I did it. I fixed my broken LCD screen…well, actually the nice Indian man fixed it in 30 min for 6800 Rs (~$175)…not too shabby. The resolution is not as high as the old screen, but a full screen sure beats being restricted to the upper-left quadrant. For any of you people interested in computers, Nehru place is some sort of computer mecca. It is a bee hive labyrinth of thousands of tiny computer stores and electronics parts vendors – it was pretty unbelievable. Today we are off to do more sight-seeing in Delhi. (pictures to follow) I have been up since 6am (yes, because I’m a crazy person) but also because 6:30am is when my friend Deepak and I do Pranayama (yoga breathing exersizes)…after 7am the sun is too hot to be sitting outside on the field comfortably.


To the market!

Safety is not really a concern when it comes to Delhi's roads. It is not that people don't get hurt, it is that no one seems interested in taking further safety precautions. On the way to the market we saw a sign that read "Accident prone area - be careful"...I can only assume they were referring to all of Delhi...while the city is at it, they should make a sign saying: "Watch out for infants being held by mothers sitting side-sattle on the back of motorcycles". There are many surprising sights on the roads but the one below was a classic - the cell phone stuck in the helmet. (Of course, I can't really talk because I was only able to take this picture while on the road because we had 5 girls in one autorickshaw - comfortable for about 2-3 passengers, and I was sharing the drivers seat).

Once at the market, the unusually cloudy and "cool" weather transformed into a dounpour and all the shoppers ran to the nearest market stall, while all the stall workers tried to prevents their tarp awnings from collpsing by keeping the water from collecting by poking with long sticks. Amusing for us was that there were several victims of the sudden unloading of these tarps - the funniest of which resulted in a teenage girl with a white curti (shirt) getting completely dreched and the resulting fury of the mother at the very apologetic shopkeeper (while all the on-looking shopkeepers were giggling).

However, one hour later, everything had dried up and the shopkeepers who had packed-up for rain-mode spread out again. Here is one one of these very temporary stores created on this stone archway.

Also, one of the NGO elementary schools that serves local slums had a new saying of the day posted...I agree.

Ohhh, and exciting news in blog-land. I have just called a lap top repair place in Delhi (apparenly located in Asia's largest electronics market...), where the store owner said (in English!) that replacing the Dell laptop screen could be replaced in 1 hour! I know it is not fixed yet and I don't know if I am supposed to bargain over the price...but I can't help "We Are The Champions" from playing in my head. Good luck, me! (as my grandfather Roy might say :)

A block and Nehru camp

After completing the first 2-week research study on mother-child health care resources in 5 New Delhi slums, we have begun the second 2-week research project studying information pathways in the slums among different demographic groups. This second project will hopefully enable our host NGO (Deepalaya) to maximize health awareness propagation through targeted publicity. Both of these projects are in preparation to create a community project proposal for HCRA (Handicapped Children Rehalitation Association) that will demand knowledge of slum health issues, education methods, and child disability.
Since we are getting more comfortable working in the slums, we de visited two communities in one day. The first was A block. Here were three women (mother, aunt, and daughter)who were in one of the nicer homes we saw in A block. Men and women in A block tended to be pretty receptive, especially when we managed to draw a large crowd of child and young men followers.
These young men indulged us with our questions. Below a 20 year old young man who finished through the 5th grade answers our questions with a smile as he washes cups and bowls from the soapy water on the surface of his cart. He was scrubbing relaly hard, but it is hard to be entirely convinced when the decorative flies reappear
after washing.
The two pictures below are of children in Nehru camp. Nehru camp is in bad shape with swarms of flies everywhere and human waste throughout this labyrinth of narrow alleyways, in beautiful shades of green in blue. Time to go out for night out on Faridabad for Jessica's birthday ...will let you know how that goes... :)


