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Monday, June 28, 2010

We Survived Week One!

Okay, I don't even know where to begin! Thank you so much for all the comments on our last post. No wonder we haven't gotten sick...so many people are praying for us! Let me just pick up where I left off.

Tuesday, June 22nd: This day really was better. We went to the school and decided we were going to see where each of the kids were at so that when new volunteers come, they will know instead of having to start from scratch like we did. That gave us some sense of purpose, which made us feel better. Then we went to see what the women in the village do. I am not sure if they are connected to the school/orphanage we are at or not. But these women in the village all make bags out of newspaper (which is harder than it looks) and they are sold in the UK. It's cool to see that "Made in India" stuff in action. In the evening the director of our project invited us to his home to meet his family. His wife is really nice and showed us his wedding album. It was really interesting to see an Indian wedding. He told us that his wife is from a different/ lower caste than him so she isn't educated. The caste system is strange to me because she seemed very smart, but she just never had the opportunity to learn. The director told Russ that he was really impressed with him because he's so mature, and he wants Russ to continue the bag making business in America. Even in different countries, Russ is good with people. :)

Wednesday, June 23rd: WE DISCOVERED A WAY TO SLEEP! Through a couple of failed experiments, we discovered that we should sleep on the roof with the family because it's cooler and then we also wet down our towels and use them as blankets. So it's a little weird to be damp while you're sleeping, but you just have to have a different level of tolerance for cleanliness and comfort. At least now we sleep about 6 hours a night. We didn't even go to the school today because we had to go to the mall and exchange money. Russ and I and another volunteer ended up spending SIX HOURS in the mall. We didn't want to leave the air conditioning. We just found a store with chairs and parked it. It was possibly the most comfortable we had been up to that point. I'm a little tired of people ripping us off though. It's just a way of life. I believe that they either hate Americans or they just figure we have way more money. A ride to the mall that would be 5 rupees for an Indian is 100 for us. We even got a different (more expensive) menu at Pizza Hut (by the way, thank goodness for Pizza Hut and McDonalds--although the menu is funny with only chicken, fish, and veggie burgers). It gets really old.

Thursday, June 24th: We left really early for a non-air conditioned 5 hour bus ride to Jaipur to site-see. By the end of that trip, I was so sweaty that I decided we will NEVER travel like this again. I want to be with a big tour group in an air conditioned us where someone else is in charge of the arrangements because it's just hard to get around when almost no one speaks English. The best part of the bus ride was that we got caught in a traffic jam so we just hopped over the freeway partition walls, drove parallel to three lanes of oncoming traffic, and drove on the OPPOSITE shoulder until the traffic cleared up. That's just....not normal.

When we got to Jaipur we realized people spoke English, but only to bother you or sell you something. But we ran into a nice Australian lady at the station (when she came up to me to ask directions I grabbed her and said, "ah! A white person!" It wasn't my finest moment, but she was the first one we'd seen!) she gave us the name of her hotel and it was HEAVEN. We had a toilet, shower, TV, fridge, pool...all standard things in American hotels, but made us feel like ROYALTY here.

Friday, June 25th: Toured around Jaipur. You probably haven't heard of any of the places we went to, but I think mom would be proud of me. I used our guide book to read about the places we were at and we took quite a few pictures. :) We went to Jaipur City Palace, Jantar Mantar, and Amber Fort (it reminded me of German castles because it was open and we could just roam around the hallways and rooms).

Saturday, June 26th: We traveled to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is. We stayed in another, much less satisfying hotel. It had AC but the power went out three times during the night so we were really hot. It also didn't have a shower, which was strange, but we had a connection there and when you know someone, it just makes you feel a lot safer. We went to a city/fort/palace called Fatehpur Sikri and got ripped off and hassled because we were the only tourists around. Again, I am in favor of large, organized tour groups...although we are proud of ourselves for getting around so well.

Sunday, June 27th: The Taj Mahal is BEAUTIFUL! We went early in the morning so it wasn't too hot, but we loved it. Now we can say that we've been to the number one attraction in the world...but they didn't even take credit card! We ran out of money in Agra. THAT was nerve-wracking. We just didn't eat. Seriously. It was half because of money and half because of the hassle of getting a ride to a Pizza Hut. We did find an ATM though, with the help of a helpful man. There really are some nice people here, but you just always have to wonder if they are doing it to be nice or for a tip. Then we tried to catch a bus back here to Faridabad and no one at the bus station really understood us and we got on one bus and realized it was the WRONG BUS so we got off in the middle of nowhere and had to get BACK to the bus station and find a bus. Needless to say, by the time we got home yesterday, I was hot, sweatier than ever before in my LIFE (I wonder how many times I've said that this trip), tired, hungry, and morale was just low. Russ was proud of us for figuring out the bus. He said, "India didn't defeat us! We defeated India!"

