Sunday, December 30, 2007

Home and Back to India

Ian and I arrived in Delhi last night safe and sound. Weather delayed our departure on the 28th but we managed to make it to Newark via Cleveland on the 29th and flew out to Delhi from there. It was our first time taking a direct flight and both Ian and I agreed that it was quicker and easier than having to stop somewhere (especially when it is just to get off the plane and go through security).

For those of you who didn't get a chance to see us while we were home, we had a great trip. We certainly would have liked more time with our families , but what time we did get was wonderful. That isn't to say that the trip was without adventure...Ian ran into some difficulty getting his visa. Our original plan was the Ian would get the visa on his way through Chicago but alas! they have changed the way that visas are processed. The handling of visas of has been outsourced to a company called Travisa. That meant we had to send his passport to Chicago and they would send it back to us. Well Ian's folks got the passport back on the Thursday before Christmas but it didn't have a new visa in it. So after one trip to Chicago, a lot of phone calls it was ready the day we were suppose to fly out. Talk about cutting it close! But we were all relieved that he did get it!

We are going to be in and around Delhi for the next 10 days and then we will be heading to Jaipur and finally Bharatpur. I will make sure to update everyone on our whereabouts!

Have a great New Year!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

And then there was two...

Well, our semester long program officially ended this morning. At 2:30 am half of our students left to go back the United States, while the other half are going to travel for a week. While at times this semester seemed to crawl by, it now seems like August was just a few days ago. I got very emotional at our farewell dinner and as we were seeing people off this morning. Even though the students could be really demanding and frustrating at times, they were really a great bunch of people (I think Ian and I learned this all too well after our stay with the Syracuse students). But with the joys of email and facebook, hopefully we will all stay in touch.

Ian and I are heading to Jaipur this afternoon, and are going to be there for 4 days before coming back to Delhi to really finish up and head home. Yea!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Back In Delhi

Ian and I had a fairly uneventful train ride back to Delhi on Friday. I think we have finally mastered managing the group when we travel. We found that the key was to hire at least one porter who knows exactly where on the platform you need to be when the train comes. Unfortunately such knowledge comes late, and we are done travelling as a large group.

Now that we are back in Delhi there is not much on the agenda. The students have their final presentations on Thursday and Friday, and then they leave on Sunday morning. A few students are staying on longer to do some more travelling, and we will see them on the plane on the 16th.

This week and next Ian and I will be taking care of some grant-related business. I stopped by AIIS today to find out about getting permission to work in the national park and tomorrow Ian and I are going to USEFI to talk about his grant. Next week we will go to Jaipur for a couple of days to get me de-registered, and then I think we are all set to return to the States.

I'm sorry this isn't a more exiciting blog entry, but I am glad that we have had a break from all the excitement. :) I will see some of you soon, and for those who I am not able to see, have a great holiday!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Ian and I have been in Varanasi for the last two weeks. For those of you who may not be familiar with the city, it is right on the Ganges River and is considered a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus, especially at the time of death. Our guide here has been a man named Rana Singh, and he has been taking us all over the place...The first night we went on a evening boat ride to see evening aarti (worship) along the river.It was beautiful to see the lamps lit on the banks and hear Sanskrit devotionals being sung. Along the river there are a series of steps, called ghats, that go down to the river. Each ghat is known for something particular, so the second day we went by boat to see all of the different ghats. We started very early in the morning, but ended up still being on the water in the heat of the day, so everyone ended up exhausted and dehydrated from the sun. Rana-ji has also shown us a number of Hindu temples in the area, and the day before last we went to Sarnath which is an important pilgrimage place for Buddhists. Needless to say we have been busy!! Though seeing all the temples has been interesting, I must say that Varanasi hasn't been as nice as I thought it would be; it isn't all that different from other places we have visited. But the students seem to like it, and when they are happy, I am happy. :)

As some of you may have heard, there were bomb blasts in the city of Varanasi a couple of days ago. It was far away from where we were staying and seemed to be an isolated incident, but we still had to take it very seriously. After many calls and emails to the States, the Consortium board decided that it was safe for us to continue the program...

