Friday, September 30

trip to kerala (part two)

The next day, we woke up early and took a rickshaw around the countryside.
Kaley and I sat on the back of the rickshaw with our feet dangling as we rode!

Immediately, I noticed how much cleaner this area of Tamil Nadu was compared to where I'm living. The terrain was green and the lakes were clean, with lillipads and lotus flowers floating all over. We also stumbled upon rice fields and got a close up look at the rice before it is harvested.


(This reminded me of The Notebook for some reason...nevertheless, beautiful)


Then we headed back to the orphanage and Caroline, Jasdeep, Mary Ellen and I got a tour of the grounds. It was really interesting for me to see another orphanage and compare and contrast it with the one I've been in. Though this one has only 50 kids in comparison to the 130 at mine, the children there live in little cottages and each cottage is assigned a house mother, who cooks and acts as a true mother figure for the children. After the tour, the kids played on the playground, Kaley made friendship bracelets with some of the kids and Rob set up a drum set made of buckets and pots for the kids to play on.

Rob and his make shift drum set

Nuggets having way too much fun jammin'

Later on in the afternoon, we met Sister Gisla, a nun from Germany who has been in India for 10 years now, employing and helping battered women. Sister Gisla, along with these women, make the most incredible bags, aprons, quilts etc and the profits made from these items goes to the salaries of the battered women that Sister Gisla has taken in. It was inspiring and incredible to hear her story as she told it to us with a big smile and a contagious positive attitude.

Here we all are with our "Sister Gisla" bags! We LOVED them (and they're reversible).

The evening ended with an incredible inauguartion of the playground. The children danced and sang and Jasdeep led the girls in her famous rendition of Jai Ho. We enjoyed snacks and tea with some of the locals and the kids and then headed inside to pack up and have dinner (where I consumed an unhealthy amount of parota, but it was just toooo good).

Joy doing the honors...

Little boys getting downnn

Jasdeep and the girls performing Jai Ho

"Blessing" the little tree to go in the center of the playground

Planting the tree.

trip to kerala (part one)

I apologize that these posts are a bit tardy and there's so much to report, I'll be posting a few entries about this trip!

Last week, I was on an incredible trip with TMF, the Sooch Foundation and Whole Foods. The Whole Planet Foundation recently partnered with TMF and for months and months, they have been planning this trip and let me tell you, I feel seriously grateful for being able to crash. The trip, for me, started in Chennai, where I met Jasdeep from TMF and Caroline and Mary Ellen from the Sooch Foundation. Immediately, I knew these three would be my new best friends... and I was right. After a quick night in Chennai, the next morning we were off to Tuticorin. After a terrifying landing in one of the tiniest airports I've ever been in, we were off to Tirunelveli. Once we reached the town, we met up with Barbara and the Whole Foods group at a local restaurant where, for the first time, I acted as a true Indian and (gasp) ate with my hands.

Step One

Step Two
(And no, you aren't seeing things... our "plates" were banana leaves!)

We spent the rest of the day shopping and then our amazing AMAZING AMAZING tour guide Jai Raj (seriously, if you're ever in Southern India, he was the best) took us to a temple.

(Trying to be artsy with my photography)

Ancient inscriptions

Each of these pillars made a different sound!


The temple was beautiful and although I'm not Hindi, you could almost feel a pulse of spirituality radiating from the walls of the temple.

(Mary Ellen, Caroline and I at the temple)

At the end up our temple tour, I got to meet my SECOND elephant in the past few months. This one, however, gave us a blessing as we left the beautiful temples.


After the site seeing, we headed to another orphanage, where the Whole Foods team had been working all week to construct a playground and mural for the kids there.

Whole Foods/Whole Planet Foundation... holy cow, could you have made it more beautiful?!

Friday, September 23

happy birthday to me!

(Just to get it out of my system... "NO BODY LIKES YOU WHEN YOU'RE 23!" - good ole' Blink 182)

Anyways... although this year's birthday will not include Vegas...


...Two Buck Chuck...


...or Lauren Carpenter (whose birthday is the 22nd and we always celebrate together)...


I'm THRILLED to be celebrating in the country I've been dreaming about visiting for years! Though I have a MILLION things to say about the amazing trip I just went on, I'll cut to the chase and rewind later. I've learned a lot from my time here, between the life changing and truly incredible trip I just took to Kerala with the Whole Foods team and just by living here in this orphanage. But one of the most important lessons I've learned is that one person can make a difference. So often we get caught up in the "why bother?" or "what can I do? I'm only one person?" But one person is all it takes; I've witnessed it.

So to do my part in this, I'm asking that in honor of my birthday, instead of gifts, cards and birthday drinks when I'm back in the States, that you put your money HERE and help support this cause and the kids I've been with for almost four months now. No amount is too small (even the price of a card, $3, would be more nothing short of amazing) and you'll make my birthday special and help out a population of kids who are in dire need of your love and support and who deserve a chance.


Thank you all for the unending warm wishes, not just today on my birthday but throughout my entire time here, I couldn't have done it without you!

And I will see you all in just a little over a month back in the USA! Namaste!

Tuesday, September 13

french braids and life lessons

(Pre-French braid)

Well!! The French braid has officially become a trend around here. All the little girls have the most beautiful long, thick, dark hair and finally, we had a little French braid sesh after their showers one afternoon. Growing up, I was obsessed with having my hair French braided, but my mom could never master the art, so I taught myself and now, I get to use this skill on all of the little girls around here... they love it. But even though my mom couldn't master the French braid, she had the normal braid down pat and always did my hair before school when I was younger. And these girls, they don't have that luxury. At such young ages, they're learning to braid their hair themselves and do pretty much everything by themselves, without the help of a parent. Some of the littlest ones have had the chicken pox and I just can't imagine being that small and THAT miserable and sick and itchy and not having a mother around 24/7 to nurse you through the illness. Though the nuns are wonderful stand-ins, there really isn't anything quite like a mother. To think that these little kids don't have that motherly love on a daily basis makes me feel sad but also really grateful and spoiled for the incredible support that my parents and my entire extended family gave me and is still giving me as I continue to "grow up."

It's just another example of how truly blessed we are and how so many things that we have and don't even think twice about are not the norm, but only the exception for many people in other parts of the world.

Saturday, September 10

the little things

So you know those cartoon episodes when the characters are in the desert, just about to break down beause they're so thirsty...and then they see the oasis of water in the distance, but as they get closer they realize it's actually an illusion? That was how I felt today (except I wasn't being deceived). I sprinted across the road and dodged several rickshaws while a few of the drivers yelled at me from their window (good thing I don't speak Telagu!) I was expecting it to be a figment of my imagination but someone up there must really love me because there they were, in all their glory, A BAG OF CHEETOS (NOT masala flavored...a major find... and for just 10 rupee I might add). Clearly this made my day.

PS: They're baaaaaaaaaaaaaack (the monkeys)... AHHHH!!!!


PPS: They were in fact poser Cheetos... they looked like the real deal but man, they did NOT taste right. Better luck next time I suppose!

Monday, September 5

the festival of ganesh featuring... justin beiber?

So... the festival of Ganesh wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was fun to get out and see all of the different shrines set up around town to honor him. It was pouring down rain, so we did most of the sightseeing from inside of the car. People brought peas (Ganesh's favorite food, random) to the statues and there were lots of treats set up at each shrine for the public. Though I thought the shrines were repetitive, it was great to see how spirited the folks around here get, blasting music and playing games all night and day to celebrate Ganesh.


The Hindi temple next door, which is so close we can hear all of the prayers and songs being played from on our campus, played a tune on the day of Ganesh that I was shocked to hear. I haven't heard an American song (besides ones from my iPod) in three months, and to my surprise, instead of the normal Sanskrit prayers over the loud speaker, I heard none other then "Baby" by the Beiber himself. I guess Ganesh has joined Beiber Fever as well? I, on the other hand, certainly have not.

The best part of this day, however, was my daily walk with Sister Hilda. We've started this little tradition every evening, going for a walk for a half hour to an hour depending on the day. It's interesting to get out and see the other villages around us that I had no idea even existed. On this particular walk, the feast of Ganesh, we were passing through the wealthy area, which I've mentioned before, and were invited to the house of the "mayor" of the area (no idea if he's actually a mayor but his job seemed to be the equivalent). We sat with him outside and spoke with his children who are learning English and were eager to practice with me. They brought us snack after snack, tea, water and pretty much anything you could imagine (definitely proving that the Indian people are some of the most hospitable). Towards the end, Sister Hilda mentioned that I had been looking for a small figurine of Ganesh (he's the remover of obstacles and I figure having my very own Ganesh wouldn't hurt) and the family quickly brought out a wooden Ganesh, carved literally right out of a hunk of wood and gifted it to me (I'm telling you, the hospitality is unreal). So now, sitting next to my laughing Buddha, my small bronze "Ketut" buddha and amidst my prayer beads, I have added Ganesh. We'll see what obstacles he's able to remove from my life.