Prison for Food

A twelve- year old boy receives seven days of hard labor for stealing a chicken. A fourteen- year old boy receives seven days of hard labor and twenty lashes for stealing two loaves of bread.

These children ended up serving their time in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland. Built in1796 for hardened criminals. Murderers and robbers. It was one of the most modern prisons in Ireland. Officially called the County of Dublin Gaol, and run by the Grand Jury for County Dublin.The older prison housed prisoners in individual cells. The prisoners could put their arms through the windows as the people who passed by slipped them drinks, cigarettes, and money.

I am in Dublin, Ireland for seven days before heading to a writer’s workshop in Donegal. I have walked the street for three days retracing the steps of the Irish who were forced to leave their country and suffered under the English regime. I bought a three- day travel card that allows me to use the Green Hop On Hop Off Bus. This is day three. I want to see the places that I missed. Suddenly the driver yells out “There are three tickets available to enter the Kilmainham Gaol. Does anyone want to get off?” At the entrance to the Gaol, there is an agent holding up three fingers indicating the available tickets. I take my chances and jump off the bus. I didn’t know much about the prison. It turned out to be one of the best and worst experiences in Ireland.

Kilmainham Gaol is used in movie scenes and documentaries and is one of the five most visited sites in Dublin.

But, sure, jail is a grand place, if one can forget that one’s in it ( Evelyn Masterson, veteran Civil War prisoner of Kilmainham Jail)

I pay for my ticket, have my bags checked, and begin the tour with five other tourists from Germany and England. The corridors are very dark, harsh, and not very welcoming. It is referred to as the old dungeon fortress by the Irish citizens. Yellow paint is peeling from the walls. The iron bars around the stairs are rusty. The openings in the walls are small and square. I feel an extreme sense of fear. There are no windows and very little light. I am safe. I am on a tour. How did the people who were incarcerated feel? They had no way out.

Kilmainham Gaol located in Dublin, Ireland on Gallows Hill was built in 1796.  Constructed of limestone and granite. The height varies from thirty- fifty feet. The walls are 51/2 ft. thick at the bottom and 31/2 ft thick at the top. There are three iron and wood gates. A prison for hardened criminals. Murderers and robbers. It was touted as one of the most modern prisons in Ireland. In 1821, two women, 19 and 21 years old, were hung for their crimes. The last public execution was in 1865. The prison closed in 1925. It is now one of the five most visited sites in Dublin. The prison is used in movie scenes and documentaries.

The building in not the original Kilmainham Gaol. It was located near St. James hospital, a short distance from Gallow’s Hill in the direction of Dublin City Center. In the Old Kilmainham prison, the incarcerated shared cells in long narrow rooms. The prisoners were able to extend their arms through “grilles” and the people passing by would slip them liquor, cigarettes, and money. The prisoners were always drunk. The conditions of the prison were deemed inhumane by the citizens of Ireland.

The East Wing (This building is often presented in movies)

The East Wing opened officially in 1861and reflected the continuous development of prison reforms. It is the form of a horseshoe so that the prisoners could be constantly observed. The main goals for running the prison effectively were: silence, observation, separation, and light. The enormous skylight in the roof allows the rays of the sun to “pour down over the prisoners souls” and spiritually cleanse them. 

The Jail is divided into three sections: The middle part is the administrative section containing the largest and most comfortable rooms. The top floor is the “Governor’s” quarters.  The ground floor rooms were linked and used in the daytime by women who were in prison because they could not pay off the family debt.

Kilmainham Jail served as a prison for over two centuries. A prison that was supposed to be more humane entered a time period where people were being imprisoned for petty crimes. Crimes they committed so their families could eat. I can’t imagine having to steal a chicken, bread, and grass for consumption because my family is dying of starvation.

1847- Less than 2,500 prisoners, 1848- 4,655 prisoners, 1849-6,888 prisoners, 1850- 9,052 prisoners

Peter Henry- thiry-four years of hard labor for stealing a pair of shoes from a dead man

Michael Donohue-thirty four years for ill-treating a bear in the zoo

Thorman Lynch- eighteen years old- one month for unlawfully milking a cow and stealing a quantity of milk. Two extra months for stealing the bucket.

Martin Walsh- ten years old- fourteen days for stealing grass

We enter the Catholic Chapel. I am surprised at the beauty of the chapel. The windows let in the light and the walls are painted green and red. Everyone on the tour becomes very quiet as we take in the beauty of a room located in a prison. A place with no hope. The altar was built in 1882 by James Lalor. He was from Belfast and was sentenced to seven years for receiving stolen goods. I was a carpenter who was rumored to have completed various projects in other prisons. The altar is well known for the wedding of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett in May 1916. Joseph Plunkett was scheduled to be executed. He had one hour left to marry. They were not allowed to talk to each other during or after the ceremony. No one was allowed to attend. He was executed the day after.

