Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hampi Cottages

September 25th

We ended up eating breakfast here at the Shante Guesthouse. Their dining area is a big open hut. It has a beautiful view of rice pattie fields, the river, rocky hills, and of course some palm trees! I met some nice folk from Bangalore today, the river had risen and they were supposed to leave today but couldn't get back to the mainland, because the only way across the river is by boat, and if the river is too high, the boat doesn't run. I am not sure why, it seems the reason is even better for having a boat in the first place.

Rico and I worked on the maps in the hut, I started drawing his design for the windmill for BhodiSthaan.

We are definitely are the only people who came to Hampi to do work. Most of the tourists are from Israel or Germany. The great thing about being in a touristy location is the variety in food choices, I've been ordering different international quisines at every meal!

Although their menu's still tend to be really vague.

Tonight I ordered something on the menu named, “ veg mushroom”

I just wanted to see what it was.

I tried to ask the waiter what it was before I ordered it, but not sure if he fully understood my question,

I ordered it anyway.

It turned out to be a vegetarian burrito with every vegetable in the world inside! It came with cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes and rice.

Not too bad for Indian Mexican.

The restaurant/guesthouse/hut we went to tonight was called, “laughing Buddha”

The places to eat around here, for the most part have short tables and mattresses surrounding them, so people sit on the floor and eat. Tonight when we were eating, they started the movie, Momento.

It's so relaxed here, nothing is ever rushed, food usually takes an hour or so to be prepared and waiters don't really wait on the customers. If something is wanted the customers have to wait a while for them to come around eventually or go up to them, because the music or tv is usually too loud to call them across the room.

There were also a couple of cats, frogs and geckos hanging out in the restaurant hut with us. Completely chill.

Mapping/Surveying the Wild Life Reserve

September 23rd

This morning one of Bobbi's drivers took Rico and I to the wildlife SOS reserve. We walked around in the scorching heat for a few hours mapping, taking pictures and surveying for the best drainage areas. Rico is going to build a one acre pond for the wild life animals because the water hole the animals had been using can only be accessed if the animals cross a couple miles of farmland, which is creating unpleasant relations between the local farmers and the wild animals. Farmland is currently surrounding their main source of water, and the farmers aren't keen on the animals trekking their way through their fields and destroying their crops. The wildlife corridor being created is an attempt to provide a safe haven for the animals as well as a water source without harmful interactions with the local farmers. The animals who live here include, monkeys, elephants, and wild big cats to name a few. Kartik had been trying also to buy the farm land from the farmers who live near the lake/water hole, but all refused to sell their land, so this cooridor to a new pond is the alternative.


Kartik has already hired a few workers for the wild life site being created. The workers followed us around and helped us get around on the rocky terrain, they didn't speak much english, but seemed nice none the less!







dry season has definitely started. Its so incredibly warm. I put on 70 proof sunscreen and I am still a cherry tomatoe.


On the way back to the resort, somehow I saw the weirdest things.

First I saw a goat.. with something hanging out of it, when I realized.. it was totally having a baby on the side of the road! And some little boy was helping it deliver!

Next window sight was a little kid.. pooping. Once I noticed one .. suddenly I noticed them multiply! They are actually everywhere! Once I noticed the little kids pooping everywhere on the side of the road.. I started noticing the adults! Especially in the fields.. all this time, while I thought they were picking rice.. they were actually taking a dump.. not only just taking a dump, but it's totally a social event.. they poop in pairs or groups.. whatever.. no big deal!

anyway.. as I begun to think that I saw my fill for the day.. I spot a guy... laying face down in the mud.. wasn't moving at all.. I sure hope he wasn't dead.

But I figured if he was.. the nearby villagers/market vendors (who were at most 10 feet away) would have done something??? I hope?? He must have just been drunk..

Anyway.. it was an interesting window watch from the wildlife center back to the eco-resort.

Once we got back.. we ate lunch and headed out to town to stay at an inn... well the inn's here in Hampi consist of little cottages. So we found ourselves nice little cottages to stay in.. and like always.. no power.

Which is fine.. I've had enough light today.. with the sun and burns and all.. the darkness of the cottage is very okay..

Cave Paintings and Gypsies

September 22nd, 2010

This morning we walked up with Bobbi through a jungle on the outskirts of his resort to see some cave paintings! Some of the paintings were huge, and many were small paintings depicting what looked like men and goats. Some were so high up on the rock, a type of scaffolding must have been used in their creation.


After our walk we ate breakfast and headed off to a natural amphitheater to check out more cave paintings. There were more paintings of men, and a big painting of a cobra. I wandered off in hopes of finding more, braving my way through the tall grasses and doing my best to climb around on the big boulders.. but no luck! I guess when the villagers say there are no other paintings.. they would know.. but it was an adventure anyway and I didn't encounter any cobras.


After checking out the cave paintings, we drove down to the river crossing junction (near the center of town), crossed with a boat, and spent most of the afternoon in town. I bought a lightweight colorful backpack, since my shoulder bag has been making me feel a bit lopsided trekking around in, so I was happy when I found an Indian Gypsy selling exactly what I needed! Indians call the nomadic people of India, gypsies. They are easily spotted in a crowd because of their brightly colored sparkly dresses. They tie long pieces of fabrics around their heads, wear huge golden rings on their noses, clanky jewel filled bracelets up and down their arms, as well as several anklets per ankle. Caked with jewelry from head to toe, its hard to look away. I was so close to asking the lady if I could take a picture of her. But I withheld.

