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

Varanasi and the First Week at SRCC

Since last time I wrote, we have traveled to Varanasi where we discovered many interesting aspects, as well as attended the first week of classes at SRCC. The reason it has taken me so long to post again is because internet access is limited and much slower than we are used to in the US. Sam wrote a really good summary of Varanasi and same for Heidi of the first week at SRCC. I will summarize what has happened so far including my most memorable moments and add anything interesting that Sam or Heidi may have left out.  


On December 30, we woke up early to get picked up for our adventure to Varanasi. We arranged for breakfast at the hotel early. It consisted of cheese sandwiches and ketchup. They weren’t like grilled cheese but weren’t just cheese between two slices of bread either. An Indian cheese sandwich is white bread with the crust cut off with a piece of white cheese slightly melted between the two slices. Dipping them in ketchup gave them a unique flavor. We then got picked up by our driver and ventured off to the Delhi domestic flight airport. The domestic airport is much different than the international airport. Security guards are at the entrance of the building and they don’t let anyone pass without a ticket. Our airline was called SpiceJet. We were very confused at first because our ticket said SG 119 and we couldn’t figure out which airline that was. We thought it was very funny when we learned that, instead of SJ, SG stood for SpiceJet. Delhi has been very foggy lately and that caused our flight to be delayed. All flights were delayed until the fog lifted, which caused some people to be delayed over 7 hours. We found a corner of the airport and made the most of this experience. We played card games, connected to the free wi-fi, and chatted with locals who were also delayed. Once we got to Varanasi, a very friendly local tour agent met us at the airport and brought us to our hotel. He told us our tour guide would be ready to go the next morning at 6 a.m. for a morning boat ride on the Ganges to watch the sunrise. We were super excited.
Domestic Airport Crowd
The next morning, we got up early and ventured to the Ganges River.  As Sam said, poverty is very prevalent in Varanasi. We later learned that the government actually keeps the city from modernizing to preserve its culture. On our walk to the river, the most interesting thing I saw was the Indian form of a tooth brush. On the side of the street at early morning, a man was selling wood sticks that were about 8 inches long. Our tour guide explained that people actually chew on the tip of the stick until it becomes brush-like, and then they use it like a brush. This type of wood contains fluoride and other minerals helpful for tooth care. Once we reached the river, two little girls came up to us to sell us these flower candle things, which are supposed to be lit and then placed in the Ganges to make a wish come true. We each bought one of these flower candles for 10 rupee each and then piled into the wooden boat. As we paddled down the river, our tour guide explained the various gods of Hinduism to us and we saw each building that belonged to them. The Ganges is very sacred and Hindus believe that being cremated and then spread in the Ganges is the best resting place. My favorite part of the Ganges river experience was lighting my candle, making a wish, and watching my candle float away down the Holy Ganges. 
Flower candle
Ceremony Area on the Banks of the Ganges
After our boat ride, we set out to experience the narrow streets of Varanasi. Sam already described the unique sites of the universities, temples, and stores. The day was jam-packed and non-stopped. Another memorable experience was our first rickshaw ride. We were amazed that such a little man could drive us through the bumpy, windy streets of Varanasi. Traffic was crazy and it made us nervous that we might get hit by a passing car or bus; however, every driver seems to be very aware of his surroundings. We reached the streets that approach the Ganges and were amazed by how they came to life throughout the day. When we first visited the river in the morning the streets were bare with only a few people out preparing for the day. The night was quite the opposite. People were everywhere. Music playing, kids running, hawkers selling, and, of course, tourists were attempting to take it all in. As Sam mentioned, our first experience of using an eastern toilet was memorable. We weren’t sure what to expect, but knew we just needed to take what we could get. The facility was relatively clean and being from northern Wisconsin, it was comparable to utilizing the woods when camping, minus watching out for poison ivyJ. Using an eastern toilet is an experience any westerner should try to really capture the whole understanding of eastern culture and it’s really not that bad. As Sam mentioned also, once we reached the river there were Brahmans performing a nightly ceremony with lots of worship, song, and dance, as well as flames, flowers, and incents. It was a very spiritual ceremony. The day had been long, however, and we were eager to get back to the hotel to welcome in the New Year. Our hotel had a New Year’s party for all of its guests. A buffet was available all night, which consisted of Indian and Chinese dishes, as well as a wide array of desserts. We also watched two women perform some Indian dances and then we proceeded to welcome in the New Year on the dance floor where we were accompanied by some Indian and French families. The night was not our traditional New Year’s Eve; however, we had a lot of fun. We taught the Indian children some American dance moves (Abby and Felicity were the most popular by the children) and the Indian women taught us some new dance moves to Indian songs. Overall, it was a very fun and eventful night. We had another day of travelling ahead of us the next day so we decided to go to bed not too long after the party ended.
Group outside a temple
Helping make a silk scarf on a hand loom
On the River Ganges
The next morning we returned to Delhi to prepare for the SRCC program to begin.


