Delhi/Agra trip-Part 1

Namaste readers!
What trip to India would be complete without a trip to the Taj Mahal? None! So the two Sangam Volunteers (Rachel and Katrina) and I decided to take three days in early February off together and travel to Delhi with a day trip to the amazing Taj. I had never stayed in Delhi before, just passed through on my last incredibly quick trip to see the Taj last year. Neither Rachel nor Katrina had been to either city.
We began our journey on a Monday evening. We flew from Pune airport, which is very small, to Delhi, about an hour and 45 minute flight.
Most people, me included, would assume traveling by air domestically in India to be similar to if not more frustrating than doing so back home. But I think sometimes we forget the days when you didn’t have to take your shoes off to go through security and your bottle of water could travel full and no one had ever heard of a full body scanners. But those days are alive and strong in the Pune airport. After making our way through the ladies line (for a curtained off pat-down) me, Rachel, Katrina, and our full bottles of water and nail clippers made it safely to the plane. After a thankfully uneventful flight, we arrived in Delhi. We immediately realized a crucial detail we had forgotten while planning our trip. The weather. Delhi was COLD! We actually had looked at a weather report online and were ready for the forecasted rain, but none of us had thought to look at the temps. Alas, all we had for warmth were our scarves, which we wrapped tightly around ourselves and headed out into the city.
We caught a pre-paid taxi to our hotel, I highly recommend this method over trying to bargain for prices. You might pay a bit more, but it’s easier because you pay in advance and so don’t need to deal with money once you arrive at your hotel.
We stayed at hotel Vivek on the recommendation of a coworker. On Main Bazar road, the epitome of tourist streets, there are hotels and guest houses every few feet (or I guess I should say metres), only broken up by souvenir shops.
main bazar
Since I haven’t posted in a while, I will post this now rather than wait until my next day off to finish, and I’ll just make a new post for the rest of our trip, and I promise, there are more pictures on the way!
–Ana

Birthday Shenanigans!

Kind of late to be talking about my birthday, I know, but things have been a bit crazy here, and the rest of February is also going to be very busy, so here we go!

DSCF4115

MaLau, me, and Rachel at Chili’s for my birthday

This photo is from my birthday! We went to Chili’s, the most American food I have tried yet in India. The menu (and actually the entire restaurant) was almost exactly the same as it would be at home, except that there are much more vegetarian options and the burgers are all buffalo. I had an awesome birthday, which included Skyping with my family and best friend, this awesome dinner out, and then a wii kareoke party back at Sangam.

At Sangam we always celebrate staff birthdays, but this is not the norm in traditional India. Like most other things, this is changing as younger generations become more “westernized” but for example, some of out local kitchen and maintenance staff don’t even know what their real birth dates are.

As always when a celebration or holiday comes around, I had a great cultural sharing conversation with the Volunteers-In-Training. I said one of my favorite things about my birthday back home is that when you go out, you don’t have to pay for anything, because your friends pick up the tab. The girls explained to me that in India, if you go out with your friends on your birthday, you pay for everything. This didn’t actually surprise me much, a lot of things in India seem to go like this. There is also a tradition where when something exciting happens in your life, like you pass your exams, someone in your family has a baby or gets married, or you move to a new house, you bring sweets, called peda, for everyone at work, to announce your good news.  I think some people back home who complain about all the gifts they are constantly buying for people could get on board with this idea…

IMG_0400

Me and Shweta, one of Sangam’s Volunteers in Training

In a few days I’m planning a trip to Delhi with Rachel and Katrina, with a possible pit stop in Agra (where the Taj Mahal is), so I promise I’ll have tons of photos and hopefully some awesome photos to share from that trip!

Thanks for reading, and remember to comment and subscribe, I love hearing from anyone who reads!

Thanks!

Ana

Peace VS Evil

Namaste everyone!

It’s almost Christmas! Sangam is decorated, the stockings are hung, and there are even lights on our tree. In this season of cheer and happiness and family and all those awesome things, I wanted to share with you all some ways you can give back this holiday season.

1. Kiva.org

Kiva is an awesome mico-loan website that I use myself. You can choose an entrepreneur in an underdeveloped country and give loans of as little as $25. They collect $25 loans from all over the world and put them together to give the amount asked for. Then, your loan gets repaid over time, and you can re-lend the same $25 over and over to different people. It’s a really easy way to help and it’s great because it can keep on giving again and again. I have about $75 rolling in my account right now, and I’ve made 7 $25 loans.

