Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear Parichay...

            I had no idea what I was getting myself into, when I accepted my internship with you. Even now it is very difficult to put my entire experience down on one page. I am so lucky to have been involved with you and your NGO. The children at Parichay are growing up in such a nurturing and loving environment, and I am so grateful to have been a part it. I taught English and Mathematics to three different classes: Non Formal Education II, Non Formal Education III, and the English Conversation class. Each of these classes not only taught me something, but also touched my life in different ways.
            My NFE II class was filled with children from the ages of 8-12.  These little balls of energy were the most avid about my learning Hindi. My first day with them at Parichay was all about them pointing at things in our limited classroom and making me repeat the Hindi names. These children were also very adamant about learning English. Despite the mundane lessons of verbs, vocabulary, and simple phrases, my NFE II class was constantly excited to learn. Their unyielding desire to learn really touched me. Despite living in the slums of New Delhi, these children know what education can do for them. I learned the real importance, meaning, and love of education and teaching from these young ones, and it’s the first lesson that I will never forget.
            My NFE III class and I have a very special connection. Most of these students are sponsored to go to private schools in the nearby community so they had a better grasp of English than my NFE II class. Our classes were filled with questions about my life and what America was like. At first I was worried because I thought I was here to teach them actual lessons. But Mr. Vijay Bajpai mentioned that just being around me and talking with me motivates the students as well. Just being around a person who travelled all the way from America fascinated my NFE III class. But what really fascinated me was the sincerity of their hearts. It was quite contagious and it actually taught me to be genuine and compassionate. These lessons that I learned from my NFE II class, I will never forget!
            Just from the name of the class, one can interpret that this was the class most skilled in English. My English Conversation class and I got to be very close. We talked about many things that really allowed me to have an insight into their lives and vice versa. In one particular lesson I remember that one student told me her view of the world. She said, “There are good girls and boys in the world, and bad girls and boys. But you Jin didi, are a good girl.” I was taken aback by the simplicity of her statement and asked her why she thought of me as a “good girl.” She replied, “Because you are a good person for coming all the way from America just to teach us at Parichay.” sincerity and appreciation were dripping from her statement. I learned that I can make a difference in a child’s life. And in turn, they can make a difference in mine! Another lesson I will never forget.
            Parichay, you and your children have taught me so much. I hope I have made an impact on you as well. I have to thank Mr. Vijay Bajpai for founding you and for allowing me to have such an unbelievable life changing experience. After observing my interaction with the kids, he once told me that, “Teaching is a pleasure, and learning is a joy”. I knew I was having so much fun, but so were the children. And since they were having fun, learning was also enjoyable and lasting. Without Mr. Vijay’s support I would not have been able to experience Parichay fully. Learning about their philosophy of self-sustainability through a spices and handicrafts unit was very enlightening. I learned so much about the project as a whole and how it functions.
            Although I need to go back to America where my family is, I have another family here with you, Parichay. I can still hear all the Parichay children yell, “Didi! Didi!” But one day I will be back. Because the sincerity in their eyes will always bring me back. My heart and soul goes to all the children of Parichay. And one day we will all be reunited, as one big happy Parichay family. 

Jin Didi.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is it raining or are we in a cloud?

While we were traveling up to Dharlamsala smart little Meli spits out this clever phrase because Dharlamshala and the surrounding towns are sooooo high up in the mountains. I traveled to Dharlamsala from July 22 to the 25 with Meli and Yvette, my new friends! They live in the same apartment complex as mommy Ragz. They're good people (: The trip was a memorable one, despite having rain throughout the entireeee trip. I didn't know the clouds can contain that much rain.

so much happened in dharlamshala, in those 4 days. i don't even know where to begin.

pretty flower near our guest house (:

our beautiful viewwwww (:

breath taking

we love the greeeneryyy

WATERFALLLL. i was i was clapping. hahahaha

me, yvette, and meli <3

the dalai lama and i <3

we signed the big book in the Tibetan Museum.

At the Dalai Lama's temple. So many monks and Tibetans praying.

