Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from abroad! We are officially over half way through our study abroad and have been in four countries thusfar! The last month has lead us to explore the richness and beauty of India. We have spent a week in Mumbai, three weeks in Bangalore/Whitefield, and a few days in the capital city of Delhi. Our time has been packed with so many amazing people and places that we are left with numerous significant memories and even more questions.
Our first week in India was spent in the bustling city of Mumbai--the port city once known as Bombay or, "the beautiful bay." Mumbai is one of India's most dense cities and, as the center of "Bollywood" bears witness to both remarkable industry and hearbreaking poverty. Our first day, we visited "Elephanta" Island--home to a 7th century Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu diety, Shiva. The temple was carved out of a mountain on the island, located at the top of a 128 step climb. Despite the fact that the temple is no longer used for worship, it retains a great deal of its former grandure. We also visited the house inhabited by Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1925. The house was amazing and documented the life and work of the man known as the "father of India." In addition, our visit to a Jain temple began what would be a series of important visits to various places of worship representative of India's amazing religious diversity.
After a week in Mumbai, we found our way to Bangalore and Whitefield in the south of India. Unlike Mumbai, Whitefield is more rural in both dynamic and population. In the tradition of many past "Global" groups we found ourselves quite at home at the Ecumenical Christian Center-—a community of about 16 families with facilities that are opened up to travelers and students. The campus itself is full of trees and vegetation indiginous to the more rural part of India that we had not seen in Mumbai. For the next three weeks, we studied "The Religions of India." Our visits to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist places of worship were both informative and greatly interesting. In addition to classroom study and excursions around the Bangalore area, we also took several trips around south India to Mysore and Pondicherri. Our trip to Pondicherri's surrounding village brought us to a dialogue center that focuses on the celebration of religious diversity. The staff was friendly and, after traditional tea and snacks, we embarked on an Ox-pulled wagon ride to the house of two St. Olaf grads who had been on the first Global semester 39 years ago! Before departing for Delhi and the Taj Mahal, we celebrated both Halloween and Duwali with the ECC community. The whole of the community turned out for trick or treating (including the adults!) and our group created an evening of dancing and laughter. Duwali--the traditional Hindu festival of light--was amazing and the night consisted of many games and "crackers."
Our last two days were spent in the capital city of Delhi. We spent the majority of the time going to and from the city of Agra, the home of both the impressive Fort at Agra and of course, the famed Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal in particular was absolutely amazing. As one of the "Seven Modern Marvels of the World," the Taj was constructed under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. In addition to the beautiful architecture, The Taj Mahal boasts a plethora of amazing flaura and fauna designs inlaid with precious gemstones. From Delhi, we bid farewell to a country that leaves us both astounded and profoundly humbled. The richness of culture and history, viewed in conjunction with the heartbreaking poverty and issues resulting from globalization has compelled a great deal of reflection that will doubtless follow us as we continue our travels.
We are to spend a week in Bangkok, Thailand for fall break before journeying to Hong Kong for the month!With Spirit,