Category Archives: Uncategorized

From Here to There

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Alright, I’ve run out of excuses. I suck at blogging. Like miserably suck. Like suck beyond the point of no return. But even though this is coming to you months late, I have not given up! I will have a conclusion to this trip, even if it takes me a year. And also, now that I am home and missing India like nobody’s business, I figured this is a good way to reminisce. So rewinding back a few months, I am going to share with you pictures of all the places I travelled during my study abroad. Sit back, relax, and enjoy 🙂

Destination #1 (01/30-02/02): Mysore – Palaces, good food, and lots of bus rides.

As part of study abroad fees, CIEE took us on a group trip to Mysore. We also saw the tombs of Tup Sultan and Hyder Ali, but photos weren’t allowed. CIEE took great care of us and we stayed in super nice hotels, ate delicious food, saw awesome music performances, rode on too many long bus rides, and visited some of the most memorable places in Mysore.

Considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces in India--Mysore Palace

Considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces in India–Mysore Palace.

Live Hindustani classical performance.

Live Hindustani classical performance.

Inside the Golden Temple. A famous buddhist monastery.

Inside the Golden Temple. A famous buddhist monastery.

Live drumming performance. We even got a chance to play the drums and dance around.

Live drumming performance. We even got a chance to play the drums and dance around.

Who needs plates when you can eat off of a banana leaf??

Who needs plates when you can eat off of a banana leaf??

Watching the process of making Jaggery - a very popular candy all over India made out of raw sugar canes

Watching the process of making Jaggery–a very popular candy all over India made out of raw sugar canes.

Keshava Temple - probably one of the coolest and oldest temples I have ever seen. Built in 1268 CE.

Keshava Temple–probably one of the coolest and oldest temples I have ever seen. Built in 1268 CE.

Making bricks with the locals. The old fashioned way--mud and the sun!!

Making bricks with the locals. The old fashioned way–mud and the sun!!

First picture with my roommates :)

First picture with my roommates 🙂

Destination #2 (02/13-02/16): Hampi – the land of boulders, climbing, and lots and lots of hippies. 

Hampi was such a fun little place. Super chill vibes and very quaint dining, and guest houses. We rented a motorcycle one of the days and had a blast cruising through the tiny streets and mingling with the local street vendors. We were there for Valentines weekend and so Jamie (my roommate) and I climbed the 100+ stairs up to the Monkey Temple where we watched the beautiful sunset on the rocky landscape.
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Tom and Jerry - The local dudes that run a climbing shop in the town and can show you all the best places to grab some rock. Went climbing with Jerry for a day while I was there and had loads of fun and met some great climbers.

Tom and Jerry – The local dudes that run a climbing shop in the town and can show you all the best places to grab some rock. I went climbing with Jerry for a day while I was there and had loads of fun and met some great climbers.

These priests were relentless! I finally agreed to take a picture with them, and then found after the fact that donations were required. Clever.

These priests were relentless! I finally agreed to take a picture with them, and then found out after the fact that donations were required. Clever.

Virupaksha Hindu Temple

Virupaksha Hindu Temple

Being blessed by the Temple elephant, Lakshmi.

Being blessed by the Temple elephant, Lakshmi.

Destination #3 (02/27-03/02): Goa – Relaxation, beach huts, and dance parties all night. The epitome of an amazing weekend.

Goa was probably my most favorite trip of all time, not just because of the beautiful views but because of the people and the entire experience. We had a strict plan to have no agenda and no plans, and thats exactly what we stuck to. We lounged on the beach all day, made amazing friends, explored the town on a motorcycle, and went out dancing every night. So much relaxation. So much fun.

Hanging out with the local beach cows.

Hanging out with the local beach cows.

The 3 little monkeys lighting a lantern on the beach!

The 3 little monkeys lighting a lantern on the beach!

The hut that we slept. Yes, I fell asleep every night to the sweet sweet sounds of the ocean and it was glorious.

The hut that we slept in. Yes, I fell asleep every night to the sweet sweet sounds of the ocean and it was glorious.

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Destination #4 (03/28-04/02): Kerala – Lord of the Rings-ish trekking, lots and lots of tea, houseboats, and river life. 

Kerala was awesome because it was so diverse and we got two totally different experiences in one weekend. For the first part we experiences the beautiful tea plantations and amazing green mountains that reminded me a lot of something out of the Lord of the Rings. Famous for its spices, Kerala was filled with spice shops where you could buy all different kinds of tea, spices, and even ancient Ayurvedic Indian medicinal oils and other remedies. For the second part, we spend the rest of the time on a beautiful houseboat floating down the backwaters of Kerala where we got to watch the daily life of the villagers along the river. We had the best captain and cook aboard who were super fun, and made amazing food. And we had a DISCO BALL. Say what! Kerala was much greener than any of the other parts of India I had seen so far. But with the beautiful scenery came humidity and heat. I was definitely dripping for most of the trip, but we had a great time nonetheless.

