Arriving in India

Everything went smoothly through customs, with only minor hiccups. As we stepped outside, it appeared dark and foggy. We were to discover that the thick fog was actually smog. New Delhi has the dubious honor of being ranked #1 as the WORLD’S most polluted city.

Even though we were traveling as a group being met by representatives from the local Rotary Club, just the walk from the exit to our waiting bus opened us to the encounter with those who “insisted” on helping us with our bags. We had to be equally insistent that we could handle it without help. Unfortunately, I had not yet supplied my pockets with tip money. The only dollars I had were large denominations and the rupees I had were 500 notes, which amounts to about $9. We managed to get to the bus with only minor confusion, standing beneath a street lamp shining diffusely through the smog giving everything a yellowish brown glow.

It now about 5 am, a half hour or so from sunrise. We were told to expect about a five hour drive, first due south to Agra, then due east to Firozabad.

Sunrise brightened the easterly haze. But only as the sun rose higher above the horizon could you see it: a stark red orb through the murky smog. I was accustomed to seeing the sun with such appearance through eclipse glasses or a solar telescope. Here the smog itself provided the filtering medium.

Visibility was only out about fifty yards on either side of the bus, as we rolled by open fields with occasional structures. We saw a number of brick factories with tall active smokestacks.

As we proceeded south toward Agra, visibility improved, but only slightly, which means that the Delhi-Agra smog is one system with a radiant reach of at least 100 miles.

I remember the first time I visited Los Angeles in 1980. The smog was so bad, my eyes streamed with tears and my latent childhood asthma kicked in, coughing like crazy. I never thought I would actually choose to live there and raise a family. Fortunately L.A. air is a lot cleaner now than it was. Governmental clean air policy worked the wonder.

Mid-morning we reached Hotel Parador and we were greeted with great fanfare by Rotarians bearing flowers.

Musings En Route via Emirates


The food is marvelous and seems to appear magically– each time I awaken, there it is!

It feels like First Class. The flight was only 40% filled, so nearly everyone on the team has a choice to stretch out across three seats. I have extra legroom, with no one in front of me or behind me. I have been able to lean back, stretch out, get up to walk around without bothering anyone, enjoying the relative solitude, reading and drifting with my thoughts.

I purchased an issue of Foreign Affairs, with a view to help me put the current conditions of the world into perspective. Our Rotoplast mission has been buffeted by current events. Originally routed to Dubai, we were re-routed through Beijing to avoid flying over Iranian air space with the downing of a passenger airplane in the retaliatory spat with the U.S. But then, with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we re-rerouted to go via Dubai, shifting to fly over Turkey and Iraq en route.

It also so happens that our arrival in New Delhi coincides with the Presidential visit of the Trump entourage, as well as organized protests against recent immigration laws in India.

Meanwhile, we play our part. I found a great quote within one of the Foreign Affairs articles that sums it up:

In the absence of a magic potion for development, the best way to profoundly transform millions of lives is not to try in vain to boost growth. It is to focus squarely on the things that growth is supposed to improve: the well-being of the poor.

Banerjee, A.V. and Dufle, E. “How Poverty End” in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2020, p. 29.

That’s what we are doing with Rotary, and that’s what we are doing with World Space, and what I have personally been doing throughout my career for half a century– discerning where the need is greatest, determining a fruitful strategy, and then taking decisive action!

On this journey, we will affect the lives of about a hundred families who will have made their journey to Unity Hospital in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, India for surgeries to those with cleft palate and severe burn injuries.

The Golden Notebook

On the night before leaving for India, as I was gathering a supply of ink cartridges for my fountain pen, I espied a notebook that had a cover with a texture of golden foil, which I now call my Golden Notebook. I am an inveterate journal keeper. Old school, you might say. I am happiest with fountain pen and notebook in hand to record the experiences of my journey through life. Out of these journals, I extract my poems, essays, stories, curriculum ideas, and memories. As I transcribe my handwritten words to this medium, that is most inelegantly called a blog, through the computer keyboard, more thoughts come to mind. Just know that from the outset, everything you read here started out in a handwritten journal. Not only from entries into the Golden Notebook, but also from among the several others that I carry that fit in various pockets as I am on the move.

