Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Exactly is a Rickshaw, Anyway?

Some of you reading may be wondering, 'what is a rickshaw, anyway?'  

Let us introduce you:

Autorickshaw: a small, triangular shaped vehicle, the color of a bumble bee, used to transport small or large numbers of goods or people for a small monetary fee through insane traffic with a fantastic sense of urgency, all while sounding like a bicycle with a baseball card stuck in the spokes. Usually contains some sort of shrine to a god or gods on the dashboard, which may or may not have burning incense and/ or flashing lights in addition to other fantastic, psychedelic decor.

Why did we choose a rickshaw to name our blog after? 

Good question. Kandyce, ISP Program Assistant, is a little obsessed with rickshaws. She named her own blog after rickshaws, too. She really, really wants to spend at least one day of her life as an autowalla, or rickshaw driver. 

What's more, though, is that we want our program to be about adventure and riding in a rickshaw is definitely that - swerving through traffic, playing chicken with overloaded buses, the incessant honking... it's a little bit overwhelming. India is a little bit overwhelming at times too. Sitting in a rickshaw zipping through the streets, though, offers a safe place from which to view the craziness of life on India's streets.  In many ways, the backseat of an autorickshaw is the best way to experience the beautiful insanity which is India. It's immediate - right there in your face, in your eyes, in your nostrils - but still an environment where you can observe without losing your sense of balance. Like that, we want ISP to be immediate - what's the point of studying abroad if you don't directly experience the culture that you're studying? But we also want ISP to be a place of balance and reflection where you can take in the environment and grow to understand it.

 You can cover more ground in an auto than on foot, and our program strives to offer students a wide range of experiences in the many different environments which India offers. We take our students to major centers of culture and society all around India, and give them direct experiences of both the wealth and poverty, the glories and the struggles, of modern India. It's a diverse journey which gives you the chance, from the auto's back seat, to reflect on global connections and the ways in which we in the West have impacted the rest of the world.

Autorickshaw drivers are the salt of the earth in India. Mostly from lower-income backgrounds they work long hours for little pay and struggle to make ends meet. You can learn a lot about poverty in the classroom but a twenty minute conversation with an auto driver on your way to the market may teach you more than the classroom ever could. Those conversations are an essential part of our learning model at ISP, learning through relationship and connection, particularly with the societally or economically disadvantaged.

So riding in rickshaws is much more than a simple move from point A to point B. It's an opportunity for learning, for growth, and for encounter with the other. Come riding with us!

Want to read more about what we do?
We go on trips. We celebrate festivals. We make friends. We eat things (good things). We learn things.
Sound like fun?  (We thought so!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Student Post: Natasha Yoder on Why She Loves Wednesdays

Wednesdays are my most favorite days here in India! Every week I look forward to Wednesdays because Wednesdays are internship days! My placement is with an organization called Udavum Karangal, which translates to “Helping Hands”, at a site called Sondham, which is a children’s village.  Children who are orphans who have been abandoned and rescued live in this children’s village. Sondham also has a school there for the orphans (and for others who are day scholars).  I spend most of my time at the school there.

Truly, I love my internship! It is exciting to be able to have field experience in India along with my studies. It is a once in a lifetime experience! I am so happy to be placed at a site working with orphans.  Helping orphans is something I am passionate about and what I want to spend my life doing, so this is a really great opportunity for me. 

Besides loving the fact that I get to be with orphans, I genuinely really enjoy the site where I was placed. The staff there are really nice and give me tea (and also try to keep feeding me more food!) and are very welcoming. They are flexible and take my interests into consideration.  My BACAS student guide told them I would like to work with the little kids, and they said that I am welcome to teach the children.  They told me I can choose what classes I would like to work in. I appreciate that and how kind the staff there are to me.