We leave on Friday evening for Delhi which is another 20 hour journey by train. Our time in Delhi will be more free, and Ian and I hope to get some work done while we are there. Our students will also be giving presentations as well as finishing up some coursework. After the end of the semester, Ian and I will be taking care of some official paperwork business and then will be going home for 10 days. I can't wait!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Survived the Syracuse Students

Ian and I are back in Jaipur after parting ways with the Syracuse/Emory students. They were possibly the worst group of students I have EVER interacted with. They were whiny, selfish, and rude. They weren't even nice to each other!! Poor Ian got the brunt of their attitude, which made me even madder. It all started because we placed restrictions on where they could eat (for health reasons) and how much they could spend (budget reasons). They told us that we were not treating them like adults (read: not letting them get their way). So they just decided to make our lives hell which displayed their absolute immaturity. When we went to Bharatpur, they were extremely rude to people Ian knows from the previous times he has stayed there. Fortunately, the manager of the hotel realized that it was the students who were the problem so it won't reflect badly on Ian and I in the long run.

That being said, it was nice to be back in Bharatpur. We went to the bird sanctuary, and it is in pretty rough shape--very litte water, and very few birds. But people seemed to be talking about it which will be good for me when I get back there.

Ian and I are leaving on Monday for Varanasi (Banaras) and will be staying their with the New York students for about three weeks. I am excited to see the city though I have heard that it is very overwhelming. I am not sure about internet availablity there but I will try to write when I can...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jaipur Update

Well, we have been in Jaipur a little over two weeks now. I think by all accounts the Hindi lessons are going well, though the academic speakers have been a little lackluster. Ian left on Friday for Delhi to pick up the Syracuse students who will be in the Rajasthan travel seminar. Though there was little bit of miscommunication about arrival times and such, they successfully left for the rural district of Nawalgarh on Monday morning. They will arriving in Jaipur on Wednesday, and I will be joining them for field trips and such. We have split up so that I can stay with the consortium program as long as possible. But I will go with them to Bharatpur and Agra when they go next week. Ian and I are going to discuss our research, and show them our fieldsite(s).

While Ian went to Delhi, I traveled with the other students to Tilonia, Raj. to the Social Work Research Center (a.k.a. The Barefoot College). It is an organization working with rural development particularly drinking water, solar energy, and health education. The accomodations were a little rough, but I think overall the students enjoyed visiting villages and speaking with school children.

I wish I was enjoying the fall festivities back at home. I could really go for some pumpkin pie! Hope all is well with everyone! Drop us a line when you can....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Over a month!!!

I can't believe that it has been over a month since I last posted something. I guess I have been busier than I thought. Ian and I have had a lot going on...

After leaving Mussoorie, the group spent a week in Delhi with some weekend field trips. Unfortunately, illness made the week much less than fun. First, Ian missed the trip to Amritsar because four of our students were ill. Then Ian came down with some unknown virus and had a 103+ fever for more than a week. And if that wasn't bad enough I got sick at the end of the week when we went to Agra to see the Taj. I was well enough to catch (actually, almost miss) the train to Rajkot, Gujarat but Ian decided that he was too ill to travel and stayed for an extra week in Delhi. This did not make Lisa at all happy but I think Ian made the right decision.

After we arrived in Babapur (Lisa's uncle's village), I was still sick so I spent most of the week in bed. The students seemed to have fun, and decided that rural Gujarat is the "real India" (I guess Mussoorie got bumped from the list :) ). After spending five days in Babapur, we travelled to Amhedabad, a large, post-industrial city in Gujarat. It was there that Ian joined us (though that is another long story that we will share with everyone later). It was good to have him back, and it made me wonder how I am going to spend months without him in Karauli! We spent two days in Amhedabad going to the Calico textile museum, going to Gandhi's ashram and the university he founded.

Following our stay there, we had a four day break during which the students had time to travel on their own, mostly in small cities in Rajasthan. Ian and I took the opportunity to visit Vikas' family in Jaipur.

The four days went very quickly, and on Saturday October 24th we moved into a large rented house which we are sharing with Lisa, her husband, and two children. I'm glad it is a large house; it makes sharing the space a little bit more manageable.

All the students arrived safely in Jaipur and moved into their home stays without incident. Last week was their first week of classes and so far so good, though I think that the change in the format of the Hindi instruction has been challenging for them.

I must admit that I am getting a bit homesick. I miss having the ability to cook my own food, eat as much of it as I want, drive myself around, etc, etc. And most of all I miss the schedule that Ian and I used to keep in Syracuse. We are counting the days until the program is done, because at least when we move to Bharatpur we will be the keepers of our time. If I have any critique of the study abroad program is that we try to do too much and I think it really doesn't help the students at all. But that's just my two cents...

