Friday, May 31, 2013

Classical Music

Varanasi is an incredible place and there is so much to explore. We've done so much the past two days and there's still so much to come. One of the highlights for me though was listening to four men play classical Hindi music. To say that they were amazing would be an understatement. These men played with such passion and enjoyment. It was so obvious that they love what they do. We all sat on the floor with them and listened to their beautiful art. It doesn't matter where you are from or what language you speak to enjoy music. Music definitely brings people together.
Today we had the opportunity to take lessons from the musicians. I, along with five others, took Tabla lessons which is similar to drums. I knew going into it that it wouldn't be easy but I was not expecting it to be as hard as it was. Our instructer played with such ease but the rest of us struggled. We had a break for Chai which I regrettably have not tasted before. I'm not much of a tea drinker but this was amazing. I'm going to start ordering it all the time in restuarants. I really loved how we could all just sit around with people we only met the night before but still have such a great time. The men were all so nice and welcoming. After Chai, we went back to our lesson and I embarrassed myself some more with my terrible musical skills. Even though I wasn't very good, it was so fun to try to learn the instrument and have that interaction with local people.
 It's hard to describe what it feels like to be sitting inside an Indian music shop, taking lessons from a pro. Every moment of this trip has seemed so unreal and magical. I can't believe that we've already been in India for over a weel. Time is flying and I want every minute to last so much longer!

Varanasi Market place and Bargining

Varanasi is by far my favorite city we have visited in India. The whole town just gives me great vibes. The market place is awesome. It's cool because it looks like a small alley and really it goes so far back and branches off into little smaller shops and markets. I have a problem with spending all my rupees, im a shopaholic in India I just love all of their clothes. I feel like the clothes they sell in India are more my style than the American style of clothes. I want to buy ALL of the clothes and take them back for my closet, but I have to remember I have to eat too LOL. Another thing I enjoy about the market is bargining, I thought I would be horrible at this, but after one or two days practice I nailed it. The sellers will start super high because you are a tourist and they know you have money and you want to bring back goodies from India. The key to bargining is acting like you dont care about the clothes, even if you love them. When you offer your first price make it was lower than what you will actually pay, then meet them in the middle....or lower than the middle.

Me: I will give you 100 rupees for these pants.
Seller: No mam, you kill me now..Ill do 900
Me: Okay well see ya later, have a nice day
Seller: Mam no, come back Ill do 500, just for you, you only
Me: No im sorry, ill keep looking in other stores
Seller: How much will you pay
Me: 220 and no more
Seller: Okay Okay you have for 220 rupees

BAM! new pair of pants for like 4.50$
remember that 54 rupees equals ONE US DOLLAR


Random Thoughts

So since we have been in India my mind cannot stop from wondering in all directions. I ponder many things but especially when I lay my head to rest on my pillow at night. As an American you do not see the things you see in India. I remember my first car ride back to our hotel after we landed in Delhi. The cars were blowing the horn everytime another vehicle got close to them, they also would flash their bright lights; in America that would be seen as a rude gesture for driving. The driver did not have a lane to drive in, he was just going back and forth dodging other cars that were also driving like mad men. This seemed crazy to me, but to them it was normal to drive this way. As we arrived at our hotel in Delhi I remember seeing people laying on the streets with barely no clothes on. I have never seen this before. The filthy streets of Delhi were these human beings bed. My heart broke for the people who were out on the hard, dirty ground. Another thing I couldnt stand to see was their innocent children wrapped in their arms also sleeping on the ground...CAN YOU SAY CULTURE SHOCK? Being in India has also made me so greatful for things I didnt even notice back home. I am truly, truly thankful for: a bed, a toilet, toilet paper, air conditioning, shade, a car, free internet/wifi, clothes for my body, shampoo/soap, shoes, hand sanitizer, clean water, fresh food, my families love and affection, money, opportunities for work and school, guidance, good health, insurance, police that actually do their job, knowledge/wisdom, media, politics, democracy, and most importantly my very own precious life. I feel this trip turning me from a teenager to a woman. I am greatful for this experiance and all of the people that get to share it with me! 

Another one of those other ones

Greetings from Varanassi! If you dont know about this place then I feel bad for you son. In the last four days we have been to Pushkgar, Jaipur, and Agra. I have nothing truly pleasant to say about Agra besides the Taj Mahal and Agra fort so I'll keep those opinions to myself. But everywhere else had been nothing short of a blessing. Pushkgar was beyond words. It's a small mountain town and the only place where one can worship Brahma. Brahma is the Hindu god that creates life after Shiva has danced the world into destruction. We were very lucky to be here on the full moon because this sacred town has a festival during the day where you try and generate as much good karma as possible. We made friends with a Canadian traveler named Kirk (who I kept calling captain Kirk), who then had the wonderful misfortune of dealing me with for a whole evening while we walked around the small streets of Pushkgar. We participated in their tradition to have a blessing and prayer at the lake by a brahman priest since Pushkagr is considered a scared holy city. Pushkgar has an extremely special place in my heart because I finally felt comfortable enough to go out and talk to the merchants. I had one unique conversation with a brahman who taught me about the chakras and the caste system, along with many other topics that I choose not to go into detail.
Now onto the wonders of Varanassi. This city is the only city I would be completely content with living in. And coming from me, that's saying quite a lot. Not only is it placed on the holy ganga river but even the graffiti has a sense of spirituality. There's one graffiti that teaches you the laugh mantra which makes me have a giggle fit every time I do it. but that also could be due to the fact that I laugh at everything. Either way, it's amazing. There a burning ghats, which is where peoples bodies are cremated along the river. Seeing a burning body is something I chose not to describe but it definitely makes one reflect on how finite our existence really is.
I've had some many personal discoveries while in India. An example being that as long as I dance in the street with my headphones in, I don't notice all the merchants trying to hustle me into their shop to buy their "one of a kind goods that I wont see anywhere else". I've also learned that monkeys, dogs, and cows are the squirrels of India. You find one down every corner, some in narrow alleyways that you cant even fit through. The poverty here is unspeakable. It's extremely hard to express my feelings about India in just a blog, and I don't know if I could even express them in person. But all I know is that this trip has been everything that I've wanted it to be and so much more. The good and the bad and the ugly have been life changing and I only hope it continues.

