naming some of the faces iPhoto starts making suggestions for naming the faces. This made for some hilarious mix-ups

Now, iPhoto is pretty good at guessing who is in photos. It got my sister and I mixed up several times. People say we look alike, I guess iPhoto thinks so too.

Nope, that’s me. This is my sister Naomi

I can see how it could get confused.

Since we have over 3,200 picture from India a good majority of the photos in our library are random Indian people. Apparently, Joel resembles some of them.

Um… not even a little…

But the one that made me laugh until I had to run to the bathroom to keep fromĀ  peeing myself was this:

I mean, it’s not like it never gets any of them right (click picture to read)

Just apparently Joel has the facial features of an Indian. More specifically of an Indian woman. Excuse me while I go pee again.

End of the chapter

Our last full day in India we spent seeing some of the incredible sites around Hyderabad. As a wrap up to my posts about the trip I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from that day.

Charminar:

It’s kind of Hyderabad’s Taj Mahal. Really beautiful. Our host told us it was built to commemorate some king’s wife. However, Google tells me it was built in thanks to Allah for a plague ending… So maybe they’re both right?

Golkanda Fort

Really fascinating. This fort had so much history. It was also rather sad because there was graffiti all over the place. There was obviously very little respect for preserving the history that was there. It was still so interesting to walk around in though. It was huge!

Our whole group.

Silly fun.

It was also incredibly hot and there were like 10,000 stairs. I only exaggerate slightly. Coke never tasted so good.

Getting to the top was worth the hot climb though. The view was beautiful.

The whole trip was absolutely a dream come true. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. Very rarely does a trip live up to your expectations, especially when those expectations have been building for 12 years. This trip was exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t know I needed. I became a stronger, braver person. I learned so much about myself and my eyes were opened to a whole new aspect of my world. I will never view things the same way.

I will never forget the sites, smells, tastes and noise of India. More than that though I will never forget the way it made me feel. India has a very special place in my heart. I can’t wait to go back someday.

Crawling creatures

We were really lucky as far as creepy crawlers were concerned. I don’t remember seeing a spider or snake the entire time I was there. Our time certainly wasn’t without some critters though.

The absolute worst were the mosquitoes. Oh my freaking god the mosquitoes. They were awful. What was worse was our contact didn’t quite understand our need for mosquito nets. We had deet but that only lasts so long. Or Indian mosquitoes are immune to deet. Or a combination of both. Anyway, they made me occasionally lose my mind just a little.

What? It kept the bugs away from my face instead of me constantly swatting them away like an insane person.

One thing that became my best friend while I was there was their bug zapper.

I enjoy killing mosquitoes way too much for a normal/sane person.

Mosquitoes weren’t the only visitors in our house though. One day I was sitting on the floor eating dinner when a mouse scampered across the floor. Now, I’m not terrified of mice or anything but it was under the fridge and right next to the kitchen so I figured they’d want to do something about it. I mentioned it to them and their response was:

Them- “Was it a big one?”

Me -“Well, no.”

Them- “Oh ok, that’s fine then”

Me- (thinking) okaaaay….

So yeah, mouse in the house? Totally normal. Apparently. As long as it wasn’t big, no problem. Awesome.

And lastly, this picture I took specifically for my twitter bff Mandy. Mandy, I couldn’t see one of these little buddies and not think of you. This guy was just above my bed. You’re welcome. Love, Me.

Indian VIPs Part 2

One of the strangest things about being in India was a sort of instant celebrity status. I’m not sure if it was having such light skin in a place where almost no westerners travel. We spent very little time in touristy areas. That combined with India’s obsession with light skin (It’s actually kind of sad. So many girls asked how they could get skin that looked like mine. They have such smooth, tan, beautiful skin that most Americans lie in tanning beds for ages trying to get. Why can’t we be happy with what we have? That’s a whole different post though.) we were quite the oddity.

This led to much waving and staring. We would sit on the balcony and talk while children across the street would watch us and wave. When we’d wave back they’d giggle and get so excited. I kind of felt like a monkey in a zoo. The entire time we were there they never got tired of waving at us.

Later we got a note from this girl saying how much she’d like to meet us and asking us to fill out a question book with our autographs.

We later went over to the note writer’s house for tea.

They were so happy to meet us. The way the little girl acted when she met me was kind of how I acted when I met Robin Williams. It was so strange to make someone that happy just by meeting them.

Another time a whole group of kids came to ask for our autographs and for us to answer questions like our favorite colors, food, musicians etc.

When we went to speak to a group of youth they all wanted our autographs as well. Here’s a video of me signing their hands with my name.

It was neat that one of the kids grabbed the camera from me so we got this clip of both of us with the youth.

