BKG Academy

(Again, sorry for being offline. It’s been very go-go-go!)

BKG Academy are my team’s hosts here in India. BKG Academy is a brand-new NGO. It was only started in November of 2015. But they have accomplished a great deal in the short time that they have been established. They are a brilliant and passionate, absolutely dedicated to assisting the youth of Raipur and area to become educated and successful.

BKG has three main areas of focus:

  1. For students’ enrolled in a school (both K-12 and university or college):
    • Guiding struggling students in how to study profitably
    • Counselling and coaching for overall student development
    • Guidance in scientific writing/project reports, research papers, and technical report writing
    • Exam and test preparation (there are exams that must be passed to enter school, to enter jobs, to work for the government, etc)
    • Job interview preparation
  2. For youth (18-45!) in rural areas:
    • Identification of skill sets required to increase employability
    • Development of training modules to impart vocational skills
  3. For government and industry policy:
    • Organizing Research and Studies, and Policy Support to the Government as well as private sectors.

The areas that my team (Christian Padilla, Susan Zilahi, and I) are helping with is primarily #2, with perhaps a healthy dash of #3. We are helping them to development a template to determine the skill gap that exists between the abilities of rural youth and the job demand in their local areas. The villages that we are working with to start are in the area of Naya Raipur. Naya Raipur is a planned city, and very much under construction at the moment. The housing sectors are mostly built (or at least, there is significant housing available), as are the government office sectors, but the business and manufacturing sectors are not yet in place. Interestingly, although there was one village displaced by the building of Naya Raipur and many other villages had their agricultural land purchased (typically at an unsatisfactory price) by the government, the apartments and bungalows in the new residential areas are nearly empty. It appears that 90% of the homes have been bought reasonably cheaply by investors, who continue to live in the nearby city of Raipur (or even elsewhere in India). This poses a problem for the nearby villagers. Their main form of livelihood (agriculture) is no longer possible because they don’t own the land, but they can’t just go get jobs in nearby Naya Raipur, because without residents, large business, or major manufacturing in place yet, there is no demand. Government offices are there, but despite incentives to live and work in NR, government workers resist it as well, because there aren’t many services (because there aren’t many residents), and because they are more isolated and don’t get regular visits from people seeking information or assistance. It’s like a great big snake eating it’s own tail, in some ways.

Anyway, we are primarily working with Dr. Manjeet Kaur Bal, Aaditya Kandelwal, and Aaditya’s younger sister Shubhangi Kandelwal to try to help with the situation. With their feedback, we have developed a survey for determining job skills and skill level, communication skills, motivation, and entrepreneurial ability of the rural youth. We have also created a survey for determining the local demand of businesses and industry that are in or will be in the area. In addition, we are creating scoring matrixes for evaluating the need/demand, and determining what gaps need to be filled. And lastly, we’ll be providing guidelines for partnering with industry trainers and job placement partners and providing recommendations for next steps for BKG Academy, industry, and government. So you can see why we are so busy!

Keep following the public pictures on my FB feed. I will add some to this post, but I’ve run out of time for now. Need to go meet our clients for this morning’s work! Take care, everyone!

BKG Academy

Settling In

Sorry about the radio silence everyone! There has just been so much to take in!

We have explored a little bit of Raipur – mostly restaurants, I must admit. But we have had a few little adventures, which mostly involves trying to safely walk across a road. The best advice that we have received is to wait until a local is trying to cross the street and go at the same time as they do. Also, once you start crossing the street, don’t stop. The cars expect you to keep moving and plot their course accordingly. And one tip I picked up myself while watching the locals: point your arm towards the oncoming traffic, palm up and facing them, in the universal “please for god’s sake stop” motion.

I’d like to post some videos of us trying to cross the street, but I need to ask the videoers if I can upload to YouTube. So stay tuned, there may be an update to this post. For a sneak peek, I did post them to Facebook and made them public, so you may be able to see them at this link:



Settling In

We’re Here!

Groggy, but here. Well, most of us. One of our compatriots was delayed 5 hours in Dubai and missed his flight to Raipur. Then the two airlines fought over who had to issue a new ticket. But it is sorted out now and he’ll be here soon.

I can’t decide which is worse: being crammed into an airplane with your feet swelling, your knees complaining from not moving, people encroaching on your space, wanting to sleep but it’s impossible and accidentally ruining your head phones – but at least know that you are moving closer to your goal – or waiting interminably on a layover. I think my vote might be on the layover.