View of the tea plantations in Munnar, Kerala

View of the tea plantations in Munnar, Kerala

Day trek into the tea plantations

Day trek into the tea plantations.

View from the top of our Trek

View from the top of our Trek.

The group :)

The group 🙂

The backwaters in Alleppey, Kerala.

The backwaters in Alleppey, Kerala.

A picture of the houseboat we rented for the night.

A picture of the houseboat we rented for the night.

Swimming in the backwaters.

Swimming in the backwaters.

Sunset on the river.

Sunset on the river.

The group and our captain and cook :)

The group and our captain and cook 🙂

Destination #5 (04/26-04/28): Aurungabad – Overbearing locals, ancient caves, and thieving monkeys.

The three little monkeys took one last trip together before we went our separate ways. I wouldn’t say Aurungabad is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and there isn’t a whole lot to see, but the places we did see were remarkable. When we got there, we found out that the Ajanta caves were closed on the only day we could go, so we ended up only being able to see the Ellora caves, but they were amazing. I can’t quite explain it, but its a crazy feeling to be standing in a place that is older than the United States and just thinking about how these ancient places even came to be. Ponder that one. I also experienced the mischief of monkeys while I was there when a monkey stole my pen and refused to give it back, and then proceeded to slobber all over it. I guess they aren’t as cute as I thought they would be.

The mini Taj Mahal. Not the real thing, but still beautiful.

The mini Taj Mahal. Not the real thing, but still beautiful.

Taking pictures with the locals. I have never felt more like a foreigner than I did visiting this place. There were so many people asking to take pictures with us and following us that we actually had to flee the place. Very overwhelming.

Taking pictures with the locals. I have never felt more like a foreigner than I did visiting this place. There were so many people asking to take pictures with us and following us that we actually had to flee. Very overwhelming.

Sometimes...random strangers hand you their crying and terrified babies and ask to take a picture with the poor child. But don't worry, its totally not creepy because thats just a thing here.

Sometimes…random strangers hand you their crying and terrified babies and ask to take a picture with the poor child. But don’t worry, its totally not creepy because thats just a thing here.

The 3 little monkeys at it again.

The 3 little monkeys at it again.

Daulatabad Fort.

Daulatabad Fort.

One of the two main attractions of Aurungabad--Ellora Caves. 34 caves in total.

One of the two main attractions of Aurungabad–Ellora Caves. 34 caves in total.

Inside one of the Ellora caves.

Inside one of the Ellora caves.

Hand chiseled rock sculptures in the caves.

Hand chiseled rock sculptures in the caves.

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The culprit.

The culprit.

Destination #6 (04/29-05/01): Mumbai – British architecture, lots of sweating, city life.

My roommates and I took one last trip before leaving India and we decided to go to the beautiful and historic city Mumbai. In some ways, Mumbai can be related to New York–to give you an idea. Except its more humid and way more hot. I can deal with heat, but the humidity made it pretty unbearable. We didn’t really visit any monuments, we mostly just wandered and enjoyed the views. Mumbai is a much more developed city with beautiful architecture that greatly reflects the influence the british had when they colonized India.

The Gateway of India. Made to commemorate the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary.

The Gateway of India. Made to commemorate the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary.

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The Taj Mahal Palace

The Taj Mahal Palace

Local fish market. Its as smelly and unsanitary as it sounds.

Local fish market. Its as smelly and unsanitary as it sounds.

View of the streets

View of the streets

A view of the city at sunset from the ocean.

A view of the city at sunset from the ocean.

Giant pile of books for sale along the street.

Giant pile of books for sale along the street.

Destination #7 (05/10-05/12): Indian wedding in a rural village that I can’t remember the name of — crazy bus rides, too much delicious food, overwhelming hospitality.

