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Archive for the ‘day trips’ Category

Nomoskar, everyone!

It’s been another week of being busy and not busy at the same time. Classes are pretty much the usual lecture and note taking, the occasional class cancellation. We actually had a test in Bengali last week –  he gave us a sheet of 20 words or so, and we just had to go up in front of him and pronounce the words and know the meaning of a few of them. He gave us 3 tries to pronounce the word correctly and even coached us through it,  so I’m glad we’re all on the same page of having low standards. I’m still struggling with finding the balance of staying in to get work done and going out to have fun – lately, I’ve been staying in a lot and trying to get through my very long to-do list so I can relax in Kerala and not be really stressed out my last week here.
I had a busy weekend though! Thursday was Kia’s birthday, so we all went to her house after school where we had cake and her mom made some really delicious egg rolls as a snack. There was some delicious sweet chili sauce on them – I’m going to have to buy some of that sauce to bring home with me! We went out to eat at a Thai restaurant in South City Mall. The food was really delicious but Brynn and I did a poor job about ordering to share. Kathryn had been there before and told us we could order one dish and share…but i guess that’s only some dishes! The dishes we ordered were delicious, but definitely enough for just one person. We had little mini spring rolls and some dish that was mushrooms and baby corn in a sweet and tangy sauce. It was too bad it was too expensive and we didn’t have enough time to order something else, so I actually got a Subway sandwich afterward! Subway is pretty much the same as it is at home, except that may of the dishes are specific to India – some “aloo” dishes or chicken tikka masala, for example.
Friday was our LAST Friday of class, and our last day of Sheta’s class. She had a speaker for the first two periods of her class who was talking about the history of Kolkata. As usual, it was a lecture and I have realized that I do NOT learn well or retain information that way and need some kind of visual aid to pay attention. It seems that Sheta can’t stand not speaking for more than an hour, because the second period she got up and was cutting off the speaker! They were just talking/yelling over each other – and the best part was when the speaker brought out this map of Kolkata and both were yelling over each other to tell us, “This color means parks! This color means schools!” It was too ridiculous. Later that night, we went out to dinner with our host family to a Chinese restaurant, which was great! It’s so nice to spend time with them, and I had some of the most delicious wantons and honey chicken I’ve ever had!

Saturday was devoted to art workshops – the first was about patachitra, or traditional Bengali folk paintings. They’re painted on a huge long scroll and used to tell stories through song – and the paints are made from vegetables and leaves! The artist told us a few stories first with her very elaborate scrolls – one story about the goddess Durga, another about a fish marriage, and another about the 2004 tsunami. After, we all got to try some painting ourselves! I bought some of her art too (I have such a weakness for the rural handicrafts). I bought myself a painting of the fish marriage and another painting to give away as a gift. We had a dance workshop immediately afterward, which was the first dance class of my life! We learned a dance that told the story of a young bride being welcomed into her new husband’s/family’s home. We had a great teacher who has a lot of fun when he’s teaching, and I think I didn’t dance too horribly. I guess we are going to perform this dance next week for all of our host parents as a way to celebrate Bengali New Year! We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

Sunday was busy too – we spent all morning touring Kolkata. We saw mostly religious worship sites – a ton of churches and a couple synagogues! It was my first time ever in a synagogue. We didn’t see any mosques, because women are not allowed in mosques…lame! We also stopped at a Bengali folk arts museum, which had some really incredible embroidered linens. Women embroidered these bed covers and other household items with such detail and skill – and all the thread came from the borders of old saris. There were also a few examples of patachitra, some clay or metal dolls, and more. We went out to eat for lunch at a Chinese restaurant for a buffet – the first buffet I’ve had here. It was pretty delicious!

some sites around Kolkata on our walking tour

Time is flying by – it’s now less than 10 days until we go to Kerala, and then there will be only 10 days left when we get back!! AGH! How is this happening?! I will already be home one month from today! I’m starting to panic a little having such little time left, and yet it does NOT feel real. It still feels like i will be here for forever. I will be happy to be home, but I know I will miss many things about India. I know I’m just so lucky to have so many wonderful things to look forward to when I come home! I’ll be glad to spend time with my family again, and I will be able to see my grandparents more since they are going to move to Duluth. I’ll be going back to my summer job at Greysolon Plaza, which I love, and I’ll be going to visit Karl in Annapolis just 10 days after I get home. I’m looking forward to being back on campus next year – I have gained an entirely new perspective and appreciation for CSB/SJU!! I’ll be so happy to be back on campus, back to my classes I enjoy, and to see all my friends again! I am so blessed to have so many wonderful things in my life. And of course – one of the most wonderful things has been this year abroad, which I am truly thankful for! Good thing it’s not quite over yet ;)

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What an eventful week!