Poor man mixed up all his prayers, and the poor man mixed everything up :(

At the place where Tibetan art and culture is being preserved. It was absolutely beautiful to see art in the making.

These are mani prayer wheels. You turn them clockwise and it's like praying what's written on these wheels.

enjoying tea time and our view from our guest house (:

the dalai lama's temple.

my favorite shape that is everywhere in Tibetan culture <3

all praying for a Free Tibet.

The closest I ever was to the Dalai Lama. 0.5 km <3

Dharlamsala was a beautiful town. We went to the surrounding towns as well.  We made so many friends with the people in this town so quickly. The Tibetan people are so friendly and compassionate. We noted our the street dogs here looked healthier than the ones in Delhi, because the shopkeepers would feed the hungry dogs. Even in the Dalai Lama's temple there were dogs in there to get away from the rain, and people would not shoo them away. It was quite an experience. Everybody in the temple got bread and tea. Yep, even the doggies. We learned a lot about what is happening between Tibet and China. We watched a documentary in the Tibetan museum about the protests that happened in 2008. I was still in high school when this was happening, but had no idea. After watching this documentary and going back to the Dalai Lama's temple, I finally realized that all these people weren't praying for themselves. They were praying for their own coutnry. For a Free Tibet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top Things I think America Should Learn from India

    I swear I already have already experienced an uncountable number of dreams where I was back in America but I would call for a rickshaw. One of mommy Ragnee’s friends named Manu, who I now call crazy uncle, did a ‘psychoanalysis’ of this dream. [hence the name crazy uncle]. He told me that I’m falling so in love with India that I want to take a piece of it with me back to America. Thanks Dr. crazy. So in the dream sometimes it’s an auto rickshaw, sometimes it’s a cycle rickshaw. But the weird thing is, a rickshaw always comes when I call for it! I know economically and realistically this can’t work. But how much fun would it be to hail down a rickshaw man to take me to the nearby mall? Let’s create more jobs amurica!

  2. Let's eat with our hands
    I forgot who told me [probably mommy Ragnee] but they told me that eating with your hands makes the food taste better. So I have this theory .When I first ate here with my hands I would only use my middle, index, and thumb of my right hand. When everybody else would use all of their fingers on the right hand. I think because I was born to use chopsticks, those 3 fingers are the strongest! So I have been practicing to eat with all my fingers so my ring and pinky fingers can get stronger too! Let’s get strong fingers amurica.

  3. Let's shower like Indians.
    Because this is one of the most populated places in the world, resources are scarce especially water. So when one showers, it’s not like a shower in America. They have a bucket of water and you pour it
    over  yourself. You save so much water! And it’s kinda fun. Let’s save water amurica.

    On the hottest days of the Indian summer [but it seems like every new day is the newest ‘hottest day’] there are water tents up where people give out free water! People of these tents seriously just pour a cup of water and walk around the road and force water into your hands. Just so people don’t pass out from a heat stroke! Let’s love our fellow man amurica.

  5. Livestock!
    Okay I’m half-kidding with this one. There’s cattle, donkeys, dogs, horses, goats, and monkeys roaming the streets of Delhi. So the bigger you are the more say you have on traffic laws. Thus cattle are kings of the road. I don’t think America should allow cattle to own the streets. But when I see a man riding a cow across a 5 point intersection like he owns the road, I burst out laughing. So it’ll be funny, but definitely not realistic. Boo. Let’s make Jin laugh amurica!

  6. Parichay <3
    Can we just bring this nonprofit organization to America? These kids are so wonderful and beautiful and amazing that I want them to experience America just as I am experiencing India. I love them all so so so much. I am having so much fun and learning more about each individual child. The hardships they go through just so they can attain a non-formal education.  
    Let’s do this for Jin and the children of India amurica! 

Okay so I obviously know that these things are impossible to bring back with me to America. But these are definitely the things I will miss most. I have been here for one full month, and I feel as if time is slipping away. I have another full month but I am dreading the day I will leave. I don’t want to leave Parichay and the children at the school and at the Special School.
Preeti! She is one of the mentally handicapped children at the Special School.
She sits to get ready for morning yoga and prayer. 

