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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Mangroves, trash, and our fantastic daughter

Alea and Dave had another Community, Service, and Responsibility day at school today, and we again headed up to some local mangroves. We have sort of ‘adopted’ one stretch of lakeshore, and so we were curious what we would find after our cleanup in November.

Sadly, there was all sorts of new plastic strewn about, but most of the kids rolled up their sleeves and got right to work. We were joined by some guys from a group called Sprouts, a local NGO dedicated to attacking various environmental problems around Bombay while educating people about these issues. They were extraordinarily enthusiastic and a lot of fun to clean up garbage with!

The most incredible “teaching moment” came, however, at the tail end of all our efforts. We were wrapping up, discussing as a group the day’s events, in front of 35 dripping bags full of stinky plastic and garbage pulled from the lake, when a motorcycle roared up behind us. A man, woman, and little girl got off, walked around us, went to the lake, took out a plastic bag full of garbage, and dumped it in.

The kids were horrified and the adults were livid. The guys from Sprouts read the man the riot act, my cooperating teacher told him that apparently she loved his country more than he did, and the students simply looked on in shock. He mumbled something about ‘returning nature to nature,’ but when we pointed out that the plastic didn’t belong there at all, he sheepishly shrugged his shoulders and bobbled his head. But at least he did pick up his trash and put it in the nearby bin.

What a poignant reminder of just how big the job is here in India. People talk about ‘the white man’s burden,’ but in this case I really have a tough time understanding any other way to get the point across other than by throttling the population here and shouting, “Stopping throwing all this crap all over your own country!!”


But on a more positive note, I do have to say that I am so incredibly proud of Alea. She was the single most hardest working person out there, getting all muddy and sweaty, leading by example, and really just making my heart swell with love and pride. Her efforts were commented on by her peers as well as the adults, and it was just a joy to see her out there, working so hard for the sheer pleasure of doing good.

So on the way home, I bought her a Baskin Robbins Oreo shake!!

Not quite clear on the concept (plus a few other things)

Actual quote from a story in today’s Bombay Times:

Jai Ho choreographer Longinus Fernandes…has been invited to Miami to perform at the 2010 Orange Bowl Games of America. “This is a convention of various colleges playing football where they have a half-time in between the games which is taken over by entertainment performances….This is the first time an Indian’s performing at this convention so it is a proud moment for me.”

Enjoy that convention there at the Games of America, with various colleges in attendance!

And speaking of football – oh hey, my fantasy football team has now won 6 straight games, thank you very much!

Alea in the mangrovesAnd speaking of cleaning up, Alea and dad had a very productive day in the mangroves. We had a bit of an informative tour and then proceeded to get all dirty and muddy cleaning up some trash! Alea was going gangbusters in finding all sorts of living creatures (snails, bugs, slimy things), picking up garbage, and then thoughtfully reflecting on the day’s activities.

And speaking of living and dead creatures, out Thanksgiving festivities will be pretty low-key. Breck and Alea have playdates Thursday after school, Friday is a day off, so we are going to the dentist (!), and at some point during the weekend we’ll break out that box of Stove Top Stuffing that we brought back with us this summer just for this occasion! As I told my dear Aunt Susan over on Facebook the other day, tandoori chicken and minced goat meat is how the sub-continent Pilgrims roll, baby!

Text Message Thursday – Shhh!

One of the things that Mumbai (and Indians in general) do is make a lot of noise during their holiday festivals. They shoot off fireworks, bang drums, play music, and just generally have a great time. Apparently this is not always a popular thing among everyone, as evidenced by this sms we got during the Ganesh festival:

Say Ganpati Bappa Morya. Say no to Loud Drums Noise. Have sound less festival with dignity.

Maharashtra Pollution Control Board

Text Message Thursday – World Ozone Day

I’ve not really found the urge to restart “Free Verse Friday” this school year – maybe it will come, maybe it won’t. I have been receiving a bunch of text messages lately, however, that have inspired my next theme.

Before the first one, however, I will have to give a shout out to my new favoritest webpage – Texts From Last Night. As to the contents of some of the texts contained on that site, I can only echo my father-in-law’s favorite expression of surprise: “Mercy!”