Today is all about settling in. Well, that, and the first few shocking moments of riding in a car in Raipur. Imagine a very narrow road, one lane in either direction. Your driver is driving down the middle of the road, honking as he passes slower vehicles going in the same direction as you: bicycles, overladen mopeds, rickety auto-rickshaws. One the other side of the car, the same collection of vehicles drives in the opposite direction. And in front of you are two cars driving side-by-side down the middle of the road towards you. The same middle of the road, I might add, that your car is currently occupying. And then, just to add color, 2 cows and a water buffalo wander out into the middle of the road. The only thing that can be said for it is that at least they don’t drive too quickly. If the same thing were happening on a road in Russia, there would be head-on collisions at 90 km or more per hour. But so far here I haven’t seen any accidents. They all seem to understand the language of the honking and they figure out who has to slow down or pull over.

Anyway, the hotel is very nice, and very security conscious. When our car pulled up to the hotel gate, the guards checked underneath for bombs, and we all went through a weapons scanner before entering the hotel. The nearby mall also has a weapons scanner. I’m not sure what that says about the possibility for violence in Raipur; I can’t tell if it’s because they really do have something to worry about or if it is more a kind of security theater.

The hotel room is lovely though. And everyone is very nice.

**Edited to add: Bruce reminded me of the hotel bombing in Mumbai a few years ago, and Shruti confirmed that all the 5-star hotels do this now. Even the mall does it. So I guess that is why we are staying in the Hyatt and not Hotel Babylon as originally planned.

We’re Here!


Travelling to India from the extreme west coast of Canada is not a short trip.

First, there’s the hop from Victoria to Vancouver, which is about 30 mins. Then 3+ hrs hanging about in Vancouver as I register for my international flight. Then I get on a Lufthansa jet to fly from Vancouver to Frankfurt for 10 hours. There will then be a 4 hr layover. Then I get back on the plane to Mumbai, on the west coast of India, for 8 hrs. Then there is a 6 hr layover in Mumbai, and then finally the last leg of the flight is 1 hr 40 mins to Raipur. So for the flight to Raipur, I’m on a plane or in an airport for approximately 33 hrs. But this isn’t the worst part. The worst part is that I’m going on vacation after the India trip.

I’m thrilled to visit Malaysia and South Korea and visit my friends Maureen and Bill. I’m so happy to be doing it. But all the extra flying! Here’s what happens after I finish my CSC assignment.

  • Fly from Raipur to New Delhi. (2 hrs)
  • Layover (7 hrs)
  • New Delhi to Colombo, Sri Lanka (4 hrs)
  • Layover (2.5 hrs)
  • Colombo to Kuala Lumpur (6.5 hrs)
  • Layover (1.5 hrs)
  • KL to Johor Bohru, Malaysia. (50 mins)
  • Johor Bohru to Kuala Lumpur (1 hr)
  • Layover (2 hrs)
  • KL to Seoul, South Korea. (6 hr, 20 mins)
  • Seoul to Guangzhou, China (3.5 hrs)
  • Layover (5 hrs)
  • Guangzhou to New Delhi (6 hrs)
  • Layover (overnight, so off to a nearby hotel I go! )
  • New Delhi to Raipur (2 hrs)
  • Layover (over night again, so yay, hotel)
  • Raipur to Mumbai (2hrs)
  • Layover (9 hrs)
  • Mumbai to Newark, New Jersey (16 hrs)
  • Layover (12.5 hrs)
  • Newark to Vancouver (6 hrs)
  • Layover (1 hr)
  • Vancouver to Victoria (30 mins)

My return from Raipur to Victoria alone is 47 hrs. If you add the flights & layovers from Seoul to Raipur (but not including the hotel sleeping) it is 63 hrs in planes and in airports.

Total time in airports and on planes for the entire trip: 130 hrs. Yes, as a matter of fact, that is almost 5.5 days. 80 hrs is for the CSC assignment (ie: to and from Raipur only), 50 hrs is during my vacation.

Would it have been easier to fly home straight from South Korea? YES YES YES. It would have saved me a couple of days that I could have spent with Moe and Bill instead. But that’s not how airline tickets work. It would have cost 3-4x more to do it that way, because one-way tickets cost outrageously more than round trip tickets. And IBM, budget conscious as they are, was only willing to spring for the least expensive options. Therefore, I had to fly in and out of Raipur for the to/from home trips.

Oh the other hand, the niblings will love all the layovers in different countries, as I’ve promised post cards from each country I enter, even if I never step foot out of the airport. So bonus?!



Immunizations for travel are one more thing that are not “free” on the Canadian medical system. Or at least, the version in BC. Fortunately for me, IBM is covering the cost.

The recommended list for India is quite long. Rabies was on the list, but as that series of jabs costs $900 and I’d have to pay up front, I chose not to take it. The doctor said that he didn’t consider it vital, but he did say that if dogs or monkeys or other creatures want the food I’m eating, I am to just give it to them. If I “fight them for it”, that’s when I could get bitten. Though my understanding of animals with rabies is that they’re not looking for food; they’re sick and the rabies makes them much more aggressive than they would normally be. So an animal with rabies just bites you if you get “in its way”, and in it’s way could mean just “anytime you get close”. Still, I’ll follow his suggestions anyway. They may not protect against rabies, but who needs to get bitten in the first place?

