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 :)


Today I had the opportunity, while Tahira checked my peace education curriculum, to sit in on the Cutting and Tailoring class for the trainees. Primela, one of the staff members, was teaching the girls how to measure a person for a petticoat. First, we all gathered around as she explained on the chalkboard. Rekah, another staff member, was the model for the measuring. Primela then randomly selected girls to come forward and show on the board what she had just explained. After that, the girls split up into their peer groups and worked on measuring each other. I walked around and Rekah and Ramila called me over and I got measured! Haha. It was a nice break amidst the repetitive office work.

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 Fair Entry Photo


Water. Who would've guessed that I would treasure that word so much. Until now, I never realized how much I use water on a daily basis. Today, after four days of being confused, Yogesh (only after being asked by one of the interns (told only her) ) said that from now on we will only get water from 8-10 am and then 5:30-6:30 pm. Yeah....He didn't even make a general & for four days we were wondering what was going on (some of us haven't even washed our hair!). So basically, we have morning service hours from 7-9 then breakfast from 9-10. There goes service hours because they will now be shower/laundry hours!haha. And then we work until 6 pm every day, so we only have 30 minutes to use water. This water includes the filtered water we drink, the water we shower with, the water we wash our hands with, the water we do laundry with, the water we wash our dishes with, and last but certainly not least, the water we flush the toilet with. :) haha. So now we can only flush the toilet during those hours. How sanitary! This should be interesting.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Hello all! It's been a while since I've posted, but that's basically because nothing too interesting has happened. I'm getting more and more used to my days here at Barli. Unfortunately, for about a 24 hour span, the Internet went out. :/ Here's one random information fact of the day: When women in the scheduled tribes of Madhya Pradesh get married, their husbands give them a special necklace which is never to come off, and two toe rings for the toes closest to the big toe. This makes it very easy to tell who is married and who is not. There are about ten married girls/women here at Barli. Some of them got married as young as 13/14 years of age. Its hard to understand, but that is the lifestyle of many of the rural tribes in India. I have been doing a lot of research here in gender conflicts, and it has opened my eyes to many horrible practices. One of these practices is infanticides. Indian mothers have been known to kill their baby daughters so it will take them less time to get pregnant in hopes of having a boy. One lady I read about fed her daughter oleander oil until she bled out through her nose. Other times, when a rural girl gets married, if her new in laws do not think her dowry is good enough, they will kill her and keep the dowry. Another horrible fact I have learned, is that women make up more that 50% of agricultural goods in the world, but own less than 1% of it's land.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


So, the funniest thing happend the other day. You see, everyday, all day, us interns are stuck in a tiny "office" room. We don't get any interaction with the girls from 10-7. However, after 7 every day, we are free and wander out about town. Usually we go to different malls or out to eat. Well, this time when we left, the old lady who lives by the front gate called to us in Hindi (Rika translated) "You women become free when you leave at night!" haha. Even she understand our frustration with being in a room all day!

A few hindi words :)

Here are a few hindi words: I am not sure on the spelling, so i'll write them how they sound when spoken.

  • namaste = Hello

  • namaskar = formal hello

  • shuprabot = goodmorning

  • acha = okay

  • ha(n) slight 'n' pronunciation = yes

  • naheen = no

  • apka nam = your name?

  • mera nam (insert your name) hey = my name is (insert your name)

  • danyawad = thank you

Those are just a few (mispelled) spelled to resemble how they sound. :)

