India October 2006

Tuesday October 10, 2006

We left Rochester at 11:30 this morning and arrived in New York City at Kenedy Airport at about 13:00. We proceeded to the International terminal. We had lunch at Sam Adam's Ny. We are now sitting in the gate waiting for the plane.

Wednesday October 11, 2006

Today we arrived in London, and we had to go around Robinhood's barn again. They made us get off the plane, walk a mile, then wait for forty minutes after going through security again. At least this time I didn't drop my laptop. We're packed in tight this flight to Mumbai via Delhi. All well.

Thursday October 12, 2006

Arrived in Chennai at 05-00. Picked up by cab at airport and were . driven to St. Thomas Retreat House. Saw the nuns and rest of the staff. They seemed glad to see us. Rested most of the day.

Met Ann Moideen and Professor Amalraj for lunch and confirmed plans for the upcoming workshop.

Pat and I went up again to St. Thomas Church but we didn't stay long. It was sunset and darkening and so we came down, had dinner and then went to bed.

Friday October 13, 2006

Today, was quite interesting. We had another ceremony. Then we tried to encourage the college kids to have a discussion, but it is difficult. They do not do things the way that we do. They are not used to the seminar way of teaching.

We wanted to train those who were trainers, but we couldn't. We had beginners. So, we had to revamp our plans again. We ended up taking small groups of students and practicing keyboarding with them.

We met with a Prof Vijay who teaches English. Prof Vijay is blind. He teaches the old fashioned way. He lectures to the students then has readers to help him correct papers. While I was working with the students in the computer lab. Pat and Ann had a discussion with him. Pat said that he told them that readers are so easily obtained, they are just used to having them. It is the way they do things.

Prof Vijay was quite skeptical about getting the students to use computers. He couldn't really see how students could be encouraged to admit the efficacy of computer training.

"They need to be pushed," he said. "If the administration of the college would mandate computer skills training for the blind students, that would be the way to force them into the modern age."

After the workshop, we went again to the Gymkana club with Mr. Rajan. It was very nice. This time, there was a movie shown while we were eating. They show movies once a month for the kids. It was fun to eat dinner while we sat on the lawn watching the movie.

Saturday October 14, 2006

Today went better with the college kids at Chennai. We divided the group into two parts. I took the most advanced students. There were about five of them. They all had various questions and needs. The rest of the students were taken by Ann and Pat to another computer lab where they practiced keyboarding. This worked very well.

Vikas was their spokesman again as well as Vijay the Professor. Prof Amalraj also helped by suggesting the use of an unused computer lab which had older computers in it.

Prof. Vijay was not sure that he wanted to learn the computer. He was quite skeptical. However, the more I pointed out to him that he could do his work independently with a computer, the more it appealed. By the end of the day, he was hooked. He was asking for email.

That night we went out to dinner with Prof. Amalraj. That was nice. The meal was amazingly inexpensive.

Sunday October 15, 2006

We continued by teaching the beginners for the morning at Loyola College. This was followed by a valedictory ceremony. It was very nice. They were most appreciative of everything we had done. I believe that they will continue the program now that they can see how it can benefit the students.

That afternoon, we were met by Steven Pankras, Br. Louis' nephew, and two dutchmen who were doing their practicum in physiotherapy at Dharmapuri. We proceeded to drive by car to Dharmapuri. It was a good way to see the countryside. We got there early evening, after five hours of travel time.

WHOOPS!! When we arrived, I did one of the more stupid things I've done in a long time. Pat was showing me how to use an eastern toilet. Well, I squatted down and reached for something to help me rise. I chose a pipe. It wasn't very strong. Its connector broke spewing water all over the place. I was so mortified! Finally, that day was over and we retired to bed.

Monday October 16, 2006

This was a good day. We traveled to the French colony of Pundicherry. We were joined by the two young men from Holland, Dolf and Ruud. They were great! They are very friendly and they seemed to enjoy themselves on the way.

