Meet Ricky! He hangs out at the guest house on occasion and I love him
At long last, my life is returning to a busy mess of productivity! After being returned to the guesthouse from two nights with Smita in Jodhpur, I was energized and ready to come up with a main project to occupy my next three months here. Yes, I will continue to work on the recycling program for the school, securing the school’s water tank, and helping with projects at Sunder Rang, but alas, this is not enough to occupy even a quarter of my free time. So I decided to put my foot down and demand, politely, to work on a big project with the microfinance program. However, there wasn’t any demanding necessary; I suggested a project, and Kirti was immediately on board with my idea. Sometimes I think I create obstacles in my head that don’t actually exist, and in this case I had bolstered up a huge obstacle out of this project, but that’s no matter. The point is, I am finally on my way to a real project, and I’m very excited to get started. So now I will describe to you my rough idea of a project:
The microfinance program is a budding young project, only one year old. And like all creatures at one year old, the program is not yet fully developed. Now, Kirti is Praduman’s sister and lives in Jaipur, but she comes a few times a month to run the solar energy and microfinance projects. She is very well qualified for the job, receiving her training at SEVA, a very large microfinance organization she worked for years earlier. So the program in Chandelao and a neighboring village is off to a very good start with 122 women and counting each putting 100 rupees (a little over $2 USD) a month into their bank accounts. For women who have never even dreamed of seeing the inside of a bank, this program has been huge, even in its first year since conception. However, these women who are brand new to economic freedom have never known the luxury of having money saved, and interest earned.
Theoretically, this is what I hope to accomplish: I would like the women, who are organized in groups of ten, to decide on a business that can be started together using the money saved in their bank accounts. Kirti and I came up with many ideas for businesses that are feasible, such as working with carpentry, electricity, stone carving, block printing, irrigation projects, and many other things, but we will not have any say in what the women choose. The key is that they will have the freedom to choose their own business, wherever their similar interests lie. My job will then be to secure training for the women in whichever endeavor they choose. If they want to learn to make clothes, I will find a tailor to train them. If they would like to make furniture, I will find a carpenter to teach them the trade. The most important thing is to teach the women how saved money can be used in a smart way that will ensure true economic security, through income-generating activities that they choose themselves. But to be successful you need training in your field, and that’s where I hope to come in.
You might think this kind of project will not work due to cultural restrictions, particularly restrictions on women in the Indian culture, but these types of programs have been working for years in countries all over the world. Even right here in Chandelao we have the solar energy program, a program where six uneducated women were trained in the assembly and installation of solar panels in homes. It’s absolutely incredible to watch them at work. They faced many social pressures to stay home and be a wife and a mother, but these women were bold and smart enough to realize the benefits in securing income for themselves. This example, literally so close to home, will most likely prove pivotal in convincing the women that they too can have their own businesses.
We will have to see where this all goes, but right now it’s a start.
So I’m not really sure what the date is, or what time it is, although I’m pretty sure it’s still the year 2012. Right now we are trapped in Canada in a strange type of layover where we got off the plane but will be getting back on it shortly. It’s 10:10pm here in Vancouver, but in Bali it’s 1:10pm and in New York it’s 1:10am… I think. So we are all very confused. Plus, when we landed here in Canada it was light out! We are collectively very bewildered. We are getting closer to being home though which is a big relief. I actually really enjoyed the flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver, even though I ate way too much food (they just kept feeding us!) and I didn’t sleep much. Hopefully that will mean I’m less jet-lagged when we get back to Boston, but we’ll see.
It’s so strange to think that our time in Bali is officially over. I keep thinking we will wake up tomorrow and go to class, or visit a temple maybe. In retrospect, time truly went quickly while we were there. There were days that we worked very hard on our projects that felt long, but overall the five weeks flew by. Though I’m ready to be going home, it didn’t feel like enough time to be in a country. Five weeks is a lot shorter than you think, although I’m sure my family and friends back home would disagree.
