February 17

I actually slept until a normal time this morning. I seem to be completely on normal time at the moment, which is great! I am hungry, however – dinner was interesting, to say the least, so I ate little. Thankfully, there was a serving of ice cream and chocolate sauce (home made) for dessert!
This morning started with Yoga. It wasn’t very hard-core at all, I had been hoping that it would be harder than it was! It was more or less what we find at home, except that it is normally harder! Breakfast was great – I am definitely a fan of that meal…
After that, the three of us walked across the street (which is always interesting…I didn’t run when the other two ran, so I ended up staying on the opposite side for much too long! In any case, it was an excellent outing because a lot was accomplished. Yesterday, when I was out with the English people, they weren’t too interested in peaking into the little shops, so today we managed to do that a bit. We went into a few of the little convenience stores along the way to the internet café. One was really interesting and I managed to buy some face-soap – Dove – for 40 Rs! And in the same shop there were all kinds of cleaning supplies, toothpaste, food, etc. It was a pretty cool little place! Then, we went and used the internet, which works so surprisingly well!
We hung out by the pool until lunch…already I am getting so much better at doing nothing. It is different when everyone around me is also doing nothing and the temperatures are nutty. We’ve guessed that it was about 30 degrees, but the humidity is higher than what I am used to, so it definitely seems like more than that.
The program started after lunch. We had a get-to-know-you session in the hall where we were introduced to all of the staff on-site, Indian and International. There are a lot of family relations that work at the centre. We did a scavenger hunt around the grounds of Sangam. I also learned that the land was given to Girl Guides by the government and that it is 7.5 acres in total. Next door, there is a ‘community’ (it was re-vamped from a slum to a community when Queen Elizabeth visited about ten years ago or so) that has 10 000 people living on the same quantity of land.
After tea break (there are three of these breaks during the day!) we went on a group tour around the community. It was more or less the same route that I had done yesterday, however, with the staff from Sangam showing us around, it was a little more informative. We first went into the temple where people go to worship Gnash. He is the elephant-man. He was created from the following story: Shiva and Vishnu were married. Shiva went away to meditate (for 2 years) and just after he left, Vishnu realized she was pregnant. When Shiva came back, there was a young boy guarding the door to his home while Vishnu took a bath. When the young boy wouldn’t let Shiva enter the home (because he didn’t know his dad), Shiva decapitated the young boy. When Vishnu saw this, she was very upset. She demanded that Shiva fix the situation or else she would never speak to him again. So, Shiva found an elephant that was sleeping in the wrong position (Hindi believe that they need their heads to be facing North and their feet to be facing South) and killed it. He put the head on his son and his life was restored.
We then went into the temple of Parvati, the god with many arms. She was created in order to fight a demon that was causing chaos. The first class gods and the second class gods all got together and meditated. In doing so, a light was projected from their eyes, which created the form of a woman. She has many arms and is holding various weapons and tools that she used to destroy the demon. She is the goddess of wealth and has something to do with fertility and pregnancy.
En route we also saw a Christian church, and an orphanage being constructed. One of the ladies got her shoe stolen by a dog! I was worried about people stealing my shoes, but I hadn`t really thought about dogs! We also made a brief stop into a Buddhist temple. Buddhism started here in India, but a few of the Hindu Maharajas banned the religion and made Hindu be the only religion of the time. There are a few Buddhists around, but it isn’t very popular. Originally, it became popular among the lower castes because the religion makes all people equal, therefore providing the opportunity for those with lower social standing to move up the ladder. All of these temples and churches are within one block and everyone lives very peacefully in this middle-class neighbourhood.
We visited the home of a previous employee of Sangam. She is 79 years old and had worked here for 39 years! Her house was immaculate and kept going further and further back from the street. She had a temple in her home and her kitchen was amazing! Metal pots all organized on the wall. It was pretty cool. Before we left her home, she blessed us and put the spices between our eyebrows. It was fun!!
The last temple that we visited was for another god. It is like the trinity – ie it has three gods rolled into one. I believe they are Shiva, Vishnu, and Krishna and it is called Rama. This was an interesting visit because there was a ceremony happening while we were there that included candles and dancing. Interestingly enough, one of the dancers was transvestite – he was very tall, but dressed in a sari. Here, they are respected and feared and are called upon for luck in ceremonies. They tend to abuse their power, however, and will demand money if they meet you and can cast a curse if you don’t do as they demand.
I caught two girls getting ready for bed/home as we were leaving the temple. One was brushing her teeth with her finger and the other was brushing her hair! I got all excited about the tooth-brushing picture, and they were nice enough to let me take a picture.
After dinner we had opening ceremonies. It was a very official Indian welcome. We all marched in to the hall in a circle and then were blessed by putting a couple of spices on our forehead between our eyes and moving around a betel nut and a candle around our heads. They also sprinkled rice on our hair and gave us a necklace of marigolds. It was pretty neat. There was an official photographer as we were not allowed to take our own pictures, so we will see how that will work!
And now it is bedtime! Tomorrow we are going shopping!! We get to purchase the material to make saris and tunics and the tailor is coming in the afternoon to fit us! I am pretty excited…
Night.
-AJ

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