Here are some pictures from the wonderful event tonight. Thanks to all those that came out to support the students.
Come join us for an evening in India.
The students who spent ten days in India over spring break have planned an evening event to showcase their amazing experiences. They will share the stories of the cultural differences, the culture shock, the food, the time spent working with a few organizations, and the quest to see a tiger in Ranthambore National Park. They will also discuss their plans to return next year to work with two specific organizations.
The event will be held on Monday, April 22nd from 6:00-7:00 pm in CEI 101.
We look forward to seeing you there. Some Indian cuisine will be served.
Special thanks go out to all those who supported this trip. We can’t name you all, but the Student Senate, the additional funding committee, the Office of Engaged Learning, all of those who made individual donations, and Dan Freese all played a part in making this trip possible.
We have officially made it back to Boston! Onward to NEC.
We have arrived at Heathrow airport and have another three hours before we board the last flight home. It’s a little too cold here and we hope that it’s at least 70 degrees when we reach New Hampshire.
Day 8: Today’s entry is written by Akane Ihara:
The last day in India. My day started at 5:00 a.m. in the morning but not completely. I couldn’t fall asleep last night until around 1:00 a.m. because I was excited to go to Taj Mahaj! I didn’t want to wake up because that meant it is almost time to leave India for all of us. But I get up to get ready after 5:30 a.m. and went down stairs to meet up with my classmates at 6:00 a.m. We left to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahaj just after 6. There were quite a long line to get into the area to see it and they had a security check because they do not want people to bring in anything accept their cameras. They even provided a bottle of water so you didn’t have to bring any liquid of your own. I will tell why in a little bit.
When we went through the entrance and there is was… the beautiful Taj Mahaj in front of us! I lost my words… Awesome!! This is part of what I wanted to see in India. All the people who were there were trying to express their feelings, but it was impossible. It is hard for me to say in words, so I suggest people go to India and see it for themselves.
In the meantime, here is some history behind the construction of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahaj was built in 1600s and built by Shahjahan. He had a lot of wives, but he loved one of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, more than other wives. In 18 years, he had 13 children with her. When Mumtaz Mahal gave birth to the 13th child, she passed away during labor. He was so depressed that he locked himself up in his room for a week after her death. He went Agra and decided to build the monument for her. He gathered a lot of architects from all over the world and it took 22 years to finish. However, after her death, he was never the same. One of his sons eventually imprisoned him in a wing of the Agra fort and he’d spend every evening on the porch staring out at the Taj Mahal. When he passed away, his body was buried next to hers in the Taj Mahal, and his body is the only part of the Taj that is not symmetrical. It is ironic that the man that focused so much on the symmetry of the finished product decided that he would be buried next to his love and thus, ruin the whole purpose of his masterpiece. Although there are many stories of the history of the Taj, one thing that is agreed upon is that it is the international symbol of love.
I could of sit there all day long, sitting there. Since there were a lot of stones used in the wall patterns at the Taj Mahaj, there are a lot of people who stole the stones from the walls. If people have sharp objects with them, they can dig the stones out from the walls and sell those. This is the main reason why there is so much security and so many restrictions on what you can bring in to the park.
After the Taj Mahaj, we had a free time to pack our luggage, swim at the pool, or walk to the town. Walking to town was great! I got to see how people in Tuk Tuk’s try to lure us into their vehicles to take us shopping.
The time passed by really quick, and it was already the time for us to leave from the hotel. While I was on the bus, I was looking outside, thinking this is our last bus ride in India. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the memories I’ve gained over the past 10 days! I didn’t know most of the classmates when the trip began but now I get along with them very well. We have not stopped laughing, smiling, and being happy. I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow. I hope I can spend more time here in the future. I definitely want to come back and see more.
Not a bad way to watch the sunrise.
Today’s post is written by Katie Anthony:
The day started out with another early morning, with our group on the move again, trading the quiet serenity of Ramthambore and the National Park for the hustle and bustle of the city of Agra. While waiting on the platform we saw the article about us in the local paper, featuring a picture of the humble blogger front and center.
I guess this means I can claim my fifteen minutes of fame here in India. Since the train only stops in the station for two short minutes, getting on, and eventually getting off, required a well-timed series of bag-passing and seat-finding.
A packed breakfast of boiled eggs, fruit, juice and tomato and cucumber sandwiches on the train and a 2.5 hour ride brought us to Bharadapur, where we avoided the dreaded train station stairs by crossing the tracks on foot, and hopping over dried piles of human excrement and the fresh drips from the train toilets. None of us were sure this was any sort of an improvement over stairs. Little boys hounded us trying to fix the broken red duffle bag and when we refused their services they were displeased to say the least. I guess that counts as a cultural exchange? We were a bit surprised but quite happy to see that we had the same bus, bus driver, and attendant that we had left behind in Jaipur.