What's more, the children there are just so great! They are the most adorable and precious children. They like to laugh and have fun and they love affection. Although like most kids, they can be silly, but they are also really sweet. One little boy even gave me a gift last time-- grass. He was holding these blades of grass out to me and kept saying “A gift for you.”  One little boy at Sondham is the most adorable little boy.  Even though Sondham is a Hindu organization, they have Bible Time on Wednesday mornings with two pastors from Child Evangelism Fellowship. It is really neat and so sweet to see the kids singing and doing actions to the songs. This past week one little boy sitting in the front row kept looking over at my student guide and me every two minutes with the biggest, cheesiest smile I have ever seen in my life! I tried so hard not to laugh, but I could not help it. Even my student guide was laughing after I showed him the little boy and told me to zoom in on the little boy and take a picture. The little boy definitely knew too, that he was making us laugh.  (I really hope I get to be in his class sometime).

I definitely enjoy my time at Sondham and am so excited to spend Wednesdays loving on and teaching orphans. My internship is definitely a blessing! Already I cannot wait until next week!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Student Post: Renee Sanderford on our Visit with FORWORD in Chennai

{FORWORD sign outside the office, Tambaram, Chennai}

Hello! We just returned from being in Chennai all weekend! We took a train ride there...what an experience! Baby cockroaches, the smell of urine and strange men sleeping on beds in the train compartment below us. Perfect. Even though these factors made the trip to and from Chennai a little bit uncomfortable, the people that I met made it so worth it. There was one woman named Shiamala Baby who touched my heart. Shiamala started an organization called 'Forword' that focuses on women's rights and development in India. This whole dream came about after Shiamala had experienced such a terrible marriage. She was beaten daily by her husband, who was instigated by his mother, for ten years. Both her and her husband were Christians, and to see him beat her was very shocking to Shiamala; how could a Christian man do this to me?

{Shiamala Auntie tells her story, and explains why she now works as an advocate for battered women and children.}

During those ten years she was blessed with two beautiful baby girls who are now all grown up. Between the ten years of her marriage, she was beaten constantly and it was only with the help of her family that she was able to escape the marriage with her two daughters (during the time of Shiamala’s marriage, it was almost impossible to get a divorce).

While Shiamala was telling her story I could not help but to cry. The reason why is because even in the midst of her horrific marriage, she still looked to God. And now that she has come out of that marriage, she can stand firm on the fact that what she had experienced in the past has now led her to help so many women empower themselves within society, and to love Jesus fiercely on top of it all.
{Renee with her sandalwood paste (yellow) and kumkum powder (red), and her garland of jasmine flowers during our welcome at the urban slum village.}

In fact, Shiamala took us to a place where there were groups of women who have been empowered and encouraged by Shiamala, and they welcomed us with many festivities! To see the joy on the faces of these women and the hope that they have in who they are in society will impact my heart forever. Especially Shiamala's story because she recognizes that what happened in the past was not God's doing. Instead, she has taken the negative aspects of those ten years of her life and she has turned them into something beautiful.

{Shiamala Auntie explaining the villagers' traditional ways of welcoming visitors.}

This was definitely the highlight of my weekend. Thank you Shiamala Baby for not just touching the lives of women in India, but now a young woman from across the globe.

you can see more pictures of our trip to Chennai on our Facebook page here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Pictures: Culinary Class

On Friday, Kandyce had the privilege of attending the culinary class here at BACAS. The professor, Sir Charles, was hilarious. He also means business in the kitchen, and is a mighty fine cook. 

The menu for the day:
Kashmiri rice pulao, chicken makhani, paneer pasanda, khameera naan and khir.

Renee, Kali, Brooklyn, Melissa, Calla and Becky modeling their aprons for class.

Sir Charles reviews the menu as BACAS Catering Department 2nd year students look on.

Rice, tomatoes, onions, nuts (cashews and walnuts) and spices (cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, saffron, ginger, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper) to be used in the day's menu. 

Note taking during class.

Kali Fairchild volunteering to knead the ingredients for khameera naan by hand while Sir Charles pours the  liquid ingredients out to be mixed.

Setting the final product to rise for several hours.

