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!


Were about to play a game called snaps

Varnassi has been absolutely wild the last couple of days! Yesterday we got to visit Sarnath, the place were Buddha taught his first teaching. It was an incredibly serene and peaceful place, and we were able to sit by a huge shrine and meditate for a while. There were hundreds of Indians making a pilgrimage to the spot and many of them would get down on there hands and knees and touch the ground with their head in worship. It was a heartwarming experience and just another thing that I can now cross off my bucket list. After we left the shrine D money took us to a wicked sweet Tibetan monastery that had some of the most beautiful and ornate paintings / sculptures of the Buddha I had ever seen. The place was incredibly nice and we could even see monks sitting around the sculptures reading Buddhist scriptures and discussing them. When we finally made it back to Varnassi we had music lessons, some of the group played the sitar but John, Sanch, Boki, and I played the Tabula, a very cool set of drums that was easy to pick up, but wicked difficult to master. The man that was teaching us named Babloo was amazing and could jam for days on those things. Later on at night we came back to the same music shop for a concert featuring Indian singing and dancing, as well as the instruments we had learned about earlier. Indian music puts me in such a deep trance, I could hardly keep my eyes open during the show! Afterwards I went straight to bed in preperation for tomorrow, when we had to be awake by 5am.

When I awoke the next day I was pretty miserable, 5am is just too early to be awake. But D-money took us out on the holy Ganges to see the sunrise, and its hard to stay mad watching something like that. Afterwards we were given a free day to rest and relax, and I think me and some of the guys are about to go get a quality Indian massage. Tomorrow we have a 15 hour train ride to corbett national park, so I figure my back could use the extra attention!

Early Morning Sunrise

We woke up today really early around 4:30 to be ready by 5 to go on the Holy Ganges river to see the sunrise. Not only was it beautiful but it was majestic in its own way. I really enjoy taking the boat rides and looking at how the whole town works together as one heartbeat. In America you really don't see this anymore and its sad people here are cooperating with each other to get tasks done. While i would probably still be asleep in America, Varanasi is bustling with people trying to get prepared for the days up coming activity's. We also got to see to cremation sites where people are burned and set free in the river thats why its considered so holy. I feel like its a privilege for me to witness these timeless traditions that probably have been around longer then America has been a country. I am really excited for what else India has in store for me in the weeks to come.

-Boki Poluga

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Taste of the Classical Music of India

Yesterday we had the opportunity to take some lessons and watch a performance of Indian classical music.  I took lessons in the sitar and voice.  In the sitar lesson, we learned the proper way to sit and hold the instrument.  We each received picks and learned how to play the classical Indian scale.  I found it really interesting that they have the note C fixed as "do," instead of being able to change "do" to create other keys like we do in Western music.  The sitar is a very beautiful instrument.  In my voice lesson, I learned to sing the classical Indian scale.  At first I had a little trouble pronouncing the syllables correctly, but after my teacher wrote them down it was a little easier.  I thought it was interesting that we sat down through the lesson.  In the West, it is traditional to stand while performing or practicing.  We did a few other exercising ascending and descending the scale.  I fee like a learned a lot.   

We came back in the evening for a concert and it was amazing.  I was struck by the complexity of the musical textures and melodies.  The parts of the pieces we heard blended together in an incredible way, but I felt that each instrument would have been impressive playing their own part alone.  The singer was wonderful.  He sang really complicated vocal runs and trills with ease.  It was breathtaking.  I was so glad that we were able to experience this wonderful music.       

Music in another language

During our first night in Varanasi, we had the opportunity to listen to a group of musicians perform classical and folk Indian music.  These musicans are extremely famous and have performed all over India.  The group consisted of four musicians total, each playing a different instrument: sitar, tabla, sarangi,  and a horn/flute-like instrument.  The music produced from a combination of these instruments was so soothing and angelic.  Each note that sprung from the musical devices was like a heavenly melody from the gods.  It was a great way to end such a long and tiring day.  Yesterday, we had to priviledge to work with the musicians and learn how to play the instrument of our choice.  I chose to learn how to play the sitar, which was a popluar choice among most of the students.  Our teacher was Tarak Nath Mishra. We were taught the proper way to hold the sitar (like the professionals) as well as some basic scales and chords.  Mr. Mishra stated that music is the same all across the world, just the language is different.  For example, in America we use Do, Re, Me, Fa, etc. , and in India they use Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, etc. Never would I have fathomed that I would learn the basics of playing the sitar. 

