Interim Journals 2008
Good afternoon from sunny San Francisco,
We were kept busy this week with work at Glide and trying to squeeze in as much sightseeing as we possibly can before leaving the city this Wednesday. The time is just flying by for all of us; we only have one more meal to serve this Tuesday. But we are enjoying our time here in the city and the weather was beautiful all week (no snow here!)
On Monday we served breakfast at Glide and then joined a Recovery Circle. We were all looking forward to seeing what the circle would be like because our academic focus this fall was on the process of recovery, not only from drug use and abuse, but from all kinds of pain and suffering. We all participated in the circle and got to tell our stories and hear others as well. This week in addition to serving meals, we volunteered at Glide's youth and family center. We interacted with kids of all ages; we played in the park and helped with homework. It was neat to see kids from all different backgrounds playing together and learning about Glide's values at an early age. We also had meetings with the CEO of the Glide foundation, Willa Seldon, and Marcel Miranda who does HIV/AIDS prevention outreach at Glide. We were able to ask them more questions about Glide's programs and services and learn about the future of Glide.
Today and yesterday were pretty much free days for everyone. Yesterday, most of us spent the day in Sausalito. Some members of the team took the ferry over from the city; four brave team members decided to bike all the way from the city and over the bridge into Sausalito. We all reunited for a really nice dinner at the DeLancy Street Restaurant. The restaurant is unique because it hires and trains people off the street or from prison and all of the employees help to support one another, like a community.
Tomorrow, the whole team will be a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and help Glide with its festivities. Tuesday, we will have a reflection with the Glide kitchen staff about our work and experiences. Then on Wednesday morning, we will travel across the bay to Marin and Muir woods for our three-day reflection retreat.
San Francisco Team Chronicler
Good morning from San Francisco!
We have now been in the city for over a week. We are becoming more familiar with the bus system and getting adjusted to the chilly weather. We served meals every day last week; on different days we served at different times according to Glide's need for volunteers. On days that we serve breakfast, we have to leave our hostel around 6am! On days we serve lunch or dinner, we have the morning off and return late to the hostel. After and in between meals we have free time to rest at the hostel or explore the city. Tuesday and Thursday in addition to serving breakfast and lunch, we helped out with Glide's senior social. We played bingo with the seniors (most are elderly from the surrounding neighborhoods) and just spent time chatting and having coffee with them. During our free time this week some of us visited Haight-Ashbury, which was the cultural center of the hippie movement. We also celebrated Annie's 20th birthday Friday night; we had dinner at the Stinking Rose which specializes in garlic dishes!
Glide didn't need us this Saturday, so we had the enitre day off. Katie, Mary Page, Emily and Ashley G. decided to take a tour of the Napa Valley. They drove through the beautiful vineyards and countryside in a bus and stopped at wineries to sample the wine and learn how to taste it properly. Ashley R., Annie, Caren and I took the subway to UC Berkeley and spent the day exploring the campus and the surrounding shops and coffee houses. The rest of the team set out on their own in the city or stayed at the hostel for some much needed rest. Sunday, we served breakfast at Glide and then attended the 9am Celebration service; we were excited to finally hear Cecil preach and we got to meet him after the service. Last night we went to see Beach Blanket Babylon, a San Francisco classic. It was a musical comedy that poked fun at political figures and celebrities and the singing and dancing was fantastic.
Today we will be serving lunch and dinner. In between meals, we are planning to tour the Cecil Williams House, which provides low cost housing for people in Glide's recovery and job training programs. We are also planning to work with Glide's youth programs this week in addition to serving meals.
Until next time,
San Francisco Team Chronicler
Hello BSC, concerned parents and friends,
All fourteen members of the San Franciso team arrived safely Saturday night and we were greeted by the rain. We got all settled in at our cozy hostel at Fort Mason. The students are sharing one room and the grown-ups share another; there is also a kitchen and common room space that we can use. The area surrounding Fort Mason is beautiful; we have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Prison and we are within walking distance of Fisherman's wharf.