January 1- New Year’s Day
For Indian culture, New Year’s Day dinner is a special event. People book reservations for high class restaurants weeks in advance and get whole families together to welcome the New Year. The seven of us that travelled early had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Yelkur at the top hotel in Delhi, the ITC Maurya Sheraton, for dinner at the Bukhara. She introduced us to the HR Manager and some of his staff members. They treated us exceptionally well and made us feel like royalty. Thanks to Dr. Yelkur, we were able to experience something that many Delhi natives have never had the chance to receive. We are very grateful she gave us that opportunity. Something interesting that happened to us on the way to the hotel was getting pulled over by the police. Despite the chaotic traffic and lack of following traffic signals, police are still watching certain street corners for illegal u-turns. It seemed quite ridiculous to us that people can drive the wrong way down one-ways, go on red lights, and weave in and out of traffic like they’re playing Frogger in real life, but get pulled over for making a u-turn. Something different than in the US is that the driver must pay the ticket right away or the police will not let them leave. A common practice for taxi drivers is to make their passengers pay the ticket; therefore, we paid the driver’s ticket which was 100 rupees (~$2).
Ceiling of the Hotel Maurya Lobby
January 2- Move-in Day
Finally the moment had arrived, we moved from South Delhi to North Delhi into the University Guest House (UGH) at SRCC. We came with open minds as we had no idea what to expect. The group of us that arrived early was welcomed with open arms. SRCC is teaching us a whole new level of hospitality. Anything we need, they will help us get, and if they cannot, they will find someone that can. We received a preprogram orientation and hi-tea, which was a little welcome party for us complete with snacks, cake, and tea. We had the opportunity to meet all of our Indian buddies who were very eager to ask us many questions and learn about our lives. We exchanged a lot of information about our lives and felt very welcomed by the end of the day. We then practiced for our cultural presentations and went to sleep in anticipation of the first day of classes at SRCC.      
University Guest House
Outside UGH
SRCC Building
January 3-5- Our First Week at SRCC

Sam already gave a detailed description of the first week of the program, and Heidi commented on the first two days. I will give a brief description of my thoughts of each day, while referring to Sam’s detailed blog throughout. Our daily schedule is pretty laid back but very intense at the same time. We start each day at 10 a.m. with a session then have a half hour tea break. After that we have another session followed by lunch. If we do not have any industry visits, lunch is proceeded by another session followed by a tea break then another session. The days at SRCC normally end around 5 p.m. then we head out for some type of prearranged night time activity, such as a market or a light and sound show. We then have to return to UGH by 8 p.m. for dinner unless something is already arranged for dinner outside the campus. Dinner consists of a buffet of various Indian dishes including vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices.

January 3- Inaugural Presentation and Cultural Presentations
We woke up early in anticipation of our first day of classes at SRCC. Breakfast is served from 8 – 9 a.m. every morning and consists of fruit, corn flakes with sweet warm milk, omelets, and toast. We then ventured to SRCC by rickshaws that are provided to us by the SRCC student SIFE program. The day at SRCC started out with a very formal inaugural presentation. We then proceeded with our cultural presentations and the Indian students followed us with a presentation of the past, present, and future of Delhi. For lunch, as Sam and Heidi already said, we had McDonald’s. In India the cow is sacred and therefore no beef products are served in Indian McDonald’s. We had McChickens, which surprising tasted exactly like a McChicken from the US. It was also very refreshing to have a drink with ice in it. Certain things we are accustomed to in the US are not available for us in India. Like travelling to any foreign country, we must adapt to our surroundings, which makes us cherish certain things from home. After our sessions, some SRCC students were eager to take us to a local market and teach us the “proper” bargaining techniques. We learned that when the hawker says a price, ask for less than half and work the way up from there until we reach a reasonable price. This piece of advice has become very useful in our recent travels. The first day was very interesting and successful from learning about our buddies and purchasing good bargains.

January 4- Baby Corn on Pizza and Delhi Haat Bargaining
Our second day of class was very interesting because the sessions began. The first speaker was very motivational and interesting when he discussed creative problem solving. His teaching style was much like US professors where he used humor and we got to interact. The second session was similar to a lecture hall lecture in the US as he primarily lectured about a topic and we just took notes without interaction. After the two sessions, we had a break for lunch. We tried Indian style pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch. The pizza was interesting with vegetables, such as baby corn and jalapenos, on it. The third session was about the Hindi language. The professor was very enthusiastic about this topic and he wants to teach us how to write some words in Hindi. After the sessions, we went to Delhi Haat. This is a market place that changes themes every couple of weeks. It had handicrafts from all around India and a few neighboring countries. This is the place we really learned to bargain. Most of the SRCC buddies came with us and we devised great strategies for effective bargaining. We first would send our buddies to the shops and get them to bargain the prices and then we would come to purchase the items or negotiate more if the prices were not low enough. It worked really well because if the shop keepers saw us first they would start with a much higher price and would not be as willing to negotiate. This day was also our first experience with the metro. Riding in the metro reminded me of my visit to London. Because of the British influence, the metro voice is exactly the same as it is in the United Kingdom. Every time the metro stopped, “It would say, ‘Mind the gap.’” There were also signs everywhere that were worded differently than we would see them in the US.
Delhi Haat
January 5- Lights, Sounds, and the ITC Maurya
Our third day of class began with a session from our UWEC professor, Nancy Rasmussen. She discussed a topic of her expertise, Diversity in the Workplace. She had us form groups and discuss certain topics. It was very interesting to see how excited and competitive the SRCC students got when we started to discuss. They said Professor Rasmussen’s session was very fun because in their normal college classes they do not have the opportunity to interact with each other. The second speaker was from the all-girls college at the Delhi University. She lectured about mythology and the different Hindu gods. Mythology is a very interesting topic and she was only able to outline the a few different stories on the topic. For lunch we had Subway. The “non-veg” sandwiches were turkey with mustard and a variety of vegetables. It was refreshing to have some raw vegetables that we knew would be safe for us to eat. The reason we have to be careful with raw vegetables is because normally they are washed in tap water, which could cause us to get “Delhi Belly.” So far we have all had happy and healthy stomachs and we hope that will continue to be the case. We do know that “Delhi Belly” is an option though and we have been educated on how to reduce the chance of getting it and what to do if we do get it. After lunch, we all piled on a bus and headed to the ITC Maurya Sheraton, the same hotel where we had the opportunity to eat New Year’s dinner. At the Maurya we learned about how they have achieved LEED certification and are working to help the environment. Sam already described in detail what we got to see, but I just wanted to add that the ways they conserve energy and help the environment are very interesting because of the condition of most of the city. Sam mentioned the guard monkey the Maurya hired to keep away the smaller monkeys. I found that particularly interesting because that is not a problem any HR manager would encounter in a corporation in the United States. It was also a unique way to solve the problem of the small monkey pests. We then went to Etopia for dinner, which is kind of like a mini food court in a mall. It had a variety of menu items and we got a tray of foods that consisted of rice, chicken, mutton, and sauces. We then went to a really cool light and sound show. It was outside and projected onto the ruins of the Old Fort. I have never seen anything like it and was amazed that Delhi had something so complex. It portrayed the story of the history of Delhi. We then hopped back on the bus and headed back to UGH. All of our buddies then said good bye and wished us luck on our trip to Agra and Jaipur over the weekend.