2. The Uncultured Project

The Uncultured Project is literally one dude (Shawn Ahmed) who wants to make a difference. He works by creating partnerships with people all over the world by using the power of the internet and YouTube to find people who need help, and people who are willing to help. He works mostly in Bangladesh, where he recently built a school and named it in honor of John Green, one of my very favorite authors and awesome-makers. There’s a video about it here.

3. Girl Scouts of course!

Whether it’s by donating money, buying cookies, or volunteering your time, by supporting Girl Scout you are supporting the amazing organization that lets me have this great opportunity to live and work in India. WAGGGS works organizations like the UN to support issues that affect women and children around the world. By lifting up and empowering girls, you are supporting the future world-changers.

On that note, I want to share something that I’ve been thinking about since I heard about the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. I wasn’t as bombarded with images and and interviews as I’m sure everyone back home was, but being here, doing all this work around girl and women, and after hearing that eight of the girls killed were Daisy Girl Scouts, I was really upset.

I’m the kind of person who always, always tries to look on the positive side. Or at least find a positive side to things. I don’t think I can do that here.

All I can say is that instead of trying to fight against this evil, I try to work for the advancement of all the good things. For the empowerment of women and girls, for the reduction of child mortality, and everything else WAGGGS is doing. Every kid deserves all the every chance to grow and do whatever he wants, and achieve all her goals. So the only thing I can try and say to be positive is that by working with organizations like WAGGGS and Girl Scouts and here at Sangam is helping to do just that. By helping one young woman realize her own potential, maybe she’ll grow up and so the same for another girl, and help spread peace in the world. And maybe, someday, the peace will outweigh the evil.

That’s all from me, thanks for reading, and please comment if you have any questions about any of the organizations I talked about today.

DSCF4070

DSCF4071

DSCF4075

Yours in scouting,

Ana Cristina

Getting the Word Out: Is this just my job disguised as a blog post?

Namaste readers!

So, I have something a little bit work-related to discuss today. As the event just ended, and I’m officially done with training, I’m jumping right in and trying to get as much done each day as possible. A lot of my job is just trying to reach the right people with the right information. We have a deadline for volunteer & intern applications coming up (December 31st) and not enough applicants. Sangam already has in place communications with people in high levels of each of WAGGGS member organizations (countries that have girl scouts or girl guides), so I’m trying to work from the other side, and getting the information directly to the troop/group leaders or even the girls themselves. So many young women from all over the world have visited Sangam over almost 50 years, and they all know other girls who might be interested, and so on.

Now, I could go on for a few more paragraphs (ok, actually, I just did, but then I deleted them because it was way too long and boring for you to read), but I’ll just get straight to my point. I made this video today, and I want every Girl Scout and Girl Guide that I know to share it with all her Girl Scout and Girl Guide friends, and I want them to ask me about Sangam and world centers and other travel opportunities. I want them to ask their leaders and their leaders to share what they learn with the whole troop. I want girls to learn what Advocacy means and how they can start a Community Action Project of their own. These are my big Girl Scout dreams, and being here has just re-energized me and reminded me of these goals.

Sangam’s Youtube
Sangam’s Facebook
WAGGGS’ Take Action Pagemy email is aclesmez@hotmail.com or leave me a comment on this post if you are a Girl Scout or Guide looking for more information.

I promise my next post will have more pictures!

Thanks for reading,

Ana Cristina

Let’s Get This Party Started

 

Namaste!

So last week was my first event, and my last week of training.  I’m now officially the MCI! With real MCI work!

We finished the event on Sunday, and, miraculously, many of the participants actually left that evening.  Since we had Gwen’s birthday during the event and didn’t really get a chance to celebrate, we had a “surprise” party for her in the staff lounge upstairs.

DSCF4037

Happy Birthday Gwen!

We’ve had a lot of new people move in upstairs in the last few weeks (a new volunteer from Australia just

arrived!) and we were all tired from the event so we were glad to have an excuse for a party.

Gwen was very surprised to find that the theme of the party was her birthday, and Catherine has organized some cheesy party games for all of us.  It was awesome to all get together and eat and drink and just hang out.  A lot of times working at Sangam, you can get really wrapped up in your work.  It’s awesome work, but you will get burned out if you do anything 24/7, no matter how awesome it is.

