Understanding the History of Loni

This first week has been our orientation to the campus, and a time to understand the history of the town of Loni itself. The real success of Loni, is due to man and a visionary Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil. (Padmashri is the 4th highest honor bestowed on an Indian citizen from the Indian government due to their efforts/success in certain areas.)

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Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil was born to an ordinary peasant family and was deeply moved by the poverty, illiteracy and disease that he saw in his community. Along side of the poverty he saw great potential for the community and sought out to make a difference and create a movement to empower and uplift this rural community. Although he was only educated through fourth standard he was not discouraged and continued to follow his path and see what he had envisioned turn into a reality. Eventually with the help of some people who believed in his dream as much as he did, a small rural town was built into a strong and unified community. Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil used the resources that were available within the rural community (sugar cane) and is responsible for the first industrial co-operative venture in Asia which was started in 1949. This co-operative venture unified the farmers in this rural area and the Pravara Co-operative Sugar Factory was born. By involving the local farmers into this co-operative venture the power that was once in the hands of the private factory owners now lay in the hands of the farmers. No longer did these people suffer from oppression from money lenders and exploitation of big factory owners. He went on to establish the Pravara Medical Trust in 1972 which was meant to improve the health and health education of the people in Loni as well as the surrounding villages. Along with the establishment of the Sugar Factory and the Medical Trust, Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil felt it was vital to establish other schools in the surrounding area to empower the children to reach higher education and to improve future generations.

All aspects of this vision are based off of the Integrated Rural Development Model. This community is run off of a self-sustaining model by which each community member encourages and helps one another. For example the sugarcane factory give farmers control over their crops. We learned while visiting the sugar cane factory that the factory itself is completely self-sustaining using the by-products of molasses, alcohol used as a separate source of income and bio-gas which is recycled and used to power the plant. I was impressed when visiting the schools that they run off of this model as well. Students who can-not afford to pay the fee receive a free education and those who have financial trouble can pay a low-cost fee. At the agricultural center farmers are encouraged to come and learn what will be the most beneficial for each individual crop and they have built a relationship with those who work at the agricultural center.

This community has built itself to be full of bright minds with a continued vision of improvement for the future.

I’m in India!

I can’t believe that I am finally here after so much anticipation! This past week has been a whirlwind of spicy food, colorful clothing, crowded streets and new and exciting experiences. From eating fresh mangos off of a tree at rural farm to the most adorable children stealing my heart at the public schools, I am overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty of this country. I have a feeling that this place will only continue to leave me in awe.

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20 Days and Counting

In 20 short days I will be departing from PDX and flying around the world to Mumbai. I can not believe this idea of an international internship has turned into a reality and I will be in India in less than a month. With finals, graduation, packing and moving in the near future I am surprisingly very calm and ready for the next chapter in my life. I have a sense of peace and confidence in what lies ahead for me. Over memorial day weekend I read a book that completely captivated my heart and spoke a sense of encouragement and positivity into my life. The book “Love Does” by Bob Goff is a heartwarming story about a man who lives his life through action instead of words.
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“Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the kind of things that love does is something most people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget. Their dreams become one of those “we’ll go there next time” deferrals. The sad thing is, for many there is no “next time” because passing on the chance to cross over is an overall attitude toward life rather than a single decision.” -Bob Goff

Overview of India

Loni is such a small town that it does not show up on the larger maps. I am using a map a past intern created roughly marking where Loni is located in the Maharashtra province. Loni is near the western border of India and will be a six hour drive from Mumbai, where we will be flying in. Image

Facts and Figures

  • Population – 1,210,193,422 people
  • Total Geographic Area – 3,287,263 sq. km
  • People per square kilometer – 368.2/sq. km
  • Electricity voltage – 220/240 volts
  • Exchange rate – 1 US $ = 51.4 Indian Rupees
  • Emergency number – 2611
  • Time zone away from home – +12 hours
  • Main cultural groups – Caste system: Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaisyas, Shudras, and Untouchables
  • Main religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam

Politics

  • Year of Independence – Declared from the UK on August 15, 1947 and became a republic on January 26, 1950
  • Type of Government – parliamentary system of Government with a bicameral parliament and three independent branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary
  • Current Ruling Party – Indian National Congress
  • Head of Government – Pratibha Patil, President; Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
  • Domestic Issues – Overpopulation, pollution, poverty, caste/religious violence
  • International Issues – Kashmir situation with Pakistan, Unrresolved territorial conflict with China
  • Election Date – 2014, but can occur earlier if the Prime Minister choses so
  • Major Political Parties – Indian National Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), National Congress Party

Pop Culture

  • Popular Sports – Traditional indigenous sports (kabaddi, kho kho, pehlwani), chess, field hockey (national sport), tennis
  • Popular Local Teams – Indian national hockey team, Indian national cricket team, Indian Davis Cup team
  • Famous celebrities – Rohan Bopanna, Kunjarani Devi, Nvya Nair, Maju Warrier, Vadivelu

la Mercè, Sitges, and Zaragoza

Wednesday was the last day of Festes de la Mercè, a festival held annually in Barcelona. Activities for all ages can be found in the streets, parks, and plazas throughout the city. I saw Castells and one of the many Parade of Giants that went on this week. It baffles me to think just where all these people come from! The entire population of Barcelona, along with the many tourists, gather in these plazas. I felt like a duck heading into the metro, waddling and taking baby steps to avoid stepping on the toes and heals of the people inches in every direction.

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Wednesday night I went to the firework show and projection at Plaça de Espanya where even more people crowded in to see a, mostly political- as everything in Catalonia is, musical video depicting Barcelona’s history. I think I sometimes forget that I’m living in a big city. I’m living in a city that has one million more inhabitants than Oregon’s biggest city! Just walking down the street on any regular day in Barcelona I don’t feel like it’s that big. Sure it has it’s moments, usually when I walk past the Gaudi museum, or wander into Plaça Catalunya, and see all the tourists bustling about with their shopping bags, backpacks, and cameras. It is going to be so weird to come home and drive ten minutes to get to town, a town that is one thirty second the size of Barcelona. I’m grateful for game days, festivals, and crowded tourist attractions, they remind me where I am. When I get onto an exceptionally crowded metro car I remember that I am living in Europe. This is my home for the next twelve weeks.

Okay, enough about festivals! That’s not all we do in Spain, though it sure does seem like it :) This week I went to Sitges, a city on the sea twenty miles south of Barcelona. It was beautiful! The sand was smooth, just like it is back home, but the day we went, the water was about like it is back home too; needless to say, our sun bathing was unsuccessful!

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Friday morning I went, with some of my study abroad group, to Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a city almost two hundred miles west of Barcelona in the Aragon community. On our overnight trip we took several tours of the city and its Roman ruins. I ate too much, made new friends, and saw the worlds third largest fresh water aquarium. I love big cities. I love the easy public transportation, good food, culture, and entertainment. However, there is something about smaller towns that makes them special. I don’t know what it is, if you have any ideas let me know ;). Not that Zaragoza is small…. it still has sixty seven thousand more people than Portland! It just has that smaller city feel compared to Barcelona. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zaragoza and I can’t wait to see more cities in Spain! I never have been good at conclusions… so, the end. El Fin, Elani

More festivals!

This weekend/week is La Mercè festival in Barcelona. The big day will be this Wednesday, most people get the day off and there are concerts, performances, traditional dance, and more castells! These events have been going on since Friday. It is such a different feel to be out on the streets this week. Normally the metro closes at midnight and all but a few of the restaurants and shops are closed by then, but this week the metro is open all night and there are people everywhere! It’s not hard to find food at 3am and the streets are filled with music. Every night they do a firework show by the water, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet but I’m sure I will tomorrow. I know every night when the show starts because my neighbors dog is not a fan!