Alright, so basically going to this wedding was a last minute adventure that made my Indian experience that much more authentic. School had finished and all of my other international friends had left back to the US. I was still hanging out with my local friends on campus and I was invited to go to a wedding. The wedding was my friends friends wedding and all I knew was that it was three hours outside of Hyderabad in a very rural village in the middle of nowhere. Sounds fun, right? So we left for the bus station the evening before the wedding and lucky us, we caught the last bus of the night going to that particular village. Since the bus was already jam packed with  people, there was no way we were going to fit and I thought we would have to stand in the aisle the entire time. Nope! Myself and 25 other Indian men were rushed off the bus and then much to my surprise and excitement, I watched as all of these people climbed the ladder to get on the roof of the bus. I RODE ON THE ROOF OF THE BUS GUYS. IN INDIA. Let’s just say that was probably one of the best nights of my life and not much else compares. When we arrived, we were greeted by so many wonderful people and the festivities began. If you want an excuse to party multiple days in a row, then I would definitely recommend attending an Indian wedding. A little overwhelming, but there is all the food, people, and dancing  you could could ever want! I cant tell you how many Auntie’s (respectful term used for elder Indian women) came up to me asking me in Telugu if I had eaten food. And let me just say, I ate SO MUCH FOOD. Food is such a big part of this culture and hospitality, its rude if you don’t stuff your face to the max. And so I obliged. I received so much attention at the wedding–obviously because I was recognized as a foreigner–and I learned that apparently me being there was considered to be a huge blessing for the bride and the groom, so I’m glad my white skin was of some service to the happy couple. As things started to wind down at the end of the weekend, my friends and I had called a taxi to take us to the bus stop so we could go back to Hyderabad, but the groom apparently had a different plan for us. There was still one more ceremony left to go and he wanted all of his friends to be there. He sent our taxi away and canceled all of the rickshaw services in the village so that we had no way to leave. And this is when Indian hospitality gets to be overbearing and definitely over the top. After much hassle and debating, we were finally allowed to leave a few hours later, but it was definitely a hectic and slightly frightening experience. We made it home safely and in just enough time for me to call and wish my mom a happy Mothers Day, but sadly we did not get to ride on the roof of the bus on the way back to Hyderabad, as much as I would have liked to.

Riding on the top of the bus!

Riding on the top of the bus!

Village houses

Village houses

Water buffalo :)

Water buffalo 🙂

The Aunties are helping me tie my Saree :)

The Aunties are helping me tie my Saree 🙂

Wedding ceremony

Wedding ceremony

Pictures with the bride and groom

Pictures with the bride and groom.

Friends :D

Friends 😀

The beautiful saree I wore at the wedding that my friend Radhika gifted me.

The beautiful saree I wore at the wedding that my friend Radhika gifted me.

Alright thats a wrap! Just so you know, this isn’t my conclusion yet. I still have a few more posts to go, but hopefully this gave you a good idea of the awesome-amazing-beautiful places and experiences I had over the semester.

Cheers!

– Mary

 

 

 

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Happy Holi — and Everything Else India

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So can I just start by saying that I have been living in India for a little over 2 1/2 months already!? HOLY CRAP. Time flies. Sorry to any of my friends, teachers, or family who have been eagerly awaiting a new blog post from me for the past month and a half. The silence must at least be a good sign that I am having the time of my life over here, right? Because I am.

Every single day here always seems so busy, and I think that it is probably because India is obviously a busy country, and so you can’t help but feel like there is always something going on. I think that is one characteristic I like a lot about living here. It doesn’t give me time to be homesick, and it really allows me to be in the moment. I can tell that I have completely adjusted to living here now because whenever I video chat my mom, I don’t always have new things to talk about like I did upon first arriving. And while many concepts about living here are still foreign to her, they are completely normal to me now and so I don’t always realize that I should still talk about them with people at home because they might still find them new and intriguing.

Many people from home see all of the pictures I am posting on Facebook and ask me “Are you even learning anything over there? Or are you just having fun all the time?” My answer is yes. To both. Don’t worry Mom and Clark, I am enrolled in school. I do go to a classroom (almost) everyday that has other students in it and a professor (though they may not always show up and/or may cancel class for 2 weeks). I am receiving credit for my classes. I am learning from my classes. But I am also learning every time I walk outside. I am learning and gaining new perspectives through my encounters with the local rickshaw drivers, the little kids playing cricket, the chaiwalla down the street from my house, from my daily encounters with my family’s cook and maid, and all of the Indian friends I’ve made on campus. I am learning about things that you can’t find in a book in a classroom. I won’t get credit for these things I’ve learned, they won’t show up on any transcript, and they won’t put a degree in my hand, but I think by the time I leave India, the experiences that I’ve had here will be the more invaluable than anything I could have learned in a classroom. And I’m having fun 😉
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“The world is my classroom, each day is a new lesson, and every person I meet is my teacher.” – Craig Harper

With all that being said, here is the list of the classes I am enrolled in this semester:
– Basic Hindi
– Kuchipudi (Indian Classical Dance)
– Play Analysis
– History, Theory, and Text (Indian Classical Theatre)

I am really enjoying learning Hindi, but it is proving to be quite the challenge! As I’m sure any new language is, but still. The vast majority of people in India are able to speak a minimum of 3 languages (mother tongue, hindi, english) and here I am, with only one measly language under my belt. I hope to continue taking Hindi classes when I return home so I can keep up with it and maybe eventually add a second language to my belt. I now have my go to handful of phrases and questions that I often use, and I am able to speak enough broken Hindi that I can remember to get me by when communicating with rickshaw drivers and such. And when I fail terribly, english is always the next alternative. The locals always get a kick out of watching me struggle though. Haha.

