Week Eleven: April 6th-April 13th

It’s spring break!!

Half of us split the week between Goa and Rishikesh! The other half all had family coming to spend the break with them. We left for Goa Friday afternoon and arrived in the evening. It was about a 3-hour flight and the worst flight I’ve ever been on. The turbulence was so bad about a half hour into the flight, everybody started screaming on the plane. It was not fun, and I was very happy when we were on the ground.

Once we landed we had about an hour ride to our hostel and then went for dinner. Goa has a ton of restaurants and bars right on the beach. We stayed in North Goa right by Calangute beach. By the time we found the beach it was already very dark, but it was still so nice to be by water. After dinner, we checked out a few of the nearby bars and then headed back to our hostel.

Saturday morning, we found the cutest breakfast place and had some great food. After breakfast, we went to the very bottom of north Goa to check out Fort Aguada. It was a Portuguese fort that provided fresh water to ships passing by in the Arabian Sea in the seventeenth century. I thought this was really interesting since we will be in Brazil soon, which was colonized by the Portuguese. We headed to one of the many beautiful beaches in Goa, Candolim beach, afterwards and got some sun. Goa was so unbelievably hot! It was way hotter than both Delhi and Mumbai. I was covered in my own sweat pretty much the entire time (gross, I know).

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The lighthouse at Fort Aguada

We went to Baga beach for sunset and had dinner at this beautiful restaurant right on the beach. They had $3 tea-infused Martinis and hookah, I was very happy. There is a big Saturday night market in Goa, so we went to check it out. It was one of the best markets I’ve been to in India, they had so many different things, and it was a really cool set up. It was a good thing I had limited money on me. Goa is known for its partying, so we checked out this fancy club that was right on the water. Since we were all single ladies, we got in for free and with complimentary drinks. This place was poppin.

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Spices at the Saturday night market

Sunday morning, we packed up all our stuff and went for brunch. We went to the last of the 4 different beaches in North Goa, Anjuna beach. This beach was the most beautiful and relaxing, in my opinion and had a very different vibe from the other ones. We went for an early dinner and then headed to the airport. Because we booked our flights pretty late and we wanted to spend the least amount of money, we took a flight that had a 3 hour lay-over in Hyderabad. I slept on the floor in this airport, I do not recommend. We landed in Delhi early in the morning and then had a layover there for a few hours before we flew to Dehradun (airport closest to Rishikesh). We got to Rishikesh early afternoon and then took a cab for about an hour to get to our hostel. Rishikesh has two huge bridges and our hostel was on the other side of one, so we walked across with all of our stuff to get there.

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Anjuna beach in Goa

The hostel we stayed at was in the perfect location and was much nicer than the one we stayed at in Goa. The staff was so nice and fun and took us to do different activities all week. Two of them reminded me of two of my close friends from home which was really nice. Monday night, we went to a nice rooftop restaurant for dinner and I had some really yummy biriyani. After such a crazy day of traveling, we called it an early night.

Tuesday morning, we drove up to the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple and then got lunch on top of the mountain. This temple usually has a line that people wait in for hours to go in, but we were in and out pretty quickly. One of the guys that works at the hostel, Sandeep, went with us and explained everything that was going on inside the temple. We got lunch by the temple as well and had thali’s. On our way back down, we stopped and hiked up to a waterfall. I am very out of shape which is sad, but it was really nice to be hiking. We had chai at the top of the waterfall and it was some of the best chai I’ve had yet.

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The waterfall we hiked too

Rishikesh is right on the Ganges River and is surrounded by mountains. There are a ton of yoga retreats that happen here, and it definitely felt a bit like a hippy wonderland. Lots of people will go for a month or longer to do yoga.

Fire ceremonies take place every night before the sun sets on the water. We tried to go to one Tuesday night, but when we were on our way it started pouring. So, we just went for dinner instead. The hostel we stayed at has a rooftop room that overlooks the entire city, and everyone hangs out there in the evenings. This place had such good vibes.

Wednesday morning, we got breakfast and just chilled all day. We did lots of shopping. I bought so much stuff even though I told myself I wasn’t going too. We did some more hiking and grabbed dinner at a place that had a beautiful view of the river. I’m sad I only have a few days left of this food.

We headed back to Delhi Thursday evening, but I filmed a video of one of my favorite choreos from my Indian dance team on the rooftop of the hostel in the morning and then spent the day at the Beatles Ashram. The Beatles are one of my all time favorite bands and they wrote a lot of their white album while they stayed in Rishikesh. This place was soooo cool! The guys that work at the hostel came with us along with some other friends we made. It was a great way to end our time in Rishikesh.

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At the Beatles Ashram

We took a train back to Delhi and arrived shortly before midnight. Everyone stayed at the hotel we stayed at for the first two days we were in India. I was actually pretty sick the entire week we had break. I woke up with a fever the Sunday we were in Goa and it continued throughout the whole week. But, ibuprofen took good care of me and I didn’t let it stop me from exploring all week. I developed a really bad cough that was giving me extremely painful headaches and I still had a fever when we got back to Delhi, so I decided to go to the doctor Friday morning. They told me I had an upper respiratory infection and gave me a ridiculous amount of medication. They also told me I wasn’t fit to fly and wouldn’t write me a note that I was good to fly if I was tagged in the airport for having a coughing fit. We all thought this was funny and also just not an option. I ended up flying and feeling much better after I finally sat down and stopped moving for a while.

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The view from the bridge by our hostel in Rishikesh

I visited my homestay family to say goodbye during the day on Friday and then we had our farewell dinner and gave our Here We Come Brazil presentation at this really nice restaurant in a part of Delhi that we haven’t been to yet. We really had a wonderful team in India, so it was hard to say goodbye. I can’t put into words how much I loved India, and I will definitely be back!

Our flight to Brazil was at 430AM Saturday morning. I can’t believe we’re already headed to our last country!

