Friday, July 18, 2014

Mungeli, India Mission Trip: Working with the Nursing Students

In addition to teaching music and later, giving some spacey NASA-ish talks at the RamboMemorial School, I am getting to work with the nurses and nursing students for about 40 minutes to an hour daily. They are so wonderful and so sweet! I see them all around the hospital in the afternoons and evenings and they are always smiling and ready to say a hello and chat a bit or help me understand what is going on with a patient. My music sessions are to help with their chapel services and provide some instruction that can make the small groups better when leading the congregational songs. I am also helping them to consider adding some prayers and Gospel message and/or a few minutes of a mini-sermon / the word / a testimony from someone to the chapel services. At present, there are some extremely lengthy songs, one psalm, the Lord's Prayer, and more singing. The pastor that used to be on staff left last year so the service has morphed slightly is more like a prayerful singing time than a structured service (which is completely fine). I am hearing that some would like to incorporate more prayers and some would like less verses in some of the many lengthy songs.
I am teaching them about head voice, chest voice, and different styles of singing (basically some of the the same lessons I am doing in the school classes.) The nursing group also doesn’t know how to read music, but I'm teaching them some basics so we will make some progress! 

I noticed right away on the first day here in chapel that they sing everything by rote and most of the English songs are from a pretty terrible book of texts called “Adore”.  I think they think that I know all 500 songs in there, but I don’t. I know very few “contemporary praise songs”. They may not change their whole way of singing, nor should they, while I’m here, but at least they will learn a bit about reading music and some new songs. I am thinking of how I can send them some newer hymnals and/or some more musical materials. My hope for the music instruction that I am giving is to present the tools to continued independent learning in music and maybe one or a few of them might choose to pick up an instrument one day. The hospital owns a keyboard in the library where we are holding chapel services (b/c of the rains and flooding in the actual chapel) and Dr. Anil Henry, the head of the Christian Hospital Mungeli, owns one which I took to the school. Dr. Henry sings very well! He also seems to really have a love for good music and music in any style done well. He listens to the singers at the chapel services and makes good comments when he gives his morning announcements. I like him because he has a vision for this hospital, vision for the nursing students (both to be good nurses and to be confident and independent women who know their options in jobs and in life), and he is a kind and gentle man with a twinkle in his eye that tells me he has a sense of humor and is very observant.

I love hearing the nurses and students singing in Hindi. I am in awe of the lengthy melodies and all of the ornamentation that I hear. The style of singing reminds me of what I heard in my many visits to Bulgaria and the throat singing styles which are loud and chesty. Many people say that it's "flat", but I have heard Bulgarian (and now Indian) choirs as well as many others, that sing perfectly in tune using the throat singing as long as each sectional part is in perfect unison. Sometimes, I hear microtones as well, adding to the already eastern tonalities. It really sounds cool! I have some video from a couple of the morning chapel services and when the internet is back in full force (or maybe when I get back home in August), I’ll post some videos of some cool Indian music sung by these lovely ladies.

Mungeli, India Mission Trip, Working at the Rambo Memorial School

Today, I attended the morning chapel at 7:30 and then the nurse’s rounds. After breakfast, I wandered around a bit and headed over to the Rambo MemorialSchool. There are 750 students at the school in grades 1-12 and it is an English Medium School. After meeting with principal Avanash, I went with him and Prashanta to a classroom where they had gathered two classes together or fourth and fifth graders. I taught them a song: “Jubilate Deo” (attr. Michael Praetorius), hoping to get to where we could do it in a canon and then began telling them about the differences between head voice and chest voice and what bel canto singing style is. I talked to them about the differences between some kinds of folk music and what classical styles of music included. Then, I started teaching them some basics about music and notes. I showed them various kinds of notes, the staff, and lines and spaces.

