Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thank you to everyone who made a donation to the Maitreya School - Your gift is appreciated. We hope you all had a great Christmas and have a happy New Year! We are off to the Buddhism course so will be out of touch for the next week.

Love you all, K and C

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We love you and miss you all....xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Monday, December 22, 2008

New photos

Our home away from home - Bodhgaya. We are sitting here tunned into Christmas music with the Christmas lights going missing you all!!! Merry Christmas and enjoy!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Take out the Paper and the Trash.....

I was teaching grade 8s the other day, and during the lesson, while students were working on something a girl walked up to me and asked me if she could throw out a bunch of paper and crap she had in her hand; very polite. I said sure and went on helping the kids I was working with. Out of the corner of my eye, as I was helping these kids, I noticed the girl walking towards the side of the room. Then in one, normal, motion, she opened the window and threw her garbage out the second story!!! Closed it and sat back down. I burst out laughing!!! Just a typical day in an Indian school!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Photos!!

Here they are from South India!! Enjoy!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas:-)

As you all know (or at least we hope you do from reading our blog:-) Cory and I have been volunteering at the Maitreya School in Bodgaya, India. From volunteering there and visiting the villages where the children live we have seen the small miracles that the school is able to do for the kids. It gives them uniforms, which in some cases is the only outfit that they own, it provides them breakfast and lunch, pens, notebooks, paper, an education and most of all gives these children and the people around them hope. Hope that one day things will change; that one day they will be able to live in a house made out of bricks; hope that they will be able to defy the caste system and change their lives for the better. That one day things will be easier.

So if any of you have someone that you would like to get a gift for this holiday season and not quite sure what to get them, please consider sponsoring a child at the Maitreya School for only $20/month or $240/year, BUT any amount will be used for a worthy cause. If you are interested in making a donation or getting more information the website is :

Thank you for your consideration,
Kristin and Cory

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Photos!!!

Sorry they took so long but here are the rest of the Turkey photos (and check out the new Books for the Traveller's Soul section on the right:-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hot Lunch!! Pick up your Hot Lunch here!!

Dhaba - Wallas

Mumbai has over 5,000 dhaba wallas - who are workers that deliver hot lunches to hungry office workers all over the city. They pick up lunch boxes from restaurants, and homes (where the wives have made lunch for their husbands) and carry them in hundreds on heads, bicycles and trains to a centralized sorting spot in the city. They are then sorted using a sophisticated system of numbers and colours (as many of the dhaba wallas are illiterate) which is used to determine where the lunches will end up.

More then 200,000 meals are delivered each day - always on time, rain, monsoon, or shine. It is said that there is only one mistake for every 6 million lunches delivered!!! and this is a country that is famous (to travellers anyway) for things being late, disorganized and chaotic! Who would have thought!

Friday, December 5, 2008

If I were Prime Minister of India, the first thing I would do would be....

  • Build a road to my village
  • Let everyone go to school
  • Give everyone a bicycle
  • Help the poor
  • Give clothes to everyone
  • Provide medicine and health care to more people
  • Build a school for kids
  • Give electricity to the villages in the north
  • Get rid of bad policemen
  • Provide food for the poor
  • Let everyone play cricket
  • Not allow fighting

Answers given by grade sixes and sevens at our school. We would love it if any of you teachers in Canada would ask your kids the same questions to see what kind of answers they came up with? It would be quite different I would think.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cows, Goats and different types of Lama!

Namaste from Bodhgaya!

What's that you say... what is this Namaste nonsense??? Aren't you guys supposed to be in India? Well, yes, we are in India, only a chicken-chirping, roof-riding, horn-honking (excuse me, "blaring"), butt-busting, nausea-negotiating 5 hour bus ride south of Patna, in the beautiful little Buddhist oasis of Bodhgaya!

This small town (29,000 - ok, small for India) is quite a site. It's the holiest of the holiest for anyone from the Buddhist religion, and yet a town in the poorest state in the country. December and January it is full of Tibetan monks and nuns who make the annual pilgrimage here to visit the very temple where Lord Buddha himself became enlightened, and thus Buddhism was born. They setup shop (and restaurant), rent or purchase bicycles for milling around (which is quite fun to watch as many have never ridden one), visit temple daily for chanting and meditation, and fire up the stoves for the best apple pie, cinnamon roles and chocolate cheesecake to be found in the subcontinent!

