Gola (Gabhla) Island: A Photo Blog

The Island of Gola was once a prosperous fishing village of two hundred inhabitants. Fishing was not an industry that could be operated year round.

In the off-seasons, most of the able-bodied men, girls, and children left for rural Scotland. For six months they were farmers, domestic workers, and construction workers.

In the twentieth century, people on the island began migrating to rural Scotland and never returned to the island life.

The island comes alive in the Summer. Children play in the area, families bring food for picnics and swim in the pristine waters and beaches. There are no public facilities on the island. A small store provides snacks and drinks during the busy season.

Our group, The Ireland Writing Retreat, went on a four-hour hike around the island. We had lunch with Eddie and his wife, the only inhabitants of the island.

Snack shop

Our transportation to Gola Island

An abandoned church

Many buildings are left abandoned. Most of them are still in their original condition.

Unbaptized Catholic babies cemetery

Unbaptized Catholic babies were not allowed to be buried with other Catholics. They were buried in this cemetery. People leave hand- painted colored stones in remembrance of their souls.

Hand-painted stones left behind by visitors

A white cross in the children’s cemetary

A memorial to two residents who died in 9/11

Grazing sheep

Farmers leave their goats and sheep on the island all year to graze. The blue stripe on the sheep indicates the owner. The sheep lead the life of luxury. They can eat and wander as much as they like. The farmers come to check on them when the weather permits.

Twin Cave

Tourists come on the island for the hiking adventure. A map and marked posts provide the directions. You must be careful. There have been hikers who have fallen over the cliffs.

The island of Gola in the distance

 

 

7 Things to Know About the Ireland Writing Retreat

Less really is more. It’s a tendency of beginning writers to want to prove what they’re talking about by going too far with description. I think you’ve got to keep it short, crisp and clean

Brad Thor

How long have you been writing? This is the first question we must answer on the first day of classes at the Ireland Writing Retreat. My answer “I just started one year ago”. Yes, that’s right. I am an ESL writing teacher and performed this job for forty-two years. I wrote academic papers. I never wrote for travel. Now, I want to write for travel.

How do I become a better travel writer? I attend a writer’s circle once a month, take online classes from various organizations that don’t offer feedback and want you to continue taking their courses so they can make money, and attend local workshops at featured bookstores. I felt I wasn’t geting what I needed.

How about attending writer’s workshops in other countries? Travel and writing! I have never been to Ireland and it was on my list of travels.  I was searching various writing retreats online and stumbled across the Ireland Writing Retreat. I signed up, paid my tuition, and off I went. I didn’t really know what to expect.

I would like to share my experiences with others who might be looking for writing retreats. This is only my experience. Everyone has different experiences.

Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door.

Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes bacon (fried ham), eggs, sausage, mushrooms, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy.

Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal.

Bread includes wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.

 

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is to the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

There is one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. Most of the families moved away. The island is very busy in the summer with people having picnics and swimming. We are greeted by a couple who prepare lunch for us. They are an older couple. She has a job in Donegal and comes to prepare lunch on the island when there are guests. Her husband lives on the island full time. Lunch includes sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, bread, marmalade, tea, and coffee.

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Many of the Irish farmers were forced to leave because Mr. Adair wanted to build his castle and did not wish to look at poor farmers and their animals. They were evicted from the property.  Unfortunately, it is raining. The gardens are beautiful. I can’t get many pictures of the garden because of the dark clouds and mist all around. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stop in to have tea and dry off.

 

Glenveagh Garden

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There are no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music event. I attend with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates are Irish and one of them is an avid Ceili dancer.

My new Irish friends and writers, Norma and Jo

Most of the dancers are women. They tell me they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages are from 60-82. I am dragged out to the floor a few times. I don’t know any of the steps. I try to follow and end up stepping on a few toes. I wish I had a few lessons before attending.

Ceili dancing with the locals

There are no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion is the only instrument used. There is a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sings one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There is one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A walk with Sean’s dogs

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduces us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brings out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher teaches us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I am not able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

Afternoon tea

Living room of the traditional home

WIFI

WIFI is available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes are held.  It is not available in the hotel rooms. This is a disadvantage because we must sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom is shut off when we are not using it. The bar is noisy and there isn’t much space to work.

Classes

The writing classes take place from 10:00 am -1:00pm every day.

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We are given an assignment and it is due within 24 hours. There is no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques come in the form of feedback on line. The critiques help me to take care of the basic problems. They are not profound critiques. The critiques are given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, presents a workshop. She has us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gives us an assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I don’t do the assignment. She isn’t going to give any feedback and I don’t understand the purpose. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her? Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants.

Laurence McKeown, a play writer tells us about being held in prison for 17 years and a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We find his story fascinating. He gives us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment is to write a story that included 50% dialog. It is misunderstood by all the class participants.

