atYesterday was the laziest day I have ever had in my life, but I am going to justify my inability to get out of bed in this blog post. Today was something like a wild goose chase, but I will get to the explanation later. This snippet of my gap year adventure story is most definitely about my personal core.
I will start from yesterday and work backwards because I’m sure all of you are dying to know why I didn’t get out of bed for a whole day. Two night’s ago I experienced the Indian inevitable – I was out of bed 8 times to take care of my body’s natural calling. As hard as I tried to not throw-up, unfortunately that had to happen as well to clear my stomach of the bad food it couldn’t digest. To make matters worse we are almost out of filtered water so I had to ration my drinking to a sip after each bathroom break. So my tummy had a small tumble, and I figured that opting against the 6-hour hike some group members had planned and spending the day sleeping was the best alternative to speed up my recuperation.
That leads me to my host family because they are very concerned about my lack of eating lately. First, let me say they are some of the nicest, most accommodating people I’ve ever met. However, I had to explain that I did not want breakfast (a fried roti with radishes and yogurt) at least 7 times. My persistent “I don’t want food” landed me a small bowl of porridge and a cup of tea. Again at lunch I got a very concerned look as I only ate 1 roti with spinach and cauliflower. I couldn’t finish my portion of rice and dal and curry at dinner so I was told that my eating was not sufficient to their standards. I think I’ll try harder next time I get food poisoning to stuff food down my throat. This morning I was served porridge, oranges with pepper on them, roti with a potato soup thing and toast because all of those things are going to help my upset stomach. It was a very kind gesture from my host family but slightly painful to digest it all. Fortunately my appetite is slowly increasing because I am vaguely hungry now at 6:45pm after only eating breakfast today!
In India it is very common to live with many family members, so our home consists of two brothers and their respective families, yielding 7 people total. Both of the dads (Pushkar and Abhi) remind me of my dad in the ways they ask analytical questions and interact playfully with the children. There are 3 children; Bria (2) Tuc-Tuc (7) and Annesh (11) the younger two are girls. The mothers (Shalu and Mohini) are both excellent cooks and very sweet. Mohini works as a teacher in a high school and Shalu stays home with her 2 year old. Pushkar is a lawyer and Abhi is involved in online marketing. They clearly are both highly educated, and have a very large upgraded house, but have made comments about how they do not consider themselves well off in some regards.
Dharamsala is not a very big area; I think the population is around 100,000, but there are quite a few surrounding villages and towns dispersed around. I’m not sure if Dharamsala is considered a city of a village because to me it seems like it could fall into either category, but the distinction between village and city dwellers is very monitored. It is situated very far north at the foothills of the Himalayas and the altitude is around 1,300m. The larger mountains that I can see in the distance are between 4,000-5500m which is mind boggling to view close up. There is a very limited road system so it has become accustom to honk incessantly, just to let people know you are coming. Scooters are very popular, however there are quite a few vans a trucks that come barreling down the steep roads. There are small ‘mom and pop’ stored scattered along the roadsides including vegetable sellers, convenience stores, snack or sweet shops and clothing stores. The markets are colorful and crowded and the men and women are insistent for a sale or for extra coins or chapatti. As many of you probably know, Dharamsala (well actually Mcloud-Gang) is where the Dali Llama has resided since being exiled from Tibet in 1954 (or 1957 I’m not sure). Because of China’s complete invasion and overtaking of Tibet, many Tibetans seek refugee in the area because of their profound religious leader’s roots here (Free Tibet!). It is very interesting to see both Indian people and Tibetans roaming the streets. There is also a Muslim population and an Indian woman approached me and asked if I was Christian, exclaiming she was as well. I don’t want to classify India as being a culture immersed by Religion, but I think the apparent diversity of ethnicity and creed is admirable.
In India, TBB’s global issue focus is on education. The group is spilt up into pairs and we work everyday in a daycare. The daycares are government funded so resources are scarce and teachers are just highly regarded women from the towns. The children that go to daycare can be between 2 and 5, which presents a huge chasm in developmental functioning and abilities. Two year olds can barely speak and comprehend their mother tongue (Hindi) and the 4 and 5 year olds need to be highly stimulated with language to develop critical thinking skills. The apparent problem is my inability to speak Hindi other than ‘my name is Katy.” We are working on the language as a group, but starting from ground zero and bypassing the basic vowel and consonant sounds has presented itself to be a tricky method for learning the language. Sophie and I work together because we are planning to do our media project together on early childhood education. We plan to test different methods of teaching to see which are most effective and I’m also interested in the actual cognitive development that comes from targeted early childhood education curriculum. Our ambitions for the project are high, but the resources and time are very limited so we will see what we can do.
This post has turned into an overview of India so far, but I will go further back and recap on the enrichment week in Africa and the long journey to India.
