Sunday, February 5, 2012

Final Thoughts

After being home for a couple weeks now and telling friends and family all about my experiences, I have realized that my stories do not give justice to what I actually saw/did or what India is actually like. To really understand and completely comprehend “Incredible India,” you must experience it yourself. I agree with Heidi when she said India has made a permanent impression on us. We now have so many memories from India that will impact our lives forever.

For future travelers to India, I would not be able to fully prepare you, but I would like to give you some advice to ease your worries. First, BE PATIENT. Delhi’s population is over 16 million people, which is 11,300 persons per km2 (Eau Claire’s population density is 56/km2). Transportation and scheduling can just not be as clear cut as we are used to at Eau Claire. Second, BE FLEXIBLE.  Understand that being in a big group in a foreign country things are bound to come up that cause plans to be changed causing events to be cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. Third, BE OPEN. Don’t be afraid to try new things or take opportunities. You may only be in India once in your lifetime so make the most of the experience. Be prepared to expect the unexpected and learn to just go with the flow.

Some tips for future travelers to India:
  • Bargaining: Know that the shop keepers are trying to get the most out of you. They know you are a tourist right away, there is no way you can fool them. Bring your Indian buddies; they can help you get good deals. Otherwise, follow this rule: Whatever the first price they give you, counter that with one-third that price or less. There were multiple times at the market where shop keepers would say 500 rupee and we would counter with 100 and get it for 150 rupee. Some average prices of items we bought were 100-150 rupee for scarves, 200 rupee for sandals, 100 rupee for earrings, and 10 rupee or less for postcards.
  • Travelling: The metro is the best mode of transportation in Delhi. Travelling from one side of Delhi to the other costs less than 20 rupee (40 cents). Always bargain with taxis, autos, and rickshaws BEFORE getting in the vehicle. Make sure you know what you will be charged before going anywhere. A short rickshaw ride (15 minutes) should cost 10 rupee, max 15 (especially around campus, don’t pay more than 10).
  •  Packing: It’s hard to know what to pack for a 3-week trip. For toiletries, I brought a 3 oz. bottle of shampoo, a 3 oz. bottle of conditioner, a 3 oz. bottle of body wash, a 2 oz. bottle of face wash, 2 travel size tooth pastes, 1 travel size shaving cream, 1 travel size hair spray, a 3 oz. bottle of lotion, and a bottle of liquid hand soap. I had plenty of everything for my 22 day trip. I recommend bringing lots of travel size tissue packets, hand-sanitizer, and wet-wipes. Many public bathrooms do not have toilet paper or paper towel. Washing hands before eating is a must and most easily done with hand-sanitizer or wet-wipes. For clothing, bring lots of dark socks (you have to take your shoes off in many places), clothes that layer easily (I had a fleece and a track jacket that were life savers on chilly mornings), and shoes that are comfortable and that you won't be upset if they get dirty (lots of walking and streets are very dusty). Number one piece of advice for packing is PACK LIGHT. You will buy many souvenirs and need somewhere to put to bring them home. Pack your suitcase a few days in advance and then pack it again taking out anything that you may not need. Items in India are cheap so if you forget something, don’t worry because it can be purchased there.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back Home

I cannot believe after all the planning, all the preparations, and all the fun our adventure has come to an end.  I am glad to be back home with my family, but am missing so much from India...especially my Indian buddies.  My list of good friends has expanded exponentially from all the wonderful bonds I created in India.

For anybody who is considering studying abroad, I say "DO IT"!  You will never regret the incredible memories, life-changing experiences, and wonderful friendships you gain by this adventure.  It is truly a life-altering experience.  Among many other things, I will never look at a cup of tea, an automobile, or a glass of water the same as I did before my awesome India experience.  Life seems so different now.  I'm sure some of my memories will fade with time, but the warmth of which our group was embraced by our Indian friends will stay with me forever.

Most of all, expect the unexpected, and prepare to be unprepared.  Learning to go with the flow will allow you the flexibility that makes your experience even more fulfilling.

Incredible India has made a permanent impression on me!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Final Four Days in India: Phir Milengay

It’s weird to say our time here has come to an end. After a successful and adventurous 22 days in India, I am packed up and waiting to leave for the international airport to make my way back to the United States. It’s a bitter sweet feeling. I never thought we would have been able to have such an experience in such a short time, but we made many close friends and unforgettable memories. As we all have said, where has the time gone? Heidi and Sam touched on our last few speakers and final SRCC outing. I’ll fill in where they left off and sum up our final four days in India.