Now that we are out of Bali, it’s easier to look at the broader picture of what we saw and what we did there. In the novel The Poisonwood Bible there is a part of the story entitled “What We Carried”, speaking about the emotional weight of a family who stayed in the Congo and then left after doing missionary work there. While we spent our time in Bali, a much different place, this part of the novel still strikes a chord with me as far as “what we carried” out of the country. We saw so much, and now that we are done I can really look back and begin to process things. Bali is a beautiful country, but not everything we saw was beautiful. We saw true poverty, real struggles and pain that no amount of hoping or wishing could fix. We met people who changed our lives just by talking to us for five or ten minutes, just by telling us their stories through translators and gestures. We went places that the tourists don’t visit and experienced things that most westerners don’t get to do or see. I hope that we will never forget everything we saw in Bali. I really don’t think we can.
Well, our flight is reboarding so more posts to come later on.
In five hours, we’ll be heading off to the airport! It’s so incredibly strange to think that this is our last morning here in Bali. The five weeks went by much faster than I would have thought they would, and now that it’s coming to a close I don’t really know how to feel. I’m excited to be going home, but it’s definitely not going to be easy to leave Bali. We’ve been here too long to not miss is once we leave! I’ll be writing on the plane later (it’s an 18.5 hour trip just from Hong Kong to JFK) so more posts to come!
It is amazing to be back in Ubud! We could not be finishing up the trip in a more perfect way, starting and ending here at Madra’s in Ubud. We even have the same rooms as we first did. Now though, it feels much different to be here. We feel much more comfortable exploring and trying new things, and we no longer get stuck in routines such as eating at the same restaurant every night like we used to! Today we went to the market, and I believe I finished up my gift shopping (everyone better be satisfied with what they get!). I even packed everything for Sunday’s return home, because I’m taking the suitcase situation very seriously. When I went to Puerto Rico my suitcase was lost and never returned, so I know now not to put anything I care about in my suitcase. Anyways, tomorrow I want to be able to enjoy my last day without worrying about silly things like packing, so at least that’s done! Tonight we are going to Kuta, so even though it’s been a very long day I’m pretty curious to see what it’s like there. I haven’t heard great things, but it is one of the number one tourist spots in Bali, so it’s good to have all different perspectives of this island. Tomorrow we are planning on spending our last day walking around more and just getting to see as much of Ubud as we can. I don’t want to have to take out more money from the ATM, so let’s hope I can live off of 100,000 rupiah tomorrow! If not, I might have to bribe some of my friends to exchange American for Indonesian currency. We’ll see what happens. I think I’m going to be ready to go home when Sunday comes. It’s been a wonderful experience, and while I’ll be sad to leave I’m also so incredibly excited to get back to Boston to see my sister, my boyfriend, my friends and everyone else at school. Then it’s back to New Jersey to see my family who I miss quite terribly! One more day, then the long trip back.
Yesterday was quite an eventful final day in Singaraja. It began with a team excursion to the hot springs! It was a bit strange to be around so many Americans and Europeans (there were some tourists there) but it was a really great morning. Now for the bigger news: lunch. We went to have street food since Mega and Indah were with us, and they know where all the best food is. I had some delicious sate in peanut sauce, and couldn’t have been more pleased with it! Some of my friends decided on the bakso, and realized halfway through that they had no idea what the little meat chunks they were eating consisted of. Finally they asked Mega, and his casual reply was “cow tongue”. Now, that’s not the absolute worst thing to hear, but it is a bit of a surprise to be certain. I mulled over this new realization while finishing up my sate, then decided that it was time to try a new food. I was perhaps a little put off by the taste buds on the cow tongue, but I went for it anyways. Bon appetite.
We had an awesome last day with our group, but going to the final dinner was way more difficult than most of us had anticipated. I guess it hadn’t hit us yet that we would be leaving Singaraja and all of the amazing students we had become friends with in the process. When we gave Mega and Indah their gifts from America, they both got so choked up that they couldn’t speak. They were so touched that we had brought them presents, but they don’t realize how much they have done for us over the last three weeks. We wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the project without them driving us around and translating for us and using their connections to help us research and make progress. But project aside, they were just an amazing pair to hang out with and get to know. We love them so much! Thank goodness for Skype and Facebook. And the mail system (we are planning on sending more things from America, as well as letters!). It was awful saying goodbye, but these last three weeks have been much too good to be true. We knew it had to end at some point.
So now all that’s left to do is cart ourselves back to Ubud, then in three days we leave for Hong Kong. About 24 hours on a plane, more hours in the airport, and then I’ll be in Boston. These next few days will fly by.