katrinasadventures' Travel Journals

katrinasadventures

  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

Katrina Does India

India Delhi, India  |  Sep 06, 2009
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 My phone number: 00 91 981 174 9089 

Well… well…well… Words never come easy to me, but here is my attempt to discover the writer in me (or should I say blogger?).   I have decided to spend about eight months in the most spiritual country in the world, India.  India is known for many fascinating things, including its intense religious traditions, arranged marriages, population, environmental challenges, IT industry, democracy and corruption.  Its schizophrenic economy is heavily influenced by Bollywood, the media, Western medicine, computer technology and American shows, but it is also crippled with poverty and a lack of resources for the growing population.   The trip that I am taking explores both the contemporary and historic India through course work and trips.  I will be attempting to learn Hindi along the way, as well as work on an independent field project, which will be exploring Genetically Modified seeds in India and how it has altered the traditional seed saving techniques.  

I hope to make this a time to not only grow as a person, but also to learn where I can make the most difference.  It is ironic because after traveling in “developed” nations of Australia and Europe during my gap year I thought that I was done traveling for extended periods.  I was tired of the constant moving, lack of a home base, neck pain, etc… But now I find myself on the road again about to head off to a more challenging environment than ever before… but will it be more challenging…? 

Seeing so many people in poverty and surrounded in trash, yet with smiles on their faces, shows me that people can be happy with almost nothing.  So, how can I make that possible for me? I am beginning to think that India may be more of a home to me than any other country since it brings out the simple and spiritual soul in me.  In the back of my mind I always knew that I would find myself in Asia.  India was calling me.  This is my journey of self-discovery.  I expect clarity in my visions for the future and memories from the past, but I also expect hardships of my present adventure along the way.   I am in no way prepared for what I am about to experience in India, but am open and willing to try as much as I can.  I am ready to explore my five senses in this new culture.  I am ready to be the sponge.  I am ready to soak things in.  I plan to review memories from the past and push those aside in order to live my live more in the present.  BE HERE NOW mentality. 

 

Special Thanks:  Mommy Dearest and Diddy

 

Check list 101:

   Buy produce at market only speaking Hindi

   Spiritual Fast

   Hike in the Himalayas

   Be able to do a head stand during meditation

   Plow fields with an oxen

   Jump in the Ganges (in a hygienic sort of way…)

   Find permaculture in India

   Wwoof

   Meet Vandana Shiva

   Donate to a charity of my liking

   Identify 20 native species in Hindi

 

Day 1: Sat 5th-Sun 6th

 Even though the flight was 14 hours it went by surprisingly quick.  AirIndia fed us well with meals every 4 hours (food ranged from sandwiches to Indian cuisine).  The flight consisted of mainly native Indians with a few Americans mixed among the seats (mainly us).  Many of the Indians were pretty old and they kept trying to open up the bathroom doors even though it said that the stall was occupied.  Hannah, my roommate in Delhi, accidently opened the bathroom door to see an older man sitting on the toilet—he forgot to lock the door.  I am not sure why these people had such a hard time because the signs were written in Hindi and English… hmmm… also, many of the older women would take the plane blankets and wear them around the plane like chemises/shawls. Also there was a woman across the aisle who kept staring at me...  I would be reading my book and see her out of the corner of my eyes just blatantly staring at me… that was entertaining… sometimes, I would stare back at her just to keep her on her toes… Anna sat next to a woman that needed assistance with her remote control (technology and the generations)…

Any who, the plane landed at 3:30pm Delhi time (6am US) and the sun was ablazing when we got off the plane, but we did not see much of it since we wound up waiting for two bags that did not show up.  Once the paperwork was set for the missing bags, all fourteen of the students that traveling together met up with Professor Sheila and took a large bus to the YMCA hostel (actually it is more like a hotel).  Delhi seems to be putting in a metro system because the whole city upon is under construction.  Since it was Sunday there was not as much “hustle-bustle”.  We saw many mo-peds carrying entire families.  There was a record of six on one tiny mo-ped… often babies were clinging to the moms who were sitting in back.  We saw wildlife, such as peacocks and monkeys, just chilling on the side of the road.  Once we got to the hostel we checked in, ate some late dinner, and hit the sack.  Hannah and I conversed upon our water purification methods (between the both of us we have every type of device and method to purify).  Shubh Ratree (Good night)!

 

Later, I found out that I had received a heat rash on my butt from all the sitting and humidity that welcomed me to India.  Oops!

