Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A bit of environmental conservationism

As you might know, the human race has been remarkable in its ability to rapidly and effectively work together to destroy the Earth. Maybe there's something we could learn here about the proliferation of activities and habits among the masses, but I digress...

In India, of course, environmental sustainability is a major concern in every development effort. In an effort to take it seriously, I am conceding to a rare promotion of a word of mouth grassroots project.

Check out, and sign up if you are so inclined. I think it's an interesting opportunity to raise awareness among our collective social consciousness, and find ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints. We all know climate change is "bad" and conservation is "good", but how often do we actually do something about it in our daily routines?

Ok, enough preaching from me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One banana two banana three banana four...

For those of you interested in microfinance: there's an interesting debate going on about the use of microloans on the India Development Blog that my organization produces. I'm not sure where my loyalties lie on this issue, but I sure do like this quote:

"I've never seen what we would call a rich, developed economy which consists of millions of women sitting around selling bananas." - Malcolm Harper

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer in Chennai

Courtesy of Cheryl Young, a Mark Twain quote. Funny because it's true.

"In India, cold weather is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend of musical extremes

Chennai is the heartland of Tamilian music culture. (Tamil being an Indian ethnic group, much like the Luo to Kenya.) Or at least, so we've heard. A couple friends and I set out to check out said musical culture for ourselves a few weekends ago. Little did we realize the extremes we would experience.

Friday night, we went to a traditional Tamil dance show. It was pretty amazing. Two dancers, dressed in unbelievably ornate costumes complete with bells on the wrists and ankles, played out a long and intense story. I can't remember the details now, but there were some journeys and some family values and some strife, like any good story.

The visual effects were incredible, and the dancers' facial expressions were especially intriguing (I guess this is a characteristic of traditional Tamil dance). They were accompanied by a cute little band seated cross-legged on the side of the stage playing an assortment of drums and stringed instruments that I couldn't pronounce if I tried.

Saturday night, we went to the other end of the spectrum. A music school called the Unwind Center was hosting its 10th annual "June Rock Out" concert, which happened to be on the way to a party we were attending later in the evening. Turns out it was a day-long festival of amateur rock bands from around the country, playing everything from their own songs to covers of Coldplay, and wearing everything from 80s hair band fros to Iron Maiden t-shirts.

I was one of approximately five females in the audience. My friends and I were undoubtedly the oldest people there. But hey, who complains about a cover of Snow Patrol when they're living in India?

(I had a video to put in here, but it took waaaayy too long to upload.)

All in all, a pretty culture-filled weekend.

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The Great Apartment Search Saga

I have been horribly lax with updates of late. I could use work, business trips, or slow internet as excuses, but really I’ve just been genuinely busy. Which, mind you, is a huge improvement from my life in Kenya. So in the future you can consider a lack of communication as a positive indication of my quality of life… or something like that.

One of many important updates is that I finally, after 4 weeks of searching, two realtors, countless landlords and a week of negotiations, have moved into an apartment! Pictures of the place the first time I went to see it are below. It’s not much better furnished now, but I do have a bed and curtains (each of which was a full day effort – things take time here).

Front door & entrance hallway

Massive living room and my room

Bathroom, enclosed porch & kitchen

Finding this place was no easy task. After years of being considered the ideal tenant profile (young single female professional), I was dismayed to discover that these qualifications did not make me attractive to landlords here. In fact, being single, female, and foreign is pretty much a recipe for disaster in the Chennai real estate market. Traits like “non-vegetarian” and “non-Brahmin” are dealbreakers. Add to that "has a dog" and "allows male visitors in the home" and the pickings get very slim very fast.

However, with a lot of legwork, some help from my fabulous realtor (who happens to be a good friend of my new roommates) a good helping of luck, I found this place on the 2nd floor of a quaint old apartment building. It's got a ton of space and is down a quiet, tree-filled road about a 20 minute walk from my office. There are 3 bedrooms and we're still searching for a roommate to occupy the third room, but my colleague is staying there for the next month so we have a short buffer. The best part is it's a great place for my dog - who is arriving in a week and a half!

My new roommates (two girls from Kerala, southwestern India, sharing the master bedroom) are Elizabeth, a journalist for the India Express, and Shiney, who is interning to become an accountant. Most likely, a French girl named Marjorie who is interning with an oil society will be taking the third room for the next 6 months. Look at us, so multicultural! (Multiculturalism is a theme here - it's rare that I find myself in a group of people that does not include 3 or more nationalities. There's even a Kenyan girl interning with our centre, so I get my Swahili fix.)

So, I'm officially a resident of India!