My day (Kwazi) began at 2am as I was awaken by my stomach and the well expected Delhi Belly, I now can truly say that I’ve been to India. And it seemed as though I wasn’t the only one who had thee complications as I found out that 5 other students had the same complications.

Unlike Kwazi, I (Abby) awoke at 4:45 AM stomach pain free, and ready to start the day. Although I empathized with those who were sick, I was very very happy that I wasn’t. We headed to the train station in Udiapur, and then departed to Pushkar, the next destination on our journey. I did get to see some of the beautiful orange sunrise, but mostly I slept. I’m not a morning person.

Nonetheless, we all got up at 5am to drive to the train station; we would leave Udaipur and make our way to Ajmer and then Pushkar. On the train we got the chance to witness the sunrise. Most of us enjoyed this train experience. Instead of sitting in our seats in the coach, some of us decided to take an adventurous leap and open the coach doors and watch the sunrise. What began as merely an attempt to watch the sunrise resulted in a 2 hour chill session as we enjoyed the scenery, the sound of the train on the tracks, and the wind in our faces.

Once we arrived in Ajmer we took cars into Pushkar. The hotel where we stayed resembled a white palace and had paintings of Hindu stories across its walls and to our delight the hotel had pool. We had lunch at the hotel and then anxiously waited for the camel rides. We all got the chance to pick our camel that we would take up the sand dunes. The camel guide showed us how to get on the camels, and once we were on the camels we felt as though we were on top of the world. My camel’s name was Krishna, and here friends were Obama, Lucky and Roman. Krishna was very friendly and gentle, and so the guide entrusted me with the reins.

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Once we arrived into Pushkar, we embarked on a nauseating journey up the mountain to our hotel. Upon arrival we realized that we are staying at a traditional Indian palace, and our mouths dropped when we walked in. The ceilings were extremely high, and Hindu stories were painted as murals on the walls. After eating lunch we had some time to relax by the pool, and then headed off to camel riding!

Camel riding was unlike any experience I had previously had, even elephant riding. I was unaware of how big camels were, and mounting the camel was an experience in itself. Once we were on our way we got to see much of the Pushkar desert and country side. After our ride we arrived in a very sandy desert, where we got to witness traditional Indian music while drinking delicious Chai and watching the sunset. It was a surreal experience.

By Kwazi Nkomo and Abby Okin

Train Travel in the Land of Contrasts

Our last day in Delhi was spent experiencing upper-class India, which was an extreme contrasting to our experience in Delhi the day before. The day before we explored the class of India that was impoverished. We visited a hectic Sufi-Shrine mosque and were also exposed to extreme poverty. As a way to display the various classes of Indian society, we visited a high-class shopping area in New Delhi. As we walked around the shopping center we passed commercial industries such as McDonalds, Adidas, and Rolex. This array of American/European powered stores placed in a small wealthier area of Delhi was very interesting to see. With such extreme poverty just minutes away from the area, the vast amount of commercial stores present was very interesting to compare and contrast. In the poverty stricken areas, the streets are filled with small local shops consisting of Indian goods such as a variety of traditional street food and handcrafted material items. In comparison to this, the shopping center we visited contained many high-end restaurants and a larger variety of commercial businesses and stores.

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Later that day we began the journey of our first overnight Indian sleeper train. Nerves and excitement surged through our group. Our journey started the second we got off the bus at the Indian railway. Each student was told to carry their luggage themselves and voyage towards the railway station a couple minutes away. With one student close to fainting and many others on the verge of anxiety attacks, we were bound for an exciting night. After minutes of waiting on the platform we boarded the train and entered a world of quiet chaos. We were each assigned to a bed, which had one blanket, one pillow, and one unfamiliar Indian roommate. Scared of some strangers’ intentions we all decided to group together and stay as close as possible. The train was fluorescently lit, filled with various sounds, and reeked of omelets, tomato soup and chai tea. As things began to quiet down and everyone got situated in their assigned bunks, we all found comfort in each other by closely conversing throughout the night. The overnight journey was something we will never forget and will always hold closely to our hearts, as it was a new experience for us all. Although sometimes India can be overwhelming, the total sensory experience that comes along with every journey is completely rewarding and unique.