When we were out seeing the sights in and around Hyderabad we had more of a celebrity type of experience. We were constantly being stopped and asked to have our pictures taken with different people.

Even the police wanted pictures with us. Not that we would have felt comfortable saying no.

I mean, look at those guns.

It was actually hard to see things because every few seconds someone would stop us for a picture. I can understand now how celebrities get body guards and deny taking photos with people. It’s kind of exhausting.

But I’m not going to lie, all that attention? I kind of loved it.

Indian VIPs part 1

Besides fulfilling my lifelong dream of traveling there, the main reason we went to India was to meet our contact. We got along very well because he’s a big dreamer as well as us, perhaps even more if that’s possible. The sheer amount that needs to be done can be completely overwhelming. There’s just so much need. He has a lot of big ideas and I think with lots of help from both the connections he has in India and the states we can actually start to make a difference.

One major thing that will help is his cousin. You know, the one we stayed with. While we were there they had a big political meeting. After much yelling and shouting and clapping we were invited upstairs and were surprised to be invited to sit down with the leaders.

Then we watched as our host was appointed as (from what I understood) a sort of state representative.

Then we were even included in part of the ceremony.

Receiving a dot and being fed a sweet was part of the ceremony. Very fascinating to be able to be a part of.

We then had pictures taken with the whole big group.

This picture ended up in the paper in a report about the election. Or rather in 7 or 8 papers. Then the next day several papers called and interviewed M about why we were there and ran a story just about us in just as many papers.

As a result the chief of police wanted to have a meeting with us.

We also got a tour of the station. During the tour one of the officers made sure to emphasize that they no longer beat or torment their prisoners. Um, that’s good to know. Very modern of them.

I’m not sure whether it was because of the article in the paper or just because of our light skin but we became very popular later in the trip. Like, celebrity popular. But those stories can wait until my next post. *smile*

Our Indian family

From my experience, Indians are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. Our host family immediately embraced us and by the end I felt like I had become an extended relative. They were wonderful.

Joel and I with our contact, A and his cousin M. M is a politician but I’ll write more on that later.

The house we stayed in was M’s with his wife, mother and three kids.

The kids adored us despite what it may seem like by the look on the littlest one’s face in this picture.

One other semi- member of the family?

Aws! Ok, so it was a stray that had decided to make their front yard it’s home. Joel about killed me for picking it up but it was so freaking adorable! As far as I can tell I did not catch rabies, fleas or lice from it so yay.

The kids, Joel and I had a ton of silly fun.

My phone was fascinating to them. I guess that’s pretty much a universal thing.

One of their favorite things was playing hand clap games. They taught me a couple in their language. Don’t ask me to repeat them back now, I don’t remember. They were fun though.

Their mom braiding their very long beautiful hair for school.

I loved being their “Auntie” and treasure all the happy moments I got to share with them. Our flight out was early in the morning so I figured I had to say my goodbyes the night before. We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am and I was surprised that everyone was waking up while we were. But every one of them got up, showered, got dressed and piled into a tiny five-seater car. For the record it was Joel, Me and the wife with a child each on our lap. Then M, A and one of the pastors we met with in the front. In case you weren’t counting that’s NINE people in a car the size of a Geo Metro. I was afraid that little car wasn’t going to make it. It definitely bottomed out more than once. We did though and they parked and went as far into the airport with us as they could.

We were very lucky to have met them. I’m so glad that I now have an Indian family waiting for me whenever we get to go back. I hope it’s soon.

Games and songs

If you missed yesterday’s post you should definitely check it out for more pictures and stories about the village we visited. Today Joel finally put together a short video of the actual activities I did with the kids. Like I said, I didn’t really have a plan when we got there because I wasn’t aware we were going to be in charge of doing an actual program. I knew we were going to spend some time with them but no one informed us of exactly how until we were in front of them. Then it was basically:

A – “Hey, I’m going to leave now. You’re in charge

Us – “Uuuuummm….

I ended up just picking random songs and games to teach them. Next time I’ll definitely have several activities planned out for them to do instead of just winging it, if for no other reason than the stress of feeling put on the spot was less than fun.

However, once I got in a groove I had all kinds of fun…

I think the kids did too.

The one where my heart is stolen

The biggest reason we went to India was to meet with our contact and find out how we can help him with the school he’s starting in a remote village. The village was 4-5 hours from where we were staying and a good hour and a half (on a one lane, bumpy, half paved mountain road) from the nearest small town.

This made for the bumpiest, scariest ride of my life. Especially when it was night. It’s a miracle we didn’t die. No really.

Scary ride, but really pretty views.

The village is in the middle of a valley. They actually have some electricity, which surprised me but everything is very basic.

The biggest problem in this village and those around it is the water. It’s not safe to drink but since it’s all they have they’re slowly being poisoned by it.