Abishek here is recieving some physical therapy.
He is very mentally handicapped and severely physically handicapped as well.
However, physical therapy is his favorite time. He loves it and always smiles (:

This is Mukul! He is our newest student at the Special School. He has a physical disability on his right hand, but he doesn't let that stop him from learning. He has great potential. He is also always smiling (:

This is Moni! She is in my NFE II class. This is the class where the age ranges from 8-12. She is always smiley.

How is it possible
that all these children 

are so beautiful inside and out, 
and are always happy?
I love them all.

Oh and look what I found!
It's okay. I'm a pro at driving rickshaws.
Maybe I'll bring this one back with me to amurica (:

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Yesterday marked my official "I survived 3 full weeks of India!" day. I didn't even notice until Vijay mentioned it to me. I already feel as if I have been here for a couple of months. A lot has happened since my last post. I have experiencing a lot of traditional Indian ceremonies. 

The first ceremony was with Maduri's side of the family. There is a ceremony for a baby's first haircut. There was a priest and a bajillion family members. It is called the Moondun Ceremony, but for the days leading up to this occasion I kept calling it the, "baby-head-shaving-ceremony."

This is the priest preparing his area for the Moondun ceremony. That silver pot is filled with water and was wrapped with a red string. The symbols on the groundw ere made with wheat flour and then outlined again with some chilli powder i believe. I'm sure there is a lot of symbolism behind these every single item, but it is all lost to the foreigner.
That big bowl is holding mango roots. they burn these at the end to cleanse the air. the 3 trays surrounding the roots are 'good-smelling-things'. They also help purify the air.
he is sitting on his grandfather's lap during the entire ceremony.

there's the barber right next to him on his left as the baby is enjoying all the attention.
And here are all the family members giving the baby his attention! I think this may be half of the people there, because there were more people on the side where i was taking the photo. Also there were people in the kitchen getting lunch ready. and also there were little kids in the other room play. It was indeed a full house
Then baby got tired and passed out. HAHA. you couldn't even wake him up. After his bath he sat on his grandfather's lap for a total of 2 minutes and then PASSED OUT. like you shook him and his arms and legs were all flail-y. so cute.
Finally after all the ritual, the mango roots were set on fire while all the little kids came out of their play rooms to throw the 'good smelling things' into the fire. At the end of the ceremony, despite the smoke and added heat, it did smell very nice. While you throw in the good smelling stuff into the fire you are supposed to chant "swahaaa".
This means "all is well"
It was a very nice ceremony and I am very grateful that Maduri's family allowed me to join in their celebrations! All three hours of it. Poor baby, no wonder it was so exhauseted. Oh fun fact, I received 500 Rupees! I asked Vijay why they were giving ME money, and he said it was because I came to the ceremony. I can dig it.

The next ceremony I got to experience was a Pooja for the new guest house Vijay has purchased for Parichay. This guest house will serve as a living area for any new Parichay interns. Vijay has kindly offered his house for me because he did not feel safe allowing me to live by myself in this house. Although this new apartment is verrrrrrrrrrrry nice... hahaha

Pooja is to ward off any evil spirits. Like the Moondun ceremony there is a priest and he has bananas, mangos, and Indian sweets to use. This time I got to participate (:

Priest preparing the wood to burn and more sweet smelling stuff!

Adi and Chacha ji throwing in some good smelling stuff into the flames

Me with my red dot and the red string! I had to give the priest a coin which was provided to me by chachi ji. then he would bless the string and put it on me! Girls on the left wrist and Boys on the right. 

I am loving that I get to experience not only the touristy stuff of Delhi but also the lives of Delhians. My internship at Parichay is going great. Traveling there is still rough, and will get more rough because of the monsoon season approaching. Roads will be flooded and on some days we will not even be able to reach the school. Despite all these troubles, I always look forward to seeing the faces of those children. 

