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First, the lessons:
* It is probably not a good idea to carry home a roti soaked in ghee and sugar in adequate packaging in your backpack. At least, not if you would not like to find a thousand ants in your backpack in coming days. If you enjoy a thousand ants, feel free to ignore this advice.

* I was pretty sick on Saturday night and Sunday during the day. I mostly spent the day sleeping, and drinking lots of water, and not doing anything absurd like trying to work or sit up. Then slept for 10 hours straight last night. I have still been a bit sick today, but well enough to do some work. Lessons learned: having a day off sometimes is probably a good idea! Also, coconut juice is good for rehydration (I knew this one already)! Also, one day is enough to rest, now back to work! (I think at least two of these lessons are good lessons.)

* I haven't been cooking while I'm here, because I have been daunted by the different kitchen setup and by cooking for people and fretting that I will get it All Wrong. But I couldn't eat much at all yesterday, and definitely not anything spicy, so I made myself a little mashed potato. And today my eating is still a little shaky, although I've been wanting to eat EVERYTHING, so I made some mashed potato-with-green-beans, and some tomatoes-with-onions, and noone said: 'peh! worst ever! stupid Australians!' I went to the supermarket to get ingredients instead of one of the little vegetable sellers (and I felt bad about it, but I wanted tofu - or 'soya paneer', as it was labelled). And it wasn't too scary, although one woman did just walk in front of me because I was queuing insufficiently aggressively. The guy behind me showed me how it was done by standing about five centimetres away from me the whole time I was Buying Things. Lessons learned: cooking is not too scary! I should do it, sometimes! Also, it's okay to not be good at queuing as long as I'm not in a rush.

In other news, I was taking an auto home from an interview a couple of days ago, and another auto pulled up next to us at the lights. And sitting in the auto was a goat. I looked at the goat, which was looking quite unconcerned, and had holes drilled into its horns that had little clusters of bells threaded through them. And the goat didn't look at me, because it had some serious staring off into space to do, but the guy sitting in the auto with it did. I think his curious looks at me were very similar to my curious looks at the goat. And then the lights changed and that was the end of it.
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* "Montessori school" means pre-primary.
* Auto drivers often have big stickers of actors on their windscreens.
* The cows are not just stray cows! They have homes, and they go back for milking.
* I am pretty sure I got called "sir" the other day.

I have been Getting Stuff Done. But I feel like there's a whole huge stack of other things to Get Done. I am pretty keen on having a little nap.
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I can't believe how quickly my time here has gone.Work work work )

I should say exciting things about being in India.

Like, did you know that people mostly do not walk on the pavement here, and walk on the roads instead? It is not because they enjoy seeing me anxious, it is actually because the pavement is mostly not that pleasant - it is often slabs of rock laid over the drains, so it doesn't smell nice, and then there's rubbish and other unsavoury stuff. The roads have more cars, but apparently an Agreement is reached, and noone dies (mostly).

And, the other day I completely shocked my friend by handing him my plate as we were packing up the dinner things. Apparently that is Not Done. He recovered well and we had a nice chat about it, but I had a few moments feeling like an awfully rude foreigner. You know, just for a change.

And, today I was cycling to yoga and I stopped to let an old man on a scooter past, and he smiled at me, and it felt totally awesome. I don't get smiled at all that much here. I used to think it was because I was doing something wrong all the time, but now I think it is mostly because people here are just less smiley. Not that they're necessarily less happy, it's just a body language thing, I think. (Or maybe I am actually doing something so wrong all the time that I make everyone around me very serious, and then they start smiling once I leave?)

It feels odd sometimes to emphasise the foreignness of India, like I'm contributing to making it into a strange exotic other land. Many things are the same! Many of the subcultures (geek, activist, academic) that I move in here are pretty similar to (and overlap with) subcultures in Australialand! But then, perhaps it is more interesting to write about the things that are strange and new, given that most people who read this aren't in India? Or not?