The tourists are beginning to flow in with the change of the season. Monsoon season has officially ended, and the start of a dry winter has begun. So much for the winter part, because today was well into the 90's and by far the hottest day yet since I've been here.

We checked out a local bookstore and a cafe. The power went out for a bit and sitting in the middle of town in a cafe was almost unbearable with the heat. The monkeys made their way into town today and it was so depressing to see them scrambling the streets for food, and being so quickly shooed and chased away by the locals.

Even though, yesterday was the first day that they sneaked into mine and Ameli's room at the resort. They stole my underwear and Ameli's basil and herbal supplements. They didn't make it too far because we found all of the stuff, scattered out of the window.

But, it was more funny than anything else. Much rather have the monkeys around then not. They are way too cool to see everyday.

After our town trip we met up with our friend we made the other night at Bobbi's fire pit music gathering. Gali, was his name, and we visited him at his drum shop where we had a quick cup of chai tea before heading out. It's something to get used to is hot beverages on a hot day!


When we made it back to the resort Ameli packed her things and we said our goodbyes for now. She has some business to take care of in Myesore.
Rico and I ate some dinner, and called it a day.

Right now it is 930 and I am exhausted. We have an early day tomorrow because Rico has taken on a job from Kartik (a man who runs a foundation for rescuing wildlife in India, he is currently expanding on some wildlife reserves for the animals and is seeking some permaculture expertise to create some sustainable ponds for the animals, www.wildlifesos.org- he is currently looking for people interested in helping out!) and we are going to map out some wildlife land tomorrow. We are going to try to go before the afternoons pounding heat starts to kick in, but we will see how it works out.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Visiting the 10,000 year old ruins!

September 21, 2010

We have been talking about seeing the ruins (the ruins of a village said to be 10,000 years old) for a while, but everytime we have tried to go, something always came up, and we weren't able to go.

So today, when I met up with everyone, I wasn't too surprised when they told me that we weren't going. But it was different this time, because it was kind of the last chance we had to go since it was Ameli's last day here at the resort (she leaves for Mysore tomorrow). I asked them why we couldn't go, and Bobbi handed me a newspaper with the ancient village on the front page!! It had finally been publicized! Bobbi told us that the place would be swarming with officials, and it wouldnt be nice to go. I started reading the article, realizing that I wouldnt have the chance to make it there. Suddenly, Bobbi, felt so bad he said, “come on, lets go!” “who cares, lets just try to hurry before sunset.”

I was so excited, we all gathered all of our things and headed out.

We took one of his jeeps first out to his cottage in the middle of the wildlife reserve (the one we had been to once before by the wetlands designed by Rico) Once we got there, the plan was to switch the jeep with a more heavy duty jeep (one of the old ones with no windows, not even a windshield!) at the wetland cottage.

Our first roadblock was that once we got to the wildlife reserve, Bobbi forgot the keys to the cottage! And the keys for the heavy duty jeep were inside the cottage.. Luckily, the car keys were hanging conveniently by the front door, and luckily there was a screened window with a hole in it adjacent to the hanging keys! Bobbi quickly made a contraption out of a long stick and some bendable metal to stick through the broken screen and grab the keys!! (Most windows here are barred with metal, to keep monkeys or people out)
Even though the keys dropped at first, he kept at it, until they were nicely on the metal hook he had made and we quickly went to the jeep.

The jeep had some trouble starting, so we pushed it around the cottage to get it jumpstarted and hopped in! It was a crazy bumpy ride, trekking through the jungle! Up and down and around huge rocks and boulders!! 3 of us sat in front while Rico and Bobbi's worker sat in back. Ameli had to continually hold on to my arm so I wouldn't go flying out of the vehicle. I continually got snagged and smacked by shrubbery, but it wasn't soo bad because Bobbi was trying to warn me and make sure that I wasn't too badly injured by the spiney plants! We kept a keen eye out for leopards and tigers, which roam wild in the jungle!


It was the craziest trip on four wheels I've had yet, and it took maybe about 45 minutes to trek our way up to the top of the bouldery hill.

We were greeted by a herd of wild cows! Cows I have never seen before in my life.. They were white with huge humps on their backs, and their ears were serrated with dangly leaf shaped pieces of skin hanging off of them. They had huge horns and they were surrounding us, staring. They looked equally as shocked to see us. Luckily they were peaceful.

Next thing we came across was a dam. On top of this boulder hill!! whoever lived here 1000s of years ago built up a dam with stone! It was beautiful, entirely covered in lilly pads!!

Beyond the dam, were the strangest buildings I have ever seen! They were made of granite, the structures were about 9 feet tall, and each wall was about 5 feet across. There were only 3 walls per structure, and for each structure one wall had a small circle cut out of it. How these people put together 3 upright walls, and a huge slab of granite roof for the top, is beyond me.


We came back to the resort after the sun had set and almost lost our way, since it was hard to find the return route in the dark. We finally made it back to the resort once again, where we chilled out by the fire and ate potatoe pancakes and paneer.

