It was less than a week ago when I left my comfortable home in Alexandria, Kentucky to travel to India–a land that I couldn’t have even imagined a week ago. After 23 hours of flying and 10,000 miles, I can’t imagine anything else. I didn’t know if I would be in the middle of a desert or a jungle, but I’m starting to learn that the climate and topography were the least of my worries. Becoming acclimated to that which is India is much more difficult than simply wearing different clothing and applying sunscreen; instead, it is the process of trying to understand the people, the music, the clothing, the religions, and the way of life. Each of these things, and many, many others, are all rolled into an incredibly complicated, beautiful, and wonderfully diverse enigma that is the culture of India. More than International Marketing, Yoga, or even Service Learning, I am constantly assured that the culture of this country will be the most important thing I learn about during my time here. Time that I am so very thankful for.
Wednesday marked our first real taste of our new home–the southern Indian city of Bangalore. We left the confines of both the National Games Village (our housing complex) and Christ University (where we were taking courses), and journeyed into the great unknown: downtown India. It was much different than anything else I have ever seen. All we were doing was acquiring our Residency Permits from the Indian government, but it was a rude awakening to the Indian system and the way things are done in much of the rest of the world. This was the first time I realized that much of the world doesn’t use lines (or ques, for that matter), but it’s a competition to be first in line.
Today, Jacob (our Resident Director) took us on a tour of downtown Bangalore, and exposed us to some of the things we have never seen in America. Our day started out at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, one of the remnants of the British occupation of India. Jacob told us that the line of people outside of the church was for food; in celebration or despair, parishioners would bring food to the church to share with some of those that were hungry. I was shocked by the number of Indians waiting in line to receive the small sums of food given out, and by the extent of the poverty of the hungry. The line was filled with not only men, women, and children, but also the handicapped, the old, and the very young. It was heartbreaking.
After a very somber start to the morning, we drove to Russell Market, and experienced a whole new set of smells, tastes, and sights. We continued on to a Sikh temple, a spot that personally touched me a lot. The guru told us that just as the sun pours its life-giving light on the entire world, so does the Creator love all that has been created. Despite color, nationality, religion, creed, sexual orientation, wealth, or imperfections, the Creator loves all. Although I am not a Sikh, this was still a message that resonated with me, and one that I am sure I will take back to the States after I leave India. Later in the day we went to a Hindu temple and a restaurant where we ate authentic Indian food off of a banana leaf. All in all, the day was very much a success. I’m beginning to really love the group of students I’m here with, and I’m looking forward to the next four weeks here!
Three USAC study abroad students going to get our Residency Permits. This was the first time any of us had ridden in an auto-rickshaw in India, and it was quite the nerve-wracking experience. We eventually made it, despite nearly colliding with numerous other vehicles. It was the first of many fun and unpredictable rickshaw rides.