Welcome to my global village!

Sharing with the readers my experiences through my travel, interaction with different cultures and my involvement through community work! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Excerpts from Travel log

I will talk about some of my favourite holidays/ journeys after getting my husband and child. What is interesting about our trips is that we never took expensive holidays, we did our pre-holiday research very well such that for less money, we managed to do a lot of things. After all how much do the academics earn that we could afford expensive holiday! What we often do is that when we are due for holidays to India, instead of direct ticket we just add very little money and take ‘Round the world’ ticket. So just planning the holidays properly in terms of tickets, accommodation, tours etc., one can manage a decent holiday.

The best travel/ holiday any time would be our trips to Masaimara. One of our Mara trips involved camping and it was one of the most basic camping packages and the best trip so far! It was such a unique experience. The food was cooked in front of us on the woodfire and we could give a hand in cooking if we liked. And what was most interesting was when anyone needed to go to the loo, the ‘masais’ escorted you and they stood outside to keep a watch on animals! The best part were the game drives early in the morning and the ones at night. I still have in my mind some of the most unforgettable moments from Mara, some astounding shots that we took refresh our memories and give the urge to go back.

The city I admire the most outside India is Bath in UK. Our daughter was 10 years old and we were taking her to UK for the first time, so besides London, we all wanted to go to Bath mainly because we were keen to see Stonehenge. The bus journey from Heathrow to Bath is about one and a half hour, one of the most scenic rides. I find British country towns very interesting possibly because they bring my childhood novel-reading days to life. I used to imagine how these villages would be whenever I would read a book as a child. It was cold winter day and everything was dull and grey and yet the villages seemed beautiful. Our friend’s son, Simon’s fiancé Hanah, a tall English woman was there to pick us and took us to her house and enjoyed a typical British meal with wine. We stayed with her and Simon, they were one of the most hospitable couple I have come across. Next day, we first went round the city visiting the famous ‘baths’ and then drove to Stonehenge, again another scenic drive. We finally wrapped up the day watching a pantomime in one of the theatres there. I still wonder even years back how advance was the architecture in some parts of the world each time I visit palaces in India or England or Austria.

The next favourite in my list is Vienna. Atul was going for a conference and we decided that our daughter and I too would join him. So we set off for Vienna. Again we were traveling in winters, so it was dull and grey. The best things about Vienna are of course the palaces, the chocolates and the ‘punch’. They have this little kiosks all over that sell hot ‘punch’; both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The common base for both is fruit juice with various herbs. The moment you drink it, it gives warmth to your chest. You can buy the punch in a mug and pay a deposit for the mug so that if you decide to not return the mug, you have already paid for its cost. I brought one as a souvenir; the photo is attached here. I met Soroptimist in Vienna too. I met this British lady who had been in Vienna for past 17 years and was pleased to chat with me since I spoke English. I guess that was one thing she missed there, being able to communicate in English. Austrians prefer to speak in their language rather a foreign language, this is just an impression I got, I may be wrong! She spent a day with us, we went to Schronbrunn palace, and it is one of the most beautiful palaces that I have come across! I was very impressed with the honesty of the people there: I make this conclusion by observing their tube system. There is no ticket check anywhere and you are just meant to perform your duty of traveling with a ticket. And I gathered that obviously commuters must be doing that otherwise the tube system would not be economically viable. I have not seen so much trust in commuters anywhere else in the world whether it is New York, London, Sydney, Mumbai anywhere! The other thing which is unique are their cafés, where you are served tea/ coffee in most gorgeous porcelain by traditionally dressed waiters/ waitresses, the whole atmosphere is just incredible. This is when you realize the diversity in cultures round the world!
To be contd…………………………

Monday, May 08, 2006

A peek into my Travel Log

Some excerpts from my travel log……………..

When I look back and reminisce on our holidays, it is very difficult to pick the best but there are quite a few that still bring back happy and emotional memories. Traveling in India is fun. The chaos, the colours, deafening bollywood music, energetic people, cows, everyone has a right to live, very democratic, technology and economic boom, slums, the extremes and you have it all. India has such a great diversity in culture as you move from north to south or east to west. Its rich and vibrant culture has so much to offer. For now lets stick to my journeys in the past.

We (ma, pa and we three sisters) used to travel a lot by road in India too. We have covered stretches of India traveling by road. Pa while driving would love to listen to his three favourite singers: We three sisters. We would stop by the roadside ‘dhabas’ (restaurants) every few hours for a drink or so. I love the food in Indian highway dhabas, you CANNOT go wrong eating food from these dhabas because the travelers consume what they cook very fast. These dhabas are in great demands and I just love them. Each time I go to India, I make sure I eat from a dhaba at least once. Dhabas generally reflect the owner’s personality. The décor, music, food can tell you a lot about the owner.

