Friday, August 8, 2008

Last Day - Running in the monsoon rains

August 8, 2008, Delhi, India, (Lotus Temple, India Gate). At 8-08-08, on 08-08-08 we were in the lobby so I took a picture where we were to record this time. Visited the Lotus Temple in an extreme monsoon rain. The temple is a fabulous architectural wonder. We got to go inside where no pictures were allowed and you have to take your shoes off. The white marble floors were very warm. The temple is in a large open space with large sweeping lawns and gardens. Even though we had umbrellas, we got soaked to the bones.
I went out shopping at the last minute with some one from my group. We went to the Khan Market, which is only about a mile from the hotel. It is a mixture of upscale, new, western stores (Nike, Levi, etc.) with new Indian stores (Fab India) and then small local vendors (jewelry, fruit, restaurants). It is funny how I know to call ahead to see if its open (if it rains hard some places open later in the morning), can negotiate a cab to get there and know how many ruppees it should take. When we first got to Delhi the rickshaw drivers had there way with us. They get paid to take tourists to their friends shops. So they take you somewhere and tell you Kan Market closed, take you to a different market all together and hope you won't notice and my favorite, "I take you to Khan Market II". We are in and out in 20 minutes and know that we parked in the free zone so we don't have to pay the person who is collecting money for parking in the free zone. I enjoyed the learning curve and realized that since I am white, I can probably easily be separated from my ruppes.
I had a couple hours to kill so rather than go to the new Bollywood release, "Singh is King", I decided to go for a run in the monsoon rains. The rains are so warm and I really enjoy running in the rain. After getting started from the hotel in the wrong direction, I finally made it to Indian Gate, a large memorial. This was the first place I visited, the first morning in India. I wanted to see how it was the second time around. I think since I was in my running gear the vendors were not nearly as aggressive as my first visit. It also may be because I wasn't walking around eyes wide open like the first time and this time I looked like I knew what I was doing. People looked at me like I was a crazy person running in the rain but they all had no coats on and were soaked. I ended up running to the Presidential palace opposite Indian Gate. I ended up being out for an hour and twenty minutes. Off to the farewell dinner and airport. We don't fly out untill 2:25 am but we have to get to the airport early for customs. It has been a fun learning expeience.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Begin the Journey Home

August 8, 2008, Delhi, India. (Taj Mahal in inlaid stone). We arrived at the Taj Mahal Hotel. A world class facility. We spent the day at the USEFI office listening to lectures and for a last debrief session. Tomorrow is are final banquet and then off to the air port.
I grabbed a cab at 1:30 and drove out to the school I visited 4 weeks ago.The cab got stuck in traffic and we got lost. I didn't even break a sweat or bothered that I was late as I am on, "Indian Time". I wanted to deliver a gift to my teacher, pick up some teaching material she left me and to sit around and talk to teachers and students. I learned so much sitting in the faculty lounge talking education, politics and anything teachers wanted to discuss. I visited two classrooms and talked with students. The kids in India are just like kids in America, they have their hopes and dreams and visions for the future. The ride back was much the same as you stair out the windows and watch India pass you buy. I saw an elephant in South Delhi and that is rare. I was told the elephants are used for special occasions such as weddings. Tonight the Fulbright group is having our own going away party. Off to the airport late tommorrow. All is well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Taj Mahal