They were SO EXCITED! After this, we sang Jubilate Deo again and I went on to another classroom with two classes combined. After the same lesson, I helped one of the teachers with some phonetics and followed that with another class period of combined classes and then another! Whew! It was super fun, but intense. I wanted to make sure that I was not going too quickly for them as I was teaching in English. There were several teachers there in each class in case anything needed to be explained in Hindi. I thought about it in the third and fourth classes and had them take a fun selfie with me! There is one above and here is the other! 

After 7:30 chapel, followed by morning rounds with the nurses and doctors, I will be teaching three classes per day at the school and then will have sometimes have free time in the afternoons. In the evenings, I will work with the nurses and nursing students. I hope to give them some “new” songs, teach them a bit about reading music so that they can have the tools to continue learning on their own if they wish, and to have them learn the differences between singing chest / throat singing and using the head voice more. This is a huge HUGE concept to practice. In the midst of all this, I want them to laugh and have some fun :-) They are fantastic students!!

The school itself is partially new and there are construction plans ongoing. As far as I know, they do not have any instruments including a drum or a keyboard. Music is not a normal part of the curriculum either and everything I am teaching them is brand new for them. During the year, I am planning to try and get some people together to send some instruments that they can use and some basic music instruction books. If you would like to help me, please let me know at

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mungeli, India Journal: Day 2

Today, I attended the morning chapel, currently being held in the hospital library because of the heavy rains. There was a fair amount of good singing going on and some prayers and then during one of the songs, a GIGANTIC clap of thunder sounded and the roof began to wobble down toward us and back. Then, I was told that it was a tin roof and that wasn’t thunder… was the giant monkeys jumping on the roof!!! These guys are rather large…
At the end of chapel, we were introduced to everyone and then everyone dispersed. I attended the nurses’ rounds. Today was not a very busy morning so I went back to have some breakfast and afterwards Kahala showed me around the hospital.

We attended the doctors’ rounds and I got to see each patient in the men’s and women’s wards as well as a private room patient. There was an encephalitis patient, one with a back cast, one with splenomegaly as a secondary to what he came in for. I also saw two newborn babies in their incubators. They were in a quiet room by themselves. (Since Tuesday when this was written, there have been ten more babies born and two of them have died). The hospital does a ton of C sections here for two reasons: Malnourishment is high so bone structure demands C section and many women give at a birth very, VERY young age.
After these rounds and exploring the other hospital rooms, someone picked us up to go to the Rambo School. As I was walking across the schoolyard, tons of little kids came running up saying “hello, how are you” and extending their hands! SO CUTE!!! The older ones seemed more shy, but still said hello as I passed by.  I went in to meet with the principal, Avanash, for a while and we talked about what kinds of things the students knew and might not now about various subjects. After our chat, he took me around to each classroom and I got to meet each teacher and say hello to each class. As with my Bulgarian teaching experience, the students immediately stood up when they saw me and said “Goooood morning ma’am” They are being taught in both Hindi and English and the school has grown from 600 to about 750 students. Indeed, their classrooms are extremely packed and they not only need space, but better conditions in general. There is some construction going on at the school, but it is slow.

Tomorrow, I will begin teaching three or four classes (not sure yet) and then I may ride the school bus as it takes them home around various outlying villages. I’ve heard riding the bus is fun and I can see some of the countryside and smaller villages this way. I also met with someone who puts together the weekly Sunday evening service and I will be helping with that as well as meeting with the hospital nurses every evening for music (and English texts) time etc. So excited! Things are shaping up for me to do!

Mungeli is not as hot as Delhi, but it is hot. It’s also high monsoon season and rained almost all day today. I love it!! I tried walking to one part of the village to go to the market, but I was wearing sandals and they were slippery so I will try another day. I did manage to drop off some cloth I bought in Delhi to a woman living near the hospital who is a good seamstress and she will make me a sari “suit style” outfit from the material! To ask her to do this and another errand, we were invited into her house. It had a hardened mud/concrete mixed floor, partially no roofing, but the covered rooms have electricity, ceiling fans, cooking stuff etc. Items like toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrushes etc. were kept outside between roof tiles. 

looking out from someone's house into the road
Interesting to be in someone’s house. 
The internet has been out here for some time in the town so I am writing daily, but will post all at once when I get the chance! I’ve taken lots of good pictures, but many were from a moving car and not the best. I plan on taking some time for photography in between breaks and monsoon rains!


