Back in Canada And Final post on the India adventure

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Hello all. My apologies for begin offline for so long but the internet connectivity in the last week of the India adventure was poor. Leah and are are now back in Canada and back at work, battling jet-lag and the massive mail dig-out that has to happen after 2 months away from my day job. I’m not sure but this might be my last post (about India anyway).

At any rate wanted to finish the story with you all by posting some pictures and telling you about what er did in the last week.

Sunday, Sept 15:

We flew from Delhi to Cochin in the South of India. This is a very different world form Northern India and the climate and many other things are once again so different. That said I guess that to be expected, just lie Victoria is very different form Winnipeg. Once we arrived at the airport we were driven to Fort Cochin and did a quick walk around the city. It’s a more resort like seaside community and clearly tourism is the bread and butter here. IN Fort Cochin caught some good pictures of the Chinese Fishing nets:

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Monday, Sept 16: Spent the morning doing more touring of Fort Cochin and then drove to Kuramakom on the backwaters area of Kerela (the State we were in). There we boarded a boat for a quick rid out to an Island resort where we spent the night. It was such a beautiful place. The only downside is it was a bit rainy….

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The good news on the rain however is it prompted both Leah and I to get a massage at the resort. So inexpensive compared to Canada prices and VERY relaxing! In the evening we attended a fun dance performance that was put on that showed of some of the traditional dance from the region.

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Tuesday – Did a quick visit to a local fishing village, also got a canoe ride around the area to explore the sights from a whole new vantage point. Then we hoped int eh boat and back to the van for a drive to our next stop in Alleppey where we boarded a houseboat for an backwaters tour and overnight stay.  the Kerela backwaters are a rainy but wonderful place.

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While on board we stopped at a place that sold fresh Prawns and the crew cooked them for out dinner. As you can see they are GIGANTIC!

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Wednesday – Got off the boat and went for a drive to a ocean front resort, Abad Turtle beach,  near a fishing village called Mararikulam. Here we stayed two nights. This was a great place somewhat like a Hawaii experience. The weather improved too and in my case got a bit hot given the high humidity there is in this part of India. As always I continued to sweat. The good thing is there was a pool 🙂

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During our stay we went to the beach to watch the Fishermen bring in the evening catch. The Ballet of the boat docking, unloading and departing in the surf was very cool.

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We also went on a 10K bike ride on some very old bikes the resort rented us. Along the way we stopped at a Hindu temple to watch them light a night time offering. It was very neat, but also scary to ride back the resort after dark on such sketchy bikes!

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In addition during our stay we spent more time in the Spa and got an Indian cooking class and did a few other fun and relaxing things.

Also I should mention they had the best butterfly gardens I have ever seen. There must have been 10 different kinds at there were over a dozen on any bush at any given time! I spent lots of time here trying to capture some good butterfly pictures.

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Finally we returned to Fort Cochin for our last afternoon/evening where we went on a cruise of the harbor as well as attended a very intense and strange cultural performance highlighting another ancient performance / art from the region. It was called Kathakal. It was interesting but it sure seems to be something that might need to grow on you. the facial expressions are a bit disturbing….

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Then the next day we spent more time around Fort Cochin. We went to the Jewish part of the town and did some fun shopping to buy some interesting things. If you come by our house ask to see the cool Spoon holder we purchased. It’s certainly the only thing in our house that is over 300 year old!

The final day (Sunday) we headed for the airport at about midnight for the very LONG journey home (27 hours traveling, 36 or so with no sleep!).

When we got home I was greeted to an amazing surprise birthday party Leah had organized for me. It was so great to arrive home to see some of the people I had missed so much in the past two months.  Thanks to Raya, Seonaid and all for the hard work to organize the party. It was a great to celebrate a big birthday.

So that’s a “quick” summary of the last week of the trip. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on compiling a proper slideshow just in case anyone wants to see more. My hope however is this Blog has given everyone a pretty good sense of the main things that went on.

Thanks to all who took the time to keep up with me and provide me such supportive comments while I was on the adventure. It was a wonderful way to mark my 50th year on this earth.

