Monday, 27 June 2011

Shri Guru Sankalpam (Parents Association for the Mentally Handicapped Persons)

We visited a school for mentally handicapped people.  It was an awesome experience.  We were able to meet the people there and see how the school runs.  The school is mostly run by parents and we were very impressed with how much they have done.  They are really invested in this program and the atmosphere at the school so awesome.  Just to recap, the principal of this school is the woman who helped us when we got lost and that is how we found out about the school. 

During the school day they have a time set aside for vocational training where they teach them certain skills.  Some of the things they teach are candle making, incense making, packaging, and making ego friendly bags.  They then sell some of the items to make a bit of money for the school.  

The women picture here lost her own son to an accident and she now comes to the school to volunteer teach everyday.  

The State Bank of India has been very helpful in donating machines for the children to use.  They have a computer and a few other machines for vocational training.  As you can see they are quite tight on space though.

Some of the students working on making the incense sticks.  

 After attending the school for some time, the man in the blue shirt was able to get his own apartment and he walks to the school everyday by himself.  

In this room they are working on making some wall hanging pouches for storage.  

 Another machine donated by the State Bank of India.  They bank is able to donate equipment but they cannot do any money donations.  

The pouches they make.   

 A class room with some younger students.  

This woman is 45 years old and has been coming to the school for a long time.  She is so happy and couldn't stop giggling at us.  

These girls are working on packaging some food items as well as soap.  

They were also very happy.  

The kitchen where they eat and learn about food preparation.  

What great skills for them to learn.  

This little boy tends to run away so his father had his phone number tattooed on his arm.  He went missing for about two weeks more then once, but luckily they were able to get him back which can be quite the feat in India.  

The daily schedule

This guy was really fun he was totally making everyone laugh.  

The teachers/volunteers/parents who run the school.  

Washing hands before lunch

The school bus driver is a parent who picks up all the children everyday for school and drops them off at the end of the day.  

The main hurdle for the school is funding.  Currently the principal goes through the city searching for individuals who would be willing to fund the students for one year of school.  After the visit the HELP International team talked about setting up an internet based donation system where donors can view a profile of each student and choose a student to sponsor.  It costs 6,000 rupees for a child to go to school for one year, that is the equivalent of about 135 US dollars.  There are not that many children at the school so we believe if we can get every child sponsored it would take a lot of stress of the school.  Right now they are having a hard time making the rent payment on the building amongst other bills.  The parents of the children give as much as they can but they are all from very poor circumstances.  We will be visiting the school again later this week to propose the idea of the sponsorship program.  

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Goa, India Trip

Candolim Beach right by our hotel.  They told us we were going during the off season but we didn't realize that a lot of stuff was closed including the beach.  We had a lot of fun walking along the beach but it is not that fun to swim during high tide time.  The water looked kind of muddy anyways.  There are normally a lot of shops along the beach but those were also closed for the off season.  

Our hotel.  It had a lot of Portuguese stained glass.  

The lobby.  Those poor guys at the front desk saw a lot of us when we didn't know where to go and how to get there.  

The hotel was really quaint.  

This is a bad picture of a really cool frog.  I saw a couple of these but I didn't want to get too close, it could be poisonous!  

Ship wreck.  I have no idea what went wrong but it is cool I guess.  

If you look closely you will see the wall of a Portuguese fort.  We really wanted to visit the fort and it seemed walkably close to our hotel so we started walking to save some money on a taxi.  

Then we encountered some rocks.  There were some stairs up to a resort just before the rocks.  We figured we would just pass through the resort instead of try and brave the rocks.  

The beach was mostly pretty clean for India but there were some gross parts as you can see.  

At the top of the stairs we got to a gate with a big lock but easy enough to climb over.  Then the security guard came over and he was not going to let us in, so... we had decided to brave the rocks.  

It got a little sketchy though.  So we turned back and went around a different way and ended up having the get a ride to the fort the traditional way.  We should have thought it out a little more though before trying to just walk up to a fort and get in.  They call if a fort for a reason I guess.  

View from the top of the fort.  The Portuguese ruled the Goa, India for many years.  The town is a very interesting mix of Portuguese and Indian.  There are a lot of Buddhas, Hindi gods and crosses all in one place.  

