April 28, 2012

Just for something different...

So I've realised that I don't have many more stories to regale you with from India, or at least, I don't right at this moment! Unless you all want to hear about me throwing my guts up after having to use a toilet that resembled a sewer, or the not-so-nice experience of having an Indian student nurse putting a drip into my hand (it still hurts!) I'll happily divulge, but I don't think it's particularly worth it :P

Why am I bothering with this post at all then, you may ask? Well, because I stumbled upon these photos of a baby elephant who discovered the ocean and they made me oh so happy! My favourite is most definitely the second last :D

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend! Rhi xx

Photo's taken from here via here.

April 27, 2012

The India Project: Days 5 & 6

We're getting to the part of India where I couldn't find time to write anything but small notes, and honestly it seems like so long ago and the memories are a bit of a blur already (how I wish I could go back!) So, I shall endeavour to write about my adventures as fully as I can, (all while pretending I'm writing them while I was there) because I really would like to share them with you, but instead it might be that as well as these posts, every now and then, a random blog will appear with a story that I forgot to tell you all :)

By far the most two exciting things that have happened over these two days are visiting an orphanage, owned and run by my Uncle's friend, Mohan, and going to a tea factory. In the tea factory, I was lucky enough to have another of my Uncle's friends, Luke (whose family I am hoping to go back and stay with :D) telling me how the process worked instead of attempting to read the small signs without my glasses. It was also great because it helped me to gain an insight into more of the culture of India.

The Tea Process
1. Use humidifiers to dry out the leaves.

2. Transfer leaves to boxes,
so tourists can take hipster photos :P

3. Pour down a chute to the next floor.

4. Something, cut and roll the leaves.
I can't remember the first part.

5. Dry the leaves.
I think the long tube machine had a cool name, like 'googy'
but I could be wrong...

6. Pour the dried, rolled tea leaves down the next chute,
so they can go to the final floor.

7 (not really). Cram many people into the room.

7 (yes really). Sort leaves into their types.

I asked Luke if he'd been to the tea factory many times, which was apparently a bit of stupid question. He told me that he and his wife and two sons go there quite often, about once a week, just to have a cup of tea together. I'd honestly never thought until then about the apparently worldwide significance of something as simple as sharing a drink together, whether it be with family, friends or someone who you're just getting acquainted with. In a bizarre way, it was kind of comforting to know that this isn't just something that is confined to my own culture. It made me feel even more at home in Ooty, and makes me all the more excited to return.

The orphanage was fantastic. It was saddening, but it was brilliant. In the past few posts I think I've mentioned the need in India, and while there is still definitely that need, there is also so much good going on! All these people see the poverty and the injustice and they set out to do something about it, completely selflessly. Mohan and the Mizpah home is a great example.

Mohan was orphaned as a young boy, and was lucky enough to be taken in by a good orphanage. He said that it was this experience, and knowing how lucky he was, that made him want to open his own orphanage if he ever got the chance - to give to the society. There are 29 kids at Mizpah homes, and two brothers, whose mother had abandoned them in the woods, temporarily there while he found a new place for them so they wouldn't have to be separated. The work that he is doing for them, on a wage so small, is truly remarkable. Mohan and his wife, Jenny, ensure the children are educated, have good medical care, learn good English and most importantly, that they are loved.

Mohan, some of the kids from Mizpah homes, and Me.
It took a bit of convincing to get the littley with rad orange
pants to stand in front of me :P

And another one, just because I can :P

My visit to Mizpah homes was so inspiring - the fact that there is so much need is heartbreaking, the fact that it has revealed so much of the good in humans makes me want to scream and shout and dance in the streets. I feel the need to tell everyone about it! (I also feel the need to adopt a little girl, Adithya, who was 3-years old and had the most fantastic smile, but that's another story) :P

It was hard work to get her to stand far back enough from
the camera so that I could get more than just one of her eyes :D

And on that joyous note, I shall leave you all. For tonight, we are going out for dinner and tomorrow should be a wondrous day of shopping, and yet a terrible day because we will be leaving Ooty. Just thinking of it makes me want to go and hide somewhere so that I can stay and explore for longer!

With love from India,
Rhi xx

PS. Today I discovered that when it rains, it pours.

April 25, 2012

The India Project: Day 4

Where or where do I start?! India is amazing!! It's this country full of colours and flavours and where everything just seems so over the top. The houses are all painted bright colours, the women wear every shade imaginable, the crowds dance and cheer at the cricket, even when their teams get caught out and the food is either packed full of chilli or packed full of sugar (and always has cardamom). There are no in-betweens and it's fantastic!!

From what I can tell, they are a passionate people who have no problem letting everyone else know it.

And then, at least here in Ooty, there are the mountains. Despite the car-sickness with the mad driving and the windy roads covered in potholes, it's still impossible not to notice the beauty. Today, we drove through the second biggest valley in the world. It's filled with tea plantations and carrot crops and all the small details that the eye can catch are breathtaking, and then you try to capture the whole scene and even when I took a step back I still couldn't absorb it all. I was absolutely in awe.