Shama's Place

September 20th

This morning Rico and I went out to Shama's place (a friend of Bobbi- our host at the eco-resort). Shama has over 100 hundred acres of farmland, mostly organic. She wants to create forests for harvesting wood sustainably as well as forests for the monkeys. She is also interested in creating a small permaculture community of teachers and students with residencies on her site, as well as a learning center for ancient Indian art traditions. Rico accepted the design project.

We ate lunch at Shama's, and she drove us to her boutique, where she sells handwoven baskets, blankets and bags. A cute store, Rico bought a few bags as gifts and after we were brought back to the resort.

Later in the evening I watched a tv series called 'the Pack' with Ameli. The pack is a wildlife documentary about the wild dogs in India. It was made for Animal Planet, and we actually had the opportunity to meet the producers of the show! Because they are good friends with Bobbi and Bobbi has a home in the wildlife reserve where the documentary was filmed, which we will all be going to next week. Pretty excited :)

sept 19

September 19th

Today was a permaculture work day. I typed up some games for the PDC on Rico's computer and finished some more drawings for Life University.

Highlight of the day:

A lizard chilling on the ceiling dropped some nice blessings on one of the papers we were currently working on. Some nearby Indians started laughing and told us it was goodluck.



Sunday, October 31, 2010


September 17, 2010

I woke up to the monkeys this morning, chatting it up outside my window.


There were more than ten of them just outside my window! Three of them were intently watching me. They were only about 5 feet away! I was trying to sign language to them. But then I realized that I don't speak sign language, and neither do they. So much for that idea.

Lengurs and macaques. Those are the two most common monkeys here. Or maybe they are the only monkeys here. The only monkeys I have seen at least!

Watching the monkey's is my new favorite thing to do, by far.

Currently I am eating lunch in the dining hut and watching some monkey's play a silly game.

They are competing to try to get to the highest point of a particular tree, and they keep climbing over each other to try and get there. It's amazing how far these little guys can jump. They would completely annihilate all of the worlds best athletes at the olympics in a heart beat!! They can jump very long distances! Although sometimes they misjudge the distances. I've seen it a few times where the monkey's have taken a pretty hefty fall. Yesterday I saw a couple monkeys splash into the river as they were trying to jump from rock to rock. But they are amazing swimmers, and even with the strong current, they reach their destination just fine!

Anyway.. These monkey's I am watching, if I didn't know better, I would think they were made out of rubber! Many of them keep falling down the entire span of the tree!!! It doesn't even phase them though, they just climb back up, over the others to try and get to the top again. There is one branch that is the tallest point on this particular tree, and right now a baby monkey is balancing on the top of that little top branch. He is so teeny, that it doesn't sway at all.

And suddenly another baby monkey joins him at the top? How many baby monkey's can this wee branch hold?? Looks like three, now four, OMG FOUR baby monkey's are on this teeny branch at the top of the tree! Hahah, and four baby monkeys just got sprung from the top of the treee!!!!!! four baby monkeys is obviously too much weight.

And no worries, all monkeys sprung from the top of the tree are safe and unharmed.
Monkey's are amazing.

I love India.

Friday, October 29, 2010


September 16th 2010

Most amazing day ever.

We arrived in Hampi this morning at 7am from Hyderabad.

A bit about Hampi
Hampi is a tourist hotspot, luckily we are here in the low time for tourists.

Many rock climbers come to this area because of the amazing round piles of rock. When I saw pictures of Hampi before I arrived, it didn't look special at all, but being here, it's really hard to not look at these huge hills without amazement. The rocks were formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago, and have been shaped by water and wind since. It's incredible because, there are so many rocks that are balancing on top of each other. Many places there are 4 or 5 huge boulders balancing on top of the other! Apart from the amazing geology the ruins of the old Kingdom of Hampi are more than 500 years old. I've also heard of a village nearby surpassing that age by another 9,500 years!

The locals say that Hampi was the birth place of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. Hanuman is the devoted servant of Ram, and he is known for his selfless service.

Our day off in Hampi
When we arrived we drove through the old kingdom of Hampi, the ruins surround all of the present buildings and businesses.


In order to get to the eco-resort that we will be staying at we had to cross a river. We crossed the river on a small boat, with 8 foreigners, who were either tourists or backpackers.


From the middle of the river.


Once we arrived to the other side of the river, we ate a restaurant. It was the first time I saw eggs and toast on a menu! Definitely a bit westernized. At the restaurant I saw my first elephant!


I saw it across the river we just crossed. Apparently this elephant lives in one of the old temples, to benefit the tourist industry.

We finally made it to our Eco host site. Last year Rico built a wetlands for Bobbi, the man who owns the resort. So this is not so much a business visit as it is, a friend reunion and a bit of a vacation for Ameli and Rico.

After we arrived, Bobbi took us out in his jeep to see the wetlands. Rico hadn't seen the site since last year when everything was being worked on, and there was only dry soil to work with.

The following pictures are from the drive to the wetlands!



The drive to the wetlands was a crazy one! We drove up a stream, rocks and all!!


and these pictures are from the easiest part of the drive!!

We finally made it to the wetlands that Rico made a couple of years ago.


This area used to be completely dry! Now it's completely part of the landscape and we saw monkey's come drink and hang out by the edge of it. We kept our eyes peeled for leopards and tigers, but we didn't get lucky.

On the way back to the resort, we got stuck in the rocky segment of the stream. Rico and I had to get out and push. In the middle of a raging stream! However, no worries! We made it out alright!