Anyway, the immunizations that I am getting are:

Hepatitus A
Hepatitus B is also recommended, but I was vaccinated for that years ago and it’s permanent
Polio booster (hey, did you know that adults should get booster vaccinations? I kinda did, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. Bad Deanna.)
Measles/Mumps/Rubella booster (ohnoez I will get the autisms. Except that I’m not an anti-vaxer and I recognize that vaccinations have nothing to do with being on the Austism Spectrum)
Tetanus/Diptheria booster
Cholera (Anyone who has read their history knows that cholera was not a pretty death, and it’s one of the reasons that a significant number of the senior citizens you know probably still boil their water before drinking.)
E-Coli immunization (won’t protect against all the possible variants of things that are likely to give me “Delhi Belly”, but 80% is a lot better than 0%)
Anti-malarial pills (not an immunization per se, but I’ll be popping one every day of my trip)

Along with the vaccination jabs, my travel doctor (Dr. Johnson @the Shelbourne Travel Clinic in Victoria) gave me a long talk on the Do’s and Don’ts of Travel in India. Here’s some highlights:

  • Don’t touch your face. (This will be so hard. I’m always rubbing my eyes or nose and everything gets itchy if I think about not touching my face.)
  • Always carry hand sanitizer. Use it like you are a germophobe with OCD. (Yes, hand sanitizer is terrible for many reasons. Use it anyway.)
  • Shower with your eyes and mouth closed. Dry those areas first.
  • Only drink from sealed water bottles. If they are wet from sitting in ice, dry them off first, and wipe the top with hand sanitizer.
  • No ice cream or cold drinks that aren’t from a sealed container.
  • No salads
  • No fruit you didn’t wash in bottled water and peel yourself.
  • Everything served to you as food or drink should be steaming hot. You can let it cool, but you need to know that it was very hot recently.
  • Go ahead and eat from food carts/stands. Just insist on fresh, hot food – deep fried is best – and only use disposable plates and cutlery, not something they have previously washed. (Only time I’ve ever had a doctor tell me deep-fried was best.)
  • Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
  • Be very, very stringent about the rules for at least 2 days. Then watch the people you are with. If they seem to be getting sick, stick to the rules. If not, you may be able to relax a bit. Yes, they are your guinea pigs.




I have gotten lots of wonderful advice about what I should pack for my 4 week Corporate Service Corps trip to Raipur, India (and the 2 week vacation to South Korea and Malaysia afterwards). However, the most important piece of advice is to “Pack less than you think you need. And then take half of that.”  Those who know me really well know that I am a pretty light packer already. I’m really not sure what would be left if I left half behind, given that there are lots of work electronics that need to come whether I want them to or not. I guess maybe I don’t need to bring every piece of underwear I own? Here’s hoping that laundry facilities will be readily available at the hotel. And at least I’ve had practice at handwashing all my clothing before, if it comes to that. I’m a champion wringer. Hands of steel. At least until the arthritis makes itself known. 🙂

Here’s the list:

Money Belt
Extra glasses
Glasses cases (2)
Eyeglass prescription because baby I’ll be in the lands of the cheap glasses

SOS program card
Passport w/visa
Immunization card
Photocopies of passport and visa
Extra passport photos
Debit card
2 credit cards
leave keys and rest of wallet contents at home

souvenir pins

Laptop power cord
security cable
security cable keys
Voltage converter and plug adaptors

Maureen’s battery, charger, earrings, jacket, other things she left behind

Hand sanitizer (2)
Deet mosquito spray (2)
blue huffer (3)
red huffer (3)
antihistiamines (2)
Malaria prophylactics
Dr travel list:
Oral rehydration powders (Gastrolyte)
Anti-nausea tablets (Gravol)
Antidiarrheal meds (Immodium)
Antibiotic (Cipro)
Calamine lotion with antihistamine
Antifungal cream
Antibacterial cream

Sun screen
Small first aid kit (bandaids, tweezers, etc)
Small sewing kit (needle, white & black thread), 2 safety pins
Anti-virus water bottle

Jeans (1) – because South Korea won’t be as warm as India and Malaysia
Khaki pants (1)
yellow & black top
green top
Moe’s shirt
Moe t-shirt
t-shirts (3)
lt wt grey cycling shirts (2)
underwear (all?)
bra (2)

diva cup & bag
toilet paper

Moe’s black slacks
Black tshirt

The reason I’m packing already is to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything. I still have time to go “Oh! What about x!”  If I did forget something, I’ll add it as an addendum.