Try clicking on the photos to view them in a not so cluttered way. I'm working on getting a new and improved blog design!

The Valley.

At the same time though, there's this paradox of all the inequality and difference. It took until today to feel some kind of realisable shock at some of the situations here - which almost makes me feel bad for being so desensitised.

Today, I met Isaac. Isaac has a family to feed and care for, but the best he can do is rely on the care and kindness of strangers.

He was a street sweeper - where you walk along the road with a small broom, sweeping the rubbish into small piles and burning it - but his clothes caught on fire one day and he couldn't get them off fast enough. He suffered severe burns and can no longer work. Fortunately (and I do use the word loosely), Isaac is a beggar who has obvious need, which is often not the case, and so is able to care for his family.

So far, meeting Isaac has been one of the most confronting parts of my trip. My Uncle and Aunt made friends with him while they lived here, and regularly started to help him out. When Isaac heard my Uncle say hello, he was so happy! But all the people walking past stared in disbelief.

What was this Western man doing talking to a beggar?

Knowing that Isaac does well enough to help his sons attend uni makes the situation a lot less confronting, but feeling as if the society would so easily shun someone because of an accident is heartbreaking. It makes me wonder how this complacency can be changed, or if my assumption that it is complacency is somehow completely wrong.

I suppose it's a complex situation, and there is just so much more for me to understand. For the moment however, I shall continue to do what I came here to do. I'll keep exploring, experiencing the culture, and figuring out how I can help, all while having the raddest study break I think anyone has ever had.

In the mean time, please keep Isaac in your thoughts. Burns like his will never fully heal and I can only imagine how hard it must be for him.

With love from India,
Rhi xx

Who we had lunch with today.
My Uncle's friends, Roy & Ashkew, and my Uncle,
leaning down so Ashkew wouldn't feel too short.
And a hipster photo of a window :D

April 24, 2012

The India Project: Day 3

Where we spent our 2nd night.
Night train from Chennai to Mysore.
Today, we visited Mysore palace. The place is huge and when it was built, in the very early 1900s, it only cost 55,000 pounds which seems like so little now!! But as our tour guide told us, you couldn't even get one of the doors from the palace for that much today. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed inside, so I just have two of its front, which is a shame because the detail in every tiny little corner of the palace is just so incredible. Words can't even begin to describe! I suppose the lack of photos will mean you all just have to go and visit Mysore and India yourselves :P haha, if only!

All dressed up in my Indian garb :D

I started to feel at home in India today, and it all began on the climb up the mountain and the road's 36 hairpin bends...

There is an image etched into my mind of a woman standing on a cement block on the edge of the hairpin turns. Her clothes are billowing in the wind - a long green skirt and a bright long-sleeved shirt. She's one of the first people I've seen and I'm still wondering what possessed someone to build a town at the top of a 7500ft tall mountain. Her feet are bare as she stands surveying the world around her, she catches me watching. I smile and she returns the smile bashfully. It's strange to think that because I'm white a smile means so much.

As we go further up the mountain, it feels like going home. There were eucalypts and the smell of wood fired smoke. Horses, cows and dogs walk around as they please. Of course it isn't home though. In Australia, people would find the old, colorful houses - bright pink, blue, purple, green, yellow - to be garish and out of place, even though they're so beautiful here. The people at home don't roam around the streets like they do here. There's more than one road rule, and there wouldn't be the faint smell of incense. It doesn't matter though, this part of India is the most beautiful I've seen yet. I just wish I could jump out of our car and explore, take photos of the architecture, the winding roads, the plantations, and most importantly, the people.


Hebron School
Apparently that's white washed.


April 22, 2012

The India Project: Days 1 & 2

Well I'm back, and I didn't post any blogs while I was in India which is terrible! Unfortunately though, internet is quite rare and my attempts to set up roaming failed miserably so there you go. To make up for it though, I do have a few posts ready to go that I wrote while I was over there so I'll be posting them over the next few days along with a few photos :) Hope you're all well!

April 12, 2012

It's unbelievably hot down on the plains. I get in the shower, eager to cool off. Feel better, and then the moment I step out of the bathroom I feel sticky again, but that's ok.

I'm not quite sure what I've gotten myself into. India is home to a very patriarchal society. There's separate security checks for men and women, and while it's safe for my cousins to go out and roam around, I always need somebody with me. I understand why, it just feels very strange to me.

There's people and lights and cars everywhere! Power lines are just one big mass of wires and cables, there's only one road rule that anyone cares about and I am, apparently, a rare commodity to be openly stared at. Everyone told me that this is how it would be, but it's not something you understand until it's been experienced. I've had men shoving cameras in my face and others just gaping at me as they walk past. It's a little confronting to say the least.

Just your average power lines.
By the same token, there have been parts that have just been absolutely incredible.