the mysterious laundry system

So far, the laundry system at our residence is quite mysterious. As far as I can tell the system is this: We have a laundry basket in our room (with Winnie the Pooh on it) and if you place it prominently in your room with dirty clothes in it, it will dissapear while you are work and reappear 1-3 days later. When the clothes return there is no information about charges and when you ask, the residence workers tell you they will tell you tomorrow, which they don't. The biggest surprise is that all the clothes come back with your room number written in pen or marker somewhere on them. So, now all the tags of all my shirts and random places on my underwear read '113'...interesting bonus feature to the laundry. The latest twist, is that rumor has it, the laundry person will no longer wash women's underwear, this is unfortuneate because after 25 years I've grown quite accostomed to properly washed underwear... Ah yes...and what of my Indian girl friends from the singing circle? At dinner this evening they were all eager to practice their English (as they are all studying Air Ticketing which apparently will prepare them for careers as stewardesses and airline ticket sellers) and have requested that I come eat dinner with them every night with them. In addition, they explained that they are very bored in the evening time and asked what I do before dinner. I told them that I go running and story short...it looks like there are 8 Indian girls who want to come work out with me at 6:30pm tomorrow....I have no idea what I am in for...should be fun though!


Today was the first day of classes for the Indian students on campus and I am already enamored with the student body. Get this: after eating dinner together in the cafeteria from around 8-9pm, they come out to the lawn and sit in little circles of either all girls or all boys ranging from 5 to 15 people. (Although I did see one suspected couple walking and talking…). In these circles, the girls often take turns singing songs in both Hindi and English ranging from quiet, traditional folk songs to dance songs such as “Let’s Party!” In addition to singing songs together in groups while sitting in the grass after both lunch and dinner, they also play little games such as spin the bottle – the games usually involve singing as well. Jessica and I were invited to join one group of 6 girls, which within a few minutes had grown to about 15. After it was my turn to sing a song (I sang part of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the Moon”), they transitioned to a game which is basically the equivalent of duck-duck goose, except you don’t tap people on the head – instead the girls going around the outside has a little towel that she hides as she prances around and then drops behind someone and if the girl running around the circle makes it around the circle before the girl with the towel behind her notices, then the girl who didn’t notice has to go in the middle of the group and perform. I don’t know what all the options were but we saw two singing performances and Jessica gave a little dance performance – she was a big hit with some of her bangra moves! When the groups of girls get together they are the most bubbly, sweet, cute little groups you can imagine. I am very much looking forward to participating in more group singing and game-playing in the cool (~85-90F) of the night.

Incidentally, as more students arrive on campus it seems increasingly clear that boys and girls pretty much do not interact (other than having mixed classes). They live, eat, and apparently hang out separately. This concerns me slightly, because here I am working out at the same time as the business school guys two times a day: yoga at 6:30am and running and lifting at 6:30pm. Nevertheless, I think I will continue my current workout pattern, since it doesn't seem to bother anyone and I am having fun.

Oh also, today I finally saw the three peacocks that make such a racket in the tall grasses near the field where we run. (I may or may not have had to climb up onto a brick wall and then the roof of an abandoned building and then walk along the top of the brink wall to see them).


A birthday

Sunday was Julie's birthday which we celebrated by getting a chocolate cake in the afternoon, going out for dinner, watching a movie, and spending about 8 hours trying to finish our reports. For dinner we we went to Haldiram's - a clean, popular semi-Indian fast food where you can get order anything from South Indian, North Indian, Tandoori, Chinese, Continental (including rench friees and cheese pizza) and a whole array of desserts and drinks. I chose a yogurt dish called "Special Dahi Bhalla" (shown below), which turned out to be two raisin bread balls doused in yoghurt, followed by dashes of tamarind sauce and a little chutney sauce and topped off with more yoghurt and spicy, cruchy balls.

Here is a picture of the girls (plus Musheer) outside Haldiram's restaurant.



