Published: Mining giant bills itself as eco-friendly?

My reporting from Madagascar last fall has finally been published. picked up the story of the Rio Tinto mine that claims to be environmentally friendly.

The company has laid out an ambitious — some say impossible — environmental agenda in exchange for the rights to mine strips of coastal land for titanium

The Web site ran one of my photos as well. You can also see my entire gallery here.

Critics of the mine say its attempts at conservation and community development are little more than window dressing to procure mining rights. Indeed, the mine does have a lot of work yet to do, but it does have some NGOs on its side; time will tell, I suppose.

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Tea, glorious tea!

On a day off from school, I visited Namchi, a small city in Sikkim where I had some business. The trip gave me an afternoon out in the beautiful hills of fine Sikkimese tea.

Of course, I didn’t actually get to drink any of the tea as it was being freshly picked. But it’s still a wonderful place to while a few hours.

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Fruit, glorious fruit!

Anurag gets messy

Once or twice a week, we get fruit. The kids love it and it surely helps their diet. Watermelon is a favorite and relatively cheap. Something like Rs. 15 per kilogram.

The kids also routinely break into a song about fruit sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”

The first stanza: “Watermelon, watermelon / Papaya, papaya / Orange, apple, mango; orange, apple, mango / Fruits they are; fruits they are.”

More fruity pictures below:

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DDR Sikkim

I want to dance, dance, dance 'til the sun don't shine...

I don’t actually know the lyrics, but when the kids hear the song, it’s like a dance party on crack.

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A peaceful breeze

Look to the heavens

A bit of blue sky and a light breeze: a pleasant Sikkim afternoon.

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Someone needs a hug

Sittal (center) and Sushila

Sittal (center) getting some love from Sushila

I’m routinely impressed with the resilience of my students. Few cry. I’d be generalizing, but I can’t say I see their general outgoing spirit in American children of the same ages.

Sometimes, however, they do get a little grumpy. Sittal, a five-year-old who loves it when I pick him up over my head, just needed a pick-me-up.

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Not exactly paint by numbers

My buddy Phurba

Sundays are a day off, which usually means we drum up arts and crafts projects for the boarding school children to stave off boredom.

This particular day, we’re painting our own Buddhist prayer flags. See below.

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Dog day portrait

Fuzzy, cute, smelly, dirty, little guy

Bhasha portraiture continues.

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Still have a few (million) newspaper readers over here…

Read, please!

India is a few years behind the digital revolution that has crippled U.S. newspapers. The paper is still one of the primary news sources for millions of people too poor and/or not savvy enough to use the Internet. Even TVs remain rare.

That will change inevitably, especially considering the boom in mobile technology here. Too, India’s literacy rates — particularly in the rural sector where most of the country still lives — favor a future involving more multimedia forms of news like streaming audio and cell phone news packages.

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Often, the place smells like feet

Lots of little feet

Shoes in the hall.

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