I was 15 when we were traveling in Rajasthan (West of India) from Jaipur (popularly known as ‘Pink city’) to Udaipur (city of palaces), the two most beautiful and historically famous cities in Rajasthan. We started early in the morning which is what we always did. The ‘Grand Trunk’ highway is one of the best highways in India and I am told its being turned into something even grander. So for those who are thinking of traveling to India, it would be worthwhile experiencing driving on that highway with a flavour of typical Indian traffic, you would find authentically decorated trucks (again the décor on truck reflects the drivers personality). The journey from Jaipur to Udaipur was a day’s trip with lots of stopovers at various dhabas on the way, ma and pa loved stopping for tea and we would look forward to stopping for ‘Thums Up’ (Indian equivalent of ‘Coca Cola’, those days Indian govt. would not allow any imports and so we had an Indian reply to all the popular ‘item’!)/ or samosas, Indian snacks. The drive is scenic as you cross villages on the way. Rajasthani women wear elaborate jewelry that covers the whole hand, feet, face and neck and their beautiful heavily embroidered ‘lahangas’ (long skirts) are just gorgeous, and you could see authentic attires while traveling between any two towns in this region. This was one journey, which I wished would never end. I am now planning to do one with Ankita and Atul so that we can introduce Ankita to this unique culture in India.

The other one that I remember and feel a particular sense of attachment to was journey from Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh, North India) to Nagpur (Maharashtra, South-West India). It was a long journey and we drove for nearly 2 days and stopped to spend the night in Bhopal. Bhopal is the town in Madhya Pradesh (Central India) now unfortunately famous for the MIC leak case in the Union carbide factory. It was an eerie feeling that I got as we reached Bhopal, the memories of 1985 incident came back as shown on TV. Yet, everything seemed so normal. The next day as we set to drive out, I had very strange feeling which I can still recall and feel. I was doing my master’s in organic Chemistry, so I could relate to the incident and understand it very well. I just wondered how could something like that happen! And I still wonder!

To be continued……………..

Friday, May 05, 2006

Youth Hostels and my experience

I thought I would steer my blog a bit towards my global journey, so perhaps talk about my latest experience.
I recently got introduced to the youth hostels, became a member of 'Hostelling International' last year and have made good use of my membership ever since.
Until recently, whenever we travelled, we always stayed in hotels or motels that would suit our pockets but never did we think of youth hostels!
In dec-Jan, I went to UK to suss out the job market. Atul was in PNG, Ankita celebrating end of school in Australia and I was in dark and gloomy winter of UK trying to find out what is it like living in UK. So I was basically moving around, finding out about jobs vs cost of living. So this is where I got a chance to try out the Youth Hostel experience for the first time.
I was going for an interview to Cardiff, early this year in Jan. I was being given the accomodation for one night but since I did not want to take the chances of travelling in dark from Croydon to Cardiff and back, I decided to stay at YH in Cardiff. This was my first experience in a Youth Hostel, I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing but being adventurous I decided to give it a try. So I arrive Youth Hostel by the Heath Park, one of the best, I have visited so far.
For 17 GBP you get a clean bed and continental breakfast. The other facilities like shower, kitchen, TV lounge were all so spic and span, I could not believe it. And I met two lovely young women, one from Korea and another one from Spain and we soon got into some lovely conversations and exchanged views on places worth seeing, precautions one must take while travelling alone and finally exchanged emails too.
Then was the one in Bendigo (Victoria, Australia) where I felt it was a bit noisy and also not so clean.
The one in Ballarat (Victoria, Australia) is right on Soverign Hill, the view is beautiful and these are nice little appartments where you have about 16 beds in 4 rooms with a common kitchen and lounge/ dining area. This was good and I enjoyed being there.
The two that I find very practical are Melbourne YHA Metro and Sydney YHA Central. These are huge facilities with all kinds of options available and very close to all the facilities and right in the city centre. I met a lot of women from different parts of the world, Japan, UK, Australia, US, Korea etc. For some reason, I always bumped into a lot of Koreans throughout my YH experiences and they are lovely people to talk to.
What I liked about YHs is that its like a community, people generally exchange their travelling experiences, YHs also advise you on places once could visit with a small budget and the atomosphere is generally very cordial and lively.
I travelled a lot within the past six months for various reasons and so got to experience a range of YHs. I still remember my stay in YH Cardiff, the staff is friendly (I found Welsh are generally warm and friendly people), the facilities are good, just the whole package at YH Cardiff is terrific. I would not mind going there again and this time with my family, surely if we get another opportunity!
So yes, if you have not experienced youth hostels, I would say, you must. Just do a bit of research before you go because sometimes the experiences can be deifferent!

