25 September, 2007

Que linda!!!

After a few weeks here in Talca, Chile I feel like I now know how it feels to be famous - or rather, I know how it feels to be the personal driver of a famous person!

The thing is that it is impossible to leave the house with Helga, my one year old daughter, without being met by crowds of people who all yell in amazement: "Que rica!" or "Que linda!" (sometimes, "que rico!" and "que lindo!" as Helga is sometimes mistaken for a boy, as she lacks hair - like her father - and does not wear ear-rings, unlike every little girl in Chile). Those that don't yell, they stare.

A blonde and a blue-eyed child appearently is a rare sight in Talca (except in commersials, of course!).

There are people who are good in coping with their fame. Thet stay calm and down to earth. Helga is not one of those people. She is totally enjoying the attention and behaves like a corrupt dictator that holds the believe that he is adored as the true son of God by his nation. She smiles and laughs, waves pompously like a victorious queen and shouts out "Hola!" and "Ciao!", only to receive additional applause by the cheering crowd.

After those four months in Talca she will most likely feel like an Elizabeth Taylor, a "has-been" looking back at her days of glory, back in her Danish kindergarten where no-one receives special attention, not to speak of applause, for the meer fact of being blue eyed and blonde.

09 September, 2007

Three girls in Rural Rajasthan

This is my first time on a blog, but what a beginning. I am sitting on the veranda of our field residence in rural Rajasthan in India. Darkness fell several hours ago so instects are crawling all over me and the computer screen. And I am online.. here in the middle of nowwhere, where herds of camels and sheeps pass by every early morning. The herdsmen of the village nearby wear red turbans and white cloth. But internet reaches and thats is amazing!

Zindu and Sahar are sleeping. We have been here for a week now but are still settling in. There is so much to absorb. We met in Delhi two weeks ago, but the contrasts of India only became real this last couple of days. We are hosted by a local NGO which primarily do mobilization work - the ultimate goal being social and economic revolution led by the poor. Not very tangible indeed but a progressive approach. We joined them for rally for a two days last week to get a better understanding of their work. On top of a tractor-wagon we drove from village to village, sang, held speeches about injustice and distributed flyers. They did not allow us to be spectators only so we had the pleasure (...) of talking to the 'masses' on our way from a megaphone. On our way we saw poverty with capital P. On the second night we slept on the floor of a primary school. It rained badly that evening and the stove didnt function so we had to split up and go from house to house to ask for food. It didnt feel right - the people here are so poor that many only eat once a day. But we got to talk to people and understood how settled oppresion of women and how ridgit the caste system is here. Cruel and very much eye-opening. Development in India is a primarily a political battle and not so much a matter of economical constaints. The means are there to address poverty, but there is a massive lack of will, implementation and capabilities of the poorest.

We enjoyed the weekend. This evening we had the first non-veg meal in weeks on the roof-top terrasse. Food is preparred on the floor and enjoyed on the floor while talking alot. There are always many people around and I enjoy the community feeling here.

I will head off to bed and look forward to hear stories from all of you.


06 September, 2007

Days in the smog

Santiago, Wednesday morning. I am sitting by my computer, sipping my usual, slightly bitter, green tea and preparing myself mentally for today's work. The sun is shining through the office windows; my second spring this year is definitely on its way. Dave and I are doing our internship at the general secretariat of Habitat International Coalition (www.hic-net.org), an international umbrella organisation for housing and land rights. My task is to sketch out the agenda for a conference on Women and Habitat, which so far means reading through endless documents and trying to summarise them in a way that pleases everyone. Our colleagues is a transatlantic crowd including an eccentric boss in second-hand outfits talking loudly to her computer screen, the sweetest henna-haired French hippie ever seen and a rising rockstar (www.picnickibun.com). They have all been extremely welcoming, each in their own particular way. Do I have to add that I love the place?

It is hard to believe that we have been in Santiago for almost two months - a third of our entire stay here. We arrived during the coldest winter in 40 years and stayed for three weeks in a smelly hostel dorm room without heating, and with showers working only occasionally, before we found our dream apartment two minutes from the office. Wooden floors, meters and meters of white walls. Our furniture consists of a mattress each, some wooden boxes we found on the street, a table we built out of a loose door and two bricks and a sofa that the former tenant hasn’t bothered to pick up yet. It probably belongs to us now, according to some law. When after a few days we discovered that the bathtub drain was clogged and that every time we washed our dishes, the dirty water poured out on the terrace in a funky coloured pond, we tried to regard it as part of the charm. Whenever we are not at the office, getting ripped off at some market or trying our best to understand our concierge’s rapid flow of half-swallowed words, we cook delicious, experimental and mainly vegan dinners.

Santiago is an amazing city, full of contrasts. I have spent a substantial part of the last weeks walking the downtown streets, passing worn-down and graffiti-painted colonial mansions, new shiny skyscrapers, noisy vegetable markets, gentrified neighbourhoods inhabited by the trendy bourgeois bohème, cafés that could have been located in any metropolis in Europe or the US, everything set against a magnificent fond of Andean peaks. This last feature has its downsides, though: the mountains effectively prevent the pollution from escaping, making the city a bowl of smog. On bad days, my lungs hurt.

Last Wednesday, the main avenue turned into a battlefield. Already in the morning I sensed something was going on, and by noon the street was filled with protesters chased by policemen chased by young guys with big cameras. Large green vans shot cascades of water into the crowds and the teargas stung my eyes for the rest of the day, even inside the office. Nobody could tell for sure what the protests were about. I only got a vague idea of workers wanting better deals, combined with a general dissatisfaction with the government.

It is now approaching midnight (yes, I have done other stuff meanwhile) and I have moved on to my new favourite café with wifi and deep velvet armchairs. Dave sits next to me, laptop-lapped, hat-headed, and next to him our ex-Spanish teacher and now-friend/latino lover (respectively) Adrián, who patiently corrects my subjuntivo and picks up basic Swedish at an impressive rate (and "has a hot new haircut", according to Dave, who’s proof reading).

This thing got way longer than I intended and besides, it’s time to go home. I can’t come up with a good ending so this is where I just stop.

04 September, 2007

This is my city

This is where i get lost, get ripped off, confuse people with my spanish, eat too much, run and generally have a good time :)
Santiago on a very (rare) clear day!

30 August, 2007


Hi Everyone!

This blog was created with the intention of better connecting all of us while we are in the field. Please post your stories, pictures, movies and concerns for all to read and respond to! If you e-mail Sahar and I with your organization's website and/or your contact information we'll upload it to the blog for everyone to easily access.

Hope everything is going well and good luck getting situated with your organziations and new environments!

All the best,

Dave and Sahar