Sunday morning we went to Glide for Celebration for the first time. We all split up so we could mix and mingle with the congregation. The service was filled with excitment and energy, to say the least. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the city. We visited Union Square, Chinatown, and City Lights bookstore. We also went to Grace Cathedral and walked through the two labyrinths there to reflect on our journey.
Today we walked to Pier 39 to see (and smell!) the sea lions and then we climbed the many stairs to Coit Tower to get an awesome view of the bay. We had orientation at Glide this afternoon; we learned more about its programming and what our work will be like. Then we served our first meal in the Glide Kitchen. Tommorow, we will be getting up bright and early to serve breakfast at 7am and attend the Senior Social.
Until next time,
San Francisco Team Chronicler
Our reflection retreat at Mahabalipuram is coming to a close. Tomorrow evening, we will leave town at 7:00 p.m. and bus into Chenni to catch our 1:00 a.m. flight home. Over our long weekend, we have passed time by the pool and ocean, touring ancient Hindu temples, watching traditional India dance performances, shopping for gifts and souvenirs, eating ice cream, and - of course - sitting together and talking about the past few weeks.
Our hotel is situation right on the beach, and we have eaten many of our meals in the dining room. We reflect as a large group in a small partially open-air building not far from the ocean. From our section of the beach, we have a great view of one of the Hindu temples. In the evenings, as the moon rises over the water, the view is particularly stunning. The town of Mahabalipuram hosts many Western visitors, and after struggling with language barriers for the past couple of weeks, it has been a bit strange to hear so much English again.
We will face another adjustment period when we arrive home on Tuesday evening bearing souvenirs, photographs, and stories. For family and friends who plan to meet us on our return to the Hilltop, know that we should arrive on campus no later than 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening. We will arrive in the same parking lot from which we departed, directly behind the library and in front of Bill Battle. See you soon!
Today we leave Chenni for Mahabalipuram for relaxation and reflection. We completed all of the tasks that KKSS presented to us on our first day and – despite the language barrier – connected with residents at both the Old Age Home and Angel House Orphanage.
At Angel House, one team fenced off a sandy area so that the toddlers could play outside safely. Other team members sorted through the donated toys and activities that we brought with us and determined what would be appropriate for the small children, and what should go on to the older children in the gypsy settlement on the edge of town. Yesterday, as many people as could possibly fit into the small Family Counseling Center at the orphanage scraped, primed, and painted the walls light pink. The mural team created wall hangings that will be hung after other groups come to KKSS to repaint other buildings.
At the Old Age Home, we painted the large sleeping/gathering room teal, the iron window grills yellow, and the window frames blue. The kitchen is a bright pink with white columns and beams. In both rooms, murals that our team artists created brighten the space. With a fresh coat of yellow paint, the residents' beds and nightstands look almost new.
Last evening after we had finished our work for the day, we all gathered at the Old Age Home for a final celebration with the elderly, the short-stay home women, and lots of children. We were seated in a large circle in the large gathering room of the Old Age Home. Many team members held babies in their laps. The KKSS director thanked us for our work and invited us back to KKSS to do more projects in the future. KKSS honored the BSC team by presenting us with brightly colored cloth wraps and certificates. Some of the residents shared their thoughts and thanked us for coming. After the sharing, we were treated to a traditional dance performance by women at the short-stay home and workers from Angel House and Old Age Home. After watching for a few dancing while munching on Indian pastries, some of our team members joined in the dancing themselves. At the end of the evening, all semblance of a structured program disappeared and the floor filled with people, old and young, American and Indian, dancing, laughing, celebrating.