Success at last!!!!!!!!!!!!

So the photos finally got loaded after my nth attempts.
The top photo: Cenona and Merilyn (can be seen partly) with the students posing with their winning entries.
The middle photo is group photo for the school and its staff.
The bottom one shows students performing for SI Lae.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Environment programmes (contd.)

As a part of our awareness campaign, in my capacity as the Convener for the 'Environment' programme, I initiated and organized a poster competition in 2000 to mark the World Environment Day, 5th June. The response to the competition was very encouraging and we decided to conduct it every year. We pick a topic every year and involve as many children as we can to participate in the competition. Below is a list of topics we have chosen so far.
Year 2000 Theme for Poster Competition : Endangered Species
Year 2001 Theme for Poster Competition: Save Our Seas
Year 2002 Theme for Poster Competition: Reuse and Recycle
Year 2003 Theme for Poster Competition: Protect Our Rainforest
Year 2004 Theme for Poster Competition: Clean Air
Year 2005 Theme for Poster Competition: Clean Place: my country, my home.
We are yet to pick one for this year.
The competition targets 3 age groups; primary, secondary and tertiary students/ corresponding age groups.
I will put some photos in the next blog that were taken while presentation of prizes for last years poster competition at one of the schools '4-mile school'. I have tried putting the photos a number of times with this blog, somehow it would not connect. These are some of the problems we face here with repsect to technology. We often work under trying conditions.
So, whenever we go to any school, we also take with us books for distribution, this is a project which we do in colaboration with 'Rotary club of Huon Gulf'. These books are sent from various clubs in Australia. There are many schools which do not have enough resources and so every little contributions counts. We have a database of all the schools in the province and keep a check on the schools already covered so that we can reach out to as many. There is so much more that needs to be done though. This partiular project falls under our education programme, I will talk about some of the education projects and other projects in upcoming blogs.
In SI we work under 6 programme areas which are:
Human Rights and Status of Women
Economic and Social Development
International Goodwill and Understanding
We often do a project that covers more than one programme area. Will keep trying to upload those photos of environment poster competition: certificate and prize presentation.

Environment Programmes

Under the environment programme, SI Lae pledged to plant 50 trees last year: 2o trees to symbolize the 20 years existence of SI Lae and 30 trees to comemorate the 30 years
of independence of Papua New Guinea. The project could not take off last year due to various reasons, hence it was carried out this year. Every first saturday in the month of march, Soroptimists all over the world celebrate 'Saturday of Service (SOS) and dedicate the day in performing some community work. We chose to carry out our pending project on March 6th 2006.
The two trees that were planted are: Pometia pinata (commonly called 'glabra'; in pidgin called 'taun') and Calophyllum inophyllum (in pidgin called 'kalapulim').
In the photo on right, I am planting the tree while current President Naomi is throwing soil and Secretary Cenona standing by the side, the photograph was taken by another Soroptimist Merilyn. This photo is taken by Merilyn Paul.
In the photo on the left, Merilyn and Naomi can be seen throwing soil while I am planting the tree, Cenona and Dawn admiring the young trees.
What was good was that we all dug up the tough ground and planted the trees ourselves with very little help from two men who were around.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Community Work in PNG

Believe me, community work is an addiction. The more you get involved, the more you want to do!

While living in Kenya, I was not a part of any women’s group or NGO but was briefly associated with ‘East African University Women’s Association’, ‘American Women’s Association’, ‘Aga Khan Community Work Scheme’ etc and I did participate in a lot of community projects through the various modes available.
In Kenya, we used to take students to an HIV-AIDS care home in Pangani where they had a number of homeless HIV-AIDS children cared by an American couple, they depended on overseas funding for the running of the place. The idea was to make young students realize the concept of community-work and at the same time spend some time with the children in the ‘home’. Also carried out a number of clean-up projects with my students. We also started a ‘Society for the Betterment Of Women’ with students in one of the private schools I was teaching in and conducted a few activities including a workshop ‘Women’s Rights are Human’s right’.

When we moved to PNG, our daughter was now older and I could concentrate on my community activities much more and this is where I joined ‘Soroptimist international’. Being a Soroptimist, sky is your limit; you have a platform that you can operate from and a bunch of like-minded professional women with a passion for helping other women.

