Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pictures from Hyderabad

Here are a few pictures from around Hyderabad.

Char Minar, Landmark in Hyderabad built to commemorate the end of a plague.

Char Minar, Hyderabad.

Inside Char Minar, Hyderabad

View of Hyderabads Old City from Char Minar

View of the Buddha Statue in Husain Sagar Lake from Lumbini Park, Hyderabad

Dock at Lumbini Park

Buddha Statue from Necklace Road

Wedding of a coworkers sister

Volleyball with HMI Staff and students.

Playing Holi (the Festival of Color) again.

My room in the HMI Hostel

Aman-Shanti Prayer Hall at dusk, HMI

Inside Aman-Prayer Hall, HMI

Morning devotions, Aman-Shanti Prayer Hall, HMI

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jouney to the Deccan

I am sorry that I have not blogged lately and kept you up to date. Lots has transpired in the last few weeks. I'll start at the present and give you a quick rundown of the significant events in reverse chronological order.

I am now living in Hyderabad, India, and working with the Conflict Transformation (CT) team of the Henry Martyn Institute (HMI). It's a wonderful place with even more wonderful people. Although I do miss the beaches and my friends on the Andamans. I'll post pictures and more details of my work shortly, inshalla.

Between moving from the Andamans Islands to Hyderabad we had an MCC Retreat in Nepal. It was really great to meet the other MCCers on our team who are working in Nepal and Afghanistan. I got to spend a few short days with Subhekchya's parents in Kathmandu and had a wonderful time. The retreat was held in Pokhara which offered a great time to relax, relate and reflect... oh and we also got to go paragliding (don't worry that wasn't on MCC's bill).

Amongst all this exciting change there was also the sadness of leaving the Andmans and the good friends I have made there. They gave me a very meaningful farewell and my thoughts are with them as they finish up the project. Before I left Liz and Laura came to visit and we took a few days to visit Havelock Island and I finally got to go scuba diving after being on the Andamans for a year.

Before I left the Andamans I also had a quick trip to Bangladesh (to get my visa stamped). It was great to be able to spend time with Sri (the Asia Peace Coordinator) and Sarah (who is doing peace work for MCC Bangladesh). I didn't get to see a lot of Bangladesh but it was a good time to start switching gears from water to peace.

The main job I had on the Andamans this last time was to organize the National Water Seminar which was held at the end of January. It came off well and was a huge learning experience for me. One of the other jobs was conducting a Borewell Mapping Project. A few significant findings came out of the research but with the amount of time it was only a beginning.

So here I am in a new place making new friends and trying to see how I can fit into a new team.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


So we (Liz, Laura and I) got on the sleeper bus in Udaipur and headed for Jodhpur. The sleeper bus was not nearly as restful as the train but at least the sleeper bus allowed us to lay flat. We arrived on the outskirts of Jodhpur at 4:00 in the morning and we were hurried off the bus onto a dark almost deserted road in a place we had never been. We hopped in the only Auto (auto-rickshaw) available and headed for the guesthouse we had booked. After some knocking and a phone call a kind, sleepy old woman opened the door for us and showed us in. We slept until 10am when we went up to the rooftop restaurant to see this!

The view of the Jodhpur Fort and "Blue City" from the rooftop restaurant of our our guesthouse
(I might have let out some expletives at the amazing sight since we had arrived in the pitch black and I had no idea what awaited me!)

We had breakfast on the roof and then headed through the blue streets up the hill to the fort. Although we tried to resist the audio-tour of the fort it proved to be really well done and very informative. Since it was included in the foreigners ticket price, what could we do.

Just as you enter the gates of the fort you will see these hands. The wives of the Raja (King) dipped there hands in vermilion (red color) and left a print on this wall when they left the fort for the last time to jump onto there husbands burning funeral pyre.

The royal chamber of the fort.

Rajasthan is known for its miniature paintings. This one, exhibited inside the fort, reminded me of the artwork of my cousins Jake and Aaron.

The top of the fort offers amazing views of the "Blue City," but you really have to be there.

We made many unsolicited friends on the tour of the fort as well.

Many people thought Laura was Punjabi (can you tell which one is the videshi (foreigner))?

The temple on top of the fort.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Jodhpur and had one last meal on the rooftop of our guest house before heading to the train station to leave Jodhpur for Delhi less then 24 hours from the time we arrived.

I have to give a shout out to the Jodhpur train station. It is by far my favorite train station in India. I didn't want to ruin the mood by taking a picture, sorry. But it has a fantastic atmosphere. It is also featured in the movie Darjeeling Limited.

Thanks to Liz and Laura for some of the pictures.

Monday, February 2, 2009


After Christmas I met up with Liz (a SALTER cum Service Worker) and Laura (a SALTER) to start are adventures in Rajasthan. We took an overnight train to our first stop, Udaipur, which is known as the "Venice of India," "the Lake Palace City" and some even say "the most beautiful city in India." In any case it lived up to our expectations and some of us may have even had the best days of our lives.

