Saturday, June 16, 2012

"It's never a right time to say goodbye"

How can I even explain my departure from India in such a way to completely cover every emotion and thought that I felt?  I admit, throughout our entire departure back to America, it had not really clicked inside of my head and it still has not.  Although, when it does, I'm sure I will be calling a few of my peers to share some memories with them.  Also, a factor that played into this I'm sure was the fact that my stomach was torturing me with pains.  Nonetheless, the moment that I really realized that it was completely over was when D-Money's Tibetan friends gave us the white (scarf?) for blessings - the same as they did when we first made it.  It was almost symbolic for "Welcome" and "Goodbye."  Then when D-Money gave us a hug, for me it felt like the most genuine hug ever - I felt love, compassion, and an actual care that he had for us.  Being in America has some really good perks that I am learning to become for thankful of, but I won't ever forget that it was India that opened my eyes to this.

p.s. Dear India, I shall return!

The Cliff Jump - Dun Dun Dunnnn

"3!.... 2!.... 1!... JUMP!!!"
That's all we heard while looking down at the water beneath us.  I find the power of our minds to be amazing - how it can trick us to believe an entirely different reality than what meets the eye of others.  Looking at the cliff from water level, it did not seem that far, but once up there (especially when it is your turn to jump) it seems like you are having an helicopter view of the ocean.  Though this may be exaggerated, it felt all too real when I was up there.  See, free heights are one of my fears.  So for me to go against every possible thought pulsating through my mind and body telling me "Don't do it! Reconsider!" and to still jump acted as an adrenaline rush and personal reward for me that I hadn't had in a long time. While in the air, I'm sure everyone can vouch for me when I say that it feels like time falls asleep for an extra 2-3 seconds.  After the successful jump, the water never sparkled so well and the ground never gave me more comfort.

The Slum Diamonds

For one of my blogs, I decided that I will give a portion of a new poem that I am working on for the amazing children that I met.  They are our futures:

I've seen them
Over 700 phoenixes with clipped wings
Nesting in the open so much that you could swear they were invisible
They still have the cremation ashes from their past life
covering their bodies that can easily be mistaken for sand & dirt,
Nonetheless, these ultrasounds still remember that they are light.
However, it's hard to shine for even these walking Nebulas
when their forced to live in a police owned land that was once a river bank, (the irony)
so every monsoon season -
the rain would melt their skin as their area was not only prone to floods,
but they - prone to drown...

I'll finish the remainder soon. Be sure to check it out at of our poetry shows on campus!

p.s. One day Maddy, Jami, and Boki will believe me about the crystals haha!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finally Home

After riding on a plane for what seemed like months, we have finally arrived in America. It feels great to be home. The 25 day trip to India was an experience I will never forget. I am so glad I chose to go to India because I most definately learned so much about how other parts of the world live and how well of The United States really is.


Last Day June 8th

Today is our last day in India. It is such a bittersweet feeling to be going home. We woke up and went to the Akshardham Temple. Aside from the notorious Taj Mahal, I think this is the most beautiful temple we've seen. It is hard to imagine the time, effort, and money that went in to building this masterpiece. The precious jewels and gems were the most amazing part I thought.


Guy From Norway

Today I met a guy from Norway named O'Love. He is Dr. Mahar and Aaron's neighbor and he is always wearing Jockey underwear, and only Jocky underwear. Every morning he sun bathes on the roof top. Today was the first day I actually saw him wearing clothes and I've seen him the past five days. He randomly came up to me and gave me some news articles to read. He was a very interesting guy to say the least but I enjoyed hearing his crazy stories.


Missing India...

So it's only been about a day and a half since I left India, and I am already missing it, a lot. I am not just missing India in general, but I am missing the people that I have spent the last month with, 24 hours a day, non stop. It's hard to be thrown into that situation with people you don't really know at the start of a long trip, but the ending result is usually always good. I can say that even though I was set into a situation like this, the friendships I have forged with some of the people, I am truly grateful to have. I hope that they become life long friends, and life long friendships. It seems hard to explain to other people how I felt and what I experienced in India, really only the group I went with understands 100% what we went through. I miss those kids at Tong-Len more than anything else. It was the hardest thing to tell them that I might not ever be back. It is definitely a goal of mine to go back to India to see them again. One 11 year old girl holds a special place in my heart. Her name is Arti, and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. I want to sponsor her, and help her in whatever way I can to help her graduate Tong-Len and move onto a school and become the doctor she wants to be. I can definitely say that I have grown and changed from this trip, for the better of course. The experiences and the people will always stay with me and be apart of me. All of us have a connection that no one else can even understand or experiences. I am MORE than happy to have been able to have this chance to go to India. I am happy to say that I had a BLAST, and wish I could have stayed longer even if I was ready to come home. I will miss India, and all it has/had to offer for me. One day I will go back, and relive some experiences I had there. Miss you India, and miss you guys in the group... Have a good rest of the summer and I hope to stay in contact with some of you! (: Thanks Dr. Maher and Aaron!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bye India

We left India yesterday and it was so bittersweet! I'm so happy that I came on this trip and got to know and do awesome things with some great people. It's weird to be back home because there are no rickshaws or cows in the road. The NC weather is definitely a relief from the heat we experienced in India and if I ever go back I will definitely avoid the hot season. I'm sad to leave such a great place and there are so many things I saw and experienced that will stay with me forever. Thanks Dr. Maher and Aaron and everybody else!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Back Home

Hey everyone.. so John and i are back home and its good to be back! Thought i'd comment on the trip in general.. I can easily say that this has been one of the best trips in my life.. It could not have been so without all the people who i travelled with.. Each and everyone of you guys has made a lasting effect on my life. Yes Andrew you too :p I hope all you guys are doing good and get back safe to your respective homes. Also sorry about not saying bye to some of you! Anyways as i said before each and everyone of you holds a special spot in my heart, and Thank you D Money for making this trip happen. I dont think i will ever be grateful enough! Lots of Love

Goodbye India. Whats Good Sri Lanka

Today I am upset to leave India but at the same time excited to stay at Sri Lanka for the next two weeks. The last day at India was spent at Delhi to view the Ashradam and for people to spend their last rupees shopping. Sorry people but even though the Ahradam was an awesome sight to see, your crazy for picking that over listening to the Dali Lama, the most positive influential persona of our generation. The thing about the trip I will miss most is the people. Met some really great people on this trip and I hope we stay life long friends. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Buddhist Books

If there is one thing my fellow travelers will remember me for, it will be my obsession with books. One of my primary purposes of this trip was to pick up as many books as possible on the subject of Buddhism. Some are canonical, and some are smaller books of a sort of 'self-help" nature, but all of which will contribute to my spiritual development. I also picked up a Koran and a book from the Baha'i faith, as about these two I don't know as much as I would like.
There was one book which I consistently looked for, entitled "Circle of the Sun", by Tsele Rangdrol. It is one my grandfather has been trying for some time to attain, but even after contacting the publishers he could not. Almost every store I visit had the book "Mirror of Mindfulness" by the same author, but never the former book. I am a bit let down, but hopefully I will find it for him in the future.
Overall, I am really happy with the reading I get to do when I get back home. I also picked up books on learning Pali and Tibetan, two of the primary languages within Buddhism, so I am excited to crack them open and begin learning.
However, upon carrying my pack, I am beginning to see the benefit of a kindle. Can't help it though, I guess I am just too old fashioned to switch. 