Christa made these awesome cookies out of some stuff I brought from the states, and I need to remember to get the recipe from her, because they would be great for daisy girl scouts!

Sugar cookies with frosting and jumbo marshmallow petals.  With a surprise inside!

Sugar cookies with frosting and jumbo marshmallow petals. With a surprise inside!

We learned though one of Catherine’s games that Camilla, from Denmark, can turn a certain kind of cracker all the way around in her mouth.  None of us knew what kind of cracker she was talking about, so she found one about the same size and showed us. Then, Sarah tried to do the same, but did not fair very well.

DSCF4048

Camilla’s special talent

 

Sarah needs more practice...

Sarah needs more practice…

We also messed around with some Christmas decorations, put up pink lights in the hall, and balanced a snowman on Jen’s head.  It was a pretty fun night.

So, I should probably wrap up now, I have to get up at 4am tomorrow morning to greet 33 guests for our next event.  I have Friday off, and I want to write a post more about WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and will hopefully be more rested then.  I’m also working on a video to promote our Be The Change events, so when I finish that maybe I’ll write more specifically about what guests experience at our different events.

As always, thanks so much for reading, please share this blog with anyone you think might like it, and if you have any questions, please comment!

Yours in scouting,

Ana Cristina

Welcome Ceremony: The Spirit of Sangam

Finally, pictures!!

Every event at Sangam, we hold a Welcome Ceremony for the participants.  The Welcome Ceremony is a mixture of Guiding/Scouting and Indian traditions.  Since it was my first Welcome Ceremony of this term, I participated as a participant wearing my national uniform (please don’t get me started on what I think of our national uniform).  In the future I’ll wear the pink sari like the rest of the staff.

One of my favorite things about the welcome ceremony is seeing all the different uniforms from the different countries.  This event there are participants from India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the UK and Malaysia.

Participants from India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, UK, and Malaysia around the Welcome Lamp

Participants from India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, UK, and Malaysia around the Welcome Lamp

This was also the first Welcome Ceremony for Shweta, one of Sangam’s Volunteers in Training.  The VIT program takes older Girl Guides from the Nivedia guides who meet at Sangam (read more in my previous post) and train them to work with the Sangam Volunteers. They are learning computer skills, customer service, workplace etiquette (being on time, respecting authority, etc), and improving their English language skills as well as gaining the amazing international experience that Sangam offers.  Right now our Sangam volunteers are Sayali (not pictured) Priya (left) and Shweta (right).

Priyanka and Shweta, local guides and Volunteers in Training, with the Welcome Lamp

Priyanka and Shweta, local guides and Volunteers in Training, with the Welcome Lamp

I always love the welcome ceremony, and this one was no exception.  The World Centre Manager (Jen) welcomes each participant to Sangam by placing a garland around their neck.  When she came to me and said “Welcome home”, my smile didn’t disappear for the rest of the night.

Jen and I at the Welcome Ceremony

Jen and me at the Welcome Ceremony

As I have realized so much in the past two weeks, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to come back to India, and to Sangam.  As I think I mentioned on my last trip, I feel like in the three months I spent here last year, I just barley scratched the surface of what India and Sangam have to offer.  I’m really excited to be working on the marketing side of Sangam this time, spreading the word and Sangam Spirit to as many Girl Scouts and Girl Guides as possible.

Here are some more photos from the Welcome Ceremony, including some of the shenanigans we got up to when it was over.

Me and Rachel (Sangam Volunteer, UK) after the Welcome Ceremony

Me and Rachel (Sangam Volunteer, UK) after the Welcome Ceremony

Jen (World Centre Manager, Australia) and MaLau (Community Relations Intern, Costa Rica) at the Welcome Lamp

Jen (World Centre Manager, Australia) and MaLau (Community Relations Intern, Costa Rica) at the Welcome Lamp

Catherine (Guest Services Coordinator, Ireland) and me after the Welcome Ceremony

Catherine (Guest Services Coordinator, Ireland) and me after the Welcome Ceremony

Gwen, Shweta and Jen messing around after the Welcome Ceremony

Gwen, Shweta and Jen messing around after the Welcome Ceremony

As always, thanks for all your feedback, I think my next post will have some more information about Sangam, WAGGGS, and Girl Guiding/Scouting in general, so maybe you can better understand the language, acronyms, and programs I talk about.

In the Spirit of Sangam,

Ana Cristina

 

 

Previous Older Entries