He corrects them in a way that makes them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda lists the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We have sandwiches that are hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” includes a local guitarist whose voice gives me a headache. He tells us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local woman tries to sing a traditional Irish song. She has a very bad cold. We have some lively music from one of the participant’s husband who plays country western music and she sings. She has a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switches to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome is the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Caife Kitty gives a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brings a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. Sancho entertaines us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Later in the week we go to Caife Kitty for lunch.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs are available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.

Meals

Meals are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day. Breakfast is included. The menu in the bar and restaurant offers a variey of foods.  Don’t forget the fish and chips (fries).

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If These Castle Walls Could Talk

If These Castle Walls Could Talk

John Adair was one of the most hated men in Ireland. Many Donegal natives would consider it a curse to even mention his name in conversation. Adair had a temper and felt a sense of entitlement that most people did not appreciate. He became a very affluent man by traveling to New York in 1850 and working in land speculation. In 1870 he returned to Glenveagh, Donegal. He began to buy up smaller portions of land the locals owned to create his large estate. The local farmers were struggling to keep their families fed and clothed. Adair was not interested in the problems of the people around him. He had no interest in helping them.

Adair began to evict the local families. Some say it was because he wanted to “improve the view from his castle.” Who wants to look at the poor?” The local families lived in homes with thatched roofs made of cereal straw and reed covered with wooden rafters. The walls were double packed with earth. The floors were flagstone or packed earth that didn’t help in keeping the home warm. A hearth was located in the central area of the home. There were neither chimneys nor windows for the smoke to escape. The people would have had to pay more taxes for the windows. The soot-blackened homes were known as “black houses”.

It is also said that the locals became very upset and protested his hunting retreats crossing over their lands. They reported him as trespassing. He became furious and even more determined to get these people off of the land. Adair wanted to use the land as a sheep farm. He had brought his own shepherds who eventually got into a bit of trouble. One of them was accused of murder and having an affair with the dead man’s wife. She became pregnant and was sent off to Scotland.

Eviction of the locals began with Adair acquiring the necessary documents that would allow him to send his “crowbar men” house-to-house evicting families. The first house they came upon was the home of a widow and her seven children. After the family was given the news, their house was destroyed so that they could not come back and live in it. A total of two hundred and forty-four people were homeless including one hundred and fifty-nine children. Half of the people were given passage to Australia provided by Michael O’Grady. O’Grady had also purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the people. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were recorded as the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

Castles are pieces of European history. They represent the great divide between the rich and the poor. Who built this grand castle in Glenveagh? There is no mention of the men who carried the massive granite stones one by one up and down the hills. Were these men paid? How much were they paid? Where are the answers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ditch the Box Hotels

Hospitality is much more than word today. It has become an industry that runs the danger of becoming too high tech, with too little high touch.

John Hogan

I define a “box hotel” as a place with a bed, two nightstands, a lamp on each stand, a desk, a chair with wheels, a flat screen TV with multiple channels, a bath with a shower, a couple of pictures on the wall depicting the surroundings of the town, city or state. You might have a window. If you are really lucky or a time honored patron, you will have a scenic view. If this is your first time and you are on a budget, you will probably be staring at a brick wall or into someone else’s room.

The lobby of the hotel includes more pictures, fake vases, red carpet, and dark walls and chandeliers. There is usually a bar that charges seven to ten dollars for a glass of wine. Check-in begins in the lobby. You wait five to fifteen minutes to be checked in. You are handed a key, a plastic card that includes all of the information about you, the wifi code, and a parking permit for the garage. The parking is not free. A hotel in one of the big cities will whisk your car away and you have to call to get it back.

Choosing the right hotel is always one of my dilemmas. I don’t want to spend a lot on hotels. I do want a safe place to stay. I have found various alternatives to hotel stays that provide real hospitality. Full breakfast in the morning, private bedroom, shared bath, community rooms for those who want to play games or talk. Bed and Breakfast, private homes shared on Airbnb, and hostels remodeled for retired travelers.

Hospitality should be a “place”, where people can still be exceptional individuals, where they can extend their own personality and style.

John Hogan

Schuster Mansion

I have the privilege of staying in the Schuster Mansion in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I am attending a conference for Women in Travel, WITS. The mansion is an alternative to the “box hotel” recommended by the conference staff. Cheaper, historical, family owned, and a feeling of being welcomed.

The mansion was built in 1891 by George Shuster a tobacco baron. The mansion became an apartment building in 1924. Many of the victorian style homes in the neighborhood are apartment buildings. Rick and Laura Sue, the current owners, bought the mansion in 2008. They have been remodeling it for almost nine years and are not finished yet.

I arrived at the mansion around 3:30 p.m. I rang the doorbell and Laura Sue opened the door. She was dressed from head to toe in victorian attire. A sweeping yellow dress with a white lace apron. I arrived early and she was still entertaining ladies attending High TeaShe serves High Tea three times a week. The ladies partake of several different kinds of pastries and teas. Laura Sue tells them the history of the mansion and how people lived in the Victorian Era. I don’t have a chance to attend any of the teas. I sat down on the sofa in the parlor and waited for her to finish.