Afterwards we saw a dog with a huge spike collar! It must have had 4 or 5 rows of foot long spikes!.. okay so maybe 6''.. but still the collar was huge! Bobbi says that it's to protect the dog against the tigers.


We came back to the resort, met up with a bunch of Bobbi's friends, and then we started the hike up to his cave home!

We hiked through the wild country of big cats and alligators.. First we rode a round basket boat across the river.




7 people per boat, one of Bobbi's servants took us across. We hiked across 2 creeks, in search of crocodiles.. we found the tracks of a small one.. but never saw it.



The cave was amazing! It was a maze inside layers of boulders. And the balcony of the home was the top of the boulder, a magical staircase from the inside of the cave wrapped itself up and around the boulder to the top!!

The view was incredible.

These pictures do not do the view justice. Just so you are aware! :)






Trying to spot crocs from the top!

On our way back to the resort, just as we were about to take the little round basket boat back across we spotted otters on the other side of the river playing! I didn't realize how huge they were! They looked about 5' long! There were about 7 and they were running up the side of the river bank and then sliding and rolling back down the river bank over and over again. It was so cute to watch it almost beat the cuteness of when puppies can't control how much they slide on linoleum floor. Okay so maybe just as cute. So cute!! :)

These creatures are said to be super shy. It was even the first time that Bobbi had seem them, it took 8 years!!! So, we felt pretty blessed!

We got back to the house/castle/resort.. beautiful area. Rested a bit, and went out to sit at the campfire, the barbequers made 'poppers' kinda tasted like a sardine but was a really thin crispy tortilla cracker. They also made these tasty spicy potato cakes with cilantro and lime.

A bunch of musicians came to visit, and there was a jam session involving african drums, sax and a keyboard!

Dinner was eaten at midnight, which is actually common to do!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Drawing Maps in Hyderabad

September 15th
Drawing Maps in Hyderabad

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel. I was finally able to sample all of the different kinds of breakfast 'breads' that are common for breakfast in India. My favorite are still doshas, but the vadas (spicy small donuts) aren't bad either.

During breakfast, I was trying to take my miniature banana (the small bananas are much more common here) out of its peel and it went flying! Luckily I caught it, but all the servers and other customers were just staring! Haha well they saw the whole show anyway because it seems like everybody is always staring, foreigners in grungy farm clothes really aren't a common occurrence!

But 5 minutes after I had my incident Ameli 's banana also shot out of her banana peel and was gone!

The bananas in India are apparently alive.

We couldn't stop laughing it was so ridiculous.

As if we hadn't drawn enough attention to ourselves already.

After our entertaining morning, we met up with Rico and began to draw overlays and maps for the design. I was assigned to drawing the design for the huts that will be at Life University.


A bit hard to see!
But it was worth a try

After the work, Ameli needed to get a new battery for her mac, so we headed off into Hyderabad with a driver who couldn't speak English. He kept stopping at random places and trying to convince us that we were at the mac building, while every time it obviously wasn't the right place. Somehow we finally made it to the huge mac building. We waited for a while for her battery to be ready. Once we got it we drove back through the crazy traffic of cars, people, cows, dogs and motorcycles to the hotel. We had to hurriedly get some dinner before the business meeting with one of the main organizers for Life University.

We didn't have much time because our train to Hampi was leaving at 9pm, and we only had a couple of hours to spare and we didn't want to miss it.

But everything worked out and we made it to our train in time, and we didn't have seats next to the toilet this time!!! So exciting :)

Leaving Vikarabad

September 14th 2010

Today we arrived in our new hotel in Hyderabad, what a difference! The streets are cleaner, there is toilet paper again and the hotel is amazing! Excellent food and room service! We even have wireless internet!

Haha I've never felt more like a materialist in my life!

Oh and I started a photobucket account, I haven't had the chance to put up many of the pictures yet from the trip, but they will come soon! There are a few pictures up, I just haven't had the time to label them or anything but feel free to check them out.

My user name is schmaizee101, at www.photobucket.com


Hotel living in Vikarabad.

September 13th 2010

Today I decided to stay back at the hotel, while Rico and Ameli wandered the site of LU.

I was feeling a bit out of energy from the week, and thought it might be good to rest before we travel tomorrow to Hydrabad, and the next day to Hampi. To get to Hampi, we will be taking an overnight train again. I am praying for seats other than the ones near the toilets..

I did some laundry today, in a bucket, in the bathroom. The bathroom is our dish washing station, shower, and laundry. It gets really gross. We have two mats that our room came with and we put them outside of the bathroom so we can dry our feet when we leave the bathroom. But both of the mats are molding because it's always wet and muddy everywhere in the bathroom or sloppy with food (from doing the dishes). I try to rinse the bathroom floor down everytime I go in, but it's of no use, it just gets gross again. We have gotten one towel each for the whole week, and no toilet paper. So thats a fun one.

Hand washing clothes is a big chore! I washed them for three hours at the beginning of the week after that overnight train ride, then it took my clothes 4 days to dry because of the humidity, and because of the amount of time it took, my clothes began to mold! So I had to wash them all again today. And even though it stopped raining for a bit, (and I was able to dry them outside) I thought I had a decent chance of nonsmelly moldy clothes, I was wrong... they still smell :(

Looks like I'll be shopping soon.

