Thursday, March 29, 2012

A brighter day :)

Let there be light!!

Bottle #1 of the Liters of Light project installed!! If you haven’t already seen it, look at this album by Responsible Charity, the organization behind the project for a catchup! Hemley got the original idea from this video, done in Manila.  We adapted it to our situation and after a number of trips to the hectic market, some material mockups and swaps, we got ‘er done!  I loved install day....nothing like getting dirty and sweaty for a good cause!  The light totally works- it fact it’s crazy bright!  We may need to downsize the bottle!  

On the plastic covered bamboo roofs... watch your step ;)
Helllllo bottle!

Every time we go there, to 'Char No. Bridge' (bridge #4- real fancy name eh?), it gets more comfy and friendly. Hugs and hand shakes and crowds of ladies and girls and babies (one now dubbed my 'boyfriend', so cute!!).  And they love to fan us!  I grabbed the fan away today and fanned back, but nupe, re-snatched (with a grin) for more fanning!  I’m not partial to being fussed over but I do appreciate this ...I’m a sweaty mess (and it’s not even summer yet)! The ‘light’ has been in for a few days now, waiting to make sure that everything is kosher before we start big production. Good thing we waited, as we found that Sarifa, the homeowner for this prototype, says it’s making the room too hot, doesn’t like it!  We knew it would bring in heat, but thought the light would still be worth it.  For someone that’s been without light in the day for pretty much ever, I can see why now having extra heat is overshadowing the benefits of light. Our solution? A styrofoam cooler to act as thermal insulation, and double as an on/off switch! We used velcro so it can be taken on or off as needed to access the light, but for it to stifle the heat flow when not needed.  Still some heat escapes (and some light still!) but it works pretty well... a snazzy solution. :). 

The crowds :) 

My 'boyfriend' Meraj and his beautiful momma Sarifa in their home. :)
Styrofoam On-Off switch :)
Then my second visitor arrives!!!  Daniel David Mayza (pretend it’s being said in his awesome Russian accent- way cooler that way) writes me a quick message on FB about 6 days before he arrives, along the lines of “Hey I’ve got a week off, want a visitor?” Umm...yes! ha! I only knew him in little bits before (a good friend of my good friend, met a few times but we live in diff states) but now we’re forever travel partners!  We had a real easy way with each other, with similar what-do-you-wanna-do, noooo-what-do-you-want-to-do type attitudes. :)  So glad he came, it really was awesome! Thanks Danny!!!
To sum up the highlights:  We perused the massive museum inside the Victoria Memorial, we saw the Kalighat, Jain, & Dakshineswar temples, and we rode a pimped out horse drawn carriage!!  We braved the street vendors for amazing french toast-yet-omlette breakfast, tried a zillion different 'misti’s' (Kolkata is famous for sweets!), and splurged on “india’s first” floating restaurant and bar!  We got our asses kicked in a power yoga class and spent an afternoon at an amaaazing water park (The experience outscoring the actual rides for that ‘amazing’ title by quite a bit:) !!!
Victoria Memorial... me soaked from running thru the sprinkler :)  It's balls hot here! 

We picked the most shiny one :) 

Kalighat temple and Danny's first Bindi (the red dot)!

Dakshineswar temple
Yum breakfast!
Jain Temple

Tormenting the birds  >; ] 
Thank goodness for this place... it's over 100 degrees here! acckk

Lots of fun to make it exciting, but we both agree the local experiences are what make a trip special! Danny was there to help out with the Liter of Light project, got to go along when Responsible Charity admitted five (yay five!) new kids to school for the first time!!!! (one of the fundamental goals of the charity- stop the poverty cycle by giving education).  We had an uno night, a poker night, a sleepover night, and an authentic at home dinner gathering w/ the Singh family!  Oh, and he got to triple ride the motorcycle... a must-do in India I say!!  These experiences are so much better than just going out to dinner and then finding something to fill the evening, or worse just going back to sit in the hotel (which admittedly can be nice, but he was only here 4 days, no time for rest)!  Thanks once again to Hemley for sharing his friends!!

Kids all dressed up for admission to school

Fun w uno cards :)
Poker w/ matchstick money :)
Delish home cooking!
We both got to experience the ‘celebrity’ feel, being asked for pictures here and there and everywhere!  At the water park the most, a number of people even gave us their emails to send the photos:).  We love to take pics with them and they love to take pics with us= winning!!!  The water park day was just awesome. First of all my rented swimsuit gave us reason to snicker all thru the day: Long pants and synthetic t-shirt= sexxxxy!   Secondly, this was just a great lucky day; My phone, his camera, my sunglasses: three things lost, three things found! Danny’s camera got sucked into the drain on one of the rides and another kind patron jumped into a scary manhole 6’ feet deep in water to fetch it!  Indians rock :).  