Julie, Jessica, Yamilee, Christina (visiting MIT photographer), Dhirani, Musheer, and I rented a 'minivan' taxi and driver for the day to go to Agra. The drive from Delhi to Agra took about 4 hours starting at 5:30am. The first site we visited was a "magnificent fortifed ghost city" that was the Mughal emporer's (Akbar) capitol for all of 1571 to 1585. This emporer died and the city was abandoned because of water shortages. Akbar had 3 wives: one Chritian, one Muslim and one Hindu, and each wife had her own mini-palace. He also had about 800 concubines. The palaces are all decorated with intricate wall-carvings in red sandstone and the layout includes many couryards that leave the area feeling open and spacious. This short-lived capitol was built adjacent to the town Fatehpur Sikri, which is about 40km away from Agra. This site was especially enjoyable because there were so few visitors.
Jama Masjid is a large mosque with Hindu and Persian design elements. There are no minarets (tall towers), but these mini-domes (from which lanterns are hung) line the top of the entire mosque wall. This is a picture of 54 m high Buland Darwaza (Visctory Gate) that celebrates one of Akbar's military vistories.

After lunch at Fatehpur Sikri we headed back to Agra to visit Agra Fort, a fort and palace complex begun by Akbar in 1595 and extensively added to by his grandson Shah Jahan, whose favorite material was white marble (and who also built the Taj Mahal). When Shah Jahan's son seized power in 1658, Agra Fort became Shah Jahan's prison for 8 years...could have been much worse though...I think he still at least 350 concubines. Here we see the entrance to one of teh first palaces we looked at. Intricate carvings and stone lattices all over the place!

After an already long day it was time to head to the Taj! Securty to pretty tight. As you walk toward the Taj Mahal you go through a large, dark gate, and similar to the treasury in Petra, Jordan, a view of the Taj Mahal reveals itself in full splendor. There were a lot more people here, than at the other two sites, as expected, but I am still suprised at how few foreigners I see. During the work week we see no foreigners and even at India's biggest tourist attraction, I only noticed about 30 obvious non-Indians. On the west side of the Taj, there is a red sandstone mosk and on the East side of the Taj is a mirror-image of the mosque (for symmetry :) Both the inside and outside of the Taj Mahal is adorned with beautiful patterns of semi-precious stone inlay and teh inside is also decorated with semi-translucent white marble with carved flowers ( a lot of irises). The Taj mahal was built for the wife of Shah Jahan after she died givign birth to their 14th child.

Here I am with the obligatory me-and-Taj picture...

The Taj Mahal was built on the bank of the Yamuna river, which was looking very beautiful as the sun dipped lower in the sky.

All in all, a really fabulous day even including the Indian policeman who asked for a really big bribe because our driver's license plate was the wrong color and he saw a bunch of foreigners in the car...first hand experience of police force corruption!...what a big day...it is 11am and I think the rest of the group is just starting to stir. Love, Catherine


Could have been worse...

Well, I just broke my laptop but it could have been much worse. The data appears to be in tact and I still have about 25% of the screen. I have the upper-left quadrant, which if I got to choose, would definitely have been in my top two choices for favorite screen quadrants. Since I am successfully posting a blog it looks like I may continue using the laptop for email and blogging (even though looking at the screen so soon after the accident makes me a sad.) I have attached the following picture for those who have never seen a broken laptop screen before:

In other news I visited another community today and say children getting water from a gaint water pipe with leaks. Here is a picture.

Also, I am heading to Agra tomorrow to see the Taj Mahal and two other sites - it should be another hot day with a high around 100-1110F. I can't see what I am typing so I think I will wrap up here.


I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts

"Down at an english fair one evening I was there

When I heard a showman shouting underneath the flair

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts

There they are all standing in a row

Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head

Give them a twist a flick of the wrist

That’s what the showman said"

- from a well know novelty song in the 1940s referring to an English carnaval game, more recently referenced in Disney's The Lion King.

...okay...so its possible I don' have too many pictures from yesterday or today because my group has been writing up the community research we have conducted the past two weeks. But in the spirit of coconuts, here is a picture of me drinking coconut milk from a coconut. The guy at a food court we visted yesterday chopped the top off with a machete after I ordered (which even with a huge knife did not look easy), so I am glad they don't ask customers to knaw them open. The dish was called lemon rice and was served with a small bowl of lentil soup, some pickled vegitables, and curd (South Indian cuisine).