I hope all is going well back in the States! Drop us a line; we really do enjoy hearing from people. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hindi Exam and Last Day in Mussoorie

Well, the students are busy taking their final Hindi exam. In the last few days, Ian and I have fielded many panicked questions about vocabulary and grammar. I never thought that I would be teaching people Hindi grammar...Cassidy knows how truly ironic that is. But I think the students will end up doing fine as long as they keep their wits about them.

Tomorrow we head back to Delhi...That means that Ian and I have to pack up the room in which we have stayed for five weeks. It doesn't sound like a long time but we have certainly made ourselves at home. I also want to try to take some pictures of the guest house and what-not that I have been putting off. Mussoorie is a very pretty place; it is just difficult to get a picture of it before the fog moves in. :)

Ian and I will probably be offline until October 10th or so. We have gotten letter writing materials so we will try communicating the "old-fashioned" way. :) When we get to Jaipur I think we will have more regular access to email.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One week left in Mussoorie

Well, we have one week left in the hill station town of Mussoorie. It is amazing how quickly time has passed. The students' Hindi final is on Thursday and they are busy writing a five page paper on the academic material we have covered thus far. In other words, they are miserable. And I must admit, it is no fun for Ian, Lisa and I either. But I think we will prevail as long as the students are able to keep things in perspective.

Ian and I randomly ran into Mather George, a friend of Ian's from the AIIS Language Program, in Mussoorie (some of you met her at our wedding...) She was in the area doing some of her dissertation research, and we have spent several days together. It has been nice to catch up and hang out with a non-program person.

Besides that, not much has been going on. We have to pack up and get ready to head to Delhi. We won't be there very long, and will take side trips to Amritsar Panjab to see the Golden Temple and to Agra to see the Taj and Fatehpur Sikri. After that we are onto points west...10 days in Gujarat and then 1 month in Jaipur. Both Ian and I are looking forward to that part of the trip.

Hope all is going well with you all back home. Keep in touch!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


We are still in Musoorie, and will be for two more weeks. Though it is not a bad place, I am looking forward to heading to Jaipur. I have to hike up a moutain to get anywhere here, and since it is so small I sometimes feel a little trapped.

Not last weekend, but the weekend before we traveled to Vananda Shiva's organic farm outside of Dehra Dun. It was nice to be in the plains again--warm, sunny and flat! It was also interesting to hear about their operation there. They are interested in recovering indigenous/non-hyridized crops and they have a seed cooperative through which farmers can cheaply obtain seeds. I am still a little sceptical about how applicable it might be on a national scale but it was still an interesting trip.

Last week was a little rough for me, since I felt like I didn't really have a place here. All the students were going to either Ian and Lisa, making me feel like sort of a third wheel, but I got over it and things have been better so far this week.
For once, I can say that my Hindi is improving and even Ian has said that I am doing better about talking in Hindi with people. Yea!!!

Last night was Krishna's birthday so we went to two Hindu temples. With twenty white people showing up, we no doubt became the center of attention. At the first temple, they assumed that we were from ISKON (i.e. Hari Krishnas) and at the second temple we were closely observed by all the young women in attendence since some of the women in our program actually wore saris to the function.

This weekend we are traveling to the headwaters of the Yamuna river (Yamunotri). Though it should be an interesting trip, I am not looking forward to six hours in a car, followed by a 4-5 mile hike.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I forgot my cable at home. I am going to try to figure out someway to get pictures off the camera so I can pass them on...Hope all is well with everyone. Please send me news when you can!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Hi everyone! Sorry it has taken so long to send an update. The time in Delhi was more hectic than I thought it would be, especially since the trip to Jaipur took five days instead of one. I encountered Indian bureaucracy in its finest form, as I was told that I didn't have the paperwork I needed which was really just a ploy to run me around Jaipur like a chicken with its head cut off. But Ian and I got a chance to be alone together in Jaipur and visit our favorite places while we waited. It was actually quite nice.
All of our students except for one arrived without major problem. The one student who couldn't leave is actually a Bangladeshi citizen and it has taken longer than expected to get her visa.

