My second semester in New Delhi is already flying by. Spring semester always seems to do that. I started classes the second week of January and have been incredibly busy since then. I am taking three classes at JNU: Contemporary Issues in International Economy, Political Economy of Development, and a seminar on Technology, Environmentalism and Sustainable Development. The material is quite interdisciplinary and relates well across all three courses. I am studying with some top-notch professors who are keeping me on my toes with a heavy reading load. I had much greater success navigating the registration process this semester now that I know how the system works. I am also hoping to re-enroll in a Hindi course to improve beyond my current level of proficiency which facilitates bargaining for autos and products in the store but doesn’t really allow me to carry on a substantial conversation.
In addition to my coursework I am working on a volunteer basis with the Earth Foundation, an NGO that supports the under-privileged Girl Child through health and hygiene programs in various schools in Delhi. The organization has been around since 1990 and is run by the father-daughter team of Manmohan and Geeti Bhagat. The Bhagat family is another Rotary family I have gotten to know quite well during my time here. They are some of the most generous and bighearted people I know. It is really a joy to work with them and support what they are doing through Earth Foundation. Our annual charity event is on March 3, 2012 so all hands are on deck and all energies focused toward its successful execution. The event is a professional fashion show, this year hosted at the German Embassy in Delhi. The unique characteristic is that the models are ambassadors and their spouses and children who walk the ramp in the fashions of top Indian and Western designers to support the cause of the under-privileged Girl Child. The event also includes a dinner, dance, and award ceremony for individuals doing exemplary work for under-privileged children. I told one of my supervisors I’d also like to model on March 3rd. She said that is a fine idea but that I would have to get married to an ambassador before our event in order to be eligible. I asked if dating an ambassador would suffice. She conceded that if I can secure a proposal of marriage by an ambassador by March 3rd I am most welcome to walk the ramp. We’ll see how that goes 😉
The last few weeks have been busy with many hours in the office, meetings at the German Embassy, and a trip to India’s Fashion Week. After what felt like a long break from “work” last semester it feels really good to put my professional skills back to use.
I have also stayed active with Rotary events thanks to my host Rotarian, Gobind. Last night I met a couple former Ambassadorial Scholars and a group from the U.S., Hong Kong, and Canada who are visiting India to take part in the monthly National Immunization Day (NID) which is part of Rotary’s PolioPlus Campaign to eliminate polio worldwide. Their group leader is a polio survivor and shared a very heartfelt thank you with the Rotarians in India for the work that is being done to eliminate the disease worldwide. We are all happy to announce that India has been polio-free since the beginning of the year. There have been no reported cases of polio in India since last year (last year there was 1 case). This means India is no longer an endemic country. Hooray! Only three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria – are still listed as endemic. The Rotary scholars in Delhi and some of our friends will also participate in the NID on Sunday. I also met a Group Study Exchange (GSE) Team from Kansas/Oklahoma/Missouri/Arkansas (a big district) who were visiting the Rotary Cancer Foundation at AIIMS Hospital in Delhi. Next weekend I will attend the Rotary International Polio Conference – hosted in Delhi – and hope to meet the Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee. Each year the RI President chooses a unique theme or motto and I want to compliment him on his theme of “reach within to embrace humanity.”
Last week I welcomed visitors from Minnesota for an eleven day adventure in India and Nepal. My boss from Sertich Consulting, Joe Sertich, his wife Nancy and our friends and colleagues Okokon and Umo Udo came to India to check up on my personal and professional development 🙂 I will dedicate a separate post to our travels but here is a taste of our adventure – after six months I finally made it to the Taj Mahal! Here’s the proof.
Earlier this semester my roommate Kate and I made a snap decision to take a weekend trip to the Jaipur Literary Festival to see Oprah! One of my favorite quotes from her interview was “traveling to India really expands your sense of humanity.” True that.
So I guess I’ve been pretty darn busy. Did I mention that I am also taking Indian cooking classes with my friend Blythe? We enrolled in a weekly course at the American Embassy School and are having great fun learning the tricks of Indian cooking. This week we learned how to make paneer – Indian cottage cheese. The process is so easy and looks like magic (to me). I will gladly test my skills in your kitchens this summer.
All for now.