Sunday, August 7, 2011


It’s hard to describe my feelings at the moment. In little over 24 hours I will be leaving Barli. This place has been home for the past 6 weeks. It has been a place of contradictions. Barli has been my safe haven and felt like a prison. It is a place where I’ve experienced loving relationships and, unfortunately, frustrating relationships. I’ve learned many things here and it has definitely tested my sanity and my patience. I will miss Barli, not necessarily the actual place, but I will be missing the trainees and the staff. The other day, after having told one of my favorite trainees that I would be leaving on Tuesday, she looked at me and said, “No. You no go. Stay. I cry if you go. I miss you Raquel.” This is what some of the other trainees and staff have been telling me. I am going to truly miss them. I will miss my morning conversations with the cooks, Sagri and Dagri. Every morning I would go to my comfort spot, the kitchen, be greeted by Sagri with a hug asking if I was hungry or sleepy and have my outfit inspected and fixed by Dagri while she laughed at my disheveled look. I’ll miss making Dagri’s baby daughter Saloni laugh. I will miss Dagri’s sister-in-law, a 10 year old, tell me her name repetitively saying “San-geee-ta”, until I pronounced it sufficiently. I’ll miss Chandalmai’s (the Batik lady) infectious laugh, Primela’s help with Moti (jewelry beading), Bharat and his lovely family, and even little Khusi. I’ll miss the facilitators Ramila, Savanti, Ranu, Rekha, and Lakshmi. Saying goodbye is not easy, especially when I know that it will truly be goodbye.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Thoughts

Now that I am sick and have time to blog, I'll get caught up on things i've meant to say a while ago!

Well, I have had many interesting conversations with Indian girls my age who are looking to western ideas on life. They feel that India is too backwards when it comes to women, and support new thoughts.

One thought is on cohabitation. The night before the U.P. (uttar pradesh) we had a long conversation about boys, marriage, and our different cultures. They were shocked to find out that I am currently with my second boyfriend. lol. To them, if you have a boyfriend, that means your marrying him. However, after talking more, I found out that one thought that it made more sense to try cohabitation before getting married. She even said that if she lived in the U.S., she would probably try cohabitation. However, because she's in India, and wants to make her parents proud, she'll marry whomever they choose. She's very lucky that her parents hold her education very high, because they told her not to worry about guys until she's completely done with school. This is a huge contrast to the many trainees here who were married at the young age of 14 or 16.

Another thought came from a nice stranger I met at Patal Pani. She told me that she thought a lot of India's customs were ridiculous. She complained that the men always wanted women to dress in traditional clothes while they wore western outfits. She said she doesn't like to listen to the men in her family when they tell her to change out of her jeans and tshirt into a salwar kamise. She also says that we are lucky to be allowed to travel alone. If she wanted to go anywhere, she would have to get the permission of her whole entire family, including older brothers. Even then, she would not be allowed to travel without an "escort" who is usually her younger brother. She said she wants this to change in India, and that she wants to be as free as us western girls.

Just two interesting encounters I had!

Good Reading

I am reading this really good book which I feel everyone should read. Its about women's issues worldwide. I think its an amazing book:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

By: Nicholas D. Krstof and Sheryl WuDunn

Check it out!

Sick in India

So, I had a feeling this would happen eventually. I mean, I have had numerous stomach issues while here, but its official, I am sick in India. I'm not exactly sure what I have but the symptoms are:
  • really bad body aches (like it hurts just to squeeze my arm or even hurts a little to type)
  • a massive headache
  • no chills, but excessive sweating (more than usual since i'm always sweating here haha)
  • heavy, sore eyes (if that makes sense)
  • lastly, a sore throat
Well, if anyone has a clue to what type of sickness that is, that would be awesome. Today will be the second day i'll be in bed sick from work. I can stand all of the symptoms but the body aches. They're really getting to me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

List of Frustrations

So, here is one more frustration post. I am really trying to make this blog about the positives, but I need this to be posted and heard somewhere, even if it doesn't make much of a difference, it should be known.

My list of Frustrations:

1. Yogesh and Tahira my boss have decided that we must stay in the office from 10-6 every day when the guidelines they originally gave me said that “Most volunteers are used in the office at one point or another “. It does not say 7 hours a day, 6 days a week!

2. The advertisement for interning/volunteering said that we could teach the trainees English in the evenings, but they have strictly prohibited it. However, the advertisement still reads that we can.