 

 

Day 2: Mon 7th—Introduction Day

Today was a long day with lectures galore.  With an early rise of 6am, Hannah and I explored the neighborhood.  Delhi resembles many other large, developing cities around the world with trash in the gutters, people sleeping on the streets, vendors selling random goodies, diarrhea on the sidewalk, etc.  However, instead of squirrels running around the streets there are monkeys.  These monkeys mean business.  They jump and run everywhere and aggressively go through dumpsters.  There are monkeys everywhere, laughing at you as you walk by.  The walk was a good introduction to the city, but we knew that we stood out because when we walked at a “normal” pace we were passing everyone else.

                We headed back to the hostel for a warm breakfast of eggs, potato balls, and toast with bubblegum jam (interesting).  We had a little bit more time to spare so we decided to go on another walkabout in the opposite direction with a few other members of the group.  That walk was a little more entertaining because we did everything we apparently are not supposed to do in the program.  We talked to many men on the street; essentially we told them with our eyes that we wanted to start a “relationship”.  One in particular thought attached himself like a flea to our group and attempted to tour us around (aka he wanted us to go shopping so that he could get a commission). 

After a few protocol lectures, the gang went to a well-known Sikh temple down the road.  That was a fascinating experience.  The temple was pretty crowded with about 200 people just circumventing around and throughout the temple.  It seemed so different from church ceremonies in the US since people would pop in at all times during the day to worship and there was no structured organization.  The holy book was in the center of the temple with priests playing music and singing mantras. 

  Rules for entering Sikh temple:

v  Walk clockwise

v  Cover head with something (we were given bright orange scarves… I think it was so that everyone could identify the tourists…)

v  Take shoes off, rinse feet with water before enter

v  Don’t take photographs and do not smoke anywhere in proximity

v  Keep voices down, be silent

Then we walked around more, stopped in at a Hindu temple.  This small temple was created for Kali, where she “crossed over” in a tree.  The temple was built around that tree and other deities were placed in the shrine so that it would become a more auspicious temple.  We were given a blessing (through an orange dot on our head… not sure what that is called yet), a string bracelet (which represented protection), and a wild rose with sugar balls (a Prasad, food offering).  There was also a man who was preparing a cannabis paste as an offering.   The rest of the day was relaxing with dinner and a circle discussion.  We were also given a Ganesh figurine in order to wish us an auspicious adventure.   

 

Day 3: Tues 8th Shopping

Hannah and I were off again for our routine walk.  This time we ventured further than we had previously been and went to a Hindu temple, flower market, and down through the “business district” of Delhi.  The temple was devoted to Hanuman, the monkey god, with Shiva and Ganesh figures to bring more luck to the temple.  The flower market that we strolled through was a highlight of the walk because the flowers were beautifully dyed and so colorful, and we were the only females there...  I would never have pictured a flower market to be exclusively a “man” thing.  I think that there were two hundred sets of eyes on us while we were walking through.  When Hannah and I started to walk back to the hostel a man in front of us, who was carrying a little bag of treats, was accosted by a monkey.  The monkey flew out of nowhere and just yanked the bag right out of the man’s hands…  An unexpected event. 

Today’s schedule entailed a visit to the FRRO (Federal Registration of Recreational Operations…j/k… I don’t know.8what it stands for) followed by a nice lunch at a South Indian restaurant and an afternoon of shopping for phones and clothing.   However, the day on Indian time because the FRRO lost electricity and could not accommodate.  So, we bought some Vodaphones from a nice Sikh man.  We exchanged numbers like little schoolgirls getting their crush’s digits.  Then we wandered around the Defense Colony market (I think I did 20 laps because it quite small and we had lots of time there).  Two of the guys I am with, Matt and Jeremy, bought some iced coffee while there… oops… ice… o well, I guess we will wait and see what happens to them.  We took a bus to the FRRO to see if the electricity was on and if we could register for our one year visa.  But no luck.  There was still no electricity.  So, we went back to the Defense Colony market and ate some lunch, which consisted of a potato, quesadilla-like sandwich with vegetables inside, a masala dosa, and then loaded the bus to go shopping in the Conrad district. 

The shopping area was larger than previous ones we visited and held within it premises the three shops that most Westerners hit up for fashion.  The first notorious shop was “Fab India”.  This store appeared to resemble a target with its selection of home goods, sleeping wear, clothing, baby clothes, and various other merchandises.  Buzz lining straight to the garments section the gang started a mass frenzy in the medium-small women’s sections.  There were shelves and shelves of dupattas (headscarves), saris, cholis (tight blouses), and salwar kameez (dress like tunic).  For the men, there were many dhoti options.   

After a bit of looking around there, we ventured into two other “formal” stores.  I bought a nice blue and white kameez with a white sari.  Today I learned that if there is one thing I really suck at in life, it would most defiantly be shopping.  While most of the girls bought 4 or 5 beautiful kameez and 2 or 3 trousers that all matched beautifully, I only managed to buy one… hmm.  Well, after that shop fest, the gang went back to the hostel and ate a hostel Indian dinner and hit the sack.

