Day 0: Check check check in

A day late (as usual), but hopefully I can make up for it with all my photos!

We arrived to Columbus yesterday (Friday) morning, my mom and I driving separately in to our air bnb in Columbus. I’m kind of obsessed with air bnb, I’ve stayed in them on most of my recent trips and you can usually save tons compared to hotels.

Ours is a wonderful apartment in the King-Lincoln neighborhood, about a mile from downtown/the convention center. Erica and Ben are great hosts, but their cat, Loaf, is an even better one.

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Hi, Loaf!

After get settled in, we Uber-ed down to the convention center, getting lucky with knowledgeable drivers who could avoid all the construction. The convention center went all out for Girl Scouts, right from the entrance we could tell we were in the right place.

We proceeded to an information booth to get oriented to the huge convention center and find the volunteer check in. A very nice volunteer walked us aaaaaaaallllll the way down to the other side to check in.

Volunteers receive one Hall of Experiences pass per shift they are working. We picked up these as well as some goodies for volunteers. We then headed back downstairs to the Hall of Experiences.

 

If you’ve ever attended any type of convention, you know the feeling when you first walk in to the hall and feel very small. There were tons of booths from Girl Scout and non Girl Scout related companies and organizations. It was divided into “neighborhoods” by themes like Life Skills, Entrepreneurship, and A World for Girls. There were also a few “Campfires”, (I love it!) where exhibitors were scheduled to give talks at various times.

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Many (probably most) of the exhibitors had hands-on activities at their booths, which was GREAT! It was getting the girls involved, and getting them to spend more time at each booth. There were a ton of STEAM themed booths, a whole section for NASA, a Space Camp booth, lots of robotics and we got a peek at the COSI (Center of Science and Industry) booth, where we will be spending the night tonight.

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Learning by Doing!

As always when girls get together, it was inspiring to see the future leaders of the world. In the World for Girls sections, there was representation of the Five World Centres, and an area to join the Girl Scout Advocacy Network, and place sign a petition to rename a bridge in Savannah, Georgia to the Juliette Gordon Low Bridge (signed!).

In the Girl Scout Shop (with so many things that were so hard NOT to buy!), I met up with a friend from Sangam (who helps run this awesome zine with her council in Atlanta). It was great catching up with her and I was reminded how small the Girl Scout world can be. I’m hoping to catch up with a few other friends I know who are in various capacities.

After seeing all there was to see (I think we hit all of it!), we hopped in another Uber back to our air bnb and grabbed dinner at a local “pub”. We hit the hay early to get ready for our BIG DAY on Friday.

Sunset at Scusset Beach

Hey everyone!

Welcome new readers! I’m so excited to share my Girl Scout travels with you.
After our big day in Boston, we took a low key day to hang out on Mass Maritime’s campus. Some Cadets still on campus for the summer came to teach the girls about ROVs, Remote Operated Vehicles. They’re the things that helped explore the Titanic ruins, and much of the ocean floor research being done now is done using ROVs. The girls actually got to make ROVs, using plastic hangers, small motors, wires, and lots of electrical tape. I was very impressed with how well the girls did with the project, and their knowledge of electrical systems. Some of them even got the motors running before we finished explaining the steps! I think we have some future engineers on our hands.
I don’t think I’ve explained yet what exactly the theme of this trip is. The girls will be earning their oceanography interest project (unique to Girl Scouts of Eastern Mass) and we are trying to focus a lot of the learning around the STEM themes, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. If you want to know more about Girl Scouts and STEM, let me know in comments, I’d love to talk with you about it.
The other stations that day were also very exciting, but to be honest here (honesty on the internet, what?) I took my break during this time. It’s hard to balance the fun I want to have with the girls with self-care, and for every patrol meeting we have with the girls, we have a pre-meeting and a post-meeting, as well as a debrief of the day and a review of the next. We try to take time for ourselves, and there were plenty of extra hands this day to watch the girls, so I missed the dry-suits (“Gumby” suits), the bridge simulator, and a GPS scavenger hunt activity.
Gumby Suit Fun!

Gumby Suit Fun!

That evening, we left for the beach! We bussed to Scusset beach (try saying that 5 times fast) and got into our swimsuits. There was a catered dinner and plenty of sand, water, and creatures to keep us all busy. Even though the water was freezing, the girls ran right in. They actually found some cool sea creatures, like sand dollars and hermit crabs. We all posed for photos, and some of the committee members joined us. Speaking of photos, the sunset was beautiful and Audrey and Jamie, two of my fellow volunteers and both great photographers, got really excited about it.
Scusset Beach at Sunset

Scusset Beach at Sunset

Also at Scusset Beach, we had a Juliette Low candle ceremony. We were all given small candles, which we lit from a larger one whose light had been passed all the way from a candle lit by Juliette Low at the first Girl Scout headquarters in Savannah, Georgia. It was a very inspiring ceremony, and another of the Girl Scout traditions that I love so much, and makes this such a special organization.
Juliette Low Candle Ceremony

Juliette Low Candle Ceremony

So it was another great day, and the girls continue to impress and surprise me every day. We’ve had such little homesickness and behavioral problems that the pessimistic side of my brain is a little afraid, but the majority of me is just glad that these girls are truly embracing the “be a sister to every Girl Scout” line of the Girl Scout Law.
So with that, until next time,
~Ana

Patriots & Pizza, Churches & Chocolate

Happy, “Ana finally took pictures” day!

