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!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A week long cultural journey through the Walisean and French culture!

From Auckland to Wallis...what a contrast but if you closely look into the culture there are some striking similarities. Atul was invited by the French govt. to explore and discuss renewable energy project/ education for the country. I made use of this opportunity and took leave and accompanied Atul.

We landed in Mata-uta, Uvea (Wallis) on saturday afternoon and were welcomed in true Wallesean style, fresh tropical flower garlands!

Kini, Atul, Josepha, Joseph, Catherine (Left to right and front)

...and everything from here was just amazing five days...which will need more time than 'all in one post'!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Mixing flavours

Auckland was purely a business trip but as usual I had to mix flavours for various reasons...four keynote speakers at this conference were Khoa Do, Kevin Honeycutt, Jason Ohler and Glen Capelli - so even at a conference you would like to have a diverse range of speakers...mixing flavours! The theme for Conference dinner was Disco...and I was like...seriously, disco! Not that I do not enjoy disco or should I say everything from the disco era but it was not what I was expecting...I guess it was once again about mixing flavours. The conference was more for school teachers - an excellent initiative which also attracted a lot of techies and researchers and teacher educators...mix flavours!

Now I had to mix flavours too, so here we go...

And mark what you want to come back to...

Squeezed some time to catch up with old friends, they live in Devonport, so visited them and experienced yet another flavour of the city...

And I reach my friends' place in the quite suburb of Devonport, a nice cozy home with antique pieces. And how could I not capture this 19th century cooking range...

Behold, skewers were not grilled here though but here...

And the dessert had a mix of flavour too, here is creative Jessie's culinary masterpiece...

Coming back after visiting friends, the city view from the ferry was simply breathtaking!

Little time that I could squeeze out, went up to the Sky tower with the intention to be brave enough to walk on the glass which I did! Considering I am not comfortable with heights, it was quite a feat...mind over matter, is it! Skytower...ticked! So I not only walked over this glass but also made sure to capture the moment!!

New Zealanders are famous for their dairy. Inspite the cold, I had to have one icecream, it would far more fresh then what I would have outside NZ. Kiwis truly rule at this and they take it quite seriously too, check the signage too...

A hint of Maori culture is all I could pick. I managed to pick a 'tiki' from the shop in town, not sure how authentic it is though! I was impressed with the fact how every occasion starts with an opening/ prayer in Maori, quite a contrast with Australia...

Diwali is approaching and how could Auckland not be ready. Came across this square where they were getting ready to put up a Diwali show over the weekend, too bad I flew out that weekend!

It looked like everyone seemed to be in 'Diwali' spirit including the 'Hare Krishna disciples in Auckland! 'Hare Krishna' disciples started with just two and soon had a whole lot of others join them adding to the festive mood!

And more with Hare Krishna singing along the Queens Street in this video below...

The experience was 'a drop in the ocean' but enough to help me admire the country and its people! Will have to go back again though.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Settling back after two weeks of travel and immersed in a documentary

What an amazing two weeks it had been! Last weekend I returned after spending a week in Auckland, New Zealand followed by another week in Uvea (Wallis), Wallis and Futuna. The trip to Auckland was official while Wallis was a holiday! I managed to make the most of my time to get around both places to get a flavour of its culture and the environment. To be fair on the two places, I will dedicate a post to each separately.

I am back in Fiji, watching a documentary on ABC channel and its past midnight. and feel totally immersed in it - all I can think of is WWI and WWII.  This Irish-Polish woman Magda who migrated to Australia when she was 5 yrs old goes to Ireland to find our about her grandfather and then to Poland to find out more about her father...a chilling and emotional account of grandfather's life who experienced WWI and father experienced WWII and both had to leave their countries...I can't help now wonder about million others who have also gone through similar experiences.

Let there be peace...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book characters come alive!

A few months back one of my colleague, Sereima contributed to a book chapter - it was a result of her doctoral research. The research was based on her home land Wainika. Below is the cover of their book:
The book launch in Suva
Last weekend was one of the most interesting and amazing one as we had each of the three days full of excitement and cultural experience when the characters from Sereima's book came alive. Day 2 of  this trip (Atul's solar energy project), we wake up at 4a.m. and get ready to drive up to 'Wainigadru' to reach in time to take the 45 minutes boat ride to get to our destination Wainika, the south of Udu. Wainika must have one of the most pristine waters and beaches as it is one of those places where very few 'outsiders' let alone tourists have stepped in. We counted ourselves as the lucky few as did the people of Wainika since Atul was going their with the French funded solar project. Everyone was happy!
When we reached Wainigadru, we were trying to explain to the people of Wainigadru where we were headed to - they did not understand who was this Sereima we were talking about but after a series of references we all hit the jackpot 'Di Volivoli' , precisely what Seriema had mentioned during the book-launch (she is known to her people as di volivoli and not her Christian/ English name and degrees). As we waded the water the scenic Wainika from her presentation at the book launch came alive. Finally it was such a pleasure to meet the 94- year old Aunt Tupou - the name in the the book who Sereima owes her research to along with her people in the village. My understanding is quite limited in ethnography and its epistemology but the whole experience was humbling and added yet another drop to the cultural ocean that I am to discover...
"That is my tugalala home Cu'u" - Bula Sia (Hello) Cu'u!