Lindsay Pugh

Thursday, May 30, 2013

    We have only been in India for a little over a week and have already visited five cities! Arriving in Delhi was a little bit of a shock but so exciting. My favorite part of Delhi was Gandhi's memorial. It was so interesting. It was amazing to be in the same place Gandhi lived the last years of his life. The memorial even had his foot prints leading from his room to the spot he was assassinated. I was able to learn so much more about Gandhi through this memorial. After Delhi we visited Pushkar. So far Pushkar has been my favorite city. The hotel we stayed in was beautiful! The lobby in the center of the hotel was like a jungle. The inside was completely open with vines and trees growing through each flour. Birds would fly in and bathe in the fountain. While we were in Pushkar it was Saka Dawa which is a very important religious holiday. Because of this holiday there were many people filling the streets and temples. It was so exciting! While walking around the lake, a man stopped Kaitlyn, Sidney, and I and told us to come with him to throw flowers in the lake. He performed a blessing and prayer with us. He told me I would get a good boyfriend in three months, have a happy marriage, and three children but only if I promised to the gods I would return to India in 11 years with my happy family. He also made us promise to give to charity one time in our lives....then he asked for money.
   On our last day in Pushkar we woke up really early to ride camels at 5am! But it was so worth it! We rode camels through the desert and watched the sunset! It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. After Pushkar we traveled to Jaipur and visited the City Palace. After Jaipur we went to Agra. My favorite thing in Agra was the Taj Mahal. When we walked up to it, it didn't even look real! The pictures look like we were cropped into them! We left Agra on a night train and came to Varanasi. It is so pretty here. The river is right outside of our hotel. Today we even watched a cremation on the river. It was a little weird to watch but still very interesting. It has been a crazy week but so much fun! I love everything we have done so far and can't wait to experience even more! 


Oh, the places you will go!

Hey guys!

Since I last wrote, we left Pushkar and went to Jaipur and Agra. We just arrived in Varanasi. I have been having a blast and the food is amazing here! I have had a surprisingly easy time finding internet although to be honest, I enjoy being away from the internet world. Sorry if I haven't been keeping everyone updated enough!

We only stayed in Jaipur for a day where we visited the City Palace. Out tour guide was great and showed us all the cool museums. I wish I was more familiar with the history of Jaipur because it would have been easier to keep up with the guide since he was showing us portraits and clothes worn by the past kings. A cool fact I learned is that there is a current King of Jaipur who is only 15 years old. That is crazy! Good news is that he has no political power. He still lives in a section of the palace which we were not allowed to enter. Our guide took us through a garments museum, a weapons museum, an art gallery, and shops that sold  Pashmina and all sorts of objects. One of my favorite experiences was when I was allowed to watch an artist paint using a single haired brush. The hair is from a squirrel's tail. The artwork was beautiful and even used real gold for certain ones. Another cool thing I saw was the pants that belonged to a king of Jaipur from the 18th century. He was so huge! The pants were four feet wide. To accentuate the size of his pants, the museum hung a ruler beside it. After we thoroughly explored the City Palace, we joined some young men in a courtyard for a game of cricket. When I say we, I of course mean only Josh and Frank. They did not want to play with girls and the other boys were not interested in cricket. I was disappointed as I really wanted to learn how to play.

The city of Agra contained some of my favorite monuments although it was one of my least favorite cities. In Agra, we visited the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. Both places are tied together by the same generation of kings. Agra Fort was built by the grandfather of the king who built the Taj Mahal. Our guides at both locations were phenomenal and I learned a lot of the history of the ruling family during that time period. The Taj Mahal was one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. From far away it looked like it was built from lace and seemed so fragile. The Agra Fort contained many palaces and was built over four generations of kings. Our guide at the fort was so cute and knowledgeable and called all of our his "sons" and "daughters". He was definitely my favorite guide so far and even showed us some cool optical illusions.

I have been having some great experiences and have seen some amazing sights. The group I am traveling with is full of exceptional people who are constantly looking out for each other. I am really excited for what is to come. My next post will be about my time in Varanasi.

Much love,

Incredible India!

Greetings from India!

This journey has been so incredibly amazing so far! The group I am traveling with is so fun and positive it has made the trip so great.  Today after walking in the scorching heat and shopping through the markets, a few of us decided to go get some AC at one of the restaurants. We ended up sitting there for over 2 hours and drinking three pots of tea, three baskets of nan, and ice cream. It was so nice to step away from the hustle and bustle and relax and enjoy each others company.

A couple days ago we experienced our first Indian night train and well it was just that, an experience.  We all managed to sleep soundly through the night and all agreed it could have been WAY worse. 

My favorite experiences have been in Pushkar, it was smaller than most areas we have visited so far.  It was nice know your way around and be able to see familiar faces on the streets.  The last morning in Pushkar half of us decided to go on a sunrise camel ride through the desert.  It was so awesome!  Everyone's camels all had very Indian names except mine, they had told me mines name was Jimmy, he was also almost double the size of the rest of the camels. We rode all the way out to literally the middle of desert and were surrounded by sand dunes and a chain of mountains. After an hour of riding we all sat down and took a little break (mainly a break for the camels). During this break the sun also had just started to rise.  While we were sitting there these two men came over a sand dune, we have no idea where they came from. They then sat down and started playing excruciatingly out of tune music.  After they had sat down the look on Frank's face was priceless, he had thought the two men were holding guns and had already started making a plan in his head. It was hilarious!  This was just one of the many awesome experiences we have had during our adventure. I can't wait to experience more of such a different culture and interact so closely with many of the people!

Miss you all!
     Four days ago marked our first whole week in India!  Amazing we had already been to three cities.  That morning we all got up and caught the bus at 6am to leave Jaipur and head to our next stop Agra.  We stopped around at 9 for a nutritious breakfast in the middle of no where.

     On the way to Agra we drove through the pink city and stopped to see a palace and tomb temple in the abandon city.

     The palace was made for one of the three queens.  Each had a different religion and inside the palace you can see the different designs and architecture of many different religions mixed together.  The king believe that all religions were equal and there is one God.

     Inside we were shown around by a very knowledgeable tour guide.  The palace was made for one of the three wives of the king, each was a different religion.  He showed us the queen's summer and winter bed rooms.  The kings bedroom which had his 5ft tall stone bed.  There was a court yard were the people gathered to watch the ones who had done wrong be punished.  This king did not punish by hanging people, he let his elephant do the torture.  

     Next we walked over the temple where the saint had his tomb of white marble inside. In side the marbled tomb you could take a string and tie it to the screen and make a wish for good luck.

     Back on the bus we had to stop in the side of the road for some reason and got to see a talented monkey! His owner taught him how to do flips, rolls, all kinds of tricks.

     Afterwards we made it to our hotel and shown around town by one of Dr. Maher's good friend, Vicky.  We walked down to the river hoping to be there in time for the sunset, but we arrived an hours too early and the hear was unbearable.  So we split up for some shopping.  Afterwards we meet up for a wonderful roof top dinner.

     Wednesday we got up early to meet up to see the Taj Mahal before the big crowds!  It is extremely beautiful and in person.  Also a whole lot bigger than I excepted!  We had a awesome guide who knew all the awesome places to take pictures.  He also told us how the colors in the building are made by stone instead of paint and lasts way longer and is even more beautiful.  Definitely on of the worlds wonders to see in person.
  Today marks the day of only having two more weeks in India!  Crazy I do not feel like we have been here very long.  Today we are enjoy a relaxing day at Varanasi.  We have all been enjoying the markets and the fun of bartering for items.  Haley I think won with buying and spending the most about of money in the shops today.  We are all trying really hard to just buy things for our loved ones instead of ourselves.  This city is HUGE.  There is a main market in the city that twists and turn and weaves every which way.  After a while you get confused which was is "north" and which way is "south".  At one point we thought we were headed the opposite way we came in and ended up going back the way we just were.  There's lots of clothes and jewelry here, but it has really been hard to fit the goods my family requested like a envelope opener, belt, and charm. Lots of the goods here are more cheaply made compared to the United States.  I was ecstatic when a man finally told be he new where belts were sold.  But once we got to the shop he showed me a leather belt combined with a leaver fanny pack... not what I was looking for.  I would really like to buy some tea for family too.  The tea here is delicious.  The only problem I am concerned with is going through customs at the airport.


