Daniel Robert Kelly

Things from combinations of things

Into the New Year – Kerala,

Kerala - Road Trip

School’s end has come and our closest companions planned a road trip for us. We jumped into two cars and drove 844 kilometers South to reach Kalpetta. The trip took about 16 hours.

When I was first in India in 2008, my friend at the time took me on a short road trip about 9o km away from Hyderabad to a place called Bidar. After we had completed the journey, he told me, “You know, that is considered one of the most dangerous activities in India.”

“No, driving on the National Highways.”“What is, riding a motorbike?” I asked.

Driving here is an incredible endeavor. My wife, Stephanie, has been driving every day on he motorbike here a short distance to the gym. She claims that she’s acclimated. Still it is harrowing for a driver from the United States. There are rules, of course. They are just not readily apparent to our western training. I once read somewhere that in Japan, the last driver who could have avoided the accident is the person at fault. I think that this is the case here as well.  So, the first thing a driver from the States must abandon is the thing most drilled into my head- checking your blind spots. In fact, in Hyderabad at least, checking your blind spots, slowing to look for traffic, maintaining a safe distance, these behaviors can get you into an accident.

Forward attention is the most important thing. All driving  centers on avoiding what is coming, what is in front of the vehicle. This makes the most sense really, because what is in front of you is completely unpredictable. The road is a hazard itself. At any moment it can narrow, turn to gravel, or be occupied by a speed breaker or a deep pothole. What the road was like the day before is no indication of what it will be like today.  Once, on our little street in the neighborhood, a boulder about 3 feet across and 2 feet tall appeared in the middle of the street. It was conveniently located directly after the turn blinded by the 8 foot wall around the parking of the corner apartment building. It was, I believe, considered to be out of the way because it was in the center of the road. This anecdote may be a bit too personal. Instead, I offer this list of things you may need to avoid, just here, in the city limits of Hyderabad:

1. Pedestrians. We all have to cross the street. How do you cross here? Well the truth is, you just do it. People take a moment, size up the flow, and then walk out across the traffic. it is not uncommon to be driving and com upon a someone just crossing. Anywhere. Even on the flyovers, there are people walking.

2. Animals and animal powered vehicles. Not as common as they were when I was here in 2008, but still, anywhere, at anytime, you may find a cow, a dog, a pig, or a group of any of these, in front of you. I have also seen the rarer occurrence of camels, horses and monkeys.

3. Rocks. Rocks are multipurpose here. Sometimes, they have just fallen off of something. Other times, they are meant to shape the traffic of your lane. The do get hit, and they do wander. They can also be very large.

4. Holes. There are many heavy vehicles traveling on all roads in the city. This, coupled with water in the rainy season causes holes in the pavement. Generally, you just deal with them. They get filled. Or you could argue that they just move.

5. Speed bumps or trenches. Many times, these are official, and marked by signs. These type of breakers are usually placed where a highspeed stretch of road (like a flyover) meets an intersection. However, many times speed breakers are installed by nearby residents. They come in all sizes, and arrangements, from the low polite single bump, to a series of ascending ridges.

6. Other vehicles. Other vehicles stop suddenly, break down, or just can’t go up the incline you are traveling on very quickly. Sometimes, they are taking the shortest route to their destination which happens to be into oncoming traffic. Sometimes, some guy from Wisconsin is in front of you on a motorcycle refusing to close the distance between himself and traffic.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. In reality, anything can be on the road in front of you at anytime if it exists in the city in the first place. The saving grace here is that generally the speed limits and speed capabilities of vehicles themselves are low. This is why it works. A human can miss just about anything they see at 20-40kmph. At 30kmph, you only travel 6 feet before you can physically start to adjust to miss something 30 feet away. Easy. At home, at 35 mph, you’re already halfway there before your body can even begin to answer your brain’s instructions to turn. Plus, you’ve got to check your blind spot.

It is into this environment that we launched ourselves, at about 8am one morning to drive to Kerala. Dry and clear, we exited the city onto one of the newer roads, and found our way towards Wayanad. Mostly uneventful, I took a couple of turns at driving. It was nice, mostly empty divided roads, that were newly constructed. The night time riding as a passenger was a bit unnerving, as it was on two lane (ish) two way roads, and we were in a hurry to reach the entrance to the national forest on the border of Kerala and Andhra. That forest closes at 9pm. I can only say that I consoled myself that the person driving had been doing so for many years. Eventually, I just closed my eyes. We reached the park at 915pm. After about 15 minutes of begging and pleading, the gate was lifted for the sake of the children in the car.


