Archive for the ‘art workshops’ Category

Just a quick blog update before I head to bed – we have an early morning ahead of us since we will be leaving for Kerala tomorrow!

The past week has been pretty low key. We’ve barely had class – just 3 days last week and 3 days this week! We had Thursday and Friday off last week because of holidays, and this week we have Thursday and Friday off for Easter holidays (even though we would miss class anyway for traveling). Last Friday was Bengali New Year. It’s not a celebration like 1 January New Year’s, but a small family event. Our host family had relatives visiting at the time, who were great to talk to. We all dressed up in saris and had a traditional Bengali meal for lunch, served on banana leaves! There was green mango juice for a drink, rice, dal, fried fish, prawns and vegetables, fried potatoes, more fish, a potato preparation, and of course – many many sweets. We had mishti doi (sweetened thick yogurt – YUM) and a few others. Bengalis are known for their love of food, especially sweets! I spent most of the day just working on homework, and Kathryn and Kia came over for dinner before we all went out with our friends Haroon and Atif for some late-night coffee. We’re so lucky we have a program that allows us to meet and spend time with Indian students! :) Saturday was also pretty low key – lots of time spent on my research paper, and then Elizabeth, Danny, and I spent the night at Kathryn’s! It was a great night even though we didn’t do much – watching movies while snacking on popcorn :) We had the most amazing

our amazing breakfast - pancakes, eggs, and hot chocolate!

breakfast in the morning though…PANCAKES! :D Kathryn’s dad had brought along some just-add-water packets of Bisquick with him when he visited last month, so we whipped up some of those and had an American breakfast feast! It was wonderful to get a taste of home.  The next few days were also fairly unremarkable, since I spent a lot of time getting my research paper and other work done so I could completely relax in Kerala this upcoming week :)

Last night was our celebration of Bengali New Year as a group. It was a lot bigger deal than I had expected – I thought we were just performing a little dance in front of our host parents, but there were many more people there! Madhu explained to our guests that this celebration was a culmination of all our efforts and what we have learned through our Bengali folk arts course. Everyone performed a song or recited a poem, and they all were wonderful! The 4 of us recited a Bengali poem (in Bengali! The whole performance was in Bengali) that was a playful piece alluding to how much Bengalis love to eat. After the performances/recitations, we performed a dance as an entire group. We were taught this dance that told the story of a new bride being welcomed into her husband’s home/family. We were all dressed up in saris and assigned roles to enact the story -Elizabeth was the bride, Michael was the groom, Jennifer and Bekkah were the mothers, Haley the elder sister of the bride, Danny the elder brother of the groom, and the rest of us were dancers. In the song and through the dance we bless the bride, admire her jewelry, admire the groom’s attire, sweep a place for them to sit, and just bless and welcome them in general. The dance went off quite well! We didn’t make too many mistakes. We all had a great time – and our guests included host parents, teachers, and art workshop instructors. It was a wonderful celebration, and everyone admired our efforts – they even complimented our Bengali pronunciation!

reciting our poem

The whole group, with Madhu and 2 of our teachers from SXC - Sweta and Rajib

Tomorrow, we’re headed off to Kerala for a week long excursion. It’s going to be wonderful! Kerala is in the southern tip of India on the western side. It’s going to be a busy excursion – 6 nights in 6 different places! We’ll be on the beach, spend a night in a houseboat, see spice plantations and tea gardens, historical monuments, and more. I can’t wait!


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Nomoskar, everyone!

It’s been another week of being busy and not busy at the same time. Classes are pretty much the usual lecture and note taking, the occasional class cancellation. We actually had a test in Bengali last week –  he gave us a sheet of 20 words or so, and we just had to go up in front of him and pronounce the words and know the meaning of a few of them. He gave us 3 tries to pronounce the word correctly and even coached us through it,  so I’m glad we’re all on the same page of having low standards. I’m still struggling with finding the balance of staying in to get work done and going out to have fun – lately, I’ve been staying in a lot and trying to get through my very long to-do list so I can relax in Kerala and not be really stressed out my last week here.
I had a busy weekend though! Thursday was Kia’s birthday, so we all went to her house after school where we had cake and her mom made some really delicious egg rolls as a snack. There was some delicious sweet chili sauce on them – I’m going to have to buy some of that sauce to bring home with me! We went out to eat at a Thai restaurant in South City Mall. The food was really delicious but Brynn and I did a poor job about ordering to share. Kathryn had been there before and told us we could order one dish and share…but i guess that’s only some dishes! The dishes we ordered were delicious, but definitely enough for just one person. We had little mini spring rolls and some dish that was mushrooms and baby corn in a sweet and tangy sauce. It was too bad it was too expensive and we didn’t have enough time to order something else, so I actually got a Subway sandwich afterward! Subway is pretty much the same as it is at home, except that may of the dishes are specific to India – some “aloo” dishes or chicken tikka masala, for example.
Friday was our LAST Friday of class, and our last day of Sheta’s class. She had a speaker for the first two periods of her class who was talking about the history of Kolkata. As usual, it was a lecture and I have realized that I do NOT learn well or retain information that way and need some kind of visual aid to pay attention. It seems that Sheta can’t stand not speaking for more than an hour, because the second period she got up and was cutting off the speaker! They were just talking/yelling over each other – and the best part was when the speaker brought out this map of Kolkata and both were yelling over each other to tell us, “This color means parks! This color means schools!” It was too ridiculous. Later that night, we went out to dinner with our host family to a Chinese restaurant, which was great! It’s so nice to spend time with them, and I had some of the most delicious wantons and honey chicken I’ve ever had!

