Archive for November, 2009

One Journey Ends & Another Continues

November 12, 2009

We created this trip with the hopes that it would be a life changing experience.  That was our goal.  So now we ask ourselves, did we succeed?

After listening to the answers of our winners, we think the answer is Yes.  And then we realize, of course we did.  How can you see the hopeful smiles of children just pulled from a mica mine, have them dance with you in shear joy, and not be changed.  How can you see bashful school children who are as mesmerized with you as you are with them, listen to them greet you with “hello teacher” then see the water tank we just funded sitting only feet away, and not be changed.  How can you realize that just the night before the water from that tank was drained in a village power play, and not be changed?  How can you gaze at the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas at sunrise, be delighted by peacocks and monkeys roaming wild, realize the incredible beauty of the planet and not be changed. 

Water Flowing rom the Tank at the School

Water Flowing From the Tank at the School


Breathtaking View of the Ganges

Breathtaking View of the Ganges

After meeting some of the most lovely and generous people in the world, and viewing the most breathtaking scenery, you are perplexed by the many contrasting situations.   A barrage of people stepping over a homeless woman sleeping with her child on the street- only realizing a child is there when you see his small dirty hand holding his mother’s as it peaks out from under a blanket.  It is heartbreaking beyond words and you can’t understand how this could happen.  You are shocked by the endless array of garbage littering the streets and even the remote walking paths of the Himalayas.  And if you are a dog lover, the endless supply of slum dogs is more than disturbing. But then you ask yourself, what do we allow to happen at home that we conveniently ignore.  How do we treat our homeless, why do we euthanize millions of unwanted dogs and cats each year? How do we protect the environment and wildlife in our own backyard?  If you ask yourself any of these questions, and answer truthfully, how can you not be changed?

Our Favorite Cared for Dog at the Glass House

Our Favorite Cared for Dog at the Glass House

How can you return home and turn on the tap for the first time and not be incredibly thankful for what now seems like the luxury of clean free flowing water, and not be changed.  Finally, how can you see the effects of what we have accomplished through Global Greengrants Fund & Earth Month and not feel overwhelmed with an incredible sense of pride for what we do, and gratitude for our company that holds giving back as one of its most important objectives.  Choose only one of the above, and then you will realize that you are changed.

The Team in Earth Month 2009 T-shirts

The Team Proudly Wearing Earth Month 2009 T-shirts

 Thank you for taking the virtual trip with us and for your kind and caring comments.  We were all so honored by your genuine interest.   We hope you will join us as we celebrate Earth Month in April at an Aveda Walk for Water or Appointment for the Earth.  In a way, our trip lives on as we carry the torch from India to raise money & awareness for clean water in our own backyard.  At home, we can make a difference on a daily basis working to protect and conserve the water we’re so fortunate to have.  We come full circle by buying the Light the Way™ candle whose proceeds helps change lives by funding water projects around the world, like the one we saw in India.  And when you change the world, you realize you yourself are changed.  Pretty cool accomplishment for a candle.  So while the journey of India ended, please let another one begin.  One that continues to change the world.  See you in April.

Namaste,

Katie and Gigi

Gigi & Katie on the Ganges

Gigi & Katie on the Ganges

Full Circle

November 12, 2009
Back in Delhi, Tuesday was our last day in India.  Wow did it ever feel like the trip went fast yet we saw so much!  On Tuesday morning we were privileged to have four individuals representing Greengrants’ work in India visit us to talk about some of the projects Aveda Earth Month candle proceeds are supporting.  In many ways, the presentations we heard from these four people perfectly encapsulated what we had seen and experienced on this trip.  First we heard from Ravi Agarwal who was Greengrants first Indian Advisor and now works with an organization called Toxics Link.  Ravi outlined the many issues that affect water in India and the challenges faced in a country of 1.2 billion people.  He also emphasized the need for bottom-up approaches that empower those people who are traditionally the most disempowered. 
Next we heard from a Greengrants grantee – the Janhit Foundation – and learned about the great work they are doing to educate women in sustainable agriculture and pesticide reduction, rainwater harvesting and catchment systems, and reduction of toxins and contaminants.  Our last presentation was from a Greengrants consultant that is leading a project in the Himalayan village of Tilwari that will deliver safe drinking water to the villagers.  This project was entirely funded by Aveda Earth Month candle proceeds and is another way we’re improving access to clean water in the region surrounding the birthplace of Aveda.   The project takes a very comprehensive approach to bring a sustainable water supply system to the village using water catchment and storage tanks, education around sanitation and water conservation, and ongoing maintenance of the system.  
The group agreed that the morning of presentations really was the perfect way to spend the last day of the trip.  It helped the group more fully understand the impact they’re helping to make in India and provided the inspiration and motivation to continue as leaders in fundraising through Earth Month.    
The group with Greengrants project leaders.