She went over all of my information. Gave me four choices for breakfast and handed my key. It was a real key. I am staying in the Prairie Room.

The Prairie  Sky Room

The Prairie  Sky Room is the only single room. This room was the living quarters of three servants in 1891.  The bathroom is shared with the room next to me. I am the only one here four out of the five days. The ceiling is painted blue with clouds. Lace curtains cover the windows. Yellow drapes with blue flowers grace the sides of the windows. There are pictures of victorian women dressed in their pastel petticoats, blue, pink, and yellow. Most of the pictures in the house are of Rick and Laura Sue’s ancestors and childhood pictures of themselves. Creaky wooden floors, a blue floral ceramic water pitcher sits on the side table. Two old fashioned porcelain lamps with iron pedestals positioned on the other side tables. A TV is provided in the room with access to multiple channels. There is no desk in the room. I have to go to the parlor to use my computer. The bed was very comfortable, not too hard, not too soft.

Various decorations in the Prairie Sky Room

There is a total of six bedrooms, some of them suites with a sunroom, in the mansion. Rick and Laura Sue live in the Ballroom which is not yet completely remodeled. Much of the furniture in the mansion was donated by friends and guests or bought at garage and estate sales. French doors open from the front room into the parlor. In the parlor, a blue floral upholstered sofa and embroidered chair are accompanied by crystal candle holders, two ticking clocks, an old cast iron typewriter, various colored glass vases sitting on a shelf. The sun shines in to bring out the bright colors of blue, green, lavender, red and orange.

The experience of staying in the mansion for four days was like staying at my grandma’s house. Not that my grandma lived in a mansion, the feeling is like someone really cares about hospitality. A glass of Riesling was $2. Not bad. The long breakfast table was set with white old-fashioned laced tablecloths, freshly pressed cloth napkins, flowers, and tall thin white candles. Guests can schedule breakfast anytime between 7:00-10:00. Breakfast is served fresh to each guest. If you want to eat at 9:00, your breakfast will be made right before you sit down. You can even have it served to your room. I ate at 7:30 every morning and always had someone to talk with. It’s a great set up if you are traveling alone and don’t like eating alone. Like me!

I feel it is very important to support the entrepreneurs who put so much time and effort into these private “hotels”.

Nahargarh Haveli

Planning a trip to a country you have never visited before can be a little scary. Sometimes we have to take calculated risks. Reserving hotel rooms requires research. Thanks to the many travel sites, we can find information from previous travelers. Does the hotel offer wifi? Is there a restaurant on the premises? Is there public transportation nearby? Is it safe? How many stars does it have? We can look at pictures that other travelers have posted. What is the “star” rating? What is the price?

Planning a trip to Jaipur, India? Skip the box hotels. Skip the tourist magnet hotels. You will be impressed by the beauty and the incredible cleanliness inside these hotels built for tourists and very rich locals. You will not experience the “real” culture. I stayed at the hotel Nahargarh Haveli .

Nahargarh Haveli is a privately owned hotel. It is located in a very quiet residential neighborhood closed off by gates. The only people allowed in are the guests and the residents. Our room is a room with two double beds. We reserved the room for two beds. We arrive at the room and find what we think is a queen bed. We ask the front desk for a room with double beds. He goes into the room and separates the queen bed into two double beds. What a concept! The beds in every country around the world are much smaller than the beds in US hotels. There is a private shower, TV, wifi access, and a coffee maker. The ceiling of the bedrooms, lobby and breakfast room were colorfully decorated in green, yellow, blue, and orange.

The breakfast was a buffet. This buffet included eggs, cheese, yogurt, meats, cereal, made to order omelets, an assortment of juices and bread. I often wonder what visitors think when they wake up in the morning at an expensive hotel in the USA and find there is no “free” breakfast. I have traveled to Spain, Portugal, and India and the breakfast is always free. It is a very big spread. You can eat breakfast and lunch. They have signs posted “Do not take food out of the restaurant.” I have witnessed some Americans stuff food into their backpacks and purses before leaving the breakfast room. It must be a great way to save money.

Nahargarh Haveli has a restaurant on the third floor. We arrive at the hotel tired and hungry. We are too early to order dinner. The waiter told us that we could order snacks. He presented the snack menu to us and were pleasantly surprised that it included smaller portions of the dinner menu. We order rice, a potato dish, and a curry dish. I liked the food in India. I can’t tell you the names of the food I ate because I didn’t understand the language. Most Indian food includes potatoes, red chiles, cheese and green chilis. The majority of Indians are Hindus and don’t eat any kind of meat.