January 14- Delhi Tour
The one thing that India has really made me use is patience. When they say 10 a.m. sharp, it means more like more or less 10:15-10:30ish. It’s not a bad thing it’s just something that requires patience and getting used to. We started the morning out with a tour of the Presidential Palace and then went to an Indian fast food restaurant. The restaurant had amazing ice cream of all flavors. I had one called the Delhi Delight. It was vanilla with chocolate swirls, nuts, and perhaps caramel or something like it. After lunch we went to Qutab Minar which is one of the tallest towers in the entire world. Monuments like that amaze me because of the architecture and quality that was put into it so many years ago. The tower was a ways away from any of the other sites we were going to see that day. Because of the traffic and time spent at the Presidential Palace we had to cut most of the other sites of the day out. We tried to get to Jama Mosque before it closed but we missed it by a few minutes. The sites close at sunset and open at sunrise so the timings are never very certain.

Qutab Minar
Engraved Columns
January 15- Free Day or rather Work Day
We were all excited to have a free day that was completely open on Sunday for us to just do whatever we would have wanted; however, the day turned out to be the only day to meet with our groups to prepare for our presentations. Many groups met at UGH and worked on the projects there and many others travelled to buddies houses to work together. I was one of the groups that met off campus. We went to Aditya’s house. I was really excited to have the opportunity to go to his house to get a better understanding on an Indian’s way of life. His mom was very kind to have us over and feed us many snacks, an amazing lunch, and a delicious carrot dessert. They were trying to describe the carrot dessert to me, but couldn’t find the right words to give it justice. One of the first things we found interesting in India is that the carrots are red and sweeter than carrots in the US. The dessert had shredded carrots, raisins, and nuts heated and mixed together in a special syrupy sauce. The closest thing to flavor I could describe it to would be warm carrot cake, but it was soooo much better. The rest of the day was devoted to working on our presentations. I can also say that Alex and I successfully took the metro back by ourselves and survived! It is actually very easy once you get the hang of it.

January 16- Final Presentations and Farewell Dinner
This morning was very hectic as everyone was trying to put last minute touches on their presentations and get everything “just right” before presenting. The presentations lasted the entire morning. There were six teams and each team presented for 20 minutes followed by a 10 minute question and answer session. After lunch we watched a cultural show, which included singing and dancing. It was all very interesting. At the end of the show they called all the US students to the stage and they tried teaching us some Indian dance moves. For dinner we were accompanied at UGH by our buddies to relax and interact with them. We then had a dance party to show off our moves, but it was cut short because we only had the room reserved until 9:30 p.m.

January 17- Valediction Ceremony and Goodbyes    
None of us could believe that this day had come so fast. We stayed at UGH for the entire day. The SRCC students came there for lunch and then a formal valediction ceremony to follow. We all got awards and certificates for completion of the Indo-US Collaborative Program. It was a bittersweet experience to know we successfully completed the first UWEC study abroad to India. We went into the adventure with open minds and not knowing what to expect, but we left with filled hearts of many memories that we will cherish forever. I think I can speak for everyone and say that this was one amazing experience and if anyone has the opportunity to do it, they should and not hold back. Thank you, SRCC, for your wonderful hospitality and so much more!

Phir Milengay,

Friday, January 13, 2012

Honda and Kingdom of Dreams

     Its hard to believe that we have already been with the SRCC students for nearly two weeks.  I feel like our time in India is flying by.  Being constantly busy trying to fit in as much as we can its hard to believe that its already Friday night.  Today we toured a Honda manufacturing plant.  It was about 2.5 hours outside of Delhi.  Once there the company did a brief over view of the different locations in India and explained what we would be seeing.  I personally had never toured a manufacturing plant so was excited to see what they were making and how it was done.  The plant we visited made different iron and aluminum parts for the building of cars.  These parts were shipped to a different location still in India, and some parts were exported.  The plant also built two different two wheelers, a motorcycle and a moped.  We were shown the entire process from start to finish of the motorcycle.  It took 169 people to put together one bike.  We were able to walk down the line and see each person step by step.  It was really eye opening to see how many people go into making just the bike.  We asked about percentage of error and he said their accuracy is about 95%.  For manual labor I’d say that’s pretty good!

     After Honda we bused to a place called Kingdom of Dreams.  It is a large complex that compiles all the major cities of India and their traditional food and shopping.  As we’ve learned, each state of India is so different from one another so this complex allowed us to get a dose of the states/cities that we are not able to visit.  It was unlike anything I’d seen before and was a lot of fun.  We all tried different dishes, many people splitting to try a little bit of everything.  They also offered 15 minute massages which a lot of people took advantage of.
     As I was saying before it’s hard to believe how fast the time is flying.  This trip has been unlike anything I could have imagined.  The culture is something that, as everyone says, you can’t just explain you have to experience.  Tomorrow were off to tour all the major sites of Delhi!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nearing the End

I can't believe we only have a few more days left in India.  We are having such a wonderful time, and our bond has grown steadily with our new Indian friends.  It will be hard to say goodbye to them.  Instead, I believe I will say "phir milengay" - we'll see each other again.