From Bharadapur we drove to the Ghost Town, a former Mogul capital filled with beautiful carvings and inlay work. The town was built and abandoned in just fourteen years due to a lack of water. The king who built the city kept a pet elephant that he tied in the courtyard as a means of swift, and hopefully painless, execution by stomping. When the elephant died he built a mausoleum in which the elephant was entombed. The king received no formal education but was a connoisseur of information and brought many great minds to his palace to study with.
His interests exposed him many religions from which he fashioned his own. In one of the buildings there is a solid column of stone, carved with elements from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism that is amazingly detailed.
Once we left the Ghost Town we headed to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Upon arrival all of us were ecstatic to see that not only were we staying in a much more upscale hotel but it also boasted a luxury we’d been wishing for- a pool! After lunch, most of us rushed to change into our suits and out to the pool area, which was complete with a water slide and sun tent! The pool was cool and refreshing and the slide was a blast! Even our beloved trip leader Bryan got into the fun, getting chided for attempting to go down the slide headfirst!
The late afternoon was spent touring the Agra Fort, a monolithic palace built by Emperor Akbar served as another of India’s seven Mughal capitals. From the upper portions one can see down the river to the Taj Mahal. Parts of the interior walls still bear remnants of the gilded and jewel-encrusted décor. One section of the palace was actually used a prison for a deposed king by his son.
As with all good things our trip is coming to an end. After a quick dip in the pool we met in the lobby for our final reflection. For me meeting to share our thoughts and feelings about our daily adventures in India for the last time was bitter sweet. I have enjoyed seeing India through my fellow travelers eyes each night and while this evening was extra special, it was the first time I have been acutely aware that this magical trip is nearly over. I have fallen in love with this country and it’s people, and I would venture a guess that everyone else has as well.
Today’s entry is written by Mathew Noel Wallach.
The morning began at 4:45am for me, although I was dozing off in darkness until about 5:30am, when I dressed and met up with some classmates. One piece of fruit ant some water was what consisted of my pre-breakfast snack.
At 6:15, we boarded the safari truck and made our way back to the park, enjoying a blood-orange sunrise that faded into the signature hazy-blue sky which surrounded the Indian atmosphere.
As we passed the first gates of the park, the guide, offering a new animal for us to see, picked out painted spur fowl in the brush. Our intent, however, was to spot a tiger on this morning.
The sun slowly climbed the eastern ledge as we ascended through the trees and along the Nature-forsaken path. Today’s journey would lead us not to the trail on the right, as yesterday’s did but dead ahead to a new zone where there were earlier sightings of a female tiger.
The usual abundance of peacocks made for a colorful journey as we made our way to the first gate of this zone, a red-orange and ancient wall that I would later find out housed an old cannon. As we rode past the walls, the first view of Padam Lake appeared off to the left. The sun, gaining height at this point, offered us a spectacular view of the temples across the water. Green and pink cacti riddled the sides of the trail and young, twisting trees stood in fractal unison.
The bumpy ride turned my writing into that of a child’s, and so I looked around as we progressed.
An egret and two black-headed ibis were peacefully grazing the shallow bank of the lake, further down was a valley of boulders. We’d yet to hear work of the tigers and so progressed forward, unaware of what we were to find.
Passing the place of five basking palm trees, we stopped in awe as 76 spotted deer were grazing not 30 feet from our truck. They slowly herded away from us, moving southwest and away from what the guide mentioned might be a tiger spotting.
Further along the path, a truck was paused at a point where two roads met; it was here that we received our first sign of tigers.
A dusty paw print lay off to our left at the trails’ intersecting edges as though placed on purpose. Its visibility was a sign of recent presence, and so the driver headed onward, crisscrossing along as we meandered through the dust and dead leaves.
The hunt began.
The air was beginning to warm noticeably as we drove through the shade. An aroma of lake water filled the area, and as we completed a loop there was a call from the guide’s radio.
There was a spotting back at a brown gate, which we passed without notice. It was the beginning of the rush.
Focus and anticipation overtook the group as the driver sped off to the location of the sighting. Sambar deer and peacocks called to their own as we approached the location, but we arrived to see six other trucks full of tourists already present at the scene. Each group waited in excitement as the tiger slowly approached the gate, but it would be too long for some to wait.