For the next few days, we will be exploring Varanasi. This place is absolutely beautiful. Our hotel room has a view of the endless Ganges River. The winding streets are filled with shops displaying the most intricately designed tapestries, scarves, and silk sarees. The ghats (or staircases leading down to the Ganges) are covered in gorgeous "graffiti" of Lord Shiva, lotus flowers, and nature-themed drawings. Everything here seems so peaceful. Although the streets are crowded and smell kinda funny, I really like it here. The food is great (and cheap!) and the people seem to genuinely care about who you are, where you're from, and what your story is. Even those who I haven't bought things from have held deeply intriguing conversations with me about my religion, Hinduism, my life in America, and my family. The whole city of Varanasi is along with Ganges River, one of the most intriguing yet polluted rivers in the world. Since I am Hindu, the Ganges has a special place in my heart. Today, we saw a cremation taking place at the Burning Ghat, a special section of town where hundreds of bodies are cremated every day. The man was wrapped in a brightly colored orange cloth with gold details. First, the men laid down a row of sandalwood, the placed the body on top. Afterwards, more wood was placed on him, then the body was sprinkled with sandalwood powder and other powders which I don't know the name of. Soon enough, the body was engulfed in flames. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, smelling, and experiencing. To me, that man was a stranger. I didn't know his name, where he was from, what he did for a living, or what his family was like. But for others, he may have been a father, a husband, or a deeply loved friend. It was scary to think that not too long ago, he was breathing, talking, and enjoying life. It was even scarier to think that at one point in my life, I'll be just that: a pile of ashes floating in the Ganges. I'll be among millions of my people. I don't know how to even put into words what I felt seeing that mans body crumble into ashes, but it did help me appreciate life. I'm usually an extremely outgoing and happy person, but this showed that at any point, my life could end. I think that my time in India, especially this cremation experience, has taught me to feel fortunate and lucky for all that I have in America. If my parents hadn't moved to America and worked as hard as they had and still do, I could have still been here living as the Indians do. Mom and Dad, thanks for everything that you do for me; I love you. Life is precious guys, embrace it, live it out to the fullest, and enjoy every moment of it, for every moment you lose, you will never get back. 

- Radhi 

Varanasi - Chelsea Cullen

Hey everyone! This is Chelsea Cullen, for some reason my blog connection won't let me post anything so I'm going off of Francesca's blog. Today was interesting and scary, at least for me. Here in Varanasi there is a Ghat called a burning ghat where hundreds of cremations happen daily. For most Americans they do not see death in this much of a close view. We were literally feet away from dead, burning, bodies. Most people don't like death to begin with but this personally freaked me out to a whole new level. I have an extreme phobia of dead bodies so this was a conquest for me. All you see is bodies brought down, mostly covered with elaborate decorations, then they are placed on a few logs then cover the rest of the body with more logs and sandalwood powder. I couldn't deal with the fact that we were inhaling death and the smell was everwhere, it was a sweet smell and was terrifying. I covered my face with a cloth but I could still feel my breathing increase from anxiety. Watching human beings burn and realizing that these were once people who felt and had families and danced and laughed just like we do who are now lifeless bodies lying on a funeral fire just scares me. I guess this is how Buddha felt when he was so sheltered then he ventured out into the city and saw death. Everywhere we were it was covered in ash from the burnings and there were millions of logs everywhere. I understand it's for loved ones who have died but something about it seems scary and evil to me. Not in anyway trying to be disrespectful it is just not something I have ever experienced. When walking back from the market with Francesca and Josie we had to walk through the funeral ghats again and this time was much worse. This time we saw an unburned dead body just floating in the water, we saw skin and the person looked like they had just died recently. We stared there and looked with amazement and I think all of us realized how sheltered we are in america. Half of me is so greatful I have the life I do and the other half is just so amazed that all of this exists outside of my safe american home. When we continued walking we saw a real human jaw bone just lying on the sidewalk, needless to saw I faced my fear today. Hopefully that is the last of the dead bodies I see but who knows. 

You Only Live Once, Maybe? YOLO!!

While visiting the Agra Fort the tour guide showed us a view of the Taj Mahal from one point and then took us to another area farther away. The Taj Mahal looked larger from the spot that was farther away. The reason this happened was because the view of  the river was not there to give the Taj farther depth appearance. This displays how perception is reality. The images that are presented before our eyes are reliant upon a variety factors. Where we are and where the object is changes its appearance. Every color that we see changes when the light placed on the object changes. If there is no light, the color of the object is black. There is no true color. Maybe this is analogous to everything present in reality.

Mental representations, superimpositions, and reification make it possible for humans to label and identify objects in the external world. They make language and communication possible which is a beneficent aspect of our existence. It's important to understand that these labels of unity and permanence are illusory (I go into more detail about this matter in a paper I wrote if you want to know more). Since I have been in India, I have seen prayer and worship to a variety of gods. If our subjective consciousness is what creates reality, then what is "real" to one person may not be "real" to another. Even if the entities constructed from ideas, beliefs, and desires are not tangible, it does not mean that they are not real. Saying that something does not exist already presupposes its existence. Are there underlying objective truths, or is everything malleable and subject to change? I have felt very uncomfortable for the past few days due to the extreme heat and no A.C., but what I consider almost unbearable discomfort would be luxury to some of the destitute people I have seen sleeping on the filthy streets. All of the gods and godesses presented in Hinduism may not be "real" to me, but are very real to others. It is all a matter of perspective.

Today I saw bodies being cremated. As I stared at the cocooned bodies, enraptured in flames I began to ponder death. The images of bodies, lifeless and stagnant, were being projected through my retinas into my mind. To me they were bodies, but just a short while ago they were breathing, smelling, seeing, and experiencing stimuli and life. These people loved, laughed, danced, cried, and now their transient moment in space and time has ceased. Their physical bodies were ceasing to exist right before my eyes. Everything is impermanent, even temporal moments can be infinitely divided. "I" am also impermanent. One day someone will percieve my lifeless body as they make preparations for the disposal of the vehicle that is carrying me through my journey of life.

The closest definition of nothing I can fathom is the time before I was conscious. If we are reverted back into this state at death, it will not be sorrowful. If this happens we will have nothing to reflect back on, worry about, or regret. This would give us true serenity and peace. I will never know what will happen in the after life until I die. All we can do is act virtuously and go with the flow, haha. :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

India, India, India

India is such an amazing place! It's crazy how something can be so beautiful and serene but at the same time be so dirty and chaotic. The streets are vibrant and full of life and energy. It seems as though no two things are the same here. All of the saris, hotel rooms, and vehicles seem to exude their own unique character. I love the intricacy and artistic features of things here. It gives me a different feel. The U.S. seems to be monotonous compared to India.