Oh, so one day at Parichay while walking from Special School to Parichay a cow was just liesurly walking down the alley. Usually this isn't a big deal, but this cow was walking fast. I pulled my camera out to take a picture of it, because I never got so close to a cow before! Then the cow actually stopped speed walking and then posed and looked into my camera. It was kinda beautiful. But then I want to take a picture with the cow, so I start posing next to it, then it runs away. . but being me I chased it down the alley. . the kids that were walking me to Parichay thought it was hilarious. Good thing I can make them laugh.

Moo <3

3 full weeks I have been here and already I feel so comfortable. 
All is Well (:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"I have two indian sons, and one korean daughter"

So I have been getting many questions about how I am living, where I am living, who am I living with. I SHALL ANSWER ALL NOW. hahaha. I have mentioned Mr Vijay Bajpai in previous posts. He is the creator of Parichay, and one of the most generous people I have ever met. A previous intern of Parichay said, "Vijay is a man with a smile as big as the kids' and a heart and commitment the size of India itself." I could not agree with this statement more. His heart is incomparable and his commitment is undeniable.

He was generous enough to let me live in his home with his family. He has two sons, Adi age 4 and Rieshieb age 14. His wife, Maduri, is just as sweet as Vijay. Adi and Rieshieb are very mischievous boys, but they are hilarious nonetheless. Rieshieb studies all the time though because he wishes to be a chemical engineer. He is taking a summer class now that meets twice a week and is 5 hours straight. Such dedication.
This is the only successful pictures I have captured of Vijay. I promise to get a  real photo soon. This was taken at the  Parichay school, and there is Moni in the back (:
Vijay's parents also live in this household. I call them chacha ji and chachi ji, which means uncle and aunt. chachaji speaks English very well, so we talk everyday. He gives me little life lessons. The first day I was here chachaji tells me that I am born with debt. I ask him, "What do you mean by that?" He replies, "We are in debt to 3 things. FIRST you are in debt to God. For making you human. You have a head, 2 hands, 2 feet, and a beautiful body. You could have been anything, but you are a human. SECOND you are in debt to your parents. Because they love you. The minute you are born you have people who love you. There are other creatures that once their offspring is born they let it become independent. But we have parents who take care of us. THIRD you are in debt to society. because society provides things like money, hospitals, government, and everything that a good society needs. Thus a good citizen of a society will return whatever surplus they have, because there is always those who do not have enough to survive." Having this 'lesson' on my first day really reinforced my decision on coming to India and teaching those who are less fortunate. thanks chachaji (:
This is Adi and Maduri. Adi is so very cute, but he is very mischievous. Event though he doesn't  know english very well, and my hindi is questionable, we get along. We play games and laugh and play. He is also a very observational child. Vijay told me that once Adi started crying and cried, "You guys don't love me!" and Vijay was shocked. "How could you say such a thing!" And teary-eyed Adi replies, "because I saw a mom dog licking her pup. You guys don't love me as much as the mom dog loves her pup!" . . this kid wanted to be licked and pampered like a puppy. HAHA He must've been about 3 when this happened. hahahahhaha

So there is this game called Carrom. It is like pool, but instead of a stick you use your fingers. And there are only 4 pockets instead of 6. And instead of stripes and solids, there are black and whites. But there is also one special piece called the Queen which is worth 50 points. Whites cost 20 points and Blacks cost 10 points. Neha, Vijay's Niece, is visiting Delhi now. We play all the time with Vijay and sometime Rieshieb. One night we were playing and there is one special piece called the queen. However, if you sink the queen in you have to also get a 'cover' piece which means that you have to sink in another black or white piece. So I naturally get out first because I am a horrible Carrom player. [However, I AM PRACTICING. i love this game]. Then Rieshieb gets out because he just hits everything too hard and makes all the pieces go flying. fail. so it was down to Vijay and Neha. The only pieces left were the queen and the cover piece. Both Neha and Vijay succesfully sink the queen, but unsuccesfully get its cover piece. Adi, watching this intense game, says, "The queen is having a bad day..." HAHAHHA. THIS KID. who doesn't say anything while we play just casually says this and wishes that she gets her cover piece. hahahaha. 
From the left: Adi on Vijay's lap, Neha, and Rieshieb. There is our Carrom board! Do you see the little pink piece in the middle? That is our "bad-day" queen.

