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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Activities Day

Thought I would share this video from the Holy Cross School's Activities Day that took place this morning. These are the female teachers in the annual 50 meter race. Its quite the battle to the finish line as you can see. Don't worry though, not only is the teacher that fell on her face at the end all right, she also won the race! It was a fantastic experience as all the teachers and students displayed so much energy during the numerous track events such as the long jump, hurdles, and 800 meter race. Today was the final of the three days of sports that was also accompanied by some excellent marching, music, dancing and yoga exhibitions. The students are all divided into eight different houses for the year making all the activities very competitive and fun to watch. The houses receive points for how well they do in the track events, along being judged for marching and discipline.

During these events I had the privilege of being a judge and realized for the first time as I stood in the sun that the Indian heat is coming. Today it was close to 90 degrees and the scary thing is that we are still in the winter season. It also hasn't rained once during the six weeks we're been here, but I will not complain about that. At times I feel like I'm in a tropical paradise as I sit on our roof basking in the sun while reading a book. Overall it has been an enjoyable and busy week making me excited for what else is to come.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Weddings and How You Can Help!

7:30 PM came along on a Wednesday night and we hopped into a small van to ride about half an hour across town to a Hindu wedding being celebrated by two Bengali families. Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed and brought into the bride's family's house. I think we have become very accustomed to being treated like royalty no matter where we go as so many of the people are a very generous and friendly bunch that are also fascinated to see Americans. When out in Agartala I have yet to have seen one American so I guess I can understand the shock on their faces. We got to sit, have tea, and talk with the bride for some time as we waited till eleven o'clock for the groom to arrive. She was only seventeen preparing to marry a twenty eight year old man. The fact that she was so young along with the fact the marriage was arranged was something very new to me and seemed odd, but from what I have been told this is the norm. It was also interesting how the bride seemed to enjoy the fact that five strangers were at her wedding, because I could never picture a bride in America being pleased with five unfamiliar guests stealing the attention on her big day.

That evening we had a delicious dinner and then saw many new Hindu rituals as the wedding ceremony began. There was a lot of exotic music and dancing along with the spraying of shaving cream, which was definitely a surprise. We grew tired as 1:30 AM rolled along knowing we had school in the morning so we left the beautiful ceremony as it continued without us late into the night.

A week and a half later we were off to another wedding, but a different wedding in many ways. One main difference was that it was a Catholic wedding so the actually ceremony was basically the same as Catholic marriage in the U.S. except for the fact that the Church was a small room used as a school during the week and the Mass was said in Kokborok. This was not a marriage between two Bengali people, but between to Tribal people so instead of them speaking Bengali they spoke the indigenous language called Kokborok, which is completely than any other Indian language. It was great to see a fimilar ceremony that also had the rich tribal culture weaved into every minute.

I must be honest though, because the best part of this wedding was the reception. The reason being was the amazing food that was some of the spiciest I have had while in India. The pork curry was amazing along with many other dishes that I do not know the name of. Apparently at weddings they really like to spice up the food and I am definitely not complaining.

Above is a picture of Ingtis and I climbing a really big tree that looks like the Tree of Life from the Lion King movie. Ingtis is an exceptional guitar player and came along with us as he plays the music for most of the tribal weddings. He lives at Boys' Town, which is an orphanage outside of Agartala. Ingtis is one of the thirty five amazing boys that live their as they have no family of their own to support them. We have started a funding raising project to raise money for Boys' Town so those like Ingtis can have some basic necessities that they deserve like an actual bed that will support their backs or shudders for their open windows so the disease carrying mosquitoes can not come and go as they please. If you would like to learn more and donate to the cause please go to the following link


Monday, 6 February 2012

Outside the City

An hour and a half ride brought us straight into the expansive zoo located outside of the Agartala city limits. Here we saw an array of animals that are unique to Northeast India while we also came across many that can be found in other continents such as Africa and South America. It was truly stunning to watch the tigers, lions, and elephants roam while the exotic monkeys and birds talked like crying three year-olds. The morning of exploring was exhausting after a long week of teaching, but was well worth it since cows, cats, and goats walking the streets have been mostly the only wildlife we’ve encountered in Agartala.

 Later that day we continued to voyage onward into a remote tribal village were the beautiful Don Bosco School for boys and girls was situated. There we were given a tour of their beautiful and vast farm that provides all the hostel students with enough fresh produce that they have a surplus that is sold to help support the school. It was fascinating to see the tapioca and chili plants along with many fruits I have never seen before and still have no idea what they are. This is a great example of a thriving school that is not only excelling in self sufficiency compared to schools in India, but even compared those in developed countries too.

We have been to four different, large schools run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross and each school has boy and girl hostels, which house students that come from areas too far from the school to commute every day. These are ultimately dormitories and the remainder of the student body commutes either by school bus, rickshaw, or a parent’s car or scooter. It is great to see the community develop within these dorms as you can tell the students are growing into adults as they build long lasting friendships with one another. Our last stop and most memorable one at the Don Bosco School was at the girls’ hostel. Here the girls sang us a tribal welcoming song before he headed back. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!