One of my favorite parts of the trip so far was the cooking class we participated in in Pushkar. The woman who taught the class was named Deepa. Deepa was extremely amicable. She had a nice, warm smile. I've found that almost all of the people here are congenial...even the ones who try to haggle you, haha. At the class we learned how to make parantha, which is bread that is filled with potatoes. It was very yummy! We also learned how to make malai kofta and gulab jamun. Gulab jamun is a sweet doughnut type treat. These were also very delicious. Deepa's father, mother, nephew, brother, and children all made appearances throughout the course. I could feel the love they felt for each other. Loving one's family is something that permeates all cultures. Humans in general have a ubiquitous necessity for one another. If one is never exposed to other people as a child they will never attain the cognitive functioning capabilites necessary for language and growth. If humans are put in solitary confinement for extended periods of time they will literally go insane. We need each other to thrive. We should respect and love the people around us because without them we wouldn't be here.

Pushkar was amazing and I already miss the beautiful people and culture I encountered there.

This morning I went to the Taj Mahal. It was breathtaking. It didn't even look real! It is definitely one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. All of the structures we have visited here have been gorgeous. The time and intricacy put into making them is incredible.

India is awesome! I'm looking forward to the future adventures that await me here.

-Francesca :)

My Favorite People

Greetings from Agra!

It has been a few days since I last wrote a blog post. I don't even know where to begin. I wish I could tell you about all of the amazing experiences I've had over the past few days. I'll save all of those stories for later. Today, I'd like to tell you about some of the people I've met while I've been here. If you know me well enough, you know that I love meeting new people and making new friends. Sometimes, it may come off as obnoxious or over enthusiastic, but I guess that is just who I am. The first few days that I was in India, I was so annoyed and easily ticked off by annoying shop owners and children that made me feel guilty enough to give them 100+ rupees. However, after getting over the constant staring, pestering, grabbing, bothering, and shouting of "madame aye Indian madame come look in my shop," I have grown to love the people here. There are five people that I want to tell you about.

The first person is Rahul. He was a ~22 year old ( I say ~22 because he doesn't really know his birth date) boy who owned my camel, Shakti. We went out into the desert at 5 am to see the sun rise, and he kept my crazy camel under control (which I am very thankful for). Shakti is known to bite a lot of her riders; fortunately, I was not one of them. I got to know Rahul very well on our 2 hour camel expedition. We had so much in common! At first, we bonded over Hindi music and Bollywood movies. Although I don't know too much about either, I knew enough to hold a steady conversation. After a while, we started talking about that any normal person would talk about: relationships and parties. This made me realize that no matter where I go, people of the same age will always be interested in the same things. Rahul told me that getting married in India was like being imprisoned; I told him that most boys in America think that way too. It was nice getting to know someone close to my age, and learning about what he likes to do for fun.

Another person that I totally fell in love with was this little boy named Vikram. He was Rahul's cousin, and was also in the camel business (it is a family business). Vikram was so cute- shouting Hindi songs, dancing into the desert, and speaking broken English slang with us. He was only 12 years old, and he taught himself English. He said he loves the language and just reads books to learn how to speak it. It was crazy to think that someone so young could do such a thing. He worked so well with the camels, and wasn't afraid to pester or punish them; he was much braver than the rest of us 18-27 year olds who were scared to ride. Vikram was so young, yet to accomplished. He was in school, working for his family, and teaching himself a foreign language so that he could get a job in America. He taught me that age doesn't have to hold one back from his or her dreams. I think this is a message that should be heard by all people.

Next is a woman named Deepa. Deepa in a cooking instructor from Pushkar. She taught us how to make aloo paratha, malai kofta, and gulab jamun. She seemed fairly young, spoke good English, and was extremely welcoming. She was such a kind-hearted women, and the food we made was delicious. When we started getting to know Deepa better, she told us about all of the jobs she has. She is a mother of two young children (one boy and one girl), a cooking instructor, does all of the household work, and designs costumes that are shipped all around the world. This woman literally does it all. Despite her multiple roles and what seemed like a very busy lifestyle, she was so happy. She didn't seem overwhelmed at all. I need to learn that from her; as you all know, I am stressed out very easily when it comes to multitasking. Deepa made me realize that I truly can live out all of my passions. Just because I want to be a doctor now doesn't mean I can't be an interior designer (my first dream job).

The fourth person (my favorite Indian) is a boy named Zoy. I met Zoy, a cute little 9 year-old boy. He was trying to sell me postcards, but I refused. Instead, I talked to him about his interests and life. Zoy was seriously the nicest person that I have ever met. He held my hand and showed me around Akbar's palace; he made sure to tell me every single time a step was coming up so I wouldn't fall; he fought off annoying shop owners when they tried to sell me things; he took photos of me in front of every beautiful place in the palace. When it was time to leave, he didn't ask me for a single dollar. He didn't try to sell me the postcards again. He simply gave me a hug, and waved goodbye. I ended up giving him some money anyways, but I appreciated how genuinely kind he was.

Finally, I'd like to tell you about my husband here in India. In Fatehpur, I got married. Yup, it happened. The boy (I am going to refer to him as "the boy" because I definitely forgot his name) started off by telling me I was beautiful, blowing a kiss, and winking at me. It was really weird. Then, he followed me around for about 30 minutes asking me to buy something from his shop. I kept refusing, and he kept insisting. When he realized it was time for our group to leave, he came up to me, asked me to marry him, gave me a beautiful silver anklet, and told me to wear it our wedding next time I come back to India. He was super creepy, but at least I got a free anklet... and a husband. I only agreed because he said he would let me ride in on an elephant.

Anyways, my time at the cafe is running out and I'm running low on rupees since nobody here carries small bills! I hope you enjoyed the post, and I'll be sure to write whenever I get a chance. I hope everyone back home is enjoying their summer.

Xoxo, Radhika

Taj Mahal

So today we woke up at 7 am and got to see the beautiful Taj Mahal.. The Taj Mahal is one of the 7 wonders of the world, this is the first one I got to experience. Once I walked into the gates and saw the Taj Mahal I couldnt believe my eyes, it was breath taking. The whole thing is made out of marble, which is insane to think about because when you see it, its huge. Its hard to wrap your mind around the idea that a man made this beautiful place for his wife. The husband started building the Taj Mahal in 1631 and took him a long 22 years to complete. At different times of the day the Taj Mahal turns different colors because of the marble and the reflection of the sun on it, which is so beautiful. The Quran is scripted all over the inside of the Taj, it is in black, which is also marble, not paint. Being there made me have some many feelings I have never felt before. It was so beautiful, and I had heard all kinds of stories about it and now it was right in front of my eyes. I just cant explain the beauty of this structure.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Adjusting to India

India has been an epic experience so far. For this blog post I would like to cover some interesting things I have learned and noticed about India thus far. 

There are hardly any stray cats in the streets. There are tons of stray dogs though, and most of them are super friendly. Also wandering the streets and goats and pigs. Almost as frequent as dogs are the cows. There are literally cows all over the streets. Often the are sleeping in the middle of the road making drivers to around them.