Of the impatient, we were part of the few to make the mistake of departing the scene. This would prove to be an awful decision, for as we parked back beyond the gate, the tiger would pass over the very location where we initially stood.
Heading towards a Gogi Mahal, or Holy Man’s Palace, we sat patiently with a number of vehicles, waiting for word of the tiger’s movement, who had now hidden herself within the shade beyond the brown gate.
Parakeets watched shyly from above as we sat in what now became occupying boredom. It would be nearly an hour and a half before we moved again, and at this point the excitement around our group had seemed to die.
At 9:45am, and with a sense of disappointment, we departed from the park and traveled back to the hotel for breakfast.
At this time a bout of nausea overtook me, preventing me from visiting the local shops in town with the other students.
At 3:30pm, we were to depart to a nomadic village of displaced people. We learned of their placement far from the main town, and their soon-to-be relocation as a result of a local tiger’s death. The people were awed by our presence and their joy was shared by our experience and interest in their way of life. The group I was in even received a chance to break boulders in an attempt to help build a house. We were invited into huts and told of how their family values are strong. After our stop here, we were given a tour of the valleys that surrounded the distant mountains. Dry fields of trees and shrubs were all that the locals had in which to reside. Laboring men and women worked diligently, stopping to wave as we cruised over the uneven terrains. I can still see the brightened faces of women pausing from work to reciprocate the pleasantries.
As we made our way around to complete the huge loop of the territory, we found ourselves driving through a much cooler stretch of road with lush green flora on either edge of the now-paved road. The contrasting temperature was a much-needed break from the springtime sun.
We made our way past glorious sandstone cliffs and back through a local town, with the faces and eyes of many staring deeply at the alien people on the converted truck. Many more waves and smiles were exchanged in fleeting moments and we would soon be back where our day began at the hotel.
The day would close with a presentation after a relaxing meal, and so we were to prepare for our journey to Agra.
Today’s post was written by Amy Montanez.
Day 5 – Ramthambore
Today was the first early morning we have had since we got here. Most for us woke up at 6:oo am to get ready to head out by 7:00 am. At 7:00 we hopped into a long open topped jeep and headed into the tiger reserve. We met up with ten school boys and two teachers that were part of the Kids for Tigers organization. We took only a couple of minutes to introduce ourselves and then we paired up with them, “one American to one Indian” said Anukram, our travel guide. Once we had a partner we set off into the reserve, keeping close to the jeep trail to pick up trash. The otherwise beautiful scenery was tainted by the copious amounts of trash strewn across the landscape. Each pair was given a 40-gallon trash bag and set out to collect the garbage. It soon became apparent that one bag would not suffice; the van made its way down the trail for a second round of collections. Brandon and his partner were the first to begin their second bag. However, even though we picked up a lot of trash I was upset to see that there was so much more that needed to be picked up.
Once everyone made there way to the end of the trail, our group had the opportunity to climb and visit the cliff side temples. One temple was dedicated to the goddess Shiva, the other to four other deities. A number of students were given blessings with a mark upon the forehead, while the others enjoyed the company of monkeys. There were about fifty monkeys running around everywhere, getting within a foot or so of us. During the interaction, one of the primates attempted to snag professor Carlson’s backpack; it was rather amusing. Another jumped onto Megan’s back, trying to dislodge her backpack from her as well. The teacher from the boys school kept saying, “monkey danger…monkey danger.” They were quite frisky.
Once we got back to the hotel and after lunch we had the pleasure of listening to Anukram’s explanation of India’s caste system. He discussed the tension between the impoverished and the wealthy, and its growth in the developing country. Following this discussion, we departed for Ranthambore National park with the intent of spotting a tiger.
During the three-hour safari ride we caught saw spotted and sambar deer, a mongoose, black storks, a crocodile, wooly-necked storks, langur monkeys, and many more Indian critters. Upon return we were given the opportunity to hand feed some tree pie, a beautiful yellow and black bird which is related to the mag pie. It was amazing to experience seeing the birds up close and for some of us landing on ours hands. I personally enjoyed the general splendor of forest; it was a peaceful change from the busy streets of Jaipur and Delhi.
Unfortunately we were unable to see a tiger today. However, we did get to hear a passionate story told by our nature guide, RK. He told of a mother tiger in the reserve that was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from Delhi. She received this award for being such a great and loving mother. This amazing tigress, known as the Queen of the Lake, and her descendants have given the park nearly a third of the present population. Hopefully tomorrow, during our morning safari, we will be able to see a tiger!!!