Dharma Talk in Dharamsala

I listen to a lot of Buddhist Dharma talks on mp3 that I aquire from the internet, but this was the first time I had a chance to hear one in person. We all sat down onto these meditation cushions and meditated until it began. It started off with some chanting in Tibetan, followed by a monk giving his talk in Tibetan, with a translator giving the english portions when he came to a pause. The funny thing is that most westerners in there probably understood Tibetan.
His talk dealt with some verses of Shantideva, from the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, which were focusing on maintaining mindfulness and introspection even when around difficult people. Difficult people being those who would disrupt those qualities.
He even included this story of a monk who was seeking shelter from the rain at this woman's house. The woman said that if the monk wished to stay, he must either drink alcohol, kill a goat, or sleep with her. All would violate the monastic code, but after weighing his options, he saw that alcohol would be the least offense. However, after getting drunk, he was no longer in control of his mind, and went on to both kill the goat and sleep with the woman.
The point of the story was to maintain mindfulness at all times. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You've been hit by, you've been hit by... A Smoooth Criminal

Man, I never really knew how powerful the affect was that Michael Jackson had on every part of our world (Rest in Peace).  Nonetheless, the children at Tong Len school today were extremely excited to learn a few moves.  "Put one hand on your head like this.  Put the other on your stomach like this. Bend down. Now up" - this was the way that I taught them to do the world famous Michael Jackson thrust. Words just do not begin to describe the excitement and love that these children, my brothers and sisters, generated.  I believe that you can learn a lot from nature and especially children. The case the message was obvious - your situation does not choose your happiness.  Their smiles reminded me of summer time fireflies - relaxing to the soul, yet enlightening to the world. I really Pray to come back one day.  That is surely the goal.

p.s. I'll never forget you all - keep MJ alive. 


We started out the day by going to the Institute of Tibetan Medicine. It was interesting to see the tools used for different ailments and how they make pills by using all different types of plants. We also went to Tibetan library and listened to a lecture about mindfulness and how we need to be mindful of every action because with every action comes a reaction. Then we went to listen about human rights and how Tibet is battling China through non-violence, yet China continues to attack and humiliate Tibet. After that we went back to Tong Len to see the kids. I played cricket for the first time and made a couple plays so it was good. We also did a lot of dancing and I taught them more boxing which I regret because they might end up beating each other up.

Last day in the mountains

today i feel like we did quite a bit.. went to the tibetan institute for medicine. Learned about the different aspects of the tibetan medical system which was really interesting. D Money was telling us about the diffeerent things that it has been known to cure. He also told us about the bout that he had with hepatitis and how tibetan medicine medicine managed to get rid of it when western medicine had already failed at it. We then went to the tibetan library where we got two lectures, one on buddhist philosophy which i was really emersed in and another on the Human rights situation in Tibet. The lady that spoke to us about the human rights seemed to be really passionate about the subject. I could feel her pain and frustration when she was alking to us about it. Finally another visit to Tong len. Managed to say a sad goodbye to my friends Mukesh, Vijay, Birju and Deepak, who will always hold a place in my heart. All in all a pretty productive day. Pretty sad to be leaving this place tomorrow, but at the same time im ready to head home!

Don't want to say goodbye

Today we visited Men-Tsee-Khang, which is the Tibetan medical and astrological institute. The purpose of the organization is to preserve the traditional systems of medicine and astrology practiced in Tibet for thousands of years.  The first floor of the institute featured hundreds of different medicines and plants that were used to cure a variety of ailments and diseases.  There were natural remedies for arthritis, insomnia, neuritis, and even dumbness! Any ailment you can think of, there was most likely a medicine for it.  The basement level of the building had the history of Tibetan medicine.  Large paintings, called thangkas, displayed intricate drawings of the human body, including nerves and blood vessels.  There was even a thangka with the entire process of human embryology. Many thangkas also featured various systems that doctors used to diagnose and treat a disease or ailment.  It's mind-boggling to think how advanced Tibetan medicine was in the 16th century. 

It's my last day in Dharmsala and I do not want to leave. Goodbye to the perfect weather.  Goodbye to the Himalayas. Goodbye to the noisy cars honking their horns way too much.  Goodbye to the Buddhist monks who never sport a frown.  Goodbye to Cafe Coffee Day, Restaurant Curry Leaf, and the delicious 20 rupee espresso.  Goodbye to the adorable Tong Len kids. Goodbye to my favorite shop owner, Mustafa.  Goodbye to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.  Dharamsala is my favorite city in India; it will definitely be missed. 

Last day

Today was our last day in Dharamsala.  I am really going to miss it here.  Everywhere we go we see the Himalaya mountains.  I have seen some of the most breathtakingly beautiful views.  Today we returned to the youth hostel to see the children.  One little girl painted my fingernails bright orange!  We spent the day laughing and playing games. We played duck-duck-goose, hokey pokey, and clapping games.  One little girl taught me a new game and I taught her one that I had played in elementary school.  I gave her my email address and wrote down a rhyme for the game I had taught her.  She tried to teach me to say, "I like mangos," in Hindi, but I had a difficult time remembering the words.  It finally was time for us to leave and I hugged her goodbye.  She turned to walk into the building, but kept turning back to wave goodbye.  She finally made it into the window, but went to a window to wave out.  It was so hard to walk away.
I will be glad to be back home, but I will really miss the time I have spent in Dharamsala.  I hope to come back again soon.     

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The other day we had the priviledge of seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  In the morning we got up early to see him pass by in his motorcade on the way to speak at a school.  Many people crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of him.  He smiled and waved as he passed by and he seemed to radiate positive energy.

Later we went to the campus, where His Holiness was speaking to school children.  To get there we had to do a bit of treking up the side of a mountain.  Some people had radios to listen to the speech from the outside, but unfortunately I was not near one.  After waiting for a short while, we heard a thunderous applause and he descended the stairs to his vehicle.  Once again, he seemed joyful to see the people who had come to see him.  He seemed to be filled with a great inner peace.  I felt honored to be in his presence.  I was so glad to have had this opportunity. 

Don't Make Me Leave!!

It crazy to think that just 3 weeks ago i landed in Delhi and entered a whole new crazy world. Now the world that foreign and loud had become normal and a place to call home. I have fallen in love with India, the people, the culture it is all so different from home that i could not have asked for a better study abroad. The children of Tong Len have melted my heart and i'm so thankful we got to return to the hostel today as well as having visited the slum yesterday! They are the most genuine and lovable children. No dream is too big and they are determined to get what they want, even if its a piece of candy! Knowing that this trip is ending fast is killing me. I look back on all the crazy adventures and can hardly believe the time is gone. I can't wait for the day i can return to india hopefully Tong Len!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having fun in the Slum...

I thought Rishikesh was my favorite place but i was definitely wrong Dharmsala takes the cake. Today we went to help the kids in the slums and it reminded me of the days when i lived in the refugee camps back in Bosnia. The kids were all happy to see us there, we tried to distribute candy out but that didn't go as well as we thought. I love kids and my mom is a elementary school teacher so i always help her out. The slums were no different i couldn't wait to play with the kids but they wore me out between climbing on my like i was a tree and picking them up i got to say it was a great day. It really opens up my eyes to how different people live on the other side of the world. We take so many things for granted like we should have them when these kids don't even have clean water to wash themselves with. I am really glad i went on this trip not only for myself but also for my family so maybe i could shed some light on them and change a few things on how we have been living. Before i forget Tibet is not part of China so Free Tibet.

