Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Um…you’ve still got a friend!

Ok. So…this morning the cleaning kids come to my room….they come in pairs….and they are young…so they are considered officially kids… …anyway.
Yeah….I was totally reading that paper! (Photo: JLewis)
So they have my door open while cleaning my room and….guess who thinks this means open invitation?
Yep…my old buddy……just walks in …starts with the creepy smile and stares. Great! So I say…”um…you should go” ….and I point at the door. He ignores this. Never would have guessed that outcome! And continues to stare. So I motion for one of the cleaning kids to get him out. They have absolutely no idea what I am saying and just keep on ….cleaning. I want to shout…”HEY! Believe me you want to get this guy out or the mess will suck ….a lot more….probably!”
Again I am faced with the dilemma of my gear vs. me. I Know! I Know! Really Jennifer? Your gear?  YES!… I cannot get this far and have him steal all my shit…which OF COURSE is strewn all over my bed because I was just re-packing for the days work!

I grab the phone….and of course no one speaks English….so I dial the only number I know….room service and say again and again…Manager 201….Manager 201. I just keep saying it….and finally I think they….might get it….And …it seems ….creepy guy got it also….for when I turn around…he is gone. Whew!

I then hear someone getting blasted verbally in the hall. Someone then phones me to let me know that….now get this….this guy just made a mistake and went into the wrong room. AND!....That he is another guest who is…….GREAT!!!! ……..Staying across the hall from me!!

The phone then again rings….and all I get is hello….hellooo….. Great! Now he knows my number. Or just learned how to use a phone. Even more great. Well this is a nice start to the day. Note to self….if it is even possible ….look more like a man next trip. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

And then we eat….or they eat and Jennifer makes a mess

Yeah…I can’t eat fish…..whole

We get out today to observe the research team surveying the river for dolphins and collecting environmental data on the health of the river in different locations. This was all well and good….BUT…. the HIGHLIGHT was lunch and pre lunch!

So…it had been discussed that Jennifer should have a special Jennifer
Lunch prep on Ganges (Photo: JLewis)
meal of boiled eggs because she most likely could not handle the local food. I had nothing to do with this…they just all decided this. Fine. No worries….maybe they eat…I dunno. Something not so cool. Like badger heads.

I know what a boiled egg is….Easter and all….so I should be good to go. But I have made friends with the fishermen. And friends always offer to share their food. Blasted! And if you have been reading this long winded story….you are aware that I am simply not allowed to say…no thanks.
Well here comes the appetizer!…Not badger heads! (Relief)…But….It is the one and only thing I have had any trouble with on this entire journey….whole fish. Now mind you they are little fish…..And I have to admit the spicing was perfect….So…um….if I could have just sucked on them…and then placed them back in the sea?  Yeah…not possible. Must crunch up and smile. They are little …..bony ……fish….and of course they all get stuck in my throat. I start to wonder if a badger head would have been easier?

Jennifer eats with a fork…better

So we are on the river all day and we stop at a sandbar to eat lunch. This is the third time I get to try eating with my hands. And I soooo suck at it. Everyone else can make these perfect little balls. And if you have ever eaten…which I am sure you have…you can imagine how easy balled food
Lunch on beach of Ganges (Photo: JLewis)
is to eat vs …say soup with your hands. So like a snickers bar….vs…soup. This is my dilemma. I always make mine like soup…and it is weird. Because we all have the same food in front of us..It is always rice…but my rice is all a mess. No matter what I do. I still get some in my mouth…but because mine is like soup much falls out of my hands and well. ..again …I am the retarded friend you DO NOT want to bring out with family and friends and generally in public. So we are sitting on this beach…and I am dribbling rice everywhere. Entertaining myself…just like a five year old. Everyone else is ignoring me. Rolling eyes…I totally understand. I am sitting next to the Head of forestry…and then there is the distinguished professor who brought me out here…and well…I am five.  And I am betting he is wishing he had…taught me to eat at some point before we set out today.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Just a normal day..in a Jennifer life…of document…ing. :)

Today we started with some interviews at the University. While my goal is to
Dr. Choudhary and Subhasis (Photo: JLewis)
focus on Subhasis, I also want to get the perspectives of the leader of this team, Dr. Choudhary. So I spend as much time as I can working with him also.

