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My 30th Birthday with Mayan Families!

Dear Friends and Family,

This year, I am celebrating my 30th birthday! This feels like a milestone by all means.

As I take time to reflect on my life, what comes to mind most are my friends who recently entered motherhood, and my grandmother. I think about how grateful I am that my friends had access to medical care before, during and post birth. Their stories of pregnancy and birthing will always be with me. My grandmother is being treated for diabetes. At 87 years old she has only gotten better at making jokes and knitting socks.

I also think about all those mothers and grandmothers I’ve met in my life who did not have access to medical care. I think about that teen, pale faced after giving birth at home in a remote mountain settlement, eight hours by foot from the nearest village. I think about the grandmothers begging for coins in subways, for medical treatment. I recall a woman who could only afford one, just ONE, jar of prenatal vitamins during her entire pregnancy.

I know that we can’t change everything. But we can change some things. This is why I decided to fundraise for Mayan Families and their Well Mother, Well Baby! and Elderly Care programs. These are two separate program. Both provide essential support for the populations they are serving.

Here is just one example of the direct style services offered by Well Mother, Well Baby!
And here is an update from the crucial Elderly Care Program:

Let’s use the power of the dollar for good. In lieu of any presents, I am writing to ask you to make as generous donation as possible to Mayan Families. Whether it’s $30, $300 or somewhere in between, you are facilitating nutritional, educational and medical services. What makes Mayan Families unique is that every dollar will make a difference. Mayan Families is a Gold rated GuideStar non-profit that focuses on delivery and quality of services. It is 80% locally staffed and pays non-Guatemalan staff at local pay scales.

My goal is that together we raise $3,000 for the mothers, babies and elders of Panajachel, Guatemala. Please share this letter and the inspiring work of Mayan Families on social media, with your friends, families and co-workers.

To make a donation as well as watch a video about Mayan Families, please click on:

To know more about Mayan Families and their programs, click here:

This is by far, the best birthday ever!


The Finest of Russian “Facebook”

Russian social networking site, Odnoklassniki, reveals some stereotypes and cultural nuances prevalent in mainstream culture and also within the general population. The generational gap between thirty-somethings and their children will  arguably be one of the widest. Odnoklassniki paints an only slightly exaggerated picture of lifestyle clashes of parents and their children in the new millennium. The picture looks something like this: generations of Russians who share memories of sledding, school uniforms, stay at home moms and classic literature are faced with youth tantalized by IPhones, Facebook, fast food and cheap clothes from China. Russian youth are also shifting their values. Not all men long to be providers for a beautiful, well dressed wife. Not all women want to be married with children before they turn 30, the social “retirement” age for women. And some men and women are saying they aren’t men or women at all! LGBTQ concepts are still unfamiliar and perceived as threatening or at the very least, illogical, to most Russians over the age of 35. I don’t seem to be paining a very pretty picture.

These are all just stereotypes. There are plenty of men shredding cheese in the kitchen and women bringing home the bacon. There are plenty of youth who realize that McDonald’s is a gimmick and prefer to hang with their friends in person. More importantly, it’s not about eliminating these stereotypes but normalizing a wide range of choices for both modern Russian youth and adults – in style, food, love and life.

Post from Ondoklassniki: Мужики! ЗАПОМНИТЕ! Ваша жена выглядит так….как вы зарабатываете! Некрасивых женщин НЕ бывает ! Бывают ……. НЕДОФИНАНСИРОВАННЫЕ !

Translation: Remember, men! Your wife looks in accordance with how much you earn! Unattractive women don’t exist, there are only those that are underfunded!

Blogger Comment: No pressure guys, no pressure. And OMG look at those heels!

Translation: Celebrating February 23 in (Russian) Style

Blogger Comment: Marking the date of the first army forces draft in 1918, Day of the Army and Navy celebrates men who served in the military but conspicuously omits women in the military. Socks and shaving cream are typical gifts.


Congratulations to all real men!        Good weather to the rest.

Blogger Comment: The gender expectations are obvious.

– Let’s go out
– I already removed my makeup
– And? (Photo of creature)
Blogger Comment: I struggle with this one the most. Every time I travel to Russia, I receive various comments, advice and criticism about my appearance. Especially in the cities, women are expected to resemble amateur models. As the joke goes, “I put on my old pair of jeans, sneakers and with no make up ran to the store. Who did I see? Everybody.”

Art on Pavement In Bankikodla

IMG_0654[1]Every year, locals create art in front of their homes using flower petals, chalk and colored powder.

IMG_0655[1]Each family also strings lights along their home to illuminate the creations while residents promenade marveling at their neighbor’s talents.

IMG_0662[1]Lotus flowers.

IMG_0670[1]Gods Hanuman and Ram.

IMG_0679[1]A woman poses with her creation.

Around Town in Gokarna

IMG_0609[1]A calf adorned by a garland of flowers.