Tuesday consisted of a lot of walking, and a lot of eating. Pretty good day, right? Right.

We began with a North-End walking tour from Boston Pizza Tours, and saw things like the only Irish pub in Little Italy, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, the original Regina’s Pizzeria, Copps Hill Burying Ground with the gravesite of some dudes from the Salem Witch Trials, and also Robert Newman, the guy who actually lit the lanterns to signal Paul Revere to start riding, the skinniest house in the world, and of course the Old North Church. I think the girls enjoyed walking around the city, and the tour guides were great at making the stories interesting and engaging.

The tour ended in a park where pizza from Regina’s was waiting for us. And I have to say, as big of a fan as I am of Chicago Deep Dish, this was really good pizza.

We walked from there to a few of the famous Italian bakeries in the area. The girls were excited to try Cannolis, something very few of them had had before. I had a chocolate Ricotta one, and it was amazing.

Whenever you go somewhere with a lot of Girl Scouts, especially when they’re all wearing the same t-shirt, you tend to get noticed. A really nice lady named Maria was helping us at the bakery, and she didn’t even mind when the girls were indecisive and took longer than expected to complete the order. When I went to pay she said that she loved Girl Scouts, always bought the cookies, and had some nieces in the council here. I always love hearing people’s Girl Scouts stories, even if they’re not scouts, they usually have had a good interaction with a Girl Scouts at some point in their lives. It just makes me happy!

Next, we went the the New England Aquarium. It’s set up really cool, there is a giant tank in the middle that goes straight up through all four floors, filled with all kinds of fish, rays, reef, turtles, and even sharks. Around the tank is a spiral ramp, with smaller tanks on each level with other creatures to see. On the lowest level, in an enclosure all around the big tank, there are penguins zooming around under the ramp. So you can peek over the rail on any level of the ramp and see the penguins. In another section there are two touch tanks, a big one with rays and a smaller one with crabs, sea stars, and other crustaceans. There are also seal and sea lion shows.

As a special part of our trip, we went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the third floor tanks. In small groups, we went behind the wall and got to see how they feed, clean, and care for the creatures in the tanks. We also saw holding and quarantine tanks, and got to touch another horseshoe crab and lobster. We learned about how the water used in the salt water tanks are from the Boston Harbor, and recycled many times through it. We also learned a bit about the green technology used at the aquarium through the behind the scenes tour and the “Big Tank Talk” after.

Due to tour timings, we were in the aquarium for most of the afternoon. We saw the fur seal show, and then left to tour and eat dinner at Faneuil Hall, a revolution-era marketplace, now filled with stores and restaurants galore. I don’t know too much about it’s history, but the wikipedia page is pretty interesting!

We had these great vouchers that the girls could use to get certain meals from the vendors, and also a dessert. I had lobster bisque in a breadbowl, and a really great smoothie for dessert. It was great to just hang out and people-watch in the busy hall. The girls grouped up and went shopping, and it was also great to see them, after only three days together, laughing and running around together like they were BFFs.

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Lobster Bisque!!

Of course, not everything ever runs perfectly at a Girl Scout event, either with logistics (no matter how much you plan) or with the girls. But the issues that we have had have really been minor so far, and the other girls have been AMAZING at stepping up to be a buddy with someone feeling down and adapting to a changing schedule. I think we got some great girls here, and I hope we can renew some of their interest in Scouts and help them take full advantage of the wonderful program.

Well, I’m about to go to the beach, so I will try to post again tonight, please comment if you have questions and don’t forget to subscribe to get updates in your email!!

Thanks for reading,

Ana

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!

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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…

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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.

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Yours in scouting,

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

Countdown to India

Hi everyone,

The hour approaches!  It’s Tuesday night, and Thursday at 3:20pm feels closer and closer every minute.  My open suitcase on the floor, my dirty laundry pile getting smaller, adding and crossing things off my many, many lists…I’m having dejavu of last September when I did this all the first time.  I am more prepared this time I think, I am packing more gifts/donations/”stuff” than clothes, and hopefully the clothes I do bring will be comfortable and weather-appropriate.

Almost all packed!

As you can probably guess, I am really excited about this trip.  Last time I was just starting to get a little nervous about such a long flight, about arriving so late at night, and going to such a new and different place.  But this time I’ve been waiting since I got back to leave again, so I’m feeling nothing but excitement and anticipation.  I’ve kind of just been “hanging out” for a few months waiting for this trip, so I am more than ready to hit the ground running with my new job at Sangam.  I am going to be the Marketing and Communications Intern, so different than last time when I was a Sangam Volunteer.  I’ll post more about what exactly I’ll be doing later, once I find out more about my specific responsibilities, but the basic idea is to promote Sangam as a destination to Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world.  I’ll work with WAGGGS and the other World Centres on messaging and branding as well.

Sangam Logo

If you are someone who followed my blog last time I was in India, I promise to be more diligent with my posts this time.  I also think my posts might be more Girl Scout centered, I realized when I was in Chicago that there are actual Girl Scouts (and parents!) who are reading.  Of course I know what you really want to see are pictures, so I’ll be sure to upload those more often too.  As always, I love your input, so please tell me what you’d like to see more or less of.

Thank you all for reading, I am so looking forward to sharing this awesome journey with all of you!  As always, please share this with anyone you think might be interested, and please comment with any questions, comments, ideas or just to say hi!

Yours in Scouting,

Ana Cristina

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