Monday, June 28th: Today we had a reward for making it one week: clouds! It didn't rain, but it was cool until about 11am instead of 8am, so I'm happy. The other volunteers were out touring today and a new guy came, so we showed him the ropes at the school. The kids start school this week so we'll see what we can do to get them ready. While we were gone this weekend, I realized I really like our host family. I am getting more and more used to the spicey food, and I am getting really attached to the cute little girls. Britney would be appalled with how babies get treated though. The baby in our family is so sad. He just crawls around and cries and puts trash in his mouth while his sisters carry him around. I can't watch. Also, babies travel on mopeds either sitting in front of dad or being held by mom. It's so scary.

I'm keeping a tally of how many liters of water we have bought. I think it's nearly 100. :) Sorry this is so long, it's sort of serving as a journal for us. I can't wait to post pictures. Thank you again for everyone rooting for us. We really appreciate it!!!

Love,
Adri and Russ

Monday, June 21, 2010

India is.....HOT!

We're here! It's already been an adventure and a half. As dad would say, "This is the REAL India." There are no tourists here. People openly stare at us because we're white. It's strange.

Okay. I don't have much time to post, so I'll start with the beginning and see how far I get.

June 19th: After an emergency trip to the Olsens at 7am to take one last "real" shower because we were out of hot water, Tyler took us to the SLC airport. Our plane to Chicago probably had the least leg room I've ever seen. Poor Russ had to spread his legs really wide to completely go around the chair in front of him. Even my knees were hitting the seat in front. We had a really long layover in Chicago, and I had filled Russ's head with international flight horror stories (even telling him that he'd wish for death after the 8th hour), but the 14 hour flight to Delhi has been the best part of our trip so far. We had lots of leg room and the coolest seats ever. Instead of playing one movie, we could choose from 11 and they were almost all ones we'd been meaning to see. It was great. I even took a sleeping pill and slept a full 8 hours. I couldn't believe it. We also had a remote that doubled as a controller if we wanted to play video games at our seat. The best part was that we didn't even have to turn them off for take-off and landing! :) Even the food was good. Russ was so spoiled!

June 20th: We landed in Delhi at about 8:30pm and it was 105 degrees, 47% humidity (I think...the accents are hard to understand sometimes). We got our luggage, went through customs, and had a momentary panic as we didn't see anyone standing outside the doors with our names on it. I've never seen so many drivers before. But we found ours and we drove for about an hour to Faridabad. We had no idea we were going straight there. During that drive I learned to appreciate American driving rules....silly things like staying in one lane. I decided that our driver used his horn like we'd use a bike bell - just to warn people that you're comin'. We'd strattle two lanes, weave in and out, tailgate, cut people off, honk every 10 seconds, and other general death-defying things. It was more like people jogging than cars driving because even stop signs and stop lights didn't matter. We did stop at one red light, at which our driver got out of the car and cleaned the windshield. When the light turned green again, other cars just went around while he got back in. That was exciting. Unfortunately, we brought a carry-on bag filled with sports equipment, games, and candy and we left it in that car. We'll likely never see it again.

And, by the way, there really are cows just meandering around in the road. And there are no trash cans so the trash is just allllll over the ground, streets, and in piles. There is a new smell every 100 feet or so.

That night was brutal. We got to the host family's house at about 10:30pm and it was still 105 degrees. Needless to say, we didn't sleep. It was miserable. The heat is so stiffling that I could hardly breathe. Russ and I just looked at each other and said, "What did we get ourselves into?"

June 21st: Not a good day. It's so hot here. There is no relief from the heat. No air conditioning, and not many people speak English. We didn't get a half day orientation and we didn't even go to the project we thought it was. This whole thing seems a little sketchy. No one told us what was going on, but luckily there are 3 other volunteers with us who have a little more experience. So I will have to take pictures of the house we're staying at. It's not really a house at all. There are two bedrooms (for the volunteers). Four cement walls, a cement floor, a fan, a small window, two hard beds, a few shelves, one light bulb, and a door that has a combination lock on it. The combination lock is there because there is no inside to the house. Outside of our rooms is a small covered patio, a bigger uncovered patio (with the bathroom attached), and....I guess there is a small downstairs, but we don't go in there. There are stairs up to the roof, which is really just like a big patio. Well. The whole family (parents and four children - ages 11 to 1) sleep on the roof. I suppose it's not as hot up there. There is also a small kitchen. By that I mean that there's a small camping-style stove on the floor where the mom sits and makes food. We'll take lots of pictures.

