Monday, July 12, 2010

So, it's been a while.....

I know. I said I'd do better at posting this summer. BUT, our computer access was super cut off, so I didn't really have a chance. (by cut off I mean the people who owned the computer needed it, so we didn't have one anymore. Ha.) Anyways, I'm sorry. I'll update you and then some and even post some pictures to show you what's been up.

Right now I'm sitting in Orlando! We are home safely after lots and lots of traveling! I'm happy and sad to be back at the same time. Again, thank you so much for supporting me and praying for me. Y'all are the only reason this summer could happen.

I don't really remember what all I've told you, so my apologies in advance for any repetitive info.

The organization we work with, Sahayak (I can use names and stuff now that I'm back!), does the income-generation program for the women that live in the slum. We were asked to create a product for them to make that could be sold in the States/the western world. After trying all sorts of jewelry, headbands, and Christmas ornaments, we came up with (with the help of Sarah Allen......a chai packet! Everyone in India drinks chai. All the time. At home, I don't like chai. In fact, after having it from Starbucks, I hated it. Ha. But, it's so good and so much different in India. Chai is literally tea. Chai means tea in Hindi. They add some spices to some, which I think is what most coffee shops/restaurants at home are shooting for when they serve it, but it's not the same. We made 40 packets as testers/samples to bring home with us, and if they go well, Sahayak will start making them and selling them! Each packet contains the tea, sugar, spices, instructions, and a strainer to make real, delicious chai. And, they all come in cute bags that we bought at one of the many incredible markets we visited. I'll have a few of the packets left at home, they're $5 if you wanna buy one, but even if you don't, let me know what you think about them. Do you think they will sell or is it silly? Shoot me straight. We need to know more for them than for us. :)

Now to the markets. There are tons and tons of different markets here. I could've spent so so much money, but luckily, I didn't bring a ton. We went to an export reject market where a lot of Old Navy, Gap, etc. reject (messed up) clothing is sold. I think this was my favorite market. They also had housewares, shoes, jewelry, bags, my teammate Beka bought peacock feathers. It was great. Of all the markets, there a few wholesale markets that sell almost anything you can imagine in bulk for ultra cheap. They are filled with people all the time, as everything else in India is, and can be one of the most overwhelming things you experience ever. We bought things like tea strainers, tea, sugar, beads, ribbons, wire, hooks, and bags there. You can also go to the steel market or the plastic market or what I like to call the party favor market to look for other specific things. Seriously. They have everything. Here's a picture of one that we frequented for jewelry supplies for Sahayak. 
It was pretty early, so it wasn't super crowded then. And, please notice the power lines. They were like this in every market we went to. It's really funny/neat/scary to me. Ha. Within the markets there are usually temples and mosques. Here are some beautiful doors that were part of Jain community in one of the markets we went to. Aren't they so colorful and fun?! (If you wanna learn about Jainism, here ya go: I didn't really know a ton about it before.)

 We also visited a Hindu temple while we were there. It was really sad. They are EVERYWHERE. I saw people praying to these creepy looking little statues and presenting them with offerings. As we walked through, our Indian friend told us what each one was. We walked through again and just prayed for Hindus and the temple and the people there. It was heartbreaking. Here are two of the probably hundreds I saw this summer.

OH! We got to go the Taj Mahal! It was so fun! Beka and I went with our Didi (I don't know if I told you, but Didi means eldest sister in Hindi, and that's what we called our Indian girl friend who took us everywhere. We love her and miss her tons.) We left at 6am and rode 4hrs in a car to Agra. We got a tour guide named Lucky who loved Didi. Here are some pictures of the drive there and the Taj itself. This was the one and only time I wore my jeans there this summer. I only did that because our car was air conditioned (praise the Lord. AC is not normal here.) I still regretted it.
The really colorful picture on the right is the back of a truck. All of the trucks here are super colorful and super painted. Also, all of the pictures above are totally normal things in India that you see on a day to day basis. Crazy right?
I had to.
We had to wear shoe covers, but we wanted to be cool, so of course we didn't actually cover our feet. So cool, I know.
Our auto had to stop one day to get fuel, so while we were waiting the driver let us have a photo shoot. It was fun. :)
Those are my dirty feet from walking through a market when it started raining. During the end of our time here, the monsoon came, so it rained tons. It helped the weather a lot though. We moved from around 115ish to 95-100ish. It was great!

Without a doubt, my FAVORITE thing we did in India was go to the slum. We went about twice a week, and we also saw the women when they were making jewelry. I love them. They are so sweet and kind and generous and welcoming. And, oh the children. I cannot talk about them without getting a huge smile on my face, and I'm nearly crying thinking that it's more unlikely than likely that I will ever see them again. But, here a few gems for you. I'll try to keep them minimal even though I could post tons.
That's all I have for now. I'll continue to post a few more things as we go through debrief, but hopefully this is more than enough for you for now. I miss you all! See you soon!