The Story in Photos

It has been a week since our Rotary Group Study Exchange Trip concluded and we bid farewell to India for now, departing from Mangalore.  It is a challenge to encapsulate our experiences into stories and our stories into a reasonable attention span of family and friends.  I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in organizing the over 2,000 photos I took in Karnataka, but truly enjoyed re-living the experience through the images.  In addition to the images in our potluck collection on flickr, I have posted an album – organized chronologically with a few captions – here:

PART 1 (Group Preparation, TRAVEL: Karkala to Madikeri) 

PART 2 (TRAVEL: Mysore to Shimoga)

If you have photos to share, we’d love to add or link them to our collection on flickr.  Please email the files or links to kirsten.sparenborg@yahoo.com.  Thank You!

Thanks to those who have shared photos…

More Photos of GSE events and activities can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shivanayak/sets/72157623167295780/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mediscuss/sets/72157623109083914/

http://www.rotaryparkala.org/gse.html

*We also have video! – Thanks to Summer  – and hope to edit and make that available…sometime.*

Best Yard Art?

I did not think of this during our Superlatives Discussion before we left India…but  I just have to give a shout-out to Palaka Resorts for the BEST YARD ART.  I never imagined the graceful tension between predator and prey could be the inspiration for lawn sculpture.  Please Enjoy…

Also, the Food was Quite Good and the Bonfire was Great.   Thank You, Ramesh.

Karnataka is the Best!

As we were winding down and reflecting on our experiences during our last lunch together in Mangalore, we decided to assign some superlatives to the wonderful places we had visited.  This is what we came up with, in no particular order:

Best Scenic Beauty-Chikmagalur

Best Architecture-Mysore

Best Temples-Hassan

Best Universities & Institutes-Manipal/Udipi

Best Weather-Chikmagalur

Best Shopping-Mysore

Best Parties-Mangalore

Best Wildlife Activities-Shimoga

Best Cultural Performances-Karkala

Place we wish we had seen more of-Madikeri

Best Trekking-Karkala

Best Home Away from Home-Mangalore

Best Food-Mangalore/Mysore

Best Driver-Nagaraj

Best Hospitality-Everywhere!!

The Beginning of the End . . .

Hey, everyone. After five flights and fifty hours of travel time, team members Marc and Kirsten finally made it home to Savannah late Saturday night.

It was a trip filled with long layovers, weather delays and hasty goodbyes. We left for the Mangalore Airport early Friday morning where heightened security measures forced us to bid farewell to our good friend (and trusty driver) Nagaraj through the terminal window. While he undoubtedly deserved better, “The Nag” seemed to handle it better than we did.

Following a sixty-minute flight, we spent the next eight hours enjoying the finer features of the Bangalore Airport. The long wait, along with easy access to one of Chikmagalur’s 900 “Café Coffee Day” locations and a well-stocked duty free shop, left me rupee-less, but awake and full, as we boarded a plane for Dubai.

Five hours in the Dubai terminal allowed us to become reacquainted with American institutions like Starbucks and Burger King. It also gave us time to peruse the various stores hawking mouse pads and other goods from faraway, exotic places like . . . the United States of America.

Back in the states, heavy snowfall in Charlotte led to a longer than expected stay in New York. The late arrival into Charlotte-Douglas allowed us only a quick wave to Melanie as she headed off to her connector to Augusta. Cold and exhausted, we counted down the hours until our 10:15 pm flight would finally push back and take us home.

We finally made it to Savannah minutes before midnight. And, while the airline had a little trouble accounting for Kirsten’s luggage, we were still happy to be home.

For me, the trip home was a microcosm of our five weeks spent in India. Challenging, but worth every minute. Thanks to all the great folks in Rotary International Districts 6920 and 3180 for making it happen.

More to come.

Marc – 31/01/10

Last But Not Least..

Shimoga was the last stop in our 8 city tour of District 3180. Although we were quite exhausted upon arriving, we were not any less excited to spend time with our new hosts and take part in the amazing itinerary they had planned for us! By visiting several Rotary projects, we quickly realized the profound impact Rotary has in Shimoga.  We went to an artificial limb center, a school for mentally handicapped children, a primary school, and a Safe Village; all supported by Rotary!  In addition to the projects, we were able to see elephants getting their morning baths, participate in a Republic Day celebration, and watch the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time- “3 Idiots!” Thanks to my host brother, Sumuk, for the scene by scene translations!!

