20 Days of Tastes…

By MacLean Thomas

During 20 days, myself along with my classmates traveled through 5 major places in India. Through these travels, we got a taste of what India really is – away from the distractions of what it is not.

From the near freezing swims in the Ganges along Rishikesh to the scorching heat in the Andamans, or the snow capped mountains of Agora to the heavily populated Delhi, every place and experience was unique in its own way. I found that the diversity and dense differences in culture, environment, social norms and location were far more than my mind can comprehend.  They had to be experienced.

Evan introduced me to an important idea in Agora – the idea of simplicity. Upon arrival, I looked at Agora as a place of simple operation.  However, far more complexity lies in that cloud of assumption. Farming techniques, religion, different castes, and somehow finding the energy to work 24-7 is something that cannot be appreciated at first glance.

I experienced for the first time in my life being the minority in an area. I remember coasting through Old Delhi in the back of a  rickshaw and observing the smiles and waves that I received. I felt not only welcomed but appreciated in every place we traveled through, certainly a different minority experience than I have observed at home.  It made me think about those issues differently.

Whether it be Balbir, my host parent, welcoming me with open arms and sending me a prayer before my departure or Praveen inviting me to live with him if I happen to return, there seems to be a sense of home that ties to India. The unknowingness surrounding India as a whole evokes a constant curiosity, a place so different yet homelike forms a whole new platform of learning. Unlike any place I’ve been to, India feels inevitable in my return.

The unknowingness surrounding India as a whole evokes a constant curiosity, a place so different yet homelike forms a whole new platform of learning. Unlike any place I’ve been to, India feels inevitable.  I know I will return, as I have already in my mind.

Trip of a Lifetime

By Kyle Willis

At first, India was the next challenge in my fishing career – the Giant Trevally, a predatory monster, was finally within reach. We started the first day of fishing early. Got in a car and drove to Port Blair to meet our guides and get our gear sorted. We got to the outfitter’s office and spoke to the manager on their balcony and had a nice cup of chai. He explained how the day would go, what we would focus on in certain spots, and made us feel comfortable and excited to catch the fish I had chased to the other side of the world.

After only watching videos for months about how ferocious, aggressive, and territorial these beasts really were, I was finally entering their world. The technique that we would be focusing on for the two days of fishing was popping. Casting out 5-ounce poppers that sit on top of the water and reeling them in while yanking the rod back, again and again, to create a splash on the water was endless, but worth it. In anywhere from 20 feet to 50 feet of water, our goal was to bring the GTs out from the depths and experience the sheer amount of power and force that they use to dominate the waters. Tirelessly we popped to hope to fire up the GTs waiting below. On our second day on the water, I had popped so much that my left arm locked up and felt paralyzed and the guides had to stretch my arm out and crack my fingers to get my arm to work again so I could immediately get back to casting. This really was the most extreme fishing of my life.

The amount of anger that a popper causes a Giant Trevally is unrivaled. All they want to do is destroy whatever is causing the commotion on the top of the water. That anger is what makes the fight so incredible. Their determination is obvious when they launch themselves out of the water to destroy the poppers. There is no greater feeling in the world when you finally hook up with a GT and get it into the boat. When I personally hooked up with a GT, it was insane. It felt like I had hooked into a brick wall and I thought I was going overboard. At first, it is impossible to even pull back on the rod because the fish just runs with the popper. When I finally got my balance and rod under control the fish was peeling drag. The only thought that was going through my mind was to not let the fish get down to the coral and break the line. I was reeling and yanking up on the rod to keep pressure but it felt like I was making no progress. After a few minutes of fighting the GT, I was already out of breath and tired. I felt like I could no longer even reel. I found it inside like a second wind to fight harder than ever to land the first GT of the trip. After getting the GT next to the boat and seeing it for the first time I was speechless. I did not have any emotion until the guides pulled the fish onto the boat. Then, I yelled out of excitement and I felt like the king of the world. Little did I know that I would do this same routine two more times over the duration of the trip.