Tong Leng

Although it was yesterday that we visited tong leng i decided to name my post that because what i witnessed today. We were at the slum known as Charan Khat today and it was a sight that id probably never forget. After what i saw today i cannot even explain the amount of respect that i have for the tibetan monk Jam Lan (i think that how you spell it). He is the man who started the tong len organisation pretty much from scratch just because he felt the need to help the community in the slum. These people were ignored by the government in both their original place of living and now also the people in charge of this area. Jam Lan has not only helped them out with better living conditions (free access to 17000 litres of water a day) he has improved the general health and hygiene of the community and also provided the children of the slum with a way of getting out this lifestyle. I couldnt help but marvel at the way he has changed the lives of 70 individuals who presently reside in the hostel he has built. The hostel is equipped with all sorts of things that the slum children could not even comprehend before being involved with tong leng, this includes a brand new computer lab which could even put the computer labs at ECU to shame. I hope the kids at tong leng grow up and surpass what Jam lan has done for their community. 

Free Tibet!

Today we went to an art institute. The place and the art was beautiful. Plants, trees, sculptures, a fishpond, a temple and hotel, and a bunch of workshops gave the place a beautiful yet rustic view. The workshops had painters, wood carvers, metal artisans, and doll makers. The painting was my favorite because of the hard work put into it and the natural colors used. The paintings took anywhere from a few hours to a few months. First the paintings had to be traced by photograph precisely to every angle, then the it was painted very slow and steadily using natural colors, like flowers from the mountains in Tibet. After the art institute we went to a Tibetan temple that was used primarily as a place to pray and study for nuns. After the temple and an awesome Chinese lunch we made our way to the slums to play with the children and better understand their situation. The kids were grateful to leave the begging life and stay at a place where they could sleep, eat and study, providing them with a promising future. One of the babies, Sanju had a huge impact on the group. He could not speak, hold his head up or smile and his heart and breath rate was irregular and he had a fever . As I held him he struggled to drink water and as I took a piece of candy out of his mouth blood came out too. He fell asleep for a good hour and me and Tyree prayed for him. Through this experience I don't understand hour the goverment puts so much money into a cricket stadium but refuses to put any of their money into a slum right across that could benefit many lives.

Charan Khat

Today we went to Charan Khat which is a slum where about 750 people live. As soon as we got out of the vehicles children started running to greet us and ask our names. Several people brought gifts and were giving them out to the kids.  The kids were going crazy and continued to ask for more continuously. As we walked down into the slum we could see where families lived. Some had a concrete slab where others only had the rocky dirt ground. As we passed one family, there was a newborn twenty days old. It was so tiny. As the day went on we were able to watch the kids learn math. They were learning how to do exponents.  The way they were taught was different but seemed much easier than the way I learned.  I met a girl named Jada who was twelve years old with a huge smile! As we talked I found out that she knew Pinky, the girl I spent time with at the hostel.   She loved my earrings and wanted them along with my sunglasses.  She would ask over and over again "Please ma'am." in the end she gave me her bangles and all I had to give to her in return was a hair tie. Overall, it was a great day and I'm glad we were able to put smiles on the kid's faces. I can't believe time has gone by so fast and we will be flying out in under 3 days! 


Today we went to the Tong-Len slums. It's truly amazing to see how little some people have but yet still have the most positive outlook on life. The most simple things such as a pen or finger nail polish create the biggest smiles on their faces. It's really heart breaking to see the sick and dying children that don't have enough money to seek medical help.

- Taylor

Jyoti Squared

We went to the slum today. Some of the kids there have brothers or sisters at the hostel we went to on Sunday.. I can't imagine being separated like that and one of them knowing that the other is in a worse place than the other. I met 2 girls named Jayda and... Jyoti! Ironic that out of all the kids in the hostel and in the slum, I ended up spending my time with two different Jyotis! They were all so sweet and loved nail polish and stickers At first it was soo hectic with all the kids running up and wanting you to give them something. But once things settled down, I had just as much fun there as in the hostel. It's crazy how these children live, and so many people have absolutely no idea. We watched some of the kids being taught their math lesson with exponents in the tent that ECU students made years ago. It was pretty cool to see what an amazing job they did and that it's still standing. It's even cooler that it's used as their school. The last few days here in Dharamsala have been great, other than the huge storm tonight. I thought our windows were about to bust through! The table on the balcony was blowing all over the place but it's cool, we're safe :) Only 3 days in India!

Dalai Lama and hostel

Today was a pretty exciting day. First we stood in the street to greet the Dalai Lama while he drove up to a school to teach. After we trekked up the mountain we could hear the Dalai Lama while he taught the students and then we saw him again while he left. It was crazy to actually see him in person, I still can't believe it. Later that day we visited a hostel where children from the slums can go to school, sleep, and eat. It was so much fun playing with the children and they were all so happy and energetic. A girl that I talked to who was 16 asked me if I would come visit her again and you could see how sincere she was and it really touched me. And even though they don't have much they were more than willing to give us a present. I really enjoyed meeting them and I wish for their dreams to come true.

The little things in life

Today was probably the most humbling experience of my life.  We visited a slum sponsored by the Tong Len organization.  When I first saw the slum, I was speechless.  I don't even know how to begin describing what I saw.  However, despite these conditions, the people genuinely seemed happy.  We had the opportunity to play with the little kids, and it was definitely one of the best times of my life. Each of us passed out small gifts we had brought for the kids, which they sincerely appreciated.  I had the time of my life having spin top races with the boys and playing hand clapping games with the girls.  I hate to say this, but I had a favorite kid.  Her name was Manisha and she was only two and half years old.  There was just something about her that brought a smile to my face every time I held her.  She was the perfect child.  Even thinking about her right now is bringing tears to my eyes because I miss her so much.

The best part of today was just seeing the kids smile and laugh.  Even if you gave them just five minutes of your time, you would instantly receive a 100 watt smile. It made me realize how much we take the little things in life for granted.  A high five or a piece of candy makes a world of difference for these kids; that's all they need to be happy.  I just wish we took the time to do the same. 


When we visited the Tong-Len hostel, I wasn't sure what to expect. Right at the gates were children of all ages, from the smallest to those about to enter college. They all smiled, and had a pretty decent command of English, which you could see got better as you met the older ones. That day I got many names, and made many friends, and it is my biggest wish to help Deepak and Nisha go to college. Both had really big aspirations: Computer Engineering for Deepak and Nisha wanted to become a doctor. I believe they would be some of the first to graduate from this hostel in the upcoming year.
The work this organization has done for these children is just amazing. Today we had the opportunity to visit the slums from which these children and their families originate. You haven't seen poverty until you have seen these shanty-towns. However I am an optimistic person, and judging by the goals of the children being helped by the organization, they could possibly help provide for a better future for themselves and their families.
I want to come back to Dharamshala after graduation so that I could offer my help to this organization, to the Free Tibet movement, and to further study Buddhism in depth. 