The group with Greengrants project leaders.

After lunch with our Greengrants guests, we had some time to shop and purchase souvenirs and gifts for our teams at home.  We all appreciated having Catherine Porter’s guidance and experience to help navigate the shopping scene in Delhi.  It was a fun-filled afternoon followed by a lovely dinner together at the Imperial Palace Hotel.  Tom surprised the group by announcing facetious awards for each member of the group.  It was a really funny way to remember and recount our experience in India before spending one last trip on the bus together for our midnight flights back to the states.

Sunrise over the Himalayas

November 12, 2009

When we heard we were coming to the Himalayas, we had visions of snow capped mountains, sherpas and maybe even altitude sickness.  OK, the latter we could do without.  So  when we got off the train at Haridwar, it was a little disappointing to see what in comparison were rolling hills.  And definitely no snow.  The disappointment faded quickly as we drove on those “hill’s” winding cliffs on a daily basis. 

Typical Mountain Road

Typical Mountain Road-It is Best Not to Look Out the Window

 So on our last day we didn’t mind getting up at 5 am to see the sunrise over the Himalayas we had dreamed about.  After taking cars up an 11 kilometer path (our bus couldn’t fit on the road), we walked up 300 steps to a beautiful Hindu temple. 

Kunjapuri Temple

Kunjupuri Temple at Sunrise

After waiting for about 30 minutes, sipping the absolute best tea ever-a ginger, lemon, honey, mint recipe that Ananda creates, and enjoying some muffins, it was truly incredible to see the sun come over the mountains, of which we like to think were Tibet.  We know we were looking in the right direction, but hard to say that we could see all the way there.  It didn’t matter.  The sunrise was incredible.  All of a sudden, the sun peaked up over the horizon, and then slowly and steadily rose until it was just there all the time.  Beautiful!

Sunrise on our last day in the Himalayas

Sunrise on our last day in the Himalayas

 Just as exciting was looking to the North and seeing what we had hope for since we arrived in the Himalayas.  The snow capped mountains.  True, they were in the distance, there were no sherpas, and I don’t think we could see K2 or Mount Everest.  It didn’t matter.  How many people are lucky enough to see the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas even from a distance.  We were thrilled.
Snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas.
Snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas.

As if that wasn’t zen enough, Marc lead yet another meditation session at the temple,  as he did almost daily at Ananda.  It completed the morning. 

Morning Meditation with Marc

Morning meditation at Ananda with Marc

Sadly, it was time to leave Ananda.  Although were all happy to be going home soon to our families, it was hard to leave this side of the world, a place unlike any other.  Where else do you see peacocks and moneys roaming wild while wearing white Kurta Pyjamas and being wished a constant namaste by all those who past.  I can’t imagine where else that would happen, but it would be worth visiting, or hopefully coming back. 

Beautiful Ananda

Beautiful Ananda

Monkeying Around At Ananda

Monkeying Around At Ananda

Team in Kurta Pyjamas

The Team Shares a Moment of Zen Moment in Kurta Pyjamas

Rolling on the River

November 12, 2009
Sunday was a day that many people on this trip were looking forward to.  It was a chance to do something “touristy” while traveling in the Himalayan foothills, not all that far from the source of the Ganges River.  Today we took a whitewater rafting trip on the Ganges and enjoyed every minute, every splash and every bit of paddling! 
Gearing up for whitewater rafting on the Ganges.