We eat dinner on the outdoor patio overlooking the neighborhood. It is very peaceful. A very big change from driving through traffic and avoiding hitting people walking everywhere in the streets. A six-year-old boy is riding his red bicycle down the street while his older sister is chasing after him. I don’t understand what she is saying. Maybe “Get off my bike”. A four-year-old girl is running around the patio. We are told she is the daughter of the man and woman in the kitchen cooking. Very family oriented. We finish our “snack” and return to our rooms.

The total cost of this hotel is $25 per night. No, I am not joking. I recommend this hotel to anyone who is traveling to Jaipur, India.

Ditch the box hotels! Support the entrepreneurs around the world.

I want to see a world in which every entrepreneur has access to the resources he or she needs to succeed, and where through the power of supportive communities – that means you and me – every resource can be made available.
Jessica Jackley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Important is Religion in India?

Cultures grow on the vine of tradition.     

Jonah Goldberg

Religion plays a very big part in the lives of Indians. There are mosques and temples scattered everywhere throughout the city of Delhi. Not many churches are visible. Hinduism is practiced by 82% of the population, Islam 12.8%, and Christianity 0.87%. People who are Hindus have altars in their homes. They pray every morning and night in hopes that these gods will bring them happiness and health. The altars are decorated in bright colors and are usually placed in their bedrooms. I did not feel comfortable taking pictures of gods and goddesses in the temples nor in the home of Hiroko’s friend.

If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.
Emile Durkheim

Jama Masjid Mosque

This is my first time to visit a mosque. Jama Masjid is one of the largest Islamic mosques in India. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it in 1656. I took eleven years to build. We arrive during prayer time which begins at 12:00. We must wait until 1:30 to enter. The mosque is in the center of one of the busiest marketplaces in the area. There were white-haired tourists taking their pictures while riding on the rickshaws. I am sure this was part of their tour package. Some of them have very nervous faces. Their rickshaw drivers are trying to navigate the traffic while these tourists feel that their lives are at risk. The air is thick with smog. Many of the stalls are firing up their gas stoves getting ready to prepare food for the lunch hour. The prayer at the mosque as ended. The people descend in groups down the stairs and pour out into the streets. It looks like a dam has let all of its water flow at one time. The streets instantly fill over their capacity. People stand in line waiting for food. I feel vegetarian and confused. I lose Hiroko for about 1 minute. It felt like a lifetime.

We finally emerge from the hoards of people and walk up the stairs to the entrance of the mosque. We are greeted by a young man who feels that he has a very important job.  He tells me I must wear a robe over my clothes. My forearms are exposed. We must also take off our shoes. We take off our shoes and carry them. We could have left them at the front entrance and paid a fee to get them back.  I didn’t trust the guy manning the shoe stand. Hiroko gave me the signal to carry them with me. We walk around the mosque barefoot. I must admit it didn’t feel very comfortable. The ground was not very clean and everyone was walking around barefoot. Hiroko gave me the heads up about leaving our bags in the car safely guarded by our driver. Bags and backpacks are not allowed into the mosque area.

Carol at Jama Masjid in my cover up

The mosque is completely outside. People are washing their feet, face, and hands. The men are in one area and the women in another. An Indian family rushes up to us and wants us to be in a picture with them.  The children are all smiles and ask us where we are from. Hiroko says, “I am from Japan” and I say “I am from America”. Most Indians can’t tell the difference between a Japanese and a Chinese. Hiroko is sometimes referred to as being Chinese. The country “America” has the same meaning as the USA. They can’t distinguish between North, South, or Central America.

Carol and Indian family at Jama Masjid

It was the first place that I didn’t feel very comfortable visiting. Most of them just stared at us and we didn’t spend more than 40 minutes walking around and taking pictures. We exited the mosque and I handed in my coverup for the next foreign tourist to wear. On our way out of the mosque, we were approached by a Canadian couple. The young woman was less covered than I was. They had their backpacks and cameras. I told them that they would have to leave their backpacks with the shoe guy and she would have to wear a cloak over her clothing. They asked if it was worth the chance. I said no. They decided to not go in.

Hiroko calls her driver and instructs him to take us to her favorite restaurant.

Vinod is our driver. He is employed by the company where Hiroko’s husband works.  He is 27 years old. He has been married for 3 years. His wife is expecting their first child in May. He doesn’t see his wife very often because she lives 8,000 kilometers from Delhi. Before becoming a “driver” Vinod owned a cigarette stall for three years. It was shut down by the police. Someone turned him in for not having permission to operate his stall. He says it was a disgruntled customer. He had to find another job. His brother taught him how to drive. He practiced four- six hours a day.  He obtained his license and applied for a driving position. He hasn’t had any accidents. I commended him every day for his driving skills. He was ready every morning with a huge smile and greeting.

Our driver Vinod

Claustrophobic Mandir

Understanding the Hindu religion is not an easy task. For this reason, I present you with a description of the goddess Kali. She is one of the most worshiped goddesses in India.

