Sunday, October 17, 2010

Do you know how to cut hair?

Hello again!

First, a bit of self-reflection: it seems like all of my blog posts since getting to India are collections of embarrassing experiences, cute photos, or random anecdotes. There's not a whole lot about what I'm doing or any reflections on the culture, my work, or any of that. For the record: I am working, interacting with people, undergoing culture shock, and (slowly) learning a new language. But I'm not going to write about that stuff just yet, since I want some more time to get my own thoughts in order. For now, enjoy a story from the last few weeks! There's a bit of everything here, humour and tragedy, love and loss – oh, and a really awful haircut, too. (honestly I just read Jonathan's post and wanted him to know that there are other placement-related awful hair stories out there)

“Do you know how to cut hair?” These are words that should strike fear into the hearts of most people (that is, most people who are not hairdressers). It certainly made me feel a little uneasy. As it happened, the school had just come into a set of German-made hair clippers. They had one of the dealies to adjust the length it cut and that was about it. One's choices here were a 1 or a 0. Because I had a nice computer and a camera, and was generally good with technology (relatively speaking), I was chosen as the natural person to try it out.

Well, as it turned out, there were a few kids who lived at the hostel who were in need of a haircut, and these clippers were a world simpler than using scissors for the whole deal. Of course, then you need someone who knows how to use a pair, and, well, you can see how I got volunteered for it. Think about the fact that there was a) a fancy new toy about to be demonstrated, b) someone's hair about to be (possibly) ruined, and c) a golden chance to see “uncle” make an ass of himself – you can imagine the audience this haircut attracted.

Now, to repeat, I have never cut hair before, except my own. I have, however, watched barbers work while they cut hair. To anyone who is under the impression that this is sufficient to know how to cut hair, be warned: this is not the case! I kept doing things that I *thought* were barber-y, and the haircut got further and further from what I thought it should look like. After a while, people sort of started smiling at me, so I assumed that I was done. As for the poor dude I was shaving, he had fallen asleep! So he would have some time to adjust to his new 'do.

As for how it looked, I think all of us have, at one point in our lives, had a terrible haircut – usually during our childhood. You know how it goes. Your mom brings you to the barber shop, gives them some instructions you don't really understand, and you come out looking like a cross between a Navy SEAL and Frankenstein. Anyway, I gave this kid that haircut. I feel a little proud to have been part of such a formative moment in his life. For your benefit, before and after photos:

So there you have it, folks: I am alive and some of the things that have happened to me have been mildly humorous. The next blog post will still not be about work, but it will have photos!

PS: To those I told this story already – yes, it happened a while ago. I was lazy and didn't finish writing this blog entry until now. Sorry!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pictures: they're easier than writing!

Hello Folks!

I'll just write a quick note for now, and hopefully I'll have a for-real entry put up by the weekend. The general gist of this note is: I have more pictures up! I uploaded a couple albums for work over the last week or so, and I figured that I would share them with you.

NB – since these albums were made for other organizations/people, please don't comment on the photos. Pretty sure this only applies to Conor and Radu, so, uh, yeah. Don't do it! Also, how does one turn comments off in Picasa? Can it be done?

The first one is from an event we had here on Saturday the 18th. It was held by Fifth Pillar, an anticorruption advocacy organization. They held an information session in which people presented cases pending with village officials, in which they had been asked for a bribe, or simply refused services, such as pensions or ration cards. They also hosted a discussion on corruption in small villages, making the point that the government is not invulnerable, and if all villagers refused to give bribes, officials would have to stop demanding them. That, anyway, is what I got from the translation – this event would have been far more enriching if my Tamil was better! Luckily for you, readers, their own people posted an entry on their blog. You can read it here, and you can access my photos of the event here.

The rest are pictures from around the school. They were sent to a partner school in Toronto (!) as a way of showing where their gifts have been going. I don't know too much about the partnership there, so I won't say too much, but I will post the pictures! Click here to see them.

Oh, and these pictures are only available to people who get the link to them, as is my blog. These pictures are not just on the web for anyone to see, in case you were wondering about confidentiality.

More soon!