This is Neha in an action pose. You have to understand this, she is a Carrom pro. Some of her shots don't even make sense to me geometrically. hahaha, but it is so much fun. 
So remember how I said that Neha is visiting Vijay and his family? Well her mother and her grandmother are also here. Holy moly. Let me tell you about her grandmother. She does not know that much english, she knows very little. But for some reason, me and her really clicked. We would sit in a room together, with no one there to translate, yet we can have full conversations. She really makes me laugh, even though I do not know hindi. One time she asks me to take her with me to America. I ask her why and she says because of Obama. She loves Barack Obama. HAHA. she said that she has a dinner invitation to the White House with him. HAHAH. who is this cute grandma?! She lets me call her 'umma' cause I told her that it means mom in korean. She also told me to tell my real umma in america that I also have an Indian umma (: Her daughter, Neha's mother, I call didi, which means older sister. I love Indian umma. Once we were talking about my Henna on my hand, and I thought she said that she would draw henna on my hand. But Neha listened in our conversation and said that, "Umma is expecting you to draw on HER hand." HAHA. I was waited 2 days for her to draw on my hand. but instead, she was waiting for me to draw on her hand. she thought i could do henna. silly. HAHAH

So after that crazy Carrom game, we realized that it was raining! RAIN IS A GODSEND HERE. seriously. The weather gets exponentially more bearable. So Vijay runs out and starts dancing in the rain with Rieshieb and Adi. They are all soooo funny. Vijay tells me to run out and experience an Indian rain storm, and boy did I. It was so much fun dancing in such cool weather. It's a nice reprieve from the ridiculous Indian summer. 

After dancing in the rain we all sat down to enjoy some butterscotch icecream.  Rieshieb and Neha served our icecream. However those two jokesters started playing around in the kitchen. Maduri, Vijay, and I were enjoying our EVENLY proportioned ice cream in little bowls. But Rieshieb runs into the room with a scoop of icecream in his tiny bowl, but also one in his hand. It was quite funny. Everybody was laughing at Rieshieb. Neha just laughed and when icecream was melting down the side of her bowl she would just lick it with her hands. hahahahha

aaaaaaaaaand there's Neha laughing. hahahahahahahahahah. Rieshieb is trying to get to the bathroom to wash his hands, but Neha was in his way. It was quite hilarious.

While eating some ice cream Vijay comments on how attached his family is getting to me. This is when he announced that he has 2 indian sons and 1 korean daughter. I also feel as though I am very much part of this family. They all take care of me and worry about my wellfare and wish for me to be very comfortable and I am! They feed me such good food. AH! I forgot to mention that they are fully vegetarian because of their religion. So guess what boys and girls. SO AM I. I have been successfully vegetarian for one week and i don't even miss meat...kinda. hahaha, being vegetarian is a lot of fun here. it's very easy. Oh and every morning I get a cup of chai tea. I think by now I probably successfully drank my body weight in chai. hahahahah.

I am so lucky to have such a loving family here in India. So caring and loving. I am so happy and grateful. Without them I do not think my trip here will be as fun. 

I love you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be a part of your family <3

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Teaching is a pleasure, Learning is a joy"

My first day at my internship was last Wednesday.
My typical day starts at 9am at the Parichay School and ends at 5pm on MWF at the Special School. On Tuesday and Thursday I end at 3pm.

Parichay School is in the very back wall 2nd floor

We traveled by car. When we got out I immediately saw cows and dogs lining the street. We walked across what looked like an old door over sewage. While I was walking I could not believe what I was seeing. Mr. Vijay Bajpai said that this area is 90% clean now. But there was garbage lining the streets, flies infesting the dusty airs, and the smell of urine was exceedingly potent. We walked up a narrow stone staircase and reached a second floor of a very poor-maintained apartment style living area. 

