I'm working for HELP International as a Country Director in Hyderabad, India from May-August 2010.

May 26, 2010

We were able to go to the golconda fort and the seven tombs on Saturday. The fort was built in the late 1500's and finished around 1600 to protect the Sultanate from Moghul invaders. It has this really amazing architecture with these tricks where you can clap from the bottom "hidden" entrance and the clap can be heard hundreds of feet away in the Kings quarters.
Their guards had to one handedly pick up this 200 lb brick. I was really close.

There are queens quarters as well, one main queen and 365 concubines. We had a debate on if that was okay or not and conceded that I guess if you are hooked up everyday and only have to work one day a year, that you might be better off being one of the concubines than not.

there was a diamond trade within the fort with one of the biggest worlds diamonds, the Koohinor Diamond coming from this fort area. There is also a huge tunnel/ escape route

The girls (and guys) were really popular

We then went to the Qutb Shahi dynasty tombs, or the 7 tombs. They are the rulers from around 1518-1600. The first Sultan Sultan Quli Qutb Shah was killed by his second born son who murdered him while he was saying his prayers. He then went on to blind his older brother and assumed the throne. He was remembered as being "cruel." shocking. The next ruler, Subhan Quli Qutb Shah took the throne when he was 7 years old and died that same year.
The technically third ruler was the first sultans other son Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah Wali, who ran away when the younger son went ballistic and murdered their father and blinded their other brother. He came back and was a more kind person and cared about the people he served over.
The last ruler, Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, sounds like he was the most benevolent.

It was a lot of fun. We have also talked to a bunch of organizations. Here are some potential projects we are looking into doing some work on.

* Prajwala we are looking into doing some project (s) together with their organization. We aren't sure exactly what yet but are potentially looking at coming up with a packet for people abroad who want to get involved with the organization. If you search on TED, you'll also find a really powerful lecture by the founder.
* CARPED we are looking at a few projects with CARPED. They are in the planning stages of building a community science center in a rural area called Kowdipally to cater to the tribal people. There is a high drop out rate in students and the classroom is very boring, so they want to try to get funding and make it a great location for people to come, make learning fun, and maybe provide some skills trainings. We are looking at potentially writing a grant with Architecture for Humanity.
* We are also going tomorrow morning to a the village that CARPED works in to potentially narrow down a project that we want to put on tipping bucket through engineers without borders. Either a water purification system, a fuel brickettes out of organic wastes, or a solar powered lantern system in the village. We'll keep you posted.
* We are working on the garden here, are planning to put a community garden on CARPED's land, and are hoping to come up with a social business with urban gardens in people's homes.
* Student Social entrepreneurship club. We are looking into trying to start a social entrepreneurship network of students here in Hyderabad.
* Beggars: we are looking into getting some small snack and a paper with contact information for places they can go to get off the street when we are approached by beggars.
* We are going to work with AISEC, a student group that does a lot of different projects starting june 1.
* We are planning to meet with The Rescue foundation next week and the MV foundation on Thursday. They also work with rescued trafficked victims.

India is such an interesting place. I really like it more and more everyday. It’s so grungy and can be abrasive, but there is something magical about this place as well. It’s hard to explain.

May 21, 2010

Today we took a bus to Kowdipally, about 1hr 45 min outside of Hyderabad to check out a village where one of our partnering NGOs works. The photos say much more than I can so here they are.

May 18, 2010

This is a view from our balcony

The past few days have been good. Saturday was technically my graduation in the US of A I've been skeptical of them actually giving me a diploma but I checked online last night at it's official. I am a graduate. Instead of hearing Michelle Obama speak on the mall, we celebrated by going to a catholic wedding reception we were invited to. Once again, the plush velvet chairs and the bride and groom sitting on them while there were thousands of photos is a common theme. I could not get over how beautiful the bride looked. They really got clothing down here. I love the forehead jewelry with both the chains that go down the part of your hair and the bindi's. The different saris are so ornate, they are so pretty.