The Best Two Days Of My Life

Sunday and today were honestly the best two days of my entire life (at least so far). On Sunday our group was blessed enough to see the Dalai Lama twice: once driving past us on the street and once getting into a car as he was leaving a lecture. To see him the second time, we trekked up yet another mountainside to listen in on the Dalai Lama's lecture to some students. The translation was a bit rough to understand at times, but it was so interesting to hear to what he had to say and extremely exciting to see his beautiful, big smile twice in one day. Later that day we went to Tong-Len and met some of the sweetest kids in the world. I was overwhelmed by how many of them hugged me and took my hand so quickly without even knowing me. No stranger has ever looked more excited to hug me than Pinky did. There were at least three girls named Pinky, but there is no way I will ever confuse this girl with anyone else. I didn't think any smile could be more genuine and bright than the Dalai Lama's, but Pinky's smile surely proved me wrong. Pinky, Nitu, Nisha, Vishal, Rainu, and so many other children laughed and played with me for hours. They took great pride in showing me their beds in the hostel and were thrilled when I gave them my email address so they could write to me later. I have never had more fun doing anything in my life compared to the time we spent playing with those kids. We played soccer, tag, hand games, pick up sticks, sang, got henna done, ran away from John's farting friends, and so much more. I gave some of the children nail polish, my earrings, and some bracelets I was wearing. It took my by surprise when they refused to take my gifts unless I took theirs. Pinky and Rainu gave me their favorite bracelets and Nisha put a beautiful henna design on me. As of right now, if there was any day I could relive of my life, it would be that one. I have never felt so loved and have never experienced such pure happiness than I did on that Sunday.

 The only other day that even compares to Sunday was today. We headed down to the slum in which we met more amazing, enthusiastic children. Seeing their faces when we pulled out little pieces of candy and offered to paint their nails was priceless. Even the boys asked for one of their nails to be painted because some colors looked cool to them. Giving these children small toys put smiles on their faces that were bigger than those most children have on Christmas. It was so refreshing to see children that are so easily pleased, but at the same time it was heartbreaking. It's difficult to put an experience like that into words, but it's one experience I truly believe everyone needs to have. Helping these kids out with their daily lessons (which included math, reading, writing, and more) was yet another thing I will never forget. They have impressive techniques which allow them to solve even the most intense math problems with such ease. Some of the multiplication and division problems were ones that I could see my older brother struggle over and most likely whip out a calculator to solve. Luckily I picked up some tips that I can use to help him out when I get back.

I don't know when I'll be able to come, but I know I'll be back at Tong-Len one day. Some how, some way, I'll come back and visit these beautiful children again. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to come and see a world so different from the one I grew up in. Thank you to my parents for helping me come on this trip, thank you Dr. Maher and Aaron for planning it all, and thank you India for the best trip of my life. 

The Slums

Today we visited the slums. Going in i really had no idea what to expect. People can tell you all about it but being there and seeing everything is entirely different. Immediately the kids came running up to us all excited to see us. We walked around the slum and got to see there school and the center of things if you will. It was sad at first seeing everything and thinking about how we live our lives and how they live theirs. But once you got to know the kids and played with them it brought out this entirely different side. Though their lives are far from perfect they really appreciate the little things. They were so excited to get little toy cars and silly bands....things we take for granted back home. They were so full of life and loved just being held or playing hand games or being tickled. We watched the older kids school hour...i was really surprised by what they were learning because most of it i had learned when i was older than most of them are now. It was great to see them getting the opportunity to advance and some of them really enjoy it. These kids were so amazing holding the little babys was the best thing ever. This one little boy was sick and it was so sad to watch because you could tell he just wasnt getting enough and yet holding him made such a difference....just being loved and cared about really matters to those kids. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Most important day of my life

My dream to meet the Dali Lama came true unexpectedly in India yesterday. We waited in the street along with hundreds of other people just to get a glimpse of him passing by car. You could easily recognize him by his huge smile and I felt an energy pass through my body as he passed by for that brief moment. The reactions expressed his importance in Dharamsala. Jaws dropping and people crying and praying were just a few of these. Later on we went to one of his lectures. The translation on the radio was hard to hear but what I got out of it was the new medical research of how compassion and love is used for healing and growth. Typical Dali Lama talk. The lecture ended with him leaving the building with his big smile followed by applause and picture taking from his audience. I was in such awe that I forgot to even take a picture. Later on in the busy day we went to a school built to take kids out of the slum and give them a place to live and learn and give them hope for the future. These kids were awsome. Everyone in the group quickly made friends with the kids and everyone had a smile. The kids quickly jumped on my "juice" dance and loved to climb on me, play soccer, and watch me box. So much that I even got punched in the face....I taught him how to throw one hell of a cross. Words can't express how much fun and how much I learned in that day so I'm just gonna stop.

Little Pinky

Yesterday we were able to visit a hostel and play with so many children! When we arrived all the kids came running. The first little girl I got to spend time with was named Pinky. She couldn't speak English so we had a huge barrier.  She loved to be held and flipped upside down repeatedly. Needless to say, I was exhausted in no time but she was having so much fun! I also spent some time with one older girl who was twelve. She could speak English so it was easier to interact with her and talk. She told me she wanted to become a doctor. During a huge gust of wind, she went and grabbed me a mango that had fallen. I tried it and it was sour compared to the sweet ones we ate in Rishikesh.  After many hours of hand games and what not we made our way back. It was so sad to see there faces when we left but I know they enjoyed it just as much as we did! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pinky Promise

Yesterday we visited a hostel with tons of sweet kids. I spent hours with two little girls and time flew by like it was nothing. I wrote their names down but I don't think I have the paper with me, I think they were Jyoti and Kavati. I made them pinky promise to write to me after giving them my address. And then they wanted to picky promise that we were all best friends. It was so sweet! When it was time to leave... it was the worst feeling in the world to say goodbye. Kavati said "when you come back, I'll have a gift for you!" I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't planning on coming back. She gave me her hair clip and after giving me a hug and about to cry, she tells me not to cry! But of course I did as soon as she said it. I can't stop thinking of them both, wondering if they actually will write. So many things have happened on this trip where I've said 'its been one of the best days ever', but today may have topped all of those days. Knowing I made those two girls so happy by just spending time with them and actually making one of them cry, I just can't put into words how that makes me feel. One of the best days ever.

Can I Bring them Home with me?

Yesterday we went to Tong-Len and it was the most amazing place i have ever seen. The kids, from the moment we got there were so excited to see us and were so ready to play with us! The first little girl i met was Manju and she was adorable! She clung to me for most of the time and when other girls came over she wouldn't let them hold my hand because she wanted me to only be her friend. Any time i would pick another girl she would be right there waiting to be picked up afterwards. Then her friend Jyoti came over and the two of them were so funny. We started playing hand games so i would start with one and then the other would come and try to get me to start a game with her. It was so cute. At one point i started doing there hair and once i was done they started fighting over who got to do my hair! Words can't even begin to describe what it was like being around these kids. They're so innocent and so full of life....they could literally play for hours! They were absolutely amazing and they loved getting to use my camera! That was another thing they all fought over...who got to use the camera next! I also met this girl Nisha. She's 17 and the oldest one at Tong-Len. She was equally as amazing. When we had to leave she got so sad because she didn't want to say goodbye to me and she didn't want me to leave. She kept asking when i was going to come back. But it was nice because i was able to spend a lot of time with her. She wants to be a doctor which i thought was great especially because i want to be one too. She even gave me henna and its absolutely beautiful! I don't know how she does such intricate designs. She even wrote both of our names on my hand and wrote i love you. Saying goodbye was literally the hardest thing ever. You could tell they were so happy to have us there and never wanted us to leave. They are definitely some of the most amazing kids i have ever met and i miss them so much! Tong-Len is such an amazing place and it really shows in each of the kids i met. It was great to because Erin and I started playing this hand game we love and they knew it, so they would all keep coming over, wanting a chance to play. We even started a big game of one of them and it was so funny because it was one of the boys that won the game every time!