Wayanad was worth the race of danger. Every pedestrian, animal, pothole and speedbump of it. Every close call with a truck or a bus. We found ourselves the next day waking up in a guest house situated in the middle of a coffee plantation. Of course, there was the initial adjustment moment. It turns out that Kerala is a wonderland of giant spiders.


This spider hiding behind our door was about 15 cm across. About as big as my hand. But faster, and able to walk on the ceiling.

Stephanie said to me, “Look, there’s a big spider on the curtain. It was about 2 or 3 inches across. Big? Yes. Scary? Not really. I shooed it away with something.  I went out to the car. When I came back, Steph says, “Um, that wasn’t really the big spider. Look behind the door.” There, there was this gracefully enormous wall walker. I tried the shooing technique again. Stephanie says, “Ew, I hope it doesn’t walk on the ceiling.” As if it heard her, up it went, directly over us. We got help from the guest house man, who laughed a bit at us, and then broomed it away. Kerala. Spider paradise.

Guest HouseThe guest house was very nice. Right in the middle of a coffee and coconut plantation. The day after we arrived, a pile of coffee cherries appeared on the large patio that doubles as a driveway. by the afternoon, when we come back, they are spread out flat in the sun to start the process. I found it fascinating to finally see the process inaction. Way back when, when I was a coffee roaster, I read about the way natural coffee process worked. I had always thought it was an exaggeration that the coffee would be spread out on an open area where there might be traffic to dry. Here it was though, waiting to be walked on or what have you as part of the hulling/drying process. The sun truns the newly picked cherries black right away, and stops the little bit of fermentation that was happening in the pile. The first morning I saw them break down the pile, steam rose up into the foggy air.


Each morning, since I woke up earlier than everyone, I would take a walk down to the local corner store and a coffee shop next to it. On the way, there was a little school. There would always be a group of kids on the way there, and as usual, having a camera made me very popular.

The climate in Wayanad was exactly as I imagined once I had heard that coffee and tea were grown there. Always spring time was what I had read. The morning starts with fog and children running off to school. The the fog moves out of the way for the sun. It smells good there, and the people seem nice enough. I could easily spend more time there. There is that sense that time has stopped a bit for some people. They are still out doing the same work with the same fields that have been worked the same way for a long time.

Little house in the fogThe architecture is different than other places I have seen in India. The standard is the detached house here in Wayanad, with a little yard (or with a big one.) They are quite sweet, in all the different sizes. Of course, like everywhere here, things are changing. Clearly the tourism industry is on the rise. We met several people (including the place where we stayed) who were just now embarking on a serious endeavor to draw travelers to the houses that they had.

The one thing I find interesting as a foreigner, the thing I hesitate to put out in print, is how this trip has put me once again in conversation directly with the way I have come to view certain cultures. In this case, we are in a predominantly Muslim area. The children are going everyday to a Muslim school.  I’ve never considered myself to be especially sensitized to the them vs. us set of ideas about what Muslim culture is about. I find though, during this entire trip, that I am constantly unearthing these ridiculous ideas about “these people.”

Orange lady in the fog

Of course, it is no surprise to me to find  these things buried deep inside me by my own culture. It is equally unsurprising to find a reality that instantly calls into question the singularity of such prejudice attached. I suppose on occasion I harbor similar prejudices and misconceptions about Christians at home. What surprises me is the level of fear that wells up in unsure moments. I have felt respect for other people’s spirituality at home, and worried about offending them. However, trying to pin done the difference of late, I find that I don’t have any irrational fears, large or small when it comes to Hindus, or Christians. Even now, I find a certain hesitance to write this down. It is a hesitant feeling that is different than writing about the traffic (which I fear may be insensitive, and/or reveal my traffic stupidity) or writing about my trip to a temple. I am fairly certain that it’s ok for me to write about this contemplation and that any fear of doing so is completely irrational. Yet, there it is.

Best friends

It’s similar to the other day when  I was riding in the car with my colleague, who I like to think is my friend, and we were talking about something that had to do with visiting a monument, or something like that. 

“Is there anything like that superstition for Muslims,” I asked.

He laughed, and,  sort of sharply,  said, “It is impossible to be a superstitious Muslim.”