A few links from what has appeared in newspapers here:

www.arha.org.au/latest_headlines/2005/ November_Headlines/Call%20for%20unity%20in%
www.postcourier.com.pg/20040513/mamose02.htm - 4k - Supplemental Result
www.thenational.com.pg/0226/nation27.htm - 16k - Supplemental Result
www.thenational.com.pg/1110/nation35.htm - 27k - Supplemental Result

I will include one of the annual reports (my last year's report as President for the second term) in order to give a flavour of the work done last year.

(26TH FEB. 2005 TO 24TH FEB. 2006)

Dedication and Acknowledgements:

Before I begin, I dedicate this morning in memory of the massive loss during London bombing, earthquake in Pakistan, and massive landslide in Philippines, Manam Volcano eruption.

It was a productive year with lots of exciting events in a years’ time. The different committees worked very well as a result, I have plenty to report.

I would like to give a big thank you to all the members of SI of Lae for their support in making my second term run smooth. I wish I could thank each one of you individually. Some of us have earned very valuable friendship and love in the process and that is the reward of Soroptimism.

On behalf of the club I thank Sir Bob Sinclair and staff of Lae International Hotel for the providing us the venue for meetings and functions and their cooperation again for the year 2004. Thanks are also due to all the business houses for their generous support, various clubs for coming together for different activities, Morobe Provincial Administration, Lae Chamber of Commerce, media that is Post Courier, National, Morobe F.M., EM TV and the Lae/ Port Moresby community at large.

We could not have done all this without the support from our families and we are extremely humbled by their enormous support and patience, I don’t think we can thank them enough.

A big round of applause for the secretary for minutes Tina Nath and Acting Secretary Cenona Ramos (for filling in from time to time) for their efforts in compilation of minutes.

I would like to thank my daughter who helped us tremendously with all the computer work not only this year each time during her holidays when she came to PNG for Trivia Nite and 4th Extension Meeting but since 1999. We acknowledge her assistance to SI of Lae.

Activities: A Brief Summary

We started the New Year 2005 with a combined event of ‘Saturday of Service’ 5th March/ International Women’s Day 8th March. We decided to do a clean up at the Yalu Community Church followed by donation of paints and oven. Indian and Philipino recipes using local produce were demonstrated and nutrition value of the food was highlighted.

Late Feb. till May is a busy time for the Trivia Nite committee. It’s our major fundraising event. We work as a group and it is a wonderful example of teamwork. It’s worthwhile mentioning that despite the stress and hard work, at the end of this exercise we always feel it was worth it. I have enjoyed coordinating this exercise this year too as it gives me personal satisfaction. This year, we made an all time high profit of K 20,000 plus.

Then came 5th June, World Environment Day, the committee went and participated in the celebrations at the stadium, conducted the annual poster competition, this year’s theme was ‘Clean Place: My Country, My Home’. Judging the poster competition was fun too.

Yalu has come a long way since its inception as the project FIVE-O in 1995. The initial focus on the Vocational Training Centre has now spread to other areas of education, health and environment. Yalu has secured donations from CDS-AUSAID towards the permanent CLC, which will be built this year by networking well with NGO’s. Other NGO’s are interested in the Holistic Community Development Concept and I am pleased to report that Yalu CLC will be used as a pilot project. Training on ‘Working With Your Community’ (WWYC) was conducted at Yalu village and 10 participants received certificates on completion of their training.

SI of Lae was delighted with the news that ‘Halt Family Violence’ project has been awarded an extension as the Federation project for another two years at the conference in Wellington during Easter. It is a big achievement for the club. I would like to acknowledge the hard work put by the committee and all the members of SI of Lae. We had nominated Naomi for the Federation Convener for Education and Verity for the Federation Convener for International Goodwill and Understanding and we were proud to have these two ladies win these positions again unopposed. In the meantime, at the local scene, the increasing workload at the ‘Women and Children Support Centre’ resulted in recruiting a part time Secretary. Australian Business Volunteer, Eversley Ruth was instrumental in improved management of various tasks, realization for the need of secretary at the centre and two workshops with Anastasia (Family Sexual Violence: Workshop 1 on ‘Basic Counseling’ and Workshop 2 on ‘Advanced Counseling and Train the Trainer’) during her one-month stay in March-April 2005. This year we had some successful workshops conducted by Anastasia. Some of the participants have been great assistants to Anastasia on her various campaigns. She also made presentations at various workshop and conference organized by the government departments, NGOs, churches and the statutory bodies. Her awareness topics range from Halt Family Violence, HIV AIDS, New Amended laws of Sexual Violence and Wife Beating and Child Abuse. A good support and assistance to the Women Children and Support Centre and its staff Anastasia and Alvina from time to time from Margareth Samei and the staff of Angau General Memorial Hospital is acknowledged.