Unfiltered vs. Filtered Water
One of Many Solar Panels

Light Show
Showing the History of Delhi
My next post will be about our weekend trip on the Golden Triangle. Also, I have been keeping a list of tips to write about once the trip is over. This list will help prepare anyone coming to India in the future. A few topics it will include will be travelling, packing, and bargaining.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our First Week at SRCC

   Last Tuesday was our first day of class.  We were taken to SRCC by rickshaws and will be for the rest of our time here.  I think it makes for a great start to the day!  When we go to the campus we went to the seminar room where our lectures would be held.  They began our Indo-US program with an inaugural session.    We had a lot of free time to talk to the other students and get to know our buddies.  For lunch we also got to try Indian McDonalds.  I had a McChicken and it really tasted the same, however instead of beef options they offered vegetarian sandwiches.  After classes were done some of the students took us to the local market to do a bit of shopping.  I ended up getting a new phone cover and my backpack fixed. I was nervous about getting my backpack sewed up on the street but it was pretty awesome… there was a man sitting with a sewing machine on the side of the road and he cut it back open and stitched it well.. and only for 20 rupee. 
     We also were assigned our group project assignments the first day.  My group was assigned “Cultural codes and doing business in India.”  I feel like this is something that interests me and I already know something about it.  Our group consists of 2 American students and 4 Indian students.  On this day I also was introduced to my buddies, Mayur and Srishti.  This first week Srishti is with me and then next week Mayur will be.

     Wednesday – our second day of class. We had 3 speakers that day.  The first speaker was Amit Sachdeva.  His discussion was on creative problem solving.  He talked a lot about innovations and thinking outside the box.  He discussed how most people use their logic in new situations but we also need to think creatively in order to come up with new lasting innovations.  The second speaker was Professor I.M. Pandey.  He discussed management techniques and held more of an open forum.  We were able to ask questions and he seemed very knowledgeable in his field.  Overall it was a great start to the program. The last speaker was Professor Ravi Sharma, a Hindi professor at SRCC.  He told us he generally only spoke Hindi and this was one of his first times translating the Hindi writing into English so we could understand.  It was interesting to see how the language had evolved.  For lunch we had Pizza Hut. They put white sauce (were assuming alfredo) and normal pizza sauce.  Although different I still thought it was really good!  Speaking of food another interesting thing we learned was that in India they eat all their cereal with hot milk.  Our first morning in the guest house we were all a bit confused why the milk was hot but many of us are really starting to enjoy it.  It is generally corn flakes and then we will put sugar in the bowl to sweeten it up.
     After our school day was over we went to a market type place called Dilli Haat.  It was so awesome.  To get there we took the metro which was insane.  We had to go through metal detectors and have our bags go through a security check.. similar to the airport.  I understand why the do this because they want to make sure everyone riding the metro is safe.  Although different it was anything stressful.  At Delhi Haat there were a ton of different shops and venders selling anything and everything.  I bought bracelets, scarves, and a purse.  Others bought shoes, jewelry, wood workings, and other unique things they found.   Srishti, my buddy was with me and some other girls and helped us get fair and reasonable prices.  I’m really loving this whole bargaining thing.  It’s fun to be able to bicker back and forth to come to an agreement on a price we are willing to pay.

