The End

Well, my blog was pretty great while it lasted. But it wasn’t nearly descriptive enough of my stay here in Pune. I still have five or six months to go on my journey, and perhaps I will still have a few updates periodically, but I much prefer the personal emails and skype calls to tell the people I love all about my life in India. I am simply having too much fun to take the time out of my days to worry about updating my blog. Oh technology…

Anyway, please know that I am HAPPY as ever and email me whenever you want a nice little personal update about me. ALSO, you should tell me what’s goin on with you! I miss you all!

With a most blogless love,


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The First Indian Rotary Tour 26/09-03/10

Our non A/C bus arrived at Mitramandal Hall promptly at 8 am for our departure on the 26th of September. Destination: Karnataka! Although this week-long trip was over a month ago now, I still remember it vividly, as it was indeed the first Indian Rotary tour for our group! It was a week of long bus rides, lots of temples, and most of all, very little sleep. But it was definitely a good first trip. We saw a different part of India, one with less wealth and connection to the greater community in India and the rest of the world. It was not as well-kept, and there were a lot more animals roaming the streets than we have in the city. The landscape was beautiful, ever-changing as we rode the bumpy and windy roads through different small towns and bigger cities. Most of all though, we saw the Indian Countryside. Greenery everywhere, except for the coincidentally dry-looking fields, and huge boulders up on high hills as well as rivers running through valleys. The trees changed from palm and coconut to evergreens and more foresty-looking ones. The one thing that didn’t change throughout the entire trip was my fear of coming across a snake! Luckily, I didn’t see one. :) Here is a link to my pictures from the trip, mostly my friend Carolin took them because her camera broke, and I’m lazy about taking pictures anyway.

A few highlights from the trip: After a few days of only listening to music on the bus rides, we somehow finally managed to get comfortable enough to catch up on some sleep! It involved positioning the suitcases in the back of the bus in such a way so we could lay down. Haha.

We had so many laughs over the ridiculously bumpy roads, screaming out, “OH! BIG ONE!” whenever we left our seats or hit our heads on the side windows. And many more about the misspelled words on signs EVERYWHERE. And also about almost anything else that we found amusing, which was a lot.

The day we visited the beach! It was so nice out, the water was warm, and when we were collecting shells on the beach, Amol got us some chai! On the beach! It was weird. But also really tasty. That night I ate some extra tasty food (chicken tikka and butter naan!) and we went to the temple that was right on the beach. There was a gigantic statue of Shiva, and inside was some sort of ceremony we got to witness. The atmosphere inside was really neat. You could tell it had a history and that many people had worshiped there before. That night there were people walking around the center of the temple clockwise, banging on drums and playing different flute-like instruments, and they were throwing leaves and different plants around while singing their song. I felt quite lucky to have been able to bring that day to a close with viewing such a tradition. All in all, it was a great trip, with a tight schedule and an overabundance of things to see! Needless to say, I was wiped out for a few days upon our return home. Especially because our bus broke down in Kolhapur, about a 4 hour drive away from Pune, and so we had to take a different bus overnight to get back home. That wasn’t the best night of sleep I’ve ever had! :)

A few things coming up for me: Just got done celebrating Diwali with the family (and rest of India!) to come.

Prez BO visits India!

My holidays are ending and I’m going to Goa with my family for a few days, before I come back to go on our South India Tour for two weeks!

These are exciting times, no doubt. I hope everyone is doing well and staying busy! I’ll talk to ya later, Raena

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The Time I Discovered Some Caves

Coming to Symbiosis more than half way into the term, I didn’t think I would be able to participate too much in class. But, fortunately for me, I still had the opportunity to go on my Archaeology class’s field trip! There were about 15 kids, mostly bubbly Indian girls, a couple international students from Germany that are attending Fergusson College in Pune, me and one other rotary exchange student, our Ma’am and her husband and son, and the driver of the non a/c bus. We all headed off in the morning (at 7am!!) and arrived at our hotel just outside of Aurangabad after about a million hours of the bumpiest, hottest, most uncomfortable, and dirtiest ride I’ve had in all my days in India. But the view from our hotel, out across a wide valley, gorgeous and lush with greenery and up the side of a grassy mountain to the caves we were about to visit, immediately made the trip worth it. After getting unpacked and cleaned up, we ate some lunch at the hotel restaurant and walked over to where our tour would begin.