And there it was– the irrational fear. I’ve said something terrible now, and I’m going to lose this friend out of ignorance. Now, I know this is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as losing my friend Brandon Malacara because I said something bad about the Virgen de Guadalupe. She’s tattooed on his back, but I know if I made some ignorant remark, it would not be the end. In fact, we’d probably have a good laugh. Here too, there was some genuine laughter, and a kind of wandering explanation about why “a superstitious Muslim” is a contradiction.

Best Friends

What I am getting at here is my own identification of a cultural break with reason. A place where I have painted an entire people with some sort of irrational belief, and its a belief that comes from home. It is subtle but, hey, I’m oversensitive.  It’s no different than any similar othering: the key ingredient is that certain groups of people are supposed to be feared. The truth was, I was here in this beautiful place, among clearly kind people. These children had no fear of me.

The truth is, in all of this big long rambling fear-filled blog post, none of this is very different from being at home. Only some of the terms and rules are different, and the look of the spiders. India is a diverse and wonderfully beautiful place, not unlike the country I grew up in. If only there wasn’t a handful of people there who have spent so much time convincing me that the unfamiliar was supposed to be fearsome. It is sad that there is so much profit in that activity.  I imagine that this is something else we have in common.  Happy New Year.

Kalpetta Panorama

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Semster’s End

It’s here. The end of the semester. It seems like I’ve only just arrived.

My First Year MA students have been a real joy. Everyone learned how to use Audacity. A couple of people learned to use Audition as well. In the end, two groups produced two good audio projects.

The assignment was to create a radio show pilot, partly in preparation for my next semester endeavor of using the department’s available equipment to start a New Media broadcasting network. Here one group’s pleasingly responsible, well edited show about weight maintenance:

Yes, it includes a very long song in the middle, but that is the way things are done here, so I chalk it up to something of a cultural difference. The important part was that this was very nicely recorded in our jugaad of a recording studio, and later mixed carefully by J. Mary Magdaleen quite nicely. I’m fairly proud of my students for this work, simply because, in the end, this group applied everything we had worked on all semester to a single project. Conceptualizing, scripting, performing and recording a singular work which, while not groundbreaking, certainly was responsible in tone, and entertaining in delivery.

The PaperweightA victim pastThe VillainThe ZombieIn the Second Year MA batch, things were a bit more difficult, mainly due to attendence problems interrupting the progressive flow of my plan. Ultimately a smaller group of students did manage to produce a short video that was shot well, and was an original concept. Unfortunately, with only a short time left in the semester (script to screen was about 10 days and included multiple concept starts and stops), what they produced was mainly unscripted, and short on planning. The picture looks great, and it has an interesting structure.  The story-line is about a business man, who is secretly a serial killer (or perhaps a zombie master) who recruits young women to their doom by interviewing for internships. Visually, it turns on a crystal paperweight, and the inside/outside space of the barred window of his conference room.

Technically, they mastered composition with DSLR’s, and matched two different camera’s, a 7D, modified to shoot a flat profile, and the school’s 650D on camera faithful. If anything, I think that ultimately they got something of a taste of the planning necessary to create original work, and the necessity of planning to pull of a shoot, edit, score event that is original and crew based in nature, and not a dance video set to prerecorded music. Here also, were were able to explore some more advanced lighting scenarios in a high contrast environment. The story suffered. The picture, however, is wonderfully clean, and shot manually. Fighting the automatic settings, especially for ISO was a semester long challenge.

I was mildly disappointed that the other concepts were abandoned, especially when we had them with enough time to realize one of  them fully (the first concept, which was completely achievable was conceived in September). Ultimately though, the work was done. On to next semester. Happily.


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The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
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Pune, FTII, the National Film Archive of India, and Lonavala


I’m in Pune. We took a bit of a luxury trip here. Stephanie, August, Bijoux and I boarded a midnight train in Begumpet last night and arrived this morning. By noon we were checked in to a swank hotel, very near the Film and Television Institute of India. Once we cleared the rush of transport hawkers outside Pune Junction station, things calmed down.

It was like a slow moving cinematic chase scene.

“Need a cab, sir?”
“Where are you going?”
“Where are you from?”
“Very nice taxi, very nice hotel, sir. Come, come. Come this way sir.”


Well, no. No. No. No thank you. I’m an unfortunate nicotine addict, and I’ve just spent the night in a cold room. First AC, while private, is not really worth it.

Politeness wearing thin, I explain my personal problems to one driver and asked that he give me a minute, or perhaps even a matchbox. He laughs.