    Our first speaker on Thursday was Nancy Rasmussen, doing a segment on diversity in the work place.  It was very similar to the class most of us had already taken with her but the Indian students hadn’t had a class on diversity so I think they enjoyed it.  We broke up into small groups which was also nice so we could talk with others and discuss cultural differences.  It was interesting to hear what the other students had to say.  Each group said one difference in media they noticed.  One example I thought was very interesting was that in india they have make up for both men and women to make their skin appear lighter.  I remember in Nancy’s class talking about Cover Girl lighting an African American woman’s face to make her appear lighter than her skin color. I was not expecting to hear this similarity.  The students were telling us how in Indian society it is also preferred to have a lighter skin tone.  We all agreed that this isn’t true and that people should be happy with who they are. 
     Our second speaker of the day was Bharti Jagannathan, a professor at Miranda House College.  She discussed mythology and its impact on the Indian culture.  She was a very fast speaker but we were able to follow her stories.  She began by talking a lot about karma and the idea of rebirth.  Your actions of this life will effect for next life, and your previous life affects this one.  It was very interesting and not something I had necessarily thought a lot about.  She told us there are many different layers to mythology.  Hindu's believe in the idea of karma and rebirth, yet believe in heaven and hell.  She explained that if their is rebirth then there wouldn't be heaven and hell yet they are still both believed.  Its because of these layers.  She then went on the talk about the different gods and the idea of the Hindu religion.  Although confusing at times I thought it was very interesting and insightful into this culture.  Another topic discussed was the many different gods that are worshiped.  Professor Jagannathan explained that many families will generally have one god that their family chooses to pray too but they still pray to all others as well. 
    Thus far I’m really enjoying the people I’m meeting and the places I’m visiting.  Things in India are a lot different from home; it’s not weird or bad, just different.  I will say seeing cows roaming the streets in the city is still strange but it’s a cultural difference and I like that I am able to experience it and see these things first hand.
     We had subway for lunch and then everyone was on the bus headed to ITC Maurya, a large hotel in Delhi.  ITC Maurya is a part of ITC Limited, a publicly traded company.  Hotels alone form one of the major components of ITC Limited, and their hotels are known as one if India's premier hotel chains.  Two members of the hotel management held a presentation for us regarding conserving energy and how they as a major chain are attempting to use renewable energy.  We then toured the hotel.  It was interesting to hear about how the company is trying to cut back on water consumption but having sinks that automatically shut off, or by allowing guests the option to not have their sheets and towels washed daily.  They are also trying to reduce their energy consumption.  They took us on the roof and showed us solar panels.  We were shown how they rotated with the sun in order to capture more sun light.  We also were able to look at their water filtering systems.
     We also got to see this large monkey that guards the hotel and keeps out the smaller monkeys.  It seems like such an odd idea but apparently it works?  By “hiring” the larger monkey they are able to keep away to smaller monkeys that were roaming on the outside and sometimes inside of the hotel.  After the tour we went to Etopia for dinner.  We had a variety of Indian foods, most were good.  In India most options are either vegetarian or non-vegetarian.  Because many people are vegetarians, all restaurants have a wide variety of options.  The foods here are always so flavorful, using many spices.  After dinner we went to a light and sound show at the old fort.  The show was displayed on an old barrier wall and it was presented using all sorts of different lights.  I had never seen anything like it.  It’s a story of the history of Delhi.
     Since being in Delhi I’m really enjoying getting to know the people.  I love making new friends and learning about people.  Our study abroad group is really turning into a family and we all just laugh all the time.  I’m also starting to get to know many of the Indian students.  It’s nice having people to talk to and ask anything and everything.  I just appreciate how accepting and helpful everyone here is.  The other students are always looking out for us and wanting us to have fun and be safe.  If there is something we need someone will help us, no questions asked.  While being here I’m definitely noticing a lot of cultural differences but I’m also finding a lot of similarities.  College students are college students.  The Indian students are very intelligent yet have great personalities.  


Touring the Countryside

We just returned to the University Guest House from a wonderful weekend of touring India.  We left Friday morning and "endured" a long bus ride.  It's amazing how a 250 km ride (approx. 110 miles) can take 6 hours!  We arrived in Jaipur early enough to visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory.  It was very interesting to see giant sundials made of marble that are accurate to 6 seconds. 

We also visited City Palace and Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds).  There are no words to describe these beautiful architectural buildings.  The amount of time and craftsmanship that had to have been utilized to create such beauty is unbelievable.  We also did some shopping in the local marketplace.  What an adventure that was!  Shop owners would follow us down the street trying to negotiate a price that we would agree to.  It was great fun, and we picked up some nice souvenirs (for very reasonable prices - we must be good bargainers).  Our hotel Friday night (Alsisar Haveli) was beautiful and reminded me of a palace.  After dinner we were treated to a puppet show in the courtyard that involved music, singing, and entertaining puppetry that included setting a puppet on fire.  One of the females in our group was given the opportunity to try her hand at puppetry and performed wonderfully.

Saturday we arrived at Amber Fort early enough to "beat the crowd".  This turned out to be a very good decision as our group arrived right before a tour bus of close to 100 people.  We mounted elephants at the base of the hill and rode up the hill to the fort in style.  When we reached the top we toured the fort.  Again, such beautiful architecture.  We learned that it took over 100 years to build this fort at the top of a hill just outside Jaipur.  There were so many rooms to see, that we decided it would be a great place to play hide-and-go-seek.  After spending some time taking pictures and learning of the building's history, we got a ride to the bottom of the hill in Jeeps and again boarded the bus.