Also, I have been running every day at 6:30pm (around sunset) with one or two of the other girls and have made friends with a group of Indian business school students who seem to be the only students on campus during this holiday month. Sometimes I ask them if I can participate in their exersize schedule (including jogging, some sprints, stretching, sometimes meditation and yoga and then about an hour of lifting in the gym). This evening I found out that they also meet every morning at 6:30am for yoga breathing exercises...I asked if I could join in and they said that was fine. Group yoga in the morning out in the meadow with peakocks making sounds in the taller grasses with the sun just barely up....can't wait! I'll see if I can sneak in a picture without acting like a complete tourist:)


After spending the rainy day yesterday working in our groups at home (and playing ping pong), today we headed back to Deepalaya and out into a fourth community called B-block. The gods were favoring us today because cool winds blew in while we were outside, but the rain held off. The people of B-block were cooperative and we gathered our usual mob of small children followers (and a few curious young mothers). Often I exchange a friendly smile with a girl my age...Although, last week I met a 25 year old grandmother, and I still can't wrap my brain around that one...In any case, here is a lovely little family from B-block in front of their home.

When we came out of the alleyway I saw this cart containing some shiny god-statues and some platic green parrots. This is my favorite picture from today.

Also, I learned that there are 'ice cream trucks' near these communities that sell sandy colored ice cream on sticks that seem to be made in the cart and sold for 1 Rp each ($ 1/40)...complete with bell! Yay, for the children!

On the way back to the school we stopped at a local temple. There was a small main building with a painted statue inside and several statues decorating the outside walls and the small surrounding courtyard.


Has anyone seen my exercise?

When we first arrived, the 115 F weather made not-dying more of a priority than exersizing. Then there were further challnges: * 'My stomach feels funny' * I have no idea where the gym is * and there are 50 guards all over campus who I am hesitant to wear shorts in front of (because I haven't seen any Indian woman's legs above the ankle yet) and one of my trip goals is not to be mistaken for a prostitute. Nevertheless, Jessica and I headed out to the 'meadow' (I wearing my yoga pants under my shorts - lookin' good...). The meadow, as we have dubbed it, is a piece of open area right next to the train tracks with a concerete stage and a small patch of nice grass surrounded by a lot of tall weeds. By the looks of this area it might have been a graduation site 5 years ago. The small patch of nice grass seems to be expanding from one day to the next with the addition of small piles of pulled up weeds, suggesting that this huge field is being tended by hand. This is only slightly surprising given how overstaffed India seems to be. For example: a small, one-room grocery store has ~8 young male employees: 2 security, 2 to calcuulate the bill and 4 people to bag your 3 boxes of crackers...perfect! Anyhow, around 6:30pm we go out to the field and run for a while. The sun is setting so it is cooler and tranquil. At 7pm the nearby gym is opened by one of the guards and we and the Indian MBA students on campus go into the messy little gym and lift weights. Yesterday I took on the organiation of all the free weights, which were scattered all over the gym and is not only dangerous but makes collecting matching pairs a pain. There are several (100 - 130lb lb?) young men who watched me lift for a while and then asked me if I could teach them what to do. I think I have found a suitable workout schedule for them and will maybe start giving lifting lessons 2 times a week until their form doesn't make me cringe :) Off to work! More pictures tonight or tomorrow.


Out and About in Central Delhi

On Saturday all five of us girls set out to explore on our own. We took the public bus from Badapur Border (where we also pick up autorickshaws) to a neighborhood in Delhi near Lajpat Nagar, a big market known for being good for deals on clothing. On the way I saw a 'heavily' loaded cart transporting hay and I stood in the open bus doorway to take this picture:
As we were walking through a residential area we came upon this lovely Ganesh temple:
Once at the market, we (I mean Sony) bargained for Kurti's (just the tops that can be worn over jeans and suits (salvar kamis), which is a top and a bottom. We also looked at skirts and I checked out some cheap tupperware :)

