Posted by: lilyhamburger | October 31, 2009

Hot, Happy, Full of Dahl


OK, IM HERE. After all the talk and prep and making up one million variations of my answer to “Oh what are you doing in India?” I am finally on this subcontinent half way around the world! How can I be sure I’m not dreaming? Well, I saw an elephant walking down the city street the other day. I still wasn’t sure. But then I was buying food at a tiny little shop window yesterday and I saw a camel just hangin out on the corner. Enourmous creature. I still could be dreaming…

I have been in Ahmedabad since Tuesday. The trip over was looooong. I had a mini-adventure with two of the other fellows, Hannan and Gabe, in London during our gargantuan layover in Heathrow: a whirlwind through Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square (apparently we just missed the Divali decorations there), yummy fish and chips, a fly-by of Buckingham Palance, and finally we hit up Hyde Park. Back at the airport we met up with 5 of the other 7 (10 of us in total, 2 had been travelling in India prior to our orientation), and we all flew to Mumbai and then to Ahmedabad. I was en route for… 30-ish hours?

We were greeted by Lani, the program director, Lily, a fellow from last year who stole my name and decided to stick around because she loved her experience so much, and Sunita, who has become like my Indian mother already.  I have gotten to know my fellow fellows pretty well so far, and I’m beginning to get a feel for India in general. I hit the ground running with my skills with a bucket shower and squat toilet (thank you, Tanzania!).

For the first month of my time here, all 10 of us World Parnters Fellows are together for orientation in Ahmedabad, a city of 8 million and the 7th largest city in India. We are staying at Kochram Ashram, Gandhi’s first intentional community set up in India after he returned from South Africa (I’m pretty sure that was 1917). The Ashram is still run according to the principles that Gandhi proclaimed, which you can read on this website from the other Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad: []. The director of this place is a retired professor and he wears white robes that he makes himself from cotton he spins himself on a wheel just like Gandhi. Needless to say, the world’s most famous community organizer (before Obama) is nearly worshipped here. The entire state of Gujarat is vegetarian and booze-free, but the Ashram doesn’t allow milk either. Yogurt, called curd here, is eaten at every meal, though. We are fed EXTREMELY well by a local woman who makes dahl, roti and rice every day with all kinds of incredible delicious Indian main dishes. Favs include, well…everything: Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi, and all kinds of curried things like okra and black eyed peas. I eat green chilis at every meal to protect my tummy – wowza they’re hot! Breakfast is fruit and bread/crackers from the market.

I am sleeping in a simple little room with a ceiling fan and flourescent lighting on a hard wooden bed and thin mattress. My bed is squeezed between Caroline’s and Alana’s, two cool gals. (I love being in the middle!) Orientation thus far has been a mix of sit-down, workshop-style orientation “sessions” (in which we discuss things such as practicalities of living in India, an overview of our fellowship, our hopes and fears for the year, and Jewish stuff), and then adventures like going to the sweet shop, fruit market, internet café, etc. All the fellows are Jews, which is kinda a weird environment to me, but there is a diverse range of religious practices and experiences among us, and we come from all kinds of backgrounds all over the US – and Canada. This group is super well-travelled, and all are friendly and gregarious. Luckily for me everyone is up for songs and games at the drop of a hat – halleluja!

It’s been fun to explore the city a bit together. Slowly getting our feet wet. We started by venturing to an internet café on Wednesday, the day after we arrived here. We got there by auto rickshaw, but after walking around a bit Alana and I had a little trouble getting home. Across the language barrier, the rickshaw driver kept thinking he knew where we wanted to go, but we got a little tour of Ahmedabad before we gave up and called Sunita, our Indian mama, on the driver’s mobile to get things straight. The city is absolutely bustling – especially at rush our – with thousands upon thousands of motor scooters, auto rickshaws, cars, bikes, trucks, busses, pedestrains dressed in all ranges of western and traditional garb, and, of course, cows. Oh, and camels and elephants occasionally, too. It’s quite exhilirating to be a part of!! I think that’s the high that’s got me addicted to travelling. It’s NOT being constantly stared at that I love, but that happens here, too.

Your Hindi lesson of the day: BARFI are milk-based Indian sweets. Whoa. They are good. No barfing.

The rat incident: Thursday morning I was awakened by a scream. Alana thought there was a bug in her clothes shelf. “No,” I grumbled, still half asleep, “there are lizards in here. A gecko, I’m sure it’s a gecko.” I opened my eyes and she was freaking out. I took one look at the clothing closet and jumped out of bed. A long tail was hanging down from Alana’s shelf to mine. “A snake!” I thought. No, no. It was a giant RAT. It’s head poked up and we ran screaming from the room! When we calmed down and came back into the room, armed with a broom it was no where to be seen. Yeah, well, we couldn’t see it because it was in my backpack!! I came to the room later that afternoon to look for something and saw it’s little furry butt sticking out. I ran out to get Andrew and he very authoritatively toko control: “Ok Lily, you do something. I’ll watch.” Anyway, I dumped it out of my backpack and haven’t seen it since…




  1. LIL You are the bomb!! I am so excited just reading your blog!! I didn’t realize that ALL of Guj was meat free???? HA HA You are a hamburger!! Have more and more fun!!!!

  2. Lily, this sounds amazing! It makes me want to go in India now! Hope you have an amazing time, and rats are not that gross!

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