We made some friends there. One of these boys asked for my phone number.

We also got to go behind the scenes to see how they make some of the roti we ate.

Sunday we all slept a lot. I think I slept for 11 hours, which for those of you who know me, know that is unheard of. Between the jet lag, heat, and lack of sleep previous to those nights, we all needed it. During church on Sunday there was a freak rainstorm that lasted for 20 minutes, had strong winds, and flooded the streets with a couple feet of water in certain parts.

Sadly, it knocked out our power so from 6pm until 9am the next day we had no electricity. That means no fans. So, we closed our eyes and tossed and turned in rooms of between 95-99 degrees all night long. There was also a generator outside taunting us with this loud droning noise all night, giving our neighbors electricity and leaving us in our black hole of molten lava.

Yesterday we had a few other meetings that were really good. I think that by the end of the week we should have some good projects started. One of the organizations we are going to do a lot of work with is CARPED. They do some really great work.

We went and found a man to copy some of our keys. By hand.

Last night we played volleyball with a bunch of guys from the neighborhood and church and it was a ton of fun.

This morning we woke up at 5:30am and went to our neighborhood yoga in the park. We put our mats down next to about 30 other people and had a private coach critiquing every move, with some positive reinforcement but it was really fun. Lots of ants. They probably spent about half of the time doing meditation, which is a good way to start the day, but I'm not good at it. My mind is constantly wandering. I want to go back so hopefully I'll improve as time goes on. Oh and yes, there was about 30 seconds of trite laughter incorporated into our practice. I LOVED that part.

Today we are going to buy an AC unit!! We also are going to check out a homeless shelter around here and write a report for CARPED as well as try to meet with a sex trafficking NGO and register at the embassy. It should be a good day. We are leaving early to go help cook dinner and eat at Bharti's house.

May 15, 2010

Our beds. A little height restrictive, but fairly comfortable.

The past few days have had some high highs. Mostly record high times and temps. We’ve got to wake up around 4-5am two days in a row as well as high temperatures of around 45 degrees Celsius again. That is 113 degrees people. 113. That’s not even acknowledging our friend, mr. humidity. I’m pretty sure the weatherman would agree that it feels like 150 degrees outside. Regrettably, outside weather comes inside. We moved into our place Thursday and got some of our furniture delivered. I found a room, brought in my air cooler (basically a glorified air humidifier), opened my window and fell asleep. I then began the most uncomfortable night sleep in the history of mankind. I was a sweating mess, tossing and turning all. Night. Long. At four a.m. I took this photo:

and couldn’t wait until 5am so we could wake up and take the train for a meeting. We left at 5am and got home at 6:30pm. We had a 2.5 hour train ride out to Kijara (?) it’s about 75km east of Hyderabad.

In kijara we met with this guy who was really nice but took 4 hours to eventually explain that he wants a lot of money from us to support his staff. It was a total waste of time except that he explained some nuances with working in India, mostly discouraging comments, but realistic as well. So, we were really anxious to leave by the time our looong meeting adjourned. We got out at 1pm after being fed again. I was really agitated and when our host sent out for ice cream after I told him we needed to be home in an hour 3 times. Then I kind of loved the ice cream. It was butterscotch and tasted like it had crushed up werthers originals inside. So naturally, I was full of conflicted emotions at that point. We left around 1:15 and didn’t get on our 2:40 train til 3:45. There was a monkey and it’s baby on the train tracks and lots of beggars, who kept breaking my heart each time I saw them. We finally boarded and paid extra for A/C again and the sleeper cart. It is completely worth the extra money for AC and I took a solid powernap during the travels.
Today we also woke up at 4am to pick up two of our volunteers. Kiira and Marie. They are really cool girls so it’s going to be a lot of fun for the next month setting the program up with them.