The idea that women are innately gentle is a fantasy and a historically recent one. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is depicted as wreathed in male human skulls; the cruel entertainments of the Romans drew audiences as female as they were male; Boudicca led her British troops bloodily into battle.
Naomi Wolf

It is partly correct to say Kali is a goddess of death but She brings the death of the ego as the illusory self-centered view of reality.

Hiroko’s friend Lily has lived in Delhi her entire life. She like many other Hindus worships in mandirs, temples. She accompanies us to vegetarian Mandir. It is one of the oldest Hindu temples in the world. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Lily has connections with the Chief Priest at this temple. We arrive and are led to the room where the Chief Priest will present himself. We are served masala chai and butter cookies. Masala chai is always presented to visitors and customers. We sit on long brown leather sofas. A recliner is sitting on a stage. A gold curtain is behind the recliner.  Very important meetings with other religious leaders take place in this room.

The chief priest arrives forty minutes later. We rise to bow before him. He talks to Lily in Hindi. They have been friends for a long time. I think Lily donates much of her money to this temple. We are led into the worship area. It is jammed. People are chanting mantras in very loud voices.

Kali Mantra for Worship

Kring Kring Kring Hing Kring Dakshine vegetarian Kring Kring Kring vegetarian Hiring Hung Hung Hring
The Mantra consists of three seeds, krim, hum and hrim, and the name ‘dakhshina kalike’ and ‘swaha’, which signifying offering. This mantra is used by the devotees of Kali, the preserver of Earth, who saves us from all the ignorance and the fear of death.

They are lined up and pushing each other into the worship area. We are led into the area and people are instructed not to push us. The people are so surprised to see foreigners in their temple. The statue of the god is hardly visible. Worshippers bring garlands of flowers to throw onto the statue. They throw some money and before they leave the area, they are given gifts to take back home. Most of them have altars at home. These altars have a statue of the god sitting in the main position. They decorate the altars with flowers and food. They pray every day for wealth and happiness.

We give our thanks to the high priest and I am relieved to be able to breathe air again.

Gifts are given to us at the mandir

Holy Cows

Cows are revered among Hindus. Most Hindus practice vegetarianism. They refrain from all meat.

SRI CHAITANYA CHARITAMRITA, Adilila, Chapter 17, verse 166,
Caitanya Mahaprabhu confirms:
o-ange yata loma tata sahasra vatsara go-vadhi raurava-madhye pace nirantar
Cow killers and cow eaters are condemned to rot in hell for as many thousands of years as there are for each hair on the body of every cow they eat from.
It is further written – Those who fail to give cows reverence and protection and choose to foolishly oppose and whimsically ignore the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures by selling a cow for slaughter, by killing a cow, by eating cows flesh and by permitting the slaughter of cows will all rot in the darkest regions of hell for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of each cow slain. There is no atonement for the killing of a cow.

Cows are highly prized as gifts. Do you want to impress someone? Give them a cow for their wedding gift. There are more than 44,900,000 cows in India.  The highest population in the world. Cows in India roam the streets, eat garbage, stop traffic, and sleep on the streets. Most of them are not owned by anyone. They are dirty, smelly, and many of them are old and sick. There is relief for some of these cows. Gaushalas  offer a home for sick and homeless cows. They recieve medical treatment, a lot of hay, a clean place to rest, and music.

Happy cows at the gaushala

Hiroko and I are on our way to visit a gaushala. We travel down the street hitting various potholes, a mother pig with her six piglets trailing behind her and three dogs barking and running around going nowhere in particular. It is just another dusty day in Delhi. We arrive in front of the gate and are greeted by two girls who work at the “compound”. We enter the gate and the ground is covered with green grass. I haven’t seen green grass for three days. There is not visible grass in Delhi unless you visit a park. Even the trees in Delhi are dusty. There is a small courtyard very neatly taken care of. Flowers of various colors yellow, red, and white are blooming near the courtyard. No dust anywhere. Four older men are sitting on the benches sharing the news of the day.

Our guide, Manisha, shows us around. Manisha came to Delhi when she was seventeen. She received her B.S in agriculture. During her college years, she became very interested in helping others. She became involved with this project. The first stop is the gaushala. The gaushala employs people who previously did not have jobs to clean, milk, and feed the cows. These workers are provided housing, food, wifi, and electricity within the “compound ” they live. The compound is much cleaner and healthier than living on the streets

The gaushala is only a part of a much bigger program on this compound. There is a center for women to receive sewing classes. The women make bags and purses that are sold at the market. Many of them are just beginning to sew. The center also provides after school homework help for the children. The children are taking English classes as we walk in the room. They greet us with “hello, hello” and “konichiwa”.  Hiroko volunteers her time at the center by teaching Japanese language and Japanese handicrafts. Her Japanese friends join her to teach Japanese traditional songs and dances.