“No.” He says.

“Alright,” I say and I push on towards the tunnel I can see running under the road. My escape route crystallizing, we push on. It is like passing through a magical portal. The irritation of the rail station hawking  subsides and gives way to the normality of Pune the city. We walk through the market place, and no one gives us a second look. At the exit of the magic tunnel, one shop keeper asks from behind a shop of bags, “bags, sir?” I point to my back pack and he smiles. I smile, walk up the stairs and find a pan shop where I get a matchbox. A row of auto rickshaws are on the street. We give the location of the hotel, and the driver accepts. We pile in and he just reaches over and turns on the meter. There. Done. No haggling, no trying to tell me what a great distance we must travel to the hotel. Just “where are you going” and the meter lever. What a relief.

Sometimes, I remember my time as a cab driver in Madison, Wisconsin. I imagine myself arguing every fare from the ridiculous down to the reasonable. That would have made the job so incredibly stressful. It would be like being a door to door salesman everyday– except each door would present itself to you, and open up the troubles of each house at your feet to deal with.


FTII-Actress FTII-Set Detail FTII - Set Detail IIFTII Dressing DiscussFTII, the Film and Television Institute of India is a dream school, pure and simple.

Giant studios, equipment and stock budgets, a small batch system. Total production immersion.

I spent the afternoon of the second day in Pune lurking about in Studio 2 on the set of the second year dialog shoot.

Inside the studio, students have constructed a house, a corner shop and a cane field. Coming from a strong film school, I am burning with jealousy at the possibilities available at FTII.  If there is any way to link our schools, I hope I to find it before I leave.

National Film Archive of India

Later, after I feeling like I had lurked about enough in Studio 2, I walked across the street to attempt a drop in at the National Film Archive. This proved to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined. I had to chalk it up to educational experience.

Once I managed to explain myself to the security, who thought it just hilarious that I should walk into the compound in the first place, I managed to get into the facility and meet an official. He was buried deep in his office, typing something on a computer that I could barely see behind the stacks of files. He motioned for me to sit, and completed his task.  Here, like so many people in official positions, I feel for the man. I think from his responses to my inquiries that he believed I was there to complain. I wasn’t. I was just coming to visit and find out what the archive was all about. Unfortunately, what I got was a litany of excuses for why what he thought I was there for hadn’t happened yet, a monologue about the difficulties of creating a catalog of so many films (endless hallways of film cans line the back office corridors), and then, without so much as a good day, he stood up, and my visit was over.  Which was fine. I had seen the place, heard about the films UWM was waiting to hear about (they will let us know), and come a little closer to understanding the system here.


After FTII and NFAI, it was decided that we should get out of the hotel and visit the local sights. From Pune, we hired a car and driver and set out for Lonavala. About an hour away, Lonavala is a sweet hill station where we visited a group of caves carved out of the rocky hill sides. The hills of Lonavala rise up suddenly from the plains, which each hill offering a vista of the surrounding country side. We first visited Karla Caves, a complex of Buddhist rock cut caves that date to the 2nd century BC.  Winding up the hillside, along a shop lined rock staircase, one eventually comes to a series of caverns cut into the hillside.


Anteroom InsideNot second Century BC

I’m so glad we got made the trip. Pune is a nice city. We needed a break from our sleepy little Begumpet neighborhood, now that we’ve been here long enough to consider it such.

As is almost always the case, the sights to see are fascinating, whether they be the modern life of any city in India, or the incredible history enshrined in the heritage sites. They always make me consider the depths of time, and the wonder of this brief moment that we are here. It makes it easier to forget the tiny irritations of day to day haggling. Coming from a country which has so few of these types of hand-made wonders to remind us of the expanse of time, I wind up wondering if that contributes to a narrower point-of-view, focused more and more on the brief moment I mentioned, and less on the long haul beyond us.


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The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
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Two Months – Work and No Work

The best term so far for this undertaking has been “challenge.” I think this is true of both my experience and some of the experiences that my students have. We have differing perspectives on so many things when it comes to what is academically relevant. I alternate between graciously accommodating student preconceptions and being desperately frustrated by those persistent and stubborn ideas.