Oh Vakarabad.

We have been surviving mostly off of packaged foods (crackers) and 'boil dinners' (which are basically microwave dinners, but 'boil dinners' come in a little baggies that are placed in boiling water instead). We would probably try to cook ourselves more if we had a proper kitchen or if the local produce wasn't so questionable. Sandwiches might not even be a bad idea if there was a loaf of bread to be found around here without hairs as the main ingredient.

When Ameli and Rico came back from the land, we worked on maps for the first acre of BhodiSthaan (Life University) all afternoon. We are planning for 12 people to live there and occasionally 100, in the case of events and volunteer projects.

Other than that.. im excited to see the next project (and location).

Tree Planting Extravaganza at Life University

September 12th 2010

Today a few people from Hydrabad picked us up from the hotel and we all drove up to Life University. The first thing we walked in on, were the workers digging away for the 3 ponds that will be put in at the entrance of the site. They were digging holes in the wrong spot, as well as the wrong shape and structure.

Emergency planning session for Rico and Ameli to figure out exactly how they can fix the pond situation and and make sure the situation will be sustainable and functional.


I meandered my way up to the main huts, to see how the tree planting was going. There were about 50 or so volunteers, and 1,000 trees to be planted. Holes had been dug by the villagers on the perimeter of the land. The holes were fairly close to each other and some of the holes were right next to already situated bigger trees. Suddenly all of the trees were being planted and there wasn't much consideration for the correct spacing. But the excitement was too high for planting trees. The trees would just have to work it out on their own.


We rode a big tractor up to the other side of the property. People kept piling on, I was sitting on the wheel cover, Ameli and Rico on the other wheel, somebody was sharing a seat with the driver, and in the back trailor, people had piled ontop of the tree saplings and there were also people balancing on the beam that connected the tractor to the trailor. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and I almost lost my blouse to the tire! I felt a pull, and luckily I got it in time so that the only damage was the corner of my shirt was caked in muddy wonderfullness.



We got to the boundary and planted more trees. There were all sorts of trees, everything from neem to lemon, mango and people trees!

We all took a lunch break.

I came back to the main hut and had myself a seat on a mat they had spread out for everyone. The women were handing out leaf plates and paper cups to everyone. Then they served us fried rice, pickled vegetables (looks like a small gop of stemmy seaweed), spicy potatoe stew thing, yogurt/coconut spicy thing, and then 'cold rice' to help ease the spicyness of it all. They were so cute and worried about me, they gave me a green banana. And told me to take a bite of the banana between every bite. The women continued to walk around and make sure everyone's plates were full. They didn't sit down to eat until everyone was finished eating.

Today was the first day that I ate with my right hand. There were no utensils. The most awkward part was trying to peel and eat my unripe banana with messy spicy rice hands.


I am still alive.

Indian culture is fun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pre-celebration of Ganesh

September 11th 2010

Ganesh is one of the Hindi Gods. He has a body of a small boy and a head of a baby elephant. People pray to him when they are starting something new, or starting anything. They pray to him for help in eliminating their obstacles and achieving their goals.



To celebrate Ganesh, people create and decorate huge clay statues of Ganesh and drive them to a river (or body of water) to set them off. Today isn't quite the real celebration yet, it was only the day that everyone finished their Ganesh statues to show them off to the town. So everyone who had finished a statue, drove around town all day with their statues displayed in their truck beds. In a week or so they will drift the statues off into a body of water. The river's here are highly revered and being dunked in a river is said to take away all of your bad karma.

We went out for breakfast this morning. It took us a while to find a clean place to eat, but we were finally directed to a place near the train station and we ate doshas, one of the 2 dishes that I know. It's a huge pancake/soft crispy taco and it's usually filled with different curried foods, and is always served with a side of coconut sauce.

For lunch we ate crackers, veg puffs (a crossaint type thing with spicy vegetables inside), and mango juice.

When we got back to the hotel we worked on the plans for Life University. We started figuring out the plans for the first acre (which is named BhodiSthaan). There will be a few workers that need to set up camp at the site to learn the features of the land more clearly before the big plans for building and developing the site take place. Once the first acre is established, workshops and short courses will start. So far we have placed six huts, storage/work yard, a bamboo perimeter fence, a meditation hut and garden, and an herb garden and vegetable gardens onto our map design.


Finally making it to the land

September 10th, 2010

Yesterday we finally were able to make to the land where Life University will be.

And today, we went back to the land to point out to some fence makers where the fence needed to be around acre number 1 of the site.

So we wandered around a bit, and unfortunately I accidentally deleted all of my pictures off of my camera from today :(

One of today's highlights:
I saw the biggest beetle I've ever seen today. Since I lost all of my pictures, I improvised so you could see it anyway!


My apologies for my lack of ability with Paint, but this beetle is to scale!

While we were walking around the property figuring out exactly where the fence needed to go I found myself losing focus a bit as the sun was very heavy and the atmosphere sticky and humid. So it was almost perfect timing when all of a sudden a goat kid came running at me from no where!!

I started laughing because it was just so random, and as soon as it came up to me.. I reached out my hand.. and it totally blew me off.