Until my next post (whenever that might be), Keith.

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Back on the Net! What a week it’s been…

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Hello all! Sorry for my lack of posting but I’ve had very poor internet access as I have traveled the Golden Triangle of India. Now that I’m back in Delhi for an evening seems I finally have a good connection again, which likely I will lose next week. 

Anyway I wanted to update you a bit on what Leah and I have been up to in the last week so will do a quick summary here. I have MANY pictures and we have lots of interesting stories for when we get back that I wont get into here; but the summary of the week is: 

Sunday:

Met Leah in the Delhi terminal 3 airport. It was great to see her after a month!!! Connected up no problem and then we found the airport transfer drive for out G Adventures tour. So super painless process, which is NOT what I expected. 🙂

Monday:

1. Toured the Gurduwara Sikh Temple. I learned so much here it was terrific. Leah also had fun making Roti in the community kitchen which welcomes and feeds all that visit! Apparently se was pretty good because the other women were doing quality control and she got two Roti perfect!

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2. Also went to largest Mosque in India (Jama Masjid Mosque). The scale of the place was totally amazing. 

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Drove to Agra  

Tuesday:

Photorgraphers dream!

1. Got up early in time for the early morning sun at the Taj Mahal. This was a very cool place and turned out to be so much more amazing than I expected. Sorry for the wires in the lower part of this picture, I’ll crop it later 🙂

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Wonderful Sunrise: 

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2. Then went to Agra Fort which is the other major attraction in Agra that has very interesting history

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3. Then visited the “Baby Taj”  which is really a tomb. It served as the inspiration for the design of the Taj Mahal itself

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Wednesday:

Drove to Jaipur. On the way stopped at a huge abandoned palace, called Fatehpur Sikri. After much construction they grew too quickly in size and ran out of water so had to move on. It is a impressive place with the largest gate in all of India. I think they said 51 meters high!

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Also stopped at a cool step-well, built so villages could more easily get water. This one was very elaborate. Just look at all the steps!!!

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Thursday: 

Saw the main attractions in Jaipur

Amber Fort

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Lake Palace

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City Palace

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Friday:

Drove to Fort Sawarda.  

On the way stopped at a very cool Monkey temple. Where there we of course LOTS of monkeys.

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The fun part was waiting them jump from the temple buildings into the main pool in the court-yard. It as very exciting. Also Leah and I to have a very cool Hindu blessing from the priest in the temple. 

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In Sawarda we toured the village, saw pottery making, watched sun set on the local lake. Nice reflections!

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Spent the night in a hotel that was straight out of a scene in the “Exotic Marigold Hotel” movie.

Sat:

Watched the sun rise over the local Hindu Temple, more nice sun, then drove back to Delhi.

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Tomorrow: 

We go to the airport early to depart for our southern part of our adventure in Kerela. It promises to be just as interesting and wonderful. Will post as I can, or worst case show you all the pictures when I return. 

My best to all back home! 

Keith.

 

India part 2: some notes from a day off in Bombay/Mumbai

Have some time today and a good internet connections as I pass some time before getting on a flight to Delhi late tonight so doing a quick post here.

The India 20 team is no more, and everyone has broken off to board their next flights to where they were headed. It was sure hard to see them go. About half went back to their home countries and half are staying in India on various forms of touring and sightseeing. Many of us are luck and are meeting our spouses here to begin phase 2 of our journey and as a result I was able to meet Paula’s boy-friend and go to dinner with them last night. It was a great non-Veg feast (lots of Chicken)!

Having the India 20 team come together was great, one of those happenings in life that occurs that you know was because for something more than just fate. I’m leaving the experience with new friends and an expanded understanding of their cultures and countries. To have such a talented team together for a month was enriching and I’m sad to see it go.Happily there seems to be real talk of regular India 20 team reunions where we show up in each others countries. It think this is a great idea since Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Australia, England, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania all sound like cool places to visit.

With the departure of the team I have found myself with a few hours spare hours in Mumbai all to myself which is kinda nice. Today I went for a walk about and saw yet more bizarre things. Also found a great Ice Cream shop. Ice Cream is very big here; and very good.