By Sailor Brinkley-Cook and Constance Caiola 

Capturing India

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India is one of the most beautiful places I have ever taken pictures of. Since the moment I arrived I began to take notice of the people, architecture and style of life. India, like most places bound by tradition, is a canvas of beauty and flaws. However this proved to be what I find is most captivating about being/ taking photos in India. When I look out the bus window it looks like a movie flashing before my eyes ( too fast to take photos), but when I step onto the narrow sidewalks of Old Delhi, I feel comfortable and confident with my camera in my hands. It is a process of taking in the scenery around me first and snapping quick photos of anything that I find intriguing, which thus far has been people. I believe that photography is a way to transport people who have yet to have this experience into my space and experience in the land of colorful food, people, fabrics and animals. Every view of India is personal and unique, and everyone seems to have a contribution when they hear “Hey, I’m going to India!”, but since there are 23 other students on this trip that will tell you how beautiful the people are, how bad the smell, or how watching the sunrise at the top of a mountain while drinking chai tea with monks was an absolute breathtaking experience is, I would like to take this opportunity to express how unbelievably impressed I am with my classmates. India is beautiful, but it is a country bound by tradition and culture, and as a Westerner, not the easiest place to adapt. We are not simply on Spring break, and many will agree that we see just as much ugly as we do beautiful. Some have been been sick with a twenty four hour ” don’t drink the water” virus and others have been exposed first hand to the harsh role of women in an extremely patriarchal society, yet we keep moving on. There have been too many experiences that we will never have again that have shown us how amazing this place truly is, and it definitely overpowers the uncomfortable bits. I can’t believe how a group of 17/18 year olds are taking on such a culture shock with such incredible enthusiasm.

Every time I open my eyes I tell myself “wow, can you believe your in India?” And my answer is always no; India has been the most surreal experience: it is a place that will make you feel a natural high by just walking down the street or looking out a train window. I have been asking myself different versions of this questions even before I left I use to say “Wow, I’m leaving for India in a week, can you believe it?” And my answer than was no; I thought this was because I was too worried about school work before I left, but I have come to the realization that no one can be “ready” to go to India. It is the most other worldly experience compared to living in New York. Everything in India excites and intrigues me; when I look out the window I am in pure awe. India is known for Bollywood but it should be known for how it’s reality is like a movie. Almost everything in India is different from what I am use to; from the food to politics to landscape, music, animals, dress, work ethic, religion and daily life. I always used to think of what India was like in my head. Before I left I knew there would be poverty and it would be hot and everything would not be what I think is normal- this preliminary thought was true but nothing compares to living and breathing India.

By Denise Garcia

Sustainable Resilience or Inevitable Collapse?

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The roads embody the society–large, unorganized, fast paced, lawless, chaotic–but somehow locals can navigate them with a jaded ease. There are traffic jams and road blocks, and things are not as efficient as they could be. Men take the wheel while women resign themselves to the back seat. Children dart between cars selling used pens. Still, the stream of cars, tuck-tucks, and rickshaws remains fluid. When we can neglect our ethnocentrism and ignore our initial apprehension we are presented with an undeniable sense of sublimity.

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By Ana Claudia Bazan, Phillip Gorodetskiy, Jodie Paffrath, and Frances Sacks

First Impressions: Wealth Disparity

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During the preprations for this trip all of us were aware of the of the gaping wealth distribution that exists in India. Before coming here, I knew that poverty was part of the acutal situation of the country, which is statiscally ironic since India nowadays has one of the highest  GDPs in the world. Something that is hard to percieve when looking at the data is that for the amount of people that live in the country who affect the possesion of wealth per capita, when the population reaches the unit of billion it seems there is no country that has generated a just financial system of opportunities that would attend the majority.

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Since India is classified as a developing country, there is a conflict between traditional culture and the interference of the international market, where a company of clothes for example takes the clients from the local sellers and began to ruin the tradition of merchants which has been present even in the hindu religion. It is simply sad to see the wealth ones from outside are willing to break the locals instead of investing in areas such as education to supply the great amount of homeless children who in the future could improve their industry and promote country’s economy.

By Bernardo Sa

India: The Future is Now

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New Delhi

It was the first day in India and with only 1-2 hours of sleep we woke up ready to explore. We wound up taking a 45-minute bus ride to the Sheeshgang Gurugwara temple. Where we were required to take off our shoes and socks, wash our hands, step into a puddle of water in order to clean our feet, and walk barefoot through a Sikh religious gathering Then we finally entered the temple. We sat in front of the sort of alter and listened to their prayers which were in a song form. Later we went to the volunteer kitchen where people make bread for the other members of the community. Some of us sat and helped the woman to make the bread, which was quite interesting because the woman didn’t speak English and attempted to talk to us in Hindi. We found it quite difficult to understand to say the least. Then we experienced the rickshaw, which was an amazing yet scary experience. They are basically bicycles with a seat at the back. Two people got in the seat, and off we went! Due to the terrible street systems of New Delhi, we crashed into cars, motorbikes and other rekhas, we felt like we’re about to die. Still it was an amazing experience to be able to see everything so close and so alive.

By Israa Dhaif and Cole Colby

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