entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Sensory Overload

Night one of sleep felt real good. I was surprised at how dark my room was-literally pitch black- the way I like it so my sleep mask really wasn’t necessary! The beds are very thin, stiff, and hard so I slept like a rock from 9pm to 1am. After a trip to the bathroom I slept until 6am and finally got out of bed at 7am.

The morning is grey and foggy, just like yesterday. It makes me wonder if there ever is a sunrise here in Hyderabad. As I roamed the halls I was happy to see I was not the only one awake. Other students read books and sat on the balcony of the house, a perfect time for quiet reflection and meditation. While I feel a touch of homesickness, it is mostly due to the fact that I am in a room with an empty bed.  If my roommate does not come today I need to move in with another person! It is nice to have my own space but a space for two is awful lonely. I miss you my dearest Emmalee!

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With another free day I was excited to meet more students and explore a little more. Little did I know that we would truly experience Hyderabad! A few of us decided to walk to the campus shopping center and ended up merging with a few other students! They were going to take a bus into Hyderabad to go to the zoo so we spontaneously joined, making us 11 total. Outside the main gates of the University we caught bus 216 heading to Koti, a “district” within Hyderabad.  Then in Koti we caught bus 95 to get to the zoo. However, we were then informed that the zoo is closed on Mondays. I was excited for the chance to live in the moment (plus I wasn’t super excited about the zoo anyway 🙂 ). We got of the bus and went to plan B. Having seen a museum, we headed back in the direction we came.  Soon we arrived at the Salar Jung Museum.

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Salar Jung is a museum of art history and contains pieces that represent all parts of the world. It is also 1 of 3 National Museums in India. The place was hopping with Indian travelers who got in relatively cheap compared to the “non-Indian fare.” Clearly this was a place to see across India! Here are some of the galleries we saw:

–       Ivory Carvings

–       Iron & Bronzes (This was my favorite gallery! There were some beautiful tea sets, rose water containers, and even   hookahs!)

–       History of Calligraphy

–       Arms & Armor

–       Miniature paintings

–       Eastern Porcelain

–       Musical clock from Cook and Kelvey of England. (Every hour, a timekeeper emerges from the upper deck of the clock to strike a gong as many times as it is the hours of the day. People literally wait for each hour to arrive and crowd the seating area to see it dong.)

See more at the website: http://www.salarjungmuseum.in

By the time we left it was around 2pm and I was museumed out J We found a bus stop again and got back on bus 95 to Koli. But once we got dropped off at Koli we struggled to catch bus 216. Here are 11 Americans standing on the side of a frantically busy street waiting for the right bus. We stuck out like sore thumbs and everyone was noticing us, but it was different than the stares I received at the airport. Everyone smiled at us, waved, and laughed (probably at how pathetic we looked-haha). We finally realized we were not going to catch a bus in this location, so we began walking in the direction a kind man pointed us to. All along the way we were engulfed in the smells, sounds, colors, and sweat of Hyderabad. Some people welcomed us to India or took my hand to shake. In my new Indian outfit I felt like I was well respecting the culture and the environment. It is all so overwhelming in a sensory-overload, and we had no idea where we were walking, but we finally found the bus stop. Lesson learned; when a Hyderabadi person tells you something is right around the corner, the corner is much farther away than you expect. Anyhow, we climbed onto the already packed bus for an hour long ride back to campus. In this time I was able to do some reflection. This was another seemly stressful experience, yet I was so calm. I didn’t care that we didn’t know where we were going or that we walked and waited forever, or even that we were drenched in sweat. Similarly, we had no expectations to be anywhere. Therefore, why stress? We lived in the moment and I loved it! I wish I could explain the kind of depth and diversity of the city…but words are escaping me. Maybe after I get over this sensory overload I will be able to describe it better but it is one of those things you simply have to experience.

This leads me to some words on the bus system in response to the New Delhi bus affairs. Please know (father dear), that the Hyderabad bus system is SAFE! 🙂 Initially, I felt safe traveling in a group of men and women. But in riding the bus, I found that single Indian rode the bus all the time. Even school-girls rode the bus without an adult. There is also an unspoken norm that women sit at the front and men in the back. I felt very safe and welcome on the bus and will definitely continue to use it. However the buses are tricky in the fact that the routes are not posted anywhere. Therefore, the only direct way to find out which bus to take where is to ask someone.

Subsequently, it was a long day out which none of us were expecting. Hoping for a little rest before dinner and then see what the night has in store for New Years Eve!

Eat of the Day:

At the museum I ordered Dosa. It is basically a large crepe-like bread; very thin and pliable yet crispy. You rip off pieces and dip it into various sauces. I received a spicy orange chili sauce and a white yogurt dip.  In doing some research I found that the batter is made of fermented rice and lentils. It is commonly served for breakfast or on the streets. Dosa can be filled and wrapped up and can be served with sweet or savory additions.

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(Stuffed Dosa)

 

 

 

I also may have ingested some of the “fresh water” offered free before realizing it was from the tap. But so far so good!

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The First Outings

After borrowing clothes and cleaning up, my new friend, Rachel, and I decided to explore campus.