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Also since my hair grew out of control in Jamnagar I found a barber and got a real Indian haircut. I was a bit worried about the whole experience but instead was surprised by the similarity of it all. The shop and the barber were Just like the one my brother frequents back in Victoria. Despite the complete lack of any English to guide things the end result is good. Not my best haircut ever, but certainly far better then my worst! And all that for 100 Rupies (including big tip = $1.50 Canadian). What a deal!

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Tomorrow I’ll be in Delhi and hopefully Leah and I will connect in the airport. Then after some sleep we will get going onto the tour. I know many are interested to see more blogs about this, especially the Kerala part, so I’ll do my best to continue as time, energy and internet connectivity allow. Till then, best wishes to all back home.

Finally, not to be a downer but finishing off with a quick picture I took last night of a homeless family on the streets of Mumbai. Less mud, less cows but same poverty.

Until this trip I understood, but did not know (internalize)  just how blessed and fortunate I am to live in the circumstances I do.

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My best to all back home.

Keith.

Another perspective and Moving on…

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In about 2 hours I board a plane back to Bombay, at which point I’m less sure about the availability/stability of any internet.  So, just before I go offline thought I would link you to Emily and Peters well written last blog entries so you could see their final perspective on things too.  As I”ve said before they are gifted colleagues who I was very blessed to work with. I will miss both of them. Their passion, talent and energy made for great teamwork.

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Thanks to all that have been reading along and commenting. Your supportive words and thoughts have helped me over this past month. I look forward to showing off my pictures to many of you when I get back home.

Best wishes to all. I’m off to see more of India!

Keith.

#IBMCSC India

Sometimes it’s so hard to say goodbye…

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Today was another day of strong emotions. We did our final presentation at Chatianya today where we have worked for the past month and I think we did an excellent job.

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Peter and Emily were terrific to work with and clearly helped remind just how wonderful the people at IBM can be. The report we produced is very good and the recommendations are very sound in terms of advice in how best to allow Chaitanya to grow. I know we have done all we could in a month to help things along. The website is going, Hitesh has begun to regularly update it and Paypal is working well; there are even some small donations stating to flow in which over time and with the right marketing and promotion will build.

Still, I leave with a clear understanding that I’m leaving behind much unfinished business.

As the long shadows of the evening crept forward at the end of today, and as the last goodbyes calls from the children echoed in the street outside the center a sadness welled up in me.

The ride back the hotel in the Auto Rickshaw was a quiet one. Each of us, Peter, Emily and I deep in contemplation about what we had been able to do, what was still to be done, and what the lives of the wonderful children we had met and become friends with might become. As I expected I will be forever changed by this past month.

The challenges Hitesh, Kajal and Chaitanya are large as it competes with a host of other NGO’s and worthy causes for scarce financial resources. And while I wish I could have done more, I know that Kajal and Hitesh will work as hard as possible to continue to make Chaitanya a success that has a meaningful an lasting impact on the children.

And for me I leave this project hugely enriched by the experience. I have been reminded of some very important lessons. About How to do you best and then let go. About how to accept thing as they are when they can’t be changed. And about how the  good works of a few can impact so many; Kajal and Hitesh are so inspiring.

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Today I took more pictures to remember the children’s faces once I come home from this strange land that has provided me so much enriched perspective. I’m including just a few here. They wont mean much to many of you since there was no way for you to fully walk this journey with me; but for Peter, Emily and I, but they are filled with fun, excitement and most importantly hope.

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And to remind me that sometimes it is very important to look back – I know I will – this last snap:

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For those that believe in a God please pray for Chaitanya that it can prosper and grow; for those that don’t believe in such a creator please send all you good thoughts instead.

Tomorrow I will go to the Sava presentation where I’m sure I’ll be be blown away by the work they have done to help plan out a Farm Co-operative that promises to have great benefit to the local farmers. Then on Friday, I board a plane and depart this home away from home and go back to Bombay. In leaving I leave behind my best thoughts and prayers for all the remarkable people I’ve met and learned from.