India was a trip that I will never forget and catching three Giant Trevally just added to the excitement and joy that India brought me. When I originally decided on traveling to India, I was mostly looking forward to the fishing, but after experiencing everything that India has to offer I was the happiest I have been in years. The reason for my immense amount of happiness on this trip is because I had never had the chance to explore and be free like I was in India. Hiking in Agora, walking through the streets of New Delhi, talking to people in the Andamans, fishing every chance I got, all things that were so different from what I am used to in the US. Whether it was eating at Karim’s in Old Delhi and having the biggest pile of napkins ever because the food was so messy and spicy to the point of not bothering to sterilize the unpurified water, but so good that you just keep eating and eating until you are literally going to explode. Or feeling oddly comfortable walking through the streets where cars are inches from running you over because it reminded me of my hometown. Or from talking to Suman and Praveen or anyone in India about their lives or what they think about a certain thing because we all experienced things for the first time together. Or finally hooking up on the fish of a lifetime and having moments with friends that I will never forget. I think that difference, the chance to feel like I wasn’t doing the same thing I always do, is why I enjoyed India so much. It was like nothing I had ever dreamed of doing and yet I went at it full force and got the most out of it.  Agora, Delhi, and the Andamans all had their special moments that we all remember – from the people to the food.

I hope someday to return to India to revisit the places that have truly changed my life.

A Year

By Suman Singh

I am sitting here, looking out the window of my bedroom.  It is snowing a little.  The view looks particularly stunning – there is a lot more water in the waterfall now as the snow is melting.  The white streaks look like they are smiling at me.

Above all, I am thinking about you guys.  I am thinking about the time we spent together.  The joyful moments and, of course, lots of laughter and adventures.  I am thinking about the lessons we learned for life.

Now and then I can’t do anything but miss you guys.  I have a hard time thinking then.  Then today I realized that it is only a matter of a year.  In just one year we will see each other again and the experience will be even greater.  Each year this bond gets stronger.


 

We got back from Delhi just a few days ago.  I finally had the chance to spend some time at home and to run around the village visiting everyone.  Everyone I saw had only one question – how are the kids doing?  How is everyone?  Everyone was asking me – not just the host families but the entire village.  I kept thinking how crazy it is that these people are so eager to know how you are, how is your life going.  All I can say is that it is clear how much people appreciate the respect you showed to the village and how our connections are just getting deeper and deeper.


 

Meeting up with you guys in the Delhi airport, it was so hard for me to remember names and put them with faces.  So many of you were coming to India for the first time.  Now I am missing those same faces and being called Suman-ji from every single corner of this small world – with such sweet accents!

It is such a proud moment for me.  I realize what it means to be a brother and a friend amongst you guys!  I am really hopeful right now.  I hope that the trip will lead you toward the right path in life.  I am hopeful that it will challenge you and give you the strength to fight!


 

How deep are the relationships we all make with each other?  It’s always hard for me to hide my tears at the end when I am saying goodbye to each of you.  But I have to do it to show you all how strong I am.  Well, really, just to show you all how strong this bond is and how strong next year will be!

It is just a matter of a year.  Soon I will be seeing many of you again!

Back in Abu Dhabi

With tearful goodbyes—well, see you soons—we left Suman and Praveen at the Delhi airport. From there, it felt a bit like a frantic dirge to get to our flight. But, we made it. We are here, in Abu Dhabi, safe and sound and a couple hours from boarding our flight to D.C.  It’s hard to believe that all that has happened has been encapsulated in two weeks. Agora feels simultaneously near (in us, really) and quite far away. That’s just the nature of this sort of travel, I suppose. The more one sees of the world, the more one realizes how little of it they’ve actually seen; yet, travel like this harbors connections that extend far beyond two weeks.  Really, they harbor interconnectedness, consciousness, and growth. 

The students’ words speak to that, so I’ll keep mine to a minimum. But, we’d like you to know that each night we would gather together to read the students’ posts and your comments on them. It was a beautiful moment to hear our families and friends and school from these seemingly remote locations. 

We will see you again stateside; we look forward to sharing more of our adventure over a cup to tea face-to-face.