Wednesday we had guest speakers in the morning.  Prof. pamela Singla discussed gender issues in India.  We had a very spirited discussion that could have lasted until afternoon.  What a very interesting subject to discuss - especially to those of us from the U.S. that have always had the security and comfort of being valued the same no matter what our gender.  She was followed by a discussion by Dr. Sadhna Shanker who talked about India's growing soft power and what influences are seen throughout the world from India.

In the afternoon we visited Gandhi Smriti - the place where Gandhi lived for the last days of his life and was eventually assassinated.  It was a very moving place to visit, and the interactive museum was very interesting.

We then left for more shopping at Connaught Place and Janpath Street.  What an experience!  If you weren't bargaining with someone in a store, you were approached by "hawkers" in the street.  There was definitely not a lack of opportunities to purchase souvenirs!

We ended the evening with dinner at a restaurant that serves southern Indian food.  That was a real treat!  We started out with appetizers that were delicious, but when our meal arrived we couldn't believe it.  It was huge!  We had dosa, which is like krumkake but it's not sweet.  I'm told it is cooked in geet (what is left after cooking down butter).  You break pieces off and dip it in one of several dipping sauces that were available.  I don't think anybody at the table finished their whole plate.

Again, we had a wonderful day filled with new adventures, and all the while being very cordially escorted and assisted by our Indian buddies.  It is such a gift to have met these wonderful people who are truly concerned that our visit to India is everything we had hoped plus more.  If anybody asks me what my favorite part of India is, I would definitely have to tell them it's the wonderful people.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 9 and 10 - Motivating Sessions, Industry Visits, and More Shopping!

I am really starting to enjoy and look forward to corn flakes and hot milk for breakfast every morning. It is also such a treat every time they offer bananas as the fruit choice because that is my favorite fruit. We have learned that the internet is much faster in the morning so we are starting to wake up a little earlier and utilize that time to catch up on the web. In attempts to keep our readers more up-to-date on our daily lives, we are going to try to post everyday or at least every other. Yesterday and today have been very action packed and fulfilling. 

January 9- Motivation, Quotes, and Free Time

Yesterday, we had three very interesting sessions. The first speaker was Professor Amit Sachdeva. He was the same speaker we had for our first session. His presentations are very entertaining. This time he showed a video and used quotes to tie his presentation into business practices. He emphasized on how we are the driving force of the future and the time is now for us to step in. This is a common theme we have heard many times throughout our college years at UWEC. The quote that stuck with me the most was “whatever will be, will be.” He mentioned how we should take the less travelled road in life and not be afraid to branch out. We have to look at stepping stones as opportunities rather than hurdles to climb over. 

Our second speaker was Professor Devraj Mukherjee. He spoke about popular culture and India of the 21st century. He was also very interesting and showed us some advertisements. His topic was very intriguing because he described how conservative customs have changed through popular culture and cinema. He also described errors in marketing especially in rural, undereducated areas. For lunch we had Indianized Chinese food. It was lo mien noodles with chicken, but had a kick to it like most of the Indian food we have experienced. 

Our third and final speaker of the day was Mr. Suneel Keswani. His session was about corporate grooming. We found his presentation very motivational and interactive as he used many quotes and examples. He started out with a word equation that corporate grooming = person in + person out. Person in = things which make you strong from within and person out = things from the outside in which you can control. He used many quotes to back up his examples, which made me very motivated to reach out more to improve my own self. Two quotes that really stuck with me were, “You see the world as you are, not as it is,” and “The more you know the less you fear but the less you know the more you fear.” Even though the day was filled with speakers, I still found the day very entertaining and thought provoking. 

After our sessions, we decided to walk back to UGH instead of taking the rickshaws back. It is a short 10-15 minute walk with nice scenery. This was our first evening of free time. Normally we don’t return to UGH until 8 p.m. so it was nice to just have time to relax and hang out with each other. Sam had a mini football and we went in the back yard of UGH and played catch. We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot, and made the monkeys especially curious to watch what we were doing.

January 10- A.C. Nielsen and the Parliament

This morning was our visit to A.C. Nielsen, which is a company that focuses on techniques to measure performance and the impact of companies marketing skills. They prepared multiple presentations for us about the different sections of India: rural, middle, and urban (metro). These presentations were very detailed with interesting facts and statistics about India’s sections. One of the most interesting aspects of the presentation was about the term meritocracy. I desire to work for a company where hard work is noticed and encouraged and that is exactly what A.C. Nielsen seems to do. 

Our next stop was the Parliament of India. Security was very strict there. When we approached the entrance, we could see a military man sitting in a booth with a machine gun ready to gun down anyone that he needed to. There is no wonder why security is so strict there since the Parliament of India was the first global terrorist attack post 9-11. Within the Parliament building, we go to see the different rooms for Rajya Sabha (the upper house) and Lok Sabha (the lower house). 