Last weekend, we had a two-day trip to Shantiniketan – a village area outside of Kolkata that’s known for Rabindranath Tagore, a major poet/novelist/essayist/playwright/artist/thinker. Tagore is so admired here, especially in West Bengal, and I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t hear some mention of his name. He founded a school in Shantiniketan, which means “peaceful abode.” Arundhati, Sujoy, and Vinayak came along with, since our parents had helped to organize and lead the trip. Arundhati is very involved in the arts, especially Bengali folk art, and Sujoy is very interested in history. We had a fairly long ride there – about 5 hours with stops. We stayed in a really nice cottages and had lunch before heading off to the local Saturday market. The market was wonderful! It was a local craft market – there was so much to look at and buy! Clothes, artwork, jewelry, journals, instruments, and more. I bought several pairs of earrings – they’re all made from natural materials like seeds, shells, and palm leaves. I also got some really great art – a slate etching of Ganesh and some framed copper wire art. I would have loved to stay longer, since we were given such a short amount of time there before being rushed off to a dance performance. I was upset that it was poorly planned to have only about 20 minutes there – you can’t bring us to a place like that and expect us to leave so quickly! We had to leave well before sunset though, since we were going to a dance performance in a village. The performance was wonderful to see and all I could do was sit there and think, “wow. I’m actually in a village in India.”

Family photo next to an awesome Banyan tree!

After the performance, we stopped at a store that sold local handmade leather products – and I bought a few gifts as well as a couple things for myself! We had a hodgepodge dinner of street food – I had a dosa (kind of like a thinner hardened crepe) and some pokoras (hard to describe – fried deliciousness – onions and other spices in a fried batter). I went to bed early that night since we had had an early morning and another long day ahead of us. The next day was all about Tagore – we visited the Tagore museum and the many houses he lived in. The museum was okay, but there were so many people and it was not well-laid out, so I didn’t spend much time in there. It was amazing to see how many people were there though – there are so many Tagore fans here, it’s a regional/national obsession. There’s good reason for it though – he was and still is incredibly influential, if not for just the sheer volume of his work but also his philosophy about education and (inter)nationalism. He believed in education for all, and also about learning about other cultures while maintaining an interest and knowledge of  your own. After the Tagore morning, we spent the rest of the afternoon traveling home.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty low-key days full of class. Since Monday was Valentine’s Day, I went on a lovely date with my roommates to a nearby restaurant for some dessert. I had REAL ice cream for the first time here in India, and it was wonderful! And it was great to be out with 3 wonderful ladies – I love my roommates! :)

Yesterday was a national holiday – the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. We didn’t have class, and Madhu had arranged for us to have an art workshop that day. One of our classes here is a 2-credit course on Bengali folk art, which we have been doing through a series of events and workshops. This one was in Krishnanagar, and it was on traditional clay modeling. Arundhati, Sujoy, and Vinayak came along with again – Arundhati and Sujoy have helped to organize nearly all the art workshops. They had also invited the media (they work in PR) because this particular form of clay modeling is a dying art. It was a really early morning – we had to leave around 6:30 am. It was fine drive, until about an hour outside of Krishnanagar – we were in an accident :( a motorcycle hit our bus head-on. It happened so quickly, I didn’t really see what had happened, just a sudden screech on the breaks, falling forward, and seeing the windshield shatter. Apparently what had happened was the motorcyclist was passing (we were in the correct lane), didn’t judge it properly, was out of control and went head-on into the bus. I was in the back of the bus and didn’t see the man, but it was not looking good. Apparently there was a lot of blood – and he was transported to the hospital right away, and they took our driver along with. A huge crowd gathered, yelling in Bengali and it was so chaotic and panicked, we weren’t sure what was going to happen – accidents can have huge angry mobs. Luckily the police were there and it was calmed down quickly. None of us were injured. We’ve heard now that the man survived and is conscious, and that the CT scan was clear but he’s under observation for the next 72 hours and they’ll know his condition then. We’re all really thankful it wasn’t worse, for him and that none of us were injured.