The makings of pulao, a rice pilaf dish with spices, fruits and nuts.

BACAS Catering Department students look on as Melissa Braunschweig grills marinated chicken pieces for chicken makhani.

Sir Charles helps a student pour saffron milk into khir, a rice pudding dessert dish.

Sir Charles rolls naan dough, which he will then cover in poppyseeds (left of frame) and toast on the stovetop.

Grilling naan on the stovetop.

The results? The best meal in India so far!

Kandyce is hoping to observe every class for the rest of the semester in the hopes that she, too, will learn to cook something delicious by the end. :)

Recipe for Kashmiri pulao
serves 4
500g Basmati rice
100 g onion, sliced
5g cinnamon
5g cardamom
5g cloves
pinch of turmeric
1g safron
10 ml milk
20g walnut
20g cashewnut
1 ltr water
50g oil
salt to taste
50 g pomegranate, apple, green and red grapes

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. When oven is preheated, turn off and do not open door. 

Wash and soak rice. Heat oil and fry onions until golden brown. Remove from heat. Fry whole spices, turmeric powder. Add rice and saute, sealing in starch. When sizzling stops, add saffron dissolved in warm milk. Add hot water and mix well. Cook rice until most of the moisture is cooked out and grains are separated and almost soft.

Spread rice into glass baking dish, cover with tinfoil and place in oven for 30-45 minutes, or until oven is almost cool and rice is completely cooked. Garnish with fried onions, walnuts, cashews and chopped fruits.

See more pictures on our Facebook album here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

We're off to Chennai!

We're off to meet with an incredible woman who fights for justice and the rights of untouchables and battered women and children based in Chennai, the capital city of the state we live in.

Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend. We'll update on our visit, and our overnight train ride, when we get back.

Student Post: Brooklyn Walker on "A Servant's Heart"

The greatest among you must become a servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 
-Matthew 23: 11- 12

God calls us to be humble and serve others. One thing is for sure, Indians know how to serve.

Every day I am in awe of the kindness, respect and hospitality shown by the people here in Coimbatore. Their kindness is not dependent on race or religion. Their kindness is genuine and pure. It is something we can all learn from.

There are so many stories I could share about professors, students and everyone else going out of their way to make our groups feel welcome and comfortable.

I am doing an internship at a local school. I had two student guides who came with me, named Christy and Jennifer. They are both Masters' students at BACAS and missed a whole day of classes to help me on my first day of my internship. They were the best guides ever, and I loved spending the day with them. At the end of the day, I thanked them for coming with me. I could not have done it without them. Seriously, they held my hand as we crossed the busiest highway I have ever seen, they answered all of my questions and they even taught me some Tamil (the local language.) Then, they got mad at me for thanking them. I wish I could remember word for word what they said, because it gave me the chills. They basically told me that there was no other way for guests in their country to be treated, and that they would do everything possible to make sure I was comfortable and safe. The most beautiful part was that they truly meant it. They do not just ask questions and help to be polite. They truly care.

A few days after my first internship day, I ran into Christy and Jennifer in the mess. As we were talking one of them asked, "How are Sam and Taylor?" At first, I was caught off guard. But then I remembered her asking about my family the day they helped me nagivate my internship. We didn't spend a lot of time talking about my siblings that day. In fact, the one asking spent more time telling me about her family and showing me pictures. I even met her brother as we were walking back to college that day. Do I remember any of her family members' names? Nope. These two girls are a small example of the unselfish love and giving hearts of the Indian people. 

