Saturday, March 31, 2012

Still Traveling. Still Processing. (One of Three)

This is just a small series to let you know that we're still here. Our time in Coimbatore has come to an end but our travel component is just beginning. These next couple posts are quotes about India that allow you to question some of the things that our own students are continually being challenged by. Enjoy, friends!

“In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East -- especially in India -- I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening wihtout a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving -- it is not in the result of loving. ” 
-Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

Monday, March 26, 2012

In Pictures: Roof-top Party!

Holi, a religious festival celebrated all over India, is known as the Festival of colors. It celebrates the beginning of the new spring season and commemorates many events from Hindu mythology. It is most commonly celebrated in Northern India but our ISPers were able to celebrate it in the South with a little help from some friends. Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to our Holi Celebration:

We began our party at sunset, on the roof of our apartments. T-shirt color of choice: white. (For obvious reasons.)
Getting the "color" ready. The dye in this bucket was used to fill up the squirt guns. 
Ashley and Abraham prepping the colors. There were two buckets filled with color and a bunch of pouches filled with colored powder. (Everyone got their own pouch of powder to throw).
The rules were simple:

  1. Avoid throwing color at the eyes and mouth.
  2. Have Fun! (Heavily emphasized by Abraham).
  3. Observe rules 1 & 2. 

(slow moving) Action shot!
Ingredients for a Holi celebration: colors and friends! (Roof is optional). That's all you really need.
Downstairs apartment. They love each other.  Clearly. 

Without a doubt, one of the best nights of this semester. These pictures (and our t-shirts) will definitely be some of our favorite things to show off to our friends and family back home. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beyond BACAS: Familiar Faces:: Lakshmi (The Dog)

Here’s our second Familiar Faces installment. It might seem odd to you that we’re featuring a dog as our “Familiar Face” but if you walked Race Course every morning, you’d understand why this post is dedicated to Lakshmi.
{Typical Lakshmi pose}
A walk to school would not be the same without a greeting from our favorite Indian dog (dubbed “Jake’s Dog” by the Second Batch of ISP students). Regardless of the time of day or day of the week, Lakshmi can be found on some place along Race Course road. She is extremely friendly…. when she’s awake. More often than not, she will usually be napping on a sunny patch of sidewalk. And while she’s usually found close to one particular store, she was once spotted far down the road, closer to BACAS. Turns out that on that day she had followed Jake Maude to school (he frequently reminds the group of how much he’ll miss her when we leave Coimbatore).
{Have we told you that she's REALLY friendly?}
Come to India! As if you needed more incentive to come join us, you’ll be greeted by this adorable dog every morning. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ISP Lecture Series: Freedom Firm

A professor of mine once said, “Don’t let your schoolwork get in the way of your education.” I doubt it could be any more practical when it comes to a study abroad experience. The India Studies Program offers its students many opportunities to learn outside of the classroom including fieldvisits, weekend trips, cultural events through their college, and the ISP Lecture Series. Kirk McClelland, the ISP director, stated that the purpose of the series is to “expand on the curriculum and expose the students to new issues and organizations that work to fight against those injustices”. As stated on the program's website, one of the goals of this program is to examine social justice in a radically different cultural context. Several nights ago, our students had the opportunity to hear form Freedom Firm, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the injustices of sex trafficking. This lecture not only provided an insider’s perspective on an organization fighting this injustice but also challenged our students to rethink justice within their own home settings.
Students listening to a response during the discussion portion of the lecture. 
Our students, peer mentors, and BACAS faculty heard from Rodney, an employee of Freedom Firm's  aftercare home, about modern day slavery, namely sex trafficking, and how rampant it is in certain parts of India.  Freedom Firm focuses on rescue, restoration, and justice for girls who are under 18 and were forced into prostitution. The group learned more of the Devadasi system, an outlawed system of belief still prevalent in the state of Karnataka, that calls for its followers to marry their daughters to a goddess. These girls, who typically come from lower income families, earn at least 3 times more as temple prostitutes than they would earn working typical job for their area. In addition to this system, the group also learned of the complications and challenges that face those currently fighting those injustices as well as some of the risks that Freedom Firm employees take.
{unrelated photo by Celiz Aguilar}
Rodney and his wife Diana work at Freedom Firm’s rehabilitation center located in Ooty, a hilltown that our students visited several weeks ago. The center hosts women during an intensive 18 month program that rehabilitates them back into their society. During the program, the girls take classes during the morning and participate in skills training activities in the afternoon. Their journey to become re-integrated into society is a long, tiring, and extensive one. But they have an incredible support system to help make this possible. They are befriended by the staff members and are taught how to do many of the basic things that most member of society take for granted. 
{The hill town of Coonoor, a city close by to Ooty}
The students learned of the struggles the girls face as well as their dreams and aspirations for themselves. They had the opportunity to learn from the Freedom Firm staff. They also had the chance to purchase some of the jewelry and cards that the girls make through the various projects of rehabilitation program. More importantly, though, the students had the opportunity to reexamine social justice within the Indian context. They were able to witness that where there is hope, there can be change. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beyond BACAS: Familiar Faces:: Shiamala Baby