I’m very (pleasantly?) surprised that this is the first accident I’ve witnessed here, even though the traffic is crazy. There’s usually a rhythm to it that keeps cars moving, but there have been several close scrapes that I was sure an accident was going to happen. It doesn’t help that they pass all the time, drive on the wrong side of the road (even the wrong direction on the highway!!), and don’t have seat belts (or if there are seat belts, people still don’t use them, and there’s often nothing to buckle the seat belt into). It was probably the best vehicle for us to be in and the worst for the injured man.

The accident took time – we had to go to the police station (nothing for us, just Madhu and the other program leaders sorting it out) and they had to arrange for alternate transportation for us. We eventually got back on the road (after hearing the motorcyclist had survived). We went to an artist’s house for the clay modeling, which was a lot of fun and it good to have something to do with our hands to redirect our attention and get over the shock of what had happened. We made village woman, Ganesh (a hindu god with an elephant head), and a mask. We were there for quite a while after the workshop ended, since it took so much time to get another bus. The people were wonderful though – so kind and hospitable. They entertained us with song and dance while we were waiting. We had a long ride home – we didn’t get home until a little after 10pm. It was a very long dramatic day, and I’m thankful we’re all safe.

In other news – I’ve found a on-campus job for next year! I’m going to be working as a Career Assistant with CSB Career Services. I’ll be helping students research majors/careers, critiquing resumes, conducting practice interviews, and helping plan/promote Career Service events. I’m really excited about it!  It will definitely be more of a time commitment than my previous on-campus job, but there are also some great benefits for my own career development that come along with it. For example, they have assignments for you to do at work, like update your resume, research a grad school you’d like to attend, research a volunteer opportunity that interests you, etc. I think I will really enjoy it.

And, check out my piece for Pink Pangea! :) Click here: Scammed in a Kolkatan Cab.

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Life has settled down back to normal after my haphazard trip to the Cinque Terre.

Classes are still going well and keeping me busy, theater is getting a little more intense, and tutoring is still wonderful! I’m really happy that tonight, I’ll be having dinner with my tutoring family :) really looking forward to it!

This past weekend, our CSB/SJU group took a day trip to Aix-en-Provence. It was really nice to get out of the College for a day, and it was nice to be someplace that felt a little more like fall. It’s a 2 hour drive to Aix from Cannes, so it passed by pretty quickly. Once we got there, we had a quick tour of the city and then were allowed free time for 3 hours. Aix is very pretty, and feels very collegiate – it’s a big university town. There aren’t a lot of tourist sights, so Mickey and I just wandered the streets and did some window shopping. Afterward, we all left to go to l’atelier de Cezanne – Cezanne’s studio. It was the last studio he used before he died. I was a little surprised that it was so small! It’s a very small cottage house, and the actual tour is just one room upstairs. I’ve realized that I’m not really into art, so the tour didn’t interest me as much. Afterward, we just came back to the College.

This weekend, Mickey and I watched some of the movies we had borrowed from the mediathèque, the library, down the street. On Friday, we watched the movie Persepolis – and I loved it! It’s a great movie, and very artistic. It’s about the revolution in Iran and the radicalisation of Islam through the eyes of a young girl. Later, her parents send her to Austria to escape the war. The movie is about her coping with her identity, feeling like a stranger, and feeling like a stranger in her own country. And, it’s all animated! I was very proud that we watched the whole thing (in French, bien sûr) and I understood all of it! We had to watch with subtitles (in French), and that helps enormously. It’s still too difficult to watch movies without subtitles – it’s much easier when I can read what they are saying. On Saturday, we watched La Môme, or La Vie en Rose. It’s a movie about the life of Edith Piaf, a very famous French singer. It’s very well done, but a depressing story.