Christianity may be a minority here, but Christ is clearly visible in all of the people.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Student Post: Kali on 'Unity in Diversity'

This is a cross-post from Kali Fairchild, a junior from Eastern University studying Economic Development.
Taking time out of my normal once a week blog to write about something that is on my heart this week. The topic is what India is known for; unity in diversity.
Across the hall from me lives a Hindu neighbor, who lives next door to a family that is Parsi (my family away from home). Next door to us is a woman who is a Muslim.  In my apartment are five Christians. Four different apartments, four different religions. I can only imagine what I would find if I continued down the hall, or around my apartment complex. India is so rich with culture, history, and religion. So very diverse, yet in this diversity can be found unity. This is one of my most favorite things about India so far. Acceptance and tolerance. Peace and understanding.
I am literally amazed, daily, at the ways I see Christ in my neighbors. I see friends of different beliefs and religions finding commonalities between their faiths. I see meals being shared and lives being lived together in unity amidst diversity. My neighbors randomly ask us to go shopping with them, share a meal with them, or just come over to see if we need anything. I am in awe of the care they show us.

Out to ice cream with our new friends across the hall.
On Sunday we visited a Sikh temple called Gurudwara. It was very interesting. Sikhism is a monotheist religion where they worship one God who created the earth as his will for human kind. They believe in equality for all, no matter what caste, gender or position in life. They have 10 gurus, and worship a book which is where God is found. The book is presented in the temple and worshiped as if in human form. Every night they put the book to bed in a real bed and then wake it up at 5 in the morning. When it gets old they cremate it and get a new book. Despite the obvious differences between my religion and theirs, they generously opened up their temple to us. The cooked us a meal following the service and were eager to show us around and answer questions. Again just another example of openness here.

Inside the temple.
As I sit here in my apartment, with internet thanks to my awesome neighbors, I am reminded of how God can work through anything and anyone. God is bigger than anything and can work through any situation. I have been blessed with seeing God work through the lives of my Indian friends around me, no matter what religion they practice. I am reminded of how we are all called to be witnesses, and how I need to be a better one. My time in India has been drastically affected by my neighbors, and I hope I can learn to express the same kind of love, care, and acceptance they show me to the people I interact with daily.
I leave with this quote by Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  I’m going to bed tonight in India, and I am humbled by this thought. What kind of witness am I?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Student Post: Social Work Outreach by Kali Fairchild

Last Friday was one of my favorite days in India so far. We have all been hoping and yearning to make relationships with students at BACAS, and I have decided to try my hardest to make this happen. We got word that on Friday a group of students from the social work department would be traveling to a nearby village to present a public addiction awareness “program.” We didn’t really know what this meant or what it would look like, but we said we would be there. Five of us ISPers ended up going along with the students, and we are so glad we did.

 We thought we would miss the bus since we showed up 30 minutes late, but thanks to Indian time we were actually a few minutes early! We loaded the bus with about 30 other students. There were people sitting on each others’ laps and standing in the isle.  It was awesome. As we traveled to the village they yelled, sang, and got hyped for the event. We got off the bus when we reached the village and the students dispersed signs for us to hold as we paraded around the slum. They had a loudspeaker and yelled chants I did not understood but could at least respond with “illI, illI!” which means, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!”.  We found out later that the signs and street skits were encouraging people not to abuse tobacco and encouraging awareness of alcoholism and warning of the dangers of over-consuming alcohol. We got to see a different part of Coimbatore on this adventure, and for the first time I think it finally hit us; we are in India.

 Once we walked around the village and got everyone’s attention, we congregated in an open area and
the students did street skits, songs, and dances. The children in the slum gathered around and clapped along. It was a surreal experience, and a ton of fun. When the last skit ended we headed back to the bus and then the party really began. We all danced, chanted, and sang our way back to BACAS. A meal was waiting for us upon return and dancing followed.  It was a great night. If one stops to think about all of the differences between an Indian student and an American student, you could think yourself silly. But, on Friday all of those differences faded as we sat, marched, danced, and chanted together. Finding joy in moments like this is what is making this trip so special for me. I love the passion the students and faculty at BACAS have and I hope many more moments like this occur during our time here. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meet the ISP Staff!

Each of our staff wrote a few sentences to share with all of you our heart for India and the India Studies Program. Enjoy!