Arrived in Mungeli, India

Today, I flew from Delhi to Raipur, India. Once there, a Christian Hospital Mungeli ambulance picked me up along with Dr. Lisa and Shane Roberts from California. Shane is a nurse, technician, and loves photography like me and Lisa is a Social and Behavioral Sociologist at Loma Linda University doing research here on women who have had stillbirths, prevention, care and mental state afterwards. They are both fantastic!
The road from Raipur to Mungeli was INSANE and I am so indebted to the makers of Bonine motion sickness medicine! I don’t think I would have made it if it weren’t for that! Our driver, Arun is fabulous and carefully dodged people walking, carts, bicycles, motorcycles, cattle, water buffalo, and even monkeys (!!!) In addition, while I know firsthand that New Orleans roads and potholes are even worse than Charleston’s used to be and can truly swallow a car and several people….the road to Mungeli potholes can (and did) swallow whole trucks and take the rest of the road with it. There were a couple of times when I thought the ambulance jeep might fall over, but somehow it didn’t.

We stopped at a little roadside spot where there were a few shops and a line of people outside waiting to buy whatever was being cooked. Shane said it was probably samosas (? Triangle-shaped puffs with chic peas and potatoes inside), but instead, it was fvardas (sp?) which deceptively look like tasty oatmeal cookies and in reality were burning hot, spicy discs from the netherworld, full of chilis and onions and black magic. (Actually, I ate half of one and when the burning began to feel like I’d had three shots in a row of Romanian Tuica, I gave up, for the benefit of my esophagus.)

All along the way, I marveled at the green countryside, low, broken-down houses, rice fields, and the giant monkeys. About ¾ of the way there, the jeep broke down, but Arun and Shane fixed it. While they were fixing the car, I noticed the most intensely old and crumbly house a small distance away with two rather emaciated cows in the front. It looked like part of the brick abode didn’t have a roof. Then, I noticed a satellite dish. I started noticing them at many of the small, crumbling houses.
Once we arrived in Mungeli, we took out things into the guest house which is at the base of the hotel staff/doctor apartment. Every building around us looks awful and is in shambles. We met Kavita, our housekeeper and cook, who had a marvelous hot lunch for us. I remembered immediately after lunch to take my Doxycycline pill (to prevent Malaria). Then, we went to the hospital and met several people. Lisa showed me around a bit and then we met up with Shane at some chairs in an outside hallway. It was here that my body decided to reject the malaria pill and I started throwing up. Whee. First day and I am the one throwing up at a hospital. I went back to the guest house and luckily, it stopped pretty quickly. After a shower and some rest, I was ready to walk around in the evening and meet some more people as well as eat the chicken curry for dinner. I met Kahala Cannon as well. She is a dentist from Tennessee and had come last year, but decided to come back and stay for a year! I am really looking forward to tomorrow and meeting Dr. Henry as well as attending rounds, chapel, and classes!

Friday, July 11, 2014

India Journal - First Two Days

GETTING HERE: Left on Tuesday from New Orleans and FINALLY made it to Delhi late Wednesday night (via flights to Atlanta and Paris and THEN Delhi). It was immediately HOT and HAZY and kind of smelly, but I was so tired that all I could think about was getting settled in my hotel and heading to sleep! It was still 95 degrees F when I arrived at the hotel! I had plenty of time on those lengthy flights, even though I watched four movies, to put together a cheesy video experiment w/ my iMotion app. I'll upload it soon and there will probably be more videos along the way! The internet is weak here so my several tries to upload videos, no matter how short, have failed. I watched four movies on my flights, all of which I'd been wanting to see!
- Hunger Games 2
- Thor: The Dark World
- Divergent
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

