Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Safari So Good

This past weekend a group consisting of 10 of our Target expats decided to take a weekend trip to Kabini Park, a wildlife preserve in Southern India. Since earlier this past winter Paul had been to Banipur--another park next door--and really enjoyed the visit, he took the task of putting together a group trip to the same vicinity this spring.

Since nearly all of us are living in the same apartment building at Zen Gardens, we took Friday off, met-up outside the building early Friday morning, packed up the van/bus (whatever it was), and started our journey. The six-hour road trip was typical for India--bounces, bumps, twists and turns (not to mention the plethora of animals, cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, people, and various debris on the roads... oh yeah, and India has speed bumps on the highways... yeah... that's a whole other blog entry... I digress :o)

ANYHOO, after singing along to Paul's iPod tunes and lots of snacks, we finally arrived in Kabini, took Jeeps (mighty fast ones!) to the boats, which took us to the resort cabins where we stayed for the weekend. Between the 10 of us we shared 3 cottages--it was just like going to camp! While the days consisted of several "safari" outings (Jeep safari, two boat safaris, and one trekking safari on-foot), the nights were spent playing cards, telling stories, and lots of laughter... in fact, the weekend was filled with laughter from the very start. Yeah!

During the safari outings we saw everything from wild elephants to baboons, peacocks, spotted deer, cows, wild boars, a crocodile, several types of birds, and then the "usual" assortment of cattle, goats, chickens--you know-- the animals that hang out on the street outside our apartment? Yeah, they were there as well... ya just can't completely escape the feeling of home in India--not even in the jungle! Check the online gallery album for more snaps.

All-in-all, the weekend was absolutely fantastic. Yes, the safaris were interesting and we had some interesting guides along the way, like Oopy ("Shhhh! Silent safari! Dancing peacock! Shhhhh... elephant! Oh wait, let me answer my mobile phone...), but the best part of the weekend was the fellowship. We all had time to just hang out with one another--time for stories, jokes, games, and just plain relaxing. It was wonderful.

BIG thanks to Paul for helping to organize a fantastic "Memorial Day Weekend" trip (although India doesn't celebrate Memorial Day and we had to work on Monday...) I am sure we will all remember this fantastic time for years to come. It was, indeed a safari so good--or, in the unforgettable words of Oopy every time we'd see another elephant, "Success!!"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Children of India

As I have recently passed my six month mark in Bangalore (!!), I wanted to take the opportunity to continue highlighting Indian history, culture, and most importantly, India's people. So I decided it was time for another gallery--this time a compilation of photos depicting the children of India.

Through my travels within the cities of Bangalore, Mysore, Delhi, Agra, and other areas of the country, I have had the opportunity to meet so many warm and friendly people--but the warmest and most sincere are the children. As I had written in my blog entry about Narendra Nele (the boys orphanage in Bangalore), children have a universal energy--a common spark--that all of us have and can identify with... children just show their love and share their joy more freely. Since most children haven't yet taken on the fear of the world, their spirits shine bright and they connect quickly with those who recognize them.

Here is short compilation of some little souls that I've encountered on my journey through India so far this year--may their energy and joy be felt in your heart as it has been in mine.

Enjoy the gallery.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Visit from Our New CEO

This past week marked an important event for Target--the first visit of Gregg Steinhafel as our new CEO! As usual, a team of our executives flew out to join Gregg during this exciting series of events. Throughout the visit we were able to tell Gregg more about Target India and the valuable progress that we've accomplished over these past three years.

This visit also gave us an opportunity to connect with our other senior leaders in our respective divisions. For me that is Jodee Kozlak, our EVP of HR, and Paul Dominski, our VP of Organizational Effectiveness. It's always a treat to reconnect with Jodee and Paul!

Once again, I played the role of "Peter Parker" (thanks for the new nickname, Paul) and was the "unofficial official" photographer of the week's events. I've really enjoyed my new camera this year (a Nikon D40 I purchased specially for this trip... and from Target, no less!) and my photography has really taken off. I've been putting together online photo albums and galleries, many of which have been featured on this blog, and I'm even getting offers to sell my work. It's pretty cool! It's not difficult to find things to "snap" in India--there's a photo shoot around every corner. Amazing events and people just waiting to be noticed. Be sure to stay tuned over the next week when I will feature my newest gallery, "Children of India"--a special selection of photos I've taken of children over the past six months.

Now that most of the executive team has gone, we return to business as usual--or is it? There's always something new to experience at Target, and Target India adds another colorful dimension alltogether! What an amazing opportunity to experience the world this year. I am so grateful to Target for allowing me to take advantage of this experience. When opportunity knocks, don't just open the door--invite it in, call the neighbors, and make a party of it!


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Universal Energy of Kids

This past week our training team visited a local NGO (Non-Government funded Organization) named Narendra Nele--local care centers/orphanages for boys and girls here in Bangalore. Established in August 2000, these centers provide food, shelter, health supervision, and formal education to children whose former ‘"home" was the streets of Bangalore. Target teams spend time with local NGOs to connect with their children, learn about their services, and better understand how they support the community.

The site we visited this week was a center exclusively for boys between the ages of 5-13. Needless to say, the boys were delighted to see us--we had come to spend the afternoon playing games with them, show movies, and give gifts to the shelter on behalf of Target. When we first arrived, the 40+ boys were sitting neatly in rows being very attentive and quiet... but that soon changed. With our excitement of the day's events in mind and their eagerness to begin, the troops were up and running within minutes. We all looked at each other and thought, "Here we go" ...and go we did!

The day was amazing--constant stream of movement, shouts, yelling, laughing, screams, shouts, and explosive energy running everywhere. All of that energy made us all feel like 6 year-olds again! The activities of the day consisted of games like "Dog and Bone", where a "dog" from each of two teams attempts to steal the "bone" from a central spot when their number is called (a very high-spirited game involving timing, speed, and lots of encouragement from your doghouse!) - and other games. Then, after much anticipation, the big "finale"--a balloon popping contest. Have you ever tied a balloon to your leg and tried to keep other people from popping it? Total chaos--all of the boys running around trying to pop each others' balloons--just the way the boys liked it.

Finally, we all took some down time to watch Tom & Jerry cartoons (much to the relief of the Target team members!) and the day concluded with our team giving out school bags, paper and pencil kits, toys, and books on behalf of Target. Our team also donated CDs, movies, clothes, stationery, and toys to help replenish their supply--a great opportunity to not only give these gifts, but to give of our time and energy as well. We all left the center exhausted from the experience, but energized. These little souls had stirred-up some powerful energies within all of us and had reminded us of the universal energy of kids--a memorable experience, indeed.