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Now i thought Rishikesh was amazing, but i actually think that Dharmashala tops it! The view from out hotel is breath taking, you can see the white caps on the mountains! But of the entire trip my best experience came from today! We woke up early to see the Dali Lama drive through the city. Now if this was the only time i'd ever get to see the Dali Lama i'd say that a quick glimpse of the man is enough to understand his peacefulness. But we also got to make the hike up the mountain to the children's school to listen to him speak! Now we would have heard the majority of his teachings but someone is always missing which leads to the fun adventures of hunting them down! I found it to be a comical morning despite the lessons we missed out on. But we were able to catch the last few minutes of his session. The translation we were listening to was somewhat choppy and hard to understand at times but still now i can say i've heard the Dali Lama speak and that alone is incredible. Just watching him descend the stairs is a peaceful experience! It was really a once in a lifetime kind of thing and i'm glad to have forgone the hours of sleep for it!
This afternoon we went to Tong Len Hostel and that was equally as rewarding an experience! From the moment we walked in the children were clinging to our legs. They were adorable and so innocent. Becca and i were standing there and decided to play hand games, our favorite game is SLIDE so we thought we'd show them that! Well as soon as we began to play a group of girls ran up and already new the game! For at least 10 minutes we all stood there playing this overly simply game but it was so exciting and eventful to them. But one of the greatest parts for myself was meeting this 14 year old girl named Punam. The first thing about her that caught my eye was her clothing. While most of the other children were running around in jeans and t-shirts she was wearing more classic Indian clothing in a gorgeous turquoises blue. She came up to me asked my name and took my hand, and the moment she grabbed my hand she didn't let go except for when i pulled it free to do something. She has 2 brothers and one sister and her cousins also attend the Hostel. She is 14 years old and wants to be an Astronaut. Our conversations were simple and yet she and i became friends. I admire her, she has a dream and she is trying to attain it, even if that means studying in the dark so she can pass her exams. She is very special and i am glad to have met her! Today's overall experience was unlike any other! Each day on this trip seems to have gotten progressively better, i'm just not sure how one can top a day as special as this!


Best day ever

I feel like I've been saying this every time I write a blog, but today was easily the best day of the trip so far. We finally arrived at Dharmasala yesterday which is where the Tibetan Government in exile and the Dali Lama are located. We woke up at 7am today to see the Dali Lama pass by on his way to give a teaching at a local school. We then waited outside the school in order to see him leave. He is exactly what you think of in your mind when one pictures the perfect Tibetan monk. He was constantly looking jovial and wore a smile on his face wider then mine, and that is pretty hard to do. At first I thought that the only thing that could take this trip from a 9 to a 10 was actually meeting the Dali Lama, but later on I figured out how wrong I was. We left for a school called Tong Len that helped take slum children out of the slums and educate them to become doctors, businessmen, etc. These kids were honestly some of the cutest and sweetest kids I have ever played with, the second we showed up they were constantly smiling and running up to us asking our names. I absolutely love kids and this was an incredibly heartwarming experience for me. I picked up every child I could find and spun them around or slung them over my shoulder. We then played an exciting match of football, which was convenient because I wore my Manchester United Jersey today. (Also It was the first time I've ran around and played a sport since breaking my leg in January.) Obviously my team won. However what really made today so special was just the faces of the kids as we were leaving, and the fact that they really did love having us there and were begging for us to come back sometime this week. Driving back to our hotel we got to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen, with the sun gently falling behind the Himalayan mountain range. This trip has been full of some of the best experiences of my life and I am not at all ready to see it end. Hopefully we do get to go back to Tong Len and play with those kids again, because I really can't imagine what could be better then the smiles on there faces.

Dalai Lama and The Kids

Today, June 3rd 2012, was by far one of my favorite days. We started the day by waking up at 7:00 am to be in the center of the market in Dharamasala to see the Dalai Lama drive by on his way to the school. I was ecstatic for this opportunity to see the one and only Dalai Lama. When his car drove by it was a lot faster than I thought so I couldn't take a photo and really grasp that I really did just see the Dalai Lama in person. After breakfast we headed up the long and steep pathway to the school with everyone else to see him once again. This time we stood outside the school waiting for him to exit and enter his car. This time we really got to experience seeing him and the emotions that came with it. I snapped a few photos of him and am more than happy to say that I was elated to be in his presence and to see him twice in one day, and ultimately probably the only two times I will see him in my life. After seeing him we went to the hostel and met all the children there. That was by FAR my absolute favorite thing we have done so far this trip. The children of all ages came running up to all of us and wanted to play, talk, and just have fun. The kids that I ended up interacting with were the cutest and most adorable children I have ever met. The one girl I met was named Mumba, and she was so much fan to talk to. I didn't get to sit down for very long with a single child, but I interacting with a lot of them. Since I was taking a lot of photos of the trip there and of the kids, it started a chain reaction of the kids wanting to take photos with all our cameras. Ibwas a bit uneasy at first to let the younger kids run off with my camera to snap photos, but after I saw that they weren't dropping it to its death I let them go off and take photos. One little girl LOVED taking photos and was really good at it too. If I could go back and give a gift I would give her a camera. By far meeting all the kids at the hostel was an amazing experience. I was elated with emotions and heart warming feelings from just being there. I was also pretty amazed at how well mannered and how well tempered they were. They had amazing manners and called us ma'am or sir, and loved to hold our hands an lead us around to show us the hostel and explain everything. I would go back an spend a day with them again in a HEART beat, or spend a year with them. The friendship they showed to me and the group was amazing and loving. It was by far the hardest thing to say goodbye and walk out the door on all the kids I became close with in the few hours I spent with them. I hope in the future I can come back and spend time with them and see them again because I loved being with them. Who knows, maybe one day they will need an on site nurse at the hostel and I could be there (:

Nearing The End...

So the trip is nearing its end. I'm sad it's almost over but at the same time I am getting excited to head home, I'm a bit homesick! Since being here I have learned quite a few things and have had many more experiences than I thought I would ever experience. To recap on some of the things so far during this trip I have enjoyed the most would have to be in Corbett when we went on the jeep safari and elephant safari. I've never touched an elephant before or rode one, so to be able to do all of that in one day was an amazing experience. Elephants are amazing and gorgeous animals. It was also just exciting to be out in the wild with all those wild animals and see them in their natural habitat. Wish we saw a tiger though! Those were by far my favorite things we did up until Rishikesh. In Rishikesh my favorite part was the white water rafting and the cliff jumping. I've never done either of those before. The rafting was way more fun than I anticipated and I really enjoyed the rush and the fun of it. The cliff jumping was indeed my favorite part about that day. To conquer a fear and jump, it felt amazing. I highly enjoyed the rush of adrenaline I got from jumping off that cliff into the Ganga river. I loved it so much I had to jump twice! I definitely will be doing rafting and cliff jumping when I get back home, I found a new love in them. Now we are in Dharamasala and we will see what it has to offer! (maybe some paragliding (; )

Thursday, May 31, 2012


So since we didnt really do much on our free day yesterday i thought id do a general post about rishikesh... so far the favourite place in India for a lot of people including me.. Yoga in the morning, followed by an awesome breakfast everyday! and on top of that Karan, the friendliest and most fun Indian (technically Nepali) we've met so far.. and add to that white water rafting, jumping off a cliff, Arjun the crazy waiter and the Beatles ashram and i really cant find anything to complain about! Off to Dharmashala probably gonna be even better from what ive heard!

