Posted by: lilyhamburger | November 26, 2009


Today is the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, so Mayur Bhai asked me to postpone my celebration of Thanksgiving. However, when he came to greet me this morning he said "THANK YOU LILY!" with a big smile on his face. I was confused. "It is Thanksgiving Day!" He said. Tomorrow I am going to see what I can whip up American style. Maybe i will try the solar cooker!

To commemorate the attacks, this morning we all gathered in the training room and Mayur spoke a bit (in Gujarati), and then we all prayed. We say cross-legged in a circle and sat staight up and "om"-ed. It was powerful. Then everyone was really emotional and I couldn’t understand what was being said, but afterwards Mayur explained that they had decided to have all-staff meetings for 10 minutes each morning. Every day. I think that’s awesome…we’ll see how long it lasts. If my daily English class is any indication, interest will only grow as days go by.

The routine here has not become routine. Every day is different, and new people come and go. Yesterday Modu Bena and her husband showed up, as well as another German dude doing environmental education at the girls school next door. I went out for "soda" last night with Modu and Saroj, a teacher at the school. Ew. It was lemon water with tumeric and salt thrust into a barely functional carbonation machine in a roadside cart. Blech.

I am getting used to some things. At breakfast every morning Umaa Ben, one of the cooks puts a Bindi (red dot) on her daughter’s forhead, and then on mine. Madvii, the 5 year old daughter, and I cannot use words to communicate but we just giggle and smile at each other while I am served chai and something to eat. The mush is my favorite, but one morning Umaa literally picked leaves off a tree, deep fried them, and served them to me on a plate.

Mayur wakes up at 5:30 or 6 am, and one morning I got up to do yoga with him. Today I opted for walking with Modu Ben instead – and I set the time for 7 instead… At 8:30 i go down and wait for the kitchen to open, and at 9 work begins. I have been spending some time organizing the collection of DVDs about health topics, which, despite being disorganized, are quite impressive teaching tools. Since people are often illiterate in the villages, or not Gujarati speakers, they are interested in creating more audio-visual health education material. I have seen it in action – it’s amazing.
Imagine: you walk into a dark room in a hut made of cow dung and mud. There are two rustic beds and a chair, and then in the far corner a shiny DVD player and little TV. Hilarious Maharati music videos streaming on TV, and then villagers begin to pour into the room. The TV shuts off and the strangers are introduced. Mayur Bhai uses posters to introduce sensitive topics like menstration and family planning. Then two DVDs are played – one on how to deal with complications during pregnancy, and the next on debunking myths about menstration. It was incredible to see how riveted many people were – most were hearing some of the info for the first time. Of course, there were giggles from adolescents and the young men JETTED from the room as soon as the lights went up – haha. Took me back to 6th grade health class… 🙂

There are child development classes held at ARCH in the morning, so I am surrounded by the pitter patter of little feet and little voices screaming out songs about numbers in Gujarati. One morning Mayur sat me in the preschool class and told the teacher I was a new student. I learned 3 colors!!

Each day at 5 I teach English class, which is fun. I make the staff practice by conversing with each other and we laugh and laugh at people’s mistakes. It is helping my Gujarati, too 🙂 After class, at 6, Mayur and I walk up to the highway and back – about 30 minutes. Then we eat dinner at 7:30 and talk for a bit. Communicating through the language barrier is a fun challenge, but Mayur and I have had some pretty good conversations about development, India, religion, etc. With others we do some grunting, pointing, smiling, or just sitting in silence… and trying to understand each other through about 15 words of each others language…

Another fun challenge is trying not to laugh hysterically when people belch, which they do all the time. Also fart. The one cheek sneak is no secret here…

You can hear the hilarious sound of peacocks – a sacred bird – (Mayur actually means peacock) at dusk and dawn here. They sound like a cross between a dying cat and a cow. Who knew.

In mango season I will be able to pluck fruit out my window.

I have to go – time for English class. EAT SOME TURKEY FOR ME!!



  1. I wanna live in your sweet little room, and eat fresh from the tree mango!

  2. we actually heard peacocks in israel–so bizarre!

  3. We have been thinking of you – your writing is lovely. Thank you for sharing great little details that make the story sparkle. Dharampur sounds wonderful!

  4. Lily your blogs are amazing, sorry I have been MIA in posting! I am with Cass mangoes from the bedroom…my life long dream! I can picture the huts and the health videos…OMG yes middle school health class…but that is incredible that those dvd’s exist and despite the embarrassment ppl are learning. I am glad you love teaching english and blessings on your gujarati learning! saying prayers for you love and happy very belated birthday!


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