Our next stop was at Fatehpur Sikri.  This was a palace built by Emperor Akbar in the 16th century.  Yet another large beautiful structure.  We were able to go into his bedroom and view the elevated stone platform that he used as his bed.  We got back to the gate to leave and they had locked up for the night.  We were able to summon a guard to let us out, thank goodness.

We then got back on board the bus and continued our travel to Agra, where we spent the night at another beautiful hotel, the Raj Mahal (we were spoiled over the weekend with the luxurious accomodations).

In the morning we headed straight to the Taj Mahal, as we were informed that an important dignitary was going to be visiting at 11:00 a.m. and they would be closing down for him/her.  When we got to the Taj Mahal it was kind of foggy, but we were still able to take some fantastic pictures.  It's unbelievable the amount of marble that can be used in one building.  The Taj Mahal was built for Emperor Shah Jahan's wife Mumtaz Mahal.  Both of their tombs rest in the center of the building.  The intricate carving of the marble and inlaid stones are beautiful.  No wonder it is one of the seven wonders of the world.  We stayed as long as we could and took advantage of this photo opportunity with MANY different poses and just generally had a very good time here.

Our last official stop was at the Red Fort just a little way past the Taj Mahal (in fact you can see the Taj Mahal from the Red Fort).  The Red Fort was built by Emperor Akbar.  I found it especially interesting that there is a double security wall around the fort.  We learned that during it's time of use there were crocodiles in the moat outside the first wall, then elephants during the day and tigers during the night between the first and second walls.  Talk about good security!  This expansive structure seemed to go on and on.  By the end of our tour we were exhausted and ready to board the bus again. 

We stopped for lunch and also snuck in a little shopping time on the local streets.  Again, it was so much fun to negoatiate with the local people on the prices of their trinkets.  We were able to pick up some more souvenirs to bring home and share with our families.

Throughout the weekend I found that Dr. Yelkur was very correct in her statement that the locals really appreciate when we attempt to use the few Hindi words we learned.  Each time I have used Hindi words for "thank you", "bottled water", or "excuse me" it has been returned with a smile from the locals. It helps me remember that we are all similar in so many ways, yet different as well.  It also helps me feel like I'm doing my part to show the Indian people that Americans are good people who want to keep a positive relationship with them.

Until next time-


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 2

Yesterday was another fun and exciting day.  As mentioned earlier, I finally have internet connection.  I have found that you need to exude patience when connecting to the internet, though.  Although if you are an early riser (as I am), you are much more successful!

After a day of interesting lectures at Shri Ram College of Commerce, we visited the market where local crafts are sold.  Lots of beautiful woodworking, jewelry, scarves and other items were available for sale.  Our Indian buddies were ever so helpful in negotiating prices, and also helped explain to us the historical significance of many of the crafts that were offered for sale.  In the middle of the complex there were musicians playing and women dressed in authentic costumes dancing for passers-by. 

We rode the underground Metro to the market.  That in itself was quite the experience.  When we got on the train, there were not many people aboard.  By the time we exited the train it was packed body to body.  We are starting to get used to "the gaze" from the locals.  We look very different from the natives, and people definitely notice.  Ashley especially draws a lot of attention (she has very blonde hair).

As we were leaving the market, several of us got our hair "braided".  We picked out colors of embroidery floss, and the women wrapped a section of our hair in the colors.  It ended up looking similar to a braid with colors. 

After we departed the Metro, we took rickshaws back to the University Guest House where we are staying.  It's quite interesting riding in a bicycle-powered vehicle in amongst thousands of motorcycles, cars, buses, trucks.  There are many close calls, but we have not yet witnessed any accidents.  The drivers all blow their horns, but more in a respectful way such as to say "Here I am, I am going to pass you" rather than the American version of "Get out of my way or I will ram you".

We were told during a lecture yesterday that Indians believe that they should treat their guests as Gods.  They are definitely showing us that in their accomodations.  We are very pampered and protected here by our buddies.  I feel very safe going places with them as they are constantly looking out for our best interest.  As an example, if you comment on a pretty scarf someone is wearing they will offer to give it to you.  Also, every time we are in line somewhere, our Indian buddies be sure that one of them is in the front of the line to show us what to do, and the others are dispersed throughout the line and one at the back to be sure we are all safe and protected.  It's quite a wonderful relationship we have already built with these previous strangers that we now call friends.