Kuchipudi dance is a class that I have a love-hate relationship with. If you know me more personally, you know that I am an absolutely terrible dancer, but I always like to try anyways. And since I am required to take a dance class for my degree, I figured why not take Indian classical dance? THIS CLASS IS SO HARD. It requires my knees, legs, arms, and fingers to bend in ways I didn’t know they could, hold positions until you feel the burn, and I always leave class glistening with sweat. The professor is very intense and she definitely means business, but we always have a lot of fun, and its a great work out with unending amounts of squats. Even though its a struggle, I am learning a lot and definitely improving. I am really excited for our final performance–the dance we are learning is epic!

I am taking two theatre classes that are really interesting and I am learning a lot about ancient Sanskrit theatre and important role it has played in theatre development in India. These classes have been put on a pause for the past two weeks because of the student play production was going on, so they will start again this week. They required all hands on deck to help with the play, so all other theatre classes in the department were canceled. I am taking two theatre classes because I recently added a minor in theatre and since the university doesn’t offer music classes for credit, I decided to work on my minor while here.

I unfortunately decided to not take Sitar lessons while here because at first in conflicted with one of my classes, but also because in order to take the extracurricular class, I had to actually purchase the Sitar and then I was responsible for taking it home. Since I will be doing a lot of traveling once school is over, I decided it would be a really big and expensive hassle to have to deal with when trying to get it home. Sorry Professor Solis! I was really hoping to play some Sitar for you when I returned home, but my host dad is a very accomplished singer and I have been sitting with him in the afternoons and he has been giving me mini singing lessons in Carnatic music. Everything you taught me about Indian ragas and the Tala in Music is Culture is really being put to good use now Professor Solis–thanks for that!

Now that I have covered my classes, I’ll give you a brief run down and share some pictures of some things that have happened in my life since my last post!

Caught in a hail storm on campus! Drenched head to toe.

Caught in a hail storm on campus! Drenched head to toe.

Indian house warming ceremony

Indian house warming ceremony

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– I was interviewed on a radio show a few weeks ago called Bol Hyderabad 90.4, all thanks to my friend Ben Poor who told me about the opportunity. The show was titled “Becoming Indian” and so the interview was all about my life here, how I’ve adjusted, comparisons and contrasts between India and home, etc. And when they found out I was a music major, they forced me to sing on the radio. Awkward.

Ba Jao!

Ba Jao!

– When in India, get a piercing! My roommates and I decided to go to a well known piercer and get a piercing. Since I already have my nose and ears pierced, I decided to try out a belly button piercing. It was surprisingly a lot more painful than I had anticipated, but it healed nicely and I am happy with it. Debbie had the inspiration to finally get her ears pierced, and Jamie went with the traditional Indian nose piercing, though it fell out a week later. It was quite the exciting and slightly stressful day!
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– I ran a half marathon! Yes, an entire 13.1 miles or if your using Indian measurements, 21 kilometers. It was totally last minute, and I had had no prior training before running it, but I thought “Why not!?” It was in recognition of International Women’s Day, it cost me a total of 200 rupees (≈ $3.00), and the whole route was on my university’s campus anyway (gives you a rough estimate of how large our campus is). I completed the entire thing, and much to my surprise, I ran the entire thing without stopping either. And my time was only ten minutes slower than the time I got for the previous half marathon I ran, so I guess I in better shape than I thought I was. I am really happy that I did it, because who knows then next time I’ll get to run a half marathon on the other side of the world? Worth it. Shout out to my awesome aunt and uncle, Julie and Steve Coons who inspire me to run these damn’d things in the first place. Love you!
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Shout out to my awesome roomie, Jamie for waking up early to watch my cross the finish line!

Shout out to my awesome roomie, Jamie for waking up early to watch my cross the finish line!

– I have been doing some rock climbing since being in India, but sadly, not enough. Hyderabad has great rocks all over the place, there are even climbing spots all over my campus, but the majority of it is bouldering. I have done a little bit of rope climbing, but when I have climbed here, it has been primarily bouldering which I have small aversion to, only because I suck at it and I’m too lazy to work on improving my skills. But when I have climbed, it has been good fun and there is a great climbing community here with a lot of extremely strong climbers.
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– Jai Telangana! The bill has officially been approved for the separation of state. When coming to India, Hyderabad was apart of Andra Pradesh but since the bill has passed, Andra Pradesh has split into two states and Hyderabad is now apart of the Telangana state. It was quite the celebration on campus, and so we decided to take part in the festivities.

Jai Telangana!

Jai Telangana!

3 friends on a motorcycle.

3 friends on a motorcycle.

