Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Faces of India

If there's one thing I learned about photography on this trip, it's that shooting with a photojournalistic approach is not as easy as you might expect when you stick out like a sore thumb. Everywhere we went in India, we were warmly greeted by friendly faces who were eager to meet us, talk to us, or just get their photo taken. We couldn't exactly be a "fly on the wall" when people kept coming up to us, but we wouldn't trade any of these photos for the world. We met so many incredible people throughout our trip, and even though we didn't always speak the same language, they never failed to show us the joy in they hearts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adventures in Vellore

For the first two weeks we were in India, we stayed at the Christian Counseling Center in Vellore. This training Institute not only provides counseling services to the surrounding community, but they have training programs for a wide variety of leaders and students. During our time there, we were privileged to meet a group of students from Hyderabad who were taking a training course for their Master in Psychology program. We made many new friendships and had so much fun hanging out with them.

The first evening we went to an "Exhibition," which is basically like a county fair. We braved the rickety Ferris Wheel--it had no seat belts, low railings, and went way too fast. I would have gladly paid three times the ticket price for them to stop that thing early!

One of the highlights for Airika was when some of the girls offered to do mehndi on her arms and hands. It was a much longer process than we had realized, and it is rather difficult to sleep with henna all over your arms and hands, but the result was quite beautiful.

Swimming with the students in this shallow pool was actually quite entertaining. Apparently it's rare to find water pools deeper than two feet in their part of the country, so for many of them, it was their first time really swimming. Of course no one was prepared for a swim, but once one of them jumped in, that was all it took.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Use for Coconuts

One of the highlights of our time in Vellore was a family that we met one evening while walking through the neighborhood. The women in the family were out in front of the house, beating a large pile of coconut husk fibers to separate them. When we stopped to talk to them, we quickly learned that no one in the family spoke any English (and we obviously don’t speak Tamil). Nevertheless, they were quite eager to show us what they were making. They attached a bit of the fiber to a hand-cranked machine and began spinning it into a rope. It's pretty amazing how much work goes into each strand of rope they make. First they collect the husks, then soak them, then separate and dry the fibers, and finally spin them into a rope. Once they finished their demo, they insisted that we take the piece they had made for us, even though we had no money with us to buy it with. It was so wonderful to meet people who were so generous with what they had, and so genuinely interested in sharing a little piece of their lives with us.

I love this photo of their family. After taking it, we went and had it printed, and made a small photo album of the images shown here. Then we gave it to the family. Their reaction was priceless—we actually took an interpreter with us to deliver the photos and the family told us that they could have never afforded photos of themselves and they were so grateful. It was yet another reminder of the impact that a single image can make in a person’s life. I love my job.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Curry for Breakfast

I consider myself an adventurous eater -- just ask any of my closest friends who have succumbed to a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. The fare could include Ethiopian, Thai, Indian, Greek, or Japanese Sushi. But in all my culinary adventures, I can honestly say that I have never had curry for breakfast. That is, until we arrived in India.

Our first breakfast in India was truly East meets West. We had toast with butter and jam, boiled eggs, vayah (a fried dough made of lentil flower, spices and pepper that looks just like a doughnut), dahl, and curry. Noticing that the curry was stocked full of chili peppers, we popped a Tums and said our prayers. Needless to say, we loved every bite of the Indian breakfast and I quickly returned for seconds of vadah and curry. Some people were concerned that the swift introduction of spicy food into our morning diet may be a harsh way to begin our trip, but aside from a little brief stomach rumbling, I didn't experience any repercussions and I've been eating it ever since! :)

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