Gearing up for whitewater rafting on the Ganges.

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

With a crew of seven from our group, we set off just up river from The Glass House where we had been for lunch two days earlier.  Kirk was the first to brave the cold temperatures of the glacial meltwater and jumped into the river not two minutes after launching our raft.  After a refreshing dip, he was back in the raft and we were off to our first set of rapids called “Three Blind Mice.”  It was a blast!  Everyone got absolutely soaked, but we think the guide was deliberately positioning Tom Petrillo for the brunt of it!  In between laughing and splashing, we did a bit of paddling (thankfully we had a very competent guide to steer us clear of the rocks)!  At one point we even got to bodysurf through some milder rapids.  I don’t think that’s anything any of us were prepared to do in India – bodysurfing on the Ganges River!  After a couple of joyful hours on the river we reluctantly landed the raft on the banks of the Ganges and boarded the bus back to Ananda.  Exiting the raft we observed reality in India with rows of tinroof dwellings underneath a bridge.  Quite the contrast to our rafting experience.     

A dose of reality in India.

A dose of reality in India.

We met the rest of our group for lunch at Ananda and then enjoyed a more restful afternoon with spa services and relaxation. 

Donning our white Ananda pyjamas, we spent time this evening talking and learning about Global Greengrants Fund from Catherine Porter, Chair of the Greengrants Board of Directors.  This was a wonderful opportunity for the group to learn more about the Greengrants approach to philanthropy and what makes them and our partnership so unique.   Catherine helped the group understand the power of small grants and how the Greengrants model is able to empower communities and give them a voice in the decisions that affect their natural resources and well-being.   It was a wonderful way to spend our last night at Ananda.   

Pyjama party at Ananda.

Pyjama party at Ananda.

A Day filled with Aveda Stories and History

November 1, 2009

First off, we need to say that we’re having trouble uploading pictures to the blog due to a slow connection, so unfortunately our current posts won’t have the benefit of visual storytelling.  We did have a wonderful day Saturday seeing first hand the birthplace of Aveda.  This was a really meaningful day for everyone, as it allowed us to learn more about the history and legacy of the company and reminded us how proud we all are to be a part of it. 

We started the day touring the organic herbal garden of the lovely and kind Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Upadhyay.  The extensive garden is filled with traditional ayurvedic plants. Everyone loved learning about the various plants and how they are used in ayurvedic remedies and practices.  

The group takes in the vetiver aroma.

The group enjoys the vetiver aroma.

Kristine and Dr. Upadhyay.

Kristine and Dr. Upadhyay.

Next we visited the Swami Rama Ashram, the place where Aveda’s founder studied ayurveda.  We enjoyed a meditation session followed by the best chai many of us had ever had.  Dr. Upadhyay led us on a tour of the ashram, which is situated directly on the Ganges River with spectacular views of the Himalayan foothills. 

Entrance to the Swami Rama Ashram

Entrance to the Swami Rama Ashram.

 

Beautiful views on the Ganges.

Beautiful views on the Ganges.

After a delicious Indian lunch in the town of Haridwar, we were honored to be welcomed into the home of the Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Upadhyay.  The doctors have advised Aveda for over 30 years on ayurveda and product development.  They shared stories and photos with us from the very early days of Aveda in the late 70’s and proudly showed us their own garden and herbal products.  We were all inspired by our visit with the doctors and came away with many stories to share with our friends and colleagues back home.  The group felt very special to receive such tremendous warmth and hospitality from the Upadhyays. 

The group receives thoughtful gifts from the Upadhyays.

The group receives thoughtful gifts from the Upadhyays.

From the Upadhyays we headed to an aarti ceremony on the Ganges.  Traffic delayed us so we missed the start of the ceremony, but we were still able to see many lanterns being lit and people taking their holy dip in the river.  It was a beautiful sight and really a privilege to watch families share in this cleansing ceremony. 

On the way back to Ananda, Marc shared a third chakra lesson with the group on the bus.  This was a perfect way to close a day filled with Aveda heritage and ayurvedic immersion.