Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Letter from India: Generosity

Eric and I are having a good time in India. We're staying at this organization called Avani, which is in Northern India near the Nepal border. The goal of that organization is to bring electricity to remote villages and teach them skills that will enable them to make money, so they install a lot of solar panels and solar heaters all around the area.

We've been looking at the different projects that this organization is working on, and trying to see where we can help. Yesterday it was pretty cool; we went to this tiny little village that is only accessible by foot. We had to drive 1/2 hr up this rugged jeep road then hike for 5 miles through the woods. That's probably the most remote place I've ever been to. We spent the night there and got to walk around taking pictures and taking notes about how people live. I felt like I was in a different universe, it was like something out of National Geographic. People's houses are made almost completely from rock and even the roof is slate.

The people all dress in these colorful traditional clothes and the women wear all this elaborate gold jewelry. Most older people have about two or three teeth. One lady looked like she was about a hundred years old but she was actually only about 50. Everyone stares at us when we walk by, and all the kids in the village come out to look. I think us coming into town is the most amazing spectacle that people see in the course of the month.

Even though everyone stares they're all really nice and generous. We stopped for a little while near one house for a meeting. Gradually about 30 people showed up, mostly women and little kids. They all wanted to have their pictures taken and were amazed by cameras. We made some paper airplanes for them. Eric juggled and they were amazed. The family looked so poor. The house was falling down and everyone was really thin, but everyone seemed happy. The kids were really cheerful and the dad came out and offered us something to eat. His family then prepared this extensive meal for us with all kinds of little treats and desserts. I bet that meal was probably a few days worth of the family's income.

They gave us more food than they usually eat in a couple days. And they brought out their finest silverware and cups just for us. It was just so humbling for a family that's so poor, with so little food of their own, for them to offer complete strangers this amazing feast. I felt bad taking food from them but they were so insistent and I think us eating the food made them happy. I can't get over how generous they were.

Letter from India: Weaving/ Himalayas

They have this big program that Mom would be interested in where they teach women how to weave. They’ve got these looms that look a lot like Mom's that the women work on for about 8 hours a day. They weave stuff from Tibetan sheep wool. Mom, it's cool because they have this little launcher for the boat to make it rocket through the threads from one side to the other. I took some videos so you can see it in action. It's cool because from your loom I already know a lot about how it works and I was impressing people with my explanation. I think you would be in heaven here!

It's in a really awesome location; it's on a hillside with an awesome view of the Himalayas about 30 miles away. You can even see this mountain called Nanda Devi which is the tallest one in India. It's been perfectly clear and sunny without any wind every day so you can see the mountains whenever you look up. I'd really like to hike near them but it'd be about a 3 hr taxi ride because the roads are so rough. To get to this place here we had to take an 8hr taxi from a train station in Kathgodam. To get to Kathgodam we had to take an overnight train from Delhi that was very interesting. The Nepal border is only about 30 miles away but it would also take too long to drive to unfortunately.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Public Service Trip to India 2010

Mit Public Service Grantees

Matthew Gilbertson (G, Course 2)
Ranikhent and Roorkee, India — Matthew will spend IAP working through the MIT Global Village Project to help reduce urban pollution created by two and three-wheeled motorcycles in India. Much of David's work will require investigative research and he plans to connect with the local drivers and mechanics to better understand their maintenance processes. Matthew and his team plan to reach out to local contacts for assistance with the project as well.