Either way (or any other way) I should probably go sleep on my face now. Sorry for flooding you with words, internets! If you have read this far, I am surprised! Also, grateful! It was very nice of you, when I know you have so many other things to do.

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When I travel, it's always the small differences that are most surprising to me. I expect the cows on the streets and different food and not knowing the language.

Two small things:
* We went to the markets on the weekend. I enjoyed walking around: the smell of different fruit and vegetables, all of the colours, lots of things to point at and ask: "what's that? how about that?" I didn't notice at first, but each stall had a thick rope hanging over the fruit and vegetables. I started to pay attention to them when I saw one or two of the stallholders hanging on to them, and wondered if they were there to help with lots of standing up. And then a boy at one of the stalls near us grabbed a couple and used them to swing over the baskets of vegetables in front of them. There didn't seem to be another way to get out of the stall, with everything stacked up in the front. The boy picked something up, and swung back. It looked so practiced and fluid.
* Here, eggs seem to count as "non-veg". When I asked some of my vegetarian friends if they ate eggs, they looked at me like I was crazy. (Happily, this fits in well with the fact that I feel fairly comfortable having milk here, especially the milk we get to the house from the neighbourhood cows, but not eggs so much.)

In other news, I have been writing some stuff on my grown up blog. Much of it is probably not super-interesting to you, but maybe some of it is? It's hard to tell, really.
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I went to Hampi this weekend! We got to explore the Vijayanagara site a fair bit, which was awesome. I especially liked:
* A giant statue of Ganesha, tucked away inside a temple, looking very calm despite having been partially destroyed.
* Some of the temples have musical pillars! They're tuned to different pitches (?) so that people could play them. 
* A rocky outcrop where we sat and watched the sun set.
* A huge wall covered in reliefs of whales and fish and crocodiles. I stood and stared and pretended that I was underwater.
* Monkeys!

Also, I got to take my first overnight train trip. D. and I caught the non-A/C sleeper out, which was just like Indian trains in the movies except that there weren't a thousand people with all of their livestock. It was actually very nice - I rather like the way each bunk feels like a little room, and everyone creates their own self-contained space. We got the airconditioned sleeper back, which I also liked, although you can't open the windows.

And today:
* Lots of teaching work and research work and feeling more on top of things, work-wise.
* Cycling to yoga and back!
* Yoga! My teacher calls me, "Eh, what's that girl's name? Graduated Bob! Graduated Bob, right leg straight!"
* Accidentally having icecream with TBD and D, who knows me too well... when I say, "Oh, I suppose I might have a bite of yours if you have one", she says, "I know what your bite is! Come on, let's get icecream!" (At the moment, I am known for my ability to eat huge amounts, and to fall asleep within a minute whenever I get a chance.)

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You guys! I know that your friend feeds are pretty much entirely just me going: "ZOMG India is hard" "ZOMG India is great" every five minutes. Sorry! Given how things usually go, there's a reasonable chance that I will soon become too busy to deluge you with news.

But first!

I totally got some cash! All it took was about ten phonecalls, a heap of emails, three visits to a local bank, and quite a bit of being stern at people. I am never, ever, doing that again. If this wad of cash runs out, I'm going to sort out an alternative option. For now, though, I feel much more independent and less like I am needing my friends here to look after me with everything.

More importantly, though, on my final trip to the bank I went by bicycle. I didn't get lost, and I didn't get hit by traffic. And my bicycle is a "gentleman's" bicycle, so it is HUUUGE - I am as tall as standing on a chair! And I feel like I'm flying! I think I've worked out most of the Indian road rules, and I think I will mostly be okay riding around. (FAMILY! If you are reading this, don't worry! I will be careful and safe.) Plus also I have high visibility: everyone is too busy staring like crazy to accidentally crash into me. There are not a lot of women above school age cycling around, and there are especially not a lot of white women on Indian-style gentlemen's bikes cycling around grinning like lunatics. (A couple of guys shouted out at me, "Very nice! Very nice!", and I am choosing to interpret it as their whole-hearted approval of my enthusiasm for awesome Indian bicycles.)