Each week I see more of the city, and I’m beginning to realize how walkable it is. On Sunday I went for a stroll and I found a street with several Mexican restaurants! I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to finally find a burrito!! They even sold hot sauce there, which is not so easy to come by in Spain. They don’t eat a lot of spicy food or sauce here, so hot sauce is nearly impossible to find! I have really enjoyed trying all of the food here, especially our home cooked meals. Even when I don’t like something I’m glad I had the chance to try it. That being said, it sure was nice to have a little taste of home yesterday!

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Adios,

Elani

My Return Home

Although it was only for a month, I feel like my time spent in Spain was a dream…On my return home I kept thinking, Was I really in Spain?!?! I was experiencing overwhelming waves of appreciation because I had been to a place (lived there for a month) that most people only get to hear about in history lessons. To go beyond that, I lived 10 minutes away from the Cathedral, a HUGE landmark on the Pilgrimage of Santiago that people from all over the world come to see. Despite having a fantastic time, I was happy to come home because my younger brother would be heading off to spend his junior year of high school in Germany as a foreign exchange student a week after I got back and I wanted to spend as much time with him. Needless to say, like my arrival in Spain, my arrival in Portland was a welcomed one but I was also instantly busy both times (the similarity was that I had dinner at midnight in Portland too). Everything was a rushed experience but that made it all the more exciting. It did take me a while to adjust the everyday life here because my mind was still wandering the streets of Oviedo and it was strange to realize that I wouldn’t be enjoying the social event of drinking sidra in the evenings. However I got plenty of chances to relive my Spain experience through sharing the stories with my family because shortly after my brother left, I traveled to the midwest to spend the rest of my summer with my extended family over there. Also, telling the stories was a good process of reflection for me as I thought about things that happened from a different perspective or my family would ask questions that added to my view of everything that happened. The adventures never end and like I said before, I plan to visit my home in Oviedo again. :)

Prior to Coming Home…

I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.

Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment.  I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.

Departed, Arrived, and Settled in already!

I actually got to Germany a while ago, but I had forgotten about this assignment and I never received an e-mail inviting me to the blog so I guess I have some catching up to do…

The flight here wasn’t bad. I expected it to be way worse than it ended up being. Even though I didn’t hardly sleep at all on the flight, I didn’t have any jet lag whatsoever. It was weird, but it was really nice.

I moved into my dorm on the 27th of August. The view from my room is awesome! I can see the castle and, occasionally, I can see some people paragliding off of the hill across from my dorm.

This is the view from my dorm room. The castle is hard to see, but it is there! :)

This is the view from my dorm room. The castle is hard to see, but it is there! :)

So far, the weather has been pretty good. It’s been a little more rainy than I like, but on the days that it doesn’t rain, it’s beautiful and on the days that it does rain, there’s usually thunder and lightning too (which I like to watch from my dorm room).

I wish I were here on vacation so that I could travel the entire time and see all that Germany has to offer. However, I think it’s good that I’m here to study (not travel) because I wouldn’t have any money after about one week and one of my goals for while I’m here is to learn as much of the language as I can. That being said, I look forward to sightseeing when I can and I hope I don’t get completely overwhelmed by everything that is to come!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Sierra

Ara és l’Hora

Last Thursday, September 11, was the National Day of Catalonia. The day long festival pays tribute to the defeat of Catalonia during the war of Spanish Succession. Three hundred years ago, Catalan lost its independence to king Philip V of Spain. This year they gathered in the shape of a V up two main intersecting streets, they want the right to vote in November for their separation from Spain. I had the pleasure of joining in the festivities, it was amazing to see so many people from all over Catalonia gather in Barcelona to show their support. It is inspiring to see so many people standing up for themselves and their freedom as a nation. Ara és l’Hora, Now is the Time!

If you want to read more about the day and their fight for freedom click here.IMG_8886

The view from where we ended the day, where the two roads met forming the bottom of the V.

I must say I did feel like an impostor most of the day, wearing my red and yellow flag cape along with the rest of the natives. I suppose as long as I kept my mouth shut nobody had to know I didn’t really belong.

Que vagi bé,

Elani