Where the Buddha First Taught

Today we visited one of the holy sites in Buddhism, the town of Sarnath. This was where the Buddha taught his first sermon after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya. We visited this one monastery with a beautifully painted wall of the Buddha's life. Many of us meditated here for some time, and I made a donation and purchased some books for sale. Outside, they had the full text of his first sermon from the Tipitika inlaid on a shrine.
We then went to the stupa constructed by order of king Asoka, who patronized Buddhism after his conversion. This and its surrounding monasteries were in ruins, which is testament to the idea of impermanence taught by the Buddha.
After some driving, we went to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. This place was completely different from the other one. upon entering their grounds, I could see how serene of a place this monastery was. Inside, there were two monks engaged in some serious study in their books. We walked around the place, and took some pictures, while doing our best to maintain quiet for the monks. We meditated here as well, and then left as quietly as we came. out of the corner of my ear I could hear a bunch of younger voices speaking in a language I could not understand. I asked Dr. Maher, and he said that those were the voices of novice monks being educated.
To become a monk seems like one of the most selfless thing a person could do, so I have a lot of respect for those who embark on that journey.

[Photo of the Sarnath Tibetan Monastery from web]

So far in India..

India is amazing. I never in my life ever thought I would see myself in India, but here I am! And so far it's been a fun, exciting, exhausting experience. My view of India was Totally different than how it really is here. India is a gorgeous place, in it's own way. The heat is overbearing but you get used to it after a few days. The sweating constantly becomes apart of everyday life for us here. We search for shade and cold water constantly. I think the heat and everything here is testing a lot of our physical endurance. I hope that when I go back I am more physically capable of doing more things. So far the places we have visited have been amazing. I am so glad to have come. Even if the weather is killer!

Jess (:


The Ganges River that runs along the city of Varanasi is very beautiful but can it can mean deathly illness for us. Although the people come here to bathe in the holy river everyday. We wee all tempted to jump in during a boat ride because of the heat but didn't due to the potential consequences. Varanasi has so much character and the people are so memorable. The ghats of Varanasi are all diverse. The one we are staying at is called Assi Ghat which is one of many ghats. While walking down the river you can see clothes drying, people bathing, and temples. Today we visited the burning ghat where hundreds of bodies are cremated everyday. It was eye opening to be able to experience and observe this sacred tradition. Jami

The Hottest Day of My Life

Yesterday the temperature in Varanasi went up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat made yesterday one of the hardest days for me here. Regardless, it was extremely rewarding. We started the day out by taking a boat into the Ganges River and looking at the numerous ghats scattered along the shore. So many stuck out to me, such as Janki Ghat, Hiresh Chandra Ghat, the cremation ghats and many more. As the day warmed up, we visited the Main Ghat that was full of shops ranging from bead shops to saree shops. Our next stop, the Nepali Temple, was full of intricate designs depicting various Tantric art. Following this, we headed towards a cremation ghat in which we watched a few cremation ceremonies.

The rickshaw ride back from the Main Ghat was one of the craziest rides I've ever been on. After just visiting Universal Studies a few weeks ago, I feel like this rickshaw ride was much more intense than any of the rides I went on. Amusement parks should start making some simulator rides in which people take fake rickshaw rides.  It feels like the rickshaw is going to have a head on collision with the giant bus or car roaring straight at you, but at the last possible second, one of the vehicles turns. I don't really think that explanation does any rickshaw ride justice, but hopefully it's close.

At night we attended one of the most populated religious ceremonies I have ever seen. We viewed the evening ceremony at Dashawamedh Ghat (Main Ghat) from another boat in the Ganges River. In my opinion, this was the best location for any tourist to view the ceremony. I find it incredible that thousands of people congregate every evening for prayer. It's beautiful how so many people are passionate enough about their beliefs to come together and celebrate this often. 