The best part was, of course, meeting the kids.

This is in front of the school with most of the children who attend. Aren’t they sweet in their little uniforms?

No pencils, no books, no desks. Just a tiny room, some chalk and eager minds, willing to learn whatever was being taught.

Our contact didn’t really tell us what to expect before hand. We got there, he introduced us to them and basically said to entertain them for awhile. And left. We had no plan whatsoever. Kind of way scary. I made it work though by teaching them several different songs, games and telling them a couple stories.

Can you guess what song I was teaching them in this picture?

They seemed to have a good time. And I? Fell in love. How could I not?

There’s so much to be done still. We’ll post more about the specifics of the project on HelpSend.us in the near future.

Playing chicken and a camel

I mentioned in my post about what I learned in India that driving around is like one massive game of chicken. It’s really, really crazy. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Technically there are rules, but I think they’re more generally understood than hard and fast rules like we have in the US. For example, honking your horn means “I’m trying to pass you, get out of the way” and flashing your lights mean “We’re coming straight at each other and I am not going to be the one to get out of the way.”

Even traffic lights can have several different meanings. And if there’s not someone there to catch you? Red lights are basically optional.

I was ever amazed at all the skill the drivers had zipping in and out of traffic and squeezing an impossible amount of cars into the tiniest of spaces. Things didn’t always go so well though.

Ho.ly. crap.

India has over 1 billion people. It’s well on it’s way to surpassing China in population. However, the land mass of India compared to China is far smaller. That means there are people jam packed everywhere. Nothing makes this more evident than transportation.

This gives you an idea, although this was one of the more open streets I saw.

As you can imagine it made for some interesting rides, especially since they don’t believe in seat belts. Ever.

Notice the tense energy behind our smiles. And the fact we were holding on for dear life.

My favorite way to get around was by rickshaw. Or Auto.

It had the best natural “air conditioning” and I felt more a part of the city when I was in them.

I loved watching everything zoom past.

It was also fun because no two looked exactly alike. Every driver put their own personality into the artwork on the back.

The very best part of them though? Seeing how many people they could squeeze inside.

They’re built for four. HA!

I’m fairly sure there’s always room for just one more.

This philosophy applies to the buses too. Notice the people riding on top? That’s because the inside was full. Obviously being full is not a reason not to ride.

One way many get around that I didn’t get to experience was by motorcycle. In India, riding on a motorcycle is a family affair.

The tiniest kids got to “drive” the motorcycles. I saw babies that I’m sure weren’t old enough to walk driving them. Crazy scary. For me to observe anyway. It was normal to them.

Oh, and no traffic post would be complete without a picture of my favorite vehicle I saw while I was there.

Camels are the new Lexus.

A tale of three beds

There is so, so much to post about my trip to India that I feel overwhelmed. I have over 3,200 pictures. I’m not really sure where to start so I figured I’d start with the basics and go from there.

One thing about this trip was it was it was very authentic. We lived with and exactly like an Indian family. We ate the food (more on that later), drank the water, wore the clothes and slept on the beds floor just like they did.

The family we stayed with was amazing. They were some of the nicest friendliest people I’ve ever met. They welcomed us with open arms and by the time we left I felt like part of the family. The kids even called me Auntie which never failed to make me smile. One thing that was fairly tough for me though was the sleeping arrangements. See, they were in the process of moving into a brand new home and hadn’t gotten all any furniture yet. We sat on either lawn chairs or the floor and the first day we were there we slept like this:

Yup, that is a marble floor. Yes, those blankets are very, very thin. Thankfully we brought those little blow up neck pillows. That and our jackets made for decent pillows.

The next day our bed was upgraded.

Pillows! Woot!

But still the marble. Now, the whole family, kids, parents and grandma all slept like this. I honestly don’t know how they did night after night because it hurt. Moving hurt, lying still hurt. Just ouch. But we dealt with it, it’s not like we wanted them to think we thought we were better than them somehow because we couldn’t sleep like they did. But did I mention that it hurt? After awhile I found the cushiest parts of my body and figured out how to position them under me so it was more tolerable. Or there were times I’d curl myself onto the pillow and try to make that work out. Rolling off of it hurt more than just lying still though so it wasn’t really a permanent solution.

So this was our sleeping arrangement for three nights. Then, wonder of wonders we got a bed.

Or should I say a bed frame. It was glorious. I never realized how much more comfortable wood was than marble. Trust me, after three nights on marble, wood felt like a cloud.

We thought that was the end of it. It was definitely bearable and the bruises that had formed along our sides started to fade. Then, after two days on the frame they brought in an honest to goodness mattress.

You can see from the ridiculous look on my face how insanely happy I was to lie on it. I think my exact words were “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh

more pictures and stories to come…

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