1st Sunay Off

So, unfortunately, here at Barli they are very very very One of their strict rules is that you can ONLY have sunday off. I wish they would be more flexible with this, but they won't. Anyways, sunday July 3rd was my first free day and a group of us decided to go to Ujjain which is a Hindu holy city. We piled into a car early in the morning and set off. In Ujjain we visited several Hindu temples and watch as our Hindu friend Astha participated in giving sacrifices. It was really nice to see just how religious the Hindus were. Astha told me there are over 36 thousand or million (I can't remember lol) Hindu deities. I can't imagine worshiping that many gods! All of the temples were beautiful though, and very unique. I could tell that Astha was proud to introduce us to her religion and happy that us foreigners would be interested to learn. On top of going to temples, we also got to go to palace ruins and an observatory. The palace ruins were very small and made out of stone. However, it was a water palace so there was this awesome water area in front of the palace. We went to explore, and thats where we met a BUNCH of Indian kids! ahhhh! I liked that so much. hahaha. They were so adorable and LOVE having their picture taken, and so did their parents!lol. We stayed with them for a while as they followed us around yelling "Didi!" (which means sister) and posing for another photo. I felt bad leaving, but we had to. From then on, everywhere we went I mad friends with the little street kids. At first they would yell at you begging for money, but after they realize you wouldn't give any, they became curious about us foreigners. You see, the area I am staying at is not a tourist destination, so we are probably the first foreign people almost anyone has ever seen. This leads to us being stared at, people yelling at us, people trying to touch us, everyone wanting pictures of or with us, and person after person asking where we are from. Oh, and they are sooooo proud if they can communicate even a little bit with us in english. Yeah, I felt like a celebrity! haha. Along with the palace and the temples, we stopped off at an observatory. Its this place where they tell time, the date, and other such things from the way in which stones are set up. It was really interesting, but by this time I was already Eventually we made it back, ate at sunfoods, then came back to barli. Overall it was a great first day off!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Photos of My Room

First Impressions of Barli/First Night

Once I got out of the taxi, I was greeted by Yogesh and Tahira. They are the directors of Barli and are a married team. I said my hellos and Tahira called for an intern, and my roommate, Zainup to help me carry my luggage to my room. On the way there, I met Ana and Bethany my two other roommates. We got to our room which has four short beds, five windows, tile floors, a fridge and sink area, and a bathroom/shower. I put my stuff near my bed and soon Rica and Grace, two other interns, came in. I found out that there are 11 of us in total, four from the US, 5 from UP (A state in India), 1 from Croatia, and 1 from the Czech Republic. They are all very nice and made me feel welcomed instantly. They also started complaining about Barli and Yogesh. They say he’s very rude and a horrible boss. I also found out that Barli is super strict and not flexible. Worried, I went to my meeting with Yogesh and Tahira. It went okay… Tomorrow I am having a tour of the place with Ana and then they are telling us our intern duties. For dinner, we ate rice, roti, and some cabbage thing that did not sit well with my stomach. After dinner, Bethany, Ana, Rica, Grace and I went to EasyDay, the Indian equivalent of Wal-Mart, to buy some necessities. We had to cross a busy street which was slightly scary. Cars don’t stop in India, and there are no crosswalks. But we managed. I finally went to bed at night, barely slept, and got bitten by mosquitoes at least 18 times. :/

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Getting to Barli!

To arrive at Barli Development Institute for Rural Women, I had to take a taxi from my hotel to the IGIA airport. Once at the airport, I had a lovely time figuring out where to go and what to do. I almost had to go back through security because no one told me I needed a tag on my carryon bag. It was all an adventure, but I’ve gotten a little better at this world travel thing. I mostly count on nice employees and friendly passersby who feel sorry for me. I made it to my gate, and it was time to wait for an hour. Wait, I am going ahead of myself! First I need to talk about the hotel breakfast! :) Well, this breakfast was AMAZING! I got different types of breads and pastries and paired them with mango yogurt. This isn’t the normal type of yogurt from back home; it has a different taste and texture. Then the favorite bread/pastry I tasted was these little almond muffins. Ahhhh! They were so good! Haha. I had like five! They reminded me of the Queen Anne Cakes from American Girl’s Felicity. So tasty! Haha. Now back to the airport. After waiting for around an hour at my gate, gate 54, it was time to board the plane. The plane was a small commuter plane similar to the one I had taken in Hawaii to get from one island to another. I was exhausted, and even before take-off I fell asleep! I probably slept for around 40 minutes. The plane ride lasted 1.5 hours. Finally I landed in Indore. Being a little more confident, I went into the airport terminal, which was one room, and waited with a luggage cart for my bags. I got my bags and proceeded to a prepaid taxi booth. Knowing that they would know limited English, I had pre-written Barli’s address on a piece of paper for them. “250 rupees”, the girl at the booth said, and it was time to go to Barli! Walking outside, I scanned the taxis looking for a sign that said pre-paid taxi or even any numbers or names which matched the ticket booth. There was a crowd of men in front of me, and as I was about to walk through them, they all started to crowd around me. Haha. Realizing they wanted to see my taxi ticket, I handed it to them. Then a group of five of them walked me to a car which already had a driver and passenger. Great, I thought, they want me to share a taxi……However, instead they made the passenger get out and started putting my luggage in! The taxi driver came out smiling and said, “Barli? You go Barli?” Ah! Yes! I thought, finally someone who knows exactly where my destination is! Yes, I said with a smile, Barli. :) So we were off. Unfortunately, something which Angelina will hate, none of my transportation ever has seatbelts. I mean, they have them, but they are always covered up so I cannot use them. Well, this was my first viewing of Indore. There were many buildings and shops, people walking around, and the continuous annoying blaring of horns. Eventually, my driver again said, “Barli?” I smiled and nodded yes. We turned down a dirt road and the car stopped. I looked and there it was, Barli Development Institute for Rural Women.