Himalayan Rafting Adventure

Yesterday we went whitewater rafting in the Ganges.  It was so much fun!  Some rapids were a lot more turbulent than others.  Fortunately our raft never flipped, but we did get splashed.  Some people in our group did jump off the raft quite a bit.  Sometimes we would come to calmer places in the river where everyone would jump into the water and swim for a bit.  Our guide and John both did back flips into the water.  The water was ice cold, but so refreshing! 

At one point, we all got out of the raft to do some cliff jumping.  To be perfectly honest, I was too scared to jump, but I did climb up to take photographs of my dare devil classmates.  After passing the camera I climbed down from the rocks into the water and allowed the current to carry me back to the raft.  I thought that was plenty of cliff excitement for me. 

Overall, we had so much fun.  I hope to get to whitewater rafter again in the future. 

Barbie goes rafting in the Holy River

Heading is for you Hetal! So it's been a while since I've blogged. Since Delhi, I've been to the Taj Mahal, ridden on an elephant, jumped off a cliff, white water rafted, and swam in the Ganges River. The last few days have been amazing. I can't imagine spending my time doing anything else. Yesterday was the white water rafting, probably the best time of my life. The rapids were crazy awesome, we almost flipped once but I loved every second of it. And we went cliff jumping! I wish I knew how high up we were, but it was such a rush, I can't even explain it. I was scared to death but now I wouldn't mind doing it again :)
Our hotel here in Rishikesh is beautiful. The view from our room is incredible... we over look the Himalayan mountains, the river, and the rest of the town. At night it's gorgeous. There are some wild fires though in the distance that look like they're spreading, and apparently nothing is done to fix it, it's just expected to go away? There is a really cute St. Bernard and Pug that walk around near our hotel here, such an odd couple but so freaking cute!! Davey-Ann and I also have a couple pet lizards in our room, yes it's gross but I think they're kind of cute haha! We leave tomorrow and get on a night train to make our way to Dharamsala, our last stop before our one day in Delhi and last day in India. I'm not ready to leave Rishikesh!! It's such a beautiful place!

It's a Rat!

After a wonderful day of haggling in the market and walking around Rishikesh, and having some interesting runs ins with the locals at the ashram, i think its safe to say everyone was ready for a nice calm meal. So naturally we  decided to go eat. Well i must say that was probably the least relaxing but definitely most entertaining meal i have had thus far. After waiting for over an hour for all of our food to arrive, everyone was incredibly hungry and ready to get back to the hotel. As soon as our food came it was gone, but one of the other table still hadn't gotten anything. Just as their food arrives, Hetal see's what she thinks is a rat running across the floor. Mind you we are sitting bare-foot on rugs and pillows (which was actually wicked comfortable). Once Erin heard the word rat, all hell broke loose. She screamed so loud I'm pretty sure the opposite side of the Ganga could hear her. She jumped up and ran screaming for the stairs, not even stopping to grab her bag or camera. Its was every man for themselves! Needless to say, we all followed. Once we managed to drag our way away from the "rat" and calmed ourselves down, Aaron came down to tell us that it was merely a mouse and not a very big mouse by any stretch. It was hilarious though, she was so freaked out and pretty much nobody knew exactly what to do. So that pretty much put an end to our incredibly long dinner which was nice, but wow, what a way to end the night! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cliff Jumping Epic Fail

Rishikesh has been full of so many thrills and adventures. For starters, we climbed down a steep mountainside path to reach a beautiful, serene area in which we all took a quick dip into the Ganges River. Although I didn't go in all the way at that point, I would later find out how much I loved swimming in the cool, refreshing water. The markets within Rishikesh were just as crazy as the ones we saw in Dehli. The annoying part was that all the shops seemed to have set up fixed prices for certain things like skirts and scarves and refused to negotiate any prices with us (or at least the girls). After spending this much time in India, most of us could tell when we were getting ripped off, so a lot of us had to walk away. Somehow Maddy got some great deals so I'll probably ask him to haggle for me later. If that doesn't work out, I'll just wait until Dehli. The people there seem to be a bit more reasonable. Later we checked out the ashram in which the Beatles stayed. It was amazing to see all the different artwork that both local and traveling artists had sprayed painted onto the old building walls. Some people left messages for their loved ones on the wall, but most had decided to leave lyrics to the Beatle's song that meant most to them. Despite the decaying rooftops, random holes some of us stepped in, and crazy men trying to make us pay them for jobs that don't exist, it was a great experience and I truly hope I can visit it again.

The white water rafting in the Ganges River was definitely one of the craziest, but best experiences I have ever had.  I've been white water rafting before, but what could possibly beat doing it in the Ganges!? Our awesome guide, Karan, made the experience even crazier by randomly pushing us off the raft (that probably sounds bad, but it was all in good fun) and playing games with us on the raft in which a good amount of us would always end up falling off. The rapids were so much fun and my favorite was the one we were allowed to swim through instead of staying on the raft. Now for the cliff diving experience...I may have messed that up a bit. The roughly 40 foot jump was supposed to be done in a pencil straight body formation. My praying mantis-like pose probably was not the best idea. Although I jumped off straight, I definitely did not realize how much the pressure would lift up my limbs. Sadly, I learned my lesson the hard way by ending up with a bad case of whiplash. As I swam back to the shore I thought everything was great, but then my head slowly told me otherwise. Dr. Maher, Karan, and Shayna all helped me out for a bit and everything ended up to be completely fine. Also, mom and dad, I really am fine, but I'll call you later so you can confirm.

If I had to describe my experience in Rishikesh in one word, it would be crazy. I still can't believe everything we've done here and I hate that my time here has to end so soon. 

Team Karan

Om, Om, Om. Shanti, Shanti, Shamti.  We have started each day in Rishikesh chanting these sacred words during morning yoga.  So far, Rishikesh has been my favorite place we have visited. The city is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. During our first day, we explored the Ram Jhula marketplace.  Shopping for clothes was highly disappointing though, because most of the shops had fixed prices.  No matter how hard you tried to bargain, the shop owners would not drop their prices by even a rupee.

Rishikesh is a very religious city.  There are temples and sadhus on pretty much every street you walk.  We visited the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which is well-known as the Beatles Ashram. The Beatles stayed in the ashram for a short period of time and wrote most of the songs for their White Album.  The ashram was not preserved after the Maharishi died and is mostly in ruins now.  However, there is beautiful graffiti artwork dedicated to the Beatles that was really cool to see.

Rishikesh has provided me with numerous once in a lifetime opportunities.  Yesterday, I felt like I was on an adrenaline rush. We went white water rafting on the Ganges River, which was AMAZING! I've never been white water rafting before and I'm not a strong swimmer, so I was really nervous.  Our raft guide, Karan, was very helpful in calming my nerves.  He would make us play games in the raft, like standing on the edge of the raft and spinning the boat around really fast until we fell.  Karan would also just randomly throw us off the raft into the Ganges.  I took three "holy dips".  I also did a cliff jump into the Ganges. I don't know how high the cliff was, but it was a long hike up the mountain. I was extremely nervous.  I kept chanting "Ram, Ram, Ram" the ENTIRE time, which was really funny to Karan for some reason. Dr. Maher said I was so nervous that my legs were shaking.  Karan had to do three countdowns until I jumped.  But when I did, the rush was incredible! I'm so happy I had the guts to do it.

