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India 2011

Blog posts are listed in chronological order,

read from the beginning of the trip!

Wrap up

 

Dear Family,

Thank you so much for the trip of a lifetime! I have had an amazing time in India and I’ve learned so much over the past two weeks. I definitely have a better view of the world and myself after this trip. I am bringing back lots of gifts for everyone so get excited! See ya tomorrow!

Love, Emily

 

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you so much for a fabulous trip! I had a great time (when I wasn’t sick J ) and I loved seeing a country so different from home. It was absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad I came! I learned so much about Indian culture, society, and food. I can’t wait to tell you all about the trip! See you at the airport!

Love, Katie

 

Dear Mom, Dad, Kyle, Aunt Hallie (and the “gang”), friends, and Cutie,

Thank you all for encouraging me to go on this trip and experience such a thrilling country. I have loved every minute of it and I can’t wait to share everything with you all. As promised, there are plenty of stories and memories I will probably talk about for years to come. A special thanks to Mater et Pater for your full support in my adventurous “travel bug” spirit. I can’t wait to see you at the airport!

Hugs to all, Aliya


Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to go on this fantastic trip. I’ve had the time of my life here in India! I have a whole new view of the world now. I can’t wait to see you guys tomorrow and tell you all about what I have seen and done!

Love, Jenny

 

Dear Family,

Thank you so much for this incredible trip! I actually have no words to describe how fortunate and lucky I am to have been able to experience such a completely and utterly different place. I have presents for all of you so, no fighting! Can’t wait to see each and every one of you when I get home –but please just let me sleep first J

Xoxo and lots of love,

Mary

 

Hi Family!

                Thank you so much for supporting me as I embarked on this wonderful trip! I have changed so much as a person because of this trip and it is all thanks to you! Though I am so excited to come home and see you all, it will be sad leaving India as well. I have met so many people and experienced things you cannot even imagine. I am so excited to finally share my experiences with you all! I definitely have a different view of the world and now have a new outlook on life! Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

     Rachel

 

Hi Mom, Dad, Jordan, Wallace, Webster, and General Tsao,

                I just wanted to thank you all for supporting me as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and partook in this life-changing trip to India. I have learned many new things about not only the world but also myself. Being in India has taught me many life lessons and it is truly an experience I will never forget. Now, I am more globally aware and can’t wait to immerse myself in even more foreign cultures. I have missed you all the whole way through and can’t wait to see you when I get home tomorrow. Thank you for funding this wonderful experience; it is one I am eternally grateful for and will never forget for the rest of my life. I look forward to showing you all my pictures and recounting all the amazing moments from this trip. J

 

All my love, See you soon!

 

-Hillary

 

Dear Mommy, Daddy, Marissa, and (other) various animals in the Michaels household,

 

I truly have no words to express my thanks to you for shipping me off to India. Lol I’m kidding of course! But really, this trip has been an incredible journey during which I learned so much about not only another culture but myself as well. I appreciate all the time and effort you have all contributed to preparing me for this experience. I’ve never seen a place like India in my lifetime, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience a new part of the world. You guys are the best family I could ever ask for. I can’t wait to see you all in just over 24 hours. I’m going to miss India, but there’s no place like home.

 

Love, love, love to you all! XXXOOO

 

Alexandra

 

Dear Mom, Dad, Harry, Riley, and Hannah,

 

Wow. Thank you so much for giving me this amazing opportunity to get to know an entirely different culture from my own. Sorry dad for visiting India without you J Thanks mom for helping me pack and prepare. Thanks Harry for being the best dog ever. Thanks Riley for letting me appreciate being in a place with no dog pee. Thanks Hannah for being Hannah, I’ll give you tons of peppermint plops and a long grooming when I get back-I promise I haven’t abandoned you. I don’t want to leave India, but at the same time, I’m really looking forward to telling you everything that has happened here. See you soon!

 

Love,

 

Liza

 

 

Wrap Up!

 

                As our time together in India is closing, we all draw on both sad and happy emotions. There are aspects of life in America that we have come to miss, especially our families and most importantly food, and because of that we all want to return. However, in India we have grown closer as a group and become good friends, created memories that will last a lifetime and have all individually grown as young adults. In India there are so many emotions that are experienced, ranging from happiness and excitement to confusion and frustration. Though at times it was hard, we made it through together. The group would all like to thank Holton for providing such a life changing opportunity and our families for supporting us all the way. India 2011 was an amazing trip that will never be forgotten.