I’d also like to express my gratitude to my wonderful hosts, S.M. Veerabhadrappa and family, for welcoming not only me, but the injured, homeless puppy I found in the road on our way to Shimoga.  Although many people thought I was crazy for picking her up, let alone carrying her around in my bag every day and loving her, you understood my need to take care of her (since she was unable to take care of herself) and allowed me to do so, in your home.  Thank you also, to our coordinator, H.D. Udayashankar Shastry, and Marc’s host, H.C. Panchakshari, for showing daily concern over her well being and arranging for her to not only see one Veterinarian, but two!  Unfortunately, I was unable to bring her back to the United States and I was unable to find a home for her in Mangalore.  She is currently being cared for at the Animal Care Trust ( thanks to  Suma Ramesh, with ACT, and Isaac Vas for arranging it) in Mangalore and that will be her permanent home until someone sees the adorable, sweet, and intelligent animal that I saw and adopts her. Hamsa, our team leader, repeatedly said that the concern being shown for the puppy by the Shimogans was “Rotary in Action” but I believe it was even more simple than that-it was basic humanity and I thank everyone involved for that.

Chikmagalur, Coffee Country

Curiously named “Chikmagalur” was established by the local king as the “younger daughter’s city.”  The elder daughter had her city in nearby “Hiremagalur”, whose thousand year old temple we visited. Now you know, too.

Our stay in Chikmagalur was educational and entertaining – and always accompanied by the aroma of coffee.  A few highlights include trekking, learning the coffee business from bean to brew, and watching Avatar (in Hindi!) at the local movie theatre of our Rotarian friend – who also happens to be in the coffee business.  It seemed almost all of the Rotarians we met here were involved in the coffee business.  One might be a builder/contractor in town, for instance, and have a coffee plantation in the country. 

We had the pleasure of visiting a few coffee plantations and found an adventure in trekking among the coffee forests of Rtn. Jayaram’s plantation, Lalithadri.  Led by Jayaram, we jumped streams, climbed rugged stone steps, watched coffee pickers at work and took on the challenge of crawling through the brush like rabbits to emerge at a large outcropping from which we could survey the estate and catch sight of an ancient deity. Visits to the ABC coffee bean processing facility, Cafe Coffee Day New Products Research and Development, and furniture making factory (where the modern designs are made by hand to furnish the over 900 Cafe Coffee Day cafes throughout India and Europe) as well as the Coffee Museum made us almost experts.  My teammates enjoyed copious cups of hot coffee, brewed with chicory and finished off with a good dose of milk and sugar – and got to taste-test a new product in development that is bound to be the ultimate iced frappuccino drink. 

Another highlight was our climb to Mulliahana Giri, an ancient sacred site at the top of the highest mountain in this range of the Western Ghats.  We also swung a golf club a few times each and enjoyed the posh Chikmagalur Golf Club surrounded by a scenic mountainscape.

THANK YOU, Chikmagalurians, for a very memorable visit!

As I Wished

Having left Hassan yesterday for Chikmaglur, the second to last of our stops in India, we detoured from the main road to venture well beyond our itinerary. The place where we’d end up was well worth the sidetrip: on a site now home to an expansive reservoir there was once a valley filled with some 65 villages, flooded over 20 years ago by a dam building project. Among my required reading in graduate school was an article by an activist and daughter of India, Arundhati Roy, called “The Greater Common Good.” Through this controversial piece I came to learn that dam building is popular in India and, while tirelessly promoted for agricultural and economic development purposes, often results in the displacement of traditional communities and some serious environmental concerns.

To be sure, each country across the globe is either learning to balance human and economic needs with environmental and social protections, or they are suffering a lack of that balance. With 23 days in India now behind me, I see that India too engages in finding that balance. The issue of dam building is one area in which they must face down the toughest of decisions. And so, our visit yesterday to Shetty Halli, once a village home to a Catholic church built in the early 1800s, was sobering and poignant for me. With a background in international development and natural resources, this was what I’d come to India for… although in my time here I have realized a lifetime of knowledge and warmth that in my naive shortsightedness I never could have expected beforehand.

The unplanned stop was awesome in every sense. Along the banks of the reservoir we found a calm and peace proffered by a near empty and breathtaking landscape. A barefoot, leathered farmer plowed along the water’s edge with his traditional bullock-drawn plow, attempting to make a crop in the fertile soil in the next four months before the monsoons return. Further up the hillside, the remains of the Catholic church stood proud despite the weathering of the seasonal waters – this time of year it stands on high ground, but for most of the year only the peaks of the towers and belfry can be seen from above the flooded valley. In the early 90’s the church still stood in entirety; today it is a withering skeleton. A majestic sight.