In the later part of the day I get the chance to go to the river and interview the fishermen. Subhasis is working to document the impacts of fisheries on fish stocks here. He has a group called the Dolphin Mitre which translated means dolphin friend, where a select group of fishermen work for him to also collect data. Data on what types of fisheries are occurring, where and how frequently. So like all the places I have worked so far, these researchers also understand the importance of involving the local communities in their efforts to conserve.

Source: jadsinternational.wordpress.com
Am still fighting DB. I loose pretty much everything each morning. Welcome to the Indian cleanse! Then feel great till I eat again which is usually dinner. Then it sucks all over again. Lovely searing pain. I still drink beer though. Have my priorities straight!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Comedy video attempt

Ok. So….being this Blog is about my attempts to create a docu….I figured I should share some of my comedy video sketches which have served as my practice (shitty practice…but practice none the less!). Immediate disclaimer….these are just from the crazy mind of the Jennifer…aka…JOKE. 

Remember that ride across Bihar I made?……..Was it all a dream?…..

Monday, April 21, 2014

The story here is incredible

I cannot talk in detail about where the docu story led while here for fear of spoiler alert. But!…I can tell you that the complexity ramped beyond anything I could have ever imagined! And the story became one of not only species survival but human survival and human rights.

Subhasis (Photo: JLewis)
To get to the locations here I travel with Subhasis, who I figure out pretty much immediately…..will be the final character I will follow. We have to take a motorcycle. This time no helmet. Which…..if he only knew….how good that actually was for him….and the respect the community will continue to have for him. (see previous blog about gaining weight and embarrassing friends).

Anyway, He is perfect for this story. He is a young person….this time with a family to support….who is struggling to continue to work as the field team manager (also doing some of his own research) and working as THE bridge to the local community. He is critical to the team’s success here. So where is here? Well I am finally working on the main part of the Ganges River itself. In Nepal we worked on the headwaters of the Ganges. In Bangladesh I worked on the delta of the Ganges. Here…IT IS THE GANGES! The town where Bhaglapur University is (headquarters of this research team), is located almost at the center point for the only dolphin sanctuary in India (Vikramshila Sanctuary). So it is a great location for a base of research on the species. At least it seems like it would be at first….and I will leave that for the docu (teezers…sorry).

Today we spent time filming some on the river and planning the rest of the work I will do there. The footage I have been able to collect here has been phenomenal.

Along the Ganges river in Bihar, India (Photo: JLewis)

Friday, April 18, 2014


Unhappy face

Raw Sewage entering Ganges (Photo: JLewis)
Soo.. What is it like in Bihar? Incredible poverty. The worst I have seen on this entire trip. People here live literally in their sewage and waste, on the ground and in the air. I can only imagine the massive health problems. I myself cannot stop coughing now because of the constant dust, smoke and exhaust I have had to breath in. In this region I cannot count how many people I have seen going to the bathroom right on the side of the road, either onto the road or into the water canals next to the road.

The layers of trash are everywhere. This has been the case throughout Asia where I have travelled, but it is more intense here. Everyone here has been dealt the most unlucky hand I can imagine. The most downtrodden homeless person in the US is 100 times better off and will likely live longer with less health problems than the people of this region, who actually have a home to live in. It is incredibly unfair…and unjust.

I have always had little tolerance for whining by people like myself who have it so good in the US. I have a feeling after this trip…my tolerance level will have decreased significantly further. It is all luck of the draw where you are born. This is one of the shortest straws for certain.

Happy face

Blue doors in Bihar (Photo: JLewis)
While the issues of poverty are definitely apparent here, there is also a lot of charm and hope. The buildings in each little town in this region are painted with many colors of blues and greens. One of the things that I noted was that every door is different and interesting to look at. Some are metal, some are wood…but all are different shapes and different designs. So every house, no matter how run down, or whatever the size, has an interesting and inviting door. In fact, most were interesting enough to entice me to want to photograph them. 

Kids prepare for cricket game (Photo: JLewis)
Like everywhere else I have been, people still go on with life in normal fashion, enjoying the free time they have. I have seen evening games of cricket, children playing with puppies, families cooking and enjoying meals together. Friends hanging out and enjoying conversation.

There have also been significant efforts by local people here to make a difference for the people and the environment. I will talk more about these later, but I can say at least now that the human spirit to fight for something better definitely exists here, even with all the hardship surrounding them.