The first day: Ellora Caves, Monkeys, Chillin’ at our Hotel with Fresh Lime soda.
The caves were spectacular! There was loads of information shared about how they were created, by whom, at what time, etc..Mostly it brought me back to my Intro to Art History class at Carleton when we were studying these sorts of structures, paying close attention to the Architecture of creating such a masterpiece. And in this case, there were like 12 masterpieces! We visited only five of the most decorated, absolutely ginormous caves that were covered in carvings, of which, both Hindu and Buddhist gods were depicted. It was quite a heavenly view. looking down into the valley from up on the outcrop of carved rock..I enjoyed the feeling of all the peaceful energy that was left there by so many people visiting/praying to/worshipping the gods over all the years. When our tour was over, we had the pleasure of visiting with some monkeys out in the parking lot. I was pretty excited about that. My first Indian monkey experience! Haha. They just ate their bananas and went about doing their monkey things, hanging around (and on) the parked cars. Back at the hotel that night we were all fairly wiped out from the busy day, so we stayed at the hotel drinking fresh lime sodas and telling each other funny stories while sitting out on the lawn and looking out over the awesome views as the sky grew dim.
The second day: The Fort, a heavy Lunch, the Mini Taj, and a Religious Water Fountainy thing.
We got up way too early, and headed out directly after breakfast. We had no idea what was in store for us that day, but as we drove past the never-ending curves of the road, we gained access to a view of some flatlands, all basically empty, except for a big hill/mountain in the middle with a teeny tiny little structure at the very top. As we came around the hill, we could see old brick walls surrounding a few more structures and a big red tower. This is the fort we were to visit that day, and it covered a huuuuge area. Good thing our group was so young and full of energy! Heh. We went through each section of the fort, slowly making our way up the side of the hill. It was quite open and very green, with lots of vegetation and nature. My favorite were the peacocks. Or the monkeys. I can’t choose. Anyway, we climbed and walked and climbed and walked, all the while our guide was informing us of the history of the place. Imagining people residing in this place, particularly with all the wars and battles that were going on at the time, was quite a challenge. Apparently there were hundreds, if not a couple thousand people living there, mostly workers for the wealthy and the royals. I don’t know how they did it, always traveling up and down the hill getting to different parts of the fort. It took us a good two hours to get up and another one to come back down after we had conquered the hill. Our guide was completely shocked that we all made it to the very top! It was a gorgeous site. The big, tall red tower that we were underneath in a picture taken only an hour or so previous was now a tiny speck in the background of the pictures we took at the top of the hill. The palace at the top was pretty run down, but still had the most amazing view from its empty windows. Needless to say, when we were finally back down at the bus I was starving. So we went for a huge lunch at this “hotel” and promptly went to our next venue. The Mini Taj was…a mini Taj Mahal. Not all that spectacular. But we took some cool pictures, and the afternoon light was nice and warm, so we stayed there and watched people play badminton in the courtyard and took pictures of cute little boys. This was also the location of the Evil Bathroom, the one in which I dropped my phone directly into the hole of an indian style toilet. It was a sad moment. I cheered right up when I heard we were going to a nice water fountain place (that had shopping) before we headed home, though. I took only one cool picture of that. You can see all the pictures of this trip here.
It was late when we got back, around 11pm, and we were all wiped out (and filthy from the non a/c bus ride back). It took me a few days to recover from that busy weekend, I tell ya!

So the Archaeology trip I pictured going on even before I left for India wasn’t exactly as I had imagined. I had dreamed of going to some sort of dig in the middle of the jungle, taking elephants to get to the site where I would discover the last piece of bone in a human skeleton the archaeologists had been looking for most of their careers…yeah right. But after seeing what I saw, it definitely gave me a new perspective on Archaeology as a whole. It has a huge part to do with the history around finding ancient artifacts, not just the finding them part like Bridget does in that desert in TSOTTP. That would be cool too, though. :)

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The First Street Food Experience