Most of the students are pretty good though I wonder sometimes why they chose to come to India. They are all very suspicious of the bucket shower (not to mention not using toilet paper) and still haven't quite figured out the whole eating with your fingers thing. I think most of them are looking for the most exotic thing...and they pretty much found it when we arrived in Mussoorie. I've never experienced as much hyperbole as I did in the first hour of being in Mussoorie. "It is the best place I've ever been" "This is REAL India" "Nothing can compare with this." We'll see how long it lasts. :)

Ian and I are doing well other wise. I start Hindi lessons tomorrow and Ian is looking forward to getting some work done himself.

Take care and I'll write soon....

Friday, August 3, 2007

First Days in India

Ian and I arrived safely on Thursday night/Friday morning Delhi time. The flights were okay, besides an unexpected (for us) stop in London. It seems as if our flight was NOT a direct one, and we spent two hours standing in a cue at London Heathrow. Our adventures did not end there as we didn't have a car to pick us up when we reached Delhi. It seems as if there was a miscommunication about the day we were coming in and our boss thought were going to arrive on Friday evening. Ian and I kept our wits about us though and took a taxi to the AIIS guesthouse. It actually worked out very well...we ran into Ann Gold, professor of Religion and Anthropology at SU and got to chat with her for a little while. I also learned that I have to travel to Jaipur in the next 14 days to register with the police. It seems that you have to register where your institution of affiliation is which, for me, is at the University of Rajasthan. So Ian and I are going to take a quick trip down there tomorrow (Sunday) and take care of it on Monday.

We eventually got a hold of Lisa and shifted to the hotel that we are going to be staying while we are in Delhi. It is really nice; it is by far the nicest hotel I have stayed at in India and rivals those I have stayed at in the U.S. I guess they don't want to shock the students too much when they first arrive. :)

I think I am going to do some shopping for some new clothes today as well as take in the sites of Delhi. This is the first time I have been able to spend time here. I also want to know my way around a little bit before the students arrive. I think Ian is going to have a little down time doing his own thing. I think the fact that we have been stuck together for days now is starting to be a little too much; understandably so. That's a lot of together time. :)

I will let everyone know how are trip to Jaipur is in the next couple of days...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pre-India Adventures

Well, it looks like our adventures are beginning before we even leave for India. While we were coming back to Syracuse from Chicago, we found ourselves in a semi-surreal, semi-Indian situation...

I guess it all started when we went to check into a hotel outside of Cleveland. All the hotel rooms in Cleveland seemed to be booked due to the convergence of four events in the Cleveland area--the Kenny Chesney concert, a baseball game, an arts and craft show and an agility dogshow. We eventually got a room at a Red Roof Inn that was a little ummm...sketchy. But we made it through the night and we were on our way home (which we were VERY excited about) when we got a flat tire. Ian was a champ and got the donut on, but alas, it was Sunday and it took us a while to find an open tire store. We found one in Mentor, and we were on our way home...FINALLY.

However, 12 miles before we got to Syracuse, the car died. Dead. Now, we had known that our charging system might be a little compromised (another long story) but we were not prepared for the catastrophic failure of the car at 10 pm.

So, there we were...on the side of the road outside of close to home but so far away. After trying to find the number of a towing service, we finally decided to get towed back to Auburn and spend the night there. I cursed the fact that I had let my AAA lapse.

The tow truck finally came, and a heavy set, rough looking tow-truck guy descended from the cab. He asked where we wanted to get towed to, and we admitted to him that we didn't have a garage in mind, but would like something close to a hotel. He said, "Well if money isn't an issue, my boss owns a hotel." How convenient, I thought, for a towning company to also own a hotel. How very...Indian. But, I thought, in India it wouldn't be "my boss who owns a hotel" but rather "I have a brother-cousin who owns a hotel."

After a very colorful ride back to Auburn (it was only 10 miles but it seemed like a hundred), we arrived at the motel (the Midas place was right across the street from the motel). Lo and behold! The hotel/towing/cab company (the driver acutally mentioned that there was a fourth business run from the same office, but we couldn't figure out what it was) was run by an Indian family!!! (Gujarati we think, but maybe Bengali). I thought Ian and I were going to die laughing right there! :) The hotel was straight out of India, though it was lacking a bucket to shower with.

We are still trying to get the car fixed, but I don't think it will be an experience that Ian and I will soon forget.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Packing up the apartment

Ian and I are packing up the apartment, and trying to figure out what to pack and what to take with us. We are going to try to distribute our stuff between my parents and his. This means a cross country drive to drop stuff off, but it also means that we'll get to see his family before we take off. I will try to post pictures from the road...