I was shocked at how vast it is!

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P1050740The Tagore International Hostel (where I am staying) is surrounded by other Men’s and Women’s Hostels to the south of campus. We walked a good 30 minutes north and still didn’t make it to the edge of campus. It is not laid out by “blocks” as many American campuses are. Instead, it is one piece of land with all the buildings spread out. The departments of study range from Engineering to Buddhist Studies to Physical Exercise.  All the buildings are made of cement, are older looking, and are painted in pastel colors.  The roads connecting the buildings are a combination of dirt and asphalt. Random dogs lay in the heat and cows roam the grassy areas. There are brightly colored flowers along the medians and trees give ample shade in the warm heat.

The rooms are simple- bed, desk and closet space for two as well as a bulletin board and small window. However, my roommate is yet to be seen 😦

To fill up the afternoon we decided to explore the Hyderabad area a bit. (Plus I needed some clothes!) Over lunch I met another Rachel, so the three of headed out with Kevin as our guide.

This is Kevin-

P1050757Kevin, studied at the UoH last semester and loved it so much that he couldn’t leave. He spent his winter break in northern India and is staying as a student this semester. He had a lot of great information and advice for the novice Hyderabad traveler.

Our destination was a suburb of Hyderabad called Lingampally, a short 20 minute drive by auto rickshaw! These little cabs can really be packed tight–Driving home, we fit 15 people on one of these!

Anyway, Kevin showed us the town, walking through the streets with ease and pointing out his favorite places. We stopped at a grocery store first for some needed essentials…soap, bug spray, etc. Then we got to the clothes at “Delhi Style.” This place had colorful fabrics stacked in all shapes and sizes. After much discussion with the owners, I ended up with two outfits and a skirt. One includes kurta (tunic), salwar (baggy pants), and chunni (scarf). The other is a dressy tunic with two layers, bold and sheer. And I also got a colorful skirt. (Look forward to pictures later!)

What I loved most was simply taking it all in. I was particularly focused on the women’s garments after buying some of my own. Each is beautifully unique- whether bold, patterned, draped, or rimmed in gold. The women are so naturally gorgeous and I love the way their skin tone accentuates the colors of the fabric.

The street scene is just what you would typically imagine of India: vendors selling fried treats, fresh coconut, tea, or accessories. Beggars are at every corner while rickshaws and motorbikes wiz past. Garbage lines the streets, alley ways, and streams. But there is a beauty to it all, yet I do not quite understand it. I’m sure there will be more experiences linked with comments to come.

As a nibble to end our trip, Kevin introduced us to our first tastes of street food: marsala chai tea, fried dough, and fried peppers, both served with a spicy masala sauce. Yum! Kevin will be a good person to have around 🙂
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It made for a full first day in Hyderabad after a long travel time, but it was worth it! I can trust that I will crash after dinner and sleep throughout the night.

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(2 Rachels + Maria)

Rough Start

Excuse my language, but this was one hell of travel across the world!

My journey began at the Sioux Falls Joe Foss airport. I was ready to go for the 4:40pm departure after bidding my family farewell. However, due to the weather over the holiday weekend and cancellations, the airlines were making up for the lost flights. Our plane didn’t arrive until 5pm and we took off at 5:20. I flew to Dallas no problem and had an ample layover. Again, my 8:10 flight was moved to 9:35pm. I knew I was heading in the right direction when I noticed this sign in the terminal….oh ya, yoga at the airport. J Things began getting complicated upon my arrival in London. With the change in departure at Dallas, I had a very short window of time to make my connection. Fortunately, there were representatives at the gate to take us to the next terminal. We made it on time to our 1:35pm flight to Hyderabad. This made for two 9½ hour flights back to back! We arrived in Hyderabad at 4:30am (Dec 30). As I waited at the baggage claim, my stomach began churning. The luggage kept coming, people kept leaving, by my suitcase was no where to be seen. Gal darn it! It turns out my luggage stayed in London. At this point I was getting exasperated. There were a dozen of us trying to fill out reports, running back and forth between customs and the baggage claim. All the while I am worried about my ride to the University. I finally exited the airport at 6:30….and there is no ride for me. Instead, dozens of Indian eyes stare me down as I tried frantically to hold myself together. I begin calling every number in my information packet with no answer. Finally, as I am almost ready to take a cab myself, I get a hold of someone who sends me a car. This came with another 40 minute wait. I have never felt so alone and vulnerable before in my life. I was greasy and jet-lagged, frustrated, and dehydrated. For a moment I thought, what am I doing here? As I was chauffeured to the University, I answered my question. This is what I came to India to do, encounter new and unfamiliar situations and step out of my comfort zone! In the moment it sucks (I won’t receive by luggage until Tuesday) but I am growing from these situations.  I found myself playing Pollyanna’s “Glad Game.” I am alive, well, in a foreign country, and opportunities ahead.  On the plane I sat by some very kind Indian men who shared their experiences with me and wished me well on my journey ahead! Life is good! 

For the cherry on top, I got to the International Hostel met 3 amazing girls who were more than willing to let me borrow clothes, soap, and toothpaste.  Good to be clean. Good to be alive. Time for the journey to really begin. 