– Before I left the states, everyone kept telling me, “I hope you like spicy food, because you’re in for a whole new level of spicy food.” Prior to my coming to India, I had absolutely no tolerance for spicy foods thus Indian food had never been at the top of my list, but that quickly changed. I have since fallen in love with all of the varieties of food, spices, and textures, and my spicy tolerance has increased ten-fold. I have tried more foods than I can count on all of my fingers and toes, and out of all them there have maybe been two items that I haven’t liked. I love eating with my right hand too! It gives a whole to meaning to playing with your food, and as many of the locals would say, “It makes the food taste better.” No reason to argue with that. India has introduced a whole new world of flavors to my taste buds, and I love every minute of it. Fitting into my jeans may be a challenge when I get home, however. I recently attended a cooking class where we learned how to cook Fish Fry, Hara Chicken, Double Kamita (dessert), and of course, chai. The food turned out great! I definitely have a lot more that I need to learn how to cook before returning home though. Also, I think I have an unhealthy addiction to chai. I’m okay with it. IMG_8018

Hara Chicken, Double Kamita, Fish Fry, Roti

The final product:                                                                         Hara Chicken, Double Kamita, Fish Fry, Roti

– It finally caught me. Unfortunately, and with much sadness I have to say that I caught the well known stomach sickness that most foreigners get when they come to India. I tried so hard to dodge the bullet, but I guess I couldn’t hide forever. It found me. And at the worst of timings too. I think a few days ago I must have accidentally drank the tap water at a restaurant I was eating out at, and I paid dearly for it the two days following. I was stuck in bed on Sunday with a severe headache, a minor cold, and a constant battle between the need to sleep forever and racing to the toilet. I’ll keep it PG, and leave it at that. I think you can infer how the rest of the day and night played out. I was really upset because this all happened the day before Holi (Festival of Colors), which is a holiday I have been waiting all semester for. I was going to be so bummed if I had to spend the entire day on the toilet. Luckily though, the intestinal storm cleared by the late morning and I was able to go out and play Holi with all of my friends on campus. It was such a crazy, wild, and colorful experience and it really was the perfect day. Everyone was just so happy and nothing else mattered. It was as if everything else going on in the world was put on pause for a day, and the only thing that mattered was sharing in this colorful experience with your friends, family, and whoever. It was refreshing to say the least, and we made quite the mess 🙂

Roomies <3

Roomies ❤

Colors colors colors

Colors colors colors

This little boys name is Pandoo. He is my buddy.

This little boys name is Pandoo. He is my buddy.

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Dancing!

Dancing!

Making music to celebrate Holi

Making music to celebrate Holi

Happy Holi :)

Happy Holi 🙂

That’s it for tonight. I pinky promise that my next post will not take a month for me to get to. Hugs and love!

– M

Learning the Ropes, Seeing the Sights

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So I am proving to already be really terrible at keeping up with this blog, but to be fair, life has been crazy.

To start, I wanted to give a shout out to all of my friends and family whose donations have made this whole experience possible:

– Momma (Rita Gaughan)
– Clark Isachsen
– Todd and Cheryl Coons
– Julie and Steve Coons
– Joel Scudder
– Kelley and Brandon Stewart
– Uncle David Scudder
– Benson Family
– Sean Greene
– James Shao
– Zack and Michelle Clark
– Pat McIntyre
– Pat Courier
– Collette Sipho Mabingani
– Jessica Pinkerton
– Zach Peters
– Tracy Haddad
– Benjamin Sampayan III
– McIntyre family
– Victoria Polchinski
– Kershner family
– Kira Krick
– Pradeep Thiyyagura
– Jat Chanda
– Shri Hari
– Scott Gleason
– Jill Philippe
– Ted Solis

Your support means the world to me and I am so thankful to be surrounded by so much love! Smiles all around 🙂

Now onto the topics of discussion…

The traffic here is the most chaotic yet impressive herd of people I have ever seen in my entire life. It is seriously a talent to be able to drive on these streets. At first glance, it seems as though the traffic makes no sense, but after being here for awhile I am starting to understand that there is in fact a method to the madness. There are lanes, but no one follows them. There are street lights, but no one stops. And through all the chaos, it never takes too long to get anywhere and for the most part the traffic is constantly flowing. There are motorcycles and rickshaws everywhere, and these motorcyclists squeeze through spaces so tiny that you can’t help but hold your breath and close your eyes. I am convinced that rickshaw drivers are some of the most talented drivers ever, and they would totally kill it in NASCAR. It is not uncommon to see a family of 5 on one motorcycle, and at least one baby asleep in its mothers arms. Also, crossing the street is one of the scariest and most thrilling things I have ever done and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. It’s the craziest thing but I’m totally okay with it. Also, just a side thought: the next Fast and Furious movie should be set in India. Throw in a few Bollywood dancing scenes here and there. That would be quite the movie.

Learning the transit system

Learning the transit system

Traffic

A very small glimpse into the traffic

First rickshaw ride!

First rickshaw ride!

First train ride!

First train ride!

The clothes here are beautiful and I just want all of them. They are all so colorful and comfortable! Its like wearing pajamas all day err day and I ain’t complainin’. And while I’m trying to blend in with my fancy kurtas and leggings, I can’t help but notice the influence western culture has on this country and how that reflects in the style and appearance here. Did you know that if an Indian woman has fairer skin she is considered more beautiful than a woman with darker skin? They actually sell face moisturizers here that are titled “Skin Whitening.” WHAT. I find that very ironic since most American women spend hours in tanning booths or the sun just to make their skin darker. Its just so silly. Indian women are some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. They all look like princesses! Dark or light skin, I find their beauty more captivating than the majority of white women. My host mom for example is one of the fiercest ladies I have ever met, and her style rocks.

Since my last blog post, we have done a lot. We have seen the famous Charminar palace, toured the Qutub Shahi Tombs, the Chowmohalla Palace and Laad Bazaar, the Golconda fort, and visited the giant Buddha statue in the middle of Hussain Sagar Lake. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking for this one and leave it at that.

Charminar

Charminar

Qutub tombs

Qutub tombs

Qutub tombs

Qutub tombs

Qutub tombs

Qutub tombs

Buddha statue

Buddha statue at sunset

Golconda Fort

Golconda Fort

View of the city from the top of the fort

View of the city from the top of the fort

Group pic at Chowmohalla Palace

Group pic at Chowmohalla Palace

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These boys were so excited for us to take photos of them

These boys were so excited for us to take photos of them

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One thing that takes awhile to adjust to are the stares. And let me tell you, people in India are not subtle about it either. They will blatantly stare, and at first it made me feel like I was living the celebrity life, but now it just makes me feel like I’m some giant green alien or something. I feel like I have to walk around with blinders on to not notice the hundreds of stares I get a day, but even when I try to not pay attention to it, I can still feel eyes constantly on me. I just have to be patient and remind myself that many of these people have ever seen a white person in their life, and so they can’t help but look. I’m sure if the roles were reversed I would do the same. I constantly get little kids waving hi to me and giggling and I am always being asked by numerous people if I would take a pictures with them. Indian people have no problem handing their infant to me and taking a picture. I also catch people taking sneak pictures of me as well. I don’t want to even think about how many strangers facebook news feeds my face has showed up on since arriving here. I just try to be light hearted about it all and remember that this place is just as new to me as my face is to them, and if I can take pictures, why can’t they?

Aside from that, I am finally settling into my new life here in India in my home stay, my school, my environment, and I am loving every experience. Its really weird, because now that I am more or less comfortable in my surroundings, I occasionally have to pinch myself and say, “Hey Mary, you’re in India. All of this stuff is happening in India.” I just feel so comfortable here, and since taking my first step off that plane I really feel like at this point in my life, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Its really hard to put my finger on just one thing about this country that draws me in, but its something very special and I think at some point in every persons life, they should spend some time here.

To conclude tonights post, I thought you might enjoy some pictures of my campus. And of course….puppies.

– M

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I caved. I have to touch the dogs, especially the puppies. I now carry hand sanitizer everywhere I go.

I caved. I have to touch the dogs, especially the puppies. I now carry hand sanitizer everywhere I go.

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<3

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Retired rickshaw

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Busy Being Busy

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Holy wow these days are already speeding by! The orientation process has filled the majority of our days since arriving, but I do have to say that the sessions are very informative and interesting. We have had some guest speakers come to talk about health, Indian food, being a woman in India, and the CIEE Resident Director, Kavitha, has talked to us about safety, academics, and independent travel. Classes start for students on January 2nd, but CIEE students don’t have to officially register until January 21st. Up until that point we get to do what is known as “class shopping” where we get to go and sit in on whatever classes we want to make sure we can understand the teachers accent and see if it is a class we would enjoy. Pretty awesome I’d say! CIEE is such an amazing program to be apart of. They take care of practically everything for us which is definitely a weight off our shoulders, and the coordinators are so much fun and very helpful.

Teaching us about the food and spices

Teaching us about the food and spices

Some things I’ve noticed:
1. Indian people are some of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met. Very friendly and willing to help!
2. It takes a lot more brain power and focus to understand their accent and can often get tiring.
3. Chai tea really is the best thing in the world.
4. Indian men dress in typical American style clothes while Indian women dress more traditional.
5. Lots and lots of colors.
6. I have always been terrible with names, and so learning all of the Indian names, foods, and places is extremely difficult.

After the orientation lectures and tea breaks, we often take a trip somewhere during the late afternoon/evening. The evening of the 29th we finally ventured into the city and we went to the Shilparamam Arts and Crafts Festival which hosts artisans that come to sell their crafts and there were also live performances going on which were my favorite part. The place is loud, busy, and exciting and personal space is nonexistent. We participated in a crafts workshop when we arrived where we split up into three groups and each group was taught how to do a different type of art. The group I was in learned how to do pottery art which was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, and the Indian women made it look so easy!

Shilparamam Arts and Crafts Festival

Shilparamam Arts and Crafts Festival

Working on pottery art

Working on pottery art

My final product

My final product

Once we finished with the workshop, we were let loose to explore, haggle, and be merry. I bought a beautiful colorful scarf that was originally 200 rupees for 150 rupees ($2.50). I have never been a good bargainer but I am definitely going to have to work on it because in India, you bargain for everything. I just find it hard because everything is already soooo cheap here and so I don’t see the worth in trying to talk a person down on a price when the extra amount they are charging me could possibly be helping their livelihood. What doesn’t make a big difference to me, could make all the difference to them and so I guess that is the challenge I face. 