View from the rooftop of our guest house.

Groggy and tired from the cold night in sleeper class on the train we recuperated on the rooftop with a cup of chai and the sunrise before exploring the city.

Our guest house also offered an amazing view of the Lake Palace that Udaipur is famous for.

This is Liz doing one of the things she is usually doing (buying bananas, thinking about buying bananas, eating bananas or carrying large bunches of bananas).

And here is Laura doing one of the things she enjoys (Drinking tea or coffee)

We spent the next two days exploring the city and admiring the miniature paintings that Udaipur is also known for. View from the City Palace

Basically every hotel has a rooftop restaurant and most show the James Bond movie Octopusy every night. (Apparently part of the movie was filmed in Udaipur)

After heading over to the Ghat to shanti-out and accidentally making some friends...

...we attended a cultural program at the museum where we enjoined Rajasthani dancing, puppetering and even a woman dancing with 14 pots balanced her head.

Then off to yet another rooftop restaurant for dinner.

Lake Palace at night.

The next day we took an Auto-rickshaw all the way up the mountain to the Monsoon Palace built on a cliff overlooking the city.

We watched the sunset from the Monsoon Palace before catching our overnight bus to Jodhpur "the Blue city."

Thanks to Liz and Laura for the photo contributions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Delhi Christmas

After spending some time in the state of Bihar I took the train to Delhi to spend Christmas with some friends from Landour Language School.

The party was hosted by Kate who was house sitting for a friend who lives in the in the Residency of the Bulgarian Embassy. Needless to say it was quite posh in the Diplomatic section.

In fact it was so different from the rest of India it was hard to remember what was outside those walls.

Kate created a wonderful (if not a bit ad hoc) Christmas atmosphere with all her perfectionistic tendencies. (including chrstmas cookies and buckeyes)

If you haven't noticed, the cat, Pancake (either a reference to it's strangly flattened face, or a tragic forshadowing of it's demise) was a centerpice of the celebrations.

The celebrations started on Christmas Eve and didn't end until the day after Christmas. Many of the guests were Fulbright scholors or working on their PhD's so conversation stayed lively.

We even got down a little bit to Davids selection of music once Kate got her fill of Christmas music.

One of the highlights for me was playing football (soccer) on Christmas afternoon, which was warm and sunny, just like Christmas day is supposed to be.

Photos complements of David "#1" J. (Too bad he couldn't be in the pictures)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


After a Christmas party with the MCC staff in Kolkata I started off on some holiday traveling. My first stop was in Bihar to visit the EHA Flood Relief Project and my friend Esther.

The hospital compound specifically and Bihar in general were oddly reminiscent of my childhood, and strangely felt like home. I really fell in love with Bihar.

The first day we went out to a rural clinic EHA is starting.

That evening we had a fish barbecue and chatted late into the night. I was even able to follow some jokes told in Hindi.

The next day the EHA team set off to the villages that were most affected by the flood.

The flood washed most of the bridges in the area away. This one was reconstructed using sand bags. Another was reconstructed by the Indian Army in 24 hours.

One of the major bridges, however, has still not been reconstructed so we took a boat across the engorged river.

This land was under water for months and has still has not completely dried out. When the EHA team first arrived they traveled by boat to the villages.

Farmers are starting to replant the drier fields but many are still submerged.


No need to teach this young man to fish.

The flood waters reached the height of the white line across the house and remained for months. North India is also very cold during the winter... even the cattle have to wear blankets.

In each ward relief cards were handed out to the most needy according to a survey that was conducted earlier. However, there were some issues when some people found out they were not on the list and thought they should have been.

In each ward, names were read off the list, people came forward, details were checked, the cards were signed and handed over and they were checked off the list...

... and the team moved on to the next ward.

The next day all of the 1624 people who received relief cards (and quite a few others who wanted to see the spectacle) gathered to receive the relief packets.

Cards were brought forward one at a time, signed with a thumb print and checked off the list...

They then went to the truck, showed their card...

And received a gunnysack full of food containing:
Rice 17 kg
Dal 5 kg,
Sattu (gram flour mix) 3 kg
Sugar 3 kg
Salt 950 gm
Biscuits 1 kg
Mustard Oil 1 L

Relieved after the strenuous process...

They carried off this months food rations.
The cards are good for two more distributions in the next two months.

Coming, as I did, at this stage in the process it is hard to see the trauma these people went through now that they are beginning to put their lives back together again. That is until you are walking through the rice patties with a woman who starts to sob, and through her tears points out a partially buried skull in the patty and explains that this is where they found her daughter's body as the flood waters receded. The team hopes that the relief they give is ultimately helpful and doesn't just add more stress to the already traumatic situation.