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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nandi Hills and Coorg

Kapi means monkey and jalaprapata means waterfall in Hindi

           This is everyone else’s last day in India and I can’t imagine leaving this country and going home already.  We have been reflecting on the trip, our favorite activities and places, friendships, etc the past week and I think there is very little I could have done to make my experience in Bangalore better.  It is very satisfying to feel the success of the trip thus far and it makes me even more excited for the next month that I will be in India.

            The other day four of us planned a day trip to Nandi Hills, which is outside of Bangalore.  Unfortunately our ride backed out, but we were able to turn to plan B and take the bus there.  We were told it was a 45-minute bus ride, but I continue to learn how flexible “India time ” is.   Almost four hours later we got to our destination.  But before we got to the top we drove up sharp switchbacks and noticed that there were more and more groups of men.  We started getting a little nervous because as we went up there were more and more, but then we turned a corner to see the biggest group and found that there was an official street race! The constant amazement in this country continues.  The bus waited its turn and we worked our way up the rest of the way, crowds cheering as we went.

            We got off the bus at the top and went straight to the puppies we saw in the parking lot.  While the puppies distracted me, one of the other girls went to get some chips and was readily attacked by one of the many monkeys.  It jumped in her arms to grab her chips and launched off her stomach.  We were on high alert after that as we walked through the pathways up to the top of the hills.  One of the other girls got confrontational with another monkey who kept grabbing her bag and eventually she had to sacrifice her mango juice. 

            The rest of the day was spent eating lunch, walking around fearing monkeys, playing with the puppies again, watching the street bike racing, and waiting for the bus to take us back to Bangalore.  It was quite a full day with a lot of time spent on the bus, but that wasn’t the end of my bus travels for the day!  I planned a trip to Coorg, which is a six-hour bus ride from Bangalore. 

            Marissa and I took an overnight bus to Coorg (unfortunately a non-AC seater bus) and got there at 5:30 Thursday morning.  We stepped off the bus to a dark deserted street (except groups of men as always) and cold fog and mist coming from the alleys.  Uh oh, this is not what we were expecting.  After hiding out in a stairway to a hotel for a while we ventured out to walk around a bit and eventually found restaurants that were opening so we could sit and get some tea.  After two different restaurants and cups of tea, we called Jacob to find out if there was anything for us to do in Coorg.  We were definitely expecting something more like Hampi that was small an accessible from the bus stand.  He connected us with a travel office and we ended up hiring a driver to take us to different places in a tourist package.

           This isn’t usually my style for traveling and I was a bit skeptical at first, but it ended up being awesome and not very expensive at all!  We started by going to an elephant camp (we just can’t get enough elephants) on the Cauvery River, where you can bath the elephants and watch them get fed.  Our next destination was this park-like place in a bamboo forest.  It was a little odd-rabbit park and deer park-but it was a nice place to sit and read for a while.  After that we went to a Buddhist temple and monastery in Madikeri, which I have heard has the largest Tibetan population outside of Tibet.  It was really cool seeing these huge gold plated statues and walking around the area with prayer flags flying everywhere.  This was probably my favorite place we went while in Coorg because it felt so peaceful and safe.  We ended the day by going to one of the waterfalls in Coorg.    It was already raining a bit, but we got soaked stood on the suspended bridge in front of the waterfall and let the spray cover us.  It was an amazing day. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bangalore and More

Nrtya means dance and gana means sing in Hindi.

            As our time in Bangalore is winding down, I have been trying to soak up as much as possible my experiences here.  Though maybe not a cultural experience, last Wednesday we had our second round of kareoke.  This time we sarinaded the room with some Elton John, a tribute to Amy Winehouse, and Piano Man.  Needless to say, we butchered every song. 

            All week we woke up early and had two-a-days to prepare for our dance performance.  I didn’t realize how big of an event it was going be to.  There were probably thirty dance teams competing and our dance was a short intermission from the competing groups.  It wasn’t like a lame half time show, though, I swear!  We performed to some hit Bollywood songs and the crowd was going wild.  It was so much fun and I can’t wait for the video to come out. 

            On Saturday we took a group fieldtrip to one of the villages an hour from Bangalore.  The community service program on the Christ College campus works with different villages in the state to promote programs for women and children mostly.  We got off the bus and were flooded by elementary school children.  We played games with them and they taught us a game that was a mix between Red Rover, Tag, and Capture the Flag.  It was awesome how hard these kids played, girls and boy alike.  Some of us definitely walked away from the game bruised and bloodied.  They also loved cameras, which made me grateful that I bought the most durable one before coming to India.  It got passed around and taking into their houses, so I ended the day with a lot of really cool pictures from their perspective, even though half of them have fingers covering the lens.  We saw some of the steps for making silk, which was really interesting, but too difficult to describe.  The village has a women’s group that has been meeting for the past seven years and we were able to sit in on one of their meetings and ask questions.  They talk about ways to improve their community, like after school programs, getting funding to send kids to college, health care, etc. 

            The most important idea I took away from the group was that in India you have to work together as a group if you want to be heard.  Although I think that one individual can make a really big difference no matter what the situation, a group of like-minded individuals working for something is much more likely to be recognized.  My concept of a village was somewhat altered after this experience also.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but I think many people assume the villagers would be poor, uneducated, sickly, and unhappy.  Although there was a combination of these attributes in some way for some people, it is mostly just a different way of life.  It seemed 100 times better to be a child in this village where there is community and even if you are poor, you probably won’t go hungry than to be one of the children begging in Bangalore or any other big city.  The city definitely increases the expectations gap, which makes people that don’t have as much really unhappy.  People in the village are still aware of the income inequality since tv’s are becoming more common, but there still seems to be more contentedness with their lifestyle.

            On Sunday six of us went to Shravanabelagola (try telling the bus driver that name), which is a four hour bus ride from Bangalore.  It is known for a temple that is on top of a rocky outlook, which is a destination for many Jains.  It takes over 600 steps carved out of the stone to get to and at the top there is a 57 foot statue of Bhagavan Gomanteshwara Bahubali.  It was great to get out of Bangalore, even though we spent over eight hours in the bus total to be there for three hours.  It’s so refreshing to see people’s commitment to religion and their beliefs, especially when it is mixed with such beautiful stonework, architecture, and other culture.

            The general consensus is that we are all ready to leave Bangalore, but not India.  I am so happy I planned my flight to stay an extra month.  Bangalore is a really cool city, but there doesn’t seem to be that much to do unless you have a full day to make a trip.  I finished classes today and am planning outings for the next few days in the area.  The rest of the group leaves early Saturday morning, Mollie gets here Saturday night, and we leave Bangalore Sunday to travel north.  I am really looking forward to those two week with Mollie and am still looking for somewhere to volunteer our to be stationed at my final two weeks here so if anyone knows about a volunteer organization or something, please let me know!