Under protest, I challenged the Second Year MA batch to rethink their production process from a standpoint of pre-production, concept development and writing before they shoot. This is something I struggle with as an artist, and something I wish that I had paid more attention to in the safe, comfortable confines of school, rather than having to develop on my own as an ongoing process out in the world. The lack of attention to writing and planning process is a real hindrance to young producers, and in my opinion results in derivative, ill-conceived, and un-reflected upon work. Again, as I write this, mostly I have myself in mind. As always, I teach in order to learn.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with a teacher to student provocation, this resulted in the entire group checking out to pursue interests in their comfort zone. I lost the month to their extracurricular event planning for Mediashpere. This event was very ambitious, and while commendable in so many ways, it stripped the course of its lead personality (the organizer of the event), and all other students followed. Good bye concept development, hello extra-curricular hijacker.

This is, in fact, not a new conflict to me. I have been approached in the past by people to produce work according to their preconceptions about the way that work is produced. Indeed, my own work tends to revolve around this media promoted fantasy that what you do is pick up a camera and start shooting, and you suddenly make a movie. It just magically appears out of the camera, so all you need is someone to tell you how to operate the camera. The prosumer camera industry, of course, loves this, as does the world of reality shows, as it helps provide them with an endless stream of consumers for their gear, and their productions. I have fallen for it, time and again, and I know that many more will follow me. It is the curse of privilege that when met with a test, the familiar course of action wins out, in order to maintain one’s preconceptions. Hence the never ending river of derivative work; lathered with stolen piano, or otherwise cinematic, soundtracks; desperately striving to be scary, or sad, or funny; shot on cameras with immense potential churning out grainy yellow footage with booming audio that all of your friends love to tell you that they love. They are not lying. They are your friends, and they love you. However, everyone I know who finds success and makes work worth making, spends an incredible amount of time and energy planning and organizing the work. They are not looking for friendly likes. They are looking to be proud of what they have made.

So I waited. I focused on the first year students who are busily learning to record and edit audio. I watched my own small part of a giant work unfold in Alaska at the Anchorage Museum. Then I attended their event. Just like that, September was gone.

Hopefully, October will redeem us all as the semester draws to a close and students return to class attendance. I can only draw the most consolation from the fact that it wasn’t just my class, it was all classes, and there are several standing apologies, waiting to be backed up by performance.


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The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
If you'd like something official, try this.

One Month – Restrictions and Adaptations

RestrictionsAuto Driver

With the Second Year MA class, I’ve been working through an adaptation of some of Bruce Charlesworth’s coursework. I originally adapted this with his permission into an editing course for my Fulbright proposal. Upon my arrival, I met with some unexpected limitations in technology and equipment availability, as well as a very different academic structure. I reorganized quickly, and merged the photography course-work with the editing outline, and began a program of restriction guided assignments.


The first of these directives was to ask that students take pictures that fit two

Penance? Photo Credit: Naseem

criteria. One, that they compose using some sort of geometric guide (rule of thirds, Golden Ratio Grid, Golden Triangle/Spiral, etc.). Two, that there had to be some implication of action pending, past, or taking place.  This was a very loose guide, and it was my first directive, so I wasn’t very strict. I think I was not necessarily making my requests understood well. As I had only been at St. Francis for a week, and I was trying to get reorganized, I wanted to assign something to give me an idea of the current skill-set of my students, their motivations and give myself some time to rebuild a curriculum.

It resulted in some interesting photos. The majority of these were shot around a campus construction site. Through this assignment I learned that we had some basic digital photo-editing to work through, as well as some information to give about basic exposure/f-stop/depth-of-field/ISO mechanics and their inter-relationships.  Experience controlling the cameras was a bit limited, even though it seems like there was a lot of shooting going on before I arrived. On the other hand, This could also be a language barrier issue. As a group, we seem to be working through it though.

The Event

The Brother - Photo: Khansa

After those photos were submitted, I had completed the restructuring and assigned the rest of the semester based around activities adapted from this directive labeled as The Extraordinary Event. Beginning with that, students were asked to come up with some significant life events. These were shared in class. Then students were instructed to choose one event and shoot a set of staged photos based on that event. I asked that they be color matched, and that the style of the photos lent something to the overall narrative arc of the set. In this way the assignment covered some elementary production design, casting, directing, and color correction.

This resulted in two really lovely sets. One told the story of a brother who came along with fireworks one day to cheer up his sister. The other outlined a coach and his relationship with his young pupil at the pool. Both of these were cast, shot and edited with extreme care, and such seriousness. they both contained great performances, especially considering that they were done with children. It is very encouraging work, and the core of students now producing work has really solidified. I find this amazing in just a couple of weeks worth of work, but, then again, these are Master’s level students in their last year.