Inside the fort and the big white light house.  It was still running until the 1970's.  

We made some friends at the fort. 

The grass was really green and pretty. 

Not super flattering but this gives you a good idea of how hot and humid it was.  The day before we left it was 95% humidity, I didn't even know that was possible.  

It had a pretty cool mote.  

We got our friends to take a "snap" of us.  We had to trade them for some "snaps" with us though.  

The sign about the fort that I skimmed and directly behind the sign is another tourist.  I didn't talk to her but she is probably from the UK.  There are apparently a lot of UK visitors because they all though we were from the UK.  

We found a short cut down the hill through the vegetation.  

Some of the houses here are beautiful.  It was very different from other parts of India.  Many of these houses would we really nice for the US.  

The Lemon Tree Hotel.  Boy was I happy to see my home away from home, the swimming pool.  I have been dying to go swimming since I have been here.  

They had a pretty cool swim up bar where we ordered lunch and drinks.  The guy in the lower left corner can't swim, so he just hung out in that tube.  I thought he was kidding when he said he couldn't swim, but when he was impressed with Lexi's handstand on in the pool we figured he was serious.  He told us some pretty funny stories of when he worked for Direct TV calling people in the US.  He had to make up an american name so that they wouldn't hang up on him.  It was interesting to hear the story from the other side.  We were cracking up when he demonstrated his american accent.  

This is the view from a place where we had dinner one night.  

Lexi and Ale at dinner.

I went all out and ordered the garlic crab since we were on the beach .  It was really good too!  

They even had some live entertainment including the indian stylings of one of my favorite George Michael songs "Careless Whisper"  haha 

Portuguese cathedral

 A lot of farming in the area. 

The first Hindi temple we visited.  We went inside and sat down on the floor and watched everyone.  It was pretty interesting to see people making offerings and laying on the ground in front of the god statue. An all around good experience I'd say. 

We visited a spice plantation.  

They had a book of all the different spices and what they will cure including but not limited to diabetes, stress, infections of all sorts, nausea, nervous disorders, sleeplessness, and many other issues.  I thought of a spice for just about everyone I know.  

Bitter nut palm.  Many people here namely the auto drivers chew on this nut.  It is like a chewing tobacco type thing.

The flower of paradise, not to be confused with the bird of paradise flower (I think the bird of paradise is one of Granny Leta's favorites?).  

The "scratch-n-sniff"  cinnamon tree

Pineapple plants, this may clear up some confusion about pineapples growing on trees.

Our guide.

A very mini very hot pepper and behind it are aloe vera plants.  We asked the hotel people where we could get some aloe vera jell for our sun burns and they looked as us like we were crazy.  I just Indians don't get sun burned very often.  

Monkey tail tree

It is tradition at the end of a spice plantation tour to get some cold water and spices poured down your back to relax the spine.  

They served us a tasty lunch.  

It rained on and off the whole time.  It rains really hard though!

Me and a water buffalo just chillin.  

These little caterpillar things were all over (I just assume that everything is poisonous)  

Babo the elephant doing his "salute" trick.  

He is 35 years old but has been with the spice plantation for 10 years.  

He speaks Hindi.  

The driver/trainer says he never gets mad.  

He likes to eat bananas and prefers them two at a time.  He also eats a certain kind of palm leaves and some other fruits.  

I was planning on pealing all of the bananas for him but the trainer laughed at me and said he likes them with the skin on so I guess that saved me some work.  

The church at the top of a hill in Old Goa

The view of Old Goa from the top of the hill.  

It was weird to see a cross amongst so many Hindi gods and Buddha statues.  

The back of the church.

The st. Cajetan cathedral

The cool building next to the church.

St. Cajetan in the garden

St. Cajetan reading on the wall.  

The alter, the carving was amazing.  

They had a bat problem and it smelled like it (those are bats hanging from the alter).  

The ceiling is really pretty 

This looks kind of creepy.  I don't know what exactly it is seeing that I can't read it.  I tried to ask the security guard there but he didn't know how to tell me so if you can read this let me know.  

An ancient cathedral.  These weren't any signs about this one so that's all I've got.  Very cool looking though.  

Exotic stink bug

This is at the airport, I just thought it was ironic.  

Lexi wearing and India shirt at the airport.