IMG_0605[1]A cow on the lawn of a typical home in Gokarna.

IMG_0606[1]Known as “the pond,” this pool is primarily used for ceremonial purposes.

IMG_0611[1]Open door policy.

IMG_0615[1]Universal agricultural methods at their best: a scarecrow in a rice field.

Miles and miles of this…

IMG_0695[1]An ancient temple decorated with elephants with steps leading down to the beach.

 IMG_0621[1]A quiet morning.

IMG_0640[1]A trail runs along the shore, connecting to another beach.

IMG_0634[1]Low tide.

IMG_0635[1]This cove was not meant to be hiked but we did not know it until we reached the peak and had to turn around.

IMG_0651[1]Cows enjoying the sunset.

Preparation for a Local Celebration

IMG_0680[1]Making the marks of Shiva.

IMG_0683[1]The dressing room.

IMG_0686[1]A few more garments to go.

Saturday Havan Preparations

IMG_0587[1]Each week we host a Havan celebration. This week, it was for Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.

IMG_0585[1]Shyam and Swami Yogaratna prepare some words.

IMG_0583[1]Swami Yogaratna draws a mandala.

IMG_0590[1]The offerings ready for the fire.

Golden Autumn: Russia’s Agricultural Expo

IMG_0437Backdrop for the expo.

IMG_0435A helicopter for dispersing fertilizer and pesticides.

IMG_0509A yurt in the Kazakhstan pavilion. It is covered by layers of felt wool.

IMG_0503This band blended traditional Russian folk music with synthesized beats.

IMG_0436A yurt made out of empty diesel containers.

IMG_0446Hundreds of food vendors were received by eager customers.

IMG_0443Red caviar. By the kilogram.

IMG_0500Honey. Lots of it. Enormous quantities of it can be seen in the metal tanks behind the counter. In Russia it is frequently used for medicinal purposes.

IMG_0498Do you want to get stung by a medicinal bee? This guy will do it for $5. I didn’t risk it but later found out some bee venom is clinically proven to reduce swelling in arthritic joints.

IMG_0497Business men warming up to some award-winning sheep. Note how that ewe is leaning into the caretaker’s leg.

IMG_0495Two women admiring a traditional wool hat and jacket on display by the sheep pens.

IMG_0493Sheep with lots of medals, ribbons and certificates.

IMG_0491A raccoon dog on display as a breeding specimen. Yeah, fur coats are cruel.

IMG_0485A fox, also for breeding.

IMG_0492Nearby, fur products were available for sale.

IMG_0467 Expo staff prevented poop from touching the floor and wiped the cow’s anus with a soft cloth after excretion.

IMG_0465Pretty lady #1.

IMG_0464Pretty lady #2.

IMG_0450Every vendor had a table with tea, sweets, kielbasa and liquor set up for business negotiations. I guess you get a better deal when everyone’s in a good mood!

Judging by the Headlines

IMG_0423“A Children’s Village.” This story documents a new government-funded program that is building suburban style housing developments where foster families take in a minimum of five foster children in exchange for housing, utilities and additional monetary subsidies/payments.

IMG_0409“Russians Don’t Have Housing Because of Sanctions.” The headline leads to an article that warns growing interest rates might make housing unaffordable in the coming years.

IMG_0408In response to US-based sanctions, a designer printer and disseminated 30,000 t-shirts, one of which (left) reads: “We can have our own fun without your Coca-Cola.”

IMG_0406Sanctions has become the buzz word in Russia. Here it is used to describe the smells imposed upon residents of a town with a factory that produced food flavoring. According to the story, the local air trends from onion to chicken bouillon and ocean breeze several times a week.

IMG_0405A lovely story about a volunteer and government joint effort to clean up a local waterway.

IMG_0404Another lovely and inspiring story about strides made by Russia’s milk industry.

IMG_0369And last, but of course not least, metro employees gave out umbrellas to senior citizens on the national Older Person’s Day.

Alternative Russian Print

IMG_0394“Prime Russian Magazine” had a number of great articles. It was free at the airport. The cover statement reads, “we have already entered a world beyond the future…”

IMG_0397“Ongoing poverty is a question for economic law makers.” This article is an interview with Mark Davis, a Berkley professor.

IMG_0395“Economic growth is the widening of opportunities for self-realization.” An interview with a professor at Moscow State University, Russia’s most prestigious academic institution.

IMG_0385“Vegetarian” is a self-explanatory, free magazine published in Russian. Some dedicated readers took its banner to the top of a Russian mountain range.

IMG_0415     A vegetarian couple featured in “Vegetarian.”

IMG_0421“Back to the Future,” proposes that newly imposed sanctions are just another reason to invest in domestic agricultural production.

IMG_0426“Take what you need,” was hanging in the visa office. Options include courage, strength, passion, determination, dreams, patience, honesty, tenderness, etc…