First, here is a link to my Facebook album of photos for the Delhi portion of this trip! I made it "public" and you do NOT have to be signed up for Facebook to be able to view the photos! I hope you will enjoy them. I'm finding India's palette of colors is fascinatingly beautiful!
I am staying in the West Patel Nagar area of Delhi in the Hotel Shanti Palace. It has a ceiling fan and a slow-moving air cooling unit - for which I am VERY GRATEFUL since temps are high. There is free bottled water daily which is awesome. The area is dingy, crowded, busy, impoverished, extremely colorful, and yet somehow touristy. In speaking with a cafe owner today, I learned that they actually have many tourists to this area and have seen all sorts of Westerners so they are somewhat used to it. I also learned that students sometimes have exchange programs on this side of the city for computer technology and software / programming. This neighborhood has a bazillion tailors and dress shops that will make you anything you'd like once you select the fabric. I'm thinking about doing this either here or in Mungeli. While I love seeing the saris, I'm more a fan of the "suit style" sari outfits and hope to bring a couple home with me.

Today, I walked a ton and spent about six hours outside. It's boiling hot so I got appropriately wiped out! I met a nice man cooking rice on the street and frying various things to go with it, played with a cute toddler who was fascinated with my hair, bought some appropriate clothing for visiting temples, ate a crispy gol gappa (type of hollow cornmeal ball filled with a mysterious paste), ate chicken curry, and drank masala chai (tastes exactly like Brasilian mata chai to me, YUM!) I also heard some good live music at a restaurant tonight and got my own song (I'm sure b/c I stick out.) I think it was called 100 miles, but I'm not sure. I'm about to upload pictures from my late afternoon market trip. Check out the colors and the giant pile of beans. I also recorded some of the traffic. Here, if you have a horn or bell, you use it plentifully....all. the. time. Not too shabby for day fact, I sort of can't believe I did so much on day #1 :-) Tomorrow I'll see some famous sites around Delhi. I will have a taxi driver who will take me to any of the sites I'd like to see.

DAY # 2 Sights Around Delhi
Today, I got to see sights around Delhi and I did the best I could from 9-3, but had to stop b/c of the intense heat. I did see the Houses of Parliament, "embassy rows", The India Gate, Humayan's tomb, The Lotus Temple, and the Indira Gandhi museum and home. That and Humayun's Tomb were my favorites and I wept upon entering the Indira Gandhi museum. What an amazing life she lived as an inspiration and peacemaker. 

The Lotus Temple is MASSIVE and beautiful. Once you get close to the temple, you must remove your shoes. There is a racket set up to where "officials" give you a little bag to hold your shoes, but then they want you to give the bag to them and then charge a fee when they give them back to you. I put my shoes into my purse instead and luckily, I had brought an extra pair of socks to give me a little more thickness on the hot, spikey mat you have to walk on. It was an interesting and quiet experience. It was so beautiful and the acoustic was insane as the temple was round in the inside and gigantic. I recommend visiting this place, just not in July.
The India Gate is a beautiful archway with a memorial and tomb of the unknown soldier underneath it. The names of 70,000 Indian soldiers who died around the world in WWI. There are also over 12,000 names inscribed in memory of Indian soldiers who died during the Third Afghan War. The grounds around the monument are gorgeous with reflecting pools leading to fountains, sunflowers, and other smaller monuments. On walking back to the taxi, I got lucky with this shot of a bird fluttering up and down from a bush.


This visit was a very moving experience and to see all of the articles about, photos of, and world awards received by Indira Gandhi was both amazing and overwhelming. As you enter, there is a photo of her with words from the last speech she ever gave and I began to cry immediately. She is right you know, we are here today and not guaranteed of tomorrow. How is it then, that we can live and not care or care-and-do-something-about our fellow humans with whom we share this journey? The amount of grace that this woman had from her austere childhood upbringing, constantly having her parents in jail, and seeing her India break under the yoke of disrepair and depair - is God-given grace and is frankly amazing and without reproach. To see the sheer number of world peace and highest distinguished awards from every government you can think of - this is staggering. A trip here is WELL worth it. It has a room whre you can watch a short video of her life and then walk beside her memorial where she was assassinated. They even have the sari she was wearing that day preserved. Another portion of the house is a museum to her son Rajiv who left being a pilot after his brother died to grow into politics and become an extremely famous and influential figure like his mother.