3. They treat all of the staff horrible here like servants. In fact, because they didn’t like one of the staff members (who had been here 12 years), they made her feel so uncomfortable that she quit. Another staff member who has been here 15 years is no longer allowed to hold keys to the kitchen supplies (although she’s the cook) because supposedly they think she will start stealing things after having not stolen anything for 15 years. They used to have an accountant who worked here for a long time, but they were so rude to him (Yogesh said horrible things to him and he’s an old man!) that he took an extended “holiday”. I’ve never met him…..The staff who work here also live here, and they decided to make a new rule that the staff’s children are no longer allowed to walk around Barli, they must stay inside their houses. So these kids who have been here since they were born are now treated like prisoners kept in their homes not allowed to come out.

4. We are not allowed to socialize with anyone. We are not allowed to go anywhere during the day but our rooms, the dining room, or our volunteer office. They decided to now start locking the library (it was never locked before) so that no one can use it unless they ask (and even then they don’t really like people using it). Yogesh continuously tries to belittle us and make us look stupid. We are not given any breaks except for lunch. If he catches us waking up late he makes some smart remark. One of the volunteer/interns was making a documentary and she had done all of the shooting but needed him to upload editing software on a computer, and it was software he already had. She’s been asking him to do this for a month, and she asks him about it like every other day. Now she’s leaving on Tuesday and all of her footage is going to waste. Instead of saying sorry, or trying to fix the problem, he starts blaming her saying that she never told him to put the software on the computer. The same intern spent a long time applying for a grant which Yogesh gave her. She finished a week before the deadline and kept asking him about it every day. The last day to turn it in passed and he never turned in the work she had worked on for two weeks.

5. The old interns who were here for my first two weeks (they are from the state of Uttar Pradesh right next to Madhya Pradesh where we are at) were constantly harassed by Yogesh. They were treated unjustly by him because he was giving their professors updates and could lie to them and make them get a bad grade. So they had to do whatever he said. One of these things is to clean the inside of the house Yogesh and Tahira are moving into here on Barli. He made them clean his house on our free day. They couldn’t say no because if they did, he would make them have a bad grade. They also received the worse volunteer room, and when things stopped working in their room, he never fixed them.

6. Before we got here (we learned this from the staff) Yogesh told them not to talk to us or tell us what goes on here. Well, they started telling us and almost all of them are about to quit.

7. They are having the staff here make all new curtains, sheets, pillowcases, etc. for their house for free.

A couple of us interns are planning to write letters to the old director and Barli's board members about the situations. Unfortunately, the reason Tahira got the position in the first place, is because her father is on the board. We are not sure how much our letters will change, but we feel like they should be written.

I feel old

Unfortunately, after being at Barli for 3 weeks, my back is now hurting consistently. I have to sit in an office for seven hours a day, for six days a week. I also believe that the headaches I am getting are partially for staring at a computer screen all day every day. Sorry for complaining, but I came here to make a difference in women's lives, not to be locked in a "volunteer office" every day......I hope I end up succeeding in impacting at least one person's life before I leave.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

India Playlist

1. Cosmic Love, Florence and the Machine
2. Rolling in the Deep, Adele
3. Lady in Spain, Ingrid Michaelson
4. The Girl with One Eye, Florence and the Machine
5. Love the Way You Lie (Part 2), Rihanna ft. Eminem
6. Kiss with a Fist, Florence and the Machine
7. Cosmic Love, Patrick Dwyer
8. Last of Days, A Fine Frenzy
9. I’m Not Calling You a Liar, Florence and the Machine
10. Liar, Liar, A Fine Frenzy
11. Die Alone, Ingrid Michaelson
12. United State of Pop, DJ Earworm
13. Hope for the Hopeless, A Fine Frenzy
14. Oh What a Day, Ingrid Michaelson
15. You and I, Ingrid Michaelson
16. Come On, Come Out, A Fine Frenzy
17. Ashes and Wine, A Fine Frenzy
18. Dog Days are Over, Florence and the Machine
19. Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson
20. No Surprises, Regina Spektor
21. Blow Away, A Fine Frenzy
22. Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson
23. Set Fire to the Rain, Adele
24. Borrowed Time, A Fine Frenzy
25. The Minnow and the Trout, A Fine Frenzy
26. Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson
27. Fix You, Coldplay
28. Think of You, A Fine Frenzy
29. You Picked Me, A Fine Frenzy

I figured I should listen to mostly female artists since I’m working for women empowerment :)