Posted by on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 09:18AM
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Mehndi and Bangles

                

 

 

    

    

Posted by on Monday August 15, 2011 at 12:57PM
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Tibetan Culture

Tonight was our second to last night at the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamshala. The Tibetan refugees here happily treated us to old traditional dances specific to Tibetan culture. It was definitely an experience! The performers appeared all decked out in clothes with colorful textures, and some even wore masks covered in furs. Each routine was accompanied with live music performed by various Tibetans using instruments similar to the xylophone, flute, and banjo. The performers also surprised us with their amazing voices by singing songs about the old times when Tibet was free. Our favorite part of the performances was definitely the yak routine. In this dance, a man attempts to milk a yak (even though –as Tenzin gleefully told us later- yaks are the male animal and therefore have no milk). The yak seemed huge. Imagine those two-part donkey costumes for Halloween but large and life-like and extremely coordinated and of course, like a yak. The yak dance was the perfect ending for this wonderful cultural dance. After the performance, Tenzin returned to the Guest House (where we are all staying) for further discussion on both the traditional dancing we witnessed and his passionate activism for Tibetan freedom. He told us the story of when, upon arriving in Tibet for the first time in his life, he was immediately arrested by the Chinese government. Most shocking of all, he laughed when he told us and smiled at the ridiculous situation in his head! Everyone in the room was appalled, until he gradually got us to relax with his funny imitations of the less-than-intelligent officers. So far, this trip has exceeded my expectations concerning the diverse cultures and people living in India. Dharamshala, located at the base of the Himalayas, feels tranquil and peaceful beyond imagination. The differences between just Dharamshala and Delhi are so great that I do not even know where to begin in describing them. Personally, I do not believe that I can only focus on one thing to bring back from this experience. India is so vast and full of life that to pinpoint one theme seems almost insulting to the incredible different lifestyles and situations of the people living here. -Mary
Posted by on Sunday August 14, 2011 at 03:47AM
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Norbilingka

Today we woke up somewhat early with yoga! As usual, it took longer for some than for others, but all in all it was pleasurable. We all packed, ate breakfast, and then left our relaxing cottage-like paradise of Judge’s Court in Pragpur to go to our new home away from home in Dharamshala. We made it through our three-hour bus ride and even stopped to take pictures of a beautiful river valley and briefly visit a temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Durga. Once we arrived we quickly settled into our animal-themed rooms and went to lunch on the property. We received a tour of different art techniques that the students use, and we were even able to make our own Thangka drawing. As we returned to the hotel, the Modern School girls were just arriving. We had not seen many of them for nearly a week, so it was like a big reunion. We all knew instantly that the next four days together were going to be fun and memorable. After a delicious dinner, we received a special visit from Tenzin Tsundue who talked to us about his hopes and dreams for Tibet. We were able to learn more about the situation there, and many of us were surprised at how little we actually knew or understood. One big theme of our trip is getting different perspectives. The world, especially the U.S., at times can be very narrow-minded and biased. It is important to immerse yourself in a place such as India where people have their own opinions yet are open to other’s opinions as well. That is one aspect of this trip that should be brought back home. Perhaps the funniest part of the trip was meeting a dog when we checked into Norbulingka. We still don’t know his real name, but I named him Ronnie, and it is starting to catch on. He is a very friendly dog, and he will often go into random rooms to hang out with everyone. During our talk with Tenzin, Ronnie would keep stealing the leftovers of people’s cake and though it was somewhat annoying, it was still cute and funny. - Rachel

Posted by on Friday August 12, 2011 at 10:25PM
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Norbilingka

 

Today we woke up somewhat early with yoga! As usual, it took longer for some than for others, but all in all it was pleasurable. We all packed, ate breakfast, and then left our relaxing cottage-like paradise of Judge’s Court in Pragpur to go to our new home away from home in Dharamshala. We made it through our three-hour bus ride and even stopped to take pictures of a beautiful river valley and briefly visit a temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Durga. Once we arrived we quickly settled into our animal-themed rooms and went to lunch on the property. We received a tour of different art techniques that the students use, and we were even able to make our own Thangka drawing. As we returned to the hotel, the Modern School girls were just arriving. We had not seen many of them for nearly a week, so it was like a big reunion. We all knew instantly that the next four days together were going to be fun and memorable. After a delicious dinner, we received a special visit from Tenzin Tsundue who talked to us about his hopes and dreams for Tibet. We were able to learn more about the situation there, and many of us were surprised at how little we actually knew or understood. One big theme of our trip is getting different perspectives. The world, especially the U.S., at times can be very narrow-minded and biased. It is important to immerse yourself in a place such as India where people have their own opinions yet are open to other’s opinions as well. That is one aspect of this trip that should be brought back home. Perhaps the funniest part of the trip was meeting a dog when we checked into Norbulingka. We still don’t know his real name, but I named him Ronnie, and it is starting to catch on. He is a very friendly dog, and he will often go into random rooms to hang out with everyone. During our talk with Tenzin, Ronnie would keep stealing the leftovers of people’s cake and though it was somewhat annoying, it was still cute and funny. - Rachel

Posted by on Friday August 12, 2011 at 10:25PM
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Judge's Court

Hello everyone!