Yesterday was undoubtedly the hottest day of my life, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Kedar's Fans

It has been a long 9 days but so worth every minute.  Yesterday we walked along the Ganges to view the cremation ghats.  As we were there, one man came up and explained everything.  In order to understand everything that is going on around you, you have to have an open mind.  The best part of my day was a ceremony that is in honor of the gods along the river.  We all got on a boat and watched from the river.  This ceremony takes place everyday at 7:30 in the evening.  The amount of people who attend this is unreal.  Its like trying to guess how many jellybeans are in a jar, impossible.  While we were on the boat several young boys jump from boat to boat trying to sell you different little items.  Kedar was our favorite and attracted all the girls.  He was ten years old, so cute and full of energy.  We took many pictures with him along with the bindi’s that he gave each of us.  After the ceremony, we took the long boat ride back to Sahi Riverhouse.  It was a very peaceful ride and much cooler than the daytime. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I miss my dog

So far this trip to India has been absolutely wild! Upon our arival in Dehli we were instantly thrown into a poverty stricken district and got to see first hand how bad the poverty here really is. There were countless beggars desperate for any money or food we were willing to give them, and shop owners would chase after us trying to convince us to come in there store and buy something. It was an extremely moving experience that helps me by thankful for what I have back at home with my family. After a few days of roaming around Delhi we took a train to Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is built. That monument was truly breathtaking for me because it has always been a dream to see it in person. The while marble and inlaid stone was masterfully done and has stood the test of time by still being beautiful 400 years after it was built. I've realized that the pictures can never really do it Justice, because they only show the Taj itself, and not the accompanying buildings to the right and left, which are almost equally impressive. Unfortunately we only stayed in Agra for a short time, and last night we boarded a night train to Varnassi. The train was incredibly cramped and it was almost impossible to get any sleep. To make things worse the second we got off the train we realized that Varnassi was easily the hottest place we have been so far, and I instantly began sweating through my clothes. However our hotel here is much nicer then the other ones we've stayed at, and over the past few hours Ive begun to grow accustomed to the heat. D-Money is coming back with his assistant Aaron soon, and taking us on a night time activity which will be our first in Varnassi. Also, I really miss my dog!

Faith, Poverty, and Heat

We are now at Varanasi after an overnight train ride from Agra. The heat is intensifying, and we are becoming used to constantly sweating in our clothes. Some of us picked up some cheap India clothing, which helps with both the heat and covering from mosquitoes, but as it was cheap I already need to pick up some new pants.

The poverty here was expected, but I don't think any of us were prepared for it when it hit us. There are people sleeping on streets, starving dogs roaming the streets, and children swarming you in hope you will give them something. Small change is hard to come by, so we often try giving what food we have. Those who work beckon for you to come into their shop, or follow you for some time trying to sell you something. While it can be too much sometimes, I completely understand. Their livelihood depends on bringing tourists into their stores to purchase souvenirs. They seem to barely scrape by. Meanwhile, there is a lack of sanitation that causes much trash to litter the countryside and cities.

It has generated many thoughts about the condition of the poor in India, and hopes that one day they will be able to eek out a better living.

Despite the poverty, these are some of the happiest and most likable people I have ever met.

A religion which I was only vaguely aware of before now interests me much more than before. We visited the Lotus Temple of the Baha'i faith. While inside, there was a mandatory silence only broken by children who wouldn't know any better. This was a very enjoyable moment, as it gave me a nice area to meditate without the hustle and bustle of the city. After leaving the temple, we went to their museum, which had for sale their "Most Holy Book" by their founder, Baha'ullah, which I picked up a copy of. Their religion rests on principles of peace, equality, and justice, and came across as similar to Unitarian Universalism. They had these wonderful banners with humanistic quotes from most of the major religions, including their own. 

Now I am off to check out what this city has that could enhance my spiritual experience.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Celebrity Status!