We had adventures on the way including a political demonstration. We were driving down the road when suddenly there were all these people just standing and sitting in the middle of the road. They wouldn't let us pass. They would only let two wheeled traffic go through. We had to go a long way around. Apparently, the local politician had promised to sign a bill into law and had not done so. All the people were protesting this inaction. They wanted that bill signed.

Once we got to Pundicherry, it was quite nice. We had dinner in a good hotel. Then we went to the beach where we saw the sunset and watched a Hindu funeral. It was interesting to hear the music. There were no women mourners there at all, just men. There was one woman, priestess, who conducted the ceremony. Pat took pictures of the thing. I was upset until I discovered the family hadn't minded. Indeed, they asked her to take pictures.

Then we drove by Mahatma Gandhi's statue. It was all lit up and beautiful. Afterwards, we returned to Dharmapuri.

Tuesday October 17, 2006

This morning there was a dedication ceremony for the pig farm at Dharmapuri, and the goat farm at the leper colony. All the kids were present at the dedication for the piggery. There were flags and pictures taken.

At the leper colony, the ceremony was more extensive. There were speeches by the Director of the International Lepracy Foundation, by Ann Moideen and by Br. Louis. All the donators including me and Pat were given shawls.

After lunch, we journeyed to Bangalore. The place where we are staying is called Jyothi Seva School. It is run by an order of Franciscan nuns from Poland. Their order is dedicated to serving the needs of the blind. They have sixty-four pupils in the school, all blind, ranging in age from four to twenty-one.

The room we have here is beautiful. There is one big room with a table and chairs. There is a lace table cloth on the table. It looks very European. Sr. Adela and her nuns are wonderful. They are so thoughtful.

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Today we started the classes for the teachers and the college students. I discovered that the teachers needed keyboarding practice. They do not know a lot about computers, except for one or two. So we started on keyboarding. They are all eager to learn.

Next, the college kids came, along with a few kids from the school. They knew more but had questions. We spent the afternoon answering their questions and finding out just what they knew.

After the afternoon class, we attended the most wonderful performance by the children at Jyothi Seva. They sang in English and in Hindi. They did some traditional hindu dancing. Then, they performed a skit of Snow White. It was wonderful. I nearly died laughing! I can still hear The Wicked Step-Mother saying, "Snow White, I hate her! I will kill her!"

We went out with Ann to the Kashmerey shop. The traffic was horrendous in Bangalore! It took an hour to go a mile! The noise of horns and people was deafening! We intended to go out to dinner, but because of the traffic, we never did. So we got dinner late in our room. We ordered out, and we brought the food back with us.

Thursday October 19, 2006

I taught my classes and gave demos of the embosser which was working at least in part. Unfortunately, the translation software got damaged when I placed it on the CD. So it was not working.

After classes, I made a visit to Monika's house. She invited me for tea. I got to see her little apartment where she lives. She gave me the full tour, and then we spent some time just chatting. It was great!

Friday October 20, 2006

The classes continued. We have made great progress with the teachers. They are beginning to see how they can use the computers to make their teaching and their lives easier. That evening, we listened in on a rehearsal of the choir. It was a joy to watch these young, talented people learning.

Saturday October 21, 2006

We had classes with the teachers in the morning. Then, we walked a couple of blocks up to another church where they were having a retreat. There was a priest from Kerala who spoke to the crowds. He had a translator with him who translated into Canatica for the folks. It was a real old fashioned camp meeting complete with "praise The Lords" and "Halleluias"! In fact, those were the only words which Pat and I could understand. We staid about an hour.

During the late afternoon, we flew from Bangalore to Cochin. The flight was uneventful. When we arrived, we discovered that the arrangements for our stay had to be changed. Ann had rented a villa for the weekend, but when she came there to inspect it, she found that it was an hour and a half out of the city on top of a mountain. In addition, there was no hot water. So she found us an hotel in the center of Cochin which was owned by one of her friends. He gave us rooms for half price. It was wonderful, air conditioning, tv and a pool! We really fell on our feet there!