My “Text Message Thursday” posts won’t be quite as racy, but at least they will all be real. What I’ll put up are verbatim sms messages that we receive here in Bombay. All spelling and grammar will remain as in the original.

For the first message, today I received one celebrating today’s special holiday:

Today WORLD OZONE DAY.Save Earth from Suns deadly UV Rays due to depleting O3.UseO3 friendly AC, Refrigerator,aerosols

From Maharashtra Pluttion Control Board.

Watch out for that pluttion…

Mangrove mania

As part of our school mission, ASB is in the process of developing relationships with various non-governmental agencies (NGOs) in Mumbai. There are certainly many areas where we have the opportunity to “enhance the lives of others” in this sprawling city, and in the middle school we’ve targeted three sectors for the different grade levels: 6th grade focuses on animal welfare, 7th grade on the environment, and 8th grade on education.

This past Friday was our first full day of working with the various groups, and both Dave and Alea had the chance to go ‘into the field’ to get some hands on experience. Alea’s group went to an animal shelter affiliated with the one we visited in Udaipur at the end of October (sigh – those pages are still not created or posted. Patience, patience) where they got a crash course in some of the issues and treatment options for city animals at risk. (Rumor has it that she also fell in love with a beautiful black kitten, which Susan will not let her bring home.)

Dave’s 7th grade class went to visit a patch of mangroves on the eastern side of the city. Mangroves are trees that grow in brackish water, where outflowing rivers and streams meet the sea and get ‘backflooded’ when the tides rise. Providing shelter for many types of sea and land life, protecting coastlines from erosion, and scrubbing a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide out of the air, these important coastal features are threatened by development. Most of the original groves around Mumbai have been destroyed, and construction by both the fabulously wealthy (who want seaside views and golf courses) and the desperately poor (who want shantytown shelter in any place they can find it) continues to this day.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to working to halt the encroachment of population centers on the mangroves, and our school has partnered with the Mangrove Society of India, which works in Mumbai to explore the issue. With Rishi Aggarwaal as our guide and mentor, we headed to the mangrove sanctuary sponsored by Godrej, a manufacturing company that has set aside a huge swath of land outside their factories.

Lionfish with kids in the backgroundThe kids spent some time learning about the mangroves and their importance, seeing some of the different fish that make their home or spawn there (including the cool-looking but deadly lionfish), and going to a local school that runs a mangrove awareness program. It was quite an experience (despite getting devoured by mosquitoes!) that we look forward to building on when we return later in the year. We’ll probably get more engaged in “doing” things in the mangroves – this trip was more of a getting acquainted with the issues visit.

Of course, ask any of the kids for the highlight of the day, and getting into the mud would be your hands (or feet) down winner! The kids schlopped and schlepped through the thick goo, and anyone who did not have shoes that went over the ankle became a prime candidate for being a shoe-loser. Few things in life are more fun than a school day that includes playing in the mud!!

It’s official – Mumbai is big, crowded, and dirty!

Well, I’m certainly glad someone got around to quantifying this. I was worried about just how we’d stack up against other places around the world. I’d already known that Mumbai was big – ranked 1st, 4th, 4th, or 5th in the world depending on your population definition – but not that we held claim to further honors in the pantheon of megacities.

Woman picking garbage with a dog in MumbaiForbes magazine (which utilized a Mercer 2007 Quality of Life Report), recently ranked Mumbai as the 7th dirtiest city in the world. Compared with New York City (friggin’ New York City?!!) which sits at a baseline 100, Bombay’s cleanliness index is at 38.2. Adding to (or causing?) the problem is the fact that Mumbai is the most densely populated city in the world.

Other Indian cities are listed as well, but Mumbai “wins” overall. This is really no surprise at all, as we see the junk in the air that we breathe and on the ground where we walk and in the water all around us.

It is sort of gratifying (in a really sick, backhanded way) to have an ‘authority’ say, “No, you’re not being oversensitive. It really IS that dirty where you live.” What a relief, huh?

NOTE – after originally posting this, I came across a Reader’s Digest article that confirms that Mumbai is also the least courteous city in the world. We ARE #1!!