 

Day 4: Sept 9th

Today was a lazy and unproductive day.  It can be described in one acronym:  FRRO (Foreigner Registration Office).  Ten students and Professor Bennett loaded a bus and drove down to the FRRO to wait six hours in a small room.  We needed to register ourselves to the Indian embassy because we had one year visas and therefore the government wanted to keep an eye on us….   We filled out four applications with all our information and photo id the night before and so assumed that we would be able to get through quicker… not the case.  Sharada, the coordinator for the program, talked to a few officers in Hindi and got us through the initial line and into the building.  Then we waited in another line, which consisted of much more aggressive tourists/residents, especially the small Vietnamese who just squirmed their way up through the front.  After we waited for an hour or so we got out of line to go to a small desk since our number (14) had been called.  Apparently we had been given numbers, like in a deli line, and when this machine with a loud, sing-songy beep went off the next person in line was meant to go the desk.  Well, turns out we needed to go back to the line we had come from and then wait to get to the front and then go back to the desk we had just visited and then get individual number (57-67).  When we received our numbers, the machine was at number 13.  We had a long wait.  After a few hours we were at number 33.  By that time it was 2 o’clock.  And you know what that means… lunch time.  All the employees took a half hour lunch break and left all their eager registrars to wait.  After lunch, the employees were pumping people through.  We finally got to register our visas and escaped to the outside world, and all the hectic that surrounded it.  Since the majority of the day was spent waiting for registration most of the items on our schedule were cancelled.  We rescheduled a lecture on the history of Delhi for 5pm while it poured outside.

 

Facts about Delhi you might not have known:

Ø  Delhi hasn’t always been India’s capital, but has played a pivotal part in Indian history as it has always been a gateway city

Ø  It is built on the plains initially near a fording point on the Yamuna River and on route between western and central Asia and Southeast Asia

Ø  It is believed to be the site of the fabled city of Indraprastha, which featured in the Mahabharata over 3000 years ago, but historical evidence suggests that the area had been settled for around 2500 years

Ø  At least eight known cities have been founded around modern Delhi, the last of which was the British Raj’s New Delhi

Ø  The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, constructed the seventh Delhi (out of the eight cities) in the 17th century, thus shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi.  This city is currently known as Old Delhi

Ø  The Chauhans seized control in the 12th century and made Delhi the most significant Hindu center in northern India; but, when Qutb-ud-din occupied the city in 1193, he ushered in more than six centuries of Islamic rule

Ø  When the British moved in they used Delhi as a commercial center.  IT was not until 1911 that they shifted the capital from Kolkata to New Delhi

Ø  Construction was intense during this time and was not completed until 1931, when the city officially became inaugurated as the capital

Ø  Sixteen years later, the British were booted out and Delhi became the capital of independent India.  Since independence, Delhi has prospered as the capital of modern India, with its population dramatically increasing with its economic expansion and increase job opportunities

Ø  Currently the population is about 12.8 million, but the downside of the boom, apart from growing pressure on the city’s growing infrastructure, is chronic overcrowding, traffic congestion, ballooning child labor, housing shortages, and pollution

Ø  India’s largest mosque, the Jama Masjid, is in Delhi and can hold a staggering 25,000 worshippers

After the talk, everyone went to dinner (which consisted of the usual rice, dhal, and roti or chapatti) up to their rooms to pack for the next adventure.

               

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  • User Profile Photo
    katrinasadventures' journal made Dad smile Mon Oct 26, 2009
    do smile
    Hey Katrina,
    Hope this finds you well. A little frustrating Skyping with you but it will come.
    Europe had a time change last weekend, so now 4.5hrs diff from you. We are 9.5 hrs diff, but will change time this Sat night so we will become 10.5 hrs diff unless India has a time change. Do you??
    Nice day in Princeton NJ watching crew, Isabelle rowed in a freshman 8 and a varsity 4, both w/ cox. 3 mile (approx 4900 m) race First race at 1230 and her second at 330. Whew.
    Didn't see Colgate there, don't know if they go. Heard Holy Cross beat Colgate in Football this wekend :-(. Dartmouth finally won a game after 2 yrs against Columbia.
    Loki is loving Holden chasing Simba arnd and showing her kennel off to anyone that will look. Still finding Lyme ticks on her, pulled one off last night.
    Lia worried still has Giardhia??? getting tested.
    Are you still doing your west Aus application to keep options open?? Haven't been able to hear how India is going. So, lemme know.
    xoxo Dad
  • User Profile Photo
    Lia wrote: Sun Sep 27, 2009
    Yo dudeman.
    I'm totally jealous of your crazy adventures.. they arent anything like living in copenhagen- although my bike did get stolen. Ok.. miss ya and love ya tons!

    Lia