Thursday, January 31, 2008

India - Developmental Tourism and DHAN Foundation

We are hosted in the south here in Madurai by a Mr. Bharathi from the DHAN foundation. The DHAN foundation is a huge Indian run organzation helping Indians help Indians. They are starting with developmental tourism in the south encouraging people to come and stay in the renovated mansions in the villages and buy some of the goods produced by the local people directly from the local people. this way they are empowered and avoid the middle man. I can't remember if I wrote about this before(I am keeping a jopurnal at the same time so I lose track of whether I've typed it or written it in the journal).

Unesco has sponsored 75 villages in southern India to help preserve some of the amazing mansions that are over 100 years old. We stayed in one in Chettinaid and it had cast iron pillars, tile floors, zinc and copper ceilings and 126 rooms of which 11 were hotel rooms. The grandson of the builder and original owner now lives there and he and his wife spent time visiting with us. Our meals were served on banana leaves and they ate with their hands.

We visited women weavers and the girls bought sarees. 3 days work weaving one cost us $10. We also visited a tile place that puts by hand, paint on a glass plate and then sand and then cement. One man can produce 150 a day and is paid about $12 to do so. The kids were allowed to make their own as well which they really enjoyed. They are really trying to focus on fair trade and so at both the weaving place and tile place, our offers of donations were turned down. These are an amazing people as they are learning proper practices and greed would never enter into it.

Mr. Bharathi has been an excellent host and even organized some yoga for us. We went to an actual medical clinic and were taught by a doctor. He did lots of explaining of breath and the benefits to quieting the body for studying for the kids.

It continues to be hot and humid here and we have bought saleer kameeshes to wear like the locals as they are cooler. Last night we ate up on the roof of our hotel in the cool breeze. I do hate to talk of weather but I think it has warmed a bit there.

All for now, Holly

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