Monday, December 9, 2013

On the Road: Agra, Delhi, and Dehradun

Sorry for the long delay! We have been travelling pretty hardcore these last few days but are happy to now be settled for a couple days in Rajpur in the foothills of the Himalyas.

From Varanasi we went onto Agra to see Agra Fort and of course the Taj Mahal!!! What an unreal experience! We all had a wonderful time taking pictures.

Batch 5 at the Taj Mahal!
Next morning early we headed to Delhi for the day. First we went on a tour of the streets with an organization that rescues and restores street children. The best part was that the tour was given by a man who used to live on the streets so we got a first-hand perspective! For lunch we ate at the world famous Karims restaurant which used to serve food to kings until they made it available to the common man. The group split up in order to cover more ground so some people saw the street kids dance while others went to see Suffi singing. Both ended up to be very good experiences!

That night we boarded the train for Rajpur which is a hillstation in the foothills of the Himalyas. While it is much colder, the beauty around us is astounding! These hills are stunning and it is wonderful to be in the peace and quiet after the busyness of the other cities we have visited. We are taking time to rest and refresh as well as debrief our semester in India. We also took time to go white water rafting on the Ganges river! The Ganges flows out of the Himalyas so it is cold and clear (quite different from how it looks when it reaches Varanasi). Everyone enjoyed their experience and  some even cliff jumped into the mighty Ganges!

Ready to raft!
We have 2 more days here in India before returning back to our homes. While we are excited to see our family, friends, and pets and to eat our favourite foods and see familiar sites, for many leaving will be bitter sweet. Deep friendships have been formed and lives have been changed from this experience in India. We will arrive in the airport with suitcases full of dirty clothes and presents; hearts full of numerous stories to share about our experiences; and probably a bit of Indian soil still clinging to our shoes! See you soon!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On the Road: Varanasi

Hello from Varanasi- the City of Lights!

These past few days have been so full as we explore the back alleyways and the river front of this famous city. How to possibly describe it? An overwhelming experience for all the senses: blare of horns of motorbikes trying to maneuver through, cries of deals from the vendors, pungent scent of fresh cow manure mixed with aromatic spices, crowded chaotic streets where one must avoid cows, dogs, cow patties, trash, children, bikes and an endless stream of people! 

On our first day we walked through the narrow winding streets on a tour led by an American man who has lived in Varanasi for 12 years. He pointed out various holy sites, led us into abandoned palaces, and showed us a burning ghat where cremations are done. We visited the famous Blue Lassi which is totally a foreigner's joint but they serve EXCELLENT lassi's! (A lassi is like flavoured fresh yoghurt but so much better!) The next night we took a boat ride on the Ganges in order to view the surroundings from a different perspective. We also watched the nightly aarti which is a worship ceremony to the Ganges river. The day ended on a high with a visit to an authentic Italian pizzeria followed by apple pie and icecream... Happy Thanksgiving to us!

On our last day in Varanasi some students got up to watch the sun rise over the Ganges and watch the morning aarti and Hindus doing their ritual bathing. Students also had the opportunity to explore on their own and get in some shopping.

Tonight we board the train for Agra...which means we are headed to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort!