Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Batch #4

The new year is here and we at ISP are excited for our next group of students. And they are arriving today! We're heading out to the airport soon and ISP staff and peer mentors are eager to see our new arrivals. Can't wait to meet you Batch 4 and welcome to Coimbatore!

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On the Road: Delhi

Our last stop on the road was Delhi, the capital of India. We spent some brief time at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, before heading over to the Red Fort. This Fort, like some of the other Mughal architechture we visited in Agra, was built by Shah Jahan. It was a great way to cap off such an experience filled semester together.

Thanks for a great semester Batch 3! We have loved having you here and journeying alongside you in India. May you continue to learn from your experiences here and share your stories with those Stateside. Happy Journey!

Friday, January 4, 2013

On the Road: Dehradun

We have definitely moved into winter here in India and while it may not be so cold down south here in Coimbatore (and definitely not as cold as some parts of the US!) the chilly north of India us pulling out sweaters and huddling under blankets to stay warm.

Learning about Tibetan Buddhism from monks.
Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. We were excited to be 
here for the last leg of our journey where, in addition to learning about Tibet and Buddhism, we had time for rest and reflection. During our week, we spoke to a local mentoring program that's doing some great work with young Tibetan men and shared a meal of buffalo momos (a first for everyone!). We also had the chance to speak with local monks who shared about Tibetan Buddhism and monastery life, and a couple that uses their store as an opportunity for social entrepreneurship. 

Hanging out at a cafe that supports local women. 
Of course there's no better way to cap off a quiet week than to throw in a little whitewater rafting! We made our way over to Rishikesh an hour way, which is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas. The Ganges flows right through the city and students were stoked to spend a day rafting through this scenic area.

Ready for whitewater rafting!
Some of us took the time to wander the city instead and saw the gorgeous views of the city from the two pedestrian suspension bridges that hang over the Ganges. We also sought out the Beatles Ashram before meeting up with the rafting adventurers.

Exploring picturesque Rishikesh.
Final stop: Delhi!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Road: Agra

Agra is most known for being the home of the Taj Mahal where thousands flock every year to the marble mauusoleum that Shah Jahan built for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  Needless to say we were excited to get there!

Checking out the Agra Fort.
Beyond the Taj Mahal, Agra is known for its multitudes of Mughul architecture so our first stop was the Agra Fort. Right off the train we made our way over there to explore this walled city. Although visually beautiful and intricate, the Fort is also well known for being the site of imprisonment for Shah Jahan when he was overthrown by his son. From the Fort he was able to view the Taj Mahal across the river but was never able to visit it.

At the Taj!
In the afternoon, we made our way over to the Taj Mahal! Everyone had been anticipating this visit for weeks so to finally arrive there was a dream come true for many of the students.

Jumping for joy at the Taj Mahal.
On to Dehradun!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On the Road: Varanasi

Our semester may have come to an end but there are more stories to share! Here's another stop on our travel component.

Varanasi is a city that breathes centuries. Its winding alleys open onto ghats that lead down to the Ganges where you can see daily scenes of morning bathers and Hindu priests preparing for worship. As one of India's holiest cities, Varanasi was the perfect place to explore more about Hinduism!

Watching the Ganga Aarti
Our day was filled with a walking tour and an evening boat ride where we watched the Ganga Aarti (Ganges river worship ceremony). It was fascinating to see the priests with their lit lamps moving in synchronicity. We also had ample time to wander the city and observe life there. Students loved discovering the streets and seeing everything from the burning ghats to the many roadside shrines.The burning ghats is one of many intriguing traditions in Varanasi. Hindus believe that to be cremated here will release them from the cycle of rebirth. 

Enjoying the Varanasi view!

Next stop: Agra - home of the Taj Mahal!