Okay, now on with work. And eating delicious snacks. (I visited my friends' family last night, and they gave me a heap of delicious snacks to take home. Apparently, I am looking too thin. Also, they are lovely and always spoil me a heap.)
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This morning I went to yoga with my friend D, which was great - doable, but hard enough that it took all of my thinking, and left me nothing for Fretting. After breakfast (she made uppma for breakfast! I am so spoiled!) I cycled home on the awesome Indian bike D has acquired for his house/commune/office/activist centre. It is huge, and single-gear, and very solid. I am as high up as if I was standing on a chair!

Yoga + cycling + feeling a little better at Getting Around is helping me feel better about the world. And I know such lovely people here! Hangouts with D and TBD (usually when I have vowed to get an early night or spend the evening working) have been keeping me sane through my Frets, and tonight I'm going to go visit my friends R and J, who I haven't managed to see since I came here. And there are still two or three other friends (at least!) who I really want to catch up with...juggling full-time work in Australia and trying to find my feet with research here and also handling all the hassles of being in a new country* is proving challenging, but I think I'll manage it.

Plus also:
* Interesting talks (for different reasons) last night and today!
* I have so many people and organisations I want to talk to here! It is time to start organising interviews!
* I have so much stuff I want to write about!
* Bicyclesbicyclesbicyclesbicycles!

* By this, I mostly mean: "being in a new country where your stupid bank has stopped your card, failed to communicate with you effectively about it, and then sent the new card to Australia without asking or telling you". It is turning into a hobby, in the realm of inevitably-fruitless pursuits like fly-fishing or golf or writing letters to local newspapers. The latest development is: I call Mastercard helpline to get an international emergency cash withdrawal. They say: yes! Of course! Right away! No return call. I call them back. They say: yes! Of course! Right away! Eventually they call me back with the name and address of the bank I need to go to. I go to the bank. The bank insists that not only have they not received any fax about this, but giving cash withdrawals without a card is not something they do. I call Mastercard and explain the situation, they ask to speak to the bank manager and then the line cuts out. Mastercard call me, but I can't hear them. I go home. Two hours later, Mastercard call me and say they have the name and address of the bank I need to go to. It is the same as the bank I have just gone to. I explain the situation. They say: we'll call right back.             Don't worry, though! D has said he can lend me money, and I'll transfer it to him from my account once I sort out this ridiculousness.
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I was all sooky about work stuff yesterday! )

I wanted to go home after the workshop, but TBD. pointed out that there was a little artists' residence on the roof above the art gallery where the workshop was held. It was one of the most beautiful spaces I've ever been in - something about the way it all fit together tidily and the light and the way the rooms connected made me fall instantly in love with it. Then instantly asleep on my face.

And when I woke up TBD. gave me Delicious Milk Drink*, and I got a lovely long email from PinkHairClaire, and some guys turned up with drums, and A. (a Swedish lady staying here) pulled me up to dance for a bit, and then I played a bit of capoeira, and my new friend-who-is-a-lady, D., turned up and we all went and ate some delicious snacks, and then D. and I spent ages sitting up on the roof looking for songs that she knew how to sing and I knew how to play on my ukulele...

...and I felt much better about the world.

I am very lucky with the people that I meet.

* I am not being vegan here. I am avoiding eggs, but it feels silly to say no to milk that is delivered by a guy whose cow lives just across the road from us and eats our food scraps.
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* The strangenesses and the people: last night we went to a photography exhibit, by surprise - I was all set to spend the evening working on an article submission. The woman we went with was kind enough to let me crash the post-exhibit drinks while my friend D. went to a family thing. We went to a jazz-themed bar, and I got an incredible sense of culture shock when I realised that despite all of the "no smoking" signs, people were smoking! inside! in a covered area! with food present! I had some lovely offers of further hangouts, including an invitation to meet a collective involved in setting up community radio stations. I might hang out with the woman we went with and D. for holi, which will be nice. I am really looking forward to some more people-time next week, including catching up with old friends, once the workshop is over. I feel very lucky to know Good People here who are helping to look after me.