Kirk McClelland, ISP director, riding his Indian "Hero" bicycle to the office. He does this each morning along Racecourse road, always waving 'good morning' to students along the way.
India: a place of beauty, a place of extremes, a place that has captured my heart and my imagination. A place where i'm continually learning to slow down and be patient. India: a place where one can see the effects of globalization at its best and worst- a mirror to our own reality allowing us to see our complicity and connections. I fell in love with India in the late nineties and now am priveledged to introduce others to the wonderful, complex, overwhelming cutures of India. Come join us as we discover India, learn about ourselves, and figure out how to stay on a rickshaw.

Jonathan Pinckney, ISP Program Assistant, makes friends with a student at a school in Hyderabad.
My name is Jonathan Pinckney and I'm a Program Assistant here at ISP. I love working for this program because my life has been radically changed both by study abroad and by India.  I've both studied and worked in the study abroad world before and have had my heart stolen by some wonderful Indian children at orphanages across South India.  I love having the opportunity to introduce students to a context that's new and exciting, and to come along side them as they wrestle with the questions that that new context presents.  India is a fascinating place for those transformative conversations to take place and its a privilege for me to be here.

Kandyce Pinckney, ISP Program Assistant, with her friend Deepa, a school student. 
I fell in love with India back in 2005, after deciding to pursue my international field experience requirement for my International Affairs major on a study tour of South India. I never imagined how much my life could change as a result of that 6 weeks abroad! Since my first trip to India 6 years ago, I have spent time working on behalf of India's untouchables with the Dalit Freedom Network and with refugees from around the world, compelled to work on behalf of the least of these in large part because of the experiences I had during my trips to India. I'm incredibly excited to work with our ISP students and walk with them through what will undoubtedly be a life-altering experience for each and every one of them. I'm excited to see them all grow in tremendous and sometimes unexpected ways, to learn more about the global community and their roles and responsibilities in it, and to learn more about the heart of God through those they meet.

Stay tuned for a few guest posts, as well as a post on our upcoming trip to Chennai!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Visit to the Sikh Temple

On Sunday, our group headed to the Sikh temple to observe a sunday service and share langar, or lunch, with our new Sikh friends. Here are some photos from our trip.

The Sikh population here in Coimbatore is fairly small. We were welcomed on Sunday by the president of the gurudwara, who also provided us with some general information on the Sikh faith. There are around 25 million Sikhs worldwide, and 75% of Sikhs live in and around Punjab, a state in North India.

 Headcoverings are required for men and women alike. Sikh men wear large turbans  (pictured below) to cover their hair, which they don't cut and wear in a topknot. Here is Program Assistant Jonathan Pinckney and Director Kirk McClelland sporting their borrowed headscarves, available to those who come to the gurudwara without a turban. 

 This is our friend Simran. She's the gurudwara president's daughter. She was kind to show us around the temple and explain to us a little but more about the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, and answer our questions.

Students wearing their dupattas (the scarves which come with their Indian dress) on their heads to enter the temple.

 Observing the service. the man in the middle-right of the picture is reading scriptures from the holy book. the covered heads in the foreground belong to Amanda, Erin and Renee.

 Reading from the Guru Granth.

 Sharing the langar, or communal meal, after the service with our newfound Sikh friends.

Becky, Melissa, Erin, Renee, Kali, Natasha, Brooklyn, Calla, Sarah
Mariah and Amanda
posing outside the gurudwara.

 the president of the gurudwara

Some of the biggest things we learned: the Sikh faith is monotheistic, peaceful and simple- free from idols and superstitions. Sikhs don't discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or even faith. Anyone is free to join them for temple and lunch.

Thank you, Coimbatore Sikh community, for allowing us to share your space with you this Sunday!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Welcome to our blog! We're excited to keep you all posted about what's going on with the India Studies Program here in Coimbatore, South India. Life here has been too busy lately to sit and write about what's going on, but we hope to remedy that soon.

Stay tuned for photo tours of campus, housing and an introduction to each of our staff members.

Thanks for reading!