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Now let me tell you about the entertainment. I was absolutely blown away by the live entertainment and found myself overwhelmed with emotion when I was watching the dancing and music. Everyone hears many things about India–about what the culture and people are like, but to see these traditions, cultures, and beliefs happening right in front of you is really eye-opening and it puts all of those misconceptions to rest. It made me realize how tunnel visioned I have been living in the U.S. and how much more there is to the world outside of my little box in Phoenix/Tucson. Seeing the passion and unending excitement in this culture is really inspiring to me and I can’t wait to learn and grow more from it.

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Group picture at the festival (two random people asked to be in the picture)

Group picture at the festival (two random people asked to be in the picture)

A few nights ago (they are all starting to blur together), we had our CIEE welcome dinner at the Trident hotel. This hotel is rated 5 stars and is quite possibly the fanciest place I have ever been in my entire life. I’d give it 10 stars. We had an unlimited buffet of pretty much every type of Indian food (including dessert) you can imagine and the service was amazing. And the best part? We looked up online that it only costs $100 a night to stay there! So much cheaper and better than anything you could find in the U.S. If you ever make the trip to Hyderabad, I would definitely recommend this place if you are looking for a night of luxury.

The gang

The gang at dinner

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The traditional CIEE cake. The student who arrives first and last get to blow out the candle and cut the cake. It was so delicious!

The traditional CIEE cake. The student who arrives first and the student who arrives last get to blow out the candle and cut the cake. It was so delicious!

This post has been sitting on my computer for the past two days waiting to be finished and I finally got around to it. Things have just been so incredibly busy its hard to find any time, and by the time we get home from our excursions, all I want to do is pass out. I know this post wasn’t the most entertaining, but stay tuned! Because my next post will be all about my first auto rickshaw ride, the thrill of crossing the street, Indian fashion, the glory that is known as Bollywood, and my new celebrity life. I will get you all up to speed in no time!

Happy New Year!!

– M

P.S. I was placed with a homestay and I move in with the family on Sunday. I have heard all good things about my family and there will be other CIEE students living with me as well. So excited!

A Whole New World

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Namaste!

How I even start this post, I don’t know. So much has already happened in the short amount of time I’ve been here! I guess I’ll start with the plane rides and see where my rambling takes me.

The plane from Phoenix to Dallas was a breeze. I fell asleep for most of it, so that was nice since I didn’t get much sleep the previous night. After my layover it was on to the land of London! The plane was seriously a mansion plane. The people sitting in first class has their own little cozy cubicles! And then there were the economy seats. Let me tell you, it was the longest 9 hour flight of my life. And same goes for my flight from London to Hyderabad. Very uncomfortable. But! I did make some friends, and that’s what plane rides are all about, am I right or am I right?

Now let me tell you how small of a world it really is. On my plane ride from Dallas to London I was sitting next to a very nice Indian fellow and we started chatting. He said he was going to Hyderabad visiting family for a month and I asked him where he went to school and he said ASU! How crazy is that? So needless to say, we instantly became friends. When we got off the plane in London, he introduced me to his friend who was sitting somewhere else on the plane and he also goes to ASU! Small world, huh? I thought it was pretty cool. And I made connections before I even made it to Hyderabad. 10 cool points for Mary. So for the rest of the time, we were travel buddies. They were so friendly and it definitely made the time pass faster, but I’m pretty sure they probably think I’m crazy. Haha. We did exchange contact info, so I’m going to meet up with them once I get settled and they are gonna show me around the city and all that fun stuff.

For the last leg of the flight, many of the other students on my program were on the same flight so we landed in Hyderabad together at 4:30am. A bus was there to pick us up and take us to the University, so we loaded up and were on our way. Let me just make a side note and say that there are 23 other students on my program, and they are all AWESOME. Seriously. I am going to leave here with some great friends.

Here are some of the first things I noticed when I got off the plane:
1. The smell. It is not bad (aside from the occasional whiff of cow pie), it is just different. The air is thicker, and has a slight musky smell.
2. The sky. It looks very foggy most of the time, but is more apparent in the morning and evenings. The sun does shine through to say hi during the mid daytime.
3. They drive on the opposite sides of the road.
4. Dogs, dogs, and dogs. I am in dog Heaven over here! And it is so hard for me to fight the urge to touch them, especially when they are all so friendly. I just want to bring them all home with me and take care of them. I will probably make an album dedicated to all of the Indian dogs I see. Be on the look out.
5. Lots and lots of honking.
6. Its so green! And there are a lot of palm trees.
7. The weather is perfect.

The Tagore International House. This is where we are staying until we move into our homestay.