Sewing classes

Children getting help with homework

The center receives donations to help continue their work. It is part of a grassroots movement to help those in need.

We say goodbye to the children and the volunteers. We exit the gate to the dusty street and wait for our driver to retrieve us. He didn’t go too far. He was parked in front of the compound. I wonder what he does while he is waiting for us.

Please read the next entry coming soon: A trip to Jaipur

 

 

 

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An Old Friend, A New Culture: Delhi India

One of my main purposes for traveling to India is to visit a very good friend. I met Hiroko in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was a student in my ESL class. Hiroko is one of the most adventurous persons I know. We traveled to Chicago many times by train to shop and sight see. Hiroko’s husband was transferred to Delhi, India almost seven years ago. My husband became sick and we were not able to visit. Unfortunately, my husband passed away two years ago. I decided it was time to go to India and see Hiroko.

Travel by rickshaw

Rickshaws are a very useful source of transportation in India. They don’t require fuel, are easy to repair, and are cheap to maintain. The investment is attainable. Bicycle rickshaws are a very cheap way for everyone to get around. They transport food, hay, bricks, heavy boxes, and people. School children ride bicycle rickshaws to and from school instead of school buses.  Rickshaws can cram up to 8 children at one time.

Rickshaws lined up and waiting for customers

My friend, Hiroko, and I decide to climb into one after negotiating the price. There really isn’t a lot of room for negotiation as a foreigner. The price starts high and is only reduced a few rupees. We climb into the small cabin. Everything is so much smaller when you are tall and not very thin. Hiroko holds out the palm of her hand and draws a circle with her finger indicating that we want to go around the local market area. We don’t speak Hindi and the driver doesn’t speak English. The driver is in his forties and probably weighs no more than 150 lbs. The weather is warm and I can see beads of sweat running down his face and neck as he peddles through the narrow streets lined with vendors.  We hit a few potholes and bumps on the way. The padded seats don’t seem to help the impact. It is a good thing that I have a naturally padded rear end. The driver is getting tired and looks frustrated. I feel sorry for him. He can’t figure out where we want to go.  He stops every five minutes and asks the question “Where is the entrance to the market?” No one knows the answer. Fifteen minutes have passed. We are lost.

He stops, descends from the bike, and summons a man who has a very good command of English. He asks us “Where do you ladies want to go?” Hiroko tells him that we want to go to the front of the market. He relays the information to the driver and gives him directions. He seems to understand and off we go. The destination was right around the corner.

This is not a place where foreigners/tourists come. There are no museums, famous temples, shopping malls, or supermarkets. These streets belong to the people and their stalls that sell fruit, vegetables, food cooked in front of you, and clothing. These people are hard working and want to you to purchase their items.

Fruit and vegetable stall

Everyday Life

We stop at a samosa stall. A man and his young son of about 12 years old welcome us into his stall. His son greets us with a “hello” and shyly smiles. We sit down on two white plastic buckets. He serves us each a  deep fried samosa filled with potatoes. I ignore all of the advice given to me about not eating street food. It is just too tempting.  We dip our samosas into a green chile salsa. I tell him that these are the best samosas. He smiles. We pay for our purchase and thank him. I hope we made him happy.

Man and his young son at the samosa stall

As we are walking down the street I notice this woman standing in the heat holding an iron.  She stands on her feet for about 8-9 hours a day. She irons clothing that the people in the neighborhood bring to her. The iron weighs about four pounds and is very hot.

The ironing lady

We stop at another stall. A man is making sugar cane juice. He is older, maybe in his late 60s. We watch the sugarcane stalks go through the grinder as the juice comes out of the other end of the machine. He smiles and I urge my friend to stop. We buy some juice and drink it. It is very sweet. I only hope that today’s food doesn’t come back to haunt me tonight in my sleep.

Sugar cane juice stand

We decide to take a ride on a tuk-tuk to the local supermarket.

Tuk-tuk

Supermarkets are not as popular with the common people as the local stalls. Supermarkets are expensive and the vegetables are not as fresh. Not everyone is allowed in the supermarket. Many of the locals are kept out. Our bags are checked at security. Men and women are lead in separate directions.  The women enter a small enclosure and the curtains are drawn. The security guard who is a woman proceeds to slide her wand all around me. I pick up my backpack and proceed into the supermarket. It is about one-third of the size of our monster supermarkets.

There are no “street” people, fixed prices, and not many customers. I wander through the store and find Kellogg products, Heinz tomato sauce, and Nestle instant and condensed milk. The prices are about triple the prices at the stall. Hiroko prefers to buy her vegetables at the local stall because of the freshness. We decide to invest in three small boxes of mango juice. We are checked out by not one cashier, but three cashiers. Not a single woman is working in the store.