Talk to you in Brazil!!

Paige

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Week Ten: April 1st-April 6th

Hey everyone!

It’s already week 4 in India! Sunday morning I had a dance lesson with a professional Bharatanatyam dancer. Bharatanatyam is one of the 9 forms of classical dance in India. She taught me a lot about the theory behind this type of dance and taught me all 28 moudras (single hand gestures) as well as some steps. It was super fun and I’m really happy I was able to do it. The teacher was pretty tough, but I really enjoyed that because being properly critiqued only helps you get better. I’ve never learned so much in one dance lesson before!

I spent the rest of the day working on my assignment for the technology class. Our assignment involved us sharing our experience of using Paytm, a mobile money app, throughout our time in Delhi. We had the option to made a video, and we could pair up if we wanted to. My friend, Sanne, and I decided to make one together. We had to interview different business owners and PayTm users on their perceptions of demobilization and mobile money usage as well as include our own experience and future recommendations for Paytm. Overall, we had a successful time, however it as very difficult to find women to interview and a lot of businesses turned us down when we asked if we could interview them. We finished the assignment that evening and it wasn’t due until Tuesday, so we were both feeling on top of things!

We started off the week with a lecture on colonialism in India given by our wonderful country coordinator, Abid Ji. We were supposed to have this lecture during the first week, however unexpected health circumstances came up and so it needed to be moved. We talk a lot about colonialism in our lectures and when debriefing our site visits, so it was nice to have an overview of colonialism’s presence in India. We had our last design thinking class afterwards and discussed the book “spaceship earth” by Buckminster Fuller. We had a site visit in the afternoon to a place called Dhriti. Dhriti foundation is an incubator that provides technical and life skills and financial support to marginalized groups that have an interest in social entrepreneurship. This place was similar to Impact Hub in San Francisco and Innovation Village in Kampala. We had a discussion about Bitcoin during or visit, which ended up being very interesting and was a nice change of pace from most of our site visits. Since it’s our last program week in India, it’s also assignment week. I spent the majority of Monday evening working on my anthropology essay.

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Humayan’s Tomb!

We had our last site visit on Tuesday! We went to Sulabh International which is a toilet movement that was founded in 1970 to work towards the removal of untouchability and social discrimination against human scavengers. Scavengers are people in Indian society that are condemned to manually clean and carry human excreta. Sulabh creates a toilet design that does not require sewer lines and converts the waste into fertilizer. They also run a school and provide vocational courses for individuals from untouchable communities. When we first arrived, we were not aware they there was going to be a huge welcome ceremony for us. We had to stand on a stage and were given scarfs, and there was a lot of singing. It was very unexpected and quite interesting. There was an interesting vibe surrounding the founder, it was very worship like. At points, the place felt a bit like a cult. Nevertheless, they have done good work, and the Sulabh signs for their toilets are everywhere in India. They also work internationally.

I didn’t have enough space on my phone to send the technology video that Sanne and I made for our assignment. I accidentally deleted half of the videos in my efforts to make space on my phone a few hours before the assignment was due. Silly me. Thankfully, we were able to redo an interview at our site visit and re put it together on the ride back to Delhi. It ended up being a lot easier of a fix than anticipated.

We had all of Wednesday to ourselves to work on our assignments. I tired to get ahead a little bit, so that I wouldn’t have to spend all of Wednesday doing work. I finished my anthro essay in the morning and then headed to Humayan’s Tomb and the Lotus Temple. Both were very beautiful, and we were able to visit both in a decent amount of time. There is so much to see in Delhi. I have seen something new almost every day, and I still feel like I have so much to see.

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Another part of Humayan’s Tomb!

Thursday was case study day. We all presented our case studies to the country team and our social entrepreneurship professor, Manisha. This process was the same as it was in Uganda’s and it seemed like we did well! I went back to central market in the afternoon to do some shopping for some more gifts I wanted to get and stocked up on snacks for the break that we have next week.

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Another part of Humayan’s Tomb!

Thursday was our last night in our homestays and I was so sad that it went by so quick. My family truly was incredible and I feel so lucky that I was able to live with them for 3 weeks. Our younger sister, Mansa, was insistent that we try all of the really good Indian deserts before we left. We’ve had at least two after dinner for the past 2 days and today we took a walk with our family to get the desert with them. We had Kulfi, Indian ice cream, which is my personal favorite. I had to pack up all of my stuff before the morning and since I have been buying way too much here, it was quite the task. Somehow everything fit, but I’m not confident that I’m within the weight limits. I still don’t regret buying anything.

My host family wanted to take us to temple before we left, so we got up extra early Friday morning and went to the Sikh temple, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. During the drive there and while we were at the temple, our host father taught us a ton about the Sikh religion. I really love learning about those sorts of things, so I was very happy. The temple was absolutely beautiful! I have been to a Sikh temple in the US before, so it was really nice to compare my experience there with the one I had here. It was very early, but very worth it.

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The Lotus Temple!

For our last few activities in India, we had our India synthesis and comparative summary of learning, just like we had in the two previous countries. The synthesis was the same as it always has been. We were given post-it’s with all the classes we had and places we’ve been and then had to connect them all together the way we thought fit best. For the comparative summary of learning, we had a debate about which country out of the ones we’ve been too has the most potential to make advancements in the social entrepreneurship and innovation landscape. We didn’t get to chose which country we represented. You were assignment to the country that you were on the country team for. Being on Team Brazil, I was given San Francisco to debate. This was a lot of fun, and the US won most creative! We argued that we have the most potential because we have the resources to work effectively on various issues at home as well as give money to countries abroad, like Uganda and India, to work on the social entrepreneurship landscapes of their countries as well.

After lunch, we headed to the airport to begin our spring break! The 5th week of the India program is a week where we can travel wherever we want and have a break from the program. I will be traveling to Goa and Rishikesh with 5 other girls. Everybody else has family coming that they are traveling with. I’m SO excited to explore more parts of India next week!

Stay tuned!!

Paige

Week Nine: March 25th-March 31st

 

Hello everyone!

The time in India is going by so quickly, I can’t believe it’s already week 3! This week is ~excursion week~ and we get to spend the whole week in Jaipur! Jaipur is in the state of Rajasthan and is known as the pink city!

Monday morning, we had our last anthropology course for India and discussed social justice and the capabilities approach. We talked about the difference between functioning’s and capabilities and the idea that trying to establish equal income for everyone may not be the best approach to eradicating poverty because people have different ways that they chose to function. Rather, it is the choice to be able to function in whichever way desired that is the function.  After, we had a guest speaker, Mrs. Hennu Singh, come in to discuss the Childline 1098 Initiative. The initiative is the country’s first, and only, toll-free telephone helpline for children in distress. Mrs. Singh is the head of the North Regional center for the foundation.

Afterwards, we took taxis to the train station and boarded a train to head to Jaipur. We took an overnight train, even though our ride would only be 5 hours, which means that the seats were beds that came with sheets and everything. It was a cool experience! We stayed at a guest house for the week that had a really nice view of Red Fort from the rooftop.

Tuesday morning, we went on a site visit to Jaipur Foot. Jaipur Foot is an organization that works with rehabilitating the disabled through prosthetic limbs. The organization is founded on the beliefs of the Jainism religion and solely runs on funding from outside sources. All of the limbs are free of cost for every patient and many are distributed to individuals that are not living in India. We have taken a critical eye to the sustainability of the organizations we visit, so this was an interesting aspect of an organization that has been around for so long and is so large. We asked if they have thought about implementing any income-generating activities or are concerned about funding running out in the future, but the question was answered with the upmost confidence that the abundance of money would never be an issue. We were given an in-depth tour of the organization and were able to see the several processes that go into the construction of the limbs. It was amazing to see the efficiency and attention to detail that every part of the process had.

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One of the legs at Jaipur Foot!

After the visit, we went to a nearby café for lunch and then went to see the Hawa Mahal. This city truly is beautiful. We were told that Jaipur was a great place to shop, and they were definitely correct. We walked through one of the Bazaars that had a bunch of shops and grabbed dinner at a place that was recommended to us by our country coordinator, as well as friends I have at home that have been to Jaipur.

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Outside of Hawa Mahal!

Wednesday morning, we drove for about two hours to get to a place called Barefoot College. We spent the day here learning about the different programs that they have. Barefoot College is an organization that primarily works with connecting rural communities with education, and solar and water technologies to help communities increase their wellbeing. Women from rural villages not only in India, but in other countries, will spend 6 months at the Barefoot College to learn about solar technologies and other skills, such as sewing, to bring back to their villages. All of the different programs that Barefoot College offers to the local community is very expansive and I was a little overwhelmed by how many different things they have going on. They have an entire garden and health supplement section, a radio station, a sanitary pad section, and more on top of all the work they do with their solar technologies and education for women. The organization was kind of set up like a campus with each different, I guess you could say department, in a different area of the huge space that they had. They also had an incredible gift shop that I spent way too much money in, but I got lots of goodies for my loved ones at home. It was an exhausting visit with the intense heat, but it definitely seems like Jaipur is the place for organizations that are doing really cool and effective work in India.

After we got back, we went to an AMAZING vegetarian restaurant that was right near the guest house we were staying in. Veg restaurants are very common throughout India, and it is not uncommon for many families to be vegetarian as well. Arthur and I split paneer butter masala and dosa (a popular South Indian food) and it was super yummy. I wish I could have it again while I’m writing this. Afterwards, Sanne and I walked to the City Statue Garden that is all lit up at night. On the way there we passed a huge science museum that was stunning from the outside. The statue was in a little park that was so lively and had so many kids and families hanging out in.

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The view from inside Hawa Mahal!

We went to yet another site visit on Thursday. We went to an organization called Jaipur Rugs, and I was much more critical of this one than the others. Jaipur Rugs is an organization that works with women’s empowerment and economic sustainability for women in the rural villages of India. They manufacture rugs that are hand woven by the women and then sold throughout India, as well as internationally, at a very steep price. Our first part of the site visit consisted of going to one of the villages and visiting the women while they were weaving the rugs. Up to 6 women work on one rug at a time and it was crazy to see the impeccable speed that the women worked at. All of the women seemed so happy to see us and to be doing the work that they were doing.

We went to the headquarters after and saw where the designs for the rugs were made and were given a sort of showcase of all the different rugs. This is where I started to become a little skeptical. The entire organization is based on the ideal that they are working towards women’s empowerment. Yes, women are receiving compensation for the work that they are doing and do not have to travel far from their home to get to work, however out of everybody that is involved in the process of producing a rug these women are by far putting in the most work. For that work they receive about 35% of the profits made from selling each rug. Each rug sells for about $4,000, give or take, which means that if there are 6 women working on one rug they are each making just over $200 per rug. Not to mention that each rug takes many months to make. Yes, it can be argued that the conditions they are working in and the profits that they are making are far better than most places. However, the huge emphasis on women’s empowerment throughout the organization did not feel right to me, especially since most of the rugs are sold to foreigners (mainly white foreigners) and the face of the company is scene outside mainly as the people at the headquarters, not the women themselves. Jaipur Rugs has won several awards for their work, and their rugs are beautiful, however, empowerment to me would  have voices of the women making the rugs be the true front of everything they do, not just a sweet story that increases profits that are widely distributed to places other than what the company says their sole purpose is for.

Maybe if there wasn’t such an emphasis on empowering the women making the rugs, I would have felt better about it. It just seemed as if they were taking advantage of the situation and making it seem like they are doing greater work than they actually are to make the money that they do. This visit definitely gave me a lot to think about.

After the site visit, we headed to another one of the Bazaars. I found such great deals and purchased some beautiful things. I had to buy another bag that I can check for the rest of my flights. Yes, that is how much I am buying, and I have no regrets. We went to a beautiful rooftop restaurant for dinner and I had a delicious curry. We had a henna night at our guest house! I had both the fronts and backs on my hands done and the designs were beautiful on everyone!

Friday morning, we had a woman come in to talk to us about the organization she works with, Sachentan Initiative. This initiative works with empowering women in the local and rural communities through the practice of crafting. She brought some of the crafts that the women made with her and I bought this BEAUTIFUL rug for 200 rupees (about $3). It may have been the best purchase I have ever made. In the afternoon, we all went to City Palace. Jaipur is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. All of the buildings and places to visit are stunning and I felt like I was living in a dream. Of course, there is still lots of traffic, but I have grown to tune that out now. After City Palace, we did some more shopping and yes, I bought more things. It’s being to become a problem, but I am still okay with it.

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At City Palace!

We had our second cohort time in India Friday evening and we went to this fun place called Chokhi Dhani. The point of this place was to be themed after a Rajasthani village. There was a bunch of different games to play, things to see, and places to walk around. They offered elephant and camel rides (I did not approve of this, you could tell that the elephant giving the rides was extremely unhappy).  We had a traditional Rajasthani thali for dinner. A thali is a round platter of food that has a variety of different dishes on it. This place was definitely very interesting and had a lot going on. It felt a bit like a circus. Not everybody in my group loved it and thought that it was a poor representation of what a Rajasthani village is actually like (I don’t disagree with this), but it was a cool experience and the majority of the people there were Indians, not foreigners, so it seemed like a popular fun thing to do.

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The thali!

We headed back to Delhi on Saturday, but we still had the morning to ourselves to explore. A few of us went to Amber Fort which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty. This place was huuuuge and it was crazy to imagine that people actually lived there, especially since it was up pretty high and far away from everything else. Just like pretty much everything in India, it was gorgeous and so nice to spend a few hours walking around and exploring.

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The view from Amber Fort!

We took a train back to Delhi and arrived in the late evening. Jaipur was such an incredible place and added to all the love I have for this country. We were really lucky to have had our entire week excursion there and I would go back in a heartbeat!

Stay tuned!

Paige

Week Eight: March 18th-March 24th

Happy Sunday everyone!

I spent the majority of the day in Old Delhi. We walked through Chandni Chowk and the spice market. Old Delhi is crazy and can be a bit overwhelming, there is so much going on! Red Fort is nearby Chandni Chowk, so we spent some time there as well. The markets in Old Delhi had a much different vibe from all the others, so this was a really cool way to spend the day. Afterwards, we went to Connaught Place which is right by the Janpath Market. This area has very similar architecture to British architecture and has a ton of shops. We found a really nice café that makes cool different types of chai. There is a big park in the center of all of the shops called Central Park. It was a bit different from the Central Park in New York, but still very beautiful! It was a Sunday well spent.

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At the spice market in Old Delhi!

Monday was full of classes, which is characteristic for how most of the week went. We had an anthropology class that focused on discussing new views of culture and the difference between small and large culture. We also had our second technology class and discussed demonetization in India and the rising popularity of mobile payments. During demonetization in 2016, 86% of the currency that was in circulation went out in efforts to stop the spread of black money. Black money is any money that taxes are not paid on. Prior to demonetization, only 2% of the country was paying taxes. 3.3 million people are now paying their taxes; however, demonetization is not viewed as a positive movement. The government did not properly execute the situation, and people were left with no money for many months due to ATM’s running out of money and the government remaking the 2000 rupee bill a different size than before that was not accepted by ATMs. We learned about how demonetization did not create mobile payments, however it did open the space for this form of exchange to increase in use.   

After our classes, we headed to our case study site. For our India case study, we will be working with an organization called the Naz India Foundation. Naz works with the stigma, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS, young girls’ empowerments, and advocacy for LGBT rights. Similar to the organization we went to in Uganda, Girl Up, Naz has a ton of different programs that they work with. They have a Care Home program and Home-Based Care where they directly work with individuals and families affected by HIV. Their largest program is the GOAL program which works with young girls in public schools and teaches them life skills while learning the game of netball. There is no space for girls to play sports in public schools, so this program gives them the opportunity to build confidence and learn about how to take care of themselves and their bodies. Naz has also worked with the court section 377 ruling that deems homosexuality illegal in India and filed petitions against it. While they filed the petition in 2001 and are still working with it, policy change is extremely difficult and takes a lot of time. Naz has done a really good job of working with advocacy for LBGT rights in India and trying to change the stigma.

The most interesting thing that we learned while at Naz was that they are currently in a transitional phase where they are shifting from being a service providing organization to a leadership providing organization. They now offer trainings of their programs and ideas to different organizations and businesses that have a similar gender focus as Naz. Something important to mention is that Naz has no income-generating activities. Therefore, they are not considered a social enterprise and are listed as a charitable trust. The number of funders that Naz has is incredible, and they have done a remarkable job of establishing themselves as a well-known organization not just in Delhi, but also in many other parts of India and places outside of India.

We were only at the organization for about 2 hours and only spoke to one individual. The woman we spoke with is the manager of Naz, has been there for 20 years, and has worked with all of the programs, so she was a very good person to speak with, however it was much much quicker than the case study day that we had in Uganda.

We have a really nice park right behind our home and our siblings will often play there after school. We played badminton with our host sister, which I used to play with my family all the time when I was younger. It was a lot of fun, but once the sun starts to go down, the bugs come out and it’s quite a task to try and play at the same time. My host family is super loving and its really apparent that they really enjoy their childhood. It’s nice to be in this type of environment and reminds me a lot of my childhood.

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My host siblings, Gobind & Mansa, and the cupcakes they made!

Tuesday morning, we had a site visit with a place called Operation ASHA. Operation ASHA works with bringing treatments to individuals affected by tuberculosis in the urban slum and rural village communities in India. This organization is an NGO and all patients receive their treatment free of cost. They have developed a technology that keeps track of all of their patients and allows them to see when individuals haven’t come to receive their treatment. The man we spoke with told us that they will often go to their patients even when they don’t come to make sure they get their treatment. He said that they’ll tell the patient, “We’re trying to save your life, man”. I was really surprised with how much of a challenge they said it is to get people to come everyday to take their medicine.

After the site visit, we had a social entrepreneurship class about how social entrepreneurs scale. We talked about the question of if scaling an organization is the same thing as scaling impact and if organizational scale is the same thing as systematic scale. One of the main points that our professor made was that social entrepreneurs recognize the power of the interdependence of a system and how all levels need to work together in order to try to make systematic change. She also said, “Can anybody really own an idea in this world”. I thought that was really interesting. It’s also really cool that we have her as a professor because she doesn’t normally teach, rather she is a social entrepreneur herself. She is extremely intelligent, and its unfortunate that we only get three short sessions with her.

Three of us did something crazy after class and got our noses pierced!! Yes, not that crazy, but we were super spontaneous about it. The man that did the piercings didn’t use a needle, he just sort of stuck the ring in my nose. It was much more painless than I expected!

We had another full day of classes on Wednesday. We talked about the difference between simple, complicated, and complex systems and how systems thinking requires a shift in mindset away from a linear to circular mindset in our design thinking class. We had a capital vs intention debate for businesses in our technology class. I would’ve sat on the intention side of this debate coming into this program. However, I’ve realized that intention is great, but if you don’t have the capital to fund the intention then it is not going to be sustainable or realistic. I don’t think it has to be one or the other though, I think you need both to have a successful business or organization.

We ended early and headed to a café to plan out some things for our spring break that is coming up in a few weeks. Emma and I went out for dinner afterwards. I had these butter chicken spring roll things, they were delicious. The Bharatanatyam dancer that I am going to be taking classes from had a performance in the evening, so the two of us went after dinner. The performance center was almost as beautiful as the performance. I am always amazed by the complexity of Indian classical dance. There was a little girl sitting next to me trying to mimic the moves that the dancers on the stage were doing. It was so precious.

Thursday morning, we had a guest lecture about the organization Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. Chintan works with waste management and this lecture was extremely informative about the waste situation in India and the current environmental crisis. Chintan is trying to convert waste into livelihoods by employing those that work with waste due to their caste and ensuring that no children are working in waste by putting them in school. Chintan is trying to use waste as a tool to fight poverty and by the sounds of it, they’re having a pretty large impact.

We had our last social entrepreneurship class today (which is crazy because we just got here last week). We talked about what should be included on a one-page business plan and what a strategic planning framework looks like. We also talked about how the planning process is more important than the plan for a business which I thought was an interesting perspective.

We headed to TARA for a site visit afterwards. TARA stands for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement. They use waste to make paper and saw dust to make bricks, and from what I gathered they sell the technologies they use to rural communities. However, because of time and distance we weren’t able to go their headquarters first for an overview of everything they do, so the social entrepreneurial aspect of this organization was a bit confusing while we were there. Nevertheless, it was really cool to see!

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The bricks TARA makes!

Thursday evening, I had a dance lesson with my host sister’s dance teacher. She taught me some of the basics of kathak, one of the Indian classical dance forms, and part of a choreography to a kathak based classical dance. The teacher came to my home and we had the lesson in one of the bedrooms, with no mirrors, so it was quite interesting, but I am happy I was able to do it!

We had another anthropology class Friday morning and discussed the many different gazes. We took a look at the male gaze, the orientalist gaze, the reverse gaze and the colonial gaze. These different gazes capture different things, usually through photographs or visual media, based on that gaze. For example, the male gaze usually captures images that involve the sexualization of women for men’s desires. I was curious about whether the gaze can only be from the perspective of the photographer and if the gaze can be applied to inanimate objects.

We debriefed the week and then a small group of us headed to the airport to head to Mumbai for the weekend! The flight to get to Mumbai from Delhi was only about 2 hours. My two friends, Emma and Sanne, and I stayed in a beautiful hotel for the weekend. We had an incredible dinner Friday night. It was a full 6-course meal and was beyond amazing!  

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The Gateway of India!

Mumbai has a very different feel than Delhi. It is right on the water and the architecture reminds me a lot of Europe. We went to the Gateway of India Saturday afternoon and had lunch at the Taj hotel. The Taj hotel was absolutely beautiful, and we had a very nice high tea for lunch. Worth every penny. One of my friends from Lehigh lives in Mumbai and I was able to meet his parents for dinner Saturday night. It was really nice to be able to meet them and the meal we had was one the best I’ve had in India yet.

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The sunning sunset in Mumbai!

The hotel that we stayed at had a beautiful rooftop pool that we hung out by Sunday morning. Sanne and I went to Haji Ali Dargah which is a mosque in the middle of the water in Mumbai that you walk to. It was unbelievably hot, I felt like I was a heater, but we were glad we went. We headed to the airport afterwards to catch our flight back to Delhi. It was really nice to be able to see another part of India! I’m loving this place more and more each day.  

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The mosque we went to on Sunday!

 As always, thanks for reading!!

Paige

Week Seven: March 11th-17th

Namaste!! We arrived in India early Sunday morning! So much has happened this week, I don’t know where to start. This week has definitely been my favorite week of the program so far and I couldn’t be happier to be here! Like a typical day on this program, we were not given much time to rest before we were out and about on Sunday after we landed.

After leaving the airport we checked into our hotel and met our country team. Our country coordinator is Abid, our field assistant is Rajshree, and our homestay coordinator is Bhavna. I have a friend who was recently in India on a different IHP program who raved about how great this team is! We were told that to show respect in India you say ‘Ji’ at the end of someone’s name, so Abid is Abid Ji and so on and so forth.

We had some time to freshen up and then we headed to the SIT program office for our welcome and introductions. We had lunch at the office and it made me even more excited to be here for 5 weeks, it was delicious! We had a little bit of an orientation on some basic safety things and the India team gave their presentation on where we have been to our country team. We went to the Dilli Haat market for dinner. The Dilli Haat is an open bazaar and food plaza that has a ton of different vendors to buy clothes, jewelry, accessories, art and more along with a bunch of spots to enjoy some of India’s wonderful food. This place technically has street food, which we are not supposed to eat, but we were given the okay here. My favorite thing that I got was Kulfi, which is Indian ice cream. Sooo good!

Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at our hotel and then headed to a health clinic for a health orientation on how to stay healthy while were here. We headed to our classroom spot afterwards. The classroom space that we will be using in India is in the building of an NGO called Action for Autism (I will talk more about this later). We had a brief survival Hindi lesson and a homestay orientation. While English is spoken by many people in India, Hindi is also an official language of the country. Besides Hindi, each state of India has its own language as well. We found out who we will be living we and where we will be staying and then headed to Hauz Khas which is a neighborhood that is rather upscale. We walked around and grabbed dinner there.

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A sweet shop in Hauz Khas

We checked out of our hotel on Tuesday morning and headed to our classroom for a guest lecture on an introduction to India focusing on its social, political, and economic history. Dr. Azim Khan is an academic director and has done some amazing work with social activism and human rights. He is also one of the homestay fathers! India is the 2nd largest country by population in the world and Dr. Khan mentioned that the United States population is only 27% of the size of India’s population. Crazy!

We had a culture and safety orientation after our tea break. Yes, we have a scheduled tea break everyday!! Some of the keys things we discussed in the cultural orientation were how the typical relations between men and women are and how women are still viewed as second class citizens in India. This will be interesting to observe over the next few weeks. We then split up for our neighborhood day activity. This was a little similar to how we did this day in Uganda. My group went to Khan market which had a bunch of beautiful clothing shops, places to eat, and this awesome stationary shop. Neighborhood day is similar to a scavenger hunt where we have to find out how much specific things cost and ask people different questions. I spotted this beautiful kurta (an upper garment similar to a dress and typically worn with pants/leggings that originated in India) in the first boutique we went in, but resisted the temptation to buy the first thing I looked at.

Tuesday night we headed to our homestays! My roommate is Betty, she is from Myanmar and goes to school in Pennsylvania, and we are staying with a family in Jasola. We live right next to the SIT office and a few minute walk away from our classroom. This means I get to sleep until 8 everyday, wooo! My families surname is Singh, which I thought was fun because although many Indians have this surname, one of my good friends from Lehigh has this surname as well. I live with my host parents, Manmeet and Niki, our younger siblings, Mansa (10) and Gobin (8), and their grandparents live in the apartment that is connected to the upstairs by a spiral staircase. My family is Punjabi, and they are Sikh, a less dominant form of religion in India. Most of the houses are apartment style here, and ours is beautiful. My family has also traveled to the US and has been to Buffalo before, both of my parents have cousins in Buffalo, so I feel like I was meant to be staying with this family!

If anyone reading this hasn’t tried India food, I recommend you stop reading this and go to the closest Indian restaurant. All of the food is AMAZING! While there is a ton of different kinds of food, and differences between southern (spicer) and northern Indian food some of the staples that we have been eating have been roti, dal, curried potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables, paneer, different deserts, and other curries. Because of all the spices, everything is so flavorful, and I love it!

Wednesday morning, we had our first technology class with our local professor, Ms. Saloni. Saloni is a social entrepreneur herself, and we spent this class discussing the business she founded, Desicrew. Desicrew is a socially motivated outsourcing company that connects global clients with low cost back office centers in rural India. Desicrew is largely women’s employment, however boys from the south of India have applied and they are working for places like Huffington Post. She talked about how the sales pitch in many social innovation business’ is wrong and that there is too much emphasis on the value system and customer wants are often forgotten about. She also mentioned that the fastest way out of poverty is consistent employment.

Afterwards, we had a session on Action for Autism, the space we have our classes in. The founder, Ms. Merry Barus, explained that AFA is non-profit, education, and training and advocacy organization that provides support and services to individuals with autism. AFA is the parent organization that had the goal to “put autism on the Indian map”. Ms. Barus explained that her motivation for starting the organization began with her experience of having and autistic child. The organization has helped make a large impact on the changing awareness of autism in India over the past decade.

In the afternoon, we headed to Goonj for a site visit. Goonj is an organization that takes used clothing and cloth and then sorts, mends, and distributes them to the needy in India. The cloth is also used to be remade into bags and sanitary napkins. They also accept paper that has one clean side and reuse is to make different products, brochures, etc for the organization. Goonj’s goal is to look forward to a parallel economy that is not cash based, but that is trash based. This organization is huge. We had a tour through all of their different sections and everything is very well organized. One of the cool things that they do is put together wedding packages for couples that can not afford the extravagant costs of an Indian wedding. Their sanitary pad movement is also very huge and has made a large impact on many communities in India. Goonj has become quite the established organization and has over 250 partner organizations in over 21 remote parts of India. We were able to have a question and answer session with the founder. He was quite resistant to answering questions about impact measurement, which was interesting because that’s something we have took a critical eye to when evaluating the different sites we go to. However, our social entrepreneurship professor, Manisha, knows the organization very well and explained that they have been answering these questions for a very long time so they tend to stray away from them now.

In the evening, I headed back to Kahn market and bought the Kurta that I spotted the previous day. We are going to the Taj this weekend, and I needed something to wear, so I couldn’t resist. This market also had a beautiful stationary shop, so I stocked up on handmade cards.