It's hard to describe the heat in India. Sometimes, as it was in Pushkar, the heat is completely bearable. Other times it feels like you are walking in an oven. If I ever visit India in the summer again I'm bringing cookie dough to see if it bakes.

On the trip over to Pushkar the landscape changed completely. Slowly mountains started to form around us and the land started to get drier, becoming a desert. Pushkar was a beautiful place and I hated to leave it.

It is becoming much easier to turn down the numerous beggars. I have also started to enjoy the bartering system.  You can even barter for the exchange rate for the money. India is a very cheap country as a whole with a bottle of water only costing at most about 50 cents, of which I have bought dozens. 

On the drive though Jaipur I noticed many neighborhoods that were incomplete and abandoned. For example the gateway entrance and roads will be complete but overgrown. I assume it was because of the economy or a large housing bubble but it was still eery to see.

On a religious note it is fascinating to see how other religions work. I have learned so much about Hindus, Sikhs and others by visiting these holy sites. When visiting holy sites it is interesting to follow the customs of each place and become observers. I look forward to learning more about Buddhists later in the trip. 

It feels as though we have been in India for months even though its been less than a week. I have been waking up around 5 or 6 everyday and it is nice to be able to see the sunrise over the mountains. If only it was this easy for that 8 o'clock class I have next semester. In a restaurant we ran into someone from Wilmington, my hometown, which really shows how small a world it is.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pushkar's Rhythms

An end has come to our time in Pushkar, a busy little hamlet arranged around a sacred lake that is an object of pilgrimage for faithful Hindus. We were fortunate to arrive in Pushkar in time for the full moon, as the many Rajastani villagers were gathering in the town on the auspicious occasion, turning up the volume on the streets and coloring them brilliantly. The Rajastanis are easily identifiable because the women wear the most vibrantly colored saris and adorn themselves with sparkles and gold jewelry, the latter often hanging in extravagant loops from nose to ear. The men from the villages also continue to wear traditional dress, unlike in most of the larger population centers. Long twists of cotton fabric twine around their domes creating turbans often twice the volume of their heads and long shirts hang over loose folds of thin cool cotton around their waists. The elders of both genders have craggy and well-etched faces; sun and dry winds inscribe long experience.
Pushkar, with ancient narrative connections to both the creator god Brahma and to the destroyer god Shiva, hosts a grand camel fair in the late fall when the desert heat has fallen. Tens of thousands of merchants and onlookers converge to buy and sell camels and all the goods of the region. The lunar and solar cycles are marked here, as through the ages, and it is easy to see the place as a static relic. But this is also the place in India where the Wi-Fi cloud has penetrated most thoroughly. Every hotel and tea house provides a link to the web, and the traveler has a reflexive impulse to check in on the world out there beyond Pushkar.
The sacred standing of the town draws brides and grooms to choose it as the location of their nuptials; the usual hum and vibration of the streets is often punctuated by great sonic flurries that accompany the bridal party. Assertive drummers punch out rhythms as brass players string runs of ascending notes in a studied cacophony. Gathered women in rainbows of hues accompany the bride in a measured saunter, while the younger men follow with the groom and the elders straggle at the end. As the group passes, the normal flow of foot traffic resumes.

Brahmin priests facilitate the sacred proceedings of the devout. As pilgrims approach the lake through the market, priests press flowers into their hands, and entreaties are made to approach the water’s edge where the blooms can be offered to the gods. Passing down steps, the visitors are seated as the brahmin commences the ceremony. Ritual assistants bring plates of standard offerings—coconuts, flowers, and the other necessities—as the words are intoned and the instructions dispensed. Small offerings of money are exchanged, and the spiritual connection is made and restored.

Blessings and camels

These past two days in Pushkar has been amazing. Pushkar is a beautiful place. Yesterday we had a free afternoon so some of us walked around the lake to visit a Sikh temple. On our way to the temple, Kaitlyn, Selby and I came across a man who took us down to the lake and blessed us. He led us in a prayer and put flowers in our hands. We tossed the flowers into the lake and he tied a string bracelet around our wrists. We had to pay for it so it may have been a scam but it was a really cool experience and I felt like I was really a part of the culture. Later last night we were walking around the town and went down to the lake again and watched the moon rise from behind the mountain. It was such a peaceful moment, I could've stayed there for hours.
   This morning we woke up at 4:30 and went for a camel ride in the desert. At one point the moon was ahead of us and the sun was rising behind us. I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to something so special like that. The camels were funny and we all had a lot of fun talking to the guides and learning about their lives.
   My favorite thing do far has been talking to people in the town. Everyone is so friendly and always says hello. Yesterday, there was a group of young boys walking around. They all held our hands and asked our names. It's such a simple interaction but I think it makes everyone happy.
   So much had happened in the past two days I can't even imagine all the other memories we're going to make! 

Visiting Sikh and Hindu Temples

I'm sitting on the rooftop of our hotel, enjoying the last sunrise in Pushkar before we leave.  Compared to the hectic bustling scene of Delhi, Pushkar feels like a scene out of an old timey Bollywood movie.  Our time here helped me reflect on why manmade places are able to be sacred to people and at the same time figure out why I'm so interested in going to Hindu temples.

The full day we spent in Pushkar was wonderful.  First we went to the Brahma temple.  Because it was a festival day, there were tons of worshippers there paying their respects.  We were all handed flowers to offer to Brahma and the other gods in the temple.  I couldn't believe how pushy everyone was to give their offerings.  At the temple I go to in the US, people generally become pushy after doing he Aarti and are receiving their blessing.  I guess since there were so many people visiting the temple, there was no time for people to just linger.  Then we went to the center lake of Pushkar and saw hundreds of people gathering to worship.

Afterwards a group of us went to the Sikh temple and stopped at a few Hindu temples on the way.  There was one temple which only Indians were allowed, no foreignors.  I was a little taken abackby this, but considering it was a holy day and and most of us were clearly only there to take pictures,  I can understand why we weren't allowed inside.  Another tenple we went to seemed to be empty, but after a little exploring we found the priests of the temple and he gave us a tour.  The sikh temple itself was very nice and had a beautiful view of the village.  Later that day we went to a small, but very ornate Hindu temple dedicated to Krishna and Arjun from the Mahabharata.  The priest there was kind enough to  tell us what the other Gods pictured on the walls were.

At all of these temples, I though the priests were kindly and happy to answer our questions.  At  the same time, they were always conscious of upholding their duty to maintain the integrity and holiness of these sites.

On a side note, I'm still not used to being in a place where Hindus are the majority and everyone looks like me.  I've never felt bad about being a minority in the US, but I never realized how nice it is to have a common cultural bond with people outside my family.

PS:  I typed all of this out on my phone so I sincerely apolofize for any terribe, random spelling errors

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Greetings from Pushkar the town with a ton of important temples that everyone except westerners can visit! And that's no joke, in a town of well over 500 temples only a few temples allow complete access to Westerners. Quite possibly the craziest temple was the one devoted to Brahma in which we pretty much were given a bunch of flowers and then told to march up a small hill only to get physically assaulted by a crowd of tiny old women and children trying to throw flowers at the statue. Most of you know me as the short Indian kid any ways so when I say that I was kinda proud that I was tall enough to see over people's heads, that's not an understatement.