The Extraordinary Event

That brings us to this current moment. Out of the photo-narratives given, as a group the class was asked to choose one that we felt was possible to produce as a short video narrative. The pool-side story was the most popular setting. I won’t hide the fact that I was a fan of this direction. The pool offers so much visually. The story seed also contains so many possibilities for recognizable characters. Plus, the water motif is as loaded as it is versatile.

For the rest of the semester, I’ve shifted the emphasis to group work and focused heavily of loading the front end of the project with writing exercises from a script workbook. I brought the workbook with me as a tool for focusing writing and I’m glad that I did. It is immediately turning out to be a good way to solve a problem that came up in several discussions at UW-Milwaukee among members of the faculty as we all tried to ferret out how to coax students into making narratives instead of situations. I chose this set of tools to try and shift the focus from immediate and occasionally haphazard, production towards a more considered approach to the writing and planning before shooting.

So Far So Good

Again, I come back to this word, challenge. It’s a challenge to be here for certain.

The Jump

There are so many restrictions, technologically, linguistically, and even chronologically. Students here do not always have the kind of access to equipment I am accustomed to at home, so it is sometimes hard for me to judge how far to push in terms of work-load demands. I keep adapting assignments to be in line with the available technology. This ultimately feels good to me, although at some point, and this is probably that point, I have to solidify the curriculum in order to create an end goal for students to shoot form. I think I’ve done that here. My students all work very hard, and now have a clear road-map to refer to.


My home life seems to have stabilized enough for people to fall into routines that make sense. I feel like I just passed my Fulbright Fellowship Mid-term examinations! Whew. I think I’ll go somewhere next week.





This is not an official US Dept of State website. 
The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
If you'd like something official, try this.

A Mefloquine Diary – Plus Audio!

St. Francis College Dream

It’s tough to separate the possible side-effects of Mefloquine anti-malarial prophylaxis- paranoia, irritability, vivid dreams- from the stresses of a language barrier, a  new position, and culture shock.

This experience is a wonderful challenge. On the one hand, at the college, I am surrounded by the most intense set of multi-lingual, scholarly colleagues, who never cease to be incredibly hospitable. I find myself thinking that I don’t deserve any of it.

I’ve been working hard to develop an entry-level audio practical workshop for the MA First Year post-graduates here at St. Francis. For St Francis and Audacitythose of you considering teaching in India, do yourself a favor and load your language software on to the computer you will have immediately available. I have Hindi, Urdu and Telegu in the hard drives that are sitting, waiting for me to unpack and mount to a desktop computer. A little language would go a long way. Certainly, English is the language of instruction here, and that is fine as long as you are a student. On the other hand, managing 20-plus 20-plus-year-olds in a new subject, with new tools, is an amazing challenge, by itself. Had I still the barest of language skills, I would likely feel and function much better. Did I already mention the Mefloquine regime?

I’ve started a mental routine of denying all sources of irritation and replacing it with appreciation. It seems to be working. After all, many of my students have become very interested in a class which at first seemed to be a distraction from the visual media they were very hot to produce. It’s my request that St Francis and Audacitythey begin with some simple audio editing. As we progress through this record, edit, combine structure that’s emerging out of limited equipment, they are all taking to it.

As a class, students split into 4 groups, each debating and then proposing an issue on which to record monologues. Each group then proposed a topic to the class, which was put to a vote. The topics that arose were: Sports Not Usually Highlighted, a response to the dominance of Cricket in the media here; The Indian Railway System, which is agreeably amazing; Beliefs, which I think, for many westerners, is a far more diverse topic in India generally, and in Hyderabad in particular, than most people from the west realize; and Sexual Harassment and Rape, which is probably one of the more widely known topics currently. The vote swung towards the final topic, aided somewhat  I think by the large siphon vote for Cricket, which was never proposed as a topic.

As of today, everyone who is regularly attending class has recorded a short, self-scripted monologue about their personal opinions regarding the issue. For guidance I have asked that they approach it from the first person as much as possible. This has proven a bit difficult. Most of these students are aspiring journalists and, as such, tend more towards a print style of argument construction. They like to speak to distant events, not personal events, and they hold the topic at a bit of a safe, third person distance. My request was that they break their reporting down into sets of personal anecdotes and/or to use an active first person voice.