Like all our twinner swimsuits??!! :)))

Fun in the wave pool

At one point I had this brilliant idea to form the word INDIA with people. HHHAA this was so much fun, I think I must do this in every country from now on!!! (slightly glad I have this idea after Australia!) The letters in India are simple enough, but without verbal communication, I couldn’t keep a handle on it!  I’d imitate a move for one, and the guys next to him would do it too, and I’d try to signal just the one, then another would move, shift, etc etc... so funny and amazing! They loved it too, all wanting to shake hands after!  Be on the lookout for NEPAL next :) 

Can you see it?? INDIA!
Lucky for Danny he left just in time... 4:30am to the airport, 8:30am Becky gets violently ill! Tried a new place for breakfast... not a good choice :(.  Should have stuck with my delish pancake!  I didn’t leave my bed for 28 hours after that-ouch!  Puking must join my list of least favorite things. Thank goodness for my pals bringing me meds and tummy massages and kind wishes, and my hotel for making me plain potatoes to eat for dinner, and bringing bananas for breakfast (all on them-so nice) :).  It was pretty miserable, and I certainly am praying not to have to experience it again, but there I lay thinking...   Always a lesson to be learned!  

I was miserable, yes, but with the ability to sleep on a comfy bed and a working fan to keep me cool. A hot shower. A toilet, thank the lord!  Access to clean food and water and meds to aid my recovery.  I'm living my pain in luxury really, when compared to what it would be, either in these bridge homes, elsewhere in India, or any other place in the world where basic necessities are lacking, USA included.  At any time I can hop on a plane and go home.  Move on to clean air and clean water.  Knowing this is somewhat like reaching halfway point in a race, or a plane ride, or a workday... anything that is hard gets easier when there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  So what if there is no end in sight? What if you can't just pack up and leave?

You try to be happy anyways. 

For these people, unfairly called and treated as the ‘untouchables’ by most of the middle and upper class, living in the slums is no picnic, but there's not much choice.   A lot of the reasons for living this way is due to an illness or handicap, death of breadwinning family member, or lack of job options because of illiteracy and no education.  Repeat cycle with their kids who they then can't afford to send to school. They have no running water, no bathrooms, no place to themselves.  They have a small ground stove, a cooler, buckets of unhealthy water, one small space for everything.  Sometimes they have electricity, but only for a few hours of the day.   Can I say they are happy?  No, but they sure make the best of what they do have.  Their homes are decorated and organized nicely (I'd rather stay there than with some people from Hoarders!). The women take pride in dressing nice and keeping clean (impressive considering the surroundings).  They’re generally kind and smiley and playful when we are there.  Is that just for us?  I don't think so, I watch from afar, people watching being one of my fav pastimes :). They have to be cheery, because what's the alternative? Just sit around and wait to die? No!  This is 41.6% of Indians making less than $1.25 a day, this is not a 'I'm lazy and would rather drink beer and scam for welfare'  situation. This is no money and no opportunity.  Luckily for these 28 families there is help...certainly they could use it, a lot of it!

So wait... am I using the misfortunes of others as my basis for happiness? I should be happy that I have these things and they don't?  I don't see it that way because I don't consider myself better, just luckier to be born in a developed country and a situation that allowed me opportunities.  And I can do something with that luck and opportunity. Being here and having the chance to bring some light to their day, both literally with our bottle project, and figuratively giving hope via this charity, is such a special experience for me.  I found this quote and it's just p.e.r.f.e.c.t.
My new fav quote :)

This is true on so many levels, easy enough starting with your friends but even with complete strangers. I walk around each day and find all these little situations I could help, or people I want to talk to, but can't speak the language and it drives me crazy!  I just smile big instead!  Some people are born completely selfless and devote their life to giving- hats off to them!  Others are so selfish they can't even muster up a sympathetic thought.  Most of us fall somewhere in between. I'm writing this blog, but please, Im not trying to pretend I'm a saint. I'm the first to admit how far from selfless I am!!  I couldn't give up my adventures, and I certainly plan to have a nice comfortable life, but I do know I love making people smile. As a penny pincher, donating has never been my forte... but giving of my time and skills I can do:).  My whole HS senior project was about volunteering, always understood it feels good when you make other people happy, and Im even more understanding that on a grander scale here. 

So brighten someone's day!!  I think it really starts with a smile! Smiling is universal (thank goodness!) and everyone is worthy of one of yours :).  Im not  going to use this blog as a donation wagon or act like you have to volunteer every week, you know if you can do those things. Just start with have heart.  Go from there: spread ideas, spread information, spread happiness.  Sharing is caring! 

...and smile all day:)


  1. Love this Becky! It's so weird you wrote this on March 30, but here it's only noon on March 29. We are half a world apart. I think it's amazing what you are doing!!! Love ya Mandy

  2. Awesome!!! India loves you..:))

  3. Sis so happy I woke up to talk to you!!! My day has been brightened!!!!! :) Love you-- be careful!!!!

  4. Becky Jo are amazing! I love what you are doing and your smile in India goes a long way. Can't wait to see you again!