May 12, 2010

Yesterday we did a bunch of boring moving type things and then went to a half sari ceremony! I believe it's a Hindu rite of passage for girls when they reach 11 years old. It's a big deal for them to own and wear their first sari. There is a more intricate full sari but I don't really know what that means yet. We were invited to go and the girl looked beautiful, the henna, the ornate jewelry, the blessings of all these plates of food, the tent on the roof, the food afterward, all were really beautiful and vibrant.

The girl sat on a crown like chair of red plush velvet as family members came up to her and sprinkled rose water and/or rice on her head. They also posed for pictures giving her plates of mango or a lot of other Hyderabadi foods.

The celebration was on a roof terrace overlooking a lot of other rooftops in the city with a makeshift tent and a very picturesque waterfall backdrop sheet. I kind of failed at the whole rose water sprinkle but they welcomed the picture taking which was really fun for me. I wish I had my nice camera for some of these, but here they are.

May 12, 2010

Well, it was really poor form getting all starry eyed so early in the game. My little director friend keeps calling and showing up at meetings uninvited. I may have to DTR him soon and explain that I actually am not here to be the next bollywood star but in fact am here to do development work. We had one awesome meeting and two not so awesome meetings yesterday as well as got a apartment/house! The not so awesome meetings were funny. One was with this rural Franciscan school. They cater to slum kids and want help with English classes and their curriculum development. They brought us an Indian bouquet that had glitter all over the flowers, insisted on buying us coke (because we are American) and wouldn’t drink til we did, brought us Indian cookies and tried to mouth feed us, and kept trying to convince us that we needed to go out to eat. Part way through our forever long meeting, the guy turned to will to tell him how handsome he is. He then went to comment about his height and went on to exclaim, “you have a perfect BMI! You are like an Indian hero!” It was really, really amazing.

The other not-so-great meeting was with this dude who is friends with a guy from church who mistakenly thought we are out here on a crusade. He spoke with such zeal about being saved and how he wanted to use Jesus to cure all poverty and how he donates clothes to the poor and helps pastors in rural areas…for about 30 minutes. I sat squirming in my chair until I had to nicely tell him that we aren’t interested in partnering but if we have questions about India or can’t find some slums that we will definitely call.

The awesome meeting was with this organization that does development with engineering. They have technology for bio fuel—converting organic waste (you can insert whatever word you would like in there) into fuel, cutting costs to 1/3 for basic cooking fuel needs, a solar lantern program that can light a whole village, and a reverse osmosis water filtration technology that will clean up 500 liters of water a day. We are definitely working with them and are going to try to get on the tipping bucket to fund one of these projects in one of the outlying villages.

We also got our house. We didn’t get the most awesome deal but it’s in a great location and safe so we are happy with it. We move in tomorrow.

May 11, 2010

Yesterday was very productive. We got up and Taylor went to get us a map around 10am. Will and I stayed back and made calls. He went through our list of potential partners and it was good. We then went to go check email and to eat lunch. Email took 20 years to get going because we had to once again sign our lives away with photocopy ids, phone numbers, and addresses. I'm not putting my real information but it's still annoying. We went to the paradise restaurant again and got the family chicken meal with had chicken piryani (a Hyderabad special) and butter chicken and a little bit of tandoori chicken. It was good but I think I’m going to go vegetarian this summer. There were a lot of bones with the chicken that I wasn’t a fan of. We sat and ate in an alleyway. Taylor sat on the ground and will and I all just munched on the yummy food. We looked over and there was a small fire in some sticks close by to where we were eating so the boys went and poured their half full water bottles on it to try and help the Indian guards who were running with trashcans of water. With the very equal contribution, the fire was put out and smoky the bear can sleep easy another night. We then went and met with CARPED with Subash. We talked to him for 2.5 hours. He is awesome. They are doing so many projects that would be fun to help them with. We could set up our volunteers with internships with them. They did a lot of work with hysterectomy awareness because there were tons of women who were getting them from sketchy doctors for reasons like abdominal pain or menstrual cramps. We talked about their other projects and they do really good work. He wants to open a science center. He is also doing a social venture competition, is willing to work with us on projects that we come up with, and is very connected with other ngos.

On our way back in our riksha while Will was mesmerized by a photo of a shirtless guy with guns and fire, we got a call from Isaiah who was waiting for us with his friend Christopher. We made them wait for a while but met with them at the church. Christopher works for 104 organization who does a bunch of health work. He works with Daniel arso who is a really big deal in development here. They work with schools in slums and do a ton of work with the "rag pickers." He wants us to do a lot of work with the people in the slums. He also had another movie director friend who came to the meeting and who may want me to be in one of his Telegu movies. I gave him my contact info. They had a few business ideas with about 1000 percent returns. So if anyone is looking for an investment opportunity, let me know. :)

It was record breakingly hot yesterday. As in, 44 degrees celcius. The hottest day in 25 years. I'm so glad I am here to experience it...

May 10, 2010

We walked outside yesterday at 10am and were hit with a wave of heat. There were around 5 beggars that asked us for stuff. I’m going to buy a bag of nuts or something to give out. I don't know how to deal with that population. I don't want to perpetuate a slumdog millionare-esque business, but I also am here to work with these people and the begging population definitely counts as a very vulnerable population. Ideas are welcomed.

We ate at paradise a restaurant which was awesome food. It was seriously delicious; except they didn’t give us utensils and so we had to eat it by hand. I failed. We then came back and got ready for church and headed over. Right when I sat down the tiredness hit. I have never in my life struggled with staying awake during church as much as I did yesterday. It was funny. There are a lot of adorable kids at church and a lot of people with names I have a hard time remembering. There are a lot of church people around. 4 branches in the city to be exact and way more guys than girls. I guess first and last names are interchangeable so I'm not really sure who is related to who and I hear that wives will frequently keep their last name and maybe give their children a whole different last name that is different than both parents.

Here is a video of driving around in a Riksha, take note of how many people we almost hit.

After church we went to dinner and it was really good. I finally have an excuse to eat on the floor and with my hands.

I've arrived.

So, yes. I am here. I'm pretty excited to be here! There is something magical about going to a new place. I just love it.

So, after 24 hours of travel I landed at 4:55am in Hyderabad and made it safely to meet taylor at the Secunderabad YMCA hostel. Honestly, some things are as expected, lots of honking, riksha's, motorcycles and cars, lots of small shops everywhere, and a lot of people. I haven't seen any other caucasions and am sweating a lot, but today is pretty overcast so it's not too bad. My cab driver told me it was supposed to get to 44 degrees centigrade... Hopefully that doesn't happen for a while. We have been riding around on the back of two ward members scooters all day and found an amazing house that would be perfect, but I'm not sure if it's going to work out. They are hesitant about renting it to us for only four months. I took a "powernap" when I got in and taylor had to knock three different times to wake me up, so I'm guessing I am a bit tired.

I have no idea how to navigate through this city, it's really confusing. It's a little overwhelming but adrenaline is numbing my exhaustion as my mind is in overdrive with all the stimulation of a new place.

The women all dress in traditional sari's and these really beautiful fabrics. I need to get some because I'm going to stick out even more than normal without. We've had some great food and so far every person I've talked to has been really warm and helpful. I'm crossing my fingers that the pattern continues.

We drove into the YMCA at 7am and there was a rollerskating club out front just rollerskating slowly around this cement basketball field area. That's when I felt the most at home :).

We went to the church building which is beautiful. It's two stories, new, and there are four branches that meet in it. I think the ward is expecting a lot from us, which is a little tricky considering we are supposed to be an unaffiliated, but they are doing soo much to help us. Turns out we may have committed to speak at youth conference next week. I guess it's better than last year in uganda being in the political parade and procession with the mayor.