The work-flow begins in the recording booth, and is transferred to editing stations. Currently the more advanced students are clubbing (combining) their edits together in sets of mash-ups, to further break down the monologues into more abstract combinations of voices around the topics. This allows for some real editing practice, as well as providing a base for the next layer of abstraction. It also allows for a lot of practical application of the editing tools while dealing with limits on computing platforms and recording equipment resources.

Overall, I feel like the process has been extremely generative, especially in terms of some intensive hands on skill building. Once we have sifted out some interesting edits, the next stage will be to build up  some supporting soundscapes around these monologues and use them as a guide for adding visual imagery.

Early in the process, I had originally thought that we would embed these voices into a more informative website for presentation. This was mainly my response to the desire of the class to provide informational, journalistic content. As I tease out the personal voices present though, this seems to be giving way to a real interest in the creative process of combining individually produced material.

It helps to stay positive. Now that the relocation stresses are beginning to take their proper place in the background (our lease is signed, we have utilities, and the children start school on Monday), it will be very nice to settle in to creating some work. It’s actually nice, in a way, to be able to blame the anti-malarial for things that may be irritating, tiring, or otherwise frightening or difficult- it makes irritation, fear and difficulty easier to dismiss. I’m certainly not endorsing this prophylaxis regime. I’ve seen some pretty bizarre things in my dreams. Somethings, the day after the weekly dose seems just a little edgy.

Until next time.



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The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
If you'd like something official, try this.

One week -And we are here…


Hot and grey.

We have some to rest now. Yesterday we moved into our flat in Begumpet, Hyderabad. The view from Dehli was hot and cloudy. So our arrival in Hyderabad was pleasantly surprising. The rain was cool, and the breezes come an go, keeping us fairly comfortable. Hyderabad turns out to be as welcoming on my return as I had hoped.

The Nitty Gritty


Our flat was a bit of a chore. The support provided by a Fulbright Fellowship is substantial. In fact, any trouble we’ve had finding a place to move into has come from my insistence on keeping within a budget that allows us to exceed the 6 month time frame of the grant stay. We want to use up our visa’s, and I hope to add some personal work on the back end of our stay. As it stands, we are still living a very expensive life here relatively speaking. We are also spoiling these two children with rooms of their own. It is a bit ridiculous really, but in the end I think their separate rooms are more for Stephanie and me, than for them. One less contentious issue between two 12-year-olds is one less reason to consider ways to send them home.

The chore comes from trying to  find a place inside of my budget (₹26,000 total, Rent, Utilities, Technology). The first offer was from the United States India Educational Foundation itself, who is funding our trip. The flat they told me about while in Delhi was about to be vacated by another Fulbright recipient: ₹40,000 rent. This flat was in a district named Jubilee Hills, which is popular with the ex-pat community, and wealthy Hyderabad residents.  I did not get the details, as this is a fair distance from my post at St. Francis, and the rent alone is beyond my plans. There were moments in the last week where I considered abandoning my budget guidelines for expediency. Luckily, once I was at St. Francis, everyone around me was on board with the budget, the distance, and our requirements. Today, I am happy that we stayed the course.


On the day that I arrived in Begumpet, and went to St. Francis to meet everyone, I was clear about wanting to stay in the neighborhood of the school. The sisters and my colleagues at the college immediately answered that this would be very difficult, and that the neighborhood was quite expensive. As I mentioned before, we hope to make this budget last beyond the terms of the grant, and have been given permission to do so. However, the relative generosity of a Fulbright Fellowship has come into stark relief now that we are deep into the process. For some of my peers from the United States, a Fulbright is a financial sacrifice, I am certain. For me, it has been quite a windfall. In relative terms, as a non-tenured lecturer from a fine arts department, I am actually much closer to my Indian colleagues in terms of the cost of living we exercise at home. I’m not sure I have an opinion formed about this just yet. I am only full of observations at this point.

Truth be told, had I not come to Hyderabad in 2008 and made some connections, I doubt I could have even entertained the budget I’m attempting now with a family in tow. I can only gush on and on about how lucky I am to be here right now, and know the people I know here.


This is how you get three beds delivered for under Rs. 3100.

My friend KG, who has become Deputy Editor for a local culture magazine, Channel 6, has been the pillar of our visit so far.

Without him, our flat would still be a question, and tonight I would be sleeping on the floor for the second night in a row as we waited for beds to be delivered. KG is the master of Hyderabad. He’s got a no nonsense approach to most everything, which is likely the reason we have stayed in touch for these past 5 years. He knows where all the food is, and how to get things done on the fly. A ride on the back of his motorbike down Ameerpet road, and there- everyone has a place to sleep tonight!

