Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Looneys have Landed

Sunday morning, very early, the Looneys; well more accurately, Bernie and Maureen, landed in Mumbai.

We caught up until about 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

Then we were up early and began seeing the sights of Mumbai.

We were up again on Monday and again today.  Pictures say more than words so enjoy Bernie and Maureen's first time exploring India.  I've included photos just from our first two days.  Still working on uploading highlights from today.

Actually, I've been able to explore and learn a lot too.

For those interested in itineraries:

Day 1 -  The sights of Mumbai
We started the day by meeting our wonderful guide Manasi at the Shivari Terminus (formally, Victoria Terminus) Station. Hiring a guide, rather than doing it on our own, was important to me since I could just point and read from a book, but instead wanted a chance for my parents, and myself, to truly learn about Mumbai first-hand.  

After touring the CS Terminus and getting acquainted with how many people use their heads to transport goods, we drove around a bit to see more sights of Kala Ghoda including universities along with cricket grounds and St. Thomas Cathedral.  

Then we went onto the Gateway and of course the obligatory trip to the Taj Hotel to obviously use the restroom but also see the beautifully restored dome.  

Our final stop was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum which includes history and from the Indus Valley to swords from the Maharajas to the stuffed fowl of India.  

After a jam-packed morning, we ended our tour by eating a light lunch including tartines and of course some dessert, at Le Pain Quotidien, a divine Belgium bakery, in Colaba.  And yes, Mumbaikers, of course we brought home treats for the next day.

Day 2 - Dhobi Ghat and Dharavi tours
Since my parents had their India introduction day on Sunday, we went full on into local Indian life on Day Two.  We visited Dhobi Ghat, the largest laundry in the city.  The dhobis, or washermen, work for about 150 rupees a day (equivalent of $3USD).  Manasi arranged for us to tour with one of the dhobis who works for about three hours (getting up at 4:30) in the morning, and provides tours as a representative of the dhobi association. We paid a small fee to go down into the ghat and truly saw how hard the men worked and their small homes where over 8 men live in one room. Definitely a humbling experience.

Next we visited Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the city. I knew this tour would be hard for us all just feeling overwhelmed and powerless.  Concerned about the children working in factories. The conditions of the workers cutting plastics and dying leather without wearing protective masks. In one area we walked, it was sewer cleaning day. Just so different than our American daily life "problems."  No comparison. Wow.

Toward the end of our visit; and a highlight for me, we went to a school run by an NGO called the Dhavari School. This school was founded and organized by The Art of Living so students not only come to school for half a day; they also receive two meals a day, breakfast and lunch and learn the practice of yoga (to help them balance their lives outside of school along with that within).  As I spoke with the principal about possible opportunities to provide professional development teachers, I glanced to the left and saw a group of kids, about third grade age, completing their Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar).  Possibilities among the despair.

Throughout we were told we could take photos but it's an intimate experience. People are welcoming you into their work and home spaces. I'd rather smile, be polite and learn than snap photos so you'll notice those aren't included.   Definitely a immersion for them and myself, into life in India.

So, they're full on.  Exploring and learning. And I'm loving learning with them, in the taxi, temple and especially on the couch in my living room in India.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh the Weather Outside is...

View from my living room window.  That's not real smoke, just lovely Mumbai pollution.
After I decided to move to Mumbai, I began watching the weather forecast.  Just curious.  Many days, when I checked it the Mumbai forecast said smoke.  I figured it had something to do with pollution and the heat.

Now I really know what that means!

It means not seeing the city across a not-so-large inlet.

It means people have sinus infections, sore throats, headaches and a hard time breathing.  I've had the last two today.

It means I resort to doing yoga at home because that walked I planned on doing just doesn't seem like it would be good for my health.

I just knocked on my desk for sea breezes and keeping healthy amidst the smoke surrounding me.  Here's to hoping the smoke clears soon.

Note!  Just read that this is all being caused by a HUGE dust storm coming across the Arabian Sea.  Read more about it here. I really wonder if it'll be gone by tomorrow morning and yes Met Dept, I already know that those allergic to dust should be careful. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Holi Hai! Ginger in Bombay Reporting

Thursday we celebrated Holi.  ASB had the day off and I was hosting a visiting consultant so my celebrating my first Holi in India was not only required as a hostess but also necessary as a first timer.

Holi, which is always celebrated on a full moon, celebrates the arrival of spring with a festival of colors.  The winter's gone so it's time to show spring's colors.  It also means people "loosening" of social norms when it comes to drinking and other behavior.  During Holi people toss/smear/spread colors on each other along with water and dance.  There's other things they do too which you can read about on your own here.

The days leading up to Holi, I'd received tips from my colleagues.  Some said, "Stay inside!"  Others, who realized I was go out to play regardless, suggested to slather my hair and skin with oil.  I did clarify which kind which makes a big difference in smell.  They warned me I'd be a target with my light skin and recently colored hair.
Gretchen, Janine (the visiting consultant) and I headed out early, around 8 a.m. We'd gotten tips to head toward a local fishing village nearby. We wore light colored tops so the colors of Holi would be seen.  Another warning we'd received told us to make sure to wear old bras and undies as those could be stained and also to wear a cami or choose your shirt wisely so you weren't revealing more than you wanted when you got wet.

We were out a bit too early as things in the village were very quiet but we managed to find sleeping pigs and piglets, a group of young women and children spreading colors and some mischievous boys tossing grocery-sized plastic bags of water.  I got soaked.

After that, we headed for a cup of coffee in the market.  As soon as we stepped out of the rickshaw, there were kids playing.  They asked if they could add color, which they did but we moved quickly as you could tell they were excited to add more.  The coffee shop had it's door partially shuttered to keep out the Holi players.

After coffee, met up with friends from ASB to attend a colleague, Payal's, apartment complex Holi celebration.   A safe and fun place to spread color, chase students with water guns and dance.  There were little children sitting in buckets, grandparents trying to stay off to the side to avoid the color and our students chasing us down to share the fun with buckets.
There was music, both drumming and then from Bollywood movies.  There were two inflatable plastic swimming pools.  There were huge plastic drums filled with water.  There even was a rain shower (yes I know water usually is part of a shower but it was fun to be drenched with "rain water" which we don't have any of right now)!

As you can see, more and more color was added throughout the day. Stained skin, hair and hands.

We noticed this on our drive back to Bandra as color-covered people stood in groups by shuttered shops (most closed today due to holiday and also to protect their wares) and waved at us through the windows.

It was a great first time playing Holi and I've got the orange hair, thanks to Will, to prove it.

Blondie + red powder = Ginger Fringe.
Yes, my ear is still a little blue too.  Photo taken by Deb Thomson,
At school yesterday it was fun to see which adults played and which children laughed when they saw the new color of my bangs.  When I told one third grader my sister has red hair, she laughed and said, now we could be twins.  Too bad the color didn't stick to my skin.  Or maybe that's good.