Today we woke up to a peaceful yoga session overlooking the beautiful Judge’s Court hotel. We have all mastered the sun salutation thanks to our fabulous dance/yoga instructor, Anamika.

Today we did a lot of sightseeing in some villages close to Judge’s Court. It was a nice change of scenery to see a gorgeous river after spending six days in the busy city of Delhi. We even got to see a marijuana plant on the banks of the river along with many other plants. We then visited a campus of the Sanskrit University where we were welcomed by students and teachers alike. It was very cool to see college aged kids learning so much in such a rural part of the world. Everyone here is very intrigued to see us because we are from America and look and talk differently. They took as many pictures of us as we did of them. We were extremely lucky to get a tour of a house in one of the villages. The family was so hospitable and eager to show us their home. Throughout our trip, we have found that Indians will do anything to please their guests, something that is not as common in the US. It was so interesting to see a village kitchen because it was completely different from what we are used to at home – none of the appliances we have, just the basics.

The most interesting part of the day was when our tour guide brought a local ice cream maker onto the bus where we were given Indian ice cream served on a leaf. Some brave few tried it, despite its resemblance to blocks of cottage cheese. Mary decided that it tasted like a combination of cheese, salad and smoke. Sounds great right?! However, it was fascinating to see how he keeps the ice cream cool by storing it in a cloth container coated with ammonia gas.

We are leaving Judge’s Court tomorrow for the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamshala where we will be meeting up with some Modern School girls. Everyone is having an amazing time, and the group has really bonded!

 

-          Emily

Posted by on Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 02:36PM
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From Dehli to the Kangra Valley

Hey everyone! We safely arrived at our new hotel in Pragpur late this afternoon after long train and bus rides. We had to get up at around 5 this morning in order to make our train… I’m sure you can all imagine how hard that was for us J

The train station in New Delhi was so incredibly different from train stations in the US. We had to walk through security scanners just to enter the station, but once inside, it seemed like total chaos. There were so many people in such a small space; it was hard to stay together in our group. Instead of the miniature malls we are used to having in our train stations, the New Delhi station only had one or two newsstands. The train ride itself was also very different. Similarly to America, train tracks do not run through the best parts of town, but even after seeing the slums of Delhi it was still surprising to see the conditions that some people lived in. The train ride really gave us a different perspective on life in Delhi. Also, because we were able to travel by train, we really observed rural life in India, and how life on a farm is in some ways very similar to life on a farm back in the USA.

After the approximately four hour train ride, we had lunch and then hopped on a bus for another four hour ride, this time through the mountains. We all finally saw our first monkeys of India! We also had our first chance to use a squat toilet… it was a bit intimidating, but we dealt with it.

We finally arrived in Judge’s Court after a long day of travelling. We toured the town of Pragpur before dinner. The town is considered a historic town, and so the Indian government provides some funding to keep the town in good condition. It was nice to return from our walk around the town to a beautifully lit back lawn where we had our dinner.

Once we finished our dinner and dessert, we had the opportunity to try making jalebi, a fried Indian dessert similar to funnel cake. We tried to make shapes in the oil with the batter, but that annoyed the chef and so he took our sad attempts at letters and animals out and showed us his perfect swirls and loops. The day is just winding down, and we look forward to waking up to do yoga tomorrow morning!

-Liza

Posted by on Tuesday August 9, 2011 at 01:28PM
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Lessons in Creativity and Improvisation

We apologize—we are a bit behind on the blogging simply because we’ve been so busy here! However, here I am, bouncing up and down in our bus on the streets of Delhi. Driving here is quite the experience. At home in America, merging is an act that takes a bit of preparation and thought. The use of a turn signal is more of a question (“May I turn into your lane, sir/mam?) than a statement (“I will now proceed to cut you off.”). However, in the packed streets here, merging is such an aggressive process and lanes are more like guidelines. Driving in Delhi requires gusto and creativity – often, drivers create three lanes where there were two. Motorcycles, bicyclists, and three-wheeled rickshaws weave in and out of the cars and buses on the road. In addition, driving is a very vocal act. People use the horn liberally. And it’s as if everyone believes he/she has the right of way—it’s not uncommon for a car to turn into a ball of traffic and expect cars to stop for it. But luckily we have a very skilled and experienced bus driver! Anxious parents like mine can be assured that we are perfectly safe inside our massive bus. Actually, we have two bus drivers—one who drives the bus and another who provides an extra pair of eyes for him. Right now we are in the bus on a guided tour around the city. We’ll be going to Humayun’s tomb to see the contrast between old and new Delhi. Later, we’ll go to Molar Bund for the last time.

