You should have heard by now from the news and at twitter about recently what is happening in my country… 

(via thestillmorning)


     I was sitting in my room trying to nail down final travel plans for the end of the semester when suddenly another friend came running down the hall exclaiming, “Rain! It’s raining outside!” We all jumped up and bolted to the front porch where it was, indeed raining!!! We went out back where it was cloudier and the rain was coming down ever so slightly harder. It even thundered a couple rumbles! Ahhh what a great day!

     If you can’t already tell, I LOVE the rain. That is the one thing that I constantly miss about home. There is nothing better than a great rainy day and I have been desperately longing for it. The cold raindrops and the light breeze, the pitter-patter sound the drops make on tin roofs. Oh I’ve missed it. The rain didn’t last long nor was it a heavy rain, but I am so incredibly thankful for it. Good day!

     I supposed I’ll go ahead and tell you my end of semester travel plans, too. My friend, Pareesa, and I are heading up to the northeast for a few days to one of the wettest places on earth! The culture in the northeast is completely different and many of the people there look Chinese. We plan to visit waterfalls, caves (which happen to be some of the longest in all of Asia), and other wonderful sites. After a few days there we’ll make our way to Darjeeling where we’ll meet our friend, Sarneshea. I’m most excited about this leg of the trip because we’re going to do a home-stay with tea farmers one night and pick our own tea with them the next day, go to Tiger Hill to see the sunrise over Mt. Everest(!!!), do a day trek, AND since we will be so close and the border is friendly, we’re going to cross into Nepal for two days. Are you ready for this? Brace yourself. We are going to trek at the base of Mt. Everest while we’re there!!!!!

     Time is winding down extremely quickly. Five weeks from today I will be back home in the good ole state of North Carolina. Next week I’m headed up to Varanasi for a few days with some friends. I’m incredibly excited because it is considered “the holy city of India”. Finals begin in about two weeks and in three weeks from today I’ll be off on my final voyage through the northern part of India.

     That’s it for now. Cross your fingers for me that we’ll get another good rain here in Hyderabad soon!

A Weekend of Empowerment

     Well folks, this past weekend was filled with all sorts of fun adventures. I got to go to a photo exhibition entitled “Women Changing India”.

     There were beautiful photos accompanied by inspiring stories of women and their leadership roles in Indian society. I found this fact (the writing in orange in the photo below) to be rather interesting.

     We finally found a restaurant in town that sells doughnuts that actually taste like doughnuts. And it was covered in gooey chocolate deliciousness. It was heaven for my taste buds.

     Friday night we got back and ended up going to Sukoon which is a carnival that the school holds every Spring. It’s much like the Dixie Classic Fair so I was ecstatic. We rode on what was supposed to be a Ferris-wheel, but that thing went so incredibly fast and wobbled. I enjoyed it, nonetheless. There were even horse and camel rides, all sorts of booths open, and a concert.

     Friday also happened to be the Telugu New Year, so Happy Belated Ugadi!

     Saturday…two friends and I…shaved our heads! Yes, you read that correctly. We shaved our heads. We were supposed to go to a temple in Tirupathi where people shave their heads as a gift and sacrifice to God, but because of the New Year, we were told it’d be very unlikely that we’d get into the temple. Instead, one of our friends became a barber for the afternoon.

     I’m sure many of you are wondering why I did it if you haven’t already read it on some of my Facebook photos. So here’s why:

          1. I wanted to see my head. I’ve always had hair on my head, always. So I’ve never seen it even in baby pictures.

          2. I am constantly reminded of culturally constituted gender and beauty  norms with which I do not agree. So much discrimination and prejudice comes from such norms.

          3. This is really the biggest reason…I’ve always struggled with self-confidence and seeing my inner beauty. I often let other people’s opinions get to me and I shouldn’t. I have to get over that at some point. So, I’ve shaved my head for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It was a choice for me and my journey toward self-acceptance.

     So far I love it. It’s fun feeling the tickle of the breeze when I’m riding in the car with the windows down or the wonderfully refreshing chill of cold water when I run my hands over my head after I wash them.

     I finally got to see the Buddha statue that’s in the middle of a lake in the middle of the city.

     Katey and Sarneshea, the two on each end, buzzed their heads about a month ago.

     To make the day even more eventful, our study abroad group went to a Hindi movie called “Kahaani”. It turned out to be a good movie and not too hard to follow without subtitles. We also had our Indian friend there to translate for us during the major scenes.