I’m excited to connect with Leah on Sunday in Delhi and get onto part 2 (the tour) of my adventure. I have missed her and I want to be able to share some time in India with her so she gets a understanding of this place too. It is indeed a remarkable country. Beautiful yet polluted. Chaotic and noisy yet peaceful. Truly a country of contrasts.

I’ll try to post a bit on my tour too, but given that I’m be in transit each day not sure how well that will work. At any rate hopefully reading this Blog has been interesting to all that made the effort.

Best wishes and love to all back home.

Keith

#IBMCSC India

Volunteering partnership

Just got back form a good meeting we had between the Chaitanya founders and the leaders for the Essar Foundation in Jamnagar. We seemed to hit upon a pretty good idea. Essar wants to encourage it’s employees to volunteer more. But many of them live in Jamnagar, too far away from the Essar villages to easily volunteer on a regular basis. So the idea is to try to partner so that Essar employees in Jamnager could volunteer at Chaitanya. This should help Chaitanya with additional resources, drive up awareness about Chaitanya with Essar workers, and assist Essar Foundation in it’s goal to enable and encourage volunteerism. Best of all it begins to develop a relationship that in the end can only be beneficial to both parties. So I think this was very positive. 

Meanwhile Peter and Emily have plowed ahead with completion of the report and presentation which is going to print today.

Tomorrow we present.

Wish us luck!

Keith.

#IBMCSC India 

Another great post from Nina

Another great post form Nina here.

She is an excellent way of capturing things that are so different about this place. Enjoy!

Also including a picture of almost the whole India20 team. 

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From left to right: Keith, Anton, Malcolm, Elyse, Paula, Katrin, Peter, Claudia, Nina. Missing: Emily and Gica (taking the picture). 

All  such great people! 🙂

Happy Monday to all. 

Keith

#IBMCSC India

Paypal Success – Just in time!

Paypal Success!

Great news – we have finally cleared all the paperwork blockers and the new website Peter implemented now has Paypal functionality so people can donate much more easily! I’m hopeful this alone will yield some real benefit since the world is online now and making it easier to support Chaitanya was a must.

Report wise we are on track to meet the objective of or statement of work and the report and presentation are in the final stretch. Emily did a great job making headway on the report today, and Peter and I we able to get most of the presentation done. Now we are going though the normal (and painful) review, correct, improve cycle. With some more hours of work tomorrow we should be ready for printing on Tuesday morning and presentation on Wednesday. 

Also on the plus side we were able to secure a meeting between Chaitanya and the Essar CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) leader in Jamnagar for Tuesday to see what synergies might exist. It will be interesting what might come out of that.

Anyway,  just 3 working days to go. Wish us luck.

Including a picture of my new friends (Left to right: Malcolm, Peter, Keith, Claudia). Out on one of our many rickshaw rides. Lots of fun.

Keith.

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#IBMCSC India

The big push – only 5 days left!

The team and I are working hard to complete the report over this weekend so then we can prepare an summary presentation based on the report and then present to the client on Wednesday. Lots still to do so we will be working hard.

Also I’m feverishly trying to reach out to as many funding and grant giving organizations as possible to at least initiate a dialog / start the paperwork with them. Sadly given lead times none of them are likely to come to close before we leave (which I know i what our client would love) but we can only do so much. At least we will have a number of them started for him to continue with once we are gone.

On the plus side Peter has the new Facebook page going, see here (and like it) and a brand new website created and operational see here. I like my picture of the teacher at the blackboard Peter used.

Now Peter is helping to setup mailing lists and processes so it’s easier for Hitesh to send out the monthly newsletter/update we have crafted for him. So in general the technical stuff humming along. Only thing that’s still frustrating is that despite all attempts we still don’ have Paypal hooked up to the website. Frustratingly they need all sort of paperwork that is very difficult to get here in India.

My apologies to all that I have not taken any pictures lately so just including an “old” one here.

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Hope all is well back home. I hear it’s very rainy! Not so here, Monsoon seems to be over and it’s been dry, just in time for my vacation to start :-).

My best to all.

Keith

#IBMCSC India