Later on a group of us, Leela, Josey, Walker, Karina, Radhika, and I decided to go to a relatively large Sikh temple on the other side of town and on the way we stopped at another temple that was apparently devoted to Kali, who is the Hindu Goddess of empowerment. While at the temple we decided to split up and explore, Leela and I accidentally ran into the priests who were in charge of the temple and he actually took us and showed us around the temple. At the end of this tour, he then blessed us and even put some kind of ash on our forehead (at this point I just want to say a quick sorry to Jesus, I think I've celebrated Ash Wednesday a little too soon and at the wrong place, my bad, still love you though).

As a side note some one did teach me how to make Dhaal and Samosa in Pushkar, just letting everyone know right now, get ready to taste some burnt Indian food when I get back home.

P.S. Can someone please keep me updated on the NBA playoffs (all my teams are out, so anyone but the Heat), The Champions League Final (Go Dortmund), and the NBA Draft (Go Bobcats----and that's not a joke)?

Greetings from Pushkar!

The ride here was supposed to be 5 hours, but it ended up taking way longer. Honestly, I didn't mind the bus ride. It gave me a chance to spend more time with my friends. Usually, we split up and explore in small groups so we don't draw attention to ourselves. The hotel here is the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in (which means a lot because I've stayed at a lot of resorts). The sounds of birds chirping and water droplets is so soothing. As if the hotel isn't nice enough, there are fans and air conditioning. The hotel also has free wifi, which excited most of the group. I was mostly exited to FaceTime my little brother, Rohan. Ronu, if you're reading this, I miss you so much! Half of the group went to a cooking class last night; I chose to stay in and relax. Tonight, I will be learning to cook samosas and kheer. My mom would be proud. India is training me to be a good Indian wife!

This morning, we met at 9:00 and went to a temple where Brahma is worshipped. This is one of the few temples that praise this god. Today is a full moon, so it is a very auspicious day for the locals. Many people from neighboring towns traveled to Pushkar to pray to Lord Brahma. The temple was small, simple, and lightly decorated. However, seeing how much joy the prayers brought to people was so precious. I also visited three other temples here with Walker, Josie, Karina, Leela, and Josh. We walked around the entire lake that Pushkar is centered around and visited two temples that praised Lord Shiva, and one Sikh gurudwar. All of them were beautiful in their own ways. I particularly enjoyed the gurudwar because of its exterior architecture. It was white marble with lots of gold details; the dome structures added to appeal. Pushkar has 550 temples, and of the 4 that I visited, I loved them all. I hope to come back here some day.

Throughout the day, I was confronted with similar situations with beggars. Once again, my conscience didn't allow me to walk away without donating some money. I've always wanted to see a snake charmer, so when I saw a man with a snake, I was so excited. He wouldn't do anything until we paid him, so all of us gave him 5-10 rupees. However, when he noticed I was Indian (yes, he targeted me as the Indian this time), he said that it was my moral duty as a Hindu to give him at least 100 rupees on this auspicious day. I kept refusing, because I had already given him 15 rupees. Everyone grew impatient to see the snake, so I decided that I would give a little bit more. I only have 100 rupee notes, so Josh gave me 10 rupees to give to him. The man still refused and questioned my faith because I wouldn't give him money, so I ended up giving him 100 rupees. And guess what happened after that!!! Nothing. He took his snake and left. Basically, I paid him 125 rupees to stare at a snake do nothing. I should probably stop being so nice to the locals now. I was happy that people here recognized me as Indian, though!

Tomorrow at 4:45 am, I am riding a camel to the desert to see the sunrise. I can't wait! I bet the view will be breathtaking. Until then, I love and miss everyone back home. Xoxo


Welcome to Pushkar

Hello from India!

Late yesterday afternoon we arrived in Pushkar and let me just say that this place is beyond amazing. The hotel is gorgeous and the city is vibrant. It is a definite change of pace from Delhi. Don't get me wrong, Delhi was fabulous but there is something sort of magical about Pushkar to me. I could stay here forever. This morning the group ventured out into the town. Today is a holy day in both Buddhist and Hindu religions and the town was packed. We were able to see many beautiful temples and participate in some religious practices. Another notable thing about Pushkar is that the people here are so friendly. Yes, people do still stare but they want to talk to you more than anything. It has been wonderful being able to interact with everyone and really connect. Everyone loves taking our picture as well. A few people in Pushkar have wanted pictures with me (probably because I am the whitest person here even among the group). One woman even wanted to take a picture of me holding her baby. I hate that we are only in Pushkar for such a short amount of time but I can't wait to see what the next place has to offer!


Friday, May 24, 2013

In Paradise

Hi everyone!
We have left Delhi and have headed to a small mountain town that is considered sacred to Hindus. The hotel we are staying at is gorgeous, serene and relaxing, which is a great change of pace after Delhi. I like this town a lot better. Delhi was definitely an exciting experience, but I like the slow pace of the countryside.

Did I mention someone tried to pick my pocket in Delhi? I caught a kid brushing up against me a couple of times feeling around for a wallet. Thank god I caught on to it in time. My passport is safe! I was in a slight shock after that happened as I have never had anyone try to pick my pocket before. It is definitely a whole different world here. On the bright side, I had many fabulous visits in Delhi from the Baha'i Lotus temple to the spot where Ghandi was assassinated to Akshardam, a huge Hindu temple complex. If you have never seen a picture of it, I suggest you Google it. It is a huge hand-carved temple with pools and gardens surrounding it. No surface was left untouched. I have never seen such ornate carvings before in my life.

From Delhi we took a twelve hour bus ride to the small mountain town. We have spent the rest of the evening relaxing and taking a cooking class. I cannot wait for what is to come!


Ghandi Memorial

Hello from India!

Yesterday we visited the Mahatama Ghandi memorial in New Delhi.  That was one of the first things that got added to my "favorite parts of India" list.  The memorial is  set up as a walk through of GandiJi's life from his early career to the time of his assasination.  I thought the memorial did a beautiful job of capturing Gandi's teachings and philosophies.  The entire site had a feeling of peace which allowed for peronal reflection of Gandi's actions compared to my own.  I had not appreciatedhow important his influence was on religious philisophies in India as well until I read a section of an exhibit detailing this.  I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn about the importance of Ghandi on the people of India, beyond the well known knowledge of his pledge to nomviolence.