After the Parliament tour, we went to Janpath, which is a several story tall government building. This building is a huge store of many levels with different categories of items on each floor. The items ranged from wood carvings to marble sculptures to children’s toys to women’s clothing. After a little shopping we crossed the street to grab an ice cream cone from McDonald’s for only 10 rupee and waited for the bus. The ice cream cone was just the sweet treat we needed after a long day of outings.

Tomorrow we are going to a market. Markets have become our favorite places to go because we love bargaining and getting awesome things at great prices. We are also excited because we were told we get to try South Indian food for dinner tomorrow. Every day is a new experience and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Until next time,

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekend Trip: The Golden Triangle (January 6-8)

Friday morning we left Delhi to discover the two other points which complete the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Jaipur-Agra). By bus it takes about seven hours between each city. An interesting note is that between each city is less than 150 miles, but because of the road/traffic conditions and frequency of villages along the highway, driving takes up to seven hours.


January 6- The Pink City
After about six and a half hours of riding in a bus, we arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City. Everything that could be made pink was pink. As Heidi mentioned, we arrived just in time to visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory. This place is home to the world’s largest sundial. I was amazed that these are actually accurate up to seconds of actual time. Another interesting fact we learned was that if born in Jaipur, the sundial specific to the person’s zodiac sign was used to predict his/her future. After, we went to the City Palace, where we got to see the intricate architectural design of the immense structures. Another unique structure was a large glass wall with many stained-glass windows. We learned that this wall was used for the royal women to look through to see the festivities on the streets but not interact with the common people. Next to the wall of windows we got the opportunity to do a little shopping in a local market. By this time, we have become pretty accustomed to bargaining and know how to successfully get a good price. We purchased scarves for less than $3 and sandals for less than $4. Joe and Alex also got Indian outfits, complete with shoes, pants, and shirts. As Heidi said, our hotel was like a palace. We thought perhaps it could have been a palace at one point in time. The architecture was ancient and very intricate. Friday was a very eventful day and we were all ready for sleep right after dinner.
Sun Dial that is accurate within seconds
World's Largest Sun Dial
City Palace
January 7- Riding Elephants
Finally the day we were all waiting for had arrived: the day to ride ELEPHANTS! We were encouraged to be ready at 8 a.m. to head to Amber Fort so we would get in line early. The government put restrictions on the elephants and they could only be worked until noon so we wanted to get there right away. Getting to ride the elephant up the hill will be one of the most memorable moments I bring back from India. The fort was immense and seemed like a maze that went on forever. We kept wandering through doorways and finding hidden rooms and patios everywhere. After exploring all the secret pathways we took another form of transportation down to the bottom of the hill: a jeep. We had to pile into to the back of the jeep and slouch down to avoid hitting our heads. It was a lot of fun to wind down the roads in the back of the jeep. After that, we went to a fabric and rug plant. We had a tour of the rug making and then all got to try on saris. We then had to rush to get to Fatehpur Sikri before they closed at sunset. We made it just in time but spent too long in there and they actually locked us in the grounds and we had to yell and get the guard to let us out. Luckily, he did! After that we drove to Agra where we stayed in a very nice hotel with super soft beds. As Heidi said, we were a little spoiled with our accommodations of the weekend.

Ladies in Saris
Our Elephant


January 8- The Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort
Another day that we were all waiting for… touring the Taj Mahal!! Despite the relentless fog the Taj Mahal was still amazing. We utilized one of the photographers to get a group picture and have us photo shopped in front of a blue skied Taj Mahal. This was my favorite part of the weekend because we got free time to take lots of fun pictures with each other. The history behind the Taj Mahal is so fascinating and I can’t believe it was built so many years ago. After the Taj Mahal, we went to the Red Fort. It was not far from the Taj Mahal and from the fort we could actually see it in the distance. What I found the most interesting was the fact that another replica of the Red Fort was built in Delhi. Also, only half of the fort is red and the other half is white. The red half was made out of red sandstone and the white half was made out of white marble. After the tour of the Red Fort, we were definitely ready to nap on the bus ride home. The bus ride was around 6 hours, but seemed to go by super fast for me because I was able to sleep nearly the whole way. We weren’t able to return to UGH in time for dinner so we stopped at McDonalds for “take-a-way.” The McDonald’s appears very similar to one in the US; however, the menu is quite different. There is a sign posted that says, “No beef or pork is served at this facility.” The Big Mac had chicken patties instead of beef patties like the US. They also had a “Happy Price Menu” instead of the “Dollar Menu.” The tastes of the food were very similar to that of the US though. We were all relieved to get back to UGH and get a nights rest before starting another week of sessions and industry visits. 
Taj Mahal in the foggy distance
Taj Mahal

Agra Fort