Photo above: Amul and the 2014 MINDS Interns at Gandhi's Ashram outside of Ahmedabad. Left to right: Vatsal, Connor, Amanda, Katherine, Brittney, Matt, Amul (MINDS Program Manager), Laurie, and Eugene
It was an amazing second week here at the MINDS Foundation! We redefined our understanding of humidity after the monsoons started this week. Being from Seattle, we thought we knew what rain was, but we had no idea. Monsoons also mean all the critters come out—Laurie fought a snake to the death a couple days ago when it was sitting outside Katherine and Brittney’s room one night. One of our Indian neighbors came out with a wooden staff/famed scorpion smasher and started to poke at it and Laurie took it from him and flung it off the porch. It was a moment of victory all around, and Laurie is currently looking into careers as a snake charmer.
We went into the field three times this week, all to the same village: Kasumbia. The community mental health worker in the village, Pushpaben, gave us a tour around the village and we finally got a start on our project of mapping the villages. Eugene tried to get a selfie with a cow and got sprayed with cow poop, known as a failed experiment. It was an awesome experience and we are stoked that we finally completed our first map and had it approved by Dr. Niraj, who was extremely impressed with our work. We look forward to hopefully completing four more villages by the end of our trip.
This weekend, we ventured into the old city in Baroda and explored our first bazaar. Filled with floods of people, interested stares, and tons of goods ranging from food, clothing and jewelry. Brittney met some Britney Spears fans while shopping for bangles, as she is a direct comparison to the star herself. Eugene purchased a kurta finally and all of the girls scored the best scarfs they have seen yet. With our hands full of goodies the girls headed to The Chocolate Room (a cute little dessert café) which was a scary experience in itself. This adventure consisted of Brittney nearly getting hit three times trying to cross the street to get to the rickshaw and all of the girls getting lost trying to find the destination. Laurie saved the day by spotting the billboard nearby that advertises an engagement ring claiming the importance of women because the woman will “choose your meals for the rest of your life.” Meanwhile Eugene and the other male interns made it back safely and enjoyed some food ordered in (from Delfoo.com, our new favorite food delivery website).
The pleasant addition of the new MINDS fellow, Connor, a few days ago helped to even out the lopsided gender imbalance. Taking advantage of his company, we all ventured off on an excursion in search of some much-needed chicken. After 2 weeks of protein withdrawal symptoms, we finally found the coveted Barbecue Nation. Eating like a famished herd of foreigners forced to eat curry every day, we demolished the buffet-style restaurant and wolfed down pound after pound of various styles of chicken, (strange) cheese, and all-you-can-eat dessert. We ate like royals and walked out feeling like victorious sumo wrestlers, ready to tackle the next round of the battle against vegetarianism with confidence.
While living in a film studio can be entertaining, it sure can get pretty damn boring. As a result, we happily set our alarms for 6am and crammed into vans for a 2 hour ride into the city of Ahmedabad. At the end of the bumpy ride, we stopped at a fine-looking Swaminarayan Temple. After exploring all (there were a lot) of the exhibits and watching a documentary in Hindi, we took our Swaminarayan infused bodies to the Adalaj Stepwall. Built in 1499 by Muslim King Mohammed Begda for his wife, we climbed, ran, and jumped all over the five-story building. While walking around the roof of the building, Brittney, Amanda, Eugene, and Vatsal were approached by a herd of enthusiastic and welcoming schoolchildren, excitedly flooding the group with questions about America and practicing their impressive English. After failing to convince them that Jackie Chan was Eugene’s uncle, the kids gave us a good laugh by asking if Eugene was Brittney and Amanda’s brother. The next and final stop of the day was at one of Gandhi’s ashrams, where we toured his house, learned how to spin the famed khadi, and admired his inspiring life.
We came back “home” exhausted that night. After a “surprise” meal of Mexican food (our first choice of Mexican food ran out, then our favorite (sarcasm) restaurant Foodies wouldn’t pick up the phone, so Laurie. Eugene, Matt, and Vatsal surprised everyone by buying Mexican food from another restaurant on Delfoo.com. told you we liked this place), we all sleep like logs. We woke up the next morning welcoming the heavy downpour because it’d buy us a couple more hours of sleep. However, as the day continued we hated being stuck at Laxmi Studios. The rain has been continuing ever since but we decided to brave out the rain and head over to Big Bazaar to stock up on snacks, tea, and other goodies (and get chicken at McDonald’s). On our way back though, we took a rickshaw with Brittney sitting on Katherine and Eugene’s laps. It was so wet, Laurie and Katherine who were sitting on the outside of the rickshaw were drenched on the side of their legs. The rickshaw hit a bump once and we all thought the rickshaw was going to tip over with Brittney falling out the side. We made it home safely, but the rickshaw driver took the opportunity to overcharge us even more than agreed upon (we agreed for 150 rupees, but when Laurie paid him he asked for 20 more).
Sending our love from the very wet India,
The GROW Team
PS. Eugene has started a cult.