The group spent 5 days in the beautiful Chrislin Lodge on the edges of Addo National Park in South Africa. It’s crazy that that was already a couple weeks ago! Like I said in a previous blog post, time moves incredibly fast, except when you are stuck behind a herd of 500 Cape buffalo going for an evening stroll, but I will get to that. The activities we did included a canoe safari, boat ride to the highest sand dunes in SA, boogie boarding down the sand dunes, and a visit the Daniel Cheetah center where we saw two brother lions sunbathing on a rock, a hyena and lots of leopards and cheetahs. It was like The Lion King in real life! I learned there are no cheetahs in the wild today, so the center works to reproduce the population by allowing cheetahs from different areas to mate in order to strengthen their offspring gene pools. I also got to walk into a cheetah cage and pet a real live cheetah, which was as equally terrifying as it was thrilling. However, the highlight of the week was the full day safari in the National Park. We saw elephants, zebras, warthogs, emus, and antelope and of course buffalo. I don’t think I ever need to see a buffalo’s ass again because I could probably describe the shape and velocity of their poop as it exits the body and hits the ground and that’s more than anyone ever needs to know about buffalos. I think my favorite moment was witnessing an elephant and a buffalo drinking peacefully from the same watering hole as my I-pod spontaneously played ‘This Pretty Planet’ by Tom Chapin. It’s the moments like those that make coexistence seem so simple.
We left Addo before 6am on Thursday, November 17th. We did not arrive in Dharamsala until Saturday the 19th. I won’t describe the travel days in any sort of detail because everything went as smoothly as it could’ve and we made it safely and frankly no one cares. However I do have some tips for anyone planning a world adventure!
Speaking of elephants and traveling, that brings me to today! With my stomach on the path to recovery, I decided I should go out and explore. Long story short, a group of girls from the group along with a host mom and some of her friends went on a very long journey to a temple. But I’m going to tell the long story as well. In the morning Lexi, Kika, Cat, Saoirse, Maddie, Quinn and I went up to the market area. We paid $1.50 each to go to a slightly disappointing art museum (not as enlightening as the one in SA, but there were some very cool small paintings depicting Hindu culture). Then we went in search of a coke to settle my stomach once and for all and I bought a sweatshirt because everyone keeps saying it’s going to get very cold, but the day has yet to come. No wonder my bag is so heavy, but better safe than sorry I guess (?!). Then Lexi, Quinn, Kika and I went back down to our houses and waited to go to the temples with Quinn, Kika and Sophie’s host mom and sister. Half of us piled into a somewhat sketchy van while the others and some unidentified women and children drove in a different car. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but definitely not an hour and 15 minute van ride through bustling markets and winding mountain roads. I had very high expectations for this supposed temple after about 45 minutes. To our dismay, the temple turned out to be a disappointingly small, hot spring bathhouse that Tibetans use to wash. The man that drove us thought we all wanted to bathe in the hot water, and as appealing as sitting in dirty water with almost naked men sounded, the girls opted to go sit by the river instead. After a wonderful 20 minute rest by the water, we all piled back into the two cars and headed home, except we didn’t go straight home and the drive back seemed like an eternity. My stomach could’ve been happier. The girls went with the taxi driver to Kanga Temple, which I could not tell you where it is located in proximity to Dharamsala, but thankfully, it was actually worth the drive. At the white stone, open air temple we received a sugar packet after bowing to a man sitting inside the main room and were bombarded by Indian schoolboys asking to take selfies. Overall it was much more exciting than the bathhouse temple thing. We made it home after probably 3 hours in the car today and I can proudly say I have gotten increasingly hungrier as I write this blog post, so I must be recovering! As unimpressive as the art museum and the bathhouse were for all of the hype they received the car rides today were eye opening. While passing through small markets and villages and up and down small mountains I caught glimpses of the realities of life for many people. And we saw an elephant on the side of the road! It was painted with pretty designs and appeared to be held captive by some people, but it was a cool sight nonetheless. India is very under developed, much more so than the area we were in in South Africa and I was left thinking about the most effective methods of aid would look like. I have started to read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and his idea that the oppressed become oppressors because of their denial of liberation fascinates me. Our education seminars will revolve around his ideas and I will have another blog post soon delving into how his ideas and my personal experiences will shape my future plans.
In conclusion: India is energetic, colorful and yearning for a push forward. I love the vibrant culture and I can see myself driving my scooter up and down the steep hills everyday to a small clinic in the Himalayas. Dinner is ready so I should go up to eat. Wish me luck that my stomach cooperates!
I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! There is so much to be thankful for!
Cheers to new adventures – wherever they may take you!
An attempt to document my journey through 5 countries, 3 global issues and billions of people