There were multiple ‘apartments’ lining the way. This was all outside still, so there were flies on every person we saw and the smell was still very terrible. As we were passing some of these ‘apartments’ I see whole families living in an 8x12 room. As we walked past an entire row of these homes, we reached the end and we enter. I was shocked. There were about 30 little children, no older than 5 crammed into a room with 2 teachers in the front teaching basic Hindi. There was no chalkboard, but a whiteboard hanging by a nail and a string. The children were all sitting on the floor with pen and notebook. As soon as I walked in, all the children looked up and smiled at me. They honestly looked like the happiest group of children I have ever seen.There was an assembly meeting so all the children can meet me. All together there are about 72 children in this program. So this assembly crammed all 72 into a small 8x12 room. They sang songs to me as Mr. Vijay played on the harmonia. They were all singing in Hindi so I could not understand what they were saying, but I was on the verge of tears. They all sang so happily, as if ignoring the cruel environment that I had to walk through to get here. All these children live in these kinds of conditions. After each song Vijay explained to me what the song meant. A lot of the songs revolve around the idea of how they want to work hard so they can ‘get rid of the darkness of illiteracy’. Also, how they wish to be good citizens of the world, not just of India. 

all the children singing and praying

so passionate about his prayers
I learned a lot about the objectives of Parichay. Children are getting non-formal education because before Parichay, these kids would have to work to support their families. Children are working in very hazardous conditions instead of being educated. What makes Parichay unique is that it is a self-sustainable organization. It uses no government money. There is a 3rd room that I have yet to mention. It is for the spices unit. Three women are in charge of the spices unit. They make spices and sell them out in the market. There is also a handicrafts unit that makes and then sells bags, wallets, notebooks, folders, and other sorts of things. Through these two sources of income, Parichay became a self-sufficient organization.
Drying some chili to make spices
After spending some time with the children of Parichay, I visited the school Mr. Vijay just created for mentally retarded children. There are currently 5 children in this program, with a 26 student waiting list. There are a small number of students because there aren’t enough funds or man power or room to get all 30+ children. This school, called the Special School, came a very long way. This school teaches the mentally retarded children how to read and write. After being proficient in this they will start vocational training. This school not only educates the child but also counsels parents to get them to understand how to deal with mentally and physically disabled children. Before this program, parents would throw their children inside and sometimes even beat them because of how they behaved. Since they did not fit into social norms, the parents were ashamed and would just ignore them. However, Mr. Vijay initially did a survey to see how many children needed special help. This is how Mr.Vijay discovered the need for a Special School.
At the Special School teaching how to make an origami crane
This is at Parichay. The girl to my immediate left is named Moni. She helps me teach the younger class by writing the hindi meaning next to the english word. The rest of the girls are in this class. 

These four clowns are in this class. Pictured: Yaseen, Kalash, Monu, and Vikash. When I want to travel between the Special School and Parichay School Yaseen and Kalash accompany me. The two separate schools are about a 5 minutes walk from eachother, but it is in a dangerous area so I cannot walk around by myself. I enjoy these walks with the kids cause they point things out in their neighborhood and teach me more hindi (:

Now these clowns, named Raju and Viki, were trying to dance for the class. But what ended up happening was all of us laughing at them. hahahah. They are hilarious.

This is my 'elder kids' class. They know a good amount of english and I expose them to more words and more conversation to help them practice. They are quite the silly bunch. I love them already. Today we played Simon Says. It was ridiculous when I was trying to teach them Left from Right. At one point I had to draw a big L on one of the boys' hands so he can stop turning Right when I said Left. hahahahha

So I get to teach these wonderful children. It has been a total of 3 days and already I feel as though they have already made an impact on me. Today Mr. Vijay said that he can tell the children are learning a lot because they are having so much fun. I hope that I can make some sort of impact on them so they can get out of their troublesome conditions. 
So everytime I teach at Parichay, this baby keeps walking into our class. She is ridiculously adorable. She loves the attention, and I love giving it to her. She lives in that apartment like place where the school is, shown in the first picture. All the moms in that area love giving me their babies. WAH. they are all so cute.