Then a couple seconds later, the goat herder came angrily towards where I was standing, and was making the weirdest noises I have ever heard come out of a person!! Haha at first I thought he was grunting obnoxious sounds at me, since he was looking right at me, and then he wacked the goat with the stick and carried on. He was wearing a button up shirt, a sheet wrapped around his waste in the form of a skirt/shorts, and something that looked like a canvas/straw cape/hood over his head.

After about another hour of walking around, the goats kept sneaking away one by one from the herder to follow us, and the herder kept getting really angry.

I was just fully entertained by the whole situation.

I started filming (again which I accidentally deleted ) one of the little goats that kept running at me, and as soon as I turned on my camera the kid started hopping around, as if it were performing just for the camera.

I was super excited to post that.. but hopefully your imagination will suffice!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Project Number 2: Life University

Sept 08, 2010

Land Management of the to be university, Life University. (lifeuniversityglobal.org)

Today Rico, Shyam, Ameli, two representatives from the Center for Sustainable Agriculture (an NGO which helps farmers become organic in the area) and I, all met up for Breakfast to have a meeting about our plans for the work today and the plans for Life University.

In addition to the university serving students to receive their bachelors, masters and doctorates in spiritual sciences, transpersonal sciences and life sciences, the university is also envisioned to become a spiritual retreat, sustainable demonstration and resource site.
(the local villagers have built some temporary structures while all the planning is taking place)

The creators have in mind to eventually
--grow all of the food needed on site.
--bring wisdom about good health through education and health camps.
--create a community market, making sure there is no competition in selling the same goods as some of the surrounding villages.
--establish meditation pyramids, sacred groves, a labyrinth and a prayer garden.
--build an old age home, mental health home, health center (with many different holistic therapists) and a primary youth school.

After discussing some of the key aspects of the University, the six of us made a trip out to the surrounding villages of the university.

The first village was called Nagsan Pally. The villagers were extremely curious, none of them had cars, and we pulled up in a car. It took only a couple of minutes and our whole car was surrounded. None of them spoke english, so it was good we had a couple of translators. They led us to one of their square white buildings. Many places in India—even some stores—it is proper etiquette to take your shoes off at the entrance. So we all took our shoes off and the villagers made sure the six of us had patio chairs to sit on, while 20 or 30 of them crowded into the room with us and made themselves comfortable on the floor. There were only men at the meeting and the ages ranged from about 14 to maybe 90? It's hard to guess ages, because even the elderly are very strong, and I've seen them carry outrageous amounts of weight on top of their heads! They usually have some sort of a scarf, which they wrap around the top of their head, and then either they will stack bricks in the scarf, or big bags of rice, anything!

It's essential that the university creates good relationships with its surrounding neighbors (the villagers)
so the questionnaire that we wrote up for the village was basically to find out about the crops they were growing, how they were growing them, what they knew about the soil, plants and animals in the area, what schools and medical centers they had available to them. Also to find out about pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer use, costs and economic issues in maintianing their farms and the rate of suicide farmers (because of their accumulated debt from unsustainable farming practices)

They told us that from this years crop, they hadn't earned any money from the harvest because of their debts. They have been averaging about 4-5 farmer suicides per year. The village is 2,500 people. They use pesticides and herbicides heavily. And when asked if they were willing to try organic, all the villagers in the room raised their hands.

It was hard to follow the conversation because of course it was in Telagu. And I just received bits of information about what they were talking about here and there. And there were a few Telagu note takers of the interview but we have yet to receive the translated version through email.

I'll give you an update when we receive it :)

The second village we visited, seemed a bit more modern. It looked like they owned their own tractors, and didn't have to rent. We were again guided to a room to seat ourselves with the villagers. This time the discussion was much less about the questionnaire and more so explanations to the villagers about the benefits of organic produce. It became a little difficult to stay awake as we sat there for a few hours not understanding anything that was going on. I decided to keep myself awake by trying to pick out words and write them down, and ask people later what they meant. Anyway, one of the villagers noticed I was taking notes, and all of the attention was on me for a minute. HAHA rather embarrassing, since it really didn't make sense for me to be taking notes since 1- I didn't speak the language and 2- even if I did, it wouldn't make sense for me to be taking notes at that time, since it was one of the Organic Consultants who was explaining the importance of going organic. I stopped taking notes after that. Falling asleep might be more appropriate.

We walked around the land a little after that, and it briefly started to rain. Promptly I had one of the elderly village men at my side with a raised umbrella! What great people! Lol very accommodating anyway.

The monsoon was still way too out of control to visit the land were Life University will be. We tried to go a back-way to the University from the village. But the dirt path was way too swampy, and it could've very well been the villagers toilet. We decided to turn back.

For dinner we ate rice and the same spicy hot five different sauces that taste exactly the same. HOT. Cool. Oh someone asked for our autographs on the road today! I'm pretty sure this is the least visited town by white people in India.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Smelly Train Ride

September 7th
Day 5

Yesterday we left Mysore (where Ameli lives), and we took an overnight train to Hydrabad. The best part about the trip was that I saw my first monkey! He was chilling on top of the train station.