India is absolutely amazing and has far more to offer than you could know before coming here! today we were in Agra and went to the Taj Mahal. Pictures don't do this place justice by any means. there is so much to see and learn and absorb from just being in its presence. It's majestic and calming and indescribable. the love story behind it too makes it all the more special. to think that this man built the magnificent place for his dead lover and the myths which accompany the love story are all the more special and romantic. But the craziest experience for me was being bombarded by Indian natives wanting to have their picture taken with me. their faces were mesmerized and they glowed just when i smiled or waved at them let alone having our picture taken together. One little girl had henna all on her arms and when she said hello i commented on the outstanding artwork. she was innocent and sweet and although we barely understood each other we found a way to communicate and make the moment specially. her whole family was with her and they were simply overjoyed by this. It is amazing to think that such a simple act goes a long way. throughout the day pictures kept coming and as annoying as it became i could not say no because the looks on their faces were worth the aggravation. so much has happened in just one day its hard to even recap all of it! there are very few words to accurately describe what India is like, it's a piece of dirty beauty. in the midst of all the dirt and poverty stands such a magnificent piece of art and history that is truly incredible!


Day 5: Bollywood comes to life...sort of (posted by Shayna Mooney)

Agra is absolutely amazing! The town is full of rich history and culture, and I am in love with it. We traveled from Delhi to Agra on a train- the Taj Express.  It was my first time on a train and surprisingly I very much enjoyed the ride.  It was a nice change to view the country side and other parts of India.  Agra is strikingly different from Delhi.  The hustle and bustle of metropolitan city life is practically non-existent.  The streets are full of horse drawn carriages, wild pigs and goats, and extremely friendly shop owners. I also thought I was a pro at handling the heat of the Indian sun, but Agra proved me wrong.  The weather is brutally hot for a large portion of the day.  However, that is a small price to pay in order to view this beautiful city.  Agra has a relaxed atmosphere with a population proud of their historic origins.

All of the historic sites we saw today were part of the Mughal Dynasty, which ruled India using Agra as its capital for over 100 years.  The first place we toured today was the Agra Fort. This structure, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, was massive.  The fort stretched for 94 acres with walls towering over 70 feet high.  We spent over three hours touring the fort and only saw the main features.  One can easily spend a day exploring this beautiful structure.  Every inch of the fort was covered with intricate detailing and architecture combining Hindu, Muslim, and Persian architectural styles.  No words can describe how exquisite the fort was.  I loved the Agra Fort, because it was the setting of one of my favorite Bollywood movies, Jodhaa Akbar, a love story of Mughal emperor Akbar marrying the Hindu princess Jodha Bai.  I recognized many parts of the fort that the movie replicated, which made the fort more meaningful. It was a wonderful experience. I cannot wait to what’s in store for the rest of the trip!

Celebrity Status

We went to the Taj Mahal today. It was absolutely beautiful and the story is even better. Its such a sweet love story. The entire time we were walking through the Taj everyone would keep stopping and asking to take their pictures with me. At one point i got trapped by about 20 guys all wanting their pictures with me and everyone else had gone ahead of me. I kept trying to walk away from them but they always want "1 MORE" finally a security guard came and told them to leave me alone but it was really funny. We also got stopped by a family and the girls were so pretty. They loved that Erin and I were twins and they wanted the whole family to have pictures with us. They even told us all about the girls henna and that she was the one that did it for her whole family. It was amazing! Everything she did was so detailed. She was incredibly talented! The Taj was amazing and I loved getting to see it. There were so many colors and overall it was just amazing! Its so funny how everyone wants to be with us and have their pictures with us. and all the children here are so cute! 

"Money Jump, Ma'am!"