If you've read our Chennai post, you'd know that our students got to meet Shiamala Baby, a long time friend of the program staff. Our students got to hear from this amazing woman who has started her own organization to empower and train women. 
Shiamala Auntie 
Shiamala Auntie received the group with open arms and a willing heart. She welcomed us into her office, excited that we were there and eager to share about the organization and its efforts. As mentioned in the previous post, she shared with the group a lot about herself, including past pains and struggles.

For over 10 years, she was abused by her husband. She lived in fear about coming out because of the challenges women receive without a husband. But finally, she knew that she had had enough. She received help and got out of the cycle of abuse. It was then that she knew that other women needed to be educated about their rights and given skills to improve their lives. She started FORWARD, the Forum for Women’s Rights and Development. Shiamala Auntie believes that “education can transform lives” and that belief is seen within some of the major objectives of this organization. Several aims of FORWARD include teaching victimized women about the laws that exist for their protection, educating the public about women’s rights, and training the children and future generations.
(Unrelated Photo)
Out of her own struggles, healing comes about for other women. Through FORWARD, Shiamala Baby has been able to empower women and educate them about their government-endowed rights. She also educated our ISPers about some of the laws that are currently in effect to help protect women from domestic violence. FORWARD is also doing women’s empowerment work among several villages in and around Chennai. And our ISPers had the opportunity to visit some of those villages, which you can read about in our post, as mentioned at the beginning of the post (yes, that was another shameless plug).  
Just some of the women Shiamala Baby serves. 
We learned about the struggles that the villagers face in their efforts to better themselves and their economic situation. In one village, the most educated person was a young girl in the 10th standard (10th grade). We learned about the hopes that the people have for their children and future generations. It is difficult to send children to school but with Shiamala Auntie’s help, more children are able to attend school and obtain an education.
They were adorable! Village children who are able to go to school because of Shiamala Auntie's work. 
We were incredibly blessed to hear from Shiamala Auntie and lean about all that she's doing for others. She inspired our students and encouraged through her story.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Singles Awareness Day India!

Although Valentines Day was a couple weeks ago, we thought that you'd appreciate hearing about how we celebrate here in India.

 While friends and families celebrated, or completely ignored, Valentines Day back home, our ISP students decided to put a twist on their V-Day party celebrations. In order to come to the party, guests had to dress up like a famous pair or group such as peanut butter and jelly or Batman and Robin. Students invited their friends and peer mentors and encouraged them to dress up. In keeping with the breakfast for dinner theme, chocolate chip pancakes and caramelized bananas were served.
Some of the party-goers during dinner.

Jake Maude and his peer mentor Poornith as "India and Gandhi".
Not pictured: Gandhi's salt (held in Poornith's left hand). 
You know it was a good time anytime Gandhi makes a guest appearance. 
Some of the other guests included: the three blind mice, “power on” and “power off” (that was hilarious in light of all the adaptations our students have had to make over the semester [that pun was unintentional, I promise you]), John Smith, and Pocahontas, and the rainbow. Yes, the rainbow.
Each color looked amazing! Their outfits never cease to amaze us. 
The night ended with a round of limbo (using Gandhi's staff as the limbo pole) and everyone joining in with the Macarena, which has become somewhat of a tradition during the hostel visits. 
The group consensus: costume parties are the best way to spend Valentines Day.

For more photos, see our Spring 2012 Facebook album.