I’ll set the scene..since I didn’t think to bring my camera. Again. D’oh. Anyway..Think of a typical Pune street, both dirty and busy, cockroaches tunneling their way out of the sewers while the shopkeepers with their jammed-full shops are continuously buying and selling their products, people walking around everywhere, even in the street itself, dodging motorbikes while waiting patiently for their turn between cars and trucks. And don’t forget about the other animals roaming around for someone’s leftover food, dogs and cows mostly.
This is the place that Ma, her parents, Aaji and Bai, as I call them, Ma’s brother, Mandar, and I drove into on a fine day, just like any other. But our sights were set on something else that particular day. We wanted street food! Pani Puri to be specific, at a specific location of which Mandar must stop by each time he is in Pune visiting with family and friends. I was pretty skeptical as I was told multiple times by many different sources that it is always best to keep away from the wonderful smelling street food. But Mandar assured us all that this specific location was the only one he ever ate at, and he had never gotten sick from it. That was convincing enough for me! When we got out of the car and climbed around the line of parked motorbikes, Mandar immediately started ordering a bunch of food. We received each order when it was ready, just standing there watching it being made (me kind of cringing at how often the cook’s bare hands touched what I was about to consume) and munching respectively. Eating pani puri is an experience in itself, one that can’t really be described very well..But I’ll just say that it was well worth the risk of dying to eat that delicious, spicy, and most definitely dirty food! It was a success. And I ate way too much of it. Maybe it wasn’t just luck having not gotten sick afterwards, but I think I’ll wait until Mandar visits again before I have another street food experience.

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The Exchange Students

It is truly unlike any other experience I’ve had, getting to know people my age from all over the world and having that special connection that Rotary gives us. It’s pretty magical. Right now there are about 20 kids in Pune, all of which are pretty awesome in their own ways. But this idea makes sense really, I mean we are all taken out of our homes, away from family, friends, and everyone we know, and thrown into a completely new setting where we don’t ever know what the hell is going on. And we get to stay there for a year. Haha, it’s not so bad. When you meet your fellow RYE’s you realize they are in the exact same boat as you, going through the same feelings and having the same thoughts as you. This is the beginning of the cool part, because you use that connection to make friends with these people, and start to realize all the other things you have in common. You really grow with these people, and lean on them for support when you need it, all as you try to figure out about the culture you’ve been placed in. After two months in Pune, I can tell that these friendships aren’t like any other I’ve had before. Each laugh you share with these people will be remembered as part of your year abroad, something that each and every one of the RYE’s will hold close to their hearts for the rest of their lives. It is quite a big deal, people!

P.S. Sorry for the barfification of blogs I just had. The past five or however many I just posted were all well overdue. So there they are, finally able to be put out of my mind so I can work on the next three biguns :) 1. Street Food, 2. Aurangabad, and 3. Karnataka.   Love you all!

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The Schooling…Bleh

School. Ahhhh. It’s an important part of being an Exchange “Student” I guess. It was quite a process to get set up with an ideal schooling situation for me in Pune, though. It’s kind of a boring story too. So I’ll just tell you where I ended up, because that’s exciting….for school.
Symbiosis International University has a law school, a BA program, a BComm program, and a fancy little program called SCLA. Symbiosis College of Liberal Arts. They have a flexible schedule, many interesting and diverse courses, international students, and great professors. I feel very fortunate to have ended up here. They are cool with me leaving whenever I need to for Rotary things, even the 15-day long tours I’ll be taking! I came to Symbi about two-thirds into the term, attended a few courses to see what I liked, and will be enrolling for the next term which starts in early November. I tried out a Beginner’s Hindi class, Archaeology, almost a Psych course, and thought about going to a History class. I’ll be taking all of these and more next term. Til then, though, it’s gonna be pretty relaxed. This suits me just fine. I plan to set up a few extra curricular activities, (including Yoga, an art class or two, and maybe music lessons) as well as attend all the Rotary thingys I have scheduled.

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The Languages

I have a lot of languages around me this year. Any of which I could choose to learn some of. They include Marathi, Hindi, Swedish, German, French, and Indian English. Indian English is my favorite so far. I say things like “ek minute” (ek is one in Hindi), “pani please” (pani is water),  and when I get really desperate, “khana por favor!” (khana is food in Hindi, por favor is please in Spanish). Actually I have been using my Spanish more than I do at home, too. The language center of my brain was completely confused and overstimulated for about my first month in India. Then I learned how to know when I should be trying to listen, and when I should just zone out. That helped a lot. But I can feel myself wanting to be more adventurous again, and I listen more when people are speaking their native languages in front of me. I think it has really helped me to understand people on a more basic level of communication, including body language, especially hand gestures, and exercising in this way has helped me to simplify how I communicate with others who might not be understanding very well.

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