Saturday was devoted to art workshops – the first was about patachitra, or traditional Bengali folk paintings. They’re painted on a huge long scroll and used to tell stories through song – and the paints are made from vegetables and leaves! The artist told us a few stories first with her very elaborate scrolls – one story about the goddess Durga, another about a fish marriage, and another about the 2004 tsunami. After, we all got to try some painting ourselves! I bought some of her art too (I have such a weakness for the rural handicrafts). I bought myself a painting of the fish marriage and another painting to give away as a gift. We had a dance workshop immediately afterward, which was the first dance class of my life! We learned a dance that told the story of a young bride being welcomed into her new husband’s/family’s home. We had a great teacher who has a lot of fun when he’s teaching, and I think I didn’t dance too horribly. I guess we are going to perform this dance next week for all of our host parents as a way to celebrate Bengali New Year! We’ll see how it goes.



Sunday was busy too – we spent all morning touring Kolkata. We saw mostly religious worship sites – a ton of churches and a couple synagogues! It was my first time ever in a synagogue. We didn’t see any mosques, because women are not allowed in mosques…lame! We also stopped at a Bengali folk arts museum, which had some really incredible embroidered linens. Women embroidered these bed covers and other household items with such detail and skill – and all the thread came from the borders of old saris. There were also a few examples of patachitra, some clay or metal dolls, and more. We went out to eat for lunch at a Chinese restaurant for a buffet – the first buffet I’ve had here. It was pretty delicious!

some sites around Kolkata on our walking tour

Time is flying by – it’s now less than 10 days until we go to Kerala, and then there will be only 10 days left when we get back!! AGH! How is this happening?! I will already be home one month from today! I’m starting to panic a little having such little time left, and yet it does NOT feel real. It still feels like i will be here for forever. I will be happy to be home, but I know I will miss many things about India. I know I’m just so lucky to have so many wonderful things to look forward to when I come home! I’ll be glad to spend time with my family again, and I will be able to see my grandparents more since they are going to move to Duluth. I’ll be going back to my summer job at Greysolon Plaza, which I love, and I’ll be going to visit Karl in Annapolis just 10 days after I get home. I’m looking forward to being back on campus next year – I have gained an entirely new perspective and appreciation for CSB/SJU!! I’ll be so happy to be back on campus, back to my classes I enjoy, and to see all my friends again! I am so blessed to have so many wonderful things in my life. And of course – one of the most wonderful things has been this year abroad, which I am truly thankful for! Good thing it’s not quite over yet ;)

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What an eventful week!

Last weekend, we had a two-day trip to Shantiniketan – a village area outside of Kolkata that’s known for Rabindranath Tagore, a major poet/novelist/essayist/playwright/artist/thinker. Tagore is so admired here, especially in West Bengal, and I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t hear some mention of his name. He founded a school in Shantiniketan, which means “peaceful abode.” Arundhati, Sujoy, and Vinayak came along with, since our parents had helped to organize and lead the trip. Arundhati is very involved in the arts, especially Bengali folk art, and Sujoy is very interested in history. We had a fairly long ride there – about 5 hours with stops. We stayed in a really nice cottages and had lunch before heading off to the local Saturday market. The market was wonderful! It was a local craft market – there was so much to look at and buy! Clothes, artwork, jewelry, journals, instruments, and more. I bought several pairs of earrings – they’re all made from natural materials like seeds, shells, and palm leaves. I also got some really great art – a slate etching of Ganesh and some framed copper wire art. I would have loved to stay longer, since we were given such a short amount of time there before being rushed off to a dance performance. I was upset that it was poorly planned to have only about 20 minutes there – you can’t bring us to a place like that and expect us to leave so quickly! We had to leave well before sunset though, since we were going to a dance performance in a village. The performance was wonderful to see and all I could do was sit there and think, “wow. I’m actually in a village in India.”

