Thoughts before beginning the Final Adventure!
As I pack up my bags and do my final preparations to travel north, I have found myself skimming through my blog entries. I am in awe of how much I have seen and learned about this placed called in India…and have discovered a lot about myself as well.
In my “About Me” section (which I wrote before coming here), I described how I chose India and what I hoped to experience. While I have found some of these aspects to follow through, my semester has developed quite differently than expected. For example, I hoped to do much more rigorous study into the religions around me through coursework and visiting temples. But upon arriving at the University I discovered that courses in religious studies were not available. Similarly, visiting temples and mosques were a hassle to visit and often times didn’t teach me much about the respective religion at all. Instead, I have gotten to know about the different religions of India through the people that I have met! Since this country is so immersed in religion, it was never hard to start up a conversation. I stayed with Aslam in Jaipur, learning about the Muslim religion, the Samras were eager to explain the history of Sikhism, and every Hindu I chatted with had a different story to tell. I have found that many young people who grew up in a Hindu home don’t necessarily practice their faith anymore and don’t feel obligated to living out that part of their heritage. Funny how that theme resides in modern day Christianity as well. That being said, I met some amazing Christians who invited me to worship. However, many of my best friends at my hostel consider themselves atheist or agnostic. So while I did not learn about religion in the way I expected, I have shared some amazing conversations that have helped me understand how people live their lives and how that affects their values.
On another note, I did much more travel than I expected to. Not knowing how much time I would have off from school, I set my expectations low as to how many places I could visit in India. But, wow! I made two weekend trips- Bangalore & Hampi, an excursion through Udaipur, Jaipur, and Agra, and now I am heading up to northeast India for 2 weeks of travel.
Tomorrow I will fly to Varanasi and spend about 4 days in “the spiritual capital of India.” Then I will head east to Bodhgaya. For Buddhists, Bodhgaya is the most sacred pilgrimage site because it is said to be the place where Buddha himself was enlightened. While I hope to visit the site, my main purpose is to stay at “Bowl of Compassion.” This is a non-profit soup kitchen that takes volunteers who may be traveling through. After a day or so there, I will move along to Kolkata, where I will meet up with my friend, Ayush. I am looking forward to some amazing street food 🙂 We will stay with his extending family there and then travel up to Siliguri for his cousins wedding! The wedding will be in the traditional Vedic-style. It will be overwhelming but so amazing! From there, Ayush and I will be exploring the area of Darjeeling and hopefully make it up to Sikkim! We are looking forward to the cool climate, mountain views, and delicious tea.
Then I will fly back to Hyderabad for a day before returning to the U.S on May 19th! Wow, folks, it has been a journey, yet there is so much to explore in this country. Going back my “About Me” section, I make the statement, “I should study in a country that I may never visit again.” This statement could not be more false. The statement is not “if” I come back to India…it is “when” I come back to India. The more time I spent here, the more I add to my bucket list of things to see and places to visit! But for now, I will focus on my final trip!
While it is sad to leave my home at Tagore, I am so thrilled to end my stay in India with an adventure! This week I have missed home a lot, and will be ready to return home to my family. It has been the perfect amount of time here. My suitcase is packed and ready for International travel and my duffle bag is almost set as well!
Again, as a precursor, I will be out of internet for two weeks as I travel so I shall leave the beautiful scenery to your imagination until then. I am excited to get back to a written journal while I travel but will make sure some details when I return. Until then, thank you all for your support of my experiences! May it encourage you to explore the world on your own.