India: The Ultimate Experience (part one)

GREETINGS FROM INDIA! I can't believe I'm finally here. For months, this trip has been a huge motivation for keeping me to move forward and not look back and wonder what I should've/would've/could've done. To describe this place is borderline impossible. You see pictures and hear stories and think "yeah, I get it. I know what they're talking about". I was completely dead wrong. I've only been three days and I feel like I could  already write a novel on my experiences here. The city of Delhi is nothing short of busy. I've been nearly hit by rickshaws and attacked by metro doors for not being able to keep up with the extremely fast pace of the city. I thought I knew city life, being from the DC area, but I was clearly wrong. I'm not accustomed to hearing horns constantly and cars coming within inches of me. And though it is somewhat nerve racking, I love this place. It has an energy that cant be compared to anywhere in the states. The people here are in awe of us. Some stare with their mouths open while others ask to take pictures of us. While we're the ones who actually want to take pictures with them.
The first day here I immediately learned that US dollars go a long way in India. I've bought beautiful pants that would cost 20$ in America for 2$ here. I also learned to not laugh at random rickshaw drivers jokes or else they will follow you making declarations of love and say "I can show you the world!". Nothing can get you used to the heat in India. And though at times it's borderline miserable, it is a much needed body cleanse. I'm getting the ultimate spa treatment for free!
The people in this group are the kind of people I love to surround myself with. None of them are shallow, and I've already gotten into so many in depth conversations about the complexities of the mind and the human body. Along with discussions about the interconnected relationship between religion and science. It's nice to be surrounded by people with so many different personalities but who all have the same view about life. That it's just meant to be lived and experienced to the best of our capabilities.
In Delhi we went to many different places of importance that I'm sure you've read in my colleagues posts. But one of the places that impacted me the most was Akshardam. Walking into it I wasn't expecting to have the security check of my life or the people wanting to take thousands of photos with us, along with the beautiful complexities of the marble carvings throughout the place. What truly affected me was, while we were inside, there was a call to prayer. Franchessca and I decided to sit with them while at least 40 Hindus sat and payed homage to their gods. I was so overwhelmed by the love and devotion just flowing through the pores of all the people, that I started to cry. As silly it may seem, I had forgotten how religion can bring about such a positively euphoric vibe from people.
On the way to the next place we are staying, we drove past a village of farmers. And though through western eyes they may seem suppressed, I feel that if I were to ask them if they were content, they would say they are happy and very blessed. Although they may not have all the luxuries of western society, they are able to sustain themselves while taking care of the ones they love. For me, there's nothing more important than that.
To fully describe all the inner reflections I've undergone in India would take too long and I don't have much time on the internet. All I can say is that I love this place with all my heart and soul, and wish that all my friends and family back home could be here with me and experience the beauty of life half way across the world.

Lindsay Pugh

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Delhi Day 2

Hey Everybody!  Greetings from India!
So we have been having some really good discussions I want to share.  Yesterday for lunch we had this really good Indian food and discussed Buddhism.  Pretty much we started talking about individual or unified souls, and ended up having to breakdown the entire Self anatomy.  Whether emotions come from the brain or the heart is apparently still under debate.  Then today we have been working on solving the economic problems here, since there is so much wealth and capital but the money isn’t spread to the poorer neighborhoods at all.  It’s really hard to make sense of the poverty around us but we are working through it.  Everyone’s having some culture shock but the groups really good at talking, and at taking care of each other.
Today we went to the Baha’i Lotus Temple, the Gandhi Memorial Museum, and Akshardam.  I enjoyed everything, and Gandhi’s memorial was very inspiring.  They have the path he walked out of his home the day he was assassinated marked with the footprints along the way.  It was sort of eerie, and reminded me of Ford’s Theater in a way.  Then the rest of the memorial and museum celebrated his life in very interesting ways, it was filled with inspiring quotes.  The museum had a lot of interactive exhibits and video clips, and my only regret was that we didn’t have much time to watch them.  Also, Akshardam has a wall around it covered with elephants, so I could spend all day there too, just with that wall.  I love elephants and really hope we get to ride some.  We had to move through the sites a little quickly to fit everything in, however we will have time to visit them again when we return to Delhi if we choose.  We can either go to sites or go shopping, an easy choice for me. 
Apparently I’ve been getting ripped off, but once you do the conversion, paying an extra couple hundred rupees is only a loss of a few bucks.  Everything here is so cheap!  I’d pay even more for this stuff; it’ll be so special when we’re home.  Oh well, no more impulse buys for me, maybe.  Also you’ll be glad to know nobody’s gotten sick yet, and we are adapting to the heat more every day, so no worries there.  Spirits are high and we’re learning lots.  Thanks for following our blog, and I miss all you back in the USA!
Frank Dembowski

Delhi Day 2

Hey guys my name is Josh Thomas and though after reading my name you may be skeptical, I really am Indian. I was born in the southern state of Kerala and came to the United States with my parents when I was about 3, and my entire family, including extended ones in India are all Catholic. But enough about me, India is far more interesting.

I've come to India quite a few times with my parents, but that was just Kerala, which is absolutely nothing like Delhi. Though I'm dark enough to pass as a normal Indian, as soon as I open my mouth its pretty much a dead give away that I'm just another tourist. Today we've gone to a couple of places each just as interesting as the other. We started the day out by going to a tomb of one of the many Mughal Emperors and I quickly learned a few things 1. The Mughals liked showing of by building elaborate and ridiculously large compounds even for tombs 2. If a Mughal emperor likes you enough, even if you are just a barber, he will build a tomb that is unnecessarily large just for you. Though I feel like a stranger in my own motherland, simply by going to just one of the many sites visited today showed me how little I knew about my home country.

From the first site, we then moved to Humayun's tomb, which happens to be a world heritage site. Once again, I'm awed by not only the grandeur, but also how elaborate the construction of the tomb itself is. Humayun's tomb can be best described as a representation of heaven on Earth Humayun's wife actually built it for him and it is surrounded by many pools of water, shaded via lots of trees, and lots of green grass. It is easy to see that this was a Muslim tomb due to the large amount of domes.

We also wen to the Baha'i temple, which is by far one of the most simple buildings I have seen. In the hustle and bustle that is Delhi, this temple was a place of solitude and calmness. Though I typically have trouble praying while I'm in college or even occasionally at Church, for some reason I was actually able to open my mind and relax (Mom, hope you're happy). But seriously, regardless of your views on religion or level of piety, the Lotus Temple is truly something that one must come see and visit if in Delhi.

In my personal opinion the most important place we went to was Ghandiji's assassination site. Though I've seen his money and heard stories of his simplistic lifestyle it is a completely different experience being in the place that he lived his last days and understand the tragedy that not only befell the Indian people, but the world. It caused me to think of what Ghandiji would have thought of today's India, would he be happy with how far it has come since independence?

The entire world both knows and understands that India is a nation that is rapidly growing in industry, business, and of course the population; however, I believe that this growth can be best exemplified by the Akshardham Temple. Mere words would not due this temple beauty, the best way that I could possibly describe it would be to imagine Vatican City and its many buildings, except Hindu. Though this temple was built in the last 10 years, it is hard to imagine the sheer amount of effort and detail put into this, if nothing else, work of art. Each portion of the temple and the surrounding building were precisely measured, planned, and created with the highest attention to detail. Each carving, figurehead, and religious figure/icon was beautifully rendered. At first I found it extremely hard to believe that anyone or nation could ever create something of such beauty in today's modern age; however, here in Delhi one of the most chaotic cities in the world it has been done.