We had a lecture on the caste system in India on Thursday morning. Our lecturer, Dr. Arshad explained that the caste system is a 3,000 year old institution and that although it is an institution, it is a characteristic of Hindu society and has spread to major non-Hindu communities. A few things that stuck out to me we’re that castes we’re traditionally linked to occupations, and that marriage must take place inside the caste. Essentially, marriage sustains the caste system. In present day, there have been initiatives from both ends of the caste spectrum to organize the depressed classes. Our lecturer mentioned that a few forces of change are the speeding up and intensification of economic change, and modern educated Indians being attracted the liberal ideas of individualism and meritocracy. Many of the organizations that we visit in India try to challenge the caste system and it will be interesting to see the different approaches because how does one change a century old system that is still embedded in Indian society.

We had our first design thinking and development class afterwards and focuses on tradition and modernity in India. We talked about the two different visions for India that were held by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and the idea of McDonaldization. McDonaldization is the process by which the characteristics and principles of the fast food industry start to dominate other areas of social life. The main principles of this are predictability, calculability, efficiency, and control. To be honest, I was a little confused about this. Lastly, we discussed traditional craft in India and how it may be becoming a crisis for livelihoods because modern industrial design is the opposite of traditional craft practice.

We had cohort time at Lodi Gardens in the afternoon. Our rickshaw driver definitely did not know where he was going since he asked other people while we were driving which way to go multiple times. The traffic here is still pretty intense. However the main difference with the traffic in Uganda, is that it moves in India!! So, we get places a lot quicker. Rickshaws are a popular mode of transport here and there are a few different types. Delhi also has a metro which is SO nice. It is very clean, air conditioned, and has outlets. It’s much nicer than the metro in New York. They also have a women’s only cart, which is interesting. Lodi Gardens was very beautiful and peaceful.

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Lodi Gardens!

We headed to another market afterwards, called Central Market. This one was a bit different from Kahn, because it was much more open and most of the places did not have fixed prices. It was quite chaotic, but there was so much to look at and I really enjoyed it.

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Central Market!

Friday morning, we had a social entrepreneurship class and discussed the key traits of social entrepreneurs. Our professor, Manisha, said that the ultimate goal of social entrepreneurs is to create a world where everybody is a change maker and to create equal systems. She explained that social change sustains on trust, not technical or intellectual finesse. I had never thought about it that way before. We debriefed the week and then had the rest of the day to ourselves.

Of course, we went to another market. This one was called Janpath and had a different vibe than the other two. I bought a beautiful pair of shoes and a few other things. After we graded dinner, we went to the Akshardham Temple and saw the light show it has. This temple was absolutely stunning! Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take phones or cameras in, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures. The light show was also amazing! I’m loving this place more every day.

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A few of us in front of the Taj!

We got up early Saturday morning to head to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. It was about a 3 hour drive. The Taj was just as beautiful as it’s said to be. The outside was spectacular. Of course, it was pretty crowded. The inside of the Taj felt a bit underwhelming compared to the outside, but it also felt like we were being pushed through an assembly line because there were so many people trying to get through. Nevertheless, it was really great to be able to go!
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I couldn’t have asked for a better first week in India and I can’t wait for what the next month has to offer!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more!!

Paige

 

Week 6: March 5th-March 10th

Our final week in Uganda has arrived! This program is set up in a way that we are always doing so much, so it feels like we have been here forever, yet it feels so strange that we’re already preparing to leave. This week was all about assignments. Of course, most of us procrastinated all of our assignments, so I spent the majority of the week in different cafes doing my work after class.

            We had our final social entrepreneurship, technology, and design thinking classes in the beginning of the week. We only have three of each class in each country, but it’s been incredible how much we have learned in that short amount of time.

We had our final site visit in Uganda with Anuel Energy on Tuesday afternoon. Anuel Energy is an enterprise that works towards spreading solar systems to people in need of electricity. The products were actually really cool, and looked extremely durable. The man who ran our visit was really great and was super open about answering all of our questions. He wasn’t afraid to talk about the challenges they had when they started up or to be proud of the success they’ve had since. I’d say this was one of my favorite site visits in Uganda.

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Our beautiful classroom view!

As far as assignments go, I wrote an essay critiquing the Millennium Development Project that we visited during our excursion in Mbarara for our anthropology class. I wrote an essay about Boda Boda’s and the impact they’ve had on Uganda for our technology class. Finally, we had to do a presentation for our case study on what we discovered about Girl Up. I felt pretty good about my assignments overall, especially our case study. Our presentation went really well!

After all of our assignments were due on Thursday, we had a Uganda synthesis session and did a comparative summary of learning. Basically, we just connected the dots between everything we did in Uganda and then connected those dots with what we previously did in California. Our days are jam packed, so this process took quite a while. I can’t imagine what it will be like when we add India and Brazil into the mix.

Friday morning, we had our here we come India session and spent this time at a nearby Indian restaurant to help prepare us for the next leg in our journey. We then had time to do whatever we wanted until we had a farewell dinner with our homestays in the evening. I used a portion of this time to film a dance video. Dancing is probably the thing that I miss most about being away, and African dance is something that I’ve been able to learn about at Lehigh and have really loved and appreciated. I filmed one the choreo’s that my dance team at school performed last semester. As always, it felt great to be dancing. In the evening we had a departure dinner with everyone’s homestays and all of the staff apart of the Uganda country team. As cliché as it may sound, I can’t believe this portion of the program is over and we are moving on to a new country.

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My host family at our farewell dinner!

Saturday morning, we headed out early for the airport to catch our flight that left in mid-afternoon. We had a touchdown in Kigali, Rwanda for about an hour during the flight (we stayed on the plane, and a bunch of new people got on). The flight from Uganda to Rwanda was only a half an hour, and a ton of people actually got off the flight when we landed in Rwanda. I was very surprised. This blog would’ve been written a lot sooner; however, we did not have any outlets for our 8-hour flight, so I was left phoneless and laptopless. I started reading the book Dear World which is about the story of a young Syrian war refugee’s call for peace. So far, it is beautifully written, but I can tell that it is going to be heart wrenching. We had a short layover in Qatar (this airport was very bougie) and then another 4-hour flight to Delhi.