The atmosphere in Agra is much calmer than what we all experienced in Dehli. However, the many things like dogs, honks, stares, and the occasional cow have yet to change. Seeing the Taj Mahal was nothing like I thought it would be. Up close, the marble shimmers beautifully in the sunlight and is full of detailed stonework. A nice man inside even took the time to shine a light on the stones for us so we could see how some of them glowed. It's incredible to think how much math was involved in making this structure even though it was built over 300 years ago. Architectures even thought to angle the four towers surrounding the main tomb away from the middle structure so the tombs wouldn't be crushed during an earthquake. I also couldn't believe that a group of six men bet 500 rupees with each other on whether or not I was Indian. At least three of them loved me after I confirmed, but I'm not so sure about the rest. Traveling to Fatenpur Sikri, we drove passed poverty that was nothing like what I had never seen before. The pollution and unhealthy living conditions we passed by are ones I had heard about from friends and family, but seeing it with my own eyes was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Regardless of their poverty, the people here showed great smiles as we waved to them through the bus windows. Many sweet young kids even blew us kisses and danced for us.The structures within Fatenpur Sikri were extremely elaborate, but still very different from one another as had Akbar tried to create special structures to please his different wives. I was so surprised when a few boys offered to jump from one tall structure into a pond for 100 rupees while calling it a "money jump." Another even offered to   recite a poem to me for 10 rupees. When I recited one for him and asked for 10 rupees, he wasn't amused.

Overall, the two days we have spent in Agra have been much less stressful than the days we spent in Dehli. Despite what seems to be an increase in temperature and possibly even an increase in bugs, I can't help but wish we had more time to spend here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Hello, My Friend!"

I still can't believe I'm here. All the noise and people here a lot to take in, but I can't help but welcome all the changes. Waking up to prayers playing in the street makes getting up at 6:30 am so peaceful. Immersing myself into the constant flow of traffic just outside Hotel Relax was much harder than I thought it would be. Despite this, the past two days have been incredible.

Within the past two days I have made many 'friends.' The streets are full of Indians just waiting for tourists to come and check our their merchandise. As we walked to the bus stop today, many people opened the doors of their shops and greeted us as their friends in hopes of selling their items. The building we saw today are the most difficult to put into words. The architecture here makes our so called beautiful skyline look quite simple and possibly even boring. The first stop we made at the Humayan Temple was just the first of many captivating buildings we would see throughout the day. The wealth of the Mughal Dynasty was definitely apparent as seen by the elaborate tombs built Humayan had built for people like his favorite general and favorite barber. The next stop we made was to the Lotus Temple. No words would give the architecture to this building justice. I desperately wish I brought my camera cord here so I could transfer pictures. The Lotus Temple was inspired by the Lotus flower that is a symbol seen throughout many religions in India. The temple is shaped almost exactly as a Lotus Flower and surrounded by 9 bodies of water. We learned a lot about the Baha'i faith while spending time at this temple and I can't believe I knew nothing about it before. The volunteers there are so kind and respectful to all of their visitors and the workers have done an incredible job of explaining how selfless their religion truly is. The video we watched greatly explained the importance of unity in the Baha'i faith and did a wonderful job of educating us about their history. The last stop we made at the Birla House was one I will never forget. It was amazing to see the place in which Gandhi spent the few days of his life. The area even highlighted the last steps Gandhi took before he was assassinated. This was no surprise considering the numerous contributions Gandhi made to India's history. It was disappointing not to see Akshardham today due to the crowd, but at least I know we'll be back to see it at the end of the trip.

Thankfully jet lag is going away faster than expected! I can't wait to see what else is in store!

Punched by Coincidence - Worlds Apart

Last night Sanch, Boki, John and I were sitting on the balcony of our hotel, simply soaking in the rush from our first day.  Suddenly, two guys from Jordan came in and sat on the balcony as well.  The first guy, slender and bald, was shy at first but eventually began to speak to us; he said that his name was Muhammad.  His friend, however, was not shy at all - said that his name was Khalil.  As Khalil sat with us, he began telling us his quite intriguing life story.  He explained that he was a Taekwondo master.  This, I believe, was him being modest as he was actually # 2 in the entire world a few years ago and # 1 in Asia for 6 years! Khalil said "I used to train for 9 hours everyday and had gotten so effective that I would know the opponents move before he'd even strike."  As he traveled to America, he became chosen to become the coach of USA's Taekwondo team (which eventually became number two in the world.) and also had trained the SWAT team for some time.  Though he is a living human weapon, he was one of the most humorous and kindest guys that one could meet.  Oh yeah, THIS WAS JUST DAY 1!!!

Last day in Delhi!