The International Goodwill and Understanding committee (Verity and Wendy) organized the poster and essay competition entitled ‘Say No to Guns’. A select few posters from this competition with the 30th Independence Anniversary posters were advertised in the VIP lounge during the celebrations in Lae.

The health committee with Pawan as the convener has been instrumental in giving support to the village women with basic items required during a delivery for mother and the baby. The committee has also been responsible in organizing and coordinating the tour of WCSC and Angau hospital for national and international visitors.

A majority of our time and energy was spent in starting up the second club in PNG, ‘Soroptimist International of Lae. The extension and publicity efforts were combined to make it a success. It involved endless emails/ phones/ faxes to the potential members, federation, committee members, planning meetings followed by training sessions in Port Moresby. The club was chartered on 26th Nov.in Port Moresby witnessed by 18 Soroptimists from Lae, Brisbane, Canberra, Townsville, Melbourne and Waitara, New Zealand. We are now very proud to have a sister club in the country.

Amendments to Minutes and Archives:
As recommended last year, all the archives for Lae are to be stored on CDs. Therefore, the minutes for 2005, all the reports; photographs are stored in CDs for the club’s archives.

Donations by SI Lae:
We made our annual contribution to Life Education Centre, Well Women’s Clinic, National Literacy Awareness, Sir Buri Kidu Heart Foundation, National Literacy Secretariat, National Women’s Doctors Association (towards Cancer unit for Port Moresby Hospital), Indian Association of PNG (towards Pulse Oxymeter for Angau Hospital), Lae Independence Committee, Soroptimist International Port Moresby (charter gift), Women and Children Support Centre and Halt Family Violence.

Donations and Funds to SI Lae:
2nd lot of donation of K10,000 by Lae District Administration to Women and Children Support Centre was received.
Funds for WCSC for the year 2005-2006 from the SISWP federation, CDS, CIMC, Horizon 3000 were received.
Funds for Yalu for the year 2005-2006 from CDS were received.
Trivia nite helped raise K 20,000 plus. A special mention of the personal donation of K1,000 made by David Wissink from Goroka. It just proves the enhanced reputation of SI Lae.

Federation President Eileen Mitchell with 9 other Soroptimists from Australia and New Zealand visited Lae from 17th Nov to 25th Nov., which kept our members quite busy. They went back with fond memories of Lae.
SI NewZealand meeting attended by Verity SmithLoretz
SI Croydon, UK. Annual Inter-Club Friendship Dinner for SI Croydon and District attended by myself (Shikha).
National Council Meetings attended by National Rep. Jane Kenni
Parliamentary Gender Workshop attended by Jane Kenni.

Conference, Seminar and Workshops:
Anastasia conducted a number of workshops/ awareness talks on ‘Halt family Violence’ spread over the year 2005. She also made presentations at various workshop and conference organized by the government departments, NGOs, churches and the statutory bodies.
Verity and Nellie in partnership with other NGOs organized the forum on 22nd Nov. to mark ‘International Day of Prevention of Violence Against Women’ at Butibum village. It was a unique experience for Soroptimist for it was the first time to have gone out into the community and networking with local NGOs. Dame Kidu and President Eileen were the main speakers and captivated the Butibum community very well for a good 2 hours.

Cynia Sanchez (Philippines) , Leanne Hickey (Australia), Theresa Katu (PNG) and Kaori Hayashi (Japan) were inducted to the club. 4 new members from four different countries in a year; a good effort indeed!
The club said goodbye to Hacey Abel and Aiyung Safatos.

Coffee and snack sessions, a nite out at Yacht club, pool side party at Pauls, Picnic at Habitat, trip to Finschaffen any excuse to have a good time together with favourite bunch of friends and yes, we made sure we did them all.

Thank you all; I thoroughly enjoyed my second term as the President and look forward to yet another productive year 2006 with Naomi Wilkins as the President!