Being in the poorest of the poor regions and being a manageable location (that's white for 'small') many foreigners (mostly westerners) have come and established schools, projects, organizations, foundations and even institutes all within a 20km radius, which service the surrounding communities' needy. And to complement the influx of both the westerners and the Tibetans, there have been numerous decent accommodation options built in recent years, which brings in even more visitors in these months. To top it all off, each government with a Buddhist following in their country has decided that they must invest copious amounts of money to provide monestaries and temples for their pilgrims while one-upping the temple next door (Thai wins, by the way). So, in a nutshell, you can take a horse-rickshaw into town to get a glass of Chai, while passing Indian kids with no pants outside mudhuts yelling "Hello!", stop at a roadside cafe for some carrot-cake, after which you meet up with some whities for a brewski, then go and buy peanut butter from Mohammud's general store, while listening to the sound of munks chanting, and staring at butter lamps around the Stuppa. WOW!

The Maitreya Education Project is our current home. We are staying at their "compound", which although is fenced off and a very serene, is not located in any sort of unsafe area. Basically the bottom line is that if vacant facilities exist in India, they will quite efficiently become occupied if made available. Our accommodations and meals have been graciously looked after for our efforts, and with a Nepali chef, you can just imagine the variety! Actually all kidding aside, the food is fantastic (and there is tons of it!), and our room is very comfortable. Doug, our trusty Edmontonian principal currently running the show lives with us, as does Kabir-sir, the Indian born monk with a degree from Oxford (yes, the Oxford), and Sandhya-madam, one of the nicer and more educated teachers at the school (my girlfriend, as Kristin likes to put it). On a side note, our room happens to be one down from where His Holiness the Dalai Lama stayed in 1999 when he last visited Bodhgaya - pretty fuckin' cool if I do say so myeslf!

The story on Doug is he came to visit the Maitreya school (a component of the project - more on that in a minute) one summer they happened to be looking for a new principal (aka every summer), and he liked it so much he decided to return ... for 2 years! Well looked after and with free-reign to do as he pleased (being a private organization) he was ready to do his part and make an extraordinary difference in the lives of the 400+ lucky students that attend for free (with food, books, and uniforms included). And then, he realized something that he had overlooked in his utopian vision... he was in India! And India, does not work like Edmonton! Paper, was not only not available at the school, you couldn't even find it in the town! Resources did not exist, fax and email were not available, teachers bought their degrees (kind of like a fake id ;-) ... seriously! All in all, he succumbed to the way of life here (and the 45 degree heat in the summer) and has made a pretty darn good go of it in his first 6 months!

And now for the students! Let me just say that if there was a way to bring back 25 Indian kindergartners to Canada (legal issues aside), Kristin would do it in a heart beat! They are the littlest and cutest weiners around, and Kristin absolutely adores them! (She gets to teach them music class too!) It is amazing, and all of you who have ever worked with children that really have nothing will agree, to see how happy kids can be. If not for the school, the kids would be hanging out all day working in the fields rolling hay like their friends. But for some reason or another, these kids' applications stood out over the other 9000 received annually by the school (25 of which are accepted) and so starts a wonderful and hopeful educational journey for each of them. With Buddhist founders, a holistic 30 minute assembly begins each morning that focuses on meditation and one of the 16 humanistic qualities that make a good person. Then a day filled with English and Hindi lessons, tea and snack time, yoga classes for phys. ed., and Karma Yoga at the end of the day where students clean up (sweeping included) their respective classes unfolds. It is not all as beautiful and perfect as it sounds, but for a school that really has almost nothing (tables, benches, notebooks, semi-qualified teachers, it's doing pretty freakin' well.

Kristin and I are into our 4th day tomorrow and now have our schedules for the next six weeks. English, music and yoga are our areas of expertise (are they?), and with little to no curriculum, and one exam at the end of the year as our source of evaluation (yes, something else Doug can quite get teachers to understand the flaws of) we can pretty much go to town! Kristin tried her first lessons this afternoon (grade 8 and 9 English - we're teaching together for this first week), and not only was she flawless, she actually liked it?! What the hell???! Kristin likes volunteering in a foreign country (my god India of ALL places?!)?? I guess the apple pie really did do her in!