Our next stop is in front of a jail cell. A jail cell would hold up to 5-6 people, women, men, and children. Food included bread, water, milk, tea, potatoes or rice, oatmeal, Indian meal, and if they were lucky a little meat. The food was not that great, but for many “bad food was better than no food”. Buckets were used as toilets and dumped out in the morning. The stench must have been terrible.

From 1845–1850 the prison filled with men, women, and children charged with begging and stealing. “The Great Famine” referred to by the Irish as “The Great Hunger” began to rise. The jail cells swelled to capacity. There was no segregation of prisoners. Men, women, and children were incarcerated in the same cells. There were up to five people in a cell measuring twenty-eight square meters. Everyone was given a candle. This candle was to last for two weeks. It was their only means of light and heat. Male prisoners slept in iron bed stands. Women and children slept with straw mats on the floor.

Female Crimes

Eliza Corty- twenty-seven– five days for using obscene language

Eliza Keenan- forty-seven– one month for knocking on a hall door without lawful excuse

Anne McIntyre– twenty- stealing potatoes- sent to a lunatic asylum

These women were trying to raize families and feed their children. They were desperate. I would steal to feed my family.

We walk past cells that are painted blue and the exterior walls are white. The color makes it seem royal. Royal, it is not. Prisoners were not able to look out to see the sun. It was very bleak.

The beginning of the Famine

How did the famine begin? Was it the fault of the Irish? The English accused the Irish of two things: overpopulation and laziness. Irish families were big Catholic units. Many of the Irish produced children to help on their farms. The women didn’t practice birth control. The Irish are laid back. They like to have fun drinking, dancing, and singing. The English looked at this style of life as wasteful.

The English dominated the Irish. In 1801 The Act of Union brought the country of Ireland under the control of England. The English created “Penal Laws”. The Catholic Church was outlawed. Their native language, Gaelic, was banned. The English forbade any export trade. These new laws destroyed Irish commerce and industry. The Irish could pretend not to be Catholics or leave the church completely. Some of the Irish were forced to practice their religion in secrecy.

In 1600 Protestants owned 10% of Irish land. In 1778 they owned 95%. The Penal laws prevented Catholics from buying land, getting an education, entering a profession, holding political office, and living within five miles of town. They were not allowed to fish or hunt.The only employment left for the Catholics was farming. They were allowed to have small plots owned by landlords. They had to pay rent to absent landlords in England. Many of the tenant farmers had poor living standards, no money for medicine, clothes, nor adequate shelter. Homes were falling apart and landlords were not required to make improvements.

The potato was the only crop to produce a sufficient yield on limited acreage. In 1840, 50% of Ireland was dependent on the potato.

In 1835, 75% of Irish workers were without regular work and turned to begging and stealing.

 

Irish farmers became desperate.  Not getting the help they needed, some of them decided to enter workhouses providing them with shelter and food in exchange for hard labor.  Irish farmers with more than 1/4 of an acre were forced to give up their land before acceptance into a workhouse. No food or shelter would be provided to their wives and children. The only hope was to beg, steal, or runaway.

From 1845-1850 Kilmainham Jail contained the poorest of Ireland’s citizens. 1847 brought a new law: the Vagrancy Act. It was now a crime for hungry people to beg in the streets. They ended up in prison along with the thieves. The last official year of the “Great Hunger”, 1850, Kilmainham Jail Registers recorded 9,052 prisoners living in fewer than two hundred cells.

The Great Potato Famine has been debated for years. Was it the fault of the Irish or the English? Was the potato the root of the problem?

In 1846 the Prime Minister of England, Charles Trevelyan, banned all food distribution to Ireland. The English exported grain-based alcohol, wool, flax, wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, and beef from Ireland to England. These were products being produced in Ireland but not available to Irish citizens. Did the English create the Famine? Food was being taken out of Ireland.

 

We enter one of the cells which were lucky enough to have some light. People could do nothing in these cells. Some of them had to stand up all day because they were so crowded. We were five and we could not all fit in the room together and feel comfortable.

 

 

Stonebreakers Yard

There are no windows overlooking this yard. The darker areas around the yard are reminders of the huts that men were placed in. These were the men sentenced to heavy labor. Breaking stones for the construction of roads. The black cross marks the place of the execution of the leaders of 1916 Rising. 

The walls of the prison are 5 1/2 feet thick at the bottom and 3 1/2 feet thick at the top and constructed from limestone and granite. There are three iron and wood gates.The height varies from 30-50 feet. The “death bell” rang after an execution.

On the other side of this wall was the exercise yard for children who were in prison. Children were treated like little adults. Joseph Williams, six years old, traveling with his parents on the Great Southern and Western Railway without a paid fare, sentenced to prison. Children who were caught stealing to provide food for their families were sentenced to prison.

 

Mural of a Madonna painted by Grace Gifford Plunkett while she was held during the Civil War.