This was a place that I am SO HAPPY to have visited. Before today, I knew nothing about Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun (Persian: نصیر الدین محمد همایون; March 7, 1508 AD to January 17, 1556 AD). He was  the second Mughal Emperor who ruled a large territory consisting of what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from (1531-1540) and again from (1555-1556). He had two wives and several children. His ancestors were Sufi and he later became fascinated with their work and the artwork of the Persians. Becoming the Moghul emperor helped immensely in preserving the ancient and different styles of art and stonemasonry that he had seen and grown to love. There are several tombs

I came back to the hotel to rest and cool down. Later, I went for a cappuccino at a local bakery / Indo-Thai takeout place. After that, I took an evening walk and discovered another market. I am getting pretty good at crossing the street (way harder than it sounds). Tomorrow, I will visit Agra and the Taj Mahal. New pics from today were just uploaded into the INDIA 1 album.
The India Gate, Delhi

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Pralines - NOLA recipe

Made pralines I did...
Chocolate ones included there are...
Tasty they turned out...
Taking them to church I am...
Be jealous you should...

Last Saturday, I helped shepherd half of the kids participating in the Crescent City Choral Festival to various restaurants and had a great time, in spite of the heat. One of the places I'd never been to, was the New Orleans School of Cooking. The large group was split into smaller groups and our group was treated to a FABULOUS demonstration by Chef Kevin. He is HILARIOUS!
The beginning of the demonstration and meal included watching how to make pralines. I love them, but had never made them before and since they gave us a packet of several recipes, I thought that I'd try it. One of my summer goals included learning how to make Jambalaya and several other New Orleans dishes so since I'm falling behind on those projects, this sort of helps, right?

SOOOOOOOOO, here is the New Orleans School of Cooking Recipe, which they freely give out, and I hope you try it and enjoy deliciousness!

1 1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup milk
6 tbsp.  butter (3/4 stick)
1 1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts etc., roasted optional)
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients and bring to a "softball" stage *(230-240 degrees), stirring constantly
Remove from heat. [Here, Chef Kevin said stir again a little and now is when you can add flavors such as coconut, almond, peanut butter and my personal favorite - two handfuls of chocolate chips! He also said that if the mixture gets too hard too fast, you can add a splash of milk to help.]
Stir until mixture thickens (again, stirring constantly), becomes creamy, cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture. Spoon out on buttered wax paper, aluminum foil, or parchment paper. When using wax paper, be sure to buffer with newspaper underneath, as hot wax will transfer to whatever is beneath.

NOTE: To roast pecans, bake them on a sheet pan at 275 degrees for 20-25 minutes until slightly browned and fragrant!

Praline sauce (add 1/2 cup corn syrup to mixture.) Chocolate covered praline candy. Flavored pralines (chocolate, coffee, brandy, etc.)

*** Makes 1-50 Pralines depending on size***

*** Chef Kevin also suggested crumbling pralines over bakes sweet potatoes and adding bacon. I imagine you could make the bacon candied if the pecans were crushed more and the mixture hardened around it. I know Elizabeth's Restaurant in the Bywater serves THE BEST praline bacon EVER. 

A Collect for Independence Day

O ETERNAL God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us pray for those who are not free, but held captive against their wills, those who are bound by depression and mental struggles, those who feel they cannot be free lest they face discrimination  of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and for those who are drained of joy in spirit. Let us be mindful of how we can support or help those less fortunate or less free to enjoy some of our daily freedoms and let us pray for those who gave and will give their lives in service of others to fight for and maintain freedom for all.