The Tagore International House. This is where we are staying until we move into our homestay.

So once we got to the University, the first thing we did was shower. I was very excited for this shower until I realized that I didn’t have hot water, and I had to shower in ice cold water. If I wasn’t awake already, I definitely was after that shower! We then ate breakfast in the cafeteria, which was typical American breakfast food. They did serve us this grape juice that was literally fresh squeezed grape and it was delicious! After breakfast some people decided to sleep, while a group of us decided to wander. The University is ginormous, and we only saw a very small fraction of it. And the dogs followed us the whole way! Note: They are extremely territorial, and if a dog from a different part of the University intrudes on another dogs part of campus, a dog fight will ensue. I experienced it. Everything is pretty calm right now since school isn’t in session yet, but we will be going to the city in the next few days and that is sure to be an adventure. 

Dogs everywhere!

Dogs everywhere!

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After the wandering we all just hung out and fought the urge to sleep so we could get a good sleep that night. For lunch we had our first authentic Indian meal and it was SPI-CEY. I handled it like a champ! I would have to say Samosas are definitely my favorite thing so far. YUM.

Lunch

Lunch

We were then led on a walk around campus by two of the language tutors and we did some awesome exploring and got to see Peacock Lake. The University is a forest! I love it. We saw lots of water buffalo, and we were informed that there are wild monkeys all around campus and we can feed and touch them. I haven’t found a monkey yet, but when I do you can count on seeing a ton of pictures, and I may or may not try to steal him and take him home as my pet. 

Cup and Saucer Point. Literally.

Their outdoor performing arts stage. Maybe I’ll get to perform here before I leave!



 

These are all the snakes found in India. Let's hope I don't run into a cobra anytime soon!

These are all the snakes found in India. Let’s hope I don’t run into a cobra anytime soon!

The next part of the day was probably my favorite. Chai tea with a side of Hindi tutoring. We split up into groups, each with our own tutor and were taught basic Hindi phrases and then we were served the most amazing chai tea ever. Chai has always been one of my favorite beverages, so to be able to experience authentic chai was awesome. I definitely had a moment. And let me just say how excited I am that our orientation schedule for the next week includes a chai tea break every day. SCORE. Our tutor Ajit taught us how to count to ten, say “Thank you”, “How much?”, “How are you”, etc. I can’t wait to really dive in and start learning this language. It is really beautiful and Ajit said many of the students he has tutored leave the program and are able to hold fluent Hindi conversations.

Oliver decided to join us for some Chai tea.

Oliver decided to join us for some Chai tea.

Once chai time was done, we walked back to the dorms and I was feeling pretty tired so I decided to lay down for a bit before dinner. Well, I ended up sleeping through dinner and I woke up at 4:30 this morning. 12 hours of sleep…I guess I needed it. And waking up this early gave me a chance to write this very long post. From now on I will try to keep them shorter for the readers sake, I just figured I had to share every detail of the first day!

The next few days are going to be go-go-go. We have a busy orientation schedule, and I’m very excited. India is already beyond words. I honestly haven’t felt any kind of culture shock yet, or even out of my element. Maybe its due to the lack of sleep. I’m sure it will come and go in waves, but for now I’ll just enjoy all the “newness” and keep on rolling.

Thats it for now!

– M

The Kickoff

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Hi Friends! Only 30 days left until my whole life flips upside down! I go back and forth between feeling excited, anxious, and extremely curious about what the whole experience is going to be like. But I guess part of the adventure is not knowing, right? I like that.

The whole study abroad preparation process has kept me extremely busy on top of managing school. I have come to find out that if you are applying to study abroad for a spring semester program, you aren’t given much time to “get your crap together” before you head out. My flight it booked, I have received the first round of my travel shots (which just so happen to NOT be covered by insurance, so that dug a nice deep hole in my wallet), and I was just notified that I have officially been accepted as a student at the University of Hyderabad and can now start the student visa process. Now if I can just manage to survive the rest of this semester, I’ll be in India before I know it.

Anyway! I appreciate you taking the time to read my first blog post, and hopefully you will find yourself coming back to read more.  I figure this is a good way to stay connected to my family and friends in the U.S., and writing always provides a nice outlet for perspective and emotion. I can’t promise to post consistently, some of my posts will be long while others are only a few words, I will most definitely have grammatical errors, and I am sure a lot of the experiences I have I will be unable to be put into words, but I will try my very best show you what India is like through my eyes.

For those of you who don’t know me and who just happened to stumble on my blog by happenstance, welcome! My name is Mary Gaughan (last name pronounced ‘gone’), I am a junior music therapy major at Arizona State University, and I will be studying abroad in Hyderabad, India next semester–if you didn’t gather that much already. I bet the title of my blog makes a whole lot more sense now, huh? Gaughan (Gone) To India. That’s me!

Welp! I guess that’t it for now. My next post probably won’t be until right before I leave. Back to homework and all that fun stuff…

– Mary