President 2005-2006
This is my report and hopefully readers got a fairbit of idea of our activities here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

SI Lae celebrating International Women's Day, 8th March 2006. Photo courtsey 'National newspaper', PNG . Enjoying a slice of cake on banana leaf are Merilyn Paul, Shikha Raturi, Pawan Maliaki, Naomi Wilkins, Dawn Dormer, Cenona Ramos (back to front)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Life in Papua New Guinea

Life in Papua New Guinea is exciting, interesting and at times still full of surprises even though we moved here in 1998. Papua New Guineans are nice, warm and friendly people. There is always something happening around you. We live in a small town called Lae where there is absolutely no source of entertainment and yet; we manage to keep ourselves very busy. Probably because Atul, my husband and I have a range of interests and issues that we are passionate about. Atul is a Rotarian and I am a Soroptimist and thus active community workers. Besides working, past few days have been very hectic as I had been busy writing and posting letters for ‘Trivia Nite’, annual fund raising event for ‘Soroptimist International of Lae’ (SI Lae) which is scheduled for 27th may this year. I have been successfully coordinating this event since 2001 with a lot of help from Atul, our daughter and a group of my soroptimist friends. This has become my passion too.

For the benefit of readers who do not know what ‘Soroptimist International’ is!
Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in business and professions. Click on to www.soroptimist.org for more details.
Until Nov. 2005, there was only one SI club in Lae in PNG and now there is one in Port Moresby too chartered on 26th Nov. 2005.
Soroptimist International of Lae was chartered on 30th march 1995. It is a group of some 20 plus professional women from 10 different nationalities. I served as the President for two terms, 2004 and 2005. Click on to the ppt. on ‘SI Lae’ to get the gist of our operation. I had composed this presentation last year for one of the extension meeting sessions during the process of formation of SI Port Moresby. (An article on extension project is under construction) In due course of time I will be putting various links for different activities that we have done and work acknowledged by media.

I could go on and on about Soroptimist International as I am passionate about Soroptimism. If I could, I would go spreading the word of Soroptimism as it is a beautiful concept and has done wonders to improve the lives of countless women around the world. In my pursuit to do so, each time I traveled, I managed to either get a few interested in Soroptimism or stir up a few to think about women related issues.

I must mention a part of Soroptimist International Pledge. The pledge for Soroptimist goes like this:

I pledge allegiance to Soroptimism and the ideals for which it stands.
The sincerity of Friendship,
The dignity of Service
The joy of Achievement…………………………………..

I am passionate about the adjectives used for friendship, service and achievement; I have experienced first hand how meaningful these adjectives are.

To start with ‘The sincerity of Friendship’, I have made some life long friends through Soroptimist International. A very dear friend is Dr. Catherine Evans from Canberra, Australia. I met Catherine in Lae while she was here for a Veterinary conference. Catherine at that time was the President of NSW region (that is 13 SI clubs) while I was the President for SI Lae. She helped bring some women undergarments for SI Lae’s ‘Women and children Support Centre’, which was donated by SI Hills, Sydney, Australia. Just that time we were moving our only daughter to Canberra for her schooling and Catherine became her local guardian. Since then Catherine has become a special family friend and we all are very fond of her. So this is Soroptimism that brought Catherine close to us. It becomes easier to make friends through Soroptimism when you are visiting a place. I was in UK for 2 months (Dec. 2005- Jan. 2006). Nothing can be more depressing than being in UK during winters all alone. I was based in Greater London and looked up the website for SI clubs in and around that area and wherever I traveled. I soon had some very good friends all over UK and then my time there became a memorable one. I have made many good friends all around the world through Soroptimism.

I experience ‘the dignity of service and the joy of achievement’ whenever I evaluate our two big projects ‘Halt Family Violence’ and ‘Yalu’. These two projects carried out by SI Lae have not only helped a number of women and children but also helped put PNG on the world map.

Last year’s ‘Trivia Nite’ raised an ALL time high profit of K20,000 plus in the history of the event organized by SI Lae. My daughter has been helping us with all the computer-related work since 2000 and she has been fondly called ‘Our Honorary Computer Consultant’ by then President Sheryl Guthrie (2000). Click on to the ‘photos’ link to check some of the previous Trivia Nite tickets and flyers. Our daughter has still continued to offer her help with that even after moving to Australia for school and now University.

So far, I have posted letters asking for donations to some 200 companies (big and small) and now with the help of five other Soroptimists, Tina, Merilyn, Sciony, Cynia, myself and a good friend Dawn, we will each start following up the donation with a number of companies. It is a very time consuming, requires a lot of patience and at times frustrating exercise but it needs to be done. The donations that come in are used as trivia prizes, raffle and lucky door prize/s, ‘silent auction’.
While we are busy doing this, Atul is busy compiling the questions and answers for 10 rounds (each round comprises of 10 questions)
Since last year’s success, I have secretly set a target of K30,000 plus as net profit this year: only time can tell!