Family photo next to an awesome Banyan tree!

After the performance, we stopped at a store that sold local handmade leather products – and I bought a few gifts as well as a couple things for myself! We had a hodgepodge dinner of street food – I had a dosa (kind of like a thinner hardened crepe) and some pokoras (hard to describe – fried deliciousness – onions and other spices in a fried batter). I went to bed early that night since we had had an early morning and another long day ahead of us. The next day was all about Tagore – we visited the Tagore museum and the many houses he lived in. The museum was okay, but there were so many people and it was not well-laid out, so I didn’t spend much time in there. It was amazing to see how many people were there though – there are so many Tagore fans here, it’s a regional/national obsession. There’s good reason for it though – he was and still is incredibly influential, if not for just the sheer volume of his work but also his philosophy about education and (inter)nationalism. He believed in education for all, and also about learning about other cultures while maintaining an interest and knowledge of  your own. After the Tagore morning, we spent the rest of the afternoon traveling home.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty low-key days full of class. Since Monday was Valentine’s Day, I went on a lovely date with my roommates to a nearby restaurant for some dessert. I had REAL ice cream for the first time here in India, and it was wonderful! And it was great to be out with 3 wonderful ladies – I love my roommates! :)

Yesterday was a national holiday – the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. We didn’t have class, and Madhu had arranged for us to have an art workshop that day. One of our classes here is a 2-credit course on Bengali folk art, which we have been doing through a series of events and workshops. This one was in Krishnanagar, and it was on traditional clay modeling. Arundhati, Sujoy, and Vinayak came along with again – Arundhati and Sujoy have helped to organize nearly all the art workshops. They had also invited the media (they work in PR) because this particular form of clay modeling is a dying art. It was a really early morning – we had to leave around 6:30 am. It was fine drive, until about an hour outside of Krishnanagar – we were in an accident :( a motorcycle hit our bus head-on. It happened so quickly, I didn’t really see what had happened, just a sudden screech on the breaks, falling forward, and seeing the windshield shatter. Apparently what had happened was the motorcyclist was passing (we were in the correct lane), didn’t judge it properly, was out of control and went head-on into the bus. I was in the back of the bus and didn’t see the man, but it was not looking good. Apparently there was a lot of blood – and he was transported to the hospital right away, and they took our driver along with. A huge crowd gathered, yelling in Bengali and it was so chaotic and panicked, we weren’t sure what was going to happen – accidents can have huge angry mobs. Luckily the police were there and it was calmed down quickly. None of us were injured. We’ve heard now that the man survived and is conscious, and that the CT scan was clear but he’s under observation for the next 72 hours and they’ll know his condition then. We’re all really thankful it wasn’t worse, for him and that none of us were injured.

I’m very (pleasantly?) surprised that this is the first accident I’ve witnessed here, even though the traffic is crazy. There’s usually a rhythm to it that keeps cars moving, but there have been several close scrapes that I was sure an accident was going to happen. It doesn’t help that they pass all the time, drive on the wrong side of the road (even the wrong direction on the highway!!), and don’t have seat belts (or if there are seat belts, people still don’t use them, and there’s often nothing to buckle the seat belt into). It was probably the best vehicle for us to be in and the worst for the injured man.

The accident took time – we had to go to the police station (nothing for us, just Madhu and the other program leaders sorting it out) and they had to arrange for alternate transportation for us. We eventually got back on the road (after hearing the motorcyclist had survived). We went to an artist’s house for the clay modeling, which was a lot of fun and it good to have something to do with our hands to redirect our attention and get over the shock of what had happened. We made village woman, Ganesh (a hindu god with an elephant head), and a mask. We were there for quite a while after the workshop ended, since it took so much time to get another bus. The people were wonderful though – so kind and hospitable. They entertained us with song and dance while we were waiting. We had a long ride home – we didn’t get home until a little after 10pm. It was a very long dramatic day, and I’m thankful we’re all safe.

In other news – I’ve found a on-campus job for next year! I’m going to be working as a Career Assistant with CSB Career Services. I’ll be helping students research majors/careers, critiquing resumes, conducting practice interviews, and helping plan/promote Career Service events. I’m really excited about it!  It will definitely be more of a time commitment than my previous on-campus job, but there are also some great benefits for my own career development that come along with it. For example, they have assignments for you to do at work, like update your resume, research a grad school you’d like to attend, research a volunteer opportunity that interests you, etc. I think I will really enjoy it.

And, check out my piece for Pink Pangea! :) Click here: Scammed in a Kolkatan Cab.

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