Final Moments

Waking up this morning, the notions of my travel were still so surreal. I showered, skyped by cousin, putzed around. With the suitcase packed, what else is there to do put wait in anticipation! I was happy to get out of the house for lunch. The big question was….what shall be my final meal in the SD? Though it seems a little cliche, I devoured an all-natural South photo-9Dakota buffalo burger. A little taste of home to sustain me for my long journey.

 

And thus, comes the time to pack up and load out! I have discovered this week that I really don’t like goodbyes. It seems so “sad” but really this is a joyous occasion!

As a good friend reminds me, in many native languages there is no such word for goodbye. Instead they have many words for hello, family, and love. So instead of saying “goodbye,” I thank God for the support of family and friends in my preparation for this journey. The time as come, and off I go bearing tokens of this love:

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  • A worn cross of faith and friendship
  • The medallion of St. Christopher (the saint of traveling)
  • A Travel Song…”Be safe and travel strong. Carry with you this travel song.”
  • A list of favorite bible verses from friends and family.
  • Earl the squirrel
  • Blessings, prayers, and thoughts in my heart

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Thank you all!

My next post will be in India! It is time to enter the land of the gods.

24 hour Reality Check

The presents are unwrapped, the lefse is devoured, and today, I woke up to a gorgeous South Dakota snowfall…what a perfect day for packing 🙂 Image

With less than 48 hours till departure, I figured it was a good time to tackle the pile in the corner of my room, that is, after I shoveled the snowy driveway. I turned on Hindi Beat radio on Pandora, brewed a cup of coffee, and got crackin’.

Many people have been asking what I am packing. Well here is a rough list:

  • Cotton tshirtsImage
  • Cotton capris
  • 1 pair of jeans/ 1 pair of cargo pants
  • Tennis shoes
  • Boat shoes
  • Shower sandals
  • Leggings
  • Undergarments 🙂 Socks!
  • Light sweater
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel toiletries
  • Umbrella
  • Outlet adapter/cords
  • Malaria medicine
  • Other standard medicine (ibuprofen, etc)
  • Pens/pencils/notebook
  • Passport pouch
  • Address Book and Notecards
  • Bible with a list of favorite verses of my friends and family (best Christmas gift ever!!)
  • NWU pennant (Yay Marketing!)

For my carry on:

  • Travel documents; Identification
  • Books (mostly on India :))
  • Travel toiletries (3 oz or less in a ziplock baggie!)
  • Daddy’s homemade dried fruit, almonds, dark chocolateImage
  • I-Pod; earphones
  • Laptop
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Travel pillow and face mask
  • Earl, the squirrel

Needless to say, I made it into one suitcase! I feel better now that most everything is in my suitcase, but I can’t help but wonder if I am bringing too much or too less! 24 hours from now, I will literally be sitting on the plane ready to depart…whoa, reality check!

 

 

10 Days!

December 18th marks 10 days until my travels to India. At this point I still have 2 more final exams to take, luggage to pack, and a 3 1/2 hour drive just to get back home to Sioux Falls. Then there is unpacking, repacking, dozens of friends who want to see you “one last time…” (Gosh, you turn 21 and suddenly everyone wants to take you out all of a sudden) Not to mention Christmas needs to be celebrated! Gee wiz! 

I pray for peace amidst these busy details. May I proceed forward with joy in my heart and an adventurous spirit. And to think, the adventure is only beginning…

Are Delhi’s Buses Safe for Women?

Are Delhi’s Buses Safe for Women?

I don’t mean to post this article to scare or worry you, but it is a true portrayal of societal norms in India. This particular article focuses on the bussing system in Delhi, but I’m sure there are common happenings in Hyderabad as well. In doing my research I have been advised to never travel alone and avoid eye contact with men that I do not know.

As Professor Dubas as pointed out to me multiple times, I am a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, young American woman traveling to India. Of course I will stick out like a sore thumb. But in being respectful of the culture through the clothes I wear, in my mannerisms, as well as being cautious, I hope to try to blend into the culture.

Let it Snow

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It turns out it even snows in India! Who would’a thunk 🙂
This picture, taken in Shimla, is way north (no where close to where I will be) but I still find it fascinating. I bet the Himalayan mountains are gorgeous as well!

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/image-of-the-day-dec-11/

Walmart enters India

There have been long debates in the Indian Parliament about foreign direct investment (F.D.I.) and whether international chains like Walmart, should be allowed in the country. For now the debates have ended with both houses in support of this move.

Read about the debates posted on India Ink:

Facts about the F.D.I Debates

India’s Upper House of Parliament Supports F.D.I

India’s Lower House of Parliament Supports F.D.I

F.D.I Moving Forward

 

New Regulation in Bihar

“Bihar Village Bans Women and Girls From Using Mobile Phones”

In this article posted on India Ink today, the gender gap is still very prevalent. In this case, unmarried women have been banned from using cell phones because they “promote extramarital affairs and unsanctioned marriages and erode the moral fabric of society.”

Bihar is located along the NE boarder (in red).

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