I'm having a great time in India, but am looking forward to a few things at home:  My family, my soft bed, black coffee, and Diet Coke, amongst many other things ;-)

Until tomorrow-


Inaugural Session

Our official program began Tuesday.  It started with presentations at the Shri Ram College of Commerce by the leaders of the program and sharing of gifts.  The UW-EC students gave presentations to give the Indian students a "taste" of what our lives in the United States are like.  The SRCC students followed with presentations to give the UW-EC students a feel of India - the past, present & future.  It was a great day of meeting our new buddies and learning about the topics of our final presentations.  We will be working with our teams on these topics and presenting our data on the last day.  Our first day was highlighted with a lunch from McDonald's!  In the evening we visited the Kamlanagar Market and had a very eye-opening cultural experience.  I just purchased a wireless network card so am finally able to use the internet.  Our next lecture is about to begin, so I will post more later. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012


   Because we were in Varanasi and then moving into the guest houses it has made it a bit hard to get to post so I'm going to write a bit of a "catch up" talking about our trip in Varanasi.

      We woke up at about 5am to get picked up at our hotel.  From there we went through the winding roads and got dropped off by the Ganges river.  We walked through a long market where all the shops were still closed. There were a lot of people sleeping outside, the poverty in Varanasi was very prevalent.  We went down by the river where we were immediately swarmed by kids trying to sell us things.  We bought these little flower candle from cute little girls.  We went and got onto a boat that to go up and down the river.  It was probably one of the coolest parts of the trip so far.  The sun was rising behind us and the city was so amazing to look at it.  The architecture was unlike anything I’d seen before.  Our tour guide explained many different things to us about the structures.  We saw people bathing in the river and washing their clothes in the river.  When we were admiring the scenery there were people on boats trying to sell us random trinkets but we were more focused on what we were seeing.  We also got to light our candles we bought, put them in the river and make a wish.  Varanasi is known as the holy city. It is where many people come to get cremated.  Along the river we saw two crematories.  Our guide explained the processes and how it is very sacred to these people.  Once off the boat we wondered through skinning passages seeing various temples and shops.  It is so hard to believe that people truly live this way still.  We got to see a temple that was part Hindu and partly a Mosque. We couldn’t go inside because this temple was only for those practicing these religions but through the door we could see them.  After buying beautiful scarves we walked back towards were our van was and the market was coming to life as people were beginning to open their shops.
     From there we went to a University in Varanasi.  The difference in scenery was dramatic.  The university area was very nice and clean, looking more modern.  After the University we went back to the hotel for breakfast and were picked up again at noon.  We visited a variety of temples in the early afternoon.  It was very interesting to see people practicing their religion and to learn more about Hinduism.  The temples were all so beautiful.  We then went and visited a silk factory.  It was nothing like a factory though.. the shops were all within buildings and the buildings were connected by skinny paths.  We learned about how silk tapestries had to be made by hand and we were shown an area where about 100 different families lived and make these silk tapestries.  We were then shown these individuals making very unique designs by hand and they let some of us try it.  It was very intricate and we were told they only added on about an inch each day.  We then were shown a lot of different types of things created and we each bought a small piece of art.
  We also went and visited Sarnath, an ancient city that was now just ruins. Sarnath was the place where Buddha preached his first sermon.  We then visited the museum by the ruins which held on the ancient artifacts.  After this we saw this HUGE Buddha that we decided we had to take pictures by. 
      From there we stopped and grabbed some Indian food and headed back to the Ganges river.  To get to the river again we rode rickshaws.. which are basically a bike with a chariot thing behind it that 2 people can sit in.  With all the INSANE traffic in Varanasi riding the rickshaw was pretty scary at first but after about 10 minutes you get used to having cars 2 inches from you and knowing they won’t hit you (hopefully).  It was a lot of fun and we all laughed a lot.  Once by the river again we walked through the market which was now so full of life.  There were people literally EVERYWHERE.  Here Ashley and I used our first public toilet which we had to pay 5 rupees for.  Down by the river was a ceremony going on in honor of someone who died.  Our guide told us they do the ceremony every night.  It consisted of 7 priests doing their actions in unison.  They used incents and fire and preformed their sacred ceremony.
     In celebration of the new year our hotel had a buffet dinner, life music for a while, and then a DJ.  We all ate a lot and enjoyed bringing in the new year in a new country.