While all this was going on, I get an email from our Immediate Past President, Elaine Moffat asking if I could help put something together on our federation project ‘Halt Family Violence’ which she could use for a presentation at the Brisbane conference (14-16th April 2006, Brisbane, Australia). ‘Halt family Violence’ is a project of SI Lae which was chosen as the federation project in 2002-2004 and then again chosen for another two years 2004-2006. PNG is one the countries notorious for violence against women and children. Click on to a ppt on ‘HFV presentation 2006’ While there is still so much that needs be done, Soroptimists in PNG are making a difference and contribution in improving the lives of women and children in PNG.

After Easter, we move into week 6 of first semester teaching. I generally teach a class of nearly 200 students in the first semester for the 1st year Chemistry course to Applied Science, Applied Physics, Agriculture and Forestry students. It takes a huge effort to teach a class as huge as this and to try understanding your students is equally huge in PNG. Students are respectful. The one particular aspect that worries me about the students here is ‘chewing betel nut’. I often notice young men and women come to university and with in no time they pick up the chewing of betel nut (betel nut is called ‘buai’ in pidgin (pidgin is national language of PNG), Piper betel is its scientific name: buai is mixed with lime and macerated inside mouth for hours and slowly the juices are gulped; making you prone to mouth cancer!) along with all the other habits that university students normally indulge into on getting into the univ. The ‘Independence’ does mislead some students, which is the case everywhere else so PNG is no special. There are some students who I would be very keen to follow, say, where would they be in 10 years from now like Daroa Inai, Douglas Mausen, Zenerdine Chee and quite a few others. That is the ultimate experience of the teaching profession!

We have made some good friends in PNG from different parts country like Rabaul, Siassi, Sepik, Milne Bay, Port Moresby, Finschaffen, Manus to name a few and from different countries like Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, UK, US, China, Indian subcontinent, Phillipines, Canada etc. It has no doubt, enriched our lives and we have been able to learn about different cultures and people.

The scene is now changing in PNG, though there is still a reasonably sized expatriate community, there are a number of Papua New Guineans well placed in private sector too. Even in the hotels and clubs, which used to be expatriates dominated is now becoming more eye pleasing with lots of nationals around. It is a very unique place and it is very difficult to describe the place. Like Atul wrote to me when I asked him to describe the place on his arrival here in 1998, “you have to be there to know the place!” How very true, and I am still learning about many things here. I have some good Papua New Guinean friends through my soroptimist activities and I feel that has enriched my life too. There is no doubt a lot still needs to be done in this country. What I always tell my friends is that we need to have people trained and not just go for funding only. As it stands, PNG is a rich country for it has so many natural resources. I often compare its natural wealth with India because that is where I am from and PNG is far richer if you compared natural wealth per sq km of the two countries. So to start with the situation is not bad, we just need some sort of strategic planning! So, I can only wish that responsible nationals in PNG would take care of that because this country can do so much better than what it is doing at the moment.

Well, my interest lies in issues related with women and we have done some brilliant work here. I will continue talking about it and my experiences as a ‘Global Woman’ in my next chapter.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A global woman (updated now)

The story so far…

Days in India:

The first 20 years of my life were spent in India. I grew up with two younger sisters and the most loving and caring ma and pa while living in different parts of India. Pa is a ‘Drilling Engineer’, ma until last year was a housewife. She started working in a school since last year to keep her busy as pa passed away. We salute her for she is a dynamic woman and an inspiration to all of us. My two sisters are engineers and now married - we are a close-knit family. We three sisters were given all the freedom and grew up learning the core values for the human race from our parents with huge emphasis on honesty, respect and empathy

We lived in different towns in different states of India (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Orissa, U.P., Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra) and embraced different cultures as we traveled from one state to another. This enriched our lives immensely. It was interesting that the food ma cooked was also a good mix of recipes from different parts of the world and the clothing too was varied. In dressing style too, fabric, patterns and styles, accessories change moving from one state to another. Thus I often say, “I consider I am from integrated India not just Uttaranchal’. We picked up different music and dances, languages and daily slangs too on moving from one place to another. I remember once a classmate commented ‘You live the life of gypsy’ when I told my teacher that this was my third school in grade 6. Well, that was an extreme year, normally it would be at least two years before we would move to another place.

The travel helped me grow up into a confident young woman and moved out of India in late 80s when I married Atul. We both wanted to explore the world, meet different people and learn about different cultures, so we soon set off on our global journey.

Days in Kenya:

Just after we got married, Atul and I moved to Nairobi, Kenya where Atul worked as a lecturer in Nairobi Univ. This was the first time away from home and I missed my family badly. Our daughter was born in Kenya and life became more interesting and meaningful.