August 6, 2008, Agra, India. (Taj Mahal). We left the hotel at 5:30 AM just to see the Taj. It is so large from what I have seen in pictures. It was really fantastic and really special. What I enjoyed the most was the intricate details of the inlaid stones. To really understand the details of the Taj, one must go to a local stone shop and see how long it takes to make a 1200 piece inlay design. It takes two weeks to do a one foot by one foot design. Now, imagine this art work is all over the Taj Mahal. I highly recommend visitng the golden triangle (Dehli, Jaipur, Agra, and Dehli). It is a fabulous trip.
We visited the fort Itmat-ud-Daula. This is another red fort put up by a moghal’s. The red forts are made of red sandstone and are pretty spectacular. I finally have come to peace with the beggars and people hawking wares at the forts and monuments. I learned how to politely say “No” and then give a wave of the hand. Some people still really stress over the high pressure sales and the crippled people begging for money. I don’t stress over it. I remember my first day in Delhi and how visiting an over crowded street with vendors, poor people, dogs, cows and chaos every where. caused me sensory overload for a brief period of time (thank you McDonalds for twenty minutes of peaceful regrouping time). I want to go back to the same street to visit the Jain temple to see how I would handle it the second time around.
We are now at the fabulous Taj Mahal, Delhi hotel. An outstanding five star hotel that is incredible in service and food. I highly recommend this hotel. After tomorrow’s series of lectures we have a chance to meet with our partner teachers. The next day is our final farewell dinner and I am off to Seattle, Washington. I hope that I get at least one more posting in before I return. I have traveled with a great group of people and with a great organization. This has been a learning experience of a life time. I am excited to compare the grade level standards of India to the grade level standards in my district.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Travel Pictures

August 5, 2008, Tuesday, Travel day from Jaipur to Agra. (travel pictures). What a day of travel. Stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour. Travel for the poor folk here is usually in a large truck with everyone jammed in, standing and some people standing on the back. of the truck. The roads are so congested that our half full air conditioned bus is only inches away from a truck with over 20 people standing and even hanging off of the truck. We spent many hours waving and taking pictures of them.
I saw so many different pictures staring out the window today. We came across a big industrial accident where a large beam (8 foot high) fell off its pedestal and crushed some workers. There were ambulances and police everywhere. What was interesting was this was a very rural area and there were over 1000 people looking on. The word got out and there were people streaming in from all over. We saw dogs chasing monkeys, and animals all over the road. In India there is always something to see.
Stopped on the way to Agra to visit the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which is a world heritage site. We ate lunch at an old palace that was converted to a hotel. The Laxmi Palace used to be the palace of a rich prince. You can now rent out the suite for $100 US. We visited another fort and then off to Agra. We finally made it to Agra to the luxurious hotel Mughal Sheraton. I highly recommend it as it is only a 7 minute drive to the Taj Hahal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Riding Elephants

August 3, 2008, Jaipur (city), Rajasthan (state) India (country). We are now in what is called the golden triangle of India. Delhi, Jaipur and Agra make up the golden triangle that was once full of wealthy moguls. There are many forts and walls built here around the 15th and 16th century to keep out invaders. There are many fabulous palaces. The famous wool and silk Rajasthan rugs are also made here. This area is also known for dying material, precious and no precious stones, and the famous blue pottery of Jaipur. This town is full of tourist that includes both natives and foreigners. This is a place for newly weds and people with anniversaries in India will stay. Ever stop has some hard core peddler trying to sell you something. I have gotten used to it and it doesn't bother me any more. The crippled beggars still bother me. We went to the town center and checked out the old part of the city which is completely surrounded by a fort and is where the current ruler’s palace is. We then went out to the Amer Fort built in 16th century. It was awesome, as we got to ride up to the fort via an elephant ride. The fort is all red sandstone and white marble. This is the best preserved medieval bastion. It is highlighted with great paintings, carvings and lots of small mirror art work on the walls. The elephant ride was very interesting. I went shopping with three other males for a Rajasthan rug. Shopping with men for rugs is really different than woman. If was actually a fun experience. We were all looking for a 3 X 4 rug that would be a family heirloom. The hand made rugs are very different from the ones made on a machine. The wool was the least expensive and the silk ones were much more expensive. I purchased a rug after looking at over 50. It was actually fun and I hope my family enjoys the one I purchased. Our days in India are now coming to a close with only five days left. Tomorrow back to the more serious part of our trip, visiting schools.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Last Train to Jaipur