* Moments in which I feel competent: I spend a lot of time in India feeling kind of useless. Everything is difficult, including carrying out research. I have a few moments, now and then, when I see how it all fits together, and how I'm doing something useful, and I carry them around with me like a security blanket.

* OMG the snacks: you guys. I get to eat masala dosa for breakfast every morning. (I'm not, though. I'm mixing it up with idlis and rava dosas and maybe some other things?) Pretty much every single thing I eat here is the Most Delicious Ever.

* Squirrels! I had forgotten there were squirrels.
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Last night's arrival in Bangalore was hands-down the easiest arrival in a foreign country I've had, ever. I have this Thing...in almost all previous cases, when someone was meant to meet me at any airport other than Perth, something went wrong. I've spent quite some time waiting in airports in Sweden, various parts of South Africa, and Sydney, wondering what happened and what to do next.

Given the disasters of the last two weeks (of which there have been many), I expected something to go Horribly Wrong with my arrival in Bangalore. I had backup plans. I had backup backup plans. Unexpectedly, though, it was all very smooth. And now I'm staying at Janastu, which means I have a place I feel comfortable to work from and lovely people around me.

Since I've arrived, I've:
* had masala dosa for breakfast!
* watched some children perform super-awesome martial arts from kerala!
* drunk huge amounts of tea!
* made some vague plots for my time here, which hopefully will include learning some kannada and some programming, doing Helpful Things around Janastu, and doing some research.
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...but still rather busy. I'll be back in regular communication (with those of you who I regularly communicate with) aroundthe 18th.

Family: No need to pick me up from the airport, I've arranged something. Will call the next day and tell you that I got in safely, and will see you all as soon as I've had time to catch my breath, find my feet, and wash my clothes.

all the best to everyone!
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So, I have been a dreadful correspondent this time. No emails, no letters, no postcards, no carrier-pigeon microfiche. I am terrible, but there is NO TIME, I assure you. All of the time is being used up on Being an Incompetent Intern, Exploring, or Being Tuckered Out.

Today we went and looked at the Bull Temple, a meditation space built in a giant fake rock, and Tippu Sultan's palace. We also walked between most of those places, which involved a lot of being lost and, therefore, unnecessary walking. I am really, really, tuckered.

Tomorrow morning we're leaving for Mysore, and from there will be going to Kabini, then a coffee plantation, then Mysore, then back to Bangalore so that I can go to the TGC workshop on the 14th and Kale can wander around and be lost without my assistance for a bit.

For now I'm going to do the Incompetent Intern stuff I wanted to do last night, until I realised that falling asleep was far, far more urgent.
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So it turns out Kale and I are not, in fact, going to Kumta (or wherever it was we were going to go), which is fine. So we can relax in Bangalore until the 8th, when we leave for Kabini. Yesterday we went to Raj and Jyothi's to say hello, which was a ridiculously pleasant way to start the day. And then got lost around Cubbon Park for a bit (my bright idea that we would walk through the park to get to MG road was undermined by my complete lack of directional sense). We played Bangalore's most popular death-defying sport for a while: trying to cross roads.

A burst of luck - we found both a cinema and a show starting in ten minutes, so we watched Om Shanti Om. I'm sure we missed some of the complexities of it - it was in Hindi without subtitles - but we managed to pick up the general thread and enjoy it.

Dinner at a lovely restaurant with live music and banana-leaf plates, and then we wandered around the Peanut Festival. Streets and streets and streets of peanuts, fortune-telling robots (photos to follow!), and random Plastic Stuff for sale.

And now time for work + breakfast + exploring!
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So, tomorrow morning my lovely young man arrives in Bangalore, and I will be occupied showing him the sights and exploring some new parts of India. This means that instead of sitting around in front of my laptop all day, I will probably be out Doing and Seeing, and will not post quite so often. Hopefully all the Doing and Seeing and Boyfriending will distract me from being sad to leave all these interesting people I've met. There are so many people I want to spend more time with, or get to know...I dropped in at FilmCamp today, and even the five minutes I spent chatting with people there made me feel very frustrated at having to leave the city so soon.