     Sunday some of us went to the Annual Sky Lantern Festival. It started out pretty terribly with screamo music and other painful melodies. When the concert finally ended after two and a half hours, the festival was incredible and breathtaking. Lanterns of several radiant colors filled the sky as people released them with a wish of hope and love. To top it off, we broke the Guinness World Record, and I was a part of it!

     I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be here experiencing and learning all that I am. So, mom and dad, if you’re reading this, this is a shout out and HUGE thanks to you both for making this semester abroad happen for me.

     If you haven’t already, check out the video that’s posted above this entry.

     Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a marvelous day.

     It’s been forever since I posted anything about my experiences here and I figure it’s about time I do. I tried to warn you that I’d be terrible at updating my blog. The lack of posts was originally due to my first round of internals (tests). Testing and grading here is so different and strange to me. Students write pages and pages of answers for only one or two essay questions because supposedly, the more you write the better student you are. I got my first test back and was told not to be alarmed by the number grade. Here, a 13/20 is an A. There is no such thing as getting a perfect 20/20. The best you can get is a 16/20 and even that is nearly impossible.

     After the first rounds of tests were over I told myself I would post a blog update, but I seemed to keep finding distractions. My yoga instructor invited our class to her temple where she danced at a temple ceremony.Our instructor is the woman in purple in the back.

     The next day we got to climb Golcanda Fort. The fort was beautiful and we made it to the top just in time for the sunset.


     The next weekend I went out of town to Chittoor, Tirupati and Tirumala which are small towns at the southern tip of Andrah Pradesh. My roommate and I ventured there by way of a 12.5 hour bus ride and were warmly welcomed by the family of one of my friends. We spent the weekend visiting temples, trying delicious foods, eating with our hands and we even got to go to a Hindu wedding which began at the lovely hour of 3:45am.

     The following weekend my study abroad group took a trip to Ajanta and Ellora which are Buddhist caves and Hindu and Jain temples. The sites were all beautiful and it was a fabulous weekend away.During monsoon season Ajanta, the first picture below, is covered in greenery and has several waterfalls. One woman told us that just a month before there was still water, but now everythingis dried up.

     This past week some friends and I went to Mumbai to celebrate Holi, a Hindu festival of colors. As Mumbai is the New York of India and is the fourth most populated city in the world, I wasn’t quite looking forward to the trip because I expected the streets to be even more crowded and the air quality to be even worse than Hyderabad. I was pleasantly surprised. We stayed in Colaba which was absolutely beautiful. The streets weren’t crowded at all, the air was clean and cool and our hotel was in the perfect location-within walking distance to the shoreline, great restaurants, the local train station, and many other fun sites. We ate tons of delicious food and spent our evenings sitting by the water enjoying the breeze. On Thursday we celebrated Holi on the beach with some kids and on Friday we took a tour of Dharavi slum, one of the largest slums in the world.

     Now we’re back in Hyderabad and I wish I could be in Mumbai enjoying the cool weather. Here it’s reached the 100’s a few days and it’s only supposed to get hotter, but I’m enjoying my time nonetheless. I do, however, desperately miss rainy days. It hasn’t rained a single drop since I’ve been here and won’t the rest of my stay, which, as my dad reminded me last night, is winding down very quickly. I only have 7 and a half more weeks. Where has the time gone? Finals are just around the corner and we’re all in the process of figuring out our last travel plans. Right now it’s looking like I’ll be going to Varanasi the first week of April and maybe Darjeeling the last week.

     Well, that’s it for now. I promise to try to update more often. Thanks for reading!

The Human Race

     Being in a place where I can’t always tell to which religion, class, caste, or race someone belongs, I am constantly reminded that we are all part of the human race. All the other distinctions of gender, sexuality, ability or disability, class, race, nationality, or any other category we have created, do not matter. I was sitting next to an Indian girl in class the other day and tried to determine what religion or caste she belongs to. I assumed she was Hindu because she doesn’t wear the head covering like Muslims and she tends to dress like a Hindu. We got to talking about religion and she told me that she is atheist. I am embarrassed to say that by trying to figure out and assuming which religion she belonged to, I was only reenforcing the very distinctions and divisions that I dislike. Let us stop dividing humanity by the countless distinctions we create. We are all humans and should love and respect each other as such.   