We took shelter in the air conditioned sari shop and were impressed by all the colorful and sparkly fabrics that the helpers threw out one after another:
After going to the market we headed over to India Gate where in the now cooler weather, there is a 4th of July atomosphere: children playing in the fountains, families BBQing on the grass, lots of vendors selling snack food and noise-makers. Here I am in front of India Gate (a memorial to fallen Indian soldiers). Around 7:30pm it was dusk and my Lonely Planet guide showed one restaurant in the near vicinity - I led everyone through a not promising looking area as it began to get dark and my mid was filling with doubt but then a nice lady asked us if we were looking for anything and it was only

...In other words: "I sail!" (see What About Bob?)

Monsoon season is here!

The rains started in June 15th. One of the members in our group went out and stood in the rain with their mouth open. Once they returned, our Indian counterparts remarked that the rain was most like acid rain since the first rain absorbs the air pollution...oops

The first day it rained 55 mm and it rained that might and the next morning our campus was flooded with water 8" deep in some areas. Surprisingly the sun came out and the water went away and Saturday was a lovely day. My impression is that monsoon season consists of very heavy rains lasting 1-3 hours 1-3 times a day. Here is a picture of the street from the entrance of our favorite lunch spot near the NGO.

On Friday the teachers at the NGO run school we are based out of asked us if we would help judge a poster/presentation competition between 5 groups of students doing vocational training on various themes ranging from infanticide to why cheating is bad. Here I am lighting one of the ceremonial candles on stage...our unexpected participation in this event was bewildering but fun.

On the way home, our autorickshaw (containing 3 girls) was followed by these two young men on a motorcycle who apparently wanted to come to our house.
NOTE: the record for most people seen on a motocycle stil stands at 5!



Weather and power outages

The weather has cooled off to about 40C during the day, but with an increase in humidity to 80% because the monsoon rains have started in the east. In this morning's Hindu Times there was a picture of the flooding in Calcutta where a rickshaw driver was pulling passengers through 2-3 feet of water. Unfortuneately, we are not even in 'pre-monsoon' season yet...I don't really know what that means, but I think it will stay hot for a little while yet. Because of the heat, Delhi is continuously breaking its own record for the most power ever used per day in the city (according to the newspapers), which is resulting in planned power outages in every community. The power goes out more than a dozen times in a day, but many places have generators that kick in after a minute or so. Typically, everyone goes about their business as usual through the frequent outages.

Today we visited a second slum community called JJ Camp. (JJ stands for a Hindi word that means thatched roof houses, even though most of the houses have tin roofs). JJ camp is not as well off as A-block (yesterday) and pretty much smells like human waste everywhere you go. About a quarter of the children have severe skin rashes either due to infections or 'medicines' administered by the mothers. (One child we saw yesterday had balding patches after the mother tried using something on his skin). In addition, most of them probably have lice because they were itching their skin and scalps like crazy. Here is most of a family with a mother and her six children. The room that they live in (right) is so small that some of the family members have to sleep outside the door.

The smaller boy in the black T-shirt has dark black makeup around his eyes (I have seen this on many young children and babies) because the community believes that it will improve the child's eyesight.



The first day in the slums was about as successful and fun as we could hope for: our team (Jessica, Dhirani, Musheer, and I) accompanied the Deepalaya community health mobilizer, Kavita, on her daily round through one of the local slums, A-block. Jessica and I can only introduce ourselves in Hindi and say a few phrases so all the interviewing was done by Dhirani and Musheer. However, I think we were helpful in that we were able to draw quiet a rambunctious and enthusiatic crowd of children and potential interviewees. In 1.5 hours we obtained the family history and the options on health care through the local NGOs and government from 12 families.
Kavita, Catherine, Julie and Musheer at the Deepalaya health clinic.