Kenya is a beautiful country and we made some very good Kenyan friends from different tribes such as luo, kisi, kikyu, luhiya, akamba etc and also from different countries

Kenyan Indians ran all the shops (I don’t know what it is like now, this is until 1998), controlled all business, It would not be incorrect to say that Kenyan Indians contributed heavily to the economy of Kenya and the country’s economy thus depended on them. The majority of Kenyan Indians had migrated from India 3-4 generations back when British were laying the railway tracks in East Africa, some came as workers while others came as tradesmen. They worked extremely hard to reach the financial status one would envy, and possessed a peculiar arrogance.

If you are an Indian in Kenya, you are thought to be rich! There were lots of anecdotes around the wealth possessed by Indians and the relationship between Indians and Kenyans.

Atul would be asked all sorts of questions:
‘How do you make millions’ and he would reply ‘If I knew that I would not be teaching in the Univ.’
Another good one:
‘How do you multiply money?’ and he goes ‘I only know how to divide it’

A very good Kenyan friend (Dr. Clive Ondari from Kisi) would tell us that with the hope of learning how to make his first million, he always ensures to stock on Chivrah’ (Chivrah is an Indian savoury mixture, a specialty from Gujrat, India; approx fifty percent of Kenyan Indians are originally from Gujrat!)

While Clive’s wife, Karen who was a very good friend of mine would often crack jokes on how people are thinking that she is my househelp, when two of us would go shopping together. A very good friend, Agnes Waliaula (a Kikuyu married to Late Martin Waliaula, a Luhiya) would often make similar remarks when Agnes and I went out shopping together. I was told such friendships were not very common, although I don’t fully agree with that.

We got the flavour of true Kenyan life-style when we three went to Kisi with Karen, Clive and their two kids Hazel and Paul. We had a splendid time there and met with all their relatives and visited their villages. We received a very warm welcome from their family. We learnt so many things about Kisi culture. One was that when the son gets married, he cannot sleep with his wife under the same roof as his parents and so he must build a house next to his parents. So there they were with this beautiful house next to Mze Ondari (Senior Ondari), which was still under construction. It was massive but Clive was adamant that their other house in Nairobi would be Massive and we should wait and see that one! Young educated Kenyans like Clive who had seen Indians make money were driven by the idea of money and everything BIG. Karen’s only ambition, so it seemed, was to get a ‘Pajero’ when her daughter gets married, she often called Hazel, ‘my Pajero’. In Kenya the man is supposed to give the dowry for his bride to her parents. Just the opposite of what we have in India. So I would joke, we auction bridegrooms in India and here in Kenya the brides are auctioned! I have always found the concept of dowry revolting. Luckily, the state and in particular families that we interact with are all against the concept of dowry, so that always gave me some sort of satisfaction. When you visit in-laws in village in Kenya, one would always come back with a few chickens (depending on your in-laws wealth) as present, so each time we visited either Karen or Clive's folks, we came back with a few chickens!

On another occasion, we drove to Eldoret and then to Kisumu with some Kenyan Indian friends. This trip too was very educational. It was interesting to see how Kenyan Indians living there for generations had unconsciously adapted to Kenyan culture, yet they were more Indian than Indian Indians in their life style and upbringing! Possibly because they did not want to loose their “roots”.

Kenya is a beautiful country with an excellent climate, Nairobi is at 5000 feet but being on equator, it never got very cold either. There were no fans in the houses in Nairobi because it never would get that hot. Though with global climate changes, it too gets slightly warmer but never would it reach the temperature to beat the scorching summer heat in some parts of India.

The limit was…………………..
On seeing a fan for the first time (a pedestal fan at Mumbai (then Bombay) airport), nearly 3 yrs old daughter exclaimed, ‘whats that mum!’ and stood in front of it in dismay! People looked at us wondering which village did we live in!

Each trip to India was enlightening for our daughter too:
She was nearly 5 on her next trip. We were driving to Aligarh. On seeing the cow dung cakes (main fuel used for cooking and heating purposes in Indian villages) in the fields by the roadside, she screamed ‘Salami made out of mud!’ A very close comparison indeed!

This was the idea behind leaving India and bringing our daughter to India too to meet with different people and learn about different cultures. For our daughter, visits to India were mainly to bond with her culture and her people. We visited India once every two years.

Kenya is a gold mine of wild life and full of beautiful wild life parks; ‘Masaimara’ was our favourite holiday spot. We enjoyed our 11 years in Kenya and I still miss the country and its people. Its incredible how quickly you bond with a place.
There are so many stories that I could just go on blogging away……………… but I must stop. Slowly I will put photographs from different places we traveled to, so watch out for some beautiful wild life shots!