I feel like I've written way too much for a first blog post and much of it is a bit too serious in nature to my liking so I'll share some funny stories that have happened to me so far this trip. I guess I'll start with on the first day a group of friends and I started exploring the near by area and immediately a couple of guys came at us (in a good way) asking if they could show us around, and immediately they come over to me and start speaking in Hindi. I, being a little taken back, starts talking back in with an accent and in English and eventually I had two guys pretty much giving us a guided tour around our area of the town. Radhika, the person who actually speaks Hindi wasn't even looked at, not only that, the guys didn't actually believe that she was Indian. Apparently you have to be a certain shade of dark brown to be Indian, who knew? This same thing happened again at the Akshardham temple, except this time a group of young Indian guys came over to the group and asked if I was a tour guide, this time I accidentally (and I'm not kidding it was unintentional) pulled out the accent and told them I was a student from Kerala, they even went on to say that they saw me at India Gate just yesterday, a place I've never even visited.

Sorry for making it so long guys and thanks for reading!


Yesterday was the first day in India! It was so exciting to drive from the airport into the city! As soon as we got off the plane it was obvious how different and exciting India was going to be. Even though it was about four in the morning, many of us were wide awake. We decided to stay up and at 6 we decided to look around the hotel. The streets were so busy with people getting ready for their day (and staring at us). At about 11am we started our day with the whole group. We went to to the spice market. It was so busy with people trying to sell things. It was fun to see all the streets filled with tings to buy. I think everyone was very tired this day and ready for bed.
After a good night's sleep I was very excited to get started. We started out taking a bus tour that dropped us off at differnt spots in Delhi. We stopped at three different temples and the place where Ghandi spent the last times of his life. This was my favorite place we visited today. It was amazing to be in the same place Ghandi himself had been. Today was an amazing day and I can't wait to experience the rest of the trip!
Today was our second day in India but it seems like we've been here for so much longer. We've done so much these past two days it's unreal. Delhi is overwhelming but fun!
So far, my favorite experience was going to the place where Gandhi last lived and was shot. He is one of my all-time favorite people and being in a place where he actually was seemed so surreal. There were quotes of his posted throughout the grounds and they all really spoke to me. One of my favorites was "I will not like to live in this world if it is not to be one". He was such a powerful human being and I love the message he spread. As someone who does not follow a specific religion, reading his words and understanding his philosophy on the world really gave me the satisfaction that I think most people get from religion. It amazes me how much of a difference he made on the world.
We also visited multiple temples today and they were all so different but all beautiful. I love seeing how different religions are yet they also all seem so alike. It makes the world seem much smaller. All the architecture on these temples is amazing and I've taken soo many pictures already.
I am so excited to continue our journey in this country that I already love!
-Sidney Monday

Day Two

Here I am sitting in an Internet cafe writing my first blog post ever. It is so surreal that I am in India right now. It feels like I have been here for almost a week now. Before I get ahead of myself telling all of these random stories, I should start at the beginning and tell you how I got here.

At 5:30 AM, I woke up. Josie's dad then drove her and I to Rocky Mount. There, we met 10/16 students on this trip. We departed Rocky Mount at 11:50, and were supposed to arrive at 4:37. Notice how I said were? Yeah, we got there at 8:00. The train ride was backed up four hours and the bathrooms were gross. Trust me when I say to never use an Amtrak bathroom!! However, I now appreciate thoser bathrooms after having to pee in a public restroom here (PS squatting toilets suck). Anyways, the train ride was an awesome way to get to know some of my colleagues. I feel like I've known everyone for so long! I guess when you're all hot, sweaty, and ugly, there is not much room to judge one another. I like that. When we finally got to Rocky Mount, we took taxis to Dulles, rushed through security and boarded our flight. I wish I could tell you about that plane ride, but I was literally in a coma for the whole thing. I slept for all but 2 hours of the 12 hour flight. Once we arrived in Abu Dhabi, I knew that the hard part was done. Abu Dhabi's airport was absolutely breathtaking. I wish that I could explore the city itself. On the flight to Delhi, I watched Life of Pi. I am so cultured.

So that is how I got here. Although I have been to India before, this is so much different. I have never been to this area, been without my parents, or had this much freedom. When we pulled up to our hotel, I was terrified. There were barely-dressed Indian men chillin'  and sleeping on the outside of the hotel. There were stray dogs everywhere. It smelled like urine, too. That is a smell that I have become immune to now. Despite my first imprssion, our hotel is awesome! The owner is my new BFF. The first day was really lax. I didn't sleep at all the night before because I was too excited to explore. Instead of sleping (which I later regretted), a few of my friends and I went exploring. Nobody here thought I was Indian!! They all tried talking to this boy Josh, another Indian boy on this trip. I was totally offended.

Instead of telling you all about what we did (which I promise you I will do once I am home whether you want to hear about it or not), I'll tell you how India maks me feel (bsides sweaty and lik an outsider). It is so cool coming to India and seing how my family once lived. My parents once lived like these people did, and now we live such a privelged life in America. I can't even begin to fathom how they did it. The poverty here is beyond anything I have ever experienced. Yesterday, these 5 little girls came to me, begin kissing my feet, calling me "didi" or sister, and begging me to give them money for food. I was told my just about everyone to never give money to a beggar child, but I gave one of them 110 rupees anyways. BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. The whole group hates me for doing that. These girls followed us for the next hour... into the stores, into the coffee shop, and until we got on rickshaws and left! All of them felt so bad that they had to buy the girls something or give them money. As for the religious experiences I hav undergone since being here, they are so fascinating. I don't know much about my religion, Hinduism. Here, I have learned so much. I see various religions being practiced every day. I wake up to loud Hindu prayers, or rhythmic Islamic prayers from outside of the hotel. Today, I got a chance to visit the Lotus Temple, a Bahai temple here in Delhi. I didn't know that Bahai was, but the more I learn, the more I love it. You should look it up! If you know me, you'll know that it encompasses my views on God, and religion in general. Also, I went to the most breathaking Swaminarayan temple, Akshardham. It is definitely the most beautiful monument I have visited. I got to sit through a pooja (or prayer), and I have never felt so "one with my religion.' I have prayed to three Gods since I have been here, and I can't wait to learn about more.

Anyways, my time at the cafe is almost up! I hope all of my family and friends are doing well. Don't worry about me! I'm having a blast and basically want to move here already. Except being stared at all the time isn't too much fun. Everyone here thinks I am from Spain or am half white. These opinions will surely change as my skin continues to get darker by the minute. Thanks for reading, I should be writing again soon!! Xoxo

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Day In India

The train ride to DC was a mess with a 3 hour delay and the flights to Delhi were long. We arrived in Delhi early in the morning hours. Instead of sleeping some of us decided to explore. I definitely experienced culture shock, starting right out of the airport with traffic that seems to follow no rules. The street our hotel is on turned from a quiet lane to a crazy marketplace with tons of street vendors. Wasting no time we shopped at several other marketplaces in Delhi, rode a Rickshaw, the Metro Subway, and bartered our way to buying things. Jet lag is definitely starting to hit and throwing our sleep schedules off. The first day in India was a success.