The train was fine, apart from the fact that our seats were right next door to two toilets. It was okay when the windows were open and the train was moving, but once the windows were closed for the night, the smell saturated everything. In the beginning of the train ride, there were many people who tried to sell us things or ask for money. The train was sectioned off into small sitting/laying areas with 8 beds in each section. One side of the section was split off into two triple bunk beds, and the other side of the section was a bunk bed. We locked our things below the bottom bed, apart from a few items-- like my shoes. I was a little paranoid about our stuff throughout the night, since none of us had the beds closest to our stuff, and many people walk through the sections at night. Between the smell, the people and the lack of bedding (all I had was a small towel and scarf for a pillow and a long wrap around skirt for a blanket on a dirty fold down middle bunk), it was quite hard to fall asleep, and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to.

We finally made it to the hotel which is relatively close to our second project, we were going to stay at the land where the project is, but it wasn't really an option since the monsoon season is making the area quite difficult to come to and build accomodations on at this time.

The train ride took about 14 hours or so. I felt so dirty by the time we got to our hotel, I washed up and also decided to wash my clothes from the trip. It took about 3 hours to do so! Because each time I tried to wash them, the smell from the train was still on them and the water would turn black immediately. Now they are just soaking, hopefully the smell will be gone by the end of the day.

For dinner we ordered food for four people and the hotel workers brought up 2 small black bags full of little plastic baggies of food tied off with string. There were dozen of little plastic bags! Tali's are very popular here and they consist of a large portion of rice and then 5 or 6 different little sauces to go with the rice. We had ordered food for 4, so they brought us each individual packaged sauces in separate baggies. I couldn't stop laughing.

After ripping open the baggies and trying to eat, it seems that the smell from the train is still haunting me. Most everything tasted like the train ride. :(

I haven't been a picky eater for years!

I couldn't quite explain to the others why I was having difficulty eating, hopefully this smell will stop haunting me soon..

Lol. Oh india.

Here's a picture of our view outside our hotel, and the little baggies.

There were still way too many baggies to even try to finish half of the food they gave us. We decided to give the rest away. We thought it would be easy to find some beggars, but when you look for them, they suddenly disappear! Rico and I had the task of finding some people in need. But it was more complicated then it seemed, because we didn't want to offend anyone by asking if they needed food, if they didn't. But we finally found a women and two children sitting on the side of the road. No one in this town speaks english, so we hand signed to her that it was food. She looked a little confused, and her eldest daughter gave a nod. We gave them a bag and continued on our way to find another family/person in need. Rico and I, again had much difficulty so we decided to give the second bag to the family we had already found. On our way back we noticed the family was all happily eating, and feeding the small 2 year old the rice. I handed them the second bag, and we went on our way.

We were supposed to go to our new project today. But a creek has overflowed blocking the route so cars cant get in, or people! Unless people want to wade across, which at other times people have had to do. But it isn't recommended since the current is so strong, people can't go alone, they have to link arms and and then wade across.

Vicarabad is the town im in now, and there is no english. The hotel guys love to come in without knocking. When the door is locked, they will still knock about every 5 minutes asking if we want coffee or anything. And everytime we try to tell them, 'no', or that we don't want anything, and we are just trying to sleep, they dont understand. But, thankfully this afternoon, Ameli's friend (Shyam) who is also involved with this second project came, and he speaks both Telagu (the local language) and English! So it's been wonderful to have a translator!

Other than that, we've been looking at contour maps of the land for our second project all afternoon. Rico has been explaining the details of reading maps easily and quickly, and main points to draw from them.
Fun fun, we are all still pretty tired from the train ride.
Super excited to sleep tonight.

A Day off in India

September 5th
Day 3

Today was my day off. This morning Ameli and I went on a walk around town. I saw a funny prancing iguana type lizard. I'll post a picture of it, if I can figure out how! After our walk we met up with Rico, talked about some logistics about farms and what not. I then typed up goals and plant lists for Roopas farm.
Rico left for Bangalore today to see a friend. Ameli took me into town and we tried to shop for walking shoes. Couldn't quite find anything, either it was the color, shape or size that was just off. Some of the shoes the locals tried to sell Ameli were twice the size of her foot, and they kept telling her to just walk around, that the shoes were supposed to be that size and they were the right size. It was very funny. They are quite the sales people here. Things here are very cheap though! An auto into town is only about 1 or 2 dollars. A full meal at a restaurant is about the same. Even though it is so cheap many indians will lie about the price to foreigners, they will say it is 3 or 4 more times the price, which isn't a big deal, but for those who live here that look foreign, it can add up. So haggling is a good thing to learn, especially to practice in order not to be too ripped off for those things that aren't as cheap.

I saw my first camel in India today! Someone was riding it to town! I wasn't quick enough to take out my camera.. but hopefully next time. I also saw the King's palace in Mysore today. Very intricate and beautiful. I didn't get a chance to get too close, but saw it from the gates.

I learned my first Kanada word today (a language spoken in some parts of southern India). “Beta!” It means: “No, I don't want.” Very useful!