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Foreigners are not allowed to drive in India. They must employ “drivers”. Hiroko and her husband both have drivers who take them where they need to go. Hiroko’s husband uses his driver to go back and forth to work every morning. Hiroko keeps her driver very busy. She is always on the run. Vinod is our driver. He greets us with “Namaste” as we exit the apartment complex. We climb into the car and Hiroko begins giving directions. Vinod has a very limited command of English and Hiroko speaks Japanese. He has been her driver for almost 6 years. They have their way of working out the language differences. We are on our way to the center of Delhi.

The traffic moves very slowly. There are almost no working traffic lights nor stop signs. People drive defensively honking their horns and almost never using their turn signals. Vinod is a very careful driver. He has a knack for squeezing in front of others without hitting them. The traffic makes me nervous. I decide to focus on the people around me. We aren’t going anywhere. Women with babies and small children sit on the back of motorcycles driven by their spouses or other male members of the family. Most of the time women sit sideways. Some are wearing helmets, but the majority are not. Women don’t drive in Delhi. Vinod told us he doesn’t let his wife drive. I can understand. I wouldn’t want to drive here either. It reminds me of driving bumper cars at the state fair.

Six to eight elementary school girls wearing their green plaid uniforms and green sweaters pile into a bicycle rickshaw. The girls are giggling and catch a glimpse of us in the car. They start waving frantically and yelling “hello, hello”. I roll down the window and they all shout “What’s your name? What’s your name?” I yell above the noise of the cars and busses, “Carol”. I make the mistake of asking “What’s your name?” because 8 different names come flying in my direction. I didn’t catch a single one. Our car finally inches up and before I can take a picture of the girls a van pulls up and blocks my view. The girls are gone.

The van passes us and behind him is another rickshaw. This one has seven males in their twenties. They catch my eye and began to send me hand signals. One asks me if I want to meet his friend. I throw up my left hand and point to my wedding ring. They laugh and wave goodbye. Friendly banter in the middle of traffic going nowhere anytime soon.

First Tourist Stop

Forty-five minutes later we arrive at Qutb Minor, a 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. This is one of the must-see monuments in Delhi. Foreigners/tourists are charged three times the price as locals. Hiroko is considered a local. She carries a document stating that she lives in Delhi. We don’t have a guide. Other foreigners have formed a line behind us. Many of them accompanied by a private guide they have hired to shuttle them around all day. Guides are a very helpful for tourists in India. They provide valuable historical information, recommend restaurants, and protection when necessary.

Groups of Indian elementary school children dressed in their gray pants and navy blue vests are trying their best to stand in line.   Their teachers are telling them in English, “Line up here”. They proceed into the park in single line formation following their teachers. Elementary schools in India have both coeducational and segregated classes. Some of them pass by and sneak a smile and a few giggles when they see the foreigners watching them and taking their pictures. I wonder what they think about us.

School children waiting to enter the Qutb monument park

We take pictures, read the guidebook, and walk around. Every time I turn a corner, there is a young Indian couple stealing kisses and embracing. Showing signs of affection in public is not acceptable. Young people take advantage of theaters, museums, and national monuments to show their feelings for each other.

Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar

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We stop at the market on the way home to pick up some things for dinner. The market has stalls of vegetables, dry goods, pharmaceuticals, dried fruits, nuts, and clothing. Hiroko has her preferred vegetable stall. We quickly pass by all of the others who are trying to hawk their products. Hiroko walks into her vegetable stall and everyone greets her with “Namaste”. She goes about picking her vegetables. She is being closely followed by one of the workers who is holding a small plastic container with small holes.

Hiroko chooses a vegetable and he places it in the container. He tries to get her to buy mangoes, she says no. There are gooseberries, grapes, cauliflower, ginger, bananas, and cabbage. He hands the plastic container of vegetables to another man who weighs it. The tally is done by hand with pencil and paper. The next man gives Hiroko the total. She haggles for a little less and is successful. She pays with her debit card.  We leave the bag with them and proceed to the next stall.

There are no women shopping nor working in the stalls. The men lie around, drink tea, and talk to each other. I walk through the stalls observing the colorful clothing and the various choices of nuts and dried fruits. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, dates, apricots, and apples.

Vegetable shop

Vegetable stall

This was the first day of my visit to Delhi, India. Please read Part 2.

 

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7 Cultural Observations of India

It is better to be blind than to see things from only one point of view. — Indian proverb

To experience India through the eyes of a local let me see the daily life of the Indian people. My hosts were a Japanese couple transferred to Delhi because of emloyment. I would like to thank them for the opportunity to walk the streets, eat in local eateries, and observe the culture. I don’t think I would have had the same opportunity if I were on a tourist bus.
1. Types of Transportation

Bicycle rickshaws, tuk-tuks, buses, private drivers, and motorcycles all compete for space on the roads in Delhi, India. Bicycle rickshaws transport fruits, vegetables, and eggs to the shopping stalls and small supermarkets. They also carry loads of bricks, steel rods, and freshly cut hay. Tuk-tuks transport as many as ten people hanging from both sides.