Crowd of excited children from A-block. The dogs name was Julie as well.
The girl to the right of the mother in the yellow sari wanted to learn English and Dharani convinced me to sing Happy Birthday for the crowd and everyone joined in:)

After work we went to see this impressive Baha'i temple shaped like a lotus flower (Lotus Temple) - the four girls negotiated a fare back home by ourselves for the first time. This was a little challenging but we ended up paying only 10Rp. more than we should have (80Rp.) - therefore I deem our negotiating skills a huge success!



This morning I ate a mango. It was the firt piece of fresh food I have eaten since coming to India because I have been letting my system adjust. I threw up the mango half an hour later. Blast! My fruit eating has been foiled! I will try to do a better post when I get back from work: talking to people in the slums about their family health and satisfaction with NGO health services.


IST (Indian Standard Time)

IST = for all sorts of unforseeable reasons, most meetings start about an hour after they are planned to

Here is a blurry picture of the whole team:
Around the circle starting with Jessica (front in red), Dr. Sunaina, Sony, Dr. Miraj, Nupur, Yamilee, Julie, Dharani, and Mushir)...I took this awesome picture.

Today was our first full day of work during which we visited the two NGOs that we will be learning from duing the 4 week research period. It was another super-hot day (44C) and everyone had their low points during the day, but overall we are a tough group and I am very proud of all of us.

I liked this 'thought of the day' from a chalk board outside a "posh" 1-12 adademic school/vocational school run by Deepalaya that serves the surrounding slums:


Catherine's first rickshaw ride (bonus points for going against the flow of traffic
first bounty from the local market (each subdivision in Faridabad is numbered and has its own markets...these treasures are from 37 Market)

freeways are for people and cars

Apparently I have become veggie

First, let us review our hot weather conversions: 1. 30 min outside at 46 deg C = feel like crap 2. 6 L of water in (24 glasses) at 46 deg C - ~1 L of water out = 5 L of sweat and evaporated water! This morning I learned that monsoon season will start in about 1-2 weeks, bringing cooler temperatures...I have a new favorite season! (Pictures aren't uploading today..will have to save for tomorrow)

Fun Fact: "Brain freeze", like that experienced when eating ice cream too quickly, can be alternatively obtained by moving between outside and inside temperatures. Wooo!


Mera nam Catherine hai. Apka nam kya ha?

Day Two: Mission 'dont-get-sick' working excellently, although Mission 'dont-get-dizzy-from-dehydration' has proven more challenging. This morning we walked around the Rai University Campus (called Meadows) which seems nearly abandoned since the students are on leave...
Jessica walking along one of the tiled paths on the campus.
Our very own table tennis hut: table tennis table (minus net) included!

Jessica on football field with pretty bougenvilla plants...this is one of my favorite spots on campus so far.


First Day

Getting off the airplane in Delhi was like opening the door to an oven, and instead of closing the oven deciding to get inside the oven and stay for a while. The temperature at 11pm was 110 F and my crew was concerned about what the addition of sun might do to this situation. Our supervisor suggested we drink about 25 glasses of water a day (although it is possible I misheard) and I have already aquired a small army of 1L aquafina bottles. Im pleasantly surprised to discover how wonderfully everything has been organized for us (although the dispensation of these plans seems to come at a very measured pace that I need to adjust to), and am very excited about working with Prof. Miraj who teaches and does research/projects in the area of NGO management. (I lucked out!) We anticipated having Fri-Sun to recover from jetlag but it turns out Fri-Sun is actually our 3 day orientation. Monday we start fieldwork and research at specific NGOs. I will write more about the timeline for the summer tomorrow. Here is the team from MIT; soon I will get pictures of our supervisors and our Indian teammates.


Leaving (almost)

I leave for India in two days with my team of 4 other MIT girls: Yamilee, Sony, Jessica, and Julie. We will be the first team participating in a multi-year collaboration between MIT and the Rai Foundation in India. We will work with Indian students for one of three local NGOs. The organization that I am most likely to work for is HCRA (Handicapped Children Rehabilitation Association). The goal of this project is to improve health care access for disabled children in New Delhi. I will write more about the project mission and what we hope to achieve once I get to New Delhi. I have a visa and malaria pills...I think I am ready to go :)