Friday, May 2, 2014

On the Road: Dehradun

Well the trip is over, but I wanted to let you know what we did in Dehradun:

After the crowds and heat of the big cities, it was so refreshing to go up to the foothills of the Himalayas and  rest. We spent a day debriefing the past semester and discussing what we learned and how we can take these things back home with us. 

Another day was spent learning about the Tibetan refugee issue and getting a chance to hang out with some Tibetan guys at a drug rehabilitation center. It was a cool experience to interact with them, play sports, and try their delicious food. 

Playing volleyball with the Tibetan guys
A major highlight of the End of Semester trip would definitely have to be whitewater rafting on the Ganges river. We drove a few hours away to the town of Rishikesh which is famous for several things: it is where Shiva is said to have stepped out of the mountains, the Beatles had an ashram there, and the clean clear Ganges river flows out of the mountains! Needless to say, it is very beautiful and a very unique experience, as well as tons of fun!

Bridge overlooking the Ganges
Whitewater rafting on the Ganges River

Whitewater rafting on the Ganges river
Another day we traveled higher up the mountain to a hillstation called Mussoorie where we got a chance to hike around and see the snow capped Himalayan mountains! So beautiful and refreshing!

Snow capped peaks of the Himalayas!
We took the train back to Delhi and spent the day getting in some last shopping and eating Indian food before it was time for students to board their flights and head home. We wish you all well!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On the Road: Agra

Today was Taj Mahal day!! We arrived early in Agra and so went straight from the train station to tour Agra Fort before it got too hot. It was interesting to hear the story of Shah Jahan’s imprisonment in the fort and how he lived out the last of his days seeing the Taj Mahal through his bedroom window, but never actually got to visit it!

Taj Mahal
After a time to rest, go shopping and get some lunch (buffalo biriyani) we set out to see the Taj Mahal! 

Batch 6 at the Taj Mahal

ISP staff

On the Road: Varanasi

 Welcome to the holy city of Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges River! We wound our way through the narrow alleys- ducking by cows, avoiding cow patties, past rickshaws, and through crowds to get to our hotel overlooking the Ganga! 
The Ganges River
We spent the afternoon walking through the streets learning about the city and Hindu culture and religion from our guide. We went inside ancient palaces, overlooked the burning ghats, and tried tea from a clay cup. In the evening we floated down the river on a boat tour to see the evening aarti. Aarti is a worship ritual to Mother Ganga involving fire and incense and the ringing of bells. Finally we ended our day with a superb dinner of authentic Italian pizza and amazing apple pie (an ISP tradition)!

Evening boat ride on the Ganges to view the river aarti
The next day was just a free day to catch up on some sleep and explore the alleyways to get in some good shopping. Of course we had to visit our favourite shop- The Blue Lassi for this batch to try their amazing creations! Several students got up early to watch the sun rise over the Ganga and walk along the ghats to watch the morning rituals and commotion. 

Sunrise over the Ganges
Blue Lassi!!

On the Road: Calcutta

We reached Calcutta in the wee hours of the morning and made our way to our hotel- the oldest YMCA in Asia with lots of character.
Oldest YMCA in Asia
In the morning we visited Mother Theresa’s burial site and the Mother House where we learned about her amazing life of sacrifice. Then we toured Victoria Memorial which is a beautiful museum filled with history of the British Raj. Finally, we went for kathi rolls- street food at its finest-before enjoying a free afternoon of shopping and relaxing.
Chrissie, Maaike, and Lydia at the Victoria Memorial
  Happy Easter from Calcutta!! Students enjoyed the free day to explore the city.

Megan, Sarah, Maaike, and Chrissie enjoy kathi rolls
 Monday was very busy- first students visited an organization called Sari Bari which rescues women that were caught in sex trade and teaches them how to sew. The women use old torn saris that have been thrown away and create beautiful blankets and bags. The analogy is striking- taking something considered to be broken, useless, and dirty, and transforming it into something beautiful and of value! Students also visited Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying where thousands of people have come off the street to be taken care of and die in peace. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On the Road: Bapatla

The chance to be kid again. To run around freely-shouting, dancing, singing, and playing to our hearts content. More importantly, the chance to play with kids and to love on them! This is what we have been doing for the past couple of days at a children’s home in Bapatla-rural Andhra Pradesh.

Uncle and Auntie run a children’s home for about 150 kids who are either orphans or from poor or broken families. The children are given a home to stay in, as well as an English-medium education. We were able to tour the school and visit the children in their classrooms. Then we spent the afternoon playing volleyball, football (soccer), tag and every other running game imaginable with them! 
Playing games with the children
In the evening our students taught and led several action songs before again dispersing to play. Our students were surrounded on all sides by kids pulling them in every direction and shouts of “sister, sister” “brother, brother”! We danced. We sang. We chased. We laughed. We loved. By evening we were all exhausted and sweaty, but every face glowed with the joy and excitement of playing with these wonderful children. We have one more evening with them and you can bet it will be just as tiring and beautiful!

Leading action songs
This morning we drove to the Bay of Bengal to visit the beach. It was amazing to watch the sun rise over the ocean and to just spend some time to be quiet and recharge or to have fun playing in the water!

Sunrise over the Bay of Bengal
Tomorrow morning bright and…. No, never mind, it won’t be bright, just EARLY (as in 3:45am) we head to the train station to continue up north to Kolkata. Twenty-five hours on a train here we come!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the Road: BIRDS

On Sunday evening, we boarded the train to start our 18 days of travel across north India!

First stop: the small rural village of Cuddapah in the middle of Andhra Pradesh.

We are visiting an organization called BIRDS which works with farmers in learning how to become more self-sustaining. The program also rescues girls caught in the sex trafficking trade and runs a children's home and school. Uncle obviously is involved in a great number of projects, and he took the time to explain how BIRDS started and what they are doing.

We were able to visit a local village where the farmers are implementing their new knowledge and had a chance to ask them questions about their experience.

Visiting a local village
We also went for a hike through the forest-stopping to see many Hindu temples and shrines along the way. 

Our hike through the woods
Tonight we board the train headed to another small village in Andhra Pradesh to visit a children's home.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

We're heading out tomorrow to start our 18 day trek across north India!

As of Friday, all of the classes are over- papers are turned in and presentations are completed. We ended by having a celebratory meal put on my the Catering class to demonstrate all that they have learned over the course. Delicious!

Friday night was Candlelight- a special ceremony to honor those that have made this semester possible and to celebrate the student's hard work.
Kirk congratulating the students for their hard work
Batch 6 is DONE!
Batch 6 with their friends
Students are making the most of their last weekend here- visiting their favorite restaurants and hanging out with their friends.

The journey will comprise of about 85 hours of train travel, 7 different cities, from the Bay of Bengal all the way up to the foothills of the Himalayas. Follow our journey here to get updates of what the students are up to!