Well, bathrooms in India are their own adventure and thus deserve their own blog post. My very first experience of an Indian bathroom/toilet was in the Indira Gandhi International Airport. I had just flown 14.5 hours on the international flight, so I needed to use the restroom! haha. Anyways, I waited untill I got through customs, exchanged my money, and claimed my baggage. Then I couldn't wait any longer. So, I ran to the nearest restroom. In the restroom, they have a toilet, toilet paper, a trash, and a hose. What people are supposed to do, is use the restroom and clean themselves with the hose and their left hand. Well, you see, the toilet paper was only there for us foreigners who think it is odd to wipe ourselves with our hands. That is a very big reason why it is a taboo to touch any food item with your left hand.

Poverty/General Description

If I have to make a general description about India, I would say it was a Hawaii meets Mexico but 10x worse. India is VERY humid at the moment, even more so than Hawaii. It is lush with tropical plants everywhere. On every corner and down every street, there are carts selling fresh fruit. Most commonly, they offer bananas or mangoes. India is very impoverished like Mexico. Unfortunately, from the little that I have seen, I can tell that it is actually far worse than Mexico. People lived in slums which were made up of laid together street signs and whatever fabric or tarp they can come up with at the moment. There were naked children, and everyone was barefoot. Interestingly, or should I say ironically, as I was about to take a photo for the first time of pieces of slums I saw, Songtag’s book Regarding the Pain of Others came to mind. How funny right? This book I had to read for a class last quarter and it covered the ethics of photography. At that moment, I decided it was not right to take pictures of these people. However, I later on changed my mind.


As I stared outside my hotel window, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. There was something which connected my world of the san Francisco bay area to the great country of India. What was this small connection? It was pigeons. Yes, India has pigeons too. In fact, the pigeons roosted right outside my window and were even fighting amongst each other. It was quit comical and made me miss home a little.

(btw, I am blogging this late due to internet issues, i'll explain in a bit.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Grand Hotel


Today is my official first full day in India! I arrived at SFO very early at 4 a.m. Suprisingly, it seemed abandoned as there was hardly anyone there. I was nervous. Very Nervous! Of course, I did not let my family know of my nervousness. Made it to my gate, said my goodbyes, and went through security. The flight went well from SFO to Newark, NJ. I sat next to a mother and young daughter who discreetly tried looking out of my window. Once in the airport at Newark, I realize just how hungry I am and head over to a pizza restaurant and get a slice of cheese pizza. I'm still not sure if it actually tasted good, or if I was just starving. Eventually, after waiting several hours and having the flight be delayed, I boarded the plane for my first international flight! The plane was HUGE! The flight was very long, 14 hours and 30 minutes. I watched movies, slept, and ate the complimentary meals which consisted of palak paneer, dahl lentils, yogurt, and other items. After landing, I struggled through customs, finding my luggage, exchanging money, and finding a taxi. After using all of my brain power, and asking for help from anyone who would listen, I arrived at my hotel The Grand Hotel. It is a very luxurius hotel. I have a lovely room with a view of the grounds and fountain. I will be catching a taxi at 11 and going on my flight to Indore, India to arrive finally at Barli Development Institute for Rural Women!