I cannot express how excited I am for the next 5 weeks to be filled with amazing food and chai tea!!! Stayed tuned for more!!!

Warmly,

Paige

Week Five: February 26th-March 4th

This week was our excursion week for Uganda. We headed to Western Uganda early Monday morning. We spent the first half of the week in Mbarara and the second half on Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale. On our way, we stopped at the Equator, which is basically just a spot that has signs that say you’re on the equator. Uganda is one of the 13 countries that the equator runs through. We stopped for lunch and then drove through Lake Mburo National Park to see some Zebras. I didn’t see any Zebras when I was on safari last year, so this was really cool! We arrived at our hotel around 530pm.

We spent all of Tuesday on a site visit at the Millennium Village Project in Ruhiira. The Millennium Village Project is a project of the Earth Institute that was started by Jeffrey Sachs with the main goal of ending extreme poverty. This project tries to do so through taking a community-led approach to sustainable development by uniting government, science, business, and civil society. Millennium is a part of the name because it was a direct initiative towards trying to tackle the Millennium Development goal of ending poverty that was started by the UN. The project ended 2 years ago, after its 2-year extension, and is now in the process of being handed over to the government. This same model was used to establish the same project in other villages in different countries in Africa.

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A cute shot of some zebra love!

 

I have a lot of thoughts about this project. Overall, I think the idea and the initiative was great, but I don’t think it was executed very well. It seems as though the project was put into place with little consideration, or research for what the people living in the village would like to have had put into place. It didn’t seem like the emphasis on community and relationship building (things that would increase sustainability, in my opinion) was a top priority in this project. I’m not saying that I think the project was bad, it did bring good changes to the community. We were given a sheet that described all 6 different components of the projects and each one’s impact. They have done a really great job of providing clean water to the village. However, each section basically just had a bunch of bullet points for their achievements and numbers for how many things were implemented. Again, this is not bad, but it is not sustainable. This was especially clear because the project is currently not active and being put into the power of the government, which has had a habit of being known for being corrupt. I’m still processing what I think about all of it, but I can say with confidence that my opinions about international development are changing and being challenged.

We were supposed to go on a site visit to a place called Tugende Wednesday morning, however we were not able to go. Tugende is a social enterprise that helps boda boda drivers own their own motorcycle after a year and a half, as opposed to always renting. We were not able to go because you need to have government permission, and we were not given it. We were told that some organizations can be very skeptical of American groups and what their motives are. It would’ve been really cool to go, but it is also interesting why we weren’t able to.

We had our second design thinking class and talked in-depth about human-centered design and inclusive innovation. We talked about the difference between human wants and human needs and how the concept of what it means to be human gets reflected in design. Inclusive innovation is defined as innovation that benefits the disenfranchised and it points to inequalities that may arise in development. In other words, design is the process of creating value, and inclusivity is about where the value goes.

Thursday, we had a really interesting anthropology class talking about modernity and development. We talked about the idea of development and globalization as historically produced discourses and that the discourse and strategy of development produces the opposite of what it thought it was going to. We had a site visit with one of ENVenture’s partner CBO’s (community-based organization). We were able to speak with the founder of Enventure while we were in San Francisco. The partner CBO that we went to worked with water filtration systems, cook stoves, and fire starters.  The fire starters were made from saw dust, millet dust, and wax. We were able to see the process of how the fire starters were, super cool.

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The fire starters!

After our site visit, we headed to the second part of our excursion. We drove for about 5 hours to Kabale and then took a boat ride on Lake Buyongyi to Entusi, the resort we would be staying at for the next 3 days. This place was absolutely beautiful, and we were the only ones staying there so we had the whole place to ourselves. Water surrounded us, so it felt like we were on our own little island.

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On our way to Entusi!

Friday morning, we had a self-care cohort time session. I taught some yoga and spent a lot of time journaling, it was quite nice. We had an introduction to Entusi as a Social Enterprise. Entusi is a destination for travelers, but with the mission of being able to impact the health and vitality of communities in East Africa through community outreach and investment, research, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Entusi was started by a white man, but the community has as much greater say and the goal is for Entusi to be completely self-sustaining. They have a huge music festival each year that attracts about 15,000 people and they have had Ted talks before.

In the afternoon, we went on a boat tour to learn about all of the 29 surrounding islands. We stopped at one that had a farm and there was a school up at the top with a basketball court that has the greatest view. We had a debriefing session about our visit to the Millennium Village Project which made my head hurt. After dinner, we all watched The Breakfast Club together (world’s best movie). Each cohort has to name themselves and we named ourselves the breakfast club, so we thought it was fitting to watch the movie.

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Entusi

We had the whole day to ourselves on Saturday, so we took advantage of the activities that Entusi offers. We started out the day with a nice hike. They told us that it wasn’t difficult and didn’t go up hill that much. Of course, the majority of the hike was all up hill, this brought back lots of memories from last summer. We went to a local witchdoctor after. For some reason, we all thought we were going to get our futures told. I have no idea why we thought that. The witchdoctor is basically just a natural and herbal medicine specialist. It was pretty cool. After lunch, we went canoeing. This was an interesting experience, I have been canoeing before, so I thought it would be easy. This canoe was a big carved out tree trunk, and my friend Sanne and I, could not get the canoe to go straight if our lives depended on it. So, we didn’t get very far, but it was still fun!

We left early Sunday morning to head back to Kampala. We were in the car all day. I am not kidding, I really do mean all day. We left Entusi around 8am and didn’t get back to our homestay until after 730pm.

Only one more week in Uganda!

Sending my love,

Paige

P.S. Finally a post that’s not almost 5 pages long!!