After the death of her husband, Grace Gifford threw herself into the Republican activities of Cumann na mBan – Ladies Auxiliary to the IRA – and was herself jailed in the women’s section of the same Kilmainham jail in which her husband had been executed. Like Joseph before her, she left an artistic memento on the stone wall of her dreary cell – it was a sketch of Mary, the mother of God, perhaps in remembrance of Joseph’s middle name. Admired by all the women prisoners, it was dubbed the Kilmainham Madonna. 

Entrance to Kilmainham Gaol, Five Dragons in Chains above Entrance. The five dragons represent five serious felonies: murder, rape, theft, treason, and piracy. Two women Bridget Butterly 19 and Bridget Ennis 20 were hung for a burglary where a woman died.

 

Plaque marking the executions of the leaders of 1916 Rising.

The tour turned out to be one of the best and worst experiences in Ireland.The best because I learned at how hard life can be when people are not cared for and forgotten. Food is important and should be something that everyone has access to. I was aware of the history of Ireland. My ancestors came from Ireland. I realize the tremendous problems they suffered and how other countries such as Australia, Canada, and the USA received them. They were not received well. They arrived sick, poor, and dirty. There were signs everywhere in NY warning people not to hire the Irishman because they were dangerous and dirty. Imagine if the Irish ended up not settling in the US because the government did not want them. It was the worst experience to see how people were treated in times of need. Children and women going to prison because they were caught stealing food to provide for their families. Has history taught us a lesson?

I would like to conclude with my final thoughts. No one should have to go to prison for lack of food. Famine is not brought on by the people, but by governments who control the food and goods going in and out of the country. Could The Great Hunger of Ireland have been avoided? Can this happen again? I leave you with these questions.

 

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal

My first writing retreat took place in Donegal Ireland. My life as a travel writer is in the incubation period. I am grabbing at every straw I can to become a better writer.  There wasn’t much information describing the workshop. I took my chances. It was not disappointing. I made friends with other writers. Two of them were Irish and one was from the US.

Many new and experienced writers are looking for places to help them perfect the art of travel writing. I hope to help anyone who is thinking about attending this retreat and is looking for facts.

7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal
Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack in Donegal, Ireland. I spent six days in Dublin before heading to Donegal. I flew from Dublin to Donegal. The second most scenic approach in the world. I thought we were going to land in the ocean. Others took the bus from Dublin.

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 fried ham (bacon), eggs, sausage, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered as 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. Types of bread include 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.

I went for the full breakfast on the first day. The second day, no bacon. The third day, no mushrooms. The fourth and fifth day, one egg, yogurt, and a warm tomato. The last day, ordered the whole breakfast for the last time.

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever. We were also blessed with rain for two days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Irish breakfast

A house nearby. One of the Irish writers and I took a hike.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

The boat to Gola

There was one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. We were greeted by a couple who prepared lunch for us. Lunch included sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, and drinks.

Hiking in Gola

Cemetary for Catholic babies not yet baptized

Gola countryside

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

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Unfortunately, on the day we visited the castle it was raining. The gardens are beautiful. I couldn’t get many pictures of the garden. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stopped in to have tea and dry off.

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

There were no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music. I attended with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates were Irish and one of them was an avid Ceili dancer. Most of the dancers were women. They told me that 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 ranged from 60-82. I was dragged out to the floor a few times. I didn’t know any of the steps. I tried to follow and ended up stepping on a few toes. I wish I would have had a few lessons before we attended.

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

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

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduced us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brought out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher taught 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 was never able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

WIFI

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

Classes

The writing classes took place from 10:00 -1:00 every day.

Tea time/Story time/Language classes

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 were given an assignment and it was due within 24 hours. There was no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques came in the form of feedback online. The critiques did help. They were not profound critiques. The critiques were given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

A workshop presented by Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, had us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gave us the assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I didn’t do the assignment. She wasn’t going to give any feedback and I didn’t understand what the purpose was. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her?

Another workshop was presented by 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. He corrected them in a way that made them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda listed the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We had sandwiches that were hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” included a local guitarist whose voice gave me a headache. He told us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local tried to sing a traditional Irish song but had a very bad cold. We had some lively music from one of the participant’s husbands who played country western music and she had a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switched to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome was the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Cafe Kitty gave a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brought a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. They were good. Later in the week, we went to her restaurant for lunch. Sancho entertained us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs were 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

Lunch and dinner are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day.  Breakfast is included everyday.

Everyone has different expectations when trying something for the first. The overall experience was good. New friends, good food, rainy weather, new places, and a different language. It was an experience. I feel that the people who were running the workshop did not put enough effort into the program. They were trying to save money at the participants expense. I  admit that this is my first experience and I can’t compare this program to another.

 

New Irish friends

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

___________________________________________________________________________

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

_________________________________________________________

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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

Dal

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!

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save