UPDATE 3: Wow, this traffic is unrelenting. Now looking at 11:30.
UPDATE: 10:35 - Traffic is terrible. Revised ETA is 11:10.
Update: 9:45 - We're en route! ETA is 10:30-10:45.
The flight has arrived into Newark! The group will try to update the blog once they are in the van heading back to Brooklyn. Thank you for your support and trust!
Namaskara! The last couple of days have brought a perfect storm of elusive internet and a packed schedule. I know everyone wants pictures, so I'm going to have to let chronology take a backseat. First up: Holi! Although not celebrated in the south, Krishna arranged for the village children to surprise BC.
And a couple of shots from the previous day...
Jona and Griffin here, writing the wonderful blog for our 7th day, which was our third full day in Haranjal.
Yesterday was jam-packed. We had an early start and we went to the dairy cooperative, where the villagers can go and measure the fat in the milk that their cows produce and then are paid based on the amount of fat that their milk has. We met the two women who run the cooperative and asked them questions about the process. Waking up that early was a little hard, but it was a great start to the very busy day that we had. After that we walked back to out homestays and had breakfast; we then met at Krishna’s house and then practiced more of our Yakshagana dance.
We then went on a bus to Krishna’s aunt’s house and we were able to meet her family. The entire bus ride, Krishna played Indian techno music and made people dance in the aisle with him. After going to his aunt’s we drove about an hour in the direction of some undisclosed surprise, to a restaurant where we were treated to dosas and ice cream. Then we went back on the bus for another wild ride involving Krishna partying on the aisle again.
We drove all the way to what we though was the beach, but as we reached our destination we could not see what was directly in front of us. Krishna took us off the bus and told us to close our eyes and walked us a good distance. When he told us to open them, we saw a massive 120ft Shiva statue looming above us. Next to it was an equally tall building with ornate decorations that we went to the top of. The temple was extremely gorgeous and it was heart-warming to see a lot of people excited to be there and worship many gods.
Back to the bus again where we were given more ice cream and we all filled up on water and such. We continued to party in our bus as we flew down Indian highways on our way to the actual beach. When we got to the beach we all changed and went to the water. The guys were allowed to wear shorts/bathing suits but the girls had to stay in pants and shirts to swim. The beach was gorgeous and the water was super warm. We all played around in the waves and swam until Krishna pulled us out of the water to play a Indian game Kabaddi, which involves one group trying to touch a line and once they touched it another group had to keep them from getting back to their side, by tackling. It was a fun game. After that we sat down and did our anchor where we reflected on many things during the day including the fact that not many Americans go to the Shiva temple we visited. Then we watched the sun set over the Arabian Sea and we went back to our homestays for dinner and a wonderful night’s rest.
(Editor's note: photos to follow in a separate post)
The first full day in Heranjalu was a blast. Waking up in our new homes was kind of a disorienting feeling, until we were met with kind faces and warm plates of delicious food; we then knew we’d be in good hands. Once all the groups made their way over to Krishna’s house, we were met with probably the most difficult obstacle on the trip so far– between saying no to child beggars in Mumbai and showering with a bucket, this surpasses both… Believe it or not, this challenge we faced was none other than the Yakshagana dance, which, unless you fancy yourself a professional, is no walk in the park. However, through persistence and dedication we are looking a lot better than we did the first day, and there’s no doubt we’re going to be in good shape for when we perform.
After dance class, we took a short walk to the local school, where we saw some of our homestay relatives, and made even more friends. We played many games, and by the end we were on a first name basis with everybody, high fiving and fist bumping like crazy. Towards the end of the day, we settled down back at Krishna’s house and reflected on the question of the day: Why are we here? After sharing many stories and anecdotes, feeling and beliefs, we came to the mutual agreement that we wanted to defy the “white savior” stereotype and instead approach this trip with hopes to be a part of the culture, learning and embracing new ideas at every turn.
Ethan & Tess
Namaskara! Usually the previous day's leaders blog in the morning, but today we are up extra early to visit a dairy cooperative, and then we have a full day of activities, so in case we're not able to post a meatier update today, here are some photos of the students with their hosts. I'm happy to report that everyone is drinking lots of water, eating well, and laughing a lot!
- B. Clarke
Shortly after we got on the train, we settled in and chose beds. For a few hours we entertained ourselves until we decided to go to sleep. The beds hung on top of each other on each side. (Editor’s note: see photo below.) We were awoken to incredible picturesque views of the countryside, and ate a classic Indian breakfast around 8:30. Right before we dismounted the train, we were stopped for twenty minutes due to cows lingering on the track. During this time, we felt an incredible sense of fulfillment and good fortune to be on this experience in India.
After we got off the train, we boarded rickshaws, which delivered us to Krishna’s house in his village, Heranjalu. We ate a delicious lunch on banana leaves, on his beautiful porch. There, we finally learned the correct way to eat with our hands, as most of us had been doing it incorrectly before then. (It’s harder than it looks!) Later, we met our host families and walked to our respective homes. We were filled with excitement for this opportunity and curiosity to learn more about our cultural differences. Later, back at Krishna’s house, we reflected on our first experiences with our families. We were able to share ideas on how to make the most out of the experience with our host families. Some of the anxiety that had built up due to the language barrier was taken off of our shoulders through this reflection. Finally, all of us returned to our homestays to enjoy a delicious dinner and spend more time with our families.
This morning, the group is reunited after another great meal, and we journaled together on a prompt focused on the ways in which we could break barriers with our host families. Most of the host families speak a minimal amount of English, making it difficult to truly connect and communicate with them. Sharing these ideas was felt relieving because it is important to know that everyone is experiencing the same feelings and challenges. Moving forward, we all share the feeling that being able to have a close relationship with our host families is our ultimate goal. We want to make the most of the time we have with them, thus bringing us closer to South Indian culture.
- Kat and Toby
Today was our second full day traveling through Mumbai. We started off by taking a local bus to the train station, and from there we traveled to Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi. Going in, most of us didn’t know what to expect, and were surprised to find it was a bustling community. We learned that Dharavi is responsible for recycling 70 percent of Mumbai’s plastic and is also responsible for producing most of India’s leather, too. From there we went to the Reality Gives community center, where we talked to a few of their students about what they were studying and then ate lunch with all of them. Seeing the contrast between the slum’s poverty and its thriving, resourceful community was an eye opening and unique experience.
Once we left the slum, we had down time to journal and reflect on our Dharavi visit. Afterwards, we ate dinner at a restaurant near our hotel. From there, we rushed to the train station again where we anxiously waited to get on the 12-hour train ride to Haranjalu. We boarded the train, set up our beds, and tried to get some much needed sleep after such a long and unforgettable day.
-Eric and Sam
Day 1: Mumbai
After 14 hours in the air we were very happy to meet our super friendly guides, Krishna and Carlos. Once we settled down at the hotel and played some fun games in the garden across the street, we headed off to dinner. After walking up an insane number of stairs, we arrived at the gorgeous rooftop restaurant where we had our first delicious meal of many - and used no silverware, only our hands! After a good night’s rest, we were all able to really enjoy our first full day in India. In an odd way, Mumbai is like home. Crowded roads, tourist shops, and lots of construction, although it is much more colorful! With the helpful guidance of Krishna, we visited Gandhi’s house and fed some beautiful cows at a sanctuary to honor the sacred animals. After a long day on the busy streets of Mumbai, we were treated to another delicious meal and some refreshing ice cream. We are all having such a fun time taking in all the new experiences and spicy food, and we are very excited for the rest of our trip!
Sara & Grace
P.S. Mom, happy birthday and please feed my lizard – Grace :)