August 2, 2008, Jaipur, India. (train picture and hotel picture)What a long and eventful day. The thing about traveling in India is there is always something new and exciting just around the corner. Today was no different. Loading on the over night train was very stressful. Our handler, Azhar, had to split us up into two different cars. Five in one and the rest in the other car. Azahra has been great at dealing with our idiosyncrasies but he couldn’t understand why we can not trust the porters to get our luggage into the correct cars. For myself, I have to many nonreplacable items worth a considerable amount in my suit case so I want to keep it very close. As we separate into our two groups, it becomes a mad rush. The Americans are packing big American Tourist luggage and the natives travel with purses and reading material. One person in our group has this huge suit case that will not fit anywhere. We are in second class, which means there are six people in each birth with three bunks on each wall. Across the aisle are two bunks. Are group of five are spread out and one of the porters has all are tickets. He puts are luggage in the wrong bay, in the mean time there is pushing and shoving going on as we have so much luggage with no place to put it. We eventually figured it out with the help of friendly natives. We made up our beds around 9:00 and jumped in our bunks. I didn’t get much sleep but it was very interesting. My bunk mate made friends with a little 18 month old and that was fun for awhile. I spent a long time writing in my journal about one of my favorite topics, men peeing and crapping in public. I have some goods stories about this subject. Got in to the hotel around 6:00 am, showered, ate and joined a group for a walk around the neighbor hood. Stumbled upon some reseraunt workers playing crickette with a real cricket bat and they let us join in. It was really fun. On our walk we stopped to check out the Rajmahal Palace. This was the current king’s palace before he built the city palace. We got a tour of the place and visited the suite were Princess Diana and Prince Charles stayed. It was very large and cool. The cost to rent the suite is $100 US dollars. I would highly recommend this out of the way, quite place. Now a confession. The whole trip we have been staying in five star hotels and most are of the Taj chain. Many hotels in this area were palaces at one time that families couldn’t keep up and they get turned into hotels. We are staying at the fabulous Jai Mahal Palace. It is on over 20 acres, huge swimming pool, quarter mile out door track, and everything is in marble. It is fascinating and cool. They do take really good care of us and the food is fabulous. They cater to Indian cuisine with lots of fresh fruit and juices. They also have everything American. The bath tubs are these special deep bath tubs I have never seen before. This hotel is full of European tourists and people from all over with families. In all the hotels we have stayed, this has had the most tourists. We went on the tour of the city visiting the largest sun dial in the world built over 200 years ago. We saw all kinds of clothing dye processes and went to a sweat shop that makes printed sari’s using block stamp printing method. It was in an industrial part of town and the people and things we saw would take to long time to describe such as the crippled kids, the chemical dyes in the sewer, pigs rooting through garbage piles and animals everywhere. In all this chaos is a bright cheery school with kids in uniform. That is the typical contrast of India. The dying industry employs over 30,000 people locally and is subsidized by the government. We saw some real sweat shops. If only people around the world could see where their clothes are made, they might purchase differently. As usually, an incredible day with so much going on every where you look.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Meeting India's Top Math Teacher

August 1, 2008, Ahmedabad, India (Professor R A. Rao), Today was a late start day as we had to pack for the overnight train to Jaipur. We will arrive in Jaipur at four in the morning. We went to the Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science center today. It was the nicest science center I have seen in India so far. They work with training teachers how to teach math and science as well as working with students. They even have started working with teachers in rural India. India’s leading mathematician, Professor R. A. Rao, developed the math lab at the center. He is over 90 and still shows up to work in the lab. He stopped by for a visit and talked to us for about 20minutes. We were able to get a group photo. India is taking the work from this math lab and trying to move the math lab ideas out into the rural schools. The lab is all about math manipulatives. They have a website to order math manipulatives and a fraction of the cost in America. I was fascinated with how easy they explain math using their manipulatives. Dr. Rao was an interesting person to talk to as he had much to say about the state of mathematics in India. Off to lunch in the hotel and then to the train.