We went to see silk weaving yesterday, which was done in a cottage industries style. Basically, men work in rooms with these old looms, they also live there with their families with bathrooms and kitchens close by. My uncle reminded me that as Westerners, we would usually be calling these sweat shops, but actually, it's standard living in India. It's a good stable job, the provision of food, and a house for these men and their families to live in which is really something.

The silk loom
It's encouraged me a lot in what I went to India this time to achieve, although I'm still in a bit of culture shock I think. I'm also tired. Would be so nice to get a decent sleep...

The cottage industries also showed me how much Indians value education which is great to know. One of the men higher up in the business was showing us the looms, when he suddenly got very excited and took us to meet a young girl, the daughter of the man in the photos with the loom, who'd done extremely well in her exams (488/500) and had also won a talent contest. It was great to know she had that support around her :)

Then we went to Kings and Queens School, a boarding school where most of the kids are from really poor families. It was fun talking to the kids, and seeing their faces light up when I went to take a photo. At one stage, all these boys just poured out of their dorm when they realised I was getting my camera out.

Kings and Queens School
These are the boys that rushed out of the dorm :D
And then there's the joy of the Indian Premier League (i.e. the cricket) which is just a whole new thing in itself. The excitement and the noise and the cheering and the dancing is bizarre! It's utterly fantastic though :D I don't really know how to describe the experience except to say, if you get the chance, go. Even if you hate cricket it's an experience not to be missed, especially when there's guys dancing bollywood style in the seats in front of you (see the shoddy quality video for more) :P

Anyhow, I'm off to catch a casual midnight train that we'll be on for 8 hours or so.

Even though I only left a couple of days ago I am missing everyone at home ever so much. Looking forward to seeing you all again! Much love from India :) xx

April 10, 2012

10 April 2012: Malaysia

I love the humidity. I'm sitting out on the balcony of my hotel room and just chilling. It smells smoky and a little like hotel soap and mosquito repellent. I watch the lightning flickering on and off in the distance. Listening to the frogs in the background, I begin to think that I really am falling in love with tropical countries. I know I've only been to two of them, but they're bloody amazing.

I need to come back here so I can stop and explore whenever I like - talk to the locals (or at least attempt to :P) and take photos of the fruit markets, abounding in durian and watermelon, the motorcycle and scooter shops and the old crumbling buildings. I'd stay in a small apartment, closer to the people, so that I don't feel so much the outsider. Given the poverty I'm going to be facing tomorrow when we land in India, it seems a little luxurious to be staying in such an up market hotel.

For the moment though, I shall enjoy it. The air conditioned room with king size beds and hot clean(ish) water, and a balcony all to myself that I can sit on even after it's dark, watching the lights in the distance and trying to capture the feeling of utter peace with my words.

**On the taxi on the way to the hotel, we met a really nice young Australian couple who are moving to Cambodia to start a children's home. If you're feeling like a good person, you should check out their website, faithmissionsasia.org :)

April 07, 2012

Buona Pasqua // Only 2 days to go!!

Me and Ben
Blue hair and eyeliner, anyone? :P
Thursday, April 6: Post-Prosh Report
Wake up at 7, can't figure out if it's 7am or 7pm. Spend 10 minutes pondering how I came to be in my bed. I remember sitting on the couch and watching 30 seconds of a movie, but my computer tells me I watched 55 minutes. That's odd. Remember having crazy dreams about tandem surfing with a complete stranger. We got sharks to go on a surfboard attached to our board, and they surfed with us. We convinced four sharks all up, and they all really enjoyed themselves. We also discovered a dinosaur that had been preserved almost perfectly (except for it's face) and it was really quite scary. Have a really long shower, eat some food. Discover text books under my bed. Wonder how I got here again. Realise it was 7am when I woke up, not pm. I just missed my bus for uni and thus my Italian test. Shit.

This was the sort of beginning to my insane week - prosh, where the students of UWA pull an all-nighter, dress up in ridiculous costumes, then run around in an exhausted, drunken stupor and harass the people of Perth until they buy our satirical newspapers for charity. It's been a highlight of my year since grade 10 when I started at a school where prosh is always sold, but wow it hit me hard this year. My theory is that it was the crazy lack of sleep combined with a scary amount of caffeine :P

Late night trains, attractive faces and
 entertaining photobombs :P 
Tav times.
Apart from prosh I've been procrastinating from the many assignments I need to finish/start before I leave, being the most social I think I've been this year, and madly planning and packing for India! It's strange to think that in 48 hours I'll be somewhere over South East Asia, well and truly on my way. It's so exciting!!

I've installed the Blogger app on my phone, and I've discovered the joys of international roaming, so I'll be trying my best to post at least 1 photo and a short update onto the blog every day that I'm away. Woohoo!! :D

Until then though, Happy Easter! I hope everyone is enjoying a long weekend spent with family and friends :)

Much love! Rhi xx

Holly and Scotty.
Easter surprise :)
My beautiful Madre :)
Easter surprise - take two.

Padre dearest.