We do have a squat-style toilet, but that's not too bad. We also have a bucket shower. What that means is that water comes from like a hose nozzle and we use a small pitcher to fill it up and throw the water on ourselves. The water is room temperature, so it feels great. I actually really like the shower. But, as soon as you start to dry off, you are sweating again so you don't get completely dry. By the way, the constant sticky sweat dripping is probably the most uncomfortable I've ever been in my life.

The coolest part of the day is from sunrise (5am) to about 8. It's in the 80s then and it feels good. We're with a family that doesn't speak much English. 3 kids and the dad speak none, the oldest is our guide/translator, and mom speaks broken English. I wasn't expecting that. Also, we were told we'd be going to a school with 100 slum children. Well, our placement is really in a small school/orphanage for street boys....7 of them. We're supposed to teach them English and play games, but yesterday was a waste of time. There is no structure. We thought we'd be walking into a school and be assistants, but we were it. The kids don't speak any English and I've learned that people here are laid back. I honestly don't know what they do all day other than just sit around. Well, the kids were the same way. After about 3 hours of the 5 of us sitting in the heat complaining about how this experience wasn't what we thought it would be, we decided to be proactive and teach the kids abcs, numbers, etc. Well. That lasted about 20 minutes before they were done. We played rock paper scissors and we taught them Heads Up 7 Up, but it was a waste of a day. We don't have anyone to tell us our responsibilities or help us communicate with the kids. I would love to hear about their lives, but we can't even talk! We have a game plan for today, so we'll see how it goes. We just feel a little disillusioned and frustrated and underutilized. One of the other guys brought TONS of school supplies, and craft stuff, and they took it and put it somewhere. When we asked about it no one would answer. We wonder if they sold it.

Then we took what's called an auto rickshaw (basically an open-air taxi...made to fit about 4 comfortably although we had 13 on it yesterday) to the mall because it has Western toilets and air conditioning. We just walked around for hours. When we got home, Russ was really not well. We think he might have gotten heat exhaustion. I've never seen him so out of it before. He couldn't do anything. It was scary. We had at least 10 liters of water between the two of us, but when you sweat non-stop, it doesn't do much.

The food has been good. Very spicy for me, but yummy. Our family is nice, even if we can't communicate much. We talked about the possibility of leaving early since it's so hot and we don't really feel needed, but we'll probably just take long weekends and do more site seeing (and staying in hotels with AC) than we'd planned.

Anyway, it's time to go. The power has already gone out once and I want to post before it goes out again. We'll post again in a few days. We don't know if we're having fun, but it has been eye-opening and makes us appreciate what we have. Please pray for us to stay healthy and be able to sleep and that Russ doesn't get heat exhaustion again. I hope this post wasn't too long or depressing. We are trying to make lemonade out of what seems like a mountain of lemons. I also apologize for typos. We are in the world's smallest, hottest Internet cafe with the oldest keyboard I've ever seen. :D

Love,
Russ and Adri

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stay Tuned....

India in t-minus 36 hours. Who knew there would be so many last-minute things to do!?!

We are going to try to blog often while we are in India. Then when we get back we'll do one super post of pictures.

We look forward to sharing our adventure with you!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seriously

BYU has a great many wonderful things about it. Possibly the very best thing, however, is this little treat from the BYU Bookstore. Seriously.



PS. Russ disagrees. He thinks it's the people at BYU that make it great...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Books

Well, I am now two weeks into summer / unemployment and have been keeping busier than I thought I would. Mostly because I've been reading lots of great books! In fact, we noticed our apartment getting colder and colder this week(when it got down below 65 degrees last night we called someone to see it if they cut heat off entirely during the summer), which made us more and more inclined to stay under our covers for long periods of time and read. Russ is reading Hunger Games and Catching Fire right now, as I type. He also really really enjoys them.

I've always loved juvenile fiction books, especially ones about magic and princesses and things. So, if you get bored this summer you should check out these books:






Or this series, which is written by an LDS author. Shannon Hale is also a great LDS author, I especially liked Goose Girl and Princess Academy. Anyway, I am reading the first one now (by Jessica Day George) and really like it. I hope the next two are as good!





I also have these books, which were highly recommended by my friend, Bonnie. I've been saving them for the airplane, so I haven't started reading them yet:





Needless to say, I feel very empowered by Russ's library card, and the good taste and recommendations of others. :)

We've also checked out movies about India. If you've ever seen a good movie about India, let us know. This is what we have so far:



(we got this edited - of course)


I suppose that's enough for now. Sorry about the pictures all being on their own line. Has anyone else noticed the changes to blogger? I can't even center my text anymore!