-Jenni

Posted by on Monday August 8, 2011 at 02:47PM
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The Two Indias

Throughout          

Through out our trip, we are constantly reminded of India having two sides similar to a coin. While one thing may be true, the exact opposite is also true. Molar Bund and the Modern School really embody the theme of tradition versus modernity. The kids at Molar Bund tend to be on the more traditional side of the spectrum. The girls and boys wear traditional Indian clothing and are in separate classrooms. They use common, polite American phrases, such as “Yes Ma’am” and are very respectful.

The modern school kids, on the other hand, are more westernized, wearing clothes from popular American stores such as forever 21. They speak to us as equals, and we all get along very well because of this. Another interesting fact is that the kids at Molar Bund are obsessed with Bollywood and know all of the latest songs, one them our personal favorite (Sheila Ki Jawani), while the students at the Modern School enjoy American TV Shows such as Gossip Girl and 90210.

The contrast between the two types of students makes one wonder about the impact of modernization. The children of Molar Bund are more in touch with their culture and traditions while the upper class students of Modern School are becoming worldlier. Is this the downside of modernization? How does a country conserve their cultural identity while embracing progress.

-Aliya

Posted by on Monday August 8, 2011 at 02:44PM
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This morning we were scheduled to leave the Justa Residence at 9:30. Rachel and I set our alarm for 8:00. However, when we went down to breakfast we were the only ones there. We then proceeded to knock on everyone else’s door, trying to wake them up. When that didn’t work, we decided to call them from our phone. We knew that would work because the phone has an obnoxious, loud ringer.

Once everyone was up and had had breakfast, we boarded the bus. We were on our way to see an Indian clothing designer. Known all throughout India, Anuradha Ramam is a self-taught designer who currently owns two store locations in Delhi. Upon arrival in the store, I was blinded by the vibrant colors. It was very interesting to see how she could mix any colors together and make the product look beautiful. All her work, she said, was hand-woven or embroidered; a process that she said took about 2 months with 8 hours of work a day. First we browsed through all the clothing on the first floor, which took us about 1 hour since there was so much to see. Everyone was so impressed with every article of clothing, that it was hard not to buy the whole store! After we had all finished browsing she took us upstairs to see her saris. She passed around various ones, showing us the difference between hand-woven and hand-embroidered saris. She showed us the different fabrics, many of which were surprisingly light. And she even showed us how to put one on!

In order to keep this tradition alive, she said, it was necessary to keep the old textile crafts of India alive. Nowadays, many young people settle for imitation saris that are made in a factory. But that takes away from the authenticity of the sari. She then allowed each one of us to try on our own sari. Mary and Alex went first, with Mary trying on a blue sari and Alex trying on a yellow sari. We then each proceeded to pick our own sari and she helped us put them on. After we had all tried on a sari and taken tons of photographs, we decided to browse the store some more. About an hour later, we all had orange shopping bags in our hands!

After we thanked Ms. Anuradha Ramam for showing us the art of the Indian textile, we boarded the bus again and headed back to the hotel for lunch. As usual, it was very good, and everyone was full by the time it was over. Then, Professor Minu Mitra, a professor at Delhi University, entered the room to give us a lecture on the Indian economy. She started by giving us a brief cultural and political history of India. She discussed everything ranging from India’s borders to the oppression from British rule. She told us many interesting facts. For example, the senior citizens in India don’t have social security and girls in India are required to have a compulsory education until age 14. Also, sex determination in India is illegal. She said that this was because often times if an Indian family found out they were having a girl instead of a boy, they would get an abortion. We then shifted topics and began to discuss the Indian economy. In 1990, the Indian economy went bankrupt and sold off their gold reserves to the IMF on one condition: globalize the economy. Because of this, India today is one of the world’s largest growing economies, only behind China. She then proceeded to show us an Indian magazine portraying wealthy Indian businessmen, including the richest man in the world, investing in foreign companies. She told us that this was not a good idea, especially because many world economies are inter-connected. We then ended our discussion by her telling us that the Indian economy will continue to grow for a long time.

After our discussion with the professor from Delhi University, Praneeta came in to discuss our reflections from that day. She told us that Indian students of the upper class were not encouraged to partake in community service. She also said that many members of the upper class, rather than facing the poverty issue head on, instead choose to blind themselves to it. Also, no Indian teenagers work or hold a job. We then discussed the difference between Indian public and private schools, with Praneeta saying that a public school in India is just like a private school in America. After the discussion concluded, we all went to bed, excited to start another adventurous day in India.

 

-Hillary

Posted by on Monday August 8, 2011 at 03:38AM
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