TOMS Event

     Yesterday marked one month of being in India! I ended up having the opportunity to help a friend volunteer at a TOMS event yesterday and it was absolutely incredible. We went to one of the schools in the city and played with kids while they waited to be fitted for their TOMS. For those of you who don’t know much about TOMS, it is a shoe company that gives one free pair of shoes to a child in need whenever one pair of shoes is bought. Thankfully, the shoes they give the children are much more durable than the shoes we buy in the States. The sole is made from a stronger rubber and the inside is canvas instead of leather, so the shoes won’t smell as bad with the kids running around so much. It was incredible to be on the other end of the event. Buying the shoes in the U.S. and knowing it’s for a good cause is one thing, but seeing the purpose of TOMS firsthand was amazing. I walked into the first grade classroom yesterday morning and all the kids shouted “Shoes!” with such huge smiles of excitement. Awesome to be a part of something like that.

Fight for Your Rights

     The past couple days have been pretty big. Tuesday was National Girl Child Day in India which is a day that marks the beginning of a celebration of the girl child. More specifically, this day helps bring awareness to the horrific issue of selective abortions and female infanticide. Beyond that, girls and women continue to be oppressed in several ways throughout the rest of their lives such as not being granted an opportunity to stay in school or being forced to marry in adolescence. Luckily, there are now days like this (though this is only the third year and is not particularly well publicized) as well as other programs to bring awareness to the problem and help girls and women stand firm and fight for their rights. Above this blog post are links to pages to either read or watch a video about it.

     I woke up Wednesday morning expecting it to be just like every other Wednesday when I catch the shuttle to main campus and go to Indian Diaspora. This Wednesday, however, turned out to be a surprise, but went along with the “Fight for Your Rights” theme. As the shuttle made its way down the road, it slowed to a stop as there was a large group of students chanting and beating drums in the middle of the street…it was a student protest! The shuttle took us to our stop and we went to class. Fifteen minutes into the lesson we begin to hear the chanting and drumming get louder as the students made their way to our building and into our classroom. The student leader of the group informed our class that he and his comrades are Dalits (previously known as “Untouchables”, though the term “untouchable” is no longer allowed to be used) and that they were protesting against the destruction of statues of Ambedkar. Ambedkar was a Dalit activist who helped write the Indian Constitution and spent his life fighting against discrimination and tried to get rid of the caste system.

     The concept of caste system is something I struggle to understand. Though it is not nearly as prevalent as it once was in this country, it is still present in daily Indian life. We have talked about it a good bit in my Religion and Society class and it is always interesting to hear students perspectives on the issue. My Human Rights professor said last week that if Buddhism was still practiced here (interesting that India is the Budda Land - home of Buddhism, yet only a very small percentage of Indians practice it), there would be no caste system.

     In other news, today was Republic Day so we didn’t have classes. Not only that, but today marks one month of being out of the U.S., though the one month mark of actually being in India isn’t until Saturday, the 28th (yes, we really spent that much time traveling to get here).

     Besides these big updates, I have little stories to tell, too. Yesterday some friends and I caught the shuttle to the main gate and took a rickshaw into town to get some things at HyperCity (Indian Target equivalent). Our driver there was great. It was easy to communicate with him because he spoke enough English, his driving didn’t make me fear for my life the entire way, and he even played some awesome Indian tunes for our ride there. The rickshaw ride on the way back, however, was a bit more interesting. Our driver spoke no English. It is times like that, when we are trying to make our way into the city or back to campus and have an incredibly difficult time communicating with the drivers because they don’t know English and we don’t know any of their languages, that I am filled with such great empathy for the Hispanic community in the United States. People constantly criticize that Hispanics don’t know our language and should learn it if they want to live there. But I tell you from experience that learning a language is no easy task. It’s much harder than we realize, especially later in life. I struggled significantly learning Spanish in the D.R. when I lived there and now being in India, I have become even more aware of how difficult language learning is. So please, next time you are inclined to judge someone for not knowing English in the U.S., share a little compassion, empathy and patience with them.

     Other than those adventures, I’ve been going to classes, doing lots of yoga and meditation and reading a good bit (I got 2 new books yesterday! and the lights went out while I was in the book store). -As I sit writing this now, the power just went out. It is a rather common occurrence here.- It is magnificent to have down time which is usually a rare luxury for me.

     Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day and remember to show a little compassion today.