At the 4 week mark

It’s been a while since I wrote last  …  I realized that I have been here almost 4 weeks, so a good time to update everyone on how things are going.

First, I’ll talk about a few interesting cultural experiences I’ve had.  The first was on Thursday, October 6, the Dussehra festival (see http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/dussehra). This is a festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil, or when the Hindu God Rama triumphed over the evil king Ravana. One of the ways it’s celebrated is by burning very large statues of Ravana and other evil villains.   Me and my housemate Dougal very much wanted to see this, but were not exactly sure where or whent this would happen on Thursday night, so we ended up on a wild goosechase throughout the city. Like, left one area of the city by metro, hopped in an auto rickshaw, and ended up in pretty much the same place we had just left by metro.  We waited in a long line, and pushed our way through the gates with hundreds of very excited Indians. In addition to the statues being burnt, the grounds had some rickety-looking ferris wheels and other rides. You’ll see a picture of a big villain head on the back of a truck and some burning in the photo album for this post.   I also got to see part of the Ramlila, a play stretched over 10 days telling this story, when I was here last year, there’s a few pictures in this photo album on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150278216030574.498117.655905573&type=1&l=26bb9d7599

Earlier, that day we also visited Jantar Mantar, an astronomical park in the middle of Delhi built in the 1700’s.  The park is filled with large red stone astronomical instruments.  For example, a sun dial the size of a small house. Very neat.

Another great thing I got to do in the last while was to visit the tomb of Nizamuddin, a Sufi saint.  Sufism is defined as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam, and music is a big part of their faith. Me and a few others went to see the qawwali music that happens there every Thursday. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qawwali) It was amazing … winding our way through the narrow marble halls of the building,sitting under the nearly-full moon in the open air next to the tomb with a large group of worshippers, and listening to the beautiful singing and drumming. I’ve included a “stock photo” of the same men that we saw singing.

The rest of the time, I have mostly been working. There were a few people visiting last week to deliver a workshop on program evaluation.  See the attached picture from our field trip to buy spices from one of my favourite markets: Brad Cousins, visiting from Ottawa (who hired me), Darleen Opfer, visiting from Philidelphia, and Barbara Rosenstein, visiting from Israel. My office hosted this, and it was attended by staff at various levels of the educational sector from all over India. I was busy with some other work, but attended most afternoons and also delivered one session on an example evaluation from India. These and a few other professors and PhD-level evaluators will be involved in guiding the planning for the evaluations I will support this year.  Great learning experience for me!  Looks like we will be doing a few studies and engaging people from quite a few different states all over India.  We will likely be evaluating teacher training, offering mid-day meals to children, and changing assessment systems.  I’m ready to dig in 🙂

I’m struggling with trying to figure out how to embed my photos in my blog, rather than having it all in a gallery at the end. Any tips from blogger friends would be helpful!  In the meantime, here’s some pictures. Keep your eye out for a recruitment poster for extras for a Bollywood film (with a colourful plot description), and the elephant I happened upon while driving to work.

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