Tomorrow…we leave for PARIS!! I am so excited! Originally, we were going to leave for Paris on Thursday, but there is going to be a big strike then and we will have to leave a day earlier to get there. I don’t mind though – now we have an extra full day in Paris! We will be there until Monday afternoon (my birthday!)- so we’ll have 4 full days there! EXCELLENT. I think it’s really cool that I get to wake up in Paris on my birthday. The trip is not very structured – we will have a ton of free time. Beth will give us suggestions of things to do each day, but it’s up to us what we want to do. There are only a few required things: Friday morning, we will give our Revolutionary tour of Paris. Each of us has to present a site in Paris that has significance to our historical character (the character we played in the game for our class). Friday night, we will go to the Louvre as a group. Then Beth also has some optional things, like a boat tour down the Seine river at night, and a trip to Versailles on Sunday. I am so excited!

So, I won’t be updating again until after we return from Paris…about a week from today. When we return to Cannes, I will only have a couple days before I head off to Rome! Life is good.  In the meantime, check out the Lost Girls website on Thursday: www.lostgirlsworld.com I’m going to have a new piece up on Thursday, another re-telling of my weekend in the Cinque Terre.

Love to all at home!

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What a busy week! I’ve found little time this week inbetween classes and tutoring and theater. Classes have been busy – in grammar class we’ve been working on the conditionnel – I would do this, if I had known I would have done this, etc. The teacher keeps it more entertaining by playing games, like we have to write down all the new vocabulary we’ve learned on the board, and we each have to make a sentence using a vocab word. But, you have to build off of the sentence the person before you – and the stories have been very bizarre! We had a new teacher for Cinema class the week, and we are going to start learning about the history of cinema. We started off by learning about the history of the Cannes Film Festival, the 2nd most prestigious film festival in the world (there is one in Venice that is more prestigious). I’m not sure how many films we will be watching, but in any case, I have a list of all the Palme d’Or winners since the 1940s, so that will make for some good watching!

Thursday, our whole group had to go to Nice to be tested for TB. I’m not sure why exactly it’s TB that they test for…apparently they’ve only required testing in the past 2 or 3 years. We had to go to the Consulat General in Nice for the chest Xray – we were told it would take a really long time, it took about 2 hours for 11 of us. The actual Xray and exam would probably add up to about 10 minutes, but they call you in for the Xray, which lasts about 2 minutes, then you sit in the hallway until they call you in again, where they check your height and weight and vision, and then you sit in the hallway again until they call you in again to check your blood pressure and breathing. It was my first experience with the French government and the medical system…it’s just a lot of bureaucracy, and the doctor-patient relationship is different here. Doctors do not really accomodate you as much here as they would at home – and here you just have to strip down without a nightgown or anything. You do not have a preference of male or female doctors, in France, a doctor is a doctor, not male or female. For our chest Xray we had to be topless…it didn’t bother me, but it unfortunately upset someone in the group. The doctors were not sympathetic that she felt uncomfortable…I guess there’s a small dose of culture shock. Luckily, no one in the group has TB! We can stay in France until the end of our stay, whereas if we had TB, they would send us home. And now I just have an Xray of my chest to keep as a souvenir! They don’t have a file for us or anything to keep the Xray, so now I just have an Xray to keep. Beth said we should make a collage or something with our Xrays :P

Tutoring has been going well – the family is really nice and the girls’ and my personalities match well. They actually do most of the work, I’m just there to help clarify any questions they might have.

Yesterday, I took a trip to Monaco with Mickey and Shawn! It was a lot of fun and a really good day trip. We started out at the Palace – they have guards and everything! Monaco is a principality – technically they are independent, but everything is run as a part of the French government.

The views were amazing. Another thing that really impressed me about Monaco is that everything is very clean and tidy – not one piece of litter, not even dirt on the pavement! We also went to the famous casino, Monte Carlo, and saw ridiculously expensive cars – Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Rolls Royce. There is so much money in that area – designer stores like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vitton, Valentino, and more. The most ridiculous thing I saw was a street full of Ferraris in front of a hotel and a Prada store. There were too many Ferraris to fit into one picture!

We had a great dinner at a little cafe down the street from a Ferrari dealership. I had a galette italienne – a thin pancake (more like a pancake than a crepe) filled with ham, cheese, and tomato. It was really nice to eat outside of the College and have a nice day out. I’ll remember this day in Monaco when I’m in the villages of India…what opposite ends of the spectrum.

Another exciting note – I’ve booked my tickets for Paris and London! And, I’m hoping that I’ll be headed to Cinque Terre in Italy next weekend!

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