White water rafting and cliff jumping into the Ganges - Rishikesh is definitely the place to be!


Rishikesh is amazing and by far my favorite place so far! Every morning we wake up to Yoga! As a yoga fanatic back home just the mention of doing it here and i was all in! But it has been unlike anything i could have imagined. The city is beautiful and peaceful to begin with, but at 7am when there is little activity and the air still has a cooling mix to it, it is indescribable. Breathing in such fresh air each morning it is as though i can feel the peaceful energy which surrounds this place. Having been many places thus far the air quality here is far different from the others. Each pose we do requires some type of breathing whether it be slow and even or rapid and harsh. For myself i enjoy closing my eyes during different poses, it feel more peaceful and it allows me to focus on myself rather than the others around me. But here i feel as though that is taken to a whole different level. Our instructor has such a calm and soothing voices and keeps us in certain positions for an extended count. For me i really gain a sense of peace. Waking up at 7am during the summer is not every kids dream, but once we finish a sessions the world just seems awake and refreshed, personally i never feel tired. Even though there is a fair amount of "sleeping" to be done during yoga! My favorite part of it all though, is when we've just finished a pose or breathing exercise and i slowly open my eyes and get to see these beautiful, giant mountains glowing in the waking sun. It's one of the most breath taking views i have ever experienced and has made me absolutely fall in love with the city. Having to leave tomorrow is going to be difficult! Until you have seen this view personally i feel as though words just can't describe it. I'm not one to sit here and say i feel at peace with the earth, but during and after Yoga that is probably the best way i can describe it. It is almost as though if you really focus you can feel everything around you all the beauty and grace this place has to offer can almost become a part of you.

BY: Erin Lueders

Rafting in the Ganges

After yoga and breakfast, we left to go rafting in the Ganges river! I think rafting will probably be one of favorite things that I did in India. While rafting you could see the Himalayan mountains around you and it was amazing. Everyone was pulling people into the water and I think Dr. Maher was the one who got the most people in. We also got to jump off this cliff which was so scary but I'm so glad I did it because it was so much fun. My arms will probably be sore tomorrow but it was worth it!



Today we woke up at 6am and performed another round of early morning yoga, this time adding in more complex moves and performing them faster. My back was killing me through out but it got better towards the very end during some breathing exercises, and it was a great way to wake up in the morning. Afterwards we got another great breakfast from the people at the hotel, and then we got to go white water rafting in the holy Ganga! That was easily one of my favorite experiences since coming to India. The water was so cold but it felt great considering the intense heat. It was a full day of rafting and took about 6 hours, me and my boy Sanch were in the front most of the time helping to steer the boat, it was exhausting work after a few hours but too much fun to want to stop. The rapids ranged from easy to intense but our guide Karan knew exactly what he was doing and did a great job of directing us and managing the rapids. They also provided us with a great lunch, and towards the end we got a chance to cliff dive into the ganges river from a giant rock, it was wicked sweet! I did it twice it was so much fun. It was aound 6pm when we got back from the mountains, so D money gave us the rest of the day as a free day to just hang out... so you know, I'm going to go enjoy that now.

Adrenaline Rush

The past few days have been so busy and full of adventures.  The past two days we have participated in yoga.  Yesterday we did a lot of walking around Rishikesh to several markets.  It was definitely a workout up and down the mountains.  We walked to the Beatles Ashram that is now rundown.  In one of the western dorms, there was awesome graffiti with the song lyrics from the band.  I can’t draw so it was really fascinating that someone could do that. 
Today we went white water rafting.  It was by far the best.  It took about six hours to get to the bottom.  The views we had were amazing.  A little over half way down, we had the choice to take part in a cliff jump.  I was very nervous in the beginning and it got worse the higher we climbed.  When it was finally my turn, I looked down and was asking myself what I had got myself into.  On the count of three I went!! It was the biggest adrenaline rush I have ever had but I am so glad I can say I jumped into the Ganges from a cliff.  Although the water was freezing, it was so refreshing!!


Today was such a fun day! We went white water rafting down the Ganges.  I've been white water rafting a few times before but I think this was the best one yet.  A lot of people jumped a cliff but I didn't.  Our guide was awesome and showed us some very creative "games".  The water was soooo cold yet sooo refreshing.  -Taylor

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elephant Safari

The past few days have been non-stop going. A day or two ago we went on an Elephant safari through the "jungle" looking for Tigers. It was extremely fun, and the FIRST time I have ever been up close and personal with an elephant. I was excited as hell for the ride, since I have never been on one before. Once we got on, it felt so weird to be on the elephant. While we were going through the forest, we were on the hunt for tigers. We didn't really see anything of importance other than some deer, monkeys, and peacocks. One thing that was cool to see was the tiger paw prints and a dead deer hidden in a bush that was killed a few hours before we arrived. It is a totally different experience to be in the same area as such a powerful animal, versus seeing one in the zoo. I wish we got to see a tiger, but the experiences going through the two safari's, and being able to take an elephant ride almost make up for it.

- Jessica K.

Rishikesh Day 2

We woke up today for yoga at 7am from a yoga master. He was a really good teacher and it was awesome to do yoga in India where yoga was founded. After the yoga session, we went for a dip in the Ganges. It was cold but really refreshing and being cleansed of my sins was also a plus. We walked a lot today and I will definitely be sore tomorrow. We got acquainted with Rishikesh and visited the ashram where the Beatles stayed. I enjoyed it since I'm a Beatles fan and that is where a lot of their songs were written. Rishikesh is an amazing city and I think this will probably be one of my favorite places. The weather is a lot cooler here as well and the view of mountains and the river is beautiful. I'm excited for the rest of our time here!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bathing in the Holy Ganga

Today we woke up at 6am to perform some morning Yoga outside. It was an incredibly peaceful setting and our yoga instructor really knew his stuff, Some of the stretches were pretty difficult but it was a lot of fun and helped wake everybody up. We are going to keep doing morning yoga everyday we are in Rishikesh which I am very excited about! After yoga we had a great breakfast provided by the hotel, and it was easily the best breakfast we've had so far. Great eggs, coffee, juice and fresh fruit that for once was safe to eat. However my favorite part of the day came afterwards when we got to bath in the holy Ganga river! D-money took us down some crazy path on the side of the mountain and brought us to a secluded location where a yogi used to live several years ago. I jumped right into the water and was the first one fully submerged. Of course half the girls acted like they were afraid of the river and just sat at the bank but what can you do. At least Becca and Erin hopped in with Boki, Tyree, Sanch, John, Andrew, and I. After that we explored the market place and saw some sweet temples around Rishikesh, but I'm even more excited for tomorrow because we get to go white water rafting on the Ganga! This trip has been the bomb and I can't wait to come back to India again!

Safari in India

We went on a safari and it was so much fun.  We all piled into jeeps and took off into the tiger preserve.  We didn't actually see any tigers, but we did see birds, monkeys, elephants, and deer.  Our guide had a fantastic camera and superb vision.  He would stop the jeep to to point out a bird that might be perched high in a tree 100 yards away.  I coud only see some of these birds with the help of the powerful zoom on his camera. 

