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Gulmarg!

Posted in 2010 Summer Public Service Program, Tabir by kashmircorps on July 8, 2010

Gulmarg is a mountain resort resting at 11,000 feet above sea level.

This week so far has been amazing! On Sunday, the only day of the week that there was no strike, Aya, Belal, and I went to Gulmarg. Gulmarg is about an hour drive outside of Srinagar and is known for its snow capped mountain tops and incredible views. We took a dangerous SUMO ride up the mountain, where our tour guide, Mir, took us to a incredibly dangerous yet incredibly beautiful path on the side of the mountain. It was raining so the clouds were literally sitting on the top our heads. It was just amazing. We then took a gondola up 13,500 m to the Apharwat mountain peak. It was very cold but worth it. I think its safe to say that Gulmarg is now officially one of my favorite places in the world!

The following day, I experienced my very first Wazwan courtesy of Farheen and her family. A wazwan is a traditional Kashmiri feast that consists of several courses and varieties of primarily mutton and rice. The wazwan is eaten in groups of four with your hands. The wazwan was a rich experience and definitely gave me insight into the emphasis of community in Kashmiri culture.

Today, on our way back from Ms. Nighat Shafi’s house (founder of HELP foundation and always a pleasure to be around), we happened to drive by a women’s protest. Aya, who is in the process of doing a story on the women’s movement in Kashmir, wanted to interview some of the ladies protesting. On our way back from the protest, there was firing in the distance so our driver had to take an alternate route to the hotel. Though I think there have been amazing new experiences for all of us this week, certain images and sounds of conflict keep things in perspective. Though my project is at a halt since there are no school days, I hope to do whatever I can in the days that I have here and try to make every minute count. There is a curfew in place tonight and Boulevard Road which over looks the Dal Lake is a ghost town. However, what I’ve learned since being in Kashmir, is that things here can change very quickly.

Tabir received her bachelors degree in Philosophy and Religion from Brooklyn College in 2009 and has since been doing research at the United Nations on topics concerning women’s reproductive and sexual rights. She will be working with the Kashmir Education Initiative to aid in developing evaluation measures for the organization’s scholarship program.

Trying to maintain momentum

Posted in 2008 Summer Public Service Program, Tabir by kashmircorps on June 30, 2010

A houseboat named Miss America, sits on the Dal Lake

I wanted to catch up on the events of the week. As far as tourist-y things I have done, I finally took that Shikara ride and we visited the Mughal Gardens. The view from Parimahal was breathtaking!

I also bought some jewelry and unfortunately got ripped off about 200 rupees. But I guess that is all part of the learning experience. We also visited a heritage museum in a nearby park. It has definitely been an eventful week for the group, but as far my project is concerned, the ongoing strikes have been taking a toll on the progression of my project.

There have only been two school days since my arrival and every other day there has been a strike. I am trying to keep busy and maneuver the course of the project in a way that will allow me to get something done everyday regardless if there is a school day or not. Though my project is off to a slow start, I was able to visit the HELP foundation with the other volunteers, an organization which Farheen is working with this summer.

HELP foundation is an amazing organization which has made great strides in community rehabilitation for communities debilitated by the conflict. Their initiatives range from establishing “special schools” for children who have lost their fathers from conflict related causes to providing sustenance allowance to women. Meeting Mrs. Nighat Shafi, chairperson of HELP, was an important opportunity for me to understand the obstacles present in non profit work in Kashmir and how much still needs to be accomplished. Also, yesterday afternoon, we were able to support Aya at a workshop she was heading at “Sunday Circle”, an intellectual society of young Kashmiri journalists who meet every Sunday to discuss and debate discourse in the field of journalism.

Also, INTACH, the organization Sarah will be working with this summer, focusing on the preservation of historic sites in Kashmir, was kind enough to host the KashmirCorps volunteers for dinner and a presentation on Kashmiri culture. The view from the Nageen club, where the presentation and dinner was held was probably one of the most beautiful sights I have seen thus far in Kashmir.