Beautiful Cu'u: Ima's tugalala home (settlement) away from the main village of Wainika

A variety of fish from Wainika waters with love

Leaving Wainika

The Epic Journey back from Wainika

Ni sa Moce (Goodbye) Wainika

 I had to leave a bit of my culture behind, here is a hint of that from my lovely little friends in Wainika.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An experience with a renewable energy project

I had the opportunity to join Atul for his French funded Renewable Energy project 'Banish the Kerosene Lamp' when he visited Namau village (25 kms from Ba) and then villages in Vanua Levu in the remote locations in the last three months. It was not only an eye-opening experience but also helped me understand and appreciate the basic things in life that we take for granted. The project targets villages in remote locations that utilize kerosene lamps or diesel generators for lighting purposes and I was humbled by the extent of the project which involves creating awareness, training and improving livelihoods while for the villagers villagers it involves taking ownership of the solar system in every sense. Visiting these villages and watching the whole process was a very rewarding experience for me. Pictures speak volumes so here I have some of my favourite shots, hope you will enjoy and learn from this visual journey that this post intends for!
Demonstration at one of the remote schools in Vanua Levu

Crossing the river to come and pick their light

One of the solar system also has a small fan along with 4 lights - A child looking at the fan while drining milk without fuss now
Villagers happily going back home with their solar system

Villagers take keen interest to understand how solar light works with the small solar panel
Atul with his troop heading to another small island with solar light system
The contrast - Solar LED lights on the either sides with kerosene lamp in the middle

A training session in Namau village

Children looking at one solar light after a talk by Atul on Renewable Energy and Solar lights
And that is what makes all the difference - the spark in the children's eyes and the smile as they curiously explore the light making the whole project a worthwhile effort!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My experience with Digital Adapters

Last 6 weeks have been an amazing personal journey for me when I started some familiarization sessions with teachers from three schools (Navesi Primary, Nabua Sanatan Primary and Draiba Primary school) in Fiji for the OLPC pilot poject. I met with 18 teachers on Wednesday evening and 16 teachers Thursday evening for an hour of familiarization session for 5 weeks - this included switching on the PC and OLPC XO laptop, opening a gmail account, getting to know the OLPC project and exploring the XO machine. Teachers came with mixed capabilities: on one end of the continuum you have one or two teachers who own a 3-G phone and comfortable with learning new tools in ICTs in general and on the other end those who had never operated a computer before and have a basic mobile phone though. This was followed by a one-week long training of teachers with the ICT consultant (an OLPC expert) on OLPC organised by School of Education at USP. Before the teacher began their training, it seems I was the most nervous and excited of all. I want to see this project work. I suppose, there is so much one can do in just 5 one hour sessions but I believe the familiarization session helped teachers participate in the one-week training session with confidence and pick up the training sessions with ease. One lot of group finished their training last week and the second group will begin next week Monday. On Friday, 31st August, all the teachers from the three schools will complete the training with a certificate - Looking forward to their graduation of these digital adapters!

I have my two star teachers: one is a young man who has no formal training in computer but shows tremendous promise and the another one is an older lady who had never touched a PC before and was very scared and nervous to "switch on" the PC on the very first day of the familiarization sessions, you should see her now - works with the PC and OLPC xo laptop as if its her tamed horse! 

My wish is to see the project become very successful and for this reason as long as I am in Fiji, I will stay involved with the project to contribute and learn about its developments!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Champs-Elysees to Louvre

Finally at the Champs-Elysees
We are here at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees!

Lovely dinner - 1.00a.m. Saturday, 23rd June, 2012, Champs-Elysees

On my way to the louvre through Champ-Elysees at around 8.15a.m. on Saturday, 23rd June 2012
Finally I am here at the louvre!

It was saturday last week and it seems like yesterday when I was standing face to face with Monalisa along with several other admirers of hers - the atmosphere was simply surreal. Early saturday morning after taking the train, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle station from where I walked along the Champs-Elysees. I was at Chmaps-Elysees the night or should I say very early around 1a.m. of saturday for a very late dinner with friends and it was full of life and vigour - and here it was in the morning, very quite and peaceful. I cherished every second of my walk from Champs-Elysees to louvre humming along to 'Les Champs-Elysees...' by  Joe Dassin. And finally the moment I had been waiting for - Face-to-Face with the Monalisa!!

I like the signpost - Making sure admirers reach Monalisa
Face-to-face with Monalisa!

Listening to the audio as I meet Monalisa heightened the excitement
What a great Artist was Leonardo de Vinci

The excited admirers!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mystery fruit, Chao Phraya river, tuktuk and pink taxis

Just returned from a trip to Bangkok with heaps of culture and people experience besides the work experience (which was the main reason for the trip). I made use of the opportunity to try as much Thai food I could - hot but delicious. I particularly liked this fruit (the two creamish white cubes with black seeds in the second photo) which I ate for the first time and do not think I got its name right and it will remain a mystery fruit...such a pity! And dessert...just yummy!

The highlight of the trip was 'boat ride' through Chao Phraya river to visit the Grand Palace. The young guide was excellent as he gave the commentary while the boat waded its way along the river. I was busy comparing the structures along the river and could not help thinking of the disparity that exists in nearly all the developing countries. On one hand you have these grand structures and on the other hand these "less than basic" or rather "falling apart" skeleton structures!

We had very interesting experience twice during the taxi ride when the taxi driver struck a deal with us to "visit the gem store" so that he could get free petrol for the taxi/ tuktuk - although I cannot complain because I did manage to buy some nice Thai silk that I had planned ever since my trip was scheduled! Talking of taxi/ tuktuk, tuktuk was my favourite transportation mode and I fell for the "Pink" taxi, I must admit I had never seen a "pink taxi" before!!