Namaste friends!
We miss and love you all!

Love Kristin-Madam and Cory-Sir

For those of you following at home: Goa --> Delhi --> Patna (eeee...) --> Gaya --> Bodhgaya

Monday, December 1, 2008

A blast from the past - courtesy of Russ and Vera

To conclude our perfect Turkey trip we decided to join C&K in a must-do Turkish experience…the Hammam. So the girls and guys split up to compare our treatment at a very local Turkish bath.

Hammam for Her

K and I were a little unsure of Hammam etiquette, specifically, what, if any, piece of clothing does one get to keep on, and who is doing the scrubbing and massaging.

Pretending it was no biggy, we walked past scantily-clad men in order to get to the women’s section, I guess that’s better than the other way around.

The cashier with the constant cigarette hanging from her lips pointed us to our change room.

The hand signals from our 30-something, very-buxom attendant, could only have meant “take it all off and use the towel”, so we reluctantly bared all. When our pleasantly smiling masseuse escorted us into the hot, marble bath area and and tore off our towels we found out that towels are just for drying, not for hiding. She pointed to the marble slabs where we were to sit and wait for our next round of charades.

Once we got over our North American female angst and allowed ourselves to relax, we really enjoyed the wonderfully luxurious Hammam experience. Very warm room, just enough moisture, a mix of clear running warm and cool water to pour over ourselves, a good scrubbing from head to toe, massage and thorough and gentle hair wash by a capable and caring woman.

Oh ya, did I mention she doesn’t wear much?

Hammam for Him

When Cory and I returned we were given towels, told to strip down, were directed to a steam room and were told to sit there – all of this in broken English and me with zero comprehension of Turkish. This steam room may have been the hottest place I’ve ever been in my life!! Within two minutes sweat was streaming from pores I never knew I even had. It took mean, lean Cory about five minutes to be pouring sweat so I didn’t feel so bad. Still not sure where all of this was going but unable to stand the intense heat of the steam room and thinking I was going to pass out I left for the room adjacent to the sweat box to cool down. Here you lay, yah right, on heated marble slabs before your treatment begins. Best I could do was sit on them. Was actually feeling somewhat cooler. Saw a thermometer on the wall and asked Cory to check the temperature – 104 degrees!! Thought I was going to die. All of a sudden, a huge and I mean 300 plus pounds huge, hairy, sweating Turk with a towel loosely wrapped around his enormous waist walks in, points to Cory and gruffly says “Come”. About three minutes later I hear Cory scream from another room. Now I know I’m going to die!!

Next he returns for me. Takes me to a marble shower stall, motions for me to sit on the floor, proceeds to remove my towel and starts dumping tubs and tubs of cold water on me…now I know why Cory was screaming. Starts soaping me down, not too gently either, then pulls out his secret weapon…his scrub pad. Proceeds to rake this thing over every part of my body and I’m thinking I must be in a Turkish torture chamber, not a Turkish bath. Now for the massage. He hands me over to his counterpart, a 275 pound hairy lightweight who introduces himself as Mamed. Asks for my name, Ros is as close as he gets. Tells me to lay on the marble slab face up, crosses my arms, pushes down on my chest with all his weight and breaks my back. At least it feels broken. After working me over, none too gently, for 20 minutes of so he drags me back to the shower stall where he tells me to sit and proceeds to dump gallons of water over my head.

Tells me to stand up, says “finished” but stands in the doorway of the shower stall not allowing me to leave. Here I am, a broken, drowned rat with my towel hanging somewhere around my thighs and Mamed looking at me, almost affectionately, smiling and repeating, ”Ros… Mamed”, “Ros… Mamed”. “What the hell is he looking for?” I wonder somewhat uncomfortably. Finally one more “Ros… Mamed” as he rubs together his thumb and forefinger and it hits me…he’s looking for a tip which I’m relieved to provide. After cooling down and changing, Cory and I locate Mamed and his sidekick sitting in their towels, still sweating, chain smoking and drinking apple tea. We thank them, offer some Lira and leave them to treat their next victims. As we meet Vera and Kristin and wander into the night looking for a restaurant to celebrate our last dinner together I can’t believe how refreshed I feel. I think of the experience and think of Mamed, almost affectionately, and smile.