Despite the informative week, conditions in Kashmir seem to be worsening. It is hard to cope with the devastating headlines day after day, like “Kashmir Boils” and “Two more fall”. The number of children and young men being killed just seems to be increasing. The minute to minute change in conditions has resulted in a curfew for today and most probably tomorrow.

Aya and I are trying to keep busy by blogging and entertaining each other. I have never experienced “hotel/house arrest”. Every day I realize another luxury I take advantage of back home, and today its simply being able to leave my home whenever I please.

Before I post my blog entry on Asma Firdous, I will hopefully be meeting her once again, if all goes well and there are no strikes.

I’m trying to maintain momentum and not let the conditions outside influence my hope for this project.

Take Care!

Tabir received her bachelors degree in Philosophy and Religion from Brooklyn College in 2009 and has since been doing research at the United Nations on topics concerning women’s reproductive and sexual rights. She will be working with the Kashmir Education Initiative to aid in developing evaluation measures for the organization’s scholarship program.

“The country without a post office”

Posted in 2010 Summer Public Service Program, Tabir by kashmircorps on June 24, 2010

I arrived in Srinagar on Monday but haven’t been able to share the events of the week until now. After about two days of traveling and experiencing 112 degree temperature in Delhi, I was so happy to finally make it to Srinagar. It is so beautiful here that it is truly difficult to put into words… and that’s why ill be posting pictures! (as I saw one tourists t shirt: “heaven can wait, I’m in Kashmir!”). Out of the four days I have been here so far, two days have been strike days, including the day I arrived.  I think the empty streets and closed businesses on my way from the airport immediately put into perspective for me exactly why I will be here this summer. Being here only four days, it is a simple fact, that there is no sphere of life that the conflict has not affected.

Local papers inform residents about the curfew

On the first day without strike, I was able to meet the Kashmir based contacts for Kashmir Education Initiative, the non-profit organization I will have the opportunity of working with this summer. My project entails traveling to several schools in the valley to visit and interview KEI scholars, young boys and girls who based on their need and merit have been supported through KEI’s scholarship program.

I was able to visit IMI (Iqbal Memorial Institute) Girls School today and meet with five extraordinary girls. All are KEI scholars with extraordinary intelligence and unfortunately equally as challenging circumstances. I’ve decided that I will dedicate my next blog  to a particularly special girl, Asma, a 17 year old girl from Kotibagh who left both Hafsa and I in tears. She really is special and I will start working on a little piece on her.

On a much lighter note, while shopping at “Pick and Choose” (I guess it’s like the walmart of Srinagar) with Hafsa, I tripped between the sidewalk and street and landed in the sewer. My entire leg was drenched in … I will leave that up to your imagination. Two Kashmiri boys started laughing at me (so much for kashmiri hospitality!), but then one quickly offered me water to clean myself off. It was really funny and disgusting at the same time.

The hypochondriac that I am, I immediately bought a kashmiri language book, which translates all the diseases and infections from English to kashmiri… just in case. The word for cholera is “voba”. =( I’m trying to learn as much Kashmiri as possible.

It has already been announced that tomorrow is a strike, but I am hoping I can spend the day planning my project and finally take that Shikara ride!

Tabir received her bachelors degree in Philosophy and Religion from Brooklyn College in 2009 and has since been doing research at the United Nations on topics concerning women’s reproductive and sexual rights. She will be working with the Kashmir Education Initiative to aid in developing evaluation measures for the organization’s scholarship program.

Welcoming KashmirCorps’ 2010 Volunteers

KashmirCorps would like to welcome this year’s fantastic Volunteers. The 2010 Summer Public Service Program is shaping up to be one of our most impactful and rewarding years and much of it is the result of the rich and diverse experiences our Volunteers bring forward. The summer is guaranteed to be challenging, but fulfilling and we would like to reiterate our commitment to helping this cohort of individuals achieve all their project goals, while they absorbing the beautiful landscape and rich history around them.

Friends, family members, and KashmirCorps supporters can follow the Volunteers and their work by accessing their individual names under Categories.

Stay tuned!