Some Things:
* For those of you reading this from India who want to know more about Perth, why not check out the Worst of Perth blog?
* My plans for tonight involve a fair amount of trying to be technically competent. I suspect I will fail. A large part of this suspicion is due to the fact that my attempt to make up a conference logo/t-shirt is relying on sites like this one, which begins with this helpful advice: The invention called the typewriter introduced the Shift Key. You generally have 2 of them on your keyboard. They look something like the picture on the left. They are located on the left and right sides of your keyboard.
The other invention, called the Mouse, was invented by Douglas C. Engelbart in 1970. These come in different varieties, but always have at least one button located on them. They are located on your desk, or sometimes on a mouse pad.
There are pictures.
* Today was ridiculously enjoyable. Some work in the morning, some meeting people. Went out with Ravi for a few hours and stumbled onto a fair where they'd recreated the religious places of North India in this crazy big walk-thing, arranged so that it was like climbing a mountain. I don't even have the words - hopefully some of the pictures will turn out ok. Anyway, we walked up the mountain and saw the sights, did pooja at the top, and then went to the fair next door. I went on rides! There was a terrifying ferris wheel, and a spinning-around-thing where I think they basically just kept it going until all the kids were either injured or crying or both. And then Swadhe (who is a story all in herself) used me as a test subject for her Thai massage class.
* If you are in my family, and hence inclined to believe that I might be dead if you haven't heard from me in a few days, you may call me. However, I'm sending my phone number to Kyle only, so that he can judge whether or not you're being crazy.

Bighugs to family (I think you're wonderful)! Hurrah for seeing Australian friends soon (you're wonderful too)! Thanks to any Indian friends seeing this (you've made my stay wonderful)! and if you're reading this and are none of the above, perhaps you'd like to leave a comment and introduce yourself?

That is all!
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I spent most of yesterday helping Jinen (who I'd just met) clean up his proposal for the Echoing Green fellowship, getting very enthusiastic about the whole idea in the process. The pottery that his group makes at Kumbham is absolutely wonderful. Possibly because of the sleeplessness or trying to work out the project or fun new people wandering in it ended up taking us all day to finish, so I didn't get a chance to go into Green and finish off my Stuff there.

Evening had already been booked by Akshay and Aaliyeh, which was lucky since if I hadn't already said I'd go I would have stayed at home and worked or slept. Lovely dinner at Aaliyeh's house, babbled incomprehensibly to A, A, Suresh, and some of Aaliyeh's friends who were visiting from Tamil Nadu.

My current Favourite Thing is all the little language-bits I hear. Like people from Tamil Nadu and Kerala saying "sheri" for ok, and "na?" at the end of sentences.

And now I should be working!
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I'm staying at Janastu, and in a ridiculously good mood because I have heaps of work to do at GF, and heaps of stuff to play around with at Janastu too. Of course that means that I'm currently regretting the whole needing-to-sleep thing*, and have about a million things to do and people to see that I won't get time for.

Plus also my article just came out in Agenda, plus also my supervisor agreed to let me put linux on his uni computer (which I may have to negotiate with uni IT about), plus also the living room here is a great place to play capoeira. So I am all excitable.

Only major problem in my life right now is that the TGC wiki keeps timing out so I can't put on some edits that I would like to. And I live in hope that it will soon miraculously recover.

* I met a guy called Stalin in Trivandrum. It didn't seem to be a big deal, though.
* This morning, the doorbell rang. I opened it, and there was a guy standing there holding a bowl full of milk. I looked confused for a while. He told me to get a bowl. I did. Then he poured some milk into it and left. Apparently, that's how milk here works (it's from a cow just down the road). I'm pleased with this state of affairs. Not pasteurised or anything - it just gets boiled when D. or R. makes the coffee. And then tomorrow - new milk!
* Some things I want out of life, lifestyle-wise: ability to travel around the city by myself - work that makes me think and that I feel capable of - working around people but not too much with people - work that I feel is useful to others - spaces to meet people that are 'open', like conferences or other spaces where people are not too clique-y. And also wireless. Wireless makes me happier than seems reasonable.

