Experiencing India

Travel Week: Rajasthan 9th-16th October 2016

Travel week is a 7-day experience of India outside of the MUWCI parameters. My experience was headed up north in the beautiful state of Rajasthan. People had always said that India is too big to be defined or described in one way, that the minute you step into another state it’s like you’re in a different country. The language, the buildings, the animal species. The language commonly spoken in the state of Maharashtra (which is where I live) is Marati and some speak Hindi, however up north they speak various languages but the most common are Marwari but Hindi is the official language. There were lots of ancient buildings, with elaborate and geometric patterns lining the edges of the walls, with the dominant colors being peach, red, gold and white. There were camels, donkeys, monkeys and horses everywhere. Most of the merchants still used horse wagons, something that I’d only seen in movies and had classified as ‘pre-historic’. I was simply fascinated by it all, I felt like I was holding my breath the entire trip.

We stayed in Jaipur but traveled to Ajmer and the village Abhaneri. We stayed in a petite and well-kept hotel called Laxmi Palace Hotel. I had two roommates, Phoebe from Canada and Clara from Sweden. I’m glad for this experience because we bonded over so many things, I just didn’t think it possible because we’re from completely different places but this just showed me how small the world really is. Apart from the bonding, I think that this place really made me step out of my comfort zone. I had to not only work with a group of 15 students so as not to get lost, but I had to speak up, participate and just be present. This might seem like child’s play to anybody else but I’m an introvert. I like my personal space and I enjoy little pleasures like a warm cup of tea and a splendid book to read but everyone wanted to go out in the dead of night and party. I think this trip really built me as a person to stand up for myself. If I didn’t want to go somewhere I’d just pull out my NO card. This epiphany came later in the trip but I reached it eventually and the trip was less stressful after.

We visited Chandi Baori (the oldest step well in Rajasthan), Amber Fort a defense palace made of sandstone and marble by Man Singh in the 16th century; and Pushkar, a town in India, the myth is that a holy deity Gramajee threw a lotus towards the Earth, it rotated around it 7 times then landed in the lake in this town, making Pushkar a very famous pilgrimage site in India; Chokhi Dhani (an amusement park in India, where you can have your palms read, go on elephant rides, buy hand carved items, buy hand woven garments, eat lots of typical Rajasthani foods and really just have a good time); a time museum where we saw how ancient astrologers used the position of the sun through the use of astrolabes and other such huge instruments to tell the time. We also saw how huge marble carved instruments were used for modern-day zodiac sign predictions relative to the position of the stars. The monkey temple built for a monkey deity in which animal species were taken care off; an ancient mosque which wasn’t fun because we saw crippled men on the streets getting beaten by mosque officials; and this beautiful palace that was built for Sher Singh’s second wife, because she couldn’t stand to live with his other wives which really just showed me the power of women even in a time when they were undermined.

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Apart from the stalkers who followed us around because they’d never seen such an international group of students, the ripoffs because we weren’t locals, and the loud car honking, the horrific scenes of crippled men being beaten almost to death, I had a really good time. I learned how to handle myself in a new city, and how to meander through with little to no Hindi. I learned about the effectiveness of non-verbal communication through hand gestures and facial expressions. I would do this again and again and again given the chance.

 

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Great Canyon Hiking Trip

I just want to go one more adventures. Be around good energy. Connect with people. Learn new things. Grow.

In September this year (2016) we went on a hiking trip at this beautiful canyon called Great Canyon. It was a hilly place, filled with trees and waterfalls. Most of the paths were extremely narrow and one foot placed on the wrong side meant definite death. I am not a pro-hiker, this was actually my first one. It was raining cats and dogs that day but our dear facilitator bid us on. Our overall goal was to get past the canyon to the other side where we were to hike up a (really steep) hill. Our first challenge was to get through this wide water-filled dam, through this gravel path that was slightly higher than the water level. This path was also very narrow, so we had to really maintain our balance. Prior to the trip I had decided that I wanted to be able to connect with people and be keen on working with my team. Hence during this challenge I helped people who were scared to get through by holding their hand and walking slowly through it. It felt good to be able to lend a helping hand. The next challenge was crossing the major waterfall that had extremely high water pressure which made it even harder to stand and walk through it. We had to hold on to the rocks lined up on the side (more like hang on for dear life) and ingenuously work our way through to our facilitator who would help us cross over to the other side. In all honesty I didn’t think I’d survive this, but my friends kept me alive. Despite the fact that we were all from different parts of the world who shared little to nothing in common, we still managed to work together. The language was a barrier most of the time, especially when trying to initiate conversation but when our lives were on the line we did what we could to get through. Through this I learned a lot about human nature and what connects us, it is our sense of empathy and need to survive that will rise above all else. In the end we got through numerous waterfalls, big and small, all the forests, the narrow paths on cliffs and the muddy steep hill. I enjoyed this trip and although I couldn’t get any pictures because it was raining the memory of this muddy experience will remain in my mind for as long as I live.

Life in the Villages

People tend to forget everything they have and focus on what they don’t.

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Homestays is when we get to stay with the villagers for a night and understand the dynamics of the different villages in our area. On the left is one of the tiny fish we caught with our villager friends: Mahesh, Vijay, Sanen and Manish and on the right is a group picture (I’m on the extreme right).

These are individual portraits I took with the family we stayed with. They were very friendly and they taught me a lot of Marati which is the local language in the state of Maharashtra (including how to introduce myself and ask for tea). In the 1st photo on the left you may have seen a cow in the background. The villagers live with all their domestic animal, because they can’t afford to have a barn and don’t even have too many animals to keep there. I also learned that they consider their cows holy which is why they don’t eat beef. I had great fun!

What did I take from this experience?

The villagers didn’t have a whole lot but they were quite happy and content with their living standards. I learned that we don’t need more things we just have to appreciate the things we already have.

Recreation: Learning Marathi

Second Term: Jan-2nd Feb 2017 

I joined this recreational activity because I wanted to at least attempt to break the language barrier between the locals and myself. I am living on their land after all, the least I can do to appreciate them and their culture is to learn their language. I want to be able to go out into the villages and be able to converse with the villagers, to understand the complexities  that exist in their language, as a way to understand them as people. Studies have shown that the structure of languages says a lot about the people, about their history, their stage of civilization etc. For instance, in Indonesia there is no future or past tense so if you were to say ‘I went to the market yesterday’ you could only say ‘I am going to the market yesterday’. Which may suggest that the people are deeply rooted in the present moment, that the passing of time isn’t as significant to them because now is all we’ve really got. I want to be able to infer such theories for native Marathi speakers in my 2 years here at MUWCI.

Otherwise the sessions have been going on quite well, but  I have only been able to attend a total of 3/5 sessions because I had meetings that clashed with this recreation and it was cancelled once for Theatre Season Rehearsals. I can currently introduce myself (my name, age, where I’m from) and count to ten. I have encountered a few disparities between my mother tongue (Swahili) and Marathi for instance, the verb is placed at the end of the sentence so for instance, ‘Bill ate an apple’ would translate to ‘Bill an apple ate’. I’m not quite sure what this suggests about Marathi culture but I’m determined to find out as I continue to expand my knowledge of the language and practice my oral skills with Kriya girls during our swimming sessions. The only challenge I’ve faced is in pronunciation of certain words because the sounds are sparsely different from English and Swahili, but I will try my very best to work on this by speaking more and listening to Sharayu and Pratiksha (the facilitators) speaking in Marathi.

Excited 🙂

Voices of MUWCI

I joined Voices of MUWCI because I thought it would be an opportunity to engage with the writers in this particular community. I’ve always been interested in writing, I used to edit a lot of creative writing pieces for most of my friends in my previous school, I wrote a book and a collection of poems as well. The aim of this project was to engage the college in a writing experience, in which they could choose any form of writing to express their feelings on their day-to-day here at MUWCI; their writing would then be edited and added to the anthology that the Voices Crew would design and publish at the end of the year.

Voices of MUWCI showed great promise at the beginning of the term but because there were only 4 members (all first-years) with only two of us being committed to the cause we didn’t have the manpower or motivation to do much. I gave plenty of suggestions and worked on them (putting up posters, sending out emails for people to submit plays and announcing our project during college meeting) but only a few people handed in their written work and our project facilitator thought it better for us to join more promising projects. Despite the net failure, I found that I developed my leadership skills because I took on the task on coordinating the activities. I will use these skills in the future, but I will be more focused on perseverance and positive thinking. Otherwise this was a great opportunity, I wish it lasted longer.