Here is a picture of the dancing lizard.. well lol if you can find it

Consultancy Project number 1: Goal Articulation for Roopa's land

September 4th 2010
Day 2
This morning I ate papaya, cheeko (a sweet tropical fruit which looks like a potato on the outside, works like a kiwi to open and prepare, but tastes and looks like fruity, stringy brown sugar), banana, crackers and cake.
Rico, Ameli and I took a taxi to the first permaculture consultancy farm project. Roopa (the lady who owns the piece of land) Made us fresh watermelon juice and a wonderful lunch!
After lunch we discussed the goals she had for her 1.6 acres of land. She has a beautiful piece of property bordering the Cauvery river (which the locals describe as the sacred river of southern India). Currently more than half of the property is planted with marigolds, tomatoes and other crops. The land closer to the river has rosewood, jamoon, neem and achokra trees (pardon my spelling).
The physical structures Roopa wishes to see on her land include:

a home, structures for guests/teachers/therapists, yoga hall, Ayurvedic treatment rooms, alternative therapy rooms, alternative power (mostly solar, maybe some wind/water), all food from the land, organic vegetables, fruit and flowers. She wants to build a small organic shop, where she can sell crafts, produce and perhaps clothes as well. She also wants recreational spaces, such as a swimming pool, treehouse, table tennis, perhaps an art room or a library.

(Pictures above are from Roopa's land)

We checked out the property to see what we were working with.

While exploring the property we saw an otter in the river--I had no idea they lived in the tropics! And apparently there are crocodiles and many snakes, the locals talk about cobras with no tail, because they have 2 heads, one for each end!

A bit about Indian Culture

The culture and the history here is very rich! Many stories are passed down about the land and the gods that used to live among the people. I've only had the chance to hear a few stories, but one of the stories takes place on Chamundi, a small mountain near Ameli's home, where the goddess Durga slayed a massive demon. Many people come to visit the area, at the top of the mountain there is a temple and a statue of the demon in honor of the event. Because of this event all of the jungle on Chamundi and hundreds of acres surrounding the mountain is sacred. But now development has been clear cutting these surrounding areas of wild jungle. People who have heard the jungle come down, told of the screaming birds who could be heard for miles.

Pretty depressing to see the empty jungles.

Flight and First Impressions

September 3rd 2010
Day One

Sunny clear skies for my arrival in India. Everything went relatively smoothly. I had a few issues in the Mombai airport, as much reconstruction was going on after the terrorist attacks three years ago. I think I went through security 4 times. As well as other other sorts of customs and what not. Luckily I met someone who had been living in Ireland but was from India who helped me find my way around to the next plane, which was great!

The first thing I noticed about india when my plane landed was the bright red sand, fluffy lush grass and the palm trees! Many shacks were aligned on either side of the fence outside the aiport. I could see kids lined up at the fence, watching the airplanes come in and take off. Bright blue tarps protected their shacks against the rains.

Food! Indian airplane service is great! On a two hour flight, they fed me a full course! They would never do that in America. Beware of vegetables that look like green beans! Haha my mouth was a bit on fire after I ate the whole thing! Oops. I drank fresh Indian lemonade, definitely less sugar but much more salt. Interesting but quenched the thirst. They served me a sour cream soup with paprika and chopped up onions.. wasn't too much of a fan, but that was really the only thing that I didn't eat, because everything else was very tasty!

I met up with Rico at the airport (The Permaculture Consultant I am apprenticing for.) We took a four hour bus trip to Mysore, and from there we took what is called an Auto(a small car with no doors, and three wheels) to his business partner and friend Ameli's house. The trip was a bit bumpy and you had to hold on, if you didnt want to fall out. The roads are rather hectic, because lines between lanes aren't followed, nor really is the side of the road that you are supposed to drive on. So much goes on, on the sides of the roads here. People say you see everything in NYC, I've seen much more here in a few hours than I ever have in NYC. People are so busy here all the time, the roads are alive with many people. People are logging on the side of the highways, planting, gardening, gathering flowers, fixing curbs, and all with handmade tools, and carrying piles of bricks on their heads! I didn't see so many electric devices. Their ladders are mostly built from bamboo or other big branches. Many many small shops and shacks on the side of the road and roaming dogs, cows and sheep.

I have yet to see animals fenced in- apart from a few chickens I saw in a cage on the side of the road for sale, and a few puppies. Instead there are sheep herders and cow herders that herd their animals around town. The cows sleep in parking lots and highways, but herds of goats or sheep are the main reason for traffic jams. Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of roadkill. Indians are very good at swerving their way through traffic and all sorts of obstacles!
It reminded me of a 'where is waldo' page. So much going on! And the land has a great atmosphere! Beautiful collages on the stone walls, depicting gods, goddesses beautiful valleys and people. The Tropic scenery and climate of the area is very comfortable, because of the monsoon season, there is a nice breeze and perfect temperature. The landscape is beautiful with the palm trees, rocky hills and green mountains. The smells however can be very strong passing through the towns, can't quite describe them as they are very new to me. Some birds here sound very similar to monkeys! I've been tricked a few times in thinking that there must be monkeys outside of my window! But I have been told that they are ground birds, I just have yet to see one.
As for my work here, we are going to a consultancy project tomorrow, where I will be taking notes for the consultants. They will be assessing the land for the layout.

So far things are great. Happy to be here.

Just quickly..

So internet connection is less available than I was thinking it would be, but it seems to be working to just save them to my computer, and then I'll post them when I can.  I'll aim to do that atleast weekly.   
So far, I wrote about my experiences and impressions of India because everything has been so new and different!

For those who are more interested in seeing what I am doing in regards to permaculture and my work here, I am going to try to label either the days or the paragraphs,as such, so look for a label with a project title.
I'll try to get better at keeping my experiences/impressions of India and my work here separate, but especially for this first week they've been almost inseparable. Maybe in a couple of weeks I'll be better at separating the two, but until then,
Happy readings :)