Today’s post was written by Erin Gebo:
Day four. This morning we all woke up refreshed after being able to sleep a little longer than normal. We had breakfast and then loaded the van up with our suitcases and were off for our first of many excursions for the day. We went to Jaipur’s observatory which is home to the largest sundial in the world. We were introduced to instruments that would tell the time, day and month. Its amazing that technology from ancient times is what we are using today, only in a smaller more condensed way. We were able to also make it on a day in which it was in transition so we caught the sun right on the line before it changed from our winter into spring.
The next step of our day was a tour of the city palace, home of many ancient and well-known Maharaja’s of Jaipur and still the home of the unofficial 16 year old Maharaja. We toured the grounds and witnessed many of the beautiful pieces around the city including two grand elephants made from solid blocks of white marble. When inside the palace we were sadly not able to take photographs but were able to see some pieces collected over centuries from the royal families. We saw the silk and solid gold stitching within the embroidered gowns worn by Jaipur’s most prestigious kings and princes. One of the saris worn by the princess was well over 20 pounds and could only be worn for a short amount of time because of its crushing weight on such a petit women. Moving on to some of the Maharaja’s, one of them was a giant man who was an astounding seven feet tall and four feet wide. On display was a set of his pajamas, which the bottoms were as long an average dinning room table and his shirt could have been used as a queen sized blanket. Another story relating to a maharaja was at the end of the British rule in 1947 in which he travelled to England, in style. He stated that he would only drink the water of the Gangus and had to very large pure silver basins made to carry his traveling water in. He melted down thousands of silver coins to make two large silver pots (5 feet tall and four feet round) to transport his water. While in England at all times he left white gloves on so not to touch anything.
The palace has many well-taken photographs of both royal families of England and Jaipur. Commissioned paintings of all the maharaja’s encircle the palace court room that has the two large thrones in the middle for viewing. The grand lifestyle in which these kings lived is one that compares to nothing I have ever known. The snake charmers and kiosks around the city palace are to marveled at as well. People with their odd talents, charms and nick-knacks could catch the eye of any traveler. As we made our way through venders and beggars along the streets, it was back on the van for our travel to Ranthambore.
The van ride was full of surprises and bumps along the way, and when I say bumps I mean bumps. I think all of us needed an ice pack or two after it. Traveling through one town to another we were greeted by confused faces, but once we gave a smile or a wave it’s nothing but smiles and waves back. Many of us caught up on sleep, journal writing and chatting.
Finally!! The moment we all have been waiting for—we reached Ranthambore, and we could almost hear the tigers calling to us. We checked in and got ready for our nature walk. But first it was open top jeep rides through the local villages. The fresh wind blowing in our faces was soothing and the chants of “ta ta” (which does mean goodbye) from the little kids waving is hypnotic. You get a high feeling off the air here and the locals put down their hay bundles to send a friendly wave from the fields. When we reached the point the jeep could no longer go, it was time to hike. As we hiked though a barren area that the naturalist described as dead land we listened to the sounds of many birds including the peacocks in the distance. We were able to see antelopes in the distance and overhead and a silhouette of a stag looked down on us with his massive rack pointing to the sky. The sounds, smells and views were breath taking.
As we hiked back down the hilltop the sun was setting letting off a neon pink glow that was unforgettable. Outlines of all us students scattered was a site in its self. We all stood around trying to take in every last bit of light and sight. We loaded back into the topless jeeps bound for the hotel and the heat of the day was cooled by nightfall.
As we waited for dinner we were greeted by dancers tapping their toes as bells rang around their ankles. Candle light and soft music played by a man under a tree with a women singing what seemed like Indian folk music filled the air. Monkeys above in the tree knocked leaves and seeds down on us and we laughed and chatted over dinner about the day. When it was time to watch a movie about “Broken Tail”, a tiger cub born and raised in Ranthambore, we were all exhausted. While some dozily slept through the movie, I struggled but managed. The story of Broken Tail as sad and heart breaking. His brother and him were highly watched by his mother until one day they grew older and something separated them. He traveled from Ranthambore to some remote place in India where this young, youthful, and magnificent animal was struck and killed by a train in his prime. It goes to show that there is not enough land area for these animals to live and nature and man clash. Though he was not killed or sold by hunters, it was a loss for conservationists and Broken Tail actual received a burial much live a family member would. And in respect people came to touch his feet before he was cremated.
Our journey in Ranthambore is not over yet but our first few hours were an experience and a lesson all the same. We all miss you back home and wish that you could be here to experience it yourselves, because words and pictures only give a small glimpse into what we see.