The Ganges Strikes Back

Happy May Day all! Today is the official 3 month marker of my India adventure. Can you believe it? What’s even harder to believe is the fact that I will be leaving in 2 weeks. But I’d prefer to not think of that quite yet!

It happens slowly so it’s hard to realize, but I think I’m more assimilated into the Indian culture than I first thought. Foods that I didn’t like at the beginning of my time here I’m now craving. Sometimes I’ll have short conversation exchanges with people on the street and afterwards not remember if we were speaking in Hindi or English. Lizards in my room and cows in the street are just so normal.

The other day I saw someone delivering a refrigerator on their back!

Also, it is now mango season in India! This is a very big deal and I can see why! They are everywhere and so perfectly delicious! I’m averaging about 3 a day.

Last week I bought a saree! It’s still being made (pictures soon), but the saree shop guy asked me where in America I was from. Usually when this question arises I answer, “I go to school near Seattle.” Because Minnesota and it’s cities aren’t very well known here and Seattle sometimes rings a bell. And the saree shop man said, “Oh, I have a son that lives in Minneapolis…”
!!!
I then I had go through the awkward situation of explaining that’s where I’m actually from. We then had a Minnesota chat and when I asked him if he’s ever visited MN he said, “No…Minnesota is a very cold state…” Smart man.

Last week I went up to the city of Mussoorie to do some more research in the villages! Mussoorie is an extremely beautiful place that sits on top of a mountain. My village visits were great and very productive too! Some of the other girls in my program and I were talking about where we would mostly likely live out of all the places we’ve visited in India, and I think mine might be Mussoorie.

Another cool part about being in Mussoorie was visiting the international school- Woodstock! It’s a beautiful campus and everyone there is so nice! I had something to pick up from the main office and as soon as I stepped foot on the campus so many different people helped me find my way. They showed me around, introduced me to people, and the staff let me join them for coffee and lunch. It was a great visit! Especially seeing the Hanifl Centre which I’ve heard so much about! (Hi Suzanne!) I left feeling really jealous that I didn’t get to go to school there! It’s a very inviting, inclusive, and gorgeous place to be!

This weekend a few friends and I took a trip to the nearby city of Rishikesh! I think there are more foreign hippies in Rishikesh than there are Indians. The city is nestled in the mountains and cut in half by the Ganges, so of course it was extremely beautiful. And it wasn’t gross dead bodies Ganges like Varanasi, since Rishikesh is by the mouth of the river it is relatively clean and blueish Ganges!

We stayed in a nice ashram and took a yoga class. It was my first time doing yoga in India, so it’s fitting that I did it in the “Yoga Capital of the World”.

The hippies were really kind of out of hand in Rishikesh though. I was judging them all weekend. They are often culturally incompetent. Most noticeably in the way they dress. What makes them think that walking down the street not wearing a shirt is ok? Or the women wearing belly shirts. And come on people, put on some shoes! We felt like nuns in our Indian clothes compared to the hippies. There were times when I literally felt offended by the way people were dressed and acting. When did I become such a prude? Shop owners were ASTOUNDED when we used Hindi because they are used to so many foreigners who just don’t even try.

As far as food, one of the most noticeable aspects of Rishikesh is all the German bakeries. Is this because of all the hippies and their munchies?

One of the days we decided to hike to a waterfall! It was adventurous due to the following events:

  1. Monkey scare. Imagine walking on a secluded jungley trail when monkeys start howling and running all around you! Like, you know at the Rainforest Café when the fake monkeys move and make noises every half hour or whatever? It was like that. Only terrifying because we were in their territory and didn’t know what was going on. Rustling bushes everywhere, monkeys staring us down with their fangs barred, chests panting as they hollered at us. It was so terrifying that I instinctively clung to my friend in fear. It was so wild.
  2. Coming upon a man in a little shack with a crazy white beard who was shooting things in the trees with a slingshot. Perhaps a good addition to the packing list of future India travelers: slingshot.
  3. Forest fire. Even though there was no one else around, we are assuming this was a controlled burn. It’s pretty concerning when the trail you’re following is on fire.

We were definitely rewarded for our efforts by enjoying a refreshing little pool and waterfall! I jumped right in with all my clothes on!

Later we checked out Ganga Aarti- a nightly ghat festival with a huge statue of Shiva in the river.

Since Rishikesh is on both sides of the Ganges River there are suspension bridges to get across. Crossing the bridges is always an experience though because they are only about 3 people wide across and you have to weave through cows, slow moving elderly, monkeys, motorbikes, lepers, tourists taking pictures, people selling things, etc.

Another big activity to do in Rishikesh is white water rafting! So of course we did that! In comparison to other rafting experiences I’ve had, it was pretty tame, but the fact that we were rafting on the holy river was cool! We jumped out of the raft and swam a little bit. I suppose it made me “pure”, but mostly it just made me feel cold. (I kind of forgot what being cold was like! It was so nice!) It was fun just free floating and letting the river push you along.

Between Mussoorie and Rishikesh I’ve had a really amazing couple of days! Which is good because this week is dedicated to paper writing! I’ve got a 30 page paper and presentation in my future.

Oufta.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suzanne Hanifl
    May 03, 2011 @ 02:25:34

    I’m so glad you got to Woodstock and Mussoorie. Now you know why I like returning when I can. Darren and I were in Rishikesh last April and I mostly remember how hot it was!!! Good luck on your papers and save return to the states.

    Reply

  2. James
    May 05, 2011 @ 07:56:40

    Your jungle monkey adventure sounds so awesome!
    I hope to see you soon after you get back!
    Duluth camping trips are a must this summer
    if you will be in Minnesota that is.

    Reply

  3. Vikram
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 00:31:51

    Delightful description! :)

    Reply

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