So I still have jet lag... I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn't sleep for long at all! These last couple days have amazing, I've learned so much about India. I really wasn't expecting to see what I've seen here, it's been a total shock. But I'm getting used to it all; the heat, the cars/bicycles/scooters almost running me over every second, people wanting to take pictures with me and shaking my hand, etc. Today we went to Ba'hai/Lotus Temple (which was incredible), the Humayun Temple, and the Birla House (which is where we learned things about Gandhi and saw where he spent his last days).
Things here are crazy, there are dogs everywhere just like there are squirrels back home! Last night there was a random cow walking down the street... it's just crazy. But like I said, I'm getting used to it. 3 days down, 22 to go!

Fighting Jet Lag

I can't believe we are finally in India.  The plane rides were so long but so worth it.  After a short little nap we started our day and went shopping for items everyone needed.  We had lunch at a place called Kuality.  The food was delicious but the best thing about it was air conditioner.  After a long nights of rest that was much needed we had several adventures today.  Today has been full of interesting information.  We visited Ba'hai Temple, Humayun Temple, and Birla House.  It has been very hot and I am now getting adjusted to everything.  Everything I have seen has been so amazing.  I hope the rest of the trip is as awesome as the past few days. 

Davey Ann Burbage

Thursday, May 17, 2012

All Arrived Safely

At 3:55 AM local time, the group arrived safely, and we made our way back to the hotel quickly through the empty streets.  Many had not slept a great deal, so we will have some sleepy souls today.  Nonetheless, our day of activities will commence in a bit more than an hour.

Ready, set, GO!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sound and the Flurry

Driving now in a taxi between Ramnagar and Haridwar, in the first bit of flatness below the foothills of the Himalayas, the roadside terrain is thick with shady mango groves, the stout trunks branching prolifically near the ground and reaching out to form a dense canopy. Planted 25 feet apart in a regular crystal lattice, the intertwining network of limbs provide a private silence below, the ground cooler and dappled with dreamy cloud shapes of light where little else grows.  Movement there is scarce, except for the rare plunk and thud of a fallen fruit.
Occasionally, this landscape gives way to open spaces, newly tilled soil or brick kilns with great towering chimneys that cough as they turn the red earth into building material for the towns nearby.  Somewhere just out of sight, melons are being grown, as shown by the old men pushing squeaky wagons loaded down with the sweet orbs on the edge of the dusty road.  Swoosh, whoosh, as girls and women hack away at tall grasses destined for the family buffalo.    Two bent men labor to start an old engine to pump water into a greening field. Deftly guided by expert reinplay, a bull manages a tight turn as it ploughs the hard-packed soil.
Small noisy villages emerge between the trees and the fields with their bustling activities, the clatter of wagons and the horns. Bicycles and carts, tractors and donkeys ply the narrow roads amidst the through-going traffic. Gangs of boys rush off with purpose. A small engine drives a wheel that chews up sugar cane, dripping sweet juice from its jaws.
Meanwhile, I daydream of my own piece of land under cultivation, the small ornamental gardens I have contrived at home. Jill tells me the butterfly weed and the salvia have flowered and the St. John’s Wort; the creeping phlox I planted ten days ago is producing small purple flowers all around the base of the edgeworthia. Our gardens have their own sort of quietude, a sweet void against the subtle urban hum of town, punctuated by the birds and the episodic sounds of neighbors.
And the past two days, we have experienced another sort of landscape, the uncultivated wilderness that makes Corbett Tiger Reserve home to wild elephants, leopards, several sorts of deer, hundreds of species of birds, honey badgers, and, of course, tigers. The rolling hills and tangled brush make that land ideal for stealth, concealment, and silent approach. It offers a flickering soundscape, undoubtedly meaningful sonic contributions drifting in from all directions to produce a mad symphony of whir, buzz, flush, rustle, and trill, without overall rhythm, coherence, or pattern.  It is rather the interruption of sound, like the forest catching its breath, that carries meaning and tells all of the dangerous approach.  A flurry and a hurried scurry and the forest exhales again, as creatures flash and take cover.
It is biodiverse and richly productive, active and disorderly, but only wise conservation efforts early in the last century prevent it from now being the domain of the quiet still mango.