The India Archive [5]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun.

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It’s been a while since I’ve talked about India but I’m back to link up with Emma, Angie, Jessi & Carolann. This month we’re blogging about unexpected places or trips! I was well aware of where I was going when I signed up for India- although my friends and family would tell you it was a surprise- but there were some totally unexpected trips and experiences while in India.

(If you need a refresher you should check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4!)

We were given a guide/liaison through the university. Jacob was the one who planned our adventures and traveled with us and handed out his number in case we had an emergency. (Of course, half of us- including me- didn’t have a cell phone.) During our time in Bangalore we visited a leprosy community, traveled to an elephant sanctuary, went on a wilderness retreat, and saw the local market, rural villages, and multiple places of worship. A few students went to an Indian wedding and some took a trip to Mysore. During our very first weekend in India we traveled to a waterfall.

I can’t explain what I was expecting… Maybe a gorgeous, lush, crisp, clean Amazonian scene? I remember being SO happy to leave the city for a bit, but that’s about it. Jacob sent us a driver and told us where we were going, but we were essentially on our own for this excursion.

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I snapped this photo on the ride to the falls. It’s still one of my favorite pictures from my trip. It totally sums up India as a whole: A child waving ‘hello’ next to a sign that reads “YOU ARE WARNED.”

Our small personal van/bus showed up at the apartment village and we piled in for a two hour ride. We weren’t expecting such a long ride and we certainly weren’t expecting the insane driving that occurs on curvy, narrow country roads in India.

(First crappy surprise: I dropped my camera on this adventure. No sooner had we exited the van and started across the crocodile-infested water did I drop my Kyle’s camera in the water. I was borrowing it for the trip… oops.)

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We were greeted by this nice PSA
We were then met by these skinny guy and PEOPLE SWIMMING
We were then met by these skinny guys and PEOPLE SWIMMING
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…just in case the first warning didn’t sink in
The last photo my poor camera took...
The last photo my poor camera took…

We did not go swimming (for obvious reasons) but we had to wade across the low points of the water to get to the waterfall. We assumed if there were crocodiles and they were hungry then they’d go for the people downstream who were doing cannonballs and handstands.

(The photos from here on out are from my fellow travelers’ stock.)

Once we were across the shallow water we crossed a wide beach-like area and came to a bus. (Keep in mind, we had no idea the journey to the waterfall would be as treacherous intense as the falls themself!) Like everything else in India, there was a small fee for us to ride the bus to the waterfall. We asked if walking was an option. It was not. Additionally, the bus was packed full and it was not air conditioned (hahaha, nothing is). The next obvious step was to climb on the roof.

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The bus ride was ridiculously terrifying. It was like the safari ride at Disney where they pretend like the jeep is stuck or about to flip, except in this case they’re not pretending. The path is for one vehicle… except when you have to pass another bus. And the trail hugs the side of a mountain/hill… which means you’re traveling along a cliff. The inside of the bus is packed and the top of the bus is packed. It was the craziest experience!

Once we got to the waterfall it was a short hike down the slope.

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The pictures are a little underwhelming, but the waterfall was really awesome. It was a peaceful yet violent scene (if that makes any sense…). We were able to climb on the rocks and get right above the rapids. We spent the hottest part of the afternoon snapping photos and enjoying the countryside.

While we waited for the death-bus to come pick us up we chatted with some locals, refused a few marriage proposals (which happened more often than you’d think), and made “friends” with these little food thieves:

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Our trip to the waterfall was such a crazy adventure, but I’m so glad we were able to experience it! It was totally unexpected and life changing!

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The India Archive [2]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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If you missed it, last time I talked about the 36 hours of travel to reach Bangalore, India…

When we landed at the airport & met the rest of the group we learned that we had a two hour bus ride to the hotel. It was evening in Bangalore & it made total sense to sleep on the bus. But I couldn’t sleep.. and so began my first taste of culture shock.

Just being in a moving vehicle on an Indian roadway was enough to shock my American system. On top of that, the streets and sidewalks are littered with other cars, buses, trucks,motorcycle, auto-rickshaws, cows, goats, camels, dogs, people, and carts. It’s incredible.

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I remember the first stray dog I saw. He was sitting near our bus at the airport. I saw another as we drove out of the lot. I was so shocked (and horrified). I had no idea those two would be the first of hundreds.

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He’s just sleeping, I promise.

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We reached the National Games Village very late in the night. When the trip had been presented to us we were told we’d be staying in a gated community. Well… technically it was gated and had walls… but the gates weren’t shut and we could move in and out of the apartment complex just like everyone else could. Also, one of the biggest slums in Bangalore was adjacent to our complex. Like I said, it was an adventure…

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Alicia opening the outer gate of our apartment.

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Door to our apartment.

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(When we booked the trip we had the option to live on campus or in the NGV apartments. The campus living arrangement wasn’t any more luxurious AND they locked the gates at 10pm every night. So if we weren’t home, we were on our own for the night. That did NOT sound appealing. Every student on the trip opted for the NGV apartments. It was a 2 mile walk from campus.)

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View of apartments across the way.

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This family lived outside the gates, below our balcony.

Our apartment was a nice size. It had three bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchen, dining room, living room, and two balconies. Five girls lived in this apartment (4 from my university, one from TN). I’ll talk more about my travelmates next time.

The apartment didn’t have a/c (hahahaha) but it did have fans. We could leave the windows and doors open because there were bars on them. Of course, mosquitoes and malaria were real things, so we had to be wary of that. But we all had our pills and shots.

Our first night was rough. We were totally freaked out because we were expecting…. more. We didn’t sleep at all that night. We didn’t even try. We contemplated booking a hotel. We talked about going home. I cried. I don’t want to look weak or whiny, but we were very uncomfortable at first. Fortunately, it got a little better.

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ICYMI: Part 1

The India Archive [1]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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The four-week study abroad program I applied to was presented to me/us in an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of way. In reality, we saw a lot more “Slumdog Millionaire” action. Honestly, the two movies that sum up the real India are “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Million Dollar Arm.” All of that to say Bangalore is a real city in a real foreign country and it was real culture shock.

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I am so glad that I traveled to Bangalore, but I really wish I would have had the right knowledge to mentally prepare; I think it would’ve made a world of difference. But what’s done is done.

My mom encouraged me to study abroad in my final year of school, but I believe she had a westernized European county in mind. When I came home with India brochures my parents’ jaws dropped and it took a little convincing to get them to agree. K was also a little wary, but like I said on Friday, he was nothing but supportive.

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They even got me a cake!

There were 6 girls that signed up for the program from my university. Additionally, there were 10 other students from the US that met up with us at our layover in Hong Kong or in Bangalore. (Plus 3 American adults on the trip.) The flights from Pittsburgh to NY to Hong Kong were fairly uneventful (and loooong) but our trip from Hong Kong to Bangalore scared the living sh*t out of me. I’m still a little nervous when it comes to flying.

Never in my life has a plane shook so hard or dropped altitude so fast. Even the flight attendants had fear in their voices. One of my travelmates was across the aisle and two rows behind me and I swear we just locked eyes and knew we were going to die in the damn Bay of Bengal. Everyone else on the plane (read: Asian business men and women) were peacefully sleeping. It was so surreal.

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Obviously we were fine and landed in Bangalore after roughly 36 hours of travel. #dead

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** If you fly in from the right direction in HK it looks like you’re landing in the ocean! **

So that’s enough for now. I could go on for hours; it was seriously the biggest adventure of my life!

More India craziness in two weeks!

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