A candid description of my trip from NYC to rural India and finally to U. of Michigan, Ross School of Business. Go Blue!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dirty American

It's hard to believe that I have just 2 weeks left in my itenrnship! The time has really flown by and I feel like I've learned more in 2 months here than I have in the last 6 years of my life!

Weekly Recap
Yesterday, there was no electricity at the office due to a bad storm all morning, and the UNDP guys took the laptop for a presentation in Banswara. So Baby (host sister), Sweta (host sister-in law), Chickoo (baby's middle brother who is visiting from Delhi) and I went for a drive to see this really cool house that Chickoo designed for a family in a nearby village. Chickoo is getting his masters at the best Architectural school in India. He also does a lot of work with PEDO on the side, helping to design rural homes and towns. This house was really nice because it was made of slate rock rather than mud. He also showed me the house where the family used to live....or describing it as a tiny room would be more accurate. It was so small and only about 4 feet high. The roof had caved in because it was so poorly built. I can't imagine what it must be like for that to be the place someone calls home.
After seeing the house, we drove further out to visit a communal plantation that the villagers have been planting in since 1987. Then we walked through the plantation and eventually came to a beautiful lake and stream. It was so picturesque; I can't believe I forgot my camera! Definitely it was Dungarpur at it's finest. While hiking, Chickoo told me some interesting facts, like only 23% of the population of Dungarpur have electricity and only 8% have access to toilet facilities!

Today, I kind of skipped out of work to come back to Udaipur because early tomorrow morning I am going with some of the other interns to Pushkar, a town in northeastern Rajasthan. It's supposed to have a bunch of temples and also be a total hippy/tourist spot, so it should be interesting. Particularly, lonely planet says Israeli hippes (whatever that means) flock there.
I've been staying at Namrata's (the FSD Family Coordinator) house because she had an empty room for a few days and invited me to come hang out in her oasis! What a different way of life it is there! I sleep on a king size bed, internet and electricity are readily available, and the food is scrumptious! Total kid in the candy store syndrom.
I think my weekend host family is missing me but I'll be back to stay with them on Sunday night.

Jain Religion
Speaking of that family, I've been learning a lot about them lately. They are of the Jain religion, which is a sect within Hinduism....I guess I can best liken it to the Orthodox sect within Judaism, although you really can't liken 2 different religions to eachother can you? Anyway, learning about Jainism has helped me to understand why my weekend family are anal clean freaks. Apparently it's traditional to the religion. Hardcore Jains walk with a broom that they constantly sweep in front of them so as to not kill any living insects in their path. Some also keep a cloth covering their mouths at all times so that they aren't exposed to impurities. And they aren't supposed to eat anything that grows out of the earth either, like potatoes or carrots. Thank goodness my weekend family are modified Jains!

They are really great people, but they tell Shivani and I quite consistently that we are dirty and they won't let us get our own water from the water jug. It could've been worse; Namrata told me my host mom initially asked if we would tell her when we were having our periods so that she could warn the rest of the house (her sons, husband, mother and servants) so that we didn't touch or handle anything! I used to take offense everytime she called me dirty but now I can just attribute it to some religious fanaticism.

Work wise things are good albeit a bit slower. My supervisor, Mr. Vyas, has been working like crazy on a million different things. He says he will give me an interesting project for my last 2 weeks but he hasn't had any time to sit down with me yet. Also, his mother who is around 80 and lives with us, is suffering from health problems and Sweta thinks she will die in the next month. So obviously he is preoccupied.
I finished the Case Study book and it is on Mr. Vyas' desk to review before we move to the next stage of printing it up. It is 50 pages long and turned out really well! I've very proud of it and excited to get my copy to utilize in pursuing future opportunities.

Right now I'm working on combining 6 years worth of 6 month progress reports that PEDO submitted to a foundation that funded 245 of the microfinance Self-Help Groups. The 6 month reports are filled with English grammatical errors, and it seems like this is where I can truly add the most value for PEDO so I am happy to oblige. Plus, I'm learning a ton about the structure of the microfinance program.

Travel Plans
Right now I'm at the Reliance internet cafe in Udaipur putting some charts together for the summary report. I'm also trying to figure out where I should go for the 5 free days that I have before I head back to the states. I'm having trouble deciding between Goa (tourist/party central- the Ibiza of India) or Kerala, an elected communist state on the southwest coast. They have a famous boat race in August and these amazing backwaters that you can ride through on a houseboat. It's supposed to be beautiful and less touristy than Goa. I'm pretty sure I'm traveling solo to either location, so hopefully I'll meet some cool people when I get there. If the flights are too expensive, then most likely I'll just head up to Jaipur, which is the biggest city in Rajasthan, on my way back to grimy Delhi.

Other than that, I can't believe it's all ending so soon! What an experience. Now, back to the real world and researching which loan to take out for the MBA. If anyone reading has any views on the Government Plus loan vs. Citiassit, or short/long- term views on interest rates (is it better to take a variable rate loan or fixed rate loan), then PLEASE do share.


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