At one point we were driving along the path and we came across a monkey sitting on the side of the road.  It settled into a tree as we stopped to take photos.  Suddenly it lept from the tree to ground right next to the jeep.  I know I was startled.  I was hoping he hadn't intended to join us in the vehicle.  Davey Ann got a really great photo of the monkey in the air.  Later we came a whole group of monkeys.  Sitting amongst them was a mother monkey holding her baby.  They were so cute! 

We also saw a huge herd of elephants.  They are such beautiful and majestic creatures, while still seeming so gentle.  Some of them were eating the tall grass and other were taking dust baths.  I really enjoyed seeing them.  I was so glad that we had this experience.      

Finally arrived in Rishikesh...

My trip to India so far has been an eye opening experience. The more time I spend in India the more i grow to love the people and the culture. I wasnt really sure what to think when i first arrived at Delhi, and now i understand why i didnt like Delhi so much is because its mainly a city focused on the selling of goods and not on the historical and cultural aspects that India has to offer. When we took the 4 hour car ride to Rishikesh i was amazed by the amazing landscape of the mountians and surrounding towns. Things here seem so much more peaceful then the hustle and bustle of the bigger citys down below. So far Rishikesh is proving to be my favorite place because i feel more intimate and connected to the town and people. I cant wait to find out what else Rishikesh has in store for me but i know patience is a virtue therefore i wont rush things and just enjoy them as they come.

-Bojan Poluga "Boki Bear"

My Birthday

May 27, 1992 was a special day for me because it was the day I was born. I was very fortunate to share it at such a beautiful place and with such beautiful people. The time spent was at Corbitt and the agenda for the day was to go to safari on a jeep to view nature at its most natural state. If you're a nature geek like myself, nothing could get much better. The trees, plants, birds, monkeys, deer, and elephants made the day that much more special. And yes I said elephants, about thirty of them including one crazy one that attempted to uplift a couple of the jeeps. Except for that crazy elephant you would be surprised how gentle the elephants are  After about four hours of observing some of the most beautiful creatures we made our way back to the hotel to eat dinner. Even though everybody cannot sing except for Kimberly, I was greeted with the "Happy Birthday" song and a cake made by Shayna and Hethul that consisted of skittles, gummy bears, almonds and nerds. Shayna added the almonds and honestly I don't know why. My good buddy Tyree bought my dinner so I took advantage and feasted like a king. After dinner and when everyone went to bed, the owner was kind enough to invite me and Sanch to hangout with his friends and enjoy more good food and drinks outside. We got into a deep conversation about the importance of love over money and our relationships with our parents. Just from that one conversation I found a deeper appreciation for my mother so this blog is for you and I love you. No doubt the most memorable birthday of my life.

John Yarbrough

Birds, Deer, Elephants...but no Tigers

This morning we woke up at the lovely hour of 4am to do nothing other than ride elephants!!!! Even though it was incredibly early, i can't really complain because honestly how many people get to say they rode an elephant in India? It was so amazing. The elephant i was on really was not that big, but i still would not want to get caught on the underside of their legs! The ride was really nice though, taking pictures was kind of hard though because they all kept coming out blurry. We rode them for about 2 hours looking for tigers, but unfortunately none were to be found....although we did get to see a freshly killed animal...not that that was very more just smelled awful! It was great though because when we were coming back our guide jumped down off the elephant to take pictures of us. It was so cool, but i was kind of worried about how he would get back on. Apparently they train the elephants to help the riders get back on, so he literally climbed up the trunk of the elephant. It was the coolest thing ever!
Its so funny because i still can't believe i'm in India, let alone riding elephants! The Corbett Tiger Preserve was really beautiful! There was so much to see and all the wild life was amazing. Although the guide my jeep had was really into birds so we were constantly stopping so he could take pictures of birds that were miles away and only he could spy them. It was kind of funny. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

UFO sighting

So first blog for me! pretty late in the game but im sure no one really cares! yesterday was a pretty exciting day although we didnt really do much. it was a pretty early rise because we went to watch the sun rise at the Ganges. Took a boat down from Assi Ghat all the way to the second cremation ghat. On the way passing the launders at the dhobi ghat and even some religious practitioners taking their morning baths, all the while the sun crept up slowly on the right of us. Dr. Maher had got us a guide for the morning, Prakash. He seemed very knowledgeable about the building on the banks as well as the ancient city of varnasi in general. After the rather enlightening boat ride we hopped off and went for a walk through the narrow alley ways to snatch a glance at the top ofthe golden temple. After that we went back to a little shop to have some chai tea. Then we went back to the hotel for a free day. I have grown to realise that the sights are not even the greatest part of this trip. The people here India keep catching me by surprise almost everyday. Just yesterday i made two new friends bopal and Manoj. Bopal is a friendly man who has a little shop close to our hotel who i regularly bought Limca from and Manoj was the masseuse, who's services and company i enjoyed for about an hour yesterday. Just 11 days cant wait to see what else is in store!    

My boy Boolie

Varanasi has been a great place filled with great people, crazy people, and a mix of both. As we arrived to our hotels the first day on a jeep, the driver played his CD and I fell in love with the first song. So much I asked him to play it over at least ten times as I annoyed just about everyone singing it as loud, proud, and incorrectly as I possibly could. The only person that seemed to like it was a rikshaw driver named Boolie. As I hopped in his pimped out ride he started singing and I thought he was the craziest man I had ever met. Then I realized that I am probably the craziest person he has ever met. I started singing the tune I had recited many times in the jeep and he actually understood! Although we were not in harmony and I had absolutely no idea what I was singing, we sang along and found a true bond through music. You my boy Boolie!r at least ten times as I annoyed just about everyone singing it as loud, proud, and incorrectly as I possibly could. The only person that seemed to like it was a rikshaw driver named Boolie. As I hopped in his pimped out ride he started singing and I thought he was the craziest man I had ever met. Then I realized that I am probably the craziest person he has ever met. I started singing the tune I had recited many times in the jeep and he actually understood! Although we were not in harmony and I had absolutely no idea what I was singing, we sang along and found a true bond through music. You my boy Boolie!
Varanasi has been a crazy time. The Main Ghat is chaos like you've never seen it, and the men don't hesitate to tell a pretty girl they like her! Yesterday myself, Becca and Maddy went shopping in the main ghat to look for shoes. This is a chore alone. First you have to look for the right shoe, then the right price and if it doesn't match up you begin the process all over again at another story. After about our fourth store we found what we were looking for. As Becca tried on shoes Maddy and i chatted with some locals. We made of the completely false elaborate story about how we were from Delhi, and that we spoke English because we had attended international schools. I'm not sure if the men believed us, being that we don't look remotely Indian, but they didn't really argue it. Then out of the blue one man whom we were talking with looks at Maddy, points at me and goes "i like her, will she marry me?" So of course Maddy and I immediately claim to be married. The man proceeds to look at Becca and say "but there are two of them!". So them the story became that we were both happily married and that seemed to disappoint them, but they respected it.
Later on today, Becca, myself and some others went to the same shop in search of shoes for someone else. The same men were there and all asked where our Husband was! They then wanted to know how our marriage was! It was a fun little charade to play for the day. And we got multiple pictures taken with the men as part of our bargaining price. It was definitely an unforgettable situation.Varanasi is full of amusing little adventures!