When we left, it was nearly dark outside. People were waving from the door, the steps, the balcony. We took rickshaws to dinner at a Western-style restaurant where we relaxed and ordered pizza with a surprisingly sweet tomato sauce. The next few days promise to be rather unstructured, ensuring that people have the freedom to collect their thoughts in whatever way best suits them. Most people will probably spend a good bit of time journaling, but we will have opportunities for shopping, swimming, reading, etc. I'll try to post another journal entry from our final destination in India.
We made The Hindu! I haven't been able to find us on the on-line edition at www.thehindu.com, but our team will probably have plenty of clippings to bring home and show off. A color photograph captures team members painting the Old Age Home and includes some of the children from the orphanage. The reporter quotes our Senior Project Officer Emmy Corey speaking about our school and interim team. The staff at KKSS was very excited.
Our visit to Pondicherry went well. We had a long drive in but a relaxing afternoon. After dropping bags and eating lunch at our swank hotel, we explored the beach town and had some free time to shop and meander. We ate dinner outdoors at a pleasant restaurant with Western food (pasta, steak, etc.) and stellar deserts. The next morning, we had breakfast on our own, and my brunch group decided to go to a little French place we had read a rave review of in a guidebook. The crepes, eggs, coffee, and juice did not disappoint, and we spent the rest of the morning wandering in and out of markets and shops.
Now back in Chenni, we have resumed our work at the Old Age Home painting iron grills and finishing the pink dinning room. We will continue to work all week, but tomorrow a group is going to begin a garden next to the orphanage. Hopefully, they will be able to finish before we leave.
Greetings at last! After some computer malfunctions, team India has more news to report. We have nearly finished our work at the Old Age Home. The walls in the big sleeping room are a light tropical green, the dining room is a deep pink, and the beds and nightstands are a buttery yellow. The room looks much fresher with a new coat of paint. The residents seem to be happy with the work we are doing. When the elderly descend for meals from their temporary second floor residence, they offer us food or tea, examine our work, and generally appear pleased to have us in their home for a while. Some of our artists-in-residence, Corinna, Kelly, Julia, Miriam, Emmy, Elizabeth, and Molly (I know, we have lots of artists!), created some amazing murals to hang on the walls of the Old Age Home. Next week, those will go up. After a thorough cleaning, the room will be complete. This morning, a reporter and photographer came out to our site to snap some shots of KKSS's American volunteers, so who knows, BSC might be appearing in The Hindu.
On a more somber note, we have had some sickness, mostly related to differences in food, climate, pollution, etc. We are coping well, drinking water, taking malaria pills, and listening to the advice of our new friends from Harvard Med.
Everyone is looking forward to our weekend away in Pondicherry this weekend. We are celebrating both Sara and Corinna's birthdays, touring Auroville – “a universal city in the making” – and relaxing. We should have some down time next week, also. Some people are interested in going to an outdoor market in Chenni. Part of the group took taxis to the market this past week on an afternoon off. I was part of that group, and we had quite an adventure trying to barter with vendors and direct cabbies (or rickies?…taxis are called rickshaws here) in a mixture of English, Tamil, and sign-language. When we finally arrived back in our district, Anna Nagar, my group set out on foot to find a holy grail of sorts – pizza. Dusty and sore, we walked the streets for quite a while until finally, blazing bright as a billboard in Time Square, the Domino's sign ushered us inside.
Wish us luck on our weekend expedition. Our adventuresome guide Sid mentioned something about seeing some crocodiles on the way to Pondicherry, so the four-hour bus ride should be anything but boring. Hopefully, I'll be able to post again soon. Until then, know that we are in good hands and working hard; we are doing what we came to do.
Yesterday we began work with KKSS at the Old Age Home and the Angel House Orphanage. The needs are tremendous and the work endless. The children at the orphanage do not wear diapers; consequently, some team members have had to change clothes mid-day. The caregivers love the children and play with them as much as possible, but the center is short-staffed. The less-than-sanitary situation (i.e. urine on the floor) leads to sickness, which can be dangerous for the babies who are already underweight. We asked Elizabeth, a visiting medical student from Harvard, why the children did not wear diapers, and she explained that she had asked local pediatricians the same question. They explained that if the children wore diapers, they would sit in them for too long and be at high risk for rash and infection. Instead of pushing diapers, Dr. Elizabeth is working to make sure all the caregivers practice good hygiene (frequent hand-washing, etc.).