* right now I am like a kid - babbling excitedly for a few hours, playing a heap, and then by ten I am ready to fall asleep face-first into my soup.
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Checked out an article in the Economic Times about Barcamp. It's a bit weird to see myself quoted like that - "Ms C..." doesn't feel much like me.

Being white gets you a heap of privileges in most societies (including Australian society), but usually it's almost invisible (one theorist called it something like 'the invisible backpack' of Stuff you carry around with you because you're white). Here it's so blatant. It means I spend a lot of my time here feeling like a jerk, and terribly awkward.
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After much effort by the FOSS community, RMS, and some key people within Kerala's government, the state's IT policy now explicitly states that:

"Free and Open Source Software will be used in all government funded ICT
e-Governance projects to the maximum extent possible. Preferential treatment will be
given to FOSS as it enables the knowledge to be used democratically, makes software
accessible to every one and is economical."

So there are a few pretty cool projects happening here, many of them run through SPACE - today we learnt a bit about the IT @ School program to get highschools using FOSS. Apparently over the last year (?) they've got the program running in hundreds of schools, trained all the teachers, and rewritten the textbooks (!). We also looked at Insight, a school where they're teaching blind people to use Orca and Ubuntu to use computers, as well as to train others.

It's all pretty nifty. And they could use help - especially if people are willing to come for a few months (they said four to six months would be a good span of time, and they could help out with accommodation). So if you're thinking of taking a break and doing something new for a while, perhaps you should come hang out here (or at Janastu) for a bit and help out? I think you would have fun.
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So, I'm in Kerala right now, which is far less 'developed' than Bangalore and has more trees, more humidity, plus paintings/flagpoles etc around the place for the Communist Party that has been voted in consistently since 1957 (?). It turns out I'm staying with some friends of Kavita and Dinesh, and Dinesh is here but not the Tall Girl or Renee. And it is very barcamp-like - a spare guest house for visitors/meetings/children's playhouses, wifi, lots of conversations all at once.

And last night was Kavita's talk (which has started me off on a few parallel tracks for my thesis), and chats with Tim and a young mathematician studying at NIAS (and anyone else going), and some Bill Bailey standup for Kavita and I since we couldn't find anyone to take us out for a late movie (there are posters around Bangalore for some Kannada movie with a young women in a police uniform - I've decided that I *need* to watch it). Then up at 4 to get here! I'm sure I'm going to fall asleep in a corner sometime soon, but it looks like a good place to do it.

But I guess I should save some blogging for later, since Dinesh found this blog and is now making numerous requests for blogposts (which I will do my best to honour).

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Picked up my business cards = am now a grownup.

Yesterday I found out that Dinesh (and the Tall Girl and Renee?) are already in Kerala, so I'll see them soon. I'm looking forward to it, not just because they are fun to be around (and interesting things tend to happen in their vicinity) but also because it means I can have a longer chat about what Janastu is doing and whether I can help out at all.

I ended up playing capoeira with Ravi on an unused stage in a park last night (after some men came up and sternly told us that the skating rink we were playing on before was "for playing, not for dance practice"). Also Some Guy came up and asked if we were going to always play in the park, because he wanted to come down and join in. How perfectly delightful!

And then I ended up at the Art of Living ashram again, where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was talking. It was kind of fun to listen to, because he has a good sense of humour. Not so much into the more spiritual stuff. Anyway, despite giving my honest opinion afterwards to some of the guys there everyone was very nice. A guy from the UK gave me a poi lesson, and I played some capoeira with him and a Brazilian. And also had a chat with one of the guys who works at the ashram about the Art of Living's seed conservation program.

And today I'm going to NIAS again: Kavita's talk + catching up with Tim, should be fun.


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July 2012

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