Saturday, March 24, 2012

Holi Festival of Colors

Welcome spring! That's what we did today at the Holi Festival of Colors at the Sri Sri Radha Hindu temple in Spanish Fork.

The Holi festival is a Hindu tradition to celebrate spring and color in life. It is celebrated with music and chanting, throwing colorful chalk, and a bonfire (in which an effigy of the demoness from Hindu mythology is burned). It is a time for Hindus to feel brotherhood and celebrate life.

More information on Holi is found here on the temple's website at the top and bottom of the page (and there's always wikipedia).

Before the colors are thrown - nice and clean. You can see the temple in the background. We got there a minute too late for the "official" throwing, so we got to see the color fly into the air. Pretty crazy.
The festival in Spanish Fork is actually the largest one in the United States. Who'd have thought?
Some of the beautiful architecture behind Kyle. 
Dancing inside the temple. We all removed our shoes to show respect.
The whole bunch of us!
It was a fun way to spend the morning and learn a little something new about Hindu culture. We want to go back to the temple on a not so crazy day to learn more about their beliefs and culture. And the website says they have cooking classes ... I might just have to check that out.

Side note: I just started reading The Mahabharata, one of the two Hindu epics. It goes into all sorts of their mythology and so far it's been quite interesting. I'll have to do a book report later on.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We went to a Mosque

Last Friday, Kyle and I attended a Muslim worship service up in Salt Lake City. Since a big part of the culture in Hyderabad is influenced by Islam, we thought we'd share a bit.

In front of the Mosque in the wind. You can't see the prettiest parts, but it gives you a feel. And one day I'll learn to wear that scarf like a pro...
As Kyle entered the main floor of the mosque, I and the other women, with scarves covering our heads, made our way around to another door that lead upstairs. We took off our shoes to show reverence for the sacred place and headed upstairs to the balcony of a very open room.

The carpet looked as if identical individual prayer rugs had been laid out neatly across the floor. The women come to this spot separate from the men so that both can worship with less distraction (you cannot see because of a partial glass wall, but you can hear) . Some women were already seated, and as other women came in they picked a spot and often begin praying.

Watching their prayers was beautiful. I do not know particulars, but the prayer involves a pattern of standing, sitting, and prostrating, accompanied by a specific prayer in Arabic and hand movements. It was really neat to see the devotion in it, and to see children get involved at the end. If you want to know more about the prayers, here's a BBC site with more on the movements and words.

The first part of the service was not strictly part of the worship service - it involved the Imam (the religious leader of the mosque) giving a sort of speech on principles of Islam and living a good life (this is when women prayed on their own). After maybe a half-hour of this, there were some announcements, and then the official worship service began. All the women moved near the front of the room and prayed together as the Imam recited the service in Arabic.
Inside the London Central Mosque. You can see the rectangular segments in the rug and the openness that all Mosques have in common. Credit to Wikipedia.
After the service, I got to talk with a few of the women. It was neat to see all that we had in common, and to understand their beliefs a little better. One of them explained that men are required to come every week to represent their family and bring back spiritual strength to them, but women are not held to the same responsibility as they have many obligations in the home and can pray at home.

It was a really neat experience, and I am looking forward to more in India!


Along with all the fun preparations and learning, we've been spending lots of time and weeks of effort on fundraising. I'll admit, fundraising has never been my favorite thing, nor the most comfortable thing in the world. But it's something we have to try!

We've had days where we just sit down and write letters, and still other days with envelopes and stacks of printed letters out for the assembly line. I've never seen so many stamps.

Thanks pinterest!
The work of it has been so meaningful though, even beyond just seeking to help fund our projects. It has been so neat to have something so concrete to work together on. It's a little different than the everyday, and a bit off from a really long-term goal. We've been stretched and have grown together through this work.

And guess what? We have already had a few donations, and we are so grateful! Thank you to anyone who has donated to help us help the people in Hyderabad!

If you want to help too, we would be so grateful. You can donate through PayPal with instructions here: Just make sure to put "Kyle and Katrina Nelson" in the Notes page following the donation page.

I would be happy to use my baking, photography, or listening skills to thank you. But let's be honest, I'd be happy to use them for you regardless of donation. :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Making our own Indian food

One of our favorite Indian dishes (that we've tried so far) is called Spinach Saag. We like to pronounce it spinach saaaaaaaag, of course. In all our excitement for India, we decided to give it a try. Here is the recipe I used and it turned out deeeelicious!

First we had to stop by a little Indian market on University Ave to pick up some spices. Aren't the colors beautiful?
 Appropriately named, this dish uses tons of spinach... mmmm!
 A happy cook. And a camera-happy husband.
 Adding some chicken to the blended spinach-onion-spice mix.
And you can't have Indian food without some naan bread. Kyle is pretty much a pro at it by now because we are kind of addicted to this stuff. Here is the recipe I found... after looking around at reviews, this one sounded great, and it sure turned out! (Also, try it with cinnamon and sugar. Yum!)
Unfortunately, we don't have pictures of the finished product on a plate because we brought it to dinner at a friend's... but we have leftovers! So there might just be a follow-up post.

Any suggestions of other Indian dishes we should try?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Pronounced more like Hy-dra-bad, but not quite (hear it authentically here).

Although it's not as famous as some of India's cities, Hyderabad is actually the sixth largest city in the country. That means nearly 8 million people live there. Holy moley!

Hyderabad is the capitol of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and is considered to be in Southern India. Looking at a map though, Hyderabad looks like it's pretty near the middle to me (coming from the girl who is notoriously bad with geography). The official languages are Telugu and Urdu, but English is fairly common - thank goodness. Several other dialects are spoken that I have never even heard of (Tamil, Sindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, and Kannada...).

The majority of the population are Hindu, but there is also a large Muslim presence in the area. This makes for  a very vibrant culture; Hyderabad is considered a city where the cultures of North and South India meet. Because of the large Muslim population, there is an expectation of modesty. When I'm there, I will be wearing pants or long capris so that my knees don't show, and women are told not to wear revealing tops (no tank tops and nothing low-cut). I'll probably also wear a scarf sometimes so that I can cover my head if I enter a Mosque (awesome!). Plus the scarves there are amazing from what I hear.

The Charminar - built in 1591, apparently built in commemoration of the plague being eliminated.
Despite some of the apparent glamour of the city, there is real need in Hyderabad. I don't have lots of reputable statistics on Hyderabad's poverty just yet, but India's stats overall are pretty insane. The percent of urban Indians living in poverty is 37%, and only 63% of adults are literate. Only 58% of the state of Andhra Pradesh has access to sanitation facilities - and only 27% of houses have running water. One-fifth of households in Hyderabad itself are located in slum areas, and only 55% of poor children go to school. Seventy percent of poor women have no education at all.

With that in mind, we are so excited to collaborate with the people there and find ways to make small improvements. More to come on possible project ideas, and what has been done in the past through HELP. We've got two months and counting!