At the Old Age Home, we have begun a thorough cleaning of the first floor where the elderly sleep on two-inch thick mattresses in military style beds. They are very happy to have us around, and love to offer us tea and try to teach us their language. Also living upstairs are women and children from abusive homes – women who, for the most part, have either left or been abandoned by their husbands. Their children love having energetic “big kids” around to play with them. We are painting the cots, painting the downstairs walls, and creating movable murals out of plywood that will stick to the walls and can be removed then reaffixed for repaint jobs in the future. The work is tiring but rewarding. We have not begun painting inside yet, but after washing the windows and cleaning the floors, the room already looks much better.
We will be continuing to work on these projects for the next few days, exploring a little in the evenings if we have time. Most people have gone to bed by 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. and are sleeping through the night despite the horns just outside our hotel windows. Thankfully, the jet-lag is gone.
Good morning from India,
It is 8:15 a.m., and we have just awoken to our second full day in Chenni. We managed quite well through two nearly nine hour flights nearly overflowing with a multitude of men, women, and infants. Sid, our friendly guide, met us at the airport when we arrived well after midnight and transported us via bus to our hotel. On that first bus ride, we caught only shadowy glimpses of this foreign city – women digging through garbage pile on the sides of the road, men walking with small carts, ragged figures curled up against walls and steps.
After cool showers and a few hours of sleep, we began our first day with a delicious South Indian breakfast of fruit and coffee and a seemingly endless array of soft dishes of potatoes, various vegetables and spices, and breads. Of course, we are all drinking plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated. After breakfast we began our site seeing tour by bus. It took and hour and a half to cross town to visit a Hindu temple, not necessarily because the roads are bad (though they are bumpy), but because the “driving style” differs so much from that of America. People fill the streets, generally walking slowly mere inches away from speeding mopeds, bicycles, cars, taxi cars, buses, and – sometimes – cows. Horns honk constantly, perhaps not to urge the traffic forward in an aggressive way, but to alert drivers ahead of a car/bus/moped/bikes presence, “Hello, please take your eyes off the speeding oncoming traffic for one second and glance behind you so that I can merge into the road behind you, and thank you!” After a death-defying few moments on the bus, we embraced the new road rules and made peace with the cacophony that defines the streets of India.
After walking though the calmness of the outdoor (barefoot) Hindu temple, we headed to a Catholic church nearby. We then stopped by a local beach where a sea shell seller serenaded the women on the trip with a conch shell and posed for pictures beside a long fishing boat. We dipped our toes in the cold, cold water, posed for pictures on the yellow sand, and journeyed onward to another hotel to enjoy a traditional South Indian multi-course lunch. The meal, consisting of lots of bread, rice, and curry, concluded with cold vanilla ice cream topped with fresh fruit. We were all about ready for a nap, but our guide wanted us to see some ancient bronze statuary in a nearby museum. After studying the statues of Hindu gods and goddesses for an hour or so, the group changed money out and went shopping for the first time. Some of the group purchased sarees, cloth, or small gifts for folks back home. We dined on the second floor of an excellent vegetarian restaurant nearby and watched the city light up outside around us. Strings of white lights decorate storefronts and trees, illuminating the hustling of the evening that nearly matches that of the day.
After a quick group reflection, we succumbed to jet-lag-induced exhaustion and retired to our rooms. Today we begin work with the KKSS non-profit that works with the old age home and orphanage. We will meet with the coordinators today and hear specifics about what needs to be done in the next few days. Our work at the sites actually begins tomorrow afternoon.
Hope all is well with all back home. Know that we are safe and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
India Team Chronicler