Buses are mostly old and rusty with no air conditioning. People are packed onto the buses with their heads and arms protruding from the windows. Private drivers are employed by most middle-class and upper-class. Motorcycles are a very popular form of transportation. They are the easiest to squeeze into small pockets of traffic. Traffic in Delhi moves very slowly.

Family on a motorcycle

Can you find four types of transportation in this photo?

Transporting loaded boxes by bicycle.

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

Mahatma Gandhi

2. Employment

Employment in India is made of mostly men. Men work in places where women shop. They sell dresses, saris, perfume, jewelry, shoes, accessories for the home, and food. Many of the men do the shopping. Employment includes working in food stalls, selling fruits and vegetables, restaurants, providing transportation, and security.

Women who shop usually have a man with them. There are foreign women who work in some of the “foreign shops”. Foreign shops are for people who are not Indian and can’t bargain. Women of the lower class work as maids and cooks in homes of those more fortunate. Indian women don’t work outside of the home.

India has a large proportion of unemployed young men. Men from the ages of 20 -35 hang out on the street corners chatting with their friends, playing traditional games, drinking masala, and talking on their cell phones.

Food stalls

Making sugar cane juice

Fresh fruits and vegetables

The second fundamental feature of culture is that all culture has an element of striving.

Johan Huizinga

3. Bargaining

Bargaining is a very big part of Indian culture. There are no prices posted in the local stalls. You must ask the price.

Excuse me,  How much is that bag of peanuts?

Salesman: 30 rupees

Indian buyer: How about 25 rupees?

Salesman: I will sell it to you for 28 rupees.

Indian buyer: OK

I am with my Japanese friend who doesn’t really get many bargains. She can’t speak the language or know the art of bargaining. Indians don’t like to bargain with foreigners. I try a couple of times in English. I am turned down. I walk away.

Shops that cater to foreigners post a sign “fixed prices”. No bargaining in these stores. The fixed prices are visible at shopping malls and supermarkets.

Handicraft stall

Clothing stall

4. Holy Cows

Cows are not worshiped as Gods. They are deeply respected by the Hindu religion. It is illegal to eat or possess beef. The cow is recognized as a “caretaker”, a maternal figure.  The cow is a symbol of wealth, strength, abundance, and selfless giving. There are more than 44,900,000 cows in India. The highest in the world.

Cows wander the streets of India eating garbage. They cause problems. They step out into the middle of traffic and everyone must stop until the animal decides to move. Sometimes men will get out of the cars and coax the animal to the side of the road. Hit one of these cows and you could go to jail and pay a hefty fine.

Cows get sick, injured, and old. Some of them are rescued by gaushalas. Sick and injured cows are taken to these rescue areas. The cow is treated and lives the rest of his life as a happy cow.

Rescue for injured and hungry cows

Cow ambulance

5. Food

Indians who follow the Hindu religion don’t eat meat. No chicken, pork, or beef. Indians who are Muslims eat everything but pork. Eggs, cheese, and chapati a type of Indian bread are the staples of a Hindi diet. Food is spicy. I loved the food. I ate so many styles of curry and dishes made with cheese. We frequented the local restaurants and were always rewarded with great food.

I must confess that I did get a case of “Indian baptism” which lasted only one day because I was prepared with the right medication. India has a few American fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Burger King. The menus in these restaurants are very different than the ones in the USA. I stayed away from American restaurants because I was looking for local food. India is paradise for vegetarians.

Grilled Paneer

GolGappa

Not sure. It tasted great.

6. Traffic

Traffic in Delhi includes cows, pigs, dogs, scooters, tuk-tuks, buses, private cars, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, and bicycle rickshaws. Everyone is competing for the same space at the same time. Traffic lights don’t work. Stop signs are ignored. People are trying to squeeze in everywhere possible. There are no alternative routes. Streets are narrow and full of potholes.

People are crossing everywhere. There are no designated crosswalks. Young children, dirty and poorly dressed, knock on your windows and ask you to give them money. Older children and adults are walking through the traffic selling balloons, coconuts, ice-cream, roses, and water. Most of the people ignore the vendors. One man with no legs is riding a skateboard. I can’t see him until he comes next to the car.

There is some progress in building wider freeways.

Bumper to bumper

Motorcycles, bicycles, and tuk-tuks compete with cars and busses.

Nobody is going anywhere

7. Security

Security is everywhere. Bags are checked and both men and women are scanned with a wand for entry into supermarkets, museums, malls, restaurants, and all visitor sites. Military police stand on every corner with their rifles. Security waits at every entrance to gated condo areas.

I found monkeys hanging out at the Ministery of Defence. The security prevented me from taking a picture of the monkeys. It was really the only place with so many trees in the whole city.

Security at the airport begins on the sidewalk. No one is allowed to enter the airport without a ticket.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of security or monkeys!

 

 

 

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