Sunday October 22, 2006

We went shopping at the department store where we had bought my salwars in January. I bought four salwars this time because they were only $15.00 a piece. Besides, they look well on me, and that's saying something, given my figure. I found a really nice black one. I'm really pleased with it.

In the afternoon, we went for a full body massage. Cochin is famous for this type of thing. It is part of the Ayervedic medicine that is practiced in this region of India. It was quite an experience. I will spare the reader details except to say that I felt very much like a queen or a princess. I was attended by body servants for the first time in my life! It was an unique and pleasurable experience.

Monday October 23, 2006

We started out the morning with sight seeing. We were able to see the huge nets used for fishing at the harbor. They are large nets strung on bamboo.

We spent time at the old synagogue. It was beautiful. The tile floor was exquisite.

We met our colleague Julia Roscamp for dinner and started "wining". The White Fort Hotel where we stayed is a wonderful hotel! It has all the amenities one could wish except a bar. They don't serve liquor because the hotel is run by a Moslem family. So, since we wanted a little wine before dinner, Ann proceeded to ask the bellboy to go outside the hotel and buy us a bottle of wine. The bellboy left and returned some twenty minutes later with a bottle.

"M'am, I am sorry, I do not have an opener," says the bellboy.

Needless to say, we didn't either because of all the security regs now in the airports. So Ann says to the bellboy, "Can we have a knife, please so we can open the wine?"

The bellboy returned with a butter knife! Ann sent him away again and he returned with a butcher knife, a huge one!

We started laughing and we couldn't stop. We figured that it was a lost cause, so we went down to dinner sans our wine.

While we were at table, the bellboy returned to say that he had opened the wine. "Where is it?" Ann asked.

"Oh M'am, I cannot bring it into the dining room. It is not allowed! It is at reception."

So, we finished our dinner and picked up our red wine which had been breathing at reception and returned to our room where we drank our long awaited aperitif.

Tuesday October 24, 2006, a day of rest

Today we spent in the hotel room and rested. We didn't even go to the pool because we couldn't dry our suits. We lazed and lazed. We watched tv. We read books. We had room service. We just simply vegged. It was wonderful!

In the early evening, we were picked up by our former driver Salim and taken to the airport where we took the plane back to Bangalore and the Jyothi Seva School.

Wednesday October 25, 2006

Today I taught again at the school. They are all so appreciative. It is truly a pleasure to work with these people.

That evening, we went to an Indian Rite Mass. It was quite different from anything I'm accustomed to. The music was a harmonium. The song was more chant than song. It was all in Canataca or sanskrit. The mass itself was in English. There was a great deal of incense and ceremony throughout the whole service. It was beautiful.

After the Mass, Sr. Adela took me up to the altar and showed me all the things that were there. The altar is very low to the ground. It reminded me of a coffee table. The priest sits on a little pillow in front of the altar. Everything is surrounded with flowers. The Bible had a garland of flowers around it.

Thursday October 26, 2006

I taught in the morning. They were all appreciative and thanked us many times. During the afternoon, Pat and I rested. Several people came to visit bringing gifts. They really didn't have to do that, but we received some very nice things.

In the late afternoon, we met Ann and went to see Stany and Daisy. Daisy gave us tea. It was great to see her again.

Our last event was a dinner hosted by some of Ann's friends from the rotary. We had an awful time getting to the hotel. The driver didn't know where he was going, and he kept asking directions every five minutes. Our hosts finally drove out to meet us and escort us back to the hotel. The dinner was very nice, although we had to leave for the airport immediately afterward. It was nice to be able to put voices and faces to names which Ann had mentioned so often.

We got to the airport on time, and flew home without incident except that Pat and I both conked out on the flight from New York to Rochester. We just sat down in our seats and boom! We never woke up till we were almost ready to land.

It was a great trip productive and fun too.

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