World Space ScienZjournal: Rotary Mission to India

2020.02.22/21:00/World Space Studio Q

Making the final preparations to embark upon the journey on the Rotoplast Mission to Firozabad, India. This is our Mission Handbook: Firozabad 2020 Handbook.

My role is to be the Recreation Therapist, which means that it is my job to be there for the children–and their families– who are in the ward awaiting surgery for cleft palate or burn injuries. I am to provide reassurance, entertainment, and fun activities while they wait. I am confident, but also feeling butterflies, with a desire to do my best to inspire and delight.

As an educator, entertainer, and parent, I have worked with children of diverse ages and cultural backgrounds, gifted children, children with socioemotional issues, learning disabilities, and so on, but I have never worked exactly in this type of clinical setting. I also understand that the children are very young. Aside from my own (now grown) children, I have mostly worked with school age children.

I am a mime artist, poet, and storyteller. I can engage children in movement and theatrical activities, but I am really not fully aware of what to expect, aside from something new and wonderful every day. I want to be sure that I am culturally aware. My undergraduate work was in the field of intercultural communications, which prepares me in general.

This will be my first experience in India. Of course, I love Indian food, I watch Bollywood movies, and am aware of the history and culture through what I have read and studied.


EcoVoices: Summer 2016

This article just came out regarding our work this past summer sponsored by the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority in an insert to the LA Times a week ago Monday!!! (November 14, 2016)

A few more details:

The was a co-partnership of the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation, and the EcoResilience Institute of the World Space Foundation, funded by the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority.

The original play described, Clean Water On Tap!, was performed by members of our Sci Mi Theatre Ensemble (communicating science through mime and improvisational theatre), premiered at the JPL Climate Day (July 20, 2016), featuring: Mike Sabo as Dr. Hydrogeo, a Hydrogeologist; Richard Shope as Dr. von Vroom, a Rocket Scientist; Jessica Camacho as the Research Assistant; with Geoff Hartmann providing original music.

Ellie Hara, working currently on a Mars mission as a JPL Intern, and with her chemistry background, assisted Dr. Shope in creating the Water Quality curriculum for the hands-on activities (and came up with a great ideas we used for the airstripper and ion exchange sequences).

The Parks After Dark program included Traveling Expeditions at the following County Parks: San Angelo, Bassett, East Rancho Dominguez, Adventure, Mayberry, City Terrace, Martin, Athens. Total cooperation at all Park sites! In addition to Dr. Shope, World Space staff included two students who emerged from our EcoVoices-Urban Science Corps program for high school students: Jessica Camacho (Psychology student at UCLA) and Alvaro Olivares (Automotive Mechanics, now working for Bob Smith Toyota).

We conducted several hands-on workshops for summer day camps at Adventure and Mayberry Parks. At Mayberry, Park staff leadership was provided by Aurora Gamboa, assisted by her daughter Yesenia. In addition to Dr. Shope, World Space staff also included Olivia Miramontes (studying Child Development at Rio Hondo)

We also conducted a ten-day morning Science Academy for students from the Mountain View School District (drawn from GATE students who had attended our AstroVoices program) and student from Don Julian Elementary School in the Basset School District at Avenue Park in La Puente. Park leadership was provided by Traci Anthony and Richard Aguirre. World Space staff included: Ngoc Luu (M.S. in Hydrogeology), Mike Sabo (B.S. Environmental Policy), Anahi Tostado (B.S. Geology), Francisco Mata (B.S. Geology), and Olivia Miramontes (Child Development student), Richard Shope (Ed.D. Science Education).

It was a great experience, reaching so many children! Thanks to our wonderful World Space staff, our co-partners, and our sponsors!

And Special thanks to the author Liz Smilor, who did a fantastic writing job!