This is the Hyderabad that I remember best. Everything begins with a motorbike ride, and ends with some food and a place to sleep.

Romance aside, what I think I’m saying here is that support systems matter. It’s this wonderful outpouring of support for a week that has made any of this possible. From Pranay’s assistance with phones (you must have a mobile) and  KG’s assistance with everything else, to the new connections with my peers and students at St. Francis and the people of USIEF, the support has been priceless. Certainly, the grant would be enough to just drop us off here and we could make it. Right now though, I already feel like I’m living here again. I am grateful for friends, old and new. And, yes, many of the things that we undertake are on the expensive side. This occurs due to expedience, and also to the fact that we pay a certain premium because of the assumptions attached to us on sight. I can’t claim that these assumptions are inaccurate when it comes to money. We are most often willing to pay more for things, especially this early in a trip.  On the other hand, we don’t have any trouble with eating the food, nor are we looking for the nearest church.

What a week. Time to go to sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll be watching Sanjay Kak present his new documentary, Red Ant Dream, at St. Francis College. I’m excited for this, as I have wondered about the Maoists ever since the first time I came to Hyderabad, and happened to be in the police station while 3 Maoists were brought in under arrest.

Now that the first week is over, the next task is language re-acquisition. Also, I need to come up with some posts that do not ramble.

This is not an official US Dept of State website. 
The opinions and ideas expressed here are those of the author only. 
If you'd like something official, try this.

The First Day

Daniel Robert Kelly - photo

Where did I leave that? How did I get up here?

Today I started teaching at St. Francis College for Women, in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. So far my return to Hyderabad has been very nice. The friends I’ve kept in touch with have been kind and helpful.

I’m excited to be here. The sound-scape is amazing and, as I remembered, the palette of India is a non-stop parade of color and light.

The rain has been a bit of a surprise. While it was a pleasant relief for us compared to the heat on our arrival in New Delhi, I imagine that my Hyderabadi friends have had just about enough of the grey and wet days that are the monsoon. As I write this, the near constant drizzle that has been here since our arrival has turned into a real downpour. Given that a major mode of transport for most is a motorbike, I can see how after a couple of months, this might be a bit of a drag. Already two friends and a real estate agent have decided that the rain was enough to cancel meetings.

I had felt that I was familiar with this city from my last trip. It felt as if I had been all over the place here, and that I would be returning to something at least vaguely familiar. However, I am seeing how that feeling is more a product of pleasant memory than an accounting of actuality. I have barely scratched the surface of this sprawling small city of India (ok, it’s the 4th largest, 6.8 million, says Wikipedia). What’s more, everything I thought I knew has been replaced or added to with something bigger. There are moments of recognition, of course. Mostly they are from the video I shot while I was here last. Overall though, Hyderabad is an exploding city in an emergent economy, and I am a tiny, early career Fulbright Fellow, at a Catholic Women’s College, 8166.57 miles from home. Again. I need a motorbike. I need to regain and immediately add to the paltry language skills I had before I left last time.

I am encouraged by my peers at St. Francis, and by the students there. There is a strange synchronicity at work, although I don’t yet want to call it out. I am also encouraged by my students as well. Hopefully that encouragement will carry me through my current culture shock. I am once again struck by the differences in the approach to space and time- two things one would think are universal in human experience, and yet can be so different across the two cultures. Hyderabad, mapped by Google, with reviews pinned to various locations and GPS coordinates, is not a Cartesian coordinate society. Official position here is always relative to oneself, or a known landmark. That is how navigation is both accomplished and related. “Beside Lifestyle Building Lane,” or “near nectar gardens,” are real addresses, real coordinates, in the Hyderabadi system. As before, after 6 means 8:30, or perhaps not at all, although lately I’ve been surprised by a couple moments of extreme punctuality or even early arrivals. Change, of course, is the only constant; albeit in the case of Hyderabad, this trip, and myself in India, change might better be described as an exponent.


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Just Over Two Weeks Until…

I’ve been miraculously selected as a Fulbright-Nehru visiting scholar. I leave on the 15th of July. I don’t even know how to begin to talk about this right now, so I’ll just say stay tuned because my last trip to Hyderabad was very productive.


Carry On

Thinking I should run for president again. Here’s my campaign headquarters first video.


Here’s 2008, I think I’m making progress: