"I believe that if one man gains spiritually the whole world gains with him." -Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A National Park and Urban Hiking

Haa-tee is elephant and baag is tiger in Hindi. Sundar means beautiful.

            I can’t believe we have been here a week.  In some ways it feels like we have been here for months, but it also seems like we just got here yesterday.  Since the program in only five weeks, we all feel rushed to make sure we see and experience as much of India as possible.  I am incredibly grateful that I am staying for an extra month to travel.  There is no way five weeks would be enough and I am already planning my second trip to India.           

            Every Saturday (except next weekend) we have something planned through the study abroad program that is some type of little trip or visit that Jacob arranged for us.  Therefore, Sunday is pretty much our only day to go out and do whatever we want.  Before I go into our amazing day I want to describe Jacob, our resident advisor.  Jacob grew up in Bangalore and has worked at Christ University for 10 or 15 years.  He has been the resident advisor for the USAC study abroad program for the past four years.  He ran our orientation week (along with Ms. Florence) and is the lucky person who gets to be contacted by confused students and people from the local community.  Jacob is incredibly animated and loves to tell stories, especially about all of the student stuff that past students have done and how he somehow always gets calls in the middle of the night, which he imitates well (picture and Indian man imitating a winey American girl).  He is awesome. 

            Today we seven of us went to the Bannerghatta National Park, which is a 30-45 minute bus ride from Christ University in Bangalore.  This wasn’t just a national park that you would see in the US. It is also a wildlife preserve, mixed with a zoo and small carnival.  We got off the bus and jumped into a safari van.  I realized I stole the driver’s assistant’s seat, but a small language barrier mixed with friendly locals meant that I got the front passenger seat so I could see it all!  I expected to drive around and maybe see some cool animals, but no.  First were the sloth bears sitting in the middle of the street that fought (or maybe did a mating ritual) a couple feet from my window.  Next came the lions.  There were seven cubs, but they looked almost full-grown to me.  Then came the tigers and white tigers (Lions, tigers, bears….oh my!)  Our van was within a couple feet of all of these animals! 

            We strolled around the zoo and got friendly with the wild monkeys and then made our way to the elephants.  For 60 rupees ($1.50) we got to ride an elephant!  Some people thought it was a bit inhumane since the elephants had chain around the ankles, but they looked like they were being treated well and were moved around with a small bamboo stick instead of anything sharp, so I approved.  After lunch with a beautiful view, we finished the day trip experience with a ride on the ferris wheel.  Some people thought this was a poor choice considering there probably aren’t any safety regulations, there wasn’t any time of enclosure for your little compartment, and it went faster than any ferris wheel I’ve been on, but I lived and think I can handle anything now after eating a spicy Indian lunch followed by a ride that jostles you and goes in circles.

            Our day didn’t end with the National Park though.  Instead of getting off at the bus stop we knew to get home, my friend Marissa and I thought we’d take it to the end so we could figure out the bus station and its schedules to plan for another day trip.  Unfortunately the only thing we found out was that the bus to the place we were interested in going to didn’t leave from that bus station.  We had a lovely walk for an hour or two, but eventually got to a more familiar area.  You can’t really know a city without getting lost!  After a drink stop, we took a rickshaw the rest of the way home, which turned out to be way closer than we thought.  A day well done!


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